Native Americans still fighting ignorance at Plimoth

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PLIMOTH PLANTATION, Massachusetts (CNN) — Modern-day pilgrims to Plimoth Plantation have much curiosity about life in the re-creation of an English village from the 1600s and a Native American homesite. But some of the thousands of people who visit daily to get a glimpse of how the first colonials existed and created the Thanksgiving tradition bring with them misconceptions about the Native people.

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Paula Peters, of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, said one of the first things she learned when she started working at Plimoth in Massachusetts 30 years ago was: “People will say things that will hurt you.”

A parent might reprimand their children by saying, “If you don’t behave I am going to leave you with this Indian squaw and she will cook you for dinner,” Peters said.


A YouTube for Native Americans

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PLUMMER, Idaho—Tired of searching for Native media or losing your videos among the millions of random YouTube pieces?

With the launch of RezKast, Native Americans no longer need to waste time looking for Native-themed videos on YouTube. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe launched RezKast, a Native content site, in July with hopes of preserving the Native culture, history and language before they disappear.

“Of course there is always the entertainment factor,” said Valerie Fast Horse, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s IT director. “What’s an Indian community without entertainment and laughter?”

Read more at Reznews

Obama Brings Hope to Native Americans

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POLSON, MONT. — With the first election of an African American president, the nation sees a broader horizon. Some see hope on that horizon for Native America.

“My memories of campaigning for this election range from heartbreaking to beautiful,” said Gyasi Ross, former constituency director of the Barack Obama campaign in Montana. “Indian people really showed that if given the opportunity, we can perform above the expected and it’s all in faith.”

Reflecting on his memories of this historic presidential election, Ross, a Blackfeet tribal member, admits his journey blossomed from a seed of doubt: “I figured (Obama) didn’t have a chance in hell becoming the next president,” he said. “But I knew he would do great things for Native Americans if elected.”

Read the rest of the story at Reznews

Rosebud Sioux Indian at center of battle that spotlights rights of Native Americans

Now he’s fighting tribal authorities who want to ban him from his home because he’s from another tribe.

Authorities say Ironshell has violated a tribal ordinance that prohibits Meskwaki women from sharing a settlement home with men who are not Meskwaki.

Ironshell is a Rosebud Sioux. His wife, Eloise, is Meskwaki. Both say the ban amounts to racial discrimination.

More Native Americans urged to cast votes

More Native Americans urged to cast votes

Jacqueline Johnson Pata thought about the question and ran her hand through her hair.

It’s a question that keeps her up at night and motivates her all through the day.

Is it harder to get an 80-year-old Native American to vote or a 20-year-old?

An 80-year-old Indian,” she said slowly, “but they are both kind of challenging.

“An 80-year-old has felt enough disenfranchisement to have a reluctance to engage. A 20-year-old has a sense of hopelessness. That’s difficult to get past, too.”

Johnson Pata is executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, which is trying to increase voter participation among Indians heading into the Nov. 4 election.Her efforts are best represented by a simple button that appeared on nearly every chest at this week’s NCAI conference in Phoenix.

The button says: “I’m Indian and I vote.”

Making sure that actually happens is not going to be easy.

“Indians do not vote in high numbers,” said Ken Poocha, Arizona’s executive director for Indian affairs. “It has gotten better in recent elections, but we have a long way to go.”

Analyzing low turnout

One reason for low turnout is geography, as many Indians in the state and across the country live in rural areas.

That can make just getting to the ballot box difficult, Poocha said.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office is precluded by law from tracking the voting patterns of any race, ethnicity or gender, department spokesman Kevin Tyne said.

But he said the office is actively trying to encourage increased voter participation “across the board, and particularly on reservations.”

Those efforts include registration-outreach programs and education through town halls across Arizona, Tyne said.

A total of 224,846 Native Americans in Arizona are old enough to vote, according to Native Vote, the nonpartisan voting program run by the NCAI.

They represent a potentially significant voting bloc. But only if they vote.

“I see a lot of Native peoples not voting. They think nothing is going to change, so why bother?” said Al Thomas Spencer, 34, of Mesa, who is of Navajo, Hopi and Zuni ancestry. “But, of course, nothing will change if you don’t vote.”

Johnson Pata hopes to eventually get Native Americans to participate in non-Indian politics as much as they do in Indian politics.

