Archive for September, 2010

The Senate adjourned Wednesday without giving the Obama administration the authority to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. The Associated Press has the details:

    The suit accuses the federal government of mismanaging billions of dollars held in trust for Indian landowners.

    The Senate will reconvene for a lame-duck session Nov. 15. Cobell says no decision has been made on whether to press for Senate approval in that session.

The lead plaintiffs’ attorney tells the wonderfully named BLT (Blog of the Legal Times) that they remain optimistic.

“We uniquely have bipartisan support in an environment where you don’t see that often,” Dennis Gingold tells Mike Scarcella.

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The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold an Oct. 15 field hearing on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana to examine tribal transportation in Indian Country.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian)

Committee member Sen Jon Tester, D-Mont., will chair the hearing that will take place at the Best Western KwaTaqNuk Resort in Polson.

In a statement released by Tester’s office, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Chairman E.T. “Bud Moran” said that the tribes “applaud Senator Jon Tester for holding a field hearing regarding Tribal Transportation in Indian Country on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

“To have this event take place on our homeland at the tribally owned and operated resort shows Senator Tester is seeking comments from Indian Country. This is a notable event and we’re pleased to host.”

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Images of three women: J, survivor of sexual violence; Cindy Pennington, chair of the Alaska Native Women's Sexual Assault Committee; Winona Flying Earth, from Bridges Against Domestic Violence J, survivor of sexual violence; Cindy Pennington, chair of the Alaska Native Women's Sexual Assault Committee; Winona Flying Earth, from Bridges Against Domestic Violence (BADV). © A. Nadel.

Images of three women: J, survivor of sexual violence; Cindy Pennington, chair of the Alaska Native Women's Sexual Assault Committee; Winona Flying Earth, from Bridges Against Domestic Violence J, survivor of sexual violence; Cindy Pennington, chair of the Alaska Native Women's Sexual Assault Committee; Winona Flying Earth, from Bridges Against Domestic Violence (BADV). © A. Nadel.


Columnist Kelly Cosby of the Kansan highlights one of the most important faces of the Tribal Law and Order Act signed into law two months ago today – the protection it will offer Native American women:

    In 2007, Amnesty International issued a report that included shocking statistics about sexual assault among these communities: Native American women are rape victims 2.5 times more often than other women in the U.S. In fact, more than one-third of Native American women will be victims of rape. And, as Amnesty International director recently wrote in an article regarding the necessity of addressing this issue, “women from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas told us that they couldn’t think of a single woman who hadn’t been sexually assaulted.”

Cosby terms those facts “chilling” and goes on to castigate the justice system for failing Native American women – and the media for largely ignoring an inexcusable problem.

At least, she says, the Tribal Law and Order Act is a first step – “It shows that the administration is beginning to take these types of rights violations seriously and wants to do something about them.”

Gwen Florio

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For awhile, it seemed as though the controversy a pact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to share management of the National Bison Range in Montana with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had died down. Sadly, that’s not the case – and tribal jobs could be lost in the process. Vince Devlin of the Missoulian has the story:

Volunteer cowboys drive a group of the herd into a corral during the 2006 bison roundup at the National Bison Range in Moiese, Mont. This year's roundup is scheduled to take place next week amid renewed controversy over management of the range. (Photo by Linda Thompson/Missoulian)

Volunteer cowboys drive a group of the herd into a corral during the 2006 bison roundup at the National Bison Range in Moiese, Mont. This year's roundup is scheduled to take place next week amid renewed controversy over management of the range, now shared by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. (Photo by Linda Thompson/Missoulian)

MOIESE – The smoldering dispute over the National Bison Range re-erupted in a Washington, D.C., federal courtroom Tuesday.

There, a judge rescinded a funding agreement between the Department of Interior and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, just days before the annual roundup on the Bison Range is scheduled to take place.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling appears to put approximately 10 CSKT employees out of work at the National Wildlife Refuge, probably as early as Wednesday.

The judge said that the Department of Interior violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it entered into a second funding agreement with the tribes more than two years ago, by failing to formally invoke a NEPA-required “categorical exclusion” for the newest pact.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which brought the lawsuit, heralded the judge’s decision and called on Interior to rapidly return U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel to the Bison Range jobs.

“We expect the government to act quickly to put Fish and Wildlife Service staff back in place to repair the ongoing damage to the Bison Range,” said Paula Dinerstein, senior counsel for PEER.

PEER has long alleged workers employed by the tribes at the Bison Range have failed to do their jobs properly, and reiterated that again Tuesday. In a news release from spokeswoman Kristin Stade, the organization said that "Among the issues the court found were improperly overlooked were inadequate care and feeding of the bison and a host of critical tasks left undone or improperly performed."

***

That analysis did not sit well with the tribes, which have vehemently denied PEER's allegations over the years.

"Our political opponents have taken this opportunity to smear the name of the tribes once again," CSKT spokesman Rob McDonald said. "The judge made her decision based on an environmental procedural rule regarding federal actions. The tribes didn't invite the problems that the judge responded to."

The court, McDonald also noted, "did not prohibit or discourage these types of partnerships."

PEER has vigorously opposed the partnership at the century-old Bison Range for years, arguing it sets a precedent that could leave 80 percent of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and 57 national parks in 19 states, under similar agreements with other Indian tribes.

"The Interior Department should go back to the drawing board rather than try to resurrect this flawed agreement," Dinerstein said. "For these tribal-federal agreements we need a model agreement that protects core resources and the integrity of our national parks and refuges. The Bison Range experience underlines the flaws of an ad hoc approach to what requires a national strategy."

A host of Fish and Wildlife personnel, including Bison Range manager Jeff King, referred questions from the Missoulian about Kollar-Kotelly's ruling to the U.S. Justice Department.

There, spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle issued a one-sentence statement.

"We're still reviewing the court's decision," it said, "and consulting internally within the Justice Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the practical ramifications of this decision."

King did answer one question, however. As of Tuesday afternoon, he said, the annual bison roundup scheduled for next week is still a go, with a final decision likely to be reached on Wednesday.

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CSKT chairman E.T. "Bud" Moran said the tribes will also decide what course to take in the wake of Kollar-Kotelly's 37-page ruling.

"We are extremely disappointed with the decision," Moran said, "and will be exploring our options, along with the (Fish and Wildlife) Service. We want to avoid another disruptive de-staffing at the Bison Range."

The last time the plug was pulled on a funding agreement, in 2006, it was the Fish and Wildlife Service that did the pulling amid heated allegations from both sides. FWS employees charged they were harassed by CSKT, while the tribes accused the Fish and Wildlife Service of sabotaging their work in an effort to protect federal jobs.

The Department of Interior, which oversees the FWS, then stepped in and ordered the new funding agreement, which has been in place since 2008.

"The past 18 months have been a great success story of a true partnership on the ground," McDonald said. "We ultimately expect this to keep going forward."

PEER brought the lawsuit on behalf of four former Bison Range managers, a former chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a former assistant Interior secretary, and a Bison Range employee whose job was displaced.

PEER continues to assert in its news releases that the latest funding agreement had ceded control of the Bison Range to the Indian tribes, even though the refuge remained a part of the National Wildlife System and under control of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

King, the manager, is an FWS employee, as is one of the two deputy managers.

Tribal jobs lost in Tuesday's ruling include the other deputy manager, biologists, maintenance workers and Bison Range staff.

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A month from today, the Native American Rights Fund will celebrate its 40th year.

The occasion will be marked at the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. According to the news release printed in the Native Times:

    Larry Echohawk (Interior Department photo)

    Larry Echohawk (Interior Department photo)

    NARF’s 40 Years of Indian Law Forum will highlight four decades of Indian law and NARF’s role. We will examine current concerns and challenges within each of NARF’s priority areas and their impact on Indian law. Utilizing the tribal leaders and attorneys attending, in each priority area we will craft a shared vision for the future direction for that issue of Indian law. Each session will end with strategic outlines for how NARF can address each issue for the next 40 years. In representing President Obama’s Administration, the keynote luncheon speaker will be Larry Echohawk, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior.

    The NARF’s 40th Anniversary Dinner — “40 for 40″ — will highlight the 40 tribes, individuals and organizations that have helped shape the 40 years of NARF. We will spotlight Native clients, past board and staff members and funding partners. This will be a celebration honoring the impact that NARF has had in Indian Country.

The event will also include fun and games, in the form of the Native Justice Golf Challenge for tribal leaders, with Notah Begay II as the golf pro host.

