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.
Did former U.S. Chief District Judge Richard Cebull – who forwarded a racist email about President Barack Obama – make biased decisions while on the bench?
Indian advocacy groups in Montana and South Dakota, and a member of the Crow Tribe, want to know, and are asking a court to preserve and eventually release an investigative file containing inappropriate emails sent by Cebull.
Associated Press reporter Matthew Brown reported that Indian People’s Action of Montana, Four Directions of South Dakota, and Sara Plains Feather, a member of Montana’s Crow Tribe, filed the petition in U.S. District Court in California.
Cebull was investigated after forwarding a racist message involving Obama. A judicial review panel found he sent hundreds of emails from his federal account that showed disdain for blacks, Indians, Hispanics, women, certain religions and others. He was publicly reprimanded and retired last year.
The investigation found no evidence of bias in his rulings. (Plaintiffs’ attorney Lawrence) Organ said the only way to know that for sure is through the release of the emails.
“The fundamental principles of our entire legal system fall apart if a judge doesn’t come in with a neutral position,” Organ said. “If there are other decision-makers involved, we’re not asking for their private email accounts. All we want to see are the email accounts they used as government officials.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said the file is confidential.
Brown reported that Four Directions was involved in a voting rights lawsuit in which Cebull ruled against the Indian plaintiffs. The 9th Circuit later overturned his ruling.
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline buried some of their protest on May 31 and June 1.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports that members of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance and their allies planted sacred Ponka red corn seeds on a Nebraska farm that is on the pipeline’s proposed route.
Members of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma performed a sacred corn planting ceremony led by Mekasi Horinek, the son of Casey Camp-Horinek, a long-time Native rights activist and environmentalist, and Amos Hinton, agricultural director of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma.
After the ceremony, the group hand-planted approximately four acres of sacred Ponka red corn seed (ICTMN noted the 19th-century spelling of the tribe name is still used for the corn).
“We’re going to stand together with the cowboys – the ranchers and farmers – in our Nebraska homeland,” said Horinek. “Together our families will plant sacred red corn seed in our ancestral soil. As the corn grows it will stand strong for us, to help protect and keep Mother Earth safe for our children, as we fight this battle against the Keystone XL pipeline.”
The planting was done on the farm of Art Tanderup outside Neligh, Nebraska. Tanderup said that in 1877 the people of Neligh helped the Ponca people by burying White Buffalo Girl, who had died on the Ponca Trail of Tears.
“Over 100 years later, that spirit of humanity continues as we join with our friends and neighbors in replenishing their sacred corn and fighting against Keystone XL,” Tanderup said.
Aaron Carapella’s decade-long project began by marking poster boards hanging on his bedroom walls.
Today, reports Hansi Lo Wang at National Public Radio’s “Code Switch,” Carapella’s maps of the United States, Mexico and Canada show the original locations – and original names – of more than 600 Indian tribes, “many now forgotten and lost to history,” Wang writes.
“I think a lot of people get blown away by, ‘Wow, there were a lot of tribes, and they covered the whole country!’ You know, this is Indian land,” says Carapella, who calls himself a “mixed-blood Cherokee” and lives in a ranch house within the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation.
For more than a decade, he consulted history books and library archives, called up tribal members and visited reservations as part of research for his map project. … So far, he has designed maps of the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico. A map of Alaska is currently in the works.
What really sets Carapella’s maps apart, a senior geographer at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian told Wang, is that they show both the original and commonly known names of tribes.
Some tribes, Doug Herman explains, were stuck with names chosen by European settlers that were often derogatory terms other tribes used to describe their rivals – such as “Comanche,” derived from the Ute word meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time.”
“It’s like having a map of North America where the United States is labeled ‘gringos’ and Mexico is labeled ‘wetbacks,’ ” Herman told NPR. “Naming is an exercise in power. Whether you’re naming places or naming peoples, you are therefore asserting a power of sort of establishing what is reality and what is not.”
Carapella calls them “a way to convey the truth in a different way.”
You won’t read about the Washington Redskins again in the Seattle Times.
Washington’s NFL team, yes; it’s controversial mascot, no.
Times sports editor Don Shelton banned the use of the nickname last week, he wrote in his blog.
It’s time to ban the use of “Redskins,” the absurd, offensive and outdated name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C.
Past time, actually.
We’ll probably receive scathing emails, letters, phone calls and reader comments telling me we’re too PC, that the name actually honors Native Americans or that we have no right to change a team’s official name.
