The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, July 31, 2016


Presidential nominations, the passing on of a cultural icon, Pokémon Go intrusions on sacred burial grounds, and some oil pipeline kerfuffles stood out this past week in Indian country.

MAKING HISTORY: The two national political conventions took top billing in Indian country this past week, as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were officially nominated as candidates by the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively. Oglala Lakota tribal member and South Dakota delegate Shawn Bordeaux, one of four American Indian delegates in the 28-member South Dakota delegation, introduced his delegation in the Lakota language before casting the votes that pushed Hillary Clinton toward history as the first woman presidential candidate in U.S. History, as Suzette Brewer reported. Tribal nations reacted strongly to the first woman Presidential nominee. Also making history was White Earth citizen and Minnesota State Representative Peggy Flanagan, who became the first Native woman to address the Democratic National Convention from the podium. Tribal nations turned out in record numbers for the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, perhaps because, “underscoring its commitment to uphold the government’s treaty obligations with America’s 567 federally recognized Indian tribes, the DNC has dedicated a lengthy plank in its platform to the most pressing issues confronting Indian communities in the 21st century.” In fact, the Native American Council kicked off the DNC, meeting with party officials, former policy advisors to the White House and members of Congress. But does the Liberty Bell toll for Native Americans? ICTMN culture editor Simon Moya-Smith had plenty to say on that as he reported on the scene outside the convention. And Gyasi Ross asked the most telling question of all: “Can we honestly tell our beautiful and brilliant Native children that, in 2016, they can grow up and be President of the United States of America?”

TRUMPED: Meanwhile the Republican National Convention was wrapping up in Cleveland, and Brewer was on hand to report on a “long, bitter week” that was “marked by open, internecine warfare within the party, charges of plagiarism, disorganization and nonsensical programming headlined by a colorful array of nightly speakers plucked from reality shows and Trump’s own company, capped off by Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse his party’s nominee in a 20-minute speech that sparked a global media frenzy and elicited boos from the convention floor.” This added up, she said, to a GOP platform that is bad news for tribesTrump’s use of slain Benghazi ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Chinook, in Trump’s campaign came under criticism from none other than Stevens’ mother. Bryan Newland noted that the pronouncement “they don’t look like Indians to me” has been a refrain of Trump’s since at least 1993, and has continued throughout his Presidential campaign.

LONGSTANDING PROMISES KEPT: After a nearly 80-year delay, the federal government finally began making good on its promises to Columbia River Native fishers whose villages were inundated in the early 1900s to make way for dams.

GO, POKEMON: Enthusiasts of Pokémon Go in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, infuriated local indigenous people by gathering at the entrance to the sacred Lheidli T’enneh burial ground in search of Pokémon monsters. Kym Gouchie (Lheidli T’enneh) said her ancestors are buried at the site and called the intrusion a desecration.

DANCING WITH THE WOLVES: In the way a 97-year-old traditional Miniconjou Lakota Chief knows, David Beautiful Bald Eagle, Waniyetu Opi, knew in early April: He would be leaving soon. Stricken with double pneumonia, from his hospital bed in Rapid City Regional Hospital, the revered Cheyenne River Sioux Chief said to his wife, Josee, of 44 years: “This is it. Call the kids.” The military hero, champion dancer, professional baseball player and stunt double, who appeared in Dances With Wolves, walked on at home on Friday July 22, surrounded and sung to by his family.

NO POINT: A recently released body camera video of a 27-year-old Navajo woman who was shot five times after allegedly being involved in a shoplifting incident in Winslow, Arizona, shows the altercation between the police officer and Loreal Tsingine. Tsingine died, while the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing earlier this week.

PIPELINE MADNESS: In disparate locations, the madness of oil pipelines was demonstrated this week. In Canada, a pipeline breach that dumped up to 66,000 gallons of Alberta oil sands crude into the North Saskatchewan River system had the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) calling for “full First Nation participation and representation during the emergency response.” And farther south, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved just about all the permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline project, a $3.4 billion, 1,134-mile-long pipeline proposed by the company Energy Transfer that cuts through Standing Rock Sioux ancestral lands and would cross the Missouri River, potentially endangering the tribe’s water supply.

INSTANT BESTSELLER: Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars by actor, director, screenwriter and author Ethan Hawke and illustrator Greg Ruth has been an instant success, and has spent six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

CLASS(ICAL) ACT: ICTMN caught up with Dr. Jacqueline Wilson, an assistant professor of music at Southeast Missouri State University and a professional bassoonist who founded Molto Native Music, an organization dedicated to showcasing Native musicians in classical music.

PARTY TIME IN MONTREAL: It’s that time of year again, time to hit the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des spectacles in the city center for the 26th annual Montreal First Peoples’ Festival. This year finds an abundance of film offerings, art exhibits and performances in both music and dance. Events and screenings will also take place at Concordia University, L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Kahnawake. We bring you six reasons to swing by between August 3 and 10.

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