Longtime Nebraska Native American Activist Frank LaMere Dies

Frank LaMere, March 1, 1950 - June 16, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ A longtime Democratic activist who spent his life fighting for Native American causes in Nebraska has died.

Frank LaMere's son says the 69-year-old died Sunday, June 16, after a bout with cancer.

LaMere was known nationally for his decades-long effort to close four beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, that were blamed for alcohol-related problems on the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Regulators shuttered the stores in 2017.

He also was a prominent critic of the Omaha Police Department's handling of Zachary BearHeels, a mentally ill Native American man who died in 2017 after officers punched and shocked him with a Taser.

LaMere served on the Democratic National Committee from 1996 through 2009 and was a delegate for multiple party conventions. He was a member of the American Indian Movement.

Trump Expresses Condolences After Navajo Code Talker's Death

John Pinto, December 15, 1924 - May 24, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ President Donald Trump is expressing condolences following the death of New Mexico Sen. John Pinto, a Democrat and Navajo Code Talker, who died last week at age 94.

Trump tweeted Friday, May 31, that he was saddened to hear about Pinto's death. A funeral for the longtime senator, who died May 24, was held Thursday, May 30, in Gallup.

Pinto was a World War II-era Marine who was among hundreds of Navajo Code Talkers - radio men who translated American coordinates and messages into an indecipherable code based on their language.

Trump called them "true American HEROES,'' while also noting Pinto's life of public service.

Pinto served in the New Mexico Senate for more than four decades, making him the longest-serving senator in state history.

 

WWII Code Talker and Longtime NM Lawmaker Dies at 94

By MORGAN LEE and MARY HUDETZ

Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ John Pinto, a Navajo Code Talker in World War II who became one of the nation's longest serving Native American elected officials as a New Mexico state senator, has died. He was 94.

Senate colleague Michael Padilla confirmed Pinto's death in Gallup on Friday, May 24, after years of suffering from various illnesses that rarely kept him from his duties.

After serving as a Marine, Pinto was elected to the Senate in 1976 and represented a district that includes the Navajo Nation for more than four decades. The region is one of the poorest in the country.

"Words cannot express the sadness we feel for the loss of a great Dine warrior,'' said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, using the indigenous word for Navajo. "He dedicated his life to helping others.''

Born in Lupton, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation to a family of sheep herders, Pinto didn't start formal schooling until he was nearly a teenager.

"At the age of 12, I was in kindergarten,'' Pinto told the Albuquerque Journal in a 2007 interview. "I guess I did all right.''

Pinto also recalled that his grandparents told of being forced at gunpoint from their land in the 1860s by the U.S. Army in the forced relocation of the Navajo people on foot to southern New Mexico.

After serving as a Code Talker - a group of radio men who translated American coordinates and messages into an indecipherable code based on the Navajo language - Pinto had to take an English test four times before he was finally admitted into the University of New Mexico's College of Education.

He graduated with a bachelor's in elementary education at 39, and eventually earned his master's, becoming a teacher and a truancy officer in Gallup.

Pinto delved into politics to address the needs of impoverished indigenous populations. The Democrat won a seat in state Senate in 1976 as one of the state's first Native American senators.

An unassuming appearance and manner belied Pinto's political determination that carried him through 42 years in the Legislature. Laurie Canepa, the senior librarian for the Legislative Council Service, said that made him the longest serving senator in state history.

Manny Aragon, the state's one-time Senate president, tells the story of driving to the Statehouse in a January 1977 snowstorm and picking up a middle-aged Navajo man who was hitchhiking in Albuquerque. The hitchhiker was newly elected Sen. Pinto.

"I just thought he was a transient,'' Aragon said.

In the Legislature, Pinto advocated for education reform and anti-poverty programs. Receiving a lifetime achievement award in 2016, Pinto recalled going hungry at times as a child while his parents juggled odd jobs and said the experience influenced his work on issues of homelessness as a lawmaker.

Every year, Pinto would sing on the Senate floor the "Potato Song'' - a Navajo song about a potato, planted in the spring and visited in the summer until it is harvested. Fellow senators, staff and aides clapped along to Pinto's rendition.

Lenore Naranjo, the Senate's chief clerk, says Pinto taught her bits of Navajo language over the decades.

"A beautiful man is all I can say,'' Naranjo said.

___

Associated Press writer Russell Contreras contributed to this report from Albuquerque.

(Editor’s Note: Mr. Fleming Begaye, Sr., a fellow code talker passed away on May 10, listed below.)

 

WWII-Era Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begaye Sr. Dies at 97

CHINLE, Ariz. (AP) _ The Navajo Nation has announced that World War II-era Navajo Code Talker Fleming Begaye Sr. has died.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says Begaye died Friday in Chinle, Arizona. He was 97.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Begaye was among hundreds of Navajos who served in the Marine Corps, using a code based on their native language to outsmart the Japanese.

According to the Navajo Nation, Begaye served as a Code Talker from 1943 to 1945 and fought in the Battle of Tarawa and the Batter of Tinian. He spent a year in a naval hospital after being wounded.

Begaye later ran a general store in Chinle.

President Donald Trump honored Begaye and two other Navajo Code Talkers at the White House in November 2017.

 

Native American Group Opposes Draft Social Studies Standards

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Native American education advocates are raising concerns that Nebraska's proposed social studies standards fall short of teaching a comprehensive history of Native Americans.

The newly formed Nebraska Indian Education Association wants the statewide standards that were unveiled this month to better disprove misconceptions about Native Americans and emphasize local tribes, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The Nebraska Department of Education is seeking public input on the drafted education guidelines.

Derek LaPointe, executive officer of the Santee Sioux Nation tribal council, said Nebraska schools focus on teaching the period of disruption, relocation and war after 1850.

``That's a blink of an eye in the lifetime of the tribe,'' said LaPointe, who's also an organizer for the association.

The group wants schools to teach about tribal sovereignty and Indian science and horticulture. They're also pushing for more instruction about the centuries before European settlement when their civilization thrived.

LaPointe said teachers focus on certain events such as the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 in South Dakota, without considering tragic events that occurred closer to home.

There's ``so much focus on Oklahoma and the Trail of Tears, but we've all had our share of the Trail of Tears,'' he said.

The association formed this year in response to Native American youths' persistent low-achievement rates in Nebraska schools.

Association leader Marian Holstein said teaching about tribal history could help address an identity crisis that many Native American youth face, which has affected children's self-esteem and their academic performance.

``There's never been teaching about our native people, and how intelligent we were,'' said Holstein, who's also a board member of Winnebago Public Schools. ``It's always been the savages, the heathens, that we were less than men. That has trickled down.''

