Issue 46, November 23, 2016

    A Letter from the Publisher


    Shekóli. No matter how fraught the history, or stressful the time, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to reflect on many things. Even the name of the holiday itself has many facets. It is a time and it is an action. It addresses giving, receiving and giving thanks for all things. These are themes that resonate in Indian country. We’d like to think they come naturally, despite the intrusions and pressures of contemporary life that seem to have dispelled this eternal part of human culture and relegated it to one long weekend a year.

    One of the most popular pieces of Native lore that circulates in the mainstream is the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Prayer. Recently, an ICTMN Mohawk staffer jokingly remarked that if the prayer were said in full, it would take three days to complete. But there is truth in that statement, as we Natives teach and are taught to try to be aware of the many blessings bestowed on us. It’s a concept that also supports a style of giving in Indian country that is sometimes misunderstood from the first colonists to our neighbors today: If we possess something that someone in need asks for, the proper courtesy is to give willingly, no questions asked.

    Most important, a Native Thanksgiving relates directly to our Mother, the earth, for all the things she gives us and allows us to take. How we use her gifts, and how we develop them, should be in accordance with what is best for not only us, but down to the seventh generation.

    So, this Thanksgiving, we must honor and thank those people who for months on end have sacrificed and given of themselves, enduring incredible hardships, to protect the waters of Mother Earth. The water protectors of the NoDAPL movement are defending our water supply for today and for the generations to come; for the 17 million people downstream along the Missouri whose drinking water is threatened by pollution; and for the very men and women who oppose them in militarized riot gear at the behest of a shortsighted government and corporation.

    The best gift is one that is given freely, with no expectation of anything in return. The sacrifice of right-thinking people opposing the degradation of earth and water sometimes comes at a heavy cost to their bodies and minds. Now is a good time to give them our support—and our unending thanks.

    NΛ ki wa,

    Ray Halbritter


    Be Bolder, White People

    Thank you, all you non-Natives, for your fearless online posts on our behalf, says Terese Mailhot:

    This is dedicated to the brave white people on Facebook who are sharing various articles about Standing Rock. You could have been on the front line, in the marches, putting money where your mouth is. But you had the foresight to know that real change happens on the Internet.

    We Natives know it’s not posturing. Authenticity is your mantra. If someone tests your authenticity, just show that picture of you meditating on a mountain with the caption “Serenity.” What is more authentic than your Facebook posts, the ones that you block your racist uncle from reading? It would be so inconvenient to challenge him online. You are constantly doing us a solid.

    I’ll be honest: You still have time to prevent further mistakes. Your white tears after this election have only sidetracked real activists from doing the work we need to do. We can’t console you right now, and it’s time to boss up.

    Can you do us a solid one more time? Have those conversations you’re having outside of your liberal online friendships. At the Thanksgiving table, talk about the Dakota Access pipeline and how ironic your feast is when you look at American history. Talk to your bosses and coworkers when they discriminate. Help refugees, because there is no such thing as natural born citizens. Even Native people feel displaced in their own country. The disenfranchisement of our most vulnerable community members cannot continue.

    Put your money into this, and your time, and every ounce of your compassion. Be braver.

    Rethinking First Principles

    Defeating bad ideas about colonization is best achieved by scrapping the original arguments in its favor, argues Steven Newcomb:

    Chief Justice John Marshall admitted to the lie at the root of federal Indian law in Johnson v. M’Intosh when he wrote of the “pretension of converting the discovery of an inhabited country into conquest.” Adam Smith admitted to the falsehoods built into the colonizers’ narratives when he pointed out that colonizing countries that arrived at the “Americas” had merely declared a “fictitious title” to the lands. And Joseph Story asked, “How did the British colonies acquire title to the soil of the continent? His answer was “discovery.”

    However, the correct answer, from the viewpoint of the pre-America Nations, is based on the principle of void ab initio i.e. “to be treated as invalid from the outset.” The crown and the colonies never did acquire a valid title to the soil of the continent. They pretended to have acquired a valid title by means of the fictitious claim of having “discovered” lands that belonged to our Original Nations.

    Yet we have been acting as if the colonizers’ ideas and arguments are valid. They were not valid then and are therefore not valid today. To the extent we have accepted “federal Indian law” lies as valid, we have been living a self-subordinating delusion. It’s a self-imposed bad dream from which, fortunately, we have begun to awaken.

    We’ve been going about this all wrong. We need to develop counterarguments that make clear the nature of the colonizers’ narratives. We need to be calling into question the false assumptions upon which U.S. federal Indian law was founded.

