Hard Bargaining: Navajo Generating Station Lease Approved

 Source, Cibola Beacon

Indian Country Magazine reported earlier this month that the Navajo Nation Council has approved a controversial renewal to the tribe’s lease with the Navajo Generating Station.

Despite the challenges between the Nation’s executive branch and council during negotiations, on April 29 the deal was approved.

The council complained they were not involved early in the negotiations and ultimately proposed six caveats to attach to the lease, should they approve it. By April 29, that number had grown to 15.

Scott Harelson, spokesman for the Salt River Project, part owners of the coal-fired power plant, said, “The Navajo Generating Station owners will meet to review the implications and discuss the new amendments so determine how to proceed,” reported Indian Country Today.

 If agreed upon by both parties, the new lease would be good through 2044.

Harelson pointed out the station provides electricity for millions of customers in the Southwest and jobs for about 520 people, more than 85 percent of them Navajo. The Kayenta Mine, the plant’s coal supplier, employs more than 400 people, most them Native American.

A recent university study showed the station and mine stand to contribute nearly $13 billion to the Navajo Nation economy through sustained jobs and wages, if it stays operational until 2044.

The station faces daunting challenges besides the challenging lease-approval process. The state’s Environmental Protection Agency recently announced proposed pollution controls that could cost the plant $1.1 billion if they are enacted. And, according to the report in Indian Country Today, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and NV Energy, who are part owners of the plant, have made moves to abandon coal-fired electricity production at the Navajo Generating Station in favor of cleaner energy.

New collaboration will raise awareness of indigenous art through murals

by Danika Worthington, Downtown Devil

Jaque Fragua finished his interpretation of a phoenix Thursday night. He painted the indigenous mural as part of a new effort to bring more awareness to indigenous art. (Alexandra Scoville/DD)

Jaque Fragua finished his interpretation of a phoenix Thursday night. He painted the indigenous mural as part of a new effort to bring more awareness to indigenous art. (Alexandra Scoville/DD)

After returning from choir practice Thursday night, Margaret Gabaldon was greeted at home by a large and colorful mural-in-progress.

Native Public Art project, a collaboration among 1Spot GalleryZiindi: Indigenous Art Zine and Native American artists, attempted to bring attention to indigenous people through murals, said Michelle Ponce, director/curator of 1Spot and co-founder of Ziindi along with Damian Jim.

Ponce classified indigenous art as any art created by an indigenous identified person, regardless of what percentage he or she is Native American.

Spray paint artist Jaque Fragua painted the project’s first mural on Gabaldon’s home near Sixth and Roosevelt streets.

“It’s a platform for marginalized peoples to express and exchange with a community that they’re displaced within and with establishing that line of communication,” Fragua said.

Fragua said the theme of a phoenix is common among Phoenix artists so he decided to create his own interpretation.

Gabaldon said she was “flabbergasted” when she saw the mural.

“When (Jim) first showed me the sketch of what Jaque was going to do, I was a little bit floored and it was very bright and he said it was the new age, I guess, of Native American paintings and of artists what they do,” Gabaldon said.

Gabaldon, a retired schoolteacher, grew up in that home and moved back with her husband in 1980 after her father changed houses, she said.

Fragua started painting the mural on Sunday and planned to finish Thursday night, he said. He has painted murals across the nation, including San Francisco and Miami, and around the world, including Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada.

From the Jemez Pueblo reservation in New Mexico, Fragua said he began to realize the oppression and poverty surrounding Native people while traveling with his father on work trips to other reservations.

“When I learned about that, I understood there was a need for this type of art or this type of voice, or this type of communication and it’s as if Natives were the Jews of the Americas,” Fragua said.

“The things that happened here, in this city, and the history of the indigenous peoples in this area are totally buried,” he said.” So how does one acknowledge that history when it’s entombed? The people who are here have to dig for it and you’re not going to see it everyday on Roosevelt Row in the street or out there in the public or even in books or NPR. You know, it’s not there. Unless the people put it out there and public art is one way to do that.”

Ponce started the Native Public Art project with Jim. Ponce said she was considering having only three or four places for murals but having them re-done by different indigenous artists every three to six months.

“Sometimes it’s really good to just start fresh and once you say a statement and it’s out there and people see it and enjoy it, it’s time to do it over,” Ponce said.

Ziindi created an Indiegogo page, a website for people to fund independent projects, to experiment with crowd-sourcing. The goal was to raise $1,000 by Friday, May 31, according to the page. Funds will provide money for materials, renting equipment, water and snacks for artists.

The Native Public Art project raised $1,030 by Thursday, according to the page. This fund is the start of an on-going donation box for the project.

“To make it all crowd source funded just made it more to where the community was also invested,” Jim said.