“We show up to vote in tremendous numbers for reservation politics. It can be up to 90 percent,” she said. “But there is a disconnect.”

Native Vote has encouraged tribes to hold their elections on the same day as general elections as a means to increase participation.

That will be the case this year on the Navajo Reservation, where ballots will also be available in the Navajo language.

The Indian vote’s impact

The NCAI points to two recent campaigns where Indian voting appeared to significantly influence the outcome of elections.

In 2002, Sen. Tim Johnson won his seat in South Dakota by a margin of just 524 votes out of more than 330,000 cast. Johnson campaigned aggressively for Indian votes. In 2006, Sen. Jon Tester won his seat in Montana by 3,500 votes, also after working hard to garner votes on Indian reservations.

Results like these give some Indian voters hope.

Emma Polelonema, 54, a Hopi living in Phoenix, was picking up an “I’m Indian and I vote” button at the NCAI conference at the Phoenix Convention Center. “We’re not visible enough,” she said. “We need to push our young people to vote. And our elders, who are not likely to vote, we need them, too.”

Aanya Smallcanyon, 25, a Navajo from Kayenta, said she plans to vote in November, and, as a volunteer for Native Vote, she hopes to get more of her generation to join her. “It matters so much,” she said. “If we don’t vote, we are just throwing this time, this opportunity, away.”

Study Finds Native Americans Excluded From Repatriation Process; More Work Needed on Improving NAGPRA

Study Finds Native Americans Excluded From Repatriation Process; More Work Needed on Improving NAGPRA

Last update: 5:28 p.m. EDT Aug. 14, 2008
WASHINGTON, Aug 14, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — The federal government neither assures compliance with nor enforcement of a federal law enacted to protect American Indian remains and funerary objects and to reunite them with their families and homelands. In some instances, agencies have withheld or changed information about the objects or human remains in their possession, in blatant disregard of the law, according to a new report studying the implementation of the act.
While some federal agencies have good working relationships with Native Americans, many Indian tribes say federal agencies rarely made good-faith efforts in contacting them about their collections. Tribes also have discovered that some of the federal agencies’ official notices of cultural determinations have been withdrawn for unknown reasons and without consulting the tribes, according to a new report assessing the implementation of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act or NAGPRA released today.
“For decades… the human remains of thousands of Native Americans were lodged in federal repositories, museums, and scientific institutions,” Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) stated in the report’s foreword. “It required an act of the Congress to ensure that their loved ones are accorded the proper respect in death that they enjoyed in life.”
But researchers in the study say much more work remains to be done on NAGPRA. The law instituted a systematic approach of working with Native Americans to return human remains and funerary objects with which they are affiliated. Federal agencies and museums were required to take inventory and notify Native Americans about their collections and thus work in collaboration with Native Americans in determining a cultural link to the remains or objects. But researchers in the study say some federal agencies have refused to do so, which has resulted in more than 118,000 Native Americans being left in storage in federal repositories and museums across the nation.
The National Park Service, which both participates in and oversees the NAGPRA process, is one such agency that has the remains of hundreds of Native Americans in storage because the Service has withdrawn the public notices that tie the remains and objects to contemporary Native Americans. Most of these notices have been pending publication since 1995.
“Makah people have always lived in this area, and over the past 150 years a lot of our important cultural items have been improperly removed from here and are located in museums throughout the country,” said Janine Bowechop, executive director of the Makah Cultural and Research Center that is operated by the Makah Tribe. “NAGPRA gave hope to all Indian people that we could legally seek return of our cultural objects and for many, this promise has been realized. If we had the resources, we would make a bigger push to bring our objects home, where they belong.” The Makah museum houses one of the country’s largest collections of pre-contact, northwest coast artifacts.
Also according to the report, since 1999 more than $3 million has been used by the National NAGPRA program for purposes other than the grants program, which was created by the act to support museums and Native Americans to participate in the repatriation process.
But federal officials also have their frustrations. Many say they could benefit from training on the repatriation process, but they have inadequate resources, according to the report. Federal officials also cited confusion on who or which tribe to consult with. Federal officials agreed with tribes and cited concern with looting on federal lands.
In addition to the two national surveys of federal agencies and Native Americans, researchers reviewed the documentation process required by NAGPRA, Interior Department databases, legal records, and other public information provided by federal agencies and tribes. The study was funded by a National Park Service grant.
Specific recommendations in the report address the law, regulations, and federal oversight and enforcement, as well as creating and improving databases, and devising more or improved tribal and federal consultation policies to improve relations.
The report, Federal Agency Implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, is available from NATHPO based in Washington, D.C. To view the report, go to
SOURCE National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO)

