To Improve the Reservation, the Federal Government Needs to Act Now
By Ian Skorodin
The American Library Association reports nearly 7 in every 10 residents on rural tribal lands remain without access to fixed high-capacity broadband and are cut off from educational and economic opportunities.
Our community faces tough problems. Broadband offers a ray of hope but Federal agencies must take action.
While tough challenges are nothing new for Native Americans, nearly 2 years of COVID-19 have been brutal. Federal figures show the massive harm this pandemic has inflicted on us. COVID has hit Native American communities harder than any other community in the U.S. We have more than 3 times the hospitalization rate and more than twice the death rate as non-Native communities.
But more than that, this pandemic is putting the traditional way of life for many Native Americans under unprecedented pressure. Among Diné living on the Navajo Nation, two-thirds of COVID deaths are people over age 65. Their deaths take away cultural and historical knowledge that may never be regained. More generally, traditional communal living that has existed for generations on many reservations is being pushed aside.
Against this backdrop, the need for Federal action is obvious and urgent. On November 15, President Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that included $65 billion to expand affordable high-speed Internet service with a special focus on left-behind places like Native American reservations.
With this bill signed into law, Federal agencies must move quickly to fund broadband expansion on reservations – no more delays. To appreciate why, here’s a depressing statistic from a 2018 report by the American Library Association: “Nearly 7 in every 10 residents on rural tribal lands remain without access to fixed high-capacity broadband and are cut off from educational and economic opportunities.”
Think about how this issue affects Native Americans on a personal level:
- Children on reservations are falling behind in their school work. They can’t do their homework because unlike millions of other students, there’s not enough broadband access.
- Seniors and people with disabilities have lower life expectancy because they can’t get medical and rehabilitative care. Unlike millions of seniors outside reservations, our people living on reservations, who don’t have reliable home broadband, can’t access basic telehealth services.
- Jobs are hard to come by and job growth is failing. Let’s face it, how can someone create or maintain a small business these days without reliable broadband service?
Earlier this year, I was part of a federal commission that looked at using the Internet to empower people who’ve been left behind. We started with the reality that broadband is changing the world faster than any technology in history. But the faster this technology moves and the more benefits it provides, the greater the disadvantages for those who are left behind.
Our report offers specific suggestions and guidance for improving broadband access and adoption. These include:
- Simplifying government broadband support programs and improving coordination so libraries better focus on digital adoption skills and training.
- Simplifying the Federal E-Rate program, especially its application process.
- Taking a hard look at technology lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic – what worked and what hasn’t?
Nowhere is the need for broadband action more obvious than it is on Native American reservations. The Navajo Nation is the nation’s largest and by far most populous reservation. According to Congressional testimony by the Dine Nation President last year, 60% of residents lack fixed internet access. Those that do have internet access rely on “a patchwork of service providers that results in sporadic to non-existent connectivity.”
The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is the second largest reservation by population (about 17,000 residents). Fewer than half (48%) of its households have broadband. And in the Gila River and Jicarilla Apache Nation Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico, only 35% and 38% of households have broadband.
It’s against this backdrop that President Biden’s Administration has to act quickly to support broadband access and infrastructure. Every month of delay is time that our people continue to be disadvantaged and lack this basic necessity.
About the Author
Ian Skorodin (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and began his directing career with an award-winning feature film, entitled Tushka, based on the murder of a Native American activist’s family. After premiering at Sundance, Tushka went on to win Best Feature at the Arizona International Film Festival.
He is also the founder and Executive Director of the prestigious Los Angeles Skins Fest, which ranks among America’s best film festivals and is an annual gathering for film industry executives, cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers, and critics. Considered a major launching ground for Indian Country’s most talked about films, Ian relays, “It is vital that we prepare our writers to tell our stories and offer genuine opportunities to showcase our voices and stories."
(Homepage Photo: Courtesy npr.org.)
Cannabis Crop Expansion into Forests Threatens Wildlife Habitat
By Pamela Kan-Rice
This series of satellite images shows the development of a greenhouse complex in a Humboldt County forest.
