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


“Alarming” smudge smoke, some major land victories and a few award wins marked this languid summer week in Indian country.

SMOKE ALARM: Xicana (Chicana) student and activist Josie Valadez Fraire, 22, was arrested at a peaceful protest for smudging with a bundle of sage outside a Donald Drumpf rally. When she tried to explain that it was no more threatening than a lit cigarette, cops allegedly told her, “smoke alarms us.”

HOME AT LAST: For 12,000 years, the Acjachemen Nation lived and thrived on the land that became part of modern-day Southern California. Then the Spanish came. Hundreds of years later, the Natives who today are known as the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians still cherish and hold ceremonies at their most sacred site, the village of Putuidem in Capistrano. In mid-June the city council approved a $3 million plan to turn the 1.3-acre spot of land into a park and education center for the tribe, essentially giving it back.

PARITY: At long last, Native communities in Alaska can petition the federal government to place lands into trust, just as tribes throughout the rest of the U.S. can. On July 1 a U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit negated the arguments of the State of Alaska, which had sought to block a U.S. Department of the Interior rule change that made Alaska Natives subject to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, rather than being excluded from its tenets by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The rule change has implications for everything from law enforcement to alcohol regulation in remote rural communities.

HOUSING PARITY: The Department of Housing and Urban Development acknowledged tribal sovereignty by finalizing its tribal consultation policy and planning to establish a tribal advisory committee.

FIRST PLACE: A team of Navajo Technical University electrical engineering students has won first place in a National Science Foundation-sponsored tribal college competition by creating a device to help conserve or in some cases save lives on the reservation. Ericka Begody, Kirsch Davis, Christopher Owen and Hansen Tapaha took top honors for their solar-powered medicine cooler project in the HBCU and TCU Making & Innovation Challenge at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

WINNING: Levi Platero and Indigie Femme Captured Top Honors at the 29th Annual New Mexico Music Awards on June 19. Levi Platero, who performed during the show, won Best Blues song for Take Me Back, off his not yet released EP, while Indigie Femme won in the Americana category for their song You Taught Me to Love.

THE TOOTH OF THE MATTER: Tens of millions of lives are being improved by the use of dental health aide therapists to perform basic tasks on teeth that don’t require complex medical intervention. The initiative began in Indian country and is sweeping the nation.

TRAGIC END: Former Tribal Council Chairman Kevin P. Battise, 56, of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, walked on after being involved in an automotive accident involving two semis and his car.

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