National Briefs: May 2014
Thursday, May 01 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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WASHINGTON – Leading up to Donald Sterling's lifetime ban from the NBA for racist remarks, the National Congress of American Indians issued a condemnation and drew parallels to the Washington team's mascot.

The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers drew widespread criticism in late April for his disparaging remarks about African Americans on a recording made by his then-girlfriend, V. Stiviano, after she posted a fan photo of herself on Instagram posing with Magic Johnson.

"NCAI condemns Donald Sterling’s appalling comments regarding African Americans," the organization said in an April 28 statement. "There is no place in modern society for that kind of hatred and discrimination. We also want to applaud the many athletes, sportscasters, corporations, and individuals who have spoken out against Sterling and his comments. It is encouraging to see so many people standing together and declaring that this behavior is unacceptable."

The organization linked the controversy to its continuing efforts to eliminate racist images in professional sports. Dan Snyder, an NFL team owner, has refused to change his team's mascot. "NCAI is no stranger to facing down racism and ignorance in American sports. Every incident of hate and racism – whether a singular incident or the repeated, high-profile use of offensive words and images – is unacceptable and has no place in the 21st Century. We will continue to support the LA Clippers players and fans as they face the fallout from Sterling’s words and we will continue to fight for a world in which no race or ethnic group is treated in this way."


WASHINGTON – Tribal, environmental and land activists that dubbed themselves the “Cowboy and Indian Alliance” descended on the nation's capitol during Earth Week to protest the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

The week of demonstrations began with an encampment of tipis and wagons on the National Mall and culminated in a rally and march on April 26 to the National Museum of the American Indian where a ceremony was held and a tipi was gifted to President Barack Obama. Wizipan Little Elk, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe citizen, was nearly arrested for walking into the reflecting pool during a protest at the Lincoln Memorial. “You know we're talking about basic human rights and there's not a better location in D.C. than here with the man behind us and what he represents,” he said.

The week-long protest drew thousands of supporters and national media coverage. Among those supporting the effort to stop the pipeline were musician Neil Young, actress Daryl Hannah and Dallas Goldtooth of the Native comedy group the 1491s.

The Obama administration announced on April 18 that it would need more time to review the State Department's permitting process, pending an appeal to a ruling by Nebraska's Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie F. Stacy who ruled in February that a state law to allow the pipeline was unconstitutional.


DALLAS – Navajo PGA Tour golfer Notah Begay, III is expected to make a full recovery after suffering a heart attack in late April in Dallas, Texas.

According to the Golf Channel, he received a stent to unblock the right coronary artery. The 41 year-old, whose family has a record of heart disease, is expected to make a full recovery.

Begay is a four-time PGA tour winner and currently is a television golf analyst for NBC and the Golf Channel. In 2005 he founded the Notah Begay III Foundation in 2005 and works on behalf of Native American youth to reduce incidences of type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity through grant-making, research and advocacy.

In a statement, Begay thanked friends and well-wishers for their support. “I look forward to returning to my duties as a golf analyst and to continuing the important work of my Foundation. This experience has reinforced for me the need to urgently address health and wellness issues among Native America youth … I anticipate a full recovery and feel lucky to be at home resting with my family.”


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Taylor Thomas, reigning Miss Shoshone-Bannock and Idaho State University student, was declared Miss Indian World on April 26 at the 31st Annual Gathering of Nations powwow.

Miss Indian World is the cultural pageant component of the gathering. Each year more than 30 Native American women from compete in the pageant. Each contestant competes in the areas of public speaking, personal interview, traditional talent presentation and Native American dance and written essay.

Thomas also won Best Interview and for her talent presentation, she shared the history of a traditional Shoshone 49 song and dedicated the song she sang to all veterans. She majors in political science at Idaho State University and is a supporter of Native youth programs and language preservation effors. She previously served as a National Congress of American Indian youth ambassador from 2010-2012.

As Miss Indian World, Thomas will spend the year traveling throughout the United States, Canada and the world, representing Native American people and serving as an ambassador on cultural issues. Taylor’s parents are Wendy Farmer of Fort Hall, Idaho and Jason Thomas from the Kickapoo reservation in Kansas.


MONTVILLE, Conn. – The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut reported a decline in revenue and profits at its gaming enterprise on April 21.

