Indian Health Services Releases Long-Awaited Update to Policy on Emergency Contraception

ACLU Calls for strong enforcement to ensure access for women


Source: American Civil Liberties Union


Washington, DC — The American Civil Liberties Union today commends Indian Health Services (IHS) for issuing an updated policy to ensure that Native American women can obtain Plan B emergency contraception at IHS facilities.

The update comes more than two years after a federal court ordered the FDA to approve Plan B One- Step as an over-the-counter drug for women of all ages (without a prescription), and more than five years after Native American women first reported that IHS facilities were failing to provide the women they serve adequate and appropriate access to emergency contraception.

“The updated policy IHS released today is a long overdue and important step toward ensuring that Native American women  have equal access to emergency contraceptive care,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Georgeanne Usova. “The policy must now be rigorously enforced so that every woman who relies on IHS for her health care can walk into an IHS pharmacy and obtain the services she needs and to which she is legally entitled.”

An investigation by Sen. Barbara Boxer’s staff earlier this year found repeated examples of IHS pharmacies’ failure to comply with the up-to-date FDA guidelines, and a separate survey conducted by the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center last year found similar results.  Some pharmacies surveyed did not offer emergency contraception at all; others required a prescription; and others wouldn’t provide it to women based on their age.

For some Native American women, if emergency contraception is unavailable at their IHS facility, the next alternative may be hundreds of miles away.  However, emergency contraception is most effective the sooner it is taken, with effectiveness decreasing every 12 hours.  The distance and potentially insurmountable transportation costs make timely access to emergency contraception difficult, if not impossible, for many women.

In addition, statistics show that more than one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime — more than double the rate reported by women of all other races. A woman who is sexually assaulted and relies on IHS may not be able to take necessary steps to prevent a pregnancy that occurs as the result of rape.

The updated policy can be found at:


Adam Sandler on ‘Ridiculous Six’ Tension With Native American Actors: “Just a Misunderstanding”

Adam SandlerAP Images/Invision
Adam Sandler
AP Images/Invision

About a dozen Native American extras walked off the film’s set in April, criticizing passages in the script as offensive.

by The Associated Press

Adam Sandler feels that when audiences finally see his upcoming Netflix comedy, The Ridiculous Six, they will realize he wasn’t trying to offend anyone.

The spoof takes its name from the Western classic The Magnificent Seven and pokes fun at the genre. But not everyone found it funny.

Earlier this year, a group of Native American actors walked off the New Mexico film set over complaints that content in the film was offensive to their culture. The actors objected over the vile names of some of the characters, as well as a Native American woman urinating while smoking a peace pipe.

“It was just a misunderstanding and once the movie is out will be cleared up,” Sandler told theAssociated Press on Saturday on the red carpet for the world premiere of his new film, Pixels.

Sandler called The Ridiculous Six 100 percent pro-American Indian.

NDSU student wins largest Native American pageant

 By Grace Lyden,

Cheyenne Brady, a 22-year-old senior at North Dakota State University, was crowned Miss Indian World at the Gathering of Nations powwow on April 25
Cheyenne Brady, a 22-year-old senior at North Dakota State University, was crowned Miss Indian World at the Gathering of Nations powwow on April 25

FARGO — All her life, Cheyenne Brady has watched the annual crowning of Miss Indian World.

“It’s a role I have aspired to being since I was a young girl,” said the North Dakota State University senior. “Granted, I didn’t know the significance then, but when you’re about 7 or 8 and you’re just infatuated with all these girls with the pretty crown, you just want to be them.”

On April 25, that dream came true.

As her family members screamed from the crowd, Brady, 22, was named the winner of the largest and most prestigious pageant for Native American women. She still can hardly believe it.

“Sometimes I want to cry, and then I’m so excited, and then I look at the crown and I’m like, ‘Is this really mine?’ The first few days, I felt like I was in a dream,” she said.

The five-day competition takes place every year at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, N.M., one of the largest powwows in North America, and includes five categories: essay, interview, public speaking, dance and traditional talent.

“Our tradition is incorporated into every part of the pageant,” said Brady, who is from New Town on the Fort Berthold reservation of western North Dakota. “A big aspect of the pageant is knowing who you are, knowing your culture, knowing your history, knowing a bit of your language.”

Brady is a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, and also represents the Cheyenne, Pawnee, Otoe, Kiowa Apache, Hidatsa, Arikara and Tonkawa tribes.

For her talent, she told a true story about a young girl who was killed carrying a white flag at the Sand Creek massacre of 1864, when the U.S. Army killed about 200 people in a Cheyenne and Arapaho village.

“It was a piece of culture that I feel like is not talked about enough, and that’s why I wanted to present that story,” Brady said.

Out of the 21 contestants, Brady also won the awards for dance and essay — just like the first time she entered, in 2011.

“In the moment, I was like, ‘Oh gosh, I’ve been here before,’ but luckily I did better in the other three (categories),” she said.

When Brady didn’t win as an 18-year-old, she took a step back to learn more about her culture and who she was. Now, she’s ready to inspire others to do the same.

