EPA Pledges $16M Per Year for Tar Creek Superfund Cleanup

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency has pledged more than $16 million annually for the continued cleanup of toxic mine waste at the heavily polluted Tar Creek Superfund Site in northeastern Oklahoma.

Superfund is a law that gives the EPA funding and authority to clean up contaminated sites. Tar Creek, in Ottawa County, covers a 40-square-mile area and is one of the nation's oldest, most complex Superfund sites.

The EPA, in collaboration with Oklahoma and the Quapaw Nation, announced Monday that their plan is open for a 30-day public evaluation, the Tulsa World reported. The plan provides an update on the cleanup's progress and establishes a framework for how the EPA, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, the Quapaw Nation and the community will work together to clean up mining waste in Ottawa County over the next five years.

``This plan renews our focus, further propels the cleanup progress, and ultimately achieves greater results for Ottawa County,'' EPA Regional Administrator Anne Idsal said in a news release.

The plan states that Tar Creek was placed on an ``Administrator's Emphasis List for Immediate, Intense Action'' in 2017 due to its status as one of the most challenging Superfund sites in the nation. New EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler reaffirmed its position on the list in 2018.

The site was listed to expedite cleanup there and to require the EPA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to work with the Quapaw Nation to establish the tribe's ability to gain institutional controls on its properties, according to the release.

``We look forward to continuing our work with EPA and ODEQ toward bringing back much of this land to pre-mining conditions,'' said John Berry, Chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.

The plan creates guidelines for progress with near-term objectives, set by 2021, and long-term moves for 2022 and beyond. Near-term goals include administrative actions such as removing 5,000 acres of the site from the National Priorities List and issuing a new strategy for watersheds. Longer-term ideas include exploring new technologies to accelerate cleanup and re-evaluating land uses after reclamation.

The EPA is expected to release a final Tar Creek Strategic Plan this summer.

 

WSU Researchers Discover Oldest Tattoo Tool in North America

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) _ Scientists from Washington State University have discovered the oldest known tattooing tool in western North America.

The tool was made around 2,000 years ago by the Ancestral Pueblo people in what is now southeastern Utah.

The tool has a handle of skunkbush and a cactus-spine point.

Doctoral candidate Andrew Gillreath-Brown found the pen-sized instrument while taking an inventory of archaeological materials that had been sitting in storage for more than 40 years.

School officials say his discovery pushes back the earliest evidence of tattooing in western North America by more than 1,000 years.

They say it gives scientists a rare glimpse into the lives of a prehistoric people whose customs and culture have largely been forgotten.

 

Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun Report Dip in Slot Revenue

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut's two casinos have both reported another monthly drop in slot-machine revenue.

This is the seventh straight month that the slot take has dropped at both the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The Mohegan Sun reported it's January take was $40.7 million, 9.4 percent less than it was the same month a year ago. That is its lowest monthly slot earning since January 2001, when it kept $39.7 million.

Foxwoods reports $31 million in slots revenue last month, an 8.5 percent decline from the same month a year ago and its lowest one-month total in 25 years.

The Connecticut casinos are facing increased competition, including from MGM Resorts' new casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, which opened its doors last August.

 

New Mexico Angling to Become Home of New Deal Art Museum

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ An effort is underway in New Mexico to build support for establishing a national museum dedicated to the New Deal, the Great Depression-era series of work programs and art initiatives aimed at pulling America from destitution more than 80 years ago.

Supporters say New Mexico would be an ideal home for such an institution as the state received one of the largest amounts of money per capita from the programs, resulting in new schools, post offices, visitor centers and art.

A few months after the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration started the Public Works of Art Project, more than 3,700 artists were hired and thousands of murals, paintings, crafts and sculptures were created for government buildings around the country.

An army of workers built up the national parks and community roads and water systems while musicians preserved folk music and photographers documented life in America.

The results include images from photographers Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee, early paintings by abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock, and a look at pueblo life in New Mexico by Native American artist Pablita Velarde.

``It was an incredibly productive time in our history in terms of arts and culture. This would be a tremendous economic boost to not only Santa Fe but also New Mexico,'' said state Rep. Matthew McQueen, a Democrat and supporter of the effort.

Kathy Flynn, executive director of the National New Deal Preservation Association, said many examples of the work done during the era can be found around New Mexico.

She recounted for lawmakers the poverty and joblessness that had spread across the country by the mid-1930s, saying half of New Mexico's population at the time was considered destitute and the devastating dust storms that swept across the plains made life even harder in eastern New Mexico, where she grew up.

``This government program put everybody to work,'' said Flynn, 82. ``Most of you sitting here probably had a family member that was involved.''

The memorial pending in the state House of Representatives requests New Mexico's congressional delegates investigate the possibility of establishing a national New Deal art museum in Santa Fe.

The proposal sailed through its first committee and has the support of House Speaker Brian Egolf and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, whose grandfather John Gaw Meem was a well-known architect who designed many New Deal projects. Egolf and Wirth are Democrats.

The memorial suggests the museum could be located in a landmark building on Santa Fe's Museum Hill. The building was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s and for decades has housed National Park Service offices. It's currently undergoing a renovation.

Curating such a museum would likely be a monumental task, and supporters of the New Mexico effort acknowledge the legislative memorial is a first small step in bringing the idea to light.

The Smithsonian has what it describes as an unparalleled collection of artwork created for the Public Works of Art Project. It drew on that collection to put together an exhibition a decade ago that celebrated the 75th anniversary of the project.

