National Briefs: June 2014
Friday, June 06 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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WASHINGTON, DC – Hopi citizen Diane Humetewa made history on May 14 when the United States Senate confirmed her to serve on the federal bench as judge for the U.S. District Court for Arizona, the first American Indian woman to serve in the federal judiciary.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs applauded Humetewa’s appointment. “Diane Humetewa is an inspiration to Native people, especially Native women across Indian Country. This is an important appointment and long overdue. I’m pleased that the Senate came together in a bipartisan way to get this done. As the only Native American in active service on the federal bench, Diane provides much-needed expertise on the complexities of federal law and Indian sovereignty.”

Until her confirmation, Humetewa served as Special Advisor to the President and Special Counsel in the Office of General Counsel at Arizona State University. She is also a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

From 2002 to 2007, Humetewa was an Appellate Court Judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court. From 2009 to 2011, Humetewa was Of Counsel with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona from 1996 to 2009, serving as Senior Litigation Counsel from 2001 to 2007 and as the United States Attorney from 2007 to 2009. During her tenure in the United States Attorney’s Office, Humetewa also served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General from 1996 to 1998.

From 1993 to 1996, she was Deputy Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Humetewa received her Juris Doctor in 1993 from Arizona State University College of Law and her Bachelor’s of Science in 1987 from Arizona State.

On February 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Humetewa’s nomination. Previously, Humetewa served as a prosecutor and an appellate court judge for the Hopi Nation, and was the first Native American woman to serve as a U.S. Attorney.


FORT MCMURRAY, CANADA – Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu called Alberta’s tar sands “filth” created by greed at a May conference on oil development and treaty rights and urged all sides to work together to protect the environment and indigenous rights.

“The fact that this filth is being created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed,” Tutu told over 200 conference attendees. “The oil sands are emblematic of an era of high carbon and high-risk fuels that must end if we are committed to a safer climate.”

“Oil sands development not only devastates our shared climate, it is also stripping away the rights of First Nations and affected communities to protect their children, land and water from being poisoned.”

Tutu has criticized the oil sands before.

The archbishop, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the fight against apartheid, has taken strong stands on climate change and against projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline. Tutu has signed a petition against the project. In an opinion column earlier this year in the British newspaper the Guardian, the 82-year-old called the Keystone proposal to move oil sands bitumen from Alberta to the U.S. appalling.

He has also called for boycotts of events sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, for health warnings on oil company ads and for divestment of oil industry investments held by universities and municipalities, similar to measures that were brought against South Africa’s old apartheid regime.


WINDOW ROCK, AZ – The Navajo Nation Council approved a $554 million agreement to end litigation over the U.S. government's alleged mismanagement of the tribe's trust-fund assets.

Officials at the tribal headquarters in Window Rock said May 30 that the council voted 13-3 to approve the deal. Execution of the agreement and payment to the tribe is contingent on final review and approval of the terms by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and the U.S. Departments of Justice, Interior and Treasury.

The tribe originally filed its lawsuit against the federal government in December 2006. It alleges that the U.S. breached its fiduciary obligations under treaties, executive orders, federal statutes and regulations and contractual documents.

The suit also says the federal government failed to manage, invest and account for tribal trust funds and resources.


HELENA, MT. – The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana are closer to federal recognition.

The tribal council Chairman Gerald Gray spoke with Gov. Steve Bullock in early May and Gray said the recently proposed rule changes for recognizing American Indian tribes would put a nod from the U.S. government within their reach.

Federal officials say the proposed rule changes are in the midst of a months-long finalization process.

The landless tribe has been recognized by the state of Montana since 2000. With about 4,500 members loosely centered in Great Falls, federal recognition could bring the tribe land, along with housing and education assistance.

Gray, Bullock and others met as part of the annual Tribal Leaders Summit at the State Capitol in Helena.


CAMBRIDGE, MA – Two Ojibwe and one Lakota tribal citizens were selected for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development's 2014 Honoring Nations Leadership Program.

