By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER and JAE C. HONG
Before-and-after aerial footage shows the impact of Lahaina wildfires.(Photo Credit: Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via Reuters)
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) __ Shortly after the ignition of the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century, a developer of land around a threatened Maui community urgently asked state officials for permission to divert water from streams to fight the growing inferno.
West Maui Land Company, Inc. said it eventually received approval from the Hawaii commission that oversees water management, but suggested the state body didn't act quickly enough and first directed the company to talk with a downstream taro farmer who relies on stream water, according to letters by a company executive obtained by The Associated Press and other news outlets.
Community members, including Native Hawaiian farmers, say the water the developer wanted for its reservoirs would not have made a difference in the fires. The reservoirs don't supply Maui County's fire hydrants, and firefighting helicopters which could have dipped into the reservoirs for water were grounded by high winds.
The Aug. 8 fire that killed at least 115 people took place below West Maui Land Company's developments and the Hawaiian communities that rely on the water. But the dispute over water access during the blaze has sparked new tension in a fight that dates to the mid-1800s, when unfair water distribution practices took root when plantations were established during colonization.
"This is a 2023 rendition of what's been happening in Lahaina for centuries," said Kapua'ala Sproat, director of the Native Hawaiian law center at the University of Hawaii.
Glenn Tremble, who wrote the letters, told the AP via text that the company didn't share the letters with the media and didn't want to distract from West Maui's losses. AP obtained the correspondence from various people familiar with the dispute.
"All we have asked is for the ability to make water available for fire prevention and suppression, to help people while we recover and to rebuild what we have lost," he wrote.
Hundreds remain unaccounted for after Maui wildfires (Photo Credit: Mike Blake, Reuters)
The complex push-pull over Maui stream diversions recalls other battles over water rights in drought-stricken Western states that have pitted Native American tribes against farmers and farmers against urban areas.
Native Hawaiians have long fought to protect what they consider a sacred resource. Stream diversions continued even after the plantations closed, and booming development contributed to West Maui's arid conditions. The West Maui Land Company's subdivision including multimillion-dollar gated homes that use diverted water was untouched by the Lahaina fires, noted Native Hawaiians who live off the streams and farm taro, a cultural staple.
"At one time, Lahaina was known to be very verdant and very lush," said Blossom Feiteira, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and Lahaina native. Hawaiians revere water so much and its abundance was why Lahaina became the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom from 1820 to 1845, she said.
When sugar cane and pineapple fields from the plantation era shut down in the 1980s and 1990s, the water was redirected to gated communities with lush green lawns and swimming pools, she said. Overgrown brown brush and invasive grass cropped up around these developments.
"There has been resentment in the community about that kind of picture," Feiteira said.
In one of the letters, West Maui Land Company said the state Commission on Water Resource Management should not prioritize "one individual's farm" over fighting a wind-whipped fire.
"No one is happy there was water in the streams while our homes, our businesses, our lands, and our lives were reduced to ash," the company said. The letter said the company requested "approval to divert more water from the streams so we could store as much water as possible for fire control" at 1 p.m. on the day of the fire, but that they were directed to first inquire with a downstream taro farmer.
At about 6 p.m., the commission approved the diversion of more water, the letter said.
West Maui Land's suggestion that Kaleo Manuel, first deputy of the commission, delayed the release of stream water has struck a nerve among Native Hawaiians and others who say the company is making him a scapegoat and using the tragedy to take yet more water.
A Lahaina stream sustains Ke’eaumoku Kapu's taro patches on his ancestral lands deep in Kauaula Valley in the mountains above Lahaina. He fled the town on the afternoon of the fire as flames approached and spent a night in his truck. The fire didn't get close to his home and farm in the valley, but in 2018 area residents used water from the stream to fight a wildfire, he said.
Ke’eaumoku Kapu cleans a kalo patch at Apuakehau. (Photo Credit: Lahaina News)
He called West Maui Land's characterization of the stream diversions "bogus" and disingenuous.
"They'll do anything to get it," Kapu said of the water.
The company is "trying to use this incredibly difficult time to get a legal and financial advantage, especially over their water resources, when that's something they were not able to accomplish legally before the fire," said Sproat, of the Native Hawaiian law center.
The letters caused such a commotion that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources re-assigned Manuel, drawing a lawsuit from West Maui residents decrying the move. The department said in a statement that Manuel's reassignment didn't suggest he did anything wrong, but would allow officials to focus on Maui.
Manuel couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Community groups urged supporters to go to Manuel's Honolulu office last week to bestow lei upon him in gratitude for his efforts.
Conflicts over stream diversions are not just a West Maui issue. Soon after the fires started, the state attorney general's office filed a petition with the state Supreme Court blaming an environmental court judge's caps on East Maui stream diversions for a lack of water for firefighting.