Over the next year, she’ll travel around to speak at conferences and powwows. She’s already booked to speak at a tribal college commencement.

“My primary goal is to encourage Native Americans to be who they are, learn their culture, be excited about it and be anything they want to be,” she said.

In the fall, Brady will start a graduate program at NDSU in American Indian public health.

“My people face many, many health issues,” she said. “Diabetes is an epidemic among Native Americans. If I can make any difference in that area, I’ll feel amazing.”

New Miss Indian World crowned

Cheyenne Brady, a member of the Sac and Fox tribe of North Dakota, was crowned Miss Indian World 2015 at the 32nd Gathering of Nations, held in Albuquerque this past weekend. (Photo Courtesy of Gathering of Nations)
Cheyenne Brady, a member of the Sac and Fox tribe of North Dakota, was crowned Miss Indian World 2015 at the 32nd Gathering of Nations, held in Albuquerque this past weekend. (Photo Courtesy of Gathering of Nations)
By Rick Nathanson, Albuquerque Journal

Cheyenne Brady, a member of the Sac and Fox tribe of North Dakota, was crowned Miss Indian World 2015 at the 32nd Gathering of Nations, which concluded Saturday night.

The annual powwow is the largest event of its kind in the world, attracting more than 3,000 Native American and indigenous dancers from 700 tribes across the country, Canada and Mexico. The event also draws more about 100,000 spectators and nearly 800 Native American and indigenous artists and artisans.

Judges selected Brady, 22, from a field of 21 Native American women who competed in such categories as tribal knowledge, dancing ability, public speaking and personality.

Brady, a student at North Dakota State University, will travel around the world during the next year educating people about tribal culture and religion, as well as serve as a role model and ambassador of good will on behalf of all Native Americans.

Ashley Pino, 25, from Acoma, N.M., a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was named first runner-up. She is a member of the Acoma, Santo Domingo and Northern Cheyenne tribes.

The second runner-up was 25-year-old Baillie Redfern, from Ontario, Canada, a member of the Métis Nation and a student at the University of British Columbia.

Tribal Leaders Meet with Vice President Biden who Addresses Efforts to End Violence Against Women Attorney General Holder Announces Initiative on Indian Child Welfare Act

On March 8, 2013, President Barack Obama this morning signed into law the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act that includes tribal provisions.
On March 8, 2013, President Barack Obama this morning signed into law the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act that includes tribal provisions.
Press release, December 3, 2014, National Congress of American Indians
WASHINGTON, DC – Vice President Joe Biden joined over 300 tribal leaders at the sixth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference today. At the opening of the conference, Vice President Biden delivered an impassioned speech about violence against women in Indian Country saying “The most horrific prison on earth is the four walls of an abused woman’s home. For far too many Native American women that is a daily reality.”
The Vice-President, who was the original author of the Violence Against Women Act and has been its most steadfast supporter over the past 20 years, was introduced by Councilwoman
 from the Tulalip Tribes , “Vice President Biden has led the movement to protect women against rape and domestic violence.  Last year he helped pass the much needed protection to help Native women from violence.   Mr. Vice President, you are correct when you say no means no — no more abuse.” 
Referring to the provisions added to VAWA in 2013 that allow tribal governments to prosecute non-Indian domestic violence offenders in certain cases, the Vice-President apologized that it took so long to give tribal governments the tools to hold offenders accountable in their communities, saying “as long as there is a single place where the abuse of power is excused as a question of jurisdiction or tolerated as a family affair, no one is truly safe, and we cannot define ourselves as a society that is civilized.”
The Vice President delivered a call to action saying, “Tribal governments have an inherent right, as a matter of fact they have an obligation, to protect their people. All people deserve to live free of fear.”  He urged all tribal governments to be prepared on March 7 when the law goes into effect to use their authority to aggressively prosecute domestic violence offenders. He stressed the need to change the culture that too often leaves victims asking what they did wrong and instead to focus on sending a strong message that violence against women is always unacceptable.
Vice President Biden also acknowledged that we have much more to do to protect Native women from violence including giving Alaska tribes the same authority and expanding the provision to cover sexual assault and other crimes. Biden called on Congress to appropriate the $25 million in grants authorized in VAWA 2013 to implement the new law.  
Attorney General Eric Holder followed Vice President Biden, and strongly stated the Department of Justice’s commitment to improving law enforcement in Indian country, and to institutionalizing that commitment so that it will continue.  He announced that he has implemented a Statement of Principles to guide the Department’s work with tribal nations into the future.
Attorney General Holder also announced a new initiative to promote compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act in partnership with the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services.  Holder stated that the initiative is “working to actively identify state-court cases where the United States can file briefs opposing the unnecessary and illegal removal of Indian children from their families and their tribal communities.” Holder went on to explain that DOJ will work with its partners and tribes to “to promote tribes’ authority to make placement decisions affecting tribal children; to gather information about where the Indian Child Welfare Act is being systematically violated; and to take appropriate, targeted action to ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.”   

