Sunday, December 21, 2008

Violet Taq Se Blu (Anderson) Hilbert - Upper Skagit Elder

July 24, 1918-Dec. 19, 2008

Violet was preceded in death by parents, Louis Jimmy and Charlie Anderson; husband, Henry Don Hilbert; sons, Denny Woodcock and Ron Hilbert-Coy.
She is survived by daughter, Lois Schluter and her husband, Walter; grandson, Jay Samson and wife, Bedelia; granddaughter, Jill La Pointe and husband, John; great-grandchildren, Sasha, Beau, Shain and Stacy La Pointe, Jermaine Wade, Damas and Lillian Samson; great-great-grandchildren, Oryian, Skyler and Shawn La Pointe. She is also survived by countless friends, colleagues and adopted relations. Taq Se Blu was a world renowned story-teller and language teacher.
A wake will be held at 6 p.m., Friday, December 26, 2008, at the Upper Skagit Gym, and the Funeral Service will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, December 27, 2008, at the Upper Skagit Gym. Arrangements are under the care of Hawthorne Funeral Home, 1825 E College Way, Mount Vernon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ex-Tribal Head in Mass. To Plead Guilty to Fraud -

BOSTON (AP) -- The former chairman of a Massachusetts tribe agreed to plead guilty to violating campaign finance laws while working with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the U.S. attorney's office said Monday.

Glenn Marshall, 59, of Mashpee, agreed to plead guilty to five counts including making illegal campaign contributions to members of Congress, embezzling tribal funds, filing false tax returns and fraudulently receiving Social Security disability benefits.

He is former chairman of the Cape Cod-based Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, members of which attended what is historically considered the first Thanksgiving. It sought and received federal recognition in 2007 and had been buying land and pushing plans to build a casino.

Among other charges, investigators alleged Marshall used individuals including members of his family and council members as ''straw contributors'' to make political contributions. They said he then reimbursed himself and them with money from an account funded by a company hoping for a stake in any casino the tribe might build.

Federal law prohibits corporations, including the tribal council, from making contributions to federal campaigns.

He also was accused of misusing $380,000 for personal expenses including groceries, vacations, tuition for his daughter, restaurant tabs, home repairs and jewelry.

Marshall stepped down in 2007, after it became public that he was a convicted rapist and had lied about his military past.

A call to Marshall's lawyer, Robert Craven, was not immediately returned Monday. Tribal Council spokeswoman Gayle Andrews said the tribe was ''deeply saddened'' by the news.

''For the past year and a half, the Tribal leadership has worked successfully to get the government up and running and will continue to work on behalf of its 1,600 members for benefits including health, education and other renumerations granted federally recognized tribes,'' Andrews said in a written statement.

Investigators said a Michigan company called AtMashpee LLC agreed in 1999 to underwrite the tribe's efforts at federal recognition and provided millions of dollars for operating and lobbying expenses. In return, the company hoped for a stake in any future casino.

AtMashpee also helped cover legal costs, including a lawsuit the tribe filed against the Department of the Interior to pressure it to act on the tribe's petition.

In 2003, Marshall turned to Abramoff, who allegedly told them the tribe needed to make big political contributions to certain members of Congress.

A political consultant and others hired by the tribe said they preferred to be paid directly by the tribal council rather than AtMashpee. To make the payments, Marshall allegedly arranged to have AtMashpee deposit money into the account of the Mashpee Fisherman's Association, a defunct corporation in which Marshall and another tribal officer were signatories.

Investigators said that between 2003 and 2007, AtMashpee paid about $4 million into the account and that Marshall failed to report the funds on the tribal council's federal tax returns.

Investigators said that the tribe hired lobbyists who consulted with Abramoff's team and suggested which state and federal officials should receive contributions -- and that Marshall used the Fisherman's Association's fund to make the donations.

Investigators said Marshall asked the ''straw contributors'' to make contributions and then promised to reimburse them. Between 2003 and 2007, Marshall reimbursed straw contributors a total of nearly $50,000 in political donations using the fund, investigators said.