    Strength Through Native Identity

    Faced with a Trump administration, says Gyasi Ross, the original inhabitants of Turtle Island should embrace unity and recall past triumphs over adversity:

    Donald Trump poses a unique threat to Native people because of our relationship with the federal government. Not to be dramatic, but one bad federal administration can literally end the legal and political status of Native nations as we know it. That’s called “plenary authority.” Put bluntly, we will not make any positive strides during the Trump administration. It is naïve to believe that we will. Instead, we will need to work together, strategize and execute how to work together in a way that mitigates damage.

    Tough times are nothing new to Native people. While many liberals are questioning their existential position on this continent and making plans to go to Canada, Native people have faced exponentially worse from racist white men. We’ve faced extinction, termination and genocide. We’re tough as nails and our history tells us that if we work together we’ll be okay. We’re going to survive. Will it be ideal? No. But we will be here at the end of that time.

    We will make it as long as we’re willing to work together—to collaborate and understand that what affects one literally affects all. Even though it is legally incorrect, the United States does not deal with any Native nation as an individual nation. It deals with all of us as a group, a whole. Therefore we must be willing to stay away from a lack of cooperation, infighting, lateral violence and not seeing the bigger picture. Those things are counterproductive and will weaken us.

    We need each other, more so now than ever.

    ICT News

    Pipeline Builders File Suit Against Army Corps Of Engineers


    The builders of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) have filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so that they may complete the project without further interference from federal agencies and regulations. Energy Transfer Partners filed the lawsuit in federal court on November 14, the same day the Corps said it would not grant an easement to drill under the Missouri River, pending further analysis.

    Energy Transfer Partners and its co-developer, Sunoco Logistics Partners, are also asking the court to award them reimbursement for “reasonable costs including attorney’s fees in bringing this action.”

    In the claim, the two companies charge that the Army Corps has already granted all necessary permits required to complete the pipeline. However, the Corps said that no easements have been granted and that any drilling would violate federal law.

    Opposition to the pipeline has been led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which argues that the project poses a risk not only to themselves but to 18 million citizens who also depend on Missouri River drinking water. The tribe also says that DAPL construction has and will continue to destroy burial and sacred sites.

    “Dakota Access is so desperate to get this project in the ground that it is now suing the federal government,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II. “They are wrong, and the lawsuit will not succeed.”

    On November 15 more than 20 members of Congress formally asked the Obama administration to deny the pipeline easement.

    Election Day Tumult In Utah Portion Of Navajo Nation


    Malfunctioning voting machines, insufficient ballots and misinformation about polling locations caused considerable confusion in Navajo voting places in San Juan County, Utah on Election Day, critics have charged.

    “I talked to voters who were very unhappy that their polling place ran out of ballots and had its only machine break down at the same time,” said Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission policy analyst Lauren Bernally, who was in Oljato on the reservation. “Another voter called the county election office to find out where to go, only to be told to drive from Monument Valley to Mexican Hat and, when that was wrong, to double back to Monument Valley.”

    Navajo Nation attorney Maya Kane, who was in the county’s reservation town of Montezuma Creek, spoke to a man who came to his polling place with a ballot he had received in the mail, intending to get help in filling it out. He was apparently told to go to his car, fill it out and bring it back amid unclear instructions.

    A call to San Juan County’s election office was referred to an attorney, Jesse Trentadue, who confirmed some of the reports. He also speculated that an Oljato voter who had been told to drive home and retrieve a mail-in ballot received these instructions during the period when there would have been no other voting option.

    Trentadue further said that election information had been well advertised in local media, and he praised the work of Ed Tapaha, whose job includes explaining voting procedures to fellow tribal members and Navajo speakers.

    Heilsuk Nation Still Combating Massive Maritime Fuel Spill 


    More than a month after a tugboat spilled thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, imperiling the fishing economy of the Heilsuk Nation, authorities are still trying to contain the mess.

    The Nathan E. Stewart ran aground and then sank in Seaforth Channel at Bella Bella, British Columbia, the heart of the Nation, on October 13, unleashing 52,850 gallons of diesel. Since then, containment crews have struggled with harsh weather and high swells.

    “At the moment unfortunately things are stalled,” said Heiltsuk Council Member Jess Housty. “To get the tug dragged out to deeper waters and lifted onto a salvage barge, we need a good weather window, and we haven’t got one.”

    Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc reassured members of the community that Ottawa was doing everything it could to deal with the situation. “I think in the coming weeks we’ll see the government of Canada step up,” LeBlanc said. Minister of Transport Marc Garneau visited Bella Bella on November 6; the next day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau debuted new federal investments designed to shore up marine safety.

