Thursday, September 30, 2004

Maine and One of Its Tribes Look to Buy Canadian Drugs

Maine yesterday became the latest state to try to find a way to import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, but the state added a twist with a proposal that would allow an American Indian tribe to sell the imported drugs.

Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, said at a news conference that he was asking the federal government for permission to import prescription drugs from Canada, which several other states are also seeking. Federal officials have refused to authorize such programs, saying there is no way to guarantee the safety and efficacy of imported drugs.

Mr. Baldacci said that the state would designate the Penobscot Indian Nation as the wholesale distributor of those drugs as a way to generate income and jobs for the tribe. The Penobscots would keep the drugs in a warehouse and sell them to pharmacies in Maine, which would then sell them to consumers at lower prices.

A New-Style Indian Village Rises From the Dust


Progress has a way of backfiring on the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska. Over the past decade tribal businesses have flourished where poverty had long been the rule. Many of the 2,600 people living amid the rolling green and tan fields of the 120,000-acre Winnebago Indian Reservation have found jobs and begun to make decent money. But some of those same people, finding that their higher incomes made them ineligible for public housing, ended up leaving the reservation because there was no place else there for them to live.

The tribe's most prominent business leader, Lance Morgan, figured it would literally take a new village to bring the tribe together again.

So far, Ho-Chunk Village, just north of town, is a mostly blank slate on which the tribe maps its destiny. A grid of chalk-colored streets is forming on a 38-acre slope of oat grass. Besides an office building and a new Dollar General store near the main road, there are 4 houses at the property's back edge, the first of 110 planned.

Senate Opens Hearings on Lobbyists for Tribes

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - A Senate committee on Wednesday began untangling the financial relationship between six Indian tribes and two Washington insiders who Congressional investigators say charged the tribes more than $66 million in less than four years for minimal work.

The two - Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist, and Michael S. Scanlon, a public relations specialist and former aide to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader - sold themselves to the tribes as influential Washington operatives whose experience and relationships would reap great rewards for Native Americans.

But as details of their work became public through reports in The Washington Post and other newspapers, the government began asking questions. Now, the men are under investigation by the Justice Department, other federal agencies and Congress, all examining the possibility of criminal violations.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Teotihuacán Journal: No Conquistadors, Just Wal-Mart

SAN JUAN DE TEOTIHUACÁN, Mexico, Sept. 21 - The market in this small town is a warren of streets with canopied stalls and battered storefronts, where one can buy everything from fresh avocados to jeans to a vaquero's saddle.

As they have for centuries, the merchants here ply their trade midway between the ruins of giant pyramids built by the Maya and the stone steeple of the town's main Catholic church, which Spanish monks founded in 1548.

Now another colossus from a different empire is being built in the shadow of the pyramids, a structure some merchants and other townsfolk here say threatens not only their businesses but their heritage. In December, an ugly cinderblock building rising from the earth is to house a sprawling supermarket called Bodega Aurrera, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart of Mexico.

"What's next?" said David García, 27, whose family owns a dry-goods store in the market. "It's like having Mickey Mouse on the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Indian Web Sales of Taxless Tobacco Face New Pressure

IRVING, N.Y. - Many people would love to put Larry Ballagh out of business. All antismoking groups, for instance. The National Association of Convenience Stores, too.

New York lawmakers would happily close him down. So would the attorneys general of most states.

The reason for all this animosity is that Mr. Ballagh, a hefty 65-year-old of half-Irish, half-Seneca American Indian stock, sells cigarettes nationwide over the Internet, free of state excise and sales taxes that can add as much $3 a pack to the cost of smoking.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Politicians Go Courting on Indian Reservations

ROSEBUD INDIAN RESERVATION, S.D., Sept. 17 - Something remarkable happened at the annual powwow of the Rosebud Sioux here last month. Before thousands of American Indians gathered on the prairie grass of this vast reservation on the northern Plains, the tribal president gave Senator Tom Daschle a red feather.

