Posts Tagged ‘Sioux’

Charles Cook, superintendent of Poplar Public Schools and James Melbourne, Tribal health director, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, signed this letter in response the Associated Press’ Matt Volz’ piece on the suicide epidemic on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

The pair argue that Volz missed many “positive” points of action the community, which has seen at least five suicides and dozen of attempts by middle school students in recent years, has taken to solve the horrific problem. The piece has been run in various newspapers, including several in the state of Montana.

Here’s Cook’s guest column:

    Youth suicide is difficult to talk about. A recent newspaper article from the Montana Associated Press about suicides in our Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes and Poplar K-12 Schools was hurtful, misleading and unprofessional. How we talk about suicide can leave a deep impact.

    Everyone is fragile after such tragedies. Experts agree – and our experience confirms – grieving periods leave some vulnerable, including those who knew the victim or who may be likely to attempt. When reporting on suicide, photos of grieving families, detailed descriptions of death and provocative quotes represent irresponsible journalism. It is exploitive and offensive. The reporter’s decision to write this story, despite requests not to, and his decision to overlook many positive actions in our community also shows a lack of respect.

    Here are some points the story missed. Our tribe is implementing many recommendations from a 2010 Indian Health Service Report issued after the suicides. For example, the report noted youth requesting more recreation activities. Our Fort Peck Youth Activity Committee is expanding such programming. We applied for grants from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Education. Community suicide prevention walks have occurred. We also conducted prevention trainings such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and Native HOPE (Helping Our People Endure).

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From Talli Nauman, Native Sun News health and environment editor

LEAD — A little more than a century after gold discovery sparked the violation of Sioux treaty rights to the Black Hills, the precious metal is still causing violations – now of health and environmental protections.
Runoff pollution from the 260-acre Gilt Edge Mine Site, located five miles southeast of Lead, exceeds water quality standards for temperature, suspended solids, and nitrates, according to a December 2010 update on the EPA’s five-year review of the site.
The runoff flows into Strawberry Creek and Bear Butte Creek, which are part of the lower Belle Fourche watershed, a fish breeding habitat and contributor to domestic drinking supplies.

A decade ago the federal government placed the Gilt Edge Mine on the National Priority List for cleanup of toxic waste, declaring it a Superfund Site. The hazardous heavy metals at the site are the target of the cleanup. They include arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, selenium, thallium and zinc.

The update notes that regulators are following a recommendation from the 2007 review, which calls for them to “continue monitoring”.
However, they say they cannot follow another recommendation to use a more sensitive detection method for cyanide monitoring because “no analytical technique for site water is available that provides a lower detection limit.”

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Neleigh Driving Hawk gets help riding her bike down a street with her aunt Mariah in Lower Brule, S.D. (Devin Wagner/Argus Leader)

Neleigh Driving Hawk gets help riding her bike down a street with her aunt Mariah in Lower Brule, S.D. (Devin Wagner/Argus Leader)

    “There’s also all these positive and beautiful things that you can still live here and have a good life,” - Autumn White Eyes, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation resident now studying at Dartmouth

The Argus Leader debuts today an eight-part print series and dynamic online multimedia presentation, “Growing Up Indian.”

Most South Dakotans can scarcely imagine what it’s like to grow up on an Indian reservation, their website tells readers as we’re introduced to the project. So, AL reporter Steve Young and photographer Devin Wagner (UM photojournalism, ’08) went on their first assignment for the project in January.

Hundreds of hours, thousands of photos and a deeper understanding later, they introduce readers to three central characters in the project, which began its print run today in the AL. Featured prominently as the “first leg” is Neleigh, a 3-year-old whose young mother hopes the best for her little girl.

Also featured is the disturbing story of Marquita Walking Eagle, who was raped and murdered in 2009, paralleled with the inspiring optimism and drive of Gates Millennium Scholar and Dartmouth college student Autumn White Eyes – who says she wants to return to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to make positive change.

“She (Neleigh) faces, basically, one of two options; which are the other two legs of the story,” Wagner told me during a phone interview on Friday.

