“If We Cannot Escape, Neither Will the Coal”

Northwest Tribes and First Nations block fossil fuel exports.

Eric de Place (@Eric_deP) and Nick Abraham, Sightline Daily, September 8, 2014

Across the Northwest, Native communities are refusing to stand idle in the face of unprecedented schemes to move coal, oil, and gas through the region. It’s a movement that could well have consequences for global energy markets, and even the pace of climate change.

Now is a good moment for pausing to examine some of the seminal moments of resistance from tribal opposition to fossil fuel exports. Yesterday, the second Totem Pole Journey came to an end with a totem pole raising ceremony at the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta. As it did last year, the journey showcased the tremendous breadth and depth of indigenous opposition to coal and oil schemes—spanning Native communities from coastal forests to the high plains interior of North America.

The journey was a reminder not only of the particular moral authority of the tribes and First Nations in the face of fossil plans, but also the fact that they are uniquely equipped to arrest these export plans.

British Columbia

Like the United States, Canada is in the midst of a natural gas boom. The industry is trying desperately to move its products to foreign markets, but concerns about public health, fishing rights, and environmental damage have First Nations raising red flags.

Many of the First Nations in British Columbia have banded together against a liquid natural gas facility at Fort Nelson in northeast BC. At what is now being called the “Fort Nelson Incident” Chief Sharleen Gale gave a rousing speech, saying:

My elders said, you treat people kind, you treat people with respect… even when they are stabbing you in the back. So I respectfully ask government to please remove yourselves from the room.

Gale later asked LNG representatives to leave as well, and the event galvanized the BC aboriginal community. Since then, no fewer than 28 BC First Nation organizations have signed a declaration to put the facility on hold.

Elsewhere in the province, aboriginal communities have been in a long standoff with proponents of the highly controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, a proposal that would move tar sands oil from Alberta to port facilities in BC where it would be transferred to tankers that would move the crude to Pacific markets. At least 50 First Nation leaders and 130 organizations have signed the “Save the Fraser Declaration.” Citing concerns over water quality, fishing, treaty rights, and sovereignty, nine coastal First Nations even went so far as to preemptively ban oil tankers in their territorial waters.

The Canadian federal government gave approval to the Northern Gateway Pipeline in June, and women of the Gitga’at Nation did not take it lying down. In protest, they stretched a 4.5 kilometer (2.7 mile) crochet chain across the narrow channel near Kitimat, where the export facility is proposed to be built.

“It’s to show that we’re prepared to do what it takes to stop them because we can’t let it happen. It’s the death of our community, our culture,” said Lynne Hill, who generated the idea.

Now, similar opposition is mounting against Kinder Morgan’s planned Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in southern BC, and BC First Nations are challenging it in court.

Lillian Sam, aboriginal elder from the Nak’al Koh River region, put the situation in perspective:

You cannot eat money…you see the devastation of the oil sands: a huge part of that land is no good. What’s going to happen to us? What’s going to happen to our children?

The US Northwest

Like their neighbors to the north, Washington Tribes have had major concerns over fossil fuel exports, not to mention the way they have been treated by proponents of the projects.

In 2011, the would-be builder of the Gateway Pacific coal terminal near Bellingham got into hot water with permitting agencies after it was discovered that they had begun construction without approval. Not only did construction crews destroy acres of sensitive wetlands, they also damaged local Lummi Nation burial grounds.

It was a not-so-subtle “accident” and was the last straw for many in the local tribal community. The Lummi subsequently burned a mock check from the terminal proponents at the site of the planned coal terminal. It was a pivotal moment for activism in the Northwest.

Opposition from the tribes can be a tremendous barrier for the coal, oil, and gas industries to surmount. Above and beyond their sovereignty, most of the Northwest tribes have specific fishing rights guaranteed to them in their treaties with the US government, rights that were subsequently reaffirmed and clarified by the Boldt Decision of 1974. Those tribes have firm legal footing for demanding access to their “usual and accustomed” fishing grounds, which include most of the places where fuel terminals would be located.

Other Puget Sound tribes have also made it publicly clear that they are firmly against coal exports. In April of last year, tribal leaders joined then-Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in the Leadership Alliance, a coalition against coal export.

Said Tulalip Tribes Chairman Melvin Sheldon:

When it comes to coal… the negative potential of what it does to our Northwest—we stand with you to say no to coal. As a matter of fact, the Tulalip say ‘hell no’ to coal.

Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and one of the state’s most influential Native American leaders, declared:

For thousands of years, Washington State tribes have fought to protect all that is important for those who call this great state home. We as leaders need to protect our treaty resources, our economies, and the human health of our citizens and neighbors.

