Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Announces Its Distinguished 2015 National Artist Fellowship Awardees

VANCOUVER, Wash., Aug. 6, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — For the fifth year, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) awards its distinguished National Artist Fellowship to a new group of talented, recognizable and promising artists. Thirteen awardees were selected from a national open call of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artist applicants who were meticulously reviewed by a panel of invited art experts. Awards were made in five art categories namely the Visual arts, Traditional arts, Performing arts, Literature and Music. The awarded artists come from several states and the District of Columbia: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Washington.

“This year’s National Artist Fellows are awe-inspiring and we are excited to be recognizing and honoring some of America’s highly praised Native artists through these Fellowships,” says the foundation’s Director of Programs Francene Blythe. “We hold in the highest esteem such an amazing pool of artists who are provocative, outspoken and challenge their imaginations to ever new heights of ingenuity, which invigorates their work.”

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) National Artist Fellowship gives a monetary award that assists with support in order to provide Native artists the opportunity to explore and experiment with new creative projects and further develop their artistic careers. NACF is grateful for the support of the Ford Foundation and the generosity of arts patrons for making these national fellowships possible.

2015 National Artist Fellows:

Visual Arts

  • James Luna, Luiseño/Diegueño
  • Anna Tsouhlarakis, Navajo/Creek
  • Frank Big Bear, White Earth Ojibwe

Traditional Arts

  • Clarissa Rizal, Tlingit
  • David Boxley, Tsimshian
  • Kelly Church, Grand Traverse Band Ottawa and Chippewa


  • Stephen Blanchett, Yup’ik
  • Lehua Kalima, Native Hawaiian
  • Starr Kalahiki, Native Hawaiian


  • Layli Long Soldier, Oglala Sioux
  • Laura Da’, Eastern Shawnee
  • Linda Hogan, Chickasaw

Performing Arts

  • Martha Redbone, Cherokee/Shawnee/Choctaw descent

The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s mission is to promote the revitalization, appreciation and perpetuation of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian arts and cultures through grant making, convening and advocacy. To date, NACF has supported more than 150 artists and organizations in more than 24 states and Native communities nationwide. To learn more about the National Artist Fellows and NACF’s work—nurturing the passion and power of creative expression, visit:

Media Contact: Liz Hill (808) 856-6012 /
Rupert Ayton (360) 314-2421 /

White House Initiative on American Indian/Alaska Native Education, Nov 24

A listening session in Seattle on Monday, November 24th at Daybreak Star, convened by the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. This is an important opportunity to be seen and heard by policymakers who want your input on how to better serve Native students.



Department of Justice Releases Second Report to Congress on Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions

By Yuma News Now

Washington, DC – The Department of Justice released today its second report to Congress entitled Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions, which provides a range of enforcement statistics required under the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, as well as information about the progress of the Attorney General’s initiatives to reduce violent crime and strengthen tribal justice systems.

The report, based on data compiled from the case management system used by U.S. Attorney’s Offices (USAO), shows prosecutors in 2013 continued to bring substantial numbers of cases to federal court (a 34 percent increase over FY 2009 numbers) and prosecute a substantial majority of all cases referred to them.   Of the cases that were declined for federal prosecution, most were declined for insufficient evidence or because they were referred to another prosecuting authority, such as the tribe, for potential prosecution.

“As detailed in this report, the Department of Justice is making good on our commitment to strengthen cooperation with sovereign tribes, reduce violent crime, and ensure justice for every individual,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “From our work to empower Indian women under the landmark Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, to the task force we established to safeguard children in Indian country from violence and abuse, we have made significant strides – in close partnership with tribal nations – to bolster the safety and security of all American Indian and Alaska Native communities.   As we move forward, we will continue to expand on this critical work; to deepen our ongoing efforts; and to reaffirm our dedication to the promise of equal rights, equal protection, and equal justice for all.”

Although declination rates are an imperfect means of evaluating the effectiveness of criminal justice in Indian country or elsewhere, the report shows that with few exceptions, areas where the largest populations of American Indian people live and suffer from the most serious crime rates, such as the Southwest and the northern plains states (which together handled approximately 70 percent of the 2,542 cases resolved in 2013), federal declination rates were the lowest in the nation.   For instance, South Dakota had the second to highest number of cases resolved in the country last year, 470 cases, and one of the lowest declination rates of 26 percent.   Arizona resolved the highest number of cases, 733 cases, and had a declination rate of 28 percent.

Associate Attorney General Tony West announced the findings in remarks to the Four Corners Indian Country Conference today on the Navajo Nation in Flagstaff, and met separately with the Attorney General’s advisory subcommittee on Native American issues to discuss the report, among other matters.

