2012 Retrospective: December
Take a look back at December 2012's biggest stories from the pages of our weekly magazine, This Week From Indian Country Today.
Moapa Solar Farm to Power L.A. Homes
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a 25-year, $1.6 billion deal to buy power from a solar plant on the Moapa River Reservation, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The 350-megawatt farm will be the first commercial-grade solar project on tribal land in the U.S. The Interior Department fast-tracked approval in June. The solar plant is expected to go online in 2016, generating enough electricity for 118,000 homes in L.A.
Gmail Adds Its 57th Language, Cherokee
Google has added the Cherokee language to Gmail. Joseph Erb, language technologist at the Cherokee Nation, said the project “is about using our language each day and every day and continuing who we are as a people.”
Superstorm Sandy Causes Slot Revenue to Plummet
Among the many victims of Superstorm Sandy were the Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun, the two biggest Indian casinos in the country; both casinos reported double-digit drops in slot revenues in October. The casinos are located in the southeastern coastal area of Connecticut, which was particularly hard-hit by the storm.
Native Children Exploited
Charging cultural bias, cupidity and misplaced priorities, tribal directors of Indian Child Welfare Act programs on Sioux reservations in South Dakota accuse the state of repeatedly violating the act. The directors are asking that Congress ensure that the BIA holds a summit on the issues raised in their report, which was spurred by an NPR story that examined how millions of federal dollars flow into South Dakota’s foster-care system, which has taken charge of an unusually high proportion of Native children. Native youngsters make up less than 14 percent of the child population of South Dakota, but more than 50 percent of youth in foster care. There is evidence, they said, that state officials are “taking high numbers of Native children into custody in part to stimulate the state’s economy” with federal money that is directed toward them.
Not Rusting on Their Laurels
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the newly appointed Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn talk about what the Obama administration has accomplished for Native Americans over the past four years, and how much more they hope to accomplish in the next four.
The Big Chill
For more than 40 years, a section of the Navajo Nation has been in a surreal limbo, frozen in time by the so-called Bennett Freeze, which banned any development on the land, or even repairs or improvements to existing properties. That ban has recently been lifted, but the damage lingers.
The Fire Next Time
Does an arson attack on the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe reservation signal the start of a holy war about to be waged by zealous born-agains who believe that Native worship is evil, perhaps even witchcraft? No one has been arrested for the attack, and there are too many unanswered questions.
The Run of Their Lives
When five young people from the Pine Ridge Reservation answered the call for runners to represent their community in the New York City Marathon, they never imagined that their visit to that city would touch so many lives and create such a lasting impression.
Kindergarten Class Donates $50 for Pe’ Sla
It may have only been $50, but for Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Cyril “Whitey” Scott and the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council fires of the Great Sioux Nation, the gift was worth a fortune. The money, slated for the purchase of Pe’ Sla, the sacred site in the Black Hills, was collected by Oyate Burnette’s kindergarten class at Rosebud Elementary School in Rosebud, South Dakota. Their hard work, Scott said, constitutes a high point of the Pe’ Sla fund-raising process. “It makes me proud to see that our young people as far down as kindergarten understand the sacredness of this land.”
Grassy Narrows Anti-Logging Blockade Quietly Marks 10-Year Anniversary
In remote northwest Ontario, storytelling and a crackling bonfire quietly marked the 10-year anniversary of the longest-running protest blockade in Canada’s history, one that has become an iconic Native-land defense battle. On December 2, members of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) First Nation gathered at the logging blockade near their reserve as supporters across Canada began a week of events, including lighting a sacred fire outside the provincial legislature, to honor what has become an internationally recognized struggle. The blockade began on December 2, 2002, when two people stepped in front of a logging truck hauling timber out of clear-cuts in the band’s traditional territories.
New Gerber Baby Is Native
For decades, Gerber has been perhaps the most recognized name in baby food, thanks in large part to its mascot—the happily smiling Gerber baby. And now, the face of Gerber is Native. The new Gerber baby, eight-month-old Mary Jane Montoya from Fresno, California, is of mixed heritage. Her mother, Sara Montoya, is of Mexican descent, and her father, Billy Montoya, is a descendant of the Yokuts-Mono tribe. They plan on raising Mary Jane with a mixture of those cultures.
Smartphone App to Revitalize Language
Ma! Iwaidja is the first phone app for an Australian indigenous language—in this case, one that is spoken by fewer than 200 people on Croker Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory of Australia, according to the project website for Iwaidja Inyman, also known as the Minnjilang Endangered Languages Publication.
Poor Graduation Rates
Nevada may have ranked lowest overall in the nation in the Department of Education’s latest report of school graduation rates, at 62 percent. But there was one ranking below that: Bureau of Indian Education schools, whose rate was only 61 percent.