Ponce said they would have funded the mural regardless but wanted to get support from the community. The current funds are enough to cover one or two murals, she said.

“This is not just my dream I wanted but a lot of other people actually want it too and it could actually be something bigger than one mural,” Ponce said.

Jim said the Native Public Art was looking for home and property owners who were willing to have murals on their buildings.

Native Public Art will be an on-going project that will hopefully expand past downtown to the greater Phoenix area, Tucson and Flagstaff, Ponce said. She said she wanted to create a mural collective of indigenous artists. She encouraged artists to approach them if they wanted to be a part of the project.

Mashpee tribe finds federal proposal encouraging

by Gerry Tuoti, Taunton Gazette

TAUNTON- Mashpee Wampanoag tribe says it is encouraged by a new federal proposal to change procedures for processing land-in trust applications.

The proposed change specifically, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, addresses the Supreme Court’s 2012 Patchak decision. That court ruling expanded who has legal standing to challenge American Indian land decisions in court and effectively gave opponents a six-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit.

“The principal purpose of this proposed rule is to provide greater certainty to tribes in their ability to develop lands acquired in trust for purposes such as housing, schools and economic development,” Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn said in a statement. “For such acquisitions, the proposed rule will create a ‘speak now or forever hold your peace moment’ in the land-into-trust process.”

The Mashpee, who hope to build a tribal casino in Taunton but lack sovereign land, have a land-in-trust application pending with the BIA. The Mashpee insist they are on track to have land taken into trust and build a casino, named “Project First Light.” Many of their opponents, however, say the tribe does not meet the criteria to have its land application approved.

Washburn, who introduced the proposed changes on May 24, described the potential effects.

“If parties do not appeal the decision within the administrative appeal period, tribes will have the peace of mind to begin development without fear that the decision will be later overturned,” he said in a statement.

The rule changes would allow the federal government to take land in trust without a waiting period and place the burden on litigants to demonstrate harm, according to a BIA press release.

“We fully support the Obama administration’s plan to help tribes acquire land without the threat of delays or frivolous lawsuits,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement the tribe released Thursday.

“This change, once it is adopted, will speed up our land acquisition process and keep the development of Project First Light in Taunton on a very brisk pace so that we can create thousands of jobs for the southeastern Massachusetts region.”

The proposed rules will be available in the federal register at www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection. Public comments may be submitted to the Department of the Interior for 60 days following the proposed rule’s publication.

Oregon coal port gets key draft permit

Associated Press
May 31, 2013

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — An Australian energy company has cleared a key hurdle for a terminal on the Oregon side of the Columbia River that would ship coal from the Great Plains to Asia.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Friday issued draft permits regulating coal dust at the Coyote Island Terminal LLC at the Port of Morrow in Boardman.

The department will hold public hearings on the air and water pollution permits July 9 in Portland and Hermiston.

Ambre Energy plans to build a totally enclosed facility to unload coal trains from Montana and Wyoming and load the cargo onto barges for transport downriver to the Port of St. Helens, where it would be loaded in huge ships to carry it to Asia.


Deadline looming for settlement in Urban Outfitters case

By Alysa Landry
Navajo Times
WASHINGTON, May 30, 2013


T he marketing of Navajo arts and crafts has a complex history with deep ties to economics and tribal identity, but one thing remains simple: the Navajo name belongs to the people.

That’s according to Brian Lewis, an attorney with the Navajo Department of Justice who has headed the tribe’s case against Urban Outfitters since the company began marketing Navajo-themed clothing and accessories in 2011.

The Nation “has the exclusive right to use its Navajo name and trademarks on products that are marketed and retailed as being authentically Navajo,” Lewis said. “People who buy products with the name and trademark ‘Navajo’ expect that those products will have valid association with the Navajo Nation and Navajo people.”

The case, which last week was placed on hold as the parties work toward a settlement, is expected to set precedent as the Nation seeks to curb the theft of intellectual property and emerge as the sole and rightful owner of its name.

Although the case appears novel, it is not, Lewis said.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act, passed in 1990, came as a response to individuals and corporations that misrepresented products as Indian-made. The law prohibits any marketing or sale of items in a manner that falsely suggests they are made by American Indians.

“Corporate theft of property from Indians … is old school,” Lewis said. “It was non-Indian corporations’ profiting from posing their products as having been made by Native Americans that led to the enactment of the (law) in the first place.”

The point of the law, and of the Navajo Nation’s lawsuit against Urban Outfitters, is to maintain credibility with consumers, he said.

The tribe is seeking monetary damages from the company of up to seven or eight figures, Lewis said. It also “looks to stop this kind of deceptive behavior to keep the integrity of its property and protect consumers from getting tricked.”