Gwen Florio

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Awesome news today from the Associated Press:

MASHPEE, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts linguist who spent 17 years trying to revive the language of her Wampanoag Indian community is among 23 recipients of this year’s “genius grants.”

Jessie Little Doe Baird of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe says she nearly fainted when she heard that she is receiving the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s $500,000 grant.

The Chicago-based foundation announced the grant Tuesday. The money, paid quarterly over five years, comes with no strings, allowing winners unfettered freedom to pursue their creativity.

The 46-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate has pushed to revive the Wampanoag language that was last spoken more than 150 years ago.

Her work helped restore to her Native American community a vital sense of its cultural heritage and to the nation a link to its complex past.

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This is one of those stories where the allegations are just jaw-dropping. The Associated Press has the story. The ACLU‘s news release about it contains a quote from a woman who says, “They treat us just like guinea pigs when it comes to Indian Health Services.”

(healthfocus.biz image)

(healthfocus.biz image)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union said Monday that it filed a federal lawsuit against the Indian Health Service to obtain information about whether pregnant women on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation are being pressured to have labor induced against their wishes.

Robert Doody, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota, said there is no obstetric care available on the reservation and many women are being told they must have their labor induced on a particular day without being given information about the risks and benefits of induction.

For nearly a decade, women on the Cheyenne River reservation have had to travel at least 90 miles to St. Mary’s Healthcare Center in Pierre to have their babies, he said.

“There is no opportunity to give natural birth on the Cheyenne River reservation,” Doody said Monday. “They have to go to St. Mary’s and be induced, or they have to face the possibility of severe complications.”

National IHS spokesman Thomas Sweeney said Monday that he could not comment on a pending lawsuit.

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map

The map above is titled “Sleeping on the Couch,” and that says it all.

It’s part of a recent report by the Conference Board of Canada on housing overcrowding in Canada’s North.

“Almost all social and health problems increase dramatically when combined with overcrowded housing,” Gilles Rhéaume, the conference board’s vice-president for public policy, tells Nunatsiaq News. “Crowded housing is an issue that clearly demonstrates a north-south divide in Canada.”

According to the report:

    In Statistics Canada’s Keewatin census division, which covers the Kivalliq region in Nunavut, 25 per cent of homes have six or more people living in them— the highest percentage of overcrowding in Canada.

    Close behind are regions in five provinces which also have census divisions showing that 10 per cent or more of the homes are overcrowded.

    These census divisions are:

    * Northern Manitoba (Division No. 23 Churchill) – 20 per cent
    * Northern Saskatchewan (Division No. 18, including La Ronge) – 18 per cent
    * Northern Newfoundland and Labrador (Division No. 11 Nunatsiavut area) – 14 per cent
    * Northern Quebec (Nunavik) – 14 per cent
    * Northwestern Alberta (Division No. 17) – 10 per cent

“Sleeping on the Couch” is the fifth map in a series from the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North.

Gwen Florio

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Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

By Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant

We hate health care reform. The bill was too many pages, too complicated and didn’t fix all the problems right now, this minute. (One of America’s core democratic values is our impatience.)

But the why is fascinating. Many of us hate the reform bill because it went too far; but most of us are unhappy because health care reform didn’t go far enough. We wanted more action, a smarter health care system, even, more government to make our health care system work smarter.

Yet that voter angst – both for and against – set the stage for this November election and the Republicans’ Pledge to America. “In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent,” the pledge says. (Except that some of us do give our consent.)

Elections are policy choices. And this GOP Pledge is a clear guide about what Republicans would do if given power. There are significant implications for Indian Country in this document (even though American Indians and Alaska Natives aren’t mentioned at all).

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0309GrizzlyArtProject
The Associated Press has the story (Photo agove from DeLaSalle.org):

BROWNING, Mont. – A Catholic priest who for decades has worked on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is in the running with five other finalists for an award from a church group.

Rev. Edward Kohler is a candidate for the Lumen Christi, or Light of Christ, award from Chicago-based Catholic Extension.

The honor comes with a $50,000 prize, shared by the recipient and his or her diocese.

Kohler came to the reservation’s Little Flower Parish in 1982, and apart from a five-year stint in Guatemala has been there ever since.

He helped found the De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning in 2001.

Brother Paul Ackerman, the school’s president, says one of Kohler’s biggest attributes is his respect for tribal traditions.

The Helena Independent Record says a winner may be named in a few weeks.

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