John Witzel, president of the Nebraska State Board of Education, acknowledged that the proposed standards' approach to Native American topics is ``pretty general.''

``We appreciate their inputs, and are going to seek more inputs, and we've got time to make changes, adjustments, revisions, whatever's necessary,'' he said.

___

Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

 

Mills Could Restore 'Neglected' Tribal-State Commission

By MARINA VILLENEUVE
Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ Maine's governor could restore a long-neglected tribal-state commission that saw seats go unfilled under the previous administration.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills' spokesman Scott Ogden said she plans to nominate new members of the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission ``as soon as possible.'' Such nominations would require hearings and Senate confirmation.

Mills has pledged to address long-tense relations between state government and tribes in Maine after facing criticism for her role as former attorney general in legal action concerning tribal fishing and water quality rights. So far, Mills has spoken out against Native American mascots and appointed a former Penobscot Tribal Council member as a senior adviser.

She has called the inter-governmental commission ``neglected'' and her campaign website promised she'd work to enhance its authority to handle disputes.

``Gov. Mills believes the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission has the potential to improve and strengthen the relationship between the state and Maine tribes,'' Ogden said.

The inter-governmental commission, which dates back to the 1980 tribal land claims settlement, is supposed to have 13 members, including six state representatives and a chair. The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Indian Nation each appoint two members.

But the commission last had a full slate of members in early 2013 and gradually became less operational as slots for state representatives went unfilled, according to Managing Director Paul Thibeault. He said that the commission hasn't been fully operational for several years.

``When state members left for one reason or another they were not replaced and state members with expired terms were not re-appointed,'' Thibeault said.

Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage signed a 2011 executive order recognizing a ``relationship between equals'' among Maine tribes and the state. But the state and tribes later came into conflicts over tribal fishing and other issues, and in 2015, LePage rescinded that order.

He claimed his administration's efforts had been ``unproductive because the state of Maine's interests have not been respected in the ongoing relationship between sovereigns.''

In past years, the commission's focus has ranged from high school mascots to land-use disputes and disagreement over salt-water fisheries involving the lucrative elvers industry. Commissioners also have jurisdiction over fishing rules for certain waters in or near Passamaquoddy or Penobscot territory.

The commission can air out issues and make recommendations, but it lacks the formal authority to resolve disputes.

Thibeault said the first step to bolstering the commission is ensuring it has 13 members as required by statute. Thibeault also estimated a commission with more authority would need another $115,000 in annual funding, doubling the budget, for another staff member or consultants.

Mills has shown a commitment to doing so, Thibeault said. In April, the commission sent Mills a list of potential nominees, he said.

 

Bill in Congress would Resolve Large Utah Water Rights Claim

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) _ Federal legislation has been introduced to settle one of the largest outstanding water rights claims in Utah.

The settlement would give the Navajo Nation 81,500 acre-feet annually of Utah's unused share of water from the upper Colorado River basin.

Utah and the Navajo Nation reached the agreement in 2016, but it needs congressional approval.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney introduced the bill earlier this month. Arizona's two U.S. senators signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill would provide the Navajo Nation with $210 million for water infrastructure projects, including wells, pipelines and water treatment plants. Utah agreed to chip in $8 million.

The Navajo Nation originally claimed twice as much water as the settlement includes. Tribes often settle claims in exchange for funding to put the water to use.

 

Grand Canyon Watchtower to be Maintained as Cultural Site

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) _ Officials at the Grand Canyon say they're expanding programming at a historic watchtower where visitors can learn about Native American culture.

The National Park Service's Intermountain Region signed off on the plan last month.

The Desert View Watchtower near the east entrance of Grand Canyon gives visitors expansive views of the painted desert and the Little Colorado River Gorge. It had housed a gift shop up until 2015 when the Park Service turned it into a cultural heritage site.

The Grand Canyon is planning to add demonstrations, exhibits and opportunities for visitors to interact with tribal members and artists there.

The 70-foot (21-meter) watchtower was built in the early 1930s by famed architect Mary Colter. Stone covering the National Historic Landmark hides the building's steel frame.

 

Nevada, Utah Tribes Join Protest Against Plutonium Shipments

RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Thirteen tribes in Nevada and western Utah are urging President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to suspend any shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to a site north of Las Vegas.

Tribal leaders say they share the state's concerns that they were not informed or consulted about a half metric ton (1,102 pounds) of the radioactive material the government secretly shipped to Nevada over the state's objections last year.

Las Vegas Paiute Tribe Chairman Chris Spotted Eagle says his tribe has two reservations in downtown Las Vegas and the northwestern part of the Las Vegas Valley that sit along the transportation routes that may have been used to truck the plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site.

Energy Department officials confirmed last week they are working with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto to expedite removal of the plutonium from Nevada.

 

Grant to Help Michigan Tribe Boost Environmental Reporting

BARAGA, Mich. (AP) _ A Michigan-based Native American tribe has received a federal grant to modernize its environmental data reporting system.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $195,000 to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Baraga.

Regional administrator Kathy Stepp says the funding will enable the tribe to join an online data exchange network.

The network is used by the EPA, state, tribal and territorial partners to share environmental and health information. Officials say it will provide the tribe with better access to a number of data systems including a nationwide inventory of toxic releases.

Tribal President Warren Swartz Jr. says it will help the tribe make well-informed decisions, while boosting openness and public participation.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community expects the project to be operational in spring 2020.

 

Cherokee May Regain Control of Sacred Mound After 200 Years

FRANKLIN, N.C. (AP) _ Ownership of an ancient mound in North Carolina may return in part to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, two centuries after European settlers took the land.

News outlets report the Franklin town council voted this month to move forward with plans to deed control of the Nikwasi Mound to the nonprofit Nikwasi Initiative. The town currently controls the land, but the transfer would split control among the town, the tribe, Macon County and Mainspring Conservation Trust.

Franklin Vice Mayor Barbara McRae says the move is an opportunity to ``reverse that wrong'' by allowing the tribe some representation in the mound's management. Calling the plan ``amazing,'' Cherokee representative Juanita Wilson says nobody would lose anything.

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources says the mound was built around 1000 A.D.

 

South Dakota Senate Passes Governor's Pipeline Protest Bills

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) _ South Dakota senators have passed Gov. Kristi Noem's last-minute bills to prepare for potential protests over the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Senate voted Thursday to send the measures to the House, which was to debate them later that day. The push comes late in session, and critics have panned the administration's lack of consultation with Native American tribes .

The Republican governor's bills would require pipeline companies to chip in on protest-related expenses and create a way to pursue money from those who fund destructive demonstrations. Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, a supporter, says the bill going after protest funders seeks to protect families and communities who would be victims of ``terrorist conduct.''

Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert, an opponent, says he thinks it has ``constitutional issues'' and suspects it will be challenged in court.

 

New Yellowstone Superintendent Lays Out His Priorities

By MICHAEL WRIGHT
Bozeman Daily Chronicle

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. (AP) _ Cam Sholly didn't expect to be here. Not when he was finishing high school in Gardiner, not when he was clearing backcountry trails after leaving the Army, not when he returned to the National Park Service for good.

He doesn't recall a time when he was aspiring to the top jobs of the agency, despite his family history _ a grandfather who served as superintendent of Badlands National Park, a father who worked as Yellowstone National Park's chief ranger.

But here he is, settled into the superintendent's office inside the 110-year-old administration building at the nation's first national park, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported .

``Becoming superintendent of Yellowstone was beyond my wildest dreams,'' he said recently, sitting in an armchair in his office. ``It wasn't planned.''

Saying it wasn't planned sounds like an understatement. After holding a few different high-level jobs within the Park Service, Sholly became director of the agency's Midwest Region in 2015. He was based in Omaha, Nebraska, and he oversaw 61 park units in 13 states. He thought he'd be there a while.

Then came a controversial reassignment plan, one that resulted in former Yellowstone superintendent Dan Wenk saying he was being forced out of the agency. Sholly was selected to take his place.

He has been here since October. On his second day, he appeared at a field hearing in Gardiner with Republican Sen. Steve Daines. He met with Gov. Steve Bullock, too, and county commissioners and other people with a stake in the park. The five-week government shutdown interrupted his indoctrination, but he's seen enough to get ideas of what can be done better and what he wants to keep rolling along.

He talks of the nobility of the mission of the National Park Service, which is the preservation of natural and cultural resources of the park system. In Yellowstone, that largely means the ecosystem itself. He comes with a rosy view of its state, pointing to the recovery of wolves, grizzly bears and other animals. But he has no illusions that it's invincible.

``It is an ecosystem under threat,'' Sholly said. ``Whether that's climate change, whether that's increased visitation. It's under threat but it is in good condition, and we need to continue to do everything we can to understand and respond effectively to those challenges in the future.''

___

Sholly, 49, has been mulling a suite of priorities for the park, and near the top of the list is taking care of its staff. Among the top priorities for the near future: employee housing.

``Yellowstone employee housing is, for the most part, as a whole, embarrassing,'' Sholly said.

There are employee homes all over the park, including near places like Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lake. There are a total of 445 units, Sholly said, and 60 of them are trailers.

Already in his short tenure he's heard horror stories _ rodent infestations, broken stove burners and more. It's not everywhere, he said, but it's not nowhere, and some of the problems are hitting those who live deepest inside the park.

``These people are in the interior protecting this park in isolated conditions,'' Sholly said. ``The least we can do is do better with housing.''

He comes to this challenge and every other knowing what it's like to grow up in national parks. His father worked in a few different parks before Yellowstone. Sholly has memories of growing up in Yosemite, Crater Lake, Hawaii Volcanoes.

He finished his last year-and-a-half of high school in Gardiner, graduating in 1987. Immediately afterward, he joined the U.S. Army, and he ended up being deployed to Operation Desert Storm in 1990.

Sholly was out of the Army by 1991 and back in Montana. He worked in maintenance in Yellowstone for a couple of summers, his first job with the park service, and he gave college a try at Montana State University. He didn't finish his degree there, instead moving to California to work at Yosemite.

After a few years at Yosemite, he joined the California Highway Patrol. He stayed with the state police force for six years. It also nearly killed him.

One night in August 1999, he and a partner were patrolling south of San Francisco when they started chasing a car going well over 100 mph.

Sholly was in the passenger's seat. His partner was driving, trying to overtake the car. He lost control.

The patrol car hit a guard rail at more than 100 mph, Sholly said, the full impact going to the passenger side.

Extrication took more than 40 minutes, Sholly said. His back and pelvis were broken in multiple places. He was 29.

``It's at that point you kind of realize you want to have other options and alternatives in life,'' he said.

He decided to finish his undergraduate degree at St. Mary's College after the wreck. He stayed with the highway patrol for three more years, until the park service drew him back.

``It was a good chapter in my life,'' he said. ``I think the nobility of the park service mission is a draw. It was something I wanted to migrate back to.''

___

Yosemite is where the return began in 2002. After serving as chief ranger of operations there, he moved upward. A job in the park service's Washington, D.C. office, then superintendent of Natchez Trace Parkway in the southeast, then back to D.C., followed by the move to Omaha.

Stephanie Adams, of the National Parks Conservation Association, said moves like that are normal for agency employees, and that Sholly appeared to build a good reputation along the way.

``It seems like Cam has built a really strong track record within the park service,'' Adams said.

He joined the ranks of the Senior Executive Service, an elite group of park service employees who can be easily transferred within 60 days notice. Such a reassignment comes with two options _ accept or leave the agency.

His assignment to Yellowstone was reportedly part of a broader shuffle involving seven people in all. At least three people who were asked to accept new jobs, including former superintendent Wenk, retired instead.

The reassignment disrupted Sholly's idea that he might be in Omaha for a few years. While he moved to Yellowstone, his wife and son stayed there. He visits when he can, including while on furlough during the shutdown. They plan to join him here later this year.

Sholly was fully aware of the possibility that he could be reassigned at the drop of a hat when he joined the Senior Executive Service. Such moves aren't uncommon, he said, and he can't say how long he'll be in Yellowstone. But he's happy to be here.

``My job coming in here is to keep the good things going, try to keep good momentum in places where we had momentum going, and work on areas (Wenk) didn't get to,'' Sholly said.

___

At the time of the reassignments, Wenk cited a disagreement with the Trump administration over bison management. He later said he was told that wasn't the reason he was asked to leave Yellowstone.

Still, it fueled speculation that Sholly would arrive in Yellowstone with orders to significantly reduce the bison population, which was estimated at near 4,500 last fall. Bison are the one animal the park culls, through its ship-to-slaughter program, and some wondered if the Interior Department wanted Sholly to bring numbers down.

No such order was given, according to Sholly.

``Never happened,'' he said. ``Never has happened.''

His vision for the park's bison isn't much different from Wenk's. He said the population is at a place where they can try to keep it relatively stable, with post-calving numbers in the low- to mid-4,000s.

He also wants to see the quarantine program advance. Under Wenk, the park proposed quarantining bison for brucellosis at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in north central Montana.