Atlanta Dream guard Shoni Schimmel receives 2014 Native American ’40 under 40′ award


Atlanta Dream's Shoni Schimmel, right, and Seattle Storm's Camille Little reach for a loose ball during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Friday, May 30, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Brant Sanderlin) GWINNETT OUT MARIETTA OUT LOCAL TV OUT (WXIA, WGCL, FOX 5)
Atlanta Dream’s Shoni Schimmel, right, and Seattle Storm’s Camille Little reach for a loose ball during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Friday, May 30, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Brant Sanderlin) GWINNETT OUT MARIETTA OUT LOCAL TV OUT (WXIA, WGCL, FOX 5)

By Erik C. Anderson, The Oregonian

Oregon native and Atlanta Dream guard Shoni Schimmel has been named a 2014 Native American “40 under 40” award recipient, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development announced in a press release.

The award is given to people under the age of 40 who have been nominated by “members of their communities for showing initiative and dedication to providing significant, positive contributions to business or in their respective communities.”

Schimmel was named the MVP of the WNBA All-Star Game during the past season, and had the highest selling jersey in the league. She grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon.

Below is the full release:

MILWAUKEE, WI – Emerging Native American leaders from across the country will be honored for their outstanding leadership during the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s upcoming Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The “Native American 40 under 40” is a prestigious award that is bestowed upon individuals under the age of 40, nominated by members of their communities, for showing initiative and dedication to providing significant, positive contributions to business or in their respective communities. Shoni Schimmel, a Pendleton, OR resident and member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, is among the 2014 award winners to be honored during a gala at the leading Native American business event in the country, taking place at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee.

“The 40 under 40 award showcases the accomplishments of both current and future Native American leaders,” said Gary Davis, President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. “The future of Indian country will be shaped by exceptional leaders such as Shoni who have proven their unrelenting dedication to enhancing the lives of those around them. It is truly an honor to bestow this award on such a deserving group of young leaders.”

Shoni Schimmel currently plays point guard in the WNBA for the Atlanta Dream. Schimmel was the first rookie to be named MVP of the WNBA All-Star game, and set the record for most points in an All-Star game with 29. Schimmel, who grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, is the highest drafted Native American woman in WNBA history. Schimmel graduated from the University of Louisville, where she was named an All-American and led the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA Championship game.

Award winners will be officially honored during the 39th Annual Indian Progress in Business Awards (INPRO) Gala, which will take place during RES Wisconsin on Wednesday, October 8th. For more information about Reservation Economic Summit, please visit

Native American Women Finally Seeing Protections They Need

Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women presenting her report to the UN General Assembly in New York, 2011.
Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women presenting her report to the UN General Assembly in New York, 2011.

After decades of grassroots advocacy and calls to action, the Violence Against Women Act is putting justice back in the hands of tribal authorities in cases of abuse and violence against Native American women.

By Christine Graef, Mint Press News

WASHINGTON — In March 2013, following nearly two decades of grassroots work and advocate work, President Barack Obama signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that offers expanded protections for Native American women.

The reauthorized act extends tribal jurisdiction to non-Native Americans who commit acts of violence or sexual assault against their Native American spouse or partner. While such incidents often go unreported, the amount that are reported reflect a disproportionate number of Native American women will be raped, stalked or physically assaulted compared to their non-Native American peers.

“One of the most basic human rights recognized under international law is the right to be free of violence. While many in the United States take this right for granted, Native women do not,” – Jana Walker, senior attorney and director of Indian Law Resource Center’s Safe Women, Strong Nations.

Also known as VAWA, the amendment goes into effect on March 7, 2015, and all 566 federally recognized tribes will be open to apply it. In February, Congress authorized a pilot project that has already started for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon.

Federal authorities currently maintain jurisdiction over offenses committed by non-Native Americans coming onto the territories, but with prosecuting attorneys often located hundreds of miles from these areas, reporting is infrequent. From October 2002 to September 2003, 58.8 percent of cases the Bureau of Indian Affairs referred for federal prosecution were declined, compared to the national average of 26.1 percent.

However, VAWA will now allow territories to impose a penalty on non-Native Americans married to a community member, as well as those living in the community or employed by the community. Many hope this newly granted authority will put an end to the notion of reservations as hunting grounds where offenders have impunity.

The initial Violence Against Women Act resulted from grassroots efforts that started in the late 1980s, with advocates from the battered women’s movement, law enforcement, victims services and prosecutor’s offices. It was signed into law in September 1994 as Title IV sec 4001-4073 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act to fund the investigation and prosecution of acts of violence against women and impose restitution. It also established the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice.

Throughout its 20 years of reauthorizations, tribal leaders had partnered with the advocacy groups, having to explain to many in Congress the realities of living on a reservation. Tribal jurisdiction continued to be debated last year — largely around questions of whether non-Native American offenders would be treated fairly in tribal judicial systems.

To be eligible, tribes must have a criminal justice system that provides representation for defendants, provide non-Native Americans in a jury, and inform defendants of their right to file federal habeas corpus petitions. The U.S. Attorneys, state and local prosecution offices continue to hold the same authority to prosecute crimes in Indian country if tribes cannot afford prosecution costs or if further charges are pending.


