National Briefs: April 2015

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NAVAJO TEEN’S SHORT FILM HOSTED AT THE

WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Navajo student

Keanu Jones was selected as one of 15 young filmmakers across the

country to participate in the second annual White House Student Film

Festival.

Jones, an 18 year-old senior at

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, said he hopes his three-minute

film on his family’s daily struggles helps raise awareness about

the fight for water and other natural resources taken from

reservations.

The American Film Institute helped

select the videos, which were on the theme of “the impact of giving

back.” Students behind the 15 winning films, some as young as age

6, were at the White House on March 24 where they got to screen their

movies for an East Room audience of filmmakers and celebrities,

including Steve McQueen, the Oscar-nominated director behind “12

Years a Slave,” and Academy Award-winning actress Hillary Swank.

“These aren’t just great films,

but they’re a great example of how young people are making a

difference all around the world,” Obama said to applause from the

audience.

Obama used the event to unveil his

“Call to Arts” initiative through the Corporation for National

and Community Service to help inspire and mentor young artists across

the country. The program will work with the American Film Institute,

the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and

Radio Artists, whose members have pledged to provide 1 million hours

of mentorship to young artists over the next three years.

Keanu’s film, “Giving back the

Navajo Way,” told of the Navajo tradition of serving elders despite

the sometimes-arduous work needed to do so in Indian Country. Keanu

said “simple necessities Americans enjoy like electricity,

automatic heaters and running water” may be non-existent in the

rural area of Arizona where he is from.

“I’ve never really thought that

making a simple three-minute film would even take me to the White

House or to see Obama,” Keanu said.

HO-CHUNK NATION RAISES MINIMUM WAGE TO

$2.75 ABOVE FEDERAL

MADISON, Wis. – The Ho-Chunk Nation of

Wisconsin has raised its minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The amount is $2.75 above the federal

level. It will go into effect in July.

“The cost is high but the return is

much greater,” President Jon Greendeer said in a statement. “We

can wait until the perpetual debate is resolved or we can just take

action ourselves. We chose to make our move and I feel it’s the

right one.”

 

NAVAJO NATION SUPREME COURT ODERS APRIL

PRESIDENTIAL VOTE

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation

Supreme Court issued another decision that orders tribal officials to

hold a presidential election on April 21.

The election was supposed to take

place last November but was delayed after one of the candidates was

disqualified and removed from the ballot. Since then, the tribe’s

highest court has expressed frustration with the Navajo Nation

Council for meddling with the process.

Despite a Feb. 20 decision calling for

a vote as soon as possible, the council passed a bill that appeared

to place priority on an entirely different election that could help

the disqualified candidate get back on the ballot. That prompted the

court to issue another ruling on March 20 that clears the way for

next month’s match-up between Joe Shirley Jr. and against Russell

Begaye.

President Ben Shelly has remained in

office as a result of the delay in choosing a new leader. He came in

seventh in last year’s primary but was sworn into a new term in

January.

LAW FIRM HOSTS TRIBES FOR SESSION ON

MARIJUNANA IN INDIAN COUNTRY

SANTA FE, N.M. – An aptly-named law

firm reportedly hosted 10 tribes in New Mexico on March 26 for a

meeting on marijuana.

Blaze America said the tribal

attendees wouldn’t be publicizing their presence at the session.

Still, they hoped to learn more about the emerging marijuana industry

that could gain a foothold in Indian Country.

"They have the ability to create

this from scratch,” Yaseen Archuletta, the tribal director for the

firm, told media. "They are able to get into this industry with

complete immunity.”

Marijuana remains illegal under

federal law. A Department of Justice policy that was made public in

December has sparked interest among tribes, who might be able to grow

and sell the drug for medical and commercial purposes.

Marijuana has been decriminalized in

New Mexico for medical purposes. Possessing or selling the drug can

still lead to jail time and fines, according to the Marijuana Policy

Project.