    “This is an important step, but our Nations need to be involved at the nation-to-nation level in the design and delivery of marine safety and shipping management in our Territories,” said Coastal First Nations President and Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “We want a joint management plan in which our Nations are fully resourced and making decisions about vessel traffic in our waters.”

    “The degradation to the environment is only part of the impact this disaster is having,” Housty said. “This incident has been heartbreaking for the community.”

    ICT News

    U.N. Officials Denounce Tactics Used Against Water Protectors

    The militarized response to protesters of the Dakota Access pipeline constitutes excessive force, suppression of peaceful assembly and a denial of human rights, key United Nations officials have declared.

    The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights protested the use of “rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, compression grenades and bean-bag rounds while expressing concerns over environmental impact and trying to protect burial grounds and other sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” in a statement issued on November 15.

    “The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an individual right, and it cannot be taken away indiscriminately or en masse due to the violent actions of a few,” said Maina Kiai, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association. “I call on the pipeline company [Energy Transfer Partners] to pause all construction activity within 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe.”

    Kiai also noted the treatment of those who have been taken into custody. “Marking people with numbers and detaining them in overcrowded cages, on the bare concrete floor, without being provided with medical care, amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment,” he said. “This is a troubling response to people who are taking action to protect natural resources and ancestral territory in the face of profit-seeking activity.”

    U.N. Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz endorsed Kiai’s November 15 statement, as did several other U.N. officials. Among them were Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights Karima Bennoune and the current chair of the U.N. Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises, Pavel Sulyandziga.

    Obama Appoints Natives To Two Federal Positions


    President Obama has appointed Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman and Charles D. Brower (Inupiaq) of the Native Village of Barrow to key administration posts. Forsman was named vice chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; Brower has joined the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission. The appointments were announced on November 3.

    Forsman has been a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation since May 2013. As vice president, he will continue to advance the council’s stated goal of “the preservation, enhancement, and sustainable use of our nation’s diverse historic resources” and the advising of the president and Congress on national historic preservation policy.

    He has been Suquamish chairman since 2005, having served as spokesman from 2003-2005, a research archaeologist at Larson Anthropological and Archaeological Services from 1992-2003, and as a consultant to the King County (Washington) Arts Commission from 1991-1992. He served as director of the Suquamish Museum from 1984-1990 and was a research assistant at the Suquamish Tribe Cultural Center from 1982-1984.

    Brower was first appointed to the Polar Bear Commission in 2010 as the alternate commissioner representing the Native People of Alaska. The commission determines the annual taking limit for the Alaska-Chukotka polar bear population.

    Brower chairs both the Alaska Nanuuq Commission and the Eskimo Walrus Commission and is a member of the Federal Subsistence Board. He was general manager of the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation from 2006-2013, wildlife director for the Native Village of Barrow in 2006, and wildlife department director for the North Slope Borough from 1986-2005.

    Activists Want Indigenous Woman As Mexico’s Next President


    Two activist groups in Mexico intend to endorse an as yet unnamed indigenous woman as a candidate for president in the next election, slated for 2018. On October 13, the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) announced that the CNI wants to enter such a candidate and intend to pursue the topic with their membership to seek support.

    The announcement came as 500 delegates of the CNI held their Fifth National Indigenous Congress on October 9-14, in collaboration with the EZLN. Neither body has directly participated in the Mexican political process since 2001, after attempts to secure constitutional recognition of Indigenous rights and autonomy with authorities failed. Fifteen years later, that attitude has changed.

    “Given that the offensive against the people will not cease, but rather grow until it finishes off every last one of us who make up the peoples of the countryside and the city, who carry profound discontent,” a statement from the conference declared, “this Fifth National Indigenous Congress has decided to launch a consultation in each of our communities to dismantle from below the power that is imposed on us from above and offer us nothing but death, violence, dispossession and destruction.”

    Among other matters, the conference addressed 27 specific conflicts involving indigenous communities and mining companies, oil corporations, ranchers, police, the military and Mexican political authorities. Issue No. 27 noted that the “Dakota Nations sacred territory is being invaded and destroyed by gas and oil pipelines; which is why they are maintaining a permanent occupation to defend what is theirs.”

    At Risk For Trauma

    ‘We could see horrific things but we couldn’t do anything’


    Bottom Line: As protests against the Dakota Access pipeline grow, so does the likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Activists were recently doused with water amid subfreezing temperatures.