Native women

According to the Indian Law Resource Center: “One in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime, and three in five will be physically assaulted. Native women are more than twice as likely to be stalked than other women and, even worse, Native women are being murdered at a rate ten times the national average.”

These statistics only take reported cases into account, and they also fail to include data on violence against Native American girls, which is estimated to also be “disproportionately high.”

“Young women on the reservation live their lives in anticipation of being raped,” said Juana Majel Dixon, 1st vice president of the National Congress of American Indians and co-chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women. “They talk about, ‘How will I survive my rape?’ as opposed to not even thinking about it. We shouldn’t have to live our lives that way.”

The Indian Law Resource Center, the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women, Clan Star, Inc., National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, and other Native American women’s organizations have also turned to the international human rights community for help in the past.

In the summer of 2010, nearly 2,000 Indigenous representatives from around the world gathered at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York for the ninth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Discussion turned to the issue of people from outside Indigenous communities entering these communities to commit abuses against Indigenous women, effectively making such behavior part of these women’s homes and communities. Speakers from Mexico, Kenya and New Zealand emphasized the necessity of Indigenous communities establishing programs relevant to them, as well as holistic approaches, environmental health and government policies to eliminate abuses such as genital mutilation.

Women of the Haudenosaunee, the Maori of New Zealand, Wara Wara of Australia, the peoples of the Lakota, Tibetan and Hawai’i nations came out of the shadows and spoke of disruptions to womanhood.

The U.N. and the Organization of American States began examining the situation of American Indian women. In 2011, Rashida Manjoo, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women, presented her report to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, telling the United States to “consider restoring, in consultation with Native-American tribes, tribal authority to enforce tribal law over all perpetrators, both Native and non-Native, who commit acts of sexual and domestic violence within their jurisdiction.”

After touring Native American territories for a month in the U.S., James Anaya, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, went before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2012 and recommended that the U.S. put creating legislation to protect Native American women as an immediate priority.

The reality of the lives of women around the world started being documented in 1946, when the U.N. created a Commission on the Status of Women. At first focusing on the need for education and employment, by the spring of 2013 the theme of the 57th session of the commission was “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

When it became clear that a cooperative environment could promote protections, space was made to include the Indigenous voice to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the U.N.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The 2013 report by the U.N.’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the International Indigenous Women’s Forum was called “Breaking the Silence on Violence against Indigenous Girls, Adolescents and Young Women,” based on analysis of data from Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America. The Indigenous Women’s Rights, Violence and Reproductive Health forum, meanwhile, underlined the need for grassroots programs that reach community members and can set precedents.

In February 2013, Manjoo and Anaya urged the U.S. House of Representatives to approve a revised version of VAWA that would extend protections to not only Native American women, but also to immigrant and gay victims of violence and sexual abuse.

“Congress should act promptly to pass key reforms to the Violence Against Women Act that bolster indigenous tribes’ ability to prosecute cases involving violence against indigenous women,” Anaya said, urging the House to approve the version of the act already approved by the Senate that month.

The OAS’ 2011 Inter-American Human Rights Commission also produced a report, “Violence Against Native Women in the United States,” expressing concern about violence against women in Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia and the U.S., urging laws, policies and programs in collaboration with the women.


Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon

Given the porous borders of reservations, there’s usually frequent interaction between Native Americans and non-Native Americans and a limited scope for ensuring public safety in Indian country.

“VAWA was really needed in Indian Country,” said M. Brent Leonhard, an attorney for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla who was instrumental in crafting the language of VAWA applied in the tribe. “Historically, the federal government didn’t prosecute and it didn’t get reported to them.”

He detailed the historic evolution of VAWA in a 2012 paper titled “Returning Washington P.L. 280 Jurisdiction to Its Original Consent-Based Grounds.”

According to statistics cited by the Indian Law Research Center, more than 88 percent of violent crimes committed against Native American women are committed by non-Native Americans over which tribal governments lack any criminal jurisdiction under U.S. law. In 66 percent of the crimes in which the race of the perpetrator was reported, Native Americans victims indicated that the offender was not Native American.

Leonhard told MintPress that the latest changes to VAWA will give communities more confidence in their tribe’s ability to deal with an assault and be more comfortable in reporting it.

“We’re seeing at least 80 percent of those who come to our family violence program have not reported incidents to the police,” he said. “They seek help here but they won’t go to outside systems.”

The Umatilla are located near the city of Pendleton, where the FBI is stationed and can respond quickly to crimes. But for other reserves, federal law enforcement bodies may be as many as four hours away. For example, in Alaska, Leonhard said, “the problem is horrendous.”

In his analysis, “Closing a Gap In Indian Country Justice: Oliphant, Lara, and DOJ’S Proposed Fix,” Leonhard addresses the complexity of arguments and court rulings that had to be overcome against VAWA.

The act legislatively reversed the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oliphant v.Suquamish Indian Tribe, 435 U.S. 191 (1978), which held that inherent tribal sovereignty did not exist and “Indian tribes do not have inherent jurisdiction to try and to punish non-Indians.”

