Native youth kick off Generation Indigenous challenge

By Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Janay Jumping Eagle is on a mission to curb teen suicide in her hometown on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Dahkota Brown of the Wilton Band of Miwok Indians in California wants to keep American Indian and Alaska Native students on track toward graduation.

The teenagers are at the heart of Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, a White House initiative that kicked off this week with a brainstorming session that happened to coincide with tens of thousands of indigenous people gathering in New Mexico for the Gathering of Nations, North America’s largest powwow.

The Generation Indigenous program stems from a visit last year by President Barack Obama to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Meetings followed, the president called for his cabinet members to conduct listening tours, tribal youth were chosen as ambassadors and a national network was formed.

The goal is to remove barriers that stand in the way of tribal youth reaching their potential, said Lillian Sparks Robinson, a member of the Rosebud Sioux and an organizer of Thursday’s Gen-I meeting.

“This is a community-based, community-driven initiative. It is not something that’s coming from the top down. It’s organic,” she said.

The teens are coming up with their own ideas to combat problems in their respective communities.

For example, a string of seven suicides by teenagers in recent months has shaken Pine Ridge, and close to 1,000 suicide attempts were recorded on the reservation over a nearly 10-year period. Jumping Eagle, a high school sophomore, said her older cousin was one of them.

“That was really devastating. I just wanted to at least try to stop it from happening and I’m still trying,” she said, noting that a recent basketball tournament she organized as part of her Gen-I challenge to bring awareness and share resources with schoolmates was a success.

Brown, 16, said he sees Gen-I as a tool to “shine a light on the positive things that are happening in Indian country rather than all the other bad statistics that go along with being a Native teen.”

From New Mexico’s pueblos to tribal communities in the Midwest and beyond, federal statistics show nearly one-third of Native youth live in poverty, they have the highest suicide rates of any ethnicity in the U.S., and they have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools. And for American Indians and Alaska Natives overall, alcoholism mortality is more than 500 percent higher than the general population.

Federal agencies are working with the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute to pull off Generation Indigenous, and the White House is planning a tribal youth gathering in July in Washington, D.C.

In one of her last tasks before passing on the Miss Indian World crown, Taylor Thomas spoke to Gen-I participants Thursday. She shared with them her tribe’s creation story, which centers on the idea that every animal, plant and person has a purpose. She encouraged the teens to be leaders.

“No matter the difficulties we have in our communities, we have so many bright lights shining from all over Indian country. And when I say that I’m talking about all of you,” she told the crowd of about 300.

Sioux reservation has mixed feelings about Obama’s visit

Obama visits to address education, economy; tribal leaders use opportunity to voice opposition to Keystone pipeline

By Al Jazeera America

President Barack Obama made his first presidential visit to Indian Country on Friday – and some residents of the Sioux reservation used the opportunity to voice their opposition to a proposed pipeline that would carry tar sands oil through their land.

The president and first lady arrived by helicopter at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles the border between North Dakota and South Dakota. Native Americans, some dressed in full feathered headdresses and multicolored, beaded outfits, greeted the couple.

“We can follow the lead of Standing Rock’s most famous resident, Chief Sitting Bull. He said, ‘Let’s put our minds together to see what we can build for our children,” Obama said. Sitting Bull was a Sioux chief who defeated Gen. George Custer at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The Obamas also spoke privately with tribal youth about their challenges growing up on the 2.3 million-acre reservation, home to nearly 1,000 residents who struggle with a lack of housing, health care, education and economic opportunity.

Some Sioux leaders used the visit to tell Obama that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — which would run through their land — would be a treaty violation.

Bryan Brewer, president of the Ogalala Sioux Tribe, said in a statement that the Keystone pipeline was “a death warrant for our people,” and that it would violate treaty rights. Critics of the pipeline warn of possible oil spills, environmental impact from the line’s construction, and Keystone’s overall effect on raising carbo

N.D. bill could preserve native language

Mar 27, 2014

By Krista Harju – email

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

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

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

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

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

But these students are the building blocks for cultural preservation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Propane Shortage + Arctic Cold = State of Emergency on Standing Rock Sioux Reservation


Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The Standing Rock Sioux have declared a state of emergency over a lack of propane gas for heating during the coldest of winter weather.

A national shortage has made supplies scarce and increased prices, making it difficult to procure propane and nearly impossible to afford, NBC News affiliate KFYR-TV reported on January 30. On the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, up to 90 percent of residents rely on propane for heating. Many are being displaced by the cold weather because they can’t afford propane that has in some cases doubled in price per gallon.

“They’re already on a fixed income, so they have to make a choice. Do we need heat or do we need food?” Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault told KFYR.

Tribal members are reluctant to lean on already strapped and overcrowded family members, so the tribe has set up shelters in Wakpala, South Dakota and Fort Yates, North Dakota. that some are staying in. The American Red Cross has been on hand as well, supplying emergency meals to the shelters, while its Black Hills Area Chapter has provided cots and blankets, the agency said in a statement.

As recently as a month ago, Archambault told KFYR-TV, $500 would have bought enough propane for more than a month of heating. But in current frigid temperatures that’s only lasting two or three weeks, he said.

States across the Midwest are dealing with the propane shortage, Reuters reported on January 24. It is compounded by its reliance on trucking for transport, as well as by the diversion of some supplies to normally temperate southern states such as Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, Reuters said.

Some relief is in sight, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on January 30 released $439 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program nationwide, $3.4 million of which goes to North Dakota. American Indian tribes are slotted to get $817,000 of that, the Associated Press reported.  This comes on top of the initial funding of $2.9 billion nationwide allocated in November, the AP said.

Political representatives praised the release of new funds, which came on the heels of appeals to President Barack Obama for more funds from the governors of Iowa and Wisconsin. In North Dakota there was bipartisan support for the move as U.S. Senators John Hoeven, R-N.D. and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., issued statements praising the release of funds.

“Our Native American brothers and sisters, as well as families all across North Dakota, are feeling the pain of two sharp swords—a particularly brutal winter and sky-high propane prices,” Heitkamp said.