June Robinson appointed to state House seat

County Council members say each of the three women would have been good choices for the position.

June Robinson

June Robinson

By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

EVERETT — June Robinson of Everett became Snohomish County’s newest member of the state House of Representatives on Monday.

The Snohomish County Council voted unanimously to appoint Robinson, a Democrat, to replace Rep. John McCoy who became a state senator last month.

She took the oath of office immediately after the council’s decision.

“I am very excited,” she said. “I will go there and work hard to serve the people of the 38th Legislative District.”

The appointment will last until she or another candidate is certified as the winner in the 2014 general election.

Robinson’s selection had been anticipated since she emerged from a pack of seven candidates as the top choice of the party on Dec. 10.

That night she finished ahead of Jennifer Smolen of Marysville and Deborah Parker of Tulalip in the final round of balloting by the district’s precinct committee officers.

County Council members interviewed the three nominees before voting 5-0 to install Robinson in the $42,106-a-year job representing residents in Everett, Tulalip and a slice of Marysville.

Smolen, an Iraq war veteran, worked as an aide for state Sen. Steve Hobbs in 2011 and then for Snohomish County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright in late 2011 and early 2012.

Parker is the elected vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes. She formerly worked as legislative policy analyst for the tribes.

Republican Councilman John Koster, a former state lawmaker, praised the talents of the three women, calling them “the best group of people we’ve ever interviewed” for a political appointment.

“This was probably one of the most difficult decisions this council has had,” he said.

Councilman Brian Sullivan, a Democrat and another onetime legislator, described the trio as an “an all-star cast.”

And Councilman Dave Somers, also a Democrat, said the three women are shining examples of public service and each would be a star in the Legislature.

Robinson has spent her career involved in programs dealing with human services and community health care. She told the council she would like to serve on House committees that deal with those issues.

She’s worked as a program manager for King County Public Health since 2012 and said she’ll take a leave of absence when the Legislature begins its 60-day regular session in January.

She formerly served as executive director of the Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County which focuses on expanding affordable housing in the community.

She also is a member of the city of Everett’s Salary Commission and its Human Needs Committee. And she is on the steering committee of the Northwest Neighborhood Association.

Robinson ran unsuccessfully for Everett City Council in 2011 and 2012. She had been seeking an open seat on the council until Sen. Nick Harper resigned in early November.

When it seemed clear either McCoy or state Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, would be chosen to fill Harper’s seat, she ended her council pursuit to focus on securing whichever seat opened. She said a number of people encouraged her to do so, including House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle.

Robinson is married and has two sons who are both in college.

Party to narrow search for 38th District vacancy

By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald, December 10, 2013

EVERETT — Democrats in the 38th Legislative District are expected tonight to decide three candidates to fill former Rep. John McCoy’s seat now that he’s serving in the Senate.

Seven people are vying for the post and the Democratic precinct committee officers gathering at 7 p.m. in the Everett Labor Temple will nominate three of them for the job.

The Snohomish County Council will interview those nominees and make the appointment next Monday afternoon.

The appointee will represent the district, which includes Everett, Tulalip and part of Marysville. To keep the $42,106-a-year job, the person will need to win a full two-year term in next fall’s election.

June Robinson, Jennifer Smolen, Deborah Parker, Ed Triezenberg, Kelly Wright, Ray Miller and David Simpson are the candidates.

Robinson, of Everett, is a program manager with Public Health Seattle & King County and secretary of the legislative district. She ran unsuccessfully for Everett City Council in 2011 and 2012.

Smolen, of Marysville, worked as an aide to state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, in 2011 and Democratic Snohomish County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright in parts of 2011 and 2012. She also served a stint on the state committee of the Democratic Party.

Parker, of Tulalip, was elected vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes in 2012 and recently testified to congressional committees on the Violence Against Women Act.

Triezenberg, of Tulalip, is a longtime official in organized labor. He’s a former lobbyist for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters and presently works for the Carpenters Union. He has said he will run for the seat regardless of the outcome of the appointment process.

Wright, of Marysville, is a former state House aide and current state committee representative from the district. He has said if selected he will only serve for the 2014 session and not run next year in order to let voters pick the person they want for the full term.

Miller, of Marysville, is a certified veterans services officer, and founder of the nonprofit veteran assistance group, Vets Place Northwest-Welcome Home. He also is vice-chairman of the 38th Legislative District Democrats as well as chairman of its membership and endorsement committees.

