Triumph of Inclusivity

“South Dakota is a people not a place,” Chairman Lester Thompson of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe told the South Dakota legislature at the start of his January 16 State of the Tribes address. “Together, we are all Dakota strong.” Thompson’s stress on important Sioux social values followed a dramatic presentation by two Crow Creek groups—a color guard of military veterans and a drum group with members ranging in age from youngsters to elders. Patriotism and cultural continuity were on display.
Thompson thanked several state officials and departments—among them, the state police for helping his tribe when its law enforcement was stretched thin and both police and Game, Fish, and Wildlife officers for helping the Cheyenne River Sioux find a young woman gone missing on their reservation. He threw his support behind a state bill intended to improve Native education and graduation rates. 
He recognized the legislature’s speaker Steve Haugaard (R-District 10, Minnehaha) for advocating that the…

Tribes Work for World Heritage Designation of Ohio Earthworks

This article first appeared on Rural America In These Times in December 2019.
In October, Chief Billy Friend of the Wyandotte Nation addressed a crowd in Dublin, Ohio. It was a celebration of the city’s new Ferris-Wright Park, which features examples of the ancient geometric earthworks and mounds, or artificial hills, that dot the state. A newly appointed member of the board of trustees of the state’s history agency, Ohio History Connection, Chief Friend greeted the throng and introduced himself in the Wyandot language. He then shifted to English, explaining that tribal elders chose his name. “It means ‘he who talks a long time,’” he quipped. Responding to nervous laughter, he assured listeners that his remarks would be brief. Ancestors of today’s Native people built the earthen sites between about 100 BC and 400 AD, primarily along tributaries of the Ohio River. Several of the most monumental and magnificent installations—including the Newark Earthworks, which cover four and a half sq…

UPDATE! First-Ever Native American Presidential Forum Showcases Growing Electoral Clout

This article was first published in In These Times magazine in August 2019.  
UPDATE SEPT 6, 2019 — As soon as the lights went out on the first-ever Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, host organization Four Directions headed for North Carolina. There the voting-rights group, headed by OJ and Barb Semans, Rosebud Sioux, began delivering Lumbee tribe members to early-voting offices. They could cast ballots for a special election in the state's District 9, called because voter fraud allegations caused the 2018 contest not to be certified. 
Then Hurricane Dorian hit. The state closed early-voting locations in four counties, including the one where most Lumbees live. Determined to fight for voting equality in the most difficult circumstances, Four Directions successfully petitioned the state board of elections to make up the lost hours with extra time on Friday and Saturday, September 6 and 7. “We got the hours—it was total victory,” said Four Directions consultant Bret He…

Removing the Stain of Wounded Knee

This story first appeared on Rural America In These Times in July 2019.
Bodies frozen in the snow, a baby with five bullet wounds, small children shot at such close range their clothes and bodies were singed with gunpowder. Lieutenant General Nelson Miles was shocked by what he found at Wounded Knee. He arrived from his headquarters in Rapid City, S.D., several days after the carnage, which occurred December 29, 1890. A battle-hardened Civil War veteran, he was appalled by what he called in a letter to his wife, “the most abominable criminal military blunder and a horrible massacre of women and children.” 
Over Miles’s objections, 20 Congressional Medals of Honor were soon awarded to the U.S. Army soldiers involved. When more medals were suggested later in 1891, Miles called them “an insult to the memory of the dead.”
Three U.S. Representatives are co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill called the Remove the Stain Act. Which seeks to rescind the Wounded Knee awards. Speaking at a June 25 Washin…

Native Americans Take Power: The new wave of indigenous elected officials

To read about the Election 2018 successes of Native political candidates nationwide (several shown below), published by In These Times magazine in January 2019, go to

U.S. Congressional Representative Deb Haaland, New Mexico

Native Americans Scored Big Election Wins in Washington State and Beyond

Article first appeared in In These Times in November 2018. 

TACOMA, WASH.—Chester Earl, 45, and about 300 members of Washington state tribes—from Tulalip, Yakama, Lummi, Quinault, Port Gamble S'Klallam, Earl’s own Puyallup community and more—are gathered at an election night party in a Tacoma catering hall, singing, drumming, dancing, feasting and watching returns from around the state and country. “It’s incredible,” Earl exclaims (photo above)as the big news comes in: Initiative 940, a Washington state ballot initiative which approves new police reform measures, has passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. Earl and about 15 of the attendees have just returned from a two-week reservation-to-reservation tour, N8tive Vote 2018. The tour held rallies on the state’s 29 tribal homelands and encouraged members to get to the polls, particularly to say yes to I-940, which, among other reforms, makes it easier to prosecute law enforcement officers who misuse deadly force. As In These Tim…

Digital Smoke Signals

A version of this article first appeared in Rural America In These Times in October 2018.

Silicon Valley met Indian country in Minneapolis. In a two-day early-October session, longtime software developer Deepak Puri taught tribal representatives—from Leech Lake, Red Lake, Menominee, Rosebud, Sisseton-Wahpeton, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Navajo, and more—to use cheap, fast, off-the-shelf technology to supercharge voter access to the polls in Indian country. 
As Puri explained the steps, attendees dug into their cellphones and laptops and quickly created a succession of bots, videos, coded maps, and other high-tech items. The  results looked to be effective weapons against the continual and extreme suppression of the Native vote, covered by In These Timesand by Rural America In These Times, including hereherehere, and here.
“It’s the twenty-first-century moccasin path,” said Judith LeBlanc, Caddo Nation director of event sponsor Native Organizers Alliance, a nationwide forum for grassroo…