National Briefs: September 2014
Monday, September 08 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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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?’"


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The former Chief of Staff for the Navajo President, Sherrick Roanhorse, was appointed by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry to chair the city's new Native American Homelessness Task Force.

The mayor said Roanhorse joins the task force with extensive knowledge of Native American affairs. In addition to his role with Shelly, the former chief of staff worked as a policy analyst for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department and as and a government and legislative affairs specialist with the Navajo Nation in Washington, D.C. He currently works in the state government affairs office of PNM.

Berry and Shelly agreed to create the task force following the brutal beating deaths in July of two homeless Navajo men in a vacant lot on Albuquerque’s southwest side.


WASHINGTON – The final checks from the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement are almost ready, according to the parties involved.

The Cobell legal team and the Garden City Group – the firm that was appointed by the court to administer the settlement – were waiting on the Interior Department to finalize the data needed for the Trust Administration Class payment. The information was provided by August 30.

The Garden City Group is now validating the information. Once that process is complete, the legal team will seek court approval to distribute the payments, which could happen by the end of September.

"GCG is prepared to commence sending out checks within three weeks as long as the court gives final approval for the Trust Administration Class distribution. We will update the website when the first checks have been mailed," the attorneys said on CobellSettlement.Com.

Once checks are sent out, it will likely take five to seven days for the money to reach beneficiaries, according to the Web site.


SEATTLE – City leaders in Seattle, Washington, delayed action on a resolution to designate the second Monday of each October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The city council was set to approve the resolution at a meeting on Sept. 2. But members postponed the vote after Mayor Ed Murray requested a delay.

Murray said he supports the change. But he wants to sign the resolution closer to the actual date of the new holiday, according to news reports.

The day would replace Columbus Day. Other cities, including Minneapolis, have made the change. South Dakota has been observing Native American Day since 1990.


TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation announced plans for a $170 million casino and retail complex in Tahlequah.

The Cherokee Springs Plaza will include a casino, two hotels, retail, office space and a convention center. The 150-acre project is located off a major highway in Tahlequah, the tribe's capital.

“It was the largest contiguous piece of property left in the capitol of the Cherokee Nation, and they’ve been on the drawing board for almost a year now with some of the best land developers in the country coming up with their plan to make this a showpiece in not only all of Indian Country, but I think it’s going to be a showplace for Oklahoma,” Chief Bill John Baker said in a press conference on Aug. 29.

The tribe purchased the land and an existing golf course – now known as Cherokee Springs Golf Course – in December 2012 through Cherokee Nation Businesses. A board member at the time was a part owner of the site but said he recused himself from the sale.

The property abuts Baker's Furniture, which is owned by Chief Baker.


LAS VEGAS – The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe was offered a van by the Original Americans Foundation but turned it down, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said.

“Redskins is a racist name and native Americans believe that,” said Reid, who serves as the Senate majority leader, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported. “They have tried to buy off some of my Nevada Indians and they have not been able to do that, giving them trucks and stuff like that.

Reid previously said a tribe in his state was approached by the foundation. One of his aides confirmed it was the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.

Other tribes have accepted gifts from the foundation but many have condemned the initiative as a publicity stunt.


TULARE COUNTY, Calif. – The Tule River Tribe of California was joined by local, state and federal authorities in removing a marijuana farm from the reservation in late August.

Operation Tule River took five days. Authorities cleared out nearly 14,000 plants from a farm that was siphoning over 100,000 gallons of water per day from the tribe's main source of water.

“We will continue our efforts in protecting our sacred lands and restoring the water for future generations to come," William J. Garfield, a spokesperson for the tribe, said in a press release distributed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. No arrests were made.


LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. – The Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin continues to banish people from the reservation who have been involved with drugs and crime.

So far, only non-members have been banished. The tribe keeps a tally of the people who are affected on its Web site.

"We made it public knowledge that we will deal with this epidemic. Hopefully the actions of our law enforcement community send a strong message that drug abuse is not acceptable on our lands. We have resources and support for our people who need help with addictions," President Tom Maulson told Northland's News Center.

