Showing posts from 2017

Joseph Zummo Photo Wins NAJA Award

Joseph Zummo's photo of Puyallup tribe canoe practice in Puget Sound, in preparation for the annual multi-tribal canoe journey, just won an award from the Native American Journalists Association, of which he is an associate (non-Native) member. For Puyallups, it's about cooperation, caring and connection with the water. When Joe got this shot, he was in the support boat, which follows the canoe and assists when necessary.

Conflict Flares Over Sioux Voting Rights

Not good enough, said Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue, when the state of South Dakota and Buffalo County revealed that Crow Creek reservation voters would have minimal ballot-box access in 2018. The county’s auditor, who is tasked with conducting the election—renting space, training pollworkers and the like—had asked the state for federal Help America Vote Act funding to cover just 11 days across both the primary and general elections. That is far cry from the 94 days available in other parts of the state, Sazue pointed out. 
Native voters have long struggled to get to the polls in Buffalo County. In 2004, a federal court ordered the county to redistrict after an ACLU lawsuit showed that its three commission districts were grossly gerrymandered. Almost 1,500 Natives were packed into one district, while a few hundred additional county residents, Native and white, were split between two more. This allowed whites to control the local government and its resources.

Crow Creek …

Native Rights Two-Step—Tribal Voting Access Inches Forward for Sioux in South Dakota

Missouri River view from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe's South Dakota reservation
South Dakota is a state where a former attorney general called applying the Voting Rights Act to Native Americans an "absurdity" and advised the top elections official to ignore it. Where some counties prohibited tribal members from voting and holding non-tribal offices until the 1980s. Where counties may set up polling places far from reservations. Where a sheriff slouching in a precinct doorway in 2014 chilled Native voter turnout.

Where a local elections official dismissed barriers to the Native vote, saying, “A person has to make an effort.”

Polling-place doors have cracked open in recent years, thanks to federal lawsuits and civil-rights complaints, Department of Justiceintervention, and the hard work of Four Directions, a civil-rights organization headquartered on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. Officials in the state, including Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, have have helped push the…

Can We All Just Get Along? A Mining Company and a Tribe Say "Yes"

On August 18, a gold-mining company will hand over some 3,000 acres of ancient sacred sites to the Western Shoshone. The date will be marked with dancing, drumming, prayers and food, according to Joseph Holley, shown left. He is a councilman and former chairman of the Battle Mountain Band of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshones, in Nevada. Though most of the gift will remain just as the Western Shoshone ancestors left it, a campground is planned for a small portion of the tract in order to facilitate visits by community and school groups.

Paul Huet, the chief executive officer of Klondex Mines, shown right, will speak on the occasion of the transfer, explaining how his Canadian firm purchased the acreage in order to give it to those who cherish it as part of an age-old heritage that finds meaning in the land. The Battle Mountain Band will hold and administer the tract on behalf of all Shoshones, Holley says.

Huet is also looking to make his company’s gold mine, which is several do…

Tribe Charges Discrimination Against Native Children

I don't want another generation to be pushed into suicide, addiction or prison," said tribal executive board member Roxanne Gourneau, shown left, of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, in remote northeastern Montana. The executive board, which represents the reservation's impoverished Sioux and Assiniboine tribes, has asked the U.S. Justice and Education departments to investigate treatment of Native students in the public schools of Wolf Point, a reservation town. White families obtained land here in years past and have since controlled the local economy, politics and educational system.

The tribal complaint alleges extreme disciplinary measures targeting Native children in the Wolf Point School District. These are accompanied by continual taunts and bullying by white administrators, teachers and students alike, as well as discriminatory employment practices that shut out Native teachers who might become role models, according to testimony gathered by the executive board a…

Talking Sense: Message from a Native Leader on World Peace and Prayer Day

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has warned of "chaos, disasters, and severe tragedies for all life" if we don't get it together and "unite all humanity at Mother Earth’s sacred sites." Writing in Indian Country Media Network on the occasion of World Peace and Prayer Day on June 21, 2017, he decried the destruction of indigenous holy places around the United States and the world.

A spiritual leader of the Sioux people since the age of 12, Looking Horse participated in the 2017 prayer day's main ceremony at Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, where Native Hawaiians and others seek to prevent the summit from being further desecrated by the installation of giant telescopes. The gathering was one of many worldwide, ecumenical prayer events on the summer solstice.

Looking Horse has taken public positions on protection of sacred sites and the environment many times. He was among those who led the People's Climate Marchin April 2017 in W…

Standing Rock: A Battle Is Won, but the Threat Goes On

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has won a significant victory against the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL. This week, a federal court said that the agency overseeing the permitting process for the oil line hadn’t fully complied with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

Tribal chairman Dave Archambault praised the court's decision, saying the tribe would ask for the line to be shut down immediately. The pipeline was completed across the Missouri River and is operational. That is despite more than a year of demonstrations against it by Standing Rock and hundreds of other tribes, resulting in some 700 arrests and many severe injuries to demonstrators, who call themselves water protectors.

