New program to study tribal water challenges

Staci Emm, left and Loretta Singletary have been named to a new team studying water management issues throughout the southwestern U.S.(Photo: Submitted photo)

Staci Emm, left and Loretta Singletary have been named to a new team studying water management issues throughout the southwestern U.S.(Photo: Submitted photo)

By Robert Perea, Reno- Gazette-Journal

Schurz native Staci Emm and University of Nevada, Reno professor and Interdisciplinary Outreach liaison Loretta Singletary, a former extension coordinator at the Yerington office of the UNR Cooperative Extension, have been named to a new team that has been formed to integrate research and Extension to help Great Basin and Southwestern tribal communities develop plans, policies and practices for sustainable agriculture and water management.

The program is part of a competitive, $4.5 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The five-year program, Native Waters on Arid Lands, brings together faculty and students from three of the West’s 1862 land-grant institutions — University of Nevada, Reno, University of Arizona and Utah State University; First Americans (1994) Land-Grant Consortium (FALCON); Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program instructors in Nevada and Arizona; Desert Research Institute; U.S. Geological Survey; and Ohio University. The program team includes tribal members from Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

“This is the stuff I love to do,” Emm said. I love working with people and doing programs that actually are on the ground. The program has challenges, and it has so much potential.”

American Indian farmers and ranchers provide an important economic base for the arid lands of the Great Basin Desert and American Southwest. Declining water supplies, urbanization, ecosystem change and federal Indian policies challenge American Indian agriculture for ceremonial practices, sustenance and trade.

Singletary said the group will be working with every tribe in Nevada, a couple in Utah, the Navajo and Hopi nations in Arizona and several small tribes in northern New Mexico.

“The foundation of the project is working with tribal communities through focus groups and tribal engagement about what their challenges are and what their ideas are for possible ways and strategies to use their water,” Singletary said.

Singletary said American Indian land tenures have presented challenges to tribes and impacted their ability to manage water and other natural resources well.

“Water is a precious natural resource and also has profound cultural and spiritual significance to tribal peoples,” John Phillips, executive director of FALCON, a professional association of 1994 land-grant administrators, faculty staff, said. “This program will help Native American communities in the Great Basin and southwest region carry on their historical role as strong environmental stewards for the Earth and its natural resources.”

“The Native Waters on Arid Lands program team will work directly with tribal members to identify challenges to agriculture from diverse and competing demands for water,” Maureen McCarthy, program director and director (interim) of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Academy for the Environment, said. “These issues are complex and transcend ecological and sociopolitical boundaries. Knowledge generated and shared through this program will build capacity among tribal and nontribal organizations to respond to a changing climate.”

Program elements include developing climate scenarios and water supply projections for tribal lands; testing the production efficiency of existing and future water systems; assessing the effects of Indian land tenure on water management and agriculture; considering the applicability of alternative water management policies; and integrating paleoecological data with tribal knowledge to understand the impacts of a changing climate.

Other senior members of the Native Waters integrated program team include Singletary, professor and interdisciplinary outreach liaison with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, leading collaborative research and Extension outreach; Emm, associate professor and Extension educator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, leading outreach and coordinating the tribal advisory council and annual tribal summits; Michael Dettinger, senior hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, leading climate research; Beverly Ramsey, executive director of Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences with Desert Research Institute, leading the traditional ecological knowledge research; Bonnie Colby, professor with the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics with University of Arizona, leading water market economics research; Trent Teegerstrom, Arizona Federally Recognized Tribal Director and Extension specialist, coordinating tribal education and outreach in Arizona; Kynda Curtis, associate professor in the Department of Applied Economics at Utah State University, leading agricultural production economics research; Eric Edwards, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Economics at Utah State University, leading property rights economic research; Derek Kauneckis, associate professor with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and affiliate faculty member with the Desert Research Institute, leading water rights policy research.

Tribal members of the Native Waters on Arid Lands program team include Emm (Washoe and Paiute American Indian and Yerington Paiute tribal member); Ramsey (Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation); Curtis, Cherokee descendant; Gerald Moore (Navajo) and Arizona Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program for Arizona educator, coordinating tribal engagement with Navajo and Hopi tribes; Reggie Premo (Duck Valley Shoshone Paiute) coordinating tribal engagement with Nevada tribes; Vicki Hebb (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota) organizing and facilitating the tribal summits; administrators, faculty, staff and students from the 1994 tribal land-grant colleges and universities; and American Indian water specialists, cultural advisors, agriculturalists and educators from the region.

