Friday, December 29, 2006

Bonding Over a Mascot

Published: December 29, 2006

A few new statues of a Seminole family in 19th-century clothing stand outside the football stadium at Florida State University. The father holds a long gun, the son a bow and arrow, and the mother an infant in her arms as she looks warily to her right.

The statues represent the era when the Seminoles and the United States were at war. The public art is part of a complex relationship between Seminole culture and sports at Florida State. This bond has strengthened since a crackdown by the National Collegiate Athletic Association last year against American Indian mascots, nicknames and imagery among sports teams.

Not every university enjoys a harmonious relationship with Indians. But a sense of cooperation seems to permeate the Florida State campus in Tallahassee, Fla., where Toni Sanchez was among 21 students to complete a new course this month called History of the Seminoles and Southeastern Tribes.

Sanchez, a senior majoring in English, called the N.C.A.A. edict “beyond idiotic” and offensive. She described the new statues as beautiful.

“I know what a real Seminole is,” she said. “This Anglo guilt and regret don’t affect me.”

Sanchez is from a family with Seminole and Hispanic ancestry. Her father, once a farm worker, is now a casino operator. Her mother is a teacher. Sanchez also plays trumpet at football games in a marching band that wears arrowheads on the back of its uniforms.

Of the tribal flag near the new statues, another recent addition, she said, “Every time I look at it, I get really giddy inside.” Of the use of the Seminole imagery for the university’s sports, she said, “I’m so proud of it.”

Florida State was one of 18 institutions cited by the N.C.A.A. in August 2005 for “mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin.” The institutions were forbidden to use the symbols in postseason events controlled by the N.C.A.A., like the national championship basketball tournament that begins in March.

Five programs have since received permission to continue using their imagery because they received approval from specific Indian groups, in Florida State’s case the 3,200-member Seminole Tribe of Florida. Five others have changed or are in the process of changing, said Bob Williams, an N.C.A.A. spokesman. The other eight, he said, remain on the list and are subject to the policy, including the Illinois Fighting Illini and the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

Myles Brand, the president of the N.C.A.A., said in a telephone interview last week that his organization made the right decision but witnessed more negative reaction to the ruling than expected.

“What we’ve accomplished in part is to raise the level of awareness nationally about how we treat Native Americans,” Brand said. “If we don’t stand by our values, we lose our integrity.”

At times, Indians are reduced to casual caricature that would not be tolerated by other groups, he said, adding that the N.C.A.A. had been honored for its stance by Indian groups in Oklahoma and Indiana.

Less complimentary is T. K. Wetherell, the president of Florida State, who said the N.C.A.A. was “more interested in being politically correct” and did not consult the Seminole tribe before making its decision.

“The way they weaseled out was to say, ‘O.K., as long as the tribe continues to support it,’ ” he said.

Wetherell, a former Florida State football player who also teaches history, wore a hunting outfit when interviewed recently in his office. He pointed to a team logo of an Indian’s face that he said had elements of caricature. “That’s not really a Seminole-looking deal,” Wetherell said. “This is a marketing tool.” He said the university might “gradually let certain things fade.”

He said he told the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s council, “If you don’t want Florida State to be the Seminoles, we ain’t Seminoles anymore.” Wetherell said the tribe approved the use partly because the campus is in the capital and tribal leaders “are not only good businessmen, they are great politicians.”

He said the new history course was proposed before the N.C.A.A. edict.

But Neil Jumonville, the chairman of the history department, said the N.C.A.A. resolution accelerated the creation of the class and that his staff received advice from local Seminole leaders.

“These are people who are savvy about their place in the American myth,” Jumonville said. “And they are smart enough to manipulate the myth for their own good.”

The first class was taught by Christopher R. Versen, who recently earned his doctorate in American history.

“I wanted to challenge students to think about identity,” Versen said. “What is it inside us that makes us identify ourselves one way or another? What external factors play into identity?”

Diamonds Glitter Fades for a Brazilian Tribe

Published: December 29, 2006

ROOSEVELT INDIGENOUS AREA, Brazil — Some of the world’s most abundant deposits of diamonds are embedded in the reddish soil of the Amazon jungle here. But for the Cinta-Larga Indians who live on this remote reservation, that discovery has brought more misfortune than riches.

In April, the Cinta-Larga tribe and Brazil’s environmental police agreed to close a diamond mining camp in the Roosevelt Indigenous Area.
Outside miners began prospecting in earnest in 1999 and soon overran the Indians’ lands, bringing with them drink, drugs, disease and prostitution. Dazzled by the promise of quick wealth from their dealings with the outsiders, tribal leaders have accumulated debts they cannot pay — especially now that the police have set up roadblocks on the reservation’s borders to prevent illegal diamond trafficking.

Cinta-Larga means Broad Belt in Portuguese, a reference to the tribe’s former habit of wearing bark sashes around the waist. For generations, the Cinta-Largas chose to live in isolation here along the banks of the Roosevelt River, named for Theodore Roosevelt, who led an expedition through this region of the southwestern Amazon some 90 years ago.

“Back then, we had no idea what diamonds were worth,” recalled Roberto Carlos Cinta-Larga, a tribal leader who, following tradition, uses the tribe’s name as his surname. “We didn’t have money in those days and didn’t even really know what money was, because our nature was to stay apart from everyone else and not cultivate friendships.”

But in the 1960s, a highway was built west of here, opening the jungle to exploitation by loggers. The discovery of gold, tin and finally diamonds increased the opportunities for the Cinta-Largas but also their resentment of white encroachments on land that the Brazilian government had set aside for them.

Two years ago, the tensions finally boiled over. In an episode that is still under investigation, and for reasons that remain unclear, the Cinta-Largas killed 29 miners who were working without their permission at the mine on the reservation.

Since then, the Cinta-Largas have become the most notorious of Brazil’s hundreds of Indian tribes, reviled in the press as bloodthirsty savages who want the diamonds for themselves and insulted when they leave their reservation for nearby towns. In hopes of countering those negative portrayals, tribal leaders recently invited this reporter to visit.

“We want it known that, despite what our enemies say, we are not mining diamonds,” Ita Cinta-Larga, another tribal leader, said as he inspected the mining pit and its collection of abandoned hoses and sluices. “We still catch miners trying to sneak in now and then, but it’s pretty calm here now, and that’s the way we want to keep it.”

In return for an $810,000 grant for community development from the Brazilian government, the Cinta-Largas agreed in April to shut down the mine, allow the state environmental police to patrol the site and refrain from killing intruders. But the money is now running out, and Pio Cinta-Larga, a tribal leader, warned that unless more help is forthcoming, “when the year ends, the truce expires with it.”

Mauro Sposito, director of the Brazilian Federal Police’s Amazon task force, said that in view of the tribe’s history, such threats must be taken seriously. “We know that they are violent and that something could occur, which is why the main principles of our activities from the start have been to try to negotiate and avoid the use of brute force,” he said.

Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo works with an environmental and indigenous rights group, Kaninde. She cites another factor that the tribe is reluctant to discuss out of shame and embarrassment. “From what the Cinta-Larga women told me, they were tired of seeing the miners raping girls as young as 14 and bringing in drugs,” she said. “So they pressed their men to take a stand.”

Rômulo Siqueira de Sá, an official of the National Indian Foundation, the government agency that deals with indigenous affairs, said diamond money led many Cinta-Largas to buy cars, houses and other goods on credit through white intermediaries. With the mine shut and government funds running out, he said, they have fallen behind on payments and are facing repossession claims. As a result, the pressure to resume illicit diamond trading and reopen prospecting to outsiders is growing.

“The chiefs want government money so that they can pay private debts derived from illegal activities, and there is no possibility whatsoever that the government is going to do that,” Mr. Sposito said. “Brazilian law does not permit such a thing. What the government can do is support the development of the community and provide orientation, but not more than that.”

Thursday, December 28, 2006

One Determined Heroine and Her Fall From Grace

PINE RIDGE, S.D. — Here in the poorest corner of the poorest Indian reservation in the country, Geraldine Blue Bird’s household was one of the worst off.

Then President Bill Clinton stopped by her home during his 1999 tour of the nation’s most impoverished places. Ms. Blue Bird, who lived on a disability check, was squeezing 28 adults and children, most of whom she had taken in from the streets, into a four-room shack with no plumbing and a pop-up camper out back. When word got out, donations poured in, and continued for years. Ms. Blue Bird even received a brand-new double-wide mobile home with four bedrooms.

But the woman who became a symbol of enduring, desperate poverty in the United States now bunks in a jail cell in Rapid City, some 90 miles to the northwest. In October, a federal jury convicted her of running a multimillion-dollar drug ring out of her double-wide. The ring supplied cocaine throughout the hills and valleys of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is the size of Connecticut.

Her arrest and conviction followed a two-year investigation by federal and tribal authorities that netted 16 people, including several of her relatives and “adopted” children. Ms. Blue Bird, who is 50 and suffers from congestive heart failure, is to be sentenced on Feb. 20. She faces up to life in prison.

The case has brought a sense on the Pine Ridge reservation that Ms. Blue Bird betrayed her people. After Mr. Clinton’s visit, her burst of fame made her a kind of ambassador for the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe. She gave interviews in which she spoke of a need to rescue Lakota youth from drugs and gangs. She was recognized by Senator Tim Johnson, Democrat of South Dakota, as one of the nation’s Angels in Adoption. Until her arrest at a Rapid City motel on Dec. 21, 2005, she was raising money to open an orphanage.

Those in her neighborhood remember her sharing the donations she received, showering families with bags of children’s clothes. Their lingering question about her fall from grace: Why?

In an interview at the Rapid City jail where she has been held since she was arrested with several accomplices, a pound and a half of cocaine and a few guns, a weepy Ms. Blue Bird denied having been the leader of the drug ring, or even a part of it. She accused her biological son Colin Spotted Elk, 25, one of four people convicted with her, of running the gang.

