Regional and Local Briefs: April 2015

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RED LAKE STATE OF BAND LOOKS TO FUTURE

RED LAKE, Minn. – Red Lake Band of

Chippewa Chairman Darrell Seki offered an optimistic outlook on the

condition of the nation, but said social issues still challenge

citizens.

Seki described the nation’s situation

in the 2014 State of the Band address on March 27 at the Humanities

Center. "I am honored and humbled to stand before you as your

Red Lake chairman," Seki said, after opening with an

introduction in Ojibwemowin. "Our nation has made great progress

to build and sustain our culture and provide a stable, strong future

for generations to come. However, we still have plenty to do an

accomplish."

Seki listed the plagues of illegal

drugs, alcohol, gang violence, bullying and suicides as heavy burdens

Red Lake citizens carry but encouraged citizens to overcome them.

Following that ceremony, Seki launched

into the statistics for the band since he took office nine months

ago. Current enrollment is at 11,707 enrolled citizens. The permanent

trust grew by 4.7 percent in 2014 and the treasurer made a special

distribution in December of $250 per citizen.

The Red Lake Police Department now has

its own dive team and the purchase of snowmobiles has made remote law

enforcement operations more feasible, Seki said. The juvenile

detention center has opened to "operate with the goal of

reducing the amount of repeat offenders." And 100 children

joined police officers for the "Cops and Bobbers" fishing

program last summer.

Seki moved on to the housing

situation, noting that 45 units were built last year in the Highland

Addition II and sold to Red Lake citizens for $78,000 at five percent

interest. Development of six more units at Heart Lake is underway.

Seki’s gaming report held both good

and bad news. Gaming employed 981 people in 2014, an increase from

925 in 2013, with 87 percent of the employees being Red Lake

citizens. Gaming wages and benefits came to $25 million in 2014, an

increase from $24.4 million in 2013. However, because of the

unusually cold and snowy winter in 2014, gaming income decreased by

$900,000 to $8.1 million in 2014, down from from $9.1 million in

2013. Business did pick up during the warmer months of 2014, he said.

Seki said the ultimate political goal

is to "return Red Lake to the front of Indian Country by not

only protecting our sovereignty, but expanding it. The fight isn’t

over, but we will continue to lead the fight."

BILL ALLOWING RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION TO

AUTOPSIES ADVANCES

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota lawmakers

are considering a bill that allows religious exemptions to autopsies,

spurred by the recent mishandling of Ojibwe leader Mushkoub Aubid.

Aubid’s widow, Winnie LaPrairie,

offered testimony on March 26 on her days-long fight in February to

have Aubid’s body released. "I still could not take him home. I

was heartbroken," LaPrairie, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of

Lake Superior Chippewa, told state lawmakers. "Everything that

my family went through could happen tomorrow or to someone else.

Please don’t let that happen."

A bill is heading to the House floor

after a committee unanimously approved it on March 26 and a similar

bill is progressing in the Senate. At least eight states allow

religious objections to autopsies.

Lawmakers must balance the concerns of

medical examiners against those of Native American families and other

religious groups whose faith leads them to object to autopsies.

Representatives from both sides said that the bill offered by Rep.

Steve Green (R-Fosston) achieved such a balance.

Green’s bill requires medical

examiners to notify a family of a planned autopsy and gives the

family a basis to object on religious grounds. But it also provides

an avenue for autopsies to proceed in cases of crime investigations,

concerns about public health and a dozen other instances of

"compelling state interest."

Aubid was involved in a car accident

in northeastern Minnesota but died of a heart condition. LaPrairie

and her family couldn’t take Aubid’s body home to East Lake for a

traditional funeral because the county medical examiner wanted to

perform an autopsy. After days of pleading and assistance from county

attorneys, authorities finally released Aubid’s body.

