Native Sites

ICTMN series on Indian children in South Dakota worth following

Buffalo Post - Mon, 04/14/2014 - 11:27am

Here at the Buffalo Post we can usually summarize a story fairly well.

Madonna Pappan, one of three mothers in a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of the Rosebud Sioux and Oglala Sioux tribes by the American Civil Liberties Union, hugs her 4-year-old daughter Charlie during a press conference last year. The suit challenges South Dakota practices and policies the ACLU says violate the Indian Child Welfare Act (Photo by Kristina Barker/Rapid City Journal/AP Images).

But Suzette Brewer’s excellent series at Indian Country Today Media Network about South Dakota’s wholesale removal of Indian children from their homes without due process requires full reading in and of itself.

You can do so here; this links you to part three, the latest, of the series.

Brewer is detailing a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Rosebud Sioux and Oglala Sioux tribes that challenged the state’s practices and procedures.

Indian parents in South Dakota allege that it had become an accepted practice by the state that they were never allowed to view the complaints or supporting documents filed by the state against them, much less present evidence or show the court whether or not an “emergency” still existed at the time of the hearings, which usually takes place two days after a child has been removed. Additionally, some of the hearings were being held whether or not the parents were even present. Therefore, the “48-hour hearings,” as they are known, became a launch pad for Native children to be swept into foster care for up to three months while their parents and tribes struggled to get them back.

Some of Part 3 of Brewer’s series tells about the plight of Madonna Pappan, who – along with her husband the young daughter, had gone to a friend’s home in Rapid City to visit and have some drinks in October of 2011.

At some point, Marlon Pappan took their daughter out to the car and both went to sleep, with the car running to keep them warm. Madonna checked on them twice, and they were fine, but the third time she went out they were gone.

Marlon had evidently decided to drive home, and had been arrested for DUI on the way.

Not only was her daughter taken from her that night, Madonna says, but the state later took an 11-year-old son into custody who had been at home with a babysitter on the night in question, and placed him into foster care.

South Dakota also refused Madonna’s request that her children be placed with her parents – a right specifically provided for by the Indian Child Welfare Act – even though her parents were already certified as foster parents and had taken in numerous children on an emergency basis.

The Pappans have never denied Marlon did what he did – he pleaded guilty to DUI – but the state alleged Madonna was also in the car when he was arrested, which was not true – the arresting officer had only spoken to her on the phone.

There’s much more to Brewer’s story, and more to come in the series. It’s well worth following at ICTMN.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Trumpeter swan killer located with help of press release, tip

Buffalo Post - Thu, 04/10/2014 - 11:37am

With no clues to go on, save for one dead trumpeter swan, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal game wardens faced an uphill road this winter in finding the person who shot it.

The reintroduction of trumpeter swans to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana began in 1996. The swans were once hunted to near extinction in the United States (Photo by Michael Gallacher/Missoulian).

That changed after the tribes put out a press release seeking information, the Missoulian reports.

On Tuesday, two Polson (Mont.) men were fined, and had their hunting, fishing and recreating privileges on tribal lands suspended, in connection with the shooting.

A tip from a person who had knowledge of, and later read a newspaper story about, the trumpeter swan’s death led authorities to the pair, according to Germaine White, information and education specialist with the tribes’ Natural Resources Department.

Leroy Charles, who admitted to firing the shot that killed the swan in January, was fined $3,000 by CSKT Chief Judge Winona Tanner, including $1,500 for restitution for the 3-year-old trumpeter swan.

Charles also lost his bird-hunting, fishing and recreating privileges on tribal lands for five years, and was ordered to seek instruction from either the Salish Pend d’Oreille, or Kootenai, culture committee.

“Judge Tanner, on behalf of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, imposed the maximum penalty under the law because this was such a senseless act,” said CSKT attorney Larry Ginnings, who prosecuted the case.

White said the swan’s loss will be felt for years.

“What’s so tragic is this swan was pair-bonded,” White said, “so you’re not just losing one swan. All the reproductive cycles of that swan are also lost.”

