Archive for January, 2012

The state of Maryland granted its first formal recognition of a tribe there this week.

As Michael Dresser of The Baltimore Sun reports, members of the Piscataway-Conoy Tribe celebrated after the executive order recognizing the tribe was read.

    For Mervin Savoy, recognition was sweet — even if it came more than two centuries too late.

    Savoy was one of hundreds of Piscataways who gathered beneath the State House dome in Annapolis Monday as Gov. Martin O’Malley issued executive orders formally recognizing the Native American tribe as a distinct people. It is the first time Maryland has given formal recognition to a tribe.

The recognition will mean a lot of things for the tribal members, that go beyond the symbolic distinction of official status.

    The designation also could make it easier for Piscataway-owned businesses to qualify as minority business enterprises — a status that could help them win state and local government contracts, the governor’s office said.

    One benefit recognition will not confer on the Piscataways is the right to open casinos — a lucrative revenue source for Native American tribes in other states. O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said that as part of the agreement that led to formal recognition, the Piscataways have renounced any plan to get into the gambling business. The executive orders specify that they do not grant any “special privileges” related to gambling.

Jenna Cederberg

The current statistics are shocking enough, and a new clarification of definition of rape may highlight more troublesome, increased numbers of rape cases in Indian Country.

As Rob Capriccioso reports on ICTMN, the Obama Administration recently expanded the official definition of rape. That could help tell a more accurate picture of sexual assaults across the country and help define a solution.

In the past, the numbers have shown Native women are more than three and half times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape.

    That revelation was made clear January 6 when the Obama administration announced that the federal government would also begin counting rapes toward women that were done by an object or mouth on the vagina or anus without consent, and it would begin counting rapes of children and men as well. The new data will be collected for the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The new definition is more consistent with state laws and local crime reports, administration officials said.

    Obama administration officials said the new measuring methods may lead to an increase in the number of counted rapes nationwide, including those in Indian country.

    “This major policy change will lead to more accurate reporting and far more comprehensive understanding of this devastating crime,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to Obama, in a press conference call. She called the old data “incomplete,” and said that “it has not captured the true impact of this crime.”

Capriccioso also discusses in his report how decreased federal funding for certain programs inhibits the prosecution of attackers and resources available to victims of rape in Indian Country.

Jenna Cederberg

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Mark Trahant

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 recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

This election ought to be about one issue, a referendum on health care reform.

Republicans say it’s about repealing Obamacare. Every candidate has pledged to repeal the law (as if presidents had such power) as a first act in office. But then what? What actions would follow to improve health care and dramatically lower the costs? Is there a conservative alternative? (I don’t see kicking young people off of Medicare as a solution – that idea doesn’t drive costs down).

But the “what next?” question remains a tough one for President Obama and the Democrats. The Affordable Care Act was a baby-step, a beginning, not an end.

This single election question matters because the cost of health care is the federal deficit. We are paying far too much for an inefficient health care system when we also have an aging population that is facing expensive medical care. Just think, if we solve this one problem, then the rest of the budget is manageable.

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Reserve votes to allow eviction of gang members

A CTV News report from Alberta, Canada (see the full video report here) details a new bylaw OK’d by voters there that would allow tribal officials to remove gang members from the reserve.

The Samson Cree Nation is a violence-plagued reserve, CTV reports.

    The band agreed to take the issue to a vote after the July death of the chief’s five-year-old grandson in a drive-by shooting, as well as ongoing gang violence.

    There are believed to be about 12 gangs in the four First Nations communities in the Hobbema area.

    “It is considered necessary for the health and welfare of the Samson Cree Nation to regulate the residence of its citizens and other persons on the reserve,” states the bylaw, which also includes a provision requiring prospective new residents to apply to a residency tribunal before moving in.

SBA introduces new course for Indian entrepreneurs
In a press release this week, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced a new program aimed at helping entrepreneurs in Indian Country get their business dreams off the ground and into action.

Native American Small Business Primer: Strategies for Success” is a free, self-paced online business course developed for Native American business owners.

    The new online course: emphasizes business planning and market research as essential steps to take before going into business; informs Native American entrepreneurs about the legal aspects of starting a business, including the type of ownership (legal structure) and licensing; and provides key information on seed money for starting up, raising capital, and borrowing money. In addition, there is a section on how to estimate business start-up costs that can help assess the financial needs of going into business.

