Tuesday, October 15, 2013
PHOENIX — Under pressure by animal welfare groups and many of his own people, the president of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly, has reversed his stance on horse slaughtering, saying he will no longer support it and will order the temporary suspension of the roundups of feral horses on the reservation.
The agreement, brokered by Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, is scheduled to be announced on Tuesday. One of its key provisions is to pressure the federal government to do more to help the Navajos handle the tens of thousands of horses that roam freely on their land. Mr. Shelly has estimated that feral horses cost the Navajos $200,000 a year in damage to property and range.
“I am interested in long-term humane solutions to manage our horse populations,” Mr. Shelly said. “Our land is precious to the Navajo people as are all the horses on the Navajo Nation. Horses are sacred animals to us.”
Mr. Shelly’s recalibrated position is sure to strengthen the arguments against horse slaughter in the nation, just as a legal fight to block the opening of horse slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Missouri reaches its final stages.
It could also smooth relations between his administration and tribal elders in some of the Navajo Nation’s largest chapters, who have stood steadfastly against the roundups even as Mr. Shelly embraced them in August as the best available option, given the tribe’s limited resources, to keep its feral horse population under control.
At the time, his stance put the country’s largest federally recognized tribe in a collision course with Mr. Richardson and the actor Robert Redford, who had justified joining a lawsuit against horse slaughtering filed by animal-rights groups by saying they were “standing with Native American leaders.”
In a unanimous vote last month, the Navajo Nation chapter in Shiprock, N.M., bannedhorse roundups in its territory. The chapter’s president, Duane Yazzie, said members were concerned about the abandoned colts and the sale of the horses to meat plants in Mexico, where slaughter is legal.
On Saturday, several of the chapter’s members protested as Mr. Shelly took part in a parade at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.
Mr. Shelly and Mr. Richardson met in Farmington, N.M., just outside Navajo lands, shortly after the parade to complete the agreement. It charges several animal welfare groups — including Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, founded by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Redford — with developing alternative policies. One option is rounding up the horses and putting them up for adoption; another is dispensing contraceptives.
“This is a huge event,” Mr. Richardson said. “One of the most important and largest tribes in the country is now on the record against horse slaughtering, and that should be a major factor both in Congress and in the courts.”
All along, Mr. Shelly had spoken about the “delicate balance,” as he put it, between the horses’ significance to the Navajos and the cost of repairing the damage caused by feral horses on the reservation, which covers roughly 27,500 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The Navajos estimate there are 75,000 feral horses roaming the reservation, an estimate based on aerial observations, a method they concede is unreliable. One of the points of the agreement is to find a way to take an accurate count.
During a meeting in Washington last month, Mr. Shelly told several animal welfare groups that the federal government needed to “live up to its responsibilities,” according to his spokesman, Erny Zah, and help the Navajos manage the feral horses. It was not until the agreement with Mr. Richardson, however, that he made his new stance on horse slaughtering official.
The Humane Society of the United States and other groups sued the United States Department of Agriculture in July to keep horse slaughter plants from opening in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri, arguing that the agency had failed to carry out all of the environmental checks, and asked the courts to block its inspectors from working there. The owners of the plant in Iowa have since scrapped their plans to slaughter horses and turned their focus to cattle.
In August, Judge M. Christina Armijo of United States District Court in Albuquerque halted the inspections until she makes her final ruling on the case, which is expected by the end of the month.
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
By KEN BELSON
Published: October 9, 2013
WASHINGTON — Suzan Shown Harjo still becomes tense when she recalls the onlyWashington Redskins home game she attended, nearly 40 years ago.
After she moved to Washington, she and her husband received free tickets. Fans sitting nearby, apparently amused that American Indians were in their midst, pawed their hair and poked them, “not in an unfriendly way, but in a scary way,” Ms. Harjo said.
“We didn’t know what was next,” she said.
Ms. Harjo and her husband left the game, but they never left Washington. The incident fueled her existing opposition to the team’s name and lent new urgency for her to get the team to change it. Since the 1960s, Ms. Harjo has been at the center of efforts to persuade schools, colleges and professional sports teams to drop American Indian names and mascots that some consider derogatory. The fight has escalated in recent days as groups have intensified lobbying efforts and organized protests, even prompting President Obama to weigh in on the issue.
The debate tends to settle on one central question: how many people must be offended by a team’s name for a change to be warranted? The Redskins, of the National Football League, cite polling in which most respondents said they were not offended by the name, while those lobbying the team to drop its name dispute the accuracy of that data and say that no matter, the word is widely regarded as derogatory.
More than two-thirds of the roughly 3,000 teams with American Indian mascots have dropped them, many voluntarily and without incident. Along the way, Ms. Harjo, the director of the Morning Star Institute, a group that promotes Native American causes, became something of a godmother to the cause of eliminating disparaging mascots.
“She has led this fight early,” said Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, which has paid for advertisements calling on the Redskins to abandon their name. “We stand on her shoulders.”
