Archive for March, 2012

By Talli Nauman, Native Sun News health and environment editor

U.S. President Barack Obama promoted the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline extension at TransCanada Corp.'s Pipe Yard near Cushing, Okla., on March 22, while local officials ordered Native American protesters to confine demonstrations to a remote location. (Photo Courtesy The White House, via Native Sun News)


CUSHING, Okla. – As U.S. President Barack Obama voiced concessions to the Keystone XL tar sands, crude oil pipeline on March 22, American Indian and other activists protested in South Dakota, Oklahoma, Canada and Europe.

“Right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast,” Obama said during a whistle-stop energy speech at a private industrial site near the Oklahoma oil-patch town of Cushing.

“I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done,” he said to a round of applause.

The administration has twice refused to grant Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada Corp. a presidential permit that would allow the Keystone XL pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

The line would transport tar sands slurry from a giant minefield on the Athabasca River in the border province of Alberta through some 1,700 miles of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, in order to reach refineries in the tax-exempt foreign trade zone on the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s argument was not against the tar sands or pipeline, but rather against congressional efforts to shorten the administration’s period for consideration of the project’s “national interest.”

Republicans in Congress have twice failed to pass bills forcing the administration to accept the project without further adieu. Joined by congressional Democrats, Obama has so far succeeded in putting off the permit decision until after this year’s November presidential elections.

TransCanada Corp. informed the U.S. State Department on Feb. 27 that it would start building the pipeline from the southern end, since that requires no presidential border-crossing permission and since “the Cushing to U.S. Gulf Coast portion of the Keystone XL Project has its own independent value to the marketplace.”

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Concerned about the contamination potential increased oil exploration and fracking could bring to their land, the Blackfeet Nation in northwestern Montana has signed an agreement with a hi-tech water treatment company to help keep fracking waste out of their water systems.

Exploration for oil has exploded on the Blackfeet Reservation. The people have worked hard to protect sacred sites around the area and hope the contract with Ecosphere Technologies will protect the water.

Missoulian reporter Tristan Scott has the full story:

    The Blackfeet Nation signed an exclusive letter of commitment with the water treatment company, Florida-based Ecosphere Technologies Inc., which has ties to Whitefish and will soon introduce its chemical-free treatment method to reservation lands leased for “fracking.”

    The fracking process involves pumping millions of gallons of water into the ground at high pressure to fracture shale formations and create pathways for natural gas to flow back to the surface. The process is controversial because about 70 percent of the fracking fluid remains underground, and the flow-back water contains oil sheens, heavy metals and bacteria. The refuse must then be collected and trucked off site for disposal or storage.

    Ecosphere Chairman and CEO Charles Vinick said his company’s patented treatment process, called Ozonix, involves a non-chemical method of recovering and sanitizing all of the water pumped underground. The process uses ozone to decompose contaminants and chemicals in the flow-back water, precluding the need to truck the discharge off site. Instead, Vinick said the highly ozonated water can be recycled and reused for continuous fracking operations, saving energy companies money, protecting the environment and preserving the community’s water supply.

Jenna Cederberg

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Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin had this good news from the Flathead Reservation last week:

ST. IGNATIUS – S&K Technologies had somewhere between 40 million and a billion reasons to celebrate Friday.
One of the firm’s seven companies, S&K Aerospace, landed a U.S. Air Force contract worth almost $1 billion, CEO Tom Acevedo confirmed.

While the bulk of the money will go to purchasing and repairing military equipment for more than 80 nations around the world, the contract will be worth $40 million to $50 million to S&K Aerospace to oversee the program for the next five years.
The $975 million contract is triple that of any previous contract S&K, owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, has been awarded.

“What’s more exciting is that it was a full and open competition,” Acevedo said. “It means we can go up against any company of any size, and compete for and get these types of contracts.”

This one is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world.

URS Corp., headquartered in San Francisco, has held the federal contract for the past 10 years.