There also are reams of material archived by the Library of Congress, including hundreds of the posters created by the Work Projects Administration. The National Gallery of Art also has watercolor renderings from the era and Roosevelt's Presidential Library and Museum highlight the New Deal as part of his legacy, but there's no museum specifically dedicated to the period's artwork.

At the University of California, Berkeley, efforts have been ongoing to create a virtual museum of sorts to catalogue all the New Deal projects and artwork that can be found around the country.

Flynn pointed to murals at Eastern New Mexico University and New Mexico Highlands University, saying preservation efforts of sites around the country could be boosted if a national museum were to be created.

``There are just so many stories,'' she said. ``It affected everybody's family for the most part during that time and there are connections we can still make today.''

 

Oklahoma Tourism Agency Acquires 77 Acres in Grand Lake Area

GROVE, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma's tourism agency says it's acquiring 77 acres of land next to the Honey Creek area of Grand Lake State Park to expand the popular northeastern Oklahoma recreation area.

The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department says Honey Creek stretches across 38 acres along the shores of Grand Lake O' The Cherokees, widely considered one of the nation's best bass fishing lakes. It's one of eight areas in Grand Lake State Park and is a popular spot for boating with more than 100 RV and tent campsites.

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Oklahoma's secretary for Tourism and Branding, says the additional acreage will make the park an even better experience for Oklahoma travelers and help draw in tourists from out of state.

Tourism officials say the property cost $842,989.

 

Measure Funding Native Language Programs Supported in Alaska

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) _ Native studies officials at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are praising efforts to reauthorize federal legislation funding immersion programs for Native American languages.

Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and others this week have introduced a measure reauthorizing the funding for Native language learning initiatives, including immersion programs, language teacher training, and additional teaching materials and curriculum, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

It would also maintain two national programs and expand programs to smaller tribes, as well as lengthen grant periods.

The reauthorization measure is a positive step for Alaska Native languages, said Sandra Kowalski, the university's director of Indigenous Programs for Rural, Community and Native Education.

``There are 20 distinct and formally recognized Alaska Native languages that are in various states of decline,'' Kowalski said. ``Decades of colonialism and recent globalization have created chasms between older first language speakers and younger generations.''

But language education is on the rise, giving hope for a more culturally connected future, Kowalski said.

``Alaskan Native individuals whose first language is English have, through immersion programs, master-apprentice partnerships and some working individually, become proficient in their own Alaska Native language,'' Kowalski said. ``These second language speakers' stories have inspired interest and demand for opportunities for other Alaska Natives to learn to speak their own language at home and throughout the community.''

Culture is intertwined with language, making the revitalization of Native languages important, Murkowski said.

``We understand our past, ourselves and our relationships with our family and community through our language,'' Murkowski said in a statement. ``For Native peoples, language is truly the foundation of their cultures and their identity.''

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

 

Claims Against Tribe Stemming from Horse Roundup Dismissed

RENO, Nev. (AP) _ A federal judge has dismissed claims against a Nevada Indian tribal government over a disputed horse roundup in Washoe County.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reports U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du says even if claims the roundup swept up horses that shouldn't have been included are true, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe's status as a sovereign government shields it from legal claims.

Du says a Jan. 17 order to refrain from sending horses to slaughter while the search for Lady, a privately owned horse thought to have been wrongly herded away, continues.

Lady's owner says that in the immediate aftermath of the roundup she begged officials to allow her to search temporary holding pens for her horse, to no avail.

The case stems from an effort by nonprofit American Wild Horse Campaign to recover at least 271 horses in Palomino Valley.

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

 

DOI and DOJ Team Up for Major Expansion of Tribal Access to National Crime Information Databases

The Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior announced a dramatic expansion of the federal government’s key program that provides tribes with access to national crime information databases, the Justice Department’s Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP).

By the end of 2019, the Justice Department will expand the number of TAP participating tribes by more than 50 percent—from 47 tribes to 72.  The Department of the Interior (DOI) will fund the instillation of TAP Kiosks at three locations where the BIA-Office of Indian Services (BIA-OIS) deliver direct service social services by the end of 2019 and DOI aims to expand TAP access at all 28 BIA-Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) operated law enforcement agencies and detention service centers.  These BIA locations will provide some degree of access to TAP for services delivered to more than 50 tribal communities that currently do not have any direct access.

“For far too long, a lack of access to federal criminal databases has hurt tribal law enforcement—preventing them from doing their jobs and keeping their communities safe,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  “With the Tribal Access Program, participating tribes will be able to protect victims of domestic violence, register sex offenders, keep guns out of dangerous hands, and help locate missing people.  This milestone demonstrates our deep commitment to strengthening public safety in Indian country.”

“I am proud to authorize the funding for the expansion of the Tribal Access Program to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make the future of justice in Indian Country stronger,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney at the 75thNational Congress of American Indians Convention today. “The Bureau of Indian Affairs is proud to grant greater access to these important databases at more locations throughout Indian Country. Performing background checks is a critical step in protecting our precious Native children in foster care, and tribal communities served by the BIA will benefit from access to this extensive public safety tool.”

“Access to information is vital to effective law enforcement,” said Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and the Chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues.  “The Tribal Access Program will enhance and improve the ability of tribal law enforcement officers to serve their communities. The Native American Issues Subcommittee is proud to support the continued expansion of this tool throughout Indian Country.

The Native American Issues Subcommittee (NAIS) is comprised of United States Attorneys with Indian Country in their federal districts. They advise the Attorney General regarding the development and implementation of policies pertaining to justice in Indian Country. The NAIS identified ‘increased law enforcement resources’ as one of four priority areas to improve justice services in Indian Country. Support for and increased dissemination of the TAP was unanimously supported by the US Attorneys at a recent NAIS meeting in Indian Country in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“We at the BIA-OJS look forward to having direct access to these vital resources,” said Deputy BIA Director for Office of Justice Services Charles Addington. “We have waited years for the opportunity to streamline how we access these critical databases and the funding authorized by AS-IA Sweeney will allow  our law enforcement officers the ability to receive the information they need to do their jobs effectively and keep them safe.”

TAP, offered in two versions, TAP-FULL and TAP-LIGHT, allows tribes to more effectively serve and protect their communities by fostering the exchange of critical data through several national databases through the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) network, including the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Next Generation Identification (NGI), National Data Exchange (N-DEx), National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) as well as other national systems such as the International Justice and Public Safety Network (Nlets).   TAP enhances tribal efforts to register sex offenders pursuant to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA); have orders of protection enforced nationwide; protect children; keep firearms away from persons who are disqualified from receiving them; improve the safety of public housing, and allow tribes to enter their arrests and convictions into national databases.

TAP-FULL consists of a kiosk workstation that provide access to national systems and is capable of processing finger and palm prints, as well as taking mugshots and submitting records to national databases. TAP-LIGHT is software for criminal agencies that include police departments, prosecutors, criminal courts, jails, and probation departments. Both versions provide federally recognized tribes the ability to access and exchange data with national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purpose.  TAP is currently available to 47 tribes nationwide with over 220 tribal criminal justice and civil agencies participating.

For more information on TAP, including a list and map of present TAP-FULL and TAP-LIGHT tribes, visit www.justice.gov/tribal/tribal-access-program-tap

For more information about the Justice Department’s work on tribal justice and public safety issues, visit:  www.justice.gov/tribal

 

Kansas Celebrates 30 Years of Documented Bald Eagle Nesting

By DYLAN LYSEN
Lawrence Journal-World

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ About three decades ago, a remarkable ecological comeback started in Lawrence, local eagle biologist Mike Watkins said.

For decades, Kansas had not documented a nesting location for bald eagles within its borders. But in 1989, a fisherman reported seeing America's national bird in the Lawrence area at Clinton Lake.

``I was skeptical,'' said Watkins, who served as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wildlife biologist at the time. ``Sure enough, a pair of bald eagles built a nest in some timber that had been flooded (in the lake).''

That pair of bald eagles seen in Lawrence was the first the state had recorded since the turn of the 20th century, and the state's population of the majestic bird has only grown since, said Watkins, who now tracks eagles for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

2019 will mark the 30th anniversary of bald eagles making a Kansas comeback, growing from the single bald eagle nesting pair in 1989 to 137 active nesting pairs today, Watkins said. Four of those nests are near Clinton Lake.

``They are likely year-round because they are seen on and off all summer,'' Watkins said of the Clinton Lake eagles.

The bald eagle was able to make a comeback in Kansas because of conservation efforts throughout the country, Watkins told the Lawrence Journal-World .

In the 1960s, the bald eagle was close to extinction because of habitat destruction, hunting, and the use of DDT, a pesticide that poisoned their food sources. The bird was named an endangered species in 1967 and the pesticide was also outlawed, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Shortly after, the populations in the U.S. began to grow again and the bald eagle was officially removed from the Endangered Species Act in June 2007.

Additionally, the choice to leave the timber in flooded Kansas reservoirs also helped the birds, as nests were built in them, Watkins said.

Although the bird is no longer listed as an endangered species, it is still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, a federal law that prohibits the hunting, transportation, possession, sale or purchase of the bird, whether it is dead or alive. The Migratory Bird Treaty and the Lacey Act also provide similar protections for the eagles.

Watkins said the conservation effort was a clear success.

``It's an extremely inspiring story to think that the bird was on the endangered species list and they have rebounded well because of the positive things man has done,'' Watkins said. ``It's a pretty significant achievement to get a population to rebound.''

While eight eagles make Lawrence home year-round, many more may be passing through the area this winter, heading south for the season. Watkins said 2,500 to 3,000 eagles can be seen in Kansas during the winter.

January is considered the best time to view eagles in Kansas, with many state parks hosting events to learn more and to assist in spotting them in the wild.

In Lawrence, The Jayhawk Audubon Society will host the 23rd annual Kaw Valley Eagles Day on Jan. 19.

Watkins will give presentations on the history of bald eagles in Kansas during the event. Other presentations will include the showing of live bald and golden eagles and other animals.

Those who attend the event will also have the chance to see the eagles' habitats on Clinton Lake during field trips in the morning and the afternoon.

The event is free and open to the public.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

 

Indian Casinos Across US Wary of Betting on Sports Books

By REGINA GARCIA CANO
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Two dozen large-screen TVs showing football and other sports line the walls. There's beer on tap, bar top seating and leather chairs. Chicken wings are on the menu. And at this American Indian casino in the heart of college-football mad Mississippi, you can legally bet on the games.

The sports book owned by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is the first to open on tribal lands outside of Nevada following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, a no-brainer business decision given the sports fans among its gambling clientele.

``We are basically two hours from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and then, we are just an hour from Mississippi State. We have Ole Miss just to the north of that, and we have Southern Miss _ they're not SEC, but they are a player. We are not that far from Louisiana,'' said Neal Atkinson, the tribe's director of gaming.

The book at Pearl River Resort is packed every college football Saturday, but remains an outlier months after the high court opened the door for expanded sports gambling across the United States by striking down a federal ban.

Tribes enthusiastically welcomed the decision in May but since then, the regulatory challenges and low-margin nature of the business have sunk in. Few Indian casinos have an enviable location like the Choctaw and many need state approval to add sports betting to their offerings.

Indian casinos started small three decades ago, but they have grown to be an annual $32.4 billion segment of the U.S. gambling industry. The roughly 475 casinos operated by nearly 240 tribes create jobs for tribal members and profits that help pay a variety of services, including health care and housing.

Some casinos only have games like bingo or pull tabs that don't need state approval. But the majority of them also have state-authorized slot machines, blackjack and other table games, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Many tribes share a portion of casino profits with state governments in exchange for exclusive rights to conduct gambling operations within their states.

To offer sports betting, the majority of tribes would have to renegotiate compacts that vary widely in cycles and the issues covered, though some tribes believe their existing agreements already give them the right to offer the new wagers.

``There's a broad spectrum in Indian Country covering two extremes: Tribal nations that would not benefit at all, and on the other end, tribal nations that would significantly benefit,'' commission chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri said. ``Those are largely business decisions that each tribe will have to make given its own economic landscape and its unique market realities.''

Some federal lawmakers have also proposed regulating sports gambling more widely, adding yet another layer to a complex debate already involving commercial casinos and lotteries, plus sports leagues themselves.

So far, only the Santa Ana Pueblo near Albuquerque, New Mexico, has followed the Choctaw's effort into sports gambling. Neither tribe was required to obtain additional state approvals.

Contrary to popular belief, sports betting is a low-profit business that requires highly skilled employees. In Nevada, sportsbooks last year contributed only 2.4 percent of the gambling revenue of casinos statewide _ dwarfed by the proceeds from table games and slots. The limited payoff has tribal casinos balancing the allure of a Las Vegas-style amenity with the risks of opening compacts for negotiations.

``Tribal leadership is extremely protective of what they have because it's meant so much to us, and there's always a risk of upsetting the apple cart,'' Washington State Gambling Commission member Chris Stearns said. ``Is this going to help us? Is this going to hurt us? That's really at the heart of why you see Indian tribes gently venturing into sports betting. ... In a lot of states, tribes write a check out to the state in exchange for exclusivity. So, any time there's a new gambling product, and you ask the state to authorize it, there is a risk the state will say `Sure, but it is going to cost you.'''

The only sports book in New Mexico, inside the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel, began taking wagers in October. It offers bets on professional and college sports, but not for games involving two public in-state universities.

In Washington state, all casinos are tribally operated. Changing the state's laws to allow betting on sports would require a 60 percent supermajority vote in the legislature or a ballot initiative. Only then could sports betting be added to a tribal-state compact.

In California, where tribes have exclusivity on casino-style gambling, voters would have to approve a change to the state constitution.

Casinos are operated on and off reservations in South Dakota. Before the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe can try to to edge out its nearest competition across the state line in Iowa, South Dakota's constitution will have to be amended through a public vote.

The legislature could choose to put the question before voters or supporters could gather enough signatures to add the measure to the 2020 ballot. If the measure passes, it would open the opportunity for tribes to negotiate their compacts with the state.

Tribal councilman Kenny Weston said a sports book could attract new patrons who may also choose to play games already offered and spend nights at the hotel for big sporting events, like MMA fights.

``Normally, with the brick-and-mortar casino like we have, we attract a lot of older crowds and retired people,'' Weston said. ``I think with sports betting we can bring a different age demographic and different people ... and have the opportunity to do the same that they do in Vegas.''

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Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

 

Tribe Seeks to Build Virginia's First Casino in Norfolk

By BEN FINLEY
Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ The Indian tribe that greeted English settlers at Jamestown and claims Pocahontas among its lineage said Wednesday that it hopes to open Virginia's first casino in the city of Norfolk.

Pamunkey Indian Tribe spokesman Jay Smith said the tribe is eyeing about 20 acres (eight hectares) along the Elizabeth River between a minor league baseball stadium and an Amtrak station near Norfolk's downtown. Negotiations are already underway with officials in Virginia's second-largest city.

The Pamunkey announced plans earlier this year to build a $700 million resort and casino in its ancestral region. The tribe says that area includes central Virginia near Richmond and stretches down to the Hampton Roads region, where Norfolk is located.

Robert Gray, the tribe's chief, said in a statement that ``just as this area played an important role in the tribe's past, I believe that Norfolk will play an even more important role in the Pamunkey Tribe's future.''

The Pamunkey were among the group of tribes led by Chief Powhatan in what is now Virginia. Many had lost their lands in the 1700s.

The Pamunkey were among the few tribes that held onto their reservations. It still has about 1,200 acres (485 hectares) outside Richmond.

In 2015, the Pamunkey became the first tribe in Virginia to receive federal recognition from the Department of Interior. Smith said the status allows the tribe to operate casinos without approval from the state of Virginia, which currently has none.

Nearly 240 tribes operate casinos in more than half of U.S. states under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Smith said the games in the proposed Norfolk casino and resort would offer slots as well as the usual variety of table games, including poker and black jack.

The proposed casino and resort project still must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Smith said. Among the factors the bureau will consider is whether the tribe is indeed proposing its casino on ancestral lands.

He said the resort and casino would create thousands of jobs and have an economic impact of more than $1 billion a year.

Norfolk sits near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and borders the coastal city of Virginia Beach, the state's largest city.

It's also not far from Jamestown, the first permanent English colony, which was founded along the James River.

Mayor Kenny Alexander said the tribe's interest in Norfolk validates the city ``as an emerging destination for tourism in the mid-Atlantic.''

The Pamunkey may open the state's first casino, but others may not be far behind.

Casinos are currently illegal under state law. But Virginia lawmakers have shown a greater willingness to discuss expanding gambling in recent years.

A businessman who wants to build a casino in southwest Virginia said he's confident about getting approval from the General Assembly, the Bristol Herald Courier reported earlier this month.

Some state lawmakers have also said they're drafting legislation to allow sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can legalize and regulate sports wagering.

 

New Monument Pays Respect to Tlingit Burial Ground

By ALEX McCARTHY

Juneau Empire

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Clarence Laiti stood in the cafeteria of Sayéik Gastineau Community School — which was built on a Tlingit burial ground — and reflected on times he’s visited the graves of departed relatives in cemeteries.

“You always end up talking to them,” Laiti said. “At least I do.”

On a recent afternoon, the ongoing conversation between the dead and the living was on full display at the school.

In 1956, the city paved over a Tlingit burial ground to build a highway and the school. In 1962, the city of Douglas burned down the Douglas Indian Village to make way for Douglas harbor.

When the school was being renovated in 2012, contractors inadvertently unearthed five graves. Since then, the City and Borough of Juneau has worked with the DIA to acknowledge the past and to try to heal the deep wounds that were caused by previous events.

In the past two years, a Raven totem pole was raised in front of the school and the Tlingit name for the area, Sayéik, was added to the school’s name.

The Sayéik Sacred Site Memorial, which was designed by Tlingit/Unangax multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin, includes a few main aspects. The focus of it is a ceremonial bronze fire dish, which is symbolic for the Tlingit practice of placing food into a fire to feed and comfort the spirits of the departed.

Just below the fire dish is a light, representing an eternal flame. Below that is a bronze plaque in the shape of a Tináa that explains the significance of the site and memorial. The memorial is built on a granite boulder. There’s a stone path leading from the memorial to the school’s entrance.

In front of the entrance is a large semi-circle of bronze that carries words from the late Tlingit elder Elizabeth Nyman: “You are truly precious, (you and) all the Children of the Yanyèidi, (and those whose names come) from the Taku River. Therefore I want you to see your background, your history, what happened in the past. As long as (I live) — I will not live forever, but those of you who come after will read it. If only you were taken by boat along the Taku River you could write down the whole story in a book.”

Galanin’s work has gained attention from people around the country, and he’s been heavily involved in the healing process on Douglas Island. He was the lead carver on a Wolf totem pole that went up at Savikko Park earlier this year.

Galanin wasn’t able to attend the unveiling ceremony, but many people made sure to praise his work on the memorial. University of Alaska Southeast Assistant Dean Ronalda Cadiente-Brown said it was clear from early on that Galanin was the correct choice for the project.

“He delivered in a variety of ways,” Cadiente-Brown said. “I had such a sense that the work was in the right hands and appreciated that he is now tied to this community both with the poles he was involved with and with this piece.”

The memorial was a collaborative effort between the DIA, CBJ, Juneau School District and North Wind Architects. Representatives from all of those organizations were present at the unveiling, but it was a fairly small ceremony with about 40 people in attendance.

DIA Tribal Administrator Andrea Cadiente-Laiti did much of the moderating during the ceremony, but DIA Secretary Barbara Cadiente-Nelson and Tlingit elders David Katzeek and Paul Marks also spoke at length. Katzeek and Marks, who often team up to speak at important Tlingit events and ceremonies, spoke just before the memorial was unveiled.

They talked about their personal experiences with the school and the area and about how important it is for the children attending the school to understand the significance of the land they’re on. Katzeek spoke at length about the example that the totem pole and memorial are setting, but more importantly he spoke about the example that the people working together to put them up are setting.

“We’re holding each other up, encouraging each other,” Katzeek said. “Our children need to see that. This nation needs to see.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

 

Utah School District Eyes Revamped Native American Lessons

PROVO, Utah (AP) _ A Utah school district is working to revamp its lessons around Native Americans to tackle stereotypes.

The Daily Herald of Provo, Utah, reports the Provo City School District has been setting up meetings with schools about curriculum development and questioning sources teachers have been using.

Meredith Lam, the Native American specialist and Title VI coordinator for the Provo City School District, says around 90 percent of the lessons plans about Native Americans teachers have shown her this year have needed to be reworked. She says it's part of the process to give students a complete picture.

Lam says she'd like to see an American Indian history class offered as an elective to the older grades to give students the opportunity to learn the other half of U.S. history.

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Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com

 

White Supremacy Signs Placed on Montana College Campuses

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ Signs bearing the name of a white supremacist group have been left on two college campuses and elsewhere in Montana's largest city.

The Billings Gazette reported Monday some signs had a drawing of Uncle Sam with the words ``Thank you, veterans!'' and the group's name, Identity Evropa, in smaller type. The group's triangular logo appears on Uncle Sam's lapel.

The signs appeared at Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College, as well as at some city intersections.

One was placed beside a display honoring veterans set up by the Native American Achievement Center at Montana State Billings. Reno Charette, director of the center, said she hadn't heard of the group but alerted campus police when she learned what it advocated.

It wasn't clear who placed the signs. Both colleges condemned them.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

 

Facebook Adds Alaska's Inupiaq as Language Option

By RACHEL D'ORO
Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Britt'Nee Brower grew up in a largely Inupiat Eskimo town in Alaska's far north, but English was the only language spoken at home.

Today, she knows a smattering of Inupiaq from childhood language classes at school in the community of Utqiagvik. Brower even published an Inupiaq coloring book last year featuring the names of common animals of the region. But she hopes to someday speak fluently by practicing her ancestral language in a daily, modern setting.

The 29-year-old Anchorage woman has started to do just that with a new Inupiaq language option that recently went live on Facebook for those who employ the social media giant's community translation tool. Launched a decade ago, the tool has allowed users to translate bookmarks, action buttons and other functions in more than 100 languages around the globe.

For now, Facebook is being translated into Inupiaq only on its website, not its app.

``I was excited,'' Brower says of her first time trying the feature, still a work in progress as Inupiaq words are slowly added. ``I was thinking, `I'm going to have to bring out my Inupiaq dictionary so I can learn.' So I did.''

Facebook users can submit requests to translate the site's vast interface workings _ the buttons that allow users to like, comment and navigate the site _ into any language through crowdsourcing. With the interface tool, it's the Facebook users who do the translating of words and short phrases. Words are confirmed through crowd up-and-down voting.

Besides the Inupiaq option, Cherokee and Canada's Inuktut are other indigenous languages in the process of being translated, according to Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Argyres.

``It's important to have these indigenous languages on the internet. Oftentimes they're nowhere to be found,'' she said. ``So much is carried through language _ tradition, culture _ and so in the digital world, being able to translate from that environment is really important.''

The Inupiaq language is spoken in northern Alaska and the Seward Peninsula. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, about 13,500 Inupiat live in the state, with about 3,000 speaking the language.

Myles Creed, who grew up in the Inupiat community of Kotzebue, was the driving force in getting Inupiaq added. After researching ways to possibly link an external translation app with Facebook, he reached out to Grant Magdanz, a hometown friend who works as a software engineer in San Francisco. Neither one of them knew about the translation tool when Magdanz contacted Facebook in late 2016 about setting up an Inupiatun option.

Facebook opened a translation portal for the language in March 2017. It was then up to users to provide the translations through crowdsourcing.

Creed, 29, a linguistics graduate student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, is not Inupiat, and neither is Magdanz, 24. But they grew up around the language and its people, and wanted to promote its use for today's world.

``I've been given so much by the community I grew up in, and I want to be able to give back in some way,'' said Creed, who is learning Inupiaq.

Both see the Facebook option as a small step against predictions that Alaska's Native languages are heading toward extinction under their present rate of decline.

``It has to be part of everyone's daily life. It can't be this separate thing,'' Magdanz said. ``People need the ability to speak it in any medium that they use, like they would English or Spanish.''

Initially, Creed relied on volunteer translators, but that didn't go fast enough. In January, he won a $2,000 mini grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum to hire two fluent Inupiat translators. While a language is in the process of being translated, only those who use the translation tool are able to see it.

Creed changed his translation settings last year. But it was only weeks ago that his home button finally said ``Aimaagvik,'' Inupiaq for home.

``I was really ecstatic,'' he said.

So far, only a fraction of the vast interface is in Inupiaq. Part of the holdup is the complexity of finding exact translations, according to the Inupiaq translators who were hired with the grant money.

Take the comment button, which is still in English. There's no one-word-fits-all in Inupiaq for ``comment,'' according to translator Pausauraq Jana Harcharek, who heads Inupiaq education for Alaska's North Slope Borough. Is the word being presented in the form of a question, or a statement or an exclamatory sentence?

``Sometimes it's so difficult to go from concepts that don't exist in the language to arriving at a translation that communicates what that particular English word might mean,'' Harcharek said.

Translator Muriel Hopson said finding the right translation ultimately could require two or three Inupiaq words.

The 58-year-old Anchorage woman grew up in the village of Wainwright, where she was raised by her grandparents. Inupiaq was spoken in the home, but it was strictly prohibited at the village school run by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Hopson said.

She wonders if she's among the last generation of Inupiaq speakers. But she welcomes the new Facebook option as a promising way for young people to see the value Inupiaq brings as a living language.

``Who doesn't have a Facebook account when you're a millennial?'' she said. ``It can only help.''

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Online: Facebook translations, https://bit.ly/2oqPJzG

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Follow Rachel D'Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro

 

Tribes Write Letters Opposing Keystone Oil Pipeline

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. (AP) _ American Indian tribes have written letters to South Dakota's Public Utilities Commission, expressing their opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe and a grassroots group called Dakota Rural Action wrote letters seeking more information about developer TransCanada's compliance with permit conditions.

The tribes say ground-disturbing activity near the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and the Rosebud Sioux Reservation prompted the letter. It says that if TransCanada's actions are found to be unlawful, the commission should order that construction be stopped.

The tribe says the pipeline would run through Great Sioux Nation homelands.

A TransCanada spokeswoman has said previously that its site near the reservation is a pipe yard, one of four being prepared in South Dakota before planned construction next year.

 

Haskell Foundation Welcomes New Executive Director

Lawrence, Kan. - The Haskell Foundation is pleased to announce that Aaron Hove has joined the organization as Executive Director.

Hove provides key leadership skills and will oversee support services for the foundation's efforts to financially promote Haskell Indian Nations University, an institution of higher learning for members of federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S.

Aaron earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Kansas, and also earned a Juris Doctorate from University of Kansas School of Law. For 25 years he acted as an attorney for Payless Shoesource; lastly as the Vice President of International Legal, with significant involvement in International operations. During his career at Payless, Aaron developed the business organization skills and integrity that the Executive Director position requires.

