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Local Briefs
National Briefs: June 2014
Friday, June 06 2014
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN FEDERAL JUDGE CONFIRMED BY SENATE

WASHINGTON, DC – Hopi citizen Diane Humetewa made history on May 14 when the United States Senate confirmed her to serve on the federal bench as judge for the U.S. District Court for Arizona, the first American Indian woman to serve in the federal judiciary.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs applauded Humetewa’s appointment. “Diane Humetewa is an inspiration to Native people, especially Native women across Indian Country. This is an important appointment and long overdue. I’m pleased that the Senate came together in a bipartisan way to get this done. As the only Native American in active service on the federal bench, Diane provides much-needed expertise on the complexities of federal law and Indian sovereignty.”

Until her confirmation, Humetewa served as Special Advisor to the President and Special Counsel in the Office of General Counsel at Arizona State University. She is also a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

From 2002 to 2007, Humetewa was an Appellate Court Judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court. From 2009 to 2011, Humetewa was Of Counsel with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona from 1996 to 2009, serving as Senior Litigation Counsel from 2001 to 2007 and as the United States Attorney from 2007 to 2009. During her tenure in the United States Attorney’s Office, Humetewa also served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General from 1996 to 1998.

From 1993 to 1996, she was Deputy Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Humetewa received her Juris Doctor in 1993 from Arizona State University College of Law and her Bachelor’s of Science in 1987 from Arizona State.

On February 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Humetewa’s nomination. Previously, Humetewa served as a prosecutor and an appellate court judge for the Hopi Nation, and was the first Native American woman to serve as a U.S. Attorney.


An Open Letter About “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” in Minneapolis
Thursday, June 05 2014
 
Written by Rhiana Yazzie, New Native Theatre,
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 rhiana yazzie 2.jpgDoes Minnesota know itself well enough to responsibly produce a show like “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?” The title makes the play sound like a fun, maybe even gory, critique of our seventh president, about whom most Americans have heard contradictory ideas. Whether or not we've investigated the subject, it sounds like attending this play will likely cast a clearer light on a shadowy part of American history, one that might include a critique of the spectacular violence waged from 1829-1837 by the slave-holding president dubbed Old Hickory.

Maybe the play will take Andrew Jackson's campaign of ethnic cleansing head on? Maybe it will acknowledge the thousands of Native Americans he killed. As a Native American, a playwright, a musical theater fan and artistic director of New Native Theatre, I say right on. What a wonderful opportunity and contribution to American theatre to see a play responsibly take up these important issues, issues that have determined Native American inclusion and access. We need as many advocates in the media as we can get.

But that's not what happens, instead this script, written by J. Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers reinforces stereotypes and leaves me assaulted, manipulated and devastatingly used as a means to a weak and codependent end.

On June 6, 2014, Minneapolis Musical Theatre opens “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” a co-production with the Hennepin Theatre Trust. It's taken four years for any company in the Twin Cities to approach this offensive play since it debuted in New York in 2010.

Could it be because in Minnesota we have a relationship with Native Americans and their experience collectively embraced? Could it be that we know our history, the legacy of the vicious founding of this state and its violent dealings with Native Americans? Could it also be because Minneapolis is home to the founding of the American Indian Movement? Could it be for these reasons we can see that the play is an exercise in racial slurs against Native Americans justified with a thin coating of white shaming? Why would we together be bothered with it then?

But soon it will be performed and the character Andrew Jackson written by Alex Timbers and J. Michael Freedman will spew unchallenged racial epithets five times a week on soil that is still yet recovering from our own troubled history. Soil where blood has been spilled and land has been taken and people have been shoved aside. There is nothing about this history that is "all sexy pants," to quote the marketing machine that accompanied this show.

The truth is that Andrew Jackson was not a rock star and his campaign against tribal people – known so briefly in American history textbooks as the Indian Removal Act is not a farcical backdrop to some emotive, brooding celebrity. Can you imagine a show wherein Hitler was portrayed as a justified, sexy rock star? This play exacerbates the already deficient knowledge our country has when it comes to Native history; in that context, a false story about this country and our engagement with Native American people is unforgivable.

Minneapolis Recognizes Indigenous Peoples Day
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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mpls recognizes indigenous peoples day 3.jpgMarking a milestone in tribal relations, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on April 25 to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October, effectively replacing Columbus Day on the civic calendar.

The gesture by the city government speaks to years of struggle for recognition and equity by members of the city's Native American population. As one of the cities with a high Native population in the country and birthplace of the American Indian Movement, it hasn't been until recently that city officials embraced its indigenous history. In 2012 on the sesquicentennial of the Dakota War, efforts began to understand the state's history from a Native perspective.