Leonhard said the Obama administration has been supportive of issues in American Indian territory. On July 21, 2011, Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legislative Affairs, wroteto Vice President Joseph Biden and proposed the amendment to VAWA thatwould create the pilot project.


Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona

Since the pilot program began in March, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe has tried more than a dozen cases involving non-Indians abusing Native American women.

VAWA does not cover crimes committed against Native American women by strangers or those who may live or work on a reservation but are not considered to be dating or in relationship with a Native American woman.

There’s a lot being defined as the process moves forward. “Dating,” for instance, is being questioned: Can it apply to a chance meeting at a restaurant between two people who have just met?

“We’ve found most of our defendants have been in relationships,” Alfred Urbina, the tribe’s attorney general, told MintPress. “Most have been contacted by tribal police six to 10 times, already have felonies on their record or are unemployed.”

To exercise the authority, a tribe must guarantee that a defendant’s rights are similar to those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to a public defender and effective assistance of counsel. Tribes must also include non-American Indians in jury pools. For tribes with many enterprises that employ non-Native Americans, this is not an issue, but for those without such enterprises, this presents a problem.

Meanwhile, tribes must provide a public defender only if the offender is indigent,which also raises questions regarding who pays the costs associated with probation or treatment, or if an offender is homeless or if an offender needs to be monitored in another town.

“These are all questions we’re running into,” Urbina said. “We’re near Tucson and able to draw on defense attorneys and other resources. But for others who are remote from metropolitan areas, for instance the Diné, this will be difficult.”

Under the Indian Civil Rights Act, nations are limited to the amount of time they can sentence an offender to prison. The Yaqui constitution currently limits sentences to one year, while other tribes can sentence offenders to up to three years. For a case involving strangulation or another form of attempted murder, these sentencing limitations often mean that the cases are sent to U.S. Attorneys for further prosecution.

Meanwhile, some opt to leave criminal matters to the Bureau of Indian Affairs or FBI. The federal government deals with regional problems, so one reservation may be just a small part of an agent’s 100-mile radius. “It could be days before a person gets out to investigate a crime,” said Urbina.

While it’s brought benefits to those under the three pilot projects, Urbina said most reserves won’t have resources to put the program in place. (He estimated that about 30 would have adequate resources for implementing the program.)

The number of Native American women reporting abuse represents just small percentage of the reality, he added.

“If you don’t have jurisdiction over these crimes, you’re not going to collect data,” he said. “It can be decades a community puts up with rape and violent cases. You’re not going to find trust.”

Most tribes have victims services and access to federal grants to fund help for victims, and VAWA strengthens the trust Urbina mentioned by putting the response back into the hands of the nation’s people.

Meet The Generation Of Incredible Native American Women Fighting To Preserve Their Culture

by Danielle Seewalker, Marie Claire

Native Americans represent just one per cent of the US population and some languages have only one speaker left. Now a new generation is fighting to preserve the culture.

Meet the women leading that fight:

Evereta Thinn
Age: 30
Tribe Affiliation: Diné (Navajo)
Occupation: Administrator at a Shonto School District

When Evereta entered college as the only Native American in her English 101 class, it was at that moment she realized that she needed to speak up and not be that stereotypical ‘shy’ Indian that keeps to herself. She started bywriting an essay in that very class about living in ‘two worlds’; living in the traditional world and living in the modern world and how Native Americans need to find that balance in today’s society. ‘Knowing who you are as a Native, know the teachings from your elders and engraining them as you go out into the modern world is how you maintain that balance’. She further explains that ‘once the language fades, the culture will slowly start to go too. If the younger generations cannot speak the language, how will they be equipped to make decisions on policies and protect our tribes in the future?’ She aspires to start a language and cultural immersion school for the Diné (Navajo) people.


Alayna Eagle Shield (left) and Tonia Jo Hall (right)
Age: 24
Tribe Affiliation: Lakota & Arikara
Occupation: Teacher in the Lakota Language Nest Head Start program/Medical student

Alayna currently holds a seat in the National Native Youth Cabinet under the National Congress of American Indians (CNAI). Three key issues that she addresses on behalf of the Native youth population are the importance of language and culture, bullying, and lack of education. Her passion to keep the language alive stems from her father being one of the few fluent Lakota speakers. He chose not to speak it to her as a child, but as she grew older, she understood the importance of keeping the language alive. ‘Speaking your language is a guide to knowing who you are as a Native’, says Alayna.

Shawn Little Thunder
Age: 26
Tribe Affiliation: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Occupation: Poet / Singer / Songwriter

Growing up, Shawn was severely shy and timid. It wasn’t until after graduating high school that she was urged by a musician friend to be featured in one of his songs. This was a freeing moment for her and a new outlet to express herself. She began to write poetry and join local talent shows. While holding a work position at a teen group home, Shawn encouraged the teens to keep a journal and write how they felt. Most of what the teens wrote was poetry and songs so Shawn began a poetry workshop that led to an open mic at the group home. She decided to expand her efforts and encourage others to speak freely at local events and pow wows. Rez Poetry: ‘Wičhóiye Wašaka’ (Strong Words) was the name she coined for her events. ‘That’s what I want to do, empower other Natives, especially the younger generations’.