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If you haven’t seen the Huichol-beaded Volkswagen, you are missing a spectacular sight. As ICTMN reports, the Huichol Indians of Nayarit and Jalisco states in Mexico are known for their intricate beadwork and they have taken their art to a whole new level with the “Vochol.”

The Huichol Indians of west-central Mexico have poured artisanship into the iconic VW Beetle, smothering it in their character beadwork. (Courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine.com via ICTMN)

    The old Volkswagen Beetle is iconic in Mexico, its little dome ubiquitous in thousands of vehicles zipping around major cities and chugging along country roads.

    . . .

    (The Huichol beaded car is) named the Vochol, a combination of the Beetle’s nickname, vocho, and the tribal name Huichol. Artists Francisco Bautista Carrillo and his daughter Kena Bautista did the deed, even signing the work in beads.

To bead the beetle, the families used more than 227 million beads. It took them eight months. The car is thought to be the biggest piece of Huichol art ever made, a video accompanying the story said.

Watch the video explaining the beading process here.

Jenna Cederberg

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Pablo’s People’s Center is place to bead
Those who gather each week for the beading circle at the People’s Center in Ronan, Mont., know it’s about more than just beading.

Elta Perry works on a coin purse during the weekly beading class at the People’s Center in Pablo. (Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian)


Missoulian reporter Chelsi Moy explains all the circle brings to its members in her feature on the meeting that brings friends together:

    Thursdays at the People’s Center is a place to swap ideas, share stories, laugh, learn and eat – and maybe do a little beading, too. For more than a year, women and men, young and old, Native Americans and non-Natives alike have gathered for the weekly beading circle to craft colorful and creative beadwork. Everyone brings a dish to share and a pattern to bead.

    “If you can imagine it, you can bead it,” said Marie Torosian, education director and exhibit manager at the People’s Center.

    Flow Drowatzky is proof that it’s never too late to learn a new skill. The Pablo resident took up beading at the age of 72.

    “I loved it,” she said. “I wanted to know how to do it.”

    Today, Drowatzky has done it all – barrettes, necklaces, coin purses, clutch purses and keychains, just to name a few. She beaded the sports emblems of the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots for her sons. She’s beaded purses for her daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughters.

Tribes seek to halt mine in Cabinet Mountains Wilderness
Precious metals are once again being pitted against precious lands in northwestern Montana where Revett Minerals wants to mine tunnels that run under Chicago Peak in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness.

Meanwhile, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are fighting to save that same land – specifically Chicago Peak – that represents one of the ‘last untouched’ sacred places for Native people there, the Missoulian’s Tristan Scott reports.

    Revett Minerals president and chief executive officer John Shanahan said the company is aware of the peak’s cultural significance and is sensitive to the concerns of tribal members. But any surface disturbance caused by the mining operation will occur outside the designated wilderness boundary, he said, which is far removed from Chicago Peak.

    . . .

    But the growing chorus of concern for protecting the site was enough to initiate an assessment by the Kootenai National Forest. Even though eligibility for listing to the National Register of Historic Places may not save the mountain, Auld said it will go a long way toward corroborating Chicago Peak’s cultural significance, which has primarily been passed from generation to generation through oral histories.

    Maria Nieves Zedeno, an archaeologist from the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology and Bureau of Applied Research, is working as a consultant for the Kootenai Forest to document the cultural significance of Chicago Peak and determine whether it is eligible for listing. Zedeno has been conducting field research, interviewing tribal elders who understand the peak’s traditional uses, and reviewing archival and ethnographic histories of the tribe’s relationship to the region.

Report: Contraceptives can be hard to access on reservations
Public Radio International had this piece Friday on a new report detailing the difficulty some women on reservations face when attempting to access certain kinds of birth control.

    A new report from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center found that women living on Native American reservations have a difficult time gaining access to Plan B emergency contraception.

