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


An almost-laughably inaccurate definition of “pow wow,” the fatal police shooting of a Navajo woman allegedly armed with scissors, and a couple of firings for bad behavior all left their mark on Indian country this past week. Brace yourselves.

WHO KNEW? Indians found out last week, thanks to ICTMN writer Simon Moya-Smith’s perusal of, that they practice “magic” at pow wows. No, really. It’s right there, in the definition: “a ceremony, especially one accompanied by magic, feasting, and dancing, performed for the cure of disease, success in a hunt, etc.” After being contacted and informed of the ludicrous nature of the so-called definition, agreed to update the term and drop the “magic” word. Lucky for us, ICTMN’s Spring Pow Wow Issue has been released just in time to set people straight, not to mention provide everything one needs to know about this year’s pow wow season. The listing of more than 400 pow wows, plus much more, is available for download.

POLICE KILL WOMAN RUNNING WITH SCISSORS: Police in Winslow, Arizona, shot a Navajo woman five times, killing her, on Easter Sunday for allegedly brandishing a pair of scissors. Loreal Juana Barnell-Tsingine, 27, was gunned down after an altercation that began with a shoplifting call from a convenience store. Officers located a woman matching the description of the suspect a few blocks away, and a struggle ensued.

‘STRONG WOMAN,’ AND ELECTION HI JINX: More than 30 Native American leaders in Washington State have declared their support for Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, including NCAI president and Swinomish Indian Tribe Chairman Brian Cladoosby and Puyallup Tribe of Indians chairman Bill Sterud, whose tribe had given Clinton the Lushootseed name tsiwələx̌ʷi, pronounced “tsee-wuh-luh-x̌wee” and meaning “Strong Woman.” On the Sanders campaign trail, Comedian Bobby Wilson, of the 1491s comedy troupe, sat down with potential First Lady Jane Sanders, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, during her visit to the Apache sacred site Oak Flat to ask her about Native youth. Meanwhile the Republicans trailed behind, garnering little attention or votes from Indian country.

IN IT TO WIN IT: In an effort to enact change with more than their votes, two American Indians entered local races. Chase Iron Eyes officially announced his candidacy for Congress at the North Dakota Democratic Convention “out of necessity” to fix a “broken” government. And in New Mexico, Derrick Lente entered the race for the state’s House of Representatives for District 65.

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH WRAPS UP: As Women’s History Month drew to a close on March 31, ICTMN highlighted five more Native women who teach Native history: JoEllen Anderson, Ojibwe, a Native American Studies lecturer at the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University; Malinda Maynor Lowery, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, associate professor of History at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, as well as director of the Southern Oral History Program; Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she is completing a book about Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people in the post-Revolutionary War period that focuses on the history of the Buffalo Creek Reservation near today’s Buffalo, New York; Amanda Cobb-Greetham, Chickasaw, Coca-Cola Professor and Chair of the Department of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and Leola Roberta Tsinnajinnie, Diné and Filipino, an assistant professor of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico. Meanwhile, over on the Navajo Nation, we highlighted Navajo Nation emergency management director Rose Whitehair, who spends her days training fellow Natives to be prepared for any contingency.

COURT WINS & LOSSES: It was a win for 6-year-old Choctaw girl known as Lexi, returned to her relatives by authorities after her foster parents lost a fight to keep her, when the California Supreme Court denied a petition to reconsider a state appellate court ruling in her case. On the other side of Turtle Island, the U. S. Supreme Court refused to review Ute Tribe v. Utah, a case involving jurisdictional boundaries in prosecuting tribal members in state courts.

FIRED: High school principal on the Navajo Nation, J.D. Reed, was fired for making statements that were racist, anti-Mormon and homophobic. Reed was placed on administrative leave on March 18, pending an investigation into his conduct, and let go three days later. Also sacked was Charles “Monty” Roessel, Navajo, who was removed as director of the Bureau of Indian Education on March 30 after it came to light that he had used his position to help get his girlfriend and a relative hired.

IMMINENT SALMON DISASTER: Dwindling coho salmon runs have Northwest tribes pondering the cancelation of their entire fisheries, which would be a blow to cultures that rely on salmon for much of their sustenance and ceremony.

SACRED PROTECTION, AND A SETBACK: A bill before the Georgia legislature that was threatening sacred sites by giving exemptions to state projects that cost less than $100 million from conducting cultural resource studies, the so-called Environmental Policy Act, was amended March 14, 2016 to protect cultural and historic resources found during transportation construction projects. Not so lucky in the protection department were First Nations, landowners and others fighting against the Site C hydroelectric dam in British Columbia. A court gave the Royal Canadian Mounted Police permission to oust a group that had been camped out on the construction site for more than two months protesting the project, which would flood the Peace River Valley and destroy countless archaeological resources.

FOND FAREWELL: Indian country said goodbye to Gilbert Horn Sr., a decorated World War II veteran and code talker, who walked on on March 27 at the age of 92.

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