Planting cannabis for commercial production in remote locations is creating forest fragmentation, stream modification, soil erosion and landslides. Without land-use policies to limit its environmental footprint, the impacts of cannabis farming could get worse, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
“Despite its small current footprint, the boom in cannabis agriculture poses a significant threat to our environment,” said co-author Van Butsic a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “To mitigate the anticipated environmental impacts, now is the time for policymakers and land-use planners to set regulations to manage the spatial pattern of cannabis expansion before crop production becomes established.”
Earlier studies have shown that cannabis production causes environmental damage, including rodenticide poisoning of forest mammals and dewatering of streams due to improper irrigation.
Cannabis grows near a salmon stream Humboldt. Diverting water to irrigate cannabis can dewater streams during the summer and impact wildlife.
Cannabis, as either a medicinal or recreational drug, is now legal in more than 30 U.S. states and in several countries. In California, where medicinal marijuana has been legal since 1996, voters in November approved the sale and possession of one ounce of marijuana for recreational use. As a result, cannabis production is ramping up.
Effective policymaking for a new crop can be challenging without scientific data. In this study, Butsic and Ian J. Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, and Jacob C. Brenner, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College in New York, present an approach for early assessment of landscape changes resulting from new agricultural activities.
Their approach uses per-unit-area analysis of landscape change. To study forest fragmentation in northern California, the scientists compared the effects of cannabis cultivation to those of timber harvest from 2000 to 2013 in Humboldt County.
Based on the size, shape and placement of the cannabis grows among 62 randomly selected watersheds, they quantified the impacts relative to those of timber harvest.
Satellite image A shows a clearing with greenhouses (upper left in clearing) and rows of cannabis plants (lower right in clearing), surrounded by a buffer area. Image B shows a typical pattern of large areas of clear‐cuts for timber harvest and various stages of regrowth.
“We found that although timber has greater landscape impacts overall, cannabis causes far greater changes in key metrics on a per-unit-area basis,” Butsic said.
On a per-unit-area basis, the cannabis grows resulted in 1.5 times more forest loss and 2.5 times greater fragmentation of the landscape, breaking up large, contiguous forest into smaller patches and reducing wildlife habitat.
“The results show how important it is to consider environmental impacts at different scales,” Brenner said.
Current California law caps the size of outdoor cannabis production to 1 acre per parcel, to prohibit the development of industrial-scale cannabis operations outdoors. An unintended consequence of this law may be small dispersed cannabis grows that edge out wildlife.
While the long-term effects of cannabis cultivation on the environment are unknown, the researchers concluded that land management and agricultural policy informed by further research may reduce these threats in California and in other states and countries where cannabis production can be regulated.
“Studies like this one have the potential to directly inform local land-use policy and state environmental regulation,” Brenner said. “It's exciting to be a part of this research because it is capturing a human-environment phenomenon at the moment of its emergence.”
Wells Fargo Donates $1 Million Emergency Aid for Pandemic Relief
(Editor’s Note: Wells Fargo & Company created a $50 Million Fund to Support Indian Country non-profit programs. Below this announcement is Native America Today’s original story announcing the historic philanthropic commitment.)
Southern Utah University, one recipient of sponsorships, will place Rural Health Scholars on the Navajo Nation to help administer COVID-19 testing and distribute personal protective equipment to tribe-members.
With tribal nations across the country severely impacted by COVID-19, Wells Fargo is responding to critical needs and delivering resources to help provide relief in Indian Country during this difficult time. They have donated $1 million across more than 20 nonprofit organizations since the start of the pandemic.
This emergency aid centers on food security, health care services and rental assistance across tribal communities. Wells Fargo is also providing support for Native-owned small businesses impacted by COVID-19 through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Grantees include:
- Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition– to deploy emergency cash assistance grants to American Indian and Alaska Native families, and continue to manage Native asset-building programs in the face of the pandemic
- Change Labs, Inc. – to provide critical financial support to promising startup businesses on the Navajo and Hopi Nations that are suffering as a direct result of COVID-19
- Southern Utah University – to place Rural Health Scholars on the Navajo Nation to help administer COVID-19 testing and distribute personal protective equipment to tribe-members.