“We are witnessing an unprecedented era of collaboration among U.S. Attorneys’ offices and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors across the country,” said Associate Attorney General West.   “This report shows the fruits of this continuing partnership between the federal government and American Indian tribes, including enhancing training and capacity building for tribal court systems and improving responses to victims in Indian country.”

“Over the past five years, the Justice Department and our tribal partners have taken important steps forward on our journey toward a safer Indian Country,” said Timothy Purdon, U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota and chair of the Attorney General’s advisory subcommittee on Native American issues.   “Vigorous enforcement of federal laws is vitally important to strengthening public safety on American Indian reservations.   We are pleased to see in this report that U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country continue to work hard to remove the most dangerous offenders and work closely with tribal law enforcement and prosecutors.  These promising numbers are the direct result of this enhanced communication and collaboration.”

“The FBI continues to be committed to public safety in Indian Country,” said FBI Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell. “Our partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal agencies remains strong as we continue to aggressively address violent crime and victimization in tribal communities.”

The information contained in the report shows the following:

  • The Justice Department’s prioritization of Indian country crime has continued to result in substantial numbers of prosecutions, despite resource constraints that impacted the U.S. Attorney community in 2013.   Between FY 2009 and FY 2012, the number of cases the department filed against defendants in Indian country increased nearly 54 percent.   In FY 2013, due to fiscal challenges, overall case filings in Indian country declined somewhat compared to FY 2012, but still remained 34 percent above the number of cases filed when the department first began its department-wide tribal justice initiative in 2009.   Notwithstanding the fiscal impact of the sequester, reduced budgets, and a hiring freeze, federal agents and prosecutors continued to focus their efforts on improving public safety in Indian country.
  • A substantial majority of Indian country criminal investigations opened by the FBI were referred for prosecution.
  • A substantial majority of Indian country criminal cases opened by the United States Attorneys’ Offices were prosecuted.
  • USAO data for CY 2013 show that 34 percent (853) of all Indian country submissions for prosecution (2,542) were declined for prosecution.   In CY 2012, USAOs declined approximately 31 percent (965) of all (3145) Indian country submissions for prosecution.   USAO data for CY 2011 indicate that just under 37 percent (1,041) of all Indian country submissions for prosecution (2,840) were declined.
  • The most common reason for declination by USAOs was insufficient evidence (56 percent in CY 2013, 52 percent in CY 2012, and 61 percent in CY 2011).
  • The next most common reason for declination by USAOs was referral to another prosecuting authority (21 percent in CY 2013, 24 percent in CY 2012, and 19 percent in CY 2011).

The most common reason FBI Indian country investigations were closed administratively without referral for prosecution was that the investigation concluded that no federal crime had occurred.

  • For instance, all but 30 of the 164 death investigations the FBI closed administratively in CY 2013 were closed because the FBI established that the death was due to causes other than homicide – i.e., accidents, suicide, or death from natural causes.

Other important developments in FY 2013:

VAWA Pilot Projects

The fight against domestic violence in Indian country has been an especially important priority for the Department of Justice, and in 2013, Congress and this administration took an historic step forward with the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013), which the President signed into law on March 7, 2013.

Congress, in VAWA 2013, provided new tools to fight domestic violence in Indian country, and the department spared no time utilizing them.   From the date the act took effect, March 7, 2013, through the end of fiscal year 2013, U.S. Attorneys with prosecutorial responsibilities in Indian country have charged defendants with the amended provisions of the federal assault statutes that strengthened penalties for domestic assault offenses, such as strangulation and stalking.   And, while the new law’s tribal criminal jurisdiction provision takes effect generally on March 7, 2015, under VAWA 2013’s “Pilot Project” provisions, the department recently approved three tribes’ applications voluntary “Pilot Project” to begin exercising special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction sooner.   These tribes – the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon, and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington – will be the first tribes in the nation to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over crimes of domestic and dating violence, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian status, under VAWA 2013.

Strengthening Partnerships and Support for Tribal Self-Governance

Strengthening partnerships and tribal self-governance was a major theme of the Attorney General’s message to tribal leaders on Nov.13, 2013, at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, where he announced a proposed statement of principles   to guide the department’s work with federally recognized tribes.   As the Attorney General said, “ As a result of these partnerships – and the efforts of everyone here – our nation is poised to open a new era in our government-to-government relationships with sovereign tribes.”

U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country are engaged in an unprecedented level of collaboration with tribal law enforcement, consulting regularly with them on crime-fighting strategies in each district.   One important example of this is the department’s enhanced Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) program.   Tribal SAUSAs are cross-deputized tribal prosecutors who are able to prosecute crimes in both tribal court and federal court as appropriate.   These Tribal SAUSAs serve to strengthen a tribal government’s ability to fight crime and to increase the USAO’s coordination with tribal law enforcement personnel.   The work of Tribal SAUSAs can also help to accelerate a tribal criminal justice system’s implementation of TLOA and VAWA 2013.

