Archive for July, 2012

The tribal council on the Flathead Reservation in northwestern Montana has voted how it will spend the $150 million in settlement fund coming from the federal government: Half will go to members and half with be spent for things like cultural programs and economic development.

Some members aren’t happy with that decision, as Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller reports.

    Ramona Cajune wants the tribal council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to return more settlement dollars to the people she says need it most.

    On Monday, Cajune and other tribal members protested a council decision last week to pay individual members only half of a $150 million settlement signed with the U.S. government in May.

    The tribal council has been holding meetings on how to spend its portion of the $1 billion going to 41 tribes as a result of a settlement agreement in Nez Perce v. Salazar.

    “In my own family, there are people who are homeless,” Cajune said in a telephone interview. “One of the meetings I was at, there was a girl with no electricity, and I knew there were people in that meeting whose kids were hungry because we had fed some of those children earlier that month. So there is extreme poverty here on the reservation.”

The settlement money is not related to the funds coming from the historic Cobell v. Salazar settlement.

    The tribal council meets again Tuesday, but tribal communications director Robert McDonald said he has heard nothing to indicate elected leaders plan to reconsider their vote. In fact, he said the decision to disperse $10,000 to each of the estimated 7,800 CSKT members – and retain the other half – came directly from tribal members’ input.

    “This action is an effort to strike a balance among the needs presented at the meetings, as well as planning for the future,” McDonald said.

    In public sessions about spending, four priorities emerged, he said: providing for elders, language efforts, cultural programs and economic development. The tribal council has not yet allocated funds to those areas.

    “There’s no timeline, but it is clearly a topic that they are investing time into,” McDonald said.

Jenna Cederberg

27
Jul

Company may pay MT tribe $10M for coal lease

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If a tentative lease deal between Cloud Peak Energy and the Crow Tribe goes through, almost 1.4 billion tons of coal will be extracted from southeastern Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation.

A dragline moves overburden covering a coal seam at Cloud Peak Energy’s Spring Creek Mine near Decker. (Photo by Tom Howard/Billings Gazette)


As Associated Press reporter Matt Brown explains, that’s more than the U.S. consumes annually. And, it’d be potential $10 million boost for the tribe.

    Cloud Peak Energy said it would pay the tribe up to $10 million during an initial option period if the deal is approved by the Crow Tribal Legislature and federal officials with the Department of Interior.

    The deal covers three coal deposits near Cloud Peak’s existing Spring Creek mine near the Wyoming border. The tribe’s reserves are within the Powder River Basin coal fields, which account for about 40 percent of the nation’s coal production.

    Crow Chairman Cedric Black Eagle has said in past interviews that the coal could be exported to Asian markets, although it’s uncertain when mining could begin.

The Crow Tribe has a portion of the northwestern edge of the reservation already leased and was close in past years to sealing a deal with an Australian company to build a coal-to-liquids plant there.

    Tribal leaders hoped that plant would give an economic boost to the Crow’s 13,000 enrolled members. But four years after the Many Stars coal-to-liquids project was announced, its prospects remain uncertain due to financing difficulties and other problems.

    Negotiations with Cloud Peak to lease and mine reserves on the eastern side of the 2.2 million-acre reservation have been going on since at least last fall. The agreements provide for exploration and options for Cloud Peak to lease the three deposits for an initial five-year term.

    That lease could be extended to 2035 if certain conditions are met, the tribe and Cloud peak said. If the company exercises the lease options, it would pay the tribe up to 15 cents per ton, royalties and production taxes.

Jenna Cederberg

Jimmy Alberts (Photo courtesy of Native Sun News)


By David Arredondo, Native Sun News, Summer Journalism Intern

CHAMBERLAIN – While raging wildfires burn across the nation this summer, Native American firefighters are doing their part in extinguishing the various blazes in and around their homelands – even as they risk their very lives.

The Crow Creek Agency Fire Management team’s very own Jimmy Alberts, who is of Southern Yankton Sioux, or Ihanktonwan Dakota, descent and is a resident of Chamberlain, has been traveling across the Midwest to battle fierce fires and save communities and the environment.

The 37-year-old, four-season veteran of the Crow Creek Reservation’s fire department told Native Sun News that already this summer he’s been to Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota and, of course, throughout South Dakota, and has even faced the ferocious High Park fire in northern Colorado, just on the edge of the eastern Rocky Mountains.

