Friday, December 18, 2009

Really Old Masters, From 16,000 Years Ago, at China Lake

Published: December 18, 2009

Ridgecrest, Calif. — We were inside Restricted Area R-505 of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, rolling in a minivan across the vast salt pan of an extinct Pleistocene lake on our way to see a renowned collection of ancient rock art. On the console between the seats was a long-range two-way radio. It was there so that our escort, a civilian Navy public affairs officer named Peggy Shoaf, could keep abreast of where and when any bombs would be dropped — or launched, or whatever — so that we wouldn’t be there when it happened.

Some of the rock paintings at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center near Death Valley have been dated as far back as 16,000 years ago.
Established in the summer of 1943 in the heat of Allied offensives in the Pacific, China Lake is the Navy’s premier weapons testing range and its largest real estate holding. “Every weapon being used overseas right now was tested here,” Ms. Shoaf said. The property comprises 1.1 million acres of Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles and west of Death Valley, including the Coso Mountain range and an active volcanic field that is one of the largest producers of geothermal electricity in the country.

The base is a haven for wild horses, burros, rattlesnakes and scorpions. It is also home to a complex of remote canyons holding the greatest concentration of ancient rock art in the Western Hemisphere, known as the Coso Petroglyphs.

With us rode David S. Whitley, an archaeologist and expert on prehistoric rock art and iconographic interpretation. Having visited hundreds of sites all over the world, including Lascaux and Chauvet in France and the Côa Valley in Portugal, he believes the Coso Petroglyphs to be one of the most important rock art sites on earth.

Mr. Whitley estimated that there may be as many as 100,000 images carved into the dark volcanic canyons above the China Lake basin, some as old as 12,000 to 16,000 years, others as recent as the mid-20th century.

Floating across a landscape strewn with more than a half-century’s weapons-testing debris — observation towers, armored vehicles, projectile-riddled shipping containers — I tried to fathom that people had been coming here and making art since at least 90 centuries before the founding of Rome.

“It was a very different place then,” Mr. Whitley explained, conjuring the end of the last ice age, 18,000 years ago, the melting of glaciers, the system of saline lakes across what is now called the Great Basin. “This had water over 100 feet deep,” he said. Mammoths, saber-toothed cats and giant Pleistocene bison still roamed the upland peninsulas.

Then, progressively, and with big ups and downs, the climate grew hotter and drier. The lakes and big animals disappeared, the pinyon and juniper woodlands moved up in elevation, and life for humans got significantly more difficult. And yet for many thousands of years thereafter people continued to carve figures and designs into the rocks.

We turned onto a washboard gravel road and 12 minutes later came to a small parking area, 49 road miles inside the base’s main gate at the edge of Ridgecrest. On this November day the thermometer read 43 degrees, but the air was still and the sun felt warm. We shouldered our lunches and camera gear and walked out along a path made of interlocking plastic tiles laid down in recent years so that Shoshone tribal elders could reach the site without having to struggle in the soft sand. Almost immediately we were in what is known as Little Petroglyph Canyon.

Everywhere we looked, for a mile or so down canyon, there were images pecked or scratched into the rock faces: stylized human figures in a variety of headgear, stick figures with bows and arrows, dogs or coyotes, bear paws with extra digits, all manner of abstract geometric patterns, zigzags and circles and dots, and hundreds upon hundreds of what looked like bighorn sheep, some small, some larger than life size.

Theories abound as to what the images might mean — all but the most recent, that is — or why they were put there. Some archaeologists believe that the images are evidence of simple hunting rituals. Mr. Whitley sees in them nothing less than the origins of human creativity and religion.

He theorizes, based on his research, that the petroglyphs are the work of generations of shamans, or medicine men, who traveled here (from all over what is now the southwestern United States) to fast and smoke native tobacco, to hallucinate or have visions, and to render their hallucinations on the rock. Perhaps the goal was to make rain. Perhaps it was to impress upon their followers a sense of the supernatural. Either way, where some might see a dearth of material wealth and technology, Mr. Whitley sees evidence of cognitive sophistication.

“We think of intelligence as expressed in iPods and the latest iPhone,” he said. But technology is often a poor substitute for knowledge: “Drop any of us in Death Valley and unless we had an RV fully stocked with all sorts of supplies we’d be dead in a week,” he said. The people who came before us, on the other hand, were adapted to this environment, so they could survive with nothing but what they could find or make, in a way that, he said, “runs counter to our technological materialistic view, is probably more admirable, and certainly more sustainable.”

For a time, after 9/11, civilian visits to the petroglyphs were suspended. “There’s always a risk when you let civilians into a secured area,” Ms. Shoaf said. But she said she felt the place was too precious for the public not to have access. So she rewrote the protocol to show the commanding officer how it might be possible to allow tours and still protect the base’s security. He agreed. More than 1,100 civilians visit the site every year, either on tours available to the public or as part of private tours with command-approved escorts arranged through Ms. Shoaf’s office.

We rested near the southern end of the canyon, sitting on the rocks in the sun and tucking into our lunches. I looked at one particularly elaborate frieze of images and tried to imagine what it would be like to spend four days here without food, smoking a native plant and thinking about the cosmos. I tried to imagine the distance between myself and the person who made those images. Then we stowed our garbage in our packs, made our way back up to the minivan and headed down to the base’s armaments museum, evidence of more modern human creativity of a different kind.


Public petroglyph tours are available through the Maturango Museum (100 East Las Flores Avenue, Ridgecrest, Calif.; 760-375-6900, $35 per person for nonmembers; $25 for members of museum and the Friends of Last Chance Canyon (

Arrangements can be made through the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake itself by calling the public affairs office at (760) 939-1683. The base’s Web site has information about the petroglyphs and the tours, which carry a number of restrictions, at

Tours are held on weekends and holidays. Certain Fridays are available for school tours. All tours are subject to cancellation on short notice because of military testing, security concerns or the weather.

Visitors are responsible for finding two command-approved escorts, arranging car pools and for filing all necessary paperwork. Up to three groups of 20 are allowed in the canyon each weekend day. No children under 10, and no pets.

Only American citizens are now allowed to go on tours, and proof of citizenship is required for participants 16 and older.

Also on the base is the U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology (760-939-3530,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Long Island Shinnecock Indians Set to Win U.S. Recognition

Published: December 15, 2009

The Obama administration said Tuesday that the Shinnecock Indians on Long Island meet the criteria for federal recognition, signaling the end of a 30-year court battle and clearing a path for the tribe to pursue its plans for a casino in New York City or its suburbs.

The announcement all but assures that the 1,066-member Shinnecock Indian Nation will receive formal federal recognition, though a public-comment period of up to six months must be held before the final order is issued.

The news could mean significant changes for the relatively poor tribe, most of whose members live on 800 acres in Southampton, N.Y., not far from some of Long Island’s wealthiest communities and expansive celebrity-owned estates.

Shinnecock leaders have long argued that a casino could turn around the tribe’s fortunes.

“This recognition comes after years of anguish and frustration for many members of our Nation, living and deceased,” Randy King, chairman of the Shinnecock trustees, said in a statement, adding, “Perhaps this recognition will help some of our neighbors better understand us and foster a new mutual respect.”

Once it is federally recognized, the tribe would be entitled to build a “Class II” casino on its land that could have thousands of video slot machines but no table games. That has worried some local officials because of the implications that such a casino would have for traffic and tourism in the wealthy resort areas.

Tribal leaders have said they would prefer to negotiate with the state and federal government to build a or Class III casino on land elsewhere that would have table games and could be more lucrative both for the state and the tribe.

Tribal officials have expressed interest in a variety of sites for a casino, including other locations on Long Island or at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens or Belmont, in Nassau.

The state would get none of the proceeds from a Class II casino built on the tribe’s reservation, but would almost certainly insist on a percentage of any proceeds if it permitted construction elsewhere of a bigger casino — which could generate billions of dollars in revenue.

Gov. David A. Paterson had supported the tribe’s bid and urged the Obama administration to recognize it.

“As Governor Paterson has said, federal acknowledgment of the Shinnecock Indian Nation was long overdue,” said Morgan Hook, a spokesman for the governor. “This is a proud day for the Shinnecock. Governor Paterson looks forward to continued government-to-government relations with the Nation, and will continue to support their efforts to achieve full federal recognition.”

The difficult fiscal situation may bring new urgency to casino discussions.

State Senator Craig Johnson, a Long Island Democrat whose district encompasses Belmont, said the state should immediately begin serious talks about the issue.

“The first topic I want to discuss is how Belmont fits into this,” he said.

Gordell Wright, a tribal trustee, said in a statement that “there is no reason to wait for the recognition process to end, and every reason to act now so we can resolve these matters sooner than later.”

Tuesday’s announcement capped an arduous effort by the tribe, which had to meet seven criteria for approval. According to the Interior Department, the Shinnecock tribe needed to demonstrate that it was “continuously identified as an American Indian entity since 1900” and able to trace its origins back much further than that.

It was also required to establish that it was a viable political entity and that its current members are not members of another federally recognized tribe.

“I think their case was very strong,” said George T. Skibine, the acting principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs. “This was not difficult,” he added. “They met those pretty straightforwardly, fairly and squarely. I don’t think there is much room, based on the evidence, for concluding otherwise.”

Mr. Skibine made the decision after Larry Echo Hawk, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, recused himself from the matter because his brother had a role in representing the Shinnecock tribe.

The tribe’s history goes back hundreds of years; both the Dutch and English skirmished over the area in the 1600s, but the tribe remained there and was granted a 1,000-year lease by British colonists in the town of Southampton in 1703 — a deal that was later renegotiated.

