SUZAN SHOWN HARJO RECEIVED PRESIDENTIAL
MEDAL OF FREEDOM
WASHINGTON – Suzan Shown Harjo
(Cheyenne-Hodulgee Muscogee) an advocate and activist recently known
for her efforts to change the mascot of the Washington NFL team, was
awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24. In addition,
Shown Harjo dedicated her life to activism, fighting for tribal
sovereignty and preservation, while inspiring Native American youth.
“Through her work in government and
as the head of the National Congress of American Indians and the
Morningstar Institute, she has helped preserve a million acres of
Indian land; helped develop laws preserving tribal sovereignty; she’s
repatriated sacred cultural items to tribes while expanding museums
that celebrate Native life,” President Barack Obama said. “Because
of Suzan, more young Native Americans are growing up with pride in
their heritage and with faith in their future. And she’s taught all
of us that Native values make Americans stronger.”
Harjo was in good company, with
notables ranging from actress Meryl Streep to musician Stevie Wonder,
19 honorees in total: Alvin Ailey, Isabel Allende, Tom Brokaw, James
Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Mildred Dresselhaus, John
Dingell, Ethel Kennedy, Abner Mikva, Patsy Takemoto Mink, Edward
Roybal, Charles Sifford, Robert Solow, Stephen Sondheim and Marlo
PIPELINE SENATE VOTE FAILURE PROMPTS
SONG AND ARREST IN GALLERY
WASHINGTON – A group of Lakota
anti-Keystone XL advocates were escorted from the U.S. Senate gallery
after the Senate fell a vote short of approving the controversial
pipeline on Nov. 18.
Greg Grey Cloud (Crow Creek Sioux
Tribe) began singing the “Unci Maka Wiwayang Wacipi Olowan”after
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced the bill approving the
Keystone XL pipeline, which passed in the U.S. House, had failed to
meet its 60-vote threshold.
While Warren is no friend of the
Keystone pipeline, a champion of the Democratic Party’s left wing and
claimed Native American ancestry, but she ordered the
sergeant-at-arms to restore order in the galleries. Media outlets
reported that five protesters were taken from the chamber gallery by
the Capitol Police and handcuffed with zip ties. Grey Cloud continued
singing as he was knocked to the floor and pulled to the wall.
Grey Cloud, co-founder of Wica Agli –
an organization started to restore male responsibility in Lakota
society, said the translates as, “Grandfather look at me, I am
standing here struggling, I am defending grandmother earth and I am
chasing peace.” He said that the song was “not just from me, but
my brothers in Wica Agli. We’re defending our women and children in
our community. The song itself was very influential for why I sang
Grey Cloud requested permission to use
the song from members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Pat Bad Hand, Sr.,
explained the origins of the song, created by Howard Bad Hand at Big
Mountain as a protest song around coal mining. Bad Hand, Sr. agreed
that it was appropriate to sing.
“The importance was showing the U.S
Senators, President, and the administration that we are involved, in
a lot of places as well. Even though KXL wasn’t passed, that song
was sung in support with the tribes, the grassroots people and the
Cowboy and Indian Alliance to let the Senators know that we’re here
and we’re a people too, and that we support them as long as they
support us,” Grey Cloud said.
Grey Cloud was detained in the D.C.
jail for five hours for interrupting the Senate and given a court
date of Dec. 10.
WHITE HOUSE RECOGNIZES TWO TRIBES AS
CLIMATE ACTION CHAMPIONS
WASHINGTON – The White House named
two tribes as Climate Action Champions on Dec. 3.
The Blue Lake Rancheria of California
and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians were among 16
winners of a competition overseen by the Department of Energy. They
were selected because they have taken action to address climate
change in their communities.
"They will be receiving technical
assistance around pollution mitigation, climate resilience, and each
will be assigned a federal coordinator in order to help leverage
resources to support the implementation of their climate strategies,"
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said yesterday at the White House
Tribal Nations Conference.
The Blue Lake Rancheria, a Federally
recognized tribal government, began its strategic climate action plan
in 2008 and is a regional leader in strategically planning and
implementing both climate resiliency and greenhouse gas reduction
measures. To date, the Tribe has reduced energy consumption by 35
percent and has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40
percent by 2018, utilizing a range of approaches including the use of
biodiesel to power public buses and aggressive energy efficiency
The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa
Indians demonstrates a holistic approach to climate action and
preparedness through their energy strategy, emergency operations
plan, integrated resource management plan, solid waste management
plan, sustainable development code, and land use planning process,
with ambitious goals including a net-zero energy goal. The tribe aims
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4 percent.