White men rarely receive the feather, a sacred tribal honor bestowed on Indian veterans, and some at the powwow later said they were shocked and offended.

Mr. Daschle, who is locked in a tight and vicious race with his Republican challenger, John Thune, said he was deeply moved, and he was undoubtedly grateful because he also received the influential endorsement of the tribal president, who has a lot of Republican friends.

Indians are a long ignored bloc of voters representing only 1.5 percent of the population. They have begun to show their power in the last few years, helping to defeat a senator in Washington State in 2000, helping to deliver victory to another here in South Dakota here in 2002 and being heavily courted by the presidential candidates in swing states like Arizona and New Mexico.

Washington Post coverage of the opening of NMAI

The National Museum of the American Indian Official Opening is well covered by the Washington Post, including audio and video.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Museum With an American Indian Voice

WASHINGTON - Early Tuesday morning, 20,000 members of more than 500 Indian tribes from all over the American hemisphere are expected to gather on the Mall to begin a ceremonial march toward the National Museum of the American Indian. But they will not just be celebrating the opening of the Smithsonian's new building. This Native Nations Procession, organized by the museum and forming, perhaps, the largest assembly of America's native peoples in modern times, will also be a self-celebration.

That will be perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the museum. The celebration is echoed in the museum's exhibitions. It is even asserted in the way the museum's mesa-like structure of Kasota limestone thrusts itself eastward toward the Capitol building, as if declaring - after centuries of battle, disruption, compromise, betrayal, defeat and reinvention - 'We are still here.'"

Thursday, September 09, 2004

A Native Spirit, Inside the Beltway


MORE than the corn, the willows and the sunflowers stirring in the late summer wind, Donna House cultivates memory.

When Ms. House, a Navajo ethnobotanist, steps gingerly through the barbed wire fence into her backyard — a former alfalfa field along the Rio Grande now brimming with native plants framed by a distant mesa — there is a sense of homecoming, of reunion, of land returning to its origins.

So it is, too, on the Mall in Washington, where Ms. House is the guiding force behind a landscape of cornfields, meadows, forest and wetlands — complete with 3,500 specially introduced ladybugs — outside the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, which is to open just west of the Capitol on Sept. 21.

"Plants were here way before people," she said, walking through rustling rows of corn behind her home where ancient pottery shards from the nearby San Juan Pueblo share dusty furrows with ants and grasshoppers. "They know you, have a relationship with you. It's a sense of recognizing the plants, the animals, the insects as beings. They were here way before the five-finger people."

Monday, September 06, 2004

A New Museum in Paris Inches Toward Reality

PARIS, Sept. 5 - Primitive art has not lacked admirers here. A century ago Picasso and Brancusi were inspired by African masks and statues. Thirty years later André Breton fell in love with tribal carvings from Oceania. Today dozens of Left Bank galleries specialize in the exotic creativity of distant lands. Yet in the museums of Paris, primitive art is still the poor relation of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities and European painting and sculpture.

All this is about to change. A $265 million museum devoted to the indigenous art of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania is rising on the banks of the Seine beside the Eiffel Tower. Within a year the Musée du Quai Branly, as it is known, will begin receiving the 270,000 objects in its collection. And early in 2006 President Jacques Chirac is expected to inaugurate what is already considered the principal cultural monument to his 12 years in office.

Eskimos Fret as Climate Shifts and Wildlife Changes

Pangnirtung, Nunavut - At age 85, Inusiq Nasalik has seen some changes in his day.

Born in an old whaling settlement, he lived in igloos and sod houses as a child and drove a dog team to hunt on the tundra through much of his life. Now he lives in a comfortable house with a plush sofa in his living room, a Westinghouse range and microwave oven in his modern kitchen and a big stereo to play his favorite old Eskimo songs.

Life is good for him, he says, but he is worried about the changes he sees in the wildlife that surrounds this hamlet on the shores of an icy glacier fiord just below the Arctic circle.