“(What) we’re trying to do is show our readership what is like to grow up a young Native American. Things that effect them are higher than what in effect you could call normal life,” he said.

Those things include suicide, alcoholism, teen pregnancy and high school dropouts – among others portrayed in the comprehensive GUI project.

Video, photos, live chats, diaries
One of the most exciting aspects of the presentation is its completeness: The eight-part print series is anchored by a huge lineup of multimedia (video, slideshows, guest opinions on hot-button topics), including three video diaries that look into the lives of Native students who taped their own experiences for nearly a year. That portion of the project was created in partnership with the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute and Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

“We want them to tell their story, I don’t care if its Blair Witch Project (style camera work). We just want them to give us some insight on what it’s like to grow up how they grow up,” said Wagner, who mentored the teens throughout the process. “They’ve overcome some obstacles. It’s beautiful to see that they’ve fought such adversity.”

The words, the photos and the voices captured in all of GUI’s content are immense. Wagner, a Crow from Lewistown who spent time “a lot” of time on the Crow Reservation in Montana, said getting to know the Lakota or Sioux people – telling their stories – has been a blessing.

“I was invited into people’s homes, people’s communities, people’s lives. Like I said, these people go through such adversity, yet they are still able to be very humble, be polite. Be hopeful.”

Jenna Cederberg

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services filed a 200-page report for the community ravaged by suicides in the past years, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Tribal leaders on the Fort Peck Reservation declared a state of emergency after a rash of suicides and suicide attempts by young people there within the last year. Five youths died and 20 more tried to take their own lives last year.

Groups of the HHS employees spent time on the reservation to complete the “road map” report to help stop the suicides. It does not list a specific cause for the string of suicides, but does give a list of 12 recommendations, such as hiring a suicide prevention coordinator.

    The report does not list a reason for the cluster of suicides but does point out that socio-economic factors played a major role, with abuse of alcohol and drugs and the lack of parenting skills in particular.

    “Either due to a lack of effective parenting skills, lack of appropriate role models, or just the imitating of the examples set by others, many adults and children in the community have not developed effective problem-solving skills to deal with the stresses they experience. Unfortunately, it appears that many troubled youth are passing maladaptive behaviors to succeeding generations,” the report stated in its summary.

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Photo provided  ‘Remember the Bitterroots’ by Kay WalkingStick

Photo provided ‘Remember the Bitterroots’ by Kay WalkingStick

This story from the Helena Independent Record in Montana previews a weekend symposium that will examine the challenges faced by Native American artists.

This weekend’s symposium. Sept. 11 and 12, at the Montana Artists Refuge in Basin is an opportunity for American Indian artists to take control of their own destiny, said artist Bently Spang.

He is co-chair of the organizing committee for Confluence of Red Nations American Indian Artists Symposium: Looking Back to Move Forward and a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation in Montana.

Indian artists can often find themselves locked into how others have defined American Indian art ever since the 1800s, he explained.

One thing Spang plans to share is a 1940s letter written by Oscar Howe, an internationally renowned artist who was Yanktonais Sioux. Howe, whose work had been influenced by Picasso, submitted a painting to be shown in the Annual National Indian Painting Competition at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Okla. It was rejected as not being a “traditional Indian painting.”

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The whole Shirley Sherrod incident brought to mind the unconscionable problems that black farmers had with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But as the Washington Post reminds its readers, Native American farmers were – and continue to be – similarly mistreated:

    George Keepseagle is the lead plaintiff in Keepseagle v. Vilsack, the class-action suit by Native American farmers and ranchers against the USDA. (AP photo)

    George Keepseagle is the lead plaintiff in Keepseagle v. Vilsack, the class-action suit by Native American farmers and ranchers against the USDA. (AP photo)

    Their frustrations echoed the observations of some black farmers who made similar observations last week that other USDA officials had not faced repercussions.

    Porter Holder, a Choctaw rancher and rodeo champion in southeastern Oklahoma, said he is disturbed that a USDA loan officer he complained about in the late 1990s is still on the job. In the Great Plains, Native American farmers say they have complained repeatedly about another veteran loan officer in the USDA’s Sidney, Mont., office who was involved in a recent confrontation that included the police.

