National Briefs: June 2014

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FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN FEDERAL JUDGE

CONFIRMED BY SENATE

WASHINGTON, DC – Hopi citizen Diane

Humetewa made history on May 14 when the United States Senate

confirmed her to serve on the federal bench as judge for the U.S.

District Court for Arizona, the first American Indian woman to serve

in the federal judiciary.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of

the Committee on Indian Affairs applauded Humetewa’s appointment.

“Diane Humetewa is an inspiration to Native people, especially

Native women across Indian Country. This is an important appointment

and long overdue. I’m pleased that the Senate came together in a

bipartisan way to get this done. As the only Native American in

active service on the federal bench, Diane provides much-needed

expertise on the complexities of federal law and Indian sovereignty.”

Until her confirmation, Humetewa

served as Special Advisor to the President and Special Counsel in the

Office of General Counsel at Arizona State University. She is also a

Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day

O’Connor College of Law.

From 2002 to 2007, Humetewa was an

Appellate Court Judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court. From 2009

to 2011, Humetewa was Of Counsel with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey

LLP. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in the

District of Arizona from 1996 to 2009, serving as Senior Litigation

Counsel from 2001 to 2007 and as the United States Attorney from 2007

to 2009. During her tenure in the United States Attorney’s Office,

Humetewa also served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General from

1996 to 1998.

From 1993 to 1996, she was Deputy

Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Humetewa received her Juris Doctor in 1993 from Arizona State

University College of Law and her Bachelor’s of Science in 1987

from Arizona State.

On February 27, the Senate Judiciary

Committee approved Humetewa’s nomination. Previously, Humetewa

served as a prosecutor and an appellate court judge for the Hopi

Nation, and was the first Native American woman to serve as a U.S.

Attorney.

INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADER DECRIES

PIPELINE

FORT MCMURRAY, CANADA – Anglican

archbishop Desmond Tutu called Alberta’s tar sands “filth”

created by greed at a May conference on oil development and treaty

rights and urged all sides to work together to protect the

environment and indigenous rights.

“The fact that this filth is being

created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global

warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed,” Tutu told

over 200 conference attendees. “The oil sands are emblematic of an

era of high carbon and high-risk fuels that must end if we are

committed to a safer climate.”

“Oil sands development not only

devastates our shared climate, it is also stripping away the rights

of First Nations and affected communities to protect their children,

land and water from being poisoned.”

Tutu has criticized the oil sands

before.

The archbishop, who won the Nobel

Peace Prize for his role in the fight against apartheid, has taken

strong stands on climate change and against projects such as the

Keystone XL pipeline. Tutu has signed a petition against the project.

In an opinion column earlier this year in the British newspaper the

Guardian, the 82-year-old called the Keystone proposal to move oil

sands bitumen from Alberta to the U.S. appalling.

He has also called for boycotts of

events sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, for health warnings on

oil company ads and for divestment of oil industry investments held

by universities and municipalities, similar to measures that were

brought against South Africa’s old apartheid regime.

NAVAJO PANEL OKS DEAL TO END TRUST-FUND

SUIT

WINDOW ROCK, AZ – The Navajo Nation

Council approved a $554 million agreement to end litigation over the

U.S. government’s alleged mismanagement of the tribe’s trust-fund

assets.

Officials at the tribal headquarters in

Window Rock said May 30 that the council voted 13-3 to approve the

deal. Execution of the agreement and payment to the tribe is

contingent on final review and approval of the terms by Navajo Nation

President Ben Shelly and the U.S. Departments of Justice, Interior

and Treasury.

The tribe originally filed its lawsuit

against the federal government in December 2006. It alleges that the

U.S. breached its fiduciary obligations under treaties, executive

orders, federal statutes and regulations and contractual documents.

The suit also says the federal

government failed to manage, invest and account for tribal trust

funds and resources.

MONTANA TRIBE CLOSER TO FEDERAL

RECOGNITION

HELENA, MT. – The Little Shell Tribe

of Chippewa Indians in Montana are closer to federal recognition.

The tribal council Chairman Gerald

Gray spoke with Gov. Steve Bullock in early May and Gray said the

recently proposed rule changes for recognizing American Indian tribes

would put a nod from the U.S. government within their reach.

Federal officials say the proposed

rule changes are in the midst of a months-long finalization process.

The landless tribe has been recognized

by the state of Montana since 2000. With about 4,500 members loosely

centered in Great Falls, federal recognition could bring the tribe

land, along with housing and education assistance.

Gray, Bullock and others met as part

of the annual Tribal Leaders Summit at the State Capitol in Helena.

HARVARD PROJECT NAMES THREE HONORING

NATIONS LEADERS

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Two Ojibwe and one

Lakota tribal citizens were selected for the Harvard Project on

American Indian Economic Development’s 2014 Honoring Nations

Leadership Program.

Karen Cary, Leech Lake Tribal College

Career & Technical Education director, Justin Beaulieu, Red Lake

Nation Constitutional Reform Initiative coordinator and Amber Annis,

a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal citizen and University of Minnesota

American Studies doctoral candidate were selected in May to

participate in the Harvard program.

As director, Cary’s responsibilities

include assuring hands-on teaching match job skills identified by

employers for students at Leech Lake Tribal College. Students learn

the skills and knowledge for employment in law enforcement,

carpentry, business management or electrical. In addition, the

department offers custom training and continuing education

opportunities for brushing up on or advancing skills in many fields

of study.

Coordinating the Red Lake

Constitutional Reform Initiative for Beaulieu involves working with a

13-member committee of Red Lake Band citizens who represent a

cross-section of the tribe. Each area of representation on the

committee was selected by the tribal council to ensure the revised

Constitution is crafted to reflect the importance of Ojibwe language,

culture and way of life, while also realistically addressing the

current and evolving needs of the tribe.

Annis is currently a doctoral student

in the American Studies department at the University of Minnesota.

She received her B.A. in History and American Indian Studies at the

University of North Dakota where she also received an M.A. in

History. She is a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal citizen and her

research interests include American Indian education and history in

the 20th century and American Indian cultural and public diplomacy

during the Cold War era.

The Honoring Nations program,

supported by the Bush Foundation, is designed to foster

nation-building capacity in the Bush Region: Minnesota, North Dakota

and South Dakota and provides the opportunity for the participants to

contribute to the 2014 Honoring Nations awards cycle, which will

include participation on a site visit and reporting to the Honoring

Nations Board of Governors. Nation-building leaders will also have

the opportunity to participate in a tribal governance session

facilitated by the Native Nations Institute.

SENATE CONFIRMS FIRST NATIVE AMERICAN

AMBASSADOR

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate confirmed

Keith Harper as ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council

on June 3, making him the first Native American to ever become a U.S.

Ambassador.

Harper is an attorney who was one of

the lawyers behind a landmark class action lawsuit brought by Native

Americans against the federal government. President Barack Obama

first nominated him in June 2013.

A Cherokee Nation citizen, Harper

helped represent around 500,000 Native American who brought a

class-action suit – Cobell vs. Salazar – against the United

States in the 1990s over alleged federal mismanagement of revenue

from mines and oil wells owned by Native Americans.

Senate Republicans objected to his

confirmation due to his involvement in the Cobell case and his role

as a bundler for Obama’s campaign.

Harper’s confirmation was approved by

a party-line vote of 52-42 and was hailed by Native American groups

as a positive step forward.

SEMINOLE TRIBE OF FLORIDA SEEKS TO

ACQUIRE BANK

HOLLYWOOD, FLA – The Seminole Tribe

of Florida is seeking approval to form a bank and rescue the ailing

Valley Bank in Fort Lauderdale.

The $84.3 million-asset bank was

“critically undercapitalized” as of March 31 and in danger of

failing without a buyer or a capital infusion.

On May 27, the Federal Deposit

Insurance Corp. received an interim merger application from Seminole

Bank to merge with Valley Bank. The problem is that Seminole Bank,

which listed the same address on Broward Boulevard as Valley Bank,

doesn’t exist at the moment.

There is no active Seminole Bank,

according to FDIC data and Florida corporate records. The last

institution known as Seminole Bank ceased operating in 1998 in the

town of Seminole. Yet, there could be a new one soon.

Florida Office of Financial Regulation

spokeswoman Jamie Mongiovi said her office received documents from

the Seminole Tribe on May 23 and the OFR returned those documents to

the tribe on May 28 with information about how to complete an

application to acquire Valley Bank.

OKLAHOMA SCHOOL BARS FEATHERS AT

GRADUATION

SEMINOLE COUNTY, OK – Officials at

Seminole High School told Native American students that wearing their

feathers at their graduation ceremony in late May.

Parents of senior Sefuan White, Amari

White (Seminole, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw) said their son, along

with three other cousins, had their eagle feathers prepared for the

graduation ceremony but were told by Principal Michael Crawford that

they would not be allowed to wear them.

In an interview with media, Crawford

defended his position, “no one is allowed to put anything on their

graduation caps, although there is no rule, that is our Seminole

(high school) tradition, we don’t put anything on them.”

According to a Public School Review

online record, Seminole High School – the mascot of which, is

designated as The Chieftains – has a 49 percent Native American

makeup.

The graduation was held on May 22 with

25 Native American graduates.