We in the news business are being deluged these days by reports of the imminent death of “paper” newspapers and the concurrent rush go digital in every format possible.
In the midst of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth is the Native Sun News in Rapid City, S.D., which debuted a year and a half ago as a defiantly paper newspaper and has stayed that way ever since. As publisher Tim Giago wrote about that decision:
You won’t find us on the Internet. So many of my Indian readers do not have computers or do not even have access to them. Native Sun News will go back to the traditional way of providing news for Indian country. The paper will have serious news, but we will never abandon that Indian sense of humor that so many non-Indians accuse us of not having. You will be able to hold our newspaper in your hands, sip on a hot cup of coffee, and read the news you used to love to read in The Lakota Times and Indian Country Today.
The paper is especially tough on cases of alleged corruption.
Native Sun News is often the only news outlet to publicize cases like the one involving Donita King, whose story was featured in the July 21 issue. King, an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Sioux on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, says that she and her family have been fighting for years for the money due from her oil-rich allotments.
People are widely familiar with the issue of Native Americans being cheated out of royalties on their land allotments, thanks to the massive Cobell v. Salazar class-action suit against the Interior Department.
But as King tells Native Sun News managing editor Randall Howell, it’s not the U.S. government, but tribal officials, who have been cheating her family. King, who is legally blind, says the money due her family has instead been directed to fake accounts set up by powerful people in the tribe.
As Howell reports, “What started out as a ‘simple probate search’ more than two decades ago, after King’s father had died, has resulted in nearly 50 grand-jury indictments over allotment fraud.”
King, who is a descendant of Hunkpapa Sioux Chief Sitting Bull and who says the long fight has resulted in death threats to her and her family, calls the whole mess a “path of shame.”
And the only place you can read about it is the Native Sun News “The only Indian newspaper that cowboys can read, too!”). You can look at a reproduction of each week’s front page and read a column by Giago online every week at www.nsweekly.com/. And, even though reading the entire newspaper defiantly remains a tactile experience, you can follow Native Sun News, and discussions about its stories, on both Facebook and Twitter.
We’ve blogged earlier, here, about the new book on the Little Bighorn Battle, Nathaniel Philbrick’s “The Last Stand,” which takes a look at that day through the eyes of both Sitting bull and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
The New York Times takes a look at Philbrick’s work, here, along with another book, this one about Quanah Parker of the Comanche.
The Times terms S.C. Gwynne’s book on Parker, “Empire of the Summer Moon,” transcendent:
Born the son of an Indian warrior and his white wife (who had been captured at the age of 9 during a raid on a Texas ranch), Parker grew up to become the last and greatest chief of the Comanche, the tribe that ruled the Great Plains for most of the 19th century. That’s his one-sentence biography. The deeper, richer story that unfolds in “Empire of the Summer Moon” is nothing short of a revelation. Gwynne, a former editor at Time and Texas Monthly, doesn’t merely retell the story of Parker’s life. He pulls his readers through an American frontier roiling with extreme violence, political intrigue, bravery, anguish, corruption, love, knives, rifles and arrows. Lots and lots of arrows. This book will leave dust and blood on your jeans.
Reviewer Bruce Barcott terms the Comanche a Native American superpower, and quotes Gwynne: “They held sway over some 20 different tribes who had been either conquered, driven off or reduced to vassal status,” Gwynne writes. “Such imperial dominance was no accident of geography. It was the product of over 150 years of deliberate, sustained combat against a series of enemies over a singular piece of land that contained the country’s largest buffalo herds.”
Parker’s own transformation mirrored that of his people:
Quanah Parker’s second act was, if anything, more remarkable than his first. Resigned to reservation life, he transformed himself from a death-dealing warrior to a prosperous cattleman and a hard-bargaining politician who earned the respect and friendship of Teddy Roosevelt.”
Barcott calls “Empire of the Summer Moon” “a forceful argument about the place of Native American tribes in geopolitical history.”