Sage Honga
Age: 22
Tribe Affiliation: Hualapai, Hopi & Diné (Navajo)
Occupation: Server at W Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona

Sage earned the title of 1st attendant in the 2012 annual pageant, Miss Native American USA. From that point forward, she has been encouraging Native youth to travel off the reservation to explore opportunities. In Native American culture, knowledge is power and the youth are encouraged to leave the reservations, get an education and then come home to give back to your people. ‘My tribe, the Hualapai people, is so small that I want to be a role model to show my community and youth that it is possible to come off our land and do big things’.

Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford
Age: 23
Tribe Affiliation: Oglala Lakota & Samoan
Occupation: Musician, photographer, film maker, artist

Juliana and her husband, Scotti Clifford, have formed the band, ‘Scatter Their Own’ (which is the English translation for the word Oglala). They travel to various Indian reservations and other parts of the country to play their music. They are self-taught, cannot read music and play what comes out naturally from their hearts. Juliana is inspired to play for the youth and inspire them to branch out and learn about the arts and music which are topics not generally exposed on the reservation. The songs they write are about Mother Earth, social justice and about the Native American culture.

Kelli Brooke Haney

Age: 33
Tribe Affiliation: Seminole, Creek and Choctaw
Occupation: Musician / Artist

As the daughter the internationally recognized Native American artist and former Chief of the Seminole Nation, Enoch Kelly Haney, it’s no shock that artistic and bold talent radiate from the ever-inspiring Kelli Brooke. In the early 2000s she formed a rockabilly band with her best friend called The Oh Johnny! Girls and also has a solo music project called Hudson Roar. Kelli grew up in a household where her parents spoke Seminole Creek as the first language. She is also the mother to a sweet five-year old boy, Jack, and expresses the importance of raising him with Native American traditions as well as encouraging him to embrace his own artistic talents.

Juanita C. Toledo
Age: 28
Tribe Affiliation: Walatowa-Pueblo of Jemez
Occupation: Works for the Community Wellness Program on Jemez Pueblo Reservation

Growing up, Juanita was valedictorian of her charter school, President of the Native American Youth Empowerment (NAYE) group, and on the executive committee of UNITY (United National Indian Tribal Youth Organization). During college things changed dramatically for Juanita. She felt the pressure of life and quickly fell into depression, anxiety and succumbed to drugs and alcohol after dealing with a very traumatizing family event. ‘It was the worst time of my life; I really thought I was going to die and I wanted to die’. In 2012, she had a turning point. ‘I started to believe in my dreams and in myself again.’ She ran for Miss Indian World, one of the most prestigious honours a Native American woman could receive. Although she didn’t take the title, her tribal community was extremely proud of her representation. Today, she works for the Community Wellness program on her reservation and has truly influenced positive changes in the program and in her community.

See more images and read the full story in the September issue of Marie Claire.


You are here Sen. Murkowski reverses position on ‘Alaska exception’ to domestic violence law

By Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post

The 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was heralded by President Barack Obama as a significant step for Native American women because it allows tribal courts to prosecute certain crimes of domestic violence committed by non-Native Americans and enforce civil protection orders against them.

Before the bill passed the Senate, however, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, added Section 910, known as the “Alaska exception,” that exempted Alaska Native tribes. Murkowski argued that her provision did not change the impact of the bill since even without it, the bill pertained only to “Indian country,” where tribes live on reservations and have their own court systems. As defined by federal law, there is almost no Indian country in Alaska.

Now, after pressure from Alaska Natives, Murkowski is reversing her position and trying to repeal the provision she inserted.

The senator’s change of mind is the subject of much debate in Alaska, with state officials saying that ending the exception won’t make any difference for Alaska Natives because it only applies to Indian country and the state already takes action to protect Native women and children. Tribes and the Justice Department, on the other hand, argue that repealing the provision will have a significant impact.

Associate Attorney General Tony West, who called for the repeal of the “Alaska exemption,” says that the state needs to enforce tribal civil protection orders in cases of domestic violence and that the legislative change would send a strong message about tribal authority.

“It’s important to send a very clear signal that tribal authority means something, that tribal authority is an important component to helping to protect Native women and Native children from violence,” said West, who testified in June before a hearing in Anchorage of the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence. “Those civil protective orders can help to save lives.”

Murkowski’s provision, which was originally an amendment she co-sponsored with Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in 2012, was supported by state officials. Begich has also changed his position since then.

Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty and Gary Folger, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, have said that Alaska is already enforcing civil protection orders issued by tribes to try to keep one person from stalking or committing abuse or violence against another person.

But Murkowski’s “Alaska exception” reopened a contentious debate surrounding criminal jurisdiction over Alaska Native villages, and it has created confusion among law enforcement officials.

Alaska Native women protested Murkowski’s exception, and the Indian Law and Order Commission called it “unconscionable.”

“Given that domestic violence and sexual assault may be a more severe public safety problem in Alaska Native communities than in any other tribal communities in the United States, this provision adds insult to injury,” the commission said.

