The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, October 23, 2016



The stories gripping Indian country during the Week That Was included an investigative piece about the Mormon Church that mirrors revelations about the Catholics, hurricane Matthew’s hit on the Lumbee, and charges filed, dropped and declined in a variety of situations.

“I AM X”: In March 2016, two Navajo siblings filed suit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—also known as LDS or Mormon Church—in the Window Rock District of the Navajo Nation Court. In their suit, the siblings allege that they were sexually abused numerous times in several homes during their time in the “Indian Placement Program,” a foster care program operated by the church. In the ensuing months, many more cases have come to light.

HURRICANE MATTHEW AND HIS HAVOC: Thousands of Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina members lost their homes, entire food supplies, businesses or all three when Hurricane Matthew dumped four months’ worth of rain on the state in 12 hours, causing “tremendous and deadly” devastation, the tribe said.

HIT AND RUN CHARGES: Charges were filed against 18-year-old Nick Mahaffey about a week after he rammed his white Nissan pickup truck into a group of Columbus Day protestors in Reno, injuring five. Two protesters, James Fletcher and Samuel Harry, were both charged with simple battery for their alleged role in provoking the incident.

EATING, GIVING BIRTH, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN: Life continued on at the camps protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline’s proposed route near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The almost-always-open kitchen nourished the water protectors, the children were educated at a bona fide school, and a woman gave birth. Charges against journalist Amy Goodman were dropped, charges that the Native American Journalists Association condemned and called an “outrageous abuse of power.” Actress Shailene Woodley wrote an impassioned defense of Standing Rock, water and treaty rights in Time magazine. All this because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has, according to some legal experts, been operating on shady legal ground when it comes to historic preservation. Op-ed writers weighed in on many DAPL fronts. Misty Perkins wrote about why the protectors are not protesters, and Navajo Nation Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie called it a “confrontation between the Destroyers and the Protectors.”

WHAT WAS THAT AGAIN? The U.S. Department of the Interior has notified Nooksack Tribal Chairman Bob Kelly it does not recognize any of the council's actions after March 24, effectively wiping out the council's recent attempts to thwart the Nooksack 306, who are fighting to keep from being disenrolled.

SPECIAL HOMECOMING: The Hiawatha belt, created to symbolize the unity between the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora, finally returned to the shores of Onondaga Lake.

IF WE CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU: The Seattle School Board has unanimously approved a resolution calling for the federal government to officially recognize the Duwamish Tribe as “the original people of our area.”

ELECTION HOME STRETCH: Ronda Metcalf, Sauk-Suiattle, may well win a seat in the Washington state House of Representatives from the 39th District. On the national front, with the election just a few weeks away, New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland, Pueblo of Laguna and the first Native American ever elected as the state chair of one of the two major political parties, is working hard to get New Mexico voters to cast their ballots for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. This could earn the state’s five electoral votes, which could sway the national election. Chelsey Luger wrote about Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, his degradation of women and other groups, and what that says about U.S. history. (Hint: The bar was already pretty low.) Steve Russell compared his own predictions from the start of the campaign with how things turned out. None of that stopped Lynn Armitage from coming out in support of Trump, “My man!”

NO CHARGES: Lawmakers are not happy with the U.S. Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute officials in connection with the Gold King Mine spill, which dumped nearly three million gallons of toxins into the Animas River in August 2016.

AUTONOMY: U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed a new commitment to federal-American Indian cooperation in the management of public lands and resources.

WORLD SERIES AND MASCOTS... : The Cleveland Indians earned a place in the World Series, around the same time that the team won the right to continue using its controversial mascot, Chief Wahoo, during the American League Championship Series postseason games against the Toronto Blue Jays.

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