ONEIDA NATION APPROVES GAY MARRIAGE
GREEN BAY, WI – The Oneida Nation of
Wisconsin is the latest in Indian Country to join the marriage
Tribal law currently defines a
marriage as a union between a "husband and wife." The
phrase will now be replaced by the word "spouses."
Members of the business committee
unanimously approved the change at a meeting on May 26. The new law
goes into effect on June 10.
NATIVE STUDENTS IN UTAH FACE HARSHER
PUNISHMENT AT SCHOOLS
SALT LAKE CITY – Native American
students at public schools in Utah are more likely to face harsher
punishment than their peers, according to a new study.
Based on data from the Department of
Education, researcher Vanessa Walsh found that Indian students are
3.8 times as likely to face disciplinary action compared to their
white counterparts. They are 7.5 times more likely to be expelled and
7.1 times as likely to be referred to law enforcement.
"Utah is pushing American Indian
students into the pipeline at alarming rates," Walsh wrote in
“Disparities in Discipline: A Look at School Disciplinary Actions
for Utah’s American Indian Students.” "In 2011, the most
recent year for which data is available, this student population
comprised the smallest student demographic in the state and the was
most frequently expelled, referred to law enforcement, and arrested
for school related incidents—all the most severe forms of school
disciplinary action," the report stated.
The study contained some alarming
examples of how Indian students are singled out. Fifty-five students,
from kindergarten through sixth grade, were referred to law
enforcement in 2011, compared to zero for white students.
More recently, two Indian students
were reported to law enforcement for drinking two soda bottles from a
refrigerator in the teacher’s lounge. "This is a theft,"
the disciplinary report stated. Natives represent just 1.3 percent of
the student body yet they account for a larger percentage of
disciplinary actions, according to the study. In the Murray school
district, for example, the disparity was incredibly high – nearly
50 percent of Indian students received a disciplinary action,
compared to around 11 percent for white students.
Only 65 percent of Indian students
finish high school, according to 2014 data cited by the study.
ICWA CONSTITUTIONALITY CHALLENGED IN
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two adoption
groups have opened a new war against the Indian Child Welfare Act
amid the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen the decades-old
The National Council for Adoption and
Building Arizona Families filed the lawsuit in federal court in
Virginia on May 27. It claims ICWA violates the constitutional rights
of birth parents by denying them the ability to place Indian children
in the homes of their choosing. "It violates birth parents’
rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment by interfering with
their ability to direct the upbringing of their ‘Indian’
children," the complaint states.
The lawsuit also questions new ICWA
guidelines that were issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in
February. It claims that state agencies and adoption agencies are
being forced to take extra steps before finding homes for Indian
The guidelines do not carry the force
of law. However, the BIA has proposed a new ICWA rule that seeks to
compliance by state courts and child welfare agencies.
The high court did not question the
constitutionality of ICWA although some non-Indian groups were hoping
that would happen. The defendants are Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
and Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA.
HOPI LEADER DENOUNCES SALE OF ARTIFACTS
KYKOTSMOVI, AZ – Hopi Chairman Herman
Honanie and the Holocaust Art Restitution Project denounced a
decision by a French oversight agency to allow the sale of Hopi kwaa
tsi on June 1.
“The Hopi people are again deeply
saddened by the auctions at the EVE Auction House in Paris, France. A
sixth auction scheduled today resulted in the sale of six of eight
Hopi kwaa tsi,” Honanie said.
On May 29, both Honanie and HARP’s
chair, Ori Z. Soltes, appeared before the Conseil des Ventes (Board
of Auction Sales) to request an administrative suspension of the June
1 auction sale, which involved sacred objects belonging to the Hopi
tribe and for which, they contend, title never vested with subsequent
possessors because to the nature of the objects.
“The decision by the Conseil des
Ventes is both insulting and outrageous. The Conseil held that the
Hopi tribe, in fact any Indian tribe, has no legal existence or
capacity as a group or as a recognized nation to pursue any cultural
claim in France. This decision closes the door to any tribal group
and their members to file any cultural claims in France involving
auction houses, regardless of title-related merits. The French
Government is sending a clear and appalling message that its market
is wide open to looted property. Furthermore, this complete denial of
access to justice flies in the face of international law principles
in favor of all tribes and indigenous peoples, as the French
government had endorsed, in the UN General Assembly, the 2007 United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),”
HARP said that French President
Francois Hollande was sent a letter of support by leaders of a number
of museums and institutes and that the Senate Judiciary Committee,
Foreign Affairs Committee and FBI Art Theft Program were provided
information on the continuing auctions and sale of Hopi artifacts.
FORMER N.D. CHAIRMAN JOINS MARIJUNANA
BISMARCK, N.D. – Tex Hall, a former
chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota
and a former president of the National Congress of American Indians,
has joined the marijuana industry.
Hall’s company, Red Tipped Arrow,
partnered with Wright Family Organics, a marijuana firm, to launch
Native American Organics. The new venture will help tribes explore
legal medicinal and recreational uses for the drug.