“The first appropriate outcome if for Urban Outfitters to stop making money off the unlawful use of the Navajo Nation’s intellectual property,” Lewis said. “The second appropriate outcome here is for Urban Outfitters to compensate the Navajo Nation for the profits the company made.”

In short, the tribe wants consumers to rest assured that when they buy products labeled “Navajo,” they are, indeed, manufactured by members of the tribe.

Ownership of the Navajo name – and of the arts and crafts associated with it – is complicated, however.

According to author Erika Marie Bsumek, who researched Navajo culture in the marketplace from the return from Fort Sumner until the 1940s, many of the traditional crafts became symbols of a romanticized and primitive culture.

The Navajo historically worked in silver and wool, creating items for household uses or adornment, Bsumek wrote. Yet with the arrival of Anglo settlers – and their discovery of the Navajo crafts – the industry shifted into a complex framework where arts and crafts became part of a broader economic landscape.

This resulted in complicated links between the tourism industry and Navajo identity, which often was portrayed as primitive and vanishing despite the tribe’s growing numbers, Bsumek wrote. The tourism industry and anthropologists constructed a Navajo identity “with little or no input from Navajos themselves.”

“For a good majority of consumers, goods made by Indians were infused with symbolic, material and cultural capital,” she wrote. “Navajo blankets and jewelry were prestigious in that they conveyed a set of racialized beliefs, represented a financial investment and transmitted a series of meanings about modernity and civilization to the whites who purchased them.”

With such a history, it is no surprise that the tribe guards its name and strives to protect it from companies that might further dilute its identity, said Richard Stim, a San Francisco-based trademark attorney who is watching the Nation’s case against Urban Outfitters. The Navajo Nation has proven to be a leader among tribes in protecting its name, he said.

“The whole point of trademark law is to not confuse the consumer,” he said. “The Navajo Nation has been very active. It has taken the initiative to protect its name.”

In its lawsuit, the Nation claims the Pennsylvania-based Urban Outfitters violated trademark laws and marketed items that were disrespectful to the Navajo culture, including underwear and a liquor flask. Urban Outfitters is an international retail company that markets and retails its merchandise in more than 200 stores and online. Its brands include Anthropologie and Free People.

The company claims American Indian-inspired prints have shown up in the fashion industry for years and that it’s common for designers to borrow from other cultures. The company claims the term “Navajo” is generic and it is seeking a declaration of non-infringement and cancellation of the tribe’s federal trademark registrations.

“The term ‘navajo’ is a common, generic term widely used in the industry and by customers to describe a design/style or feature of clothing and clothing accessories, and therefore, is incapable of trademark protection,” the company said in court documents. It argues that the Nation has not taken action during the years third parties used the term, therefore abandoning its rights to the name.

The company also asserts that it sells “hip clothing and merchandise” to “culturally sophisticated young adults” and in no way competes with Navajo arts and crafts, which generally are not sold in “specialty retail centers, upscale street locations and enclosed malls.”

“Nothing in the title of the store, the layouts of the stores or the manner in which any of the goods are marketed or sold suggests in any way that Urban Outfitters is marketing or selling products supplied by the Navajo Nation,” the company said in court documents. It argues that many other upscale clothing retailers also are marketing American Indian-themed merchandise.

The tribe holds at least 10 trademarks on its name, covering clothing, footwear, household products, textiles and online retail sales. It has used the name “Navajo” since 1894 and has 86 trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Urban Outfitters, however, contends that the Nation does not hold those trademarks.

The two sides have wrangled over rights to the name since 2012 when the Nation filed a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters, which was marketing more than 20 products, including jackets, earrings, scarves and sneakers, as “Navajo” or “Navaho.”

In January, the court denied Urban Outfitters’ motion to have the case transferred from New Mexico to Pennsylvania. Last week, a U.S. District Court judge in Albuquerque threw out all deadlines for discovery and responses in the case. The two sides have until July 29 to agree on a mediator for settlement discussions.

The case has gained notoriety not only because of the absurdity of the Navajo-themed underwear, which has sparked outrage and controversy from other tribes and activists, but also because it raises questions about who can profit from a name.

“This case is about a multi-billion-dollar corporation having profited from misrepresentations that its products were associated with the Navajo Nation and American Indians,” Lewis said. “Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation and American Indians lost out from consumers’ having being duped.”

The stakes are higher in a trademark case when the name describes a community or ethnic group, Lewis said.

Some consumers “have an affinity with the Navajo Nation and its people and they purchase Navajo products, which they know are associated with the unique and distinctive institution and its members,” he said. “This expectation of a connection is undermined when a company puts the same Navajo name and trademark on its products … in competition with the products that are authentically connected to the Navajo Nation.”

