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Alicia Arthur sews fringe on pink shawls at the Montana Women’s Prison. (Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

Alicia Arthur sews fringe on pink shawls at the Montana Women’s Prison. (Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)


One of the sadder facts about the Montana Women’s Prison is that a disproportionate number of inmates are Native.

One of the more heartening facts is that many of those inmates have chosen to pass their time by participating in the Pink Shawl Project.

That’s a nationwide program that provides handmade shawls to cancer survivors. Ideally, it also increases the awareness of the need for cancer screenings, especially among Native women, according to this Billlings Gazette story.

Reno Charette says the effect of participating in the Pink Shawl project has been profound for the inmates.

Shawls are a traditional part of many American Indian cultures, says Charette, director of American Indian outreach at Montana State University Billings.

“It’s a great way to share cultures,” she says. “It’s therapeutic, very calming but very labor intensive. By keeping the hands busy, it seems to free the mind.”

Melissa Spotted Bear, from the Billings Clinic Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute’s Community Cancer Centers program, oversees the program with Charette.

Spotted Bear says cancer is the second-leading cause of death among American Indians, who are often diagnosed later in life than other segments of the population.

Working on the project “eases our minds; it takes us out of this place for a while,” says Jena Kennedy from the Blackfeet Reservation. “With this, getting back to my culture will help me go back to my reservation and talk about life here and open the eyes of the young to old traditions.”

Gwen Florio

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Leo Brisbois (Hamline University photo)

Leo Brisbois (Hamline University photo)


It’s nice when good news balances out sad. Case in point: This story from the Duluth News Tribune about Leo Brisbois, the first Native person to lead Minnesota’s bar association.

Brisbois is no stranger to accomplishment, Mark Stodghill reports: He was a three-year starting goalie for the Hibbing High School hockey team and one of Minnesota’s top prep cross-country runners about 30 years ago. He went on to earn a law degree and serve as an Army captain on the staff of the senior legal adviser for the four-star general com-manding U.S. Army forces in Europe.

But Brisbois, 47, who spent childhood summers with his grandmother on the White Earth Reservation and now lives in the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan, says all of that recedes in comparison to his present task:

“It means I’m standing on the shoulders of every Indian person, lawyer or non-lawyer, who has struggled over the years to maintain their cultural identity and a place in society at large while providing opportunities for their children and their children’s children,’’ he said. “So I’m not going to let them down. That’s what this means to me.’’

And, he has a mission. He’s endowed a scholarship fund at Hamline University’s School of Law in St. Paul for first-year American Indian law students.

“The reality is, there are 22,000 licensed attorneys actively practicing in Minnesota and less than 100 are members of the American Indian Bar Association,’’ he said. “That puts it in perspective, and the fact that I’m the first person of Indian heritage and descent in this position is why I take this so seriously.’’

Gwen Florio

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Leonard Peltier (AP photo)

Leonard Peltier (AP photo)


Sometime this week, a federal parole board is to decide whether Leonard Peltier – serving two life sentences for the deaths of two FBI agents during a 1975 standoff on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. – should be released.

Late last month, Peltier – who maintains he was framed – had his first full parole hearing in 15 years at the federal prison in Pennsylvania where he’s being held. The hearing spurred demonstrations on behalf of Peltier outside the prison, as well as several cities in the United States and other countries.

His attorney, Eric Seitz, says a representative of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa told the federal parole board that the tribe has arranged for a home and job for Peltier should he be paroled, as well as a position on the Council of Elders.

At the time of the hearing, Seitz said he expected a decision within three weeks, which would be tomorrow. But this Indian Country Today story says Friday. Either way, as that same story notes, the clock is ticking.

Gwen Florio

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Kyla Bearheels (twilightgear.net)

Kyla Bearheels (twilightgear.net)

Kyla Bearheels, of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, is awaiting word on her audition for a part in “Eclipse,” the third movie in the wildly successful “Twilight” series.

Based on the books by Stephanie Meyer, the “Twilight” series focuses the love between Edward Cullen, a vampire, and the teenage Bella Swan. The books have sold, oh, about a bazillion copies and the first movie was likewise successful. The second movie, “New Moon,” is be released Nov. 20, with the third and fourth movies, “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn” are secheduled for June 2010 and 2011.

