Native Landslide Survivor Describes Devastating Wall of Mud; Missing Reduced to 30

Ted S. Warren, APRobin Youngblood poses for a photo Thursday, March 27, 2014, with Whitehorse Mountain behind her in Darrington, Wash. Youngblood survived the massive mudslide that hit the nearby community of Oso, Wash. last Saturday, and was rescued by a helicopter as she floated on a piece of a roof.

Ted S. Warren, AP
Robin Youngblood poses for a photo Thursday, March 27, 2014, with Whitehorse Mountain behind her in Darrington, Wash. Youngblood survived the massive mudslide that hit the nearby community of Oso, Wash. last Saturday, and was rescued by a helicopter as she floated on a piece of a roof.


Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Wind and rain over the weekend have been hampering recovery efforts in the one-square-mile debris field that used to be Oso, Washington before it was obliterated by March 22’s devastating landslide.

The official count of the dead rose to 18 on Saturday March 29 as more bodies were pulled from the wreckage, but the number of missing was reduced to 30, from 90. One of the confirmed fatalities was 4-month-old Sanoah Violet Huestis, who was being babysat by her grandmother, 45-year-old Christina Jefferds. Jefferds also perished. In all, authorities had confirmed 17 dead by Friday evening March 28, though they had found several others who were not yet added to the total, pending identification.

RELATED: At Least 108 Could Be Missing in Washington State Landslide Near Sauk-Suattle Territory

Robin Tekwelus Youngblood was one of the survivors, though she lost everything except a painting. The Okanagon/Tsalagi woman was sitting in her house with a friend, she told the Associated Press, when she heard a roar that sounded like a crashing airplane, then looked out the window just in time to see a wall of mud hurtling toward her mobile home. Within seconds, it was all over.

“All I could say was ‘Oh my God’ and then it hit us,” she told AP. “Two minutes was the whole thing.”

The force of the slide tore off the roof and shoved her mobile home upward. Youngblood and the friend were able to dig out and waited about an hour for help.

Tribes have rushed in to donate personnel, money and other assistance.

RELATED: Tribes Assist Landslide Relief Effort With Personnel, Donations and Prayers

Youngblood, whose Cherokee family helped found the nearby town of Darrington in the early 1900s, is still coming to terms with the devastation. Forced out of their homelands when the Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma and Arkansas, Youngblood’s family had kept going and moved to Washington, AP said. Youngblood moved back to the area from Hawaii, where she had been living until about two years ago.

“Several times this week I’ve said, ‘I need to go home now,’ ” she said. “Then I realize, there’s no home to go to.”

The cherished painting, named “Wolf Vision,” is of a Cherokee warrior, according to the Seattle Times. It came floating by as she clung to the wreckage of her roof, waiting for rescuers. It now is one of her few remaining possessions.

“I’m grateful to be alive,” Youngblood told AP. “I have no idea how I came out without being crushed from limb to limb.”



Colville Tribes Plan First Hotel With Casino

“This will be our first hotel,” Mike Finley, chairman of the Colville Business Council, said. The Confederated Colville Tribes own three small casinos but no hotels. Surface preparation and some excavation for the site of the new Omak Casino Resort will begin about April 15, so cars can reach the location and people can attend the ground breaking projected for early May. The anticipated opening is about 12 months later.

Randy Williams is Director of Corporate Gaming for the tribes and he outlined details of the complex. “It’s a $43 million project. It includes a 57,000-square-foot casino and an 80-room hotel. The hotel will be between a three- and four-star hotel, so it’s upscale and will be nice. We’ll have 500 machines in this casino plus table games, two lounges and two restaurants. It will create about 200 jobs in both the casino and hotel.”

The casino/hotel will be located on reservation property south of the town of Omak, Washington. The population is quite low, but it’s only about 45 miles from the Canadian border. “We’re expecting to get a large pool from Canada, as we do now,” Finley said. “We expect some will stay longer and spend more of their disposable income as we’ll have a hotel.”

Omak Casino Resort will also be the first destination resort in Okanogan County and is expected to be an economic boon to the region as it will attract conferences.

The casino portion will be twice the size of the tribes’ Mill Bay Casino located on a trust parcel near Lake Chelan. It will also replace the tribes’ Okanogan Bingo Casino. The new casino is expected to largely employ tribal members, Finley commented.

Taylor-Woodstone Construction will oversee development; the Bloomington, Minnesota-based company has worked with a number of tribes on other casino projects, plus the huge Palazzo Casino Resort in Las Vegas, among others.