The court issued a ruling denying the state`s request to not to let the judge alter the amount of water to be diverted.
"This is what happens when there's literally not enough water anymore," said Kamanamaikalani Beamer, a former trustee of the Commission on Water Resource Management, calling streams "the veins that fill up our aquifers."
"Water brings together like the multitude of interests, economic, cultural," he said. "But it's because no one can just create it out of nothing."
Kelleher reported from Honolulu.
Bison's Relocation to Native Lands Revives a Spiritual Bond
By BOBBY ROSS Jr.
Centuries ago, an estimated 30 million to 60 million bison roamed the vast Great Plains of North America, from Canada to Texas. But by 1900, European settlers had driven the species to near extinction, hunting them en masse for their prized skins and often leaving the carcasses to rot on the prairie. (Photo Credit: Thomas Shahan)
BULL HOLLOW, Okla. (AP) – Ryan Mackey quietly sang a sacred Cherokee verse as he pulled a handful of tobacco out of a zip-close bag. Reaching over a barbed wire fence, he scattered the leaves onto the pasture where a growing herd of bison – popularly known as American buffalo – grazed in northeastern Oklahoma.
The offering represented a reverent act of thanksgiving, the 45-year-old explained, and a desire to forge a divine connection with the animals, his ancestors and the Creator.
``When tobacco is used in the right way, it's almost like a contract is made between you and the spirit -- the spirit of our Creator, the spirit of these bison,'' Mackey said as a strong wind rumbled across the grassy field. ``Everything, they say, has a spiritual aspect. Just like this wind, we can feel it in our hands, but we can't see it.''
Decades after the last bison vanished from their tribal lands, the Cherokee Nation is part of a nationwide resurgence of Indigenous people seeking to reconnect with the humpbacked, shaggy-haired animals that occupy a crucial place in centuries-old tradition and belief.
Since 1992 the federally chartered InterTribal Buffalo Council has helped relocate surplus bison from locations such as Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona to 82 member tribes in 20 states.
``Collectively those tribes manage over 20,000 buffalo on tribal lands,'' said Troy Heinert, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe member who serves as executive director of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, based in Rapid City, South Dakota. ``Our goal and mission is to restore buffalo back to Indian country for that cultural and spiritual connection that Indigenous people have with the buffalo.''
``It's important to recognize the history that Native people had with buffalo and how buffalo were nearly decimated… Now with the resurgence of the buffalo, often led by Native nations, we're seeing that spiritual and cultural awakening as well that comes with it,'' said Heinert, who is a South Dakota state senator.
Troy Heinert serves as the minority leader of the South Dakota Senate.(Photo Credit: Johnny Sundby/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Historically, Indigenous people hunted and used every part of the bison: for food, clothing, shelter, tools and ceremonial purposes. They did not regard the bison as a mere commodity, however, but rather as beings closely linked to people.
``Many tribes viewed them as a relative,'' Heinert said. ``You'll find that in the ceremonies and language and songs.''
Rosalyn LaPier, an Indigenous writer and scholar who grew up on the Blackfeet Nation's reservation in Montana, said there are different mythological origin stories for bison among the various peoples of the Great Plains.
``Depending on what Indigenous group you're talking to, the bison originated in the supernatural realm and ended up on Earth for humans to use,'' said LaPier, an environmental historian and ethnobotanist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. ``And there's usually some sort of story of how humans were taught to hunt bison and kill bison and harvest them.''
Her Blackfeet tribe, for example, believes there are three realms: the sky world, the below world -- that is, Earth -- and the underwater world. Tribal lore, LaPier says, holds that the Blackfeet were vegetarians until an orphaned bison slipped out of the underwater world in human form and was taken in by two caring humans. As a result, the underwater bison's divine leader allowed more to come to Earth to be hunted and eaten.
In Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes with 437,000 registered members, had a few bison on its land in the 1970s. But they disappeared.
It wasn't until 40 years later that the tribe's contemporary herd was begun, when a large cattle trailer -- driven by Heinert -- arrived in fall 2014 with 38 bison from Badlands National Park. It was greeted by emotional songs and prayers from tribe's people.
``I can still remember the dew that was on the grass and the songs of the birds that were in the trees. ... I could feel the hope and the pride in the Cherokee people that day,'' Heinert said.
Since then, births and additional bison transplants from various locations have boosted the population to about 215. The herd roams a 500-acre (2-square kilometer) pasture in Bull Hollow, an unincorporated area of Delaware County about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northeast of Tulsa, near the small town of Kenwood.