Certifying bison as brucellosis free allows them to be moved more freely, and potentially released to join other wild herds or establish new ones. The park proposal was meant to help restore bison to other parts of the country and reduce the number slaughtered each year. Many conservationists support it, but some see it as the park domesticating wild bison and caving to the beef industry, which fears the spread of the disease.

The program is running now, but not at Fort Peck. Yellowstone has almost 80 bison in two quarantine corrals now going through what's known as phase two of the process _ months of brucellosis testing and time spent isolated from any wild animals. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also has five bulls it says could go to Fort Peck for the final phase of quarantine, known as assurance testing.

Fort Peck tribal officials want to be involved at phase two, and they have corrals that meet federal quarantine requirements. But state and federal agriculture officials have concerns about moving the bison out of the Yellowstone area without first completing that round of testing.

Sholly said he wants the tribes involved earlier, too, but that he understands the concerns of the livestock officials. Part of the reason he wants the tribes involved at that stage is capacity. His corrals can only handle so many bison at once, meaning only so many bison can be restored to new places if the program is successful.

``We are going to need to determine how do we establish a quarantine infrastructure that can facilitate a larger number of bison to enter the quarantine process and ultimately get put out onto larger landscapes,'' he said. ``It's something that's a work in progress and that we need to think about. It's not a pure National Park Service responsibility.''

___

Sholly has inherited the issue of ballooning visitation. In 2018, the park counted more than 4 million visits for the fourth consecutive year. The total was more than 20 percent higher than the total in 2013.

Many conservationists are concerned about the growing crowds, and they're wondering how many is too many.

``We certainly are paying attention to summer visitation issues and crowd management,'' said Scott Christensen, conservation director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Sholly recognizes that it's growing, but he's not ready to jump to a conclusion on how it should be managed. He wants more data on how people use the park. He is sure of one thing _ the park is not considering a visitor cap right now.

Even if they were, he doesn't see how a park-wide number would work with Yellowstone's vast size and its five separate entrances.

``When a huge amount of your visitation is over in Old Faithful and West,'' he said, ``are you really going to say you can't come in at Cody or you can't come in at Cooke City?''

He added that shuttle services in specific areas may be an option, but even those could get complicated.

``I think there's a lot of conversations to have,'' he said.

He is also having conversations about the park's budget, which he said could be managed better. He wants to make sure employees are taken care of, that they have a good work environment. And he's serious about improving housing.

The park is working on a 5-year housing plan, and he hopes to bring in more money for housing improvements. Plans and funding are already in place for new housing at Lake Village. Work on new seasonal housing for concession employees is in its early stages, too.

It's something he sees as a crucial part of his job, ensuring decent living conditions for the people on the front lines of preserving the wild and magnificent for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.

As for the ecosystem itself, he wants to be ready to respond to the challenges of visitors run amok or climate change or anything else. He wants to avoid a situation like what happened to the Yellowstone cutthroat in Yellowstone Lake.

Illegally introduced lake trout decimated the cutthroat population. Numbers fell to 10 percent or less of historic highs, according to the park.

Upon the discovery of non-native lake trout, which gobble up cutthroat, park officials got aggressive. Since 1994, more than 2.4 million lake trout have been killed by gill-netting. They're starting to see declining numbers of lake trout, and Sholly plans to keep the program going for the foreseeable future.

To him, it's both a success story and cautionary tale.

``For me, I think the biggest issue is, how did we almost allow a species like the cutthroat to blink out before we took the actions that we took?'' he said.

 

Multicultural Education Reforms Advance in New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ Bills designed to improve academic achievement among Native American and Hispanic students and to revitalizing local cultural traditions including indigenous languages are advancing at the New Mexico Legislature.

A House panel on Monday endorsed bills that would expand training for teachers of English as a second language and bilingual instruction, while enlisting the help of education cooperatives.

A separate bill would add two administrative posts at the Public Education Department to oversee progress among Hispanic students and better tailor teaching to local cultures.

The bills respond to a state district judge's findings that New Mexico fails to provide an adequate education to students from low-income and minority communities, especially children who speak Spanish or Native American languages at home. A court order gives lawmakers until April to provide solutions.

 

City Changes Paid Time Off from Columbus Day to Election Day

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) _ An Ohio city has decided to switch the paid day off previously given to city employees in observance of Columbus Day to Election Day.

The Sandusky Register reports city commissioners in Sandusky recently authorized the change. The shift of paid time off from Columbus Day to Election Day takes effect this year. Columbus Day is on the second Monday of October. Election Day typically falls on the first day of November.

City Manager Eric Wobser said the swap gives employees a day off to vote. He says the switch also was made because Columbus Day has become ``controversial.''

Some places have abolished Columbus Day which critics say honors the mistreatment and colonization of Native Americans while celebrating explorer Christopher Columbus.

Sandusky is roughly 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Toledo.

___

Information from: Sandusky Register, http://www.sanduskyregister.com/cgi-bin/liveique.acgi$sch=frontpage?frontpage

 

Lawmakers Want Detroit Fort Site Designated as National Park

DETROIT (AP) _ Two lawmakers are pushing to have the site of a military fort in southwest Detroit designated as a national park.

Democratic state Sen. Stephanie Chang and Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez want the city to deed Historic Fort Wayne to the federal government. Nearly 3,000 signatures have been gathered on a petition to support the initiative.

The star-shaped fort was built between 1842 and 1851 and features an 1848 limestone barracks building, commanding officers house, Spanish-American War guard house and a Tuskegee Airmen Museum. The grounds also contain a Native American burial site dating back more than 1,000 years.

The fort is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Chang said in release that as a national park, Historic Fort Wayne would receive ``dedicated funding and resources.''

 

Chaco Canyon-Drilling - APNewsBreak: US Oil Lease near Sacred Park Pushes Forward

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ U.S. land managers will move forward in March with the sale of oil and gas leases that include land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and other areas sacred to Native American tribes.

The sale comes as Democratic members of Congress, tribal leaders and environmentalists have criticized the federal Bureau of Land Management for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases despite the recent government shutdown.

With limited staff over the last month, the critics complained that they were locked out of the process because the agency didn't release any information about the sale. They also questioned whether the agency would be able to adequately review the land that's up for bid and whether it would consider protests to the move.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall told The Associated Press in an email that he's concerned about the latest attempt to lease potentially culturally significant land in New Mexico without a more comprehensive plan in place.

``It's a mistake that while critical public services were shuttered for 35 days during the government shutdown, BLM still moved forward with this opaque process,'' the New Mexico Democrat said.

Agency spokeswoman Cathy Garber said officials decided to push back the lease sale by a couple of weeks to accommodate a public protest period that was delayed because of the shutdown. The agency quietly confirmed on its website that it would accept comments starting Feb. 11 and that the sale was scheduled for March 28.

