Pulling Aid Away, Shutdown Deepens Indians’ Distress


Rich Addicks for The New York TimesAudrey Costa at home on the Crow reservation in Montana with her grandson Benjamin Costa and her daughter, Beth Dawes, right. Ms. Costa has not received her federal lease payment.

Rich Addicks for The New York Times
Audrey Costa at home on the Crow reservation in Montana with her grandson Benjamin Costa and her daughter, Beth Dawes, right. Ms. Costa has not received her federal lease payment.


Published: October 13, 2013 Nytimes.com


CROW AGENCY, Mont. — Worlds away from Washington, Audrey Costa wondered aloud about keeping her family warm. A mother of three, she relies on lease payments from the Bureau of Indian Affairs on land owned by her family, which can run up to a few hundred dollars a year, to pay for food and electricity. But since the partial shutdown of the federal government began on Oct. 1, Ms. Costa, 41, has not received a check.

 “We’re having such a hard time,” she said outside her tattered clapboard home in this poor prairie town deep in the heart of the Crow reservation. “I don’t know what I’ll do. Just tough it out, I guess.”

Like other largely impoverished Indian tribes that lean heavily on federal dollars, the Crow have been battered by the shutdown.

Some 364 Crow members, more than a third of the tribe’s work force, have been furloughed. A bus service, the only way some Crow are able to travel across their 2.3-million-acre reservation, has been shuttered. A home health care program for sick tribal members has been suspended.

Though the tribe has enough money to keep a skeleton government operating for now, it is running out.

“They don’t have a clue what’s going on out here,” the tribal chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, said of politicians in Washington from his office in Crow Agency, which sits in the shadows of the Little Bighorn battlefield, itself closed because of the shutdown. “It is hurting a lot of people.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which provides a vast sweep of services for more than 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, has kept essential programs, like federal police and firefighting services, running. But it has stopped financing tribal governments and the patchwork of programs and grants that form the thin blanket of support for reservations racked by poverty and other ills.

“You’re already looking at a good number of tribes who are considered the poorest of our nation’s people,” said Jacqueline Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “When you are dealing with cutting off food supply programs and even nominal payments to tribal members, it creates a dangerous impact immediately.”

The Yurok tribe in Northern California, for example, relies almost solely on federal financing to operate. Its reservation, which spans parts of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, already has an 80 percent unemployment rate, said Susan Masten, the tribal vice chairwoman. With money suddenly unavailable, the tribe has furloughed 60 of its 310 employees, closed its child-care center and halted emergency financial assistance for low-income and older members.

Financing for an environmental program that ensures clean drinking water on the reservation is running low. A second round of furloughs could affect tribal police officers, Ms. Masten said.

“The saddest thing about this is that the federal government has an obligation to the tribes,” she said. “In times like this, where it’s already extremely difficult, any further damage to our budget would be devastating.”

On the reservation of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in northern Minnesota, all nonemergency medical procedures have been placed on hold, said Dave Conner, a tribal official who helps manage the Red Lake’s government services.

The Red Lake were supposed to have received about $1 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs this month to help operate their government, but the money was not released before the shutdown, Mr. Conner said.

The tribe has budgeted enough money to keep the most critical services running until the end of the month.

“This is a poor, rural, isolated reservation,” Mr. Conner said. “A lot of people rely on our services, so there’s a lot of fear right now.”

For some tribes, the pain of the shutdown has been sharpened by federal budget restrictions this year, known as sequestration, that imposed 5 percent cuts to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, said his tribe had already shut down its H.I.V. prevention program and furloughed employees for its Head Start program for a month because of sequestration.

Now, with nearly $1 million in federal money lost since the shutdown, the tribe is scrambling to shift casino revenue from other programs to keep its government afloat.

“We’re in turmoil right now,” Mr. Payment said. “The impact here is going to be felt by the people who need the services the most.”

Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian affairs, said the shutdown could have long-term effects on tribes and tribal members. Financial deals and economic programs have been suspended. Environmental reviews of tribal projects will be delayed. And the impact on the thousands of Bureau of Indian Affairs employees who have been furloughed is compounded because many support poor relatives, he said.

“The cushion that tribes might have had to help them get through tough times is gone because of sequestration,” Mr. Washburn said.

In Hardin, Mont., a gritty reservation border town, Presina Grant has been caring for her sister, who broke both of her wrists in a fall. Until recently, Ms. Grant, who is Crow, had been reimbursed $8 an hour as part of the tribe’s health care program.