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

UConn got ball rolling on national title at Mohegan Sun Arena

Buffalo Post - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 11:44am

The newly crowned NCAA women’s basketball champion, Connecticut, began its title run last month at a tribally owned and operated arena.

The Connecticut Huskies celebrated their American Athletic Conference championship last month at Mohegan Sun Arena. (Photo courtesy of American Athletic Conference).

As Indian Country Today Media Network reports, the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., part of a large casino, was host to the first-ever American Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament, won by UConn.

The 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun is the home court of the Mohegan-owned Connecticut Sun of the Women’s National Basketball Association. In 2013 it played host to the WNBA All Star game.

At the time the deal was announced last year, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority chief executive Mitchell Etess credited the casino’s collaboration with the Sun for the Mohegan Sun Arena scoring the opportunity to host the Big East women’s basketball tournament (which later became the American Athletic Conference, or AAC tournament). “This is what bringing the Connecticut Sun here has done for us, it has made us a true entertainment company, not just a gaming or hotel company,” Etess said.

Making the AAC tournament even more noteworthy for Native Americans, UConn – which went undefeated this season at 40-0 – had to get by a team featuring probably the best known Native American players in the college game this season.

As Mark Fogarty reported at ICTMN, Shoni and Jude Schimmel, who play for the University of Louisville, are sisters from the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon.

Louisville also advanced to the tournament championship game, but despite 20 points from Shoni Schimmel, the Cardinals fell 72-52 to UConn. The Huskies beat Notre Dame for the national championship Tuesday night.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

DOJ probing killings by Albuquerque police force

Buffalo Post - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 10:07am

Since 2010, Albuquerque police have been involved in 37 shootings that have resulted in 23 deaths.

After a 10-hour protest over recent police shootings of Albuquerque men, riot police launch tear gas toward activists (Russell Contreras/Associated Press).

When Nos. 22 and 23 occurred on the same day last month, Indian Country Today Media Network reports, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest, and the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the 1,100-officer department.

Two of the 23 have been Native Americans, according to the ICTMN story by Alysa Landry.

“It’s become a public safety crisis,” said Bineshi Albert, of the Native American Voters Alliance in Albuquerque. “There’s outrage, surely, and good reason for people to be outraged.”

Even two Native fatalities is too high, said Albert, who is Chippewa and Yuchi. According to 2010 Census data, about 25,000 Natives live in Albuquerque, or less than 5 percent of the city’s total population.

“Two of 23 is significant,” Albert said. “It’s more than what it should be, given the population.”

Alfred Redwine, a Native, was shot after he allegedly opened fire on officers at a public housing complex March 16. The same day, police shot and killed a homeless man with a history of mental illness, James Boyd, following a standoff.

In 2010 another Native American, Len Fuentes, was killed after threatening officers with a knife.

“The community should not be afraid of law enforcement,” Albert said. “It’s a hard and even shameful thing to think that we live in a time when I have to tell my children how they have to behave when approached by a police officer, as opposed to telling my children that if they’re in trouble they can go to the police. It’s a sad situation, but I’m more fearful that the police will harm them.”

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

10 rules can make your powwow visit go smoothly

Buffalo Post - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 11:00am

While there’s no set list of rules for attending powwows, there are some common sense guidelines that can make everyone’s visit to one a better experience.

Customs vary from tribe to tribe, and even year to year, but there are basic guidelines for powwows (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia/ICTMN).

At Indian Country Today Media Network, Alysa Landry reports on 10 things to keep in mind both in and out of the powwow arena – starting with the advice to dress moderately.

It is not appropriate to wear hats, swimsuits, extremely short skirts or shorts or halter tops. Do not wear T-shirts or other items of clothing with profanity or inappropriate slogans.

If you plan to participate in dances that are open to the public, keep in mind that some tribes require women to wear a shawl or cover their shoulders.

Powwow grounds are blessed beforehand, and should be considered sacred places, Landry reports.