Simpson, of Everett, served on the Everett City Council from 1998 through 2001 and as an appointed state legislator in 2004. He represents the district Democrats on the executive board of the county Democratic Party.

McCoy was appointed to the Senate last month to replace Nick Harper who resigned.

GOP has slim, but possible, chance to win House seat

December 5, 2013

By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Writer

It’s been 33 years since voters chose a Republican governor in Washington.

But it’s been even longer since a member of the Grand Old Party got elected from the 38th Legislative District to the House of Representatives.

You have to go back half a century to find the last one — Jack Metcalf, a Whidbey Island Republican who won a House seat when the district’s boundaries encompassed parts of Snohomish and Island counties.

With any luck, Republicans could end their losing streak next year in a district now centered in Everett and includes Tulalip and a sliver of Marysville.

A vacancy in the state House is creating the potential opportunity. Democrat John McCoy of Tulalip moved from the House to the Senate last month and seven people want his old seat.

June Robinson, Jennifer Smolen, Deborah Parker, Ed Triezenberg, Kelly Wright, David Simpson and Ray Miller are hustling up support from Democratic precinct committee officers who will vote out their top three choices Tuesday. Sometime in the following week, the Snohomish County Council will appoint one of them.

All seven are respectable members of the community with solid Democratic credentials and similar philosophical approaches to governing.

None of them are political rock stars and most are not widely known among voters. Whoever is appointed will need to squeeze out every ounce of advantage from their incumbent status to retain the job in next fall’s election.

As a newcomer, they’ll be politically vulnerable. Any vote they take, bill they introduce, utterance they make could find its way into the campaign. As a latecomer, they will be unable to fund raise during the 2014 session, while any Republican challenger can.

Those are small factors in Republicans’ favor. And they may not be the only ones.

Voters in the district may be less enamored with embracing all Democrats for office after seeing two of them, County Executive Aaron Reardon and state Sen. Nick Harper, resign in disgrace this year.

And if Republicans field a candidate with a strong resume and ample campaign billfold — something they’ve not done in recent years — victory isn’t beyond grasp.

Much of it will depend on what happens in Everett, where the largest chunk of the district’s voters resides.

While Everett voters only seem to send Democrats to do their bidding in Olympia, they are not afraid of electing Republicans to the nonpartisan City Council.

Scott Bader proved it last November when he defeated June Robinson for a council seat by roughly 1,800 votes. Though there was no “R” next to Bader’s name or “D” next to Robinson’s; one didn’t have to work very hard to find out what political party each associated with.

It was an impressive performance in a presidential election year. Democrats turned out more voters than Republicans and outspent them to make sure everyone knew the names of all the Democrats on the ballot.

Still, in numerous Everett precincts, Bader received as many votes as McCoy did in his legislative race.

Campaign strategists view such ballot behavior as an opportunity to snare votes from the less partisan members of their opponent’s party.

Republican Party leaders may see this as one more selling point to those they’re recruiting to do battle for the seat in 2014.They’ll need a few as they know history is not on their side.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Potlatch fund recognizes Native America’s game changers

Tulalip Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker among the honored

 

Tulalip Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker Photo/Theresa Sheldon

Tulalip Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker
Photo/Theresa Sheldon

By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News

“There are two ways of spreading light. To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” – Edith Wharton

TULALIP – Every year the Potlatch Fund recognizes Native Americans who personify leadership in five areas. Each of the awards is named after a tribal leader who exemplifies what it takes to change the world: The Antone Minthorn Economic Devlopment Award, the Pearl Capoeman-Baller Civic Participation award, the Billy Frank, Jr., Natural Resources Protection award; the Patricia Whitefoot Education Award and the Fran James Cultural Preservation Award. This year, Tulalip’s own Vice-Chairwoman Deborah Parker was among the recognized. She spoke about the experience in a recent interview.

Asked about the award, Parker first spoke about Quinault leader Pearl Capoeman-Baller.

“I’ve known Pearl for years,” she said. “She’s a woman who doesn’t really sit down, she doesn’t rest. She’s a woman who’s always wanted change and works hard to make that change happen. She’s a lady who is all about action and justice.

“To receive an award in the spirit of her work is a complete honor. And as a leader, Pearl embodies that balance of home, work and responsibility. She’s a mother, a grandmother, and a community member who works at the local, state and federal level and she brings all of that together. As an elder she is not on council anymore, but you still see her at conferences helping and motivating the younger generation to not be idle. She’s still working hard and not taking no for an answer.”

