Showing posts from April, 2014

The Democratic Party’s Indian Problem

A version of this story first appeared on Indian Country Today Media Network in March 2014.

On the afternoon of March 9, the Montana Democratic Party leadership was holed up in a small stone building in the state’s capital, Helena. Inside were Democratic National Committee members Jorge Quintana and Jean Lemire Dahlman, party chair Nancy Anderson and other members of the party’s executive board.
Outside on the sidewalk were Mark Wandering Medicine, Northern Cheyenne (shown below), and three other Native Americans who had tried to persuade the board to support an equal-voting-rights lawsuit. Reporters and a documentary film crew waited with them, hoping to learn how Democrats had just ended up saying ‘no’ to minority civil rights in the second decade of the twenty-first century—and in an election year.

Across the street was a striking bronze statue of Montana’s first territorial governor, Brigadier General (and Democrat) Thomas Meagher. He’s depicted astride a warhorse and brandishing a s…

Elephants, Donkeys, Billionaires—And Another Native Vote Win

This article first appeared on Indian Country Today Media Network in February 2014. For more on the situations mentioned, click on the “voting rights” link at right.

Recently, we learned about two Native voting-rights wins in one day in Montana. Today, we turn to the neighboring state of South Dakota for the third breakthrough that same day.
On January 22 in Pierre, a state senate committee was considering a bill to prevent non-governmental groups from helping cash-strapped counties afford early-voting offices on Indian reservations. The proposed ban was the brainchild of South Dakota’s secretary of state and top elections officer Jason Gant.
Part of the state’s Republican administration, Gant has also opposed using Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to assist Native voting and fought (unsuccessfully) in federal court to curtail early voting on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Testifying before the committee, Gant called the donations part of a “slippery slope.” He raised the specter…

Slammin’ Judges, Gunslingers—and Stunning Native Voting-Rights Wins

This article first appeared on Indian Country Today Media Network in February 2014. For more on the cases, click on the “voting rights” link at right.
Native voting-rights advocates scored three successes in three cities on one day—January 22, 2014. Two were in Montana, and a third was in South Dakota. That morning in a federal courtroom in Great Falls, Montana, the Wolf Point School District acknowledged before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong that its school-board electoral districts are malapportioned, violating Native voters’ constitutional rights.
The school district serves children from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Currently, each board member from the mostly non-Native part of town represents 143 people, while each member from the mainly Native area represents 841 people. As a result of shutting out Native parents, studies have shown, Fort Peck kids have received an appalling education for decades.
The Fort Peck plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties U…

Racist Emails of Federal Judge, and Why Native Advocates Want to See Them

This article first appeared on Indian Country Today Media Network in February 2014. For more reaction to the scandal, check here.

They say the cover-up can be worse than the crime, and right now they’re running neck and neck in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court system for the nine westernmost states. Both the Ninth Circuit and one of its former chief district judges, Montana’s Richard Cebull, have been taken behind the judicial woodshed by a federal panel with a very long name—the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

On January 17, the oversight panel reprimanded Cebull for sending hundreds of emails with disparaging racial, sexual, religious and political content, including “disdain and disrespect for African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics.” During Cebull’s career, he sentenced numerous persons of color and, in fall 2012, used what the Justice Department called a “completely incorrect” reading of th…

Sioux Mother Rescues Abused Children, Faces Arrest

This article first appeared on Indian Country Today Media Network in January 2014. For a report on a petition on the mother and children’s behalf, which garnered some 12,000 signatures, check here.

The emergency room doctor was furious at what he had seen, recalled Audre’y Eby, who is Rosebud Sioux and the mother of disabled 16-year-old twins. One of her sons, who is blind and autistic, squirmed on the examination-room table, screaming, “Ow, ow, it hurts!” The doctor had found livid red and purple bruises covering his penis and scrotum, according to the Nebraska hospital’s records. Those injuries would soon lead to an arrest warrant for the mother—not because she had caused the harm, but because she did not return her son, along with his wheelchair-bound twin, to their abusers.
Indian child welfare expert Frank LaMere called the twins’ situation more extreme than any he’d seen in his many years of work in the field. “These boys are suffering,” said LaMere, who is Winnebago and the dire…