MONTANA TRIBE MOVES FORWARD WITH CASINO

PLAN THROUGH LOAN

FORT PECK, Mont. – The Fort Peck Tribes

of Montana are moving forward with a casino thanks to a loan from the

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The Montana tribe agreed to accept $29

million for the Buffalo Rivers Casino and Lodge in Fort Kipp. Plans

call for a facility with 400 gaming machines, four poker tables, an

events center, a restaurant/buffet, a snack bar, a lounge and a

75-room hotel.

The tribe plans to break ground on

June 15. The casino would open by May 2016 with 220 full-time

employees. "The Ft. Kipp location is chosen due to its aesthetic

beauty and its proximity to a nearby population base," the

casino Web site states. Fort Kipp is about 50 miles from Williston,

N.D., an area that has seen big growth due to energy development.

The casino is expected to cost between

$33 million and $34 million so the Shakopee loan could cover most of

the expenses. The money must be repaid over 15 years with a 6.5

percent interest rate. The tribe anticipates earning about $5.8

million a year from the casino.

NAVAJO NATION MOURNS OFFICER SLAIN IN

LINE OF DUTY

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Flags flew at

half-staff on the Navajo Nation in honor of a police officer who was

killed in the line of duty on March 19.

Alex Yazzie, 42, was killed in a

shootout with a domestic violence suspect in Arizona, not far from

the New Mexico state line. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who had

worked for the Navajo Police Department for 14 years, leaves behind a

wife and two daughters.

“The Navajo Nation mourns the loss

of Alex Yazzie, a dedicated Navajo Police officer that gave his life

in the line of duty to protect the lives of others,” President Ben

Shelly said said in a press release. “We are deeply saddened over

his sudden departure.”

Two other officers were also injured

by gunfire with the suspect. Herbert Frazier, 41, and James Hale, 48,

are hospitalized and expected to recover fully.

The suspect was identified as

24-year-old Justin Fowler. He was allegedly beating his partner and

fired a gun towards his mother at the family’s home on the New Mexico

side of the reservation when officers responded. Fowler fled the

scene but not before firing an assault rifle at an officer. He then

led police on a chase to the Arizona side of the reservation, where

Yazzie was killed and Frazier and Hale were injured. Fowler was

killed during the shootout.

Yazzie was laid to rest on March 20 in

New Mexico.

BIA TO HOST PUBLIC MEETING FOR POKAGON

BAND CASINO

DOWAGIAC, Mich. – The Bureau of Indian

Affairs will hold a public hearing in April to discuss a potential

casino for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

A draft environmental impact statement

outlines plans for a $480 million tribal village in South Bend,

Indiana. The project would include 44 housing units, a clinic, a

governmental building, along with a casino and hotel on 166 acres.

The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. on

April 14 at the Century Center in South Bend. Written comments can

also be submitted to the BIA.

The next step would be a final

environmental impact statement, to be followed by a record of

decision. There is no timeline for an answer. Pokagon headquarters

are located in Dowagiac, Michigan, but many members live in the South

Bend area, less than 25 miles away. The tribe maintains an office in

South Bend.

CALIFORNIA TRIBE LOSES DECISION IN

FEDERAL RECOGNITION SUIT

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The Mishewal

Wappo Tribe of California lost a major decision in its federal

recognition lawsuit on March 24.

Judge Edward J. Davila said he would

not force the Bureau of Indian Affairs to restore federal recognition

to the tribe. He said the tribe waited too long to file a lawsuit

after being designated for termination under the California Rancheria

Act of 1958.

"A timely action challenging the

distribution and termination of the Alexander Valley Rancheria under

the CRA should have been filed between 1961 and 1967," Davila

wrote in the 19-page decision. "Since this action was not

commenced until forty years later, the court finds that all of the

claims asserted by plaintiff in this action are untimely,"

Davila concluded as he granted a motion for summary judgment

submitted by the federal government.

After filing the lawsuit in 2009, the

tribe attempted to reach a settlement with the Obama administration

but talks failed. The parties went back to court and the government

said it would not recognize the tribe.