    The report also criticized the Indian Health Service for not implementing standard policies and protocols for dealing with sexual assault and rape despite being required to do so by the Tribal Law and Order Act.

    The co-author of the report, Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, said it’s difficult to say why there are such problems, though she points, generally, to a lack of oversight.

Jenna Cederberg

The latest food truck to join the on-street eatery scene in Seattle? It’s “Off The Rez” and features Native cuisine inspired by the good stuff made on reservations across the country.

"Yes, we ate the whole thing, tacos and sweet frybreads and slider," Seattle Times blogger Rebekah Denn. (Courtesy of Seattle Times, quick iPhone photo by Rebekah Denn)


Rebekah Denn, of the Seattle Times’ All You Can Eat blog, profiled the new offerings and Off the Rez founder Mark McConnell’s reasoning for opening the cart.

    Mark McConnell’s mother grew up on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana, and he grew up in Seattle eating the frybread and “Indian tacos” and other foods that his mom and grandmother would cook for gatherings and special occasions. At some point, he noticed that our region, despite its many tribes, had no everyday eatery for Native American foods. We had “a large community, but no cuisine,” he said, a phenomenon that has confounded onlookers for years. Enter Off The Rez, the big blue food truck McConnell and partner Cecilia Rikard recently opened. The cook is longtime buddy Donovan MacInnis, a former sous chef at Portalis.

    Late nights on Capitol Hill, and lunchtimes around town, they’re offering tacos and succotash and sweet and savory frybreads.

    “We gathered recipes, we talked to a bunch of my family members and got a bunch of different variations on frybread recipes, blended them together and added our own touches,” McConnell said. “Everything we have has a traditional side to it, but is tweaked a bit and modernized,” such as going with a topping of pickled onions rather than traditional tomatoes on the taco. The pulled pork taco is the hottest seller so far, and a Velveeta-y, bacon-stuffed hamburger slider is “starting to catch on.”

The cart offers multiple frybread options, from entrees with pulled pork topping the favorite to the more tradiional butter and cinnamon topped option.

At one point Denn calls the food really good “guts bombs.”

    To one Yelp reviewer, the food is way more than that; he says a good frybread is something where “you can taste warm summer pow wow nights, broken treaties, a proud people, beautiful indigenous words, and lost loves.” And the Off the Rez version, he said, takes frybread culture and makes it their own, “modern, succulent, and cultural.”

Frybread strikes again!

Jenna Cederberg

Russell Means (Photo By REUTERS/Joshua Lott/REUTERS)

Russell Means (Photo By REUTERS/Joshua Lott/REUTERS)


By Jesse Abernathy, Native Sun News Editor

SANTA FE, N.M. – Russell Means says he is still cancer-free and will forever be unaffected by the dread disease.

Means, who is Oglala Lakota, was diagnosed last summer with what was then referred to as “terminal” esophageal cancer. In December, the actor and former American Indian Movement activist claimed victory over his affliction partially by way of “Indian prayer and Indian medicine.”

“The cancer’s gone – I don’t have to worry about that,” Means said from his wife Pearl’s familial home in Santa Fe.

“I beat it, it’s gone,” he said firmly.

As was the case in December, Means’ voice is still clear and robust – a noticeable difference from the height of his throat cancer last August, when his tones were audibly weak.

“None of my doctors believe in the term ‘remission,’” said Means. “Either you got cancer or you don’t – period.”

Means concurs with his physicians in ascribing no validity to the cancer-related state of remission, which is an all-too-common polarity of metastasizing, or actively spreading, cancer cells.

“Remission means there’s cancer hanging around – to me, that’s what it means – and I totally reject that basis. The reason the medical profession uses that word is because they know their radiation, chemo and their meds weaken the immune system to the degree that it invites all kinds of disease. But specifically, it invites cancer to come back, so that’s why they say ‘remission.’ They know, because of how they treat cancer, it weakens you and makes you even more susceptible to disease.

