A Ravalli County public official who offended members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in November won’t be returning to his position as chairman of the planning board.
Perry Backus of the Missoulian reports that none of the four county commissioners at an annual reorganization of boards Thursday opted to nominate Jan Wisniewski for reappointment.
A fifth commissioner, Suzy Foss, left the meeting before the commission began discussions on appointments to the planning board.
Wisniewski created a stir in November at a meeting between commissioners and members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes after he implied that Havre officials had complained to him about the jails being filled with “drunk Indians.”
At the time, Wisniewski said he was speaking on his own behalf and not as a planning board member. The commission later voted to apologize to the tribes for Wisniewski’s comments.
Through an attorney, Wisniewski told the commission it “had neither the legal or moral authority to apologize for the words of a private citizen of this county.”
Wisniewski was the only applicant for the board from the Darby district.
- Vince Devlin
Carter Camp, who helped organize the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, has died at the age of 72.
The Associated Press reports Camp succumbed to cancer on Dec. 27 in White Eagle, Okla.
Camp, a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, was a longtime member of the American Indian Movement, organizing more than 30 chapters in his home state of Oklahoma, (his sister Casey) Camp-Horinek said. The American Indian Movement was founded in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans and demand that the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes.
He had a leading role in the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972, in which a caravan of Native American activists drove across the country to Washington, D.C., to protest treaties between tribes and the federal government. They took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs for several days.
Although several people in leadership roles went on trial for events that took place at Wounded Knee, the AP reported that Camp was the only one to ever serve time. He spent two years in prison.
“He was the only person in (a) leadership position in Wounded Knee who never left Wounded Knee, not to go out and do press junkets, not to go and sit in a hotel for a while. None of that. He was a war leader there. He stayed inside with his warriors,” Camp-Horinek said of her brother.
Most recently, Camp fought the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Vince Devlin
Washington State Sen. Andy Billig can do nothing about the controversy surrounding the NFL Washington Redskins’ nickname other than have an opinion.
But, as co-owner of the Spokane Indians minor league baseball team, he is in position to deal with any problems Native Americans may have with that name.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports Billig has.
In 2006, the Spokane Indians organization began exploring options for a new team logo and met with the Spokane Tribe of Indians tribal council and the tribe’s culture committee. Through that eight-month process, the baseball organization came up with a new logo depicting a red “S” with an eagle feather accent.
The baseball team worked with five tribes in the Spokane area through the Upper Columbia United Tribes and specifically with the Spokane Tribe of Indians since its name is derived directly from their nation.
“We use no Native American imagery associated with our team,” Billig said. “We told the Spokane tribe, ‘If we need to change our name because it is offending people in our community, we will consider that. How could we not consider changing the name of it’s offensive?”
Reporter Rodney Harwood says because the team conducted itself in a respectful manner, the Spokane Tribe of Indians came up with new logos in both English and the Salish language, which is the regional language of the Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Colville and Kalispell nations.
The baseball team will use the Salish logo as its major imagery on home uniforms in 2014.
“I learned so much during this process,” Billig told Harwood and ICTMN. “This collaboration with the Spokane Tribe is the greatest accomplishment of my professional career with the team. It encompassed so much of what we’re about as an organization and a community. It was about respect and there was this added bonus: it was good for business even though that’s not what we went into it for.”
Billig’s opinion on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s refusal to change the team’s name? “Of course the name is wrong,” he said.
- Vince Devlin
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that makes it harder to force public schools in the state to drop tribal, Native nicknames for their athletic teams.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports that many Native groups are outraged.
“[The bill] is an example of institutionalized racism in content and process,” (said) Barbara Munson, an Oneida Indian who chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s mascots and logos task force. She also told the Associated Press, “It’s a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to all Wisconsin tribes, and it is an act of discrimination leveled directly at our children.”
ICTMN said the bill was proposed by Republican legislators, and sat on the Republican governor’s desk for several weeks while Democrats and Native groups called it “racist.”