According to preliminary operating results, net revenues for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority are expected to range between $310.3 million and $323.0 million for the quarter that ended March 31, which represents a 1 to 5 percent decline from the same quarter in 2013. Gaming revenues are expected to range between $272.8 million and $284.0 million, a decline of between 3 to 6 percent.

Gross slot revenues are expected to range between $189.8 million and $197.5 million, a 4 to 8 percent decline; table games revenues are expected to see a decline of 1 to 3 percent at a range between $80.5 million and $83.8 million.

However, non-gaming revenues are expected to increase by as much as 12 percent at $59.3 to $61.8 million.

The tribe operates Mohegan Sun, an Indian gaming facility, on its reservation in Connecticut and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a commercial facility, in Pennsylvania.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A family from the Navajo Nation is suing an Applebee’s restaurant in New Mexico for the deaths of two sisters.

Deshauna Peshlakai, 17, and Del Lynn Peshlakai, 19, were killed on March 5, 2010, when their family's vehicle was rear-ended by convicted drunken driver James Ruiz. They say the restaurant is at fault because Ruiz consumed alcohol there before the accident.

The trial into the wrongful death lawsuit began in federal court on April 21. A similar lawsuit was settled with another restaurant where Ruiz had been drinking.

Ruiz is serving a 42-year sentence for vehicular homicide. He pleaded guilty in state court.

The accident occurred in Santa Fe. The family had attended a basketball game at Santa Fe Indian School before they were hit.


TOPPENISH, Wash. – The Yakama Nation of Washington is suing the federal government to stop public tours on Rattlesnake Mountain, which the tribe holds as a sacred site.

According to the suit, the tribe wasn't consulted before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the bus tours. However, the mountain is within the tribe's treaty-ceded territory.

"Laliik is associated with the cosmological, religious and cultural practices and beliefs of the Washani community of the Yakama Nation and other Indian tribes," the lawsuit states.

The bus tours are being conducted of wildflowers on the mountain. The tribe contends there are other areas on federal land where the tours could be led.


ALBANY, N.Y. – The New York Gaming Commission announced on March 30 that developers – including several tribes – interested on bidding for a prospective casino site in the Catskills will have to pay $1 million to start the application process.

In addition to the non-refundable fee, the new agency said it could cost up to $70 million for the actual licensing fee. “This marks the beginning of the bidding process for long-anticipated gaming facilities to benefit Upstate New York,” Paul Francis, a member of the commission's facility location board, said in a press release. “We look forward to reviewing and evaluating the applications and will continue to conduct an open, honest and transparent process.”

The commission will take applications for four licenses – the Catskills, the Capital Region and Southern Tier/Finger Lakes regions. One area will receive two licenses, widely assumed to go to the Catskills.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians of Wisconsin, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut and the Mohegan Tribe, also from Connecticut, all have expressed interest in bidding on a casino in the Catskills. The Stockbridge-Munsee Band is also pursuing a casino under federal law.

Applications will be due June 30.


MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The Ho-Chunk Nation is opposing a proposed BNSF Railway line expansion project in Wisconsin.

The tribe says that the four-mile route that passes through tribal lands is a threat to sacred sites and may cause health and safety issues.

Ho-Chunk Nation chief communications officer Arvina Martin told media, “This process does require a lot of consultation and we do need to have that happen, you can't get around it. The Ho-Chunk Nation has to be consulted."

For its part, BNSF said it respects tribal sovereignty and will reach out to the tribe.


LAPWAI, Idaho – The Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho is suing the Obama administration to stop an open pit gold mine in the Payette and Boise National Forests.

The federal government had previously approved the mine but the tribe contends that the development did not undergo a full environmental review to ascertain impacts on the land and wildlife.

The tribe exercises hunting, fishing, gathering and pasturing rights near the land in question under an 1855 treaty.


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Corrections has reached a settlement with Native American inmates who contended that their religious rights were being violated.

Daniel Littlepage and 40 other Native inmates at the Miami Correctional Facility said they weren't being allowed to use a sacred pipe or hold sweat ceremonies. The facility agreed to provide a chaplain to oversee and monitor the inmates' ceremonies, including smudging and prayer circles.

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