The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, August 14, 2016


A pipeline battle escalated, a major dam project got blasted by an international rights group, and another nail in the proverbial coffin of an increasingly debunked migration theory cropped up in the news affecting Indian country this past week.

FIGHTING FOR THEIR RIGHT … TO WATER: Standing Rock Sioux protesters flocked to the construction site of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which was under way even before being approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers without an environmental assessment. Tara Houska reported that on Saturday August 6, a 2,000-mile relay run from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. culminated with dozens of Native Americans singing and marching in front of the White House. Thirty Native youth from the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) traveled to the U.S. Capitol seeking to stop construction of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. They were joined in D.C., in New York City and back in North Dakota by actresses Shailene Woodley of Divergent fame, and Rosario Dawson. Gyasi Ross wrote about the philosophical (and commonsense) underpinnings of Native environmental protest and stewardship as it has evolved over the centuries.

THE CRITICS ARE WRONG: Contrary to popular (among critics, apparently) belief, Marvel’s newly released Suicide Squad, starring (among others) Adam Beach, is anything but bad. In fact, resident Native Nerd and A&E Editor Vincent Schilling called it spectacular. Regardless of what viewers (or their journalistic emissaries) think of the movie, it gives us a reason to revisit other films starring Beach, Saulteaux of Dog Creek First Nation.

BLACK ELK RISES AGAIN: The name of Harney Peak, long associated with massacre, was renamed Black Elk Peak. The response to the change, while passionate, was mostly against the decision, reported David Rooks.

FAREWELL MEETING: The White House announced that President Barack Obama will host the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference on September 26 in Washington D.C. It will be the eighth and final opportunity for leaders of the 567 federally recognized tribes to express their concerns and issues with the Obama administration.

CANNABIS CULTIVATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS: Federal charges were laid against two men who assisted the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in growing a crop of marijuana for a proposed marijuana resort. Elsewhere, federal authorities backed off from prosecuting an American Indian teenager whose studies were threatened by his arrest for a single gram of pot. The Yurok Tribe, for its part, is battling a scourge of illegal cannabis farms that threaten their way of life, and their water.

FLAWED PLAN: The Yakama Nation condemned a plan proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund because it does not include remediation of the lower Columbia River, which the tribe says is essential for protecting the fish that pass through all those waters.

TOXIC WASTE: Almost two years to the day since Imperial Metals’ Polley Mine spewed four billion gallons of wastewater and toxic sludge into the pristine forests of northeastern British Columbia, the mine—and the pond that breached in August 2014—is open again. But some say the sludge from the spill is still nestled in the waterways, forests and land that the effluent spilled into. First Nations are still seeking answers, and solutions.

SITE C HAS ANOTHER DETRACTOR: Amnesty International joined First Nations in condemning the Canadian government’s recent approval of two key permits that will allow the controversial Site C dam to go forward in British Columbia, calling for an immediate halt to construction.

DISENROLLMENT AND HEALING: The Grand Ronde Tribal Court of Appeals reversed the mass disenrollment of 66 living lineal descendants of Chief Tumulth, signatory of the 1855 Treaty with the Kalapuya, which established the Grand Ronde Reservation. The Nooksack 306 undertook a healing canoe journey.

WE’RE STILL DOING THIS? Janet Gretzky, wife of famous NHL Hockey star Wayne Gretzky came under fire after posting photos of her and her daughter and two friends on Instagram, sporting—you guessed it—headdresses.

SPEAKING OUT: Amber Kanazbah Crotty, the only woman on the 24-delegate Navajo Nation Council, called for an end to sexual harassment in the tribal workplace, speaking publicly about her experiences as a target of sexual harassment and assault. Addressing her male colleagues, Crotty said she has endured vulgar comments and sexual innuendo during her tenure on the council.

DATED: If you were born before 1970, you’re older than nine of the civil rights laws and court decisions pertaining to Natives.

OLYMPIC GLORY: With the Olympic Games grabbing headlines, it is useful to remember the Natives who have competed for—and won—Olympic gold. We bring you eight of them.

ENTRY DENIED: A common discrepancy between passport nationality and license plate origin got Akwesasne District Chief Akwesasne District Chief Steven Thomas turned away at the Canadian border, and the Mohawk Akwesasne said they were concerned.

BEST METEOR SHOWER EVER: The Perseid meteors were predicted to rain down at the rate of up to 200 shooting stars per hour at their peak, putting on quite a show for anyone not stuck under cloud-shrouded skies. The show winds down by the end of the month.

BERING STRAIGHT THEORY WALKS ON: We can only hope. Two new studies have now, finally, put an end to the long-held theory that the Americas were populated by ancient peoples who walked across the Bering Strait land-bridge from Asia approximately 15,000 years ago. 

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