In 1792, partly as a means of settling land disputes with the town farmers, the Shinnecock Indians began their current practice of annually electing three tribal trustees, according to John A. Strong, a retired Long Island University professor who has written three books about the Indians of Long Island.

Other chapters of the tribe’s lore are tragic. In the 1870s, a number of the tribe’s young men died when they were part of a salvage operation of a ship called the Circassian, which sank before they could return to shore.

The tribe’s court fight for federal recognition dates to 1978, when the tribe filed a petition for recognition.

In 2006, when it still had no answer, the tribe sued the Interior Department, saying that the agency had failed to process its request in a reasonable amount of time. Earlier this year, it entered into a settlement with the Interior Department that required a preliminary ruling by the end of this year.

The tribe is also hoping to resolve more than $1 billion worth of land disputes in the Hamptons, including its claim to the site of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, which has played host to the U.S. Open several times.

The tribe paid at least $1.74 million to seven different lobbying firms since 2005 as part of its recognition effort, according to public records.

As part of that lobbying and public relations campaign, the tribe hired Michael McKeon, Gov. George E. Pataki’s former communications director, and Alan Wheat, a former Missouri congressman, as well as Fleishman-Hillard, a Washington public relations firm.

Native Hawaiian Bill Poised to Pass 2 Committees

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two congressional committees are considering legislation this week that would let native Hawaiians establish their own government, much like those organized by hundreds of Indian tribes.

The House Natural Resources Committee takes first crack at the bill Wednesday. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee takes up the legislation Thursday.

The legislation had been expected to easily win the committees' approval, but Hawaii's governor and attorney general voiced objections late Tuesday to some of the changes that sponsors plan to propose. In light of the objections, Republican lawmakers have asked for a delay. Democrats, however, sensing they have the votes to prevail, are determined to proceed.

''Consideration of this bill should not go forward when the people and government officials who would be directly impacted by this legislation have raised serious objections and have not even had a chance to properly review the text,'' said Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.

The legislation, known as the Akaka bill after its lead sponsor, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has a long history. The bill would provide a road map to gradually establish a Native Hawaiian government.

Once established, the Native Hawaiian government would negotiate with the state and the federal government over which assets it would own. Currently, the state administers 1.2 million acres of former monarchy land. Some of that land, which is quite valuable, could eventually revert to the new government.

Supporters say the bill is about righting an injustice to Native Hawaiians that occurred when Hawaii's monarchy was overthrown in 1893. They note that Indian tribes and Alaska Natives have the right to self-governance.

''I believe we must provide parity between Native Hawaiians and our country's other indigenous people,'' said Akaka.

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and state Attorney General Mark Bennett have been supporters of the Akaka bill in the past. However, in a letter to federal lawmakers, Bennett said changes being made to the legislation are ''detrimental to the state.''

Bennett said authority granted the new government entity should come about only after negotiations and after the passage of legislation enacted by Congress, and when applicable, by the state. But an amended version of the bill makes immediate changes that are not subject to negotiation.

''These changes may immediately incorporate into the law governing Native Hawaiians a vast body of Indian law, much of which is unsuited for the state of Hawaii, and none of which (to our knowledge) has been evaluated for its impact on Hawaii,'' Bennett said.

Congressional aides said changes being proposed to the bill were sought by lawyers at the Justice Department.

''The Obama administration requested that we make it consistent with U.S. policy toward other native groups,'' said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, a spokesman for Akaka.

The legislation allowing for a Native Hawaiian government has passed the House on two occasions, most recently in October 2007, but it routinely has stumbled in the Senate. While the Bush administration opposed the bill, the support of President Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii, has changed the political dynamic.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Indian Gangs Grow, Bringing Fear and Violence to Reservation

Published: December 13, 2009

PINE RIDGE, S.D. — Richard Wilson has been a pallbearer for at least five of his “homeboys” in the North Side Tre Tre Gangster Crips, a Sioux imitation of a notorious Denver gang.

One 15-year-old member was mauled by rivals. A 17-year-old shot himself; another, on a cocaine binge and firing wildly, was shot by the police. One died in a drunken car wreck, and another, a founder of the gang named Gaylord, was stabbed to death at 27.

“We all got drunk after Gaylord’s burial, and I started rapping,” said Mr. Wilson, who, at 24, is practically a gang elder. “But I teared up and couldn’t finish.”

Mr. Wilson is one of 5,000 young men from the Oglala Sioux tribe involved with at least 39 gangs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The gangs are being blamed for an increase in vandalism, theft, violence and fear that is altering the texture of life here and in other parts of American Indian territory.

This stunning land of crumpled prairie, horse pastures turned tawny in the autumn and sunflower farms is marred by an astonishing number of roadside crosses and gang tags sprayed on houses, stores and abandoned buildings, giving rural Indian communities an inner-city look.

Groups like Wild Boyz, TBZ, Nomads and Indian Mafia draw children from broken, alcohol-ravaged homes, like Mr. Wilson’s, offering brotherhood, an identity drawn from urban gangsta rap and self-protection.

Some groups have more than a hundred members, others just a couple of dozen. Compared with their urban models, they are more likely to fight rivals, usually over some minor slight, with fists or clubs than with semiautomatic pistols.

Mr. Wilson, an unemployed school dropout who lives with assorted siblings and partners in his mother’s ramshackle house, without running water, displayed a scar on his nose and one over his eye. “It’s just like living in a ghetto,” he said. “Someone’s getting beat up every other night.”

The Justice Department distinguishes the home-grown gangs on reservations from the organized drug gangs of urban areas, calling them part of an overall juvenile crime problem in Indian country that is abetted by eroding law enforcement, a paucity of juvenile programs and a suicide rate for Indian youth that is more than three times the national average.

If they lack the reach of the larger gangs after which they style themselves, the Indian gangs have emerged as one more destructive force in some of the country’s poorest and most neglected places.

While many crimes go unreported, the police on the Pine Ridge reservation have documented thousands of gang-related thefts, assaults — including sexual assaults — and rising property crime over the last three years, along with four murders. Residents are increasingly fearful that their homes will be burglarized or vandalized. Car windows are routinely smashed out.

“Tenants are calling in and saying ‘I’m scared,’ ” Paul Iron Cloud, executive officer of the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing Authority, told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in July at a special hearing on the increase of gang activity.

“It seems that every day we’re getting more violence,” Mr. Iron Cloud said.

Perhaps unique to reservations, rivals sometimes pelt one other with cans of food from the federal commodity program, a practice called “commod-squadding.”

As federal grants to Pine Ridge have declined over the last decade, the tribal police force has shrunk by more than half, with only 12 to 20 officers per shift patrolling an area the size of Rhode Island, said John Mousseau, chairman of the tribe’s judiciary committee.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has proposed large increases in money for the police, courts and juvenile programs, and for fighting rampant domestic and sexual violence on reservations.

Christopher M. Grant, who used to head a police antigang unit in Rapid City, S.D., and is now a consultant on gangs to several tribes and federal agencies, has noted the “marked increase in gang activity, particularly on reservations in the Midwest, the Northwest and the Southwest” over the last five to seven years.

The Navajo Nation in Arizona, for example, has identified 225 gang units, up from 75 in 1997.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In Twist, N. Dakota Tribe Fights to Keep College Nickname

Published: December 8, 2009

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Sometime soon, the Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota were to be no more, another collegiate nickname dropped after being deemed hostile and abusive to American Indians.

Except that some members of the Spirit Lake Tribe, one of two groups of Sioux in the state, say they consider the nickname an honor and worry that abandoning it would send them one step closer to obscurity.

“When you hear them announce the name at the start of a hockey game, it gives you goose bumps,” said Frank Black Cloud, a tribal member. “They are putting us up on a pinnacle.”

And so, in a legal standoff that has turned some preconceptions upside down, North Dakota’s top state lawyers will be in court on Wednesday to oppose members of the Spirit Lake Tribe who have sued to preserve the Fighting Sioux name and logo, an image of an Indian in profile, feathers draping down.

The battle here, like some others at the 20 or so institutions urged by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to drop their mascots, names or images, has been painful and drawn out. The University of North Dakota is the only one still sorting the matter out, an N.C.A.A. spokesman said, and it is creating rifts on this campus of 13,000 students, among its web of alumni that run through nearly every realm in North Dakota, and, especially, among American Indians here.

All around, harsh new accusations are flying. The members from Spirit Lake behind the lawsuit assert that many of the American Indians opposed to the Fighting Sioux nickname are simply from tribes other than the Sioux, and are jealous of all the recognition. (Opponents call this absurd.)

Some against the name claim that the operators of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the gleaming hockey stadium built by a particularly successful alumnus for more than $100 million — and contains 2,400 images of the logo — are secretly behind the lawsuit, hoping to block the nickname from being abandoned. (False, the Spirit Lake members and hockey stadium officials say.)

“Still, to do what they’re doing, you’re more or less selling out,” said Frank Sage, a Navajo and one of about 400 American Indian students at the university and one who says he finds the Fighting Sioux imagery hurtful and harmful. “They’re just being used.”

The lawsuit, filed last month by eight members of the Spirit Lake Tribe, is tangled, and grows out of a similarly tangled series of events that began in 2005, when the N.C.A.A. warned the University of North Dakota and 17 other colleges to change their nicknames and mascots if they wished to show the images at N.C.A.A.-controlled championships or to host such events. (Two other institutions were later added, according to the N.C.A.A.)

Since then, some colleges changed their logos, others sought and received permission from local tribes to keep them, and a few resolved the matter in other ways.

