Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Navajo Leader Drops His Support for Slaughter of Wild Horses on the Reservation - NYTimes.com

PHOENIX — Under pressure by animal welfare groups and many of his own people, the president of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly, has reversed his stance on horse slaughtering, saying he will no longer support it and will order the temporary suspension of the roundups of feral horses on the reservation.

The agreement, brokered by Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, is scheduled to be announced on Tuesday. One of its key provisions is to pressure the federal government to do more to help the Navajos handle the tens of thousands of horses that roam freely on their land. Mr. Shelly has estimated that feral horses cost the Navajos $200,000 a year in damage to property and range.
“I am interested in long-term humane solutions to manage our horse populations,” Mr. Shelly said. “Our land is precious to the Navajo people as are all the horses on the Navajo Nation. Horses are sacred animals to us.”
Mr. Shelly’s recalibrated position is sure to strengthen the arguments against horse slaughter in the nation, just as a legal fight to block the opening of horse slaughterhouses in New Mexico and Missouri reaches its final stages.
It could also smooth relations between his administration and tribal elders in some of the Navajo Nation’s largest chapters, who have stood steadfastly against the roundups even as Mr. Shelly embraced them in August as the best available option, given the tribe’s limited resources, to keep its feral horse population under control.
At the time, his stance put the country’s largest federally recognized tribe in a collision course with Mr. Richardson and the actor Robert Redford, who had justified joining a lawsuit against horse slaughtering filed by animal-rights groups by saying they were “standing with Native American leaders.”
In a unanimous vote last month, the Navajo Nation chapter in Shiprock, N.M., bannedhorse roundups in its territory. The chapter’s president, Duane Yazzie, said members were concerned about the abandoned colts and the sale of the horses to meat plants in Mexico, where slaughter is legal.
On Saturday, several of the chapter’s members protested as Mr. Shelly took part in a parade at the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock.
Mr. Shelly and Mr. Richardson met in Farmington, N.M., just outside Navajo lands, shortly after the parade to complete the agreement. It charges several animal welfare groups — including Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, founded by Mr. Richardson and Mr. Redford — with developing alternative policies. One option is rounding up the horses and putting them up for adoption; another is dispensing contraceptives.
“This is a huge event,” Mr. Richardson said. “One of the most important and largest tribes in the country is now on the record against horse slaughtering, and that should be a major factor both in Congress and in the courts.”
All along, Mr. Shelly had spoken about the “delicate balance,” as he put it, between the horses’ significance to the Navajos and the cost of repairing the damage caused by feral horses on the reservation, which covers roughly 27,500 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The Navajos estimate there are 75,000 feral horses roaming the reservation, an estimate based on aerial observations, a method they concede is unreliable. One of the points of the agreement is to find a way to take an accurate count.
During a meeting in Washington last month, Mr. Shelly told several animal welfare groups that the federal government needed to “live up to its responsibilities,” according to his spokesman, Erny Zah, and help the Navajos manage the feral horses. It was not until the agreement with Mr. Richardson, however, that he made his new stance on horse slaughtering official.
The Humane Society of the United States and other groups sued the United States Department of Agriculture in July to keep horse slaughter plants from opening in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri, arguing that the agency had failed to carry out all of the environmental checks, and asked the courts to block its inspectors from working there. The owners of the plant in Iowa have since scrapped their plans to slaughter horses and turned their focus to cattle.
In August, Judge M. Christina Armijo of United States District Court in Albuquerque halted the inspections until she makes her final ruling on the case, which is expected by the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Redskins Name Change Remains Her Unfinished Business - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Suzan Shown Harjo still becomes tense when she recalls the onlyWashington Redskins home game she attended, nearly 40 years ago.

After she moved to Washington, she and her husband received free tickets. Fans sitting nearby, apparently amused that American Indians were in their midst, pawed their hair and poked them, “not in an unfriendly way, but in a scary way,” Ms. Harjo said.

