The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, June 5, 2016


A potentially precedent-setting apology, a thwarted auction and the passing of a true icon. All this and more grabbed Indian country’s collective heart this past week.

REMEMBERING THE FALLEN: The week began with the annual observance of Memorial Day, on which we remember our fallen warriors. This year it was also the day that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian announced it had been charged by Congress with building a National Native American Veterans Memorial to give “all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.” It perhaps brought this day a little closer than usual to ICTMN A&E editor Vincent Schilling’s vision of a perfect Memorial Day, one in which American Indians who made the ultimate sacrifice are remembered first and foremost.

APOLOGY AND ATONEMENT: Aboriginal leaders in Canada this week hailed as precedent-setting the formal apology by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to Indigenous Peoples for the residential school era, a first for a province, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that a year earlier had called the program “cultural genocide.” Wynne also committed $250 million to programs designed to help First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples rebuild. Survivors of the schools, some of whom were on hand in the Legislative Assembly for the apology, said it felt validating.

SACRED SHIELD SAVED: The Eve Auction house in Paris reportedly pulled a Sacred Acoma Pueblo shield from a planned sale after reports surfaced that the item may have been stolen back in the 1970s. The move came after the National Museum of the American Indian called for the immediate halting of the auction alongside U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. The auction was reportedly relatively quiet, with many bids failing to meet the predicted catalog prices.

NEW HOME: Governor Susana Martinez and Gathering of Nations Founder Derek Mathews announced an agreement to hold the Gathering of Nations at Tingley Coliseum and the New Mexico State Fairgrounds for the next four years. The new venue comes after the University of New Mexico said it would not host any more.

INDIGENERDS UNITE! A growing number of Native people are making comics and designing videogames as a way to revitalize their languages, and now those efforts have borne fruit in another way: The first ever Indigenous Comic Con was announced for November 18-20 in Albuquerque.

MINING COMPANIES BEHAVING BADLY: As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earns accolades for his pledges to uphold indigenous rights on the home front, legal advocates in Latin America are urging him to extend that respect internationally when it comes to the conduct of Canadian mining companies abroad. A coalition of more than 180 organizations based in Latin America, Europe and the United States presented an open letter to Trudeau pointing out the long list of human rights abuses allegedly committed by Canada-based mining companies throughout Latin America.

THE GREATEST WALKS ON: In a sad footnote to the week of remembrance, the great Muhammad Ali walked on at age 74 from complications related to Parkinson’s disease. A proponent of racial harmony, he had long been known for his solidarity with Natives, especially in conjunction with the Black Power movement of the 1970s, the National Museum of the American Indian noted in a tribute.

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