In a statement, Walker said that he signed the law because he didn’t want to stifle speech by preventing schools from choosing their mascots. He also said that a person’s right to speak doesn’t end just because what they say is offensive. “Instead of trying to legislate free speech, a better alternative is to educate people about how certain phrases and symbols that are used as nicknames and mascots are offensive to many of our fellow citizens.”
The new law repeals one passed in 2010 by a legislature controlled by Democrats, and signed into law by a Democratic governor, that allowed a single individual to begin a process that protested a race-based mascot, nickname, logo or team name.
- Vince Devlin
Carole DePoe Lankford, vice chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council, was one of a dozen tribal leaders to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on Nov. 12.
CSKT’s newspaper, the Char Koosta, reports the 12 were invited to discuss government-to-government relationships between the federal government and Indian tribes.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell stated that a top priority has been restoring tribal land. The administration’s goal is to place more than 500,000 acres of land into trust by the end of President Obama’s term. Since 2009, nearly 230,000 acres have been accepted into trust, and 1,400 individual land-to-trust applications have been processed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Joining the president, Jewell and the tribal leaders were Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president; White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz; Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling; and David Agnew, director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
The meeting coincided with the fifth White House Tribal Nations Conference.
- Vince Devlin
A New York University law school graduate focused on Montana in general, and the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in particular, to produce a legal paper that is highly critical of public schools on reservations in the state.
Melinda Healey, now a clerk for a federal judge in Tennessee, authored “The School-to-Prison Pipeline Tragedy on Montana’s American Indian Reservations,” Stephanie Woodard reports at Indian Country Today Media Network.
Stuck in failing public school in impoverished communities, Montana’s American Indian children face high rates of suspension, expulsion and arrest, with little regard for due process, Healey found. Being pushed out of school means separation from friends and positive routines and, for many youngsters, regular meals. This, in turn, drives not just trouble with the law but also some of the nation’s highest suicide rates, according to Healey. She recounts heartbreaking stories of Montana Native kids who killed themselves, or tried to, after being disciplined at school.
ICTMN says Healey indicates part of the blame lies with “zero-tolerance programs and the No Child Left Behind Act, which penalizes inferior schools financially without offering meaningful resources for improvement. As a result, schools want to get rid of those students who require the most help to meet MCLN’s testing criteria.”
She is also critical of a Montana Supreme Court decision that dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Wolf Point School Board. The lawsuit was filed by the mother of a teenager who committed suicide after being kicked off the high school wrestling team for possessing a can of chewing tobacco.
“Despair, prison and untimely death should not and need not be the ending places of public education for our most vulnerable children,” Healey wrote in her paper, recently published in the New York University Review of Law and Social Change.”
- Vince Devlin
For the second straight election, Confederated Salish and Kootenai members have voted 80 percent of their Tribal Council incumbents whose terms were up out of office, the Missoulian reports.
The counting of absentee and contested ballots (on Dec. 18) made it official.
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will have a new chairman in two weeks, and four new faces on its 10-person Tribal Council.
It’s the second straight time tribal members have turned four of five incumbents out of office.
The casualties include Chairman Joe Durglo, a Council member from St. Ignatius.
After oaths of office are delivered on Jan. 3, the new Council will select a new chairman from among its ranks.
The only incumbent to win re-election was Carole DePoe Lankford of Ronan. She collected 65 percent of the vote in defeating her challenger.
One of the five incumbents, Reuben Mathias of Elmo, didn’t make it out of November’s primary. Mathias and Len Two Teeth tied for the second spot on the general election ballot, and Two Teeth then won a run-off between the pair.
Two Teeth went on to defeat another challenger, Junior Caye, 845-766.