But Ms. Harjo, who prefers the term Native American, considers her work unfinished because professional teams, most notably the Redskins, have been vocal about keeping their name. In May, Daniel Snyder, the Redskins’ owner, echoed his predecessors when he vowed never to change the name.
The Redskins, playing in the nation’s capital and the country’s wealthiest league, have remained steadfast as many other teams have changed their nicknames, dating to the 1960s, when the owner at the time, George Preston Marshall, opposed desegregation. Edward Bennett Williams, who owned the team in the 1970s, met with American Indians to discuss the team’s name, but little followed.
“There are so many milestones in this issue,” Ms. Harjo, 68, said Monday at an event held by ChangetheMascot.org, a group urging the Redskins to change their name. “It is king of the mountain because it’s associated with the nation’s capital, so what happens here affects the rest of the country.”
Ms. Harjo, Mr. Halbritter, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota and others who attended the event said that they would continue to call on Mr. Snyder and the N.F.L. to change the team’s name. Ms. McCollum, via social media and letters, has received the brunt of the backlash from some fans who think the Redskins should not change their name. (“I’m offended by the name Vikings as I have family from Denmark,” one person wrote on Ms. McCollum’s Facebook page, imploring her to “concentrate on a budget and don’t worry about the Washington Redskins.”)
Last week, days before the league’s 32 owners were to meet in Washington, the debate was inflamed when President Obama said that he would consider changing the name if he owned the team. Reed Hundt, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has also called on broadcasters to avoid using the team’s nickname.
In what amounts to a break in the stalemate, Adolpho Birch, the N.F.L.’s senior vice president for labor policy and government affairs, sent a letter last Friday to Peter Carmen, the chief operating officer of Oneida Indian Nation. Mr. Birch suggested that they meet before their previously scheduled meeting on Nov. 22.
“We respect that people have differing views,” said Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the N.F.L. “It is important that we listen to all perspectives.”
Ms. Harjo, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, spent her first 11 years on a farm in an Oklahoma reservation. Her family’s home had no indoor plumbing or electricity, and her idea of wealth was to have ice cubes in her drink, she said. Ms. Harjo’s great-grandfather was Chief Bull Bear, who battled the government over land in the 1800s. As a teenager, she lived with her family in Naples, Italy, where her father was stationed in the United States Army.
After returning to the United States, Ms. Harjo moved to New York to work in radio and theater production. There, she met Frank Ray Harjo and had two children. They worked to promote religious freedom and civil rights and co-produced “Seeing Red,” a biweekly radio program devoted to Native American news and analysis on WBAI-FM. Ms. Harjo also produced hundreds of plays and other programs and helped an improvisational theatrical group.
In 1974, she left for Washington to work as a legislative liaison for two law firms involved in American Indian rights. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed her a Congressional liaison for Indian Affairs, which allowed her to help draft legislation to protect Indian lands and tribal government tax status. She also worked for the National Congress of American Indians.
Ms. Harjo has spoken regularly on the issue of team names and held protests, including one at the Super Bowl in 1992, in Minneapolis, when the Redskins played the Buffalo Bills. At the time, Stephen R. Baird, a young lawyer who had clerked in federal court in Washington, was preparing a law review article on an obscure part of the Lanham Act that forbids trademarks that disparage people.
“There was really no precedent,” said Mr. Baird, who now works for Winthrop & Weinstine in Minneapolis. “So I asked, Why hasn’t anyone challenged them on that basis?”
Mr. Baird approached Ms. Harjo, and in September 1992 a legal battle began when Harjo et al. v. Pro Football Inc., the corporate name of the Redskins, was filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. After the three-judge panel agreed to remove the protections, the case was appealed, and a federal judge overturned the decision, saying that the plaintiffs had waited too long to file their case, something that Ms. Harjo and others call a technicality. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.
“Those of us who were plaintiffs have passed on, and many of us have become grandfathers and grandmothers, and our hair has turned grayer, and still we haven’t been heard on our merits,” said Manley A. Begay Jr., a co-plaintiff who teaches at the University of Arizona. Referring to a once common term for blacks, he added, “After Sambo was removed years and years ago, we still have to deal with these mascots.”
To get around the court’s argument that too much time had passed, Ms. Harjo organized another case with younger American Indian plaintiffs. Oral arguments in that case were heard in March, and Ms. Harjo and others expect a decision perhaps by the end of the year. They are optimistic because, among other things, both sides agreed to recycle the records from the Harjo case as the foundation for this one.
Even if Ms. Harjo and her compatriots prevail in that case, Mr. Snyder will still be able to use the Redskins name. But the federal government would no longer be obliged to protect the team’s trademarks, and thus less likely to seize counterfeit goods, a potentially expensive exemption that could hit the team and league in the pocketbook.
“You’re not just dealing with the Washington franchise, but the whole of the N.F.L.,” Ms. Harjo said. “It’s one monolith after another laden with money and the power it represents.”
Thursday, August 15, 2013
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and JOHN ELIGON
Published: August 14, 2013
For practically as long as the Oglala Sioux have lived on the Pine Ridge reservation, alcohol has been seen as one of the tribe’s greatest enemies.