But the University of North Dakota is still at it. The state’s Board of Higher Education and the university sued the N.C.A.A. to preserve the nickname and logo, and in 2007 reached a settlement that let it keep them if the Sioux tribal councils in the state — at Spirit Lake and Standing Rock — agreed to the idea by the end of November 2010.

But some university officials said they began worrying that the debate was leading other institutions to avoid competing against them in sports. Robert Kelley, the university’s president, has taken no position on the nickname but said he found himself being asked about it almost constantly — at the supermarket, in meetings of the state’s Congressional delegation — and wanted to ensure that the debate did not eclipse the university’s academic focus.

Politics on the reservations have also turned tense. In September, the tribal council in Spirit Lake, 100 miles west of Grand Forks, voted to allow the name. But at Standing Rock, more than 300 miles southwest of here, a past tribal chairman was deeply opposed, and a new chairman brought no clear answer, noting in a letter to state officials this fall that he would prefer an “open dialogue as opposed to a stipulated arrangement under deadline.”

By then, the Board of Higher Education, which sets policy for public universities, concluded that it was time to give up. The board voted to prepare to “retire” the nickname if a deal was not struck with Standing Rock by the end of October, but a few days after the deadline, the group from Spirit Lake secured a temporary restraining order against the plan. Patrick R. Morley, a lawyer for the group, argues that the university, under its settlement with the N.C.A.A., must at least wait until next November for an answer from Standing Rock.

And some at Spirit Lake argue that they — not students — should have the ultimate say on the matter, while some at the university say the backlash from the debate is showing up here, on campus, not on Indian land.

“We’re talking tears and heartbreak here for our students,” said Linda Neuerburg, assistant director of American Indian Student Services at the university, which has 29 programs for American Indians. Leaders at the American Indian Center held up T-shirts they have collected showing images of Indians and bison (the nickname of the rival North Dakota State University teams) in vulgar poses. They described the insult of people walking on a large logo of the Indian face on the floor of the hockey stadium.

But those suing said they were proud of the nickname.

“I am full blood and I grew up on this reservation,” said Eunice Davidson, 57, who wore a Fighting Sioux sweatshirt on a recent afternoon. “I have to tell you, I am very, very honored that they would use the name.”

On Wednesday, the statewill argue against the Spirit Lake members’ restraining order, raising questions about their legal standing, said Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota’s attorney general. This puts him, too, in an unlikely spot: Mr. Stenehjem, an alumnus of the university who, like many other political leaders here, has been supportive of the nickname, filed the initial suit against the N.C.A.A. to protect the name. But if the Board of Higher Education wants to be rid of it now, he said, that is its authority.

Still, Frank Black Cloud, the Spirit Lake member, said an end to the nickname would not soothe relations between white North Dakotans and American Indians.

“If you think there are some tensions at the university before, just think what repercussions there will be for Indians then,” Mr. Black Cloud said. “You are going to kick us back a century.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

U.S. Agrees to $3 Billion Deal in Indian Trust Suit

Published: December 8, 2009
WASHINGTON — The federal government announced on Tuesday that it intends to pay $3.4 billion to settle claims that it has mismanaged the revenue in American Indian trust funds, potentially ending one of the longest and most complicated class-action lawsuits ever brought against the government.

The tentative agreement, reached late Monday between Obama administration negotiators and lawyers for some 300,000 individual American Indians, would resolve a 13-year-old lawsuit over trust accounts established in the 19th century.

“This is an historic, positive development for Indian country and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of acrimonious litigation between trust beneficiaries and the United States,” said Ken Salazar, the Interior Department secretary.

For the agreement to become final, Congress still needs to enact legislation and the federal courts must then sign off on it. Administration officials said they hoped those two steps would be completed in the next few months.

The dispute arises from a system dating to 1887 under which the government set up trusts to manage tens of millions of acres of land owned by individual American Indians and by tribes. The acreage is scattered across the country with the heaviest concentration in Western states.

The Interior Department manages leases on the land for activities like mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and drilling for oil and gas. It then distributes the revenue raised by those leases to the American Indians.

The lawsuit accuses the federal government of mismanaging the trusts for generations. As a result, the value of the trusts has been unclear, and the American Indians contend they are owed far more than what they have been paid.

Under the settlement agreement, the government would pay $1.4 billion to compensate the Indians for their claims of historical accounting irregularities and any accusation that federal officials mismanaged the administration of the trust assets over the years.

Each member of the class would receive a check for $1,000, and the rest of the money would be distributed according to the land owned. In addition, lawyer fees, to be determined by a judge, would be paid out of those funds.

In a statement, President Obama hailed the agreement as an “important step towards a sincere reconciliation” between American Indians and the federal government. He noted that as a presidential candidate, he had pledged to American Indians that he would work to resolve the lawsuit if he were elected.

The proposed settlement also seeks to resolve an ever-growing headache created by the trust system: the original tribal members who were granted parcels of Indian land have many heirs, which has “fractionalized” the ownership interests.

For example, one 40-acre parcel of land today has 439 owners, most of whom receive less than $1 a year in income from it, said David J. Hayes, the Interior Department deputy secretary. The parcel is valued at about $20,000, but it is costing the government more than $40,000 a year to administer those trusts.

In an effort to resolve such problems — and prevent them from growing worse with subsequent generations — the settlement would establish a $2 billion fund to buy fractional interests in land from anyone willing to sell. The program would consolidate ownership in parcels of land and turn them over to tribes.

Over the years, the plaintiffs have contended that they were owed tens of billions of dollars, while the government has at times taken the position that it owed them nothing.

Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff who filed the class-action lawsuit in 1996, said she believed that the American Indians were owed more than the settlement, but that it was better to reach an agreement that could help impoverished trust holders rather than spending additional years in litigation. She said she had originally expected the litigation to last only two or three years.

“We are compelled to settle by the sobering realization that our class grows smaller each day as our elders die and are forever prevented from receiving just compensation,” Ms. Cobell said.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. described the litigation as intense and difficult. He noted that it had engendered seven full trials covering 192 trial days, generated 22 published judicial opinions, and that issues arising from the lawsuit had been brought before a federal appeals court 10 times.

“The United States could have continued to litigate this case, at great expense to the taxpayers,” Mr. Holder said. “It could have let all of these claims linger, and could even have let the problem of fractionated land continue to grow with each generation. But with this settlement, we are erasing these past liabilities and getting on track to eliminate them going forward.”

Mr. Salazar said he would also establish a commission to handle trust account issues in the future.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

In Bolivia, a Force for Change Endures

Published: December 6, 2009
LA PAZ, Bolivia — The slogans and posters of Che Guevara notwithstanding, this is not Havana circa 1969, nor Managua, 1979. Instead, the fervor in the offices of the Deputy Ministry of Decolonization could only be felt in the Bolivia of President Evo Morales, who seemed to be sailing toward a victory in an election on Sunday.

The writing on the wall here, literally, is in two indigenous languages — Quechua and Aymara — unmistakable signs of the political movement that has shaken the institutions of this impoverished nation.

“Jisk’a Achasiw Tuq Saykat Taqi Jach’a P’iqincha,” says the greeting at the office of Monica Rey, who explains that it is Aymara for the new unit she leads, the Directorate for the Struggle Against Racism.

“We are in the process of conquering our country’s minds and, even more challenging, its fears,” said Ms. Rey, listing a variety of projects, including changing the portraits on Bolivia’s currency from the white men who long ruled the country to indigenous heroes like Túpac Katari and Bartolina Sisa, leaders of an 18th-century revolt against Spanish rule.

With a sharply weakened opposition and his visceral connection to the indigenous majority — who make up more than 60 percent of the population — Mr. Morales, 50, is arguably the nation’s strongest leader in decades.

He easily won a constitutional overhaul this year allowing him to run for another five-year term. Now polls here show him and his supporters far ahead as Bolivians voted on Sunday. He is within grasp of solid legislative majorities that would allow him to mold the nation further as its first indigenous president.

Voting appeared to unfold calmly in much of Bolivia on Sunday, according to interviews with voters here and radio reports from other voting centers. “Evo has to stay so he can finish what he started,” said Juan Carlos Garcia, 24, a street vendor in El Alto, a city of slums above La Paz, before casting his vote at a crowded polling station Sunday morning. “Those who disagree must bend to the will of the majority,” he added.

Mr. Morales voted early Sunday in Villa 14 de Septiembre, a community in the Chapare jungle of central Bolivia, a coca-growing region that is a bastion of support for the president. He said voters had the right to decide between “the process of change or neoliberalism,” the term Mr. Morales often uses to disparage market-oriented economic policies.

But his dominance has earned him some unexpected rivals, beyond the opposition he faces from traditional elites in the rebellious eastern lowlands. His broadening influence also feels oppressive to an array of indigenous politicians struggling to emerge from his shadow.

“This government exists to spend money on Evo’s campaigns at the expense of the rest of us,” said Felipe Quispe, 67, an Aymara Indian who entered politics after leading a guerrilla insurgency in the 1980s and being imprisoned in the 1990s. “Evo is an Indian dressed in fancy clothing, surrounded by white men and mestizos.”

The iconic Mr. Quispe, who commands a radical party with a small percentage of voters, said the Aymaras, about a quarter of Bolivia’s population of 9.8 million, should reject the very idea of Bolivia to form a homeland with Aymara-speaking people from Peru’s high plains. “We must de-Bolivianize ourselves,” he said.

Ricardo Calla, an anthropologist and the minister of indigenous affairs in a previous administration, said that just as Mr. Quispe stood to the left of the president, other indigenous politicians had emerged across the ideological spectrum, suggesting a more varied political class than presented by state media here.