- Vince Devlin
It’s still just over a year before the Montana Legislature next convenes, but the Missoulian reports that means the clock is ticking on a proposed water rights compact between the state
and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
With all the legal and legislative maneuverings, countless letters to the editor, battles amongst irrigators and arguments over whether the name of an irrigation project contains the word “Indian,” it can be easy to lose sight of what’s looming in the controversy surrounding reserved water rights on the Flathead Reservation and beyond:
A newly released report from the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, requested by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, seeks to answer concerns from compact opponents and give legislators more information in advance of the coming session.
Opponents of the compact as written, including state Sen. Verdell Jackson, R-Kalispell, say the 37-page report provides more details than have previously been available, but he still believes the document is flawed.
Proponents say it was hammered out in public meetings over the course of more than a decade, and the time has come to either move forward on an agreement where both sides compromised, or leave the question of water rights up to the courts.
“The Legislature will do what it’s going to do,” commission chairman Chris Tweeten told the Missoulian. “Either it will be approved, or the tribes will file their claims. We’re reaching the point where it can’t be delayed any further.”
- Vince Devlin
Three November California festivals highlight Native American films, and after taking in all three, Indian Country Today Media Network was ready to pick five must-sees from 2013.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the first out of the chute was “Winter in the Blood,” the Montana-set, Montana-filmed adaptation of James Welch’s acclaimed novel.
Starring a who’s-who of Native actors that includes Chaske Spencer, Julia Jones, Gary Farmer, Michael Spears and Saginaw Grant, expectations were high for “Winter in the Blood” and the film largely delivered.
Also making the grade: “The Lesser Blessed,” “Maina,” “The Cherokee Word for Water” and “Tiger Eyes.”
The latter, based on a Judy Blume best-seller, was “not a Native film per se,” the ICTMN staff admitted, but is worth watching for the breakout performance of Native actor Tatanka Means.
The staff found the five movies at either the Red Nation Film Festival or L.A. Skins Fest, both in Los Angeles, or the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.
The three fests run essentially simultaneously, which makes November a dream month for fans of Native film.
What’s more, 2013 has been a truly outstanding year for Native cinema. In addition to an always-strong slate of documentary films, among them “Indian Relay,” “Urban Rez” and “Young Lakota,” Native directors and actors turned in exceptional work in a number of movies, and that’s what we’ll focus on here. (By our own ad-hoc reasoning, and despite solid work by Natives in supporting roles, we’re disqualifying the endlessly-analyzed farce that was “The Lone Ranger” and the less-ridiculous “Jimmy P.” for casting non-Natives in leading roles. Our list, our rules.)
The story at the ICTMN website contains trailers for all five “must-see” films.
- Vince Devlin
Incumbency didn’t carry much weight in the latest Confederated Salish and Kootenai elections for Tribal Council.
The Missoulian reports that, unless there is a significant shift from 367 absentee and contested ballots that won’t be counted until Wednesday, four of five incumbents on the council have lost their seats.
They include CSKT Chairman Joe Durglo.
Only incumbent Carole DePoe Lankford of Ronan was returned for another four-year term.
Voters went to the polls Saturday, and appear to have elected newcomers Patty Stevens, Vernon Finley, Len Two Teeth and Shelly R. Fyant, along with Lankford.
The Missoulian said some tribal members have been unhappy that the current council voted to disperse a little over half, rather than all, of a $150 million settlement with the federal government to individual members in 2012.
The remainder was placed in an investment account.
Observers said they believed that was one reason 43 people filed to run for the five open council seats this year. One incumbent, Reuben Mathias, was ousted in last month’s crowded primary election after a tie forced him into a run-off.
With the 367 absentee and contested ballots in Saturday’s general election yet to be dealth with, incumbents Durglo, Jim Malatare and Steve Lozar all trail their challengers – Lozar by 126 votes, Durglo by 250 and Malatare by 494.
Lankford, meantime, is defeating her challenger 801-449.
- Vince Devlin
Twenty-four vividly colored masks that were up for open auction are on their way home to the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes of Arizona.
The tribes can thank a California charitable foundation, which paid $530,000 for the masks, according to a report by Thomas Adamson of the Associated Press.
