National Briefs: August 2015

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CHOCTAW ACTIVIST DEATH BEING

INVESTIGATED IN MISSISSIPPI

PHILADELPHIA, Miss. – A private

autopsy is under way for Rexdale W. Henry, a 53-year-old man found

dead inside the Neshoba County Jail on July 14.

According to local media reports,

detention offi­cers found Henry’s body around 10 a.m.; he was

last seen alive 30 minutes earlier. The state crime lab in Jackson

conducted an autopsy and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is

looking into the case.

Funeral services for Henry took place

July 19 in Bogue Chitto. A few days later, his body was flown to

Florida for an independent autopsy paid for by anonymous donors.

Henry, a citizen of the Mississippi

Band of Choc­taw and a lifelong community activist, coached

stickball and had been a candidate for the Choctaw Tribal Council

from Bogue Chitto the week before his arrest on July 9 for failure to

pay a fine.

Helping with the family’s independent

probe are civil-rights activists John Steele, a close friend of

Henry’s, and Diane Nash, a co-founder of the Stu­dent

Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, as well as Syracuse University law

professors Janis McDon­ald and Paula Johnson of the school’s

Cold Case Jus­tice Initiative.

“At a time when the nation is focused

on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of San­dra

Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black

Americans, Native Americans and oth­er minorities are being

arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells,” McDonald

said in a statement.

Henry’s death occurred one day after

Bland, an African American woman, was found hanging in Texas’

Waller County Jail. Authorities ruled Bland’s death a suicide.

Supporters say the results of the

independent au­topsy will be made public when it is complete.

UNITY CONFERENCE ATTRACTS NATIVE YOUTH

TO CAPITOL

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 1,800

young Native Americans crowded a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel on

July 10 for the opening of the 39th annual United National In­dian

Tribal Youth conference.

Many attendees had also been a part in

the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering, which UNITY helped

organize, on July 9.

The conference began with the lighting

of the UNITY fire outside of the Renaissance Downtown Hotel near the

White House. Participants then moved inside to a ballroom for the

Parade of Nations. Tribal youth, many in traditional dress and waving

tribal flags, were greeted by raucous cheers from their colleagues.

Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation

of Islam, delivered the keynote, inviting the youth to participate in

the Second Million Man March in D.C. this October. His address

inter­twined the struggles of Native peoples with those of other

groups.

“Justice of LGBT people is on the

horizon and justice for women is easier than the justice Native

people deserve,” Far­rakhan said.

He also lambasted what he called

government exploitation of Native lands. He encouraged the crowd to

push back against those actions. “When a stranger comes in and

takes your land and takes his wealth off our land—that’s not a

stranger, that’s an enemy… Take pride in who you are. When you

walk the earth, walk with a little heaviness because all of this land

is yours.”

Over the weekend, participants heard

from marathon run­ner Alvina Begay, Miss Indian World Cheyenne

Brady and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Suzan Shown Harjo.

They also took part in a run and walk around the city. Other events

included a panel on the role of Native women and a banquet featuring

actor Adam Beach.

UNITY was founded in 1976 by J.R. Cook,

a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, to help Native youth

develop leadership and other skills. After more than three decades at

the helm of the organization, Cook stepped down from his ex­ecutive

director role in 2013.

Mary Kim Titla, a former television

journalist who is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, now serves

as execu­tive director.

BLACKFEET NATION OPPOSES DRILLING

BROWNING, Mont. – The Blackfeet

Nation of Montana has broken off talks with an energy company that

wants to drill for oil and gas on sacred land.

The tribe was talking with Solenex LLC,

the holder of a lease in the Badger-Two Medicine Area near the

reservation. At one point, the tribe offered its own land for

development but the company did not accept.

Development in Badger-Two Medicine was

approved dur­ing the Reagan administration without consulting the

tribe. According to the Associated Press, most have expired or were

sold but 18 remain – including one held by Solenex.

The company is suing the Interior

Department, claiming the federal government has unreasonably delayed

the work due to concerns raised by the tribe. The judge handling the

case has questioned the delay but no decision has been issued in

Solonex LLC v. Jewell.

Badger-Two Medicine falls within the

Lewis and Clark Na­tional Forest and was covered by an agreement

signed by the tribe in 1896. Tribal leaders say they only meant to

lease the land to the government for 99 years. They are seeking the

re­turn of the land.

FIRST NATIONS ENTREPRENEUR FUNDED

TRIBAL MARIJUANA

MODOC COUNTY, Calif. – Jerry Montour,

a Native entre­preneur from Canada, was helping two tribes in

California grow marijuana before the operations were raided by

federal authorities on July 8.