- Native American Development Center – to support low-income Native Americans in metropolitan areas through its North Dakota Urban Indian COVID-19 Fund.
Wells Fargo announced $600,000 in grants to tribal housing programs via the Native American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC). The funding will be used to make urgent repairs to senior-owned homes in 21 tribal communities. At a time when tribes are forced to pare down services and devote their limited resources to pandemic response, these grants will allow tribes to make much needed improvements to help ensure the safety of senior homeowners and their families.
Wells Fargo also announced a small business recovery effort that will directly impact-benefit Native American/Alaska Native and minority-owned non-profit organizations/CDFIs supporting small business owners. They are donating $400 million in processing fees from the Paycheck Protection Program, to nonprofits helping entrepreneurs and minority-owned businesses. These funds will help small businesses impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to keep their doors open, retain employees, and rebuild.
Through Wells Fargo’s new Open for Business Fund, the company will engage nonprofit organizations to provide capital, technical support, and long-term resiliency programs to small businesses with an emphasis on those that are minority-owned businesses.
Wells Fargo Commits $50M to Indian Country, Dawson Her Many Horses Named to Lead Initiative
Wells Fargo & Company announced today that it has hired veteran banker Dawson Her Many Horses to lead the bank’s services to American Indian/Alaska Native governments and tribally owned enterprises. The new hire comes on the heels of Wells Fargo’s recent announcement of a five-year, $50 million commitment to American Indian/Alaska Native communities to help address their unique economic, social, and environmental needs.
In November, Wells Fargo pledged to expand its philanthropy programs, work to improve retail, commercial, and corporate products and services to meet the community’s financial and banking requirements, and help to create greater awareness of the cultures, history, and contributions of the Native American community. The commitment included funding for dedicated bank resources supporting tribal advocacy and community outreach initiatives, including hiring a business-relationship manager focused solely on the market segment.
An enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, Her Many Horses brings 16 years of banking experience to the dedicated role. As senior vice president and senior relationship manager, he will work closely with the bank's National Tribal Advocate as well as a cross-functional advisory council focused on identifying and addressing challenges within American Indian/Alaska Native communities through Wells Fargo’s business and operations, stakeholder and community engagement, policy and philanthropy. Based in Las Vegas, Her Many Horses will serve customers throughout the United States.
“Dawson has a long history of serving this important community and truly understands the unique financial needs,” said Patty Juarez, national diverse segments manager for Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Banking group. “Wells Fargo is proud of our longstanding relationships with tribal governments and American Indian and Alaska Native customers, and Dawson is uniquely qualified to help us keep those connections strong.”
“We want to play a larger role in the development of tribal economies because we believe once tribes become financially successful, they also become more sovereign,” states Patty Juarez, National Diverse Segments Director.
Wells Fargo has served tribal governments and communities for more than 50 years and currently provides capital and financial services to more than 200 tribal entities in 27 states. In 2016, the company developed and published an Indigenous Peoples Statement in consultation with tribal leaders, indigenous stakeholders and their representatives, to help guide Wells Fargo’s decision making for projects where proceeds of Wells Fargo financing may potentially impact American Indian, Alaska Native or other indigenous communities.
Her Many Horses joins Wells Fargo from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where he most recently served as vice president on the middle market gaming team. He began his finance career in 2002 at Merrill Lynch & Company. In 2004, he was appointed director of Native American Business Development for its investment banking, wealth management, and asset management groups. He also has worked in the Capital Markets Group at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a trade association representing more than 650 securities firms, banks, and asset managers.
Her Many Horses holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University in New York City. He earned an MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Her Many Horses chairs the Native American Finance Officers Association's Corporate Advisory Board, and he serves as vice chair of the finance and investment committees on the American Indian College Fund board. In addition, Her Many Horses founded the Native American employee group at his previous financial institution, and will participate in the Wells Fargo Native Peoples Team Member Network.
Haskell Indian Nations University Announces Students of the Year
By Hank Muchnic, Kansas Contributing Writer
Haskell Indian Nations University, located in Lawrence, KS, is regarded as the premiere tribal university offering quality education to Native American students. It is proud to announce its 2019 Student of the Year Award recipients.