Read the entire report at

Read about the Justice Department’s efforts to increase public safety in Indian County at

Native American health insurance enrollment surges in South Dakota, but some remain skeptical

In this July 10, 2014 photo, Denise Mesteth poses outside the powwow grounds in Pine Ridge, S.D. Mesteth is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, born and raised on the Pine Ridge reservation. She has signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace. (AP Photo/Nora Hertel)
In this July 10, 2014 photo, Denise Mesteth poses outside the powwow grounds in Pine Ridge, S.D. Mesteth is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, born and raised on the Pine Ridge reservation. She has signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace. (AP Photo/Nora Hertel)

By NORA HERTEL  Associated Press

PINE RIDGE, South Dakota — Denise Mesteth signed up for new health insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act, despite concerns that it may not be worth the money for her and other Native Americans who otherwise rely on free government coverage.

Mesteth, who has a heart murmur and requires medication and regular blood work, said she’s cautiously optimistic that the federal insurance will be superior to what she has now. Many other American Indians have been more reluctant to enroll, choosing instead to continue relying on the Indian Health Service for their coverage and taking advantage of a clause in the federal health reform law that allows them to be exempt from the insurance mandate if they meet certain requirements.

“If it’s better services, then I’m OK,” Masteth said of ACA. “But it better be better.”

Mesteth and other American Indians in South Dakota account for 2.5 percent of the people in the state who have signed up for insurance under the federal health care law, according to the latest signup numbers. The state, with nearly 9 percent of its overall population Native American, ranks third for the percentage of enrollees who are American Indian among U.S. states using the federal marketplace.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, which provides support and health care advocacy to tribes, received $264,000 to help Native Americans in South Dakota navigate the new insurance marketplace.

Tinka Duran, program coordinator for the board, said people are primarily concerned about the costs of enrolling. Insurance is a new concept to most because health care has always been free, she said.

“There’s a learning curve for figuring out co-pays and deductibles,” she said.

During a U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in May, tribal leaders chastised IHS as a bloated bureaucracy unable to fulfill its core duty of providing health care for more than 2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives. IHS acting director Yvette Roubideaux said changes were underway but that more money will be needed than the $4.4 billion the agency receives each year.

She noted that federal health care spending on Native Americans lags far behind spending on other groups such as federal employees, who receive almost twice as much on a per-capita basis. Meanwhile, American Indians suffer from higher rates of substance abuse, assault, diabetes and a slew of other ailments compared to most of the population.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives are exempt from the health insurance mandate if they meet certain requirements. ACA also permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and authorized new programs for IHS, which also is starting to get funds from the Veterans Affairs Department to help native veterans.

When American Indians do obtain insurance, it means fewer people are tapping the IHS budget, said Raho Ortiz, director of the IHS Division of Business Office Enhancement.

“If more of our patients have health insurance or are enrolled in Medicaid, this means that more resources are available locally for all of our patients,” Ortiz said in an emailed statement. “This, in turn, allows scarce resources to be stretched further.”

Those who sign up for federal health care can still use IHS facilities but have the option of seeking health care elsewhere, Ortiz said.

State Democratic Sen. Jim Bradford is among the skeptics. The Oglala Sioux member lives on the Pine Ridge reservation, home to two of the poorest counties in the nation.

The U.S. government provides health care to Native Americans as part of its trust responsibility to tribes that gave up their land when the country was being formed. Bradford and others object to the shift in health care providers on the principle that IHS is obligated by treaty to supply that care.

Harriett Jennesse, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe who lives in Rapid City, said she already has seen the benefits of the new health insurance and doesn’t mind paying a little out of pocket.

Jennesse said she put off treatment for a painful bone chip in her elbow after IHS denied a doctor’s referral to a specialist on grounds that it wasn’t an urgent enough need. She’s now seeing a specialist for dislocation in her other elbow and will also try to get the bone chip fixed when the other arm heals.

Expert in Native voting rights trial says Alaska has long history of discrimination

By RICHARD MAUER Anchorage Daily News June 30, 2014


An expert testifying in the federal voting rights trial in Anchorage said Monday it’s possible to trace Alaska’s current failure to provide full language assistance to Native language speakers to territorial days when Alaska Natives were denied citizenship unless they renounced their own culture.

“This represents the continuing organizational culture, looking at the law as something they’re forced to do, instead of looking at the policy goal of being sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate,” said University of Utah political science professor Daniel McCool. “It’s part of a pattern I see over a long period of time, a consistent culture — they’re going to fight this. When forced to do something, they’re going to do it, but only when they’ve been ordered to.”

McCool testified as an expert on behalf of four tribal villages in Southwest Alaska and the Interior and two village elders with limited English skills. They’re suing Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and three officials in the Alaska Division of Elections which he oversees, saying the officials are not providing a full suite of election materials in their Native languages. They say amendments to the Voting Rights Act in 1975 require language assistance.