It’s like going to a church,” Leonard Anthony, a Navajo gourd dancer and master of ceremonies, told her. “If you’re going to a powwow, you need to honor where the dances came from, the traditions and story behind them.”

There are also many guidelines to be aware of for taking photographs, Landry reported.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Native scalps kept by German museum may lead to protest

Buffalo Post - Sat, 03/29/2014 - 11:00am

How would a German festival to honor a German novelist find foes in Indian Country?

The Karl May Museum in Radebeul, Germany (Photo courtesy of Wikicommons/ICTMN)

When it displays Native scalps, Indian Country Today Media Network reports.

The Karl May Festival, held in the Radebeul, Germany, hometown of the Karl May Museum, may draw protests when it is held on May 30 and June 1. Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, who has called on the museum for repatriation, has said he plans one.

When Mark Worth, a former news reporter and activist for Transparency International, learned that Native scalps were on display there, he called the museum in 2010 and spoke with its public relations director, André Kohler. He was informed that the museum did, indeed, have Native American scalps on display and more in storage.

Worth says that after being given the same line used by French auction houses to “successfully argue for their sale of Hopi and Apache sacred items as that country has no laws to protect Indigenous Peoples, and the items were rightfully in private collectors’ hands,” he was told the museum was a private institution, and was hung up on.

Karl May “spun imaginative tales about American Indians and the U.S. Old West well over 100 years ago” according to the ICTMN story by Red Haircrow.

Attempts by the U.S. Embassy to intervene apparently have not changed minds. Officials say they were told by museum staff that “Many Native Americans have visited over the years, and we haven’t received any complaints.”

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Northwest tribes pitch in on landslide relief effort in Washington

Buffalo Post - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:28am

The Tulalip people know the story, handed down through the generations, of a massive landslide at their ancestral village of WHESH-ud, when a large chunk of Camano Island slid into the sea.

Mel Sheldon, chairman of the Tulalip Tribes, turns over a check for $100,000 to Chuck Morrison, regional executive director of the Snohomish County chapter of the American Red Cross, to assist with shelter and food for the families devastated by a landslide in Oso, Wash. (Photo by Brandi N. Montreuil of the Tulalip News/ICTMN)

With it went a village. According to the stories, it caused a tidal wave that killed family members on a neighboring island too.

So it was no surprise that the Tulalip Tribes were among those who stepped up as news of the recent landslide in Oso, Wash., continued to worsen, Indian Country Today Media Network reports.

Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon, returning from a March 25 press conference at which emergency management officials updated the public on the rescue and recovery efforts 23 miles away in Oso, did the only thing left to do. He prayed—prayed that survivors would be found, prayed for healing for the families.

Sheldon also handed over a $100,000 donation from the tribes to the local American Red Cross chapter, and another $50,000 to the Cascade Valley Health Foundation to assist in the relief efforts.

The Tulalip Tribes weren’t alone, according to Richard Walker’s story at ICTMN.

The Stillaguamish Tribe donated $100,000, and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe gave $5,000.

“The main message is, we’re all in this world together,” Sheldon told Walker. “We’ve all shared that same suffering.”

Recalling the story of the long-ago slide on Camano Island, Sheldon, said, “That slide took away a lot of our people. We have never forgotten that.”

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Reactions to Redskins foundation strong in Indian country

Buffalo Post - Wed, 03/26/2014 - 11:49am

The creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation by team owner Dan Snyder, who insists he won’t change his NFL’s team name that many find offensive and racist, has been met with derision by the staff at Indian Country Today Media Network.

Team owner Dan Snyder has announced the formation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (Associated Press photo/ICTMN).

ICTMN calls Snyder’s letter announcing the foundation “rife with self-satisfaction and misdirection, repeatedly emphasizing all the wonderful ways the Redskins, through the foundation, might help Indian country, with no mention of the elephant in the room: The widespread objection in Indian country to the team’s name.”

ICTMN wasn’t alone.

