Condolences are pouring in from across Canada for former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who walked on suddenly at age 64 on April 10 from an apparent heart attack.... Read more
Author Peter Matthiessen was a champion of Indian rights, not least of all for his controversial In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's... Read more
Edmond Andrew Harjo, a Seminole Nation of Oklahoma tribal member and Congressional Gold Medal recipient, walked on March 31, 2014 in Ada, Oklahoma at... Read more
Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Jimmy Newton Jr. walked on March 31, 2014 after an extended illness.... Read more
Vigils are taking place in 17 cities, and as far away as Norway, on Thursday March 27 for Loretta Saunders, an Inuk university student who was murdered in February and left beside a... Read more
A beloved Chickasaw elder and decorated military veteran was laid to rest in Sand Springs, Oklahoma on February 26.
Beaulah Shavney was born April 2, 1922, in Marlow, Oklahoma, the eldest of six children born to O.L. and Sylvia Pope. She died February 22, 2014. Her grandmother, Emily Gibson, was a full-blood Chickasaw.
Shavney was educated at Chilocco Indian School in far northern Oklahoma. She joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in 1943 earning the World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, the WAC Service Medal and the American Campaign Medal. She was honorably discharged in December 1945 obtaining a rank equivalent to sergeant.
She met and married Dick Shavney, a veteran and member of a tank battalion who served in the Philippines. They were in uniform when they married at Vine Grove, Kentucky, in December 1944. After his discharge in 1946, the couple resided in Arizona and New York before finally settling in Sand Springs. Mr. Shavney died in 1968.
Shavney was a charter member of the WAC and traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2008 to partake in the Celebration of the Women in Military Service Memorial.
“I felt like it was my duty,” Mrs. Shavney said in a 2012 Profiles of the Chickasaw Nation interview. “It was a good feeling to put that uniform on.”
Shavney took pride in seeing women serving in the military in expanded capacities.
“They are really doing a great job,” she said.
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Cassandra Good Feather was 21 and carrying a baby boy in her womb when she died suddenly on February 19 at the University of Colorado Hospital, in Aurora, Colorado due to what is believed to be an aggressive and rapid chemotherapy-related secondary infection.
“Everything is still really hard because I miss my daughter so much. We were really close,” said Doug Good Feather, Cassie’s father and known in pow wow circles as a fancy dancer. “I am still questioning what happened. I know it was complications, but I am confused in this area.”
Cassie, who also went by her Lakota name Wambli Chan'te' Was'te' Win, meaning Good-hearted Eagle Woman, was diagnosed belatedly of leukemia. Her father said the pain on the left side of her lungs, back and leg were dismissed as nothing serious by other hospitals.
It was only on the first of February—after father and daughter went to Denver General Hospital and asked for a thorough examination—did they know that she had an aggressive form of leukemia. She was later transferred to the University of Colorado Hospital.
Good Feather said the leukemia was curable and her brothers already agreed to donate their bone marrow. With the unexpected and sudden death, her family has ordered an autopsy.
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Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker offered the following condolences on Tuesday, March 4 on the passing of Cherokee citizen Betty Starr-Barker.
Barker, of Stilwell, Oklahoma served on the Cherokee Nation Registration Committee since April 2013.
“Tonight, we grieve the passing of a beloved Cherokee woman: author, historian, educator and distinguished elder Betty Starr-Barker,” Chief Baker said. “Betty, or ‘Ma Barker,’ as many of us knew her, was a strong and influential force in the Cherokee Nation. Born on her father’s allotment in Adair County, she dedicated her life to serving others and, fortunately for us, the Cherokee Nation. She retired from being an educator after four decades, but her legacy doesn’t end there. She was instrumental in the restoration of the Kansas City Southern Railroad Depot in Stilwell, active in the planning of the Stilwell Strawberry Festival, and was a fixture at countless community and special events in Adair County. Anytime there was something important taking place in Stilwell, I could always count on Ma Barker being there with a big smile and a welcoming hug. The Strawberry Festival will never be the same without her."
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He may not have been Native American, but Martin Sullivan saw to the return of 12 sacred wampum belts to the Onondaga Indian Nation before it was required by law to do so. It was 1989 and he was the director of the New York State Museum in Albany, New York.
Sullivan passed away in his home February 25 in Piney Point, Maryland of kidney failure. He was 70. But it’s important to remember what he started with returning the sacred wampum.
It was a controversial agreement at a time when other museum executives were hesitant to confront the issue, Carole Huxley, the state’s deputy commissioner for cultural education at the time, told the Times Union.
“It was a very big deal, and it’s a law now. Not (just) here, but across the country,” Huxley, who first worked with Sullivan at the National Endowment for the Humanities, told the paper. “People in other museums didn’t want to have to think about it. Do we own these things? Did we not take them away from (these) people properly?”
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which requires museums and other federal agencies to return cultural items to tribal descendants, was enacted on November 16, 1990.
The Onondaga Nation website has a piece written by Chief Irving Powless Jr. from October 21, 1989—the day the 12 belts were delivered to the nation. Powless says in his accounting of that day that 600 people came to the longhouse for the arrival of the belts.
“Looking out the longhouse window, I could see the people surrounding the vans. The first of the 12 belts began its journey back into the longhouse. Each belt was covered in a case wrapped inside of white foam sheet. It was impossible to tell what belt it was,” Powless writes. “The wrappings were removed and the first belt was the Tadadaho belt. Soon all the belts were in view and everyone pressed forward for a better view.”
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Robert J. Conley was a giant of the Native literary world whose 80-plus books gave us an authentic, lively rendering of Cherokee experience. Conley’s realm was one of irreverence and wit, and he will rightly take his place among the Cherokee literary elite.
When Conley left this world on February 16, he had just been awarded the 2014 Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award, the highest honor bestowed by Western Writers of America, was to be presented during the organization’s annual convention in Sacramento in June. But Western Writers of America Executive Director Candy Moulton managed to give the prize to Conley personally.
“I went to North Carolina and presented it to him in a small ceremony that included the Dean of Western Carolina University, the head of the Cherokee Studies Department, and his wife Evelyn,” Moulton noted on the group’s website. “He was pleased and appreciative.”
Conley’s passing was mourned from the leadership offices of the Cherokee Nation, to the halls of Western Carolina University, where he last taught.
“Today, we mourn the passing of one of the great stewards of our Cherokee history and culture, Robert J. Conley. Robert was the author of more than 80 books, short stories and poems, vividly telling the tales of our most famous, and infamous, figures in Cherokee history,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker on February 17.
“His literary works were world renowned, and he garnered equal respect from both critics and readers,” Baker said. “While Robert will be dearly missed, we should be comforted in the fact that his legacy will live on in the wide body of work he left behind for all Cherokees to enjoy for generations to come.”
For centuries Cherokees were subject to the writings of people like Hernando DeSoto and Henry Timberlake, who were more interested in portraying Cherokees as exotic savages in a travelogue than as humans in their own right. Others, such as James Mooney, wrote about Cherokees as ethnographic curiosities. But that would change.
... Read more
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