Depending on the outcome of the protests, it's possible for the agency to put off or withdraw nine parcels of land that are within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of Chaco, a world heritage site with massive stone structures, kivas and other features that archaeologists believe offered a religious or ritualistic experience.

Accessible only by rough dirt roads, Chaco takes effort to reach, and supporters say they want to protect the sense of remoteness that comes with making the journey. For tribes, the fight is centered on preserving what remains of a ceremonial and economic hub that dates back centuries.

In all, more than 50 parcels in New Mexico and Oklahoma will be up for bid.

``We cannot help but protest what appears to be an intentional bias in the favoring of oil and gas development over other interests,'' former Acoma Pueblo Gov. Kurt Riley said last week during a congressional forum.

Riley and others said the shutdown exacerbated an already tense situation over the expansion of oil and gas development in northwestern New Mexico.

In recent years, land managers have declined oil and gas exploration on land near the park, creating somewhat of an informal buffer. In early 2018, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke halted a lease sale over cultural concerns after hundreds of people protested.

The battle over energy development around Chaco, which is bordered by the Navajo Nation and a checkboard of state and federal land, has been simmering for years. Government officials visited the region In 2015 in hopes of brokering a way forward for the tribes and energy companies.

The Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs began working together on revamping the resource management plan for the San Juan Basin, which covers a larger portion of northwestern New Mexico and parts of southern Colorado.

The partnership was meant to ensure tribes would be consulted and that scientific and archaeological analysis would be done to guarantee cultural sensitivity.

Udall argued that the repeated pursuit of land near the park and the lack of a final management plan have resulted in ``a scattershot, shoot-from-the-hip approach.'' He called for the upcoming lease sale to be delayed.

The nine parcels near the park are on the outer edge of the informal buffer zone, but critics say it's possible oil equipment could be visible from some places in the park if those areas were leased. Whether the hum of the equipment could be heard would depend on the direction of the wind. There are also concerns about light pollution affecting Chaco's revered night sky.

Paul Reed with Archaeology Southwest said the informal buffer should be adopted as part of the management plan because scientists have barely scratched the surface when it comes to studying and understanding Chaco.

``Aside from the sites that everyone knows about in Chaco, there are a number of communities that exist within the 10-mile zone that we think need a greater level of protection,'' he said.

 

Notre Dame to Cover Up Murals of Columbus in the New World

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ The University of Notre Dame will cover murals in a campus building that depict Christopher Columbus in America, the school's president said, following criticism that the images depict Native Americans in stereotypical submissive poses before white European explorers.

The 12 murals created in the 1880s by Luis Gregori were intended to encourage immigrants who had come to the U.S. during a period of anti-Catholic sentiment. But they conceal another side of Columbus: the exploitation and repression of Native Americans , said the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame.

It is a ``darker side of this story, a side we must acknowledge,'' Jenkins said in a letter Sunday.

The murals in the Catholic university's Main Building are painted directly on walls. Jenkins said they will be covered, although they still could be occasionally displayed. A permanent display of photos of the paintings will be created elsewhere with an explanation of their context.

``We wish to preserve artistic works originally intended to celebrate immigrant Catholics who were marginalized at the time in society, but do so in a way that avoids unintentionally marginalizing others,'' Jenkins said.

In 2017, more than 300 students, employees and Notre Dame alumni signed a letter in the campus newspaper that called for the removal of the murals.

The president of the Native American Student Association praised Jenkins' decision.

``This is a good step towards acknowledging the full humanity of those native people who have come before us,'' said Marcus Winchester-Jones of Dowagiac, Michigan.

 

Idaho Company Steals from South Dakota Tribe, Alaska Natives

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ An Idaho company that sells posters to raise money for schools has admitted to defrauding a South Dakota tribe and at least two organizations tied to Alaska Natives.

The Idaho Statesman reports attorney Scott McKay says its client, All Around Sports, in Boise, and its owner, Chris Hoshaw, have ``reached an agreement with the Department of Justice in South Dakota to resolve the matters set forth in the legal pleadings.''

McKay says the company and Hoshaw ``accept responsibility for these matters.'' He says the company ``has implemented changes to its business practices to ensure this does not occur again.''

Federal prosecutors say All Around Sports devised a fraud scheme that it used between December 2015 and December 2016 to take more than $360,000 from the victims.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

 

South Dakota County Preps for Keystone XL Pipeline Protests

BELLE FOURCHE, S.D. (AP) _ Officials in a South Dakota county are preparing for the possibility of protests over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline by securing more jail cells.

The Black Hills Pioneer reports that the Butte County Commission approved an agreement last month to use Falk County's jail systems if necessary.

The move comes as TransCanada plans to start construction on the oil pipeline this year. Many environmental groups and Native American tribes have sought to block the project because of environmental concerns.

Butte County currently holds its inmates at the Meade County Jail in Sturgis. The pipeline will also run through that county.

Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere says he's concerned that the jail would fill up quickly should civil disturbances occur.

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com

 

Murkowski to Revive Bill Meant to Help Native American Women

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she plans to reintroduce a bill intended to help solve crimes against Native Americans. The bill received unanimous Senate approval after being introduced by North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp but was blocked by the outgoing chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte said he agreed with the intent of Heitkamp's bill, which sought to expand tribal access to federal crime databases, set standards for law enforcement's response to cases of missing or slain Native Americans, and instruct the Justice Department to increase its data collection on crimes against Native Americans.

But he said the bill would have hurt some agencies that have no link to tribal communities because they wouldn't be able to compete for Justice Department grants that the bill sought to create, The Roanoke Times reported.

Goodlatte, a Republican who is retiring after 13 terms in office, said only a limited number of law enforcement organizations are eligible for those funds ``so every other law enforcement organization in America is opposed to it, and the Fraternal Order of Police and groups like that because they're getting a cut in order to do that.''

With the House adjourned until further notice, it appears that the measure known as Savanna's Act will expire at the end of the year. Murkowski, also a Republican, has said she will take up the measure when lawmakers return to Washington.

``It's disappointing that one Republican member of Congress blocked Savanna's Act from passing this year,'' Heitkamp, a Democrat, said in a statement. ``But fortunately, Rep. Goodlatte won't be around to block it in the new Congress. I've talked with Sen. Murkowski about Savanna's Act and I'm so proud that she will reintroduce my bill in the new year.''

The bill is named for Savanna Greywind, a slain North Dakota woman whose baby was cut from her womb.

Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents the Greywind family, told The Associated Press on Friday that the bill asks for ``a minimal level of accountability'' and the notion that it is too onerous for law enforcement is ``absurd.''