“I knew he was doing it,” she said, “but he’s my son.”

Ms. Blue Bird, who plans an appeal, said support for her remained strong among the Lakota. But interviews in the village of Pine Ridge suggested otherwise.

On a reservation where some lack plumbing and electricity, the most generous speculated that Ms. Blue Bird’s actions could be traced to her intense poverty. They thought she had followed her son and others into the drug gang when the wads of cash they carried became too big a lure.

Others said she had become addicted to the attention she received as a result of her largess: when donations to her slowed to a trickle, she needed a way to continue doling out goods.

Still others could find no excuse at all.

Will Peters, who formerly represented Pine Ridge on the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, said she was “single-handedly responsible for ruining the lives of every young person involved” in the drug ring.

In Ms. Blue Bird’s forlorn neighborhood (known as the Igloo community because the 1940s-era cabins there came from an Army base in Igloo, S.D.), those who were once close to her are still shocked.

“We thought she was doing good,” said Marvin Richards, a cousin who lives down the road from her double-wide, now boarded up. “Around Christmastime, the family members would get new shoes, sacks of clothes. We really appreciated it.”

Three of Mr. Richards’s own nine children were caught up in the drug ring, he said. Sage, 21, pleaded guilty and has begun serving more than 11 years in prison. The only daughter, Marvella, 27, and another son, Rusty, 24, were convicted with Ms. Blue Bird, Mr. Spotted Elk and another man, Flint Thomas Red Feather, 35, whom Ms. Blue Bird raised. They all await sentencing.

Mr. Richards spoke as he looked into a house across the street from Ms. Blue Bird’s. It had belonged to his parents, and he was fixing it up for his daughter when she was arrested.

That house and the two next to it are empty now. Those who lived in them were all swept up in the drug arrests. (The children who lived with Ms. Blue Bird are with relatives, or in foster homes, “scattered to the four winds,” she said.) The street looks war-torn. The houses’ windows are broken or boarded up, and piles of clothes and debris are visible inside, through wide-open front doors.

Everyone in the neighborhood knew that the street was prone to trouble. On Dec. 10, 2005, 11 days before Ms. Blue Bird’s arrest, a 16-year-old was shot to death by a friend who was playing with a gun in Ms. Blue Bird’s mobile home.

Tribal authorities say the breakup of the Igloo ring has put a small dent in the drug problem on the reservation. Certainly in what is left of the Igloo community, “things are quiet now,” said Mr. Richards, who still plans to fix up his daughter’s house, for someone who might need it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

John Mohawk, beloved man of wisdom, passes on : ICT [2006/12/15]

Editors' note: Indian Country Today is thankful for the early thoughts shared below by former editor Jose Barreiro, long-time friend and collaborator of John Mohawk. Barreiro currently serves at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Indian country lost a major luminary with the recent passing of Sotsisowah, the Seneca author and traditionalist known in the broader society as John Mohawk, Ph.D.

Mohawk, 61, was pronounced dead at his home in Buffalo on Dec. 12. He is mourned by large numbers of people, expressing the most heartfelt condolences to the family and close relatives of this beloved man of wisdom.

A longtime professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, the highly talented and engaging scholar was a motivating force in the Indian traditionalist movement and the national and international indigenous initiative of self-sufficiency and self-assertion of the contemporary era. Mohawk's essays and speeches from the early 1970s, through his genial direction of the national Indian newspaper, Akwesasne Notes, from 1976 to 1984, were pivotal contributions to the development of intellectual capacity in the Indian movement. From his academic perch, Mohawk developed enlightening university courses while sustaining a wide-ranging program of writing and community educational and oratorical forays. In recent years, he had been an opinion columnist for Indian Country Today.

Intensely steeped in the spiritual ceremonial traditions of the Haudenosaunee people through his foundational longhouse culture at the Cattaraugus Reservation in western New York, Mohawk was one of those rare American Indian individuals who comfortably stepped out into the Western academic and journalistic arenas. He was an enthusiastic participant in his own traditional ways, a legendary singer and knowledgeable elder of the most profound ceremonial cycles of the Haudenosaunee. As a scholar, he represented the Native traditional school of thought in a way that was as authentic as it was brilliantly modern and universal.

Mohawk wrote several important books and articles, among which is the classic ''Basic Call to Consciousness,'' a seminal work that catalyzed Native thinking and understanding of global history in a way that was superbly useful. Later, along with Onondaga elder Oren Lyons, Mohawk edited the important book ''Exiled in the Land of the Free,'' which gathered the significant thinking around foundational American Indian rights. His research and writing on ''Basic Call to Consciousness'' was typical of his style as an activist scholar. It was largely written during the winter and spring of 1977 in the deep woods of upstate New York, where the author was often prodded by the visits of Haudenosaunee chiefs, clan mothers and other elders, to whom he would read his developing prose and who would comment deeply on the manuscript.

Many will credit John Mohawk as the major intellectual and strategic force behind the surge of Haudenosaunee activism of the past 30 years. Many more know and respect him for his many expressions on important national and international issues. While he published and lectured widely, Mohawk generously gave much of his intellectual prowess directly to community issues. At moments when traditionalist life was threatened, he worked diligently to establish strategic directions for the longhouse and other traditionalist governments. One remembers many instances in which Mohawk made a huge difference in dangerous moments of interethnic and political conflict. Many are the times when he forsook professional glory or advancement to join the battle lines, where he employed his powerful intellect to save life while always pressing the demand for Native peoples' unique sovereign rights.

A strong defender of national and international human rights, Mohawk was a mentor to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Indian and non-Indian college students and young professionals, many of whom have gone on to fulfill important posts. He was a great and loyal friend, one who could tease you to tears while marveling your life with incredible sweetness, consistency and human value.

John Mohawk was self-effacing to a fault. Easily admired and even revered, he shunned and suspected any such feelings. This came out of his natural deep integrity. He was wont to tell enraptured audiences, ''Remember one thing, if you remember nothing else I've told you: I am not a star!''

He was wrong on that one. John Mohawk was - is - a star.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is Apocalypto Pornography?

by Traci Ardren
A scholar challenges Mel Gibson's use of the ancient Maya culture as a metaphor for his vision of today's world.

With great trepidation I went to an advance screening of "Apocalypto" last night in Miami. No one really expects historical dramas to be accurate, so I was not so much concerned with whether or not the film would accurately represent what we know of Classic period Maya history as I was concerned about the message Mel Gibson wanted to convey through the film. After Jared Diamond's best-selling book Collapse, it has become fashionable to use the so-called Maya collapse as a metaphor for Western society's environmental and political excesses. Setting aside the fact that the Maya lived for more than a thousand years in a fragile tropical environment before their cities were abandoned, while here in the U.S, we have polluted our urban environments in less than 200, I anticipated a heavy-handed cautionary tale wrapped up in Native American costume.

What I saw was much worse than this. The thrill of hearing melodic Yucatec Maya spoken by familiar faces (although the five lead actors are not Yucatec Maya but other talented Native American actors) during the first ten minutes of the movie is swiftly and brutally replaced with stomach churning panic at the graphic Maya-on-Maya violence depicted in a village raid scene of nearly 15 minutes. From then on the entire movie never ceases to utilize every possible excuse to depict more violence. It is unrelenting. Our hero, Jaguar Paw, played by the charismatic Cree actor Rudy Youngblood, has one hellavuh bad couple of days. Captured for sacrifice, forced to march to the putrid city nearby, he endures every tropical jungle attack conceivable and that is after he escapes the relentless brutality of the elites. I am told this part of the movie is completely derivative of the 1966 film "The Naked Prey." Pure action flick, with one ridiculous encounter after another, filmed beautifully in the way that only Hollywood blockbusters can afford, this is the part of the movie that will draw in audiences and demonstrates Gibson's skill as a cinematic storyteller.

But I find the visual appeal of the film one of the most disturbing aspects of "Apocalypto." The jungles of Veracruz and Costa Rica have never looked better, the masked priests on the temple jump right off a Classic Maya vase, and the people are gorgeous. The fact that this film was made in Mexico and filmed in the Yucatec Maya language coupled with its visual appeal makes it all the more dangerous. It looks authentic; viewers will be captivated by the crazy, exotic mess of the city and the howler monkeys in the jungle. And who really cares that the Maya were not living in cities when the Spanish arrived? Yes, Gibson includes the arrival of clearly Christian missionaries (these guys are too clean to be conquistadors) in the last five minutes of the story (in the real world the Spanish arrived 300 years after the last Maya city was abandoned). It is one of the few calm moments in an otherwise aggressively paced film. The message? The end is near and the savior has come. Gibson's efforts at authenticity of location and language might, for some viewers, mask his blatantly colonial message that the Maya needed saving because they were rotten at the core. Using the decline of Classic urbanism as his backdrop, Gibson communicates that there was absolutely nothing redeemable about Maya culture, especially elite culture which is depicted as a disgusting feast of blood and excess.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Scientists Tracing DNA Find Tribes Not So Trusting

Published: December 10, 2006

SOUTH NAKNEK, Alaska — The National Geographic Society’s multimillion-dollar research project to collect DNA from indigenous groups around the world in the hopes of reconstructing humanity’s ancient migrations has come to a standstill on its home turf in North America.

Billed as the “moon shot of anthropology,” the Genographic Project intends to collect 100,000 indigenous DNA samples. But for four months, the project has been on hold here as it scrambles to address questions raised by a group that oversees research involving Alaska natives.

At issue is whether scientists who need DNA from aboriginal populations to fashion a window on the past are underselling the risks to present-day donors. Geographic origin stories told by DNA can clash with long-held beliefs, threatening a world view some indigenous leaders see as vital to preserving their culture.

They argue that genetic ancestry information could also jeopardize land rights and other benefits that are based on the notion that their people have lived in a place since the beginning of time.