“We’re glad that after a decade of owning the Washington team, Mr. Snyder finally says he is interested in Native American heritage, but this doesn’t change the fact that he needs to stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a statement to ThinkProgress.

Suzan Shown Harjo, who has led the legal charge against the name for decades, called the foundation “a stunt.”

“Supposedly it’s a change of heart,” Harjo said, “but it’s not a change of mind. And it’s not a change of name.”

In his letter, Snyder says, “Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most. We may have created this new organization, but the direction of the Foundation is truly theirs.”

Says ICTMN, “Such willingness to let Indians say what is most beneficial for Indians does not, obviously, extend to his football team’s name.”

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Recall amendment to CSKT constitution headed to ballot

Buffalo Post - Tue, 03/25/2014 - 11:00am

A Secretarial Election to decide whether tribal members should be able to recall Tribal Council members is once again on the horizon for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

The Missoulian reports that the U.S. Department of Interior Board of Indian Appeals has dismissed a challenge from the CSKT Tribal Council, clearing the way for a vote on the proposed constitutional amendment.

The proposed amendment to allow enrolled members to petition to recall their representatives is being pursued by The People’s Voice, a group on the reservation that organized over a separate issue involving the distribution of $150 million the tribes collected in what is known as the Salazar Settlement.

The People’s Voice, which wants all of the $150 million distributed equally among the membership – just over half of it was, in 2012, with the balance placed in an investment account by the Tribal Council – launched petition drives seeking to put the money issue on a tribal election ballot, and the proposed amendment on a Secretarial Election ballot.

Currently, only the Tribal Council itself can remove one of its members.

Howard Toole, attorney for the group, argued to the Board of Appeals that the Tribal Council was trying to push a political issue into the court system

“The court chose a more narrow ground” to dismiss the challenge, Toole told the Missoulian, but the bottom line is that “the tribes’ effort to shut down a Secretarial Election failed.”

An election board has been appointed according to Cheryl Finley of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Flathead Agency office, and it will soon set a date for the election.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

German firm uses tepee, models in Native garb at conference

Buffalo Post - Mon, 03/24/2014 - 11:37am

Elizabeth LaPensee, an Anishinaabe and Metis game developer and designer, snapped the picture and posted it to her Facebook wall.

A marketing campaign by a German company at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco used a tepee and, reportedly, non-native women dressed in faux Native American attire (Photo courtesy of ICTMN).

It showed, reported Indian Country Today, two of several women hired by Glispa, a German company, to dress in faux Native American attire at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, standing in front of a tepee.

LaPensee’s friend, Melissa Bennett, a Umatilla, Nez Perce, Diné and Lakota writer, saw the Facebook post and emailed the company questioning the display. She received a direct response from CEO Gary Lin.

In his defiant email, which can be read at length on Bennett’s website (, Lin, who wrote that he is Chinese-American, declared he understands “the sensitivities around race and culture fully” and that since he founded the company more than a decade ago, Bennett’s complaint is the first he has received concerning his co-opting of Native American cultures.

Lin goes on to declare that he has a bevy of Native American friends, seeing that he was born in the Midwest.

“It felt like another example of a non-Indian person telling an Indian person what should and shouldn’t be offensive about their own cultures,” Bennett wrote.

According to Simon Moya-Smith’s story at ICTMN, LaPensee hoped Lin would be understanding, but instead was “unapologetic.”

LaPensée also wondered what part of the hyper-sexualizing of Native American women falls under his definition of Native American cultural values, ICTMN reported.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Flathead compact negotiations may reopen on narrow basis

Buffalo Post - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 11:54am

If negotiations are re-opened on a controversial proposed reserved water rights compact on the Flathead Indian Reservation, indications are the topics to be discussed would be narrowly defined.

Discussions on doing so have been held,  reports Matt Volz of the Associated Press reports.

But the dispute over who controls the water and how much is allocated to farmers, ranchers and others through the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project has intensified, and it is unclear whether a deal can be reached outside of a courtroom.

