NATIONAL NEWS BRIEFS (August 2017)

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TRUMP MOVES COBELL BUY-BACK IN NEW DIRECTION

WASHINGTON, DC – The Trump administration is changing course when it comes to the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. In an announcement in late July, the Department of the Interior dramatically cut back the number of reservations where landowners can expect to receive offers for their fractional interests.

Instead of the 70 or so that were on the list toward the end of the Obama administration, only 20 remain. And of the 20 still on the list, 12 represent reservations where landowners previously saw offers. And of those repeats, 5 happen to be based in Montana, the home state of Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The Trump administration does not plan on seeking more money for similar initiatives.

COLVILLE TRIBES START HEMP CULTIVATION PROJECT

NESPELEM, WA – The Colville Tribes planted an industrial hemp crop on a 60-arce parcel of its reservation in July, said Chairman Michael E. Marchand. The project is the first of its kind in Washington.

“The Colville Tribes is beginning the project because hemp, along with a wider regenerative agricultural program, can have a significant positive economic impact on our reservation and its members,” Marchand said.

Hemp, like its close relative marijuana, is considered illegal under federal law. But a provision in the 2014 Farm Bill authorizes production in states where it has been legalized.

Washington legalized hemp last year and finalized rules for a pilot program in April. Two months later, the state’s Department of Agriculture issued the first three permits under the program and the Colville Tribes were one of the recipients.

At least one other tribe tried to enter the hemp industry but the effort didn’t turn out so well for the Menominee Nation. Federal agents destroyed the tribe’s crops in October 2016 and a lawsuit that invoked the Farm Bill failed because the operation was not authorized by Wisconsin.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TRIES TO PRIVATIZE POWER SYSTEM TIED TO TREATY TRIBES

WASHINGTON, DC – The Trump administration is seeking to privatize the Columbia River power system but treaty tribes and key members of Congress are pushing back.

Donald Trump proposed selling the Bonneville Power Administration transmission system in his fiscal year 2018 budget. The idea drew questions from an official with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, which represents four tribes with treaty rights on the river.

Lawmakers from both parties who represent Oregon, Washington and other Western states that rely on the BPA transmission system expressed concerns too. They convinced the House Budget Committee to reject privatization in the federal government’s 2018 budget resolution.

U.S. NATIVE WOMEN SUFFER FROM HIGH RATE OF HOMICIDE

WASHINGTON, DC – Native women suffer from the second-highest homicide rate in the U.S., according to the first report of its kind, “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violence –United States, 2003–2014”.

Between 2003 and 2014, 240 American Indian and Alaska Native women were victims of homicide in 18 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the figure accounted for a small percentage of murders during that time, it translated to a rate of 4.3 per 100,000 population.

The rate was surpassed by just one other racial or ethnic group, the CDC said. “Non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native women experienced the highest rates of homicide (4.4 and 4.3 per 100,000 population, respectively),” the report stated.

The report also showed that most Native victims of homicide are young: 36.3 percent were between the ages of 18 and 29.

And it confirmed what tribal advocates have been telling Congress for years before they secured passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. Nearly half, or 46.6 percent, of Native victims were murdered by an intimate partner.

CONSERVATIVE GROUP LAUNCHES ANOTHER ATTACK ON ICWA

WASHINGTON, DC – The Goldwater Institute in Arizona is rehashing claims that the 1978 law violates the U.S. Constitution because it is based on “race.” Even though the faulty premise goes against decades of settled law and well-established policy, the group is hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will take notice.

Timothy Sandefur, the vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, is “litigating several ICWA-related cases across the country,” the release notes. But it omits one key development –in March, a federal judge in Arizona ruled against Goldwater in a different case that sought to undermine the law.

Another legal setback was glossed over too. Before Goldwater even joined the case at issue in the new petition, the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected claims that ICWA is based on race.

The new petition centers on two children who are citizens of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. The Arizona court ruled that their non-Indian father must comply with ICWA before he attempts to sever the parental rights of their mother, who is also a tribal citizen.

Goldwater filed a petition to reverse the Arizona ruling on July 17, according to Docket No. 17-95. The Colorado River Indian Tribes have until August 18 to respond.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WITH-DRAWS FRACKING STANDARDS FOR INDIAN COUNTRY

WASHINGTON, DC – In a victory for a handful of energy-producing tribes, the Trump administration is planning to rescind a rule that established hydraulic fracturing standards in Indian Country.