“What if it turns out you’re really Siberian and then, oops, your health care is gone?” said Dr. David Barrett, a co-chairman of the Alaska Area Institutional Review Board, which is sponsored by the Indian Health Service, a federal agency. “Did anyone explain that to them?”

Such situations have not come up, and officials with the Genographic Project discount them as unlikely. Spencer Wells, the population geneticist who directs the project, says it is paternalistic to imply that indigenous groups need to be kept from the knowledge that genetics might offer.

“I don’t think humans at their core are ostriches,” Dr. Wells said. “Everyone has an interest in where they came from, and indigenous people have more of an interest in their ancestry because it is so important to them.”

But indigenous leaders point to centuries of broken promises to explain why they believe their fears are not far-fetched. Scientific evidence that American Indians or other aboriginal groups came from elsewhere, they say, could undermine their moral basis for sovereignty and chip away at their collective legal claims.

“It’s a benefit to science, probably,” said Dr. Mic LaRoque, the Alaska board’s other c0-chairman and a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota. “But I’m not convinced it’s a benefit to the tribes.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Seminole Tribe of Florida Buys Hard Rock

LONDON (AP) -- The Seminole Tribe of Florida is buying the Hard Rock business, including its massive collection of rock 'n' roll memorabilia, in a $965 million deal with British casino and hotel company Rank Group PLC, the tribe announced Thursday.

The Hard Rock business includes 124 Hard Rock Cafes, four Hard Rock Hotels, two Hard Rock Casino Hotels, two Hard Rock Live! concert venues and stakes in three unbranded hotels.

With it, the tribe acquires what is said to be the world's largest collection of rock memorabilia, some 70,000 pieces including Jimi Hendrix's Flying V guitar, one of Madonna's bustiers, a pair of Elton John's high-heeled shoes and guitars formerly owned by Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Chuck Berry.

''This is a proud moment for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and for all Indian tribes,'' said Mitchell Cypress, chairman of the elected Tribal Council. ''It is also an opportunity for the Seminole Tribe to diversify its business operations and help a very successful company to achieve even greater growth.''

Cypress and Seminole Gaming Chief Executive James Allen said in a statement the tribe would work with Hard Rock International management to build on existing growth plans.

In addition to its two Seminole Hard Rock hotels & casinos, the Seminole Tribe owns and operates five other casinos in Florida. More than 90 percent of the tribe's budget now comes from gaming revenue.

Nearly 3,300 Seminole Indians live on and off reservations throughout Florida. Rank said it would keep the Hard Rock Casino in London but under the Rank Gaming brand.

''We have maximized the value of Hard Rock through this disposal following a thorough strategic review and competitive auction,'' said Rank Chief Executive Ian Burke.

The sale, which is subject to shareholder approval, is scheduled to be completed in March.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Praise for Gibson Film, Quandary for Oscar Voters

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 4 — With some early reviews lauding the audacity and innovation of Mel Gibson’s bloody Mayan epic, “Apocalypto,” Hollywood’s tight-knit community of Oscar voters may find itself facing a difficult dilemma in the coming weeks: Will they consider the film for an Academy Award?

Since Mr. Gibson’s drunken tirade against Jews last summer, many people in Hollywood swore — both publicly and privately — that they would not work with him again or see his movies.

But that was before the critics began to weigh in on “Apocalypto,” a two-hour tale about a peaceful village of hunter-gatherers who are attacked and enslaved by the bloodthirsty overlords of their Meso-American civilization.

Mr. Gibson wrote, directed, produced and financed the film, much as he did “The Passion of the Christ,” his surprise 2004 blockbuster; the Walt Disney Company is distributing the film.

“Apocalypto,” which will open on 2,500 screens across the country on Friday, is as different from a typical Hollywood film as Mr. Gibson’s last one: it features unrelenting, savage violence, is told in an obscure Mayan language and uses many nonprofessional actors with a primitive look born far from Hollywood.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tribal religion trumps eagle protection

by Brodie Farquhar

Judge’s ruling regarding ceremonial eagle killing could send case to Supreme Court

More than a century ago, a young Arapaho warrior murmured a prayer under his breath as he killed the rabbit he had captured earlier, then propped the dead animal onto a pile of sticks perched atop a large rock. He hunkered down next to the boulder, covered himself with a hide, and patiently waited for a bald eagle to investigate. As the eagle landed on the rabbit, the young warrior reached up and snatched the eagle’s talons, threw another hide over it and swiftly killed it with his hands. The raptor’s feathers, wings and hollow bones would play an important part in the tribe’s Sun Dance ceremony.

The description of this ancient ritual was passed on to Northern Arapaho tribal elder Jerry Redman by his grandfather, harkening back to when his tribe lived in northern Colorado near what is now Estes Park. Today, the Arapaho are divided into northern and southern branches, confined to reservations in Wyoming and Oklahoma. But tribal traditions endure, and although the eagles are now shot, rather than killed by hand, their ceremonial importance remains paramount.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has different priorities, however. Last year, the agency charged Winslow W. Friday, a Northern Arapaho, with violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act by shooting a bald eagle on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming for use in the Sun Dance. Congress banned killing bald eagles in 1940, then updated the law in 1962 to protect golden eagles as well, because they look like immature bald eagles.

In October, U.S. District Judge William Downes dismissed the charges against Friday, saying that while the government must protect eagles, it also has a compelling interest in preserving Indian tribes and their cultures. The ruling could set the stage for a Supreme Court battle pitting American Indian culture against the government’s mandate to protect the national bird.

Sacred roadkill

Tribes across the West use eagle feathers for ceremonial purposes. Yet for the most part, the only legal way to obtain the feathers is from the National Eagle Repository in Commerce City, Colo. The repository is the collection point for eagles killed by cars, power lines, starvation, poisonings and illegal shootings. American Indians can apply to receive feathers or whole birds for use in a variety of religious ceremonies.
Using these "carrion birds" for ceremonies, though, is unacceptable to many Arapaho tribal elders. The elders maintain that religious ceremonies require that eagles be taken in a prayerful and traditional way. The fact that Friday shot rather than trapped the eagle is irrelevant, says Redman: "We live in the modern day and don’t use bow and arrow." The rifle was simply a tool, he says; Friday’s prayer and attitude are what mattered.

Besides, the demand for eagle parts and carcasses far exceeds the supply at the repository, meaning tribes may have to wait six months for feathers and three and a half years for whole bodies. And although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the power to issue lethal take permits for eagles, it has made little effort to inform American Indians about the availability of such permits, which are rarely issued to tribes and never to individuals.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West. By Hampton Sides - Books

Published: October 29, 2006

After the journey of Lewis and Clark through the wilderness of the American West, a venture that might seem to us tentative, imperiled and pursued against all odds, there came unstoppable waves of humanity (and inhumanity), driven by dreams of gold and empire, and sustained by a certain sense of the inevitable, a conviction given the name Manifest Destiny. “Blood and Thunder” is the story of the quest for, and conquest of, the American West. It is, as we know, the most romantic of stories, and arguably the most cherished of America’s myths.

Early on, Hampton Sides writes of the mountain men:

“As the forerunners of Western civilization, creeping up the river valleys and across the mountain passes, the trappers brought smallpox and typhoid, they brought guns and whiskey and venereal disease, they brought the puzzlement of money and the gleam of steel. And on their liquored breath they whispered the coming of an unimaginable force, of a gathering shadow on the eastern horizon, gorging itself on the continent as it pressed steadily this way.”

This cryptic passage might serve as a bare-bones synopsis of the book. Sides, the author of the best seller “Ghost Soldiers,” has a talent for encapsulation. His thumbnail sketches of character are comprehensive and concise at the same time. There is, for example, a wonderful portrait of Stephen Watts Kearny, who commanded the Army of the West, in which the whole man appears to be contained and defined in a kind of verbal line drawing: “On innumerable occasions he had smoked the pipe with Indians, learning their manner of speaking, their penchant for metaphor; he once flattered a Sioux chief by complimenting him on the ‘soaring eagle of your fame.’ During a council with Oglala Indians, he heartily partook of the local delicacies — boiled dog and blood-tinged river water from the paunch of a buffalo.”

We see this quality of revelation again and again. There are equally telling sketches of the ambitious John C. Frémont; Maj. John Chivington, the murderous parson; Charles Bent, first the owner of Bent’s Fort and then the governor of New Mexico, and his great adversary, Padre Antonio Martínez, the enigmatic cura of Taos; the Navajo leader Manuelito; the diarist and correspondent Susan Magoffin; and many more. Sides gives us fresh, multifaceted pictures of the Taos revolt and the epic march of the Colorado Civil War volunteers. The cast of characters is large and the landscape vast. We see a panorama and a whole history, intricately laced with wonder and meaning, coalesce into a story of epic proportions, a story full of authority and color, truth and prophecy, a story that is uniquely ours.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Soldier Comes Home to Alaska, Too Early and Yet Too Late

BARROW, Alaska — When the soldiers from the frozen tundra shipped out for the burning sands of Iraq, Staff Sgt. Billy Brown promised the women that he’d bring their men back alive.

But when Sergeant Brown returned just two weeks later, he didn’t bring his men at all. He came with a funeral detail. He came cargo, in a silver coffin with wood handles cloaked in an American flag. He is believed to be the first Eskimo killed because of this war. He was 54.

Sergeant Brown, an Alaska national guardsman, never got to a battlefield. He was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of his Humvee late in July while he was on training maneuvers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi.

His death rattled this town of 4,200, mostly Inupiaq Eskimos, located 500 roadless miles from anywhere and 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Finally, tangibly, the war has reached one of the most isolated corners of the country.

“Until now the war was more like a television show,” said Edward S. Itta, mayor of the North Slope Borough, in which Barrow lies, and a friend of Sergeant Brown’s. “You don’t question the war until it touches you. Only then, when a man like Billy, an important man to us, comes home dead, does the question become clear. We fight. But to what end? What’s in it for my grandchildren?”

