OBAMA INVITES NATIVE YOUTH TO WHITE
HOUSE ON JULY 9
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – President Barack
Obama reached out to Native youth on April 25, inviting them the
first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering this summer.
In a video message delivered to the
32rd annual Gathering of Nations powwow in New Mexico, Obama said he
was inspired by the youth he and First Lady Michelle Obama met during
their visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in June 2014. The
historic trip was his first to Indian Country as president.
"Their resilience, pride and
optimism in the face of incredible obstacles moved us deeply,"
Obama said of the youth from the reservation, whom he later invited
to Washington, D.C., in November. "I know that many Native youth
share the same experiences."
Obama is hoping that same spirit will
return to the nation’s capital on July 9, when his administration
hosts the inaugural Native youth event. He urged powwow participants
to join Generation Indigenous and engage their communities through
the Youth Challenge. Applications are due May 8 so Native youth only
have two more weeks to complete the challenge. The conference is open
to Native youth ages 14-24 from "rural or urban communities,"
the White House said.
The goal is to select some 800 Native
youth to attend the gathering, whose theme is "Two Worlds, One
Future: Defining Our Own Success." The event will be held at the
Renaissance Downtown Hotel.
The youth will meet with administration
officials and the White House Council on Native American Affairs, an
inter-agency body chaired by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Additional details will be shared as the event approaches, so it’s
likely the conference will also include a visit to the White House by
Although Obama wasn’t at the powwow,
two representatives of the White House were there – Raina Thiele,
who is Alaska Native, and Jodi Gillette, a member of the Standing
Rock Sioux Tribe. Thiele works in the Office of Intergovernmental
Affairs and Gillette serves as the president’s senior advisor for
Native American Affairs.
NATIVE ACTORS STORM OFF SET OF ADAM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – About a dozen
Native actors walked off the set of an Adam Sandler film in New
Mexico after they felt insulted by the way Native people were being
Several of the actors are members of
the Navajo Nation who said they were being forced to dress in
culturally inappropriate costumes. They also complained about some of
the language in “The Ridiculous Six,” which is described as a
satire of the Western genre.
“Nothing has changed,” Allison
Young told Indian Country Today Media Network, which broke the story
on its Web site. “We are still just Hollywood Indians.”
The film is being produced exclusively
for distribution through Netflix. The company defended the script
despite criticism from the Native actors about insensitivity towards
women and elders. “The movie has ridiculous in the title for a
reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western
movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast
that is not only part of – but in on – the joke.”
Ben Shelly, the outgoing president of
the Navajo Nation, praised the actors for walking off the set. He
said stereotypes have no place in film on April 23. “Native people
have dealt with negative stereotypes on film for too long,"
Shelly said in a press release. “Enough is enough."
The cast features a handful of Native
actors – including Danny Trejo (Yaqui) and Saginaw Grant (Sac and
Fox). The ones who walked off the set did not appear to have name
billing in the film, based on IMDB listings.
EASTERN CHEROKEE GROUP PLANS LAWSUIT
OVER COUNCIL PAY RAISE
MURPHY, N.C. – Members of the Eastern
Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina are upset over pay raises
for the tribal council.
The council approved a budget last
October that includes a $10,000 raise. The decision was retroactive
to 2010 so all current and former leaders are eligible for the
“At a time when vital tribal programs
in the areas of health, elder services, families and children
continue to be underfunded, such exploitation of public office for
personal gain is simply unconscionable,” a group called the Eastern
Band of Cherokee Indians for Justice and Accountability said in a
letter to the council, the Associated Press reported.
The group plans to file a lawsuit in
tribal court if the council doesn’t rescind the pay raise. The
increase is expected to cost the tribe an additional $500,000.
The council has 12 members, all of whom
are up for election this fall. The tribe will also choose a principal
chief and vice chief, whose salaries apparently were not affected by
the new budget.
BIA HEAD FACES CRITICISM OVER
RECOGNITION PROCESS REFORMS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly everyone
agrees that the federal recognition process at the Bureau of Indian
Affairs is broken but solutions remain elusive.
Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the
head of the BIA, ran into that conundrum at a hearing before the
House Subcommittee Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs on April
22. Although witness after witness said the existing process takes
too long, costs too much money and requires significant resources,
they criticized the Part 83 reforms that have been in development for
more than two years as going too far.
"I will be one of the first in
line heading to the courthouse door," Sen. Richard Blumenthal
(D-Conn.), whose federal recognition battles earned him a reputation
as an Indian fighter, told the subcommittee. "I’m sure there
will be litigation resulting from it."
The problem with the criticism was that
no one – except for Washburn and a few others – has seen the rule
that has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget
for final review. Lawmakers and tribal leaders based their opposition
on a proposal that appears to have been scaled back considerably in
response to their concerns.
"Our final rule will yet again be
more conservative," Washburn told the subcommittee. He invited
lawmakers to step into the "hot seat" and come up with
their own reforms to the process. Washburn also tried to deflect
concerns that the BIA lacks the authority to recognize tribes. "I’ve
heard some really troubling things at this hearing," Washburn
said as the proceeding drew to a close.
The BIA has recognized 17 tribes since
the start of its federal recognition process in 1978. "We treat
them just like any other Indian tribe," Washburn said of the
newly recognized groups. "The Constitution just says ‘Indian
tribes’ – it doesn’t name any Indian tribes," Washburn added,
referring to the Commerce Clause that mentions tribes, states and
"So the question then is, ‘Who is
that?’" Washburn said. "The executive branch has a
responsibility to figure that out sometimes because we’ve got a trust
responsibility to Indian tribes."