    Loan officer Patrick Turner was arrested after the Feb. 23 incident, which occurred while he appraised the ranch of Roy “Tony” Anderson, a member of the Sioux tribe who lives on the Fort Peck reservation. In a police statement, Turner acknowledged hitting one of Anderson’s neighbors, who he said blocked the door to his truck. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, the charge was dismissed July 16.

The story makes for tough, but necessary, reading on a pretty summer day. Check it out.

Gwen Florio

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Doug Scott, project archaeologist at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, tells how he is working with a crew to search along two oxbows of the Little Bighorn River which are quickly eroding away.  (James Woodcock/Billings Gazette)

Doug Scott, project archaeologist at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, tells how he is working with a crew to search along two oxbows of the Little Bighorn River which are quickly eroding away. (James Woodcock/Billings Gazette)


Archaeologists are scrambling to survey a portion of the famous Little Bighorn National Battlefield before erosion sweeps the land into an oxbow on the Little Bighorn River.

“We needed to find out if there was anything there before it’s gone,” Kate Hammond, National Park Service superintendent at the 1876 battlefield, tells Lorna Thackeray of the Billings Gazette, here.

    So [Hammond] called in archaeologist Douglas Scott, an old battlefield hand who has supervised most of the archaeology projects here since the early 1980s. Scott, who is retired from the Park Service, and a team of archaeologists and volunteers scoured the endangered oxbow and two others Monday through Wednesday to determine whether the sites played a role in the clash between the 7th U.S. Cavalry and an alliance of Sioux and Cheyenne.

    So far, the finds include two 1960s-era beer cans, a couple of quarters from the 1980s and a handful of .22 cartridges.

    “Mostly what we’ve found is modern trash,” Scott said Tuesday. “Nothing battle-related.”

Among other things, they’re looking for clues to the so-called “Lost Company,” described in Indian accounts as survivors of the battle who fled into a ravine, only to be killed by warriors who found them there.

No one has ever found their remains.

Gwen Florio

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Marietta Green works at the Blackfeet Eagle Shields Center for elders. The government, she says, “should not have committed fraud against my ancestors.” (Gwen Florio/Missoulian)

Marietta Green works at the Blackfeet Eagle Shields Center for elders. The government, she says, “should not have committed fraud against my ancestors.” (Gwen Florio/Missoulian)

I went up to the Blackfeet Reservation this week to talk to people there about the Cobell case settlement. When I went, on Wednesday, the Senate was preparing to debate a jobs bill that contained approval for the $3.4 billion settlement for Indian people defrauded by the U.S. government of royalties on their land. It seemed that, after generations of being shorted, people might finally get some of the money owed them. A day later, the jobs bill seemed dead and the settlement was once again up in the air – all of which underscored the resignation voiced by the people with whom I spoke for this story:

    BROWNING, Mont. – Frank Still Smoking is 76, an age where he’s seen a lot of his contemporaries pass on.

    They died, he believes, without receiving justice – in the form of money due them from the U.S. government for mismanaging royalty payments on tribal lands to the tune of billions of dollars over several generations.

    This particular injustice might have been added to the seemingly endless list of offenses by the government against Indian people had it not been for the work of Elouise Cobell, who, like Still Smoking, is a member of the Blackfeet Nation.

    Fourteen years ago, Cobell sued the government, demanding compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans defrauded of their money.

    In December, after repeated setbacks, a $3.4 billion settlement in Cobell v. Salazar was announced. It was described as one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history. Indian Country celebrated.

    And then – nothing.

    The settlement, which needs congresssional approval before the money can be distributed, has faced one delay after another, most recently on Thursday night, when Senate Republicans used a filibuster to kill the jobs bill to which the settlement was attached.

    “It’s just a wait-and-see game now,” a weary-sounding Cobell said in a telephone interview Friday. “We were so disappointed and disheartened this didn’t get approved because it affects so many people’s lives.”

