The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, June 12, 2016


Another mass shooting, another flaming Bakken oil train and the loss of a leader for all dragged down Indian country this past week. On the upside, the Sealaska Heritage Institute launched its biennial Celebration, a four-day extravaganza showcasing the culture, dance, cuisine, art and more of what Alaska has to offer.

WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN? As yet another beyond-senseless shooting tragedy unfolded in Orlando, Florida, the Native LGBTQ community turned to social media to share their thoughts with a worldwide audience. Though the FBI is regarding the attack as an act of a radical terrorist, some Two Spirit and LGBTQ advocates, such as Shawnee Talbot, say the acts are perhaps more appropriately labeled as homophobic.

EULOGIZING THE GREAT ONE: Muhammed Ali, who died on Friday June 10, was the face of black America for much of the past 50 years. But more than that, he shepherded race relations in America for such a very long time—sometimes unintentionally—and now he’s gone, wrote Gyasi Ross in a tribute to the Great One. Ali continued with that task even at his own funeral, with American Indians among the many speakers he had lined up to eulogize him—among them Oren Lyons, who along with other Haudenosaunee leaders served as representatives of Native American and Indigenous peoples in a tribute to Ali and his family. “Yes, Muhammad Ali was world champion three times, but right here, right now, is his fourth time,” Lyons said to swelling applause before world and religious leaders came to honor and pay tribute to the people’s champion.

CELEBRATING NATIVE ALASKA: The Sealaska Heritage Institute held its biennial Celebration, showcasing everything from fashion to dance to cuisine, the best that Native Alaska has to offer. It was the 34th year since the inception of the popular dance and culture festival, a time when Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people come together to celebrate their survival as a culture and share their culture with the public. There were new events galore, with awards given out at the eighth Juried Art Show in five divisions. There were also a host of young artist winners, from middle school on up. On the cuisine front were contests for the best frothy soapberry dessert, and the best black seaweed preparation.

AFTER PARIS... As if continuing auctions of sacred objects in Paris weren’t bad enough, a Dallas-based house was set to auction off more than 100 items from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations, including three cavalry guns used in the Wounded Knee Massacre and two pipes. Paul Rathbun of Colorado planned to profit from selling the very weapons used to murder the victims of the Wounded Knee Massacre, in which hundreds of unarmed Lakota men, women and children were murdered by the United States on December 29, 1890.

EAGLE DESECRATION VS. INDUSTRY: The comment period over new rules being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to regulate the inadvertent killing of bald and golden eagles via wind turbines and other industrial development is still in play, through early July. A revised federal regulation would make it legal for any industry, including wind-energy companies, to unintentionally kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty so long as they have a permit, a fourfold increase over current federal regulations, which allow a “non-purposeful take” (killing or injury) of up to 1,103 bald eagles for up to five years.

POLL THIS, WAPO: In the wake of a loosely termed poll of 500 or so purported American Indians about a certain football team name in which the Washington Post claimed that 90 percent of the Natives in the United States had no problem with the racist epithet, Indian Country Today Media Network conducted its own poll, with strikingly different results. An informal Twitter poll sent out by ICTMN’s Vincent Schilling found that 80 percent of the 2,000 people who weighed in did actually have a problem with the name.

HOLY FLAMING OIL, BATMAN! Northwest tribes reaffirmed their stand against oil terminals and rail transport of crude, especially extra-flammable bitumen from the Bakken oil region of North Dakota, after yet another derailment and spill over the weekend—this one into the Columbia River, which many tribes rely on for fishing.

PIONEER WALKS ON: Tributes poured in at the death of Len Marchand, who was the first status Indian elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) in Canada and served as Parliamentary Secretary, Minister of State, Minister of the Environment and Senator. Marchand walked on at age 82.

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