The Nisqually Tribe likewise has submitted thorough public comment in opposition to a giant coal terminal planned for Longview, Washington. Beloved tribal leader Billy Frank, Jr., who recently passed away, was a persistent voice in opposition to Northwest fossil fuel exports. In one of the last things he wrote, he declared his solidarity with the Quinault Nation, who are fighting against a trio of oil terminals proposed in Grays Harbor Washington. Frank wrote:

The few jobs that the transport and export of coal and oil offer would come at the cost of catastrophic damage to our environment for years. Everyone knows that oil and water don’t mix, and neither do oil and fish, oil and wildlife, or oil and just about everything else. It’s not a matter of whether spills will happen, it’s a matter of when.

East of the Cascades, too, Native opposition has been fierce. The Yakama Tribe came out publicly and powerfully against Ambre’s proposed coal export facility in eastern Oregon, once again citing tribal fishing rights. Yakama protests and tenacity, in conjunction with other regional tribes like the Warm Spring and the Nez Perce, were a major factor in the proposal not being permitted. In Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation also joined the Yakama in opposition to coal on the Columbia River, batting down ham-fisted attempts by the industry to buy tribal support.

Networks of tribes, like the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), also voiced their strong concerns about what the proposals would be mean for their communities. The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission also declared its strong opposition to oil exports from the proposed site at Grays Harbor, highlighting fishing disruption in the Puget Sound, health problems in their communities, and pollution.

In fact, the 57 nations that make up the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians unanimously voted in May of 2013 to officially oppose all fossil fuel export facilities in the Northwest.

Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, may have put the tribal community’s view most clearly:

Our communities are wedged between the railroad and the river. We’ve got nowhere to escape. If we cannot escape, neither will the coal.

Lumley’s words are proving prescient. Last month, yet another Northwest coal export terminal was dealt what was likely a fatal blow. The Oregon Department of State Lands denied a crucial permit to Ambre Energy, which plans to ship coal from a site on the Columbia River. Among the most influential factors the state agency cited for its decision: tribal sovereignty.

The decision was, in some ways, recognition of the power that the region’s tribes and First Nations can exercise over the fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are cropping up across the Northwest. By asserting treaty rights and voicing cultural concerns, tribes are presenting a major barrier—are a key part of the thin green line—to a reckless expansion of coal, oil, and gas schemes.


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Traveling Grocery: On the Road Again

Intertribal Agriculture CouncilThe Mobile Farmers Market on the 101 Pacific Coast Highway
Intertribal Agriculture Council
The Mobile Farmers Market on the 101 Pacific Coast Highway



If you listen closely, you can hear Dan Cornelius singing his favorite Willie Nelson theme song—“I’m on the road again…”—as his Mobile Farmers Market vehicle heads down the highway.

Cornelius, of Wisconsin’s Oneida Nation, is general manager of a three-month-long, 10,000-mile foodie road show designed to showcase Native American foods in conjunction with a reconnection of tribal trade routes. “A lot of native communities are remote, literally food deserts, and don’t have good access to healthy traditional fresh foods.  Part of our mission is to access food resources, take those great products and distribute them as part of a tribal trade reintroduction,” he says.

“There’s a lot of product that is traditionally grown, harvested and processed—lots of time and labor that goes into that—but the traditional foods aren’t made available to the general public as a sustainable economic resource.”

The interest is there, but the connection still needs to be made. “It’s about health issues, maintaining our traditions, and turning the effort into a form of economic development by selling excess product for profit.”


The “Reconnecting the Tribal Trade Routes Roadtrip” is an effort to bring attention to the unique Native food products and artwork from across the country. The Mobile Farmers Market van started the roadtrip in mid-December when it picked up wild rice, maple syrup, and other products in northern Minnesota. The roadtrip officially kicked off in early January, making the drive from Wisconsin to Louisiana before heading to Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and the West Coast. The trip then visited Montana and the Dakotas en route to concluding during March back in Minnesota. (Intertribal Agriculture Council)
The “Reconnecting the Tribal Trade Routes Roadtrip” is an effort to bring attention to the unique Native food products and artwork from across the country. The Mobile Farmers Market van started the roadtrip in mid-December when it picked up wild rice, maple syrup, and other products in northern Minnesota. The roadtrip officially kicked off in early January, making the drive from Wisconsin to Louisiana before heading to Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and the West Coast. The trip then visited Montana and the Dakotas en route to concluding during March back in Minnesota. (Intertribal Agriculture Council)


The Mobile Farmers Market traveled across the country earlier this year as part of the Intertribal Agriculture Council‘s efforts to improve Indian agriculture by promoting Indian use of Indian resources. “Prior to our founding in 1987, American Indian agriculture was basically unheard of outside reservation boundaries,” notes the group’s web page.

”The Mobile Farmers Market utilized a large capacity fuel-efficient cargo van to transport a number of products across a region, all the while providing support to start farmers markets in interested tribal communities,” says Market Manager Bruce Savage. The vans’ insulated interior lining ensured correct temperature control, and a chest freezer allowed for transport of frozen goods.