    Adam Alexander Johnson/

    For water protectors opposing the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota, both in the camps and on the front lines, the atmosphere is not unlike that of a combat zone.

    In addition to facing rubber bullets, pepper spray and aggressive arrest tactics, protectors are constantly on edge from the stress of continuous surveillance and the threat that agent provocateurs may be living among them. The sound of helicopters and planes buzzing overhead gives pause to prayer and conversation as people anxiously gaze toward the sky. Heavily armed police line the hills surrounding the camps, watching protectors with binoculars. Even the most mundane tasks of camp life feel dangerous here.

    “I was singing a prayer song when they started hitting us with batons,” said Dan Namakin, a youth advocate from Nespelem, Washington, who was wearing a headdress and traditional regalia when he was attacked. “The sound of wooden batons striking our people was sickening. I had my eagle staff in one hand and a rattle in my other hand as they forcibly removed us.

    “They pulled me behind the police line and zip-tied my wrists, then took us to a processing area and put us in vans with no ventilation. We could see the horrific things they were doing to our people, but we couldn’t do anything about it.”

    Increasingly, experts say, water protectors like Namakin are at risk from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    As recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD occurs when persons experience so much stress in a situation that they find themselves “stuck” in that moment, even when the danger has passed. The nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance, keeping people from moving on.

    “The young people especially seem unable to de-stress after experiencing police violence,” observed Melanie Stoneman of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, who with her family has been living and volunteering at the Oceti Sakowin camp for several months.

    Many combat veterans who served in the military have expressed shock at the level of force and militarized weaponry being used against unarmed civilians.

    “It’s like a war zone out there,” said human rights attorney Joe Heath, a veteran with 45 years of civil rights experience who also represents the Onondaga Nation. “This can’t happen again. We have to wake people up in this country to what is happening. You have mass troops of mostly white guys armed with adrenalin, guns, pepper spray, concussion grenades, militarized weapons—like Star Wars—and it’s bound to go bad. There is no respect for the rights of these unarmed, peaceful citizens.”

    There is also the lurking shadow of “historical trauma,” which researchers have tied to high rates of addiction, suicide, mental illness and sexual violence among Native peoples. This condition, said Michelle M. Sotero of the University of Nevada, has three aspects:

    1. A dominant culture perpetrates mass trauma on a through colonialism, slavery, war or genocide;
    2. The affected population shows physical and psychological symptoms in response;
    3. The initial population passes these responses to subsequent generations, who in turn display similar symptoms.

    Some people at the camps may have pre-existing mental health problems associated with this syndrome, noted Elicia Good Soldier, co-coordinator of the Tiospaye Sakowin Youth Healing Camp on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

    “I think many [water protectors] are experiencing those historical traumas, unexpectedly, on top of the traumas they are experiencing firsthand,” Good Soldier said. “We need to be there to help them process that.”

    In response, Good Soldier and mental health professionals from Indian country are coming together to help the protectors respond. Earlier this month, Oglala Sioux tribal Chairman John Yellow Bird Steele asked mental health professionals from the Pine Ridge Reservation to organize an emergency deployment to travel to the camps to offer assistance.

    Several mental health care professionals from the Pine Ridge Reservation are on hand. They include Ethleen Iron Cloud-Two Dogs, longtime Lakota tribal mental health program specialist and traditional healer; Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory, suicide prevention and outreach coordinator for the Sweet Grass Project and the BEAR Program; and Eileen Janis, also of the Sweet Grass Project. They are working with Margaret Gates, tribal health care director for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Monique Runnells, director of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s Wellness Program. Their aim is to bring Mental Health First Aid training and other resources to the water protector camps.

    Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that gives people the skills to help others who are developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Created in Australia in 2001, the training is listed in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

    The mental health care professionals are also working closely with volunteers such as Michael Knudsen, a non-Native public health master’s student. “We’ve had some people with chronic mental health issues such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” he said.

    Medics have been reluctant to call for help from emergency medical services from Morton County because the ambulances will only come to the camps with police escorts. “The presence of police only seems to add to trauma for those in acute mental health distress,” Knudsen said. (Metro-Area Ambulance Service, the company that serves Morton and Burleigh Counties did not respond to ICTMN’s request for an interview.)

    Janis has visited the camps several times. She has observed signs of domestic violence, suicide ideation and alcohol withdrawal among some of the people there. “People at the camps are working together, everybody has a role like we did a long time ago in our traditional culture,” she said. “But right now they are bringing in their past traumas too.”

    Pain from past trauma adds the to anger and frustration with police and the pipeline.