“Throughout my career, I have fought
for advancement and sovereignty of Indian tribes. And a lot of that
time was focused on economic development because that that is what
our people need and deserve," Hall said in a press release. "As
the legal and practical questions surrounding the participation of
Indian tribes in the market continue to be settled, there is no doubt
in my mind that tribes have a competitive advantage when it comes to
cannabis production, processing, and sale."
The company plans to work with tribes
in states where marijuana has been legalized. Hall said the drug can
bring benefits to veterans in Indian Country. “What really made an
impact on me was the potential that cannabis has for healing and
easing the pain of our people who suffer from PTSD across Indian
Country," he said. "Not least among those who suffer are
our veterans. American Indians have always fought fiercely to defend
this country. American Indians serve in the military in higher rates
than any other group in the U.S. Unfortunately, the Department of
Veteran Affairs estimates the rates of PTSD among American Indian
veterans at up to 25%.”
Marijuana remains illegal under
federal law. But a new Department of Justice policy could open the
door to tribes that want to legalize the drug.
CHEROKEE NATION COMPLETES HEALTH CENTER
SALLISAW, OK – The Cherokee Nation in
Oklahoma held a grand opening for a $10.7 million health expansion
The Redbird Smith Health Center in
Sallisaw now boasts a 30,000 square-foot annex. The expansion
features a physical therapy department, mammography and drive-thru
pharmacy and a community safe room.
“The expansion at Redbird Smith will
create better access to quality health care for Cherokee people and
that is the most pressing issue our people are facing today,” Chief
Bill John Baker said in a press release. “Expanding our facilities
will allow us to provide more pediatric care, more elder care, a
drive-through pharmacy and more services specifically for women.
These are the kinds of world-class care options that will improve
health care in Sequoyah County for generations of Cherokee families.”
The tribe is investing $100 million in
its health system. A $10 million center in Ochelata debuted last
month and more openings and expansions are on the way.
OREGON TRIBE HOSTS TESLA VEHICLE
PENDLETON, OR – The Confederated
Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon will host a Tesla Motors
charging station at its casino.
The "Supercharger" station
at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino is due to open this month for
owners of the first fully-electric vehicles. It will be located at
the south end of the parking lot.
According to the Tesla Web site, the
U.S. is home to 431 Supercharger stations with 2,537 Supercharger
devices. The station at the casino will offer eight charging stalls.
The station at the casino will be the only one in the eastern part of
Oregon and will be the only one along a major interstate that
connects Boise, Idaho, to Portland.
SENATE PASSES BILL FOR NATIVE YOUTH
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate passed
S.246, the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on
Native Children Act, by a unanimous vote on June 1.
The bill would create an 11-member
commission to study issues affecting American Indian and Alaska
Native youth. Supporters say the effort will lead to recommendations
that will improve the lives of the youngest Native Americans.
"Today, the Senate spoke with a
strong, united voice and passed my bill – the first bill I
introduced in the Senate – to give our Native youth that fighting
chance," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said in a press release.
"By creating a Commission on Native Children, we can begin to
address chronic issues like abuse and suicide that has shattered the
lives of too many young people – and put holistic solutions in
place that can positively change the lives of many Native kids."
"Our First People carry a proud
tradition and lifestyle that is being eroded by a culture of despair
fed by poverty, crime, unemployment, substance abuse, and tragic
household violence; this complicated problem deserves a thorough
review that brings all the governments’ agencies to bear. Alaska
Natives, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians deserve better and the
government’s must live up to its trust responsibility and empower
them to change this,” added Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another
co-sponsor of the bill.
The bill is named in honor of Alyce
Spotted Bear, a former chairwoman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara
Nation in North Dakota who served on the National Advisory Council on
Indian Education prior to her passing in 2013. She was a
Walter Sobeloff was a revered Tlingit
elder who died in 2011 at the age of 102. Murkowski called him a
"legend" who dedicated his life to advancing Alaska Native
rights and education.
The bill now heads to the House for
CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO BRING JIM THORPE
TO OKLAHOMA HOME
STROUD, OK – The Sac and Fox Nation
launched a campaign to bring legendary athlete and Olympian Jim
Thorpe back home to Oklahoma.
Thorpe, who was a tribal citizen, was
born in Oklahoma. Following his death in 1935, he was going to be
buried on Sac and Fox land before his widow interrupted the service
and took his body. He was eventually buried in a newly-created
municipality in Pennsylvania called the Borough of Jim Thorpe. His
sons, backed by the tribe, have been fighting to bring him back home
The tribe and Thorpe’s sons are the
plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Borough of Jim Thorpe. They
secured a major victory in April 2013 when a federal judge ordered
the municipality to return the remains under the Native American
Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
But Thorpe never came home because the
borough took the case to 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision
from October 2014 freed the municipality from complying with NAGPRA
by claiming that reburial of this nature was never envisioned when
Congress passed the law in 1990.
"NAGPRA was intended as a shield
against further injustices to Native Americans, Judge Theodore McKee
wrote for the majority. "It was not intended to be wielded as a
sword to settle familial disputes within Native American families."
The plaintiffs are now asking the U.S.
Supreme Court to hear the dispute. The Supreme Court justices only
accept a small number of petitions presented to them. They have never
ruled in a NAGPRA dispute in the history of the law.