2012 Retrospective: October
Take a look back at September 2012's biggest stories from the pages of our weekly magazine, This Week From Indian Country Today.
The North American Indian Sells for $1.44M
A complete set of Edward S. Curtis’s classic multivolume set The North American Indian was sold at auction for $1.44 million in October—a record high price for the auction house, Swann Galleries, which held the first photo-book auction in the United States in 1952. The massive set consists of 20 folios, more than 700 photographs and 20 text volumes that contain more than 1,500 smaller photographs.
Churchill Loses Latest Bid to Regain Job
The embattled and controversial scholar Ward Churchill failed in his latest attempt to rejoin the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder when the Colorado State Supreme Court on September 10 affirmed the 2007 decision of the university’s board of regents to fire him. The board had voted to dismiss Churchill, a former chair of the school’s ethnic studies department, after several scholars said that he committed plagiarism and academic misconduct in some of his published research about American Indians. Churchill maintains that he was fired because of his political views and plans to appeal his case.
Paul Frank Industries Event Offends
In West Hollywood, California, Paul Frank Industries hosted a Native-themed “Dream Catchin’ ” party that proved to be a crass display of Indian stereotypes: guests wore glow-in-the-dark “war paint” and feathers and toted tomahawks or bows and arrows. Vodka-based cocktails like the rain dance refresher and the neon tipi were served. A furor erupted in the Native community, as one would expect. Then the company took everyone by surprise in announcing it would take unprecedented steps to redeem itself, including working with Native designers on a future project.
The Musqueam Indian Band is rejoicing after the province of British Columbia announced it would not reissue permits to develop a burial site at the 4,000-year-old village of c’əsnaəm, in what is today Vancouver, where a developer unearthed human remains.
NMAI Gets Giant Pole Sculptures
Two massive totem poles by carver Rick Bartow, Raven (23 feet tall) and Bear (27 feet tall), traveled across Turtle Island from his studio in Newport, Oregon to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. There they were installed on the museum grounds’ northwest corner on September 10, in plenty of time for the opening on September 21, the autumnal equinox. Bartow named the two-pole work “We Were Always Here,” and says it is a tribute to the animal spirits in the area.
Burial Ground Versus Casino
A fight over the proposed expansion of a casino is raising volatile issues of Indian identity and the importance of cultural respect, and has the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in a pitched battle. “To transform a place of deep historical and cultural significance into an entertainment venue...is inappropriate and destructive to that sacred place,” says the principal chief, George Tiger.
Appellate Court Rules for Tohono O’odham Nation
Overcoming considerable opposition, the Tohono O’odham Nation has been granted its request to take 54 acres of land in Arizona’s Maricopa County into federal trust. The tribe’s appeal had been contested by the city of Glendale, Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and other parties that want to stop the tribe from developing a resort and casino on the land, reported The Arizona Republic. The GRIC operates a casino close to the land in question. The Tohono O’odham Nation’s proposed Las Vegas–style resort and casino, initially suggested in 2009 and dubbed the West Valley Resort, would feature a spa, convention center and meeting rooms, an event center, retail space, restaurants and bars, and a three-acre atrium. While the nation owns 135 acres in Maricopa, an unincorporated “county island” surrounded entirely by Glendale, the tribe requested Interior take into trust only a 54-acre portion of the land not challenged by Glendale in state court.
Freedmen Present Case
On October 18, the latest chapter in a federal lawsuit that could determine the tribal citizenship of thousands of African Americans descended from former Cherokee-owned slaves returned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The oral arguments of the Cherokee Freedmen, plaintiffs in Vann, et al. v. Salazar, were heard as they contend that the Treaty of 1866, which abolished slavery in the Cherokee Nation, also granted them tribal citizenship rights nearly 150 years later. There was no word when a hearing could be expected.
Obama Sends a Message
In an unprecedented and historic gesture by a sitting president, Barack Obama answers pressing questions from Indian country on the eve of the presidential election. “[With me] as president, you have a voice in the White House,” he says, saying that he is a friend of Indians. “We’re moving forward, but there’s more work to do.”
Romney Reaches Out
In a historic dialogue leading up to the national election, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney discusses some of the pressing issues in Indian country, and proclaims that he is the best candidate for protecting the future of Indian country and of the United States.
Victims Without End
The horrific Catholic Diocese sex-abuse scandal in Montana is getting bigger, as an amended lawsuit brings the total number of plaintiffs to 200 and the number of accused sexual predators to 26. “We’re talking about hideous abuse—the rape of 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-year-old boys and girls,” says one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.