2011 Retrospective: May
The use of the code name “Geronimo” in the operation that killed Osama bin Laden shows that insensitivity won’t die. But that’s nothing new for Indian country, which rose up to angrily protest, pointing out that linking bin Laden to an Apache icon was a perversion of history.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which was founded 10 years ago, has grown from its humble origins to be a powerful advocate for all those seeking justice and a fair forum for the many treaty and human rights violations committed against Native peoples.
In the 1860s, the U.S. Army was losing its war against the Plains Indians, so it changed tactics and decided to kill all the buffalo instead. “Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone,” wrote on officer of this brutal but effective campaign, which wiped out both the Indians and the buffalo.
One year after the massive Gulf Coast BP oil spill, local tribes are still struggling to get their heads above water—and oil. But the 20,000 Indians who live in the region are proving their mettle once again, with a little help from their friends and from many kind strangers, some of whom are lawyers.
Oklahoma state schools superintendent Janet Barresi says Indian culture should be taught in her schools. “Oklahoma has a proud culture, and I want the rest of the nation and the world to understand that. How better to show that than when Oklahoma’s children begin to appreciate and understand that.”
The Diné College archery team faced Long Beach, UC Berkeley, and finally Texas A&M in the finals of the United States Intercollegiate Archery Championships. They beat Texas A&M in the finals, 210-207. Janice Wilson also took home the prestigious Women’s Company All American title.
For the third time, the Iroquois Nationals finished second to the Canadians at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship, this year in Prague. The intriguing sub-plot was that officials from both the Czech Republic and Switzerland—where the Iroquois Nationals had connecting flights to Prague—allowed team members to travel with their Haudenosaunee passports.
Former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill’s civil rights case will be reviewed by the Colorado Supreme Court. The issue is whether the school’s investigation of his scholarship was an “adverse employment action” under federal civil rights law when, after the investigation’s conclusion he was fired for “research misconduct.”
The city of Seattle agreed to award $1.5 million to the family of Native woodcarver John T. Williams, shot to death by former Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk, in a case later ruled unjustified by the Seattle’s Police Firearms Review Board. Williams, a 50-year-old member of the Ditidaht people on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island was shot to death August 30 last year. Birk spotted Williams walking in an impaired state with a piece of wood and a carving knife. Williams had his back to Birk as he yelled “Hey!” then “Put the knife down” before shooting him five times. There has long been a strong feeling in the Native community that Seattle’s police discriminate and use excessive force.
As President Barack Obama’s presidency has progressed—especially as the now-infamous Geronimo/Osama bin Laden code name controversy played out—it has become increasingly clear that a mea culpa from Obama to Indians isn’t coming. The fact that the leaders of other nations had been making amends in recent years to their respective indigenous populations raised hopes for an Obama apology. For all his positive moves, the lack of a verbal apology—or even a willingness to talk about one—ended up being one of the most confounding developments of 2009 for some Indians.
The news in the State of the Arctic Coast report is chilling—because the region’s ice is not. It is in fact melting faster than anyone realized. An international consortium of 30 scientists from 10 countries probed more than 62,000 miles of Arctic coast and found sea ice to be at an all-time low, while researchers from the University of Michigan recently learned that glaciers in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago have sloughed off enough water to fill Lake Erie by three-quarters and raised the world’s ocean level by a millimeter. Said one expert: “I still don’t think people grasp how serious the problem is. I hate to say it, but I think the worst is yet to come.”
The Hualapai Tribal Nation of northern Arizona, which owns a glass-bottomed observation deck that juts out over the Grand Canyon, is entangled in a lawsuit with its tour operator. The Grand Canyon Skywalk, made of glass spanning 70 feet and suspending 4,000 feet above the canyon’s floor and the Colorado River, attracts tourists from around the globe. David Jin put up $30 million to construct the Skywalk. Jin and the tribe agreed to split revenues for 25 years. Jin received part of his dues in 2007, although the tribe failed to provide accounting to back up the payment, and is suing.
Peabody, the world’s largest private-sector coal-producing company, supplies the Navajo Generating Station. The EPA is considering whether to require the plant’s operators to spend $1.1 billion on scrubbers to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions and clear the smog cloud hovering above northern Arizona. The operator has threatened a shutdown if the EPA forces such action.
—Click here if you missed our January 2011 retrospective.
—Click here if you missed our February 2011 retrospective.
—Click here if you missed our March 2011 retrospective.
—Click here if you missed our April 2011 retrospective.
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