Ms. RaeLynn King
Ms. King hails from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and is currently a senior pursuing her bachelor's degree in Business Administration. RaeLynn has demonstrated academic excellence by consistently making the President's List. Last October, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development presented her with the Lockheed Martin Native American Business Scholarship for academic achievement and commitment to the community. During the summer of 2018, her internships were with Travois and Tepa, which provided the opportunity to work directly with tribal communities and gain a deeper understanding of her school major. In addition to being a full-time student, Ms. King works in the school’s Bursar's Office.
Ms. Lena MacDonald
Haskell’s American Indian College Fund Student of the Year is Lena MacDonald from Wasilla, Alaska, a member of the Healy Lake tribe. Ms. MacDonald is currently a junior enrolled in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management. For the last four semesters, Ms. MacDonald has made the President's Honor Roll and works at the campus library. She is involved with Haskell's Thunderbird Theater and has served as a volunteer for Snowshoe Elementary School as a teacher's helper, the Cystic Fibrosis Craft Fair and Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue.
THE HISTORY OF HASKELL
Twenty-two American Indian children entered the doors of a new school in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1884 to begin an educational program that focused on agricultural education in grades one through five. Today, Haskell continues to serve the educational needs of American Indian and Alaska Native people from across the United States. For more than 117 years, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been sending their children to Haskell, and Haskell has responded by offering innovative curricula oriented toward American Indian/Alaska Native cultures.
The doors to Haskell officially opened under the name of the United States Indian Industrial Training School. Enrollment quickly increased from its original 22 to over 400 students within one semester’s time. The early trades for boys included tailoring, wagon making, blacksmithing, harness making, painting, shoe making, and farming. Girls studied cooking, sewing and homemaking. Most of the students’ food was produced on the Haskell farm, and students were expected to participate in various industrial duties.
Ten years passed before the school expanded its academic training beyond the elementary grades. A “normal school” was added because teachers were needed in the students’ home communities. The commercial department (the predecessor of the business department) opened in 1895 with five typewriters. It is believed that the first touch-typing class in Kansas was taught at Haskell.
By 1927, high school classes were accredited by the state of Kansas, and Haskell began offering post high school courses in a variety of areas. Part of Haskell’s attraction was not only its post high school curriculum but also its success in athletics. Haskell football teams in the early 1900’s to the 1930’s are legendary. And even after the 1930’s, when the emphasis on football began to decrease, athletics remained a high priority to Haskell students and alumni. Today, Haskell continues to pay tribute to great athletes by serving as the home of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.
Industrial training became an important part of the curriculum in the early 1930’s, and by 1935 Haskell began to evolve into a post high school, vocational-technical institution. Gradually, the secondary program was phased out, and the last high school class graduated in 1965.
In 1970, Haskell began offering a junior college curriculum and became Haskell Indian Junior College. In 1992, after a period of planning for the 21st century, the National Haskell Board of Regents recommended a new name to reflect its vision for Haskell as a national center for Indian education, research, and cultural preservation. In 1993, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs (U. S. Department of the Interior) approved the change, and Haskell became “Haskell Indian Nations University.”
Today, Haskell has an average enrollment of over 1000 students each semester. Students represent federally recognized tribes from across the United States and are as culturally diverse as imaginable. Students select programs that will prepare them to enter baccalaureate programs in elementary teacher education, American Indian studies, business administration, and environmental science; to transfer to another baccalaureate degree-granting institution; or to enter directly into employment. Haskell continues to integrate American Indian/Alaska Native culture into all its curricula. This focus of the curriculum, besides its intertribal constituency and federal support through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, makes Haskell unique and provides exciting challenges as Haskell moves into the 21st century.
The Power of Names
By Doug George-Kanentiio
News From Indian Country
Fundamental to the well being of all humans is the need to identify oneself with a specific name and to have that name acknowledged within the family, the clan and the community. To assume a name is to assert individuality, to express uniqueness, to affirm continuity. What we are becomes who we are.
Communal names are equally important as they are an essential element within any specific culture. Names may be extracted from geography, events or individuals but they are a vital part of the collective sense of awareness and form a bond by which individuals within that community have their own place and meaning. We must all belong and names help us make a distinction between the “we” and the “them”.