NMAI DIRECTOR PRAISES CHANGES IN PETER
WASHINGTON – Kevin Gover, the
director of the National Museum of the American Indian, commended NBC
for making changes to its production of “Peter Pan.”
NBC cast actress Alanna Saunders, who
claims descent from members of the Cherokee Nation, in the role of
Tiger Lily. In the book and the Disney film version, Lily is the
daughter of a chief in the "Picaninny" tribe.
“The National Museum of the American
Indian commends NBC for taking the initiative and reaching out to
Native artists to consult on the production of Peter Pan to
ultimately create a new version of Tiger Lily for this generation of
Peter Pan fans," Director Kevin Gover said in a statement on
Facebook. " Tiger Lily was an imaginary Indian – she was created
decades ago for a storybook. Although a character, and a beloved one
at that, she didn’t (and her song didn’t) represent the American
Indians of the past nor today. This new interpretation of Tiger Lily
is closer to our heritage, our culture and portrays a deeper
sensitivity and helps diminish the many stereotypes surrounding
NBC also hired Jerod Impichchaachaaha’
Tate, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, as a consultant for the
project. Tate updated one of the songs in the original production
that used nonsensical "Indian" words. "So the song is
supposed to sound nonsensical, but what we did was find authentic
Indian language to put in there," Tate told Salon.Com.
The live production of Peter Pan aired
Dec. 4 on NBC.
NATIVE FARMERS PROTEST KEEPSEAGLE
WASHINGTON – Native American farmers
and ranchers, including lead plaintiffs Marilyn and George
Keepseagle, are opposing a proposal to use $380 million in leftover
funds from the Keepseagle settlement for a new foundation.
The Obama administration settled the
case in 2011 for $680 million in direct payments to Native farmers
and ranchers and for an $80 million loan forgiveness fund. All claims
were successfully processed but now there’s $380 million in funds
The attorneys who handled the case
want to use the money for a foundation. But Marilyn Keepseagle, 77,
told Judge Emmet Sullivan that “would be another way for
discrimination, because not all people are going to benefit."
Sullivan held a hearing on Dec. 2 to
discuss the proposal. Outside the courthouse in Washington, D.C., the
Association of American Indian Farmers, a new group, held a rally to
oppose the idea.
The Keepseagle attorneys held a series
of meetings and conference calls across Indian Country in July and
August to discuss the foundation. Keepsagle and other farmers say
they want the remaining funds to be distributed in another round to
potential claimants who suffered discrimination at the Department of
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma tried
to intervene in the case to claim a share of the funds. Sullivan
denied the request last month.
MESKWAKI CITIZEN’S MURDER TRIAL DELAYED
FOR JURY SELECTION
TOLEDO, IA – The first-degree murder
trial of a Meskwaki Tribe of Iowa citizen is being delayed because of
issues with the jury pool.
Dustin Jefferson, 39, is accused of
aiding and abetting his mother in the murder his wife in 2013. Jury
selection started this week but only two out of 86 potential jurors
identified as Native American. That isn’t enough to guarantee
Jefferson a trial of his peers, his attorney argued .In Tama County,
7.5 percent of the population is Native American so the jury pool was
A similar issue was raised during the
trial of Jefferson’s mother, Ginger Jefferson, 57, who was convicted
of first-degree murder for killing her son’s wife. None of the jurors
were Native American but the judge in that case said the two
potential Native jurors who were dismissed were stricken for proper
reasons. Ginger Jefferson is now serving a life sentence with no
chance of parole.
Kerry O’Clair-Jefferson, 23, was
murdered in September 2013 at her home. Ginger Jefferson was charged
that same month and went to trial in May. On the same day Ginger
Jefferson was convicted, authorities indicted Dustin Jefferson.
OUSTED LEADER OF MONTANA TRIBE DENIES
BOX ELDER, MT – Council members of
the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana have removed Chairman Ken St.
Marks from office for the second time in two years.
The council claims St. Marks, through
a construction company he owns, stole $2.3 million from the tribe.
However, no charges appear to have ever been filed in tribal court.
St. Marks also hasn’t been accused of
any crimes by the federal government. But the executive of the tribal
corporation that oversaw his construction work has pleaded guilty to
theft, bribery and tax fraud charges.
"I had nothing to do with the
money," St. Marks told media. "The bottom line is, I never
touched a penny. I couldn’t get within 100 feet of that checkbook."
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana
has indicted at least a dozen tribal leaders, employees and
associates in connection with a large corruption investigation on the
reservation. St. Marks has encouraged the probe and says he’s being
targeted by other tribal leaders because of it.
CHEROKEE NATION UPSET BY LINK TO DAN
TALEQUAH, OK – The Cherokee Nation of
Oklahoma was a sponsor of the Indian National Finals Rodeo but tried
to get its money back after learning that the event’s primary backer
was the Original Americans Foundation.
The tribe’s seal prominently appears
near the top of the INFR’s sponsor page. But it also appeared on
other pages just below a logo for the Washington NFL team’s
The tribe sponsored the rodeo because
many of its citizens participated, Chief Bill John Baker said. But
had he known of the link to the team, he said that wouldn’t have
NFL team owner Dan Snyder announced
the Original Americans Foundation earlier this year and said it would
provide financial and other assistance to Indian Country. However,
the organization has not publicly announced a leadership board,
policies, guidelines, funding source or other criteria typical of
most reputable charities. The foundation is headed by Gary Edwards,
who claims Cherokee heritage.
OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE POSTPONES DOG
ROUNDUPS AMID INVESTIGATION
PINE RIDGE, S.D. – The Oglala Sioux
Tribe has postponed dog roundups as federal authorities continue to
investigate the death of an eight-year-old girl.
The tribe’s Department of Public
Safety put several dogs to death following the Nov. 18 incident in
which Jayla Rodriguez lost her life. But there are conflicting
reports on whether she was killed by a pack of wild dogs as
The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the
FBI continue to investigate. Meanwhile, the tribe put off a roundup
that was supposed to occur on Nov. 29. Tribal elders questioned the
roundups, saying dogs were wrongfully blamed for Jayla’s death.
JUDGE ALLOWS NFL TEAM TO SUE NATIVE
WASHINGTON – The Washington NFL team
can sue a group of young Native activists, a federal judge ruled on
In Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc.,
the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled six of the team’s
trademarks because they are disparaging to Native people. That
prompted the team to sue six Native activists in federal court in
The activists disputed the suit,
saying the team’s complaints lie with the United States Patent and
Trademark Office. Judge Gerald Bruce Lee disagreed and said the
activists – who filed the petition to strike down the marks –
have a "direct stake" in the outcome of any proceedings in
"The court finds that defendants’
claim of disparagement before the TTAB constitutes a direct and
personal stake in the outcome of the appeal before this court,"
Lee wrote in the 17-page decision. "Defendants have not provided
a sufficient reason why they should not be considered parties of
interest in this case. Merely pointing out that defendants have not
used the registered marks and have no legal or economic interest in
the marks does not absolve them of any interest in the case."
The team previously sued a different
group of Native activists after the TTAB struck down the same marks
back in 1999. That case, however, went through the federal court in
The judge who handled the case
eventually ruled that Suzan Shown Harjo, who was awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom on Nov. 24, and her fellow activists
waited too long to challenge the trademarks.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals,
however, left the door open for a new challenge from people who
weren’t alive when the trademarks were first registered in 1967. The
petitioners in Blackhorse represent a new generation of Native
activists who oppose the continued use of a racial slur in
YAKIMA NATION LEADERS SUSPENDED IN
CLASH OVER GAMING PANEL
TOPPENISH, WA – Two leaders of the
Yakama Nation of Washington were suspended in a dispute over the
tribe’s gaming commission.
General Council Chairman George Selam
and General Council Secretary Joanna Meninick allegedly refused to
meet with the commission and allegedly refused to bring the
commission’s annual budget up for discussion at a meeting with tribal
members. Both were suspended without pay.
The general council is composed of all
adult tribal members and typically meets every November. Due to the
suspensions, it will meet again next week.
The tribe is currently undertaking a
$90 million expansion of its Yakama Legends Casino.