For now, the Cherokee are not harvesting the animals, whose bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) and stand 6 feet tall (nearly 2 meters), as leaders focus on growing the herd. But bison, a lean protein, could serve in the future as a food source for Cherokee schools and nutrition centers, said Bryan Warner, the tribe's deputy principal chief.
``Our hope is really not just for food sovereignty's sake but to really reconnect our citizens back in a spiritual way,'' said Warner, a member of a United Methodist church.
That reconnection in turn leads to discussions about other fauna, he added, from rabbits and turtles to quail and doves.
``All these different animals -- it puts you more in tune with nature,'' he said as bison sauntered through a nearby pond. ``And then essentially it puts you more in tune with yourself, because we all come from the same dirt that these animals are formed from -- from our Creator.''
Originally from the southeastern United States, the Cherokee were forced to relocate to present-day Oklahoma in 1838 after gold was discovered in their ancestral lands. The 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) removal, known as the Trail of Tears, claimed nearly 4,000 lives through sickness and harsh travel conditions.
While bison are more associated with Great Plains tribes than those with roots on the East Coast, the newly arrived Cherokee had connections with a slightly smaller subspecies, according to Mackey. The animals on the tribe's lands today are not direct descendants, he explained, but close cousins with which the tribe is able to have a spiritual bond.
White Bison are considered sacred in Native American culture (Photo Credit: MONGO via Wikipedia)
``We don't speak the same language as the bison,'' Mackey said. ``But when you sit with them and spend time with them, relationships can be built on, other means than just language alone: sharing experiences, sharing that same space and just having a feeling of respect. Your body language changes when you have respect for someone or something.''
Mackey grew up with Pentecostal roots on his father's side and Baptist on his mother's. He still occasionally attends church, but finds more meaning in Cherokee ceremonial practices.
``Even if (tribal members) are raised in church or in synagogue or wherever they choose to worship, their elders are Cherokee elders,'' he said. ``And this idea of relationship and respect and guardianship -- with the land, with the Earth, with all those things that reside on it -- it's passed down. It still pervades our identity as Cherokee people.''
That's why he believes the bison's return to Cherokee lands is so important.
``The bison aren't just meat,'' he said. ``They represent abundance and health and strength.''
How Buffalo Parts Are Used
By way of respect, tradition and self-sufficiency, after the hunt Native Americans used every part of the buffalo. The below illustrates how parts were utilized.
There are few publicly available videos on the subject matter. Editor's choice below.
When C.S. Fly Shot Geronimo
By Tom Jonas
Used courtesy of True West magazine
The first shots C.S. Fly took of Geronimo included this one showing 28 men—soldiers, civilians and Indians. George Crook is seated at right, wearing his customary pith helmet, under the shade of Sycamore and Cottonwood trees in the creek bottom. (All photos provided by True West Archives unless otherwise noted)
In the middle of March 1886, Camillus Sydney Fly, perhaps Arizona’s best-known frontier photographer, loaded his camera, camping gear, provisions and a box or two of pre-sensitized eight-by-10-inch glass photographic plates onto pack animals and departed his Tombstone studio, accompanied by his assistant, a Mr. Chase. Fly was hoping to catch U.S. Army Gen. George Crook at Silver Springs on his way to the expected surrender of the renegade Apache Chief Geronimo and his followers.
After an encounter with American forces several months earlier in the Sierra Madre Mountains of northern Mexico, Geronimo had unexpectedly offered to meet with Gen. Crook, who commanded the Military Department of Arizona and was well-respected by the Apaches. Word soon spread of the upcoming conference, and Fly wanted to record it on film.
Geronimo had declined to meet Crook on American soil, fearing American treachery, and chose Cañon de los Embudos (translated as “Canyon of the Funnels”) in northeastern Sonora, Mexico, as the meeting location.
After a January meeting with Geronimo to make preliminary arrangements, Lt. Marion Maus marched his men about 80 miles north to the mouth of Embudos canyon on San Bernardino Creek, about 14 miles south of the international boundary. Maus established a camp there and waited until the arranged meeting time in March, watching for smokes from the Apaches that would signal their readiness for the summit.
When smokes were observed and Apaches were spotted in late March, Maus sent a message to Fort Bowie for Crook and then moved his camp up to where Embudos Creek emerged from the mountains.
After receiving word, Gen. Crook and several companions headed south from Fort Bowie, along the western slope of the Chiricahua Mountains, on a 50-mile, two-day ride to Silver Springs. Fly met the general at that camp site on the evening of March 23 and secured permission to follow along behind the column to record the momentous occasion for posterity.
Beyond John Slaughter’s ranch headquarters, the military party traveled on a road that crossed the unfenced U.S.-Mexico border into Sonora, passed the ruins of the old hacienda of the original San Bernardino Land Grant, crossed Cooke’s Wagon Road and continued south, paralleling the flowing San Bernardino Creek.