Communal names have economic, social, historical and political power. New York City has deep meaning and resonates well in contrast to places like Beaverlick, Kentucky or Toad Suck, Arkansas. Selecting a name like Washington to become the capital of a new American nation was a wise choice unlike Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (formerly Saigon). Names lend themselves to harmony: cities such as Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (versus Ashgabat or Tecgucigalpa) which goes a long way in deterring the character of life of its residents.
Our ancestors knew this and were poetic in their application of names: Oswegatchie, Niagara, Kawenoke, Gananoque, Toronto.
When we abandon our aboriginal names we lose much of our power. Our connection with place is disrupted, our knowledge as to place is breached, our sense of connectedness severed. One of the tactics used by the colonial powers across the planet was to replace our names with nonsensical British Columbia or Pennsylvania versus Saskatchewan, Minnesota, Kentucky or Manitoba.
Here at Akwesasne we have struggled with names. We have been more fortunate than other Native communities in that our ancestors kept the language alive and vibrant across the generations. They also worked with the record keepers to insure that a comprehensive written form of Mohawk was used and the Native names and clan affiliations preserved.
Still, there were serious problems with names. For many decades the name of our community-Akwesasne-was obscured and suppressed Not until the arrival of Ray Fadden-Tehanetorens in the 1930’s was Akwesasne as a definer applied to us all. We were, until the 1960’s, something odd, the St. Regis Indians, both names of which are incorrect, deceptive and lies.
We shouldn’t cover our selves with lies.
There is no such thing, no people, who can truthfully say they are St. Regis Indians or St. Regis Mohawks. We don’t belong to St. Regis. We are not Indians. We are the far more powerful Onkweh, the Kanienkeha, the Rotinosionni. Of this earth, by this earth, with this earth.
Who exactly is Regis and why is he a saint? We know the flesh and blood man was born in 1597 in a town called Fontcouverte in the French province of Languedoc north of the Pyrenees mountains to a “noble class” family.
His true name was Jean Francois Regis, nor John Francis.
He elected to become a priest at the age of 19 because he had, according to www.catholic.org, a “holy hatred of himself” which was reflected in his vows of poverty and chastity. He became a Jesuit priest at the age of 31 and desperately wanted to become a missionary to the Iroquois (we were then considered the most cruel and yet the most intellectual of all Natives). When his application to come to our country was delayed he devoted himself to converting to Protestants, administering to prostitutes and caring for orphans. He punished his body so badly that he caught pneumonia and died at the age of 43.
Regis was made a saint in 1737 and assigned June 16. His life of denial, his feeling that he was sinful and this earth was a cursed place was in such contrast with the traditional values of the Onkwe that we have nothing in common with him other than our humanity.
What does Regis have to do with Akwesasne? Nothing except that his “feast day” may have been when the Jesuits Gourdon and Billiard arrived at Akwesasne in 1754 and decided that June 16 would be the official beginning of the mission then used Regis’ interest in the Iroquois to give their efforts more authority.
So why keep that name? Why do we refuse to relinquish the colonial embrace? It happens when we are compelled to step away from the past and redefine our identity by giving life to the old names, never a simple thing to do when one has been made to feel defensive about our heritage. It can be terrifying to some and to others it uncovers a reservoir of guilt and shame.
Should one be embarrassed using the term St. Regis? Yes, especially if that name continues to cause harm which it does since its intent was to destroy our traditional ways, our aboriginal spirituality, our sense of pride and dignity.
Many other Native people have tackled this problem and succeeded in casting off names of oppression. Witness the Tohono O’dham discarding the insulting name Papago, the Ho Chunks throwing away Winnebego, the Miami using Myaamia or the Eskimo refuting that pejorative for Inuit.
Speak the truth, use the name, empower the people.
It should be the Kaienke Nation Council, the Kanienke Council of Akwesasne, the Kanienke who reside to the south of Akwesasne and were once the “St. Regis Tribe”.
Doug George-Kanentiio is a writer, lecturer and Vice President of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge.