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National Briefs


National Briefs: January 2015
Tuesday, January 13 2015
 
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DOJ DECIDES TRIBES CAN LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

WASHINGTON – In a memo released on Dec. 11, the U.S. Justice Department outlined new policies allowing tribes to grow and sell marijuana on reservation lands.

The new federal policy will allow tribes interested in growing and selling marijuana to do so, if they maintain "robust and effective regulatory systems," John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, told media. Tribes will need to avoid eight enforcement triggers that currently apply to state marijuana sales, including a prohibition on sales to minors and the diversion of marijuana to states where it remains illegal under local law.

Of the 326 federally-recognized reservations, many are in states that currently do not allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General's Subcommittee on Native American Issues said.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.

“Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement reads.

While possession of marijuana is still a federal crime, the department announced in August 2013 it would allow states to regulate recreational marijuana sales. The nation's first recreational pot stores opened in Colorado and Washington in 2014. Residents of Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted in November to also legalize marijuana, though Congress appears likely to block sales in the nation’s capital.


National Briefs: December 2014
Friday, January 09 2015
 
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SUZAN SHOWN HARJO RECEIVED PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM

WASHINGTON – Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne-Hodulgee Muscogee) an advocate and activist recently known for her efforts to change the mascot of the Washington NFL team, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24. In addition, Shown Harjo dedicated her life to activism, fighting for tribal sovereignty and preservation, while inspiring Native American youth.

“Through her work in government and as the head of the National Congress of American Indians and the Morningstar Institute, she has helped preserve a million acres of Indian land; helped develop laws preserving tribal sovereignty; she’s repatriated sacred cultural items to tribes while expanding museums that celebrate Native life,” President Barack Obama said. “Because of Suzan, more young Native Americans are growing up with pride in their heritage and with faith in their future. And she’s taught all of us that Native values make Americans stronger.”

Harjo was in good company, with notables ranging from actress Meryl Streep to musician Stevie Wonder, 19 honorees in total: Alvin Ailey, Isabel Allende, Tom Brokaw, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Mildred Dresselhaus, John Dingell, Ethel Kennedy, Abner Mikva, Patsy Takemoto Mink, Edward Roybal, Charles Sifford, Robert Solow, Stephen Sondheim and Marlo Thomas.


National Briefs: November 2014
Saturday, November 01 2014
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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TULALIP CITIZENS GRIEVE AFTER SCHOOL SHOOTING

TULALIP, Wash. – Leaders and citizens of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington expressed shock following a fatal shooting at a local public school that left three young people dead and three others injured.

News reports identified the shooter as a 14 year-old tribal citizen who took his life after opening fire at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Oct. 24. Two teenage students were killed while three others – including two other tribal citizen – remained in the hospital in critical condition.

Tribal citizens came together on Oct. 26 for a vigil for the victims and their families. Tribal Chairman Herman Williams said the local community will remain united as the healing process begins.

“As we grieve in the wake of this tragedy, the Tulalip Tribes and the City of Marysville stand together, united in sorrow but determined to bring healing to our communities," Williams said in a press release. "The strong working relationship we have built over many years has proven critical as we continue to respond to this unimaginable event. Our priority is now on our children and young people.”

Condolences also poured in from Indian Country. Brian Cloodosby, the chairman of the Swinomish Tribe reached out to his fellow tribe in Washington. "As a father and grandfather, my thoughts and prayers are with my Tulalip relatives … All of Indian Country is holding the Tulalip people in our thoughts and prayers."

NCAI's executive leaders also offered a statement in the wake of the tragedy. “We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Marysville-Pilchuck High School on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the students of Marysville School District, and the Tulalip tribes.”

“It is at times like these that Native communities from all across Indian County come together in support of each other. As Native peoples, we recognize that every youth is sacred. Each of the young people involved in this tragedy represent a loss to the Tulalip tribes and Indian Country – they were sons, daughters, friends, and future leaders of their communities.”

 

HISPANIC CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP JOINS IN MASCOT FIGHT

WASHINGTON – The National Council of La Raza – the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States – called on the NFL and Washington football team owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name.

The council’s board of directors unanimously voted in support of the move Oct. 26. “Our brothers and sisters in the Native American community have been clear and consistent in their call to change both terms and images that they consider demeaning. As an organization committed to fairness and equality for all, NCLR fully supports these efforts,” La Raza President and chief executive Janet Murguía said in a statement. “The Latino community well understands that words matter and that they can denigrate, disparage and dehumanize. We should treat all people with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Snyder has promised to keep the name, which he says honors Native people. The team cited polls showing that a majority of Americans – and even a majority of Native Americans in one 10 year-old survey – do not find the team name offensive.