Three miles south of the border, on March 24, the troops stopped at Contrabandista (translated as “Smuggler”) Springs and made camp. At this spring, probably modern El Ojito, was a makeshift store run by a Charles Tribolet, an unscrupulous U.S. Army beef contractor. Tribolet’s most profitable merchandise was not beef, but tobacco, mescal and whiskey.
The following morning, Crook’s party left the valley of San Bernardino Creek and headed southeast toward the meeting place. They crossed the canyons of Guadalupe Creek and Bonito Creek, and reached Embudos Creek, near where it flowed out of the Sierra los Embudos. Here, Embudos Creek was bounded on the south by lava buttes that rose sharply from the canyon’s edge. The Apaches had chosen their campsite on the upper slopes of these buttes, where they could see approaches from all directions and could easily melt into the mountains behind at the first hint of treachery. Geronimo had chosen a campsite, on lower ground, for the U.S. Army, on the opposite side of the creek.
The first meeting with Geronimo took place on the afternoon of Crook’s arrival, March 25. When Fly whipped out his camera, he saved for posterity the only known images taken of American Indians during wartime, which are published below.
Fly’s first exposure was a candid shot of the group. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
When the meeting broke up, Fly moved his gear to the American camp on the north bank of the creek, taking several more exposures late that afternoon. This image shows the packer’s camp on a hillside north of the creek. From the top of this hill, the San Bernardino Valley would have been visible to the north and west. The view shows Gen. Crook with his supporting staff, 35 men in all.
Made at the camp of the scouts under Lt. Marion Maus, this photo shows all of the U.S. forces present at Cañon de los Embudos.
A view looking west toward the camp of the Apache scouts, with the Sierra los Embudos in the background.
Fly took this photograph on a rise about 300 yards north of Embudos Creek and slightly west of a tributary stream that enters from the north. The U.S. Army camp was a short distance north of Fly, and the Army’s scout camp was toward the east.
On the morning of March 26, Fly crossed the Embudos ravine to the Apache camp, located on high ground in the lava rock buttes that form the south bank of the creek. This phot, which Fly titled “Bird’s-Eye view of the hostile Camp,” appears to be made near the bottom of an overhanging butte, possibly just after Fly had reached the top of the lava wall that formed the south bank of Embudos Creek. A small wickiup appears in the foreground, possibly for a sentry, and the main encampment is visible in the distance at the top of the butte.
Several Apaches, mostly boys, pose in front of a wickiup on the rocky hilltop. The boy in front is Santiago “Jimmy” McKinn, then 11 or 12, who was captured by the Apaches several months earlier near Silver City, New Mexico Territory. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Fly actively adjusted his subjects to get the best effect in front of the wickiup. Here is another shot. (Photo Courtesy of C.S. Fly’s Photographic Gallery, Tombstone, AZ)
Taken farther out than the other photos, No. 173 shows the same wickiup in the background at left. Another is in the foreground, with a few warriors and horses seen around it. The Apaches made these temporary shelters from available plant stalks and partially covered them with blankets. (Photo Courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
Judging by the similar vegetation, this photo, “A Group of Hostiles,” may have been taken in the same area of the camp. It shows 16 Apache men, women and children. Again, a nicely posed shot by Fly, with mounted men in the back row. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
The “money shots” for Fly were probably the ones including Geronimo. This photograph, titled by Fly “Geronimo and Natches [Naiche] mounted, Natches with hat on; son of Geronimo [Tsisnah] standing by his side. This group photograph was taken by special request of Geronimo.” (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
This photograph was made nearby. It is titled “Geronimo, Son and two picked braves, Man with long rifle Geronimo.” (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Fly titled three photos “Geronimo and his warriors,” which were all taken at the top of the butte among the grass and Spanish bayonet.
Geronimo, standing in center, is holding a ceremonial drum. (Photo Courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society 78151)
Additionally, Fly prepared two more negatives at his studio in which Geronimo is the only visible subject, much of the surrounding image having been opaqued out. This photo has Geronimo standing with rifle. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
Geronimo on horseback.
When Fly completed his photography on the morning of March 26, he packed up his gear and left for Tombstone, about 80 miles away. Within a couple of days, he had prints made and for sale.
Back in the mountains, things were not going as well. Crook had met with Geronimo on the afternoons of March 26 and 27. At length, Geronimo agreed to bring all of his people in to surrender at Fort Bowie in a few days. When Crook left Embudos early on March 28 to return to Fort Bowie, the situation was already deteriorating. The Apaches had been heard carousing the night before under the influence of Tribolet’s liquor.
In the very early morning hours of March 30, Geronimo and his party rode silently back into the mountains. They continued raiding in Arizona and New Mexico Territories and in Sonora, Mexico, for several months before finally surrendering to Gen. Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon on September 4, 1886.