The state says it’s doing what the law requires, providing sample ballots and oral translations for some Native languages. The state has gone out of its way to consult with tribal councils, its witnesses have said.

Treadwell and the other officials are being defended by the Alaska Attorney General’s office. Before the trial began, the state lawyers attempted to prevent McCool from testifying, saying he wasn’t really an expert. They said he wasn’t familiar with Alaska and only spent four weeks or so researching how the state has treated Native voters over the years.

McCool said he may not be an expert on Alaska, but he knows how to study the issues. He said he reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documents, books, legal decisions, state and federal data and other material.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason, a former state judge who’s hearing the case without a jury, disagreed with the state’s attorneys. She allowed McCool to take the stand and admitted the report he prepared for the Native plaintiffs.

McCool’s testimony came at the close of the Natives’ case, the sixth day of trial. The trial is expected to conclude this week.

McCool said that with some exceptions pushed by a few political leaders, Alaska’s history is rife with discrimination against Native voters. In 1915, the Territorial Legislature passed a law that said that for Alaska Natives to become citizens, “they had to give up their culture, their language, and live like white people,” McCool said. “They’re the only group in American history told to give up their identity in order to vote.”

In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting Native Americans full rights as citizens. The response in Juneau? The following year, the Territorial Legislature passed a literacy test that kept most Natives from voting, McCool said.

“There was a fear that if they all became citizens, they would all start voting in dramatic numbers,” McCool said. One local newspaper ran an ad warning, “We don’t want these ignorant savages to take over,” he said.

McCool said one effective opponent of racism against Alaska Natives was the territorial governor Ernest Gruening, sent to Alaska in 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh was poised to object to McCool’s testimony if he strayed beyond what he was allowed to say. She took to her feet while McCool was testifying about Gruening’s autobiography, when two pages of a book were projected on a screen in the courtroom.

“Objection,” Paton-Walsh said. Reading from the folio on the book’s pages, Paton-Walsh said McCool was actually reading from the book “At War” by author Mary Bettles.

After a moment of confusion, McCool clarified: The folio didn’t say Mary Bettles, it said “Many Battles,” the name of Gruening’s book. The chapter heading in the other folio was “At War.”

A moment later, Gleason declared a break. When she returned from chambers and trial resumed, she said of herself and her clerk, “We both enjoyed ‘Mary Bettles.’ ”

McCool noted that Gleason herself played a role in Native rights issues when she was a state Superior Court judge and ruled in the case Moore v. State. She held that the state had failed to live up to its duty in the Alaska Constitution to provide public education in rural Alaska in 2007. Two years later, when the state Department of Education asked her to declare it was in compliance with the law and end her supervision of its remedial action, she refused, using language similar to that in McCool’s description of the Division of Elections. She said the state was applying an “incremental, minimalist initial approach” that didn’t pass constitutional muster.

Education matters, McCool said, and poor schools in the Bush are closely connected to limited English proficiency among Alaska Natives.

McCool said Alaska didn’t abandon its literacy test until the U.S. Voting Rights Act required it to.

Under cross examination by Paton-Walsh, he acknowledged that the literacy test wasn’t as tough and discriminatory as ones in the South directed against African-Americans, but it had an intimidating effect.

McCool said he understood that the Division of Elections says it doesn’t have the resources to provide full language assistance for all Native speakers, but he said that’s only an excuse.

“These attitudes and behaviors don’t look to me like the behaviors of an agency that’s absolutely devoted to providing equal opportunity to all voters, even if it’s difficult,” McCool said. “The attitude is let’s do what the law requires and absolutely no more.”

Reach Richard Mauer at or (907) 257-4345.

Respect for ‘people, homelands, culture’ motivates Native American troops

Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, second from left, poses with other members of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-female color guard that support Native female veterans. (Photo courtesy Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer)
Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, second from left, poses with other members of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-female color guard that support Native female veterans. (Photo courtesy Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer)

By Mallory Black , Medill News Service

Even with a family military background dating back to World War I, Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer never considered while growing up that serving in the military might be the right choice for her, too.

But that changed in her sophomore year in college after she was placed on academic probation at the University of Minnesota — what she now says was a much-needed wakeup call to spur her to seek more purpose and direction.

Still unclear, though, was exactly what purpose she should pursue and what direction she should take.

Then she recalled overhearing two classmates in the National Guard talk about the opportunities that had opened up to them after enlisting.

And for Ellis-Ulmer, there was that purpose and direction.

Nearly 20 years later, Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, now 40, is an intelligence analyst at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington.

She’s also a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota, the first woman in her family to serve in the military and just one of thousands of Native Americans who are serving or have served their country in uniform.