During the cold war, the battle line was drawn right here on the North Slope, with the Soviets skulking just across the Bering Strait. Most Alaska Guard members stayed in the state, protecting the home front.

But the world has changed. For this war, 670 Guard members have been called up from rural Alaska, its largest foreign deployment ever. The Alaska Guard estimates that one-third of its members are Eskimo, so most likely a third of those deployed are indigenous men, officials say, though the military does not keep official racial records of this type.

Among the most skilled was Staff Sergeant Brown, a 29-year veteran of the Guard and an Arctic survival specialist.

“He could have retired years ago,” said his niece Audrey Saganna. But he volunteered for the mission so other soldiers who had served multiple tours in Iraq could get a rest, she said.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Chile Indigenous Tribe Fights Extinction

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A once-nomadic tribe of hunters and fishermen living in the frigid channels near the bottom of the world is nearing extinction.

Down to just 15 full-blooded members, the Kawesqar people could soon go the way of other indigenous tribes in Chile, its language and culture disappearing to all but the history books.

Juan Carlos Tonko, however, is doing all he can to stop the Kawesqar's slow march to oblivion.

Six months ago, the 40-year-old left the comforts of the capital, Santiago, to return to Puerto Eden on Wellington Island in southern Chile and re-embrace the traditions of the people he left 25 years before.

Tonko is the lone Kawesqar of his middle-aged generation to come home, and now considers himself ''the transmitter of history'' for his tribe.

''I feel that I have a great responsibility,'' the soft-spoken father of four said during a visit to Santiago with his children's school, a trip that took two days by boat and a third by bus.

With support from the Chilean government, Tonko and a research team are recording the handful of Kawesqar speakers left in Puerto Eden, most of whom are in their 70s and 80s. ''The immediacy is urgent,'' Tonko said.

The plan is to produce materials to teach the language in schools nationwide as an optional subject to those interested. Then, if they can wrangle more funds, they will complete a cultural and historical survey of the Kawesqars, to correct the errors in the few existing texts written by outsiders.

Over the years, five of Chile's original 14 indigenous tribes -- the Aonikenk, Selk'nam, Pikunches, Changos and Chonos -- have been lost to the onslaught of colonialism, succumbing to disease, displacement and overuse of their traditional sources of food.

The 600,000-strong Mapuche tribe is the largest and most vocal indigenous group in Chile, a country with a population of 16 million.

A Spirit of Belonging, Inside and Out


Alistair Bane went to his first weekend gathering five months ago and was so nervous that he barely participated. By the time of his second, last month, he had sewn his own outfit and was comfortable enough to dance in the powwow and the drag show.

“This has been a big thing for me,” said Mr. Bane, who is a mixed-blood Eastern Shawnee. “If somebody had talked to me when I was 16 and said people like me were once respected, my life might have been different.”

The occasion was the ninth annual Montana Two-Spirit Gathering, a weekend retreat here in northwestern part of the state for a few dozen American Indians who define themselves as embodying both male and female spirits. Many are refugees from the gay or lesbian bar circuit who are now celebrating an identity among themselves that they never knew existed, in a setting without drugs or alcohol. Some identify themselves as gay or lesbian; others as a third or fourth gender, combining male and female aspects.

Since the term “Two Spirit” was coined at a conference for gay and lesbian natives in the early 1990’s, Two-Spirit societies have formed in Montana as well as in Denver; Minnesota; New York State; San Francisco; Seattle; Toronto; Tulsa, Okla.; and elsewhere, organized around what members assert was once an honored status within nearly every tribe on the continent.

“A lot of our tribal leaders have their minds blocked and don’t even know the history of Two-Spirit people,” said Steven Barrios, 54, who lives on a Blackfeet reservation in northwestern Montana, and who has been open about his sexual orientation since he was a teenager. Mr. Barrios cited a small and sometimes contested body of anthropological evidence that suggests that before the arrival of Christian missionaries, many tribes considered Two-Spirit people to be spiritually gifted and socially valuable.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where the Moon Stood Still, and the Ancients Watched

THE great Chaco civilization, trading partner of the Maya, established a far-reaching sphere of influence in the North American desert a millennium ago. Among the most remote and mysterious of their outposts was Chimney Rock, in what is now the very southwest corner of Colorado, 90 miles from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the center of the culture.

Why did the Chaco people — the Anasazi, or “ancestral Puebloans,” as their descendants prefer — build an enormous ceremonial Great House at Chimney Rock, so far from home, 1,000 feet above the nearest water supply and at the base of immense sandstone spires?

It was not until two decades ago that archaeologists arrived at an explanation that most now accept: the Chaco people built the Great House as a lunar observatory precisely aligned to a celestial event that occurs just once in a generation.

That rare event, a “major lunar standstill,” is happening now, and continues through 2007. To witness this extraordinary moonrise, some two dozen visitors, including me, arrived to climb the Chimney Rock mesa in the middle of an August night.

Every 18.6 years, the moon does something strange: it radically expands the voyage it makes each month across the sky and, at the northern and southernmost edges of that journey, appears to rise in the same spot for two or three nights in a row.

What archaeologists discovered at the last occurrence of this event — in the mid-1980’s — was that if you stood atop the Chacoan Great House at Chimney Rock (or as we did, on the modern fire watchtower that stands in front of the Great House and replicates its alignment), you saw the northernmost moonrise directly between the sandstone spires. Move anywhere else on the mesa, and the shift in perspective slipped the moon from its frame.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thinking outside the box: Shoshones rely on intellectual resources to grow an economy

BRIGHAM CITY — Shoshone legend suggests that Itsappe — Old Coyote — disguised in a shredded juniper wig, stole fire from a distant desert tribe and brought it north to the Bear River Valley.
The Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation today has no reason to steal. It caught fire on its own. The tribe expects revenues this year from its numerous business enterprises to hit $10 million.
It's a large figure for a band of 464 that only a few years ago had nothing.
"We started out zero," said tribal leader Bruce Parry, CEO and chairman of the board of the NWB Shoshone Economic Development Corp.
"We did not have even a penny to start."
The Northwestern Shoshone tribe, based in Brigham City, does not have a reservation, though it owns some land and is trying to acquire more.
With essentially no land base in Utah, the Northern Band of the Shoshone has relied on intellectual resources and creativity to grow an economy.
Creative economic development includes foreign language translations for the FBI, CIA and other government agencies; construction companies; and energy development. Tribal leaders want to train their young people to take over these enterprises.
And the tribe has big plans for the property it is amassing, including an industrial park, an interpretive center, a travel plaza and a casino resort just across the border in Idaho.
One of its more ambitious projects is a mixed-use development in a former Shoshone community 50 miles north of Brigham City called Washakie. The town died out during the World War II era. The new Washakie would include housing, schools, medical facilities and a business park.

All told, the tribe's proposals exceed $340 million.
Outside the box
Lacking natural resources, the Shoshones began "asset mining," or looking for something to capitalize on.
"What we've had to do is think out of the box," said chief operating officer Mike Devine. "That's why we've been successful with some of those more resourceful things."
Recognizing that Utah has many speakers of foreign languages, the tribe settled on translation services. It secured a federal contract and top-secret clearance to provide translation for agencies in the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"Sure enough," Devine said, "we struck gold."
Because of its tribal status, the Northwestern Shoshone gets special consideration through the Small Business Administration for federal contracts. The government reserves a percentage for historically disadvantaged people.
The Shoshones also now own a construction company doing dozens of government projects and an interior design firm specializing in LDS Church temples. The tribe also is working on biodiesel and geothermal power projects.
"We believe energy is going to be bigger than gaming ever was for the tribe," Devine said. (The Shoshone-Bannock tribe in Idaho operates a casino at Fort Hall.)

Native American graduation rate rises

Eight-year-old Raven-Sky Billie wants the title this year. Last year she was first attendant in the Shiyazhi Pageant in Park City, where she showcased traditional Navajo dress, language and songs.

But Eileen Quintana wants something more for Raven-Sky and other Native American children. She hopes that putting them in touch with their heritage will propel them to graduate from high school.

Quintana is the director of the Title VII Indian Education Program in the Nebo School District, which has helped raise the Native American graduation rate in the district from 37 percent in 1998 to as high as 94 percent in 2003. The national average is less than 50 percent.

About 250 students in the district participate in the program, with about 85 percent being Navajo. About 17 different tribes, including Lakota, Utes, Piutes, Chippewas and Shoshones also are represented.

Twice a week Navajo language classes are offered, and an after-school program provides instruction on traditional arts and Native American history. A summer-school program carries on those lessons. Last year, students made teepees and learned about the history and meaning behind the symbols painted on them.

When the program first started in 1998, Quintana offered homework help and dance instruction every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m., and for the first six months, no one showed up.

Then, families started coming. "The first thing I did was I went and tried to find all my little lost Indian kids," Quintana said. "I made visits with their families and talked to them. I did it very Navajo."

Quintana said she can always tell when her students start learning about Native American history in school, because their grades drop. "One of the things that I hear my students say the most is, 'I feel invisible. I'm the only Native American in my school. When they teach about native Americans in my school it's not something I connect to. It's something very different.' "

Giving them accurate information about their history is key to tapping into their self-esteem and potential, Quintana said.

"It's amazing how brilliant our people are, and we need to connect back into that to really ignite that fire within our children so that we validate who they are. We validate them. They're not invisible. They have something to contribute to this society," she said.

Shirlee Silversmith, Indian education curriculum director for the Utah State Office of Education, recently finished a two-year process of developing lessons about Native Americans for use in schools. She hopes that the Native Americans students read about in their schoolbooks will be more closely connected to their own identities.

The Nebo district's Indian Education program extends that relationship between culture and learning.

Silversmith explained how a drum can be used to teach math. "If you can utilize a drum and look at the diameter of a drum, and how do you come up with the diameter, the math work on that, they have something tangible they can hold in their hand and that is a part of their culture. You make it relevant for that child, and that's what Eileen has done. She just takes all different kinds of cultural and language and integrates it into a program model that is just working very well for her students and families."

