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