Marshall faces 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for four of the charges and a 20-year prison sentence and a $1 million fine for the wire fraud charge.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Indian Chief Leads Fight to Keep Selling Cigarettes -

Published: December 13, 2008

MASTIC, N.Y. — Down by the lapping waters of Great South Bay, the Indian chief stared up at the trees swaying in the wind. Then he squinted: Was that a surveillance camera on top of that utility pole?

Probably not, but Harry Wallace, chief of the Unkechaug Nation, says he has good reason to be watching his back — and his tribe’s — closely.

He and several other owners of shops that sell cigarettes on the tiny Poospatuck reservation on the South Shore of Long Island, where the Unkechaugs are based, have been sued by the City of New York. The city claims that this Indian enclave — the closest reservation to New York City — has become a “tax evasion haven” and a drain on the city’s coffers.

The Bloomberg administration says the city and the state lose more than $1 billion a year in tax revenue because of what it calls bootleg cigarettes distributed on Indian reservations in New York. Of that amount, the administration contends, $195 million represents the city’s share, and officials blame the Unkechaug Nation reservation for most of that.

New York City officials say millions of cartons of untaxed cigarettes are sold every year by Poospatuck retailers to bootleggers who smuggle them into the city to resell for about $5 a pack, not the $8 or $9 charged by New York retailers who pay the state and city taxes of $4.25 a pack.

As part of their legal challenge, city lawyers have asked a federal judge to block the smoke shops from selling untaxed cigarettes to non-Indians without collecting state and city taxes from them.

Answering these claims is the Unkechaug chief, Mr. Wallace, 55, who was born in Queens, went to Dartmouth and was a lawyer in private practice in Manhattan before moving to the reservation and opening the Poospatuck smoke shop.

But he has been outspoken in defending his tribe, arguing that cigarette sales are the only viable economic engine on the 55 acres of sovereign territory. He calls the city’s suit an attack on legitimate Indian livelihood, and the result of elected officials feeling the economic pinch and blaming budget woes on the smallest reservation in the state.

“They’re picking on us because they think we’re this little tribe with no means to defend ourselves,” he said. “Bloomberg needs a scapegoat, so he blames us for the city’s deficit, instead of criticizing the financial markets.”

Lawyers for the smoke shop owners have requested a dismissal of the suit, arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction in sovereign territory, Mr. Wallace said. He is not a defendant in the suit, though he was named in a similar suit that was filed in 2006 by the owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain.

Though Mr. Wallace grew up in the Bayside and Little Neck sections of Queens, his family nurtured his Indian identity, taking him often to visit his uncles on the reservation. He chose Dartmouth, he said, because it had as its founding mission the education of Indians, and he helped establish a group on campus called Native Americans at Dartmouth.

Later, at New York Law School in Manhattan, he helped found the Indian Law Committee and wrote a thesis on Indian land claims. In the 1980s, he worked as a lawyer concentrating on cases involving landlord-tenant disputes, real estate, personal injury and American Indian discrimination issues.

Mr. Wallace said he grew more interested in Indian issues after marrying Margo Thunderbird, a daughter of Chief Thunderbird of the Southampton-based Shinnecock Nation. The couple have two daughters. In 1991, he moved to a plot of land belonging to his mother on the Poospatuck reservation, nestled on the banks of the Mastic River. “It changed my life because I knew I was going to get into issues affecting the reservation,” he said.

Mr. Wallace opened the reservation’s first full-service smoke shop, to “show the community that we could develop an economy separate and distinct from the state and that it could be done the right way.”

Other reservation residents followed his lead and also opened shops, transforming cigarette sales into a booming business as state and local taxes have driven up the cost to smokers. Of the 450 Poospatuck tribe members, 275 live on the reservation, a network of narrow streets with small houses, tidy modular homes and ramshackle trailers.

On a recent weekday, the reservation looked like a bustling cigarette shopping outlet. Signs for smoke shops were posted everywhere, and discounted cartons were sold from drive-through windows. An employee held a huge sign and directed a line of traffic to parking spots.

According to state law, nontribe members who buy cigarettes on reservations are supposed to report and pay the taxes on those purchases. Legislators have been trying for years to force tribal smoke shops to collect taxes on sales to non-Indians, but the tribes have refused, citing their status as sovereign nations.