The High Park fire was ignited by a lightning strike on June 9 in Roosevelt National Forest – which had become a tinderbox by that time like the rest of the country – and wasn’t completely contained until June 30, a full three weeks later. Over 2,000 firefighters were involved and total costs for battling the blaze were over $31.5 million. The fire burned 87,250 acres – the second largest fire in Colorado in terms of area burned – and destroyed at least 259 homes. One woman was reported dead from the fire.

“It was one of the fires where you think you have so much control over it, and within a matter of a few hours, the weather let it get away from us,” Alberts recalled. “But the training part kicks in when it actually starts being second nature for you, so it wasn’t too bad,” he modestly added.

Alberts has a diverse set of firefighting duties: He runs the engine, works as a sawyer (does saw-work) for the hand crew and uses a hand tool to dig fire lines.

His season started in May responding to a fire on the Pine Ridge Reservation at which he stayed for 14 days. As an ever-vigilant safeguard, he said he also sat out in the communities waiting for a fire to “pop off,” or ignite, so his team could quickly be on the scene, protecting lives and homes on the sprawling reservation.

Along with his Crow Creek firefighting team from south-central South Dakota, Alberts works in conjunction with the Pine Ridge team from the southwest corner of the state as well as the Cheyenne River Reservation squad from the north-central portion.

“You get pretty close with the guys you go out to the fires with,” said Alberts. “You’re out there for 14 days, sometimes even longer, and you live out of tents and bags and you depend on each other.”

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A member of the U.S. military that chased Chief Joseph and his people off their land in 1877 is being described as a war hero and equality champion who helped the oppressed fight for their rights.

Missoulian reporter Kim Briggeman has the story of Lt. Charles Erskine Scott Wood, which is being told in Missoula, Mont., this week as a part of a month-long Nez Perce National Historic Trail “Voices of 1877” series.

    By and large the heroes of the Nez Perce War of 1877 came from the losing side, chief among them Chief Joseph.

    Jim Zimmerman and the Nez Perce National Trail, headquartered in Missoula, would like you to meet another.

    The aide-de-camp to Oliver O. Howard, the Army general who chased after the Indians in Idaho but never caught them, was a young lieutenant by the name of Charles Erskine Scott Wood.

    Long name, great story.

    And Zimmerman, a former state legislator in Kentucky, comes to Fort Missoula on Wednesday night to tell it from a first person point of view.

    Wood, said Zimmerman, was “very much against the action of the army with the Nez Perce, because he recognized the treaty had been broken by the United States government and the Nez Perce had legal right claim to the land.”

    Wood cleaned up after the initial battle at White Bird Pass in Idaho and was in on the Battle of the Clearwater south of Kooskia. (He was presumably far back on the trail 135 years ago Wednesday when Maj. Charles Rawn and men from Fort Missoula built breastworks in the Lolo Canyon to block the path of the fleeing Indians. It became known forever as Fort Fizzle, when the Nez Perce slipped over a ridge three nights later and escaped to the Bitterroot Valley.)

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Apparently, the Naked Indian isn’t welcome in Times Square. So says the Naked Cowboy.

Time magazine’s online News Feed reported that the well-known Naked Cowboy is going to sue the Naked Indian, Adam David.

The two were pictured posing together inthis ICTMN piece published in early July.

ICTMN reported then that Naked Cowboy Robert Burck wanted David to join his company. News Feed’s Judith Welikala opened the story about the suit with this one liner:

    New York, get ready for an epic game of naked cowboys and indians.

    Street performer Robert Burck — known to tourists as the Naked Cowboy — has turned his ability to sing country tunes while wearing nothing but a hat, boots, briefs and a strategically placed guitar into a cottage industry. He’s even launched a presidential campaign, telling TMZ that he is “very conservative” and has an “unapologetic commitment to our borders, our language and our culture.”

    Burck is therefore less than pleased to have his territory invaded, and has accused newcomer Adam David, a.k.a. the Naked Indian, of stealing his act.
    “I’ve been here [in Times Square] 365 days, every day, for 13 years and change,” Burck told the New York Daily News. “He’s only been here 16 days and missed two already.”

    Burck wants David to join his company, Naked Cowboy Enterprises, which includes variants on the “Naked” theme — or else face a hefty lawsuit.

    Such threats don’t seem to have fazed David, who claims to have a “word-of-mouth contract” with his rival.

Jenna Cederberg

Vern Traversie, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, claims in a YouTube video that he discovered three scars on his stomach shaped like the letter K. Three Ks is a common abbreviation for the Ku Klux Klan. (Submitted photo/Courtesy of the Rapid City Journal)


Were the letters ‘KKK’ carved into a Lakota man’s chest during heart surgery? A federal civil lawsuit has been filed over the allegations.

