2012 Retrospective: July
Take a look back at July 2012's biggest stories from the pages of our weekly magazine, This Week From Indian Country Today.
Aqueduct Racino in New York Leads Nation in Slot Revenue
The Aqueduct racino in Queens, New York is now the country’s greatest generator of revenue from slot machines, yielding $57.5 million in May, according to state gambling data, the New York Daily News reported. Operated by Malaysia-based casino developer Genting, and formally known as Resorts World Casino New York City, the complex surpassed second-place Mohegan Sun casino at $55.4 million, and third place Foxwoods Resort Casino at $50.4 million. While the racino netted its highest grossing revenues of $59 million in March, revenues declined the following two months. In May however, the racino finally outpaced its Connecticut competitors.
Musqueam Fight to Save Burial Grounds From Condo Development
The government of British Columbia has stepped in with a cash offer in hopes of resolving a land dispute between a condominium developer and the Musqueam First Nation. The dispute was over Marpole Midden in Vancouver, which contains the heritage site and burial ground of the 4,000-year-old Coast Salish village of c’əsnaəm. The government’s move came after a May 31 protest staged by nation members who blocked Vancouver’s Arthur Laing bridge during rush hour. The Musqueam had previously brought shovels and a mock permit to dig up the nonaboriginal Mountain View Cemetery to highlight their outrage after three sets of human remains were unearthed earlier this year.
In July, some appellants of the settlement of Cobell v. Salazar wondered whether to accept their May 22 defeat in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, while others were fretting that the already complicated matter was only going to get more complex. Their concern dealt with the deal’s $1.9 billion land-consolidation portion that would be governed by the Indian Land Consolidation Act, whereby liens would be placed on all income from sales of land acquired by the federal government in the Cobell settlement until the tribes pay the liens back.
Government Must Pay
While most of the focus in Indian country was on the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-tribal ruling in the Salazar v. Patchak case on June 18, another important ruling regarding tribal self-determination was made. On Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter, the high court backed the tribe, in a 5–4 vote, declaring that the federal government must pay contract support costs to tribes that enter into agreements to manage federal programs.
Sacred Artifacts Returned to Onondaga Nation
Some years ago, Onondaga Nation clan mother Dorothy Webster confronted Greg Tripoli, executive director of the Onondaga Historical Association, in Syracuse, New York. “You have something that belongs to us,” she said. That something was the remains of several Indians, as well as ceremonial masks and a wampum belt. Webster walked on in 2010. But on June 5, her wish was respected in its entirety, when the artifacts were returned to the nation. “These things didn’t belong to us,” Tripoli said.
Bordering on the Ridiculous
The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act recently passed by the House of Representatives is supposed to be a preventive measure against terrorism by making U.S. borders more secure. But it also threatens the sovereignty of all tribes with land that abuts or straddles U.S. borders.
Dreaming in Mohawk
An ambitious and controversial school is trying to save the Mohawk language and culture, one long word at a time. Children start at the age of 2 and learn their Native language as their first language. A teacher says, “One of the ways we know our program is working is that when the little children take their naps, they speak in Mohawk—they are dreaming in Mohawk.”
From Carcieri to Worse
The Supreme Court ruling against the Gun Lake Tribe in a lawsuit challenging their casino has opened the floodgates to frivolous challenges of Indian land trust acquisitions, and suggests strongly that the justices don’t fundamentally understand the laws and treaties of Indian country.
The Man Who Mocked Kings
Will Rogers was a combination of George Will, Will Ferrell and Jon Stewart—actor, comedian, political pundit, truth-teller. He was friends with cowboys and presidents, rustlers and rubes, hobos and titans, but he was first and foremost a proud Cherokee, whose wit and wisdom still land with a sting today.
Rock Art in Australia Shows How Advanced Indigenous Communities Were
Aboriginal rock art found in remote Australia is 28,000 years old, putting it among some of the world’s oldest such pieces, and indicating that the indigenous community that created it is one of the world’s most advanced, reported Agence-France Presse. The find was discovered at a rock shelter called Nawarla Gabarnmang. Accessible only by helicopter, the shelter is covered with rock art.
Legislation Will Give Tribes Bond Parity With States, Municipalities
Following hearings before the Senate Committee on Finance in May and before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in June, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), who chairs the former committee, said that he is “making progress [on] a detailed tax reform proposal” to put before Congress later this year. Baucus said the proposal may include putting tribal governments on an equal footing with states and municipalities in their ability to offer tax-exempt bonds. He also said that nearly all or part of $2 billion in tribal tax-exempt bond authority provided for in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the federal stimulus package widely known as the “Recovery Act”), but which has remained unused, may be made available again to tribes.
First Tribal Solar Project Set to Shine
Following years of discussion, wading through bureaucracy and searching for adequate sources of funding, a tribe is set to become the host of the first utility-scale solar-energy project on Indian land. On June 21, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that it had granted permission to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Nevada to operate a new 350-megawatt photovoltaic facility that could potentially generate enough energy to power at least 100,000 homes.
86 Years Later, Sacred Petroglyph Rock Returned to Tribal Area
In 1926, a six-ton rock covered in petroglyphs was moved from the bank of the Fraser River, in interior British Columbia, and taken to Stanley Park in Vancouver. There it stayed until 1992, when concern over vandalism prompted another relocation, to the safety of the interior courtyard of the Museum of Vancouver. On June 13, the rock was returned to its original home, with the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation.