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Editorials
Shame on you, Senator Klobuchar!
Wednesday, February 08 2017
 
Written by The Circle,
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The U.S. Forest Service just signed off on transferring 6,650 acres of public lands in the Superior National Forest to PolyMet. That’s where the ore body is located that the company wants to mine – on public land, YOUR land.

Senator Amy Klobuchar has some explaining to do. She sits on a committee that directly oversees Forest Service actions involving land exchanges and was petitioned by over 350 Minnesotans this past summer to push for congressional hearings on the matter. But she totally blew us off. 

This particular slice of the Superior National Forest is home to lots of plants, animals, wetlands and streams. Computer modeling shows that contaminated water from the mine will drain both south to Lake Superior and north to the Boundary Waters and that water treatment will be needed “indefinitely.”

It seemed reasonable to request congressional hearings. The petition didn’t even ask Senator Klobuchar to vote one way or the other on the issue. All we wanted was for our own senator, who happens to sit on a key committee, to give us a fair shake.
The stack of petitions was hand delivered to Klobuchar’s Virginia office in August. But Klobuchar ignored it – didn’t even send a letter to explain her views. It appears she’s only interested in listening to Minnesotans who are in the “U-Rah-Rah Mining” camp.
 But what about the rest of us who are also her constituents? What about Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters? What about all the plants, birds and animals who deserve to live and thrive in their native environment instead of being scraped away?
The Forest Service decision is subject to 30-day Congressional oversight requirements. The clock started ticking January 9th, so there’s still time to request hearings. Call Senator Klobuchar at 1-888-224-9043.
Laura Gauger, Duluth, MN

Open Letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on ACA (Obamacare)
Wednesday, February 08 2017
 
Written by The Circle,
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Dear Mr. Speaker,
If successful, the Republican campaign to abolish the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would repeal authorization for the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act (IHCIA), which was included in the  ACA, and repeal other provisions that increased access to care for American Indians and Alaska  Natives. Destroying the ACA will make America sick again, including Native Americans who already are disproportionately burdened by disease. We write to urge Congressional Republicans to reconsider the harmful impacts of ACA repeal on the First Americans we represent.  

The Indian Health Service (IHS) provides healthcare for approximately 2.2 million Native  Americans and Alaska Natives in 36 states, including inpatient, emergency, ambulatory, and  dental care. IHS programs also provide preventive care aimed at reducing unacceptably high  rates of infant mortality, diabetes, hepatitis B, alcoholism, and suicide among American Indians  and Alaska Natives.  

The Indian Health Service also funds construction and maintenance of hospitals and health centers, as well as water supply and sanitation facilities. The IHS has documented decreased rates of certain diseases among American Indians and Alaska Natives thanks to improvements in sanitation facilities.    

The Indian Healthcare Improvement Act (IHCIA) was originally passed in 1976 but prior to passage of the ACA, authorization for the law’s programs had been lapsed for nearly a decade.  The ACA included a permanent authorization, as well as significant improvements to the IHCIA.  

The ACA expanded access to preventive and treatment services within IHS, including within urban areas in which the vast majority of Native Americans and Alaska Natives live. Those efforts included expanding mental health services, including programs related to youth suicide,  to create a comprehensive behavioral health and treatment program within IHS. The ACA also allowed Urban Indian Organizations and Tribal Organizations to apply for grants and contracts,  including through the Substance Abuse and Services Administration, for which they previously  were not eligible.  

The ACA also created a framework for Tribal health authorities to work with the Department of  Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to offer health services to Native veterans. This  gives IHS a more prominent role in advocating for Indian Country within the Department of  Health and Human Services and improves cost collection procedures between IHS and federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid.  

Perhaps most important, the ACA made IHS programs eligible for reimbursement through Medicare Part B, meaning that not only could hospital services be covered, but also services provided by physicians.  
Repealing the Affordable Care Act would erase these programs and services.  

Repealing the ACA threatens to turn the clock back for those 20 million Americans who gained health insurance thanks to the law; a time when those with pre-existing conditions could not get insurance and when young people were pushed off their parent’s insurance before they could afford coverage of their own.  