The State Department of Taxation and Finance says the Poospatuck cigarette trade grew to 11.3 million cartons in 2007, from 406,000 cartons in 1996.

Mr. Wallace calls the estimates by the city and state drastically inflated.

Mr. Wallace, who said the number of smoke shops on the reservation has increased to 14 from 6 in the past couple of years, said he could not provide specific sales and revenue figures for the shops because he does not monitor each store’s accounting.

Mr. Wallace said his own sales of untaxed cigarettes had declined in recent years, but would not provide specific numbers.

Eric Proshansky, the city’s lead lawyer on the lawsuit, said the city’s estimates were “absolutely solid.”

Mr. Wallace said he and the tribal council are working to establish ground rules to curb abuses, such as barring phone or Internet cigarette sales and prohibiting residents of the reservation from selling cigarettes unless they have a store. He has also proposed setting sales limits and monitoring sales volume by working with the cigarette wholesalers that sell to the reservation.

But in the end, he says, tribal leaders lack strong enforcement powers over the smoke shops, partly because they do not have their own police department.

While he has called the Suffolk County Police to help with lawbreakers on the reservation in the past, he said he is reluctant to do so now because of heightened tensions between the tribe and the county. “We can’t ask them help us enforce our council decisions, because now all they care about is tobacco and taxation — they just want to come in and shut everything down,” he said.

As he spoke, Mr. Wallace moved aside a candle he lights to mask the smell of cigarettes. Though he himself is a smoker perpetually trying to quit, he explained that cigarettes are helping to breathe economic life back into his tribe. The tribal leaders require cigarette retailers to pay into a fund that goes to improve housing for tribal members and to provide money for college.

Mr. Wallace calls the challenges to cigarette sales the latest in the historical shortchanging of his tribe and its attempts at economic self-sufficiency. Though hundreds of acres of land has been taken from the Unkechaug Nation, he said, it has managed to retain a foothold because of longstanding political and cultural ties and strong trading and intertribal relationships.

As other commercial enterprises have fallen away, about the only things tribe members have left are their sovereignty and the right to conduct tax-free business, he said. “For Bloomberg, this is about his budget deficit, but for us, this is survival,” he said. “This is sovereign territory, and they are not going to collect a nickel without our consent.”

Audio: Tito Naranjo on the Pueblo world view — High Country News

Tito Naranjo, a lifelong member of the Santa Clara Pueblo, is a writer, hunting guide, sculptor, social worker, community activist and college teacher. He holds a bachelor's degree from New Mexico Highlands University in sociology and psychology, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Utah, and has served on the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s Native American Advisory Group. You can listen to an excerpt from the audio interview, and read a transcript of the full interview.

(You may hear the interview by following the link on the title to the original article.)

High Country News: When did you first become aware of archaeology?

Tito Naranjo: I grew up in Santa Clara Pueblo until my late teen years. We were dry-farming behind Puje Pueblo and the Pajarito Plateau, about seven miles north of Los Alamos as the crow flies. Santa Clara claims all the ruins around Puje, including Garcia Canyon, across from Santa Clara on the plateau, across the creek, and so I was always aware that was where our people lived. The planting fields were passed on from generation to generation, ever since our ancestors lived at Puje Pueblo. … I was always aware that those were the ruins of our grandfathers, great-great-grandfathers, the people who came before us. The whole landscape on the Pajarito Plateau is still known by the names that were given by the people who preceded us. …. I didn’t call it archaeology, but I knew that the whole place belonged to us. Because I knew the names of the mountains, the names of the landscape and canyons and so on, before I knew the word “archaeology.” The spirits of our ancestors still dwell there, even to this day. After I got an education, I learned about archaeology, and I was able to use both. I was able to use the Tewa perception of those places, including places clear up and down the Rio Grande, up to Mesa Verde and the Four Corners area. Because the stories of where we came from go right up there to the Four Corners area, I was aware we came from that place before we arrived on the Pajarito Plateau.

HCN: You chose to live outside the boundaries of tribal land. Why?