Bearheels, an actress who attends Central Wyoming College in Riverton, near the Wind River Reservation, traveled to Salt Lake City in June to audition for the role of Leah Clearwater in “Eclipse,” says this Rapid City Journal story.

The good thing is, the casting company – Rene Haynes Casting of Burbank, Calif. – called her and invited her to audition, apparently on the strength of her earlier audition tape when Bearheels was a teenager trying out for “The New World.” Five years ago, Bearheels was one of several teen actresses considered to star as Pocahontas opposite Colin Farrell as Capt. John Smith in the Terrence Malick-scripted film.

She didn’t get the part, but she made an impression. The same thing could happen this time around. Bearheels says that as more time passes without being called back, the likelihood of her getting the part diminishes. Still, she says, “it was such an honor to get a call from Rene and to go up for the role.”

Gwen Florio

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The early stages of the Crazy Horse Memorial in Crazy Horse, S.D. (Rapid City Journal)

The early stages of the Crazy Horse Memorial in Crazy Horse, S.D. (Rapid City Journal)


Here’s the entire story from today’s Rapid City Journal:

Officials at Crazy Horse Memorial north of Custer plan one of the largest blasts in the history of the project.

While work continues on the horse’s head, Wednesday’s blast will remove 4,362 tons from an area called the 300 bench. The 300 bench represents work being done 300 feet below the top of Crazy Horse’s head, according to a news release from the memorial. The blast is planned for 2 p.m.

While blast work is common at the enormous sculpture, blasts of this magnitude are very unusual. According to Crazy Horse officials, the 4,362 tons is the equivalent of 363 dump truck loads of rock.

For more information, call (605) 673-4681 or go to the memorial’s Weg site, here.

And, um, stand clear. There is, of course, debate over the propriety of the memorial, given that Crazy Horse refused to let his image be captured. (Maybe the pile of rock in that photo looks like him, but maybe not. I gotta say, it makes me a little hinky even to run the photo.)

There was some chatter during the recent Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally when Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler took a tumble from the stage, breaking his shoulder. Said stage just happened to be near Bear Butte, a site sacred to Native people, who have have gathered in recent years to protest the noise, loud music and drinking associated with the rally. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but it just makes me nervous to mess with this stuff. You know?

Gwen Florio

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Del Laverdure joined Barack Obama’s Native Policy Committee when Obama was campaigning for president. Laverdure recently accepted the post of deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs. (Courtesy photo)

Del Laverdure joined Barack Obama’s Native Policy Committee when Obama was campaigning for president. Laverdure recently accepted the post of deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs. (Courtesy photo)

More than a decade ago, Del Laverdure – who’d just become the first person in his family to graduate from college, with an engineering degree – had to persuade his mother that he wasn’t blowing it, big time, by going on to law school.

She said ‘Are you crazy? With your degree now, you can provide,’” Laverdure recalls in this Billings Gazette story. “I said, ‘Mom, it will turn out fine.’ ”

That turned out to be an understatement.

Laverdure, originally from Crow Agency, Mont., was recently appointed deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs. That puts him second behind Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, who oversees and coordinates policy decisions for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, both part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

His resume includes heading the Indian law program at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and serving as adjunct professor of law and director of the Great Lakes Indian Law Center. He was an assistant professor of law at the Michigan State University College of Law and founded its indigenous law program.

Laverdure most recently served as chief legal counsel to former Crow Tribe Chairman Carl Venne (who died earlier this year) and the executive branch. He was part of the discussions that led the Crow Tribe to be one of the first three tribes to endorse Barack Obama for president, and became part of Obama’s Native Policy Committee during the campaign.

He began his new job on July 27 and will in charge of issues related to energy and economic development, and homeland security for border tribes.

His mother, he says, “thinks maybe it turned out all right.”

Gwen Florio

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (AP photo)

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (AP photo)


The Department of the Interior will provide regular updates on the financial health and reforms of the American Indian trusts, which consists of $3.5 billion in Indian trust funds, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announces here.

“Interior has a critically important responsibility for improving American Indian trust management – the largest land trusts in the nation,” Salazar says. “President Obama wants to bring greater public transparency to the progress that has been made to reform this vital program for American Indians.