The latest banishment occurred in June with the removal of one person from the reservation.


BOX ELDER, Mont. – The Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana is accusing its partners in an Internet lending business of theft and fraud.

The tribe started Plain Green Loans and First American Capital Resources with four out-of-state partners. The lawsuit claims they bilked the tribe out of more than $13.1 million.

"The tribe has lost millions of dollars because of these entanglements, defendants' overtly fraudulent acts, and their clandestine and complex fraudulent scheme," the complaint states.

According to media reports, Plain Green remains in operation but First American Capital Resources was shut down last fall.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A federal judge ordered the state of Alaska to do more to assist Yup’ik language speakers in time for the Nov. 4 election.

In a ruling from the bench, Judge Sharon Gleason said the state didn't provide adequate materials for Native voters, according to news reports. The state agreed to submit a response plan by Sept. 5.

The lawsuit, Toyukuk v. Treadwell, was filed by the Native American Rights Fund on behalf of two tribes and two Yup’ik voters. The plaintiffs will be able to respond to the state's submission before Gleason issues a final order regarding the upcoming election, according to minutes of today's hearing.

Gleason has yet to rule on other claims raised by the plaintiffs.


WASHINGTON – The Justice Department weighed in on a class-action lawsuit in South Dakota pitting Native American tribes against state officials, and come down resoundingly in support of tribes.

It's the first time the department has intervened in a federal district court case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law meant to keep Native American families together. The department filed an amicus brief in the case concluding that the state is violating the rights of Native American parents.

In the suit, tribes claim the state is failing to abide by the 36-year-old federal law, removing hundreds of Indian children from their families in court hearings where parents are rarely allowed to speak, and that often last less than 60 seconds.

The children are then placed in foster care, where they may stay for months or years.

As part of the lawsuit, the state had to turn over rarely seen transcripts of 120 recent court hearings. In every one, the Native American children were taken into state custody. Not a single parent was allowed to testify at the hearings. Most were not allowed to say anything except their names.

In one case cited in the lawsuit, children were taken away from a mother who the state said was neglectful. Their father, who was divorcing the mother, appeared at the hearing and said, "I am here. Please give custody of my children to me." The judge placed the kids in foster care.

In its brief, the Justice Department wrote that state court and state officials with the Department of Social Services have an obligation to "actively investigate and oversee emergency removals of Indian children to insure that the removal ends as soon as possible, and that Indian children are expeditiously returned to their parents or their tribe" from the beginning of the process with the first court hearing to the end.

The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that states place children with their tribes, their relatives or Native American foster parents if they have to be removed from their families.

In South Dakota, almost 9 out of 10 Native American children are placed in non-Indian homes or group homes, says Chase Iron Eyes, a staff attorney with the Lakota People's Law Project.

This year, seven of the state's nine tribes applied for federal planning grants, with the help of the law project, in an effort to develop their own foster care programs. State officials have said they support that effort.


SEMINOLE, Texas – A five year-old Navajo Nation citizen was sent home from kindergarten for having long hair.

April Wilson said her son, Malachi, was excited for the first day of school on Aug. 25 at F.J. Young Elementary in Texas. But he was disappointed when he was told the length of his hair violated school policy.

"Certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs may qualify for an exception from provisions of the dress code," the policy states. "However, any exceptions must receive prior approval by the campus administrator."

Wilson said her son was finally allowed to attend school on Aug. 26 after the Navajo Nation and the local American Indian Movement got involved. The principal reportedly asked the family to verify Malachi's tribal heritage.

“It’s kind of heart breaking because how do you explain to a five-year-old that he is being turned away because of what he believes in, because of his religion, because of what’s part of him, how do you explain that to him?” Wilson told media.

A similar case arose in the state when an Apache boy wasn't allowed to wear long hair at school. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the school's policy in A.A. v Needville Independent School District in 2010.

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