Associated Press reporter Kristi Eaton has the full report:

    SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A lawyer for a Native American man who claims the letters KKK were carved into his stomach during surgery has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the South Dakota hospital where the operation took place, the hospital’s board of directors and others.

    YouTube videos featuring 69-year-old Vern Traversie, a Lakota man who lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation, went viral in Native American communities earlier this year. In them, Traversie talks about being mistreated at the hospital and shows his abdomen. Though he himself is blind, Traversie says he was told by others that the scars left after his heart surgery form the letters.

    A May rally in support of Traversie drew hundreds of people, many of whom said his story exemplifies the racism Native Americans experience in Rapid City. But others say they can’t make out the letters, including police who investigated his allegations and hospital officials. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

Here’s more on the story from the Rapid City Journal.

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Some fascinating information has been published in a new paper that details a comprehensive study on the genetic makeup of North American Native populations.

As Science Daly reports, an international team studying DNA sequences found that Native descendants came from not just one, but three migrations from foreign lands.

    By studying variations in Native American DNA sequences, the international team found that while most of the Native American populations arose from the first migration, two subsequent migrations also made important genetic contributions. The paper is published in the journal Nature July 11.

    “For years it has been contentious whether the settlement of the Americas occurred by means of a single or multiple migrations from Siberia,” said Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment), who coordinated the study. “But our research settles this debate: Native Americans do not stem from a single migration. Our study also begins to cast light on patterns of human dispersal within the Americas.”

The Science Daly article calls this study the “most comprehensive survey of genetic diversity in Native Americans.”

    “There are at least three deep lineages in Native American populations,” said co-author David Reich, Professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. “The Asian lineage leading to First Americans is the most anciently diverged, whereas the Asian lineages that contributed some of the DNA to Eskimo-Aleut speakers and the Na-Dene-speaking Chipewyan from Canada are more closely related to present-day East Asian populations.”

    The team also found that once in the Americas, people expanded southward along a route that hugged the coast with populations splitting off along the way. After divergence, there was little gene flow among Native American groups, especially in South America.

    Two striking exceptions to this simple dispersal were also discovered. First, Central American Chibchan-speakers have ancestry from both North and South America, reflecting back-migration from South America and mixture of two widely separated strands of Native ancestry. Second, the Naukan and coastal Chukchi from north-eastern Siberia carry ‘First American’ DNA. Thus, Eskimo-Aleut speakers migrated back to Asia, bringing Native American genes.

Jenna Cederberg

12
Jul

Venerated Lakota site to be put on auction block

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Lying in the heart of the Black Hills, the majestic Pe Sla is one of the few ceremonial sites of the Lakota virtually untouched by commercial expansion. Next month, however, the land “owned” by the Reynolds family goes up for sale to the highest bidders. (PHOTO COURTESY/RIVEREARTH.COM, via Native Sun News)


By Jesse Abernathy, Native Sun News Editor

RAPID CITY – A Native American spiritual refuge in the heart of the Black Hills continues to face utter decimation.

Almost 2,000 acres of the land known as “Pe Sla” by the area’s original inhabitants – the Lakota – are slated to be auctioned off on Aug. 25. The move would potentially open up the scenic, pristine prairie to development by non-Native Americans, spelling the end of one of the last quiet vestiges of traditional Lakota worship in the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa.

Translated to English, “Pe Sla” means “Old Baldy,” a reference to the sprawling prairie’s sudden but natural juxtaposition against the heavy forest cover of Paha Sapa. The 4,000-acre rolling expanse of hills and meadows is situated approximately 25 miles due west of Rapid City and is primarily undeveloped private ranchland, with a portion being public land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

The culturally significant mecca is also currently the subject of a road-improvement project initiated by Pennington County commissioners in 2004. South Rochford Road, which cuts a curved path through the center of Pe Sla from the town of Rochford to the Deerfield Lake recreation area, is being considered for paving, realignment and drainage-structure additions. Known as the South Rochford Road Project, the proposed improvements to the 12-mile stretch of gravel road are necessary to facilitate better year-round access to Rochford from Deerfield Lake, officials say.

Through a joint effort with the South Dakota Department of Transportation and Pennington County, the Federal Highway Administration is in the process of preparing a South Rochford Road Project environmental impact statement (EIS). In addition to the potential environmental effects of an upgrade, according to state Transportation Department Environmental Manager Terry Keller, the administration is examining the possible cultural effects of the three road project alternatives under consideration: taking no action, improving the existing alignment, and making improvements to a new alignment.