“We look forward to working with communities throughout the Great Basin and American southwest to help manage water resources for our future generations,” Phillips said of the collaboration.

Native Actors Walk off Set of Adam Sandler Movie After Insults to Women, Elders

By Vincent Schilling, IndianCountyTodayMediaNetwork.com

Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production, The Ridiculous Six, on Wednesday. The actors, who were primarily from the Navajo nation, left the set after the satirical western’s script repeatedly insulted native women and elders and grossly misrepresented Apache culture.

The examples of disrespect included Native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee.

The film, which is said to be a spoof of The Magnificent Seven and was written by Adam Sandler and his frequent collaborator Tim Herlihy, is currently under production by Happy Madison Productions for a Netflix-only release.  The movie will star Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice.

Among the actors who walked off the set were Navajo Nation tribal members Loren Anthony, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Bloodline, and film student Allison Young. Anthony says that though he understands the movie is a comedy, the portrayal of the Apache was severely negligent and the insults to women were more than enough reason to walk off the set.

“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” said Anthony, who told ICTMN he had initially refused to do the movie. He then agreed to take the job when producers informed him they had hired a cultural consultant and efforts would be made for tasteful representation of Natives.

“I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set,” he said.

 Actor Loren Anthony stands next to a seated Adam Sandler on the set of 'Ridiculous Six.' Photo source: instagram.com/lorenanthony

Actor Loren Anthony stands next to a seated Adam Sandler on the set of ‘Ridiculous Six.’ Photo source: instagram.com/lorenanthony

Anthony says he was first insulted that the movie costumes that were supposed to portray Apache were significantly incorrect and that the jokes seemed to get progressively worse.

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” he said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”

“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side. When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy.”

“The producers just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.'” —Alison Young

Allison Young, Navajo, a former film student from Dartmouth, was also offended by the stereotypes portrayed and the outright disrespect paid to her and others by the director and producers.

“When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted,” she said. “I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”

 Actor Loren Anthony gears up for a fight scene with Nick Nolte, who is visible over his shoulder, on the set of 'Ridiculous Six.' Photo source: Image source: instagram.com/lorenanthony

Actor Loren Anthony gears up for a fight scene with Nick Nolte, who is visible over his shoulder, on the set of ‘Ridiculous Six.’ Photo source: Image source: instagram.com/lorenanthony

“Nothing has changed,” said Young. “We are still just Hollywood Indians.”

Goldie Tom also shared her frustrations with ICTMN. “I felt this was all really disrespectful,” she said. “Our costumes did not portray Apache people. The consultant, Bruce spoke to the crew and told them we should not have braids and chokers and he was very disappointed. He asked to speak with Adam Sandler. We talked to the producers about other things in the script and they said ‘It’s in the script and we are not going to change it.’ Overall, we were just treated disrespectfully, the spoke down to us and treated everyone with strong tones.”

74-year old David Hill, Choctaw, a member of the American Indian Movement, also left the set. “They were being disrespectful,” he said. “They were bringing up those same old arguments that Dan Snyder uses in defending the Redskins. But let me tell you, our dignity is not for sale. It is a real shame because a lot of people probably stay because they need a job.”

Hill also mentioned that the producers called back the consultant as well as other native actors to their departure from the set on Wednesday.

“I hope they will listen to us,” Hill said. “We understand this is a comedy, we understand this is humor, but we won’t tolerate disrespect. I told the director if he had talked to a native woman the way they were talked to in this movie—I said I would knock his ass out.”

“This isn’t my first rodeo, if someone doesn’t speak up, no one will.”

Neither Adam Sandler nor anyone for Happy Madison Productions responded to our attempts in reaching out to them for comment.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/23/native-actors-walk-set-adam-sandler-movie-after-insults-women-elders-160110#.VTk4J4KJdZA.twitter

Choctaw Leader: FDA Should Formally Consult With Tribes or Exempt Them From FSMA

By Dan Flynn, Food Safety News

Shannon McDaniel, executive director of tribal operations, has made a simple and straightforward request on behalf of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. He wants all 565 federally recognized tribes exempted from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Or, to put it in his own words and more specifically, McDaniel wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the produce rule “expressly to exempt tribal nations, their lands, and their members from application of the proposed rule.”

“Alternatively,” McDaniel said, “we strongly urge FDA to schedule formal consultations with tribal nations and, until such consultation is complete, we urge FDA from enforcing the final rule on tribal nationals, their lands, and their people.”

The Choctaw Nation, which, since the “Trail of Tears” in 1830, has been located in southeastern Oklahoma, is a longtime fruit and vegetable producer. It is one of a dozen or so Tribal Nations that, during the past two years, has pressured FDA and the White House for meaningful consultation over FSMA implementation.

American Indian tribes are sovereign nations, and their authority stems from treaties, acts of Congress, and presidential authorities. President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order (EO) 13175 in 2000, which was reaffirmed by President Obama in 2009, and requires federal agencies to consult with tribes when promulgating rules and regulations impacting their reservations.

To comply with EO 13175, FDA’s parent agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has its own plan to consult, saying that the tribes will be consulted “to the extent practicable and permitted by law … .”

This is not the first time tribal leaders have raised their request for “meaningful consultation.” And, it’s not as if FDA has not been listening.

In November 2013, FDA conducted a two-hour webinar with the tribes on the FSMA rule package. Afterward, Raymond Foxworth of the First Nations Development Institute told Food Safety News that the webinars were small steps and that there was a long way to go for “meaningful consultation.”

Then, last April, FDA met with tribal leaders for a half-day consultation session in New Mexico. The discussion centered on the produce rule, the Environmental Impact Statement for the produce rule, and questions and other feedback on all seven FSMA rules. A side meeting was held with the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, AZ.

But, as the recent Choctaw letter indicates, those meetings, along with all the normal public input opportunities, are still considered inadequate by tribal leaders. They say that FDA, which is also under federal court orders for completing the rules, opted not to follow the established Tribal Consultation Policy and did not engage the tribes during the development stage for the rules.

Largest Settlement a Turning Point in US-Navajo Nation Relations

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly (L) puts a blanket on the shoulders of U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell after a ceremonial signing of a record multi-million-dollar settlement, in Window Rock, Arizona, at the Navajo Nation, Sept. 26, 2014.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly (L) puts a blanket on the shoulders of U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell after a ceremonial signing of a record multi-million-dollar settlement, in Window Rock, Arizona, at the Navajo Nation, Sept. 26, 2014.

By Isabela Cocoli, Voice of America News
WASHINGTON—A record multi-million-dollar settlement between the United States government and the Navajo Nation has been seen as a turning point in relations between the Federal government and the entire Indian nation. It is the largest sum ever paid by the U.S. government to a single Indian tribe.Within the territory of the United States are 562 nations — ethnically-, culturally- and linguistically-diverse Native American tribes recognized by the United States as sovereign governments. The largest is the Navajo Nation, whose territory stretches more than 70,000 square kilometers across three western states.While the tribal governments enforce laws on their territory and license and regulate activities, the federal government holds the vast majority of Indian lands, money and resources in trust for the tribes, and is required to manage them in a way that benefits the tribes and individual Native Americans.

The Navajo Nation sued the federal government in 2006 and sought $900 million in damages for mismanagement of resources and trust accounts since at least 1946.

Significant investment needed

The claims in the case involved essentially three things: one, the Federal government as trustee was responsible for negotiating a contract for the extraction of natural resources for the Navajo Nation’s property; two, the government was responsible for monitoring the performance under the contract to make sure that the Navajo Nation was paid the royalties due; and three, as trustee the United States was obligated to invest the proceeds in a commercially appropriate way.

Andrew Sandler, who represented the Navajo Nation in the suit, said the settlement for $554 million is an equitable deal for both parties. It comes at a time when the Navajo Nation needs significant investment in several areas — from education to housing — and he said it will go a long way toward addressing those needs.