The hardening positions of those involved in the conflict were apparent Tuesday during a meeting of an interim legislative panel studying a proposed water-use agreement between irrigators and the tribes that was an appendix to the larger water rights compact.

The Flathead Joint Board of Control, which negotiated the water-use agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes that accompanied the compact, disbanded after the Montana legislature rejected the compact in 2013. That created the need to revisit the agreement according to Chris Tweeten, chairman of the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission.

CSKT attorney Rhonda Swaney agreed the negotiations are needed now that the joint board of control has dissolved, but said the tribes don’t intend to reopen them fully.

“If changes are needed int he compact, they need to be agreed to by both sides,” Tweeten said. “Whatever one side might want to go forward with … can’t be dictated to the other.”

Categories: Native Sites

It’s March, it’s madness, and Indian country has players to watch

Buffalo Post - Wed, 03/19/2014 - 10:39am

At the start of this college basketball season, Brent Cahwee wrote about 10 Native American players – well, 11, actually – for fans to keep their eyes on at

Shoni and Jude Schimmel, members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, became the first Native Americans from a reservation to play in the NCAA women’s basketball championship last year, for Louisville (Photo by Rhonda Levaldo/courtesy

Now that March Madness is upon the nation, it’s time to remind folks that some of them are still playing. Two of the most notable are sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, who play for Louisville – a No. 3 seed in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.

What hasn’t been said or written about the dynamic duo of sisters that have taken women’s college basketball and Indian country by storm. Shoni, described as a more flashy and “rez” ball style player and Jude, described as a more steady and blue collar player, helped lead the Louisville Cardinals to an appearance in the 2013 women’s national championship game.

(They made) an improbable run through the tournament by beating then-No. 1-ranked Baylor in what was has been called the women’s game of the century. The Lady Cardinals also beat Tennessee and California to reach the championship game, making the sisters the first Native Americans from a reservation to play in the NCAA championship game.

Louisville opens this year’s NCAA tourney against Idaho.

There are others on Cahwee’s list still playing, most notably Bronson Koenig of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a 6-3 freshman point guard at the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers are a No. 2 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament.

One Native star missing out on the rest of March is Marshall Henderson of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, who spent two tumultuous years at the University of Mississippi.

The Running Rebels made waves in last year’s NCAA Tournament, but did not qualify for it, or the NIT, in this, Henderson’s senior season.

Check out all of Cahwee’s Native stars at

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Native parents complain of racial abuse in California school district

Buffalo Post - Tue, 03/18/2014 - 12:14pm

When Michelle LaMirande and her three children returned to the Pit River Tribe’s reservation in Northern California, her son Tyler had grown his hair long in honor of his father, who had died from kidney disease when they lived in the Bay Area.

Four Pit River tribal members – from left, Tyler LaMirande, Mikaela Gali-LaMirande, Talissa Gali and Alexis Elmore – are among those saying they have been targeted for bullying in Burney, Calif., public schools because they are Native American (Photo by Marc Dadigan/Indian Country Today).

She says Tyler has endured abuse in the Burney, Calif., school system, and Indian Country Today reports he has not been alone.

In a story by Marc Dadigan, ICTMN says many parents believe the abuse is escalating, and complain that the schools aren’t doing anything to stop it.

Notes reading “Watch Your Redskinned Back” and “White Pride Bitch” were left March 4 in the lockers of two Pit River Tribe students at a Northern California high school where parents have alleged for months there is systemic, racially charged abuse of their children.

The notes were reported by parents to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, and deputies are investigating whether it constitutes a hate crime. Believing that the atmosphere at Burney Junior-Senior High School has become too toxic and dangerous, two Pit River parents have already transferred their children to the neighboring schools 16 miles away in Fall River Mills.

LaMirande and her son told Dadigan other students would pull Tyler down by his hair in gym class and call him a “long-haired freak” and homosexual slurs.

When Tyler was suspended in October after fighting a student who ridiculed his hair, the school principal allegedly told LaMirande she should cut his son’s hair to end the bullying.

