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National Native American veterans memorial to be erected in DC

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A memorial to Native American veterans will be erected on the outside grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian at the Mall.
The anticipated dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial is Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2020, according to Rebecca Trautmann, project manager of the memorial.

Ben Nighthorse Campbell of the Northern Cheyenne nation and the Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel are leading an advisory committee of tribal leaders and veterans in assisting with outreach to Native American nations and tribes and advising on plans for the memorial, Trautmann said.

Also, the advisory committee and the museum are conducting community consultations to seek input and support for the memorial, she added. “Regional events bring together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members to gather their insights and advice.” There have been some 30 consultations to date with several more planned this summer.

Trautmann noted that the memorial has received congressional approval and that no federal funding will be used for the project. The project is expected to cost $15 million and donations are being solicited Eileen Maxwell, public affairs director of the museum, said the memorial is fitting because “Native Americans have served in the armed forces in every major military conflict since the Revolutionary War and in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group.”

She added that today, the Department of Defense estimates that some 24,000 American Indian and Alaska Native men and women are on active duty, and more than 150,000 veterans self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.

– U.S. Army News Service

Grant funds special project helps bring together Native American students

REDDING, Calif. — April Carmelo and Jeanne Forrest are teachers in the Shasta Union High School District. Hoping to launch a program aimed at Native American culture, they applied for an IFT grant with the California Teachers Association.

Carmelo said she hoped they would grant them $5,000. CTA granted them $20,000.

Carmelo and Forrest came up with the idea of creating a group for Native American students. Carmello thought of the idea to call it “I Am My Ancestors Prayers.”

“I knew when I heard [the name] we would get the grant,” Forrest said. “There was a time when the Native Americans faced possible extinction, and these students are the answer to their prayers – the reason the ancestors fought to survive!”

Institute for Teaching, or IFT, funds programs through grants. The money is taken from the CTA union dues.

Throughout the year, 10 Native American students from various high schools in the district learned about American Indian history.

They learned drum making, storytelling, and tribal regalia.

The students also took field trips to different Native American influenced sites as well as the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco. They also helped with community events like the Run for Salmon.

The grant money has also helped provide academic tutoring for the students.

Carmelo said these 10 students spent “hundreds of hours” together this year. She added with a laugh that most of them were quiet before the studies began, and are not now.

Shasta High School sophomore Cheyenne Cardiff said she’s always wanted to learn more about her heritage and this group was what she had been looking for.

“I always knew that I wanted to learn more about my culture and I wanted it to be apart of my future and who I was going to be, but I never really had a way to do that,” Cardiff said. “I was kinda afraid to ask and go looking for it, but it eventually found me like it was meant to happen.”

Cheyenne was named “Stardust” by her native great aunt as a child. She said it’s because her great aunt was “the elder closest to me.”

She explains that when she was a child, she was spending the day with her aunt. When she slipped away at a grocery store distracted by something else, her aunt and mother turned around and couldn’t find her.

“My aunt turns around and sees all the light coming in from the sun and all the dust in the air so that’s where she got stardust from,” Cardiff said. Now everyone calls her Star.
Cardiff expressed how much this group means to her. She said the teachers are important to them.

“April always makes time for us,” Cardiff said. “It’s really important that I have her in my life and the rest of the students have her in their lives because we need her and it’s so special she could be here for us.”

Carmelo and Forest hope to keep the group together and growing next year. They plan to start writing a curriculum for all California schools grades 9-12 in Native American studies, based on what they implemented this year.

– ABC 7 KRCR News

U.S. lawmakers seek looser energy development rules for tribal lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill to ease restrictions on energy development on U.S. tribal lands has a good chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress this year, after several failed attempts since 2013, the chair of the Senate Indian affairs committee said.

Many Republican lawmakers, along with President Donald Trump, have expressed support for more oil drilling, coal mining and other energy projects on Native American reservations, which are overseen by the federal government. Several additional layers of regulatory bureaucracy have slowed those efforts.

“I think we will be able to get the bill through the House this go around,” Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, who authored the bill with seven other Republican Senators, said in a recent interview with Reuters.

He said he believed the bill also had the support of “a broad spectrum of tribes across the country” and would “empower” Native Americans.