Racial violence won’t be tolerated, Farmington officials tell Navajo group
The mayor and other city officials from Farmington, N.M., met with a Navajo human rights group last week to give them the message that racial violence won’t be tolerated in their town. The meeting follows an incident in which a developmentally delayed Navajo man was held by three other men who branded his arm with a swastika. The Navajo Times reports on the meeting here. Meanwhile, Farmington police are doing an internal investigation into how the incident initially was handled, KQRE reports (see video above). The first officer on the scene didn’t recognize that the man was disabled, and thought he was drunk, police say.
First Nations protest honorary degree to former Ontario premier
Former Ontario premier Mike Harris is scheduled to get an honorary doctorate of letters next month from Nipissing University. But that plan doesn’t well with aboriginal groups within Ontario, who recall the fatal shooting of a First Nations protester in 1995 at Ipperwash Provincial Park in southwestern Ontario, according to this Canadian Press story. Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee says Ontario’s First Nations feel Harris doesn’t deserve it. The groups cite the “hostile” relationship between the provincial government under Harris at the time of the shooting.
Native American group denounces new Arizona ethnic studies law
Members of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association invited Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva to their Tucson convention to discuss a new law that effectively bans ethnic studies – including Native American studies – in Arizona public schools, KGUN 9 News reports here. Fifteen students recently were arrested during a protest against the law.
GOP gubernatorial candidates in South Dakota pledge tribal outreach
“Listen.” That’s the approach state government should take in working to heal old wounds and improve relations with Native American tribes in South Dakota, Republican candidates for governor told Rapid City (S.D.) Journal reporter Kevin Woster, here.
New book takes fresh approach to Little Bighorn Battle
Check out this review of Nathaniel Philbrick’s “The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.” Lorna Thackeray of the Billings (Mont.) Gazette calls it “one of the most readable ever to emerge” from the hundreds of books on the subject.
Touring Native American veterans exhibit comes to Flathead Reservation
A Smithsonian exhibit honoring Native American veterans will be touring Montana for the next year, making stops at all of the seven Indian reservations within the state. It’s starting out at the Peoples Center on the Flathead Indian Reservation, the Char-Koosta News reports here.
Report – Indigenous languages at serious risk on Canada’s Pacific Coast
Only a few people still speak the indigenous languages of the First Nations on the Pacific Coast of Canada. As detailed in this story, and the video above, a report by The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council says eight of the 32 languages of British Columbia are endangered and 22 nearly extinct. Only about 5 percent of the indigenous population is considered fluent, and most of those people are older than 65.
Federal judge rules Wyoming county voting system hurts Indians
A federal judge in Wyoming has ruled that the system of electing county commissioners in Fremont County dilutes American Indian votes and must be changed. This Casper (Wyo.) Star Tribune reports says U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson gave the county until June 30 to submit a new plan. The county is home to the Wind River Indian Reservation, with its Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. The Star Tribune praises the ruling in this editorial, which says that Johnson’s strongly worded ruling should lead to fairer representation for voters on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Tucson Symphony Orchestra performs at Tohono O’odham Nation
Tohono O'odham elder Lucyann Joaquin watches the Tucson Symphony Orchestra String Quartet perform at Archie Hendricks Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility on the Tohono O'oodham reservation near Sells, Ariz., Saturday May 1, 2010. (Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star)
The strains of Dvorák’s String Quartet wafted through the Archie Hendricks skilled Nursing Facility on the Tohono O’odham Nation yesterday, thank to members of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. The group traveled there to perform for the center’s two dozen elders, a performance that nearly brought Gordon Francisco to tears.
It was the first time he and the majority of those attending the recital – the first of three the TSO performed on the nation Saturday – had ever seen an orchestra concert, the Greg Bryan of the Arizona Daily Star writes here.
“As far as the adults, it feels like their lives are just (about) working, and they never seek it out,” said Allison Francisco, the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum artist liaison. She was responsible for bringing the TSO to the nation for three concerts.