But after the program was suspended because of the shutdown, Ms. Grant, 43, found herself in a long line of other tribal members applying for food stamps. Her daughter is a high school cross-country runner and craves nutrition. But with money tight, she often must feed her three children frozen food.

“Everyone was just sad — you could just feel it,” Ms. Grant said, recalling the day this month when she collected her final paycheck from the tribe. “People are worried. We’re praying every day.”

American Indian group releases simple graphic to show racism in sports logos


american-indiana-stereotype-hat-poster-570x367October 9, 2013

Ben Cornfield



The graphic you see here may look like something out of The Onion, but it is dead serious. The National Congress of American Indians has produced an image putting the racially-charged stereotypes of sports organizations into a pretty simple context.

No one would ever think to call a New York sports franchise “The Jews” and make its logo a giant smiling face of a man with dark hair and wearing a kippah. The same goes for a “Chinamen” team in San Francisco.

So why is it alright for the Major League baseball team in Cleveland to call itself the “Indians?”

Further, the red-skinned, big-toothed logo of an American Indian is not an imaginary, satirical illustration like the “Jew” and the “Chinaman.” Rather, it is actually the Indians’ team logo.

But it looks quite a bit like the first two, doesn’t it?

NCAI releases report on History and Legacy of Washington’s harmful “Indian” sports mascot


National Congress of American Indians

October 10, 2013

Washington, DC – Just days after President Obama joined the growing chorus of those calling for the Washington NFL Team to consider changing its name, the team’s leadership justified the use of their “Indian” mascot as a central part of the team’s “history and legacy.” A new report released today by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), titled Ending the Legacy Of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful “Indian” Sports Mascots also outlines the team’s ugly and racist legacy, while highlighting the harmful impact of negative stereotypes on Native peoples.

The report details the position of NCAI, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization. The following is a statement released by NCAI’s Executive Director Jacqueline Pata along with the report: 

“The report NCAI has released today provides the history of an overwhelming movement to end the era of harmful “Indian” mascots – including the fact that Native peoples have fought these mascots since 1963 and no professional sports team has established a new ‘Indian’ mascot since 1964.

There is one thing that we can agree with the Washington football team about – the name ‘Redsk*ns’ is a reflection of the team’s legacy and history. Unfortunately, the team’s legacy and history is an ugly one, rooted in racism and discrimination, including the origins of the team’s name. It is becoming more and more obvious that the team’s legacy on racial equality is to remain on the wrong side of history for as long as possible.

The team’s original owner, George Preston Marshall, named the team the ‘Redsk*ns’ in 1932, just months before he led a 13-year league wide ban on African American players in the NFL. Nearly 30 years after the race-based name was chosen, Marshall was forced by the league to hire the team’s first black player in 1962. He was the last NFL owner to do so.

We’ve released this report and have a firm position on this issue because the welfare and future of our youth is at stake. We are working every day to ensure they are able to grow up and thrive in healthy, supportive communities. Removing these harmful mascots is just one part of our effort to encourage our children to achieve their greatest potential. We’re focused on their future; these mascots keep society focused on the negative stereotypes of the past.

NCAI calls on the NFL, other professional sports leagues, and all associated businesses to end the era of harmful ”Indian” mascots.”

The report details a range of issues: the harm stereotypes have on Native Youth and the overwhelming support for ending harmful mascots by organizations, tribal governments, the NCAA, high schools, community groups, and individuals. The report also reviews in depth the well-documented legacy of racism in the Washington football team’s history, including factual rebuttals to the Washington football team’s false claims that NCAI leadership at one point endorsed the use of the “Redsk*ns” mascot.

The report points to the fact that harmful “Indian” mascots exist while Native peoples remain targets of hate crime higher than any other groups, citing Department of Justice analysis that “American Indians are more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a different race.” The report also reviews in-depth studies that show the harm negative stereotypes and “Indian” sports mascots have on Native youth. The rate of suicide is highest for Native young people at 18 percent, twice the rate of the next highest of 8.4 percent among non-Hispanic white youth.

In the report, NCAI calls on the NFL, MLB, and NHL to address harmful mascots that profit from marketing harmful stereotypes, “Each of these professional sports businesses attempt to establish a story of honoring Native peoples through the names or mascots; however, each one—be it through logos or traditions — diminishes the place, status, and humanity of contemporary Native citizens. What is true about many of the brand origin stories is that team owners during the birth of these brands hoped to gain financially from mocking Native identity. As a result, these businesses perpetuated racial and political inequity. Those who have kept their logos and brands, continue to do so.”

Amidst Shutdown NCAI Urges Congress to Meet Tribal Obligations

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has released the following statement regarding the budget impasse and the shutdown of the federal government.

