The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, April 24, 2016


A rock icon walked on, Harriet Tubman ousted Andrew Jackson from the $20, and a landmark deal was reached that will save salmon on the Klamath River.

A PRINCE WALKS ON: The passing of the rock music icon Prince at age 57 shocked those in Indian country, who brought out their memories of the musician’s influence on their lives.

INTO THE SUNSET: Indian country lost a number of its own as well, with Comanche musician, performer and teacher Edward Wapp Jr. departing this world on April 18 after an illness. Also walking on was Margaret Greene, a leader in the Samish’s fight for federal recognition, who was killed in a car accident just 19 days before her 94th birthday. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians bid farewell to Harrison Ben, who began working for the tribe in 1976 as a juvenile officer under Chief Calvin J. Issac. He was 81.

BY THEIR OWN HAND: The Northern Ontario Attawapiskat First Nation declared a state of emergency on April 9, the same day that 11 residents attempted suicide—one of them reportedly as young as 10. Community officials said there had been more than 100 attempted suicides, one fatal, since September 2015. Reports put one of the attempted suicides at just 10 years old.

JUSTICE DEMANDED: Navajo President Russell Begaye demanded a federal investigation into the March 27 shooting death of Loreal Tsingine in Winslow, Arizona, who was gunned down by 26-year-old officer Austin Shipley. The incident began with a suspected shoplifting but ended with Tsingine being shot five times during an altercation that began with a reported shoplifting. The police officer, 26-year-old Austin Shipley, claimed Tsingine presented a substantial threat when she brandished a pair of scissors.

JUSTICE OBTAINED: Métis and other non-status Indians in Canada were officially recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as deserving of the same federal benefits accorded to First Nations and Inuit peoples. The case had hinged on whether it was the federal government or the provincial government that had jurisdiction over bringing them up to par with Indigenous Peoples living on reserves or holding land claims.

AT LONG LAST: In what some said was a particularly fitting move, the $20 bill that has long carried the likeness of U.S. President Andrew Jackson will be switched out for one bearing the portrait of Harriet Tubman, a conductor on the Underground Railroad

LISTENING: Tribal court justice was again on trial on April 19 as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Bryant, a case that will establish whether tribal court misdemeanor convictions made without counsel in domestic violence cases can be used in federal court for repeat offenders.

APPOINTED: Former United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples James Anaya, a Regents’ Professor and James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona, has been named as dean of the University of Colorado Law School.

A WIN FOR THE SALMON: A new agreement signed by several parties, including the U.S. Department of the Interior, will decommission four dams and open hundreds of miles of the hotly contested Klamath River in Oregon and California to endangered salmon, blocked for nearly a century.

FIGHTING FOR THEIR LAND: The Lummi are anxiously awaiting a decision on the coal terminal at Cherry Point. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to decide by the end of April whether a coal shipping terminal proposed on land sacred to the Lummi Nation would adversely affect treaty fishing rights. If it does, the permit could be denied.

SEEKING TO HEAL: Members of the San Xavier District, one of the 11 districts of the Tohono O’odham Nation, are still reeling from the discovery of graffiti such as “666,” “Hail Satan,” and “BK”—an alleged gang sign—sprayed on the walls, pillars, and an archway of Mission San Xavier del Bac, a Catholic church located within the district. A nearby tribal cemetery was also hit.

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