ICTMN reports that parents’ complaints are “remarkably similar” to ones in recent legal complaints filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Yurok Tribe and Wiyot Tribe against two Humboldt County school districts.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Code Talkers endorsement of Redskins name riles many

Buffalo Post - Sat, 03/15/2014 - 11:31am

The endorsement of the Washington Redskins’ nickname by seven World War II Navajo Code Talkers has set off a firestorm on the Navajo Reservation and beyond.

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder (Photo from ICTMN).

Indian Country Today Media Network reports outrage by descendants of code talkers and others, much of it directed at Navajo Code Talkers Association president Peter MacDonald, and much at Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Reports of the NCTA endorsement showed up on Facebook late in the afternoon of February 28, and the news spread quickly. Here are a few typical posts.

“People are crying. I almost threw up when I read it.”

“Sad day… so much for honor.”

“Rather give more attention to the medicine man association… code talkers have become nationalist puppets and fall for anything.”

Several Navajo descendants and other Navajo citizens expressed suspicion about MacDonald and his motives. Their common theme was, “He divided the Nation.” A former Navajo Nation president, MacDonald was removed from office by the Navajo Tribal Council in 1989 under suspicion of accepting kickbacks from contractors and corporations.

The ICTMN story, by Gale Courey Toensing, said MacDonald sees nothing racist about the Redskins name, and thinks there are far more pressing problems in Indian Country.

“You press people! I don’t know what’s wrong with you! We have so many issues with Native American people – states, the federal government stealing our water, taking our land. There’s poverty and high unemployment on Indian reservations. Why don’t you go over there and report those things? Is the change of [the] name going to change poverty on Navajo? Will that create thousands of jobs?

“There’s the cancer rate, as well as diabetes, alcoholism, the suicide rate – all much higher than outside society. It’s a third-world nation in the back door of the United States. Report that!”

Toensing’s story is also highly critical of Snyder’s attempts to woo support in Indian Country for the NFL team’s nickname.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

SKC Bison sweep AIHEC basketball national championships

Buffalo Post - Thu, 03/13/2014 - 11:26am

Pablo, Mont., is title town.

National champions both, the women’s and men’s basketball teams from Salish Kootenai College celebrate after their title games (Photo courtesy of SKC/Indian Country Today Media Network).

As Indian Country Today Media Network reports, the Salish Kootenai College Bison swept the men’s and women’s American Indian Higher Education Consortium Tribal College National Basketball championships.

“It’s been really exciting and really important to give these tribal kids the opportunity to play organized college basketball,” (men’s coach Zack Camel) said. “Win or lose I’m always excited for them. They had a lot of fun together and we’re there for each other. It makes it easy to coach, and in the end, it was a success.”

(Women’s player Katie) McDonald gives credit to coaches Juan and Silas Perez. “If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have been the powerhouse we were. We ended the season with 26 straight wins and that wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t keep pushing us on and off the court.”

Twelve men’s teams and 10 women’s teams participated in the tournament, held on the Salish Kootenai College campus. ICTMN says it was SKC’s eighth national championship in 15 years under Camel.

What it didn’t report were the scores. Northwest Indian College of Bellingham, Wash., advanced to both title games along with the Bison.

The SKC women beat NWIC 72-63. The SKC men won a 105-104 barnburner.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

CSKT lawsuit wants court cases halted

Buffalo Post - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 5:00pm

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes say they’re simply trying to stop violations to the McCarran Amendment, and have federal courts declare ownership of water delivered by the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project.

The attorney for an irrigation district on the Flathead Indian Reservation says the tribes are posing threats to individual property rights “as well as to the State of Montana’s sovereign ownership of all the waters in the state.”

A Missoulian report details a 45-page lawsuit CSKT attorneys filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Missoula that seeks to stop two Montana courts from proceeding with water rights cases.

The suit says the tribes and the United States “are necessary and indispensable parties to that determination and to move forward in their absence is a profound waste of judicial resources.”