About the Author
A former Arizona State University commercial art major, cartographer Tom Jonas specializes in 19th-century trail research. He is also an authority in cartographic analysis, custom historical mapping, and enjoys doing “then and now” photography pairing vintage historical images with modern photographs. He is also the proprietor of Tom Jonas Graphic Service in Phoenix, Arizona.
About True West Magazine
Author Tom Jonas originally wrote this piece for True West Magazine. Launched in 1953 by the legendary Joe “Hosstail” Small in Austin, Texas, True West is a popular history publication with a loyal, core readership, and the oldest, continuously published Western Americana publication in the world.
More Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Needed to Meet Community Need
Procedural example of a sexual assault victim reporting their experience to law enforcement. (Photo Credit: Duquesne University School of Nursing)
By Kayla Woody
Chances are, you know someone who has experienced sexual violence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience sexual assault, calling it a serious public health problem — and it’s one that disproportionately affects Native American communities. Native American women are raped at more than twice the rate of any other race, but they are least likely to report due to cultural taboos and legal loopholes that make it impossible for tribal courts to prosecute non-Native offenders.
The freedom to speak openly and honestly about their experiences is a critical element to survivors’ healing process.
As a community, we also need to do much better in terms of medical care for sexual assault survivors. There is specific training available for nurses and nursing students, enabling them to become a certified sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). SANE nurses meet with victims of sexual assault and abuse to conduct a thorough forensic exam, as well as provide expert testimony in court when needed.
There is currently an emergency shortage of SANE nurses to adequately support our state’s prevalence of sexual assault. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the rate of rape (or attempted rape) reported by Oklahoma women to law enforcement is 35-45% higher than the national average. And it has been — for a decade.
Out of the 77 counties in Oklahoma, only 32 — less than half — have SANE nurse programs. In Pottawatomie County, where the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN) is located, there are only two SANE nurses to serve 73,000 residents.
This is simply unacceptable. We need to do better for the vulnerable members of our community.
CPN’s House of Hope, which supports domestic violence victims, is partnering with local colleges to provide this vital training. Pottawatomie County nurses and nursing students are invited to take part in a series of training sessions to learn the role of a SANE nurse and steps to SANE certification.
If you are in the nursing profession or are studying to become a nurse, I urge you to take part. Sexual assault survivors throughout Oklahoma deserve better. You can be the catalyst to providing hope and healing.
About the Author
Kayla Woody is a domestic violence prevention specialist at Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s House of Hope, a program that offers free assistance to all individuals, Native or non-Native, who have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking.
A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is a registered nurse who completed additional education and training to provide health care to survivors of sexual assault. In some communities, SANEs are called Forensic Nurse Examiners. To become a SANE, you must be a registered nurse (or advanced practice), preferably with two years or more experience in areas of practice that require physical assessment skills.
Fellows Selected for 3rd Annual Feature Film Writers Lab
“It is vital that we prepare our writers to tell our stories and offer genuine opportunities to showcase our voices and stories," said LA Skins Fest Director Ian Skorodin.
The LA Skins Fest, a Native American film festival, in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Studios, Topple, Cherokee Nation Film Office, California Community Foundation and Sony Pictures Entertainment announced they have selected 7 fellows for the 3rd Annual Native American Feature Film Writers Lab, a talent development program that aims to boost the careers of Native American writers.
Now entering its third year, the Native American Feature Film Writers Lab is an annual program for talented and aspiring screenwriters. Over the course of 10 weeks, chosen fellows develop a new screenplay, meet with partner industry organizations and receive feedback on their scripts from industry professionals.
Comcast NBCUniversal’s Craig Robinson and Janine Jones-Clark. The company has been a longtime sponsor of the endeavor.
“As the call for diverse voices increases, the Barcid Foundation seeks to develop and bolster our communities best and brightest,” Ian Skorodin, Barcid Foundation Chief Executive Officer noted. “Our aim is to provide unique, groundbreaking and forward-thinking programs, such as the Feature Film Writers Lab, to make this a reality.”
The Native American Feature Film Writers Lab received numerous applicants from several tribes throughout North America. The chosen fellows will take part in a ten-week curriculum curated by seasoned writing executives. The lab will consist of daily workshops, seminars and one-on-one mentoring to help each writer develop and complete a screenplay in ten weeks and hone skills to prepare the participants for studio writing opportunities. At the end of the program, each participant will have completed an original screenplay and will take creative meetings with our corporate partners.
The Lab was created to expand the number of Native Americans working behind the camera to increase fair and accurate portrayals of Native Americans in film. According to the Writers Guild of America’s 2020 Inclusion Report, “of more than 2,000 screenwriters employed in 2019, only 27% were women and just 20% were people of color…Native/Indigenous screenwriters having almost no representation at all.”
