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National Briefs


National Briefs: April 2015
Thursday, April 02 2015
 
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NAVAJO TEEN'S SHORT FILM HOSTED AT THE WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Navajo student Keanu Jones was selected as one of 15 young filmmakers across the country to participate in the second annual White House Student Film Festival.

Jones, an 18 year-old senior at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, said he hopes his three-minute film on his family’s daily struggles helps raise awareness about the fight for water and other natural resources taken from reservations.

The American Film Institute helped select the videos, which were on the theme of “the impact of giving back.” Students behind the 15 winning films, some as young as age 6, were at the White House on March 24 where they got to screen their movies for an East Room audience of filmmakers and celebrities, including Steve McQueen, the Oscar-nominated director behind “12 Years a Slave,” and Academy Award-winning actress Hillary Swank.

“These aren’t just great films, but they’re a great example of how young people are making a difference all around the world,” Obama said to applause from the audience.

Obama used the event to unveil his “Call to Arts” initiative through the Corporation for National and Community Service to help inspire and mentor young artists across the country. The program will work with the American Film Institute, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, whose members have pledged to provide 1 million hours of mentorship to young artists over the next three years.

Keanu’s film, “Giving back the Navajo Way,” told of the Navajo tradition of serving elders despite the sometimes-arduous work needed to do so in Indian Country. Keanu said “simple necessities Americans enjoy like electricity, automatic heaters and running water” may be non-existent in the rural area of Arizona where he is from.

“I’ve never really thought that making a simple three-minute film would even take me to the White House or to see Obama,” Keanu said.

 

HO-CHUNK NATION RAISES MINIMUM WAGE TO $2.75 ABOVE FEDERAL

MADISON, Wis. – The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin has raised its minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The amount is $2.75 above the federal level. It will go into effect in July.

“The cost is high but the return is much greater,” President Jon Greendeer said in a statement. “We can wait until the perpetual debate is resolved or we can just take action ourselves. We chose to make our move and I feel it’s the right one.”

 

 
National Briefs: March 2015
Wednesday, March 11 2015
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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SENATE FAILS TO OVERRIDE KEYSTONE XL VETO

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate failed on March 4 to override President Barack Obama's veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, leaving the controversial project to await an administration decision on whether to permit or deny it.

The Senate mustered just 62 votes in favor of overriding the veto, short of the two-thirds needed. Thirty-seven senators voted to sustain Obama's veto. The Senate action means the House of Representatives will not vote on override. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said pipeline backers will try again to force Obama's hand, by attaching Keystone approval to another bill this year.

The proposed TransCanada pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of mostly Canadian oil sands crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, en route to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast. It has been pending for more than six years over the objection of tribes, landowners and environmental activists.

Republicans support building the pipeline, saying it would create jobs. Obama questioned Keystone XL's employment impact and raised concerns about its effects on climate change.

Obama last month vetoed the bill authorizing the pipeline's construction, saying it had bypassed a final State Department assessment on whether the project would benefit the United States. The department is handling the approval process because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

Once that State Department assessment is in, expected in the coming weeks or months, Obama is expected to make a final decision on permitting for the project.


OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE WANTS TOURNAMENT MOVED OUT OF RAPID CITY

PINE RIDGE, S.D. – Leaders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe are asking the Lakota Nation Invitational board of directors to move the popular event out of Rapid City, S.D.

Tribal leaders are upset by an incident, in which 57 students from the American Horse School on the reservation were allegedly had beer poured on them and racial slurs made about them by white patrons at a Rapid City Rush hockey game last month. They also believe city authorities have not handled the situation well, which resulted in only one misdemeanor of disorderly conduct charge against one person.

Bryan Brewer, a former OST president, founded LNI in 1977 and still sits on the board of directors, he believes leaving Rapid City isn't the right response to the controversy.

But current tribal leaders say they will encourage the tribe and its citizens to boycott LNI if it takes place in Rapid City this December. The tournament, which injects $5 to $6 million into the city's economy, is held at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, the venue where the children were victimized.

 


'Drunktown's Finest' set for theaters nationwide
Tuesday, February 10 2015
 
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drunktowns_finest-web.jpgALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Drunktown’s Finest,” a film by Navajo filmmaker Sydney Freeland, will be released to theaters across the country this spring.

According to a press release, the film’s executive producer Robert Redford will present the film in New York City at the Quad Cinema on Feb. 20 and in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema on Feb. 27 and in the following weeks to select markets across the nation.

"Drunktown's Finest" premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and has since won a number of awards, including the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Narrative and HBO Best First Feature awards at Outfest 2014, as well as Best Film at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco. The film has screened at over 50 film festivals around the world, hailed by Twitch as “a compelling snapshot of contemporary Navajo life.” Filmmaker Magazine lauded Navajo writer/director Freeland for her “authentic voice.”

The film follows three young Navajo — a college-bound Christian girl raised by white parents, a rebellious and lost father-to-be and an aspiring transgender model — as they struggle to escape the hardships of life on the reservation. As the three find their lives becoming more complicated and their troubles growing, their paths begin to intersect. With little in common other than a shared heritage, they soon learn that the key to overcoming their obstacles may come from the most unlikely of sources, each other.

National Briefs: February 2015
Friday, February 06 2015
 
Written by The Circle Staff,
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ASSAILANTS FACING CHARGES AFTER HOCKEY GAME INCIDENT

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said officials know the identity of at least one person who allegedly threw beer on and yelled racial slurs at a group of Native American students at a Rapid City Rush hockey game on Jan. 24.

Jegeris made the announcement at a press conference that followed a 2 1/2-hour closed-door meeting that included parents of the children, American Horse School officials, Oglala Sioux Tribal representatives, Mayor Sam Kooiker, police and the Pennington County State's Attorney's office.

"We're going to be looking at assault. We're going to look at the hate crimes statutes. We will look at the child abuse statutes. And, we will look at any other relevant statutes," Jergeris said of charges that may be filed against the person or people who participated in the harassment of the students.

American Horse School is in Allen on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The 57 students and seven adults were on a field trip that rewarded students for school achievement. Their trip was cut short in the third period of the game because of the outbursts from a skybox above the section in which the students were sitting.

The American Horse school group took up some 65 seats, which included parents, chaperones and students, during the game. Because of the racially-charge assault, the chaperones removed the youth from the game before its conclusion and took to social media via Facebook where the incident was carried by online advocacy media organization Last Real Indians.

 

SENATE DEMOCRATS DELAY VOTE ON KEYSTONE XL

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill to approve the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline remains under consideration in the Senate after Democrats were able to delay its passage on Jan. 26.

Republicans have made S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, their top priority in the 114th Congress. But their attempts to cut off debate and move towards a final vote were rejected by a 53 to 39 vote.

The bill, however, is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber eventually. President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the measure if it comes to his desk.


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.


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