“These are not trophies to have on one’s mantel,” said Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, director of the Los Angeles-based Annenberg Foundation, which revealed itself to be the secret caller that triggered a bidding war in Monday’s highly publicized auction.
He added: “They do not belong in auction houses or private collections.”
Twenty-one vividly colored masks made of leather, horsehair, wood and feathers bought at Drouot auction house will be returned by the foundation to the Hopis and three hood masks to the San Carlos Apaches.
It was a happy ending, at least in one chapter in the Hopi tribe’s battle to regain its tribal patrimony, following a series of legal setbacks in efforts to delay the sale of the masks last week, arguing that they represent ancestral spirits and shouldn’t be sold.
The AP’s Adamson also reported that, after a Paris court ruled such sales legal, some 70 Hopi masks were sold for approximately $1.2 million in April, despite protests from the U.S. government.
- Vince Devlin
As Grand Ronde Tribal Chairman Reyn Leno celebrated Restoration Day with a speech honoring tribal members who held onto their Indian identity even as the government tried to take it away, Mia Prickett said it brought tears to her eyes.
Prickett is one of 79 family members – whose ancestor Tumulth signed the 1855 Willamette Valley Treaty – facing disenrollment by the Oregon tribes, according to a story on Indian Country Today Media Network by Kevin Taylor.
“Hearing council talk about how difficult it was to go through termination and how termination took away their membership and took away their identity and tried to strip them of their heritage and took away their home. … Hearing them say that, I also felt threatened, that they’re doing this same thing to their membership right now and there was not even a bat of an eye as [Leno] read this prepared script about termination. There was no remorse in it. No acknowledgment that we are in the room and feeling that our days are numbered.”
The tribes were celebrating the 30th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan signing the Grand Ronde Restoration Act, which ended three decades of termination. In the years since, the tribe opened a casino and enrollment jumped from about 3,500 members to almost 6,000.
Taylor reports at ICTMN that having a treaty signer as an ancestor was once enough to qualify for tribal enrollment, but that has changed. Tumulth, Taylor reported, was executed by the U.S. Army in 1856 and before the tribe – which joined together 27 disparate tribal bands and communities – was formally created.
The issuance of per-capita payments has also created tensions, and appears to have created a schism between people who were enrolled before or after the casino. “Before the casino, we were enrolled and we were welcomed into the tribe. And now that the casino is there … well, I think greed is definitely a factor for some,” said Nicomi Levine, another member of the Tumulth descendants.
ICTMN says 15 members have been disenrolled this year, and hearings on Pickett’s family were slated to start as early as Monday.
- Vince Devlin
Their tribal council has not taken action, so two elders in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are.
They have sued a North Carolina roadside zoo they say keeps grizzly bears confined in “barren and archaic concrete pits,” Mitch Weiss of the Associated Press reports.
An attorney for two tribal elders filed the lawsuit Tuesday, 60 days after they filed a notice of intent to sue the operators of the Cherokee Bear Park for violating the federal Endangered Species Act. The act allows citizens to file lawsuits for violations, but it requires them to give 60-days’ notice to the violators and federal regulators.
“It’s shameful that the Cherokee Bear Zoo is still displaying intelligent, sensitive bears in tiny concrete pits,” said Amy Walker, who filed the lawsuit with fellow tribal elder Peggy Hill. “It’s obvious to anyone who sees them that these bears are suffering, and they will continue to suffer every day until they are sent to a sanctuary where they’ll finally receive the care they need.”
Some North Carolina residents have long campaigned to close this and two other privately owned bear zoos on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, including Chief Saunooke Bear Park and Santa’s Land.
Walker, Hill and other tribal elders became involved after watching a video that showed bears rocking back and forth and circling in the tiny pits.
They said bears hold a spiritual place in Cherokee history, and in February, pressed the tribal council to force the zoos to free the bears.
But the council declined to take action. Chief Michell Hicks later issued a statement saying he wanted to give private zoo owners the opportunity to create a wildlife preserve on the reservation.
