The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, December 13, 2015

ICTMN Staff
12/14/15

An icon walks on, a disappearance has a tragic ending, and a top indigenous federal official announces his departure. That and more saturated the news in Indian country last week.

MOURNED AND REMEMBERED: John Trudell, the poet, activist, actor and inspiration to many, walked on with fond words both for and from his many beloveds.

“I want people to remember me as they remember me,” he instructed before he passed from this world on December 8, surrounded by family and friends.

He was remembered as a warrior by Alex Jacobs, as a hero by Steven Newcomb, in poetry by Joy Harjo, and by numerous Indian Country Today Media Network columnists who had been inspired by him over the years. He was memorialized in pictures too, and in anecdotes that pointed to his humble beginnings. Trudell himself also weighed in, with comments on materialism, and then in the form of his family’s tribute and expression of gratitude for all the support. The memories, and the stories, keep coming.

TRUDEAU DELIVERS: To the north, on the same day that Trudell walked on, a man named Trudeau made history in an entirely different way. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not only attended but also addressed the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) gathering of chiefs, the first time a sitting prime minister has done so.  He followed that by announcing a long-awaited national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

COP21: Meanwhile, in Paris, Indigenous Peoples fought to get language included in the COP21 climate agreements that were finalized on December 11 that would recognize and enable their role in mitigating changes that are taking place in the environment. Although their rights were boosted, the setbacks were numerous, and indigenous representatives lobbied hard to get their concerns on the table and in the final documents. In the end they felt their voices weren’t quite heard the way they should have been. There was uplifting news too, as Lummi youth brought their ancestral teachings to COP21, and the Equator Prizes were given out to 21 indigenous enterprises, such as the one received by the Wuasikamas from the Inga Nation in Colombia.

MOMENTOUS DEPARTURE: Back on Turtle Island, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn, Chickasaw, would leave his post in January. He sat down for an exclusive interview with ICTMN, looking back on his three years’ tenure and ahead to the future.  

TRAGIC ENDING: The search for Rose Downwind, granddaughter of American Indian Movement founder Dennis Banks, ended in tragedy with the discovery of her burned body and the arrest of two men, one her ex-boyfriend and the other his cousin, for her murder. Dog the Bounty Hunter, who had taken on the case while the mother of five was still classified as missing, sat down with ICTMN to talk about what it was like to look for the 31-year-old woman who disappeared in Bemidji, Minnesota, on October 21.

JUSTICE: A jury convicted Alex Rios of beating to death two homeless Navajo men last year as they slept in a vacant lot in Albuquerque.

NOT BETTER WITH COKE: The Coca-Cola Co. yanked a Christmas video from its YouTube channel that showed young, jubilant white hipsters distributing Coke bottles to a community of indigenous people in Mexico. The video opened with shots of sullen indigenous peoples, young hipsters happily quaffing Coke, and statistics, specifically that 81.6 percent of the Indigenous Peoples of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, feel marginalized because they don't speak Spanish. Coca-Cola apologized.

NOT AGAIN: Kokon To Zai (KTZ), the clothing company notorious for showcasing a design earlier this year that bore an uncanny resemblance to a Bethany Yellowtail (Crow) creation, has been nailed again for allegedly ripping off a sacred Inuit design. Salome Awa, Inuit, stumbled across a sweater whose pattern was nearly identical to one designed by her great-grandfather for spiritual purposes. KTZ removed the item from its apparel line and apologized, but Awa is still considering legal action.

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