“The failure to come to a budget agreement threatens the capacity of tribal governments to deliver basic governmental services to their citizens. The federal government has made treaty commitments to our people, and in return we ceded the vast lands that make up the United States. The immediate shutdown crisis poses very real threats to tribal governments and denies health, nutrition, and other basic services to the most vulnerable tribal citizens.

“Even if the shutdown is resolved soon, a greater crisis remains – both the House and Senate versions of the Continuing Resolution sustained the devastating FY 2013 sequestration cuts. The sequester has deeply affected tribal programs: the Indian Health Service, Indian education funding streams, law enforcement, infrastructure programs such as housing and road maintenance, Head Start, and others. These funding commitments serve some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and are part of the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations.

“As Washington faces the threefold crisis of the shutdown, sequester, and debt limit, we call on the Congress to reach a long-term budget deal that meets the nation’s obligations to tribal nations and Native peoples. It is time to address the ongoing fiscal crisis caused by the sequester. The trust responsibility to tribal nations is not a line item and tribal programs must be exempt from budget cuts in any budget deal.”

In September, NCAI released a paper outlining the impacts of sequestration on tribal nations – Tribes Urge Congress to Honor Treaty Promises and Stop Sequestration.

Background on the impact of the government shutdown on tribal programs

In the 1995, 1996 shutdown, the impact on American Indian/other Native Americans was that all 13,500 Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employees were furloughed; general assistance payments for basic needs to 53,000 BIA benefit recipients were delayed; and an estimated 25,000 American Indians did not receive timely payment of oil and gas royalties.

With respect to funding for governmental services, more than half of the federally recognized tribes are self-governance and provide services to their citizens through contracts and compacts. If the shutdown is not reversed soon, these tribes and their citizens will be hit particularly hard. Based on the contingency plans for the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services, IHS would continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics. However, IHS would be unable to provide funding to tribes and urban Indian health programs, and would not perform national policy development and issuance, oversight, and other functions, except those necessary to meet the immediate needs of the patients, medical staff, and medical facilities.

With BIA, programs are funded and operated in a highly decentralized manner, with 62 percent of appropriations provided directly to tribes and tribal organizations through grants, contracts, and compacts. Officials said that if tribes have carryover, they can spend it, but tribes won’t receive any new money during a shutdown to reimburse tribes providing those services. While the role of Indian Affairs has changed significantly in the last three decades in response to increased utilization of Indian self-governance and self-determination, tribes still look to Indian Affairs for a broad spectrum of services. Fortunately, law enforcement and detention centers will remain operational, as will social services to protect children and adults. Firefighting, emergency response, and water and power should remain. However, trust asset management, such as lease compliance and real estate transactions would not.

Examples of impacts to tribal governmental services and other assistance to tribal citizens include:

— General assistance payments (BIA) to needy individuals and to vendors providing foster care and residential care for children and adults will stop, which will be difficult for many tribal communities. General assistance provides approximately $42 million for approximately 12,400 clients on a monthly basis. These clients include individuals and families whose income is below state standards and who do not qualify for state-operated programs. Provided that these individuals are facing some of the most difficult employment opportunities, the loss or delay of these payments truly impact the neediest in Indian country. Generally, disbursement of tribal funds for tribal operations including responding to tribal government requests will be halted.

— There will be new funds to support the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). While there would be some inventory available for use in food packages, no carryover, contingency, or other funds are available to support continued operations. The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) program is administered at the Federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. FDPIR is administered locally by either Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) or an agency of a State government. Currently, there are approximately 276 tribes receiving benefits under the FDPIR through 100 ITOs and 5 State agencies. FDPIR provides USDA Foods to low-income households living on Indian reservations, and to American Indian households residing in approved areas near reservations or in Oklahoma. Many households participate in FDPIR as an alternative to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), because they do not have easy access to SNAP offices or authorized food stores. Average monthly participation for FY 2012 was 76,530 individuals.

— The Administration for Children and Families would not continue quarterly formula grants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care, Social Services Block Grant, Refugee Programs, Child Welfare Services and the Community Service Block Grant programs. Additionally new discretionary grants, including Head Start and social services programs, would not be made.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/10/02/amidst-shutdown-ncai-urges-congress-meet-tribal-obligations-151551

Cladoosby Enters National Congress of American Indians President Race


Richard WalkerSwinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby holds a paddle gifted to him by the Quileute Nation, July 29, 2011, during the Canoe Journey/Paddle to Swinomish. Cladoosby is a candidate for president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Richard Walker
Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby holds a paddle gifted to him by the Quileute Nation, July 29, 2011, during the Canoe Journey/Paddle to Swinomish. Cladoosby is a candidate for president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Richard Walker

June 26, 2013 ICTMN


Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby, who has long worked to strengthen economic conditions and stop ecological degradation in Coast Salish country, announced his candidacy June 25 for president of the National Congress of American Indians.