Troy Eid, a former U.S. attorney and chairman of the commission, said that only one Alaska Native village has a women’s shelter. He and the other commissioners were stunned by what they heard in remote Alaska Native communities, he said.

“We went to villages where every woman told us they had been raped,” Eid said. “Every single woman.”

On her Facebook page last year, Murkowski wrote: “It hurts my heart that some Alaskans may think I do not fully support protecting Native women from violence with every fiber of my being.”

“In Alaska, we have one, and only one reservation: Metlakatla,” Murkowski wrote. “The other 228 tribes have been described by the U.S. Supreme Court as ‘tribes without territorial reach.’ The expansion of jurisdiction over non-members of a tribe is a controversial issue in our state, and what works in the Lower 48, won’t necessarily work here.”

Murkowski said she still has concerns about repealing the exemption but said in a statement: “We must turn the tide of the rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse in our state.”

Mescalero women honored in documentary

A former Mescalero president and a first lady among women featured in film

By Dianne Stallings, Ruidoso News

Selena and Mark Chino are featured in the "A Thousand Voices" documentary for their involvement with domestic violence victims and their encouragement of the empowerment of Native American women. (Courtesy)
Selena and Mark Chino are featured in the “A Thousand Voices” documentary for their involvement with domestic violence victims and their encouragement of the empowerment of Native American women. (Courtesy)

A former Mescalero Apache president and a first lady of the tribe will be featured in a documentary.”A Thousand Voices,” filmed by Silver Bullet Productions.

Sandra Platero served as president after the resignation of Fred Chino and before the election of current Mescalero President Danny Breuninger. Previously, she served as vice president and on the tribal council. Attempts to reach Platero for an interview were unsuccessful.

Selena Chino is the wife of Mark Chino, who served as Mescalero president three times. She was a victims’ advocate and tribal liaison with the Nest, Lincoln County’s only domestic violence shelter, and she served as a state tourism commissioner.

Selena and Mark attended a rough cut screening of the documentary on June 5, and the film is slated for a final version screening July 21, free at Buffalo Thunder (Resort and Casino) in Santa Fe. Check the Silver Bullet website for the time. Silver Bullet films also usually screen at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and air on the Public Broadcasting System, a company spokesman said.

“I’m extremely proud of Selena,” Mark said. “She and her efforts to help domestic violence victims came to Pamela Pierce’s attention in mid-2013, and Selena was asked to appear in the film. She was recognized purely through her own efforts, as I already had left office.”

Pierce is chief executive officer of Silver Bullet Productions, a nonprofit founded in 2004, and based in Santa Fe. The organization with staff and volunteers stages cultural workshops with the aim of empowering Native American youths by raising their educational aspirations and by cultivating young filmmakers. The organization has produced 31 projects with the help of sponsors and recently received the Yawa’ Award for special projects, given to nonprofits that put actions to their words. The company’s “Canes of Power” also won four regional Emmys.

Silver Bullet was formed because of concerns by members of Native American groups over the loss of language, cultural and community, according to Pierce.

“A Thousand Voices” is the story of the inherent power of tribal women in New Mexico, and was filmed partly through funding with the San Manuel Board of Mission Indians. Besides the screenings and possible PBS airing, the film will be presented to students, who will participate in writing the curriculum and discussion guide that will accompany the documentary, following a pattern for all of Silver Bullet’s films, Pierce wrote in a memorandum to participants before the rough cut was screened.

“The production of this film has been a wonderful journey,” Pierce wrote. “Each of our participants has been revealing in ways that educate and shatter stereotypes.”

“A Thousand Voices” looks at the traditional roles of tribal women and poses the questions of how stereotypes from the media and literature altered the reality of tribal women, what are the universal lessons to be learned from the traditional values and the current status of Native American woman; and what are the threats to native communities, if women do not continue to play their crucial roles?

Selection process

As a domestic violence survivor and victims’ advocate, former first lady of the Mescalero, a state tourism commissioner, a store manager, and since May, a front desk manager and concierge for the tribe’s Inn of the Mountain Gods, Selena Chino was a natural choice for inclusion in “A Thousand Voices.”

A panel of tribal advisors from a variety of tribes, and representatives from Silver Bullet looked at the candidates.

“You can be a wonderful person, but you may not always come off as being able to state what your beliefs are and have the courage to state them,” Pierce said. “It’s not enough to stand for something, you have to be able to say it in a way that other men and women can relate to you. That certainly was true for Selena, Mark and Sandra.”

“The theme of the film is about the inherent strength of tribal woman and how that strength diminished or changed because of the white invasion from Spain, Mexico and the United States, and then return again to the strength of women that goes back to the beginning of time, and still is there despite the challenges,” Pierce said during a telephone interview Wednesday. “That strength is there in our modern current New Mexico tribal women. The reason Selena and her husband were selected was because they represent that strength. Selena represents it in two ways. She is married to a previous president of an Apache tribe and that takes strength to be married to a leader, no matter what your gender, and to be involved in a political family. And also because of her commitment to empowering women who have been victims of domestic violence. It was important to include that voice, not just from women. Selena and Mark together represent a belief in the hope for tribal women to survive domestic violence. It was obvious from the first time I spoke with her that she was somebody I really felt would enhance the message of the film.”

