North Dakota promised Native Americans that voting in the general election with a Tribal ID would be “easy as pie.”
That’s not what Chelsey Luger, an Anishinaabe and Lakota, found when she went to vote in Grand Forks with her Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa identification card.
Indian Country Today Media Network carried a story Luger wrote about her experience on Nov. 4. “I don’t know what to do with this,” a poll worker told Luger when she presented the card. In a hurry, Luger then presented a valid driver’s license, but since the address was not current, was told she would have to go to the DMV and get a new license printed or go online to the Department of Transportation and update it.
Which Luger tried to do – but the website wouldn’t let her update her address because her apartment building was too new and the address wouldn’t register.
But, she wrote, the more she thought about it the more upset she was that she had been turned away with a Tribal ID the state said would work just fine. She returned to her polling place and expressed her concern to a supervisor.
I’m in a position of privilege, in that I work at a University where my supervisor was happy to let me take a break to go vote; I have a car to drive around town wherever I need to go; when I found out my license needed to be updated, I was able to easily run back to my office where I have a computer, internet access, and a telephone with long distance capabilities; I was able to call the DOT and could’ve even driven to the DMV if I had the time. But what if I hadn’t?
What if I had gotten a ride or taken public transportation to the voting booth in the first place? What if I had no access to internet or computer? What if I were working long hours at a job where I didn’t have the luxury of taking breaks? What if I weren’t able to pay for a long distance phone call? What if I wasn’t sure how to stand up for myself, or didn’t feel comfortable arguing with the registration personnel? I would have been turned away, and I would never have had the opportunity to cast my vote.
How many thousands of Indians in the state like her vote in precincts that are off-reservation, Luger wondered – and why did the state promise Tribal IDs were fine, then apparently didn’t train poll-workers trained to process them?
“How many others faced the same situation,” she wrote, “but were either too discouraged, too annoyed, or did not have the resources to return and actually get their vote in?”
Court challenges have turned the election for president of the Navajo Nation on its head – and they’re not over yet.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports that the Navajo Supreme Court has – four days before the scheduled election – ordered one candidate stricken from the ballot and postponed the vote.
The move cost Chris Deschene, who finished second to Joe Shirley Jr. out of 17 candidates in the August primary, a chance at the office. Deschene declined to take a test showing he could speak and understand Navajo, saying it was unfair and unprecedented, and that it targeted him specifically.
Navajo election law requires presidential candidates to speak fluent English and Navajo.
Russell Begaye, who finished third in the primary, will challenge Shirley instead.
“I’m back in the race under unfortunate circumstances,” (Begaye) said during a phone interview. “People have distrust in the system, they feel they weren’t respected, so I need to provide a degree of hope.”
With Deschene officially out of the race, Begaye inherits a fair amount of animosity and disappointment, he said. While he campaigned vigorously before the primary election, he said now he wants to see more of a grassroots crusade rise up on his behalf.
“I think the huge majority of people have already made up their minds,” he said. “Most people already know who they’re going to vote for, so I don’t need to go into a full-scale campaign.”
ICTMN’s Alysa Landry reported the decision isn’t the end of legal battles over the election. On Oct. 31, the same day the Supreme Court postponed the election – likely until December – and disqualified Deschene, another primary candidate filed a 162-page motion to disqualify Begaye “because of his involvement as a stakeholder with the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company.”
The Office of Hearings and Appeals is slated to take up that case on Nov. 13.
Begaye, of Shiprock, New Mexico, named Jonathan Nez as his running mate. Nez was re-elected to the Tribal Council and would have to resign that seat if he is elected vice president.
The worried father of a missing Blackfeet actress fears she may have committed suicide, Indian Country Today Media Network reports.
Misty Upham, whose work in “Frozen River” (2008) and “August: Osage County” (2013) garnered her good reviews, has been missing for more than a week, according to her father Charles Upham.
Charles describes his daughter’s behavior as “erratic” following a change in medication she was taking. “She told me and her mom that we didn’t have to worry about her any more,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “I thought it sounded suicidal myself, so I called the police. She’s always been a suicidal person.”
On the other hand, there may be reason for hope: In the latest posting to Misty’s Facebook page, Charles writes that the family has been “chasing down leads” and has heard of “possible sightings in Seattle.” He asks those in the area to search “the wooded areas near the Muckleshoot Casino.”