In the center, for instance, is Savina Cuéllar, a provincial governor in southern Bolivia. To the right is Víctor Hugo Cárdenas, a former vice president whose home was attacked by a pro-Morales mob this year. Still further to the right is Fernando Untoja, an Aymara intellectual running for Congress on the ticket of Manfred Reyes Villa, a former army captain trailing far behind Mr. Morales in second place.

“Evo himself,” said Mr. Calla, the anthropologist, “could be considered the authoritarian left.” Contributing to this classification, he argued, was Mr. Morales’s resistance to cooperating with other parties, threats to jail opponents and the celebration of his administration in government-paid advertising. Mr. Calla called the government’s exuberance over Mr. Morales’s achievements “a cult of personality” in the making.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Michael Kabotie - Leaving a vibrant legacy for the world

Arts, Culture & Community Editor
Sunday, November 01, 2009

When Michael Kabotie, 67, died Friday, Oct. 23, 2009, at Flagstaff Medical Center after battling the H1N1 flu and associated complications, he left a legacy of artistic visions that will live for generations.

Kabotie was from the village of Shungopavi, located on Second Mesa on the Hopi reservation, but had also lived many years in Flagstaff and New Mexico. He was a renowned and respected Hopi painter, silversmith and poet, a loving father and grandfather, and a dedicated partner.

"He was for so many people, both in Arizona and the world beyond, a great ambassador from Hopi to the rest of the world," said Robert Breunig, director of the Museum of Northern Arizona. "He was always willing to share insights and understanding about Hopi with other people, but he was also intensely curious about other cultures, so it was always a two-way street with Michael."

Breunig said that it was fitting it snowed lightly around the time that Kabotie died and four days after.

"In the Hopi way, when you go to the spirit world, you became a cloud person," he said. "You bring snow and rain to the living. I know Michael was out there somewhere making it snow."


After high school, Michael attended the University of Arizona, where he studied engineering. After dropping out of college, his art career was launched when he had a one-man show at the Heard Museum, and his work was on the cover of Arizona Highways magazine.

Kabotie and his father, Fred Kabotie, were known as innovators in the Native American Fine Arts Movement, as they created paintings reflecting traditional Hopi life, but with a contemporary touch.

Fred Kabotie was one of the Hopi artists responsible for developing the trademark overlay methods used today by many Hopi silver and goldsmiths.

Through the years since 1966, Kabotie participated in many art exhibits, including at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the American Indian Contemporary Arts Gallery in San Francisco, Tucson Art Festival, Los Angeles Natural History Museum, Museum of American Indian in New York City, Museum of Man in San Diego, many appearances at the annual SWAIA Indian Market in Santa Fe, as well as featured exhibits at both the Coconino Center for the Arts and the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and at the Hopi Cultural Center Museum on Second Mesa.

At the time of his death, Kabotie was working on an exhibit and a book for the museum, called "Siitala: Life in Balance, World in Bloom."

"We'll be continuing to work on that," said Kelley Hays-Gilpin, curator of anthropology at MNA. "We planned the content of the exhibit. We just need to raise the money and design and build it."

Kabotie will also be honored as the featured artist at the Heard Indian Market in March of 2010.


According to his Web site, Kabotie's painting reflects his Hopi mentors, the pre-European Awatovi kiva mural painters and the Sikyatki pottery painters.

In 1973, he was a founding member of Artist Hopid, a group of five painters who worked together for more than five years, experimenting in fresh interpretations of traditional Hopi art forms.

Kabotie created many beautiful works of art, among them murals at Sunset Crater Visitors Center, a large mural in the Kiva Gallery at the Museum of Northern Arizona, which he painted with his friend Delbridge Honanie, and a gate he designed to look like a piece of overlay jewelry at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Breunig, who was a friend for almost 35 years, was present at a well-attended memorial service for Kabotie on Sunday, Oct. 25, at the Colton House of the Museum of Northern Arizona

He said the service was "just fabulous" and went for two hours. It was on the lawn, looking up at the San Francisco Peaks.

"He was an artist, he was a poet, he was a jeweler, and most of all, he was a wonderful friend," Breunig said. "Oh, and he was a trickster and a clown, too. He was always teasing me, reminding us all that we need to stay humble and grounded. He was just a delight to be with, so much fun."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michael Kabotie Obituary

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michael Kabotie, 67, died Friday, Oct. 23, 2009, at Flagstaff Medical Center after battling the H1N1 flu and associated complications.

Mr. Kabotie was from the village of Shungopavi, located on Second Mesa on the Hopi reservation, but had also lived many years in Flagstaff and New Mexico. He was a renowned and respected Hopi painter, silversmith and poet, a loving father and grandfather, and a dedicated partner.

Mr. Kabotie is survived by his older sister, Hattie Lomayesva; his children, Paul Kabotie, Wendell Sakiestewa, Claire Chavarria, Ed Kabotie, Meg Adakai and Max Kabotie; his partner, Ruth Ann Border; his ex-wife, Frances Fayssoux Kabotie; 14 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; his Hopi clan and blood relatives; and his many friends from all over the world.

He truly touched the hearts of many.

Mr. Kabotie created many beautiful works of art, among them murals at Sunset Crater and the Museum of Northern Arizona, and a gate he designed to look like a piece of overlay jewelry at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

He will also be honored as the featured artist at the Heard Indian Market in March of 2010.

A memorial service will be Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Colton House of the Museum of Northern Arizona.

The Kabotie family would like to extend their gratitude to the medical staff at FMC.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Health Care for American Indians - Slate Magazine

By Christopher Beam
Posted Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, at 11:20 AM ET

The health care plan released by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on Wednesday includes a requirement that every nonsenior American either buy insurance or pay a fine. There are exceptions, however, for anyone below the poverty line, people who face extreme hardship, and American Indians. Why are American Indians exempt?

Because they have their own health care system. The Indian Health Service, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services and whose funding comes out of the federal government's annual budget, provides care to any person who is a member or descendant of one of the 560 federally recognized tribes. Because they're covered by IHS, Indians don't need to purchase private insurance. (Many do anyway—more on that later.)

The IHS provides two types of service. One is direct care through one of its 48 hospitals and 230 clinics across the country, most of which are located on or near a reservation. For anyone covered by IHS, treatment at these facilities is free. The other service is so-called "contract health services," or CHS. If an IHS hospital doesn't have the treatment or procedure you need—say you have to visit a cardiac specialist for a rare condition—they will refer you to a non-IHS facility. The visit is then paid for with federal money designated for CHS. Not every American Indian, however, qualifies for CHS. To qualify, you have to live either on a reservation or in a "contract health services delivery area," which usually abuts a reservation. If you don't, you're on your own. (As a result, there is a strong incentive for American Indians who don't have employer coverage to live on or near a reservation.) Nor is CHS coverage guaranteed for those who technically qualify. Congress allocates a limited amount of money every year—about $600 million—so emergency care takes priority. When that money runs out, some patients are out of luck.

Can American Indians get other insurance, too? Of course. Of the 1.4 million American Indians covered by IHS, nearly 60 percent have some other type of coverage as well: 20 percent get private insurance, 8 percent have Medicare, and 30 percent are covered under Medicaid. Private insurance especially makes sense for Indians who live far from the nearest IHS facility. In fact, the tribes encourage private coverage, since third-party payers—private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid—are required to pay for your care before IHS does. If, for example, you're an American Indian over 65, your health care bill goes to Medicare first—even if you get treatment at an IHS facility. (Third-party revenue accounts for almost 50 percent of IHS hospital operating budgets.) Only if Medicare refuses to cover the procedure is IHS required to pay.

Government health care for American Indians is rooted in the Constitution, which states in Article I that Congress may regulate commerce with Indian tribes and was first implemented through various treaties signed by the federal government and individual tribes. The Snyder Act of 1921 provided funds "for the benefit, care and assistance" of Indians, who were then granted U.S. citizenship. In 1954, the Indian Health Service was established and took over administering health care from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But it wasn't until 1975 that the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act integrated American Indians into Medicare and Medicaid and put tribes in charge of their own care—for example, they can build a new clinic and get reimbursed by Uncle Sam rather than waiting around for the government to build one. The system still has its issues: Whereas the U.S. health care system spends about $6,000 per American, IHS spends only $2,100. American Indians are less healthy on the whole than other Americans. And CHS, whose money sometimes dries up midyear, is chronically underfunded. Hence the oft-quoted aphorism, "Don't get sick after June."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tribe That Runs Foxwoods Facing 'Dire' Finances

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- The chairman of the tribe that runs Foxwoods Resort Casino is warning of ''dire financial times'' that he says threaten the tribe's living standards.

Michael J. Thomas, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, sent a letter to tribal members last week noting earnings ''are down considerably'' in the recession with no signs of immediate improvement. He also noted the likely legalization of gambling in Massachusetts and New York will eat away at profits and market share.

''These are dire financial times for our tribe,'' Thomas wrote in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday. ''The situation is serious and threatens our tribe.''

The tribe is on the brink of default and is trying to restructure $2.3 billion in debt, the New London Day reported Wednesday, citing an adviser to the tribe who spoke on condition of anonymity. The debt is $1 billion more than the tribe can sustain, and it is at risk of defaulting Monday on a $700 million line of credit with lenders, the newspaper reported.

Telephone messages were left Wednesday with tribal officials for comment on the report, which also cited a plan by an investment bank to continue operating the casino while the debt is restructured.

The tribe opened Foxwoods in 1992 and the casino has become one of the world's largest. Foxwoods last year opened the $700 million MGM Grand, a 30-story, 2-million-square-foot property that includes a new casino, hotel, a 4,000-seat performing arts theater, restaurants, luxury stores, the largest ballroom in the Northeast and new convention space to accommodate thousands.

Thomas alluded to the troubles in his letter, saying he intended to introduce a resolution to put the tribe's money in a ''lock box'' only to be used for government and incentive payments to tribal members.

''Regardless of what may happen, I have made it clear that we will not accept Wall street mandates for cuts to tribal government or the incentive,'' Thomas wrote. ''Anyone who puts the interests of consultants, bankers and bond holders ahead of our tribal community will have to answer to me.''

Foxwoods has laid off 800 casino workers since last summer as a result of declining slot revenue because of the poor economy.

Mohegan Sun, Connecticut's other tribal casino, has cut more than 500 jobs through attrition and delayed an expansion project. But Mohegan Sun, operated by the Mohegan Tribe, said in a statement Wednesday that the casino is financially healthy.

The casinos turn over 25 percent of their slot profits to the state under an operating agreement.

Paul Young, executive director of the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue, said his agency has not been notified of a plan to restructure Foxwoods' debt.

Young said he would expect the tribe to continue operating and making its payments to the state.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Wednesday Foxwoods' financial woes were a concern.

''We know that they have been experiencing financial difficulty for some time and I think that they're working to try to address it with their lenders and hopefully they can,'' Rell said. ''Obviously, it's a concern to us. It's a revenue to the state.''

Connecticut officials said Wednesday the two tribes will pay the state $25 million in slot revenues to compensate for promotions that allowed gamblers to use slots for free.


Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this story.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cleaning of Puget Sound Brings Tribes Full Circle

Published: August 24, 2009
SEATTLE — When contractors were bidding for federal stimulus money designated to help clean up Puget Sound, a few skeptical competitors asked Jeff Choke how much experience his dive team had in addressing pollution here.

“I’d say, ‘We’ve been doing it since the day the settlers first showed up,’ ” Mr. Choke said as he steered an aluminum skiff out of Shilshole Bay on an overcast afternoon recently.

Mr. Choke is a member of the Nisqually Indian tribe, one of many tribes that fished for salmon in Puget Sound for centuries before Europeans arrived and began aggressively fishing with large commercial nets that depleted populations of Chinook, sockeye and other kinds of salmon. Now the Nisqually tribe has a dive team that is part of a $4.6 million stimulus-financed effort to remove fishing nets that were lost or discarded decades ago but can still kill fish, birds and other animals.

Mr. Choke said that although having Indians get involved in the project might make for compelling symbolism given the longstanding tensions over how their way of life was altered by settlers, what the project really offers is a chance for the storyline to move beyond old debates.

“We want to diversify,” Mr. Choke said, referring to the tribe’s expanding business interests, which include casino gambling and the harvesting of geoduck clams in the sound, a pursuit that first led the tribe to start its dive team.

“Everyone has had a part in this,” Mr. Choke said, “and to clean this up, it takes both sides.”

The net-removal project is being organized by the Northwest Straits Initiative, a conservation agency authorized by Congress. The project is being held up by its supporters as an example of environmental restoration that creates jobs — about 40 in the next 18 months, many of them for divers — and has a measurable impact.

Before being awarded the stimulus money, the initiative had spent seven years piecing together small grants to slowly remove nets that were lost to rocky seafloors or artificial structures in the area’s historic fishing grounds.

“In many cases, it’s layer upon layer of net,” said Ginny Broadhurst, the director of the initiative.

With more than 3,000 nets believed to be underwater, the project was expected to take many more years to complete. Now, however, Ms. Broadhurst said the group is getting four boats up and running at sites like the San Juan Islands in the north of the sound to tribal fishing grounds in the south. The work should be finished by the end of next year.

“The ocean faces lots of problems, from acidification, the ocean becoming more acidic, to the water temperature rising and a slew of other problems, but marine debris is something that we can do something about,” said Nir Barnea, a manager in the marine debris program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that distributed the stimulus money. “This project, for example, we can complete the removal of just about all nets in Puget Sound.”

The project follows earlier net removal efforts in Alaska, Hawaii and other states.

In Puget Sound, the removal of the nets follows major changes; fish populations have declined, restrictions have increased and the fishing industry is a small fraction of what it was in the 1970s and 1980s.

Because the fishery is much smaller, Ms. Broadhurst said, the number of nets that will be lost in the future “is going to be really minimal as compared with that historic high.”

Her group has spent years surveying the sound to identify lost nets for removal. Jeff June, a field manager for the project, said the group has a database containing 584 locations of lost nets, with some locations containing several nets. Divers have found skeletons of harbor seals and porpoises tangled in nets; more often they encounter countless crabs, starfish and small fish trapped in the monofilament, which became more common in the 1970s. Those nets do not degrade the way older nets of hemp and other materials do.

When the nets are lost, said Mr. Barnea of the federal agency, “they keep on doing what they were designed to do.”

Steve Sigo owns the boat that the Nisqually tribe’s dive team has been using for its recent dives off Point Jefferson on the Kitsap Peninsula, across Puget Sound from Shilshole Bay in Seattle. Mr. Sigo, a member of the Squaxin Island tribe, said if he were not helping to remove nets he would probably be fishing for salmon, particularly given the strong runs reported this year. But Mr. Sigo, joined by his 12-year-old son, Andrew, said he planned to stick with the net-removal project as long as he could.

“My first year was ’74 fishing commercially, and so I’ve lost nets,” Mr. Sigo said. “I’ve fished up in this area, fished the San Juans, fished everything, so it’s kind of nice to be on the cleanup end of it instead of the losing-the-net end of it. It’s kind of neat because it’s kind of full circle to get this opportunity.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Uranium Contamination Haunts Navajo Country

TEEC NOS POS, Ariz. — It was one year ago that the environmental scientist showed up at Fred Slowman’s door, deep in the heart of Navajo country, and warned that it was unsafe for him to stay there.

“There were a lot of things people weren’t told about the plight of Navajos and uranium mining,” Stephen B. Etsitty said.
The Slowman home, the same one-level cinderblock structure his family had lived in for nearly a half-century, was contaminated with potentially dangerous levels of uranium from the days of the cold war, when hundreds of uranium mines dotted the vast tribal land known as the Navajo Nation. The scientist advised Mr. Slowman, his wife and their two sons to move out until their home could be rebuilt.

“I was angry,” Mr. Slowman said. “I guess it was here all this time, and we never knew.”

The legacy wrought from decades of uranium mining is long and painful here on the expansive reservation. Over the years, Navajo miners extracted some four million tons of uranium ore from the ground, much of it used by the United States government to make weapons.

Many miners died from radiation-related illnesses, and some, unaware of harmful health effects, hauled contaminated rocks and tailings from local mines and mills to build homes for their families.

Now, those homes are being demolished and rebuilt under a new government program that seeks to identify what are very likely dozens of uranium-contaminated structures still standing on Navajo land and to temporarily relocate people living in them until the homes can be torn down and rebuilt.

Stephen B. Etsitty, executive director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, and other tribal officials have been grappling for years with the environmental fallout from uranium mining.

“There were a lot of things people weren’t told about the plight of Navajos and uranium mining,” Mr. Etsitty said. “These legacy issues are impacting generations. At some point people are saying, ‘It’s got to end.’ ”

After a Congressional hearing in 2007, a cross-section of federal agencies committed to addressing the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining on the reservation. As part of that commitment, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation began working together to assess uranium levels in 500 structures through a five-year plan set to end in 2012.

Using old lists of potentially contaminated structures, federal and Navajo scientists have fanned out to rural reaches of the 27,000 square mile reservation — which includes swaths of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — to measure levels of radium, a decay product of uranium that can cause lung cancer. Of 113 structures assessed so far, 27 contained radiation levels that were above normal.

“In these situations, you have contamination in somebody’s yard or in their house,” said Harry Allen, the E.P.A.’s section chief for emergency response in San Francisco who is helping lead the government’s efforts. “To us, that is somewhat urgent.”

Many structures that showed high levels of radiation were vacant; some families had already moved out after hearing stories of contamination in their homes. But eight homes still had people living in them, and the E.P.A. and Navajo officials have worked to convince residents that it would be unsafe to stay.

“People had been told they were living in contaminated structures, but nobody ever did anything about it,” said Will Duncan, an environmental scientist who has been the E.P.A.’s main representative on the reservation. “They would tell us, ‘We don’t believe you are going to follow through.’ ”

But with a budget of nearly $8 million, the E.P.A. has demolished all 27 contaminated structures and has begun building ones to replace those that had been occupied. Typically, the agency pays a Navajo contracting company to construct a log cabin or a traditional hogan in the structure’s stead, depending on the wishes of the occupants. Mr. Allen said the cost, including temporarily relocating residents, ran approximately $260,000 per dwelling and took about eight months.

The agency also offers $50,000 to those who choose not to have an old home rebuilt.

Lillie Lane, a public information officer with the Navajo Nation E.P.A. who has acted as a liaison between the federal government and tribal members, said the program held practical and symbolic importance given the history of uranium mining here.

Ms. Lane also described the difficulty of watching families, particularly elders, leaving homes they had lived in for years. She told of coming upon two old miners who died before their contaminated homes could be rebuilt.

“In Navajo, a home is considered sacred,” Ms. Lane said. “But if the foundation or the rocks are not safe, we have to do this work.”

Some families, Ms. Lane said, complained that their children were suffering from health problems and had wondered if radiation were to blame.

The E.P.A. has started sifting through records and interviewing family members to figure out whether mining companies that once operated on the reservation are liable for any damages, Mr. Allen said.

On a recent summer day, Fred and Clara Slowman proudly surveyed their new home, a one-level log cabin that sits in the quiet shadows of Black Rock Point, miles away from the bustle of Farmington, N.M., where the family has been living in a hotel.