Quintana said students have limited opportunities to learn about their culture in public schools. She once looked for a book in the Spanish Fork High School library about Navajo Code Talkers who helped transmit and decode secret messages during World War II and couldn't find one.

Statewide in 2005, American Indian students passed the state's language arts test at a rate of nearly 52 percent, while their white counterparts passed at 81 percent, according to the State Office of Education. In math, American Indians had a pass rate of 49 percent, compared to 76 percent for white students.

Government oppression has made many Native Americans standoffish about government and public services such as schools, Silversmith said. That suspicion has caused some parents to teach their children to be silent at school. Quintana added that many Native American cultures also require children to be quiet and learn by observation. "You have a cultural thing there, because that definitely is not the case in the society we live in."

Natalie Billie, volunteer and treasurer for the program's parent committee, said the program has helped teach her children, Raven-Sky and 6-year-old Shakotah, about their roots. "For us it's more of the culture we come for -- learning the Navajo songs and learning about the traditional ways. Their dad was raised here in Springville, so he kind of got taken away from the traditional ways, so he's learning right along with them."

Raven-Sky can sing a four-verse song titled, "Who is My Mother?" in Navajo, Billie said. "It just kind of teaches them where they come from."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Aborigines Win Australian Land Claim

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- A federal court judge has given a tribe of Aborigines a limited land title claim over the major Australian city of Perth.

It was the first such ruling that Aborigines, the indigenous people who lived in Australia before white settlers arrived, were the traditional owners of an urban area. The potentially precedent-setting decision could apply to other large cities.

The ruling determined that the Noongar people were the traditional owners of a 2,300-square-mile area of Western Australia state that includes the state capital of Perth, a city of 1.7 million people.

But Tuesday's ruling by Judge Murray Wilcox only grants Aborigines limited rights to the land, and indigenous people say the issue is about recognition of their rights, not moving homeowners out.

The ruling means the Noongar people can now exercise rights such as hunting and fishing on land where their native title -- a claim on land Aborigines held before settlers arrived -- has not been usurped by freehold titles, those where the government has passed all interest in the land to the owner, or leasehold titles, where a person leases property from the owner.

Wilcox said the outcome was ''neither the pot of gold for the indigenous claimants nor the disaster for the remainder of the community that is sometimes painted.''"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Border Fence Must Skirt Objections From Arizona Tribe

TOHONO O’ODHAM NATION, Ariz., Sept. 14 — The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on legislation to build a double-layered 700-mile-long fence on the Mexican border, a proposal already approved by the House.

If the fence is built, however, it could have a long gap — about 75 miles — at one of the border’s most vulnerable points because of opposition from the Indian tribe here. The Tohono O’odham Nation straddles the Mexico border.

More illegal immigrants are caught — and die trying to cross into the United States — in and around the Tohono O’odham Indian territory, which straddles the Arizona border, than any other spot in the state.

Tribal leaders have cooperated with Border Patrol enforcement, but they promised to fight the building of a fence out of environmental and cultural concerns.

For the Tohono O’odham, which means “desert people,” the reason is fairly simple. For generations, their people and the wildlife they revere have freely crossed the border. For years, an existing four-foot-high cattle fence has had several openings — essentially cattle gates — that tribal members use to visit relatives and friends, take children to school and perform rites on the other side.

“I am O’odham first, and American or Mexican second or third,” said Ramon Valenzuela, as he walked his two children to school through one gate two miles from his O’odham village in Mexico.

But the pushed-up bottom strands of the cattle fence and the surrounding desert littered with clothing, water jugs and discarded backpacks testify to the growth in illegal immigrant traffic, which surged here after a Border Patrol enforcement squeeze in California and Texas in the mid-1990’s.

Crossers take advantage of a remote network of washes and trails — and sometimes Indian guides — to reach nearby highways bound for cities across the country.

Tribal members, who once gave water and food to the occasional passing migrant, say they have become fed up with groups of illegal immigrants breaking into homes and stealing food, water and clothing, and even using indoor and outdoor electrical outlets to charge cellphones.

With tribal police, health and other services overwhelmed by illegal immigration, the Indians welcomed National Guard members this summer to assist the Border Patrol here. The tribe, after negotiations with the Department of Homeland Security, also agreed to a plan for concrete vehicle barriers at the fence and the grading of the dirt road parallel to it for speedier Border Patrol and tribal police access. The Indians also donated a parcel this year for a small Border Patrol substation and holding pen.

Tribal members, however, fearing the symbolism of a solid wall and concern about the free range of deer, wild horses, coyotes, jackrabbits and other animals they regard as kin, said they would fight the kind of steel-plated fencing that Congress had in mind and that has slackened the crossing flow in previous hot spots like San Diego.

“Animals and our people need to cross freely,” said Verlon Jose, a member of the tribal council representing border villages. “In our tradition we are taught to be concerned about every living thing as if they were people. We don’t want that wall.”

The federal government, the trustee of all Indian lands, could build the fence here without tribal permission, but that option is not being pressed because officials said it might jeopardize the tribe’s cooperation on smuggling and other border crimes.

“We rely on them for cooperation and intelligence and phone calls about illegal activity as much as they depend on us to respond to calls,” said Chuy Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Border Patrol in Tucson, who described overall relations as “getting better and better.”

The Tohono number more than 30,000, including 14,000 on the Arizona tribal territory and 1,400 in Mexico. Building a fence would impose many challenges, apart from the political difficulties.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gifts Given by the Creator: Contemporary American Indian Art

A wonderful gallery and discussion of What is Contemporary Indian Art? Discussing the work of 12 contemporary American Indian artists and the influences on their work. Harry Fonseca, Judith Lowry, Lyn Risling, Frank LaPena, L. Frank, Ikoshy Montoya, Emmanuel Montoya, Billy Soza Warsoldier, Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie, Michael Horse, Niki Lee, & Richard Glazer Danay.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

In Shadow of 70’s Racism, Recent Violence Stirs Rage - Farmington, NM

The memory of 1974 still hangs heavily over this troubled New Mexico town, like a bad spirit drifting down from the sandpaper mesas and scrub-speckled hillsides.

That was the year the bodies of three Navajo men were found in nearby Chokecherry Canyon, burned and bludgeoned. The three white high school students charged in their killings were sent not to prison but to reform school.

The violence and mild sentences incited marches by Navajos through Farmington’s streets and exposed tensions between them and the town’s largely white residents. The United States Commission on Civil Rights eventually investigated and found widespread mistreatment and prejudice against Navajos.

Now, more than three decades later, Navajo leaders here are again calling for federal intervention.

On June 4, the police said, three white men beat a Navajo man, William Blackie, 46, and shouted racial slurs at him after asking him to buy beer for them. The men were charged with kidnapping, robbery and assault, and are being prosecuted under the state hate crimes law, which allows for longer sentences.

Six days later, a white Farmington police officer killed a Navajo man, Clint John, 21, after a struggle in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The police said Mr. John had assaulted his girlfriend and attacked the officer — grabbing his baton and moving aggressively toward him — before the officer shot Mr. John four times. Mr. John had a history of violence, the police said.

Mr. John’s family says he did not have the baton when he was shot and is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against city officials, the Police Department and the officer.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Writing on Stone May Be Oldest in the Americas

A stone slab found in the state of Veracruz in Mexico bears 3,000-year-old writing previously unknown to scholars, according to archaeologists who say it is an example of the oldest script ever discovered in the Western Hemisphere.

The order and pattern of carved symbols appeared to be that of a true writing system, according to the Mexican scientists who have studied the slab and colleagues from the United States. It had characteristics strikingly similar to imagery of the Olmec civilization, considered the earliest in pre-Columbian America, they said.

Finding a heretofore-unknown writing system is a rare event. One of the last such discoveries, scholars say, was the Indus Valley script, identified by archaeologists in 1924.

The inscription on the stone slab, with 62 distinct signs, some of them repeated, has been tentatively dated to at least 900 B.C., and possibly earlier. That is 400 years or more before writing had been known to exist in Mesoamerica, the region from central Mexico through much of Central America — and by extension, to exist anywhere in the Hemisphere.

Scientists had not previously found any script that was unambiguously associated with the Olmec culture, which flourished along the Gulf of Mexico in Vera Cruz and Tobasco well before the Zapotec and Maya people rose to prominence elsewhere in the region. Until now, the Olmec were known mainly for the colossal stone heads they created and displayed at monumental buildings in their ruling cities.

3rd Rare White Buffalo Born on Wis. Farm

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A farm in Wisconsin is quickly becoming hallowed ground for American Indians with the birth of its third white buffalo, an animal considered sacred by many tribes for its potential to bring good fortune and peace.

''We took one look at it and I can't repeat what I thought but I thought, 'Here we go again,''' said owner Dave Heider.

Thousands of people stopped by Heider's Janesville farm after the birth of the first white buffalo, a female named Miracle who died in 2004 at the age of 10. The second was born in 1996 but died after three days.

Heider said he discovered the third white buffalo, a newborn male, after a storm in late August.

Over the weekend, about 50 American Indians held a drum ceremony to honor the calf, which has yet to be named, he said.

Floyd ''Looks for Buffalo'' Hand, a medicine man in the Oglala Sioux Tribe in Pine Ridge, S.D., said it was fate that the white buffaloes chose one farm, which will likely become a focal point for visitors, who make offerings such as tobacco and dream catchers in the hopes of earning good fortune and peace.

''That's destiny,'' he said. ''The message was only choose one person.''

The white buffalo is particularly sacred to the Cheyenne, Sioux and other nomadic tribes of the Northern Plains that once relied on the buffalo for subsistence.

