Posts Tagged ‘Tribal Nations Conference’

Hawk, a Cherokee and Mesquaki descendant, uses Native American flute music to help others reconnect with the natural world. (Courtesy of

Hawk, a Cherokee and Mesquaki descendant, uses Native American flute music to help others reconnect with the natural world. (Courtesy of

New holiday zen: Native traditions and yoga
Driving around the icy streets of Missoula today, my car low on oil, late for work and in search of one last Christmas gift I didn’t find, I really could have used Dennis Hawk.

You see, as reports, Hawk, a Cherokee and Mesquaki descendant, combines the healing practices of yoga with Native American teachings as a way to help promote an overall sense of well-being and connection to the natural world.
Hawk holds regular conferences that combine yoga and a combination of music and Native American spiritualism. Music plays a large role as well.

Sounds so sweet.

    Last week’s workshops also featured simultaneous Reiki practice, a spiritual technique that seeks to transfer energy through the palms of practitioners’ hands.

    “It’s very interactive,” says Hawk. “It’s almost inducing a dream state to raise conscious awareness of the season changes and winter. Being indoors, we never really experience winter. My teachings ceremonially welcome in the winter in a process of rest and renewal.”

Final TNS10 recap
As a final note to last week’s Tribal Nations Conference in Washington D.C., here’s a video from NAPT’s Gemma Givens cataloging the issues touched on at the summit. Givens has some great footage and original interviews, including the thoughts of Jefferson Keel on positive steps he believes were take for Indian Country in 2010. See NAPT for blogs and more news.

Suicide workshops taking place across the country
You can’t get much braver than Natasha Singh. An Alaska Native, she suffers from depression. And she fought it. The Associated Press’ story last week chronicled Singh’s story of fighting taboos and getting help, as well as highlighted federal listening sessions being held during the next several months to address the problem of Native suicide.

    Singh, who suffers from anxiety, wants to remove the stigma of seeking help in Alaska Native communities. That’s why she decided to speak at one of 10 “listening sessions” being held nationwide by federal agencies through February.

    Federal officials say the sessions aim to explore ways to better address the disproportionate rate of suicides in Alaska Native and American Indian communities, most notably among the young.

Nicole Mason, 14, and her brother haul water to their trailer at St. Theresa Point last winter. (HELEN.FALLDING@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

Nicole Mason, 14, and her brother haul water to their trailer at St. Theresa Point last winter. (HELEN.FALLDING@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

Northern Manitoba aboriginal leaders want clean running water

More than 1,400 homes on northern Manitoba reserves have no running water. Native leaders are demanding the number be zero by 2012, the Winnipeg Free Press reported. The chiefs took their concerns to Parliament Hill in Ottawa last week – wondering why the money can’t be spent to bring the basic need of clean water to all on the reserve.

    The lack of running water has been blamed for health issues including skin problems and the easy spread of infections like flu. Without running water, even basic hygiene like handwashing is difficult.

    Last year, Manitoba’s Island Lake region, where half the homes have no running water, was hit hard by the H1N1 flu virus and this year two people have died there after getting seasonal flu, Harper said.

    Bringing running water to 1,448 northern Manitoba homes would require adding kitchen sinks, toilets and bathtubs to houses built without plumbing. In many cases, holding tanks would need to be installed for water delivered by truck. Most reserves have water-treatment plants capable of supplying water for the holding tanks.

Jenna Cederberg

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Thursday’s Native News Update with host Paul DeMain is a great recap of this week’s Tribal Nations Conference. If you missed the coverage throughout the summit, this is a great rundown of the happenings there.

DeMain first updates viewers on the announcement that the U.S. will consent to the U.N. Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People, the big news story coming out of the conference.

Then, For the majority of the session, DeMain is joined by Native writer and blogger Mark Trahant.

Trahant has been in D.C. for the summit. Although many working group sessions were closed to the press, Trahant says that the number of cabinet officials in attendance was significant.

“There is no precedent” for that type of well-attended gathering, Trahant said.

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Pete Rouse, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. (Courtesy of the White House)

Pete Rouse, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. (Courtesy of the White House)

Indian Country Today‘s Rob Capriccioso got a first-of-its-kind interview with White House Chief of Staff Pete Rouse this week, as Rouse answered questions for the Native American publication in advance of the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C. this week.

Rouse answers questions about his comfort level with Indian issues, as well as what might be scheduled as far as more direct talks with President Barack Obama and individual Tribal governments in the near future. Rouse says in his answers that Obama will work hard to protect important legislation like Indian Health Care Improvement Act, passed by Congress this year and continues to be committed to getting to reservations to have direct, intimate talks with tribes.