“The Navajo Nation is plagued by an unemployment rate as high as 50 percent. It is in desperate need for educational resources, for infrastructure resources, for roads, for water, and many other things,” said Sandler. “This $500-plus million will go a long, long way to improving the quality of life for the Navajo people.”

The signing ceremony took place late last month in Window Rock, Arizona, which serves as the capital of the Navajo Nation. Navajo official Rick Abasta told VOA that there were compromises on both sides.

“There was a little bit of compromise on the Nation’s part in accepting this $554 million settlement. But I think the bigger picture was to end the litigation against the federal government, because of course that has a cost as well, and move forward with improving the Nation and utilizing these funds,” he said.

Aiding tribal communities

In various public statements, U.S. officials had acknowledged that the Federal government had failed in its obligation as trustee. However, the deal reflects Washington’s commitment to upholding its trust responsibility to Indian Country and to building strong, prosperous and resilient tribal communities.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said the agreement was symbolic of the evolving relationship between the Navajo Nation and the U.S. government.

“The $554 million represented in this settlement is more than just the end of a legal battle. It is not just fulfilling the trust responsibility of our trustee, nor is it full compensation for the loss of revenue and the harm caused by the federal government’s actions over decades,” he said. “This settlement marks a turning point in our relationship with the federal government, and I’m hoping to see that before Obama leaves.”

U.S. tribes have filed more than 100 lawsuits against the federal government. Since early 2012, the government has resolved about 80 of them, amounting to $2.5 billion.

U.S. settlement with Navajo Nation is largest ever for a tribe

The Navajo Nation will receive $554 million from the U.S. to settle claims of mismanaged funds. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, left, talks with tribal presidential candidate Kenneth Maryboy this year. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The Navajo Nation will receive $554 million from the U.S. to settle claims of mismanaged funds. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, left, talks with tribal presidential candidate Kenneth Maryboy this year. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

By Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times

In a historic settlement, the federal government will pay the Navajo Nation more than half a billion dollars to settle claims that it mismanaged reservation funds for more than 60 years, the tribe and the government announced Wednesday.

At $554 million, the settlement is the largest obtained by a single American Indian tribe against the U.S. It caps a drawn-out dispute filed in 2006 with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The settlement goes a long way toward repairing some of the “wrongs that have been done against the Navajo people,” said Rick Abasta, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation.

But it also serves a more practical purpose, he said.

“It’s a great opportunity to address some of the disparities that exist in the [Navajo] Nation,” he said. “This $554 million is like a much-needed cash infusion for the nation.”

The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American tribe, with more than 300,000 members and a reservation that spans 27,000 square miles in three states, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. But some tribal members who live in remote areas lack modern amenities — even electricity and running water.

“This landmark resolution ends protracted and burdensome litigation. It will provide important resources to the Navajo Nation. And it fairly and honorably resolves a legal conflict over the accounting and management of tribal resources,” U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement.

Abasta said Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly planned to hold a series of town hall meetings to hear from tribal members as to what should be done with the money.

The lawsuit alleged that from 1946 to 2012, the U.S. government, which served as trustee for the tribe’s natural resources, did not negotiate appropriate deals with entities that were extracting natural resources such as coal, uranium, oil and gas from the Navajo reservation.

In addition, the tribe contended that the U.S. did not properly monitor royalties to ensure that the tribe was appropriately paid. It also contended that the U.S. did not properly invest the proceeds to ensure that the tribe would receive an appropriate return on its money.

The lawsuit, which sought $900 million, did not go to trial. Instead the Obama administration decided to settle out of court, said Andrew L. Sandler, who represented the tribe with partner Samuel J. Buffone.

“There was a lot of government misconduct for a very long time, but the Obama administration and Justice Department stepped up and did the right thing in this case,” Sandler said.

The settlement was negotiated in June and finalized by senior Navajo and U.S. officials in early August, Sandler said. The U.S. has agreed to pay the settlement in the next 30 to 60 days.

About 100 similar cases have been filed by other tribes, Sandler said; many have been settled, but a few remain in litigation. The second-largest single settlement was for $380 million, with the Osage tribe in Oklahoma. The 2011 deal ended 11 years of litigation over claims of mismanagement of tribal assets.