According to a version of the legend, a white buffalo, disguised as a woman wearing white hides, appeared to two men. One treated her with respect, and the other didn't. She turned the disrespectful man into a pile of bones, and gave the respectful one a pipe and taught his people rituals and music. She transformed into a female white buffalo calf and promised to return again.

That this latest birth is a male doesn't make it any less significant in American Indian prophecies, which say that such an animal will reunite all the races of man and restore balance to the world, Hand said. He said the buffalo's coat will change from white to black, red and yellow, the colors of the various races of man, before turning brown again.

The birth of a white male buffalo means men need to take responsibility for their families and the future of the tribe, Hand said.

The odds of a white buffalo are at least 1 in a million, said Jim Matheson, assistant director of the National Bison Association. Buffalo in general have been rare for years, thought their numbers are increasing, with some 250,000 now in the U.S., he said.

Many people, like Heider, choose to raise the animals for their meat, which is considered a healthier, low-fat alternative to beef.

Gary Adamson, 65, of Elkhorn, who is of Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, said tribal elders will help interpret the animal's significance.

''There are still things that need to be done, and Miracle's task wasn't quite done yet, and we feel there's something there,'' he said.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Carol Cornsilk film to debut in Washington and New York

Carol Cornsilk, a graduate assistant in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Journalism and Mass Communications has two major premieres looming this fall. "Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire," a two-part documentary film Cornsilk directed and co-produced is making its debut..

"Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire," will make its Washington, D.C. premiere at the National Museum of the American Indian on Friday, September 29th.

In November, the film will air nationally on PBS and will also be screened on opening night at the Native American Film Festival, November 30th, in New York City. Cornsilk, a Cherokee tribal member, will be on hand to discuss her film at both premieres.

"Indian County Diaries: Spiral of Fire” takes author LeAnne Howe (Choctaw) to the North Carolina homeland of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to discover how the mix of tourism, community, and cultural preservation is the key to their tribe’s health in the 21st century.

Along the way, Howe seeks to reconcile her own complex identity as the illegitimate daughter of a Choctaw woman, fathered by a Cherokee man she never knew, and raised by an adopted Cherokee family in Oklahoma.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bill Would Aid Cemeteries for Indian Veterans

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 — Traditionally, when American Indians are killed in battle, their remains are returned to their tribal lands for burial.

But for the families of the many Indians who join the United States military, death brings a difficult choice: The veterans can be buried in a national veterans’ cemetery with fellow comrades in arms. Or they can be buried close to home on tribal land.

There is no way to do both.

The Native American Veterans Cemetery Act would change that.

Representative Tom Udall, the New Mexico Democrat who wrote the bill, said it would authorize states to provide grants financed by the Department of Veterans Affairs for the development or improvement of veterans’ cemeteries on tribal land. At present, tribal governments are not eligible for department money.

In June, Mr. Udall’s measure was unanimously approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Both the House and the Senate included it in comprehensive veterans’ bills approved last month. The next step is for those bills to be reconciled by a conference committee after Congress returns in September.

Nearly 20,000 people classified as Native American/Alaskan Native are serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, according to the Defense Department’s most recent tally, from December 2005. By the end of 2006, there will be an estimated 181,361 Native American veterans, according to the V.A. The National Native American Veterans Association estimates that 22 percent of Native Americans 18 years or older are veterans.

“This is about recognizing that it’s not just states that have rights — tribes, too, should have rights,” Mr. Udall said in a recent interview.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Governor’s Push to Expand Indian Casinos Fails in California

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 1 — What would have been among the largest expansions of Indian gambling in recent years, a major goal of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was defeated by the California Legislature on Thursday after heavy lobbying by union groups frustrated by efforts to organize workers at the casinos.

It may be a temporary setback for the governor and tribal groups, who have promised to push again for the expansion next year. Legislative leaders, who have been generally supportive of Indian gambling, also suggested they would be open to similar plans down the road.

But for now, Mr. Schwarzenegger and the tribes, who had been negotiating for a couple of years, stand empty-handed.

One bill passed in one legislative chamber but failed in the other, and lawmakers declined to take up five bills ratifying six compacts the governor had signed that would have allowed for some 20,000 new slot machines on several reservations, in addition to the 60,000 already there.

The compacts are another sign of the explosive growth of the Indian gambling industry, whose revenues have grown nationwide to $22.7 billion last year from $5.5 billion a decade ago, enriching many tribes. The Indian casinos, many aping the flash and entertainment of the Las Vegas Strip, typically serve the masses unable or unwilling to go to Las Vegas or casinos in other states.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

This Time, the Indians Tell Their Own Story

TULSA, Okla.

Chuck Foxen

From left, Jeri Arredondo, Tamara Podemski and Cody Lightning in “Four Sheets to the Wind.”

The writer and director Sterlin Harjo.

IT would be tough organizing a respectable traffic jam in this part of town, especially in the dead heat of a summer afternoon. So the motley collection of cars, vans and movie equipment — and the tiny trailer advertising “Indian Tacos” — that have been assembled for a film shoot draw the kind of attention they never could in Hollywood or New York.

But this isn’t Hollywood or New York. The sound department, so to speak, is set up in the shade of a corrugated iron awning, outside a bar that looks as if it were decorated by a tsunami carrying a load of uncapped Sharpies. The producers, Chad Burris and Ted Kroeber, are lugging folding chairs around. But then everyone is doing something that isn’t in his or her job description. Shooting comes to a halt for the passing of the occasional tractor-trailer because the production can’t close the streets. (“Not without paying cops $300 a day to do it,” Mr. Burris said.) A few days earlier, an apparently inebriated man fell off his porch across the road from the set, crying: “Kill my life! Kill my face!” The crew wanted to work it into the script.

“Four Sheets to the Wind,” the debut feature by the writer and director Sterlin Harjo, is a coming-of-age story, set in Tulsa and nearby Holdenville. Almost the entire cast and many of the crew members are American Indians. “Among ourselves,” said Mr. Burris, an Oklahoma native and Chickasaw, “it’s more like ‘Induns.’ ” Not coincidentally, interpretations and definitions become knotty factors in an Indian movie, something rare enough that unfair expectations and obligations naturally attach themselves to it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Racism apology offered

"'Wizard of Oz' writer's descendants sorry for author's words, attitude

By Angela Mettler
American News Writer

Mac Hudson of Tucson, Ariz., spent much of August apologizing for things he didn't do.

Hudson is L. Frank Baum's great-great-grandson. Most people know Baum as the author of 'The Wizard of Oz.'

Baum lived in Aberdeen from 1888-91. In December 1890, Baum wrote editorials in his newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, calling for the extermination of American Indians.

Hudson felt the need to apologize for Baum's intolerant words and attitude, so he traveled in western South Dakota this August with his wife, Amy Schwemm; his cousin Gita Dorothy Morena of San Diego; and his friend Vic Runnels of Aberdeen.

'It's important that we acknowledge the racism of the past and look for opportunities to correct the racism of today,' Hudson said.

While working toward a master's degree in American Indian studies in college, Hudson wrote his thesis on Baum. He first came across Baum's editorials during his research for the thesis.

'When I first read that, I was quite horrified about it and wanted to know more,' he said.

Hudson's research revealed that Baum lived in a time period where racism was commonplace. In fact, Baum's editorials coincided with the Wounded Knee massacre.

Runnels' uncle was a survivor of Wounded Knee. Runnels first heard of the editorials while presenting workshops on how racism affects individuals and communities.

Hudson and Runnels met through Aberdeen native and historian Sally Roesch Wagner. Wagner's mother had a friend named Matilda Jewell Gage, who was Baum's niece.

'If it wasn't for Sally and Vic, none of this would have happened,' Schwemm said.

Hudson, Schwemm, Morena and Runnels visited Wounded Knee, Cheyenne River, Eagle Butte and Rapid City to apologize to descendants of Wounded Knee survivors.

'To them, it was a very historic occasion,' Hudson said.

Nobody knew if the descendants of Wounded Knee survivors would accept the apology, but they did. Hudson said he never encountered anger; rather, he and his three fellow travelers were welcomed.

'It's a very humbling experience,' he said.

He hopes the apology was a start to mending the physical and emotional wounds brought on by racism.

'It seemed possible that healing could occur from this, and if that happens even a little bit, it's worth it,' Hudson said."

Racism apology offered

'Wizard of Oz' writer's descendants sorry for author's words, attitude

By Angela Mettler -
American News Writer

Mac Hudson of Tucson, Ariz., spent much of August apologizing for things he didn't do.

Hudson is L. Frank Baum's great-great-grandson. Most people know Baum as the author of "The Wizard of Oz."

Baum lived in Aberdeen from 1888-91. In December 1890, Baum wrote editorials in his newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, calling for the extermination of American Indians.

Hudson felt the need to apologize for Baum's intolerant words and attitude, so he traveled in western South Dakota this August with his wife, Amy Schwemm; his cousin Gita Dorothy Morena of San Diego; and his friend Vic Runnels of Aberdeen.

"It's important that we acknowledge the racism of the past and look for opportunities to correct the racism of today," Hudson said.

While working toward a master's degree in American Indian studies in college, Hudson wrote his thesis on Baum. He first came across Baum's editorials during his research for the thesis.

"When I first read that, I was quite horrified about it and wanted to know more," he said.

Hudson's research revealed that Baum lived in a time period where racism was commonplace. In fact, Baum's editorials coincided with the Wounded Knee massacre.

Runnels' uncle was a survivor of Wounded Knee. Runnels first heard of the editorials while presenting workshops on how racism affects individuals and communities.

Hudson and Runnels met through Aberdeen native and historian Sally Roesch Wagner. Wagner's mother had a friend named Matilda Jewell Gage, who was Baum's niece.

"If it wasn't for Sally and Vic, none of this would have happened," Schwemm said.

Hudson, Schwemm, Morena and Runnels visited Wounded Knee, Cheyenne River, Eagle Butte and Rapid City to apologize to descendants of Wounded Knee survivors.

