National Briefs: September 2014

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VIDEO CALLS OUT FEDEX FOR WASHINGTON

TEAM SPONSORSHIP

PAWHUSKA, Okla. – The Native Voice

Network released a video on Sept. 7, urging the courier company FedEx

to end its corporate sponsorship of the Washington NFL team. The

release was timed to coincide with the team’s season opener.

Native Voice Network is a coalition of

25 Native American organizations and commissioned the online Native

comedy troupe 1491s’ Ryan Redcorn to write and produce the clip

titled, “FedEx Fail.”

The video features artist and

filmmaker Steven Paul Judd and draws comparisons between racism

directed at Native Americans and other ethnicities, Redcorn told

media.

NVN spokeswoman Chrissie Castro said

what matters most is the mental wellness and stability of Native

American children. Castro cited the American Psychological

Association’s call to ban Indian mascots on the grounds that such

images and language have a negative impact on a Native American

child’s self-esteem. "FedEx doesn’t think this is a

particularly important issue," Castro wrote in a press release.

“We do. How can you put a price on our children’s mental health?

… We’ve received a lot of negative backlash from proponents of

the Washington Team retaining its name. I just have to ask myself,

‘When did America’s pastime become more important than America’s

children?’"

NAVAJO LEADER APPOINTED TO HEAD CITY’S

NEW TASK FORCE

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The former Chief

of Staff for the Navajo President, Sherrick Roanhorse, was appointed

by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry to chair the city’s new Native

American Homelessness Task Force.

The mayor said Roanhorse joins the

task force with extensive knowledge of Native American affairs. In

addition to his role with Shelly, the former chief of staff worked as

a policy analyst for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department and as

and a government and legislative affairs specialist with the Navajo

Nation in Washington, D.C. He currently works in the state government

affairs office of PNM.

Berry and Shelly agreed to create the

task force following the brutal beating deaths in July of two

homeless Navajo men in a vacant lot on Albuquerque’s southwest

side.

FINAL PAYMENTS FROM COBELL SETTLEMENT

CLOSER TO BEING DISTRIBUTED

WASHINGTON – The final checks from

the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement are almost ready,

according to the parties involved.

The Cobell legal team and the Garden

City Group – the firm that was appointed by the court to administer

the settlement – were waiting on the Interior Department to

finalize the data needed for the Trust Administration Class payment.

The information was provided by August 30.

The Garden City Group is now

validating the information. Once that process is complete, the legal

team will seek court approval to distribute the payments, which could

happen by the end of September.

"GCG is prepared to commence

sending out checks within three weeks as long as the court gives

final approval for the Trust Administration Class distribution. We

will update the website when the first checks have been mailed,"

the attorneys said on CobellSettlement.Com.

Once checks are sent out, it will

likely take five to seven days for the money to reach beneficiaries,

according to the Web site.

SEATTLE LEADERS POSTPONE INDIGENOUS

PEOPLES DAY VOTE

SEATTLE – City leaders in Seattle,

Washington, delayed action on a resolution to designate the second

Monday of each October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The city council was set to approve

the resolution at a meeting on Sept. 2. But members postponed the

vote after Mayor Ed Murray requested a delay.

Murray said he supports the change.

But he wants to sign the resolution closer to the actual date of the

new holiday, according to news reports.

The day would replace Columbus Day.

Other cities, including Minneapolis, have made the change. South

Dakota has been observing Native American Day since 1990.

CHEROKEE NATION ANNOUNCES $170 MILLION

CASINO AND DEVELOPMENT

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee

Nation announced plans for a $170 million casino and retail complex

in Tahlequah.

The Cherokee Springs Plaza will

include a casino, two hotels, retail, office space and a convention

center. The 150-acre project is located off a major highway in

Tahlequah, the tribe’s capital.

“It was the largest contiguous piece

of property left in the capitol of the Cherokee Nation, and they’ve

been on the drawing board for almost a year now with some of the best

land developers in the country coming up with their plan to make this

a showpiece in not only all of Indian Country, but I think it’s

going to be a showplace for Oklahoma,” Chief Bill John Baker said

in a press conference on Aug. 29.

The tribe purchased the land and an

existing golf course – now known as Cherokee Springs Golf Course –

in December 2012 through Cherokee Nation Businesses. A board member

at the time was a part owner of the site but said he recused himself

from the sale.

The property abuts Baker’s Furniture,

which is owned by Chief Baker.

PAIUTE TRIBE REJECT WASHINGTON TEAM’S

GIFT

LAS VEGAS – The Las Vegas Paiute

Tribe was offered a van by the Original Americans Foundation but

turned it down, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said.

“Redskins is a racist name and

native Americans believe that,” said Reid, who serves as the Senate

majority leader, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported. “They have

tried to buy off some of my Nevada Indians and they have not been

able to do that, giving them trucks and stuff like that.

Reid previously said a tribe in his

state was approached by the foundation. One of his aides confirmed it

was the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.

Other tribes have accepted gifts from

the foundation but many have condemned the initiative as a publicity

stunt.

TULE RIVER TRIBE HELPS REMOVE MARIJUANA

ON RESERVATION

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. – The Tule

River Tribe of California was joined by local, state and federal

authorities in removing a marijuana farm from the reservation in late

August.

Operation Tule River took five days.