Stim hopes the case sets precedent and forces big retailers to think twice before they use the names of ethnic groups in marketing.

“It’s like Walt Disney saying ‘Don’t mess with Snow White,'” he said. “I hope this sets a big precedent. I hope it sends the message to other clothing retailers so they don’t go near this.”

Obama expected to announce pick for new director for FBI

– Indianz.com

President Barack Obama will nominate James B. Comey, a former Bush administration official, as the new director of the FBI, according to news reports.

Comey, who served as the second highest-ranking official at the Department of Justice from 2003 to 2005, became notable for refusing to reauthorize a warrantless domestic eavesdropping program. He objected when White House officials tried to secure approval from then-attorney general John Ashcroft, who was in the hospital recovering from surgery at the time.

If nominated and confirmed, Comey would replace Robert Mueller, who has served as FBI director since 2001. By law, Mueller’s term expires in September, The New York Times reported.

The FBI investigates crime in Indian Country. The agency has 100 special agents assigned to more than 200 reservations.

Reardon’s run as county executive to end today

By Noah Haglund and Scott North,The Herald

EVERETT — The Aaron Reardon era is expected to end for Snohomish County government at 5 p.m. today.

Reardon, 42, was in the office Thursday, keeping a low profile but speaking with television reporters.

“I’m probably the most thoroughly vetted candidate in the United States of America,” he told King 5. For months Reardon has refused interview requests from The Herald.

In keeping with the county charter, Deputy County Executive Gary Haakenson said he expects to take over after midnight Friday and will serve as acting executive until a new executive is appointed and sworn in. That could happen early next week.

Reardon was 33 when he first took county office in 2004, then the youngest county executive in the nation. He was re-elected to a third and final term in 2011, despite word that he was the focus of a Washington State Patrol investigation into his use of public money in pursuit of an extramarital affair with a county worker.

Reardon emerged from the investigation claiming he’d been exonerated after Island County’s prosecutor determined there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. The probe documented Reardon’s affair and also turned up evidence that Reardon used public resources in his campaign. The state Public Disclosure Commission is investigating.

On Feb. 21, Reardon used his 10th State of the County speech to announce he was stepping down. His prepared remarks were slim on details but full of blame. Reardon claimed political enemies had peppered him for years with what he called “false and scurrilous allegations.” The cost of defending himself from the attacks, he said, had just become too high.

Reardon’s resignation announcement came the day after the County Council voted unanimously to remove his authority over the county’s public records and computer system.

That happened as the council called for an independent investigation into evidence that two people on Reardon’s staff were behind a series of anonymous public records requests, attack websites and other activities targeting people considered the executive’s political rivals.

As The Herald reported Feb. 14, those on the receiving end believed they’d been subjected to attempts at harassment, surveillance and retaliation. A number of those targeted had cooperated with the patrol’s investigation. It is against the law to harass witnesses in criminal cases.

The King County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating whether any laws were broken. Reardon’s legislative aide, Kevin Hulten, and his executive assistant, Jon Rudicil, were placed on administrative leave in March.

At least for now, Rudicil remains on the county payroll. Hulten resigned earlier this month after sexually explicit images, including homemade porn, were found on the hard drive of a county laptop computer he’d been assigned. The device, which was checked as part of the King County investigation, also contained “background check” files on County Council members, records show.

In his television interview, Reardon denied misusing any taxpayer money for campaigns or on an affair. He wasn’t asked to explain bills from his government phone showing hundreds of calls during business hours to his 2011 campaign staff and to people who contributed financially to his re-election effort.

Reardon was coy with the TV reporter about his future plans.

“I’m an elected official today, I’m a private citizen on Saturday,” he said. “I’m going to elect to keep that private.”

Reardon is a Democrat in a partisan elected office. In keeping with the law, Snohomish County Democrats on Saturday were scheduled to pick three nominees to replace him. The special caucus is open to the public, and is set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Everett Labor Temple’s Warren Rush Hall, 2812 Lombard Ave., Everett.

The party’s central committee will forward the names to the County Council, which then has 60 days to agree on a successor. The council has scheduled public interviews with the nominees for 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Whomever is picked to follow Reardon will serve unchallenged at least into November 2014, when results are certified in a special election expected next year.

An election for a full, four-year term is expected in 2015.

The likely nominees are: Sheriff John Lovick of Mill Creek; state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip; and Everett attorney Todd Nichols, a longtime Democratic Party leader at the state and county level.

Lovick is said to have locked up support from a majority of local Democrats. On Wednesday evening, he was the opening speaker at “Humanity not hatred,” gathering sponsored by the Snohomish County Human Rights Commission. Lovick told the crowd he was asked to stand in for Reardon at the event.