But for the First Americans, access to quality healthcare continues to lag far behind that available outside Indian Country. Repealing the ACA could set many American’s back years, but it could set the First Americans back decades, if not return them to the healthcare dark ages. This vulnerable population – already the victim of historic, shameful mistreatment by the United  States government – deserves better. We should be taking further steps forward toward  improving the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives, rather than taking a giant leap  back by repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Raul M. Grijalva, Ranking Member, House Natural Resources Committee
Frank Pallone, Jr., Ranking Member, House Energy and Commerce Committee

Bad Hunter: The Inner Thinkings of the Rare Native Vegan
Monday, January 09 2017
 
Written by Maggie Lorenz,
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In March of last year I made a decision that had been a long time coming and has changed the course of my life. It’s something that I avoided doing for a long time because it threatened my sense of identity as a Dakota woman – it set me apart from some of our deepest and longest held traditions. But typical to my personality, I did it because I want to have my (vegan) cake and eat it, too. In March, I became an Indigenous Vegan. A Bad Hunter. Like a unicorn, I became something people didn’t think existed in real life.

Why? Is it because I didn’t grow up with my ways? Is it because I am half white? Is it because I have some class privilege that allows me to be super picky with my food? I mean, maybe. Maybe those things have something to do with it. I yam what I yam (and yams are a great vegan food). But the thing is, as I think about our beautiful traditions and teachings, I don’t see being vegan as blasphemous to our culture, and I’ll tell you why.

Most people choose to go vegan for one of three reasons: environment, ethics, and health. My reasons for being vegan are in this exact order. Being a typical Indian woman, I put everyone else before me. Like our incredible Water Protectors holding ground at Standing Rock, you can be sure they aren’t there for themselves. They are there for their kids, their people, the millions of people downriver, the generations to come, and the plants and animals that also depend on a clean river system. As Indian people, our circle of compassion has always included non-humans– the four legged, winged, finned, the plants, water, earth and sky. It is in adhering to this tradition that being vegan makes sense as a Dakota woman.

Right now, animal agriculture is responsible for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s right. More than half! It dwarfs the entire transportation system’s 13% impact with a staggering 51% of emissions being a direct result of raising animals for food. As a vegan, you can literally cut your carbon footprint in half. If you want to save this planet for future generations, reducing your shower time just ain’t gonna cut it.

For example, to produce one hamburger, 660 gallons of clean water was used in the process. That’s the same as showering for 2 months. For everyone’s sake, take your showers and just skip the burger. And think about this: the waste from a mid-size diary operation creates as much annual waste as a city of over 400,000 people. And here I am rinsing out my dairy milk jug to recycle it because I care about waste. It just wasn’t adding up. I knew the environmental impact was incredible, but if I went vegan, I’d be THAT lady. I did NOT want to be THAT lady.

Talking about the environmental impact of animal agriculture has gone over pretty well with non-vegans, but nothing shuts down a conversation quite like bringing up the ethical implications of eating animals. Stick with me here, I promise not to be THAT lady. But here’s the thing I have come to realize. The way our meat gets to our dinner plate today is nothing like the process our ancestors used. On a basic level, we all know this. Most of us urban, and even rez Indian’s aren’t out there hunting our own free roaming buffalo, elk, deer, and rabbits (although some of us do). But let’s face it, even if we do eat wild hunted game, for most of us, it’s not where most of our meat comes from.

So let’s think about that for a second. And I should say, I am not one of those vegans who think that killing is immoral. I am not vegan because I believe killing animals is inherently wrong. This kinda ticks off a lot of other vegans, and sometimes they tell me that this belief means I am not really vegan. Even so, there are societies of people who still survive by hunting and gathering and I don’t find any ethical problems with that. I don’t find any ethical problems with the fact that our ancestors were a hunter-gatherer society. Some vegans even think it’s a problem that lions eat zebras. Well, I don’t. So, if I don’t find killing animals to be ethically problematic, then what is the problem?