A similar incident in the death of a

24-year-old tribal citizen Autumn Martineau that same week hammered

home the need in proponents’ mind to change state law. It’s not only

Native Americans who may have religious objections. Brian Rusche of

the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition said that the bill could

also give comfort to members of Muslim, Amish, Hmong and Orthodox

Jewish communities, too. Gov. Mark Dayton supports the measure.

JUDGE RULES FOR TRIBAL PLAINTIFFS IN

ICWA VIOLATION SUIT

RAPID CITY, S.D. – A federal judge

ruled March 31 that South Dakota officials repeatedly violated the

Indian Child Welfare Act by not allowing parents to present evidence

in hearings regarding the removal of their children.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge

Jeffrey Viken ruled in favor of the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux

Tribes and parents Rochelle Walking Eagle, Madonna Pappan and Lisa

Young, who filed the lawsuit in 2013.

The complaint alleged that Pennington

County officials were removing Native American children from their

homes based on insufficient evidence and hearings that violated the

federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The plaintiff’s lawyers

referenced a hearing on two children that lasted a little more than

60 seconds.

"Judge Davis and the other

defendants failed to protect Indian parents’ fundamental rights to a

fair hearing by not allowing them to present evidence to contradict

the state’s removal documents," Viken wrote in his ruling. "The

defendants failed by not allowing the parents to confront and

cross-examine (Department of Social Services) witnesses. The

defendants failed by using documents as a basis for the court’s

decisions which were not provided to the parents and which were not

received in evidence at the 48-hour hearings."

The defendants were Judge Jeff Davis,

Pennington County Prosecutor Mark Vargo, state Department of Social

Services Director Lynne Valenti and Pennington County Department of

Social Services employee Luann Van Hunnik.

Federal law requires that Indian

children removed from homes be placed with relatives or with other

Native American families, except in unusual circumstances. Tribal

officials contend South Dakota removes too many Native American

children from their homes and then puts them in foster care with

non-Indian families.

WINNEBAGO TEAM WINS STATE BASKETBALL

CHAMPIONSHIP

LINCOLN, Neb. – More than seven decades

of waiting came to an end on March 14 for the Winnebago boys

basketball team.

The Indians completed their 28-game

journey with a 66-51 win against Columbus Scotus in the Nebraska

Class C-1 state tournament final at Pinnacle Bank Arena. It was

Winnebago’s first state title since 1940, when it defeated Minatare

23-22 in Class B.

With 31 seconds left in the game and

senior Mathew Wingett at the free-throw line, Winnebago coach Jeff

Berridge pulled his starters, much to the delight of the large

Winnebago following. After Wingett made his second free throw to

finish the game with 22 points and the tournament with 68, he exited

and started hugging teammates.

With eight seconds left, senior

reserve Levi Blackhawk stopped his dribble and held the ball in one

hand. When the horn sounded, he threw the ball in the air and when it

came down, the Indians were halfway to midcourt for a huge dog pile.

"We’ve been talking about winning

this tournament," Wingett said. "We said after we win the

state championship we’re gonna be gods, we’re gonna be legends."

Winnebago players gathered in a

hallway after cutting down the nets and receiving their gold medals.

There were more hugs, high-fives and tears. Legends, maybe, but

definitely champions.

The Indians (27-1) sprinted to a

14-point halftime lead behind the scoring of Mathew’s younger

brother, David, a 6-foot-5 sophomore. David Wingett scored 15 points

in the first half, including a 3-for-4 effort from beyond the arc.

Isaiah Medina added nine of his 16 points in the first half.

Winnebago shot 48 percent for the

game, compared with 34 percent for Scotus. The Shamrocks were

7-for-27 on three-pointers, while the Indians made 8 of 15.