“Our mission at Topple is lifting up marginalized voices and using the power of storytelling to ignite an intersectional revolution. It is our honor to partner with the LA Skins Fest and have the chance to work with these talented writers to bring their voices to the table", stated artist and activist Joey Soloway.
The 7 Fellows of the 2020 Native American Feature Film Writers Lab are:
Morningstar Angeline (Chippewa Cree/Blackfeet)
MorningStar Angeline began acting in theatre as a child and continued studying acting and writing throughout college. Behind the camera, she has worked in camera, casting, and locations departments and has received awards from the American Indian Film Festival, Institute of American Indian Arts, New Mexico Film, and TV Hall of Fame. She is a 2018 Sundance Indigenous Lab Fellow for her directorial and writing debut, Yá’át’ééh Abiní. Most recently Morningstar assisted director Zack Snyder on Army of the Dead and is a 2020 Vision Maker Media Shorts Fellow for her co-written script Innocence.
Chris Jenkins (Cherokee)
Chris Jenkins is a former educator and bartender from Evergreen, Colorado. His writing has appeared in Eclectica, Burnt Pine Magazine, Word Riot, and Inland. He has edited numerous magazines including Word Riot. He has also written two academic books, published in several academic journals, and written for several newspapers. He has a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, a master’s from the University of Oklahoma, and a Bachelor’s in English from Northeastern State University. He has now shifted his focus from academia to creative works and aspires to write and direct.
Randi LeClair (Pawnee Nation)
Randi LeClair graduated from Oklahoma State University with a BA in English and a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma. She received two Sundance Institute fellowships in 2010 and 2015, one for screenwriting and the other for film production. Her short film, Rariihuuru, aka The Letter, about Pawnee baseball player Moses YellowHorse, premiered at the Native Crossroads Film Festival and Symposium at the University of Oklahoma in 2017. In addition, her short film, Bridge, premiered at the Tulsa American Film Festival. More recently, her short script, The Circle of Chawce, placed in numerous screenplay competitions, including, WeScreenplay Shorts, Screencraft Shorts, and Simply Indie Film Fest.
Cara Jade Myers (Kiowa/Wichita)
Cara Jade Myers is a Native American writer living in Los Angeles, CA. In 2019 she was a fellow in the 4th Annual Native American TV Writers Lab where she developed a TV pilot from pitch to 3rd draft. That same year, she was a semi-finalist in the ABC/Disney writers’ program. In early 2020 Cara was among 12 selected as part of A3 Artists Agency’s program The Colony. She has created multiple shorts, TV pilots, and guest blogs. Her novel is currently in the editing phase. Cara’s favorite things to write are strong-female driven casts, especially in the realm of paranormal or sci-fi.
Scott Pewenofkit (Kiowa)
Writer/Director Scott Pewenofkit is a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma. In 2015 he graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in Film. In 2018 he earned his M.A. in Media Studies from The New School, after which he made three very personal short films touching on themes of memory and culture. His work so far has played at festivals around the U.S. Scott currently lives in San Antonio, TX with his two young sons, where he teaches video production at a local art school.
Cole Randall (Muskogee Creek)
Cole discovered a love for writing after watching the performance of a one-act play he wrote in high school. He followed his passion to Emerson College where he recently graduated with honors, earning a BFA in Comedic Arts. While attending Emerson, he had the wonderful opportunity to write a feature script, a pilot, a spec script, a web series, another one-act, and he even co-wrote a sketch for Emerson alumnus Norman Lear. In 2018 he was hired to be the co-head writer of Emerson’s first multi-camera sitcom, “707: A Sitcom.”
Matthew Rochester (Eastern Band of Cherokee)
Matthew Rochester, born and raised in the Smokies, he grew up playing in the forest, using his vivid imagination to escape a rough family life. Matthew obtained a Bachelor’s in Film & Creative Writing. While obtaining his degree, he temporarily studied film in the Czech Republic, where he discovered his love for screenplays. Eventually he would move out west and obtain his Masters in Screenwriting from Chapman University. Today, Matthew writes stories that fearlessly approach sensitive topics. With a strange but insightful humor, he strives to turn life’s imperfections into valuable lessons.
The prestigious Los Angeles Skins Fest ranks among the country’s best film festivals and is an annual gathering for film industry insiders, cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers, and critics. The LA Skins Fest is considered a major launching ground for Indian Country’s most talked about films. Founded in 2007, the Los Angeles Skins Fest, presented in the historic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, is a 6-day multicultural event celebrating the art of film, TV and new media. The Los Angeles Skins Fest’s long‐standing commitment is to join filmmakers and film connoisseurs together to experience great cinema. The exciting schedule consists of dozens of filmmakers presenting their newest works, special artist development programs, tributes to community leaders, special events, and remarkable films. Festival headquarters are in Los Angeles, CA.