I strongly believe that if you don’t have to take a life, you shouldn’t. This belief is in line with our Dakota ways. For example, the highest honor one could receive in battle was counting coup on your enemy, not taking their life. Obviously our ancestors ate animals to survive. They used the furs and skins, bones and teeth, flesh and organs. Nothing went to waste. The animals we depended on for survival were honored and revered. Fast forward a couple hundred years, and we don’t have to eat animals to survive. We don’t need meat to get protein and iron. We don’t have to drink milk for calcium and vitamin D. We have fully stocked grocery stores year round, and black beans are a beast of protein. We don’t need the skins of other animals to stay warm and sheltered. We don’t need horses and dogs to do our work for us, that’s what that old pick up truck is for. So, there is the problem of taking a life when it’s unnecessary for our survival.

But wait, there’s more. Once you allow yourself to see the reality of life for these animals on Factory Farms, and what kind of death they meet at the slaughterhouse, you can’t un-know that reality. They are treated as mere units of production, not the living, breathing, feeling creatures that they are. No honor, no reverence. These animals are treated worse than dirt. The complete lack of regard for their lives is so far out of line with our teachings of respect, compassion, humility – but the industry is good at hiding what happens in those big, stinking, windowless animal warehouses. Hate me for it, but I am here to remind you of what happens in there. Because as Indian people, we know more than anyone what it feels like to be voiceless and treated as if your life doesn’t matter.

Finally, let’s get selfish and think about our own health. Did you know that milk and hamburgers are responsible for more than 30% of all breast cancer cases? (Research Bovine Leukemia Virus and breast cancer). Did you know that milk actually leaches calcium from your bones, which is why America consumes the most dairy and yet, has the highest rate of osteoporosis in the world. Did you know that quinoa and wild rice are complete proteins? Did you know that three out of the four leading causes of death are related to diet, and that a plant based diet can prevent and in many cases, reverse, those diseases? Did you know there is plenty of evidence that a plant-based diet can reverse type 2 diabetes? 

I forced this diet on my husband because I don’t want to see him suffer. I want to grow old together. I am forcing it on my kids too, because I love them and want them to be healthy and happy. Did you know that the hormones in meat and dairy are linked to early onset puberty, childhood cancer, and an array of developmental problems? Don’t take my word for any of this, do your own research. All the information is out there.

First thing: Get educated. Got Netflix? You can start by watching Cowspiracy, a documentary about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Or Forks Over Knives, which delves into the health benefits of a plant-based diet. If you want to know what’s happening to the animals on Factory Farms, you can check out Earthlings on YouTube, but be warned, it has been called “The Vegan Maker” because it’s really hard to watch and continue eating animals. Another YouTube channel that provides short videos with great info on all areas of veganism is Bite Size Vegan, or you could check out the health related videos by Dr. Greger from NurtrionFacts.org.

Second thing: Get cooking. Need some vegan recipes? Try OhSheGlows.com or MinimalistBaker.com. I get most my recipes from those two websites. Or you could just friend me on FaceBook, because I am always posting recipes. Just google “Vegan Recipe for _________” and you’ll see that being vegan doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite foods.

So here’s the thing. I’m vegan, and I think you should join the club. But if you aren’t ready for that leap, do what I did for years before taking the plunge. Take steps. First thing I did was cut out dairy. Most Indian’s are lactose intolerant, so giving it up will save you from some GI distress, and save your family from your cheese farts.

After that, you might want to cut down on how often you eat meat, or maybe you start only buying grass-fed, organic, or free range meat and eggs from a local farmer. Maybe you cut out eating eggs and chicken because you love birds and want to start there. But I am asking you to start making changes towards a plant-based diet because it is the ONLY sustainable option to feed the 7+ billion people on this planet.

