The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, October 18, 2015


It was a big week in Indian country, kicked off as it was with so-called Columbus Day, which has been renamed as Indigenous People’s Day in a number of cities and even a state or two. As for the rest of the week some prominent indigenous voices were front and center, winning major awards and making the issues known.

COLUMBUS DAY (NOT): Steve Russell launched the festivities by comparing the deeds of Christopher Columbus with those of Columbus Day Parade Grand Marshal Alberto Cribiore, who “disappeared about $50 billion of other people’s money without apparent personal inconvenience, since he decamped Merrill Lynch just before it crashed.” Vincent Schilling converted a previous ICTMN story listing myths about Columbus into a video that outlines just exactly what the supposed great navigator did.

RENAMING: Also cause for jubilation was the declaration in both Alaska and Anchorage of Indigenous People’s Day by both Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Both signed proclamations declaring the second Monday of October to be Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Alaska joins a number of other places that have recognized Indigenous Peoples' Day this year, including Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque. South Dakota was the first state to rename the federal holiday as Native American Day in 1990. Then Sarah Sunshine Manning made a solid case for why other states and cities should follow suit and repeal Columbus Day.

KUDOS: Tara Houska gave a nod to California’s new law requiring the four schools in California whose team name matches that of the Washington football team to change it. Prominent Native voices weighed in as well. She was joined by prominent Native American Voices who spoke to ICTMN about the Landmark California R-Word Ban.

AIRTIME: Meanwhile ICTMN Editor-at-Large Gyasi Ross, Blackfeet, was showcased on Democracy Now!, speaking to reporter Amy Goodman on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. He appeared alongside Larry Hamm, organizer of the People’s Organization for Progress and a 1995 Million Man March attendee, about Saturday’s march and the focus on how communities of color share many similar experiences.

“The presence—just my presence being there, and all the Native people that Minister Louis Farrakhan invited, was that we have inter-tangling and intrinsically and inextricably linked narratives,” Ross told Goodman.

DARTMOUTH DETRACTORS: Indigenous Peoples’ Day was not without its detractors, though, as a group at Dartmouth University sent out a mocking message by posting fliers around campus urging Native students to celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day by purchasing ‘Dartmouth Indian’ products from a CafePress store called Occupy Parkhurst. The store featured whiskey flasks and even a woman’s thong with a ‘Dartmouth Indian’ on it. Dartmouth discontinued the use of this mascot in response to Native American students demands four decades ago. At the time, 56 prospective Native students from around the country were still visiting the college.

SHINING STAR: Lynn Valbuena, chair of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, spoke to ICTMN about her recent induction into the American Gaming Association's (AGA) Gaming Hall of Fame.

METH AND SUICIDE: The Indian Health Service awarded more than 100 grants to help American Indian and Alaska Native communities battle the twin scourges of methamphetamine use and suicide. In a development not directly related, the Navajo Nation was reeling in the aftermath of four suicides in a single Utah community in mid- and late summer. An interdisciplinary team consisting of youth and elders is helping bring people together to prevent further deaths.

FIRE AFTERMATH: As Middletown, California mopped up in the wake of the Valley Fire, the Rancheria Pomo tribe provided shelter and other aid to fire victims, many of whom were tribal members.

WALKING ON: The AMERIND Risk Management Corporation mourned the passing of one of its founders, Wayne Chico of the Tohono O’odham reservation, who passed on October 7, 2015 at age 64. He served chairman from 1986 to 1995, worked for the Tohono O’odham Indian Housing Authority for 20 years, and was a strong advocate for improving Native American communities through better housing.

SAVING THE BEARS EARS: Tribes went through with their proposal asking President Barack Obama to designate the sacred site Bears Ears as a national monument, holding a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

MISSING: The search continued for 70-year-old Joan Rebar, Sac-n-Fox, who has been missing since late September.

HOMECOMING: Indiana University (IU) repatriated human remains and funerary objects to Barrow, Alaska, with IU’s coordinator for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Dr. Jayne-Leigh Thomas and another anthropologist, Dr. April Sievert, traveling 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle to do so. They also attended Nalukataq, the annual whaling festival.

IMAGINING: In a festival of another sort, indigenous arts and culture took center stage in Toronto with the opening of the annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.

NO CONTACT: Winding down on a sober note, the week ended with a warning from indigenous people in Latin America who said that the idea of controlled contact with un-contacted people is illegal and dangerous. In an open letter of protest to two U.S. anthropologists who advocated the idea in an editorial in Science magazine earlier this year, they called the proposal "both dangerous and illegal, and undermines the rights that Indigenous Peoples have fought long and hard for." It was signed by 10 indigenous organizations from Brazil, Paraguay and Peru, and supported by Survival International (SI) an advocacy group supporting tribal peoples.

BRUTAL ATTACK: Tragedy struck at Bridge River (Xwisten) Indian Band in British Columbia when a 22-year-old assailant facing eviction attacked the staff with a hammer, injuring 11. He later died. 

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page