The Seven Grandfathers
By Linda LeBoutillier
(Editor’s Note: The italicized copy that accompanies the myth is the author’s commentary)
The Anishinaabe Ojibway people teach their children a set of principles known as the Seven Grandfathers. The story goes that seven grandfathers (spiritual beings) were given by the Creator the responsibility of watching over human beings. The seven grandfathers sent a messenger to earth to assess the condition of the people and to choose someone to whom the grandfathers could teach the principles necessary for bimaadiziwin, “the good life” in the Ojibway language.
A baby still in his cradleboard was brought to the seven grandfathers, who agreed that this was the one they would teach, and who would be sent back to earth to teach the people. The messenger took the baby and went around the earth for seven years, then brought the boy, back to the grandfathers, each of whom sang a song and gave the boy a teaching.
From the Beaver Spirit, the boy learned wisdom. Wisdom is given to each of us by the Creator to be used for the good of the community as a whole. The beaver’s gift is his sharp teeth, with which he cuts trees and branches to build a dam. Cutting wood with one’s teeth wears them down, but fortunately, a beaver’s teeth continue to grow. If the beaver did not cut wood with his teeth, they would grow so long that he would no longer be able to eat and he would die. Human beings must likewise use the gifts and talents that they were born with for the good of the community. This is why Native people are troubled by the Western attitude of individualism as expressed in the phrase, “every man for himself.” Although they agree that each of us is a unique being, we are all charged to use our unique abilities for the good of the whole. The market mentality of charging what the traffic will bear or gaining profit without benefiting the surrounding community is completely opposite to their system of values.
From the Eagle Spirit, the boy learned love. Our first love is God, but our love for God is expressed through love for ourselves. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot love others. The eagle represents this principle in the respect that the eagle flies higher than any other winged creature. The eagle teaches human beings to “fly high” and to maintain a pure connection with Divine Spirit. This principle can best be expressed within a framework of spirituality that is not kept separate from daily life. To Native people, life and spirituality are one and the same.
From the Buffalo Spirit, the boy learned respect. In the old days, the Natives depended on the buffalo for many things in life, including food, tools and utensils, clothing and shelter. No part of the animal was wasted. Natives saw themselves as caretakers of the buffalo, and developed a sustainable, symbiotic relationship with them. The Natives showed respect for the buffalo, for all of the gifts it offered them for their use in daily life. This respect is extended to all forms of God’s creation. Native peoples share a belief that human beings are only one part of God’s creation, but not necessarily the apex of creation. Human beings share living space with all forms of life, and must respect and honor each and every form for its contribution to Creation as a whole. Natives were and are still troubled by the Europeans’ view that animals are inferior to humans, and they are very upset about the fact that buffalo, in particular, are in imminent danger of extinction.
From the Bear Spirit, the boy learned courage. The mother bear exhibits a ferociousness in protecting her cubs from harm, and in this, she shows us courage, which is defined as having the moral strength to overcome our fears in order to live life to its fullest potential. We must approach each challenge in life with the same energy as a mother bear shows in protecting her young from danger. Today Natives are calling on that courage to fight against the institutions of oppression that have been used against them by the mainstream of American society. They are taking back their languages, their cultures, and their spiritual practices, and they are once again stepping forward to identify themselves as the caretakers of Mother Earth.
From the Sabay Spirit (Bigfoot), the boy learned honesty. Long ago, a giant known as Kitch-sabe walked the earth. His job was to remind the people to be honest in observing the laws of the Creator, as well as to be honest with each other. When we are honest, we keep our promises to each other and to God. For Native people, one of the highest forms of praise was to say, “There walks an honest man. He can be trusted.” Since the early days of their association with Europeans, Natives have been troubled by the colonizers’ dishonesty as they broke the promises given in treaty after treaty, and they still wonder why the United States government abruptly switched to a policy of no longer honoring the treaties that they signed with various Native tribes.
From the Wolf Spirit, the boy learned humility. When we recognize and acknowledge that there is a higher power than human beings, we express humility. We express deference and submission to the Creator by accepting and honoring all of God’s creation. We give consideration to others’ wants and needs before our own. The wolf puts this lesson into practice when he will not take food until it can be shared with his pack. This is why Natives find it hard to accept the concept of human beings as the apex of creation, and the concept of gaining power over others without consideration for their welfare.