For Sandra Platero, “It was the strength of being a woman leader among other tribes that do not have women leaders,” Pierce said. “She certainly was a spokesperson for her language and her leadership.

“I think both women and their families deserve praise. It takes a lot of courage and determination and they showed that.”

Selena Chino

“I received a phone call in September from Pamela Pierce with Silver Bullet,” Selena said. “She mentioned there was a big meeting and they were kicking around who they would want to interview. She didn’t say who suggested my name. I had to go up to Santa Fe anyway during the Indian Market, We arranged time to talk. She came to Buffalo Thunder and we sat down. Thee project focuses on Indian women of power and how they have juggled their involvement with government, plus tribal culture and being a mother, how they keep culture and traditions alive while still doing all these empowerment things.”

Initially Pierce was looking for ideas for the project, Selena said.

“I mentioned that from 2008 to 2010, I worked as outreach coordinator at The Nest,” Selena said. “I was an advocate on Wednesdays, and that’s where my domestic violence and sexual assault training came from, helping residents. Then I became liaison between the tribe and Nest. (Pierce) began focusing, because I mentioned that domestic violence is the number one killer of Native American women nationwide. We started talking about that. She said she would really like to interview me. About that time Mark walked by and I introduced them, and she dragged him in. He was involved with the Nest too, being the president and volunteering. He spoke about how his view had changed from (his years in) law enforcement and what he learned from me being involved with the Nest. She wanted to interview him too.”

After seeing the raw cut of the film earlier this month, “It blows our minds to be involved with something like this, to be on PBS, in schools with workbooks,” Selena said.

Although the couple no longer has a daily involvement with the Nest, Selena said it is part of their lives.

“I still help as much as I can,” she said. “I still have people calling my cell phone just because they need help. I have people who stop me and ask questions, because they know me. So I still help out people even though I am not directly involved with the Nest anymore. People know I’m here (at the Inn) and ask how did you do this facing this situation and who can I call and who can I talk to.”

Selena can empathize with those exposed to domestic violence, because she dealt with the behavior in her first marriage.

“My life is very complicated story,” she said. “My mother went to school at Pasadena City College. She was not raised on the reservation, because of a program of relocation of kids on the Hopi reservation. There was a grant in the 1950s that helped send a student to a family, who helped support them and put them through college while they took care of their kids and helped around the house. That’s how she ended up in Pasadena. She also was a runner up for queen in the Rose Bowl Parade. She would have been first Native American queen had she won. She always encouraged me to go further, not to stay on the reservation, to get involved in a lot of interests.”

Selena’s father died in 2002 and her mother in 2006. “She was very beautiful inside and out,” Selena said of her mother. “She met my father when her family lived in Winslow, Ariz. He was the boy next door and the parents were friends, They were college sweethearts, They got married, then they got divorced, they remarried and divorced again. And at very end were living together, because they got along better when they were not married. I was her maid of honor the second time. We lived in Grants at that time. I wasn’t raised on the reservation. I moved back here in 1978.”

Selena said she was married for five years to a “very abusive man,” and went through the experience of having her self esteem and confidence constantly assaulted, then pulling herself up and moving forward. “It’s been a long road,” she said. “I’ve been where they’ve been at the Nest.

“Then I met Mark, who is very patient, thank God, because I have all this baggage with me. But with confidence from him and his support, I know what a healthy relationship is with him. It’s loving, it’s supportive. Everything that he’s given me.”

The couple celebrated their 20th anniversary on April 30, which Selena said, “Is an accomplishment right there. We’re totally opposite. He’s so quiet and reserved. On the other side, I talk to everybody, have conversations with people I don’t even know.”

While Mark was in office, Selena often accompanied him on trips, including the nation’s capitol, developing personal relationships with dignitaries and elected officials such as (New Mexico former attorney general) Patricia Madrid, Gov. Susana Martinez and Secretary of State Dianna Duran.

“As a former tourism commissioner, former first lady, the facets of my life are so complicated,” Selena said. “I don’t think I’m really involved in a lot of stuff. I do it, because I enjoy it. I just do it to help people, not add things to my resume.”

Those interviewed for the film were Georgene Louis, Acoma attorney and state legislator; Richard Luarkie and family, Laguna governor; Lela Kaskalla, past governor of Nambe; Sandra Platero and husband Paul; Selena Chino and husband Mark; Christy Bird, 16-year-old singer from Santa Domingo, who performed on a commercial for the Super Bowl; Rose B. Simpson, Santa Clara artist; Patricia Michaels, award winning designer on Project Runway from Taos Pueblo; Veronica Tiller, Jicarilla Apache historian and author; Navajo woman weavers from Two Grey Hills and Toadlena Trading Post; Luci Tapahonso, Navajo poet lureate; Matthew Martinez, historian and grandson of Esther Martinez of Ohkay Owingeh; and Liana Sanchez and family, owner of Avanyu LLC Construction company, San Ildefonso.