La Raza had previously joined with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – a coalition of organizations including the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union – in its effort to change the moniker.

Last year, the conference approved a resolution that called on the team to change its name and “refrain from the use of any other images, mascots, or behaviors that are or could be deemed harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples.”

“When groups like La Raza, NAACP, ADL and NCAI are saying in a singular voice that it is time to change this offensive name, it should serve as a wake-up call to the NFL and Dan Snyder that they are on the wrong side of history,” spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation, Joel Barkin said.

 

NAVAJO NATION PRESIDENT JOINS WASHINGTON TEAM OWNER AT GAME

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ben Shelly, the president of the Navajo Nation, and his wife Martha sat with the Washington football team's owner Dan Snyder in a suite during an Oct. 12 game.

Shelly, who was not re-elected to office in the tribe's primary in August, said during the summer that he believes the Washington team name is offensive. In April, the Navajo Nation attempted to distance itself from a charity golf tournament designed to raise scholarships for college students that was sponsored by KTNN-AM (its Navajo-language radio station) and the Washington team's Original Americans Foundation.

“The Washington [team is] proud to have President Ben Shelly and the Navajos along with Zuni and other Western tribes that joined us at the game today,” spokesman Tony Wyllie, the team's vice president of communications said. “This is representative of the support we have among Native Americans nationwide.”

Before the game, approximately 75 people protested the team outside the University of Phoenix Stadium. Signs at the protest, which began three hours prior to kickoff, featured slogans like, “Game over for racism” and “Snyder can't buy my support."

 


National Briefs: October 2014
Monday, October 06 2014
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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FINAL ROUND OF PAYMENTS MADE IN COBELL SETTLEMENT

HELENA, MT – Hundreds of thousands of Native Americans received the final cash payments the week of Sept. 16 from one of the largest government settlements in U.S. history, about three years after the deal was approved.

Checks ranging from $869 to $10 million were sent beginning on Sept. 16 to more than 493,000 people by the administrators of the $3.4 billion settlement from a class-action lawsuit filed by the late Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. Approximately $941 million was distributed in this second round of payments.

Cobell, the former Blackfeet tribal treasurer, sued after finding the government squandered billions of dollars in royalties for land it held in trust for individual Indians that was leased for development, exploration or agriculture. The mismanagement stretched back to the 1880s, the lawsuit found. She died of cancer in 2011, after more than 15 years of doggedly pursuing the lawsuit, rallying Native Americans around the cause and lobbying members of Congress for its approval.

Cobell was present when a federal judge approved the settlement just months before her death. But it took years to work through the appeals and then sort through incomplete and erroneous information provided by the government to identify all the beneficiaries. Some 22,000 people listed in the data provided had died, while 1,000 more listed as dead were still alive, according to officials.

The payments are the second of two distributions in the settlement. The first distributions of $1,000 apiece went to more than 339,000 people. This second, final round of distributions is based on a formula looking at 10 years of the highest earnings on those individual landowners’ accounts.

The settlement also includes a $1.9 billion land buy-back program now underway in which willing landowners sell the government their land allotments to be consolidated and turned over to the tribes.

 


National Briefs: September 2014
Monday, September 08 2014
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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VIDEO CALLS OUT FEDEX FOR WASHINGTON TEAM SPONSORSHIP

PAWHUSKA, Okla. – The Native Voice Network released a video on Sept. 7, urging the courier company FedEx to end its corporate sponsorship of the Washington NFL team. The release was timed to coincide with the team's season opener.

Native Voice Network is a coalition of 25 Native American organizations and commissioned the online Native comedy troupe 1491s' Ryan Redcorn to write and produce the clip titled, “FedEx Fail.”

The video features artist and filmmaker Steven Paul Judd and draws comparisons between racism directed at Native Americans and other ethnicities, Redcorn told media.

NVN spokeswoman Chrissie Castro said what matters most is the mental wellness and stability of Native American children. Castro cited the American Psychological Association’s call to ban Indian mascots on the grounds that such images and language have a negative impact on a Native American child’s self-esteem. "FedEx doesn't think this is a particularly important issue," Castro wrote in a press release. “We do. How can you put a price on our children’s mental health? … We’ve received a lot of negative backlash from proponents of the Washington Team retaining its name. I just have to ask myself, ‘When did America’s pastime become more important than America’s children?’"

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