The Navajo Nation plans to host a signing ceremony in Window Rock, Ariz., where administration officials will join tribal members to complete the settlement Friday.

“The trust litigation has been a protracted battle and, in the end, it was a victory for tribal sovereignty,” Shelly, the Navajo Nation president, said in a statement. “After a long, hard-won process, I am pleased that we have finally come to a resolution on this matter to receive fair and just compensation for Navajo Nation.”

U.S. to pay Navajo Nation $554 million in largest settlement with single Indian tribe

 

By Sari Horwitz September 24, Washington Post

In the largest settlement with a single American Indian tribe, the Obama administration will pay the Navajo Nation $554 million to settle claims that the U.S. government has mismanaged funds and natural resources on the Navajo reservation for decades.

The settlement, to be signed in Window Rock, Ariz., on Friday, resolves a long-standing dispute between the Navajo Nation and the U.S. government, with some of the claims dating back more than 50 years.

The sprawling Navajo reservation, located in parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, is the largest and most populous Indian reservation, with 14 million acres of trust lands, which are leased for farming, grazing and oil, gas and other mineral extraction. The land is also leased for businesses, rights-of-way, easements and housing.

“This landmark resolution ends protracted and burdensome litigation,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement provided to The Washington Post on Wednesday. “This demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to strengthening our partnerships with tribal nations.”

Under the agreement, the Navajo Nation will dismiss its current lawsuit and forego further litigation against the U.S. government for its historic management and accounting of Navajo funds and resources held in trust by the government.

“The Navajo Nation has worked tirelessly for many years to bring this issue to a close,” said Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation. “After a long, hard-won process, I am pleased that we have finally come to a resolution on this matter to receive fair and just compensation for the Navajo Nation.” Shelly said the tribe will host town hall meetings across the Navajo Nation to decide on how the funds can be used or invested.

Members of the Navajo Nation Council, the legislative branch of the Navajo Nation, said that the agreement doesn’t affect the tribe’s existing or potential claims regarding water and uranium pollution.

“It is very important for the Navajo people to understand that this agreement only addresses historical trust claims and does not prohibit or hinder our Nation from pursuing claims with respect to future conduct,” said Lorenzo Curley, the chairman of the council, who was involved in the negotiations with the Obama administration.

While the settlement marks the largest ever with one tribe, the Obama administration has made several other multimillion-dollar agreements with tribes since 2009 to settle long-standing grievances by Native Americans.

Along with the Navajo Nation, the administration has negotiated settlements resulting in a total of $2.61 billion paid to 80 tribes since 2010 for tribal trust accounting and trust management claims. The Interior Department manages almost 56 million acres of trust lands for federally recognized tribes and more than 100,000 leases on those lands. The department also manages about 2,500 tribal trust accounts for more than 250 tribes.

In the fall of 2009, attorneys for many of the tribes with litigation pending against the U.S. government wrote to President Obama and asked his administration to expedite settlement discussions. In April 2010, Obama administration officials, including then-Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, met with the attorneys and started a settlement process.

“From his first days in office, President Obama has worked to honor the government-to-government relationships between the United States and tribal governments,” said Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, a key member of the department’s Indian country team. “It reflects my personal commitment to resolving long-standing lawsuits rather than wasting the time and resources of both the United States and Indian tribes in contentious litigation.”

In 2011, the administration agreed to pay $380 million to settle a long-running lawsuit by the Osage Tribe of Oklahoma regarding the government’s accounting and management of the tribe’s trust accounts, trust lands and other natural resources.

The next year, Holder and then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a $1 billion settlement of lawsuits filed by 41 federally recognized tribes across the country with claims dating back 100 years.

In addition, the Obama administration in 2009 settled the highly contentious Cobell class-action lawsuit regarding the government’s trust management and accounting of over 3,000 individual American Indian trust accounts. The lawsuit, which involved several hundred thousand plaintiffs, was filed by Elouise Cobell in 1996 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and included hundreds of motions, dozens of rulings and appeals, and several trials over 13 years.