Mr. Slowman said he suspected that waste materials from a nearby abandoned mine somehow seeped into his house. The family plans on having a traditional Navajo medicine man bless their dwelling before they move in next month.

“In our traditional way, a house is like your mom,” Mr. Slowman said. “It’s where you eat, sleep, where you’re taken care of.

“And when you come back from the city, you come back to your mom. It makes you feel real good.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Appeals Court Demands Accounting for Indian Trusts

Published: July 24, 2009
Filed at 12:21 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Interior Department must account for century-old land royalties owed to American Indians, reversing a lower court's ruling that the task is impossible.

A 2008 decision by U.S. District Judge James Robertson said Interior had unreasonably delayed an accounting but added that the complicated task was ultimately impossible. He later ruled the Indian plaintiffs are entitled to $455 million, a fraction of the $47 billion or more they have said they are owed.

The appeals court said Friday that that court erred in freeing the government from the accounting burden. Chief Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the decision essentially allowed the Interior Department ''to throw up its hands and stop the accounting.''

''Without an accounting, it is impossible to know who is owed what,'' Sentelle wrote. ''The best any trust beneficiary could hope for would be a government check in an arbitrary amount.''

The long-running suit, first filed 13 years ago, claims the Indians were swindled out of royalties overseen by the Interior Department since 1887 for things like oil, gas, grazing and timber.

The three-judge panel acknowledged that the task is a complicated one and said the Interior Department should focus on the ''low-hanging fruit'' and not muddy the process by spending time and money to account for closed accounts or those in probate, for example.

''We must not allow the theoretically perfect to render impossible the achievable good,'' Sentelle wrote.

Indian plaintiffs, led by Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Montana, have argued that the government has for a long time improperly accounted for the money and should pay it back with some form of interest.

The government appeal contended that the court does not have the jurisdiction to award money at all, pointing to the ruling that the accounting was ultimately impossible. They also pointed to Robertson's comments that Congress has not given the Interior Department enough money to do a full accounting.

In 1994, Congress demanded that the department fulfill an obligation to account for money received and distributed. Two years later, when account statements still had not been reconciled, Cobell joined with others in suing.

Because many of the records have been lost, it has since been up to the court to decide how to best estimate how much individual should be paid, or how the money should be accounted for. Many of them are nearing the end of their lives.

Robertson originally intended to begin a new phase of the trial that would determine how and to whom the government should award the money. But he allowed the two parties to take the case immediately to the appeals court so the process would not be delayed further.

The class-action suit deals with individual Indians' lands and covers about 500,000 Indians and their heirs. Several tribes have sued separately, claiming mismanagement of their lands.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Op-Ed Contributor - Evil Spirits

Evil Spirits

Published: July 15, 2009
Sioux Falls, S.D.

SINCE taking office, President Obama has overturned several of George W. Bush’s executive orders. I would like to recommend he also overturn one of Theodore Roosevelt’s.

Fourteen years after the Great Sioux Reservation was established in western South Dakota in 1868, President Chester Arthur issued an executive order creating a 50-square-mile buffer zone on its southern edge, in Nebraska. This was meant to prevent renegade whites from selling guns, knives and alcohol to Indians living on the reservation.

The buffer zone was ratified as law when Congress divided the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller units in 1889. But when Roosevelt became president, the liquor industry convinced him that the buffer zone should be abolished, which he did through an executive order in 1904. This move was, however, illegitimate from the start, because an act of Congress cannot legally be reversed by an executive order.

Today, the tiny Nebraska hamlet of Whiteclay has four liquor stores, ostensibly to serve its population of 24, but really more for the bootleggers and alcoholics living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, just across the border. The result has been murders, spouse beatings, child abuse, thefts and other undesirable consequences of the free flow of alcohol into the reservation.

In 2000, I asked the Clinton administration to overturn Roosevelt’s illegal order, but was unable to get anyone’s attention. In 2001, I asked Vice President Dick Cheney to do the same, but he referred the matter to the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who decided that bringing back the buffer zone would, as he wrote me in a letter, take land away from white landowners. In fact, overturning the Roosevelt order would not transfer any land titles, but would merely give jurisdiction over the buffer zone to the Oglala Sioux tribe, automatically making alcohol sales illegal.

President Obama could right a century of wrongs by re-establishing the buffer zone. It would alleviate the overwhelming social ills that result from easy access to alcohol, and help end the violence tribal members too often visit on each other and on their families.

James Abourezk, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota, was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs from 1977 to 1979.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This Land - A Rising but Doubted Dream on a Reservation

Published: July 12, 2009

John Hunt, a tribal member, works for the contractor developing the site of the health center, which will be three times as large as the one it will replace, left.
At the edge of the remote prairie town called Eagle Butte, just past a fireworks stand, there is construction. Where winter wheat once grew, workers in hard hats now pour the foundations that will cement buildings to dusty earth.

Perhaps somewhere else this might be just another construction site. But here on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, in what may be the poorest county in the country, people sometimes stand at the edge and watch, as if to convince themselves of at least this promise being kept.

They come to witness the rising of a health center triple the size of the one it will replace: a tired building whose very bricks, mortared in place long ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, recall displacement and loss. The site will also include dozens of houses to accommodate all the nurses and doctors the reservation expects — or hopes — will come.

“This right here is your entryway,” a tribal member named John Hunt says with pride, pointing to some churned-up soil. And here, the expanded dental clinic. And here, the traditional healing room, where those mourning a death will be able to burn sage in a ritual of assisting passage to the next life.

Mr. Hunt’s thick body is built to take a fall; he spent years as a rodeo cowboy, saddling broncos, before giving it up to work first for the tribal government and then for the contractor developing the site. He understands what this construction represents:

Better health care. More jobs. The culmination of years of determined advocacy by tribal leaders. And the concrete manifestation of that abstract concept known as federal stimulus money, coming from the even more abstract American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Even now, with the water tower built and the basement dug, some people here are so accustomed to disappointment that they don’t have much trust in the project. “A lot of disbelief,” says Mr. Hunt, 37. “A lot of — ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ ”

If a place can be reduced to topographical and statistical details, then this is the Cheyenne River Reservation: a 2.9-million-acre swath of plains and prairie, nearly treeless and beautiful in its starkness; home to about 15,000 people, most of them tribal members, and most of them poor.

The tribe has endured many indignities over the centuries, including one still fresh in the collective memory. In the 1940s and 1950s, the federal government built the Oahe Dam as one way to harness the powerful Missouri River. In doing so, it inundated more than 100,000 acres of fertile tribal land, washing out a way of life and forcing many families to be moved 60 miles west, to here: an arid railroad outpost soon to lose its railroad.

The Corps of Engineers built a health center to serve this grassy sprawl of distant towns and often-rutted roads, but as the only one of any size on the reservation, the center could not keep up with the growing population. The tribe began working on a plan for a better, larger operation that would also make it eligible for more money to improve services.

It clearly had the need, with higher rates of births and deaths, including infant deaths, than the region’s non-Indian population. The birthing unit had been closed because of quality-of-care concerns, the bathrooms could not accommodate wheelchairs, and recruiting efforts often died as soon as, say, a nurse from out of town saw the drab efficiency apartments set aside for the staff.

And there was the familiar matter of location, location. When tribal members require anything more than modest medical attention, they must be taken by ambulance or plane to hospitals far from the reservation — in Rapid City, S.D., or maybe Bismarck, N.D., both about 180 miles away.

A few years ago, Mr. Hunt fell off a ladder while holding a nail gun and accidentally shot a nail into his knee. His injury earned him a three-hour ambulance ride to a Rapid City hospital.

Some people gradually developed a distrust of the health center, and not only because its brick facade recalled the time of forced relocation. It was understaffed, it had become a patchwork of renovations and additions, and there was nothing native about the place beyond the staff. “It has no flow,” Mr. Hunt said.

Finally, in 2002, the Indian Health Service, the federal agency responsible for providing health care to American Indians and Alaska Natives, approved the proposal for an “alternative rural hospital,” with more attractive housing. Architects were soon traveling around the reservation to hear what people wanted, meeting in the bingo halls and community rooms of remote places like Bear Creek and White Horse and Thunder Butte. They especially listened to the elders.

“This was not going to be just a brick building,” Mr. Hunt said.

Now there was just the small matter of finding the money to pay for it all. So tribal leaders hit the road. For years.

They divided themselves into teams and took turns visiting the Indian Health Service’s headquarters in Rockville, Md., and paying calls to members of Congress in Washington, where they were helped by their senators, Tim Johnson and John Thune. They testified at any hearing anywhere that concerned the health care of Native Americans.

Along the way, they met tribal leaders from other reservations who were seeking the same financing for the same problem: the woeful inadequacy of the health care promised to American Indians long ago. “We all have the same disparities,” said Sharon Lee, the tribal vice chairwoman.

The tribal leaders made their case effectively, but in Indian Country, progress comes in phases, when money is available. The Indian Health Service works with 562 federally recognized tribes, a great many of them in need, so the project on that old wheat field in Eagle Butte took shape in fits and starts.

Then, two months ago, there came one of those news releases that seem to belch out incessantly from Washington, often incremental, often self-congratulatory. But this one said the Indian Health Service had allocated $500 million in stimulus funds for Indian health care, including $227 million for two “shovel ready” projects: a hospital in Nome, Alaska, and a health center in a place called Eagle Butte, S.D.

This $111 million health center will have an American Indian feel; it will be theirs, and not someone else’s. It will have a larger emergency room, two beds set aside for births, new medical equipment, and such basic, almost-forgotten amenities as a staff break room. It will also have that healing room, specially ventilated; no longer will mourners have to clog the bottoms of doors with towels when they burn sage.

But again, this is Indian Country. There are some basic health services the center will not provide; a CT scanner, for example.

Thomas Sweeney, an Indian Health Service spokesman, said the decision not to include this equipment was based on a formula that takes into account several factors: staffing, workload and population size. The agency receives slightly more than half the financing it needs, he said, which means “there’s always tough decisions.”

One step at a time, said Mr. Hunt: the building first, and then more visits to Washington to fight for more improvements — a CT scanner among them.

Until then, it remains a three-hour ambulance ride to Rapid City.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Woods to Play Exhibition to Help Begay Charity

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) -- Tiger Woods is helping out longtime friend Notah Begay III, agreeing to play in his charity Skins Game at Turning Stone Resort next month to support Native American youth.

Begay declined to comment and kept his head down when asked if Woods was playing in his event, then stopped 20 yards later and said with a smile, ''I need to win some skins.''

Woods' agent at IMG confirmed he would be playing Aug. 24 in the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge. The world's No. 1 player will join Stanford teammate Begay, former Masters champion Mike Weir and Camilo Villegas.

A year ago, the event raised $180,000 for Begay's foundation, which supports youth sports and wellness programs for Native Americans in New Mexico and other states.

Begay, a Navajo, is the only Native American on the PGA Tour. He has four PGA Tour victories, none since 2000, and earned his card for this year by returning to Q-school.

He and Woods have remained closed, however, and Begay received an exemption to the AT&T National, where he opened with rounds of 70-72 at Congressional.

Woods had planned to play in Begay's event a year ago until he was forced to miss the second half of the season with knee surgery.

Turning Stone Resort in upstate New York has held a Fall Series event on the PGA Tour the last two years, and its $6 million purse is larger than some regular-season events.

Woods is not expected to play in the PGA Tour event, as it follows the conclusion of the FedEx Cup. Begay's charity event is the Monday of The Barclays in New Jersey, the start of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup. Woods has never played The Barclays since it became part of the playoffs.
Mark Steinberg, his agent at IMG, said Woods has not decided on his schedule for the playoffs.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scientist Tries to Connect Migration Dots of Ancient Southwest

CASAS GRANDES, Mexico — From the sky, the Mound of the Cross at Paquimé, a 14th-century ruin in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, looks like a compass rose — the roundish emblem indicating the cardinal directions on a map. About 30 feet in diameter and molded from compacted earth and rock taken near the banks of the Casas Grandes River, the crisscross arms point to four circular platforms. They might as well be labeled N, S, E and W.

Steve Lekson, shown at Chimney Rock, Colo., has a theory tying Casas Grandes to Chaco Canyon and Aztec Ruins.
“It’s a hell of a long way from here to Chaco,” says Steve Lekson, an archaeologist from the University of Colorado, as he sights along the north-south spoke of the cross. Follow his gaze 400 miles north and you reach Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico, a major cultural center occupied from about A.D. 900 to A.D. 1150 by the pueblo people known as Anasazi. Despite the distance, Dr. Lekson believes the two sites were linked by an ancient pattern of migration and a common set of religious beliefs.

But don’t stop at Chaco. Continue about 60 miles northward along the same straight line and you come to another Anasazi center called Aztec Ruins. For Dr. Lekson the alignment must be more than a coincidence.

A decade ago in “The Chaco Meridian: Centers of Political Power in the Ancient Southwest,” he argued that for centuries the Anasazi leaders, reckoning by the stars, aligned their principal settlements along this north-south axis — the 108th meridian of longitude. In an article this year for Archaeology magazine, he added two older ruins to the trajectory: Shabik’eschee, south of Chaco, and Sacred Ridge, north of Aztec. Each in its time was the regional focus of economic and political power, and each lies along the meridian. As one site was abandoned, because of drought, violence, environmental degradation — the reasons are obscure — the leaders led an exodus to a new location: sometimes north, sometimes south, but hewing as closely as they could to the 108th meridian.

“I think the reason is ideological,” Dr. Lekson said on a recent visit to Paquimé. “The cultural response to something not working is to move north, and when that doesn’t work you move south. And then you move north again and then you move south again, and then you finally say the hell with it, I’m out of here, and you go down to Chihuahua.”

For many of Dr. Lekson’s colleagues that is an awfully big leap. With all the ambiguities involved in interpreting patterns of dirt and rock — the Anasazi left no written history — archaeologists have been more comfortable focusing on a particular culture or a particular ruin. Dr. Lekson is constantly reaching — some say overreaching — to make connections between isolated islands of thought. Scheduled for publication this summer, his new book, “A History of the Ancient Southwest,” will go even further, offering a kind of unified theory of the Native American population movements that have puzzled Southwest archaeologists for many years.

“Steve has definitely been the one who has dragged us kicking and screaming into ‘big picture’ archaeology,” said William D. Lipe, emeritus professor of archaeology at Washington State University. “In many ways, Steve’s ideas and publications have driven much of the intellectual agenda for Southwestern archaeology over the last 20 or more years.” That does not mean, Dr. Lipe added, that he buys the idea of the Chaco meridian.

On a walk around Paquimé, Dr. Lekson points out his evidence. Casas Grandes, the Spanish name for the ruins, means “big houses,” and the multistory structures remind him of the palatial “great houses” at Chaco and Aztec. Inside the structures, people moved from room to room through T-shaped passages like those at Anasazi sites. At the House of the Pillars, a row of three colonnades formed a grand entranceway. “No one around here had colonnades except at Chaco,” Dr. Lekson says. A coincidence or a connection?

Paquimé also hints at other influences. Ball courts, used for ceremonial games, are typical of those found in southern Mexico and Central America. Effigy mounds, in which dirt was shaped to form birds and other figures, resemble those built long ago by Native Americans in the Ohio Valley. A long sinuous row of mud and stone called the Mound of the Serpent seems to undulate like a snake.

“This thing runs north and south,” Dr. Lekson says. “I love it.” He points toward a prominent hill on the horizon called Cerro de Moctezuma. Barely visible on its summit are the remains of a centuries-old stone watchtower. Nearby, he says, is another snakelike mound running north and south.

“It’s not as easy to see,” he says. “You have to believe it.”

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Tension Roils Peru After Deadly Amazon Clashes

YURIMAGUAS, Peru (Reuters) - Indigenous protesters and Peru's army refused to back down and a truce looked distant on Saturday, after two battles in the Amazon jungle killed some 50 people in the worst crisis of President Alan Garcia's term.

Protesters said 30 of their own died and the government said 22 members of the security forces perished in two days of clashes over Garcia's drive to bring foreign companies to the rainforest to open mines and drill for oil.

The bloodshed has prompted widespread calls for Garcia's prime minister to quit, underscored divisions between elites in Lima and the rural poor and threatened to derail the government's push to further open Peru to foreign investors.

Garcia lashed out at the protesters, saying they had attacked their own country, acted like terrorists and may have been incited by foreigners. A fierce critic of leftist leaders elsewhere in Latin America, Garcia did not say who he meant.

The army imposed curfews, but thousands of Indians with wooden spears vowed to dig in at blockades along remote Amazon highways and keep protesting if government forces did not halt efforts to break up their demonstrations.

"We are fighting because we fear our land will be taken away," said Denis Tangoa 38, a protester at one blockade.

About 10 police officers kidnapped by protesters were killed and nearly two dozen were freed when troops moved in to end a hostage crisis, National Police Chief Miguel Hidalgo told Peru's RPP radio on Saturday. Several hostages were reported missing.


In a clash on Friday, 11 police died when they broke up a roadblock, about 870 miles north of Lima along a stretch of highway known as "Devil's Curve" the government said.

At least thirty protesters were killed, according to Champion Nonimgo from AIDESEP, Peru's leading indigenous rights group. "We are talking about more than 30 indigenous deaths so far," Nonimgo said.

The government put the number of protesters killed in Friday's clash at nine.

Garcia blamed leftist opponents for the violence and his office issued a statement saying protesters had "carefully planned an attack against Peru" and used "methods identical those of the Shining Path."

The Shining Path was a brutal insurgency that waged war against the state in the 1980s and 1990s, until
its leaders were caught and holdouts went into cocaine trafficking.

"Shame on those politicians who can't win elections so they get together irrational groups to do what they did," said Garcia.

Indigenous tribes, worried they will lose control over natural resources, have protested since April seeking to force Congress to repeal new laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in the rain forest.

"We are not going to give up until they reverse these laws that will damage us. They want to take away our lands and forest and make our traditions disappear," said Luis Huansi, a leader of the Shawi tribe at a roadblock between the towns of Tarapoto and Yurimaguas.

Men, women and children from the subsistence farming region had occupied the highway. Some were dressed in long red tunics, wore headbands and carried wooden spears. Families have set up tents of plastic sheeting along the roadside.


Though Garcia is a favorite of investors, his approval rating is 30 percent and he is especially unpopular in the Amazon, where development has lagged.

Critics say he has not done enough to reduce the poverty rate from 36 percent and that economic boom times failed to reach the poor before the current downturn.

They also fault Garcia's policies favoring free markets and foreign investment as mainly benefiting urban elites.

Garcia claims he will cut poverty faster than a new wave of leftist presidents that he often trades barbs with: Bolivia's Evo Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. But he has yet to win support from the poor.