Over the years, it has been illegally smuggled onto the reservation and blamed for crime, poverty, family estrangements, fatal car accidents, suicides and unemployment.
Now, alcohol is sowing resentment and division within the tribe as the people of Pine Ridge have voted to legalize its sale.
Tribal election officials on Wednesday evening confirmed that tribal members, in a public referendum, had voted to overturn the ban on possessing and selling alcohol on the reservation. The vote tally was 1,843 in favor of legalization and 1,678 against it, according to the election commission.
Tribal members will have three days to challenge the result, but the election chairman, Francis Pumpkin Seed, said the burden to get a vote struck down was high in that whoever complains would have to prove that election law was violated.
While supporters say legalization will allow them to regulate alcohol and earn money from sales, critics worry that it will only worsen the tribe’s problems.
“How far are we going to let it go?” asked Bryan Brewer, the tribal president, who is staunchly against legalizing alcohol. “How many more children are going to be murdered because of this?”
There have been protest marches by those opposed to ending prohibition, and the police have said people had received death threats.
Because of threats, the ballots were transferred to a secure location after the polls closed Tuesday so they could be counted.
Those supporting the initiative said opening shops that sold alcohol on the reservation would allow the tribe to keep a share of Pine Ridge’s money on the reservation that is now being spent in liquor stores in towns bordering it. Further, they argued that the tax proceeds from alcohol sales could be used to bolster the Oglala Sioux’s alcohol treatment programs. It remained unclear how much money allowing alcohol sales would produce for the reservation, which is one of the poorest places in the country and has unemployment rates estimated at more than 80 percent.
“Not legalizing it is just the status quo,” said Robert Ecoffey, 58, who worked in law enforcement on the tribe and served as a superintendent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “You have all of the issues and none of the resources to help deal with it.”
But that argument was unconvincing to Mr. Brewer.
“We’re going to use alcohol money to spend on alcohol issues,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense to me. I consider this blood money that the tribe will be getting. I hate to accept it.”
Solving the alcohol problem, he said, requires educating children, returning to the roots of tribal culture and creating jobs through economic development. Instead, he said, the tribal council, the federal government and the people of Pine Ridge have turned a blind eye to the problem.
The United States government has traditionally banned alcohol on reservations, but during the past 20 years, as more tribes have opened casinos — which are the leading economic drivers on many reservations — those prohibitions have been relaxed by tribes. Still, many reservations continue to limit alcohol sales and consumption to casinos.
Even the smell of alcohol on a person’s breath in Pine Ridge has been cause for arrest. But despite the ban, alcohol — particularly beer — is plentiful on Pine Ridge. Most comes from stores that sell alcohol in the tiny town of Whiteclay, just across the Nebraska border from the reservation. Four stores in Whiteclay sell millions of cans of beer and malt liquor a year, almost all of it to the Oglala Sioux of Pine Ridge. Lawsuits, boycotts, police safety checks and protests organized by the tribe have all failed to close the stores or to put a significant dent in their business.
Ron Duke, Pine Ridge’s chief of police, said that while he did not personally support opening the reservation up to alcohol sales, legalizing it would free his officers from responding to calls in which there is a complaint about an inebriated person or the presence of alcohol inside a home — which he said took up the vast majority of an officer’s time.
But Chief Duke said that he expected the easier availability of alcohol to lead to a sharp rise in violence, which will challenge a department whose 37 officers are responsible for patrolling an area larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
Like the majority of families on the reservation, Chief Duke, 63, said alcohol has had a devastating impact on his family. He said that he managed to avoid alcohol until he was 16, but was soon drinking heavily, like many among his family and friends.
During his 20s, he said, it was common for him to leave work at a beef packing plant in Nebraska, spend hours in a bar drinking until closing time at 2 a.m. and then return to work at 6 a.m.
Chief Duke said he finally gave up alcohol when he turned 31. But alcohol’s ill fortune caught up to some members of his family. Two of his daughters, he said, were killed in drunken-driving accidents in the 1990s.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Saturday, July 13, 2013
By ANNIE LOWREY
Published: July 12, 2013
PINE RIDGE, S.D. — The Red Cloud-Bissonette family needs a new trailer. Frank, who is disabled, and Norma, his wife, are members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who live on the sprawling grasslands of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Despite their constant efforts to patch the seams of one of their trailers that was hauled here in 1988, rot and mold continue to climb up the walls. The family has punched a hole in the ceiling for a chimney for their wood stove, a necessity given the harshness of the winters but a fire hazard in the dry climate.
A second trailer a few feet away, where some family members live, including a grandchild, has no plumbing or running water.
The Red Cloud-Bissonettes are one of about 1,500 families on a waiting list at a local housingimprovement program that was recently told that it is being shut down. “These are real, real low-income people,” said Andre Janis, the housing program’s director. “If we go away, a lot of people are going to be without these services completely.”