From the Turtle Spirit, the boy learned truth. For Natives, truth is a practical thing. To know these natural laws and to put them into practice in our daily lives is to practice truth. Grandmother Turtle is present in the world to ensure that human beings do not forget these lessons. On her back are markings of 13 moons, each representing one cycle of the earth’s rotation around the sun, and 28 markings, representing the moon cycle of a woman’s body. We are to speak the truth at all times, and never to deceive ourselves or others. This is why, for Natives, spirituality is expressed in daily life, and cannot be separated from it. This is why Natives have little respect for politicians who bend the truth to tell us what we wish to hear.
By the time he returned to earth to teach the people, the boy had become an old man. He gathered the people together to tell them about his sojourn and his meeting with the Seven Grandfathers. He told the people that each of these teachings must be used together with all the rest. None of the teachings was to be left out.
(Lead Illustration Credit: The Southern Network)
(Animal Photos: Wikipedia)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Non-Native Linda LeBoutillier is a retired teacher and started her blog to further develop her writing skills and personal sensibilities. Her focus is to learn more about Native Americans and share that knowledge with others. The Seven Grandfathers was written during Native American Heritage Month, and Ms. LeBoutillier stated, "I challenged myself to write something about Natives every day that month."
The Department of Homeland Security's Special Partnership with Native Americans
I remember attending an event at the Library of Congress several years ago when I was serving at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that highlighted the contributions Native Americans have made to DHS. I came away very impressed by the dedication and capabilities of Native Americans who serve in law enforcement, and the important role many are playing in securing our borders.
Unfortunately, Native American contributions to US national security have been largely unheralded. The Navajo Code Talkers of World War II played an amazing role in helping the US and its allies achieve victory in World War II. Today, over 22,000 Native Americans serve in the Armed Forces and have the highest per capita serving in the military of any ethnic group protecting the homeland.
At DHS, Native Americans continue this proud tradition of service. DHS maintains the Tribal Desk within the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs as the designated lead for tribal relations and consultation at DHS. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have especially strong tribal partnerships. CBP works closely with Native American leaders to strengthen security along the nation’s Southwest and Northern borders, as many US Border Patrol sectors encompass Indian land adjacent to these borders.
Cooperation between DHS and tribal police has also significantly impacted the security of our borders, especially in remote areas where drug smugglers and others illegally seek to enter the United States. Native American lands also contain many critical infrastructures such as dams, power transmission facilities, oil and gas fields, railroads and interstate highways that are potential terrorist targets. Ongoing programs and projects at DHS have been established to maximize cooperation between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement to protect these vital infrastructure assets.
FEMA is engaged with Native Americans primarily to prepare for responding to emergencies. FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness is active in training Native Americans from 23 tribes and ten states in preparation for mass casualty responses to natural or man-made disasters. This training includes operating command center communications and medical and public healthcare operations. These realistic scenarios are also becoming part of online coursework and will no doubt improve protection of both people and land.
In 2010, DHS unveiled The Tribal and Coordination Plan, an initiative that calls for increased consultation and coordination with federally recognized tribes across the United States that builds on “current tribal partnerships to protect the safety and security of all people on tribal lands and throughout the nations.” Under the plan, DHS solicited feedback from all 564 federally-recognized tribes and hired a dedicated tribal liaison in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to serve as a central point of contact for tribal governments and coordinate the work of the tribal liaisons across the department.
The initiative also called for dedicating staff resources to tribal engagement and enhancing training for DHS tribal liaisons and other employees that regularly engage tribal governments and representatives; incorporating tribal public safety and law enforcement agencies into state and local fusion centers; development of a Tribal Resource Guide for tribal leadership that highlights pertinent DHS programs and initiatives; and collaboration with tribal governments in the development of DHS policies that have tribal implications. In addition, the plan calls for working across the federal government to formalize a “one stop shop” for tribal governments for emergency management mitigation, planning, response and recovery efforts.
DHS’s Tribal and Coordination Plan is a great foundation to expand on the cooperation with Native American Tribes. For example, with a major shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers at DHS as the department’s mandate is increasing in scope and responsibilities, it would be great if a serious effort were made by Congress and DHS to cultivate the next generation of cybersecurity experts from many of the economically depressed areas within the Indian tribes.
Investment by government, industry and academia to train Native Americans in an accelerated cybersecurity curriculum, combined with real world experience via internships and fellowships, would yield high dividends for America’s cyber-readiness. Further engagement of Native American Tribal partners that have a strong, proven heritage of dedication and service could be a blessing for the future of homeland security.
Reprinted from Homeland Security Today and Indian Country News
Charles (Chuck) Brooks was the Department of Homeland Security’s first Director of Legislative Affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate. A former faculty member of John Hopkins University, he is widely published on the topics of innovation, public/private partnerships, emerging technologies, homeland security and cybersecurity.