“The landmark Cobell settlement and resolution of 80 other tribal trust management lawsuits under President Obama has opened a new chapter in federal trust relations with tribes and individual Indian beneficiaries,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

Poor Oral Health Remains Major Problem Among American Indian Tribes

By Leah Martinez, Delta Dental

The Navajo Nation is the largest tribal group, and indeed, the largest reservation by land mass in the United States at 25,000 square miles. The reservation occupies the historic “Four Corners” region where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah all meet. This vast land is challenged with many obstacles and disparities. One particularly disturbing finding creates a lifelong health divide for Navajo children. They have poorer oral health. A new study from the University of Colorado shows that it remains a major problem.  Preschool-age Navajo children show rates of untreated decay than are 3 to 4 times higher than their peers.

While the percentage of Navajo children with untreated tooth decay appears to have declined overall in the past decade, down from 82.9 percent in 1999, it’s still extremely high. The study is particularly concerning to Arizona, as our state has many urban and rural Native American communities. In fact, Arizona is home to 22 Federally recognized Indian tribes. Additionally, the city of Phoenix is home to more than 43,700 Tribal members, making it the U.S. city with the third highest number of Native Americans.

Published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, the study looked at a large and broad group of 981 children enrolled in Head Start. The study showed that 69.5 percent of Navajo children have untreated tooth decay which is extremely high when compared to the 20.48 percent to the national average among all other racial and ethnic groups.

There are multiple factors contributing to this severe rate of dental decay in young Navajo children including the physical and social environments, health behaviors and access to dental services.  Access to services is difficult as the Navajo Nation only has 22 dental clinics for its 225,639 residents, making its dentist-to-patient ratio the lowest in the country. The lack of public transportation also plays a key role in many rural and isolated areas.

The study suggests that a multi-prong approach to reducing dental disease for Navajo children could include effective preventive services paired with culturally appropriate oral health instruction and easier access to dental care.

Download the full study here: RC2BaselinePaper (1)

Colleges aim to attract more Native American students

Colleges are introducing new programs targeting prospective Native American students, hoping to show that higher education and their cultural identities can complement each other.

Few Native Americans go to college and most of those who do never graduate. To improve those statistics, more colleges are offering camps where teens from different tribes are exposed to college life. In this image, Native American, Brandon Duran plays during a drum circle before workshop sessions at University of California, Riverside on Thursday, June 26. Photo/ Chris Carlson, AP

Few Native Americans go to college and most of those who do never graduate. To improve those statistics, more colleges are offering camps where teens from different tribes are exposed to college life. In this image, Native American, Brandon Duran plays during a drum circle before workshop sessions at University of California, Riverside on Thursday, June 26.
Photo/ Chris Carlson, AP

By Krysta Fauria, Associated Press

Elijah Watson knows he wants to go to college. He also knows that it will be difficult to leave home on the Navajo reservation if he does.

The 17-year-old was reminded of the tough decision he’ll face next year when he participated in a weeklong celebration in March of his cousin’s Kinaalda, a hallowed Navajo ceremony marking a girl’s transition into womanhood.

“I’m afraid because it’s really hard to leave my family,” he said, noting that college would mean he’d be away from taking part in the same rite for his little sister and participating in other important tribal ceremonies.

To reach students like Watson with higher education aspirations, a growing number of universities are offering programs to recruit and prepare Native American students for a transition to college life that can bring on a wrenching emotional conflict as they straddle two worlds.

Many young Native Americans find themselves divided by their desire for a higher education and the drive to stay close to home to hold onto a critical part of their identity. Sometimes, families discourage children from pursuing college, fearing once they leave the reservation they won’t come back.

That was the case with Watson’s mother — his grandmother encouraged her to stay home and carry on the family tradition of pottery-making.

“These students could be in a classroom with hundreds of kids and no one will be like them so it’s really good for these programs to pull all of these kids together,” said Ahniwake Rose, the director of the National Indian Education Association.

“Moving to college for these kids is taking them so far away from their homes. On top of that, we still have so many first generation students and their parents can’t give them any idea of what college is like,” Ms. Rose said.

Dozens have implemented mini-college boot camps, including the University of California, Los Angeles, Yale, and Duke. Last week, Watson found himself at the University of California, Riverside, where he was joined by other students, including some as young as 12.