SOUTH DAKOTA AGENCY EXTENDS DEADLINE

FOR TRANSCANADA DISPUTE

PIERRE, S.D. – The state Public

Utilities Commission on March 31 granted two short extensions of

deadlines to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in the permit certification

process for the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The commission agreed with the Rosebud

Sioux lawyer that TransCanada, the project sponsor, should have been

more responsive during the past two months to his information

requests. The tribal government consequently received an additional

eight days to pre-file its witnesses’ direct testimony. Those

statements now are due April 10. The deadline for filing rebuttal

testimony from Rosebud Sioux expert witnesses also was pushed to

April 27.

However, none of the other interveners

received more time. Among them are the Yankton, Cheyenne River and

Standing Rock Tribal governments, Dakota Rural Action and Bold

Nebraska.

TransCanada received a state permit in

June 2010 to build the Keystone XL pipeline through western and

south-central South Dakota on a route that happens to avoid

reservation lands. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil from

Alberta through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska before connecting

with an existing network.

President Barack Obama vetoed a

measure by the Republican-controlled Congress to expedite the federal

permit necessary for the pipeline to pierce the Canada-U.S. border.

Various lawyers in the proceeding over

the South Dakota permit are preparing for a May 5-8 evidentiary

hearing before the PUC. South Dakota law requires that a company

needs to certify the permit conditions will still be met if

construction hasn’t commenced within four years. That is the

process now under way for TransCanada. The various sides have been

engaged in discovery of evidence from each other.

Rosebud Sioux lawyer Matthew Rappold

said his request for access to TransCanada safety records was filed

Feb. 20. TransCanada produced 34 documents on the afternoon of March

30. He asked the commission how he could be expected, under those

circumstances, to prepare testimony that is due on April 2.

Commissioners Chris Nelson and Gary

Hanson didn’t hide their opinions that the Rosebud Sioux had been

put at a disadvantage. “I think this is a very unique position for

Rosebud,” Hanson said. “I personally believe you need to have

additional time.” William Taylor, a lawyer representing

Trans-Canada, asked that the schedule changes apply only to the

Rosebud Sioux. The three commissioners agreed. They decided that only

the Rosebud Sioux tribal government presented evidence it was

directly impeded by TransCanada.

They voted 3-0 to reject a request

from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to push the evidentiary hearing

back two months to mid-July.

LOWER BRULE SIOUX TRIBAL CHAIRMAN

HOSPITALIZED

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A tribal official

says the longtime chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in central

South Dakota is hospitalized with a serious illness.

Tribal attorney Marshall Matz said

that Michael Jandreau is suffering from complications from pneumonia.

He told media that Jandreau was flown to a Sanford Health in Sioux

Falls on March 27 and that it is a serious situation.

Jandreau was recently in the spotlight

after a report by human rights advocacy organization showed that

millions of taxpayer dollars meant to benefit the Lower Brule Sioux

Reservation have disappeared over several years. The report accuses

Jandreau and others of diverting money and concealing financial

activity.

WILD DOGS KILL WOMAN ON ROSEBUD

RESERVATION

WHITE RIVER, S.D. – Julia Charging

Whirlwind, 49, was attacked and killed by a pack of wild reservation

dogs in the Lower Swift Bear Community on the Rosebud Indian

Reservation.

Two of the dogs were shot and killed

by the Mellette County Sheriff, who responded to a call about the

attack shortly before 6:30 a.m., on March 14. Charging Whirlwind was

transported by ambulance to the Rosebud Hospital, where she died.

Packs of dogs known as “rez dogs”

have been a significant problem on reservations and have caused

numerous deaths in recent years on different reservations in Indian

Country. Tribal citizens want tribal police to take more aggressive

legal action against those who do not contain their dogs and to

round-up stray dogs when there are no apparent owners.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe released the

following statement on March 14 in response to the death: “All

residents of the Rosebud Reservation are hereby notified to tie-up or

secure their dogs. Any dogs found at-large, outside the owner’s

property will be impounded.” The statement was signed by acting

Tribal President William Kindle

Charging Whirlwind was a mother of

five children and was employed as a childcare worker at the Spotted

Tail Children’s Home on the Rosebud Reservation.