The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, October 25, 2015


Canada dominated the news this week, with ups and downs ranging from a major election victory that could benefit Indigenous Peoples, to the alleged assault of an Akwesasne man by border guards.

CONSERVATIVES OUT, INDIGENOUS IN: Some of the biggest headlines in Indian country this past week came from north of the 49th Parallel, where a record 10 aboriginal candidates won seats in Parliament in a national election that toppled the Conservative Party’s nine-year hold on power. The Liberal Party won the majority, which means its leader, Justin Trudeau, will become prime minister.

BIRTH CONTROL PARITY: Back in the United States, Native women won a major victory of another sort, when the Indian Health Service finalized a new policy that makes over-the-counter emergency contraception pill available at its clinics to women of any age with no questions asked, in keeping with federal law for all U.S. women. “We have been fighting for this for over five years,” said Charon Asetoyer, director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC) in Lake Andes, South Dakota, of the rule, which makes Plan B accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native women alike, finally bringing that measure up to par with their non-Native sisters.

LOST INNOCENCE REGAINED: An extremely moving story of abuse and survival was revealed by a brave soul, Sunny Red Bear, who was able to move beyond her wounds with help from a Lakota Calling Your Spirit Back ceremony.

LACK OF CONSULTATION: As the University of North Dakota opened voting for a select group of so-called stakeholders to select a new nickname, a lawsuit had already been filed to halt the vote. Lavonne Alberts, Spirit Lake Sioux, and William Le Caine, Wood Mountain Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, signed their names to a lawsuit with the hopes of stopping the vote, on the grounds that there was no consultation.

HEALING WOUNDS: A resolution approved by the City Council of Seattle acknowledges the “various harms and ongoing historical and inter-generational traumas impacting American Indian, First Nations, and Alaskan Natives for the forcible removal of Indian children and subsequent abuse and neglect resulting from the United States’ American Indian Boarding School Policy during the 19th and 20th Centuries.” The resolution calls on the United States to examine its human rights record and to work with American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples “in efforts of reconciliation in addressing the impacts of historical trauma, language and cultural loss, and alleged genocide.”

“NEW CHAPTER IN TRUST”: The Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes and the U.S. Department of the Interior released more information on a historic settlement of a longstanding land-trust-management dispute, calling the recent $186 million settlement “a new chapter in trust.”

“This settlement represents a significant milestone in helping solidify and improve our relationship with the United States,” said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby in a statement during the October 5 signing ceremony that also gave a nod to the impetus provided by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

“This visit marks the start of a revitalized relationship with the United States,” said Batton in the tribes’ statement. “Secretary Jewell’s presence here, coming soon after President Obama’s recent visit, also serves to reaffirm that the foundation of this relationship is government-to-government.”

ON FIRE: FireKeepers Casino, owned by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, will replace Quicken Loans as the title sponsor of the June NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Previously the Quicken Loans 400, the major sporting attraction and one of the largest events in Michigan will from now on be known as the FireKeepers Casino 400.

BORDER BRUTALITY ALLEGED: Coming back to Canada, a 67-year-old Akwesasne man who was driving himself to the hospital with breathing problems—and was later diagnosed with pneumonia when he finally got there—is alleging that Canadian border guards roughed him up because they “caught a whiff of tobacco” coming from his truck. When they finally did listen to his pleas for an ambulance, he said, they made him wait for it in a holding cell. 

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