``If that's the case then this bill should be introduced as is and let them come and testify before Congress about why they don't want an incentive for providing the appropriate data that is needed and that this bill requires,'' Allred said. ``Let's see who they are. If there are any they shouldn't be hiding behind some elected official.''

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com

 

First Nations Announces Agriculture Biz Workshops

The Business of Indian Agriculture & Business Planning Development
Training Workshops

March 12-14, 2019
Denver, Colorado

Do you run a ranching or farming operation in your community and want to move it forward? Are you looking to build a sustainable tribal ranching or farming enterprise? Do you desire to increase your business knowledge and fundamentals of running and maintaining a successful agricultural business?

Have you started to create a business plan and would like a team of professionals to help you finalize it? Or have you been interested in taking that first step in developing a business plan for your agribusiness?

If so, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has a 2-1/2-day, producer-focused The Business of Indian Agriculture training and a Business Planning Development training just for you. These will be held in Denver, Colorado, March 12-14, 2019, at the Hotel Indigo. Participants will receive copies of First Nations’ The Business of Indian Agriculture curriculum and Business Planning Development workbook.

Day 1 & 2: The Business of Indian Agriculture producer-focused training is designed to help farmers and ranchers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers useful topics like how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, agribusiness economics and marketing, and land use and management. It also covers important topics like risk management, personal financial management, and using credit wisely. The two-day training offers attendees the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of agriculture business and the opportunity to network with other producers.

Day 3: The optional third day of training will provide business planning development assistance through a half-day workshop providing a hands-on, interactive experience with a team of professionals who will assist participants in developing a draft business plan, a whole farm/ranch goal, as well as both financial and marketing plans.

Location

Hotel Indigo Downtown Denver
1801 Wewatta St.
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 623-4422

Please register here: https://cvent.me/Bn2PV

To Request a Scholarship, fill out application here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BOIASA

To Reserve Your Hotel Room, go here.

 

New Mexico Lawmakers Seek to Rename Columbus Day

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ The state of New Mexico may have celebrated its last Columbus Day.

A legislative proposal to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day has cleared its first hurdle in the New Mexico Legislature with a unanimous committee endorsement.

Sandia Pueblo tribal member and Democratic state Rep. Derrick Lente is preparing a bill for the coming legislative session that renames the state holiday celebrated on the second Monday in October.

He told fellow lawmakers that it is fitting that the tribute to Christopher Columbus be dropped in a state with 23 designated Native American communities.

Tributes to European conquerors are fading or being rewritten out of consideration for Native Americans in many New Mexico communities amid enduring expressions of pride in the state's Spanish colonial heritage.

 

Pokagon Band Invests $25 Million for Health Services Expansion

DOWAGIAC, Mich. (AP) _ The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is investing $25 million to expand health services in southwestern Michigan.

The project is expanding the Pokagon Health Services' Rodgers Lake campus, the South Bend Tribune reported .

The health service has 2,200 registered members, up from 700 in 2014, said Jason Wesaw, tribal government manager. Tribal members get health care services at no cost.

Keeping members healthy is a priority for the tribe of about 6,000, Wesaw said.

``The life expectancy of a Pokagon is 60 compared to the national average of 76,'' Wesaw said. ``Even Native Americans as a whole have a higher life expectancy than us.''

The 35,000-square-foot health services building currently offers family medical clinic, pharmacy, workout facility, counseling, and optical and dental care, Wesaw said. There is also traditional healing that involves medicinal plants and herbs.

The facility will nearly double in size with the addition of a Pokagon Family Center. It will host the annual tribal meeting, dances, indoor powwows and other large gatherings.

``The big thing for us is expanding our dental,'' Wesaw said. ``We need to have more chairs to meet the demand.''

Money will also be used to install a new water system for the buildings that sit on the 300-acre reservation, as well as to construct a new 30,000-square-foot justice center, which will house tribal court and tribal police headquarters.

``We're combining the two but they're separate, so there's a clear distinction between court and law enforcement,'' Wesaw said.

About 50 police officers from an office south of Dowagiac would move onto the reservation land, he said.

 

Blackfeet College Building Named in Honor of Elouise Cobell

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) _ The Blackfeet Community College has named its new health science and education building in honor of Elouise Cobell, a tribal elder and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Great Falls Tribune reports the $7.5 million building in Browning is named the Oahtkwii Piiksakii Iikohkon-Yellow Bird Woman Lodge for Cobell.

Cobell led a 15-year legal fight against the federal government over mismanagement of Native trust funds, ending with a $3.4 billion settlement.

President Barack Obama posthumously recognized Cobell in 2016. She died in October 2011.

Officials say they hope the future health care workers and teachers trained in the building will be a step toward improving access to health care and other services on the Blackfeet Reservation.

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

 

First Native American Women Elected to U.S. Congress

From left: Future Congresswomen Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids. (Photo Credit: New Indian Express)

Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico and member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, and Sharice Davids, a fellow Democrat from Kansas were elected to the U.S. Congress during the mid-term elections. They are the first Native American women to be elected to Congress and both have promised reforms, to benefit their constituencies.

Haaland and Davids join Congressmen Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Tom Cole (R-OK), totaling four Native Americans currently serving in the House of Representatives. Rep. Mullin is Chair of President Trump's Native American Coalition and sits on various subcommittees, including House Energy and Commerce, Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, and Health. Rep. Cole is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. His other committee assignments are Defense and Interior.

Davids graduated from Johnson County Community College, earned her law degree from Cornell, and worked as a White House Fellow during the Obama-Trump transition. Haaland is a former Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of New Mexico. She obtained her Juris Doctor in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2006 and served as the Tribal Administrator for the San Felipe Pueblo Tribe.

 

Extra Effort Saves Indian Artifacts Threatened by Storm

By ANNICK JOSEPH
The Robesonian

PEMBROKE, N.C. (AP) _ The selfless efforts of a local educator helped save rare American Indian historical artifacts that were threatened when heavy rains from Hurricane Florence poured into the Indian Education Program Museum.

``I got a text that the roof was off the building. I jumped in my vehicle during the hurricane and came with my husband,'' said Connie Locklear, director of the Public Schools of Robeson County Indian Education Program. ``We went running in there to salvage as much as we could. We got drenched when pulling all this stuff out. Everything was falling in.''

Her voice cracked and tears flowed down as she spoke of Sept. 15, a Saturday and Day 2 of Florence's visit.

``It was so emotional. It was like you were losing a part of who you are. That is what these artifacts mean to this community,'' she said. ``It's their identity, our identity. It's who we relate to. It's who we are.''

A tarp was placed over a section of the art gallery, adjacent to the main room, which was filled with works created by American Indians from Robeson County.

``You are pulling this stuff out and you think, `This was somebody's grandparent's item over here. Somebody donated this over here.' You want to protect that `cause it means so much. Some of them, we were able to keep and some were damaged.''

Some yearbooks from the 1940s, a school registry from the 1800s and stories written by American Indians were damaged, Locklear said.

``I don't think people really understand, unless you are from this community, when you walk in you feel the people,'' she said. ``This is our history.''

Help came from the state's Cultural Resources Emergency Response Team, which brought in a team with expertise and equipment to clean and repair artifacts. The CREST team is trained in soot removal, photograph salvage, freezing techniques, and textile cleaning, for temporary or long-term conservation and storage, according to Adrienne Berney, an administrator with CREST.

``Most of the objects in the Indian Education Program Museum, we have been able to clean or stabilize on-site. At our next workday, we will finish cleaning some oversized objects and organize archival materials for Digital NC,'' Berney said. ``That is another free service to cultural heritage organizations based at UNC.

``They will send a team down in the near future to digitize photographs and tribal records. Conservators at the NC Museum of History plan to work on two damaged objects, a drum with water damage and a vest with significant mold growth.''

The vest is believed to be more than 100 years old, she said. It is on loan from a private citizen.

Locklear was able to proect many historical pieces by moving them into a room not affected by the rain.

``She was amazing. I don't know how she did it,'' Berney said. ``It's because of Dr. Locklear most items were salvageable.''

The museum, located at 808 W. Third St. in Pembroke, is more than a building, said Kenneth Clark, the museum's cultural enrichment specialist. He is charged with the upkeep, inventory and description of each artifact housed in the museum.

``We are oral people, we like to tell our stories orally. We want to pass it down. That's what we do, `` he said. ``When, especially children, visit the museum, history is told through objects made by our people.

``Some items that were damaged can, maybe, be reproduced. Fortunately some of those artists are still alive, so we might be able to get as close as we can to what we lost,'' he said. ``Unfortunately some things we can't replace. We've got some baskets that were from an individual that is no longer alive.''

Cleveland Jacobs, a well-known basket weaver, taught children the art of basket-making, he said.

``You look at a piece he made 50 years ago. You can't replace it after he is gone. He passed on his skills. Hopefully we can get as close as we can get to what he made,'' Clark said. ``When he taught the kids how to make these baskets, he taught them their culture and about their history, about being Indian.''

The buiding itself is historical.

``This was the first American Indian high school during the segregation period. It was built to create jobs as part of the `New Deal' in 1939 during the Franklin Roosevelt era after the Depression,'' Clark said. ``It was built for that purpose, then it became a place to educate our people.''

County natives often return with their children to share with them their customs, traditions and the historical events they experienced.

``We got a lot of people coming through here. One guy was in here with his grandchild and said, he was standing right there in that spot when he heard about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy,'' Clark said. ``His grandkid stood there and cried with him.''

Clark has a photo, hanging in his home, of his mother on the front steps of the museum, he said. Talking about that photo brought tears to his eyes.

``This building meant a lot to my mother. I am a part of her. It means a lot to me,'' Clark said. ``Heritage meant a lot to our ancestors.''

Craig Lowry, county school board member, said his concern is to make sure the building is structurally sound.

``It's important to make sure to preserve artifacts and items that we have because, they are one of a kind,'' Lowry said. ``They (children) would lose, to me, part of their identity if these items were lost.

``These items are from 30, 40, 70 years ago, some more than 100 years. Just like everybody has a history, this is ours. Instead of somebody telling you about it. You can see it which is very important.''

Susi H. Hamilton, Natural and Cultural Resources secretary, expressed the importance of preserving the history of North Carolina through relics.

``It's not necessarily the first thing people think of in a disaster, but our cultural and historical treasures are also at risk following events such as floods or hurricanes,'' Hamilton said. ``This amazing team is trained to recover and restore artifacts of every kind after almost any type of disaster. I am so very proud of the vitally important work that they do in protecting our state's heritage.''

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Information from: The Robesonian, http://www.robesonian.com

 

On Exhibit: Washington's Hair, Rib of Woman Killed in 1777

TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (AP) _ A display of Benedict Arnold's hair at Fort Ticonderoga this year proved so popular that curators dug into the museum's vast collection to see what other 18th century curiosities they could find.

Among the items they turned up: locks of George Washington's hair and a rib bone from a woman killed by British-allied American Indians during the Revolutionary War's 1777 Saratoga campaign.

Those artifacts, Arnold's hair and five other items make up ``Pieces of Eight: Curiosities from the Collection,'' a new exhibit opening Friday and running through April at the tourist attraction in the southeastern Adirondacks.

Curators say the rib bone came from Jane McCrea, who was engaged to a loyalist officer when she was killed near Saratoga. It's believed someone took the bone as a souvenir.

 

Navajo Tech Gets $1M for New Workforce Training Center

CROWNPOINT, N.M. (AP) _ More than $1 million is being awarded to Navajo Technical University to build a training center to help displaced workers from the energy sector develop new skills.

The Metrology and Materials Center at the Crownpoint campus will specialize in industries that include 3D metal printing, machining, robotics and advanced manufacturing.

The funding comes from the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration. Officials there estimate that the effort could attract $15 million in private investment.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan says it's important for Navajos have high-tech tools within their communities to train the next generation of workers.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich said the center has the potential to bolster job training across the region, which has been home for decades to oil and gas development and mining.

 

Tribal Official: Medical Marijuana Possession Still Illegal

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ A Cherokee Nation official says medical marijuana won't be legal on the Oklahoma-based tribe's property even though the state's voters approved use of the plant.

The Cherokee Phoenix reports Cherokee Nation Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo says the tribe must adhere to its own laws as well as federal regulations, and that Oklahoma law does not apply. Nimmo says possession and sale of cannabis remain illegal under tribal and federal law.

Nimmo says some of the tribe's funding is conditioned on prohibiting the use of marijuana in any form.

Oklahoma voters in June approved use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The state health department is accepting applications from potential patients, growers, dispensaries and caregivers.

 

Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation to Examine Poultry Operations

By KEN MILLER
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A new council will study the expansion of poultry operations in northeastern Oklahoma as some residents in the region complain of pollution from such facilities.

The Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth will be co-chaired by Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese and Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced the council's formation on Wednesday.

Critics of large poultry operations say the study is a good start, but that more must be done to reduce pollution from waste produced by chickens, which can get into the watershed.

``Talk is cheap; we want to see some action,'' Tahlequah resident Ed Brocksmith, a co-founder of the group Save The Illinois River, a watershed in the area, said. ``These are factory farms we're talking about. (We) see the dust and feathers, chicken feathers in swimming pools.''