Craven appeal of Cobell moves forward
ICTMN’s Rob Capriccioso has the latest on an appeal to the historic Cobell land trust settlement given final approval by the courts last year.

The settlement terms have irked some, such as Kimberly Craven, Capriccioso reports. Craven filed an appeal to the settlement in September and has continued to file documents with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as objections to her appeals have filed in. The appeals will most likely delay settlement payments to thousands.

    Of note, Craven labels the proposed distribution of the settlement as “upside-down” in that “greatest alleged injuries” would receive “the least amount of money.” The brief also states, “[c]lass members with no hope of recovery have an interest in a settlement that wildly overcompensates them at the expense of class members who do have legitimate claim.”

    Cobell lawyers have previously argued that Craven is speculating that class members suffered different types of individualized damages.

Jenna Cederberg

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The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana held council elections in mid-December. The winds of change must of been blowing hard that day.

As Vince Devlin of the Missoulian reports, four of five incumbents were voted out of office.

The CSKT council consists of 10 seats come up for election every two years. Once the councilors are seated, they choose a chairman.

    PABLO – Tribal government on the Flathead Indian Reservation will take on a decidedly different look Friday, when the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Council elects a new leader and four new council members are sworn in.

    Voters last month turned four of five incumbents out of office, including Tribal Chairman E.T. “Bud” Moran.

    Only council member Terry Pitts of Dixon was able to hang onto his job, defeating challenger Anita L. Orr Matt 659-626.

    Every other incumbent went down to defeat. The casualties included both Moran, who represented the Pablo District, and former Chairman James Steele Jr. of Arlee.

    “I’ve said before that Jimmy the Greek would have lost his shorts in a tribal election,” said former CSKT Chairman Fred Matt, who himself lost a 2006 council race that cost him the leadership position. “I can’t see any rhyme or reason to why it happens. There were no hot-button issues. I really think a large number of people just vote to change. They don’t always have a specific reason.”

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An update on the Blackfeet Reservation wild fires that ripped through the area Wednesday night from

BROWNING – Two wildfires on Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation burned thousands of acres, forced scores to evacuate and destroyed several buildings overnight, but rain helped firefighters and volunteers get a handle on the blazes on Thursday.

Fueled by strong winds and gusts above 60 mph, the two blazes started around sundown Wednesday and together grew to 16,000 acres by early Thursday, a revision of an earlier estimate of 45,000 acres, said tribal spokesman Wayne Smith. At least 300 people were forced to leave their homes and a boarding school, though no injuries had been reported.

Rain fell at 5 a.m., helping crews gain the upper hand on the fires, which were 75 percent and 80 percent contained by midmorning, said fire manager Tyson Runningwolf.

“That’s a good sign,” he said. “What’s caused the reduction was the big workforce on the fires. We were able to get a hold of it.”

At least 80 firefighters and volunteers from the tribe, neighboring counties and several federal agencies responded to the fire, Runningwolf said. They were assisted by farmers and ranchers whose land stood in the path of the fires.

Crews were helped by Thursday morning’s weather conditions, as the wind died down to 15 mph a cold front raised the relative humidity to 70 percent, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Ben Schott.

The wind was expected to pick up again later Thursday, leaving fire officials wary.

“Fire is so unpredictable, I wouldn’t say we’re totally out of the woods yet,” Smith said.

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Grass fires erupt on Blackfeet Reservation

   Posted by: admin    in Blackfeet

Firefighters are on their way to containing several grass fires that ripped through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana Wednesday night.

Multiple fires light the horizon near the town of Browning, as seen from home of Darrell Norman and Angelika Harden-Norman about 2 1/4 miles from town. (PHOTO COURTESY ANGELIKA HARDEN-NORMAN, via the Great Falls Tribune)

It was a terrifying night for many there, as evacuations disrupted the town throughout the evening.

The Missoulian website has the latest Thursday morning from Browning:

    Blackfeet tribe officials say firefighters are starting to get a handle on two wind-fueled fires that have burned buildings and forced evacuations on the northwestern Montana reservation.

    The fires started Wednesday evening and quickly spread to 45,000 acres overnight, fueled by wind gusts greater than 70 miles per hour. At least 300 people were forced from their homes, though no injuries were reported.