The bill, dubbed the Tribal Energy Development and Self Determination Act, would authorize tribes to conduct their own energy resource appraisals. It would streamline the permitting process for drilling and mining and provide incentives for tribes to enter into joint-venture agreements with private companies.

Former President Barack Obama had opposed a previous House version of the bill in 2015 because it would have exempted tribes from some federal environmental regulations. Other versions were blocked after being rolled into broader bills that were defeated.

Tribal lands cover just 2 percent of the nation’s surface but by some estimates contain as much as a fifth of all remaining U.S. oil and gas reserves.

But clearing regulatory hurdles for a single project on tribal lands can take as many as 50 steps, compared to a half dozen on private property, according to Reuters interviews conducted in January with tribal leaders, lawyers, oil company executives and federal regulators.

Hoeven and Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines joined around a dozen representatives of mineral-rich tribes for a meeting with White House officials last week to discuss ways to reduce those barriers. Tribal participants at the meeting included representatives of the Crow Agency of Montana, the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota, the Navajo Nation and the Southern Ute Indian tribe of Colorado – all tribes that currently produce oil, gas or coal.

“We are just trying to amplify our opportunities, change the narrative of Indian country, and establish access to the administration,” said C.J. Stewart, a representative of the Crow.

– Reuters

‘New life’ initiative to recruit Native American students

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota State University President Barry Dunn says he can see a future in which reservation hospitals and health centers across South Dakota employ pharmacists and lab scientists educated at his school, with doctors and administrators also trained at institutions in the state.

The land-grant university is pursuing a new initiative to increase the number of students at the school from the nine tribal nations in South Dakota, Dunn said Friday. The Wokini Initiative, bearing a Lakota word that means “new life” or “a new beginning,” is a top priority for Dunn, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe member who took over as president about a year ago.

He said the goal of the initiative, which is in its early stages, is to dramatically improve educational opportunities for Native American students from South Dakota. Dunn said the school aims to recruit high school students and tribal-college graduates and provide financial assistance to help them attend SDSU in Brookings.

The university had about 250 Native American students enrolled in fall 2016, a number Dunn would like to see climb to 1,000 or higher. It would be wonderful if the enrollment of Native American students at South Dakota State reflected the state’s population, he said.

“This is an intentional, very intentional effort to reach a population that has been underserved by public higher education in a state that has a long and dramatic and many times tragic history of relationships with American Indians,” Dunn said. “It’s morally and ethically the right thing to do.”

Dunn said the initiative will offer tailored advising and counseling to help make sure that Native American students who are recruited are successful. Part of the initiative calls for the construction of a stand-alone Native American student center, which he said would serve as a “home away from home.”

Other aspects could include a push to preserve the Dakota and Lakota languages and the funding of collaborative research projects with tribes or tribal colleges on topics important to Native American communities. A report to the state Board of Regents says Wokini Initiative programs will be developed by university staffers in collaboration with the tribes, their members and the four tribal colleges serving South Dakota.

The university plans to dedicate revenue from land-grant properties — roughly $600,000 each year — to the initiative to give it a sustainable funding source. Officials will also seek gifts and grants for the project, though no specific funding goal exists yet, Dunn said.

“Wokini will provide that stability and long-term commitment that won’t go away as leadership changes,” he said. “My goal is to institutionalize this effort so that it’s just part of who South Dakota State is in perpetuity.”

The school hopes to hire a director to focus on the project within the next month, and Dunn expects activity to pick up significantly in the fall. He said students could be recruited for the 2018 school year.

Alaina Hanks, a member of the White Earth Chippewa of Minnesota, is pursuing a graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling at South Dakota State. She said the American Indian Student Center has lacked money in the past and that the new initiative is a “clear step forward.”

“I think that putting resources into something that you care about is so different than just saying you care about something,” she said.

Democratic state Sen. Troy Heinert, a Rosebud Sioux member, said that greater access to higher education for tribal members across the state is “how we’re going to change the communities from within.” When younger tribal members see their relatives and other Native Americans in professional positions, it makes that goal seem more attainable, Heinert said.

Dunn said he’s pursuing the initiative in honor of his mother, who was born into poverty on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1921, before Native Americans were U.S. citizens. She eventually earned a degree from Iowa State University, which gave her success and Dunn a middle-class upbringing.

“I want the benefits that my mother received to flow to all of those young people that have a similar story,” Dunn said.

– Rapid City Journal

Gaming gone bust, tribe turns to marijuana farming

A small Indian tribe in a remote stretch of San Diego County has traded in its failed dream of casino riches for what could be the next big payout — marijuana cultivation.

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel — which shuttered its 35,000-square-foot gaming hall in February 2014, buried under $50 million in debt — has transformed the vacant space into a high-tech medical marijuana operation, and is leasing part of the property to growers who cultivate and distribute the drug to legal dispensaries throughout the state.

On the building’s sprawling parking lot, more than a dozen greenhouses are in various stages of construction awaiting more tenants.

The tribe is the first in San Diego County to embrace the marijuana industry in the wake of a December 2014 memo by the U.S. Justice Department that declared sovereign nations would not be prosecuted for growing pot on tribal land in states that had already legalized the drug.

Indian tribes across the nation have been mostly wary of that decision, but at Santa Ysabel the timing of the Justice Department memo, 10 months after the casino failed, seemed also serendipitous.

In 2007, when the Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino opened on a hillside off state Route 79 overlooking Lake Henshaw, the tribe envisioned building a hotel to serve the hordes of gamblers who would surely flock there. That never happened — there were too many other casinos closer to San Diego and major transportation corridors like Interstate 15.

The 700-member Santa Ysabel tribe had watched its neighbors get rich, but saw its own prospects evaporating.

So in early 2015, tribal leaders quietly jumped at the opportunity for a new revenue source. They soon created laws regulating marijuana on the reservation and established the Santa Ysabel Cannabis Regulatory Agency and Cannabis Commission to oversee the fledgling venture.

For the past 18 months, marijuana cultivated at the site has been shipped to legal dispensaries across the state, said Dave Vialpando, who heads the tribe’s regulatory agency.

Vialpando declined to identify the marijuana businesses that are leasing grow space, or the financial arrangement between those companies and the Santa Ysabel tribe.

He said the operation at the casino property is still “very, very small. It’s two grow rooms, less than 1,000 plants. Mostly it’s still empty space. It’s still in development.”

“The greenhouses are at various stages of construction,” he added. “It won’t be all cultivation. There will be processing rooms and trimming rooms and storage rooms. There’s a lot of infrastructure that goes with the enterprise of medical cannabis.”

Vialpando said the testing lab is about to open and there is the possibility that other cannabis products such as lotions could be produced in the future.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies across the region say they’re aware of the tribe’s marijuana operation and are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Blair Perez released a statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune Tuesday saying that “Santa Ysabel was informed in September 2015 that a marijuana grow violated federal law. Since 2015, this office has enforced the federal drug laws in compliance with current Department of Justice guidance and will continue to do so.”

– San Diego Union-Tribune

UMass Amherst dig uncovers ancient Native American remains in Brookfield

An archeological dig in Brookfield has yielded Native American burial mounds datingas far back as 1,000 BC, researchers said.

The remains, found at the Tobin Campground, belong to the Adena people, a group of Native Americans who mostly lived hundreds of miles away in the Ohio River valley.The Adena were among the first to bury their dead in elaborate burial mounds, according to Eric Johnson, director of Archeological Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Johnson called the site “historically significant” because it givesresearchers a glimpse into Adenaculture and how they may have come to New England. “It was first believed that people may have migrated from elsewhere. But now we think that artifacts crossed across multiple cultural groups in trade,” Johnson said. “The goal of this dig was not to remove anything from the campground, but rather to identify Adena remains so that the site could be registered and preserved under the National Register of Historic Places,” he said.

“We didn’t actually dig up that much dirt or any artifacts. Our aim was to dig long, but very shallow, trenches to remove the topsoil that had gathered over the site to look at what was underneath, but not disturb it. That way we maintain the integrity of the site,” he said.

Johnson said that while the two-week dig found “intact features of Adena origin,” the archeologists will have a difficult time distinguishing a grave from a refuse pile. “It’s hard to find graves with discernible human remains that are that old. Things deteriorate, but we know there were people here and people bury their dead,” he said.

According to Johnson, this dig is not the campground’s first. In the 1960s, an amateur archeologist uncovered native graves with human remains and removed them, he said. It was in partbecause of that incident the town of Brookfield used a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission to pay for the most recent the dig, Johnson said.

He added that the members of the Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck tribe worked with the archeologists to ensure that, should any human remains be found, they be treated carefully and with respect.

Johnson hopes that, once the campground is recognized as a historical site, it can become a place where people learn about history andNative American culture.

“This is a significant site,” he said. “We’re working to make sure that it becomes a place of education and remains undisturbed. There are people here and they need to be protected.”

– Boston Globe

Native American advocates size up Trump administration

With President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office in the rearview mirror, lawmakers and advocates are uncertain but hopeful about the impact the new administration will have on the Native American community.

Trump’s choice of Ryan Zinke to be secretary of the interior quelled the concerns of some; as a former congressman from Montana, Zinke has experience representing Native Americans in Washington, which is seen as a promising sign by many of the community’s top advocates.

But some of the President’s executive actions and controversial comments, including a recent reference to Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” have raised some concerns. Lawmakers serving on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs have voiced trepidation about the impact the new administration may have on Native American health care, education funding and sovereignty, among other issues.

However, community stakeholders say they trying to balance those concerns with optimism as the President’s first term unfolds.

In interviews, lawmakers expressed trust in Zinke’s demonstrated ability to understand the issues important to Native Americans across the nation. Hailing from a state with seven Indian reservations, Zinke possesses “a degree of knowledge” not typical of the interior secretary position, said Sen. John McCain, the current longest-serving member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“Secretary Zinke has much more experience on Native American issues than his predecessor — who had literally none,” the Arizona Republican told CNN in an interview. “My initial impression is President Trump and the people around him support sovereignty and the Native American population. They can have a degree of knowledge and involvement in Native American issues that was not the case amongst their predecessors.”

In 2015, then-Rep. Zinke sought to make tax breaks on coal mined from American Indian reservations permanent — a move viewed as boosting the communities’ revenue and creating jobs for tribal members. In a statement emailed to CNN, the National Congress of American Indians expressed their support for Zinke, citing “his approach to the (Bureau of Indian Affairs) as well as his commitment to giving tribal nations a seat at the table across the federal government.”


Native Americans want Trump to revive statue on Staten Island

NEW YORK CITY — Native Americans are urging President Trump to undo a century-old injustice: by making good on a broken promise made by President Howard Taft in 1913 to build a national Indian Memorial on Staten Island.

Taft joined 32 Indian chiefs at the Feb. 22, 1913 ground-breaking ceremony at Fort Wadsworth, near the foot of New York Harbor. Taft even dug up dirt with an ancient ax-head made from Buffalo bone as a sign of respect to the Indians.

The 165-foot bronze monument, slated to be taller than the Statue of Liberty, was abandoned during World War I. And forgotten. But not by Native Americans.

A Staten-Island based group called the Red Storm Drum & Dance Troupe sent a letter to Trump to revive the project, on a smaller scale. It also has planned a fundraiser in September to finance the costs of erecting the monument.

“If you want to make America great, don’t forget the great people who were here first,” said Margaret Boldeagle, a Lenape Indian and executive director of Red Storm.
The land that was dedicated for the monument is now part of Fort Wadsworth National Park near the Verrazano Bridge.

“Staten Island has a rich native American history and our group wants to preserve that history for generations to come. The irony of America’s great tapestry is that the Native Americans are the true minority. As years go by, our history is being forgotten,” Boldeagle said in the April 28 letter to Trump.

“As a New Yorker and a visionary president, we hope you can help us secure this property so that this monument can be built,” Boldeagle wrote Trump.

The original monument was the brainchild of department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker as part of the American Indian Policy Reform Movement. At the time, Wanamaker and others worried the American Indian was approaching extinction and he financed exhibitions to collect artifacts, film and photographs to preserve Native American history.

Boldeagle said the new statue, to be erected by renowned sculptor Gregory Perillo, would be 25 feet tall.

The White House declined to comment.

Trump recently signed an executive order that would review millions of acres of land designated as national monuments.

– New York Post

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