Ellis-Ulmer, who has served in South Korea and the Middle East in addition to her various stateside assignments, said serving in the Air Force “has given my children, my husband and myself a different outlook on the world.”

“I want to give my children a different perspective on life because life is not what the reservation is,” she said. “Life is what you make of it.”

A tradition of service

Army Lt. Col Tracey Clyde, a Navajo from Shiprock, New Mexico, during a deployment to Joint Base Balad in Iraq. (Photo courtesy Tracey Clyde)
Army Lt. Col Tracey Clyde, a Navajo from Shiprock, New Mexico, during a deployment to Joint Base Balad in Iraq. (Photo courtesy Tracey Clyde)

The Defense Department reports a total of 27,186 American Indian and Alaska Native active-duty officers and reserves, and the Veterans Affairs Department reports more than 156,000 Native American veterans. They have served in every war in American history, and 25 have have received the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

At least 70 Native American and Alaska Natives have died during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 513 others were wounded in those combat zones.

Native Americans traditionally have had a strong military presence because they have a strong sense of patriotism, said Clara Platte, executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington office.

“There’s a deep tie to the land and our people and our culture, and being able to serve in the military is a way to honor that heritage,” Platte said.

But that doesn’t mean the cultural transition from “Indian Country” to military base is always easy.

Army Lt. Col. Tracey Clyde, 47, a member of the Navajo tribe, spent most of his childhood with his grandparents herding sheep near the Sweetwater Chapter on the Navajo Nation reservation in New Mexico.

In high school, Clyde decided to set his sights on attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

But once there, he soon realized that adapting to the social norms might be a challenge — even in simple things like the slang cadets might use to greet each other.

“One of the things that I had to keep from getting mad at was when they talk to each other and sometimes say, ‘Hey chief,’ ” Clyde said. “That’s one thing I got mad at my roommate for, but then I noticed other cadets my age were saying the same thing to each other.”

Clyde quickly figured out the greeting wasn’t meant to be derogatory and found his footing as an Army officer. Then while he was stationed in Seoul, South Korea, his Native American culture found him again.

A fellow officer who was also Navajo told him that her baby had just laughed for the first time. Navajos traditionally celebrate a baby’s first laugh, so Clyde and other Native Americans on their base held a ceremony, asking for the baby to be blessed by generosity and kindness.

“All Native Americans — whether they were Navajo or not — met in her apartment and we had our ‘first laugh’ party,” said Clyde, now assigned to the Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. “Even though we were far away from our homelands, we still took the opportunity to continue our culture regardless of where we were stationed.”

Throughout his 25 years in uniform, Clyde has taken every opportunity to help other Native Americans adjust to life in the military, so “they’re not so culturally shocked with all the stuff they’re thrown into.”

An honorable life

Ellis-Ulmer, who has deployed 15 times to the Middle East, said that for her, and for most Native Americans, serving in the military is considered an honorable life.

A survivor of childhood sex abuse and domestic violence as an adult, Ellis-Ulmer does her part to help other Native American women who have lived that life.

As a member of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-women color guard that supports Native American female veterans dealing with homelessness, sexual assault trauma and the transition back to civilian life, Ellis-Ulmer regularly speaks at powwows and community events to raise awareness of veteran issues.

“I don’t think I’ve come across one Native woman who has said that they were not abused, whether it was by their husbands, their partners or their family members,” Ellis-Ulmer said. “Dealing with all these violent acts against Native women is my motivation because I don’t want this mentality of abuse to perpetuate.”

As a way to show her appreciation for what the Air Force has done for her, Ellis-Ulmer speaks about military life as part of the We Are All Recruiters program, which allows active-duty members to recruit for the Air Force in their own communities.

Recently the Santee Sioux tribe honored her for her military service with a golden eagle tail feather.

“They told me to wear it turned down,” she explained, “Because now I’m a warrior to them.”

Report: Pedestrian Deaths Disproportionately Affect Native Americans In Wash. State

Bill Kramme Flickr

By Rae Ellen Bichell, KPLU

Listen to report


Pedestrians of American Indian descent at are at higher risk of death in Washington state, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a branch of Smart Growth America.

Washington placed 36th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in a ranking of the most dangerous states to the least dangerous based on the Pedestrian Danger Index, a combined measure of total pedestrian deaths, annual pedestrian deaths and the percentage of people commuting by foot over the past five to eight years. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area ranked 49th out of 51 large metro areas.

But for Washingtonians of American Indian descent, the statistics aren’t as reassuring. Nationwide, Native Americans  have higher rates of fatal traffic accidents than other ethnicities. But that difference is particularly notable in Washington state where all other ethnic groups’ fatality rates are consistently lower than national averages.