“We didn’t know what was next,” she said.
Ms. Harjo and her husband left the game, but they never left Washington. The incident fueled her existing opposition to the team’s name and lent new urgency for her to get the team to change it. Since the 1960s, Ms. Harjo has been at the center of efforts to persuade schools, colleges and professional sports teams to drop American Indian names and mascots that some consider derogatory. The fight has escalated in recent days as groups have intensified lobbying efforts and organized protests, even prompting President Obama to weigh in on the issue.
The debate tends to settle on one central question: how many people must be offended by a team’s name for a change to be warranted? The Redskins, of the National Football League, cite polling in which most respondents said they were not offended by the name, while those lobbying the team to drop its name dispute the accuracy of that data and say that no matter, the word is widely regarded as derogatory.
More than two-thirds of the roughly 3,000 teams with American Indian mascots have dropped them, many voluntarily and without incident. Along the way, Ms. Harjo, the director of the Morning Star Institute, a group that promotes Native American causes, became something of a godmother to the cause of eliminating disparaging mascots.
“She has led this fight early,” said Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, which has paid for advertisements calling on the Redskins to abandon their name. “We stand on her shoulders.”
But Ms. Harjo, who prefers the term Native American, considers her work unfinished because professional teams, most notably the Redskins, have been vocal about keeping their name. In May, Daniel Snyder, the Redskins’ owner, echoed his predecessors when he vowed never to change the name.
The Redskins, playing in the nation’s capital and the country’s wealthiest league, have remained steadfast as many other teams have changed their nicknames, dating to the 1960s, when the owner at the time, George Preston Marshall, opposed desegregation. Edward Bennett Williams, who owned the team in the 1970s, met with American Indians to discuss the team’s name, but little followed.
“There are so many milestones in this issue,” Ms. Harjo, 68, said Monday at an event held by ChangetheMascot.org, a group urging the Redskins to change their name. “It is king of the mountain because it’s associated with the nation’s capital, so what happens here affects the rest of the country.”
Ms. Harjo, Mr. Halbritter, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota and others who attended the event said that they would continue to call on Mr. Snyder and the N.F.L. to change the team’s name. Ms. McCollum, via social media and letters, has received the brunt of the backlash from some fans who think the Redskins should not change their name. (“I’m offended by the name Vikings as I have family from Denmark,” one person wrote on Ms. McCollum’s Facebook page, imploring her to “concentrate on a budget and don’t worry about the Washington Redskins.”)
Last week, days before the league’s 32 owners were to meet in Washington, the debate was inflamed when President Obama said that he would consider changing the name if he owned the team. Reed Hundt, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has also called on broadcasters to avoid using the team’s nickname.
In what amounts to a break in the stalemate, Adolpho Birch, the N.F.L.’s senior vice president for labor policy and government affairs, sent a letter last Friday to Peter Carmen, the chief operating officer of Oneida Indian Nation. Mr. Birch suggested that they meet before their previously scheduled meeting on Nov. 22.
“We respect that people have differing views,” said Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the N.F.L. “It is important that we listen to all perspectives.”
Ms. Harjo, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, spent her first 11 years on a farm in an Oklahoma reservation. Her family’s home had no indoor plumbing or electricity, and her idea of wealth was to have ice cubes in her drink, she said. Ms. Harjo’s great-grandfather was Chief Bull Bear, who battled the government over land in the 1800s. As a teenager, she lived with her family in Naples, Italy, where her father was stationed in the United States Army.
After returning to the United States, Ms. Harjo moved to New York to work in radio and theater production. There, she met Frank Ray Harjo and had two children. They worked to promote religious freedom and civil rights and co-produced “Seeing Red,” a biweekly radio program devoted to Native American news and analysis on WBAI-FM. Ms. Harjo also produced hundreds of plays and other programs and helped an improvisational theatrical group.
In 1974, she left for Washington to work as a legislative liaison for two law firms involved in American Indian rights. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed her a Congressional liaison for Indian Affairs, which allowed her to help draft legislation to protect Indian lands and tribal government tax status. She also worked for the National Congress of American Indians.
Ms. Harjo has spoken regularly on the issue of team names and held protests, including one at the Super Bowl in 1992, in Minneapolis, when the Redskins played the Buffalo Bills. At the time, Stephen R. Baird, a young lawyer who had clerked in federal court in Washington, was preparing a law review article on an obscure part of the Lanham Act that forbids trademarks that disparage people.
“There was really no precedent,” said Mr. Baird, who now works for Winthrop & Weinstine in Minneapolis. “So I asked, Why hasn’t anyone challenged them on that basis?”
Mr. Baird approached Ms. Harjo, and in September 1992 a legal battle began when Harjo et al. v. Pro Football Inc., the corporate name of the Redskins, was filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. After the three-judge panel agreed to remove the protections, the case was appealed, and a federal judge overturned the decision, saying that the plaintiffs had waited too long to file their case, something that Ms. Harjo and others call a technicality. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.
“Those of us who were plaintiffs have passed on, and many of us have become grandfathers and grandmothers, and our hair has turned grayer, and still we haven’t been heard on our merits,” said Manley A. Begay Jr., a co-plaintiff who teaches at the University of Arizona. Referring to a once common term for blacks, he added, “After Sambo was removed years and years ago, we still have to deal with these mascots.”
To get around the court’s argument that too much time had passed, Ms. Harjo organized another case with younger American Indian plaintiffs. Oral arguments in that case were heard in March, and Ms. Harjo and others expect a decision perhaps by the end of the year. They are optimistic because, among other things, both sides agreed to recycle the records from the Harjo case as the foundation for this one.
Even if Ms. Harjo and her compatriots prevail in that case, Mr. Snyder will still be able to use the Redskins name. But the federal government would no longer be obliged to protect the team’s trademarks, and thus less likely to seize counterfeit goods, a potentially expensive exemption that could hit the team and league in the pocketbook.
“You’re not just dealing with the Washington franchise, but the whole of the N.F.L.,” Ms. Harjo said. “It’s one monolith after another laden with money and the power it represents.”