And it is just one of dozens of cuts the tribe is stomaching, many of them due to the mandatory federal budget reductions known as sequestration. When Congress approved legislation for the budget cuts, which went into effect on March 1, they specifically exempted many programs that benefit low-income Americans, including Medicaid, tax credits for working families and food stamps. But virtually none of the programs aiding American Indians — including money spent through the departments of interior, education, health and human services and agriculture — were included on that list.
As a result, the cuts are starting to deliver yet another blow to hundreds of the United States’ most deeply impoverished communities.
“More people sick; fewer people educated; fewer people getting general assistance; more domestic violence; more alcoholism,” said Richard L. Zephier, the executive director of the Oglala Sioux tribe. “That’s all correlated to the cuts from sequestration.”
On the Pine Ridge reservation, home to around 40,000 members of the tribe, the unemployment rate is estimated at as much as 85 percent. Shannon County, home to the town of Pine Ridge, has a per-capita income of less than $8,000. The local economy is not just reliant on transfers from the federal government; it in no small part consists of them.
Over all, the tribe’s budget is about $80 million a year, of which $70 million comes from federal sources, said Mason Big Crow, the tribe’s treasurer. The tribe still did not know how much money it would lose, waiting on word from Washington, he said, but the number would be in the millions.
The tribe is cutting the size of a program that delivers meals to the elderly, many of whom are housebound. The school budget, Head Start program and health service are shrinking, too. The tribe has no choice but to cut everywhere, Mr. Big Crow said.
Despite the reservation’s extraordinary problems with crime — alcohol and methamphetamine abuse are rampant, many of the tribe’s youth are involved in gangs — its police force is absorbing more than a million dollars in cuts.
“We’re cut to the bone,” Ron Duke, the police chief, said. “Right now, we’re being reactive to things. It’s really hard to be proactive when you don’t have enough staff. We’re just constantly answering calls.”
The force has already absorbed a cut of more than 6 percent, he said. This autumn, it will cut another 8 percent. Chief Duke has let 14 staff members go. He said that at any given time, the reservation had only nine patrol cars on duty to cover an area the size of Connecticut, exhausting his officers as they chased down calls.
With the cuts, the poverty trap that has plagued the reservation for generations looks certain to worsen, with yet more families mired in deprivation, reservation officials and residents said.
“Imagine how people feel who can’t help themselves,” said Robert Brave Heart Sr., the executive vice president of the Red Cloud Indian School on the reservation. “It’s a condition that a lot of people believe is the result of the federal government putting them in that position, a lot of people are set up for failure. People have no hope and no ability whatsoever to change their fate in life. You take resources that they have, that are taken away, it just adds to the misery.”
While the effect of sequestration on the overall economy has been diffuse, with the largest impact falling on the military and companies dependent on Pentagon spending, nowhere has the sting been felt more severely than on American Indian reservations.
There was a time when the Bureau of Indian Affairs was “a bunch of federal employees providing direct services to tribes,” said Kevin Washburn, the assistant secretary of the interior in charge of the bureau. “Now, a big part of the way we provide services to Indian tribes is that we contract with tribal governments, so they’re providing the services to citizens.”
The bureau, he said, had no choice but to pass the cuts directly to the tribes. “Tragic consequences are occurring,” Mr. Washburn said.
“In Indian country, there’s a disproportionate number of people employed by the government,” said Amber Ebarb of the National Congress of American Indians, a nonprofit based in Washington. “There is not as much of a private sector presence in Indian country, which tends to be high-poverty and high-unemployment to begin with.”
Some tribes, including those that operate successful casinos close to major population centers, have the resources to compensate for some of the cuts, diverting money from rainy day funds or holding back nonessential expenses.
But dozens of smaller or less wealthy tribes and nations are not so lucky. Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, said the tribe was absorbing a $1.7 million cut, and trying to avoid layoffs and program closings. Still, if worse came to worst, it might have to move to emergency-only medical services, or closing entire programs.
“We put in about 50 percent of our financing, and the federal government puts in about 50 percent,” Mr. Payment said. “But we’re only meeting about 60 percent of our need to begin with.”
In the Navajo Nation, Deborah Jackson-Dennison, the superintendent of the Window Rock Unified School District, is in the process of reducing the school budget to about $17 million, from about $24 million, absorbing a cut from sequestration as well as from the local government. “It’s like getting two black eyes at once,” she said. She has let go of 14 employees, and moved the school district down to four buildings from seven.
In response to the cuts, many tribal leaders are lobbying the federal government to protect the tribes from sequestration — on both moral and legal grounds.
“We should be exempt from sequestration,” said Dr. Zephier, the Ogala Sioux director. “All tribes should be exempt.”
The tribes contend that the federal government does not just disburse money to them through federal programs. It meets its nation-to-nation treaty obligation to provide certain services to American Indians. Viewed in that light, a cut is not just a cut but a broken legal promise, and one in a long line of them.
“The tribes in this country, the federally recognized American Indians and Alaska Natives, have the world’s first prepaid health plan,” said Stacy Bohlen, the executive director of the National Indian Health Board, an advocacy organization based in Washington that has argued vocally against the cuts to Indian health programs. “They paid for it with their lives, and their land, and their culture, and the forced abrogation of their future.”