“For a variety of reasons, traditional native products are frequently difficult to obtain, and the Mobile Farmers Market hoped to change that by making things more accessible to tribal communities,” says Cornelius. In the Pacific Northwest, canned and smoked salmon were frequently obtainable items while the Southwest offered up cactus buds and syrup. The Great Plains provided a prairie-grown protein-packed wild turnip.  In the Great Lakes region it was sumac berries. “Soak them in water, add honey or syrup, and you get a tea-like lemonade that you won’t find commercially,” Cornelius says.


Coyote Valley Tribe's community and Head Start garden and greenhouse (Intertribal Agriculture Council)
Coyote Valley Tribe’s community and Head Start garden and greenhouse (Intertribal Agriculture Council)


Success of the project was contingent on cultivating supportive relationships with local partners and that part of the plan came together nicely, very reminiscent of the early trade and barter days.

“Trade routes once connected regional tribes across the continent where different local areas produced unique resources,” says Cornelius. “As an example, the Objiwe exchanged meat and fish for corn from the Huadenosaunee in the Northeast. And, of course, the Three Sisters combination of corn/beans/squash gradually moved from South and Central America throughout all of the North American Continent. “

The Reconnecting the Tribal Trade Routes Roadtrip got underway in December 2013 by first picking up wild rice, maple syrup, and other products in Minnesota before heading off to Wisconsin, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and the West Coast and finally heading home to Minnesota earlier this year via Montana and the Dakotas.


The Mobile Farmers Market’s main focus is food, but it also supports Native artisan by carrying a small selection of jewelry, crafts, and artwork. Pictured here: inlaid earrings from Santa Domingo Pueblo. (nativefoodnetwork.com)
The Mobile Farmers Market’s main focus is food, but it also supports Native artisan by carrying a small selection of jewelry, crafts, and artwork. Pictured here: inlaid earrings from Santa Domingo Pueblo. (nativefoodnetwork.com)


As Cornelius and crew bought and sold the wares of North America’s indigenous communities, the grocery list grew to include tepary beans from the Tohono O’odham people to chocolate produced by the Chickasaw Nation.

The mobile van discovered a gold mine at Ramona Farms in Sacaton, Arizona, on the Gila River Indian Reservation. Ramona and Terry Button have been growing crops for small ethnic grocers on the reservation for over 40 years and still have plenty to share with the outside world, everything from Southwestern staples like garbanzo and Anasazi beans to white Sonoran and Pima club wheat as well as alfalfa and cotton.

“Part of our mission was to build an awareness and an excitement of all the things available ‘out there’ and we succeeded,” Cornelius says. “One of the great things about our initial effort (discussions are currently underway to find funding for more vans and an increased regional visability) was the ground level opportunity to talk with community growers face-to-face discussing products, challenges, and opportunities to introduce traditional items to a larger world.”


The Mobile Farmers Market in Southern Oregon (Intertribal Agriculture Council)
The Mobile Farmers Market in Southern Oregon (Intertribal Agriculture Council)


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/08/11/traveling-grocery-road-again-156130

Proponents fight for change so Alaska Natives covered by VAWA

Ishmael Hope, left, and other Alaska Native representatives at the 2013 Choose Respect rally in Juneau, Alaska, asking legislators to address issues with the Violence Against Women Act.Heather Bryant/KTOO Public Media
Ishmael Hope, left, and other Alaska Native representatives at the 2013 Choose Respect rally in Juneau, Alaska, asking legislators to address issues with the Violence Against Women Act.Heather Bryant/KTOO Public Media

Complicated history sets Alaska Native women apart from Violence Against Women Act

By Kayla Gahagan, ALJAZEERA America

Opponents of the reauthorization of a federal law passed last year say it has created a dangerous situation for Alaskan domestic violence victims and are urging lawmakers to support a repeal.

Proponents of the original 1994 Violence Against Women Act say it was signed into law with the purpose of providing more protection for domestic violence victims and keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal and territorial jurisdictions in the U.S.

According to the White House, the VAWA has made a difference, saying that intimate partner violence declined by 67 percent from 1993 to 2010, more victims now report domestic violence, more arrests have been made and all states impose criminal sanctions for violating a civil protection order.

Last year the law was reauthorized, clarifying a court decision that ruled on a case involving civil jurisdiction for non–tribal members and amending the law to recognize tribal civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders “involving any person,” including non-Natives.

But almost all Alaska tribes were excluded from the amendment, with only the Metlakatla Indian community from Alaska included under the 2013 law. The rest of Alaska remains under the old law.

The change has created confusion, opponents say, particularly in cases when there is a 911 call about enforcing a protective order.