"To them, it was a very historic occasion," Hudson said.

Nobody knew if the descendants of Wounded Knee survivors would accept the apology, but they did. Hudson said he never encountered anger; rather, he and his three fellow travelers were welcomed.

"It's a very humbling experience," he said.

He hopes the apology was a start to mending the physical and emotional wounds brought on by racism.

"It seemed possible that healing could occur from this, and if that happens even a little bit, it's worth it," Hudson said.

Racism apology offered

'Wizard of Oz' writer's descendants sorry for author's words, attitude

By Angela Mettler
American News Writer

Mac Hudson of Tucson, Ariz., spent much of August apologizing for things he didn't do.

Hudson is L. Frank Baum's great-great-grandson. Most people know Baum as the author of "The Wizard of Oz."

Baum lived in Aberdeen from 1888-91. In December 1890, Baum wrote editorials in his newspaper, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, calling for the extermination of American Indians.

Hudson felt the need to apologize for Baum's intolerant words and attitude, so he traveled in western South Dakota this August with his wife, Amy Schwemm; his cousin Gita Dorothy Morena of San Diego; and his friend Vic Runnels of Aberdeen.

"It's important that we acknowledge the racism of the past and look for opportunities to correct the racism of today," Hudson said.

While working toward a master's degree in American Indian studies in college, Hudson wrote his thesis on Baum. He first came across Baum's editorials during his research for the thesis.

"When I first read that, I was quite horrified about it and wanted to know more," he said.

Hudson's research revealed that Baum lived in a time period where racism was commonplace. In fact, Baum's editorials coincided with the Wounded Knee massacre.

Runnels' uncle was a survivor of Wounded Knee. Runnels first heard of the editorials while presenting workshops on how racism affects individuals and communities.

Hudson and Runnels met through Aberdeen native and historian Sally Roesch Wagner. Wagner's mother had a friend named Matilda Jewell Gage, who was Baum's niece.

"If it wasn't for Sally and Vic, none of this would have happened," Schwemm said.

Hudson, Schwemm, Morena and Runnels visited Wounded Knee, Cheyenne River, Eagle Butte and Rapid City to apologize to descendants of Wounded Knee survivors.

"To them, it was a very historic occasion," Hudson said.

Nobody knew if the descendants of Wounded Knee survivors would accept the apology, but they did. Hudson said he never encountered anger; rather, he and his three fellow travelers were welcomed.

"It's a very humbling experience," he said.

He hopes the apology was a start to mending the physical and emotional wounds brought on by racism.

"It seemed possible that healing could occur from this, and if that happens even a little bit, it's worth it," Hudson said.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Children's Books - New York Times


By Marge Bruchac.

Illustrated by William Maughan. Unpaged. The Vermont Folklife Center. $16.95. (Ages 6 to 10)

A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom.

By Tim Tingle.

Illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges. Unpaged. Cinco Puntos Press. $17.95. (Ages 8 to 12)


By Julius Lester.

Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 79pp. Dial Books. $19.99. (Ages 9 and up)

IN the elementary classroom, at least, multiculturalism has succeeded. Schoolchildren now learn about the American journey as the coming-together of diverse cultures, with not just Pilgrims but Native Americans and Africans and, more recently, Latinos and Asians walking along the national trail. Even in this updated version, ours is a triumphalist travelogue: from slavery to freedom; from poverty to riches; e pluribus, unum. Sure, the new children’s literature suggests, we have our problems, but eventually we gather everyone with us into the future.

Three new children’s books radically challenge this myth, with alternative narratives and alternative dreams. In each, the journey of escape leads not into a bright American future, but out of an American nightmare. As a slave puts it in “The Old African ” (2005), by Julius Lester, “I don’t know what’s in Africa, but I sho’ know what’s here. . . . I believe I’ll take a chance on what I don’t know rather than to keep on living with what I do.” This is the classic voice of the American immigrant, reversed.

Unlike the multicultural mythos of America, these brilliant books are not feel-good, not melting-pot optimistic. They are as difficult as the real histories they tell, and they insist not only on diversity but on difference. They force parents and teachers to confront just how harsh a truth we can teach our children.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

American Indian Writing, Seen Through a New Lens

LEECH LAKE RESERVATION, Minn. — The novelist and critic David Treuer of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe here does not look like the received image of a Native American. With his pale skin and brown hair, many people would not even take him for an Indian.

Nor, Mr. Treuer noted as he sat in a faded bar on the Leech Lake Reservation, does his résumé sound like the stereotype of the Native American.

Now 35, he was educated at Princeton (as were his two brothers; they were inspired to apply there by the movie “Risky Business”), and is an English professor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. His mother, an Ojibwe tribal judge, met his father, a Jewish Holocaust refugee from Austria, when he was teaching high school on the reservation.

“My life will rarely be interpreted as Indian unless I translate it myself,” Mr. Truer said.

But in two books to be published later this month by Graywolf Press, he is mounting a challenge to the whole idea of Indian identity as depicted by both Native and white writers.

“Native American Fiction: A User’s Manual” is a kind of manifesto, which argues that Native American writing should be judged as literature, not as a cultural artifact, or as a means of revealing the mystical or sociological core of Indian life to non-Natives.

“He’s exploring and revealing a truer history of Native Americans,” said Toni Morrison, his former professor at Princeton. “We tend, even now, to like ethnic literature to contain our notion of what the iconography is.”

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Four decades after Wave Hill, Aborigines in renewed battle for land rights

Forty years ago next week, Vincent Lingiari led 400 Aboriginal stockmen and their families in a mass walk-out off Wave Hill, a remote cattle station in the Northern Territory, owned by a British beef baron, Lord Vestey.

The black workers, who were renowned as superlative horsemen and for their skill in handling cattle, wanted equal pay and conditions with white employees. But what began as a straight industrial dispute turned into something much bigger: the birth of the Aboriginal land rights movement.

The protesters, who were Gurindji people, stayed out on strike for eight years, setting up camp 11 miles from Wave Hill, at a waterhole known as Daguragu. They demanded the return of their ancestral lands, and their actions seized the popular imagination, evolving into a national campaign for indigenous land rights.

After the company, Vesteys, finally gave in, the Labour prime minister, Gough Whitlam, travelled to Wave Hill, where he poured a handful of red dirt into Mr Lingiari's outstretched palm. The gesture signalled the restitution to the Gurindji people of the title to 1,250 square miles of their traditional lands.

6 Native Nations, and None Have a Word for ‘Suburbia’

CALEDONIA, Ontario, Aug. 10 — Blame it on the American Revolution.

At the time, six Indian tribes that had lived for centuries in what is now upstate New York sided with the British Crown, lost and were forced from their lands. For their troubles, however, Britain granted them a paradise rich in moose and deer, across the new border, in southern Ontario.

Today the game are largely gone. The wilderness has been transformed into suburban sprawl. The once pristine lands of the so-called Six Nations Reserve have been whittled away.

This year, one more housing development on the edge of town was one too many, and the Native Canadians decided to make a stand.

Since February, hundreds have blockaded roads, set bonfires, confronted the police with bags of rocks and lacrosse sticks, cut the maple leaf out of a Canadian flag and refused to obey court orders to vacate. During the height of tensions, a van was driven into a power station and set on fire, leaving residents in the dark for days.

The protests have become the knottiest of Canada’s many native land disputes and paralyzed the local economy.

“Some businesses are down 30, 40 percent,” said Neil Dring, who publishes a weekly newspaper here. “This has really hurt.”

For the Native Canadians, however, the dispute is a matter of mending a broken promise by the government to manage the land on their behalf. “Through the years, our people said, ‘You can come here, you can settle here,’ but that didn’t mean they could take over,” said Hazel Hill, who lives on the reserve.

Police officers brought in from all over the province now watch the occupied site around the clock, while town residents whose backyards border the land must show identification to be allowed down their street.

Confrontations have been laced with racial slurs and crude signs. Native Canadian protesters have surrounded the site with traditional flags, and many don fatigues when tensions are at their highest.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ancient Peruvian Artwork Found in London

LONDON (AP) -- Fashioned from a sheet of embossed gold and centuries old, a prized headdress renowned as Peru's equivalent of the "Mona Lisa" has been seized by police.

With a feline face at its center and eight curving tentacles, the ancient artifact -- which collectors claim could be among Peru's most valuable treasures and worth close to $2 million -- has been kept from public view for as along as a decade. Police said Thursday that it was found hidden in a dusty cabinet of a London law firm.

Specialist art detectives seized the antiquity in a raid on the central London lawyer's office after a lengthy investigation into looted works, the capital's Metropolitan police said.

Officers said the golden headdress was made in the image of an ancient sea god and could date back to around 700 A.D., making it a prized example of artwork by the Mochica civilization that inhabited northern Peru.

Detective Constable Michelle Roycroft said the work had been seized on Monday, and that officers hoped to hand the valuable over to Peruvian authorities at a ceremony at London's Scotland Yard on Aug. 29.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tribal teens use film to tell the stories of who they are

EVERETT - The spotlight was on Aaron Jones, 13, and he shifted from one foot to another.

"Um, thanks," he said, and thrust the hand-held microphone back toward the podium onstage at the Historic Everett Theatre.

He and his brother, Derek Jones, 17, collected their armfuls of awards and hurried toward a small keyboard at stage left. Derek sat down and began playing a musical diversion during intermission at the first-ever Tulalip Film Festival awards ceremony.

For many American Indians, attention from the world outside the reservation boundaries can be fearsome. Mainstream video cameras capture poverty, suicide or corruption.

When Indians turn their own cameras on themselves, the picture is very different.

The 20 films submitted to the Tulalip Film Festival, which ended Friday, refused to gloss over the challenges on reservations, but they didn't abandon their characters there.

In one film, young Indians escape to Montana's backcountry for a leadership camp. In another, women discuss how they look and feel different than non-Indians.

