The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, October 16, 2016


A powerful survivor letter for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, some new lows and highs in the DAPL fight, and election-season mud wrestling. This and more characterized the Week That Was in Indian country on October 16, 2016.

A SURVIVOR’S TALE: Perhaps fittingly for the month that holds Columbus Day, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and one survivor had a powerful tale to tell of how the abuser co-opts a victim’s entire belief system.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S DAY: October 10 marked this year’s version of the holiday that fewer and fewer people are calling Columbus Day. In Colorado, where the holiday was born, the fight continued to abolish it. Richard Walker penned a poem about how the day of payment for those sins will come. Increasingly, it is being celebrated in places like Seattle as Indigenous People’s Day. Some celebrated what it means to be indigenous. ICTMN A&E Editor Vincent Schilling went on HuffPo Live to discuss Columbus Day. In the There’s One in Every Crowd department, though, Hall of Famer and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez celebrated the 2016 American League Division Series sweep by the Cleveland Indians against Boston with a stereotypical Indian war cry on Columbus Day. After an immediate backlash on social media, Martinez apologized on Twitter. Also on October 10, a pickup truck plowed into a crowd of mostly Native demonstrators in Reno, Nevada, injuring five and sending one to the hospital. They were there to educate passersby about Columbus Day and the Dakota Access pipeline.

73 AND STRONGER THAN EVER: The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) held its 73rd annual Convention & Marketplace, this year in Phoenix, just days after the Arizona city voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day. Also at the convention, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II gave a speech to several hundred NCAI delegates yesterday in which he underscored the troubling fact that federal agencies tend to disregard or view tribal input or consultation on infrastructure projects as a mere formality.

FEAR MONGERING AND MILITARY FORCE: As the standoff at Standing Rock continued, it became apparent that fear is the M.O. of big oil companies using job creation as leverage to ram large projects such as the Dakota Access pipeline through. Fearless is what might describe actress Shailene Woodley, a vocal opponent of the pipeline and supporter of the water protectors, who got arrested for her efforts. If authorities were looking to scare her and other pipeline opponents off, however, their actions had the opposite effect: Celebrities and costars rallied around Woodley, generating publicity for the cause as her livestreamed arrest video on Facebook topped 4.7 million hits. Woodley was not the only non-Native supporter, by a long shot: Nineteen U.S. city governments have passed resolutions or written letters opposing construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Archambault vowed to continue fighting the pipeline after a three-judge panel denied the tribe’s request for an injunction that would have stopped its progress through treaty-protected, sacred burial grounds. Gyasi Ross had more voices from the frontlines when he caught up with Red Lake comedian Tito Ybarra. And as Archambault has pointed out numerous times, indigenous people often pay the greatest price when the landscape is developed for the benefit of the world’s industrial economy.

ELECTION 2016—MUD WRESTLING AND FELONY ASSAULT: Speaking of abuse, Mark Trahant called it: “Let’s start with the big picture,” he wrote. “Donald Trump’s recorded revelation of felony intent—and yes, it’s that serious—ought to disqualify him from the presidency. There is no excuse.”This after a debate that Steve Russell characterized as a mud wrestling session, and, Trumpkins! Meanwhile, all this is giving the Democrats a shot at a full House. Things were a bit saner in Indian country itself, with three Native candidates—Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun—pitching their ideas to voters in North Dakota. In Alaska, candidate Denise Juneau had a ready answer on how to guard gay, bisexual and transgender rights: “Number one, get elected.” And in Paiute country, a victory for voters: An emergency injunction will open early-voting offices on the Walker River and Pyramid Lake Paiute reservations.

ARPAIOS CONTEMPT: The Department of Justice announced it will pursue a criminal contempt-of-court case against Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

ELECTION DAY SALMON SPARRING: The lawsuit filed by a dozen defendants including the Quinault Indian Nation against federal agencies that allowed the approval of genetically modified salmon will go to court on Election Day.

JACKPOT: The Eastern Shoshone Tribe debuted $30 million worth of upgrades to Shoshone Rose Casino on the Wind River Reservation in Lander, Wyoming. The Pechanga Resort & Casino, owned by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, received top honors from three nationally recognized magazines and organizations for its guest service excellence and amenities.

TRAGIC BUT TALENTED: Annie Pootoogook—an artist well-known for her lively, in-the-moment, brave, often disturbing and groundbreaking artwork, was found dead in the Rideau River in Ottawa, Canada, near Parliament Hill at age 47. The major crimes unit is investigating.

JUSTICE WARRIOR WALKS ON: Justice weeps with the passing of Jack Greenberg, a towering figure in the mainstream Civil Rights Movement, whose life stood against every bit of racial insanity that polluted and continues to pollute U.S. politics.

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