DOT adds webcam for Skagit River bridge construction

WSDOT Skagit River Bridge live webcam
Published: May 30, 2013
The Bellingham Herald   

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Washington Department of Transportation officials have installed a webcam at the site of the collapsed Interstate 5 bridge on the Skagit River so residents can monitor the progress on repairing it.

Nearly all the materials for a temporary bridge have arrived at the site and DOT hopes to meet Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal of spanning a collapsed section by mid-June, officials said. The National Transportation Safety Board is still finishing its site investigation, The Skagit Valley Herald reported.

A section of the bridge collapsed May 23 after a girder was struck by an oversize load on a truck. Traffic currently is detoured through Mount Vernon and Burlington

.A temporary bridge will replace the 160-foot section that fell into the water. That will reopen two lanes in each direction. A permanent replacement this fall should restore the bridge.

To get to the DOT webpage that also includes traffic cameras for the George Hopper Road exit and Highway 20, click here. The webcams should automatically reload every 2 minutes, DOT said.

Photo shows, book trace the story of the American Indian Movement

The American Indian Movement (AIM) stopped making headlines long ago, but it’s still making history.

Provided by Minnesota Historical Society Press. Photos by Dick Bancroft ‚ A group of AIM women protest at the front door of the US Courthouse in Minneapolis. This is a black-and-white photo of people holding signs outside the courthouse. One with back to camera wears a coat with sign on back saying‚”Indian Brotherhood.”

Provided by Minnesota Historical Society Press. Photos by Dick Bancroft ‚ A group of AIM women protest at the front door of the US Courthouse in Minneapolis. This is a black-and-white photo of people holding signs outside the courthouse. One with back to camera wears a coat with sign on back saying‚”Indian Brotherhood.”

Article by: MARY ABBE
Star Tribune
May 30, 2013

 Last year the organization began planning an interpretive center to house the photos, artifacts and stories that document AIM’s importance in restoring Indian civil rights, identity and pride. This spring a sample of that material is showcased in two exhibitions: a powerful, emotionally stirring show of about 100 photos plus memorabilia (posters, buttons, articles) at All My Relations Gallery in south Minneapolis and a smaller display of about 25 photos downtown at the Mill City Museum. Accompanying them is a handsome new book, “We Are Still Here: A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement,” from the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

This Dick Bancroft portrait of a man at a 1981 treaty-rights conference serves as the cover for “We Are Still Here: A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement,” from the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

This Dick Bancroft portrait of a man at a 1981 treaty-rights conference serves as the cover for “We Are Still Here: A Photographic History of the American Indian Movement,” from the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Founded in Minneapolis in 1968, AIM was ambitious in its goals and fortunate in its leaders. Responding to endemic poverty, racism, police harassment and centuries of broken treaties, the fledgling organization set out to reclaim native pride, much as the civil rights movement was doing for black Americans. Its goals encompassed everything from improved housing, education and employment for urban Indians to encouraging native people to assume responsibility and engage in civic affairs.

Now, 45 years later, its legacy is especially visible on revitalized Franklin Avenue in south Minneapolis, where banners announcing an American Indian Cultural Corridor flutter on new light poles, and Indian businesses and civic organizations (Northland Native American Products, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Native American Community Development Institute) anchor an increasingly upscale neighborhood.

Tough times documented

There was nothing upscale in the lives of urban Indians in the 1960s, as documented in “I’m Not Your Indian Anymore” at All My Relations. The earliest black-and-white images show the poverty and danger — junked cars, rickety stairs, holes in floors — in which Indians often struggled to raise their families. AIM’s early marches, rallies and confrontations were recorded at Minneapolis City Hall, the village of Wounded Knee, S.D., and at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.

The emotional power of the shows comes in the unvarnished authenticity and you-are-there candor of the grainy images, including a wedding, a funeral, and a clutch of camouflage-clad U.S. military men arriving at Wounded Knee. In a particularly striking picture by Kevin McKiernan, an elderly woman named Cecilia Jumping Bull proudly clutches a folded U.S. flag and photos of two young men, presumably her sons, in military uniforms. A bullet hole disfigures one of the portraits, prompting her remark: “The government shoots my house; they have no respect for me.”

Stacy LaBlanc, John Blue Bird and Tom LaBlanc in front of the FBI building in Washington, D.C., in 1978 during the Longest Walk, a cross-country protest march.

Stacy LaBlanc, John Blue Bird and Tom LaBlanc in front of the FBI building in Washington, D.C., in 1978 during the Longest Walk, a cross-country protest march.