 

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.” – Maya Angelou

Although she’s made impacts in many areas, Parker points to her work to make sure that provisions to protect Native American’s from non-natives were included in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

“It’s not just women, it’s also men who are very emotional about the passage of this bill,” elaborated Parker. “If I was just carrying legislation it would be easy to say thank you and good bye. I used my story, there was no hypothetical here. They had to look me in the face, someone who is a survivor. Being a female tribal leader was another source of strength. People in D.C. had to look at me and say, ‘No, we’re not going to support you or other Native women.’

“Some did,” she continued. “Some said they couldn’t support tribes taking jurisdiction, some were blatantly racist and said they couldn’t believe a non-tribal man would rape a Native American woman. But, what I don’t think anyone imagined is the support. There was so much support from non-tribal women. Native America hasn’t seen that in the past, non-natives supporting legislation to support Native people.”

 

“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” – Helen Keller

Undeniably a role model across the nation, Parker was quiet, embarrassed even, when she talked about her notoriety.

“For the women who come out and say, ‘You’re my hero,’ and every time I receive an award, I feel honored. I accept it on behalf of those women who were murdered, for those women who don’t have a voice. Not just women, I want to acknowledge the young boys and men who have been abused. They need closure too, but where do they get it? Guys don’t stand around the lunch room and talk about sexual abuse because of that stigma surrounding it.”

Family and community continually inspire Parker to keep working.

“My children are 100% supportive. They get to hear my phone calls, they hear the conversations, they hear me fighting for our rights. It’s been a blessing, but being away from my family is the hardest part. If someone asks what it’s like to be a modern day warrior, you give up a lot in the process. My family sacrificed birthdays, holidays, they really put aside everything so we could get this [VAWA] passed.”

 

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart

The Violence Against Women Act including the tribal provisions were approved. Parker explained that although we won the battle, the war’s not over.

“I just have to remind myself to keep going,” she said. “There’s so much work to be done. It’s not just me. There are a lot of amazing tribal leaders who pitch in.”

Parker explained that one of the most important ways to take care of her people is to be in the room where decisions are made. For tribal leaders a trip to Washington D.C. isn’t a vacation, it’s a battleground of constant negotiation, education and efforts to dispel stereotypes about Native Americans.

“If you don’t go, if your face isn’t there, you don’t have a voice,” Parker emphasized. “It’s not what you look like, it’s what you represent. If you are not at the table, you’re not included.”

 

“Everyone has inside her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t’ know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish and what your potential is!” – Anne Frank

In closing, Parker exuded hope for the future.

“I feel incredible honored that young girls are inspired to share their voice, to come out with their abuse because I have. I feel honored because they can come out and speak their truth and find healing, not just one, but hundreds and thousands. It is worth it.

“If women can find strength through my words, I’m definitely not going to stop,” she stated. “If I can assist others to create protections for those little children who don’t have a voice, those are giant steps. I never dreamed this could happen in my time.”

5 Visionaries of the Pacific Northwest

By Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network

Out of the Pacific Northwest come some visionary ideas for the protection of rights, exercise of sovereignty, intercultural understanding and meeting our future energy needs. Several of the leaders profiled in ICTMN’s recent compilation of tribal climate-adaptation plans were from Northwest tribes.

RELATED: 8 Tribes That Are Way Ahead of the Climate-Adaptation Curve

There are standouts in other areas as well. Whether they’re ensuring a long-term, sustainable energy supply, educating youngsters about Native history or standing up for prevention of violence against women, these five people are rocking the world with their forward thinking, innovation and commitment to social justice.

1. Deborah Parker, Tulalip: Protecting Native Women Under VAWA

Deborah Parker, Tulalip (Photo: MSNBC)
Deborah Parker, Tulalip (Photo: MSNBC)

 

 

Parker had a vision of an America in which Native American women received the same protection from violence as other women got. The freshman Tulalip Tribes Council vice chairwoman put her lobbying skills—and her personal story as a survivor of physical and sexual violence—behind the effort to win protections for Native women in the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Partly as a result of her efforts, the latest version of VAWA empowers tribal law and justice officials to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against women on tribal lands. Previously, federal prosecutors declined to prosecute a majority of violent crimes that occur in Indian country, including a large number of sexual abuse–related cases.