“While Indian trust beneficiaries are now informed of the status of their accounts on a regular basis, it is also important that the American public be periodically apprised of challenges we face in revamping this unique trust system, the progress being made and the general health of trust accounts.”

The subject of trust royalties is a hugely significant issue in Indian Country. Last month, a federal appeals court ruled in the Cobell vs. Salazar case that Interior must account for century-old land royalties owed to tribal members. That decision reversed a lower court’s ruling that the task is impossible, and that the Indian plaintiffs were only entitled to $455 million, a fraction of the $47 billion or more they have said they are owed.

Gwen Florio

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littleshellflat1

So says this editorial in the Missoulian (Mont.) today, about the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ inexplicable 60-day delay in deciding whether to grant federal recognition to Montana’s Little Shell Chippewa tribe.

“What’s 60 days when you’ve been waiting for more than 30 years?” the editorial asks, then answers its own question. “A slap in the face, that’s what.”

The paper urges the agency to bestir itself. Given that a recommendation by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment in favor of recognition, the urging of Montana’s congressional delegation, and recognition by the state of Montana – the tribe’s flag, along with those of other tribes, is displayed at the state Capitol – appear to have made no difference whatsoever, we somehow doubt the BIA will pay much attention to the Missoulian.

But a blogger can dream!

Gwen Florio

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Sonny Tuttle (Red Nations Art)

Sonny Tuttle (Red Nations Art)

The notice in the paper was small, just the barest hint of a full, full life that touched people around the country.

“Sonny Tuttle,” it said, inviting people to celebrate his life. “Beloved,” it called him. “He was Lakota Sioux and had strong ties to the Flathead Valley and people.”

So strong that his memorial service today at the St. Ignatius Longhouse drew people from around the region.

“I have to say I’ve never met a man like him that had so much positive – he was positive at all times. There was nothing that got him down,” says Francis Cullooyah, cultural director for the Kalispel Tribe, who came to Tuttle’s service from Cusick, Wash.

Cullooyah knew Tuttle, who hailed from Pine Ridge, through his work, through powwows and also through the art whose exhibitions took Tuttle around the country. Tuttle founded Red Nations Art, a family enterprise that grew around Tuttle’s traditional hide paintings, some of which sell for tens of thousands of dollars. He used elk, deer and buffalo hides, as well as the occasional moose or antelope hide, according to his Web site, here. Family members also painted and beaded.

Although Tuttle lived most recently in Lander, Wyo., near the Wind River Reservation, his late wife, Leah, was from the Flathead Reservation and Tuttle maintained his Montana ties, Cullooyah says.

While Tuttle’s death in an accident last Saturday near Columbia Falls, Mont., came as a shock, there was laughter at times during today’s service, Cullooyah says. He remembers a time when he and his family were following the Tuttles to a powwow in Idaho. Sonny Tuttle asked his wife to drive so that he could change into his powwow regalia in the camper, so as not to miss a minute of dancing when he arrived. As the two families pulled in, they were surprised to find good parking spots close to the powwow grounds. And when Sonny Tuttle leapt from the camper in his finery, a passer-by complimented him on being ready so early – a full week early.

Cullooyah laughed when he recalled that day. And then his voice cracked. “I learned something from him personally,” he said of his friend. “We shared a sweat lodge together, we shared a lot of interaction. He was probably one of my best friends.”

Gwen Florio

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28
Jul

Coal company sale could affect Crow reservation

   Posted by: admin    in Coal, Crow Tribe

There was much celebration on the Crow reservation when an Australian company announced plans to build a multi-billion-dollar coal-to-liquids plant to the Crow reservation.

Then-interim Tribal Chairman Cedric Black Eagle called this spring’s inking of the final documents in the deal “another major milestone in bringing this important $7.5 billion project to reality, for the benefit of the Crow Tribe, the state of Montana and the whole United States.” (Read that story here.)

But now a Canadian company is acquiring the Australian Energy Co., which made the original agreement. Vancouver-based Terra Nova Minerals Inc. is putting up an undisclosed sum of money for the Australian Energy in a “reverse takeover,” according to this story. That means Australian Energy executives will stay in key positions. No word yet on what it means for the Crow.

Gwen Florio

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