To that end, momentum has been building in the community – focused through the Native American Community Development Institute – to address issues of equity and justice. The organization, led by Jay Bad Heart Bull (Oglala/Hunkpapa) and Daniel Yang (Anishinabe) utilized its political and human capital to build a dialogue with city leaders, beginning with last year's mayoral election.

Then mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges committed to taking Native issues seriously at the city level during her campaign in the summer and fall of last year. Along with Council Rep. Alondra Cano (Ward 9) and policy aide Ashley Fairbanks (Anishinabe), the effort went into full force last month when the resolution to change the name of the holiday was drafted.

Members of the Native community filled the city council chambers while Clyde Bellecourt, American Indian Movement co-founder, Bill Means, International Indian Treaty Council, and Deanna Standing Cloud, Red Lake Nation, addressed the city council.

“I'm here to take a stand so my daughter Breanna and my son Nigozis are able to grow up in a city where they feel safe, respected and honored. Replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in the city of Minneapolis would show my children that it's never too late for healing and reconciliation to occur between communities and throughout Turtle Island,” Standing Cloud said.

Minneapolis State of the City Addresses Native Issues
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Jamie Keith,
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minneapolis state of the city addresses native issues 3.jpgFor the first time in the history of the city, Mayor Betsy Hodges selected the Minneapolis American Indian Center as the site of her State of the City address on April 24. Drum group Ringing Shield performed at the opening of the speech. Daniel Yang, Director of Organizing and Community Building at the Native American Community Development Institute, and Bill Means, co-founder of the International Indian Treaty Council, introduced the mayor.

Yang commended Hodges for continuing to engage the Native community in discussions about citywide issues. “The hard truth is, more often than not, like in so many communities of color, we don't see those who ask for our votes again until four to six years later when the next election rolls around,” he said.

Yang also spoke on the importance of the Minneapolis city council's vote on the Indigenous People's Day Resolution, which would be recognized in place of Columbus Day. “If it's important for the City of Minneapolis to have all of its residents feel respected, dignified, and valued, this is an important step in healing the pain that is associated with this day and the Indigenous people that call this place home,” he said.

Means talked about historical aspects of Indigenous people's relationships with the city of Minneapolis while looking forward to the future of their interactions. “This is an historic day because it is recognition of the contributions of Indian people to this great city, starting with the basic ingredient – the land,” he said. “Today begins a continuation of the reconciliation with Indian people, the recognition of the contributions of Indian people and the recognition of our rights and our responsibilities to our communities.”

Many other leaders in the Native community feel that the State of the City address marks an important step in bringing Indigenous issues into discussions about citywide policies. Bill Ziegler, Chief Executive Officer of Little Earth of United Tribes, said that the speech shows solidarity between the issues faced in the Native community and Minneapolis as a whole.

“I think the significance of this event happening here at the Indian Center on Franklin Avenue is a way for the mayor's office to say and show the American Indian community that our issues are also issues that face the rest of the city and that we're going to be given the respect to have our voices at the table and be taken seriously,” he said. “I'm hopeful through Mayor Hodges' leadership that this isn't just a show, that as she goes throughout her term our issues will remain at the forefront of the work that she does."


Jourdain Seeks to Be A Voice for Native Students
Thursday, May 01 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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ira jourdain-web.jpgRaising the profile on Native American student issues and accountability are the top priorities for Ira Jourdain in his bid for the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education.

The Red Lake citizen and father of four – two of whom are enrolled in the city's school system – sees equity, its allocation and application to minority students as a primary means to bridge the achievement gap. “The way the formula works is equity and equality: everybody gets the same amounts, no matter what. But that's just not conducive to our kids, especially our Native kids and African American kids, who go to what they call the low-performing schools. These are schools that obviously need more funding, need more resources. And then that's where equity comes into place, to me it's reallocating our resources and putting those resources into schools that need them the most.”

Though any primary campaign can produce candidates who speak in broad generalities, Jourdain links together problems and solutions for the Native community, which has continually under-achieved when compared to others. “A lot of our kids go to low-performing schools that affect their housing, that affect employment. There's a multitude of factors that affect our kids' performances in the schools and it all boils down to plain, old equity,” he said.

Jourdain cites specifics issues and needs that impact student performance such as mental health, behavioral services and social workers. “There's this tremendous need – I've heard this from across the district – for school psychologists to work with our kids on mental and behavioral disorders.”

In addition, Jourdain said that other factors stymying achievement may not always be apparent to school board directors not directly involved with the problems. According to a recent report by the Indian Education Department, Native American students have shown an increase in and remain at the top for homelessness. “We need stronger housing support services. My daughter at Tatanka Academy has had three or four students in her classroom that have moved constantly, throughout the school year, across the district. I was at this recent hearing and the percentage of Native American kids in our district who move constantly is 19 percent who are either homeless or constantly moving residences during the school year.”


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