RELATED: Ending Violence Against Women: 19 Years of Progress

While lobbying for expansion of VAWA, Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, cited data showing that statistically, in one year alone, 34 percent of Native women will be raped, 39 percent will be subjected to domestic violence, and 56 percent will marry a non-Indian “who most likely” would not be held liable for any violent crime committed if the tribal provisions were not included in the legislation.

“It’s a better bill because it not only ensures that existing safeguards are kept in place, it also expands protections to cover those who have needlessly been left to fend for themselves,” Murray said.

2. John McCoy, Tulalip: Teaching Native Culture in Public Schools

John McCoy, Tulalip
John McCoy, Tulalip

 

 

His leadership in the Washington State House of Representatives has yielded empowering legislation: Native culture now must be taught in public schools. Tribes can also start and operate their own schools. Tribal governments can gain control from the state over criminal and civil matters on Tribal lands. Qualified tribal police officers can become state-certified, giving them the authority to arrest non-Indians and enforce state law on tribal lands.

McCoy is chairman of the legislature’s Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee and is widely viewed as a strong voice for education and technology. He’s a champion of economic development on and off the hill. As general manager of Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip reservation, he helped guide development of the village into an economically diverse community. It’s now the second-largest jobs provider in Snohomish County.

3. Gabe Galanda, Round Valley Indian Tribes: Paving the Red Road to Recovery for Inmates

Gabe Galanda (Photo: Courtesy Galanda & Broadman)
Gabe Galanda (Photo: Courtesy Galanda & Broadman)

 

 

The efforts of this Seattle-based lawyer are helping Native Americans in prison to walk the red road to recovery. Galanda formed the nonprofit organization Huy (pronounced “Hoyt”) essentially meaning “I’ll see you later.” (Coast Salish people do not have a word for “goodbye.”) In Washington state, Huy won changes in policies that blocked Native American inmates’ access to traditional religious practices and sacred items.

Huy is lobbying for similar changes nationwide. The organization asked the U.N. Human Rights Committee for an inquiry into restrictions upon Native inmates’ religious freedoms, and appeared as a friend of the court in support of those freedoms. Galanda argues that restricting such freedoms violates federal, state and international law. For some Native inmates, walking the red road while behind bars is the only road to rehabilitation and survival.

“Today’s powwow, everything that we do is to give back, to show our kids and our families that we’re going to work on getting back to those ways, getting back to spirituality and things that matter,” inmate Seymour Ruben told the Cheney Free Press during an August 1 powwow at Airway Heights Corrections Center.

4. Jeff Morris, Tsimshian: Revolutionizing Energy Conception and Consumption

Jeff Morris (Photo: Washington State Democrats)
Jeff Morris (Photo: Washington State Democrats)

 

 

Morris’s leadership in and out of the Washington State House of Representatives has changed the way Washingtonians think about and consume energy. During his tenure as chairman of the House Energy Committee, he has helped enact laws that improve energy efficiency and facilitate investment in green technology in the Evergreen State. Washington was one of the first states to adopt energy efficiency laws on appliances; by 2020 those efficiencies will conserve enough energy to power more than 90,000 homes, Morris has said. The legislature created minimum efficiency standards and testing procedures for 18 categories of electrical products.

The state Commerce Department must identify barriers to achieving zero net energy consumption and ways to overcome those barriers in updates to the state energy code. Recent changes to the state energy code are expected to result in a 70 percent reduction in energy use in new homes and buildings by 2031. Long-term loans are available to enable consumers to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements; borrowers repay the loans in their monthly utility bills.

When he’s not at the state capitol, Morris leads an institute that instructs U.S. and Canadian legislators on energy infrastructure and delivery, enhancing their ability to ensure that the region has a stable, secure and affordable energy supply and delivery system.

5. Darrell Hillaire, Lummi Nation: Standing Strong Against Drugs

Darrell Hillaire (Photo: Lummi Nation News)
Darrell Hillaire (Photo: Lummi Nation News)

 

 

The former chairman and current treasurer has never been afraid to take tough measures to improve the quality of life for his people. During his chairmanship, the Lummi initiated the Community Mobilization Against Drugs Initiative, which launched a tough yet culturally based attack on drug abuse in the community—investing in resources for investigation and prosecution, drug testing, surveillance cameras, banishment of dealers from the reservation and burning down drug houses.

