Posts Tagged ‘Blackfeet’


Plagued by infighting

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Blackfeet, Yupik

Montana’s Blackfeet Tribe isn’t the only tribe plagued by in-fighting.

This is the post office in Newtok, Alaska, a village that needs to be relocated to higher ground before it is swallowed by erosion. But a dispute among local Eskimos has frozen millions of dollars in funds to pay for the move.

This is the post office in Newtok, Alaska, a village that needs to be relocated to higher ground before it is swallowed by erosion. But a dispute among local Eskimos has frozen millions of dollars in funds to pay for the move.

As Rachel D’Oro of the Associated Press reports, a dispute in the Yup’ik Eskimo community has left a village in Alaska where coastal erosion threatens the town in peril.

As residents wait for a new village to be built on higher ground nine miles away, a dispute over who is in charge has led to a rare intervention by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which ruled that the sitting tribal council no longer represents the community of 350 as far as the agency is concerned.
Council leaders are appealing the BIA’s decision, which gave the funding-administrative power to a new group that claims it is the rightfully elected council.

Newtok is a flood-prone village of 350 people located 480 miles west of Anchorage. The BIA says necessary council elections were not held for more than seven years. Meantime, new council members were first elected in October of 2012, which prompted the old council to hold another election.

The resulting dispute reached a boiling point in June when the new council got more votes during a community meeting attended by both sides.

Complicating matters are recent audits by the state that concluded the old council mismanaged other relocation grants and paid certain employees “exorbitant” compensation. Officials deny the charges.

Meantime, the new council failed to hold a required election last month, saying it wanted to wait until the dispute over who is in charge is resolved.

- Vince Devlin


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Blackfeet mourn warrior slain in Afghanistan

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Blackfeet

Our thoughts are with the family of warrior Spc. Antonio C. Burnside. Burnside was killed in action last week in Afghanistan.

An Army carry team transfers the casket containing the remains of Army Spc. Antonio C. Burnside, of Great Falls, upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Monday. The Department of Defense announced the death of Burnside, who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. (AP PHOTO/JOSE LUIS MAGANA)

Kristen Cates of the Great Falls Tribune has the story:

    In addition to close family and friends, the Blackfeet Nation is mourning the loss of one of its “warriors” in the wake of U.S. Army Spc. Antonio C. Burnside’s death in Afghanistan on Friday.

    Burnside (Many Hides, his Blackfeet family name), was killed when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire in the Ghanzi province of Afghanistan on Friday.

    The 31-year-old, originally from Great Falls, leaves behind his wife, four children, parents and siblings, as well as a grieving Blackfeet Nation.

    Tribal officials report that Burnside’s parents are on their way to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to retrieve his body and bring him home to the Blackfeet Reservation for services and burial.

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Missoulian reporter Tristan Scott takes a closer look at the U.S.-Cadanda border and how crossing that line is sometimes a struggle for tribal members.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe officials have been mulling options and expressing frustrations about the situation at the border during talks with U.S. Border Patrol and Customs representatives this winter.

As Scott writes, there is a lot to discuss.

    ELMO – The 49th parallel. The International Boundary. The Border.

    In Montana, it is the northernmost perimeter, a 545-mile-long line along which the state rises to meet three Canadian provinces. The border distinguishes two nations and was born of negotiations that helped end the American Revolutionary War.

    But to members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation, among others, the U.S.-Canada border is an arbitrary line demarcating ancestral lands, separating families and undermining tribal sovereignty.

    In the most trifling circumstances, the border poses an annoyance to tribal members who regularly travel between Canada and the United States for family visits, council meetings or cultural and religious ceremonies. However, in other instances, either due to a lack of cultural awareness or a misunderstanding by officials with Customs and Border Protection, tribal members have been deeply offended or had their travel plans derailed.

    Too many tribal members share horror stories of family members who are prohibited from crossing the border because they do not have a passport (they are not required to possess one) and of religious or cultural items that are unknowingly desecrated by Customs personnel, such as eagle feathers, sweetgrass or sacred medicine bundles.

    “A lot of law enforcement and border patrol are ignorant about our culture and tradition in general,” said Vernon Finley of the Kootenai Culture Committee. “They don’t understand that as a tribe who lives along the border, we are allowed to move fluidly throughout our territory. We always have been. And they don’t understand the significance of our religious objects.”

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Pipeline spills oil on Blackfeet Reservation

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Blackfeet, Oil and gas

The Censored News blog – dedicated to indigenous peoples and human rights – was one of the first places to report the oil spilled from a broken pipeline onto the Blackfeet Indian Reservation last week.

Details are still thin so far, but it looks like around 400-600 gallons leaked.

The Censored News story was posted Sunday. More traditional news organizations had the story Monday afternoon, but didn’t include much about the damage on the reservation.

Thanks to Destini Vaile (Blackfeet) and Reed Perry for sharing on the blog.

Jenna Cederberg

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Elouise Cobell (AP photo)

Elouise Cobell (AP photo)

Elouise Cobell (Blackfeet) came one step closer to sealing a long-fought victory in her lawsuit against the Interior Department as the Senate on Friday approved the $3.4 billion settlement in a package. The legislation now moves to the House, where similar language has already been approved.

“It’s 17 below and the Blackfeet nation is feeling warm,” Cobell told the Associated Press. “I don’t know if people understand or believe the agony you go through when one of the beneficiaries passes away without justice.”

Here’s the full AP story on

You can read full statements from Elouise Cobell and President Barack Obama on the Senate vote at Jodi Rave’s blog, Buffalo’s Fire.

In other news,
U.S. Senate approves water rights settlements with Crow Tribe, others
The Senate also approved Friday several water rights settlements, including a a $462 million portion going to Montana’s Crow Tribe. Arizona’s White Mountain Apache Tribe and New Mexico’s Pueblo of Taos and a group of four other pueblos were also included in the almost $1 billion settlement.

The measure would guarantee the tribes’ rights to water resources, while the money attached to the settlement would help build safe drinking water and irrigation systems, the Associated Press reports.

    “It opens the door to economic recovery for the tribe,” said Crow Chairman Cedric Black Eagle, whose tribe has long struggled with poverty. “We would have the potential to utilize Crow water for industrial use as well as commercial use, having safe drinking water, having an irrigation project.”

    Jenna Cederberg

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UM student Keith Rock comments on the racial implications of the “Twilight” series and the movie New Moon. Rock, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, says that people often project stereotypes on him, and movies like this don’t help. (Copyright Steel Brooks 2010)

UM student Keith Rock comments on the racial implications of the “Twilight” series and the movie New Moon. Rock, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, says that people often project stereotypes on him, and movies like this don’t help. (Copyright Steel Brooks 2010)

A panel at the University of Montana this week analyzed the portrayal of Native Americans in the uber-popular “Twilight” vampire movie series, focusing on the shirtless teenager Jacob Black, a Native American who can turn into a werewolf.

The panel members for the University Student Involvement program hosted “Keeping Jacob on the Reservation: Is Twilight Racist?” event recognized that the movie can’t be taken too seriously, but saw several themes as concerning, the Montana Kaiman reported.

Black, and a the rest of the pack of werewolves (all Native) are a central part to the series of movies. Black, human Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen are tangled in a love web complicated by the dangers of evil vampires that hunt the Cullen family and Swan. Vampires and the Native werewolves are sworn enemies.

The most concerning issue: domestic violence themes in scenes with the werewolf pack.

    (University of Montana Assistant Journalism Professor and Director of Native American Journalism Projects Jason) Begay said he saw an obvious domestic violence analogy in one scene, where a Native American woman has a scarred face because her werewolf husband, as the movie explains, ‘got angry once’ and injured her. “Even without the [werewolf] metaphor, that scene is a striking commentary on domestic violence,” Begay said.

    UM student and Blackfeet tribal member Keith Rock said Twilight plays into racist stereotypes. “As a Native American male, I am just assumed to have hurt a woman,” he said. “I saw that in the film, and it was just a slap in the face.”

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Sheila Hall/Courtesy of the Superintendent of Public Instruction's office

Sheila Hall/Courtesy of the Superintendent of Public Instruction's office

All those outstanding educators out there never do get enough credit. But one longtime Browning teacher got a boost in the form of a $25,000 award this week. Sheila Hall has been an elementary school teacher in Browning for eight years and was chosen based on factors like exceptional educational talent and exemplary educational accomplishments beyond the classroom.

The story is courtesy of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office:

    Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau singled out one of Montana’s 10,624 teachers – Sheila Hall – as being an outstanding educator and recipient of the $25,000 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award at a surprise assembly today at Browning Elementary School.
    Browning is located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana.

    Hall, a third-grade teacher, was shocked when Juneau called her name. A Browning native, Hall has worked at Browning Elementary for eight years and is one of 55 educators who will be recognized across the country this year.

    “I was floored. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would receive such a prestigious award for something that I love to do and do every day,” Hall said. “I want all of my students to be successful and have the same opportunities I had.”

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Catholic priest on Blackfeet Reservation up for $50K prize

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Blackfeet

The Associated Press has the story (Photo agove from

BROWNING, Mont. – A Catholic priest who for decades has worked on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is in the running with five other finalists for an award from a church group.

Rev. Edward Kohler is a candidate for the Lumen Christi, or Light of Christ, award from Chicago-based Catholic Extension.

The honor comes with a $50,000 prize, shared by the recipient and his or her diocese.

Kohler came to the reservation’s Little Flower Parish in 1982, and apart from a five-year stint in Guatemala has been there ever since.

He helped found the De La Salle Blackfeet School in Browning in 2001.

Brother Paul Ackerman, the school’s president, says one of Kohler’s biggest attributes is his respect for tribal traditions.

The Helena Independent Record says a winner may be named in a few weeks.

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Buffalo Post’s family vacation

   Posted by: buffalo_post    in Blackfeet, Glacier National Park, Navajo, Nez Perce

Since I began moderating this blog more than a year ago, I’ve posted nearly every day – something that has made for a rich and intensive learning experience.