Other images document police beatings and harassment, protests at a Wisconsin power dam that had flooded tribal lands, and a long 1972 march to Washington known as the Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan. But AIM had broader goals, too, as evidenced in Roger Woo’s 1975 photo of kids being tutored at the Red School House, a St. Paul school for Indian youths, and of a boy being cared for at an Indian Health Board Clinic.

The earliest black-and-white pictures were taken by a variety of photographers, most notably Woo and McKiernan. Most of the color images, including a preponderance of those in the book, are by Dick Bancroft, who became the movement’s unofficial photographer.

Complex conflicts

Not surprisingly, the back story of many of the photos is complex. Official tribal leaders of the time often sided with federal bureaucrats against AIM, trying to discredit it as a ragtag group of “urban Indian” agitators, even though it enjoyed support of many traditional elders.

The magnitude of AIM’s reach became apparent in 1977 when an international delegation of indigenous people took their concerns to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Among the delegates was Winona LaDuke, then an 18-year-old Harvard student who had researched uranium and coal mining on Indian lands. “I was in awe of everybody,” she recalls in the book. “I’d never been exposed to all this cool political leadership.”

•ÄúAn unidentified woman listening to translated testimony on the sterilization of Indian women.‚Äù This pix of a lovely young woman crying was taken apparently at a United Nations International NGO Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Land in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 15 ‚Äì 18, 1981. provided by Minnesota Historical Society Press. Photos by Dick Bancroft

• ÄúAn unidentified woman listening to translated testimony on the sterilization of Indian women.‚Äù This pix of a lovely young woman crying was taken apparently at a United Nations International NGO Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Land in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 15 ‚Äì 18, 1981. provided by Minnesota Historical Society Press. Photos by Dick Bancroft

The 13-point resolution the group presented became the basis of a U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People that was approved, finally, 30 years later.

Like all history, AIM’s story will doubtless be debated and interpreted for years to come. These compelling exhibitions and the engrossing, meticulously researched book are an essential foundation for that discussion.


I’m Not Your Indian Anymore

What: An impressive photographic history of the American Indian Movement (AIM), featuring images by Dick Bancroft, Roger Woo and Keri Pickett.

When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat. Ends June 29.

Where: All My Relations Gallery, 1414 E. Franklin Av., Mpls. www.allmyrelationsarts.com or 612-235-4970.

Admission: Free.


Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

100 Years After Historic Denali Climb, Descendants Do It Again

Indian Country Today Media Network

It’s on for June. Family reunion at 20,000 feet. Don’t forget the axes, the rope—and the documentary guy.

At the summit of Denali this summer, blood descendants of the first climbing party to stand atop North America’s highest mountain are hoping to mark the 100-year anniversary by retracing the original route, ascending 20,320 feet.

The original climb a century ago was a feat powered in part by young Alaska Natives, and one of the aims of this year’s effort is to inspire Native youth through interactivity and live-blogging during the climb.

Walter Harper, a strong young Athabascan Indian, was the first person to reach the summit on June 7, 1913, in a party organized by Hudson Stuck and Harry Karstens. Here is how Stuck wrote of the moment in Scribner’s Magazine of November 1913: “Walter, who had been in the lead all day, was the first to scramble up: a Alaska Natives, he is the first human being to set foot upon the summit of Alaska’s great mountain and he had well earned the lifelong distinction.”

Although the honor has faded over time—these climbers are far less well-known than Sir Edmund Hillary, for instance—the ascent was long and arduous, as they navigated slopes covered with ice blocks jumbled by an earthquake, and coped with a devastating fire on the mountain that destroyed quite a bit of gear.

Stuck, the Episcopal archdeacon of the Yukon, a diocese covering the vast interior of Alaska, could be considered the brains of the expedition. Karstens, a legendary musher and freight hauler, the brawn.

Top: Stuck, left, and Karstens; bottom, from left: Tatum, George, Karstens, Fredson, Harper
Top: Stuck, left, and Karstens; bottom, from left: Tatum, George, Karstens, Fredson, Harper


The strain of the climb and the more than three months they spent together frayed the relationship between Stuck and Karstens—they never spoke again. Their split, plus the early deaths of Harper and Stuck, meant the climbers on this year’s anniversary expedition hardly knew of their shared history as they were planning separate centennial observances. “The serendipity on this thing is amazing,” says Ken Karstens.

Karstens and his cousin Ray Schuenemann are great-grandsons of Harry Karstens, a robust Alaska pioneer. Ken Karstens says a treasure trove of family history about Denali lay hidden until the early 1990s when a great-grandmother, on her deathbed near Dallas, revealed the location of three trunks stored in a barn that were full of Harry Karstens’s journals, correspondence and even gold nuggets from the Klondike.