According to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Army Corps of Engineers didn't do the full environmental impact review required for large projects with significant impacts. The Corps also didn't take into account the possibility of oil spills, and it didn't c…

From Paris to Pine Ridge: The Sioux Have a Climate Solution

In defiance of President Trump’s plans to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, cities, states and companies countrywide are joining global efforts to control climate change. The Sioux will be part of the solution as well, said Rosebud Sioux tribe member Dan Gargan. He sits on the board of Oceti Sakowin Power Authority (OSPA), a giant Sioux-owned wind farm that’s getting underway in the Northern Plains.

The blustery region been called the Saudi Arabia of wind power and is said to be able to fill the United States's entire energy needs several times over with emissions-free, sustainably produced electricity. “We tribes see ourselves as custodians of the environment,” Gargan said. “This project is something we have wanted for a long time.”

Oceti Sakowin means Great Sioux Nation in Lakota/Dakota, and the participating tribes—from the Pine Ridge, Standing Rock, Crow Creek, Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Yankton and Flandreau reservations—hope more Sioux communities will join t…

Clear Sailing for a Giant Sioux Wind Farm

A version of this article first appeared on Indian Country Media Network in May 2017.

A coalition of Sioux tribes is poised to harness the wind. Long held sacred by the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Sakowin, the wind may soon provide tribal communities with clean, renewable power and sustainable economic development. “We tribes see ourselves as custodians of the environment,” said Oceti Sakowin Power Authority (OSPA) board member Dan Gargan, Rosebud Sioux. “Producing clean energy is something we’ve wanted for a long time.”

The endeavor has taken a lot of work, and in the process obstacles have become assets. Oceti Sakowin means “Great Sioux Nation” in Lakota/Dakota, and its vision encompasses the possibility that even more Sioux nations in the U.S. and Canada might join the current group—the Rosebud, Oglala, Cheyenne River, Yankton, Flandreau, Standing Rock and Crow Creek Sioux Tribes—according to Caroline Herron of Herron Consulting, which has been involved in OSPA since its beginning.

Building on Standing Rock, Native Americans Lead Climate March

A version of this article first appeared in May 2017 in Rural America In These Times. “We are at a major movement moment,” says Judith LeBlanc, a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and director of the Native Organizers Alliance (NOA), which helps indigenous advocacy groups build their organizations and capacity. As LeBlanc watched tribal members from around the country gather near the U.S. Capitol to lead the April 29 People’s Climate March, she credited the past year’s Standing Rock demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline for bringing awareness to indigenous struggles [and the continued threats to land and water by a range of industries in both the short and long-term.
“Standing Rock has been the largest continuous protest in U.S. history,” says LeBlanc. As a result, she said, a network of tribal leaders and grassroots people and groups have coalesced around the issue of climate justice. “We have the land base, the people, the traditional knowledge and the sovereignty tha…

The Never-Ending Indian Wars

The world has been shocked by North Dakota’s violent, militarized reaction to 
the oil pipeline resistance at Standing Rock. For the better part of a year, people watched via social media, then increasingly with conventional media, as heavily armed law enforcement officers and private security agents used dogs, rubber bullets, mace, tear gas, batons, and water cannons deployed in sub-freezing temperatures to attack unarmed civilians. 

A volunteer medical team of doctors, nurses, EMTs, homeopathic physicians, herbalists and others cared for the many hundreds of injured. More than 100 were hospitalized, and more than 700 were arrested as they protested the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Standing Rock may have revealed this violence to a new generation of observers, but for Native people, the brutality is nothing new, says Wendsler Nosie Sr., San Carlos Apache leader of Apache Stronghold, a group that seeks to prevent mining from obliterating Oak Flat, a tribal sacred site. “Federa…

Voices from the Movement for Native Lives

This story first appeared on In These Times magazine's website in October 2016. 

As reported in “The Police Killings No One Is Talking About,” Native Americans are shot by police, or die in custody, at the highest rate of any group. Yet the general public has almost no awareness of this. Or, as Darleen Tareeq (above, second from right), whose fiancé Philip Quinn of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe was shot and killed by police in September 2015, puts it, “Everyone is cool with it.”

In a recently released study of this national blind spot, Claremont Graduate University researchers Roger Chin, Jean Schroedel and Lily Rowen agree, writing that the minimal coverage of the issue indicates that Native people are ignored and their issues devalued. As Black Lives Matter, Idle No More and other social justice movements have proliferated, “Native Lives Matter” has been taken up as a rallying cry by Natives grieving the loss of loved ones to police violence, as well as those calling attention …