    “We don’t want what we have on the reservation in these camps. We want the people to have focus have prayer and be peaceful,” Janis said. “The biggest thing we are doing is teaching them to believe in our prayer and helping them to let past trauma go.”

    Better Days For Indian Health?

    ‘We are committed to providing quality care’


    Bottom Line: Following widespread criticism of the Indian Health Service, its top officials pledge that reform is on the way.

    Indian Health Service Principal Deputy Director Mary L. Smith (at podium) has announced institutional improvements.

    Regina Garcia Cano/AP Images, File

    The Indian Health Service (IHS) has a new plan to provide high-quality, patient-centered, safe medical care to the 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Native it serves.

    The Indian Health Service Quality Framework, 2016-2017 and Quality Framework Implementation Plan were issued November 16 following the October release of two more in a decades-long series of reports on deficiencies in the federal agency’s performance.

    Under the new plan, IHS will establish a Quality Office at headquarters, overseen by a Deputy Director of Quality, who will report to the IHS Director. IHS Principal Deputy Director Mary L. Smith said the agency is working to fill the position as soon as possible.

    “We are committed to providing quality health care so we are our patients’ first choice for health care even when they have other options,” she said.

    As part of its renewed effort, IHS will increase its efforts to recruit and retain highly qualified medical and administrative staff and improve data collection, analysis and reporting. It will also employ a single accrediting organization for all IHS direct service facilities.

    In July, IHS entered into a $700,000 contract with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to improve the quality of care and patient safety at IHS hospitals in eight states—Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma. Under the new framework, by 2017 all 26 IHS-operated hospitals will be evaluated by one accrediting agency.

    The agency will also standardize credentialing of medical staff. “The goal of the Quality Framework credentialing standardization objective is to ensure a consistent and efficient process across IHS that facilitates the hiring of qualified practitioners,” said an IHS spokesman.

    In addition, the agency will survey patients to find out what they think of the service they are receiving.

    Improving patient safety is a high priority and the agency has pledged to address the severe safety lapses that sometimes occur at its facilities. It intends to do so by educating and encouraging staff to report incidents consistently, and by having a centralized system for monitoring risks and adverse events. The framework also calls for decreasing the incidence of healthcare-associated infections using measures such as increasing staff compliance with hand-washing regimes.

    In October, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (under which IHS operates) issued two critical reports about the agency. They were titled “Indian Health Service Hospitals: Longstanding Challenges Warrant Focused Attention to Support Quality Care” and “Hospitals: More Monitoring Needed to Ensure Quality Care.”

    The reports found that IHS exercised limited oversight of its hospitals due in part to inadequate data collection and review and difficulty with electronic health systems. Quality of care suffers, according to the reports, because while more and more people are turning to IHS for their care, the agency offers only a limited scope of services. Inadequacies that were cited included little access to specialists and outdated equipment and facilities.

    IHS hospitals in the Great Plains area in particular came in for scathing criticism when the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs took testimony on their conditions. These hearings took place in Washington and in the field beginning last February.

    Since then, Smith told ICTMN, “We have been working aggressively to improve the conditions at the hospitals in the Great Plains and actually I’m pleased to report several significant things that have happened.

    “First, two of the hospitals that were cited by CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] are currently operating under Systems Improvement Agreements, which are long-term agreements to get at the root cause of the problems at those facilities. We are making considerable progress working very closely with the CMS on those agreements.

    “A second major initiative in the Great Plains is the contract that we announced in July with the Joint Commission, which is doing assessments at all the Great Plains hospitals.”

    Also, in September, IHS awarded a telemedicine services contract to Avera Health to provide services to the seven hospitals and other health centers and facilities in the area. The Indian Health Service has 12 area offices and 170 IHS- and tribally managed service units, which provide nearly 40,000 inpatient admissions each year and more than 13 million outpatient visits. The 2016 federal appropriation for the agency was $4.8 billion.

    IHS spent $3,688 per patient in 2015, compared with an average $9,523 per year per patient expenditure for the nation as a whole.

    The Education of Natives

    ‘Right now we are in the middle of our reform’


    The new director of the Bureau of Indian Education, Tony Dearman, is emphasizing sovereignty.

    Courtesy U.S. Dept. of of the Interior

    Editor’s Note: Tony Dearman (Cherokee) was appointed director of the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) on November 2, taking over a troubled agency in the midst of radical reforms. He talked to ICTMN about where the BIE is headed and how he plans to make it a student- and school-focused organization.

    * * *

    What are your priorities as you take the helm at BIE?

