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CHOCTAW ACTIVIST DEATH BEING
INVESTIGATED IN MISSISSIPPI
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.
UNITY CONFERENCE ATTRACTS NATIVE YOUTH
WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 1,800
young Native Americans crowded a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel on
July 10 for the opening of the 39th annual United National Indian
Tribal Youth conference.
Many attendees had also been a part in
the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering, which UNITY helped
organize, on July 9.
The conference began with the lighting
of the UNITY fire outside of the Renaissance Downtown Hotel near the
White House. Participants then moved inside to a ballroom for the
Parade of Nations. Tribal youth, many in traditional dress and waving
tribal flags, were greeted by raucous cheers from their colleagues.
Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation
of Islam, delivered the keynote, inviting the youth to participate in
the Second Million Man March in D.C. this October. His address
intertwined the struggles of Native peoples with those of other
“Justice of LGBT people is on the
horizon and justice for women is easier than the justice Native
people deserve,” Farrakhan said.
He also lambasted what he called
government exploitation of Native lands. He encouraged the crowd to
push back against those actions. “When a stranger comes in and
takes your land and takes his wealth off our land—that’s not a
stranger, that’s an enemy... Take pride in who you are. When you
walk the earth, walk with a little heaviness because all of this land
Over the weekend, participants heard
from marathon runner Alvina Begay, Miss Indian World Cheyenne
Brady and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Suzan Shown Harjo.
They also took part in a run and walk around the city. Other events
included a panel on the role of Native women and a banquet featuring
actor Adam Beach.
UNITY was founded in 1976 by J.R. Cook,
a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, to help Native youth
develop leadership and other skills. After more than three decades at
the helm of the organization, Cook stepped down from his executive
director role in 2013.
Mary Kim Titla, a former television
journalist who is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, now serves
as executive director.
BLACKFEET NATION OPPOSES DRILLING
BROWNING, Mont. – The Blackfeet
Nation of Montana has broken off talks with an energy company that
wants to drill for oil and gas on sacred land.
The tribe was talking with Solenex LLC,
the holder of a lease in the Badger-Two Medicine Area near the
reservation. At one point, the tribe offered its own land for
development but the company did not accept.
Development in Badger-Two Medicine was
approved during the Reagan administration without consulting the
tribe. According to the Associated Press, most have expired or were
sold but 18 remain – including one held by Solenex.
The company is suing the Interior
Department, claiming the federal government has unreasonably delayed
the work due to concerns raised by the tribe. The judge handling the
case has questioned the delay but no decision has been issued in
Solonex LLC v. Jewell.
Badger-Two Medicine falls within the
Lewis and Clark National Forest and was covered by an agreement
signed by the tribe in 1896. Tribal leaders say they only meant to
lease the land to the government for 99 years. They are seeking the
return of the land.
FIRST NATIONS ENTREPRENEUR FUNDED
MODOC COUNTY, Calif. – Jerry Montour,
a Native entrepreneur from Canada, was helping two tribes in
California grow marijuana before the operations were raided by
federal authorities on July 8.
Montour is Mohawk from the Wahta Mohawk
Territory. He serves as CEO and an owner of Grand River Enterprises,
a tobacco manufacturing company based on the Six Nations Reserve in
Montour “financed” the marijuana
operations at the Alturas Rancheria and the XL Rancheria, a
reservation that is home to the Pit River Tribe, according
to an affidavit filed in federal court by a affidavit filed in
federal court special agent. That statement was based on information
from a confidential informant and from Wendy Del Rosa, an
Alturas tribal member who opposed the grow on her reservation.
Montour has faced legal problems in the
past. However, federal authorities did not arrest anyone in
connection with their raid and no charges are pending against anyone.
More than 12,000 marijuana plants and
more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana were seized from the two
FORMER MENOMINEE NATION JUDGE SENTENCED
FOR CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Joseph H. Martin, a
member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin who has been active
in Indian law circles, was sentenced to five years on July 10 in
federal prison in a child pornography case.
Martin, 54, pleaded guilty in February
to one charge for receiving child pornography. He kept the material
on his home computer in Wisconsin, according to the indictment
in the case.
Martin is the Menominee Nation’s
former chief justice and former prosecutor. He also served as chief
legislative counsel for the Little River Band of the Ottawa Indians
but was terminated because he failed to obtain a license to practice
law in Michigan.
The tribe eventually asked the Illinois
State Bar to investigate Martin, as he was practicing law in that
state. A review board substantiated several complaints against
Martin, according to documents posted by Turtle Talk.
Martin is a former president of the
National Native American Bar Association. He was a frequent
presenter at Indian law events up until a few years ago.
Martin will serve his sentence in the
federal prison in Elkton, Ohio.
NAVAJO NATION WOMAN DRIVES TRUCK TO
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – One-third of the
50,000 households on the Navajo Nation don’t have regular
access to clean water.
That’s where Darlene Arviso steps in.
The 51 year-old tribal citizen drives a water delivery truck around
the reservation, bringing much-needed water to countless numbers of
grateful families as often as possible.
“We take what we can from the water
lady,” Lindsay Johnson, 78, said.
According to the paper, the average
Navajo family lives on seven gallons of water a day. In California,
the average is 362 gallons, the paper said.
CHOCTAW AND CHICASAW NATIONS SETTLE
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The Choctaw
Nation and the Chickasaw Nation have reached a settlement to
their trust mismanagement lawsuit.
The two Oklahoma tribes sued the
federal government in 2005, seeking an accounting of their trust
assets and trust funds. After a decade of legal motions and
maneuvers, a federal judge finally scheduled a trial that was due to
But the tribes and the Obama
administration informed the court that a settlement was reached.
Details will be announced after the parties finalize the deal.
“The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations
are pleased that it appears there is going to be a resolution to
this litigation that has gone on more than a decade,” attorney
Michael Burrage, a Choctaw citizen and former federal judge,
Since the beginning of the Obama
administration, the U.S. Government has settled the Cobell trust
fund lawsuit for $3.4 billion and has settled more than 70 cases with
tribes. The dollar value in the tribal cases has topped $2.6 billion.
IHS MEETS TO DISCUSS SERVING LGBT
NATIVES AT FACILITIES
ROCKVILLE, Md. – Roughly 40 people
crowded the suburban Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Indian
Health Service on July 27to discuss how the agency can better serve
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Two Spirit clients.
Acting IHS Director Robert McSwain,
North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, and Chief Medical Officer
Susan Karol were among the top officials who participated in the
Topics included the recent U.S. Supreme
Court decision that requires all states to recognize same-sex
marriage. Participants wondered how the ruling, which does not
apply to tribal governments, will affect the IHS.
Geoffrey Roth, a senior advisor to
McSwain, said the agency is ready to provide services for same-sex
couples. But the decision – which came after another case in
which the Supreme Court required the federal government to recognize
all marriages – does not apply to tribes.
Other participants discussed ways in
which IHS facilities can be more welcoming, efficient and inclusive.
Potential changes include adding gender neutral bathrooms,
eliminating the use of gendered pronouns and providing more LGBT
training for employees.
Elsewhere in the federal government,
the Department of Housing and Urban Development is working
on a rule to bar discrimination against LGBT individuals who are
seeking housing in Indian Country. There isn’t a concrete timeline
for the proposal.