Denver Art Museum to renovate historic American Indian, Northwest Coast galleries
The Denver Art Museum opened in 1925, becoming the first American museum to collect Native American objects as art rather than artifact. This summer, the museum reports here, it’s renovating and reinstalling its American Indian and Northwest Coast art galleries. They’ll be open to the public through June 13, then will close until early 2011, when they’ll reopen in a 23,000-square-foot gallery that includes new interactive, artist-centric displays.
New book contrasts Sitting Bull and Custer
Just when you think nothing new can possibly be written about the Little Bighorn, along comes “The Last Stand,” by Nathaniel Philbrick. The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger says of it, here, that “the latest retelling of the iconic confrontation between whites and Native Americans is written not so much for battle buffs as it is for a more general audience interested in learning about clashing cultures and warring ways of life.” And, he says, it contrasts the “womanizing, publicity-seeking George Armstrong Custer against Sitting Bull, the stoic and contemplative leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota.”
Navajo heroine Ellen Tsosie returns in new book aimed at young readers
Arizona author Seth Muller has written a new book featuring a young Navajo girl, Ellie Tsosie, who made her debut in “The Mockingbird’s Manual,” a 2009 novel about how she learns to talk to birds. Now, according to this Arizona Daily Sun report, Ellie Tsosie is back in “The Day of Storms.” It’s all part of the “Keepers of the Windclaw Chronicles” series aimed at readers ages 8 to 12.
Image from Facebook's Reject the Cobell v. Salazar Agreement page
It’s interesting that Mark Trahant, in his weekly health care column, writes about Facebook today. (See previous post.)
The social networking site is also being used to protest the multi-billion-dollar Cobell v. Salazar settlement for Indian people owed decades’ worth of royalties from the federal government.
The Facebook page is called “Reject The Cobell V. Salazar Agreement,” and only has 114 members so far. Its mission statement:
This Group was inspired by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Elders Council deciding to unanimously REJECT the paltry sum so disrespectfully offered by the US Government.
As Sitting Bull Said: “You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hard-tack, and a little sugar and coffee.”
The Facebook group speaks to the dissatisfaction some people feel with the settlement – more than $3 billion, as opposed to more than $100 billion that some estimate Indian people are actually owed.
Plaintiff Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet from Browning, Mont., says she accepted the settlement, announced last fall, because it’s quite a step up from the originally proposed $455 million and also because many of the 50,000 people who will directly benefit are elderly, and could die if further legal wrangling were to continue.
She’s touring reservations in North and South Dakota this week to answer people’s questions about the settlement. (See previous post.)
And, she also writes a weekly Ask Elouise column to address issues concerning the settlement. Check it out here.
Meanwhile, Congress has yet to approve funds mandated by the settlement, and recently delayed that approval – for the second time – until next month.
It’s one thing to know that the history books got so much wrong. It’s another to hear it directly from the source – and so soon after the event actually happened – and then to realize that so many books still got it wrong!
Just 18 months after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Sioux chief Sitting Bull told what happened that day to Martin Marty of Indiana, a Benedictine abbot who lived with the Sioux and spoke their language, the Missoulian’s Kim Briggeman reports here.
Martin followed Sitting Bull and his people to Canada after battle and stayed with them for eight days, and took down Sitting Bull’s story and then passed it along to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
As Briggeman writes:
The American accounts of the battle are all wrong, the Hunkpapa chief claims. The Indians had 11 days warning that the soldiers were coming. Lt. George Custer’s Seventh Cavalrymen were too tired to fight, the horses broken down by hard travel and no food. The soldiers “had been so long in the saddle that they were overcome by sleep,” Sitting Bull said.
There were not the massive numbers of Indians involved in the fight as most reports had it, but they still outnumbered Custer’s men six to one. The annihilation was over in a few minutes.
“Our powder was scarce, and we killed the soldiers with our war clubs,” the chief told Marty. “The soldiers … were killed so quick they did not have time to fight us.”
Sitting Bull said the Sioux did not recognize Custer in the fight, and they did not know him to call him “Long Hair.”