Authorities cleared out nearly 14,000 plants from a farm that was

siphoning over 100,000 gallons of water per day from the tribe’s main

source of water.

“We will continue our efforts in

protecting our sacred lands and restoring the water for future

generations to come," William J. Garfield, a spokesperson for

the tribe, said in a press release distributed by the California

Department of Fish and Wildlife. No arrests were made.

TRIBE CONTINUES BANISHMENT FOR DRUGS

AND CRIME

LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. – The Lac du

Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin continues to

banish people from the reservation who have been involved with drugs

and crime.

So far, only non-members have been

banished. The tribe keeps a tally of the people who are affected on

its Web site.

"We made it public knowledge that

we will deal with this epidemic. Hopefully the actions of our law

enforcement community send a strong message that drug abuse is not

acceptable on our lands. We have resources and support for our people

who need help with addictions," President Tom Maulson told

Northland’s News Center.

The latest banishment occurred in June

with the removal of one person from the reservation.

MONTANA TRIBE SUES ONLINE LOAN BUSINESS

PARTNER FOR $13 MILLION

BOX ELDER, Mont. – The Chippewa Cree

Tribe of Montana is accusing its partners in an Internet lending

business of theft and fraud.

The tribe started Plain Green Loans

and First American Capital Resources with four out-of-state partners.

The lawsuit claims they bilked the tribe out of more than $13.1

million.

"The tribe has lost millions of

dollars because of these entanglements, defendants’ overtly

fraudulent acts, and their clandestine and complex fraudulent

scheme," the complaint states.

According to media reports, Plain

Green remains in operation but First American Capital Resources was

shut down last fall.

JUDGE ORDERS ALASKA TO ASSIST NATIVE

LANGUAGE VOTERS

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A federal judge

ordered the state of Alaska to do more to assist Yup’ik language

speakers in time for the Nov. 4 election.

In a ruling from the bench, Judge

Sharon Gleason said the state didn’t provide adequate materials for

Native voters, according to news reports. The state agreed to submit

a response plan by Sept. 5.

The lawsuit, Toyukuk v. Treadwell, was

filed by the Native American Rights Fund on behalf of two tribes and

two Yup’ik voters. The plaintiffs will be able to respond to the

state’s submission before Gleason issues a final order regarding the

upcoming election, according to minutes of today’s hearing.

Gleason has yet to rule on other

claims raised by the plaintiffs.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUPPORTS TRIBES IN

ICWA CASE

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department

weighed in on a class-action lawsuit in South Dakota pitting Native

American tribes against state officials, and come down resoundingly

in support of tribes.

It’s the first time the department has

intervened in a federal district court case involving the Indian

Child Welfare Act, a law meant to keep Native American families

together. The department filed an amicus brief in the case concluding

that the state is violating the rights of Native American parents.

In the suit, tribes claim the state is

failing to abide by the 36-year-old federal law, removing hundreds of

Indian children from their families in court hearings where parents

are rarely allowed to speak, and that often last less than 60

seconds.

The children are then placed in foster

care, where they may stay for months or years.

As part of the lawsuit, the state had

to turn over rarely seen transcripts of 120 recent court hearings. In

every one, the Native American children were taken into state

custody. Not a single parent was allowed to testify at the hearings.

Most were not allowed to say anything except their names.

In one case cited in the lawsuit,

children were taken away from a mother who the state said was

neglectful. Their father, who was divorcing the mother, appeared at

the hearing and said, "I am here. Please give custody of my

children to me." The judge placed the kids in foster care.

In its brief, the Justice Department

wrote that state court and state officials with the Department of

Social Services have an obligation to "actively investigate and

oversee emergency removals of Indian children to insure that the

removal ends as soon as possible, and that Indian children are

expeditiously returned to their parents or their tribe" from the

beginning of the process with the first court hearing to the end.

The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates

that states place children with their tribes, their relatives or

Native American foster parents if they have to be removed from their

families.

In South Dakota, almost 9 out of 10

Native American children are placed in non-Indian homes or group

homes, says Chase Iron Eyes, a staff attorney with the Lakota

People’s Law Project.

This year, seven of the state’s nine

tribes applied for federal planning grants, with the help of the law

project, in an effort to develop their own foster care programs.

State officials have said they support that effort.

NAVAJO STUDENT SENT HOME FROM SCHOOL

FOR LONG HAIR

SEMINOLE, Texas – A five year-old

Navajo Nation citizen was sent home from kindergarten for having long

hair.

April Wilson said her son, Malachi,

was excited for the first day of school on Aug. 25 at F.J. Young

Elementary in Texas. But he was disappointed when he was told the

length of his hair violated school policy.

"Certain recognized religious or

spiritual beliefs may qualify for an exception from provisions of the

dress code," the policy states. "However, any exceptions

must receive prior approval by the campus administrator."

Wilson said her son was finally

allowed to attend school on Aug. 26 after the Navajo Nation and the

local American Indian Movement got involved. The principal reportedly

asked the family to verify Malachi’s tribal heritage.

“It’s kind of heart breaking

because how do you explain to a five-year-old that he is being turned

away because of what he believes in, because of his religion, because

of what’s part of him, how do you explain that to him?” Wilson

told media.

A similar case arose in the state when

an Apache boy wasn’t allowed to wear long hair at school. The 5th

Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the school’s policy in A.A. v

Needville Independent School District in 2010.