National Briefs: August 2015
Monday, August 03 2015
Written by The Circle Staff,
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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.


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 groups.

“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 is yours.”

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.


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.


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 Ontario.

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 reservations.


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.


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.


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 start today.

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, said.

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.



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 meeting.

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.

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