Puppets share the tribal legend of "Deer and Changer" in both English and Lushootseed, the traditional language of the Tulalip Tribes.

A boy's father turns to alcohol to cope with the death of a friend.

One by one, stereotypes of tribal culture are challenged.

"By charging the youth with the skills necessary to tell their own stories and to put those images out in the media in our own way, the broader public will see native persons the way we see ourselves, with all the cultural complexities," American Indian filmmaker Tracy Rector said.

Rector is director of Longhouse Media/Native Lens, a Seattle-based nonprofit that trains American Indian teenagers around the state in digital film. Her organization submitted three of the festival's 20 films.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Museums Establish Guidelines for Treatment of Sacred Objects

When the Blackfoot Nation approached the Denver Art Museum about borrowing a horse shawl for a ceremony a few years ago, the museum faced a quandary. Curators were eager to oblige, but they worried that the ritual would expose the early-20th-century relic to the damaging effects of horse sweat. After a delicate negotiation, a compromise was reached: The tribe would use the object in the ceremony without actually putting it on the horse.

The story is not unusual. As American Indian and other groups have become increasingly assertive about guarding their cultural heritage, museums have struggled to strike a balance between the traditional practice of collecting indigenous objects as art and the often competing interests of the people whose ancestors produced them. In many cases federal laws have enabled tribes to reclaim works outright.

Now the issue has become pressing enough that the leading association of art museums is asking its members to take “special consideration” when dealing with what it terms sacred objects. In guidelines be released today, the Association of Art Museum Directors calls on museums to consult with indigenous groups to determine what works might fall into this category and to accommodate the wishes of these groups as far as possible in displaying, conserving and even discussing these works on museum labels and in catalogs.

The guidelines, which have been approved by the association’s membership but are not binding, are intended to apply to indigenous and other religious groups both inside and outside the United States, including American tribes that have not been federally recognized.

The recommendations exceed the requirements set by the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, known as Nagpra. That law, which specified the criteria under which groups could reclaim burial remains and objects deemed to have special sacred or cultural value, applies only to federally recognized tribes. And in cases when objects did not have to be returned, museums did not have to collaborate with tribes on their

Friday, August 04, 2006

For Sacred Indian Site, New Neighbors Are Far From Welcome

STURGIS, S.D., Aug. 2 — Robert Simpson pieces together a living, building ranch fences and riding saddle broncs at rodeos. When things get tough, he says, he makes a trip from his home in Montana to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where he can practice the traditional ways of his tribe, the Northern Cheyenne, with four days of fasting and praying on a bed of buffalo robes and sage atop Bear Butte.

“Spirits come and hear your prayers,” Mr. Simpson said. “You can regroup from everyday life, and get your marbles together. It’s peaceful.”

But Bear Butte, which dozens of tribes hold as one of the most sacred sites in North America, is getting a new neighbor: a giant biker bar and campground are under construction about two and a half miles away. They are scheduled to open this weekend, in time for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, one of the country’s largest biker events, which officially starts Monday.

The potential for rock music, roaring motorcycles and thousands of people drinking near the striking volcanic Bear Butte formation has brought American Indians from around the country to an encampment on the treeless plains near here. They plan to march into downtown Sturgis on Friday to demonstrate their concerns to the bikers already gathering for the rally.

Organizers said that about 2,000 Indians and their supporters were expected to take part. Nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was the site of the Wounded Knee standoff in 1973, and some participants are veterans of that protest. Some religious groups, including the Mennonite Central Committee at Pine Ridge, have also become involved.

“We need integrity in our ceremonies here, and it requires a certain amount of quiet,” said Alex White Plume, president of the Oglala Sioux tribe at Pine Ridge, as he stood at the hot, windy encampment at the base of the butte about five miles from here. A small buffalo herd still roams the land.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tribes Call for Removal of Dams That Block Journey of Salmon

SEATTLE, Aug. 2 — Indian tribes along the Klamath River rallied in Portland on Wednesday for the removal of four hydroelectric dams that block salmon from spawning in their historic habitat upriver, and they said they intended to pressure the governors of Oregon and California to help push for removing the dams.

The Yurok and Karuk tribes in California and the Klamath tribes of Oregon also said public comments by Bill Fehrman, the new president of PacifiCorp, the power company that owns the dams on the Klamath, reflected new potential for a settlement in one of the most enduring disputes at the nexus of fishing, farming and power supply in the Northwest.

Mr. Fehrman, in a statement released Wednesday, said: “We have heard the tribes’ concerns. We are not opposed to dam removal or other settlement opportunities as long as our customers are not harmed and our property rights are respected.”

While the tribes cast the statement as signaling a shift, Dave Kvamme, a spokesman for the company, said Mr. Fehrman’s statement, in a news release timed to coincide with the rally, was simply his first public comments reflecting a longstanding company policy.

He said that Mr. Fehrman, who became president this year, when PacifiCorp was bought by MidAmerican Holdings Company, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has been frequently meeting with tribal leaders and that “he and the tribes have connected on some level.”

Friday, July 28, 2006

Garrett Yazzie, Finalist - Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge

Garrett likes freestyle motocross racing, basketball, and fishing. He hopes to someday pursue a career as an environmental engineer, he says, because "I want to help my Navajo community develop better energy resources."

In Garrett's remote town, most people have only basic water and house heaters. They cut firewood from the forest or haul coal from a mine. Since few have electricity, Garrett wanted to explore using an alternative form of energy, solar heat. He made a solar heater from the radiator pried from a 1967 Pontiac and 64 aluminum cans spray-painted black. He measured the temperature of the air leaving the back of the heater and the water inside the radiator. In just an hour, the water temperature increased from 20 degrees Celsius to 94 degrees Celsius – almost boiling, and hot enough that Garrett could see steam. Garrett has done further work to combine this heater with a window heater to heat a room.

McCain races to solve tribal funds dispute

WASHINGTON - The next few days may be Sen. John McCain's last best opportunity to resolve 10-year-old litigation against the federal government over billions of dollars in mineral royalties and land leases long denied to Native American landowners.

With time running out on the congressional session as well as on McCain's chairmanship of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the Arizona Republican has set a hearing for Wednesday to finalize details of his bill to settle the class-action dispute.

The effort to bring together the opposing sides is a test of McCain's political pull and power of persuasion as he eyes a possible run for the presidency in 2008.

He needs to forge a settlement that satisfies Native Americans while it overcomes objections from congressional opponents who worry about the costs to taxpayers, including funds for retracing and verifying individual accounts and money owed. That is a goal that no one to date has managed to accomplish.

The case could linger for years longer in the court system if McCain's bill cannot solve the matter.

"I'm taking him for his word that he would work as hard as he could to get justice for Indian people," Eloise Cobell, a Blackfoot rancher and banker from Montana who filed the class-action lawsuit in 1996, said Thursday.

The lawsuit, Cobell vs. Kempthorne, seeks to force the government to account for billions of dollars held in trust for as many as 500,000 American Indians and their heirs. It alleges that royalty payments the federal government was supposed to distribute to thousands of individual Native Americans have been mismanaged for more than a century.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Interview with Louise Erdrich

"A Writer's Beginnings" by Louise Erdrich originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Smithsonian magazine. Here, Erdrich speaks about notable weather, Wal-Mart and writing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

New DVDs - Will Rogers Collection

Fox Home Video’s “Will Rogers Collection, Volume 1” begins at the end of the great comedian and commentator’s career, presenting the last four films in which Rogers starred before his death on Aug. 15, 1935, in an experimental plane piloted by the pioneer aviator Wiley Post. At his death, Rogers was 20th Century Fox’s second-biggest box office attraction, coming in just behind the child star Shirley Temple, but he was something more than a movie star in Depression America.

As a stage star, notably in the Ziegfeld Follies, where he combined roping tricks with his off-the-cuff observations on the events of the day, and then as a radio commentator and traveling lecturer, Rogers had succeeded to an unusual position in American culture and politics. His was the voice of reason, humility and common sense, directed against the dark, unseen financial and political forces that had plunged the country into poverty. He had become a national hero who spoke (or, more accurately, muttered shyly into a microphone) on behalf of a rural underclass pounded into skepticism and despair.

Rogers’s humor was a brilliant balancing act of sentimentality and cynicism, his manner harking back to the cracker-barrel, aw-shucks style of Andrew Jackson and Lincoln, while his skeptical humor suggested the bitterness and suspicion of his frequent ideological rival, H. L. Mencken. There was nothing casual about the craft of his extremely canny performances; he can be seen in his films working every muscle of his magnificently expressive face, shading every word of every line as precisely as he wanted. Rogers managed the trick of making himself seem surprised by what came out of his mouth, turning gags that would have seemed smug or cruel from more aggressive performers — “When the Okies left Oklahoma for California, it raised the I.Q. of both states” — into dryly affectionate observations.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Abramoff and 4 Others Sued by Tribe Over Casino Closing

HOUSTON, July 12 — An Indian tribe sued the former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed, a candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia, on Wednesday, seeking millions of dollars in lost revenues from a casino that the Texas tribe said had been fraudulently closed.

The suit, in Federal District Court in Austin, says Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Reed and three other men mounted a fake religiously themed moral crusade in 2001 to defeat a bill in the Texas Legislature that would have legalized gambling in Indian casinos.

Their real motive, the suit adds, was to promote the gambling interests of a tribe in Louisiana that was paying them to represent its interest in a competing casino.

Two former Congressional aides who pleaded guilty to corruption charges along with Mr. Abramoff were also named in the suit: Michael Scanlon, who worked for the former House majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas; and Neil Volz, formerly on the staff of Representative Bob Ney of Ohio. Jon Van Horne, who worked with Mr. Abramoff at his lobbying firm in Washington, was also named.

“This case chronicles Jack Abramoff and his associates’ greed, corruption and deceit and their devastating impact on Texas’s oldest recognized Indian tribe,” said the suit, filed by the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.