As an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Haskell Foundation provides means for other organizations, tribal communities, foundations, agencies and individuals to contribute monetary support to Haskell Indian Nations University.

 

Oklahoma City Mayor Proclaims Oct. 8 Indigenous People's Day

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt has proclaimed Oct. 8 as Indigenous People's Day, adding the city to dozens around the nation that acknowledge Native Americans on the day known nationally as Columbus Day.

At least three Oklahoma cities, Tulsa, Norman and Tahlequah already recognize the day, but efforts to do the same in Oklahoma City have failed.

Holt, who is a member of the Osage Nation, wrote that arguments over whether to declare an Indigenous People's Day in the city was unfortunate due to the city's indigenous population and that other cities have already done so.

The Oklahoma City Council repeatedly turned down requests for the day in recent years. City spokeswoman Kristy Yager says Holt's proclamation eliminates the need for the issue to go before the council again.

 

New Culture Center to Honor Shoshone Killed in 1863 Massacre

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation is on a mission to make sure hundreds of tribal members who were killed by U.S. troops in the 1863 Bear River Massacre are never forgotten with a new cultural center in southeastern Idaho.

Darren Parry said he developed a deep respect for the site from frequent visits with his grandmother.

``She would say that if you're here at just the right time in the evening sometimes you can hear the cries of the little ones for their mothers,'' he said. ``She instilled in me a love for my people.''

Parry and other tribal council members are working with GSBS Architects in Utah to develop the Boa Ogoi (Big River) Cultural Interpretive Center, the Deseret News reported earlier this month.

He hopes the center will teach others about Shoshone history, so they can appreciate it the way he does.

The tribe purchased about 1 square mile (3 square kilometers) of the massacre site for $1.75 million last January, two days before Perry and the Shoshone Nation commemorated the 155th anniversary of the Bear River Massacre. Between 250 and 500 Shoshone men, women and children were killed by Col. Patrick Connor and his federal troops on Jan. 29, 1863.

The site is designed to be minimalistic by being built into the earth.

Michael Gross, a tribal councilman and Parry's cousin, said incorporating the landscape into the design was key. He thinks it will help to foster education and understand his people's story.

``Everything they did was based off the land. That's how they survived. The land was of great importance for a lot of reasons,'' Gross said. ``The design encapsulates everything we're about.''

The Shoshone Nation is also working with the Utah State University College of Natural Resources to clean up the site and return it to the state it was in in 1863, with more willows and vegetation.

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Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com

 

US House Backs Bill Giving Montana Tribe Federal Recognition

By MATTHEW BROWN
Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ The U.S. House passed a bill Wednesday that would give federal recognition to Montana's Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians following a decades-long effort.

Federal recognition would validate the Little Shell's identity and make its roughly 6,000 members eligible for government benefits ranging from education to health care. The tribe was recognized by the state of Montana in 2000.

Little Shell Chairman Gerald Gray said he was optimistic a companion measure would now advance through the Senate and be signed into law.

``I feel very optimistic. It's the first time we've ever had a House bill come out of the chamber,'' Gray said.

The bill was approved by a voice vote. A companion bill was endorsed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in May 2017 but has yet to receive a vote from the full Senate.

Montana U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, the first-term Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill, said it became clear to him after his election that the Little Shell had suffered an injustice in being denied recognition.

``This is a big milestone,'' Gianforte said. ``This recognition is really due them through a treaty arrangement that dates back a long period of time.''

Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester issued a statement calling on the chamber's Republican majority to take up the measure with ``no strings attached.''

Both the House and Senate versions would require the U.S. Department of the Interior to acquire 200 acres (80 hectares) for the Little Shell's members that could be used for a tribal government center, housing or other purposes.

The Little Shell evolved from a group of French and Indian hunters and trappers affiliated with the historical Pembina Band of Chippewa Indians.

The tribe has been without a recognized homeland since the late 1800s, when Chief Little Shell and his followers in North Dakota broke off treaty negotiations with the U.S. government. Tribe members later settled in Montana and southern Canada.

Tribal leaders first petitioned for recognition through the Interior Department in 1978. Gray and other members trace their other attempts back to the 1860s, when the Pembina Band of Chippewa signed a treaty with the U.S. government.

The Interior Department gave preliminary approval to recognizing the Little Shell in 2000 but rescinded the move in 2009. The agency denied recognition for the Little Shell again in 2013.

There are more than 500 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.

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Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at www.twitter.com/matthewbrownap

 

Sculpture Planned for Native American Cemetery to be Moved

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) _ A new sculpture planned for the entrance of a Native American burial site in western Michigan is being relocated after a tribe raised concerns it would disturb sacred ground.

Construction was already underway to place the 16-foot (4.9-meter) granite sculpture titled ``All My Relations'' in the Old Indian Cemetery in Muskegon. The sculpture was crafted by Anishinaabe artist Jason Quigno.

Members of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians recently expressed disapproval of the decision and advocated for a different location.

Cemetery caretaker Joseph Genia says the cemetery is a sacred place to the Ottawa people. He says placing a statue in the cemetery would ruin its integrity.

City Manager Frank Peterson says groups reached a consensus to find a new location for the sculpture. The new site is expected to be announced soon.

 

River Raisin National Battlefield Redevelopment Begins

MONROE, Mich. (AP) _ The River Raisin National Battlefield Park in southeastern Michigan is undergoing an estimated $100 million redevelopment to turn the historical site into a tourist destination.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and private partners will fund the redevelopment project in Monroe at the location of the Battle of Frenchtown, an important battle in the War of 1812, The Detroit Free Press reported .