Native Americans to be honored for their contributions to Indian gaming rights

Native Americans to be honored for their contributions to Indian gaming rights

Six people who have worked to protect and expand Indian gaming rights since the inception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act 20 years ago will be honored this fall by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
The individuals, named “Pathbreakers” for their leadership in helping tribes achieve economic freedom, will be lauded during a national conference sponsored by the College’s Indian Legal Program. “Indian Country’s Winning Hand: 20 Years of IGRA” will be Thursday and Friday, Oct. 16-17, at the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort & Casino in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills. The Pathbreaker’s Banquet will be Oct. 16 in the resort’s Courtyard Plaza.
Robert Clinton, Foundation Professor of Law and a co-chair of the conference’s planning committee, said Indian gaming has been the “white buffalo of the reservation economies, providing the first successful means of economic self-sufficiency for many tribes since their traditional economies were destroyed or decimated through the processes of non-Indian settlement of their former lands.”
The Pathbreakers, who were selected by their peers on a committee comprising leaders of major Indian gaming organizations and programs, have been in the forefront of efforts to restore tribal self-sufficiency and respect for tribal sovereignty, Clinton said.
“They are modern-day warriors who have successfully and selflessly fought important battles for their people, without any thought of personal gain — the mark of a true tribal leader,” Clinton said. “We are privileged and honored to recognize and celebrate the important work and accomplishments of these Indian Gaming Pathbreakers.”
The six are:
• Frank L. Chaves, Former Chairman, New Mexico Indian Gaming Commission. Chaves has worked on gaming issues with tribal governments in New Mexico for more than 12 years. A member of the Pueblo of Sandia, he served as the director of economic development for the Pueblo and was co-chair of the New Mexico Indian Gaming Association.
• Richard G. Hill Sr., Chairman, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. For nearly 20 years, the Hill name has been synonymous with Indian gaming and tribal economic development. He is a former chairman and spokesperson for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), and he led a national negotiating team in the 1990s to resolve conflicts over Indian gaming between the states and tribal leaders.
• John A. James, Chairman, Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. James has been at the forefront of Indian gaming in California for several decades, from bringing high-stakes bingo to the Cabazon in the 1980s to developing a premiere gaming destination in Southern California. He also is chairman of the Cabazon’s Business Committee and a former executive secretary of NIGA.
• Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. With the support of the California Nations Gaming Association, Macarro served as spokesman for a number of successful Indian gaming ballot initiatives in that state. He represents the Pechanga in the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and on the board of directors of the NIGA, and is chairman of the Riverside County Sheriff Native American Affairs Commission.
• Clinton M. Pattea, President, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Pattea has served on the Nation’s Tribal Council for more than four decades. Arizona’s success in Indian gaming often is attributed to the visionary leadership of Pattea, who was involved in negotiations in the 1990s with then-Gov. Fife Symington who’d refused to discuss a compact with the Nation.
• Ernest L. Stevens Jr., Chairman, National Indian Gaming Association. First elected in 2001, Stevens is in his fourth term at the IGRA helm. He is a former councilman for the Oneida Nation and former first vice-president and treasurer of the NCAI. Stevens recently received the 2008 Gaming Executive of the Year award from the International Masters of Gaming Law.

The conference is a balanced 20-year retrospective of the successes, failures and impact of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. The conference sponsors are offering an early registration rate of $350, through Sept. 15; thereafter, the rate is $450, through Oct. 10. Pathbreaker’s Banquet tickets are being sold separately for $100 each, through Oct. 8. To register or order tickets, go to For more information, call Darlene Lester at (480) 965-7715.

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law ( at Arizona State University was founded in 1967 and renamed for the retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 2006. It is the only fully accredited law school in the Phoenix area, boasts an Indian Legal Program that is arguably the best in the nation, and houses the Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology, the oldest, largest and by far the most comprehensive law and science center in the country. ASU is one of the premier metropolitan public research universities in the nation.