    Here’s Capriccioso’s full Q&A:

    Indian Country Today: Many folks in Indian country know you worked for former Sen. Daschle. Did that experience help inform you on Indian issues?
    Pete Rouse: It certainly did and, actually, my first job. … I’ve been working in government, primarily on the Hill, for 39 years, and my first job was in 1971 with Jim Abourezk, who was a congressman from South Dakota. That was my first exposure to Native American issues and, actually, Tom Daschle and I were staffers together for two years with Jim Abourezk in the Senate, when he was a senator. Then, for 19 years, I was chief of staff for Tom in the House and Senate. So, that’s how I became espoused of Indian issues – and, hopefully, somewhat knowledgeable.

    ICT: When you encounter Indian policy issues, do they come naturally for you, or do you need a lot of outside briefing – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
    PR: Well, I need a lot of outside briefing on everything. [Laughs] I am familiar with these issues going way back to Wounded Knee in South Dakota in the early ’70s. Elouise Cobell, I’ve known since the ’80s when she was trying to reform the management of Indian trust. And, of course, in South Dakota, where you have Pine Ridge and Rosebud and Standing Rock – and a lot of the issues of unemployment, need for economic development, education, health care. … those were always prominent on Tom Daschle’s agenda, so I’ve been talking to tribal leaders and Native Americans for years.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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Bud Moran (Courtesy of CSKT)

Bud Moran (Courtesy of CSKT)

E.T. “Bud” Moran, who will represent the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at this week’s Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., is hoping discussion priorities center on topics like health care, housing and economic development.

As the Missoulian’s Vince Devlin reports, Moran also wants the burgeoning deficit to be a topic of focus.

    “One of the major things we think about at this level is deficit reduction,” Moran said before departing for Washington. “The federal deficit is going to affect everyone, and it’s going to affect future generations.”

    That’s where the “seven-generation” philosophy comes in. When Indian tribes make decisions, he said, they consider not just immediate impacts, or impacts five or 10 years down the road, but how their decisions today will affect the next seven generations to come.

    The Tribal Nations Conference, the second since Obama took office, offers the leaders of 565 American Indian tribes an opportunity to “interact directly with the president and representatives from the highest level of his administration,” according to the White House.

CSKT also made the news today for a unique land deal that will help protect and repair 6 miles of riverbank along Little Bitterroot, which runs through the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana. Vince Devlin has that report for the Missoulian as well.

Jenna Cederberg

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Johnny Cash used Ira Hayes ballad to make anti-war, pro-Native point with Nixon
Here‘s a bittersweet story about Johnny Cash’s visit to the White House to sing for President Richard Nixon. The president suggested some of his favorites like “Okie from Muskogee.” Cash responded instead with protest songs, among them “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” As the Salon story says, radio stations didn’t want to play the song about the Iwo Jima hero that highlighted the plight of Native Americans, but Cash counted it among his favorites. More to the point, it tells how that song came to be among Cash’s repertoire after a meeting with protest balladeer Peter LaFarge, son of Oliver LaFarge, whose tragic Navajo love story “Laughing Boy” won the Pulitzer Prize.

Former Rosebud Sioux official questions cost of D.C. trip
A former member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council is questioning the travel expenses of 10 tribal members who flew to Washington, D.C., for last week’s White House Tribal Nations Conference. “It is kind of a shock to see that 10 of our elected officials traveled to Washington, D.C., when tribal paychecks were bouncing on the 30th of October, 2009,” Ron Valandra tells the Rapid City Journal here.

Navajo Times: Multimillion-dollar slush fund; possible AG probe
The Navajo Times continues its scrutiny of the tribe’s finances with this story by Marley Shebala reporting that more than $35 million went into the discretionary funds of the Navajo Nation Council, speaker’s office and president’s office from 2005 to 2009. And Jason Begay writes here that the attorney general has found enough information in the classified reports on President Joe Shirley Jr. to warrant hiring a special prosecutor to further investigate.

Senate committee to focus on gangs, drug smuggling in Indian Country
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is holding an oversight hearing this week to focus on the problem of gangs and drug smuggling. Those issues are hitting some reservations hard as criminals realize that the tangle of legal jurisdiction on reservations, coupled with inadequate resources for law enforcement, can make it easier for them to operate there. The hearing will be webcast.

Pennsylvania sanctuary honors white buffalo
Seven Native American elders took part in a ceremony near Pittsburgh yesterday to thank owners of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort for establishing a sanctuary for a rare white buffalo and a black buffalo born at a nearby zoo, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The white buffalo, which was born Nov. 12, 2006, was given the Lenape name Kenahkihinen — translated in English as “watch over us.”

