National Briefs: July 2014
Monday, July 07 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six trademarks belonging to the Washington football team on June 18, saying they are offensive to Native Americans.

The team, which has said it has spent millions defending trademark over the years, will appeal the decision, a process that could take years. The Patent Office will continue to treat the trademark registrations as though they are valid during the appeals process, according to a spokesperson.

In the meantime, the team can continue to use the logos portraying a Native American profile with feathers. If the decision is upheld, it will be hard for the team to claim ownership of its brand, a crucial step in going after the makers of unlicensed merchandise. Instead, the team will have to illustrate that it has always used the logos, rather than relying official trademark registrations. The decision came in response to a suit brought by five Native plaintiffs.

In May, 49 senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, signed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying that the "team is on the wrong side of history," and that he should endorse a name change. A week later, a coalition of 77 tribal, civil rights and religious groups, including the National Congress of American Indians and the NAACP, signed a letter urging players to campaign to change the team's mascot.

The team adopted its name and logo in 1933, when it was based in Boston. It had been known as the Braves but changed the name to honor William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz, their coach at the time, who was a Native American, according to a legal brief filed by the team in a previous matter.

The trademark, which was granted in 1967, has been renewed several times, but the Patent Office previously canceled the registration in 1999. A federal judge overturned that decision in 2003, saying there was no proof that the name was disparaging at the time of registration. The team's trademark attorney Bob Raskopf said he believed this decision, like the previous one, would be overturned.


PLUMMER, Idaho – A federal judge won't stop the Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho from offering poker games but the dispute might not be over yet.

Judge Lynn Winmill said the Class III gaming compact bars Idaho from suing the tribe because the state already sent a notice of alleged non-compliance to the tribe. The letter was sent on May 1 and the compact requires a 60-day period for the parties to discuss their dispute.

"The court finds that Article 21 of the compact unambiguously prohibits the state from filing a lawsuit within the 60-day period," Winmill wrote in a nine-page decision today. "The state’s position to the contrary is unreasonable, and thus fails to create any ambiguity that would prevent the court from interpreting the compact as a matter of law."

The 60-day period ended June 30. At that time, either party can request binding arbitration – however, that means the state might have to withdraw its lawsuit altogether.

"Once a party has given notice of intent to pursue binding arbitration and the notice has been sent to the non-complaining party, the matter in controversy may not be litigated in court proceedings," the compact states.

Winmill stayed the litigation and asked for an update from the parties by July 7. Meanwhile, poker games continue at the Coeur d'Alene Casino Resort Hotel.



LAGUNA PUEBLO, N.M. – Native Americans make up 11.4 percent of the population in New Mexico, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but a Native person has never held statewide office.

Deb Haaland, a single mother from Laguna Pueblo, hopes to change that. She's the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

“I don’t think voting is enough. You have to do more," Haaland said. "Sometimes you’ve just got to take a leap."

Haaland is running on the Democratic ticket with Attorney General Gary King. Their opponents in the November general election are Gov. Susana Martinez (R) and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R).


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court won't be hearing an appeal from a Indian tobacco firm.

The justices took up petitions in Native Wholesale Company v. Idaho and Native Wholesale Supply Company v. Superior Court of California during a closed-door conference on June 19. Both were denied without comment in an order list this morning.

Native Wholesale Supply Company is a business located on the Seneca Nation in New York.. The firm was fighting efforts to comply with state laws in Idaho and California.

The firm declared bankruptcy in 2011 after facing numerous state enforcement efforts.


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Native American activists in Illinois are planning to file a lawsuit against the Cleveland Major League Baseball team.

Activists have been protesting the team's Chief Wahoo mascot for decades. They hope the lawsuit leads to the elimination of the racist symbol.

"We're going to be asking for $9 billion and we're basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering," Robert Roche, the director of the American Indian Education Center and one of the plaintiffs in the forthcoming suit, told ABC News. Roche said the lawsuit will be filed by the end of July.


TALEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is spurring economic development in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area thanks to its casino.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has drawn a Wal-Mart Supercenter to Catoosa. The 24-hour facility, which employs 300 people, opened on June 25.