The ICTMN story said police are not looking for Misty because she does not meet the criteria for a missing person. When officers responded to the apartment where she was living with her parents for a “suicidal call” they discovered the actress had packed her bags and left.
They were unable to locate her, and do not classify her departure as “unexplainable, involuntary or suspicious.”
Misty Upham most recently co-starred in “Cake,” which features Jennifer Aniston in the lead role.
Columbus Day is about to go the way of the dinosaur in Seattle, where the city is expected to replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Richard Walker of Indian Country Today reports that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray anticipates signing a resolution to that effect on Oct. 13. Walker’s story says Matt Remle, a Hunkpapa Lakota educator, lobbied the city council for the change. The council was expected to approve the resolution Sept. 2, but held off because the mayor is required to sign resolutions within 10 days of approval and Murray wants to sign it on Oct. 13 – the 2014 date for Columbus Day.
Tulalip Tribes Council member Theresa Sheldon said it’s past time to stop honoring Christopher Columbus, whose exploration of the Caribbean for Spain included enslavement, rape, mutilation and murder.
“On behalf of all our indigenous and non-indigenous ancestors who established the United States of America, it’s a true blessing and about time that all citizens of [the] USA and the City of Seattle support the changing of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day,” Sheldon said.
“Columbus fed newborn babies to his dogs. He cut off the hands of the indigenous people if they refused to be his slave[s] … [He] started a sex trade of 10- to 12-year-old girls for men of privilege to rape.”
She added, “The notion that these Indigenous Peoples had no rights under the Spanish king and their religion, so these acts of terror were acceptable, is completely un-American. We would never support such a villain today. This is the first step in correcting the true history of the United States and recognizing the serious wrongs that were done to a beautiful and loving people, the indigenous people of the [Caribbean].”
Remle, meantime, told Indian Country Today he hopes the resolution will lead Seattle Public Schools to adopt indigenous history curricula, and encourage businesses, organizations and public institutions to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Selectmen in Wiscasset, Maine, have voted to allow a private road to be named Redskins Drive, much to the displeasure of Maine Indian tribes (Photo courtesy of ICTMN).
In Washington D.C. an NFL owner won’t change his team’s longstanding nickname that many Native Americans find offensive, but in one community in Maine, selectmen are voting to put the same name on a previously unnamed road.
Indian Country Today reports that Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis and former Chief James Sappier have asked the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen to rescind their vote that OK’d the naming of a private road as “Redskins Drive.”
The offensive word has been a contentious issue in Wiscasset for years. In 2012 after a bitter yearlong battle, the school committee voted 4-1 to change the Wiscasset High School’s mascot from Redskins to Wolverines.
Francis told the selectmen that Nation citizens appreciated sharing their history and perspectives on the use of the Redskins name with the people of Wiscasset during that battle. “We remain grateful for the understanding and good will those leaders demonstrated by changing the name of their mascot. We understand that change is difficult and that people may feel nostalgic about certain aspects of their past, but we cannot quietly accept a sentimentality that hurts our people.”
The word is so offensive to American Indians generally and particularly to Maine’s Wabanaki nations – the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac tribal nations—because it reminds them of a time when they were hunted by settlers and their bodies and scalps sold to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Frances wrote. “The 1755 Spencer Phips Proclamation placed a bounty specifically on my people, the Penobscot, offering payment up to 50 pounds for each man, woman and child. When scalps were brought in for payment, they were referred to as ‘redskins,’” Francis wrote.
In her ICTMN story, reporter Gale Courey Toensing interviewed one of the selectmen who voted to allow the name change, Bill Barnes.
Barnes told Toensing he did not think the name was either bad or offensive. When Toensing asked Barnes if he was Indian, he replied, “Nah, but I think what needs to be done is remember the Indians so they don’t get forgotten because if it hadn’t been for the Indians in this country the white man would have never survived.”
Native American girls as young as 12 are being targeted for sex trafficking as the Bakken oilfield boom unfolds in North Dakota and Montana.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports that U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., held a listening session at Fort Peck Community College on the subject late last month.
The listening session was aimed at gathering more information from tribal leaders and local law enforcement regarding the spike in sex trafficking of underage girls, as well as other related crimes that have increased since the oil boom began in the Bakken region. Also among the panelists at Thursday’s session was United States Attorney Mike Cotter, who appeared at the event to voice the growing alarm shared by he and his colleagues in Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming, about the exploding industry of human trafficking involving mostly Native girls aged 12 to 14 who are being sold for sex.