The tribe could take the case to the

9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

LAWMAKERS WANT BIA TO DELAY TRIBAL

RECOGNITION REFORMS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Five lawmakers,

Republican and Democrat, are asking the Obama administration to delay

the Part 83 reforms to the federal recognition process.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has been

working on the rules for more than two years. But the lawmakers say

the agency needs to spend more time on the proposal, which could be

finalized in the next few months.

“We do not support the sweeping

changes that have been proposed to the criteria,” states the letter

written by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the new chairman of the House

Natural Resources Committee.

Two Democrats from Connecticut joined

the letter. The state is home to three tribes that could resubmit

their federal recognition petitions under the proposed reforms even

though they were previously rejected by the BIA.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) also

signed the letter. On March 24, he cheered a federal judge’s decision

that denied recognition to the Mishewal Wappo Tribe. The final

signatory to the letter was Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the chairman

of the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native

Affairs.

PAIUTE TRIBE MOVES TO REMOVE LEADER FOR

ACCEPTING NFL TEAM’S GIFTS

CEDAR CITY, Utah – The Paiute Tribe

of Utah held a hearing on March 31 to consider removing Chairwoman

Gari Lafferty from office because she accepted gifts from the

Washington NFL team.

The tribal council adopted a notice of

charges against Lafferty last week. The document accuses the leader

of accepting a free trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a game in

September 2014.

"Your actions in soliciting and

accepting gifts from the Redskins for yourself and your family could

reasonably be considered to be separate from or adverse to the best

interests of the tribe," the charges state.

The document notes that tribal citizen

Phillip Gover is one of the plaintiffs in Blackhorse v. Pro Football,

Inc., the case that seeks the cancellation of the team’s trademarks.

Gover and Lafferty are first cousins and he believes the team and its

Original Americans Foundation specifically approached his tribe to

sow division in Indian Country.

"It’s so diabolical and

underhanded, it just smells of Dan Snyder," Gover added,

referring to owner Dan Snyder, who has vowed never to change the name

of the team.

After Lafferty attended the game last

September, she agreed to accept two vans from the Original Americans

Foundation. According to media reports, Gary Edwards, the CEO of the

non-profit, suggested that he could help the tribe secure an economic

development deal but nothing ever came of it.

COLORADO BILL RESTRICTS USE OF MASCOTS

IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

DENVER, Colo. – A bill under

consideration in the Colorado Legislature restricts the use of Native

American mascots, nicknames and imagery in public schools.

House Bill 1165 creates a Subcommittee

for the Consideration of the Use of American Indian Mascots by Public

Schools. The panel would review existing Indian mascots to determine

whether they are offensive and schools that fail to eliminate an

offensive mascot within two years will face fines.

The House Education Committee voted

6-5 along party lines to approve the bill. It still requires

consideration in another committee before it goes to the full House.

At least 10 schools in Colorado

continue to use Indian mascots, nicknames and imagery. The most

glaring offender are the "Savages" in Lamar. The Arapahoe

High School Warriors developed its logo in consultation with the

Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming and was hailed as an example of a

mascot that is not a caricature of Indian people.

LUMMI NATION TOLD CROW TRIBE ABOUT COAL

TERMINAL IMPACT

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – The Lummi Nation of

Washington hosted the Crow Tribe of Montana at its fishing grounds to

express opposition to a coal terminal, Chairman Tim Ballew said.

The Lummi Nation believes the Gateway

Pacific Terminal will harm its treaty-protected rights. The project

would be built at Cherry Point, a historic village and fishing area

known as Xwe’chi’eXen in the Lummi language.

“We’ve done extensive fact finding

with other governments, including the federal government and other

tribes,” Ballew told media. “We’ve come to the decision that

our treaty right cannot be mitigated.”

The Crow Tribe is not an official part

of the Gateway Pacific project. But its reservation is home to a

large coal deposit that could be mined and exported through the

terminal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing the project

and the Crows asked the agency to set up a "safe place" for

meeting with the Lummis. The agency suggested the Bureau of Indian

Affairs might be better able to accommodate the request.