Fourteen defendants are named, ranging from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to seven reservation residents who have water rights cases pending in the two state courts.

The Montana Water Court and Twentieth Judicial District of Montana are also named as defendants, as is the Bureau of Indian Affairs and three irrigation districts on the reservation.

Jon Metropoulos, attorney for the Flathead Irrigation District, has asked Montana Attorney General Tim Fox to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of irrigators and other Montanans.

The tribes say in the lawsuit they “seek this declaration of ownership to frame the federal law under which water for irrigation on the (reservation) will be adjudicated and quantified in a proper general inter sese water rights adjudication ….”

Representatives from CSKT, the state and the federal government spent a decade negotiating a proposed reserved water rights compact that has vocal supporters and opponents, and was not approved by the 2013 Montana Legislature.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Taking a harder look at ‘the Beringian Standstill theory’

Buffalo Post - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 11:29am

New evidence suggesting the area of the Bering Strait, called Beringia, supported trees during the last glacial maximum have led some scientists to conclude that 17-year-old theories that the first American Indians made a “10,000-year pit stop” there en route from Asia to the Americas are true.

But, as Alex Ewan of the Purepecha Nation writes at Indian Country Today Media Network, the new discoveries tend to cloud, rather than support, the theories.

As a review in Past Horizons, an archeology magazine, noted, “the weakest link to the Out of Beringia theory is the lack of archaeological evidence.” There is absolutely no sign that humans lived in this region during this time. In addition, although the study showed that the area had “surprisingly mild temperatures” during the summer (for an ice age), it was still cooler than the area is now, which is not particularly hospitable.

Indeed, if anything, the study findings set the Beringian Standstill theory back. According to a review in Scientific American, “This kind of vegetation would not have supported the large, grazing animals – woolly mammoth, woolly rhino, Pleistocene horses, camels, and bison.” It had previously been presumed that Beringia was covered in grass, and that the large animals were what the Paloeindians had lived on, but the shrub tundra would have only supported small mammals, “perhaps some bighorn sheep,” and possibly elk.

Sediment cores from the region dating between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago show evidence of trees, important because people would have needed fuel for campfires in the cold climate.

One author of the study, John Hoffecker of the University of Colorado, calls it “solid evidence for humans in Beringia before the last glacial maximum, as geneticists first predicted in 1997.”

But Ewen, at ICTMN, calls it ” ‘science by press release,’ where the conclusions are hyped well beyond what the actual findings show.”

Since the early 1990s … the genetic evidence indicates that Indians, as a distinct peoples, are at least 30,000 years old, and likely much older. Linguistic evidence has also pointed to Indians being at least 35,000 years old, and possibly 50,000 years old. The Beringian Standstill theory thus allows the archeologists and the geneticists to have their cake and eat it too, as it gives the time for the Paloeindians to develop unique genetic and linguistic characteristics, while at the same time, it keeps them out of the Americas.

But like the Bering Strait theory, the Beringian Standstill theory requires some unusual circumstances to make it work, the most important of which is that the Paleoindians who lived in Beringia were completely isolated from any other humans for more than 10,000 years and maybe up to 20,000 years, to prevent genetic and linguistic mixing.

Ewen says it may lead to other views about Indian origins in the Americas being taken more seriously.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

CSKT to become first tribes to own a major hydroelectric facility

Buffalo Post - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 11:28am

Almost 40 years after starting the process to acquire Kerr Dam, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have almost reached the finish line.

Brian Lipscomb, the CEO of Energy Keepers, announced this week that that the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes would acquire Kerr Dam for $18.3 million – more than the $14.7 million the tribes wanted to pay, but more than $30 million less than what PPL Montana had sought (Photo by Tom Bauer/Missoulian).

And they’ll get there for a price that is tens of millions of dollars closer to what the tribes said it was worth than what PPL Montana wanted for it, the Missoulian reports.