The AP’s Weiss reports he Eastern Band has allowed caged animals as a tourism draw since the 1950s.
- Vince Devlin
It’s been almost five years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Carcieri v. Salazar curbed the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian tribes.
Now, Gale Courey Toensing reports at Indian Country Today Media Network, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is insisting her opposition to tribal gaming be addressed in efforts to fix laws that would clarify the secretary’s authority.
Feinstein noted that “there are more than 100 federally recognized tribes in California” and warned that “many more” tribes will seek recognition — and casinos — in the near future. “But what really sets California apart is the scale of the tribal gaming industry,” she said.
She also complained about what she calls “reservation shopping” by tribes in Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and Oregon ….
Michael Anderson of the Muscogee Nation and owner of Anderson Indian Law, told ICTMN the amount of land going into trust for gaming purposes has been minimal – 20 of 1,500 applications approved during the Obama administration – and that Feinstein’s prediction “that there’s going to be some kind of avalanche of new applications is overblown.”
Feinstein was testifying before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs at a Nov. 20 hearing called “Carcieri: Bringing Certainty to Trust Land Acquisitions.”
- Vince Devlin
A well-known member of the Blackfeet Tribe has died.
Darrell Robes Kipp, one of the co-founders of the Piegan Institute in Browning and a filmmaker, author, historian and educator, died last week after a recurrence of kidney cancer, Scott Thompson and Briana Wipf of the Great Falls Tribune reported.
He was 69.
Kipp, whose Pikuni name was Apiniokio Peta, or Morning Eagle, co-founded the Piegan Institute in 1987, dedicated to archiving and preserving the Blackfoot language. The institute’s Cuts Wood School is the private elementary school that immerses young people in the Blackfoot language using a teaching method called total physical response.
The Harvard-trained Kipp became a leader in the preservation of the Blackfoot language and culture and was author of numerous books on topics such as Blackfeet mythology. In 2004, Kipp and composer Robert Kapilow collaborated on a choral and orchestral work called “Summer Sun, Winter Moon,” which was commissioned for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.
Kipp’s son Darren told Thompson and Wipf that he was “a sad son, but I am a thankful son. I had a really good dad.”
Darrell Kipp’s philosophy was simple, Darren explained to the Tribune.
“Whatever benefits the tribe must benefit the individual, and whatever benefits the individual must benefit the tribe, as well,” Darren remembered.
- Vince Devlin
An online petition that apologizes to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has garnered nearly 300 signatures since the chairman of the Ravalli County Planning Board made
comments CSKT officials found “deeply” offensive late last week.
Five tribal members, including CSKT council member Steve Lozar, traveled to Hamilton last week to explain to Ravalli County commissioners the significance of a cultural area known as the Medicine Tree. As the Missoulian’s Perry Backus reports, the tribes want to place the 58-acre site that they purchased in 1998 in trust with the federal government.
But the meeting turned contentious when Jan Wisniewski, chairman of the planning board, offered up his observations from what he termed a “fact-finding” trip across Montana.
Wisniewski said he had a conversation with law enforcement officials in Havre who complained about their jails being filled with “drunken Indians” off the reservation.
Lozar replied that the tribal members in attendance had come to Hamilton with a “good heart” to sit down and discuss issues important to both sides.
Lozar said he was “deeply, deeply offended” to hear comments about “drunken Indians” in the Havre jail.
“We are citizens of the United States,” he said. “We serve in the military at a higher rate than others. This is our homeland. I’m offended by those comments.”
The online petition invites Ravalli County residents to sign an apology, started by Pamela Small, that says statements made by county officials at the meeting to not reflect their views.
“We extend an apology to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for the offensive, unacceptable behavior of the Ravalli County Commissioners and Chairman of the Planning Board at the recent meeting concerning transfer of the Medicine Tree property to a federal trust,” the petition reads. “The opinions expressed do not represent the citizens of Ravalli County. We strongly support the Confederated Tribes right to make decisions over their sacred lands.”