“It’s not only made things more eye appealing, but it’s helping to bring sales tax revenue to the city of Catoosa,” Cherokee Chief Bill John Baker told The Tulsa World. “It’ll really be a boon for the Catoosa area.”

The tribe bought land by the casino in hopes of bringing retail to the area. The tribe sold the property to a developer who lured Wal-Mart to the site.


WASHINGTON – The Senate voted today to confirm Vince Logan as the leader of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

Logan is a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma. He was first nominated for the OST job in September 2012 and was re-submitted this past January.

“As an investment professional, a mentor for Native American attorneys, and a member of the Osage Nation, Vince has been deeply rooted in Indian Country for many decades," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a press release today. "His asset management expertise, legal experience and extensive network of professional relationships in Indian Country will well serve the Office of Special Trustee and the Department of the Interior as we work to build a stronger and more responsive trust asset management system for the nation’s First Americans. I am pleased the Senate voted to confirm him to this leadership post at Interior.”

The OST position has been vacant for more than five years. Logan has from now until the end of the Obama administration to get a handle on trust reform efforts at the Interior Department


WASHINGTON – The Indian Health Service said it will hire more Native American veterans. Native veterans make up about 6 percent of the workforce at IHS. The goal is to increase that rate to 9 percent.

"The IHS will recruit veterans by setting hiring goals, engaging in active outreach, and using existing and new partnerships to create additional career opportunities," the agency said in a press release.

IHS will recruit veterans by setting hiring goals, engaging in active outreach and using existing and new partnerships to create additional career opportunities.

Earlier this year, the IHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding to assist veterans in finding employment through President Obama's National Strategy to Hire More Veterans.

As part of its Veterans Hiring Initiative, the IHS will collaborate with the VA on federal recruitment events targeting veterans. Additionally, the IHS will partner with the Department of Defense on recruitment of separating active duty service members through the Transition Assistance Program and through marketing and media outreach campaigns.

The agency also said it plans to partner with tribes in recruitment outreach efforts targeted at tribal members who are active duty or veterans. It is also developing its own nationwide public service announcement radio and print campaign customized to markets with large populations of military personnel.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs also announced plans this month to hire more Native veterans.


BILLINGS, Mont. – A reburial ceremony was held in June for a 12,600-year-old boy whose DNA showed a link to present-day Native people.

The boy was discovered on a ranch in Montana in 1968. He was reburied at a site not far from his original resting place.

“The spirit is now back to the other side,” said Thomas Larson Medicine Horse, Sr., an elder from the Crow Tribe who participated in the ceremony.

The boy was buried with more than 100 artifacts. His remains and the items had been covered with red ochre, a sign that his community conducted a burial ceremony after he died.

DNA tests showed that he shared the same genes as present-day Native people who live as far away as Central and South America. Shane Doyle, a professor at Montana State University, participated in the study.

“It’s one thing to believe and sense that your people have been here for thousands and thousands of years,” Doyle, a Crow tribal citizen, said in a press release earlier this year. “It’s another thing to have scientific evidence and proof that those paleo-Indians were us and we are them.”


WASHINGTON – The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has four hearings on its schedule for the month of July. On July 9, the committee will hold a hearing on five bills. Those bills include:

S. 2442, the Northern Cheyenne Lands Act. The bill requires the Interior Department to place land, mineral rights and important sites into trust for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana.
S. 2465, the Albuquerque Indian School Land Transfer Act. The bill requires DOI to place land into trust for the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico.
S.2479, the Moapa Band of Paiutes Land Conveyance Act. The bill The bill requires DOI to place land into trust for the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Nevada.
S.2480, the Nevada Native Nations Land Act. The bill requires DOI to place land into trust for seven tribes
S. 2503, a bill to implement a water rights settlement for the Hualapai Tribe of Arizona.

On July 16, the committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Land Buy-Back Program for tribal nations. A prior hearing on the issue was held on Dec. 11, 2013.

The following week, on July 23, the committee will hold an oversight hearing on the "next 25 years" of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law marked its 25th anniversary last year.

On July 30, the committee will hold a hearing on natural disasters in Indian Country. Congress has enacted a law that allows tribes to request disaster declarations directly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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