“The trooper is waiting, because he’s not sure who has jurisdiction,” said David Voluck, a tribal court judge for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. “We need to get rid of those exceptions that create confusion.”

An ongoing debate

The reauthorization highlighted an ongoing debate about Native communities and tribal courts’ and governments’ jurisdiction, particularly in cases of policing and justice.

The reauthorization made sense, according to Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty, who noted that Alaska has always been treated differently because of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. In exchange for 40 million acres of land and about $1 billion, he said, tribes forfeited reservations and the notion of Indian country to form Native corporations.

He said the state needs to find better ways to collaborate with institutions in small communities to provide better protection and justice but disagrees with giving pockets of tribal authority throughout Alaska.

“We do have an issue with violence and domestic violence,” he said. “We have a challenge in providing safety.”

But Geraghty said he has never heard of a situation when a victim was in danger because of confusion over jurisdiction.

“There’s nothing in the act that expands or retracts the jurisdiction of tribal courts,” he said. “If tribal courts had jurisdiction before, they do now. Troopers are not lawyers. If they are faced with a situation, they are going to protect the public. These concerns are overblown.”

‘A cloud over Alaska’

Lloyd Miller, an attorney who works on Indian rights and tribal jurisdiction litigation, disagrees and said things did change with the 2013 reauthorization.

“What he’s saying is that an Alaska village only has the authority to issue a protective order if that man is a member of the tribe. They can’t if he’s from the neighboring tribe,” he said. “Why would we not want to have Alaska villages have all the tools to protect women from domestic violence?”

Voluck agreed. “Does it really matter if a woman is hit in a mall somewhere or the south corner of where the tribe lives?” he said.

Opponents of the Alaska exemption recently urged a task force convened by Attorney General Eric Holder to study the effects of violence on Native American children to support the repeal of Section 910 of the law.

“VAWA creates a cloud over Alaska, and the last thing women and children need is a delay in an emergency,” said Voluck. “A matter of minutes can mean life or death. It’s unequal protection under the law for a very vulnerable part of the population.”

Lack of law enforcement

Voluck was one of a number of experts who testified last month before the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence about the special circumstances surrounding Alaska Native domestic violence, including geography, a lack of law enforcement and difficulty for victims to travel to safety.

Experts attested to a number of facts, including that Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times as likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other American women. About 140 villages have no state law enforcement. Eighty have absolutely no law enforcement. One-third of Alaska communities do not have road access.

It’s a serious issue for communities, said Valerie Davidson, a task force member who lives in Alaska. “Even if you only have 300 people, you still need law enforcement,” she said.

The debate continues, this time in Congress as the Senate Indian Affairs Committee works on legislation, which includes a provision repealing Section 910 of the 2013 reauthorization. Geraghty and the governor oppose a repeal, but the U.S. attorney general’s office has voiced its support.

Associate U.S. Attorney General Tony West attended the Alaska task force hearing and said arguments about the scope of authority of Alaska Native villages and tribes shouldn’t get in the way of protecting Native children from harm.

“If there are steps we can take that will help move the needle in the direction for victims, we need to do it,” he said. “When a tribal court issues an order, the state ought to enforce it. If not, the orders are worth nothing more than the paper they’re written on.”

More than just symbolic

Repealing the law won’t resolve the multilayered issues of jurisdiction, but it would be a step in the right direction, West added.

“It is more than just symbolic,” he said. “Repeal of Section 910 is an important step that can help protect Alaska Native victims of that violence and, significantly, the children who often witness it, and it can send a message that tribal authority and tribal sovereignty matters, that the civil protection orders tribal courts issue ought to be respected and enforced.”

The Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence will make a recommendation to Holder by late October.

“Alaska is frozen in time,” Voluck said. “Why in the world would you hold the worst state when it comes to domestic violence in the old law? Forty-nine other states have figured out how to work with their tribal courts. Let’s work together. People are getting hurt and dying. That’s why I’m upset.”

First Nations Development Institute Awards $400K to 12 Native Food-System Projects


Kristin ButlerGeorge Toya, farm program manager at the Pueblo of Nambe
Kristin Butler
George Toya, farm program manager at the Pueblo of Nambe


Indian Country Today



First Nations Development Institute announced June 3 that it is divying up $400,000 in grant awards to 12 Native organizations. The grants, made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, were awarded under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative.

The NAFSI grant program is intended to help tribes and Native communities build sustainable food systems, increase healthy food access and awareness, and stimulate tribal economic growth and development. The 12 grants range between $20,300 and $37,500 to the following tribes and Native organizations:

Bay Mills Community College, Brimley, Michigan, $37,500

The grant will support the Waishkey Bay Farm 4-H Club and Youth Farm Stand. Waishkey Bay Farm is a sustainable farm and orchard located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The club’s purpose is to recruit tribal youth to help grow, harvest and market fruits and vegetables.