The programs challenge the idea that tribal customs and higher education don’t mix, said Joshua Gonzalez, the director of Native American Student Programs at the university 60 miles east of Los Angeles and hundreds of miles from Watson’s home on the Navajo Nation.

Throughout their week at Riverside, students got a taste of the college experience by attending classroom lectures, eating in the cafeteria and sleeping in the dorms. The 30 students also participated in cultural activities like prayer circles and beading workshops.

“We encourage having your culture and traditions as well as academics,” said Mr. Gonzalez, whose program has a roughly 90 percent success rate in getting Native Americans to go to college.

“To be able to know your language, to be able to sing the songs, to know the creation stories — those are things that are really important,” he said.

Upon completion of Riverside’s program, students are given access to the university’s resources and staff to assist with the application process.

Pamela Agoyo, the director of American Indian Student Services at the University of New Mexico, said many programs are introducing kids to the idea of college as early as middle school to give them the time to embrace the possibility and plan for it.

“Institutions are realizing that you don’t start planning for college your freshman year of college,” Ms. Agoyo said, noting that students need to plan and prepare for their experience beforehand.

Rose said the boot camps are critical to college success because they help identify peers and mentors who can guide students through rough patches.

Few go on to college and when they do, most drop out.

Only 12 percent of Native Americans between 25 and 34 have four-year degrees, compared to 37 percent of whites, according to a 2012 report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Of the students who do go to college, less than 40 percent graduate, compared to 60 percent of whites.

Jordan Thomas, a member of the Lummi Tribe, attended Riverside’s program and will be a freshman there this fall. She was born on a reservation in Washington state and at age 2 moved with her family to Southern California because there were more educational opportunities.

Lummi cultural traditions are important to her family — she once missed eight weeks of middle school to attend her grandfather’s burial ceremony — and the Riverside program gave her confidence that she can attend school and not lose her Native American identity.

“I learned that it’s all about balance,” she said. “This program has truly helped me.”

Study finds widespread oral health problems among Navajo

By Medical Press

A new study from Colorado School of Public Health shows that despite some modest improvements, poor oral health remains a major problem in the Navajo Nation and among American Indians overall.

“The among Native Americans is abysmal with more than three times the disease of the rest of the country,” said Terrence Batliner, DDS, MBA, associate director of the Center for Native Oral Health Research at the School of Public Health. “The number one problem is access to care.”

The study, published recently in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, showed that 69.5 percent of Navajo had untreated tooth decay. While that’s better than the 82.9 percent in 1999, it’s still unacceptably high.

“The percentage of children with untreated decay appears to have declined in the past decade, although it remains today substantially higher (three to four times) than national averages,” the study said.

Batliner and his colleagues, including Patricia Braun, MD, MPH, who directed the study on the Navajo Nation, looked at 981 children in 52 Head Start classrooms on the reservation. Of those, 89.3 percent had oral disease in the past and 69.5 percent had untreated tooth decay.

That 69.5 percent of untreated decay compares with 20.48 percent among all other race and ethnic groups.

The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the country, stretching over 25,000 square miles. Much of it is remote with 22 dental clinics serving 225,639 residents. The dentist-to-patient ratio is 32.3 dentists per 100,000 residents, among the lowest in the country.

The researchers found that half of all Native American children need to be treated in the operating room due to the severity of their .

To increase access to care, Batliner advocates the creation of dental therapists for the reservation.

“They learn how to do fillings and extractions along with providing preventative services,” Batliner said. “This program has proved to be a raging success among tribes in Alaska. The quality of care is good.”

The American Dental Assn. opposes dental therapists and has filed suit to block their use on tribal lands.

“The American Dental Association is fighting the idea of dental therapists,” Batliner said. “But many of us perceive as a Native solution to a Native problem. Children and adults are suffering and this is a solution that can help.”

Navajo Nation Makes Historic Agreement With DHHS to Handle its Tribal Foster Care

Courtesy Navajo NationOn June 27, Navajo Nation Presient Ben Shelly signs the Title IV-E funding agreement with the DHHS.

Courtesy Navajo Nation
On June 27, Navajo Nation Presient Ben Shelly signs the Title IV-E funding agreement with the DHHS.