But on the reservations, a sense of resignation has set in.
“It’s one more reminder that our relationship with the federal government is a series of broken promises,” said the Rev. George Winzenburg, the Catholic priest who serves as president of the Red Cloud Indian School. “It’s a series of underfunded projects and initiatives that we were told would be funded to allow us to live at the quality of life that other Americans do.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
By BYRON L. DORGAN
Published: July 10, 2013
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I once toured a school near an Indian reservation where I encountered a teacher who told me that when she asked a young Indian student what she wanted for Christmas, she said she wanted the electricity turned on in her house so she could study at night.WASHINGTON — WHEN I retired in 2011 after serving 30 years in Congress, there was one set of issues I knew I could not leave behind. I donated $1 million of unused campaign funds to create the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, because our country has left a trail of broken promises to American Indians.
That type of story is all too familiar. I believe that American Indian children are the country’s most at-risk population. Too many live in third-world conditions. A few weeks ago, I traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It’s hard just to get there. A two-hour drive from Rapid City brings you to Shannon County, the second poorest county in the United States.
The proud nation of Sioux Indians who live there — like many of the 566 federally recognized tribes — have a treaty with the United States, the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, which promised that their health care, education and housing needs would be provided for by the federal government.
Tribal leaders, parents and some inspiring children I’ve met make valiant efforts every day to overcome unemployment, endemic poverty, historical trauma and a lack of housing, educational opportunity and health care.
But these leaders and communities are once again being mistreated by a failed American policy, this time going under the ugly name “sequestration.” This ignorant budget maneuvering requires across-the-board spending cuts to the most important programs along with the least important. American Indian kids living in poverty are paying a very high price for this misguided abandonment of Congressional decision-making.
When we pushed American Indians off their tribal lands, we signed treaties making promises to provide services in exchange for that land. On my visit to Pine Ridge, I saw how we continue to cheat them. Sequestration, which should never have applied to sovereign Indian reservations in the first place, only compounds the problem.
It’s easy for many to believe those who say that automatic budget cuts aren’t hurting anybody much. But that’s wrong. And I can introduce you to the kids who will tell you why.
At a round-table discussion I had with students of Pine Ridge High School, I met a young man who qualified for the state wrestling tournament this year. The school and tribe had no money to send him. So the wrestling coach spent $500 out of his own pocket to pay for travel and food. The student slept on the floor of the gymnasium because there was no money for a motel room.
When I asked a group of eight high school students who among them had had someone close to them take their own life, they all raised their hands. More than 100 suicide threats or attempts, most by young people, have been reported at Pine Ridge so far this year.
The rate of suicide among American Indian youth is nearly four times the national average, and is as high as 10 times the average in many tribal communities across the Great Plains. At the same time, mental health services are being cut as a result of sequestration, with Pine Ridge losing at least one provider this year.
The youth center on the reservation is closed because of lack of funding. Money for the summer youth program, which pays high school students to work during their break, has also been eliminated.
I met a 12-year-old homeless girl at the emergency youth shelter. Her mother is dead. She doesn’t know the identity of her father. She’s been in multiple foster homes and been repeatedly sexually abused. She found safety in the shelter, but its funding is being cut because of sequestration — an indiscriminate budget ax, I might add, that was thought of as so unconscionable when I was in the Senate that it would never have been seriously considered.
The very programs that we set up to provide those basic life necessities on reservations are the same ones feeling the indiscriminate, blunt cuts of sequestration. How can we justify such a thoughtless policy?
While I was at Pine Ridge I also met with the Tribal Council, whose members described a severe housing crisis. In one district more than 200 homes are without electricity. Throughout the reservation, I saw many dilapidated homes missing windows and doors.
Pine Ridge students told me that many of their friends and families were homeless. “Our friends sleep in tents,” one student said.
Even in normal times, the Indian Health Service operates with about half the money it needs. Tribal Council members told me that some of their health funds last only until May. If you get sick after May, too bad. Now these health care programs, already rationing care, are subject to the sequester. The Indian Health Service estimates that as a result it will have 804,000 fewer patient visits this year.
Congress should hold a series of investigative hearings on our unfulfilled treaties with American Indians. Add up the broken promises, make an accounting of the underfunding, all of it, and then work with tribes to develop a plan to make it right. In the meantime, we must exempt Indian country from sequestration — right now.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Published: April 12, 2013
Maria Tallchief, a daughter of an Oklahoma oil family who grew up on an Indian reservation, found her way to New York and became one of the most brilliant American ballerinas of the 20th century, died on Thursday in Chicago. She was 88.
She was born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief on Jan. 24, 1925 in a small hospital in Fairfax, Okla. Her father, Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, was a 6-foot-2 full-blooded Osage Indian whom his daughters idolized and women found strikingly handsome, Ms. Tallchief later wrote. (She and her sister joined their surnames when they began dancing professionally.)Maria Tallchief, Dazzling Ballerina, Dies at 88 - NYTimes.comHer daughter, the poet Elise Paschen, confirmed the death. Ms. Tallchief lived in Chicago.
