The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, October 9, 2016


Militarized police, Indigenous Peoples Day, the looming election and other apocryphal events gripped Indian country's attention during the Week That Was, October 9, 2016.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S DAY ROLLS AROUND AGAIN: Natives in New York City were gearing up this weekend to celebrate the second annual Indigenous People’s Day. The first one, last year, drew 6,000 indigenous people and supporters to Randall’s Island. Meanwhile, clear on the other side of Turtle Island, Phoenix became the largest U.S. city to officially designate Indigenous Peoples Day in opposition to Columbus Day, with a resolution that passed the nine-member city council unanimously.

STANDING ROCK STANDS STRONG: The stories of the people living at the camps out at Standing Rock in opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline are myriad, as Gyasi Ross reported with stories from the front lines. There are artist Jimmy Starkey, with insights into defeating the strategy of death, and Alayna Eagle Shield, educating a new generation of revolutionaries in the Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa (Defenders of the Water School) while preserving the Lakota language. In Washington D.C., water protectors gathered outside the White House Tribal Nations conference venue to voice their thoughts. First up was Point Lay Village Tribal Council Vice President Lloyd Pikok, followed by Indigenous Environmental Network campaign organizer Dallas Goldtooth and NCAI President Brian Cladoosby. The fight against DAPL has put the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in league with Indigenous People’s fights worldwide for land and life, as Jenni Monet wrote. The camps were characterized by the powerful presence of feathers, sage and social media—unfounded allegations of violence coming from the Morton County Sheriff’s office notwithstanding. Indeed, the sheriff’s office itself needs to be investigated, Amnesty International USA wrote in a letter addressed to Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, the one levying the accusations, for allowing the use of force against water protectors on September 3. An increasingly militarized police presence is cracking down on protectors, including arrests made of people who weren’t there, based on apparently faulty video recognition, reported Mary Annette Pember. As of the end of the week, a court had postponed a decision on the tribe’s request for an injunction to halt construction while the legal issues were being decided. That even though Standing Rock archaeologists continue to allege that sacred sites and burial grounds are being destroyed, even as state-commissioned archaeological study finds nothing. The struggle is much bigger than a single pipeline

BITTERSWEET FINAL TRIBAL NATIONS CONFERENCE: It may not be the last, but it was the last one with President Barack Obama. The eighth Tribal Nations Conference fulfilled Obama’s campaign promise to conduct regular meetings with tribes once a year. And delivering on promises was characteristic of his treatment of Native Americans. It wasn’t all serious, though. Native youth and leaders indulged in a bit of lightheartedness that they shared with ICTMN’s Vincent Schilling in inspiring, fun videos at the close of the conference. There were also plenty of Native-proud images, and a Native youth gave some needed perspective on what it was like to be there.

ELECTION LOOMS: According to longtime ICTMN contributor Steve Russell, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine won on style, and substance, respectively. Mark Trahant noted that younger voters don’t trust either candidate, or the system, which could make them less likely to vote—which depletes their power.

CLIMATE CHANGE NECK AND NECK WITH ELECTION: One major issue that may or may not eventually get noticed in the election is climate change, and Obama has announced that the global agreement signed in Paris last year will begin implementation on November 4 after being ratified by European nations. That’s four days before the U.S. Presidential election.

CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTS WILD RICE HARVEST: Poor weather cut the manoomin harvest in half in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, a mixture of extra-wet weather and plant diseases. Climate change seemed at least part of the culprit.

CLOSED FOR BUSINESS: Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado has had to close to visitors because the clambering tourists and the ravages of weather are taking their toll.

BEARS EARS FATE IN THE BALANCE: A congressional bill touted as an alternative to the Bears Ears proposal, an intertribal request to designate nearly two million acres of land as a national monument in southeast Utah, moved forward from committee to the full House of Representatives. Committee Democrats, including ranking member Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, expressed several concerns with the bill, saying it did not contain a tribal consultation component or protect half a million acres identified by the tribes in their larger Bears Ears designation request.

BRISTOL BAY: The voices of indigenous communities fighting against Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, got an echo at the recent International Union for The Conservation of Nation World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii. At the end of the summit, the IUCN decided to release a motion in support of protecting the bay and the indigenous communities living there.

SACRED SITES SAVED: In a stunning victory for nine Southern California indigenous nations, the California Coastal Commission rejected a permit to build a massive commercial and residential development in Newport Beach, California. The 400-acre property, known as the Banning Ranch, contains numerous sites considered sacred by the local Tonva and Acjachemen people, who know the land as Genga. The permit was rejected in a landslide 9–1 vote, ending a 20-year battle.

FORGIVENESS: Rick Williams, older brother of Seattle police shooting victim John T. Williams, took a recent opportunity to hug a Seattle Police officer.

FAREWELL: The family of worldwide indigenous languages lost another fluent speaker in the death of Doris Jean Lamar McLemore, considered the last fluent speaker of the Wichita language.

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