NAVAJO NATION VOTERS CHOOSE RUSSELL
BEGAYE AS NEXT PRESIDENT
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo Nation
citizens went to the polls on April 21 and chose Russell Begaye as
their next president.
Unofficial results showed Begaye with
25,745 votes. Challenger Joe Shirley, Jr., a former two-term
president, received 15,439. "I think this is the first step to
reconciling and the nation to heal," Begaye said, referring to
the controversy surrounding the delayed election.
Begaye, a former delegate to the Navajo
Nation Council, is due to be inaugurated on May 12. He will be joined
by his vice president Jonathan Nez, a current delegate. The team will
replace President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim. The pair
was sworn into office in January despite being ousted in the last
The November general election was
delayed after former candidate Chris Deschene was removed from the
ballot due to his lack of fluency in the Navajo language. The tribe
has scheduled a referendum in June to address that issue for future
CHEROKEE NATION CELEBRATES BIRTHS OF
FIRST BISON CALVES
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee
Nation of Oklahoma is seeing its bison herd grow. The tribe accepted
50 bison from the InterTribal Buffalo Council last October. Since
then, the herd has grown by nine animals, all born in April.
“The birth of these spring calves is
an excellent sign for the growth of our bison herd. It means the herd
has settled into its new home and they are flourishing,” Chief Bill
John Baker said in a press release.
The first calf was born on April 8.
Eight others have been born since. The herd is the tribe’s first in
LUMBEE TRIBE CONTINUES PUSH FOR FEDERAL
PEMBROKE, N.C. – The Lumbee Tribe of
North Carolina is once again looking to Congress to pass a federal
The tribe’s first documented request
for recognition dates to 1885. After decades of lobbying, leaders and
members thought they secured federal status with the passage of the
Lumbee Act in 1956.
The tribe quickly discovered otherwise.
The law recognized the Lumbees as "Indians" but denied them
any benefits that would come with federal recognition.
“There are a lot of us who work in
Indian affairs, and we are perceived by the rest of Indian country as
basically second-class Indians because we’re not federally
recognized,” attorney Locklear, a prominent attorney who was the
first Native woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, said.
Efforts to rescind the law have drawn
support in Congress. But the bills always hit a snag in the Senate
after passing the House. This year appears no different. H.R.184, the
Lumbee Recognition Act, has the backing of a bipartisan group of
lawmakers. But no companion has been introduced in the Senate. And
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the new chairman of the Senate Indian
Affairs Committee, has openly stated that he opposes legislative
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,
the only federally-recognized tribe in North Carolina, does not
believe the Lumbees are legitimate.
SAGINAW CHIPPEWA TRIBE MAINTAINS
OPPOSITION TO MARIJUANA
MT. PLEASANT, Mich. – The Saginaw
Chippewa Tribe of Michigan is not interested in legalizing marijuana
for any purpose, a spokesperson said.
Last October, the tribe declared a war
on substance abuse to combat heroin on the reservation. Just last
month, the tribe banished two people who were found with a large
amount of the drug.
But marijuana also remains a concern.
Marijuana was involved in a sexual assault that occurred on the
reservation. Joshua Todd Kress, 37, was sentenced to 64 months in
prison and five years of supervised release for providing the drug to
a 14-year-old girl.
COEUR D’ALENE TRIBE PROACTIVE IN
PLUMMER, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene
Tribe of Idaho is seeing success with its diabetes prevention and
According to a 2014 report from the
Indian Health Service, 61 percent of patients at the Benewah Medical
and Wellness Center on the reservation were successfully managing the
disease. That’s a marked improvement from 2010, when fewer than half
– around 49 percent – were taking steps to control their diet and
maintain an exercise routine.
"We’re trying to get them in to
get a diagnosis earlier,” Carla Patterson, a registered dietitian
and certified diabetes educator at the center, told media. “Because
some people don’t realize they’re walking around with diabetes or
The tribe is making changes elsewhere
on the reservation too. The Benewah Market is adding more fresh
produce and another market inside a convenience store is also
bringing in more healthy options. “We’re creating access to
healthy, traditional foods and access to physical activity, with a
cultural emphasis,” LoVina Louie, the coordinator of the tribe’s
Hnqhesnet Project, said. Hnqhesnet means "it is our well-being"
in the Salish language.
To help tribes nationwide combat the
disease, Congress recently renewed the Special Diabetes Program for
Indians for another two years as part of H.R.2, the Medicare Access
and CHIP Reauthorization Act. The program provides $150 million in
annual diabetes prevention and treatment grants to tribes and tribal
President Barack Obama signed the bill
into law on April 16.
SENATE APPROVES ANTI-TRAFFICKING
MEASURE WITH TRIBAL PROVISIONS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate voted
99 to 0 on April 22 to pass S.178, the Justice for Victims of
The bill creates a fund help law
enforcement combat trafficking and to assist victims of trafficking.
Although tribes weren’t included in the introduced version of the
measure, they are eligible for grants from the under a substitute
that was accepted by lawmakers.
Tribes, states and local governments
are eligible for grants to "reduce the occurrence of trafficking
of Indian children or provide support services to Indian children who
are victims of human trafficking," the new version of the bill
"This effort to help end
modern-day slavery should have been above politics all along, but
it’s good to see that bipartisanship has once again prevailed in the
Senate so these victims can receive much-needed resources," Sen.
John Thune (R-S.D.), who had been pushing for tribal inclusion, said
in a press release.
The Senate’s action clears the path for
a vote on the long-delayed nomination of Loretta Lynch to serve as
the next leader of the Department of Justice. She was confirmed April
23 and will be the first African American woman to serve as attorney
The House version of the
anti-trafficking bill is H.R.296. It awaits action in that chamber.