    We’re going to continue our support efforts and continue to build partnerships with tribal leaders and educators to improve services to our students to produce positive student outcomes. We really need to let people know that we exist, get out there and get some support and create partnerships and collaborate with a lot of organizations inside and outside the department to bring attention to our system—to our kids.

    When you talk about partnerships and collaboration, are you mostly talking about having tribes take over schools?

    I’m talking about within the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] because in our system—our facilities, for example, everybody knows that we’ve struggled with the facilities aspects of our schools in some locations—we have to work with BIA because they control the money.

    If a tribe decides that they want to take over the schools, then we will be there to provide technical assistance so they will be successful. This is not a push to make all the tribes take over the schools. But it is to promote sovereignty, and if a tribe does say we can do a better job, we want to run our schools, it’s our job to help. That’s our trust responsibility. We’ll be there to help walk them through it.

    What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the BIE?

    Right now we are in the middle of our reform and we’ve got to get all of our positions filled. But it’s more than just hiring. It’s about changing the mindset. We want to change the way we do business. We want to be a service organization and really have a student and school focus.

    When you talk about changing the mindset, could you go into a little more detail?

    In the past we’ve had a one-size-fits-all type system. At the school level, [regulations] have been pushed down and we had to make them fit us. Right now what I’m saying about a change of mindset is that we need to have individual plans for our schools, for our tribes, because not everybody has the same needs.

    We’ve had some great, hardworking employees. They’ve been working extremely hard to do these reorganization and reform efforts. And a lot of our employees have been pulling the load of two and three people. We have strengths within our organization that we really need to utilize instead of jumping to contractors outside our system.

    Is there still a problem with getting enough good teachers into BIE schools?

    We do have some remote locations. We’ve been working with a contractor to help us go out and recruit. And that’s one of our efforts as far as training our principals. In the past we’ve hired them and given them a key and said good luck. We really need to spend some time with them and let them know what their authority is in terms of recruiting and retaining our staff, our teachers.

    What would you like people to know about you as a professional as you begin this job?

    I’d like the people to know that I’ve worked in several different levels in our school systems. I’ve been a science teacher, a coach, a principal at a tribally controlled school. I’ve been a superintendent at a bureau-operated boarding school. At Riverside Indian School we had grades 4 through 12 from about 23 different states and anywhere from 70 to 80 different tribes depending on the time of year.

    So I’ve been on the inside as far as being in our schools. I’ve also been an acting educational line officer for the tribes in the Northwest for Seattle and an educational line officer in New Mexico South in Albuquerque. And I’ve been an associate deputy director [of the BIE], so I have a lot of experience on a lot of different levels in the system and I really feel like it gives me an advantage in knowing how our system works and areas that we can improve.

    Can you give us an example?

    At a boarding school like Riverside Indian School, for example, the students were our children. We were responsible for clothing, medical care, emotional needs, everything. We would have our kids on our campus seven days a week 24 hours a day, so we had to come up with activities, and purchase things like movie tickets.

    But when we submitted our purchase orders we’d get a lot of pushback. The federal government doesn’t pay for movie tickets. We would have to explain we’re a school [and fight to get those things for our kids], so I’ve experienced the positives and the negatives at different levels of our system.

    I will say, on a positive note, under this administration the relationship between BIA and BIE has really improved. We do have people that understand the schools now and it’s only going to get better.

    Bois Forte Tribal Government

    Housing Department


    The Bois Forte Housing Department in Nett Lake, MN, is soliciting Proposals to study the needs of our maintenance program and to provide policy updates to improve the timeliness, cost and quality in the delivery of our services.

    All proposals are due by December 23, 2016 by 4:00 P.M.

    Inquiries concerning this RFP should be mailed to:

    Dani Pieratos, Office Manager

    Bois Forte Housing Department
    5344 Lakeshore Drive
    Nett Lake, MN 55772
    P: (218) 757-3253
    F: (218) 757-3254
    Or e-mailed to:

    This invitation is unrestricted; however, preference shall be given to Indian Organizations and Indian Owned Economic Enterprises in accordance with 24 CFR 1000.48, 1000.50 and 1000.52.


    Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School
    P.O. Box 672
    Eagle Butte, SD  57625
    Phone: 605-964-8777
    Fax: 605-964-8776

     The Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School is advertising the following position as Open Until Filled:

     Position Title: Education Specialist (Special Education Director)

     Announcement number: 17-01-CEB

     Salary Range: Level 05/01 – $28.29 per hour thru Level 05/21 – $36.90 per hour

     For more information, go to or call 605-964-8777.