Meanwhile, Daniel Hopkins, a great-great-nephew of Hudson Stuck, also had his connection to Denali belatedly revealed when he was having tea with his grandfather in England. He had been regaling the old man with tales of bears he had seen in Alaska as a 13-year-old volunteer on a guided summer adventure tour to retrace part of the Klondike Trail when his grandfather, “turned white as a ghost and went up to the bookshelf,” Hopkins says.

His grandfather pulled down an old copy of Ten Thousand Miles With a Dogsled, written by Stuck and asked, “Do you have any idea that this is your great uncle?”

The revelation that he’d inadvertently been following in his great-great-uncle’s footsteps struck him deeply, Hopkins recalls, but it wasn’t until 2007, “when my wife asked me what was my dream,” that he realized he wanted to climb ­Denali to honor the legacy.

Hopkins reached the summit in 2008 with a group that ascended by the popular West Buttress Route, which had been pioneered in 1951. While at the park he met one of Denali’s legendary figures, National Park Service Mountaineering Ranger Roger Robinson, who has spent more than three decades at the mountain.

Hopkins had also been introduced via e-mail to filmmaker Elia Saikaly, and it turned out they were virtually neighbors in Ottawa. Coincidentally, Saikaly was headed for Denali in 2008 as Hopkins was leaving and the two met in an Anchorage hotel room to talk about life-dreams and stories.

“Serendipity is a very good word,” says the adventure filmmaker and high-altitude climber Saikaly of his part in the Denali climb. Five years ago, he was a mountaineering newbie headed to the Himalayas to start a film project, FindingLife, to honor a mentor who had died on Mount Everest. “At that point, I had never slept in a tent.” He got an e-mail from a fellow who also lived in Ottawa, Dan Hopkins, laying out a similar project of following an ancestor up a different mountain.

“It started out as a simple concept of Dan retracing Hudson Stuck’s footsteps. At the time we didn’t know all these other family members were out there,” Saikaly says. “It’s evolved beautifully over these last four or five years.”

As he headed to Denali, Saikaly also ran across Ranger Robinson. “I met Dan Hopkins, he’d come through and visited here at the ranger station. And Elia too,” Robinson recalls. “They weren’t together but they were both talking about the same cause, trying to do a centennial climb.”

And, Robinson adds, “It wasn’t new to me.” Turns out he had also fielded a phone call from Mike Harper, a descendant of Walter Harper, who was also seeking information about a centennial climb.

“Really, the central figure in all this is Roger Robinson,” says team member Sam Alexander, of the Gwich’in Nation from Fort Yukon, the village where Hudson Stuck is buried and where 1913 team member John Fredson is a revered political figure. Alexander adds that Robinson “knew that I wanted to do the climb because he had met my brother, and he had met Ken Karstens. He knew Dan Hopkins. But none of us knew each other. It was through Roger that we all got connected.”

Also in this mix was Mark Lattime, the Episcopal bishop of Alaska, who was seeking some way of honoring his church forebear, Hudson Stuck, who in 2009 had been named to the roll of Episcopal Holy Women, Holy Men. “We wanted to do something to commemorate the 100-year anniversary,” Lattime says. “I talked about getting a plane and flying onto the glacier as high as we could and do a service or something of that nature.”

Serendipity stepped in again during the diocesan convention in Wasilla, Alaska last year when a woman who had caught wind of a possible memorial service came up to Lattime and introduced herself as Joanne Harper, another descendant of Walter Harper, and told him there was a mountain climb in the works, which included Dana Wright, a back-country snowboarder and great-grandnephew of Walter Harper.

 The new crew, from left: Lattime, Wright, Schuenemann, Hopkins and Karstens

The new crew, from left: Lattime, Wright, Schuenemann, Hopkins and Karstens

Lattime was in. “I thought, Wow, now that’s cool! Let’s do that and we can really make something grand about it,” he recalls.

Suddenly all the frayed threads from 1913 had been rewoven. Wright represents Harper. Ken Karstens and Schuenemann are representing Harry Karstens. Hopkins is kin to Stuck. Lattime brings the church element of Stuck.

Alexander carries cultural kinship to Fredson. And in April, Sam Tatum, a great-nephew of the final 1913 climber, Robert Tatum signed on. And Saikaly will film it all—live action and historical recreation.

The 2013 team begins its ascent on June 7, the day the original crew reached the summit. “All of a sudden I was caught up in this whirlwind…and what really moved me is that this is a wonderful way to draw attention to the achievement of that first climb but also to really tell the story of Walter Harper as the first one to set foot on the top of the mountain,” Lattime says. “Especially in this diocese, where we have so many young people who are struggling.… We have very high incidences of suicide here and abuse of alcohol and drugs.”