Young readers’ book tells story of abandoned Kootenai warrior and his survival
Salish Kootenai College in Montana has published a children’s book that tells the true story of a young Kootenai man, alone and without supplies or tools, abandoned in the middle of hostile enemy territory on the Great Plains during the 18th century, and how he turned to the land to survive. The story, written the seventh-grade level, was told by the late Kootenai elder Adeline Mathias and is illustrated by Kootenai artists Francis Auld and Debbie JosephThe Char-Koosta news tells how to order it, here.

Gwen Florio

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As if the horrific shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, weren’t bad enough, critics of President Barack Obama are seizing upon his remarks that day as he closed the long-scheduled White House Tribal Nations Conference.

The shootings occurred across the country from the conference, and in his closing remarks to tribal leaders, Obama paid tribute to a group that includes many veterans – including Crow historian, teacher and war chief Joe Medicine Crow, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – and also to the victims of the still-unfolding tragedy.

“I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration,” the president said that day, “but as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.” He went on to offer his prayers for the victims’ familes. (Read the full transcript here.)

But in those very words, as Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso lays out in excellent detail here, lay the seeds of a manufactured controversy.

Some cable news commentators immediately pounced upon the president, saying he should have canceled the tribal nations summit and concentrated on the Fort Hood tragedy.

Fox News’ Glenn Beck twisted the entire scenario into an insinuation that the president supports reparations for Native Americans, a suggestion guaranteed to rile his conservative listeners. (See previous post here.)

Capriccioso reports that the backlash has stunned and angered many in Indian Country.

“The reaction of those commentators tells me that they just don’t get it,” Chris Stearns, a former senior official in the Clinton administration and current Seattle Human Rights commissioner, tells Capriccioso.

The Navajo Nation citizens adds that “the idea that the president should just drop American Indians from his agenda and close the door on us is the exact opposite of where he is coming from.”

As we’ve said before, it’s an insult to the Fort Hood victims and their loved ones, and to Native Americans as well, to politicize this tragedy in this particular way. We hope we don’t have to keep saying it.

Gwen Florio

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It takes some real contortions to make this link, but somehow Fox News’ Glenn Beck managed to get from the tragic shootings at Fort Hood to the President’s address at the White House Tribal Nations Conference to the possibility of reparations for tribes.

Here’s the Fox News transcript of his remarks on Wednesday, Veterans Day (or watch the video clip above – the remarks come about 2 minutes and 25 seconds in):

“The first thing that hit me as I was watching television just like you were and I saw President Obama talking about native American rights in the middle of a tragedy at Fort Hood — I couldn’t believe it. I mean, it sounded almost like maybe, possibly, would there be some reparations involved?

” … Let me say this right off the top of the bat, nobody can question that Native Americans were mistreated, treaties were broken, promises not kept. Yes. You got it. We’ve definitely heard fairly recently about Native American rights and what we owe them. What we owe them. What we owe them.”

Beck goes on to ascribe Obama’s remarks at the Tribal Nations Conference to the philosophies of the administration’s former green jobs czar Van Jones – who has been excoriated by the right – and then he says that “obviously, what he (Obama) had in mind goes far beyond giving them casino licenses and free government health care.”

Finally, Beck wonders if it’s “just a coincidence that Obama “brought up Native American rights at such an inappropriate time – and it also just happens to be a pet issue of Jones? Maybe.”

What a load of crap. The president didn’t “bring up” Native American rights – they were already on the table, as part of the long-scheduled Tribal Nations Conference, when Nidal Malik Hasan went on his murderous rampage. And he never mentioned reparations.

It’s a nasty insinuation designed to whip up fears of “them” sticking together to the presumed detriment of white people.

For Beck to twin the Fort Hood tragedy with some tired old cheap shots at Native people to make connotations about the president’s motives is stunningly – let’s use his own word – inappropriate.

Beck owes an apology to the families of the Fort Hood victims for politicizing their heartbreak. He owes an apology to Indian people for suggesting they seek handouts. And he owes an apology to the president for putting words in his mouth.

Gwen Florio

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President Barack Obama signs a memorandum for closer consultation between Native America tribes and federal government at last week's White House Tribal Nations Conference. (AP photo)

President Barack Obama signs a memorandum for closer consultation between Native America tribes and federal government at last week's White House Tribal Nations Conference. (AP photo)

Mark Trahant is a Kaiser Media Fellow examining the Indian Health Service and its relevance to the national health care reform debate. He is a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment here.