Karen Cary, Leech Lake Tribal College Career & Technical Education director, Justin Beaulieu, Red Lake Nation Constitutional Reform Initiative coordinator and Amber Annis, a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal citizen and University of Minnesota American Studies doctoral candidate were selected in May to participate in the Harvard program.

As director, Cary's responsibilities include assuring hands-on teaching match job skills identified by employers for students at Leech Lake Tribal College. Students learn the skills and knowledge for employment in law enforcement, carpentry, business management or electrical. In addition, the department offers custom training and continuing education opportunities for brushing up on or advancing skills in many fields of study.

Coordinating the Red Lake Constitutional Reform Initiative for Beaulieu involves working with a 13-member committee of Red Lake Band citizens who represent a cross-section of the tribe. Each area of representation on the committee was selected by the tribal council to ensure the revised Constitution is crafted to reflect the importance of Ojibwe language, culture and way of life, while also realistically addressing the current and evolving needs of the tribe.

Annis is currently a doctoral student in the American Studies department at the University of Minnesota. She received her B.A. in History and American Indian Studies at the University of North Dakota where she also received an M.A. in History. She is a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal citizen and her research interests include American Indian education and history in the 20th century and American Indian cultural and public diplomacy during the Cold War era.

The Honoring Nations program, supported by the Bush Foundation, is designed to foster nation-building capacity in the Bush Region: Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and provides the opportunity for the participants to contribute to the 2014 Honoring Nations awards cycle, which will include participation on a site visit and reporting to the Honoring Nations Board of Governors. Nation-building leaders will also have the opportunity to participate in a tribal governance session facilitated by the Native Nations Institute.


WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate confirmed Keith Harper as ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 3, making him the first Native American to ever become a U.S. Ambassador.

Harper is an attorney who was one of the lawyers behind a landmark class action lawsuit brought by Native Americans against the federal government. President Barack Obama first nominated him in June 2013.

A Cherokee Nation citizen, Harper helped represent around 500,000 Native American who brought a class-action suit – Cobell vs. Salazar – against the United States in the 1990s over alleged federal mismanagement of revenue from mines and oil wells owned by Native Americans.

Senate Republicans objected to his confirmation due to his involvement in the Cobell case and his role as a bundler for Obama's campaign.

Harper's confirmation was approved by a party-line vote of 52-42 and was hailed by Native American groups as a positive step forward.


HOLLYWOOD, FLA – The Seminole Tribe of Florida is seeking approval to form a bank and rescue the ailing Valley Bank in Fort Lauderdale.

The $84.3 million-asset bank was “critically undercapitalized” as of March 31 and in danger of failing without a buyer or a capital infusion.

On May 27, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. received an interim merger application from Seminole Bank to merge with Valley Bank. The problem is that Seminole Bank, which listed the same address on Broward Boulevard as Valley Bank, doesn’t exist at the moment.

There is no active Seminole Bank, according to FDIC data and Florida corporate records. The last institution known as Seminole Bank ceased operating in 1998 in the town of Seminole. Yet, there could be a new one soon.

Florida Office of Financial Regulation spokeswoman Jamie Mongiovi said her office received documents from the Seminole Tribe on May 23 and the OFR returned those documents to the tribe on May 28 with information about how to complete an application to acquire Valley Bank.


SEMINOLE COUNTY, OK – Officials at Seminole High School told Native American students that wearing their feathers at their graduation ceremony in late May.

Parents of senior Sefuan White, Amari White (Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw) said their son, along with three other cousins, had their eagle feathers prepared for the graduation ceremony but were told by Principal Michael Crawford that they would not be allowed to wear them.

In an interview with media, Crawford defended his position, “no one is allowed to put anything on their graduation caps, although there is no rule, that is our Seminole (high school) tradition, we don’t put anything on them.”

According to a Public School Review online record, Seminole High School – the mascot of which, is designated as The Chieftains – has a 49 percent Native American makeup.

The graduation was held on May 22 with 25 Native American graduates.

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