Choctaw Fresh Produce, Choctaw, Mississippi, $37,500

The grant will be used to expand a small community garden. Food from the garden will be sold at the casino restaurant.  Additionally, project organizers plan to sell surplus fruits and vegetables throughout the community via a mobile farmers’ market.  The project aims to increase access to healthy food on the reservation while creating jobs and stimulating economic development.

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Portland, Oregon, $28,125

The grant will assist tribal fishers as they build new relationships with tribes to develop and expand market opportunities for salmon products. The project aims to increase opportunities for the fishers of the Columbia River tribes.

Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, Gallup, New Mexico, $20,300

The funds will be used to help the alliance support the Healthy Diné Nation Act and Junk Food Tax, which was vetoed by the Navajo Nation president in February 2014.  The act seeks to impose a 2 percent sales tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food, and eliminate sales tax on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, Wisconsin, $37,500

The grant will be used to build capacity and expand the college’s Sustainable Agriculture Research Station (LSARS). LSARS will increase healthy food access by providing a mobile farmers’ market, online and telephone food-ordering service, and EBT-SNAP purchases.

Lakota Ranch Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program, Kyle, South Dakota, $37,500

The grant will be used to establish an active gardening club on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Fruits and vegetables harvested will be sold at a local farmers’ market to promote healthier food choices.

Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, Ponca City, Oklahoma, $28,125

The funding will build capacity and expand the local community greenhouse.  The goal is to produce twice as many fruits and vegetables in the expanded greenhouse.  Additionally, the funds will be used to host weekly diabetes health education and cooking classes.

Pueblo of Nambe, Nambe Pueblo, New Mexico, $28,125

The Community Farm Project will focus on expanding to create more traditional meals with locally grown, highly nutritious food items. Nambe Pueblo is a food desert with issues of access and affordability of fresh, local produce. The farm can expand with eventual creation of a marketplace on pueblo land, instituting practices such as composting and seed saving, and working to revitalize Indigenous crops, harvesting wild plants, and raising hormone-free, locally slaughtered meats.

Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, Tama, Iowa, $37,500

The grant will build capacity and expand the Meskwaki Grower’s Cooperative. The food co-op launched in 2013 and needs to expand to include a greenhouse, seed-saving program and food-preservation workshops, as well as increasing co-op membership.

Sust’ainable Molokai, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, $37,500

The grant will be used to launch the Molokai Food Hub, which will give the Native Hawaiian farming community better access and control over its local food system. The Food Hub will help accurately manage orders and monitor product quality.

Taos County Economic Development Corporation, Taos, New Mexico, $37, 500

The organization will lead and coordinate the Native Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA), including coordinating board meetings, proactively recruiting and growing the membership base, and moving the organization toward achieving its 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt status. The organization will also coordinate development of a three-year strategic plan and a priority list of policy areas to be addressed.

Waimea Hawaiian Homesteaders’ Association, Kamuela, Hawaii, $32,825

The grant will continue to fund the “Farming for the Working class” project and will enable another 10 Native Hawaiian homestead families to start actively farming their fallow land. The program consists of hands-on farm training, paired with classroom-based learning and business training.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/03/first-nations-development-institute-awards-400k-12-native-food-system-projects-155129

The hidden tourneys: Independent basketball in Indian Country

By Brandon Ecoffey , Native Sun News Managing Editor

Tourneys like this one hosted as a fundraiser in Batesland, have become part of Native American basketball culture. PHOTO BY/Brandon Ecoffey
Tourneys like this one hosted as a fundraiser in Batesland, have become part of Native American basketball culture. PHOTO BY/Brandon Ecoffey

PINE RIDGE— The notoriety of the unique passion and style with which Native people play the sport of basketball has grown with the successes of college athletes like Jude and Shoni Schimmel. However the oversimplification of the term “Rez Ball” that has been tied to the two star guards for the University of Louisville has left out many aspects of Indian Country’s connections to the game, including those that are fostered at independently run basketball tournaments all across the country.

Stereotypical portrayals of Native America are often infused with images of black and white photographs from the pre-reservation era showing tribal members in traditional regalia. In representations of contemporary Native America the mainstream news cycle is often flooded with photographs of dire poverty and gang life. These elements do exist in Indian Country but what is often left out is the everyday life lived by many in predominately Native communities that is infused with the sport of basketball.

Although basketball was first brought to most reservation communities by Christian missionaries as an incentive or outlet to the harsh assimilationist policies within boarding schools the sport has been embraced throughout Native America.

For some like Beau Cuevas, a Mni Coujou Lakota, who has played the game his whole life basketball, holds a special place within him.

“For me it’s a way to relax because on that court nothing else matters it’s you and 9 others guys going to battle. It’s the only other place besides Inipi (sweat lodge) and Sundance that I feel at home, it’s a brotherhood,” said Cuevas.