The Colville Tribal Federal Corporation is fully finnacing the project. “They’re the sole signer on the loan, and it’s the first loan the Colville Tribe has not had to guarantee. The tribes’ commitment to business development certainly has exhibited itself over the past few years.”

This area is rich in cultural history. Five years ago, ground was being broken for a $24 million casino also near Omak, but when artifacts and human remains were discovered, the project was immediately shut down. “We ordered a full archeological excavation be done in that area,” Finley said. “It turned out to be the oldest recorded archeological site on the reservation.” That location will remain undeveloped; this new hotel/casino complex is a larger version of the previous, derailed plan.



Being Frank: Put People Before Profits


By Billy Frank, Jr., Chairman, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

OLYMPIA – When it comes to your chances of getting cancer from the foods you eat, what odds would you like: one in a million, or one in 100,000?

Of course all of us would prefer the least amount of risk. That’s why it’s hard to believe that Gov. Jay Inslee is even considering changing water quality rules that would increase that risk. The justification?  Businesses such as Boeing say that protecting your health increases their cost of doing business.

There are two important numbers that go into determining how much pollution the state allows to be put in our waters. The numbers are 10-6  and 6.5.

The first number is your cancer risk rate from eating fish and shellfish containing toxics  from pollution in our waters. Right now that rate of 10-6  provides you a one in a million chance of getting cancer. But Gov. Inslee  is considering changing the risk rate to 10-5 increasing your exposure to known carcinogens to one in 100,000. That’s a tenfold decrease in protection, and that’s not right.

The second number is the amount of seafood that the state of Washington says you eat every day. The lower the number, the less protective water quality standards need to be to protect us from poisons in our water.

The problem is that the state’s current rate of 6.5 grams per day (equal to about one 8-ounce portion per month) is one of the lowest fish consumption rates in the nation. It’s lower even than states like Iowa, despite the fact that Washington has abundant seafood and one of the largest populations of fish and shellfish consumers in the United States.

The state admits that the current fish consumption rate doesn’t protect most of its citizens, yet has used that very same rate to set water quality standards for more than two decades. After years of prodding by the tribes, environmental groups and others, the state has finally agreed to develop a more realistic rate and is considering a range from 125 to 225 grams per day.

While that’s encouraging, if the state adjusts the companion number, the cancer risk rate, any increase in the fish consumption rate would be made almost meaningless in terms of improved water quality standards.

The treaty tribes have been clear from the start about what we would like to see. We think the cancer risk rate should stay right where it is, and the fish consumption rate should be at least 175 grams per day. That’s the same rate that Oregon uses. We think everyone deserves at least that much protection. That’s especially true for tribes, sport fishermen and anyone else who eats a lot of fish and shellfish.

We should know Gov. Inslee’s decision on the fish consumption and cancer risk rates in a few weeks.   We hope he will decide in favor of protecting our health and water quality. The choice really boils down to whether we want a pollution-based economy or one that puts people and their health ahead of profits.


Significant drop in DUI fatalities among Native Americans

By  Published: Mar 27, 2014 at 9:40 PM PDT Last Updated: Mar 28, 2014 at 1:21 PM PDT

Watch the newscast here

Photo: Kima TV

Photo: Kima TV

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — The state patrol’s goal of eliminating traffic fatalities will take the whole community working together to accomplish. A coalition with a school district on the Yakama Nation Reservation is proving that point. The number of Native Americans involved in DUI fatalities has dropped nearly 40 percent in recent years.

Brandon Smith considers himself lucky to have survived a DUI accident.
Luckily, no one was killed. But, Brandon was left with a broken skull.

“I honestly thought I was going to die, because I’ve never been in a car accident previous to that,” said Smith.

Not everyone in DUI crashes is as lucky as Brandon. Native Americans have traditionally seen many DUI fatalities. Nancy Fiander works for Mt. Adams School District; she’s part of a coalition to put a stop to them.

“I’m a lifelong resident, and, growing up and reading the papers, there were times you didn’t want to read the paper because you worried about who you were going to find that you had lost,” said Fiander.

Through several different federal grants, she’s working to turn this trend around. The coalition pinpointed community events that lead to high numbers of DUIs. Emphasis patrols were assigned to these events. They’re made up of Yakama Nation police, WSP, and Yakima County sheriff’s deputies working together. Creating community awareness and stricter enforcement of family and school rules are also paying off.

KIMA pulled the numbers and found the efforts seem to be working.
Just four years ago, Native Americans made up nearly half of all DUI fatalities in our county. That number dropped to only 10 percent last year, with only two out of 19.

