National Briefs

National Briefs: August 2015
Monday, August 03 2015
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PHILADELPHIA, Miss. – A private autopsy is under way for Rexdale W. Henry, a 53-year-old man found dead inside the Neshoba County Jail on July 14.

According to local media reports, detention offi­cers found Henry’s body around 10 a.m.; he was last seen alive 30 minutes earlier. The state crime lab in Jackson conducted an autopsy and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case.

Funeral services for Henry took place July 19 in Bogue Chitto. A few days later, his body was flown to Florida for an independent autopsy paid for by anonymous donors.

Henry, a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choc­taw and a lifelong community activist, coached stickball and had been a candidate for the Choctaw Tribal Council from Bogue Chitto the week before his arrest on July 9 for failure to pay a fine.

Helping with the family’s independent probe are civil-rights activists John Steele, a close friend of Henry’s, and Diane Nash, a co-founder of the Stu­dent Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as Syracuse University law professors Janis McDon­ald and Paula Johnson of the school’s Cold Case Jus­tice Initiative.

“At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of San­dra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and oth­er minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells,” McDonald said in a statement.

Henry’s death occurred one day after Bland, an African American woman, was found hanging in Texas’ Waller County Jail. Authorities ruled Bland’s death a suicide.

Supporters say the results of the independent au­topsy will be made public when it is complete.

National Briefs: July 2015
Friday, July 10 2015
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – All groups seeking recognition of their status as tribes must follow the same process under a new policy being adopted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The federal acknowledgment process formally began in 1978. Yet some groups have gained recognition, clarification or affirmation of their status through other administrative means.

The forthcoming guidance puts an end to that once and for all. Now that the Part 83 reforms are final, every group will have to follow the same rules.

"The recently revised Part 83 regulations promote fairness, integrity, efficiency and flexibility, Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn wrote in the policy that will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow. "No group should be denied access to other mechanisms if the only administrative avenue available to them is widely considered 'broken.'"

The document doesn't offer specifics but the most recent group that gained recognition outside of the Part 83 process came prior to Washburn's arrival at the BIA. In January 2012, former assistant secretary Larry Echo Hawk placed the Tejon Tribe of California on the list of federally recognized tribes.

Echo Hawk did so without following any sort of "discernible process," the Office of Inspector General at the Interior Department said in an April 2013 report. By that time, the former head of the BIA had left the Obama administration.

In January 2001, the Clinton administration "reaffirmed" the status of the King Salmon Tribe of Alaska, the Sun’aq Tribe in Alaska, and the Lower Lake Rancheria in California. The BIA at the time said they had been mistakenly left off the list of recognized tribes.

Even though questions were raised about those decisions, the new policy won't affect them. The guidance becomes effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register on July 1.

National Briefs: June 2015
Monday, June 08 2015
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GREEN BAY, WI – The Oneida Nation of Wisconsin is the latest in Indian Country to join the marriage equality movement.

Tribal law currently defines a marriage as a union between a "husband and wife." The phrase will now be replaced by the word "spouses."

Members of the business committee unanimously approved the change at a meeting on May 26. The new law goes into effect on June 10.


SALT LAKE CITY – Native American students at public schools in Utah are more likely to face harsher punishment than their peers, according to a new study.

Based on data from the Department of Education, researcher Vanessa Walsh found that Indian students are 3.8 times as likely to face disciplinary action compared to their white counterparts. They are 7.5 times more likely to be expelled and 7.1 times as likely to be referred to law enforcement.

"Utah is pushing American Indian students into the pipeline at alarming rates," Walsh wrote in “Disparities in Discipline: A Look at School Disciplinary Actions for Utah's American Indian Students.” "In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, this student population comprised the smallest student demographic in the state and the was most frequently expelled, referred to law enforcement, and arrested for school related incidents—all the most severe forms of school disciplinary action," the report stated.

The study contained some alarming examples of how Indian students are singled out. Fifty-five students, from kindergarten through sixth grade, were referred to law enforcement in 2011, compared to zero for white students.

More recently, two Indian students were reported to law enforcement for drinking two soda bottles from a refrigerator in the teacher's lounge. "This is a theft," the disciplinary report stated. Natives represent just 1.3 percent of the student body yet they account for a larger percentage of disciplinary actions, according to the study. In the Murray school district, for example, the disparity was incredibly high – nearly 50 percent of Indian students received a disciplinary action, compared to around 11 percent for white students.

Only 65 percent of Indian students finish high school, according to 2014 data cited by the study.

Thursday, May 07 2015
Written by The Circle Staff,
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brian_cladoosby-ncai-bw-web.jpgWASHINGTON, D.C. – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's comparisons of Islamic terrorism to the cowboys and Indians stereotype drew fire from the National Congress of American Indians on May 7.

In his presidential run announcement on May 5, Huckabee said, “When I hear our current president say he wants Christians to get off their high horse so we can make nice with radical jihadists, I wonder if he can watch a western from the ‘50s and be able to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys really are.”

NCAI President Brian Cladoosby released the following response in reaction to Governor Mike Huckabee’s quote: “This week I learned about Governor Huckabee’s speech announcing his candidacy for U.S. President and was dismayed to hear him compare Native Americans to jihadists.”

“There are many things we have left behind from the 1950’s, including overt racism and sexism. We hope that the old trope of the Indians as the bad guys in Western movies is also left behind. It is hurtful when public officials use stereotypes of Indians as the 'bad guys.' Even if it is a metaphorical expression, racial stereotypes should be avoided. It is particularly hurtful to suggest that Americans should reflexively identify images of Native people defending our homelands as the 'bad guys.'”

National Briefs: May 2015
Monday, May 04 2015
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – President Barack Obama reached out to Native youth on April 25, inviting them the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering this summer.

In a video message delivered to the 32rd annual Gathering of Nations powwow in New Mexico, Obama said he was inspired by the youth he and First Lady Michelle Obama met during their visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in June 2014. The historic trip was his first to Indian Country as president.

"Their resilience, pride and optimism in the face of incredible obstacles moved us deeply," Obama said of the youth from the reservation, whom he later invited to Washington, D.C., in November. "I know that many Native youth share the same experiences."

Obama is hoping that same spirit will return to the nation's capital on July 9, when his administration hosts the inaugural Native youth event. He urged powwow participants to join Generation Indigenous and engage their communities through the Youth Challenge. Applications are due May 8 so Native youth only have two more weeks to complete the challenge. The conference is open to Native youth ages 14-24 from "rural or urban communities," the White House said.

The goal is to select some 800 Native youth to attend the gathering, whose theme is "Two Worlds, One Future: Defining Our Own Success." The event will be held at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel.

The youth will meet with administration officials and the White House Council on Native American Affairs, an inter-agency body chaired by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Additional details will be shared as the event approaches, so it's likely the conference will also include a visit to the White House by some participants.

Although Obama wasn't at the powwow, two representatives of the White House were there – Raina Thiele, who is Alaska Native, and Jodi Gillette, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Thiele works in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Gillette serves as the president's senior advisor for Native American Affairs.

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