One phenomenon that has been present in Indian Country since as early as the 1900’s has been the formation of travelling teams made up of Native American ball players. Possibly the earliest recorded Native American independent basketball team in history hailed from Fort Shaw, Montana. The team that was comprised of women competed in the 1904 World’s fair in St. Louis and helped to create interest in the game of basketball.

Throughout the year athletes from around Indian Country participate in both local and national basketball tournaments held in all parts of the U.S. The participants in these reservation or urban Indian community based tournaments vary from former high school stars, to successful Divisions 1 athletes, street ball legends and even potential NBA prospects like Luke Martinez who played at the University of Wyoming.

Occasionally in tournaments where tribal enrollment verification is not required high caliber non-Native participants are also brought in by Native teams to compete as demonstrated by sightings of former University of Wisconsin star Jordan Taylor at a tournament held at Indian Center in Minneapolis, MN and former South Dakota State University forward Tony Fiegan who played in one in Rapid City, SD last spring.

Cooper Kirkie a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe who is one of the many talents who travel across the country to play in these tournaments says that the talent level playing is comparable to that of the NBA’s Developmental league or some of the pro leagues in Europe.

“With more and more Natives playing division 1 ball it is really getting to be good talent in these tournaments. The ones who are playing college ball and don’t go on to play after are the first round draft picks for these teams. Usually someone sees them play and someone else will know their auntie or cousin and call them up and bring them out,” said Kirkie.

Kirkie has travelled to over a dozen states including Florida, Washington, and Wisconsin to play in Native tournaments and feels that his desire to travel, that he inherited from his Grandmother, would have went unfulfilled without basketball.

“I am really blessed to be able to travel and see different parts of the country that without basketball I may not have ever been able to experience,” he said. “There are just so many good players out there is feels good to be able to go to other nations and compete against what they have. It is like counting coup. It isn’t about being violent or disrespectful it’s just going out and doing our best.”

With the arrival of gaming and energy dollars in to Indian Country the dynamics of these teams have begun to change as well as the sponsorships. The team Kirkie is on receives its funding from tribal members who are enrolled in a Florida based casino tribe who pays for the team to fly to and from tournaments throughout the year with per cap dollars generated by the tribal members’ casinos. The sponsorship money is a welcome relief from days past when Cooper was forced to gather money on his own.

“I remember when I first got started and I had to either save up money all the time or approach the tribe and ask them for $200. Sometimes they would give us that and we would get together some food stamps and we would travel on that,” he said. “The thing about our sponsors is that they are really good hearted people who do this because they like to see us play and they like to spend family time together with us. It isn’t like if we play a bad game that this is going to stop. It isn’t about that and it feels good playing with no pressure and being with family.”

Some tournaments are of the small scale where local teams converge to compete against fellow tribal members for jackets, sweaters, and occasionally t-shirts. However independent basketball has begun to take on a new feel with the onset of the same casino and energy dollars that sponsor Kirkie’s team being funneled in to the circuit with some tournaments awarding as much as $10,000 and custom designed Pendleton jackets to the winners. Recently the team Iron Boy which featured former Cheyenne Eagle Butte standout and Pine Ridge Native Daelan High Wolf took home the $10,000 prize at the March Madness tournament in Dells, Wisconsin.

The reasoning behind the creation of these tournaments varies from event to event. Some are local fundraisers while others are for competition but one authentically Native aspect of the Native Independent basketball circuit is using the game and the events as a way of memorializing lost loved ones. Travis Albers hosts a tournament each year in Bismarck, North Dakota honor of his brother Tanner who past away from cancer several years ago. Tanner was a star player in South Dakota alongside Travis, both would play together at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. Just this last year Tanner was inducted in to the school’s hall of fame. For Travis who himself is veteran of the independent hoops trails the memorial tournament he runs is bigger than just basketball.

“Me and my brother had been playing basketball together since we could walk. It was something we did together, we did everything together,” said Albers. “When I have this tournament it isn’t just basketball. I want people to come and talk about memories they had of him and to talk about how he treated them good and remember things other than basketball.”

Travis and Tanner would play together with each other at all levels of the game including college and then with one of the more storied independent teams, Iron Five, for more than ten years together. For Travis the independent game has changed but it is still something that serves a purpose within Native communities.

“We have have a lot of athletes who could go on to play at higher levels but for whatever reason they sometimes get pulled back. But for those on the reservation they are still stars. Some of them are like NBA players to us but the tournaments are good ways to gather to remember the ones the passed away,” he said.

TV Program Created to Honor Virginia and North Carolina Native Communities

 Vincent Schilling is seen here with Keith Anderson, Men’s Traditional dancer, Cherokee and Catawba.
Vincent Schilling is seen here with Keith Anderson, Men’s Traditional dancer, Cherokee and Catawba.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

As a way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, Cox Communications in Virginia will air “Hampton Roads Community and Culture,” a television program that highlights several powwows in the Virginia and North Carolina areas and teaches about Native culture in the region. The show was produced and hosted by ICTMN correspondent and Schilling Media Inc. owner and executive vice president, Vincent Schilling.

“Over the course of this past summer, I attended a lot of Native American powwows and I realized there are still a lot of people in the Hampton roads community who don’t know about Native culture,” Schilling said. “I filmed my adventures over the summer, asked a lot of questions and created this television program.”

During the program, Schilling interviews tribal members in Virginia and North Carolina from the Meherrin, Chickahominy and the Nottoway Indian tribe of Virginia powwows.

“Cox is pleased to partner with Schilling Media to air this special programming during Native American Heritage Month,” said Emma A. Inman, director of public affairs of Cox Communications Virginia. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to engage the community in the celebration of the rich history, culture and traditions of Native Americans from our region.”

In addition to providing several airtime dates for the entire month of November, Cox Communications Virginia will also be filming a segment of Schilling’s Native American Heritage Month Celebration at Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach called “Hot Ticket,” this coming Saturday, November 9.

Brad Scott, CEO and president of Cetan Corp., a Native American-owned business software company has also been a major supporter of the event and the television program. “Cetan Corp appreciates this opportunity to support our region’s Native American community and this event by Schilling Media wholeheartedly,” said Scott.

“I think it is fantastic that a mainstream media company like Cox is so genuinely interested in the rich and vibrant culture in society including the Native American Community here in Virginia and outlying regions,” Schilling said.

The “Hampton Roads Community and Culture” television program will air most Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. in November on COX 11 in the Hampton Roads region in Virginia.

“I commend their efforts to pave the way for other media organizations. I hope folks can learn a lot about Native culture each Monday, Wednesday and Saturday this November,” said Schilling. “I had a fantastic time producing and hosting this program. I am also looking forward to the event on Saturday.”

The Native American Heritage Month Celebration at Pembroke Mall will be taking place this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/07/tv-program-created-honor-virginia-and-north-carolina-native-communities-152101

Tony West Addresses Native American Issues Subcommittee

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The following remarks were delivered by Tony West, associate attorney general at the Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) meeting on September 18 in Hood River, Oregon.


Thank you, Karol, for that kind introduction. Karol is one of the leading advocates for tribes at the Department of Justice, and I’m delighted that she has taken the helm at OJP.

Let me thank Tim [Purdon, NAIS Chair] and Sandy [Coats, NAIS Vice Chair] for their very capable leadership of the Native American Issues Subcommittee, and for all they do to coordinate the Department’s efforts with its tribal partners. I also want to thank Amanda [Marshall, USA for the District of Oregon] and the many tribal leaders for hosting us. I’m honored to be here among you. Thanks, too, to Marshall Jarrett for his leadership at the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and Tracy Toulou for the exceptional work he does as Director of our Office of Tribal Justice. Finally, I extend my appreciation to all the members of the committee for your hard work and commitment to these very important issues.

I’m very pleased to have this chance to meet with the federal and tribal officials responsible for the safety and welfare of Native communities and to talk about ways we can continue working together to strengthen the Justice Department’s work in Indian country. We have made unprecedented strides – and achieved remarkable success – in improving law enforcement and ensuring justice in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and I want to ensure that we build on our progress.

The progress has been tremendous.

Every U.S. Attorney with jurisdiction in Indian country has now appointed at least one tribal liaison, and we’ve designated a Native American Issues Coordinator to provide advice and assistance to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on legal and policy issues. We created the Tribal Nations Leadership Council to advise the Attorney General on issues critical to tribal governments. We launched the National Indian Country Training Initiative, which last year trained some 2,500 federal, state, and tribal criminal justice professionals on issues ranging from domestic violence to wildlife and pollution enforcement. We created a Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force and assigned additional federal personnel to investigate and prosecute cases on Indian lands.  And we established the Office of Tribal Justice as a permanent component within the Justice Department.

We have also met – and exceeded – our responsibilities under the Tribal Law and Order Act. We published a final rule that authorizes the Department to assume concurrent jurisdiction over certain crimes committed in Public Law 280 states, and we have already exercised that authority. We’re enhancing our efforts to combat sexual assault by expanding support for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and Sexual Assault Response Teams in Indian country and by establishing a SANE/SART Advisory Committee. We’ve settled long-standing trust litigation and boundary disputes to the benefit of tribes. We’ve worked to protect water rights and natural resources on tribal lands and helped preserve Native cultural and religious practices.  We’ve joined with our federal partners to develop, in consultation with tribes, a long-term plan to build and sustain tribal justice systems. And we’re fighting alcohol and substance abuse by coordinating services with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services and by providing assistance to tribes that want to develop action plans to address these issues.

Finally, we’ve vastly expanded and strengthened our outreach to tribes. I have had the honor of joining the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and many other leaders in the Department at a number of listening sessions and consultations in Indian country. Attorney General Holder approved a policy statement committing the Department to regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials. This policy statement requires the Department to seek tribal input whenever we develop or amend policies, regulations, or legislation that will affect tribes. In addition, staff from across the Justice Department have partnered with their colleagues in the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, HUD, and other agencies to hold tribal justice, safety, and wellness training and technical assistance sessions, where we’ve reached more than 5,500 participants. As a result of this greater coordination and cooperation, we’ve been able to more effectively target our resources to meet the most pressing public safety needs of tribes.

Through our Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, or CTAS as we call it, we’ve revamped and streamlined the process for tribes to tap much-needed federal funding. We’ve heard from tribes that this mechanism has been an important positive step in our relationship with tribes, and we continue to make it a centerpiece of our efforts to support tribal communities.

In fact, today I’m pleased to announce that the Department of Justice is awarding almost 200 new awards totaling more than $90 million under CTAS. These awards bring the total number of grants to tribes over the last four years to almost 1,000, totaling almost $440 million. These grants address an array of tribal justice system issues, from at-risk youth and violence against women to community policing and corrections alternatives, and they give tribes the support they need to keep their communities safe and ensure a just, fair, and effective system for fighting crime.

But there is more we must do. Violence against Native women continues at alarming rates, and children in Indian country encounter violence far too often.

I was proud to witness President Obama sign the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in March. This landmark legislation provides vital protections for all women, but it is especially important for what it does to help ensure the safety of Indian women. Now, thanks to the new law, tribes may exercise jurisdiction over certain crimes committed by non-Indians on their lands.  This represents a giant step forward in our ability to hold perpetrators of domestic and dating violence accountable.

And we must do all we can to protect Indian children. More than 60 percent of kids in America encounter some form of violence, crime, or abuse, ranging from brief encounters as witnesses to serious violent episodes as victims. Almost 40 percent are direct victims of two or more violent acts. Tribal communities are no exception to this troubling phenomenon. As one tribal leader said, “For us. . . the question is not who has been exposed to violence, it’s who hasn’t been exposed to violence.”

As part of his Defending Childhood Initiative, Attorney General Holder established a national task force to study this problem and recommend ways to address it. One of the recommendations was the creation of a separate task force devoted specifically to children exposed to violence in Indian country. I’m pleased that work is well under way to stand up this task force, which includes both an advisory committee and a federal working group composed of U.S. Attorneys and other government officials, including our partners at the Department of the Interior, working in Indian country.

We anticipate that the Advisory Committee will convene hearings and listening sessions throughout the country and prioritize consultation with American Indian and Alaska Native youth. Our goal is to develop a national strategy to reduce and mitigate the impact of violence on children in tribal communities.

The Federal Working Group of the Task Force is already hard at work and making real progress. In an effort to ensure that juveniles held in tribal or Bureau of Indian Affairs detention facilities are provided adequate and culturally-sensitive educational and counseling services, the working group initiated a close look at existing programs and services. As a result, BIA has ensured that contracts for teachers are secured for detention facilities in Towoac, Colorado, and Northern Cheyenne, Montana. To ensure that Bureau of Prison contract facilities provide culturally appropriate services to tribal youth in detention, the working group completed a survey of programs currently available and is currently analyzing the results to develop best practices to ensure consistency across facilities. These are just a few of many efforts currently underway.

This is my sixth trip to Indian country since joining the Department of Justice as a member of President Obama’s administration in 2009, and my fourth as the Associate Attorney General. Since my first trip to the Navajo Nation, where I met with brave Cold War Warriors, I have traveled from the Crow Nation and Northern Cheyenne in Montana to the Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, Acoma and Laguna Pueblos of the Four Corners. Earlier this month, I visited the Tulalip Tribes in Washington, and I am so pleased to join you today here in Celilo Village.

For me, these visits to Indian country are a great privilege. They are a great privilege for me because they remind me of the rich legacy that First Americans have bestowed upon this country, and that we are a stronger America because of that legacy.

They remind me of the important trust relationship between the United States and tribal nations, and that the struggle for tribal sovereignty and self-determination has too often been waged in the face of disruption and devastation caused by assimilation and termination policies pursued in the not-so-distant past.

The work we’ve done to strengthen public safety in Indian country – and the work we are doing to protect tribal sovereignty – is a collective responsibility, one that we all must share, federal and tribal officials alike. I’m pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish thus far. I believe we have written a great chapter in the story of our government-to-government relationship with tribes. I look forward to working with all of you to continue that story into the next – and even greater – chapter.

Thank you.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/22/tony-west-addresses-native-american-issues-subcommittee-151378