Everyone’s entitled to an opinion – even if I don’t buy it.
We’re banning the name for one reason: It’s offensive. Far from honoring Native Americans, the term colors an entire race.
The Times already had a policy that severely limited the use of the name. For 20 years, Shelton said, the newspaper allowed it to appear only once per article and did not use it in headlines or photo captions.
But, he suggested, if it’s offensive enough to limit its use, it’s offensive enough to ban completely.
Well, almost completely. In stories that are about the controversy over the name, “Redskins” will be allowed so that readers know what the issue revolves around, Shelton wrote.
One Washington state high school – in Wellpinit, on the Spokane Indian Reservation – also uses the nickname. The Times will not print its name, either, Shelton said.
Other papers that have banned the name include the Portland Oregonian, the Kansas City Star, the Orange County Register and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Oregonian and Star banned it back in the 1990s.
- Vince Devlin
When they were students at Harvard, New York University film student Dominique Deleon had promised his roommate, an Ojibwe Indian, that he would one day use his medium to draw attention to both the beauty and hardships of reservation life.
As Indian County Today Media Network reports, that vow took on a new meaning when Deleon’s roommate, Duane Meat, returned to the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota for
Meat was murdered by a gang member while walking on a street in Minneapolis.
With the help of filmmaker Spike Lee, “Rez,” a 19-minute short film about a teenager living on the Leech Lake Reservation, has been released. “Due to Lee’s support,” reporter Vincent Shilling wrote at ICTMN, “the project broke records on the Seed & Spark fundraising website as the fastest film to receive full funding within just 72 hours.”
Deleon spent a summer on the reservation writing the film.
“The first week I was on the rez I stayed in a small house with 7 adults and four dogs,” DeLeon recalls. “Across the way in Tract 33, which is portrayed in the film, a jilted boyfriend walked over to the house where his girlfriend was staying and shot her in the face. They had kids together
“I realized quickly that even though I’d done my research, even though I’d heard all the stories, nothing was going to prepare me to write this other than living there, being there. “
The short film is currently making the film festival rounds.
- Vince Devlin
It wasn’t just the first presidential visit to an Indian reservation since the advent of Twitter.
It was only the fourth time in American history a sitting U.S. President had visited a reservation.
President Obama’s journey to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota produced a flurry of tweets from Indian Country, and Indian Country Today Media Network combed through them to pick 10 of the best.
On a windy Friday afternoon on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, President Barack Obama – arriving on “Indian Time” – became the fourth U.S. president to ever visit an Indian reservation. The day was marked by celebration, tradition, optimism and pessimism and, of course, good ol’ fashioned Native American humor.
Simon Moya-Smith wrote the introduction to the top 10 tweets, which included photographs of a smiling President Obama interacting with dancers and children, and one of First Lady Michelle Obama licking her lips after sampling a well-known Indian Country food that included the notation, “Got a new #Frybread Felon.”
Whether it was a parent, a friend, or perhaps a teacher who went out of their way to help them in a class, the Secretary of Education told the largest graduating class in Salish Kootenai College history that he was sure all of them had someone they could thank for helping them earn their diploma.
“And remember to pay it forward,” Arne Duncan told them, “that investment people made in you.”
Duncan had asked the tribal college if he could speak at last year’s ceremony, but a scheduling conflict prevented that, the Missoulian reported. SKC President Robert DePoe III said the school was honored when Duncan inquired again this year.
The secretary said he loves SKC’s motto – “Grounded in tradition, charging into the future” – and encouraged graduates to embrace the words as they leave campus.
“I’m confident you will give back to your tribal community,” Duncan told them. “Pursue your passion – get up every day doing what you love.” Wherever their lives take them, he said, “When you come over the hill and see the Mission Mountains, you will know you are home.”
Before delivering the commencement address, Duncan dropped in on a Nike-sponsored basketball camp at nearby Two Eagle River School, where he ran 30 local youngsters through dribbling and shooting drills.
The secretary has the street cred for doing so. A co-captain of the Harvard University basketball team when he was a student, Duncan is not only still active in the sport, he was MVP at this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Games.
Duncan, who says he is 6-foot-5, told the kids he was only 5-3 when he started high school in Chicago.
Several of the children raised their hands when the secretary asked if any hoped to one day play professional basketball.
“Chase that dream,” Duncan told them, “but catch an education too.”