Credit Rae Ellen Bichell
Credit Rae Ellen Bichell

‘The Gap, Unfortunately, Is Widening’ 

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission doesn’t plot pedestrian deaths against ethnicity, although it does publish statistics on factors like age and gender. A report on factors in Washington pedestrian fatalities from 2008 to 2012 acknowledges that “Native Americans are disproportionately killed in pedestrian crashes, representing 8.4 percent of pedestrian deaths but less than 2 percent of the total population.”

“The gap, unfortunately, is widening,” said MJ Haught, a program manager and tribal liaison for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Over the course of the past few decades, Haught said, the rate of Native American fatalities went from about 2.4 times that of the general population to 3.3. And in 2013, she said, “the data told us that Native American fatalities are 3.9 times higher than the general population. This is obviously not the way we want to go.”

Unlike Other Groups, Native Americans More At Risk On Rural Roads

Both statewide and nationwide, most pedestrian deaths occur in the more populated urban areas. But according to state data, more Native Americans were killed in crashes on rural roads than on urban ones, opposite the pattern seen with pedestrians of all other ethnicities.

Why? There’s no easy answer, but here are a few factors to consider.

Washington state has 29 federally-recognized American Indian tribes. Alaska, California and Oklahoma are the only other states with more tribes within their borders. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, only six states have American Indian and Alaska Native populations greater than that in Washington.

Each reservation is its own sovereign nation with its own laws, which means roads and signs are built and distributed differently. In rural areas, on tribal lands or off, there aren’t always sidewalks, and not all roads are well-lit.

According to the Center for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Americans of Native American and Alaska Native descent tend to be at higher risk of car injuries overall, not just as pedestrians. Some tribes don’t have seat belt laws.

“If you drill down, a huge factor is unbelted fatalities,” said Haught. “The unbelted fatality rate for native Americans is 7.2 times higher for Native Americans in Washington.”

Alcoholism is often cited as a contributing factor. But intoxication, particularly intoxicated pedestrians, is a contributing factor across the board and is not limited to one ethnicity.

Fatality Rate Likely Underreported

Even with the comparatively high rate of Native American pedestrian deaths reported, we may not be getting the full picture. Because each reservation is a sovereign nation, not every tribe shares data with the state, and the data that is available is conservative.

“The rates for fatalities are coming in with death certificates. We’re pretty good at getting all the reports that happen on Washington land, but not necessarily the reports from reservation land. That varies very much by the tribe and the reservation,” said Haught. “We are confident that the traffic deaths are underreported, so it’s an even worse problem than we realized.”

Thomas Holsworth is commander with the Colville Tribal Police Department in Nespelem, in northwest Washington. The reservation covers 1.4 million acres and, as in many rural areas, most of the roadways that crisscross it are narrow, windy country roads without sidewalks.

“The pedestrian walkways are basically the dirt shoulders of the roadways,” says Holsworth. “But I think a lot of it is, they just tend to walk more, sometimes out of necessity, because … they may not own an operable vehicle. There are others that just like to get out and walk, and there’s not a whole lot of safe places to do that.”

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have gone to great lengths to try to reduce traffic-related deaths on tribal lands, assimilating state traffic codes into their tribal code and launching multiple highway safety programs. Funded by a state grant, the tribes ran a public education campaign to increase awareness about using seat belts, driving under the influence, and launched projects to identify problem roads and walking paths.

In the last five years, Holsworth says, there has only been one pedestrian fatality.

Second Appraisal Day at Hibulb a success

Brill Lee an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers, appraises a basket brought in by Tulalip citizen Lois Landgrebe, during the Hibulb Appraisal Day on May 3. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Brill Lee an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers, appraises a basket brought in by Tulalip citizen Lois Landgrebe, during the Hibulb Appraisal Day on May 3.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – It was basket extravaganza at the second Hibulb Appraisal Day on Saturday, May 3, when the center welcomed Brill Lee, an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers and independent appraiser, for the second time.

Almost a dozen guests attended the event, bringing more than a dozen items to be appraised. Items, unlike the first Hibulb Appraisal Day, were mainly baskets made by local Native American artists and Alaska Native weavers.  The baskets displayed a wealth of weaving skill and tribal history.

Brill Lee examines a basket brought in by a tribal fisherman. The basekt-like structure was rescued from the Nooksack River and features weaving patterns and materials no indigenous to this area. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Brill Lee examines a basket brought in by a tribal fisherman. The basekt-like structure was rescued from the Nooksack River and features weaving patterns and materials no indigenous to this area.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

The surprise of the day was a basket-like item rescued from the Nooksack River by a tribal fisherman. The basket featured weaving patterns and material not indigenous to this area and was referred to the Seattle Burke Museum for further study.

The center was gifted a pair of leather beaded gauntlet gloves, donated by guest Troy Jones. The gloves were a trade item in 1930 to a service station in Granite Falls for work completed on a vehicle. The gloves have been in his family since the trade. Lee appraised the item at $3,000 to $3,500 due to the current market value, condition, material used, and artist skill.