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Sixty four genetically pure bison arrived on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation this week, the Montana Associated Press reports.

A bison digs under the snow to graze inside Yellowstone National Park in this photograph provided by the National Park Service. (Courtesy of National Park Service, via Billings Gazette)


Restoring the animal to the area was heralded by tribal members there, which long fought to move some of the herd from Yellowstone National Park.

The move didn’t come without contention. Ranchers in the area have long protested the move due to brucellosis and rangeland damage concerns.

But the Fort Peck Tribes and state government officials reach an agreement late last week to move the bison and wasted no time in transporting them Monday to the northeastern corner of the state.

    Fort Peck Chairman Floyd Azure responded Monday night by saying that the state has no jurisdiction now that the bison are on the reservation.

    “Now that they’re here, they are here to stay,” Azure said.
    For the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck, tribal leaders said the relocation offers a chance to revive their connection with an animal that historically provided food, clothing and shelter for their ancestors.

    The trip from Yellowstone was capped by a welcoming caravan of tribal members who fell into line behind the trailers that carried the bison across the Missouri River and onto the reservation.

    A drum group gathered to sing a traditional song of welcome as the bison were unloaded in a field 25 miles north of Poplar.

    “This has deep spiritual meaning for us. They are the sole survivors from our ancestors,” said Leland Spotted Bird, a Dakota tribal elder and spiritual leader.

Associated Press reporter Matt Volz has the full story.

Jenna Cederberg

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“…They are critical and essential to our survival.”

But the wait is long for Natives seeking bald and golden eagle feathers.

There’s only one way to get them, through the National Eagle Repository.

An eagle carcass is processed at the National Eagle Repository in Denver. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


Billings Gazette reporter Lorna Thackeray describes the process and the frustrations faced by many in her story on the long waits for eagle feathers.

    The repository, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, receives about 2,400 eagle carcasses a year, said Dennis Wiist, a wildlife specialist there.

    The list of American Indians waiting for an eagle is twice that long.

    Eagles can’t be killed legally and their parts can’t be sold, transported, traded, imported or exported. Even possession of post-Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act eagle parts requires a permit. Eagle parts can be handed down through families or given to other Native Americans for religious purposes. They can’t be given to a non-Indian.

    “It’s an awkward situation,” said Conrad Fisher, historic preservation officer for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. “Eagle feathers have been used for thousands of years by Native Americans. They probably go back to the genesis.

    . . .

    The wait depends on whether the applicant wants a whole eagle, feathers or other parts, Wiist said. Those seeking miscellaneous feathers usually get them within three months, he said. Those seeking a higher quality of loose feathers may have to wait six months.

In other eagle news, here’s an NPR story from the Wind River Reservation, where the tribe was approved to hunt two bald eagles.

Jenna Cederberg

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Who should lead the Native American Research Lab at the University of Montana? The position is open but no one can agree on the answer to that question.

As Missoulian reporter Chelsi Moy reports:

    People disagree on whether the next lab director should be an enrolled tribal member, a Native American descendant or merely a cultural advocate.

Daniela Aranda, a doctoral student in the systems ecology program at the University of Montana, works on a biofuels project at the Native American Research Lab on campus last week. (Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian)


Moy has the full story:

    Michael Ceballos began a recent presentation in the tongue of the Tepehuano (O’dhami) Tribe, paying homage to his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

    As an academic vying for a job as director of a research lab on the University of Montana campus, Ceballos was outside the box for a campus job presentation.

    But this is no ordinary job.

    UM is hiring a director for the Native American Research Lab, which was established in 2007 to encourage Native American students to study the natural sciences.

    Native Americans are the largest underrepresented minority to hold doctorate degrees in natural sciences, technology, engineering or mathematics fields.

    In fact, the number of tenured Native American UM faculty members who teach natural sciences or do research in the fields is zero.

    And that makes the new director’s job, a tenure-track position, a very big deal.

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