This year he showed his creative chops, becoming a multimedia producer to improve intercultural relations and non-Native understanding of the Lummi and their story. He produced an audio version of a popular book on Coast Salish culture; a short film on a foster child’s return home to the reservation, including a dream sequence featuring animated Coast Salish figures; and a stage production on unkept promises from the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. The play has been performed before sellout crowds at Bellingham High School, Silver Reef Casino Hotel Resort and Seattle University.

Hillaire also used the productions to build intergenerational relationships, involving elders as well as students from the Lummi Youth Academy he founded.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/05/5-visionaries-pacific-northwest-152085

John Kieffer Memorial Award Presented to Deborah Parker

519Source: National Indian Gaming Association

Albuquerque, NM (October 30, 2012) – The National Indian Gaming Association honored Tulalip Tribes Vice Chairwoman Deborah Parker at the 15th Annual Sovereignty Awards Banquet on Tuesday with their prestigious John G. Kieffer Memorial Award.

The award recognizes a selfless dedication to advancing the lives of Indian peoples socially and economically, building self-sufficiency through gaming enterprises, and being an advocate for Indian self-determination.

Deborah Parker demonstrated tremendous leadership this year by helping Indian country push through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  VAWA guarantees sweeping changes in the way violent offenders on tribal lands are brought to justice and held accountable for crimes against native women. Vice-Chairwoman Parker became a leading Native voice in support of VAWA and with great courage stepped forward with her own personal story amid heightened Congressional debate about violence against women.

NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. said at the banquet, “We honor this leader from the Tulalip Tribes who devoted her life to improving the well being of women, Native women, her people, her community and Indian country. The historical impact of what Deborah Parker has accomplished will be told for many generations as a true woman warrior. Through her work, she has upheld tribal sovereignty. Vice Chairwoman Parker’s determination of telling her story has inspired many beyond her tribe and the nation. She has increased awareness and given back a sense of pride to Native women, and we thank her for her devoted service.”

Prior to her election as Vice-Chairwoman, Deborah Parker served as a legislative policy analyst in the Office of Governmental Affairs from 2005-2012 for the Tulalip Tribes, where she worked with the State of Washington on behalf of the Tulalip Tribes by providing quality analysis of issues most pertinent to the exercise of sovereignty and tribal governance.

Deborah Parker also served as Director of the Residential Healing School of the Tseil-Waututh Nation in Canada, and in the Treaty Taskforce Office of the Lummi Nation. As a passionate advocate for improved education for tribal members, and a belief in the inherent right of all Native Americans to expect and receive a quality education, one that is free from racial or cultural bias, Deborah is focused on educational reform, which includes developing curriculum that is a true reflection of an Indigenous ethics and knowledge system.

She is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Ethnic Studies and Sociology.

The John G. Kieffer award is presented at NIGA’s Mid-Year Conference each year.  The award is named in honor of former Spokane Tribes Vice-Chairman John G. Kieffer, known nationally for his work on Indian gaming issues and was a founding member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

The award is presented annually at the National Indian Gaming Association’s Mid-Year Conference, this year hosted by the Sandia Resort and Casino located on the Sandia Pueblo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Native American journalists tackle tough issues during July conference

Stan Bindell
The Observer 7/30/2013

TEMPE, Ariz.-Journalists covering Indian country received training and discussed Native American issues during the 29th annual National Native Media Conference in Tempe July 18-21.

Native American Journalists Associaiton President Rhonda LeValdo speaks with Dr. George Blue Spruce about the state of dentistry in Indian country. Photo/Stan Bindell

Native American Journalists Associaiton President Rhonda LeValdo speaks with Dr. George Blue Spruce about the state of dentistry in Indian country. Photo/Stan Bindell

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) and Native Public Media sponsored the conference.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Our voices, Our stories, Our future.” The conference was designed to empower native journalists and media professionals to tell their own stories. Journalism professionals lead sessions to train native journalists to tell their stories in a professional manner.

Arizona was well represented with journalists attending from the Navajo Hopi Observer, Navajo Times, Tutuveni and KUYI radio station among many others.

The issues those in attendance focused on included violence against women, dental care and the availability of radio frequencies for Indian communities.

Deborah Parker, vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribe in Washington state, fought successfully to have native women included in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The act was signed into law this past year and promises sweeping changes in the way violent offenders on tribal land are held accountable.

Parker spoke about the legislative process and media coverage of the fight to protect women in Indian country.

“This is also an opportunity to teach our young people about laws, the past and what our future looks like,” she said.

When Parker first started to look into the Violence Against Women Act, people told her that it didn’t have the steam to include native women on reservations because “they have no face here.”

“That made me angry,” she said. “I could see all these faces that were from my bloodline.”

With the help of U.S. Sen Pat Murray, D-Wash. Parker put on a news conference and spoke about the lack of prosecutions of non-Indians committing crimes against women on reservations.

“It was amazing to be that voice,” she said. “The Senate was abuzz. How could they not include Native American women?”

Parker continued to work with the National Congress of American Indians to see the bill passed with inclusion of protecting native women. She said many racist comments came out of the House of Representatives. Some congressmen doubted whether Indian governments had the ability to arrest non-Indian men.

At the beginning of the process, she said one congressman was outspoken against the inclusion of Indian women, but Parker was able to get him to change his mind. She said the way to change the minds of elected officials is to personalize the stories.

“So many children, women and men came forward with what happened to them as children, teenagers and adults,” she said.

Tribes have until 2015 to implement the law with help from the U.S. Department of Justice.

One statistic states that 88 percent of crimes against women on reservations are committed by non-Indians. She said some congressmen did not believe that statistic.

Eric Cantor, R- Va., a conservative congressman, was one of those opposed to including native women in the law. When Parker met with Cantor’s aide, she told Parker that neither she nor the congressman had met a Native American.

“There are a lot in congress who don’t understand us politically, spiritually and traditionally,” she said.

Parker said she knows of several hundred women who have been murdered on reservations without any justice.

Parker said the media was a big help in covering the Violence Against Women Act.

Another topic at the conference was the crisis in rural America, including on reservations, where there are no oral health providers. Lack of dental services and dental problems can cause disease and sometimes death.

Indian Health Service’s dental provider vacancies average 20-30 percent.

Alaska natives have offered one solution by creating the Dental Health Aide Therapist program. Tribes could replicate the program in other parts of the country.

The Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health at A.T. Still University in Mesa recently graduated six American Indians to help fill the need.

Dr. George Blue Spruce, the first native dentist in Arizona, said the dental problem also includes a lack of Native American dentists.

Spruce, 82, said until Native Americans can go to a native dentist, Indian self-determination remains a myth.

The others leading this session included Dr. Todd Hartsfield, DDS faculty at A.T. Still; Maxine Brings Him Back-Janis, faculty at Northern Arizona University; Connie Murat, dental aide therapist at Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and Yvette Joseph, project manager at Kaufman and Associates. W.K. Kellogg Foundation sponsored the dental session.

Geoffrey Blackwell, chief of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Office of Native Affairs and Policy, announced that those seeking non-commercial radio stations on reservations can apply for low frequency FM radio stations between Oct. 15 and Oct. 29.

President Barack Obama recently signed the Local Community Radio Act, which mandates expansion of low power FM radio stations that provide listening areas of three to 10 miles.

Since 2000, the government has licensed more than 800 low power FM stations.

A session also took place on the importance of bringing more broadband services to reservations. Those leading this session included Loris Taylor from Native Public Media; Traci Morris from Homaholta Consulting, Michael Copps, from the FCC and Blackwell.

Taylor, a member of the Hopi Tribe, said in order for native radio stations to be successful they need champions on the inside who are non-Indians. She pointed to Coppes as one such champion.

Coppes said that better broadband means more money creating more jobs, education and health care. He said that broadband services throughout the U.S. are not as good as they should be.

“It’s not just Native Americans. Everybody in the country is being held back, especially in the rural villages. We need a sense of mission,” he said.

Blackwell said broadband is as important as roads and water. He said the FCC and tribes need to work together on bringing more broadband services to Indian country.

Blackwell noted that local radio stations continue to provide life saving services such as announcing when tornadoes will hit.

“Lives can be on the line when you can’t get a signal,” he said.

Blackwell said his office works with 50 Indian tribes at any given time. He hopes that his office will soon announce that there will be consultations and trainings to bring more broadband to Indian country this coming fiscal year.

Tim Giago was one of the founders of NAJA and one of the many elder journalists who received recognition during the conference. He founded the Lakota Times in 1981 when the Pine Ridge Reservation was located in the poorest county in America.

Giago, 80, had his office firebombed, his office windows shot out and his life threatened, but he continued publishing until he sold the paper in 1998.

Giago urged the young journalists not to get discouraged. He also offered them some advice.

“You can do a thousand good things, but if you do one bad thing that is what will be remembered,” he said.