With its ambition to inspire students—especially Native youth—Lattime senses a connection back to Stuck, who chose three Alaska Natives students in Walter Harper, John Fredson and Esaias George to teach and mentor. Harper, 20 at the time of the climb, had worked with Stuck for several years. Fredson and George were each only 14. Stuck not only included them in the climb, but also tutored them intensively for a far tougher climb—to become leaders in their communities and navigate a changing world.

“Stuck certainly grieved the loss of culture that he was seeing in the Native community. It was extremely important to him that people embrace their culture and sustain their culture but it was equally important to him that they be successful in both worlds,” Lattime says.

Harper and bride Frances Wells—they had been married by Stuck only weeks earlier—were en route to Seattle in 1918, with Harper eventually hoping to pursue a career in medicine. But the ship, the S.S. Princess Sophia, ran aground in a channel off Juneau and sank with the loss of all 343 aboard.

Stuck died in Fort Yukon two years later of pneumonia.

It fell to Fredson to attend Stuck’s alma mater, Sewanee: the University of the South, in Tennessee and become the first Alaska Native to graduate university in 1930.

Fredson went on to become a potent leader—primary founder of the Venetie Reserve, a champion for hunting and fishing rights, teacher and creator of hospitals in remote communities such as Fort Yukon, where Native people had no resistance to disease. Many of these issues on sustainability, fisheries protection and education remain important today. “That’s the legacy of Hudson Stuck and John Fredson—Native people need to have a voice and have a say about what goes on here. We have a right to self-determination,” Alexander says. “Let’s start by saying this mountain is Denali.”

Stuck refused to call the mountain McKinley—which is how it is identified on most maps—saying it is a dishonor to toss aside 10,000 years of local identity for a distant president.

The 2013 expedition is retracing the original Muldrow Glacier route. It takes about a week longer, starts way lower, has a higher difficulty rating than the West Buttress route, which was created 62 years ago. The group will be guided by Alaska Mountaineering School, which has already cached 16 boxes of supplies along the route, taken in by dogsled in early March.

This year’s climbers say they expect a challenge—they have been especially diligent about practicing crevasse rescues for their traverse of the Muldrow Glacier—but remain astonished at the challenges their ancestors overcame.

Climbing a year after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck along the Denali fault in 1912, the original party was confronted by an unexpected obstacle, as Stuck wrote: “What a discouraging prospect stretched before us! Mile upon mile of huge ice blocks, heaped in confusion, resting at every insecure angle, some on their points, some on their edges, with here and there gaps that went down to the black rock, and here and there pinnacles that soared to forty or fifty feet in the air, and everywhere the snow-slope under them falling away too steeply for any passage.… ”

But they did not stop. Harper and Karstens, the two strongest, took turns chopping three miles of stair-steps up the jumbled ice with ice axes and coal shovels. It took them three weeks.

And it wasn’t an easy place to work. Stuck again: “On either side the ridge fell precipitously to a glacier floor, five hundred feet below on the one hand, fifteen hundred feet below on the other.… ”

Along the way they suffered a fire in camp, believed to have been sparked by a match that either Stuck or Karstens carelessly tossed as the two men lit their pipes after lunch. The blaze destroyed tents and clothing and film. From Harper’s diary:

“02 May 1913—All the sox and stockings, all the sugar and Archdeacons films and 3 silk tents which were proposed for up above were burnt, and 2 shovels, an axe, some dog fish [salmon], all the milk, some butter and some baking powder, one or 2 overalls and Mr. Karstens’ fur parka.”

Harper and Fredson returned all the way to base camp to bring back canvas sled covers to be sewn into a new tent. The camel’s-hair lining of a sleeping bag was made into a dozen pair of socks.

Robert Tatum says the new tent was so small that if one guy wanted to roll over in the night, he gave a signal and all turned at once.

With all the staging and restaging of supplies at their various camps, Stuck estimated that each man climbed 60,000 feet on the 20,000-foot mountain.

On June 7, Stuck describes a sunny day so bitter cold he could not feel his hands or feet—he was so short of breath that the other men hauled him the last 100 feet to the summit, where he passed out briefly.

The team said a quick prayer on top of the world, then set up instruments to take barometric readings and other observations. And there was the view that no one had seen before. Stuck writes, “In the distance, the snow-covered tops of a thousand peaks dwindled and dwindled away, floating in the thin air….” And above, he added, “the sky took a blue so deep that none of us had ever gazed upon a midday sky like it before.… It was a deep, rich, lustrous, transparent blue…a hue so strange, so increasingly impressive that to one at least it ‘seemed like special news of God.’ ”

By the end of June, the climbers on this year’s anniversary ascent will hope for not just a reunion with the past, but for communion with the beauty their forebears saw.


Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/05/31/100-years-after-historic-denali-climb-descendants-do-it-again-149629