TN: The tribe, when I was growing up, had no economy, except for tribal jobs. And the Bureau of Indian Affairs during that time was funding all the tribal programs, and it was so limited that one couldn’t get a job on the reservation. So we were eligible for jobs off the reservation. … And so, you know, it was a natural pull. There was always a pull off the reservation because of the wage economy, and always a pull to go back to the reservation. So I was doing both – I was working off the reservation for the money it brought in to support a family, and also able to go back and participate in the life of the Pueblo, ceremonies and religious activities and so on.

HCN: About four years ago, you wrote an essay about the Taos Pueblo deer dance, and as a result you were banned from Taos Pueblo – they felt you had exposed private, sacred rites. What happened with that? Are you still banned?

TN: Well, I was there last Thursday; I drove into Taos Pueblo. Since I was banned in December of 2003, administrations have changed, and younger people have taken over. Many of the elders have died who initiated the action – they don’t have the same feelings toward me as those people about my age had when they banished me.

HCN: How do you walk that line between honoring what’s sacred to your people and illuminating that art and culture for other people?

TN: Taos Pueblo has a different viewpoint than my own pueblo. I lived in Taos Pueblo, I lived around Taos Pueblo and spent some 54 years in Taos Pueblo, on the reservation, back in their mountains. I participated in their ceremonies, and I was accepted by the people there until I wrote the story of the Taos Pueblo deer dance. … And what I wrote about was what hundreds of thousands of people have seen happening in the Taos Pueblo deer dance, except that I understand it much deeper than outsiders do. What I wrote about was primarily secular, it wasn’t of a sacred nature. There’s very much more to the Taos Pueblo deer dance than what I wrote. ... I do realize that those people who believe in the power of the word, the power of the song and the power of the ceremony, are correct in their belief, because that’s how it’s been for hundreds and thousands of years. So I respect the people for their beliefs. … My father-in-law was the leader of one of the kivas, and so I understood from him that they considered everything that was written -- the written word -- killed the power of the spoken word. It relegates it to death. … The Bureau of Indian Affairs forbid Taos Pueblo people to practice their ceremonies, just like the Spaniards did to all of the pueblos along the Rio Grande. In 1921, the commissioner strode into Taos Pueblo and said, you can’t do a dance until we let you, until you ask permission and we give that permission. Well, that doesn’t work when you’re practicing religion. So that was one of the turning points in history, when people began to hide everything. Prior to that, the Deer Dance was painted and drawn, and numbers of sculptures done of the Deer Dance.

HCN: How do you think this will play out ultimately? Do you think the tribe will open up further, or do you think white people can ever understand the culture and history and appreciate it?

TN: Non-Indian, non-natives of a particular pueblo are not able to understand the rules and integrated culture and the history of any particular pueblo. That is impossible, because they don’t speak the language fluently, and they were also never raised from childhood in the pueblos. In order to know the worldview of a pueblo, you have to have lived within the context of (it). And each of the pueblos have different dialects. … Archaeologists and anthropologists cannot understand the worldview unless they grew up in the context of the pueblo. That’s absolutely clear in my mind.

HCN: How do you think the tensions between Native Americans and archaeologists and anthropologists will play out?

TN: In some cases, there’s no tension. I’ve visited Mesa Verde, and especially when the tour leaders are Native Americans, they allow Native Americans into the kiva, to pray in the kiva, because there’s a belief that the spirits of the people are still there in that particular place. And so we give them thanks for allowing us to visit that place. Some Navajo tour guides are also sensitive to that. Pueblo tour guides are very sensitive to that. Non-Indians aren’t so sensitive, and they won’t let you go to places that give the whole place meaning. So sometimes there’s tension and sometimes there’s no tension. I served on the board of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, and Crow Canyon has a Native American Advisory Board, and Canyons of the Ancients advisory group, which has now done its work, were also good about inviting Native Americans onto the advisory board. When one knows about the methods they are using, it’s clear that there’s an underlying tension. … They never consider those places that are sacred to us, and bones on the surface of the ground that they never take care of -- they have no respect for that. I’ve seen it. All they want to know is, what’s the meaning of this? What’s the meaning of that? Native Americans have a lot to offer to both anthropologists and archaeologists, and archaeologists and anthropologists seemingly -- some do -- think that they always know better, because they’re literate in the anthropological and archaeological method, and they consider that research, while we don’t think in the same terms. There’s always that tension there, the underlying tension. For example, the Native American Advisory Board at Crow Canyon does not want sacred places to be excavated. But archaeology is coming up with new means (such as) radiology, that they can draw the outlines of a pueblo or outlines of an arroyo, whatever it might be. Noninvasive methods are quite acceptable.