A notice sent to the Federal Register announces the proposed withdrawal of the controversial 2015 fracking regulation. Tribes complained it was imposed without their consent and a federal judge eventually ruled that the Bureau of Land Management lacked the authority to subject Indian lands to the standards.

“The BLM now believes that the appropriate framework for mitigating these impacts exists through state regulations, through tribal exercise of sovereignty, and through BLM’s own pre-existing regulations and authorities,” the forthcoming notice says, which will be published in the Federal Register.

FDL BAND TO INVEST $8 MILLION IN BROADBAND NETWORK

CLOQUET, MN – In July, the Fond du Lac Band launched a new high-speed fiber-optic system with a groundbreaking at the Sawyer Community Center on the Fond du Lac Reservation.

At a cost of more than $8 million, the tribe had the help of several federal grants to make the project happen. Two $3 million grants from the federal Community Connect, with an additional $2.2 million from the tribe will help complete the project. That investment will provide upwards of 900 homes with broadband access for the first time.

The Fond du Lac Fiber to the Home Initiative will provide improved lines of communication. The new network will be used to deliver voice, video and data services. Access will be offered to anyone who lives in the network’s 120-square-mile service area, regardless of whether they are band members.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM TO RESTORE NATIVE KNOWLEDGE

DENVER, CO – Groundwater contamination, erosion, lack of access to healthy foods, and poor air quality are just some of the environmental concerns facing American Indian communities across the United States. Yet indigenous people have long held specialized knowledge that can lead to unique solutions to these challenges.

The American Indian College Fund will address environmental issues in Native communities through education with the launch of the three-year, $1.35 million Scholarly Emergence for Environmental Design and Stewardship (SEEDS) program across the diverse bio- and eco-systems in the Upper Midwest and Montana.

The SEEDS program will support tribal colleges and universities located in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the grass-lands region of Montana that are serving Native communities to build and strengthen curriculum in the environmental sciences and related fields, while integrating place-based and inter-generational community knowledge to pre-serve and restore Native lifeways.

For more information about the American Indian College Fund and SEEDS, see: www.collegefund.org.

MDH REQUESTS FUNDS FOR SYPHILIS OUTBREAK

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – A syphilis outbreak among members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has the Minnesota Department of Health seeking additional public health funding. The outbreak was among three ongoing disease outbreaks in the state. The other two include outbreaks of measles and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

The syphilis outbreak in Mille Lacs County is concentrated in the American Indian community and is related to drug abuse, the MDH reported.

Syphilis cases in Minnesota increased by 30 percent between 2015-16. In 2016, 852 cases of syphilis were reported, with six cases of congenital syphilis. For 2017, 42 cases were associated with an out-break in Mille Lacs County first identified in January. In addition, MDH identified five cases in Red Lake County and four cases in Crow Wing County with links to the Mille Lacs outbreak.

Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. However, identifying and reaching people in contact with cases and ensuring those with syphilis are treated is very labor intensive. Left untreated, syphilis can affect the nervous system and cause paralysis, sensory deficits, dementia and even death.

The Mille Lacs Band Health and Human Services says education is key: making sure community members are aware of the diseases, how they are spread and what treatment options are available.

SHA K’PAY TO SHAKOPEE

SHAKOPEE, MN – The Shakopee Heritage Society hopes to educate people about the local history of Shakopee with the “Pathways of Shakopee History” interpretive project. Their plan is to create an area called History Park, which will place signs along a walking and biking trail near Memorial Park, each detailing a different part of Shakopee’s past.

Different groups are involved with the project, including the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. The trail will include 10 signs: “What Once Was,” “Powerful Names,” “Rollin’ Down the River,” “Betting, Booze, and Beautiful People,” “Traveling on the River,” “Stagecoaches to Shakopee,” “Faribault Springs,” “Who Else was Here,” “The Railroad to Shakopee” and “The Ox Cart Trail,” according to the project’s website.

Organizers of the plan say it will create “historic tourism.” The project will share a much more diverse side of Shakopee’s history than is typically told in text-books.

The project is in the beginning stages, raising funds and creating mock-ups of the signs and kiosk.