Indigenous groups oppose laws passed last year as Garcia moved to bring Peru's regulatory framework into compliance with a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Tribes said Garcia's allies acted in bad faith when they blocked a motion in Congress on Thursday to open debate on a law they want overturned. Violence erupted the next day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Group Is Formed to Sponsor Native Arts

Published: April 21, 2009

Even as arts groups around the country are cutting back because of declining endowments and donations, a new foundation to support the work of American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native artists is being established with an initial $10 million from the Ford Foundation.

Called the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the organization, formally opened on Tuesday, says it will be the first permanently endowed national foundation of its kind.

“We needed our own endowment for native arts and culture in this country in the coming century,” said Elizabeth Theobald Richards, the program officer at Ford who has overseen the project and is a Cherokee. “The indigenous peoples of this country have an incredible wealth of cultural heritage and cultural expression that very few people know about. And it’s also incredibly underfunded.”

The foundation has been in the works since 2007, when it obtained incorporation papers and established charity status. Only now has the organization hired a president and staff and begun the grant-making process.

The new foundation will provide direct grants to artists and arts organizations, support native arts leadership and team up with other native-led efforts to increase financial support for indigenous arts and cultures.

“Arts and culture and traditional languages and religions have been the glue that held Native Americans together — often in the face of great adversity,” said Walter Echo-Hawk, chairman and creator of the foundation, in a telephone interview.

“For many years the government policy was to assimilate native people into mainstream society and essentially stamp out attributes of native culture,” he added. “It’s a testament to the tenacity of our people that we have any native cultures or religions left in the United States. We are seeing a remarkable cultural renaissance in the tribal communities. But the support of the arts has been almost nil. It’s been very difficult for Indian tribes to also support their own arts and cultures.”

The organization is to be based in Portland, Ore., and recently selected Tara Lulani Arquette, a Native Hawaiian, as its president and chief executive. With 20 years of experience leading organizations and advocating on behalf of native groups, Ms. Arquette has served for the last four years as chief executive and executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, a private, nonprofit organization that works with the tourism industry.

“In a sense, it’s part of our quest for self-determination and restoring our sovereignty,” Ms. Arquette said in an telephone interview.

She acknowledged the challenge of starting a new foundation in the current economic downturn. “The mission of the foundation can’t be accomplished in one year or even five years,” Ms. Arquette said. “But there is a sense of urgency. Our elders — our wisdom keepers — are passing away in large numbers.”

The foundation, which will start with an annual operating budget of $500,000 and a staff of four, hopes to provide about $4 million in grants and program services over the next five years.

In establishing the new organization, the Ford Foundation reached out across the Native American world.

A leadership circle was made up of four advisers from different tribes — Mr. Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Joy Harjo (Creek Muskogee), Jayne Fawcett (Mohegan) and Elizabeth Woody (Navajo/Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama). All five members of the foundation’s board of directors are Native Americans.

The Ford Foundation made an initial $5 million contribution to endow the new foundation permanently, with an additional $5 million promised if new partners brought $3 million more to the table. The Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians, based near Sacramento, then made a grant of $1.5 million, while announcing a challenge to other tribal nations to match its gift. Once the challenge is met, Rumsey has promised an additional $1.5 million, which would bring the tribes’ contribution to $4.5 million.

The Ford Foundation has supported similar efforts to bolster native arts and culture in the past. “The community has the need,” Ms. Richards said. “But I really feel the country has the need.”

W. Richard West Jr., the founding director emeritus of the Smithsonian’s American Indian Museum and a Ford trustee, said: “There need to be agencies and institutions that support native contemporary art and artists. For the most part, those agencies and institutions don’t exist.”

“We never separate art and life,” added Mr. West, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. “Art is part of our everyday life.”

The foundation hopes to begin making grants at the end of this year or early next year, Mr. Echo-Hawk said.

The foundation’s goal is to establish a permanent endowment of about $20 million over the next five years or so, he said, and to increase that figure over time.

“Culture, even though it is central to our identity, is the last to be nurtured,” Mr. Echo-Hawk said. “There is a need to inject resources into the perpetuation of these profound and beautiful art forms.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fired Colorado Professor Is Cross-Examined in Lawsuit

Published: March 24, 2009

DENVER — A former University of Colorado professor spent nearly six hours defending his scholarly work on Tuesday during cross-examination in his lawsuit contending that he was fired for an essay he wrote about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

After spending much of Monday explaining his political opinions, the former professor, Ward L. Churchill, faced extensive cross-examination by the university’s lawyer, Patrick O’Rourke.

A faculty committee concluded that Mr. Churchill had plagiarized and fabricated sections of his work on the persecution of American Indians, leading to his dismissal in July 2007, the university says.

But Mr. Churchill maintains that he was forced out because of the controversial essay, in which he characterized workers in the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns.”

In a back-and-forth that was intermittently cutting and congenial, Mr. O’Rourke delved into the details of Mr. Churchill’s work, much of which focused on the spread of smallpox among Americans Indians and assorted aspects of law affecting Indian country.

Mr. O’Rourke said Mr. Churchill’s admission that he had ghostwritten works for other scholars and occasionally cited them to support his own theories clearly violated academic standards, as the faculty committee had concluded.

“The only evidence we’ve heard from anyone other than you about this scholarly practice is from 20 people tenured at C.U., all of whom say this is wrong,” Mr. O’Rourke said.

Mr. Churchill said the practice violated no academic standard at the university. And he argued that it was acceptable for one scholar to ghostwrite for another and then cite that work in other writings as long as the second scholar embraced the original premise.

Mr. O’Rourke acknowledged that the university and Mr. Churchill had drawn extensive criticism over the essay, with Mr. Churchill facing “half a million” accusations and the university under enormous pressure to discipline him.

But even after firing Mr. Churchill, the university allowed him to continue lecturing when invited by students — proof, Mr. O’Rourke said, that his dismissal had nothing to do with limiting his First Amendment rights to free speech.

“The same university that fired you for speaking out is the same university that let you come back and talk on any subject that you wanted, whenever you were asked to,” Mr. O’Rourke said.

Mr. Churchill responded, “I don’t see how the point you’re making actually changes the situation at all.”

Mr. Churchill conceded that parts of an essay written by Prof. Fay G. Cohen of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia on Indian fishing rights appeared without permission in a book he helped edit and write. But Mr. Churchill denied that he was responsible for lifting any part of the essay, which he had worked on with Ms. Cohen.

When asked by his lawyer, David Lane, what he hoped to gain from his lawsuit, Mr. Churchill said: “I want my job back. I want the university to acknowledge that the entire process by which I was terminated from the university was fraudulent.”

Throughout the day, Mr. Churchill argued that he had done nothing wrong and that he had been railroaded by the university.

Mr. O’Rourke questioned that premise. “All of these fully tenured faculty members went along with a fraudulent and fictional report just to get you out of the university?” he asked.

Mr. Churchill said he believed that outside influences had helped seal his fate. “It’s just wrong,” he said.

Mr. O’Rourke responded, “It’s just wrong to put somebody else’s name on your work and then to cite it.”

After Mr. Churchill’s testimony, a juror submitted a question, asking him if the accusations of academic misconduct would have arisen had it not been for his essay.

“I think the easy answer on that one is no, they would not,” Mr. Churchill replied.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Native Voices at the Autry’s World Premiere of Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light

Native Voices at the Autry’s World Premiere of
Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light by Joy Harjo

March 12 - 29, 2009

From musician, poet, and now playwright Joy Harjo (Mvskoke) comes a deeply compelling personal journey of struggle, displacement, self-discovery, and ultimately healing. Invoking spoken word, storytelling, and song, Harjo reflects on life stories, the tales and traditions of her people, and takes a few turns blowing a mean jazz saxophone. An allegorical work of tremendous power, Wings demonstrates how theater and art can bring life full circle.


(Preview Shows — March 10 & 11)

Thursdays – March 12, 19, and 26 -- 8pm
Fridays – March 13, 20, and 27 – 8 pm
Saturdays – March 14, 21, and 28 – 2 and 8 pm
Sundays – March 15, 22, and 29 – 2 pm

Monday, February 23, 2009

Editorial - Justice for American Indians -

Published: February 22, 2009
The federal government has a long history of cheating American Indians, and not all of this dirty dealing is in the distant past. On Monday, the Supreme Court hears arguments in a suit by the Navajo, who lost millions of dollars’ worth of coal royalties because the government helped a coal company underpay for their coal. A lower court ruled for the Navajo Nation. The Supreme Court should affirm that well-reasoned decision.

The Navajo’s huge reservation spreads across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The United States holds the lands in trust and manages their large coal deposits. Peabody Coal had a lease to mine on that land. The terms provided that in 1984, the interior secretary could make a reasonable adjustment in the royalty rates paid to the tribe.

That year the department increased the royalty rate to 20 percent of gross proceeds. After Peabody protested, the Reagan administration’s interior secretary met with a Peabody lobbyist, without informing the Navajo. The secretary then signed a memo blocking the increase and called for the Navajo to negotiate with Peabody. The tribe, already under severe economic pressure, ended up agreeing to a rate of just 12.5 percent. The Navajo eventually sued, arguing that the government violated its duty to look out for their interests, and that it cost them as much as $600 million in royalties.

They lost in the Supreme Court on one set of legal theories, but are now relying on other laws. The Washington-based United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled for the Navajo. In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel concluded that several federal laws impose the sort of fiduciary duty the Indians assert.

The appeals court also made clear that the government did not live up to this duty. The ruling found that the Interior Department met “secretly with parties having interests adverse to” the Navajo, adopted those parties’ “desired course of action in lieu of action favorable to” the Navajo, and misled the Navajo about its actions.

The government’s behavior was “indefensible,” according to four former interior secretaries, who submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court. The Obama administration, which has inherited the Bush administration’s position in the case, should not continue to stand up for these misdeeds.