- Vince Devlin
The “no-smoking” sign is going up at United Tribes Technical College.
College President David Gipp signed on Thursday a policy banning tobacco use, effective Jan. 1, UTTC announced.
It prohibits the use of tobacco on campus properties, in campus-owned vehicles, and at institution sponsored off-campus functions. It includes any product containing tobacco or manufactured from it, or containing nicotine. It also prohibits the use of e-cigarettes.
Exempted is the traditional or sacred use of tobacco. United Tribes will continue to be a “tobacco honoring” campus for Native American spiritual and cultural ceremonies, when requests are made and approved in advance.
UTTC becomes the third tribal college in the nation to ban tobacco use on its campus. The others are Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, Mont., and Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, S.D. It is the 13th college campus in North Dakota to approve a ban.
The college isn’t just banning smoking. The college said its Wellness Center will also provide a series of smoking cessation programs in 2014.
- Vince Devlin
One of the most successful tribal colleges in America inaugurated a new president Wednesday.
A tearful Robert DePoe III took his oath of office at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., between two tepees and in front of hundreds of people in an events center named for one of his predecessors, the Missoulian reported.
DePoe takes over at what is widely considered one of the most successful tribal colleges in the nation, but one whose enrollment has fallen below 1,000 students recently.
He announced several new courses of action during his inauguration, including SKC joining a national community college program called Achieving the Dream that DePoe said would help SKC identify four campus-wide initiatives, with “every policy designed to help students succeed.”
“You are why we are here,” he told the students in attendance.
DePoe, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, wiped away tears several times during the 2 1/2-hour ceremony. He and his family were led into the Joe McDonald Events Center by the Veterans’ Warrior Society and dancers in full regalia while SKC students drummed and sang.
McDonald, SKC’s president for more than 30 of its 36 years of existence, introduced DePoe, a former education director for the Paiute Tribe in Utah. DePoe was employed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs when the presidency came open.
He replaced Luana Ross, who abruptly resigned 13 months ago after two years on the job, citing “irreconcilable visions” between herself and the college’s board of directors.
“Education has no bias,” DePoe told the crowd. “It doesn’t care who we are or where we come from.”
- Vince Devlin
Congress on Wednesday bestowed its highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, on 33 Indian tribes for the wartime contributions of code talkers – Native Americans who used their native languages as a means of secret communications during world wars.
The ceremony, at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, honored tribes that were not included when Congress initially awarded the Gold Medal to code talkers in 2008.
Among them were the Crow, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes from Montana. U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was among the dozens of congressmen who attended.
Daines called the Gold Medal “long-overdue and well-deserved recognition for their critical role as code talkers during World Wars I and II.”
House Speaker John Boehner, the Associated Press reported, credited the Native Americans with saving thousands of lives during the wars using “the simplest weapon – their language.”
Ultimately, Avis Chenoweth’s goal is to make sure every Native American student she mentors in Missoula’s public school system graduates from high school.
And, as the Native American specialist for the district explained to Missoulian reporter Betsy Cohen, that means helping them succeed not only academically, but culturally and socially as well.
“What is so powerful is when a Native child sees the person who is teaching them as a reflection of themselves,” she said. “I’m not an official teacher, but it is empowering when Native students see Native teachers, principals and staff in their schools.
“It can literally change their lives – and it affects non-Native students positively because then they see Natives in a different light and that changes their world view and vision.”
Cohen reports that Chenoweth, who is Chippewa-Cree, is assigned to one high school, two middle schools and one elementary school, and has 140 students in her charge.
“I really like it because she is teaching us about all the tribes in Montana – and sometimes we do activities,” said 11-year-old Ambrie Tahbo, a member of the Dream Catchers Lunch Club at Meadow Hill School, whose heritage includes the Hopi, Tewa and Mojave tribes. “I don’t see a lot of Native American adults here, and it’s nice to have someone who is, and someone who is in our school.”
- Vince Devlin