“We’re just tired of losing our kids and our family members and our relatives, and so we just want to see if we can do something about that,” said Fiander. “We’re tired of burying our kids.”

It’s education and awareness that saves one life at a time.

This is the fourth year of a five-year federal grant of $125,000. The next emphasis patrol will be this weekend after a men’s basketball tournament in Wapato.

Nancy Fiander will receive a Target Zero award for her efforts next month.

Tulalip community to hold Inter-tribal jam session to raise aid for victims of Oso mudslide.

Photo/ Francesca Hillary, Tulalip Tribes

Photo/ Francesca Hillary, Tulalip Tribes

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News 

TULALIP – On the heels of a large donation made by the Tulalip Tribes to aid victims of the Oso, Washington mudslide, the Tulalip community is organizing additional aid in the form of an Inter-tribal Jam session to raise money for Oso families as they recover from their losses.

Tulalip Tribal member Natosha Gobin, the event’s organizer, explained the proximity of the Oso community to Tulalip created a desire in community members to want to help.

“I had an idea that we could do an inter-tribal jam session where we invite other tribes to our reservation to share songs and prayers while raising money for donations. People have done these in the past, and it has been a positive gathering that uplifts people in a time of heartache. All it took was posting on Facebook to see who would be interested in volunteering for the event, and right away there was enough interest to make it happen.”

The jam session is scheduled for April 4 at 6:00 p.m. at 6700 Totem Beach Road on the Tulalip Reservation. A $5 donation will be accepted at the door and the event will feature a concession stand serving beverages, frybread, spaghetti and hamburger soup as well as baked goods. A raffle with items donated by local tribal artists will also be held during the event.

Proceeds from the event will be given to the victims of the mudslide with portions donated to a variety of local relief groups assisting with the mudslide such as search and rescue crews, fire stations, and animal shelters.

“This is all happening from the community uniting to make it a success. There are volunteers in planning, cooking and baking, as well as manning stations at the event, said Gobin. “This is not just for Tulalip tribal members, this is a community gathering to share in songs and prayers.”

The session will begin with a prayer and Amazing Grace sung by Tulalip artist Cerissa Gobin followed by traditional request for guests who traveled the farthest to sing first.

The donations and support from tribes has been incredible.  Many tribes citing personal experience with the tragedy of natural disasters.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with all the families that have been affected by this. One of those that was lost in the landslide was a close friend of mine. This affects everybody, no matter where you are or who you are, as tragedy strikes, we all share together,” said Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon, about the Tulalip Tribes donation.

To date Tulalip donated $100,000 to the Snohomish County Red Cross and $50,000 to the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation. The Colville Tribe dispatched teams of search and rescue volunteers. Just today, Snoqualmie announced a $275,000 donation to assist.

For more information, or to volunteer at the event, please contact Natosha Gobin at 425-319-4416 or at


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;

Canadian Inuit post ‘sealfies’ in protest over Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar-night selfie

Inuit reject Oscar host’s anti seal-hunting photo stunt and say practice is humane and sustainable.

Ben Childs; theguardian.comFriday 28 March 2014 12.34 EDT

@Alethea_Aggiuq's 'sealfie'. Photograph: @Alethea_Aggiuq/Twitter

@Alethea_Aggiuq’s ‘sealfie’. Photograph: @Alethea_Aggiuq/Twitter

Canadian Inuit have embarked on a unique form of protest against the decision by host Ellen DeGeneres to highlight an anti seal-hunting charity on Oscars night. DeGeneres’ Hollywood megastar “selfie” became the most retweeted snap of all time earlier this month, in the process raising $1.5m for the Humane Society of the United States, which campaigns against the seal hunt.

Ellen DeGeneres takes a selfie with stars at the Oscars 2014. Photograph: Ellen DeGeneres/AP

Ellen DeGeneres takes a selfie with stars at the Oscars 2014. Photograph: Ellen DeGeneres/AP

Now members of Canada’s indigenous population have hit back with their own version, the “sealfie”.

Inuit have begun to post pictures of themselves dressed in sealskin clothing, reported. The move aims to highlight the cultural and financial benefits of a practice they see as a sustainable, ethical choice.

“The meat feeds families, which is important to an area where many households have identified that they face issues of food insecurity,” said Sandi Vincent, who posted her own “sealfie” on Thursday. “In Inuit culture, it is believed seals and other animals have souls and offer themselves to you. Humanely and with gratitude we accepted this gift,” she said, recalling her first seal hunt at age 15. “My uncle placed some snow in the seal’s mouth when it was dead, so its soul would not be thirsty. If there is one word to describe seal-hunting, I would suggest ‘respectful’.”

DeGeneres’ website says Canadian seal-hunting hunt is “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government”.

Inuit Alethea Arnaquq-Baril tweeted: “I am an Inuit seal-meat eater, and my fur is ethical.” Campaign supporter Taha Tabish wrote: “Hey, @TheEllenShow, I support the sustainable harvesting of seal.”

The $1.5m (£900,000) donation came about after Korean firm Samsung promised to donate $1 to a charity of the Oscars host’s choice each time her celebrity-loaded selfie was retweeted.

Bones Found Near Wanapum Dam Repatriated To Northwest Tribes


By Anna King

March 26, 2014

File photo. Two skeletons were found several weeks ago along newly exposed Columbia River shore. Anna King Northwest News Network

File photo. Two skeletons were found several weeks ago along newly exposed Columbia River shore.
Anna King Northwest News Network


Two skeletons found upstream of the cracked Wanapum Dam have been handed over to Northwest tribes.

The remains were found near each other several weeks ago along the newly exposed Columbia River shore.

The state says it has the legislative authority to determine if remains are Native American and then repatriate them to tribes if they are.

But Richard Jantz, a well-known physical anthropologist who fought for a decade in federal court to study Kennewick Man, says it’s unfortunate that Washington state didn’t carbon-date these newfound remains before handing them over.

“We study the remains of Americans of all ethnicities,” says Jantz. “I think everybody loses when we understand less about the past than we might have.”

State experts say their initial studies show that one skeleton is male, the second female. In addition, the female’s skull shows signs of being flattened by a cradleboard — a traditional baby carrier used by indigenous North Americans.

Northwest tribal leaders in the area say they find it very disturbing for remains to be studied in any way.

Oso Landslide Could Be Deadliest Disaster In Washington State History

Rescue workers are combing the site of a massive landslide near Oso, Wash. Maj. Tawny Dotson Washington National Guard

Rescue workers are combing the site of a massive landslide near Oso, Wash.
Maj. Tawny Dotson Washington National Guard

By Austin Jenkins March 27, 2014

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has acknowledged the Oso landslide could be the deadliest natural disaster in state history.

So far 25 people have been confirmed killed and as many as 90 remain missing. If the ultimate death toll reaches 100 that would eclipse even the 1910 Stevens Pass avalanche that hit two trains.

“We do know this could end up being the largest mass loss of Washingtonians, but whether it is or is not it does not change on how we are approaching this,” said the governor after a bill signing ceremony at the Capitol in Olympia.

Inslee says that approach is to mount a full scale rescue effort. He adds that any one loss is a tragedy.

N.D. bill could preserve native language

Mar 27, 2014

By Krista Harju – email

North Dakota – Many native American languages have been lost through forced assimilation. But a new language preservation effort before congress aims to ensure they’re never forgotten.

The Lakota language is sacred to the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. But, few tribal members are fluent in their native tongue. A bill before congress could help schools preserve their language.

25090642_BG1Students at the Lakota Language Nest speak a language that many have forgotten.

“We’re committed to staying in Lakota. So, what that means is the curriculum, everything that we do is in Lakota language,” says teacher Tipiziwin Young.

It’s a lot like your typical pre-school class. Students make pictures and sing songs.

But these students are the building blocks for cultural preservation.

“You look at these young kids as the possibilities. They will be the future. And being that they know the language, they’ll be able to converse in the language,” says Michael Moore of Sitting Bull College.

The Native American Language Immersion Student Achievement Act would establish a grant program for preschool through college. And schools like these could benefit from the program.

“With the possibility of funding, there is a possibility of more teachers, there is a possibility of a space, the possibility of an expansion of a school, help with the curriculum. There are a lot of possibilities. And that’s exciting,” says Young.

Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault says the Lakota language is sacred. And it’s a very real fear that the language could become extinct.

“Our language and our ceremony are one. So, when you speak the language, you’re actually in the ceremony. So, that’s the teaching behind the importance of trying to retain that language. And hopefully, when the elders are gone, the language is not,” says Archambault.

Young says it’s easy to feel like an outsider at spiritual events when you don’t understand the language. She says she’ll never be a fluent speaker, but it’s been a phenomenal experience understanding and connecting to her culture.

The tribe drafted a resolution in support of the bill. But they’d like to see some changes.
Right now, the grants are competitive. They hope Congress will consider making it formula-funded, so all schools have the opportunity to expand their language programs.