HCN: So maybe that’s finally how it will be resolved, through new technologies that will allow noninvasive ways of discovery.

TN: If archaeologists and anthropologists give up their high-and-mighty status of doing scientific research and begin to understand that we’re not dead, you know? We haven’t gone away, we’re still here. I talk the same language. I could talk to my ancestors, although I’m sure the language has changed over the years -- many hundreds of thousands of years -- basically, the language is still the same. That’s very clear, in the example of the Hopi Tewa, when they come to visit their original homeland, over here in what they call the White Striped Place, where they lived, their sacred homeland. Well, now it’s owned by non-Indians. All the villages throughout the area belong to BLM.
Americans sometimes are just totally impervious to the knowledge of the Pueblo people, who still know of the history of their people, because they’ve kept their beliefs and their stories alive over the centuries. A lot of anthropologists and archaeologists disregard the knowledge of Pueblo people.

HCN: Thank you very much for speaking with us.

This transcript of the audio interview with Tito Naranjo was slightly edited for clarity.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Native Hunters - Climate Is Thinning Caribou Herds

POZNAN, Poland (AP) -- Chief Bill Erasmus of the Dene nation in northern Canada brought a stark warning about the climate crisis: The once abundant herds of caribou are dwindling, rivers are running lower and the ice is too thin to hunt on.

Erasmus raised his concerns in recent days on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference, seeking to ensure that North America's indigenous peoples are not left out in the cold when it comes to any global warming negotiations.

Erasmus, the 54-year-old elected leader of 30,000 native Americans in Canada, and representatives of other indigenous peoples met with the U.N.'s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, and have lobbied national delegations to recognize them as an ''expert group'' that can participate in the talks like other nongovernment organizations.

''We bring our traditional knowledge to the table that other people don't have,'' he said.

Nearly 11,000 national and environmental delegates from 190 countries are negotiating a treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which regulates emissions of carbon dioxide that scientists blame for global warming. The protocol expires in 2012.

The alliance of native peoples include groups from the forests of Borneo to the depths of the Amazon.

De Boer said he advised the alliance to draw up a proposal and muster support among the national delegations to have their group approved by the countries involved in the talks.

''To give indigenous people and local communities a voice in these discussions is very important,'' said Kim Carstensen, the climate change director for WWF International.

Erasmus, from Yellow Knife in Canada's Northwest Territories about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of the Arctic Circle, brings firsthand experience of climate change.

The caribou, or reindeer, herds are declining across North America and northern Europe, he said.

''We can't hunt because the ice is not frozen yet. Our hunters are falling through the ice, and lives are being lost,'' Erasmus told The Associated Press. This winter the normally dry area has been covered by thick, wet snow, further hampering hunting, he said.

Petroleum extraction from the Canadian tar sands is draining the underground water table and reducing the flow of the rivers northward, and the effects are felt hundreds of miles away, he said.

He is concerned that warmer winters will mean less luxurious fur on the muskrat and beaver that his people sell.

Nearly 40 years ago, he said, tribal elders noticed changes in the annual migrations of animals. The weather, which they could forecast three weeks in advance from animal behavior and the appearance of the sunsets, is now unpredictable.

Scientists have warned that conditions in the Arctic are a barometer of climate change. The region is warming faster than more temperate zones, and the seas are ice-free for longer periods. The melting of the permafrost threatens to release stored methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, U.N. scientists have reported.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tradition Counts More Than Beauty at a Pageant

Published: December 1, 2008
JAYUYA, P.R. — The seven girls posed, preened and smiled with all the energy of Miss Universe contestants, but this was no ordinary pageant.

Students practicing a folk dance at a cultural center in Jayuga, Puerto Rico. More Photos >
The competitors, from about 6-years-old to 16, had just paraded through a downpour to a small stage surrounded by mountains, where they displayed elaborate outfits handmade from wood, plants or, in one case, jingling shells. And the judges also sought a special kind of beauty: those who most resembled Puerto Rico’s native Indian tribe, the Taíno, received higher marks.