“If you look around the rural regions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, you would not expect to find 12-14 year old girls sold for sex on the Internet, or lured by an adult for sex or forced into a life of servitude by predators to sell their bodies to strangers,” Cotter told the audience of about 100 tribal leaders, community members and law enforcement. “It is hard to imagine but it is here in our region, and this corruption occurs with too much frequency and is more prevalent than one would imagine.”
Suzette Brewer of ICTMN reported that traffickers target young girls from low-income homes where one or both parents are absent. Many are already victims of child abuse and neglect and struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.
Tribal leaders said their police forces are underfunded, understaffed and “ill-equipped to take on Mexican cartels, who they say have infiltrated the region and are well-organized and armed with heavy weaponry, including machine guns,” Brewer reported.
The excitement for his first day of school at F.J. Young Elementary in Seminole, Texas, didn’t last long for 5-year-old Malachi Wilson.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports that school officials sent him home and told him to “cut his hair.”
Wilson, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, has a braid.
“After we had enrolled him he was excited. He was ready to go. Everyday it was—the question, ‘Mom, [am I] going to school?’” his mother, April Wilson, told CBS-affiliate Channel 7.
But that notable day in a child’s life would not happen for Malachi. He was turned away by school officials and sent home.
School administrators required that April bring documentation from the Navajo Nation proving Malachi’s indigenous parentage. April immediately contacted the Navajo Nation and the document was delivered to school officials. Malachi was enrolled after the school approved of the document’s authenticity.
Indian Country Today reporter Simon Moya-Smith said social media lit up after the incident.
“That story gets so much worse when you find out it happened in Seminole, TX, where students are called ‘Indians and Maidens,’” Twitter user Emily Lakdawalla wrote. The school’s mascot is an Indian and the school’s logo is of an Indian with feathers on his head.
The school defended its actions by citing procedure and school policy, Moya-Smith wrote. According to the school’s handbook, “certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs may qualify from an exemption from provisions of the dress code. … Any exceptions to the dress code must receive prior approval by the campus administrator.”
Two Navajo men brutally beaten to death with cinder blocks at a homeless encampment in July had nowhere to live in Albuquerque, but had homes to go to on their reservation, Indian County Today Media Network reports.
Kee Thompson and Allison Gorman had initially arrived in New Mexico’s largest city separately to look for work, according to the story by Alysa Landry.
In the days following the murders, details about who the men were have trickled in. Gorman, of Shiprock, New Mexico, moved to Albuquerque earlier this year looking for work. When he couldn’t find a place to live, he ended up on the streets, his sister, Alberta Gorman, told reporters.
“We are all in shock and we just can’t make sense of all this that has happened,” Alberta Gorman told a KOB-TV reporter. “My brother Allison was a son, a brother, a father, an uncle and a grandfather, and he was a very kind, loving man.”
Three teenagers have been charged in the murders. They allegedly told police they had no connection to the victims, and were simply looking for people to beat up after a party.
Thompson, the other victim, was from Castle Rock, New Mexico, and had been in Albuquerque since 2005.
Staff at the Albuquerque Indian Center, where Mary Garcia is executive director, helped identify the men, “who were beaten so badly they were unrecognizable” Landry reported.
“A lot of the guys who come here are homeless, but only in the city,” Garcia told ICTMN. “They have homes on the reservation. I always like to make the point that because the people are homeless, that doesn’t mean they have to be treated with less respect. What happened to these men is beyond comprehension and no one should have to go through that.”
One music festival is saying “No” to a trend of people donning feather headdresses, or warbonnets, at concerts and festivals, Indian County Today Media Network reports.
The Bass Coast Electronic Music and Arts Festival in Merritt, British Columbia, has banned the wearing of warbonnets at this year’s event, which takes place Aug. 1-4.
We understand why people are attracted to war bonnets. They have a magnificent aesthetic. But their spiritual, cultural and aesthetic significance cannot be separated.
Bass Coast Festival takes place on indigenous land and we respect the dignity of aboriginal people. We have consulted with aboriginal people in British Columbia on this issue and we feel our policy aligns with their views and wishes regarding the subject. Their opinion is what matters to us.
ICTMN staff said the move would please A Tribe Called Red, a Native American DJ trio that has asked fans attending their shows to refrain from wearing headdresses and face paint. A Tribe Called Red appears on the main stage of Bass Coast Aug. 2.