“(The alternatives) have to compete against each other to see which is the best one,” Keller told Native Sun News in April. And “one of the alternatives that has to be considered all the way through is to do nothing because there are times when doing nothing is the best option for the environment.”

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11
Jul

California tribes get into wine making business

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Tribes across California are diving in to the wine making business. At least four tribes have purchased vineyards there in the past year.

Tara Gomez stands by the Syrah grapes in the tribal vineyard. (Photo courtesy of ICTMN/ By Lisa Garrigues)


Indian Country Today profiled one Santa Ynez Band member who is making sure the grapes in the vineyards are yielding delicious wines for the tribes to sell.

    Tara Gomez, 39, of California’s Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, is the first Native winemaker with a degree in enology to manage both the vineyard and the winemaking components of a wine business.

Along with the Santa Ynez Band, Lytton and Dry Creek Rancheria Bands of Pomo Indians and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation all have purchased vineyards.

As for Gomez, she worked for several private vineyards around the country before the Ynez bought their lands.

    She returned to California when the Santa Ynez band purchased 1,390 acres from Fess Parker in 2010, land that had been home to their ancestors. Two hundred and fifty six acres were vineyards. The purchase price was reported by the Santa Maria Times at $40 million. In Gomez’s lifetime, the Santa Ynez Band, like other California gaming tribes, has moved from poverty to power. The tribe’s 142 members now own three hotels as well as the Chumash Casino.

    But wealth has also brought resentment from local residents and resistance to tribal expansion. “We bought the land because we wanted to build more housing for our tribal members,” said Richard Gomez, Tara’s father and vice chairman of the tribe. Local residents have filed lawsuits to block the Chumash from building homes on the land they purchased from Parker. “They are afraid we’re going to build another casino,” said Richard. “But that’s not true.”

    While they continue to apply for permission to build housing on part of the land, the tribe has asked Tara to manage the vineyards, a job she is all too willing to do. She is eager to apply what she learned in Europe, and try to blend the Old World with the New. “You see a lot of these California-style wines that are really focused on higher alcohol, richer characteristics, whereas I like to focus on more elegance, more showing the freshness of the fruit and showing the terroir of where the grapes come from, the region,” she says.

Jenna Cederberg

Blackfeet women join together to oppose oil, gas ‘fracking’

An exploratory well site is situated alongside a waterway on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation near the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. (Photo by Tristan Scott)


Most of the Blackfeet Reservation’s 1.5 million acres in northwestern Montana are leased for oil and gas exploration, a fact that has caused much concern and angst for some residents there.

Here’s a story from Missoulian reporter Tristan Scott about one group of women trying to ensure the exploration doesn’t turn into exploitation and ruin for their lands.

    BROWNING – On a recent flight over Divide Mountain, a snow-marbled peak that straddles the border between the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and Glacier National Park, Lori New Breast crossed her fingers.

    New Breast is an enrolled tribal member and the co-founder of Blackfeet Women Against Fracking, a coalition of women opposed to the rampant oil and gas exploration occurring on reservation lands. She is worried that the rolling foothills intersecting the Rocky Mountain Front could soon be bristling with oil wells, and that a trove of cultural and natural resources will be dramatically and permanently altered in the process.

Bison documentary wins regional Emmy
Montana filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis set out to make a movie depicting the real story of the American icon that is unlike any other animal. He wanted it to be provocative film about bison.

As Missoulian reporting intern Joanna Wilson explains, Hawe-Davis’ bold portrayal of bison in “Facing the Storm,” paid off, as the film won the Northwest Regional Emmy Award in June for the topical documentary category.

The documentary "Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison" questions why the iconic North American animal isn't managed like other wildlife in the United States. (Photo courtesy of High Plains Films)

    “All other animals you think of – grizzly bears, elk, deer – are managed as wildlife. It’s an important question for society to look at and that’s what we tried to do with the film.”

    The 2010 documentary examining the relationship between humans and North American bison was nominated for and received a Northwest Regional Emmy Award in June for the topical documentary category.

    “We worked on this film for many years,” Hawes-Davis said. “For me personally, it was one of the more important stories we’ve tried to tell.”

The film aired last year on PBS’ Independent Lens and was screened in Missoula, Mont., home to Hawes-Davis’ company, High Plains Films.

Jenna Cederberg