The election will take place during NCAI’s 70th annual convention October 13-18 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

If elected, Cladoosby would continue to serve as chairman of the Swinomish Tribe, he said in a pre-announcement interview. He would be the fourth indigenous leader from Washington state to serve as NCAI president.

“After 29 years of service on the Swinomish Indian Senate and 17 years of the best job in the world, the chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, I feel called by our Creator to serve Indian people across our country,” he wrote on a Facebook page established for his campaign.

“I believe that we live in historic times. When my grandfather’s grandfather signed the Point Elliott Treaty [in 1855], he probably could not have imagined the world that we live in today, but he thought about my grandchildren, Bella and Nathaniel. They are the seventh generation since our treaty was signed. Today, we are called to think about the seven generations to come and the world we will leave for them.”

Cladoosby said indigenous nations “have been blessed by our Creator with tremendous gifts” with which to confront the challenges of the day: Tribal governments’ ability to tax activities within reservation borders, ensuring there are educational opportunities for young people and quality health services for families and elders, protection of natural resources, and responding appropriately to climate change.

“Our teachings, our spiritual ways, the wisdom of our elders, the inspiration of our children and strong tribal leaders from across Indian country lift us up and give us strength to meet these challenges every day,” he said.

Cladoosby said he announced his candidacy only after getting the support of his wife, Nina, and the Swinomish Senate.

“I know that without them and their support, I could not begin to think about serving as president of NCAI. In the coming months, I ask for your support, your prayers and your ideas. Together, we can build the tomorrow that the grandchildren of our grandchildren can be proud of.”

Cladoosby served as president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians in 2008-11, and served on NCAI’s board of directors and on Environmental Protection Agency’s National Tribal Operations Committee. He is also active on the Skagit Council of Governments, an organization of local governments in Skagit County, Washington.

After the November general election, incoming state Attorney General Bob Ferguson appointed Cladoosby to his transition committee, which reviewed the structure of the Attorney General’s Office, its budget, and goals for the upcoming legislative session.

On December 5, Cladoosby introduced President Barack Obama at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, calling Obama – an adopted member of the Crow Nation – our “first American Indian president.” (Related story: Obama Does It Again: 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference)

As Swinomish chairman, Cladoosby has overseen a careful strategy of economic growth that has resulted in the tribe becoming one of the five largest employers in Skagit County.

The tribe owns the golf- and entertainment-oriented Swinomish Casino and Lodge overlooking Padilla Bay, two gas stations and convenience stores, a cannery that processes salmon and shellfish for a global market, and a Ramada Hotel in Ocean Shores on the Washington coast. Swinomish’s Chevron Gas Station is, according to the tribe, the largest-volume Chevron station on the West Coast.

According to the tribe’s website, Swinomish employs more than 250 people in tribal government and approximately 300 people in its economic enterprises.

Swinomish is also an important voice on environmental issues: recent local initiatives include restoring indigenous ownership and stewardship of Kiket Island, and restoring the shoreline and developing a park and native-plant garden on Swinomish Channel.

In 2008, Cladoosby helped organize the Canoe Journey Water Quality Project in collaboration with other Coast Salish nations and the U.S. Geological Survey. Canoes participating in the annual Canoe Journey carry probes and global positioning systems that record temperature, salinity, pH levels, dissolved oxygen and turbidity in the Salish Sea. The data is being processed and mapped so researchers can identify patterns and trends in sea conditions. These efforts were honored in 2009 by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior; in 2012, Cladoosby was one of five finalists for the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award. (Related story: Canoe Journey Could Provide Picture of Inland Sea’s Health)

“Mr. Cladoosby has been a huge supporter for our Northwest tribes and I hope we support someone who actually sees what we are needing as tribes in the Northwest and Alaska,” a supporter wrote on Facebook, calling Cladoosby “One of the Great Native Leaders out there fighting our good fight!”

Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel is finishing his second as president. According to its constitution, NCAI’s purpose is to “serve as a forum for unified policy development among tribal governments in order to: (1) protect and advance tribal governance and treaty rights; (2) promote the economic development and health and welfare in Indian and Alaska Native communities; and (3) educate the public toward a better understanding of Indian and Alaska Native tribes.”

NCAI has a staff of 33.