    In Browning, 2,200 miles away from the political power games in Washington, Still Smoking wonders if he’ll end up like his friends, dead before he ever sees a penny of the money due him.

As always, we’ll keep posting updates as the settlement progresses – or not. Someday, someday soon, we hope to write that people are actually getting their money. In the meantime, we’ll try to be patient, too.

Gwen Florio

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A photo from a MySpace page honoring Lorne Red Elk (right).

A photo from a MySpace page honoring Lorne Red Elk (right).

Here’s the entire story from the Associated Press:

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — On the anniversary of his slaying, the family and friends of an American Indian man killed outside a bar remain hopeful that his killer will be found.

Lorne Red Elk, 56, was found with massive head trauma in the parking lot of Duffy’s Tavern on June 14, 2009. Doctors removed him from life support three days later.

Jeani Walesch, his girlfriend, told the Idaho State Journal that she wants to make sure Red Elk — a gentle giant of a man, in her words — doesn’t become another cold case, fading and forgotten as the years stretch on.

She said Red Elk’s death shocked her so profoundly, she has little memory of events for about a month after his death.

“When you lose somebody to something like this, it’s like a big, black cloud behind you at all times,” she said. “It’s never gone.”

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Lodge Grass High students, from left, Ashton Old Elk, Ferlin Blacksmith and Deallen Little Light stop with their horses on the top of small rim at the Grapevine Creek battlefield this week. (David Grubbs/Billings Gazette)

Lodge Grass High students, from left, Ashton Old Elk, Ferlin Blacksmith and Deallen Little Light stop with their horses on the top of small rim at the Grapevine Creek battlefield this week. (David Grubbs/Billings Gazette)

The first interpretive project ever to take place at the Fort C.F. Smith site in southern Montana took place this week as part of a collaboration between the Crow Tribe and the National Park Service.

The site — now deonated only with a stone and metal marker — was built by the U.S. Army on the Bozeman Trail along the Bighorn River to protect people traveling to Virginia City’s gold camps, Brett French of the Billings Gazette writes here.

“Anywhere else in America, this would be a really big site,” says Col. Berris Samples, leader of the Lodge Grass Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, who brought Crow students there this week. He also took the students to the site of the Grapevine Creek battle between the Crow and the Blackfeet.

The sites, on the Crow reservation, are typically closed to anyone other than Crow tribal members, but because of a collaboration with the Junior ROTC group, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area staff was able to accompany the group and give presentations to the students. (Watch a video of the day’s events, here.)

“This is the first interpretive program ever given at the site of Fort C.F. Smith,” Chris Wilkinson, chief of interpretation for the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, tells French.

Wilkinson told the group that the fort — the most isolated along the Bozeman Trail — was built in 1864 to protect white emigrants from raids by the Sioux and Cheyenne:

Chris Wilkinson, chief of interpretation for the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, speaks to Lodge Grass students about Fort C.F. Smith on Tuesday near the site where the flagpole once stood. (David Grubbs/Billings Gazette)

Chris Wilkinson, chief of interpretation for the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, speaks to Lodge Grass students about Fort C.F. Smith on Tuesday near the site where the flagpole once stood. (David Grubbs/Billings Gazette)

    “Your ancestors, the Crow Nation, were stuck in the middle of this,” Wilkinson told the JROTC students.

    Without the help of Crow Indians acting as scouts, mail carriers and providing food to starving soldiers in the winter of 1867, Fort C.F. Smith might not have lasted two years.

    “I do not believe there is any greater example of hospitality to the U.S. Army,” Wilkinson said.

    “Why do I tell you this today?” he asked rhetorically. “By celebrating your legacy, you are following in your ancestors’ footsteps and extending hospitality. We thank you for allowing us to visit your sites.”

At the site of the Grapevine Creek battle, where the Crow defeated a Blackfeet band, students raised a tepee.

Theo Hugs, who retired last year from the Bighorn Canyon NRA, tells French that the interaction between the tribe and the National Park Service is long overdue.

“I think the kids need to know their heritage,” she says.

Gwen Florio

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