Numerous prayer offerings tied to aspens blow in the wind in the foothills of the mountains of Glacier National Park. For millennia, Native peoples used the area around Glacier for spiritual guidance as well as a variety of other needs.   (Kurt Wilson/Missoulian)

Numerous prayer offerings tied to aspens blow in the wind in the foothills of the mountains of Glacier National Park. For millennia, Native peoples used the area around Glacier for spiritual guidance as well as a variety of other needs. (Kurt Wilson/Missoulian)

But now it’s time for a little break, for a family trip to Glacier National Park

It’s a place that, as this story by the Missoulian’s Michael Jamison showed, has a long and tangled history with the tribes around it. Note that these days, they live around it — despite the fact that the region is their ancestral territory.

The park in recent years has done much to acknowledge that history, scheduling talks by Native American speakers nearly every night. So the learning experience, even on vacation, will continue. That’s a good thing.

In the meantime, if you’re on vacation — or even just have this weekend off — here are a couple of interesting events:

    The 133rd Commemoration of the Big Hole Battle will take place Saturday in southwestern Montana when Nez Perce veterans and tribal elders honor all who have fought and died on the battlefield through pipe and empty saddle ceremonies. Commemorative activities will begin at approximately 10 a.m. near the Nez Perce Camp, a 3/4-mile walk from the lower parking lot. Bring water, sunscreen and a folding chair or blanket. A minivan will be available to assist those with small children and/or walking limitations. Tours of the battlefield also will be available.

    Also this weekend, the Big Hole summer speaker series will feature Michael Penney along with Nez Perce Nation Drum. Their presentations will take place at the battlefield contact station following the commemorative events and at noon Sunday. A campfire program will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at the May Creek Campground, located seven miles west of the battlefield on Highway 43. Admission to all the events is free.

Weaver Colleen Biakeddy stands in front of her loom at last year's Navajo Festival . (Photo by Michele Mountain, 2009, MNA)

Weaver Colleen Biakeddy stands in front of her loom at last year's Navajo Festival . (Photo by Michele Mountain, 2009, MNA)

And Flagstaff, Ariz., is hosting the 61st annual Navajo Festival of Arts and Culture. It runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days at the Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Fort Valley Road, and will feature the following, according to the Flagstaff Daily Sun:

– More than 75 Navajo artists, performers and artisans will gather at the festival, bringing their work to market and sharing what makes it distinctive. There will also be kids’ activities and food.

– A dedication to the late Alice Nez Horseherder, a lifelong sheep herder and weaver from Hard Rock in Arizona’s Black Mesa region. She died in 2009 at the age of 102.

– Performances by Blackfire, an award-winning alternative/punk/Native rock band that tackles socio-political messages. Blackfire, made up of siblings Klee, Clayson and Jeneda Bennally, has fans around the world.

– The Pollen Trail Dancers will perform colorful social and storytelling summertime dances, including the Dance of the Holy People, the Corn Grinding Dance, the Sash Belt or Weaving Dance, the Basket Dance, and the Bow and Arrow Dance.

– Grammy-nominated flutist and guitarist Aaron White will perform original songs and talk about the history of the Navajo flute.

– Radmilla Cody will serve as emcee in the Heritage Insights tent and sing traditional Navajo songs. Also, the film “Hearing Radmilla,” the story of Cody, the first bi-racial Miss Navajo Nation.

– Clarence Clearwater, who is known for entertaining passengers on the Grand Canyon Railway, will perform traditional and contemporary songs.

Festival admission is $7 adults, $6 seniors (65+), $5 students, $4 Native people, $4 children (7-17), and free to museum members. For more information, call 774-5213 or visit

We’ll be back midweek next week!

Gwen Florio

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Here’s more on last week’s mysterious death in Glacier National Park of Clinton Croff, a well-known Blackfeet traditional singer and dancer.

Friends of Croff tell Michael Jamison, in this Missoulian story, that they’ve been told Croff committed suicide inside his car, by way of multiple self-inflicted stab wounds, but park officials would not confirm those details. The FBI’s Debbie Bertram says the Park Service has requested a review by the agency.

Mostly, though, people talked to Jamison about how Croff lived, remembering him as a keeper of Blackfeet culture:

    Clinton Croff ( photo)

    Clinton Croff ( photo)

    “That’s how I will remember him,” said Maynard Kicking Woman, “as a dancer, a singer, an eagle-bone whistle carrier. From the day he was born, Clinton was connected to this culture. He’s going to be missed in Indian Country, because a lot of people knew him.” …

    Kicking Woman is well-known on the traditional powwow trail, and among Native American drumming and singing groups. Currently, he serves as cultural coordinator for the Blackfeet Manpower One-Stop Center.

    Croff’s extended family used to travel the dancing and singing circuit with Kicking Woman, “and we were pretty much a family,” Kicking Woman said. “He traveled with us even when he was a very small boy.”

Croff was only 30 years old. You can read his obituary on

Gwen Florio

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