The project launched Monday will begin with the purchase of 20 houses that will be demolished to make room for a recreation of historic Frenchtown and a $20 million education center.

Officials estimate the changes will attract more than 1 million visitors annually, including 100,000 school children. The area had 239,000 visitors last year, said Park Superintendent Scott Bentley. Monroe has a population of about 20,000 and lies 35 miles south of Detroit.

``Fourteen million people live within three hours' drive of the park,'' said Mark Cochran, Monroe development coordinator. ``We've been working on gearing our economy more toward tourism. We've got Lake Erie, the River Raisin, the battlefield and a heritage trail.''

Bentley said the Battle of Frenchtown was an important moment in U.S. history that went on to shape U.S. policy toward Native Americans and led to westward expansion.

``It was the greatest defeat for the U.S. in the entire War of 1812,'' he said.

Native American tribes fought alongside British and Canadian soldiers to capture Fort Detroit before taking over Frenchtown. The Canadian and Native American troops later withdrew from the town. The Native American tribes brought about 500 U.S. prisoners with them during the retreat and killed between 20 to 100 soldiers who couldn't walk.

Bentley said that event led to the forced removal of native populations.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

Advocates: Ruling Holds Promise for Native American Students

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ It's being billed as a landmark ruling that could reshape New Mexico's education system and how it gets funded.

And some advocates say Native American students are among those who could benefit the most as the state has been tasked by a district judge to follow through with promises made years ago under New Mexico's Indian Education Act.

Adopted in 2003, the act calls for an equitable and culturally relevant learning environment in schools that serve Native American students.

Regis Pecos with the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School says the recent court ruling provides a monumental opportunity for tribes to define their vision of education in New Mexico and elsewhere.

State officials plan to appeal, arguing that spending on education has increased. They also say Native American students are now seeing record academic gains.

Solicitor General: Supreme Court Should Hear Crow Case

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ A top official within the U.S. Department of Justice says the U.S. Supreme Court should review a case in which a Crow tribal member and game warden from Montana is asserting his treaty right to hunt elk in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.

Clayvin Herrera was found guilty of killing an elk in the forest in January 2014. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay $8,080.

The Wyoming Supreme Court declined to hear his case, saying the issue was decided by a federal appeals court in 1995. That ruling was based on an 1896 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said tribal treaty rights ``are irreconcilable with state sovereignty.'' The 1896 Supreme Court ruling has since been overturned.

The Billings Gazette reports U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said Idaho and Montana recognize tribal hunting rights and the Supreme Court should resolve the disagreements.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

Postage stamp to honor Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore 

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan will be honored with a postage stamp being released this year.

The illustration features a sweeping view of a sandy beach, lapping Lake Michigan waves and towering dunes for which the park is famous.

The U.S. Postal Service says the Priority Mail Express stamp will cost $24.70.

ABC's ``Good Morning America'' named Sleeping Bear Dunes the nation's most beautiful spot in 2011. More than 1.1 million people visit annually to wander the park's 35 miles of shoreline, climb the dunes, hike forest trails and tour historic structures including former lifesaving stations.

The park also includes the North and South Manitou Islands, both popular with campers.

Its name was inspired by a Native American legend of a mother bear and her two cubs.

 

Ancient DNA gives glimpse of ancestors of Native Americans

By MALCOLM RITTER
AP Science Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ DNA from an infant who died in Alaska some 11,500 years ago is giving scientists the best look yet at the genetics of the ancestors of today's native peoples of the Americas.

Decoding the infant's complete set of DNA let researchers estimate the timing of key events in the ancestral history of today's Native Americans and indigenous peoples of Canada and Central and South America.

Expert said that while the new work doesn't radically change the outlines of what scientists have thought, it provides more detail and better evidence than what was available before.

The infant girl was buried about 50 miles southeast of Fairbanks, and her remains are the earliest known in the far north of North America, said anthropologist Ben Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He reports the analysis along with others in a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature.

The first Americans were descended from Asians, and they reached the New World by way of Beringia, a now-submerged land bridge that used to connect Asia to Alaska. Recent research suggests they followed the shorelines of Beringia and the Pacific Coast as they spread into the Americas by at least 15,000 years ago.

The new paper supports a theory that the migrants from Asia spent thousands of years in isolation, either in Beringea or Asia, before entering the Americas. During that time they developed unique genetic signatures that are now found in natives of the Americas.

The DNA analyzed by Potter and his colleagues came from a skull bone. The infant's remains, along with remains of a fetus, had been uncovered in 2013 in a circular pit that showed signs of ritual burial. The fetus was related to the infant, perhaps a cousin, but contained too little DNA for a full analysis of it.

By comparing the genetic details of the infant to those of genomes from other populations, the researchers were able to estimate the times of key events in the ancestral story of today's indigenous Americans. For example, they calculated that the ancestors completed their split from Asians by about 25,000 years ago.

Ancestors of the Alaskan girl split away from this group about 20,000 years ago. So her DNA allows a direct glimpse of the ancient population that led to today's native peoples, said Jennifer Raff of the University of Kansas, who didn't participate in the study

Much of the research in this area has been based on DNA that tells only about a person's maternal ancestors, she said. A complete genome is more informative and allows scientists to have more confidence in their time estimates, she said.

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Follow Malcolm Ritter at (at)MalcolmRitter His recent work can be found at http://tinyurl.com/RitterAP