A pair of leather beaded gantlet gloves, commonly used in rodeos, were donated by guest Troy Jones. The gloves are appraised at $3,000 to $3,500 due to current market value, condition, material used, and artist skill.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Combined value of items appraised during event totaled more than $8,600.

If you are interested in having an item appraised, you can check out Brill Lee’s website at or by telephone at 425-885-4518. For more information about events happening at Hibulb or the next Hibulb Appraisal Day, please visit their website at


Brandi N. Montreuil:360-913-5402;


A basket featuring the "rolling logs" pattern, which is sometimes confused with a swastika, was brought in by Bothell resident, Jim Freese to the May 3, Hibulb Appraisal Day. The unique weaving and emblem was considered good luck and used in the early 1900s. The basket was appraised at $125- $175. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
A basket featuring the “rolling logs” pattern, which is sometimes confused with a swastika, was brought in by Bothell resident, Jim Freese to the May 3, Hibulb Appraisal Day. The unique weaving and emblem was considered good luck and used in the early 1900s. The basket was appraised at $125- $175.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News


Snohomish resident, Bart Marzolf, brought in a sign that hung over a main road entering the town of Snohomish in 1920. the carving features a fish similiar to a salmon and features a clam shell pearl for the fish's eye. The carver is unknown and the item was valued over $1,000. Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Snohomish resident, Bart Marzolf, brought in a sign that hung over a main road entering the town of Snohomish in 1920. The carving features a fish similar to a salmon and features a clam shell pearl for the fish’s eye. The carver is unknown and the item was valued over $1,000.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News


Jim Freese learns how his parents' basket collection demonstrates a wealth of weaving skill and tribal history from tribes located in Washington. One of the baskets was appraised at $1,000 for its rarity.Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
Jim Freese learns how his parents’ basket collection demonstrates a wealth of weaving skill and tribal history from tribes located in Washington. One of the baskets was appraised at $1,000 for its rarity.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News


Treasury Announces $12.4 Million in Assistance to Native Communities

cdfilogolarge_original_crop2013 NACA Program Awardees Will Stimulate Economic Development in Low-Income Areas

Source: Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, United States Department of the Treasury, September 19, 2013

Washington, DC – Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities (Native Communities) throughout the United States will receive much-needed economic and community development assistance as a result of the $12.4 million in Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program) awards announced today.

Thirty-five organizations serving Native Communities received awards from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) under the fiscal year (FY) 2013 round of the NACA Program.  The awardees all aim to increase lending and financial services in Native Communities, stimulating economic development in some of the most distressed and low-income parts of the country.

“The Native American CDFI Assistance Program is providing critically needed funds for distressed Native and tribal areas, many of which lack traditional banking services,” said Don Graves, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Small Business, Community Development and Housing Policy. “This latest round of awards will expand the capacity of native financial institutions to develop innovative economic development solutions for the businesses and individuals in their communities.”

The awardees, all certified Native Community Development Financial Institutions (Native CDFIs) or organizations looking to become or create Native CDFIs, will receive a collective total of $12,451,015 in Financial Assistance and Technical Assistance awards. Eighteen Native CDFIs will receive Financial Assistance awards, which are primarily used for financing capital. Seventeen organizations will receive Technical Assistance grants, which are usually used to acquire products or services, staff training, professional services, or other support.

“The FY 2013 NACA Program awards will lead to increased loans for small businesses, affordable housing, and community facilities in Native Communities, in addition to basic financial services that are essential to building household wealth and stability,” said CDFI Fund Director Donna J. Gambrell. “As the award-making arm of the CDFI Fund’s Native Initiatives, the NACA Program has consistently supported the unique organizations that are doing such vital work in these communities.”

The majority of the target markets served by the awardees are rural, although seven organizations primarily serve minor urban areas. The organizations are headquartered in fifteen different states across the country. Full information about the FY 2013 NACA Program awardees can be found in the CDFI Fund’s Searchable Award Database at

The FY 2013 NACA Program Awards announcement comes at a time when the CDFI Fund’s Native Initiatives is in the middle of studying the current availability of access to capital and credit in Native Communities. The “Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities” study will draw on focus groups, tribal consultations, and independent research to establish the current reality of capital and credit availability in Native areas. The results of the study will be used to inform the CDFI Fund’s future approach to the training, technical assistance, and awards that it provides through the Native Initiatives.