A former wife and muse of the choreographer George Balanchine, Ms. Tallchief achieved renown with Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, dazzling audiences with her speed, energy and fire. Indeed, the part that catapulted her to acclaim, in 1949, was the title role in the company’s version of Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” one of many that Balanchine created for her.
The choreographer Jacques d’Amboise, who was a 15-year-old corps dancer in Balanchine’s “Firebird” before becoming one of City Ballet’s stars, compared Ms. Tallchief to two of the century’s greatest ballerinas: Galina Ulanova of the Soviet Union and Margot Fonteyn of Britain.
“When you thought of Russian ballet, it was Ulanova,” he said an interview on Friday. “With English ballet, it was Fonteyn. For American ballet, it was Tallchief. She was grand in the grandest way.”
A daughter of an Osage Indian father and a Scottish-Irish mother, Ms. Tallchief left Oklahoma at an early age, but she was long associated with the state nevertheless. She was one of five dancers of Indian heritage, all born at roughly the same time, who came to be called the Oklahoma Indian ballerinas: the others included her younger sister, Marjorie Tallchief, as well as Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Yvonne Chouteau.
Growing up at a time when many American dancers adopted Russian stage names, Ms. Tallchief, proud of her Indian heritage, refused to do so, even though friends told her that it would be easy to transform Tallchief into Tallchieva.
She was born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief on Jan. 24, 1925 in a small hospital in Fairfax, Okla. Her father, Alexander Joseph Tall Chief, was a 6-foot-2 full-blooded Osage Indian whom his daughters idolized and women found strikingly handsome, Ms. Tallchief later wrote. (She and her sister joined their surnames when they began dancing professionally.)
Her mother, the former Ruth Porter, met Mr. Tall Chief, a widower, while visiting her sister, who was a cook and housekeeper for Mr. Tall Chief’s mother.
“When Daddy was a boy, oil was discovered on Osage land, and overnight the tribe became rich,” Ms. Tallchief recounted in “Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina,” her 1997 autobiography written with Larry Kaplan. “As a young girl growing up on the Osage reservation in Fairfax, Okla., I felt my father owned the town. He had property everywhere. The local movie theater on Main Street, and the pool hall opposite, belonged to him. Our 10-room, terracotta-brick house stood high on a hill overlooking the reservation.”
She had her first ballet lessons in Colorado Springs, where the family had a summer home. She also studied piano and, blessed with perfect pitch, contemplated becoming a concert pianist.
But dance occupied her attention after the family, feeling confined in Oklahoma, moved to Los Angeles when she was 8. The day they arrived, her mother took her daughters into a drugstore for a snack at the soda fountain. While waiting for their order, Mrs. Tall Chief chatted with a druggist and asked him if he knew of a good dancing teacher. He recommended Ernest Belcher.
As Ms. Tallchief recalled in her memoir, “An anonymous man in an unfamiliar town decided our fate with those few words.”
Mr. Belcher, the father of the television and film star Marge Champion, was an excellent teacher, and Ms. Tallchief soon realized that her training in Oklahoma had been potentially ruinous to her limbs. At 12 she started studies with Bronislava Nijinska, a former choreographer for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, who had opened a studio in Los Angeles.
Nijinska, a formidable pedagogue, gave Ms. Tallchief special encouragement. But she also had classes with other distinguished teachers who passed through Los Angeles. One, Tatiana Riabouchinska, became her chaperon on a trip to New York City, which, since the outbreak of World War II, had become the base of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a leading touring company. She joined the troupe in 1942.
Nijinska, one of its choreographers, cast her in some of her ballets. But Ms. Tallchief also danced in Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo,"a pioneering example of balletic Americana. It was de Mille who suggested that Elizabeth Marie make Maria Tallchief her professional name. Her sister, who survives her, went on to achieve fame mostly in Europe.
In the summer of 1944, the entire Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo served as the dance ensemble for"Song of Norway,"a Broadway musical based on the life and music of Grieg, with choreography by Balanchine. And Balanchine remained as a resident choreographer for the company, casting Ms. Tallchief in works like “Danses Concertantes,""Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme,""Ballet Imperial” and “Le Baiser de la Fee.”
Balanchine paid increasing attention to Ms. Tallchief, and she became increasingly fond of him, admiring him as a choreographic genius and liking him as a courtly, sophisticated friend. Yet it came as an utter surprise when he asked her to marry him. After careful thought, she agreed, and they were married on Aug. 16, 1946.
It was an unusual marriage. As she wrote in her autobiography: “Passion and romance didn’t play a big part in our married life. We saved our emotions for the classroom.” Yet, she added, “George was a warm, affectionate, loving husband.”
Ms. Tallchief had become a prominent soloist at the Monte Carlo company. But Balanchine wanted a company of his own. In 1946, he and the arts patron Lincoln Kirstein established Ballet Society, which presented a series of subscription performances; it was a direct forerunner of today’s City Ballet.
