The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, April 10, 2016


Meth, earthquakes, a lost head found, a Montana treasure walks on, and a beloved writer prepares his final farewell. This and more in Indian country last week.

TINY DESK, BIG HONOR: NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” seeks music video submissions every year from amateur musicians across the country. The Native-led band the Delbert Anderson Trio made it to the final 10 of the “10 More Tiny Desk Contest Entries We Loved.”

LOST IN TRANSLATION? Known for his racially charged humor, stand-up comic Ralphie May—a Comedy Central regular who has appeared on The Tonight Show, Last Comic Standing and Celebrity Fit club—set off a Twitter storm when he called out Indians in a video posted on YouTube, with one “highlight” being the phrase “F--k a bunch of Indians.” Later, in an exclusive interview, he insisted that his joke had been taken out of context and that he had been riffing—comedically, he thought—on the fact that he was “just mad that Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas for the Oscar in 1992.” Nevertheless, his upcoming show in Bemidji, Minnesota, was canceled, even as he released a video apologizing to Native Americans.

“ENEMY IN OUR CAMP”: Yankton Sioux Tribe held a Meth Summit to gauge the depth of the problem in Indian country and heard riveting, heartbreaking testimony from a 17-year-old member on what it’s like to grow up in a house dominated by a meth-addicted mother.

LOSING—AND REGAINING—A HEAD: The lost head of a Junipero Serra statue that was decapitated soon after the Spanish missionary and alleged Native abuser was canonized last September was found lying on a beach at low tide in Monterey. Estimates had run as high as $77,000 for a replacement head.

ENVIRONMENTAL FIGHT FOR LIFE: Opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline, also known as the Bakken pipeline, are holding fast against the project’s construction as they await a decision on its environmental feasibility from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation) citizens are continuing to protest the pipeline, urging stakeholders to recognize the devastation that would ensue should it be built.

WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’….: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a first-ever map forecasting human-caused earthquake activity, as opposed to natural quakes. It affirmed that injecting industrial wastewater deep underground makes the Earth shake, and it officially anointed Oklahoma as the new California when it comes to the likelihood of seismic disruption.

KEYSTONE CLUELESSNESS: TransCanada, the behemoth corporation that fought for years to build a pipeline extension known as Keystone XL, had to shut down its original Keystone pipeline (KXL would have been an extension) south of Freeman, South Dakota, after an oil spill was reported by a local rancher.

SALMON CONFLICT: The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) harshly criticized a lawsuit filed on March 31 on behalf of a fish conservation group that would cut funding for fish hatchery programs in the Columbia River Basin, saying it would further deplete vital salmon populations without solving the problem of diminishing wild salmon.

NATIVES ON THE NATIONAL RADAR: As part of the White House Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver the high school commencement address to the Class of 2016 at Santa Fe Indian School. Meanwhile, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has hired Nicole Willis, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, as his National Tribal Outreach Director, making her the Sanders campaign’s first and only full-time Native American staff member.

POKER FACE: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort will simultaneously play host to the final 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Global Casino Championship, and the beginning of the following year's 2016-2017 circuit.

ICWA GAINS GROUND: At the opening session of the 34th annual National Indian Child Welfare Association in St. Paul, Minnesota, acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts announced an interagency memorandum of understanding in collaboration with the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to ensure compliance with and implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Soon afterward, the Administration for Children and Families published a supplemental proposed rule that will require state child welfare agencies to collect and report data on American Indian children in foster care under the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, and backed it with a new grant.

RECONCILIATION AND REDEMPTION IN CLEVELAND: In the Breath of Fresh Air department, on Opening Day of the new Cleveland Indians’ season, the city council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance that will lead to the removal of banners displaying the team’s controversial mascot, Chief Wahoo, from the city’s public utility poles in the downtown central business area. Moreover, that was the same day that a Cleveland Indians fan who was photographed two years ago wearing red face and a faux feather headdress apologized for his actions to a Native American activist.

ARRESTS AND ACCUSATIONS: Canadian law enforcement officials announced a record-breaking operation against a cross-border tobacco and drug trafficking ring on March 30, as more than 700 law enforcement officers on three continents busted open an alleged international drug ring in a sweep that also scooped up Native NASCAR driver Derek White. Two Navajo siblings sued the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claiming they endured “horrific” sexual abuse while participating in the church-operated Indian Student Placement Program.

ANSWERS NOT FORTHCOMING: The shooting of a Navajo mom who was allegedly brandishing scissors has elicited a call for justice by her family and supporters. The Winslow police officer who fatally shot 27-year-old Loreal Tsingine five times at about 4 p.m. on Easter Sunday has been identified as Officer Austin Shipley, a three-year veteran of the police department.

A WELL-EARNED REST: Tribal historian, anthropologist and educator Joe Medicine Crow, the last surviving war chief of the Crow Tribe, walked on at age 102 on April 3. The Presidential Medal of Freedom winner’s passing prompted statements from everyone all the way up to President Barack Obama.

PREPARING TO WALK ON: Indian country received the sad news that beloved author Jim Northrup is terminally ill with kidney cancer and is preparing for his final journey.

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