“It’s different,” said Félix González, president of the National Indigenous Festival of Jayuya, of which the pageant is a part. “It’s not white culture and blue eyes; it says that the part of our blood that comes from indigenous culture is just as important.”

Puerto Ricans have long considered themselves a mix of African, European and Native American influences. But since the 1960s, the Taíno — a tribe wiped from the Antilles by European conquest, disease and assimilation — has come to occupy a special place in the island’s cultural hierarchy.

The streets of Old San Juan are lined with museums and research centers dedicated to unearthing Taíno artifacts and rituals. Children are taught from a young age that “hurricane” is Taíno in origin, from the word “huracán,” while no Latin pop music concert is complete without a shout out to Boricuas — those from Borinquen, the Taíno name for Puerto Rico, which means “land of the brave noble lord.”

The ties may be more than cultural. In 2003, Juan Martinez Cruzado, a geneticist at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, found that at least 61 percent of Puerto Ricans possess remnants of Taíno DNA — and nearly all seem to believe they belong in that group.

“The Indian heritage is very important because it unites the Puerto Rican community,” said Miguel Rodríguez López, an archaeologist with the Center for Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, an independent graduate school in San Juan. “There is a feeling that it represents our primary roots.”

He added, “It is our symbolic identity.”

In Jayuya, a town of a few thousand people in the mountains north of Ponce, Taíno celebrations began decades ago. When local leaders discovered in the mid-60s that the town was named for a Taíno chief, they commissioned a sculpture to honor him. It was dedicated in November 1969 at the first indigenous festival, and every year since, the chief’s stern eyes have looked out over the event from a perch above the central plaza.

At times, he has been forced to share space with the more modern forces that decimated his people. One of the city’s major archaeological sites, discovered here two years ago, sits across from a Burger King. And before the pageant began on Saturday night, a performance of traditional Taíno dance competed with a pop song from Maná, Latin America’s biggest rock band.

Mostly though, the Taíno influence in Jayuya seems to have merged with its surroundings. The standard Taíno sun symbol, called a guanin, is now carved into the Spanish-style plaza. Many of the crafts being sold at the festival, like jewelry, purses and soap, also included Taíno symbols.

And even the pageant is a hybrid. Actual Taíno women wore only loincloths. But with the influence of local teenagers, the costumes have become exponentially more extravagant A few years ago, organizers had to limit their size to 8 feet high by 6 feet wide.

Even with those boundaries, which, of course, the teenagers tried to push, the costumes amounted to a mix of homecoming queen, Halloween, “Last of the Mohicans” and Las Vegas showgirl.

Mr. Rodríguez, the archaeologist and a former judge of the pageant, compared it to Brazil’s carnival. “It’s a sincretismo,” he said, using the Spanish word for “syncretism.” “They mix different cultures, different beliefs.”

Some scholars have scoffed at the concept, saying it is more a reflection of the joke that Puerto Ricans love festivals enough to have one for every cause or crustacean. But Mr. Rodríguez defended the idea. “You have to enjoy it because it’s for the people,” he said.

The contestants clearly love it. Natalia Fernandez, 16, said she had spent a month and half building her outfit, which required her to carry on her back a wooden Taíno dancer weighing at least 25 pounds, with a sprout above his head the size of a small coffee table.

Her bangs had been cut, her dark hair was straight (in a nod to what is considered Taíno style) and her naturally copper-colored skin made her appear as Native American as Chief Jayuya. But she was also 100 percent teenager. Asked before the contest how she thought she would do, she fiddled with her cellphone and said, “I’m going to win.”

The event started an hour late, and the rain and competition seemed to surprise Natalia. She frowned under the downpour, looking chilled with a bare midriff and no shoes, as she glanced nervously at the girl with shells and starfish netted in a four-foot-high headdress.

But her fears were unfounded. After all the girls introduced themselves and explained their outfits, the judges called Natalia’s name last, like all great pageant winners. Her friends and family cheered loudly from beneath umbrellas as she smiled and twirled for the digital cameras.

“It’s about a beautiful culture,” she said before taking the stage. “It’s not about just beauty.”