Learn more about the “Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities” study at Additional information about the FY 2013 round of the NACA Program, including key highlights and the full award list, can be found below and at


2013 NACA Program Award Resources

Award Book: Learn key facts and statistics about the full group of awardees
Award List: Alphabetical by Organization
Award List: Alphabetical by State
Searchable Award Database: View the profiles of individual awardees



About the CDFI Fund

Since its creation in 1994, the CDFI Fund has awarded over $1.7 billion to CDFIs, community development organizations, and financial institutions through the CDFI Program, the Bank Enterprise Awards Program, the Capital Magnet Fund, the Financial Education and Counseling Pilot Program, and the Native American CDFI Assistance Program. In addition, the CDFI Fund has allocated $36.5 billion in tax credit authority to Community Development Entities through the New Markets Tax Credit Program. Learn more about the CDFI Fund and its programs at


About the Native Initiatives

The CDFI Fund’s Native Initiatives work to increase access to credit, capital, and financial services in communities by creating and expanding CDFIs primarily serving Native Communities. This is achieved through two principle initiatives: 1) a funding program – the NACA Program – targeted to increasing the number and capacity of existing or new Native CDFIs, and 2) a complementary series of training programs that seek to foster the development of new Native CDFIs, strengthen the operational capacity of existing Native CDFIs, and guide Native CDFIs in the creation of important financial education and asset building programs for their communities. Learn more about the Native Initiatives at


New Study Discusses Influencers on Indian Education

Arizona State UniversityHayden Lawn on the Tempe, Arizona campus of Arizona State University. ASU is among the universities named as influential by the recent study.
Arizona State University
Hayden Lawn on the Tempe, Arizona campus of Arizona State University. ASU is among the universities named as influential by the recent study.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

A new study has put a spotlight on what organizations, universities and people influence American Indian/Alaska Native education the most.

The study, “For Our Children: A Study and Critical Discussion of the Influences on American Indian and Alaska Native Education Policy,” was done by Hollie J. Mackey, University of Oklahoma assistant professor of education, and Linda Sue Warner, special assistant to the president on Indian affairs at Northeastern A&M College in Miami, Oklahoma. Their intent was to “determine and describe the baseline influential studies, organizations, information sources, and people for American Indian/Alaska Native education policy through the lens of indigenous education experts in the field.”

The two studies they found to be most influential were first The Kennedy Report published in 1968 and the Merriam Report of 1928. The study points out how both studies have had an enduring role in Indian education legislation and policy.

“Unfortunately for Indian tribes, these reports, separated by nearly five decades, have similar recommendations. The conclusion would appear that similar problems remain identified and unsolved,” says the study. “The primary similarity between the two is Collier’s intention to promote economic rehabilitation as a means to tribal self-governance.”

John Collier was the Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the time who commissioned the Merriam Report. Congress’s response to the report was the Indian Reorganization Act.

The study found a number of organizations to be influential in Indian education, among them are the National Indian Education Association, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the National Congress of American Indians. All are non-profits.

“It is interesting to note that neither the Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education Programs or the Bureau of Indian Education, both largely responsible for financing Indian education, were included in participants’ responses as influential organizations,” says the study.

Haskell Indian Nations University was among the universities named as influential by the recent study. (
Haskell Indian Nations University was among the universities named as influential by the recent study. (

The study noted six highly influential universities in Indian education as well: Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona; Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas; Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, The Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania; The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

The study noted a number of influential sources of information for Indian eduction including the Journal of American Indian Education and the Tribal College Journal.

Websites and print media outlets were another source of influence noted by Mackey and Warner. The top websites were,, and Influential media outlets included The Gallup Independent, Heartbeat Alaska, Indian Country Today Media Network, Lakota Times, Navajo Times, and the Washington Post.

There was also a category for influential universities as sources of information. Those included Haskell Indian Nations University, Harvard University, The Pennsilvania State University, Stanford University, The University of California-Los Angeles (American Indian Studies Center), The University of Oklahoma. Federal agencies and offices as sources of information included the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Education; the Department of Education, Office of Indian Education; Mid-Continent Regional Education Lab; and the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Professor John Tippeconnic, Comanche and Cherokee, has been recognized as one of the most influential people in Indian education. (Arizona State University)
Professor John Tippeconnic, Comanche and Cherokee, has been recognized as one of the most influential people in Indian education. (Arizona State University)

A number of influential people were also named in the study including professors, tribal college administrators, K-12 administrators, political figures and federal employees and organization representatives. Some of those names include John Tippconnic, the Comanche and Cherokee director of the American Indian Studies department at Arizona State University, and Dr. Henrietta Mann, the founding president of Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College. Political figures like former senator Byron Dorgan, who established the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute.

“This study might begin a critical conversation about the education of American Indian and Alaskan Native students that would not only include them in the broader context of American education, but also provide insight into the people themselves; what they value, who they trust, and what is most influential and important to them in terms of the future of their children,” the study says. “It is our hope that our study will provide educators and scholars alike a snapshot of the state of influence in both policy and practice and will provide a catalyst for researchers beginning their careers.”

Read the full study, here.