Saturday, August 21, 2004

For Native Alaskans,Tradition Is Yielding to Modern Customs

GAMBELL, Alaska - When it became clear that the elders in this isolated Eskimo village on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea approved of the marriage, Clifford Apatiki's relatives did what was required of them: They bought him his bride.

That meant, according to a fast-fading custom here among the Siberian Yupiks, a small but sturdy native Alaskan tribe that has inhabited this treeless and brutally windy island since about A.D. 500, that Mr. Apatiki's family would spend at least a year coming up with the payment. They called on their relatives, here in Gambell, over in Savoonga, the other Yupik village on this island 38 miles from the Chukchi peninsula in Russia, and across Alaska, to send them things - sealskins, rifles, bread, a toaster, a house full of gifts.

When the bride's family accepted the offerings, Mr. Apatiki, a skilled ivory carver and polar bear hunter, did what was required of him: he went to work for her family as a kind of indentured servant for a year, hunting seal, whale and polar bear, and doing chores.

The marriage between Mr. Apatiki, 30, and the former Jennifer Campbell, 29, who was a bookkeeper for the village tribal council, was formalized five years ago, when traditional marriages such as theirs were still the norm here. But now the couple worry whether their children will follow suit because even in five years this and other centuries-old traditions in this village of 700 have been slipping away, as one of the most remote villages on earth finally contends with the modern world.

Friday, August 20, 2004

California Deal Authorizes Huge Casino Near Oakland

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 19 - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a deal on Thursday with an Indian tribe that authorizes construction of the largest urban casino in the country on the site of a former bowling alley across the San Francisco Bay from here.

The agreement, with the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, will create a casino bigger than any in Las Vegas or Atlantic City along a major commuter freeway in San Pablo, an economically struggling town about 15 miles north of Oakland.

The casino, if approved by the State Legislature and the Department of the Interior, could have as many as 5,000 slot machines, making it the third largest in the United States. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, both in rural Connecticut, have 6,600 and 6,200 slots.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Museum of Indians That Is Also for Them

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 - A century ago George Gustav Heye, a New Yorker, traveled across the United States, gathering up Indian objects by the boxcar. All told, he amassed 800,000 examples of Indian art and life, which will have a new home at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, which opens here on Sept. 21.

Unlike the impoverished Indians who happily sold Heye, a wealthy oil heir, their tribal treasures and sometimes their dregs, today's Indians see these same objects as an opportunity to tell their story - their way.

Long before construction began on the museum's curvy, buff-colored limestone-clad building on the National Mall, W. Richard West Jr., a Southern Cheyenne who has steered the museum's plans since 1990, began asking native tribes what they wanted in a museum in the nation's capital.

What they did not want, museum officials found, was the static display of 10,000 years of tribal life and culture that was represented in Heye's collection. Their ideal museum would celebrate the glories of the past, to be sure, but they also wanted their artifacts and their contemporary culture to be accessible.

Friday, August 13, 2004

NCAI Native Vote 2004

About the Native Vote Campaign

A brief summary from the Native Vote 2004 Notebook:

The Native Vote 2004 Campaign is an extensive national non-partisan effort to mobilize the American Indian and Alaska Native vote in collaboration with regional organizations, local tribal governments, centers serving the Indian populations of urban centers, and non-governmental organizations whose focus is on democracy initiatives.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Mapuche Indians in Chile Struggle to Take Back Forests

TRAIGUÉN, Chile - Before the conquistadors arrived, and even for centuries afterward, the lush, verdant forests of southern Chile belonged to the Mapuche people. Today, though, tree farms stretch in all directions here, property of timber companies that supply lumber to the United States, Japan and Europe.

But now the Mapuches, complaining of false land titles and damage to the environment and their traditional way of life, are struggling to take back the land they say is still theirs. As their confrontation with corporate interests has grown more violent, Chile's nominally Socialist government has sought to blunt the indigenous movement by invoking a modified version of an antiterrorist law that dates from the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, 1973 to 1990.

Despite international protests, 18 Mapuche leaders are scheduled to go on trial soon, accused under a statute that prohibits "generating fear among sectors of the population." The charges stem from a series of incidents during the past seven years in which groups of Mapuches have burned forests or farmhouses or destroyed forestry equipment and trucks.