The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, September 18, 2016


The roller-coaster ride of Dakota Access pipeline rulings continued, the Seneca-Modoc roots of feminism were revealed, and Native fashion hit the runway in New York City. All this and more transpired during the Week That Was in Indian country leading up to September 18.

DAPL—THE WORLD JOINS IN: Indian country continued to react to the low-high of the federal government’s 11th-hour intervention moments after the Standing Rock Sioux were denied an injunction stopping construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Mark Trahant saw the federal government’s intervention in the Dakota Access pipeline as an opportunity to take a serious look at climate change in light of the U.S.’s actions. Native filmmakers and photographers released two stunning videos affirming the movement’s commitment and power: Standing Up for the Sacred by Matika Wilbur and Myron Dewey featured Dallas Goldtooth, Chief Arvol Looking Horse and Kandi Mosset, while in Protecting the Sacred, the late John Trudell’s words rang out over a backdrop of scenes from the camps. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined a 500-strong rally in front of the White House as across the country, water protectors chained themselves to construction equipment as Energy Transfer Partners continued doing some work in the face of the federal government’s request that the company hold off. A couple of dozen people were arrested, including Red Warrior Camp spokesperson Cody Hall. All were later freed on bond. Meanwhile after Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren wrote to his employees promising that the pipeline issues would be cleared up soon, Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy lambasted him, the North Dakota authorities, and even the media for erroneously implying that the pipeline had been defeated. On Friday September 16 a U.S. District Court judicial panel voted 2–3 to grant the injunction on construction along both sides of a 20-mile piece of the Missouri River, pending the outcome of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s appeal of the initial denial. This was the same area that the federal government had asked the company to bow out of voluntarily. Back in Bismarck, a judge dissolved the restraining order that had been issued against Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II in August, on the grounds that it was redundant, since existing laws furnish the same restrictions. Almost simultaneously the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the tribe a permit to continue operating the camps on federal lands managed by the Corps. Throughout the week, water protectors remained committed to prayerful, nonviolent direct action.

MEANWHILE, IN PANAMA: Just as dogs had been used against water protectors defending Standing Rock Sioux burial grounds, so were they brought out in another protest—this one farther south. Indigenous Ngabe protesters in Panama, having had their homes washed away after reservoir floodgates were opened, and then been harassed and shot at by police, were also the victims of attack dogs at recent protests against the massive Barrio Blanco Hydroelectric Dam project.

WHEN WATER GOES BAD: Even as the Obama administration and then a court order temporarily halted construction of the Dakota Access pipeline due to concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, another water-related human tragedy continued to unfold within the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. A year after the Gold King Mine spill that turned the San Juan River bright orange with millions of gallons of toxic chemicals, Navajo families continue to struggle against the ongoing, catastrophic effects on their water supply that threaten both their health and the economic stability of an already fragile community. Cleaning up an even older mess, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan for the next phase of uranium mine cleanup on the Navajo Nation, part of the $1 billion settlement with Kerr-McGee.

DEFENDING THE BORDERS: In an effort to keep pristine waters safe, an organization of Alaska Native leaders wants the U.S./Canada International Joint Commission, formed by a 1909 treaty, to ensure British Columbia mines use best practices to prevent contamination of rivers that cross from Canada into Southeast Alaska. They also want Alaska Native governments to be consulted because their territories, economies and environmental health are at stake.

GILA NATIONAL MONUMENT? Representatives from 13 tribes with ancestral and trust lands in Arizona, California and New Mexico joined Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, Archaeology Southwest officials and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona to call for a national monument along 84,000 acres of the Great Bend of the Gila River that contains a wealth of history and cultural patrimony.

BIG GOVERNMENT GONE WILD: In These Times did an exposé of years of exploitative reservation leasing and right-of-way practices that benefit outside entities, from large corporations to individual operators, including farmers and ranchers, written by investigative reporter and ICTMN contributor Stephanie Woodard.

HILLARY AND THE FIRST FEMINISTS: Hillary Clinton’s feminist foundation may have been laid by the earliest women’s rights advocates who observed the interactions of Seneca and Modoc women with the men in their society, and found the model liberating.

LIBERATING FASHION: Breaking out on the runway were Orlando Dugi and Patricia Michaels, both of whom wowed the crowds at NY Fashion Week—Dugi with his hand-beaded, ethereal designs, and Michaels with her high-energy PM Waterlily collection, featuring original hand-dyed fabrics.

INDIGENOUS OPERA: A Nisenan-language opera, Something Inside Is Broken, based on the Nisenan people’s encounter with Johann Sutter in the pre-Gold Rush years, is told largely through the voices of female characters who bore the brunt of Sutter’s style of servitude, which included sexual exploitation. This week the show embarks on a three-state tour.

THIS AGAIN? Shortly after KCCI-TV Sports Director Andy Garman in Des Moines, Iowa posted a Clarke HS girls' basketball team poster of seven teammates in various Native-themed apparel, including headdresses, feathers and face paints, the Twitterverse and the rest of the social media universe roared in disapproval.

ANOTHER ONE DOWN: Joe Hosteen Kellwood, an elite member of the Navajo Nation code talkers and the U.S. Marine Corps who helped the U.S. and allied forces defeat Japan during World War II with an unbreakable code by using their traditional language, walked on at age 95.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page