At the time, Ms. Tallchief was still a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and she remained with it until her contract expired. Then she went to Paris, where Balanchine had agreed to stage productions for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1947. In her autobiography, she speculated that because Balanchine was a Francophile he might have felt tempted to remain in Paris, but that the intrigues riddling the Paris Opera drove him to leave and return to America.
Balanchine then devoted himself to the City Ballet, which gave its first performance under that name on Oct. 11, 1948. Ms. Tallchief was soon acclaimed as one of its stars.
In addition to “Firebird,” Balanchine created many striking roles for her, including those of the Swan Queen in his version of “Swan Lake,” the Sugar Plum Fairy in his version of “The Nutcracker,” Eurydice in"Orpheus"and principal roles in plotless works like “Sylvia Pas de Deux,” “Allegro Brillante,” “Pas de Dix” and “Scotch Symphony.”
After she and Balanchine were divorced in 1950, she remained with City Ballet until 1965. But she also took time off to dance with other companies, and she portrayed Anna Pavlova in"Million Dollar Mermaid,"a 1952 MGM extravaganza starringEsther Williamsas the swimmer and actress Annette Kellerman.
She returned to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1954-55, receiving a salary of $2,000 a week, reportedly the highest salary paid any dancer at that time. When she appeared with American Ballet Theater, in 1960-62, she showed she could be an exponent of dramatic as well as abstract ballets. She was cast in such varied parts as the neurotic title role of Birgit Cullberg’s"Miss Julie” and Caroline, the melancholy heroine of Antony Tudor’s “Jardin aux Lilas,” who must enter into a marriage of convenience with a man she does not love.
At City Ballet, Ms. Tallchief’s partners included André Eglevsky, Erik Bruhn and Nicholas Magallanes. She appeared withRudolf Nureyevon television and on tour in Europe and made guest appearances with Ruth Page’s Chicago Opera Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet and the Hamburg Ballet. One of her last roles was the title role in Peter van Dyk’s “Cinderella” for the Hamburg company in 1966. She retired from the stage soon afterward.
Then Ms. Tallchief became part of dance life in Chicago. She founded the ballet school of the Lyric Opera there in the mid-1970s and was the artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet, which presented its first season in 1981. More successful as a teacher than as a director, she resigned from the post in 1987.
Among her honors, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1996.
Ms. Tallchief was married to Elmourza Natirboff, an aviator, from 1952 to 1954. In 1956 she married Henry Paschen, who eventually became president of his family’s business, Paschen Contractors, in Chicago.
Besides her daughter, Ms. Paschen, and her sister, her survivors include two grandchildren.
Ms. Tallchief remained closely identified with her Osage lineage long after she found fame and glamour in Paris and New York, and she bridled at the enduring stereotypes and misconceptions many held about American Indians. Recalling her youth in her memoir, she wrote of a dance routine that she and her sister were asked to perform at Oklahoma country fairs, making both of them “self-conscious.”
“It wasn’t remotely authentic,” she wrote. “Traditionally, women didn’t dance in Indian tribal ceremonies. But I had toe shoes on under my moccasins, and we both wore fringed buckskin outfits, headbands with feathers, and bells on our legs. We’d enter from opposite wings, greet each other, and start moving to a tom-tom rhythm.”
The performance ended with Marjorie performing “no-handed back-flip somersaults.”
“In the end,” she added, “we stopped doing the routine because we outgrew the costumes. I was relieved when we put those bells away for good.”
On April 27, 1863, nearly five months after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, California abolished its system of forced apprenticeship for American Indians. Under the apprenticeship provisions of the state’s Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, several thousand California Indians, mostly children, had suffered kidnapping, sale and involuntary servitude for over a decade.
Newly elected California Republicans, eager to bring California in line with the national march toward emancipation, agitated for two years in the early 1860s to repeal Indian apprenticeship. And yet those Republicans’ limited vision of Indian freedom — one in which Indians would be free to reap the fruits of their labor, but not free from the duty to labor altogether — made for an incomplete Indian Emancipation Proclamation. Although California was distant from the battlefields of the Civil War, the state endured its own struggle over freedom that paralleled that of the North and the South.
The Republican campaign to abolish Indian servitude ran up against nearly a century of coerced Indian labor in California. Under Spanish and Mexican rule, thousands of California Indians worked on missions and ranches, bound to their employment through a combination of economic necessity, captivity, physical compulsion and debt.
With the United States’ conquest of California in 1847, the discovery of gold in 1848 and the formation of a state government in 1849, new American lawmakers expanded and formalized Indian servitude to meet growing demands for labor. The 1850 Act for the Government and Protection of Indians authorized whites to hold Indian children as wards until they reached adulthood. Indian adults convicted of vagrancy or other crimes could be forced to work for whites who paid their bail.
