The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, November 6, 2016


Rubber bullets, tear gas and mace continue, an officer resigns over a shooting, and raw sewage flows into a sacred lake. This and more transpired over the past week in Indian country, as the U.S. Presidential election closed in.

UGLIER AND UGLIER: Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the water protectors trying to fend off the Dakota Access pipeline encountered the same resistance on federally owned land that they had met with on privately owned land. Military police, including National Guard troops and private security slammed them with rubber bullets and doused them with pepper spray as the protectors tried to cross a creek that separated them from a burial hill being desecrated by construction. When Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier tried to find out from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ regional office what the legal underpinnings were for these tactics, given that the land is essentially public, he said he was met with a very troubling response with strong racist undertones. That led him to call for the resignation of Commander and District Engineer of the Omaha District Colonel John W. Henderson. To show support, and with the idea of confounding authorities who might be monitoring water protectors’ whereabouts via social media, more than a million people “checked in” to Standing Rock on Facebook. ICTMN Editor at Large Gyasi Ross noted that the world was now seeing “the disrespect and state violence that Native people have faced for centuries.” President Barack Obama revealed that the Army Corps was studying the possibility of another route for the pipeline, even as construction edged closer and closer to the Missouri River. Energy Transfer Partners was doing this even without permits to go under the river, and even as it came out that the company had in fact found remains but refrained from reporting it to the proper state authorities for 10 days. The outrage played out in the political arena as well, as Steve Russell reported. Gyasi Ross looked at why there are no acceptable rerouting options, since given environmental circumstances, it shouldn’t be built at all.

The militarization issue drew not only worldwide outrage but, closer to home, an examination into how this was allowed to happen. There is the question as to whether the National Guard was acting as law enforcement or corporate security. There is the question of why heavily armed police from seven states were called in to deal with unarmed demonstrators. There is also a list of people to contact from all the state agencies that are assisting North Dakota in this endeavor. United Nations representatives came to investigate as well.

Military police weren’t the only ones who were drawn from far and wide to help protect the water. More than 500 of the faithful, both clergy and laity, came to camp, held a ceremony to burn the Doctrine of Discovery and then went to bear witness with the protectors at the river. Jackson Brown and Bonnie Raitt announced they would do a concert at Standing Rock to benefit the Oceti Sakowin camp. And young Maangozit, traveling with his mother Mary Annette Pember, decided to cut off his braid—but left its ashes in the winds of Standing Rock.

ELECTION PLOT THICKENS: If there is one downside to the end of Daylight Saving Time this weekend, it’s that it will add another hour to what many have called an excruciating election season. But in Indian country there are a fair number of bright sides. Mark Trahant reported on another way that history is being made in North Dakota, with an unprecedented three Native candidates for statewide offices. Trahant also spoke with some Native Americans who planned to vote for Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, and Harlan McKosato

reported on Trump’s last-minute outreach to Indian country. Trahant studied the possibility that Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin all had the potential to muster up enough Native votes to tip the electoral college.

ANOTHER KIND OF SH*TSHOW: Up to 10 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into Onondaga Lake after a 50-year-old pipe burst during 21 hours of straight rain in Syracuse. The 42-inch diameter pipe broke south of the Inner Harbor along the Onondaga Lake shoreline.

HERITAGE IN ACTION: November 1 began National Native American Heritage Month, and Obama issued a proclamation paying tribute to Native contributions but steering clear of any mention of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

MARRED APOLOGY: In the wake of a “Trail of Tears” banner that high school cheerleaders displayed during a football game, the school issued an apology on its website. But it declined to mention photos from a school spirit week that depicted stereotypical versions of Native Americans, African American slaves and Mexican and Chinese laborers.

WAHOO? NOT SO MUCH: As the World Series began playing out, a poll conducted by the Denver Post found that 67.27 of respondents said the Cleveland Indians’ name was not offensive, and 32.73 percent said yes. But it of course depends whom you ask. ICTMN A&E and Sports Editor Vincent Schilling skipped all but the last game because Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo logo was “too much to bear.”Perhaps, reported Ed Rice, the Cleveland Indians lost because of the curse that Russell Means had put on them in the 1970s. Luckily there are reams of Native athletes worth watching, many of them from the Great Sioux Nation.

MEET THE NEW NATIONAL MAMMAL: National Bison Day falls on November 5 this year, the first Saturday of November, and this year it is also the country’s national mammal.

RESIGNED: The officer who shot and killed a 27-year-old Navajo woman after an alleged shoplifting incident in Winslow, Arizona, has resigned from the force. Austin Shipley, a three-year veteran of the Winslow Police Department, resigned after the department reviewed an internal affairs investigation into the Easter Sunday shooting of Loreal Tsingine.

TIS THE SEASON: We’re not talking Christmas carols. (Too soon!) The dreaded flu season has arrived, and health experts are urging everyone to use that extra Daylight Saving Time hour to get a flu shot.

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