The world has changed so much in the last two hundred years it is barely recognizable. Indigenous cultures, however, are slow to change, but they can and do when it makes sense to do so. Women never used to sundance or wipe down in sweat, but circumstances changed, and with that, we changed our traditions. So too, have the circumstances changed with our population, food, and health. With those changes, we have to consider what is the best thing we can do to for the Oyate, Unci Maka, and Seven Generations.

Trump’s cabinet picks should concern everyone who is not a billionaire
Monday, January 09 2017
 
Written by Cat Whipple,
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Being a daily Facebook user, I read lots of anti-Trump (and some pro-Trump) posts. It’s alarming for me to see pro-Trump people telling us to “get over it” and “we won, you lost, move on” as though this were a football game. It’s scary to me, and many others, that the pro-Trump people don’t see how dangerous this man is to almost every group in the U.S., except for the very rich. There are many reasons for concern on the civil liberties end, as well as the environmental side.

Trump has continually trashed the press, calling them liars and propaganda machines for the left. During his campaign Trump blacklisted several news outlets and threatened legal actions against other news organizations. He has been quoted as saying he would like to “open up those libel laws” in order to sue papers who write negative things about him, and that he could “make lots of money.” Trump is a danger to the freedom of the press. And freedom of the press is crucial to a democratic society.

Trump ran on a promise to “drain the swamp” of political insiders and lobbyists. But he is now expanding the swamp and stocking it with even bigger and meaner alligators. According to the Washington Post, “Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused Trump of trying to seat a “rigged Cabinet” of nominees who “have made billions off the industries they’d be tasked with regulating.”

Some of his cabinet picks that should be cause for alarm include:

  • Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) – Sessions is Trump’s pick for Attorney General. According to the Washington Post, “In 1986, a Senate committee denied Sessions, then a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama, a federal judgeship. His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” Sessions has called civil rights groups “un-American” and “Communist-inspired, ” saying that they are trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people.”
  • Betsy DeVos – DeVos has been named for Secretary of Education. A billionaire and former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan, as well as chair of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children, DeVos has been working to pass laws that require the use of public funds to pay for private school tuition in the form of vouchers and similar programs. Her overall goal seems to be the using of taxpayer dollars for private and religious schools, and putting Christianity back in schools. She also supports anti-gay causes, including “conversion therapy” aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation.
  • Georgia Congressman Tom Price – Price, who would be in control of Health and Human Services, wants to privatize Medicare and get rid of Planned Parenthood. According to the New York Times, Cecile Richards (president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America) said that Price, “poses a grave threat to women’s health” and that as health secretary he “could take women back decades.”
  • Scott Pruitt – Trump has selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is a skeptic of climate change. He has repeatedly sued the EPA in an effort to push back regulations aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. And he has worked to overturn clean air and water rules. On his Linked In page, Pruitt brags about being “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Pruitt is no friend to Mother Earth, and his leading the EPA is akin to a fox saying he will make sure the hen house is protected.
  • Goldman Sachs – While on the campaign trail, Trump attacked Hillary Clinton for doing a speaking engagement for Goldman Sachs. But he has now opened the White House doors  and invited Goldman Sachs in. Steven Mnuchin is his pick for Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin spent 17 years working at Goldman Sachs. On CNBC’s  “Squawk Box” Mnuchin was quoted as saying, “We’re going to cut corporate taxes … we’re going to get to 15 percent.” Steve Bannon (a White Supremacist), who spent his early career at the bank, is Trump’s chief strategist. And Anthony Scaramucci, who also worked at Goldman Sachs, is one of Trump’s top transition advisers. In other words, the Trump administration will focus on cutting taxes for the rich, and weakening bank regulations that protect everyday people.
  • Rex Tillerson – ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson has been tapped for Secretary of State. Tillerson lead the way for ExxonMobil’s partnerships with a Russian energy company and has close ties to President Vladimir Putin, who gave him the Russian Order of Friendship. Given that the Russians hacked Clinton’s emails and helped Trump win the election, any ties that Tillerson has with Russia should be cause for great alarm. Not only that, Tillerson has been fighting for ExxonMobil’s interest for decades. Ken Kimmell, the president of Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement that the choice of Tillerson was analogous to choosing the CEO of a tobacco company for surgeon general because of his conflicts of interest. “Why would you pick the leader of an oil and gas corporation to spearhead a position tasked with national security and global climate action?” he asked. (The Guardian.)
  • The military in civilian positions – Trump has named three retired generals to top posts in cabinet-level positions. Retired four-star Marine general John Kelly has been picked to head the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration and border control, among other issues. Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis was named as defense secretary. And retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was chosen as national security adviser. “One more three- or four-star general given a senior appointment, and we can start referring to a Trump junta rather than a Trump administration,” retired Army lieutenant colonel and military scholar Andrew Bacevich was quoted as saying by Time magazine.

