National Briefs: August 2014



PUYALLUP, Wash. – The Puyallup Tribe of

Indians became the latest tribe to legalize marriage for gay and

lesbian citizens.

While the state of Washington has

recognized gay marriage since 2012, the tribal council unanimously

passed an amendment to the tribe’s domestic relations code on July 9.

Council member Maggie Edwards cited

equality and tradition for the passage of the amendment. "It’s

really about equal treatment of all your members – all your members

should have the same rights and under the circumstances prior to the

enactment of the resolution, they didn’t all have the same rights. In

the outer culture, people can be mean if you’re different. We embrace

each other regardless of our lumps, bumps and whoever we love –

that’s just how it is here."



CATOOSA, Okla. – Despite several pleas

from claimants and would-be claimants, there will not be another

round of payouts in the Keepseagle v. Vilsack class action


Settled in 2010, Keepseagle v. Vilsack

was initially filed in 1999 by a group of Native American farmers who

claimed the USDA discriminated against them while applying for farm

loans. Some were denied loans that were given to white farmers with

similar histories while others received loans but received little if

any service in the process.

The plaintiffs have received $760

million in the settlement, but with fewer claimants successfully able

to prove their case than expected, $380 million remains to be spent,

prompting a series of listening sessions across Indian Country

throughout August, including one July 30 at the Hard Rock Hotel and

Casino in Catoosa that drew more than 100 farmers and ranchers from

as far away as Alabama. Attorney Joe Sellers said at the session that

the USDA will not agree to any more payours or claimant classes and

neither would the court.

The proposal presented at the session

would place $342 million in a trust fund that would be overseen by 11

court-appointed trustees. Those trustees would have up to 20 years to

distribute the money to non-profit organizations that have provided

advocacy or some form of help to farmer and business owners in Indian

Country. Individuals could not directly receive funds from the trust

but could be an indirect recipient, such as through a grantee’s

scholarship program.

The proposal would also make the

remaining $38 million available to non-profit organizations within

six months of the settlement’s final approval via a “fast track”

portion. Those funds could only be allocated to non-profit

organizations that existed prior to October 2010 and provided

advocacy or assistance to farmers and business owners in Indian


No funds will be distributed until the

court approves the settlement plan.

Additional listening sessions are

scheduled for Aug. 12 in Rapid City, S.D.; Aug. 14 in Bismarck, N.D.;

Aug. 19 in Spokane, Wash.; Aug. 21 in Billings, Mont.; and Aug. 26 in

Raleigh, N.C. All in-person sessions are scheduled to start at 9:30

a.m. local time.

Webinars and conference calls are also

scheduled for Aug. 6, Aug. 16, and Aug. 20. Participants are asked to

sign up in advance and registration links are available through


WORLEY, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene Tribe

on July 21 cancelled a performance by Ted Nugent scheduled for Aug. 4

at its casino.

The tribe said that the cancellation

of the concert was because of what it called the performer’s "racist

and hate-filled remarks." It said it booked Nugent without

realizing he espoused "racist attitudes and views." The

tribe did not detail which of Nugent’s specific views it opposes.

However, early reports indicated that the Southern Poverty Law Center

brought Nugent’s public comments to the tribe’s attention.

“We adamantly do not want our casino

to be used as a venue for the racist attitudes and views that Ted

Nugent espouses,” casino director of marketing Laura Stensgar said.

“Unfortunately, when we booked him, we were looking at him from an

entertainment perspective, as an 80s rock and roller, who we thought

folks might enjoy,” she said. “We take the comments and concerns

of our community very seriously and we apologize to anyone who was

offended by the idea that we would promote these kinds of attitudes.

We will do our best to avoid such mistakes moving forward.”

Following suit, the Puyallup Tribe of

Washington also cancelled an Aug. 2 and 3 concert at its Emerald

Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.

Nugent subsequently called protestors

and the Southern Poverty Law Center, “unclean vermin” opposed to

his success. On Aug. 1, he appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show,

defending his relationship with Native people. Nugent told Beck that

he had been invited to Indian schools for 40 years to teach Native

youth about bow-hunting and sobriety. “And my lifestyle, as a white

guy, though I’m hard to accept that designation, is more in the

Indian tradition than many of the Indians themselves.”



WASHINGTON – Sen. Tim Johnson

(D-S.D.) announced July 30 that the Native American Languages

Reauthorization Act (S. 2299) successfully passed out of the Indian

Affairs Committee and will now head to the Senate Floor.

“Native languages are a link to

previous generations and will help preserve Native cultures for

future generations,” Johnson said. “This bill will reauthorize

one of the few federal funding opportunities available to tribes and

tribal organizations to ensure that Native languages are not lost.”

Following Administration and tribal

stakeholder input during an Indian Affairs Committee hearing in June,

Johnson worked on the bill during committee markup. His changes to

the bill are intended to increase the sustainability and flexibility

of the Native language grant program. In addition, more language

schools and language nests in low populated and remote areas will be

eligible to access this important grant funding. The duration of

grant awards could be extended up to five years to give projects a

more stable funding source and increase the impact of each project.

Johnson introduced the Native American

Languages Reauthorization Act in May. The Native American Languages

Act was first signed into law in 1992 and established a grant program

within the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to ensure the

survival of Native American languages. The Native American languages

grant program was last reauthorized by Congress with the Esther

Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act in 2006. It

reauthorized and expanded the Native American language grant program

to include a grant initiative to support and strengthen Native

American language immersion programs.



HELENA, Mont. – The leaders of the

Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians have worked to draft a bill

that would remove “halfbreed” and “breed” from landmark names

around Montana to the state’s Tribal Relations Legislative Committee

on Aug. 4.

Nicholas Vrooman, who works with the

tribe, presented the bill draft on behalf of the tribe, saying the

words are racist terms that demean Native people. “Using the terms

is a way to really denigrate people; place them on lower rung of

society,” he said. The idea for the bill came out of work with

tribal members on the Montana Indian Languages Preservation Pilot


The bill would require state and other

agencies to identify places with the terms and remove them from maps,

signs and markers when age or vandalism calls for an update. It would

also create a volunteer advisory group that would determine

replacement names. Under the proposed bill, replacement names would

come from the tribe’s three traditional, historic languages:

Chippewa, Cree and Michif.

Halfbreed Lake National Wildlife

Refuge is one of 17 places throughout Montana with the word

“halfbreed” or “breed” in the name, according to Vrooman’s

research. He said he modeled the bill after one that passed through

the Montana Legislature in 1999 to remove the word “squaw” from

place names in the state.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is

the interagency panel that approves all names on maps put out by

federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the National

Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Army Corps of

Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service. In 1963, it changed all

geographic names containing the derogatory form of Negro, and in 1974

it changed all names containing the disparaging form of Japanese.

Vrooman’s next task involves finding

a legislator to sponsor the bill and introduce it during the 2015

legislative session, which begins in January. Rep. Nicholas

Schwaderer, (R-Superior), who sits on the State-Tribal Relations

committee, said whether the bill is introduced by members of that

committee or by another legislator, he thinks it will come up in




WINNEBAGO, Neb. – The Winnebago Tribe

of Nebraska faces an Oct. 25 deadline to address deficiencies at the

hospital on the reservation.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid

Services investigated the Winnebago Hospital after a patient died

there. Patients also made complaints about the service.

Chairman John Blackhawk said the

hospital was given a 14-page list of corrections. “I think

administratively we’re looking at how we can prevent this from

happening and how we can respond better,” he told media.

CMS threatened to cut Medicare due to

non-compliance issues.



WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Indian

Affairs is still reviewing the land-into-trust application submitted

by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts.

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn

initially promised a decision in spring 2013. That didn’t happen and

now he’s not saying when he will take action.

"The process takes a long time,"

Washburn told media. "I haven’t seen all the evidence yet so I

can’t prejudge it."

The application – the tribe’s first

– was filed in August 2007 but the process slowed as the tribe

changed gaming sites, changed gaming partners and changed leadership.

The draft environmental impact statement wasn’t published until

November 2013.

The next step for the BIA would be the

final environmental impact statement. That’s usually followed by a

record of decision and then the actual placing of the land in trust.

The tribe’s main hurdle is the U.S.

Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling restricts

the land-into-trust process to tribes that were "under federal

jurisdiction" in 1934.

The Mashpees didn’t gain recognition

until May 2007.



STANFORD, Calif. – Navajo/Pueblo golfer

Notah Begay, III is being recognized by his alma mater, Stanford


Begay will be inducted into the

Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame this October. As a student there, he

helped lead the golf team to the 1994 national championship and was

named All-American in 1992, 1994 and 1995.

In related news, Begay is hosting his

seventh annual Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge on Aug. 27. The

event takes place at the Atunyote Golf Club on the Oneida Nation in

New York.

This year’s lineup includes Tiger

Woods, who was Begay’s teammate at Stanford. The tournament will

raise money to fight obesity and diabetes among Native youth and to

promote leadership development for Native youth.

“We couldn’t do this without the

strong support of my friends on the PGA TOUR,” Begay said in a

press release. “The draw of these amazing golfers is essential in

raising the resources to fund change. Thanks also to Oneida Indian

Nation and all the passionate fans. I’m so grateful for the

opportunity to return to Central New York and continue strengthening

our partnership."



WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation

Council is considering a bill that would put a term-limit referendum

on the ballot.

Tribal law imposes a two-term limit on

the office of the president. The Navajo Nation Supreme Court, ruled

recently that the restriction only applies to two consecutive terms.

The bill would change that by barring

a person from serving more than two terms as president during his of

her her lifetime. If it’s approved by the council, the referendum

would go before voters this November.

If the referendum passes, it goes into

effect in 2018. Meaning that former president Joe Shirley, Jr. can

continue his campaign this year for a third, non-consecutive term as




MT. PLEASANT, Mich. – Members of the

Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan who are being disenrolled held a

protest on July 26.

The tribe is removing 234 people from

the rolls. Most have been targeted in the past and had their cases

dismissed so they question why the effort has restarted. “This

isn’t just a membership issue or an employment issue,” Lisa

Kennedy told media at the protest, which took place along with the

tribe’s 30th anniversary powwow. “This is an issue of human


The tribe’s Office of Administrative

Hearings has allowed the disenrollment proceedings to move forward.



MONTVILLE, Conn. – The Mohegan Tribe of

Connecticut saw declines in revenues and profits at its gaming


For the quarter ending June 30, the

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority said profits were $13.9 million, down

from $22.3 million in the same quarter last year. That represents a

37.7 percent decline.

Net revenues were $326.3 million, down

from $344.2 million a year ago. That represents a 5.2 percent


“Although we were able to gain

market share in both Connecticut and Pennsylvania during the quarter,

the overall lack of confidence in the economy and decline in

discretionary dollars continue to be a challenge,” Mitchell

Grossinger Etess, Chief Executive Officer of the MTGA, said in a

press release.

The tribe operates the Mohegan Sun, an

Indian gaming facility on its reservation in Connecticut, and the

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, a commercial facility in Pennsylvania.

In related news, the tribe gave up the

lease on a proposed commercial casino in western Massachusetts. The

tribe continues to pursue a commercial license in the eastern part of

the state.