The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, November 27, 2016


Indian country and the rest of Turtle Island continued lurching toward who knows what, as fallout from the Presidential election became more apparent, the U.S. celebrated Thanksgiving with mourning, gratitude and a little humor, and the world reeled from yet another onslaught against peaceful water protectors.

THE TRUMP EFFECT: Stories swirling through Indian country in the wake of Donald J. Trump’s election as President on November 8 touched on specifics like the billion-dollar dilemma of how to fund Indian health care under a Trump administration. Steven Newcomb wrote about the upcoming Age of Trump, featuring Christian dominionist Vice-President Mike Pence. Columnist Peter d’Errico wrote of the need for indigenous leaders to stand together, even in an age of division. And Zoltan Grossman, too, noted how much stronger those working for the greater good can be when unified. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp assured constituents that Trump could not touch Indian gaming.

DAPL: Support continued to pour in from all quarters for the water protectors at Standing Rock, even as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an eviction order for the Oceti Sakowin camp. Demonstrators demanding more, and better, media coverage rallied outside the offices of CNN in Atlanta. The support was renewed after a Sunday November 20 onslaught by militarized police against protectors trying to move barriers off a bridge that entailed hours of bombardment with concussion grenades, rubber bullets and ice-cold water sprayed from fire hoses in sub-freezing temperatures. One woman was so severely injured that she may lose her arm. The acts earned censure from numerous sources, including Amnesty International USA. Throughout the conflict, mainstream media was notably absent, reported Jenni Monet. But they showed up a few days later, in force.

Meanwhile, reported Steve Russell, costs are mounting, even as financers of the project pull out. And the American Civil Liberties Union noted that there are no fewer than 75 law enforcement agencies on the scene to deal with the unarmed civilians, thanks to a 20-year-old law that allows states to call in assistance during crises. Costs are mounting for the water protectors too, and Chelsey Luger ferreted out the places where donating will do the most good. The Oneida Nation’s Ray Halbritter announced a series of concerts to benefit the Standing Rock tribe. A benefit concert announced by Dave Matthews sold out in one day. Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt performed at Standing Rock over Thanksgiving weekend, livestreaming it online. For the thousands who poured into camp for the weekend’s events, there was a primer on how to live harmoniously while there. While Thanksgiving is not much of a Native holiday, gratitude is a daily practice, and this year the water protectors were joined by Jane Fonda, who donated seven butchered bison and served food at a dinner hosted by actress Shailene Woodley for 500 water protectors at Standing Rock. Woodley spoke exclusively to ICTMN about how to be an indigenous ally.

GIVING THANKS, AND THEN SOME: The thorny issue of how, or whether, to celebrate Thanksgiving got its due this year, with our recurring list of Thanksgiving myths to share. This year ICTMN A&E Editor Vincent Schilling created a video to expand upon them. Dan Ennis, a former Grand Chief of the Houlton Band of Maliseet, penned a poem of thanksgiving that showcased the gratitude inherent in celebrating this day. Essential to fully celebrating Thanksgiving is recognizing the role of the American Indian in the evolution of our country, wrote Connie Baxter Marlow. Ryan Redcorn wrote about how there are 1,000 Standing Rocks across Turtle Island. And of course the weekend would not be complete without at least one reference to shopping, with Tiffany Midge’s attempt to shop at CostCo. Hint: It fell solidly in the I.Can’t.Even. aisle.

INFORMATION IS THE BEST OFFENSE: For those who want to enlighten and educate themselves, we have compiled, for Native American Heritage Month, a list of 30 must-reads for children and teens.

BLACKFEET LAND, OIL LEASES AND TRUST: The U.S. Department of the Interior canceled all oil and gas leases in the region known as the Blackfeet Cathedral as it became apparent that President Barack Obama has set a new standard for land into trust. Tribes are also calling on the President to shield the Grand Canyon from uranium minining in perpetuity.

MEDAL OF FREEDOM: The visionary Elouise Cobell, who walked on in 2011, received a posthumous Medal of Freedom from Obama, who cited her as one of his heroes. Cobell’s son, Turk Cobell, accepted the award, part of the last batch that the President will give out.

RETAINING THEIR FREEDOM: Indigenous Peoples in northern Colombia are still fighting to retain their culture and freedom, and to do so, they say, they have had to expel evangelical churches.

ENORCEMENT: The new director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk, said that law enforcement would top his to-do list.

FINALLY SETTLED: The ongoing lawsuit between the Navajo Nation and Urban Outfitters for the latter’s alleged cultural appropriation and copyright infringement was settled. They will work together in offering appropriate products, under an agreement that was largely confidential.

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