Hill said she doesn't know how many birds are currently being grown in the area. But Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry records show about 200 permits have been issued in the past year for new houses that could hold more than a million birds, many with contractors of Simmons Foods.

In statement to The Associated Press, Simmons said it supports creation of the council.

``We care about the communities where our contract grower farmers operate and welcome efforts to address meaningful, science-based solutions, studies and research,'' according to the statement.

Officials with the governor's office, the Cherokee Nation and the attorney general's office say the council is not related to an unresolved 2005 lawsuit filed by then-state Attorney General Drew Edmondson against a dozen Arkansas poultry companies.

Edmondson, the Democratic nominee for governor, said he was not aware of the council until seeing media reports. He added: ``There was no reason to reach out to me. I'm not in elective office.''

The council is to include staff from the Cherokee Nation, the Oklahoma Department of Food, Forestry and Agriculture, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, the Grand River Dam Authority, and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.

 

New Report Sheds Light on Reservation Hospital's Woes

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ A hospital serving the Rosebud Indian Reservation failed to give patients appropriate medical care or ensure their safety, including a man who died in the hospital after being pepper-sprayed and restrained, according to new federal reports.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently released inspection reports that detail why the federal agency threatened to pull critical funding this month from the Rosebud Indian Health Service hospital, The Argus Leader reported . The reports were compiled from an investigation conducted in July.

One incident cited involved a drunken 12-year-old girl who tried to hang herself while left alone. The report found that the patient wasn't property triaged and should've had a monitor throughout her visit. It also found that there was a faulty call button in her room.

Another incident involved a 35-year-old man who was hallucinating while on methamphetamine and died of a heart attack in the emergency room after being pepper-sprayed and restrained.

Hospital administrators said they take the report ``very seriously'' and have submitted an improvement plan.

Employees are now trained to test and monitor call lights every 12 hours and maintain a log of their use. Staff members have also reviewed restraint policies and protocols for treating minors. Employees will review high-risk cases within 24 hours of their occurrence, the proposal said.

The hospital's deficiencies identified in the inspections triggered the federal agency to issue a warning last week that the hospital will lose funding if it doesn't fix the problems by the end of the month. The hospital would be unable to bill Medicare and Medicaid if it fails to enact its improvement plan by the Aug. 30 deadline.

The notice comes more than two years after the hospital was cited for similar shortcomings, which resulted in the seven-month shut down of its emergency room and the closure of the facility's surgical and obstetrics and gynecology units.

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

 

Stolen Tomahawk Linked to Washington is Back, Displayed

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A long-missing tomahawk given to a Seneca Indian leader by President George Washington in 1792 will go on display at the New York State Museum.

The Times-Union of Albany reports that the tomahawk given to the Seneca leader Cornplanter was stolen from the museum between 1947 and 1950. An anonymous collector returned the combination tomahawk and pipe to the Albany museum last month.

Meetings between Washington and Cornplanter in the 1790s led to the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, which established peace between the United States and the Iroquois Confederacy.

The tomahawk will be exhibited July 17 through Dec. 30.

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Information from: Times Union, http://www.timesunion.com

 

Minnesota Tribe Seeks Farm Bill Funding

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. (AP) _ Minnesota Native American leaders are part of an initiative to bring more farm bill funding to Indian Country.

More than 30 tribes across the country have formed the Native Farm Bill Coalition, Minnesota Public Radio reported . Minnesota's Shakopee Mdewakanon Sioux Community is leading the effort. The National Congress of American Indians, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the Intertribal Agriculture Council have partnered with the coalition.

``Indian tribes have been either ignored or overlooked or been the victim of policy changes since we can remember, that's just a fact of life,'' said Keith Anderson, vice chair of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The lobbying effort is an outgrowth of programs to improve health and expand access to health food for Native Americans. The coalition illustrates a long term commitment to giving Indian tribes a louder voice, Anderson said.

``The effort of the Native Farm Bill Coalition represents the very first time such a concerted effort has been made on behalf of all of Indian Country and only Indian Country,'' said Zach Ducheneaux, of the Intertribal Agriculture Council.

The farm bill could help tribes strengthen their agriculture economy by funding projects that add value to livestock or crops produced by Indian farmers and ranchers, Ducheneaux said.

``There's really no part of a reservation community that the farm bill will not impact. Everything from the electricity to the water that you use, the food on the grocery store shelves, the buildings that you're going to house your community activities in,'' said Ducheneaux. ``It's absolutely critical that Indian Country realize how big of a player this could be in their game.''

The United States Department of Agriculture says more than 56,000 Native Americans operate farms and ranches across the U.S.

The new bill is expected to provide nearly $500 billion in funding over the next five years.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

World War II Navajo Code Talker Dies at 92

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) _ A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to confound the Japanese in World War II has died.

The Navajo Nation says Roy Hawthorne Sr. died Saturday. He was 92.

Hawthorne enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17 and became part of a famed group of Navajos who transmitted hundreds of messages in their language without error.

The code was never broken.

Hawthorne was one of the most visible survivors of the group. He appeared at public events and served as vice president of a group representing the men.

He never considered himself a hero.

Hawthorne later served with the U.S. Army.

He's survived by five children and more than a dozen grandchildren.

A funeral service is scheduled Friday.

Photo Credit: Our Navajo Code Talkers Facebook Page

 

Navajo Nation approves $2.4 million for veterans facility

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) _ The Navajo Nation has given approval to help fund a veterans facility in New Mexico that will prevent patients from having to travel far for care.

Navajo Nation council members voted 19-0 this week to give $2.4 million toward the construction of a service center for veterans in the community of Thoreau.

The center, which will be about 33 miles (53 kilometers) east of Gallup, will offer physical therapy as well as medical services.

Thoreau Chapter Veterans Committee Commander Lester Emerson says they will work with the state Department of Veterans Services to hire a doctor to be based there.

Emerson says the hope is that veterans will no longer have to make the two-hour journey to Albuquerque for medical services.

The facility also will have a space for events and meetings.

 

Navajo Nation latest to sue over opioid epidemic in US

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ One of the country's largest American Indian tribes is the latest to sue pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors, alleging their conduct caused the opioid crisis.

The Navajo Nation's lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.

The tribe says American Indians have suffered disproportionately from opioid dependency or abuse, leading to death, family dysfunction, poverty and social despair.

The tribe says it has helped cover costs of treatment for opioid abuse, and for law enforcement and social services to respond to the epidemic.

One of the defendants denied the allegations. Others say they are working to help combat the opioid epidemic and have reported suspicious orders to the federal government.

Others declined to comment or did not reply to requests for comment.