 

Suzette Brewer, Indian Country Today

 

Window Rock, Arizona—On Friday, June 27, the Navajo Nation made an historic pact with the U.S. Department of of Health and Human Services to execute a direct funding agreement through the Title IV-E program under the Social Security Act that will reimburse the tribe and its child welfare agencies for federally eligible foster care, adoptions and guardianships.

The reimbursements cover maintenance, including room and board; administration, including determination of Title IV-E eligibility, placement of the child, development of a case plan, and other administrative duties under the act; and short- and long-term training for the tribe, including child welfare agencies and court personnel. Title IV-E reimbursements are open-ended and are not a grant, according to the DHHS.

The Navajo Nation tribal jurisdiction covers three states: New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, but if a child was placed into state care, each of those states made the eligibility determination and placed the child. Meanwhile, the tribe’s social workers had to plead with each of the three states to return the child to the Navajo jurisdiction to be placed with one of its licensed foster homes. Additionally, the tribe only received funding from the state of New Mexico. Arizona and Utah did not provide Title IV-E reimbursements to the tribe.

Through this agreement with the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, however, the Navajo Nation will now make its own eligibility determinations and home placements within its jurisdictional borders in all three states and receive federal funding to assist the foster families to help in taking care of its own children. In qualifying for this direct funding agreement, the Navajo Nation is setting a national precedent for other tribes to follow.

RELATED: 5 Sioux Tribes Applied to Fund Their Own Foster Care Programs

“The Title IV-E is a model program for other Indian tribes throughout the United States,” said Sharon Begay-McCabe, director of the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services. “Because tribes have an input on how their program will be administered and [how to] incorporate their tribal culture into the plan.  Native Americans, including Navajo, believe that children should be raised within their immediate family or within their Indian tribe. The family bond Navajo is their matrilineal clan system and families can exercise these traditional customs by keeping the children in kinship and permanent placement.  Our children are the future leaders of our tribes and we must continue to hold them sacredly and keep them safe.”

Begay-McCabe, said that the tribe had been working since 2011 to qualify for the federal funding with a $300,000 planning grant. According to tribal officials, Title IV-E is an annual appropriation with specific eligibility requirements and fixed allowable costs for uses of funds. In fiscal year 2010, the direct funding provision was made available to Indian nations, tribal organizations and tribal consortia with approved plans to operate the program. The Navajo Nation is the first tribe to qualify for the funding.

“The Navajo Division of Social Services requested a one year extension and used its own resources to complete the Title IV-E plan, including the assistance from the Casey Family Foundation,” said Begay-McCabe. “Once the Title IV-E plan was submitted for approval, it took additional time to finally obtain the approval from DHS.”

In addition to the Casey Family Foundation, the tribe also partnered with the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch, Division of Public Safety, Office of the Chief Prosecutor, Office of the Chief Public Defender, Department of Dine’ Education, Division of Health and the Office of the President and Vice President in getting the direct funding agreement approval.

“The Navajo Division of Social Services is the first tribal program in the country to administer the Title IV-E program,” said Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly. “I commend Sharon McCabe and her staff for making this possible. Our kids are important and we must do everything we can to protect them.”

Tribal officials said the program is set to go into effect on October 1, 2014. Until that time, the tribe’s Department of Family Services will begin trainings, which will include the Navajo Nation Courts and other tribal programs that will cover eligibility requirements for the children and families receiving Title IV-E and the requirements of language in the courts’ rulings.

Currently, the tribe only receives funding for six children, but the new program could impact up to 200 Navajo children currently in foster care, said Begay-McCabe.

“Title IV-E enhances tribal sovereignty, [because] the Navajo Nation will receive direct funding from the federal government,” said Begay-McCabe “Before, the Division had to work with the three states – Arizona, New Mexico and Utah – individually to receive Title IV-E. The Division had to follow the process of eligibility, which differs in each state and was not culturally sensitive. Now, the Division will administer the whole Title IV-E program for the tribe, [which] will keep our children safe, provide permanency, and incorporates Navajo culture that will enhance our tribal sovereignty.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/30/navajo-nation-makes-historic-agreement-dhhs-handle-its-tribal-foster-care-155568