The Flathead Indian Reservation tribes will become the first in the nation to own a major hydroelectric facility when they turn over $18.3 million. That’s the price set by the American Arbitration Association after weighing arguments from CSKT, which maintained the price should be $14.7 million, and PPL Montana, which said it should be nearly $50 million.

Extensive hearings on the price were held in January.

“This is a historic day for the Confederated Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai Tribes,” CSKT Chairman Ron Trahan said. “We’ve been working toward this for 40 years. It brings tears to my eyes, because it’s something we never quit on.”

The earliest the transfer of ownership can take place is Sept. 5, 2015.

New owners will mean a new name for the dam according to Brian Lipscomb, CEO of Energy Keepers, a federally chartered corporation wholly owned by the tribes. Completed in 1938, the dam was named after Frank Kerr, president of Montana Power Company at the time.

“We’ve been titled as visionary people, and it plays out,” council member Lloyd Irvine said at a press conference announcing the price. Acquisition of the dam “is one of the tools that ensures the future of our people.”

But another council member, Terry Pitts, urged caution.

“We should not be blinded by the bling,” Pitts said. “There will be a lot of issues that come with this. We need to be fully prepared.”

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Priests to be named in sexual-abuse case

Buffalo Post - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 11:00am

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena will post names of priests accused of sexual abuse as part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit filed against it and the Ursuline Sisters of the Western Province.

Bishop George L. Thomas will “give the benefit of the doubt to the accuser” when it comes to naming names of priests accused of sex abuse from the 1930s through the 1970s. The settlement of a lawsuit filed against the Catholic church of western Montana calls for it (Photo by Eliza Wiley/Helena Independent Record).

The Diocese of Helena filed for bankruptcy protection as part of the proposed settlement, according to a story by Mike Dennison of Montana’s Lee State Bureau, and will pay $15 million to the victims.

The Ursuline Sisters ran a school in St. Ignatius on the Flathead Indian Reservation that enrolled many Native American children.

George Thomas, bishop of the Diocese of Helena since 2004, said in a recent interview that a church review board will look at abuse claims, but that he doesn’t expect the church to quibble over the naming of abusers.

“I give the benefit of the doubt to the accuser,” he said. “The one thing I want to punctuate is that I have been committed from the beginning to transparency. There are no names that I will hold in secret.

“If an accusation is made against (someone) and the facts line up, I think the public has a right to know.”

There were 362 victims who filed the 2011 lawsuit in state District Court in Helena.

Seattle attorney Tim Kosnoff, who represents 271 of them, told Dennison that more than 50 Catholic priests will be named as sexual abusers of children.

Most, if not all, are dead. The abuse occurred from the 1930s through the 1970s.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites

Tribal hunters participating in Yellowstone bison management

Buffalo Post - Mon, 02/24/2014 - 6:12pm

Tribes with treaties giving them the right to hunt in their aboriginal hunting grounds are part of the management plan for the Yellowstone National Park bison herd.

A herd of bison moves toward the Yellowstone National Park border town of Gardiner in search of food (Photo by Brett French/Billings Gazette).

It’s been a rewarding experience for members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes according to Tom McDonald, CSKT’s manager of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation, the Missoulian reports.

It wasn’t just that the area was a part of aboriginal hunting grounds, (McDonald) explains.

The Yellowstone herd, which once fell below 25 bison, had been supplemented in part by bison from the Allard-Pablo herd on the Flathead Reservation.

“Some of the Yellowstone bison came from here,” McDonald says.

The hunts remain controversial, but not to the degree they were in the 1980s, when McDonald says Montana got a “black eye” for the way bison were hunted. The old way equated to a “Step into Montana and you’re dead” policy for bison, he adds.

The hunts were begun in response to a disease some of the animals carry that the livestock industry says threatens cattle.

McDonald gives tribal hunters who obtain bison tags a two-hour orientation to acquaint them with rules, regulations and the controversies surrounding bison hunting.

The Nez Perce and Umatilla Tribes also participate in the Montana hunts.

- Vince Devlin

Categories: Native Sites
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