The Great Falls Tribune reported from the fires last night:

    “This is probably the worst grassfire that we’ve ever experienced in our history,” Wayne Smith said.

    As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, the worst of the fires were two separate blazes that had grown to a combined size of 10,000 acres — and were still growing — Smith said.

    . . .

    ribal police were moving ahead of the flames to evacuate homes in the fires’ path. The Hutterite colonies of Seville and Hidden Lake near Cut Bank also were evacuated, Smith said.

    He added that no injuries had been reported as of late Wednesday, but some structures had been consumed by the fires.

    “The fires just got out of control,” he said. “It’s been spreading at a rapid pace.”

    The Montana Department of Transportation closed Highway 2 from the Highway 89 junction in Browning to Cut Bank because of the nearby fires.

Jenna Cederberg

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OST tribal members march in protest of drunk and impaired drivers on the reservation. (Photo by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News)

Story and photo by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer:

RAPID CITY – The Oglala Sioux Tribe, the center of many controversies involving the alcohol sales right across the state border, at White Clay, Neb., has taken a step to put a stop to the high rate of deaths due to impaired drivers on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Tribal members, along with the cooperation of the OST Tribal Police force, have created the newest Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, as it is nationally known, on the reservation.

On Dec. 30, 2011, the OST MADD chapter staged a march that ventured from the center of Pine Ridge Village toward the south, in the direction of White Clay, Neb. A quarter of the way to the border town, the march symbolically turned its back on the location of several million dollars of annual beer sales, and returned to the village.

Escorted and supported by the OST police department, the march was led by Lakota singers who offered songs of prayer and encouragement for the crowd of about 30 walkers. All ages were represented, from walkers as young as three years old to the very elderly, who were assisted by younger family members.

Once the march returned back to the village of Pine Ridge, the crowd was escorted into the Billy Mills Community Hall where a meal had been provided by various donors and supporters of the new MADD chapter.

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The Kitsap Sun’s Steven Gardner shares an update on Heather Purser, the 29-year-old Suquamish woman who helped gay couples secure marriage rights through the tribe this summer.

Heather Purser, left, drew national attention this summer for her efforts to get the Suquamish Tribe to recognize same-sex marriage. But she and her partner of two years, Rebecca Platter, say they aren't ready to tie the knot just yet. (Contributed photo, via the Kitsap Sun)

Here is Gardner’s August article on Purser. And the update:

    Heather Purser drew national attention in August and won’t be out of the spotlight soon.

    The 29-year-old Suquamish Tribe member and Seattle resident helped influence the tribe to recognize and grant marriage licenses for same-sex couples, a quiet change there that defied how similar change has happened elsewhere.

    Her role in a broader acceptance of same-sex marriage is likely to continue. Purser said she has been contacted by advocates who will lobby the Legislature to formally grant same-sex marriage rights in Washington.

    “She is a classic example of how one person telling a story can make such a profound difference. She has created change simply by having the courage to publicly talk about who she is and what her hopes and dreams are,” said Joshua Friedes, marriage equality director for Equal Rights Washington.

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The Caddo Nation of Oklahoma wants easier access and better growing conditions for the sacred peyote plant, which Native America Times reports is experiencing a drop of in production lately.

In this 2010 file photo, peyote dealer Mauro Morales handles peyote buttons in Rio Grande City, Texas. (LM OTERO / ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO)

Although it has become harder to find the cactus plant lately, demand for it is increasing.

    Leaders of the 5,500-member tribe said they wanted to reach USDA secretary, Tom Vilsack, with suggestions on peyote accessibility. Meanwhile, USDA officials allow that the tribal liaison favors protecting natural environments for plants that Indians use for medicinal purposes, but peyote is not specifically named. Hipp released a departmental statement that both addressed and skirted the issue.

As Native American Times reports, peyote has been used by Native medicine men for thousands of years. The Native American Church, too, sees the validity and importance of having ample access to peyote.

    Federal law, 42 USC 1996a, outlines genuine religious peyote use by only those who are Native American. It is illegal for anyone with less than one quarter Indian blood to possess cactus buttons. And only card-carrying members of the NAC can purchase the buttons used to ingest during religious services.

    But the Caddo Nation members said they aren’t interested in bending DEA laws on legality – only in increasing how much peyote they can purchase and how easily they can get to it, Sovo said.

Jenna Cederberg

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