More than twenty years ago the BBC captured the essence of bureaucracy in a sitcom called, “Yes, Minister.” The basic plot was the Minister for Administrative Affairs, Jim Hacker, would come up with an idea – sometimes wonderful, sometimes odd – only to have its implementation sidetracked by civil servants.

Hacker’s nemesis, Sir Humphrey Appleby, once described his task as “the traditional allocation of executive responsibilities has always been so determined as to liberate the ministerial incumbent from the administrative minutiae by devolving the managerial functions to those whose experience and qualifications have better formed them for the performance of such humble offices, thereby releasing their political overlords for the more onerous duties and profound deliberations which are the inevitable concomitant of their exalted position.”

Of course bureaucracy in the United States is different. Our civil servants have far less power than they do in the United Kingdom. Then again, I remember a long-time Washington bureaucrat who once told me, “I’ve seen ‘em come, I’ve seen ‘em go.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Yesterday, we promised to post reaction to the White House Tribal Nations Conference. Here’s what we’ve got so far.

Actually, there’s nothing cautious at all about the group-hug assessment from Politico, the Web site about all things politics. “Native Americans embrace Obama,” Politio asserts here. But the piece doesn’t quote any reaction from tribal leaders., though, gets down to business with this piece by Victor Merina detailing a question about a possible apology to Native people. A number of administration officials responded to the question, none directly. The closest response was this from Larry EchoHawk, Larry Echo Hawk, assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs, who said that “the best way to address the past is to honor treaty promises and respect sovereignty.” Nice – but not an apology.

Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso gives a great overview, (here) of the day, from the morning’s love-fest, to the afternoon sessions when, as Capriccioso points out, “Tribal leaders also appeared to grow sharper as the day wore on.” Leaders such as James Ransom, chief of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council, and Ned Norris Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, called for regularly scheduled regional meetings so that administration leaders could stay fully informed about tribes’ concerns, and the progress – or lack thereof – made inaddressing them.

The New York Times weighs in with this editorial, properly observing that “White House receptions of American Indian leaders have too often been patronizing historical footnotes.” The Times praises the president for “taking important first steps,” and also underscores the importance of federal recognition for at least some of the more than 80 tribes now seeking it, in what has been a lengthy, expensive and frustrating process.

In the Salt Lake Tribune, reporter Thomas Burr writes here of a question to Obama posed by Ben Shelly, vice president of the Navajo Nation. Shelly wondered if Obama could compel Congress to work with tribes in a way that continues even when the president’s term is up. Obama responded that he can’t force Congress to do anything but “to the extent that we can partner with Congress to lock some of those good habits in and end some of the bad habits that we’ve seen in the past, that’s something that we’ll be very interested in doing.”

If you’ve got 45 minutes, you can watch the president’s opening remarks on the video above – or at least sample it.

Gwen Florio

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Members of the audience raise their hands in hopes of asking President Barack Obama a question during the White House Tribal Nations Conference.  (AP photo)

Members of the audience raise their hands in hopes of asking President Barack Obama a question during the White House Tribal Nations Conference. (AP photo)

Here’s a roundup of stories about today’s Tribal Nations Conference hosted by President Obama. As you can see, a lot of news organizations quoted directly from the president’s speech in their headlines. His words were characteristically eloquent. Will they get results? We’ll be on the lookout for detailed reactions to the conference, and will post them as they appear.

Indian Country Today: “On your side” – In a sweeping effort to strengthen relations with tribes, President Barack Obama took to the podium of the Sydney R. Yates Auditorium at the Department of the Interior this morning.

USA Today: Obama to Native Americans: “I understand what it means to be an outsider.” – President Obama told American Indian leaders today he knows that Washington has broken many promises to the original settlers of this land, but “I get it.”

Washington Post: Obama Addresses Native American Leaders – President Obama told what he called the largest gathering of Native American tribal leaders Thursday that “you will not be forgotten by this White House,” pledging to work with them to address the community’s chronic problems with health care, economic development, land management and education.

The Guardian (United Kingdom): Obama vows to end neglect of Native Americans in address to tribal leaders - President Barack Obama today promised to put an end to the US government’s 200-year history of neglect and broken promises towards the country’s Indian tribes.

New York Times: ‘You Will Not Be Forgotten,’ Obama Tells Tribal Leaders – President Obama told hundreds of tribal leaders at an Interior Department summit today that he knows what it means to feel ignored and forgotten, pledging to work with them on issues including energy development and climate change.

Gwen Florio

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