    The Week in Photos

    WLFI - News 18, Lafayette, IN

    A monument of 14 stones was dedicated on November 4 in Prophetstown State Park in West Lafayette, Indiana to honor the 14 tribes that lived in the area.

    Courtesy Heiltsuk Nation

    More than a month after a tugboat spilled some 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel in Seaforth Channel, the Heilsuk Nation is still cleaning up.


    The Google Doodle of November 18, fashioned as ledger art, honored the Native author James Welch (Blackfeet, Gros Ventre).

    National Buffalo Museum

    White Cloud, a rare female albino bison, walked on November 14 at the age of 20.

    Headlines from the Web

    Upcoming Events


    November 29-December 1: Alaska Native Diabetes Conference
    The 32nd annual conference will be devoted to diabetes care, prevention and maintenance in Alaska Native peoples. It is geared specifically toward physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, psychologists, exercise physiologists, certified diabetes educators and other health care professionals.
    Location:  Hotel Captain Cook, Anchorage, Alaska

    November 29-December 1: National Gathering for Indigenous Education
    “Education and Reconciliation: Moving Forward Together” will address the message that Indigenous education is a reciprocal process that includes cultures, traditions, and histories, and engages students, staff, parents, and community partners to collaborate for student success. Participants will share successful practices and research; network with educators from across Canada; and attend workshops geared toward addressing the cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of K-12 Indigenous students.
    Location: Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec

    November 30: California Indian Law Association Webinar
    “Born Again Compacts: How an Evolution in the Definition of ‘Gaming Facilities’ May Lead to a More Intelligent Design of Intergovernmental Agreements” will feature a discussion of several topics. These will include how ancillary facilities such as hotels have been included in compacts and county intergovernmental agreements; recent California trends related to ancillary facilities, and how practitioners can use these new trends to their advantage when negotiating or renegotiating intergovernmental agreements; and the unique ethical issues faced by attorneys when negotiating the best deal for the tribal client may set negative precedent for Indian country.
    Contact Information:

    December 2: Bureau of Land Management Field Conference
    This is the last of several field discussions and public input sessions devoted to addressing concerns regarding mineral leasing and development activity adjacent to Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico. Overseen by the Department of the Interior, the sessions are a joint effort between the Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Navajo Regional Office.
    Location:  Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock, Arizona


    Letters to the Editor

    Re the recent police actions against the Dakota Access pipeline water protectors:

    My reply cannot equal my words or what I carry in my heart for all of you. The tears that flow from my eyes come from my heart when it has no more room to hold them.

    Bless you all. Be strong, ride the wind. My words on my computer with time may vanish, but what I hold in my heart for all of you will remain forever steadfast and true.

    —Richard Grover


    Re Terese Mailhot’s column about the Clinton campaign’s failure to connect with Native women voters (November 10):

    There was a very large group of people who did not vote in this election. The Democratic National Committee did a very poor job of motivating people to vote, and Hillary did not energize anyone either.

    It is sad that Natives have had to wait so long to vote, but what some women suffered to get the right to vote was downright inhumane. Their suffering was real, too.

    —Raylene Miles
    North Wilkesboro, North Carolina



    Top News Alerts

    The Blackfeet tribal community leader Elouise Cobell has been named one of 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Cobell’s advocacy of Native self-determination and financial independence led her to champion the groundbreaking Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit that yielded a historic $3.4 billion settlement in 2010. Cobell walked on in 2011; the medals were scheduled for presentation at a White House ceremony on November 22.

    Environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. visited the Oceti Sakowin camp on November 15 to support the water protectors’ fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. Kennedy, who called the project “a real environmental crime,” is senior attorney and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization solely focused on the right to clean water. At the conclusion of his visit, water protectors honored him with a song and gifts.

    The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico broke ground for its new Performing Arts and Fitness Center on November 10. The center is part of the IAIA Moving Forward Campaign, which seeks to raise the $9.5 million needed to build the new space; $7.5 million has already been secured from individuals, foundations, the state of New Mexico and various federal sources. The center is expected to have professionally equipped rehearsal spaces, a theater, a full gymnasium, a cardio room, weight room and basketball court.

    White Cloud, an extremely rare female albino bison, walked on November 14 at the age of 20. White bison are considered sacred to Indigenous People, and some 3 million visitors saw White Cloud during her stay at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, North Dakota. White Cloud was born at the Shirek Buffalo Ranch, to which she returned in May; she ultimately gave birth to 11 calves, including Dakota Miracle, a rare white bull.