Skyrocketing demand for farmworkers and domestic servants, combined with violence between Indians and invading whites in the northwestern part of the state, left Democrats in war-torn counties clamoring for the expansion of the 1850 Indian act. A “general system of peonage or apprenticeship” was the only way to quell Indian wars, one Democrat argued. A stint of involuntary labor would civilize Indians, establish them in “permanent and comfortable homes,” and provide white settlers with “profitable and convenient servants.” In 1860, Democrats proposed new amendments to the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians that allowed whites to bind Indian children as apprentices until they reached their mid-20s. Indian adults accused of being vagrants without steady employment, or taken as captives of war, could be apprenticed for 10-year terms. The amendments passed with little debate.
As the nation hurtled toward a war over slavery, Californians watched as their own state became a battleground over the future of human bondage. Apprenticeship laws aimed at “civilizing” the state’s Indian encouraged a robust and horrific slave trade in the northwestern counties. Frontier whites eagerly paid from $50 to $100 for Indian children to apprentice. Groups of kidnappers, dubbed “baby hunters” in the California press, supplied this market by attacking isolated Indian villages and snatching up children in the chaos of battle. Some assailants murdered Indian parents who refused to give up their children.
Once deposited in white homes, captive apprentices often suffered abuse and neglect. The death of Rosa, a 10-year-old apprentice from either the Yuki or Pomo tribes, provides a grim case in point. Just two weeks before the repeal of Indian apprenticeship, the Mendocino County coroner found the dead girl “nearly naked, lying in a box out of doors” next to the home of her mistress, a Mrs. Bassett of Ukiah. Neighbors testified that the child was sick and restless and that Basset shut her out of the house in the middle of a raging snowstorm. Huge bruises on Rosa’s abdomen suggested that Bassett had mercilessly beaten the ill child before tossing her out into the blizzard. Mendocino officials never brought charges in the case.
The horrors of kidnapping and apprenticeship filled the state’s newspapers just as antislavery California Republicans swept into power in 1861-2. Republicans assailed the apprentice system and blamed Democrats for the “abominable system of Indian apprenticeship, which has been used as a means of introducing actual slavery into our free State.” George Hanson, an Illinois Republican whose close relationship with Abraham Lincoln earned him an appointment as Northern California’s superintendent of Indian affairs, vowed to eliminate the state’s “unholy traffic in human blood and souls.” He tracked down and prosecuted kidnappers in the northwestern counties (with mixed success) and petitioned the State Legislature to abolish the apprenticeship system.
In 1862, Republican legislators proposed two new measures to overturn the 1860 apprenticeship amendments. Democrats blocked these bills and insisted that apprenticeship “embodied one of the most important measures” for Indians’ “improvement and civilization.” Indian servitude lived on.
By the time the legislature met again in the spring of 1863, however, all signs pointed to the destruction of the apprenticeship system. Republicans won firm majorities in both houses of the State Legislature, and in January California became the first state to endorse Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Republicans again proposed to repeal the apprenticeship amendments, and this time they achieved their goal with no debate or dissent. Involuntary labor for American Indians died quietly.
The incomplete nature of Indian emancipation in California reflected Republicans’ own ambivalence toward Indian freedom. Most Republicans opposed the kidnapping and enslavement of Indians. They believed that Indians, like former African-American slaves, should be entitled to reap the economic rewards of their own work. On the other hand, they asserted that the key to “civilizing” Indians was to force them to participate in the California labor market. They could not be free to support themselves through traditional mobile hunting and gathering practices that removed their labor from white supervision and tied up valuable natural resources. Such a lifestyle was, in Republicans’ minds, little more than idle vagrancy. Just as their Republican colleagues on the East Coast argued that ex-slaves should be schooled to labor by being bound to plantation wage work through long-term contracts, California Republicans began to advocate compulsory labor as the only way to cure Indian vagrancy.Or did it? Republicans had eliminated all the 1860 amendments authorizing the forced apprenticeship of American Indians. But they had left intact sections of the original 1850 act that mandated the forcible binding out of Indian convicts and vagrants. Moreover, repeal only prevented future apprenticeships; Republican legislation did not liberate Indians already legally apprenticed. After repeal, as many as 6,000 Indian children remained servants in white homes.
The Republican vision for Indian freedom quickly took shape after the Civil War. Republican appointees who oversaw California’s Indian reservations compelled all able-bodied Indians to work on the reservation farms. Those who refused, or who pursued native food-gathering practices, forfeited the meager federal rations allotted to reservation Indians. By 1867, one Republican agent declared that “the hoe and the broadaxe will sooner civilize and Christianize than the spelling book and the Bible.” He advocated forcing Indians to work until they had been “humanized by systematic labor.” These policies persisted long after the war. At Round Valley Reservation, one critic observed in 1874 that “compulsion is used to keep the Indians and to drive them to work.” Indian workers received no payment for “labor and no opportunity to accumulate individual property.”
The ambiguous postwar liberty of California Indians reveals that the Civil War was a transcontinental conflict that reached west to the Pacific. The freedoms won in wartime, and the unfulfilled promises of emancipation, encompassed not only black and white, free and slave, but also American Indian peoples who suffered from distinctly Western systems of unfree labor. The Civil War and Reconstruction are best understood as truly national struggles over the meaning and limits of freedom, north, south and west.