The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, January 3, 2016


Between Christmas and New Year's, we looked back at 2015, saw record flooding on the Cherokee Nation and saw the Yurok tell gene splicers to cut it out. That and more grabbed headlines in Indian country over the past week.

THE YEAR THAT WAS: This round, the Week That Was turned out to be a lot about the Year That Was, with looks back at 2015 in a number of areas, from politics to sports to environment, to veterans, education and Canada, and the world beyond. We also remembered those who walked on in 2015.

STILL WOUNDED: December 29 marked the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, and the wounds continue to heal. The slaughter of 300 unarmed Lakota men, women and children by the Seventh Cavalry did not end there; todays job is to reclaim history and bring the truth to light. Perhaps part of that healing can be derived from the potential sale of the Wounded Knee site to acclaimed journalist and activist Tim Giago.

WALK OFF THIS! On a lighter note, Loren Anthony, one of the actors who walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s The Ridiculous Six, had one last word on the matter—a satirical video, Walk Off on You, designed to showcase Native humor.

THE PROPOSAL THAT WON’T DIE: Indigenous and other activists, astonished that TransCanada is refusing to withdraw its application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, urged the corporation to “throw in the towel” on the project rejected by President Barack Obama as not in the national interest. The Intertribal Council On Utility Policy (COUP) on behalf of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance and several other groups did so with a petition signed on an actual towel.

FRANKENFISH BANNED: The Yurok Tribe in California passed an ordinance banning genetically engineered organisms from within its territory. The ordinance, among the first of its kind in the Nation, was enacted in response to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration’s approval of genetically altered salmon as safe to eat. The ordinance “prohibits the propagation, raising, growing, spawning, incubating, or releasing genetically engineered organisms (such as growing GMO crops or releasing genetically engineered salmon) within the Tribe’s territory and declares the Yurok Reservation to be a GMO-free zone,” the tribe said in a statement on December 14 after passing the Yurok Tribe Genetically Engineered Organism (“GEO”) Ordinance.

CHEROKEE UNDERWATER: Parts of the Cherokee Nation were inundated in flood waters as the Illinois River and other waterways overflowed upon receiving a foot of rain. Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Administrator Ed Fite said the flood is not just historic but also “catastrophic” and “extremely dangerous.” Normal December water flow in the Illinois River is 600-700 cubic feet per second. Last week the flow was 130,000 cfs as the water level broke a record set on May 10, 1950, at 27.94 feet.

HEARTFELT MESSAGE: Carlos Santana, famed musician and human rights advocate, spoke to his Lakota relatives in a message of hope and love, urging them to keep each other strong.

SLAVERY HORRORS REVEALED: Of course, the burden of the past is heavy, and nowhere it this more evident than in the histories surfacing that reveal the horrors of Natives enslaved by colonial settlers in New England and elsewhere. That is now brought to light in a new book.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: But then again, 2016 is upon us, and so are a myriad of stories that bear watching in the coming months. Arm yourselves with a beautiful sunrise from Nunavut, and a hack for keeping your New Year’s resolutions, and have a happy 2016. 

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