Montour is Mohawk from the Wahta Mohawk

Territory. He serves as CEO and an owner of Grand River Enterprises,

a tobacco manufacturing company based on the Six Nations Reserve in

Ontario.

Montour “financed” the marijuana

operations at the Alturas Rancheria and the XL Rancheria, a

res­ervation that is home to the Pit River Tribe, accord­ing

to an affidavit filed in federal court by a affidavit filed in

federal court special agent. That statement was based on information

from a confidential infor­mant and from Wendy Del Rosa, an

Alturas tribal member who opposed the grow on her reservation.

Montour has faced legal problems in the

past. However, federal authorities did not arrest anyone in

connection with their raid and no charges are pending against anyone.

More than 12,000 marijuana plants and

more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana were seized from the two

reservations.

FORMER MENOMINEE NATION JUDGE SENTENCED

FOR CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Joseph H. Martin, a

mem­ber of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin who has been active

in Indian law circles, was sentenced to five years on July 10 in

federal prison in a child pornography case.

Martin, 54, pleaded guilty in February

to one charge for receiving child pornography. He kept the material

on his home computer in Wisconsin, ac­cording to the indictment

in the case.

Martin is the Menominee Nation’s

former chief justice and former prosecutor. He also served as chief

legislative counsel for the Little River Band of the Ottawa Indians

but was terminated because he failed to obtain a license to practice

law in Michi­gan.

The tribe eventually asked the Illinois

State Bar to investigate Martin, as he was practicing law in that

state. A review board substantiated several com­plaints against

Martin, according to documents posted by Turtle Talk.

Martin is a former president of the

National Na­tive American Bar Association. He was a frequent

presenter at Indian law events up until a few years ago.

Martin will serve his sentence in the

federal pris­on in Elkton, Ohio.

NAVAJO NATION WOMAN DRIVES TRUCK TO

DELIVERY WATER

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – One-third of the

50,000 households on the Navajo Nation don’t have regu­lar

access to clean water.

That’s where Darlene Arviso steps in.

The 51 year-old tribal citizen drives a water delivery truck around

the reservation, bringing much-needed water to countless numbers of

grateful families as often as possible.

“We take what we can from the water

lady,” Lind­say Johnson, 78, said.

According to the paper, the average

Navajo family lives on seven gallons of water a day. In California,

the average is 362 gallons, the paper said.

CHOCTAW AND CHICASAW NATIONS SET­TLE

TRUST LAWSUIT

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The Choctaw

Nation and the Chickasaw Nation have reached a settle­ment to

their trust mismanagement lawsuit.

The two Oklahoma tribes sued the

federal gov­ernment in 2005, seeking an accounting of their trust

assets and trust funds. After a decade of legal motions and

maneuvers, a federal judge finally scheduled a trial that was due to

start today.

But the tribes and the Obama

administration informed the court that a settlement was reached.

Details will be announced after the parties finalize the deal.

“The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations

are pleased that it appears there is going to be a resolu­tion to

this litigation that has gone on more than a decade,” attorney

Michael Burrage, a Choctaw citi­zen and former federal judge,

said.

Since the beginning of the Obama

administra­tion, the U.S. Government has settled the Cobell trust

fund lawsuit for $3.4 billion and has settled more than 70 cases with

tribes. The dollar value in the tribal cases has topped $2.6 billion.

IHS MEETS TO DISCUSS SERVING LGBT

NATIVES AT FACILITIES

ROCKVILLE, Md. – Roughly 40 people

crowded the suburban Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Indian

Health Service on July 27to discuss how the agency can better serve

lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans­gender and Two Spirit clients.

Acting IHS Director Robert McSwain,

North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, and Chief Medical Of­ficer

Susan Karol were among the top officials who participated in the

meeting.

Topics included the recent U.S. Supreme

Court decision that requires all states to recognize same-sex

marriage. Participants wondered how the rul­ing, which does not

apply to tribal governments, will affect the IHS.

Geoffrey Roth, a senior advisor to

McSwain, said the agency is ready to provide services for same-sex

couples. But the decision – which came after an­other case in

which the Supreme Court required the federal government to recognize

all marriages – does not apply to tribes.

Other participants discussed ways in

which IHS facilities can be more welcoming, efficient and in­clusive.

Potential changes include adding gender neutral bathrooms,

eliminating the use of gendered pronouns and providing more LGBT

training for employees.

Elsewhere in the federal government,

the Depart­ment of Housing and Urban Development is work­ing

on a rule to bar discrimination against LGBT individuals who are

seeking housing in Indian Country. There isn’t a concrete timeline

for the pro­posal.