The Trump administration will not be business as usual. With his cabinet picks it is clear that corporations, banks, and millionaires will have a “yuge” say in our government’s policies and laws. And this does not bode well for the average citizen or for the environment.

Don’t forget the Office of Indian Men’s Health
Tuesday, December 06 2016
 
Written by Eric Bothwell, DDS, MPH, PhD and Tamara James, PhD ,
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As the Obama administration winds down its eight years of oversight and support of the health care needs of American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) from federally recognized tribes, a brief reflection on what has been accomplished and what might still be accomplished is worthwhile.

AI/AN witnessed noteworthy milestones throughout the Obama Administration including the Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference and the President’s Executive Order requiring all federal agencies dealing with tribes to develop a tribal consultation policy.  From a funding perspective, the Indian Health Service (IHS) has fared comparatively well during a period when enhancements for such programs were hard fought in Congress. And federally recognized AI/ANs were also included in the Administration’s legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, through the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA).

Unfortunately, many critically needed sections of the IHCIA have yet to be realized. One particularly opportune component is Section 1621V Part A that authorizes the development of an Office of Indian Men’s Health. The logic of this proposal is compelling considering that AI/AN males on some reservations have the lowest life expectancy of any group in America. In addition,  AI/AN males experience death rates two to five times greater than AI/AN females for suicide, HIV/AIDS, homicide, unintentional injuries, diabetes, firearm injury, and alcohol-related deaths, and are 10 to 50 percent higher than AI/AN females for cancer, heart disease, and liver disease.
The inequities suffered by the AI/AN males can be seen in CDC’s National Health Statistic Report (No. 20, March 2010) where AI/AN males displayed greater disparities in health status and general well-being than any racial group. AI/AN men reported the highest distress rates of “feeling hopeless and worthless” of any of the groups. The devastating impact of this despair culminates in the high rates of suicide among these men.

 But before the lives of AI/AN males are taken by these causes, they suffer from multiple debilitating physical and mental conditions. It is clear that dead, sick, and incarcerated AI/AN males are compromised in fulfilling their roles as fathers, husbands, providers, leaders, and contributors to their communities.

We can no longer neglect our male health crisis. In response, many private foundations, states, and cities have developed innovative initiatives and partnerships that specifically prioritize male health.  However, even with mounting concern across the country, no federal health-related agency has established an office committed to addressing male health disparities.
 

The Obama Administration can change the course of male health in America without new appropriations by directing federal agencies to implement offices of male health within existing structures. This should start with establishing the Office of Indian Men’s Health within IHS as authorized by the IHCIA. In 2010, an internal IHS workgroup developed an approach to implement an Office of Indian Men’s Health with as little as a 1.5 FTE commitment and charged with utilizing an entrepreneurial/self-sustaining approach to developing partnerships and coalitions with other agencies and organizations committed to male health equity and leveraging resources. With an anticipated $6.5 billion budget in FY 2017, the IHS could begin the process of turning the curve on male health disparities.

The premature loss of someone’s husband, father, brother, friend, or son results in unmeasurable emotional toil and financial hardship. In addition, the disproportion of U.S. males who have died or whose mental and physical health status compromises their ability to contribute to society represents a real threat to the U.S. successfully competing in the global economy.

The process should begin with the implementation of the Office of Indian Men’s Health authorized by the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.


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