    Applications for the 2017 Indian Affairs Student Leadership Summer Institute, a 10-week paid internship for post-secondary Native students to engage and support the next generation of Native leaders in the federal government, are being accepted by the Interior Department. The program provides American Indian and Alaska Native post-secondary students with the opportunity to learn about federal policy and develop management and leadership skills within high-profile offices throughout the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The application deadline is November 30.

    How Did I Miss That?

    Post-racial America, fistfights in Ukraine’s parliament and that viral Chili’s incident


    Photo courtesy Steve Russell Steve Russell

    First Look showed video of a fistfight interrupting a debate in the Ukrainian parliament. My cousin, Ray Sixkiller, was excited because he mistook the incident for the rivalry between Stephen Bannon and Reince Priebus over who gets the last whisper in President Trump’s ear.

    * * *

    Pamela Ramsey Taylor, director of the Clay County West Virginia Development Corporation, wrote on Facebook, “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a [sic] Ape in heels.”

    The good news is that Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling responded right away. The bad news is that she said, “Just made my day, Pam” [sic]

    “Just another day,” Cousin Ray observed, “in post-racial America.”

    * * *

    Within the week, Reuters reported, both Taylor and Whaling had resigned. No comments by Taylor were reported, but Whaling denied being a racist.

    “Sounds like she was pretty tolerant of other people’s racism,” Cousin Ray grumbled.

    * * *

    On another day in post-racial America, Chili’s Grill & Bar was offering its usual free meals for veterans on Veterans Day. Army veteran Ernest Walker of Cedar Hill, Texas, was about to leave Chili’s when an elderly man wearing an American flag shirt with a Trump sticker complained that Walker was wearing his cap indoors, could not be a veteran, and should not get a free meal.

    The manager asked for Walker’s DD 214 (“Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty”), which he showed. The manager also complained that Walker’s service dog was not a service dog. The dog had a red service vest and certified service tags.

    Walker caught the conversation on video as he surrendered his to-go food and left Chili’s. He posted the video on Facebook, where it quickly went viral. Eventually, Chili’s apologized and fired the manager.

    * * *

    The veteran had served with the 25th Infantry but was wearing a uniform without insignia because he did not want to be mistaken for an active duty soldier. The lack of insignia must have been the reason for the trouble, because in post-racial America it could not possibly matter that the veteran was black or that his service dog was named “Barack.”

    Cousin Ray tried not to crack a smile when he cited this story as “one more reason names matter.”

    * * *

    Speaking of names, Utqiaġvik, Alaska has voted by referendum to take its name back. Frederick William Beechey stole it in 1825 and gifted it to Sir John Barrow. The city formerly known as Barrow is the oldest permanent settlement so far discovered on the real estate claimed by the U.S.

    When the colonists showed up, the area was inhabited by the Iñupiat, who had names for everything worth naming, so naturally the invaders had to steal some to celebrate having frozen their butts off to “discover” lands that would eventually be proven to contain gold, both yellow and black. “Utqiaġvik” means “place for gathering wild roots.” Not “gold.” Not “oil.” But “wild roots.”

    Cousin Ray observed that if you lived there, you might find wild roots more useful than gold or oil. Then he posed the question on everybody’s mind: “How do you say it?”

    Lisa Demer of the Alaska Dispatch News responded, “Say it this way, with guttural back-of-the-throat sounds for the representative “k” and hard “g” in the middle: oot—kay-ahg—vik.

    Cousin Ray and I agreed that that is almost as hard as conjugating Cherokee verbs.

     * * *

    Wal-Mart is discouraging its employees from downloading an app called WorkIt, which offers advice on employees’ legal rights and Wal-Mart policies and the opportunity for workers to chat among themselves about workplace issues. Cousin Ray wanted to know how an employee could assert legal rights against a transnational corporation with a GDP bigger than that of Belgium.

    The answer is carefully. Very carefully.

    * * *

    Robert Wise was a staff member for two secretaries of the interior, Cecil Andrus and Bruce Babbitt. The New York Times published a letter from Wise criticizing the “Bundy Gang” acquittal and suggesting it is not okay to “destroy Native American cultural assets.” Wise concluded, “Make no mistake, these outlaws want beautiful federal lands, the endowment of every American, sold to the highest bidder or given to them free of charge.”

    It was good to ring the tocsin about the intersection of history for halfwits and guns for all. But it would have been nice to see some awareness that the Northern Paiutes have a bigger dog in the fight than the public generally.

    The Big Picture

    Armed confrontations are increasingly common as the standoff over the Dakota Access pipeline project continues. Instagram/Colin McCarthy/@Colinnnnn