Courtesy Navajo Nation
Depp on location as Tonto, with Jim (left) and Shelly (courtesy Navajo Nation)

2012 Retrospective: May


Take a look back at May 2012's biggest stories from the pages of our weekly magazine, This Week From Indian Country Today.

Johnny Depp Meets Navajo Nation President on Lone Ranger Set
Amid much controversy, actor Johnny Depp will play Tonto in the upcoming movie version of The Lone Ranger. Depp was visited April 12 while filming on location in Monument Valley by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim. Shelly and Jim gave Depp a green Pendleton blanket as a goodwill gesture on behalf of the nation. Depp was grateful for the gift, he said, as it was a chilly day.

Sherman Alexie Lands on Most-Challenged List Again
Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has made it onto the American Library Association’s top 10 list of most frequently challenged books once again. For 2011, however, it slipped to the fifth position after being number two in 2010. Cited for “offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group,” Diary is the semiautobiographical story of a 14-year-old Native teen who explores questions of community, identity and tribe as he assimilates into a white, off-rez school. It is recommended for adolescents in grades seven through 10.

Raising Dam Would Drown Sacred Site
For thousands of years, the Winnemem Wintu lived in their village of Kaibai, along the flats of the then powerful McCloud River outside Redding, California. The tribe prayed and practiced traditional healing at hundreds of sacred sites within the river’s watershed, including Blessing Hands Rock. Generations regularly prayed there by putting their hands in the smooth craters at the top of the elephantine stone. Today, tribal members can only pray at Blessing Hands Rock every few years, and they must brave the freezing winter waters of the McCloud to do so. That’s because during World War II, hundreds of sacred places were flooded to building the 602-foot high Shasta Dam. And if the dam is raised, which has been suggested by a preliminary environmental impact report published by the Bureau of Reclamation, Blessing Hands Rock would be among more sacred places permanently flooded.

Repatriation of Ancient Remains Delayed
In 1976, human remains nearly 10,000 years old were discovered during renovation work at the home of the chancellor of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Thirty-six years later, the bones are still not at rest. Quite the contrary: A bitter dispute is being fought between the Kumeyaay, who feel the remains should be buried, and scientists, who want to continue studying them. On April 27, a federal court judge in San Francisco granted a temporary restraining order that prevents UCSD from giving the remains to the Kumeyaay.

Navajo Chapter Plans Largest Utility-Scale Solar Farm on Tribal Land
The To’Hajiilee Navajo Chapter plans to establish a solar array farm on its trust lands, a flat stretch of prairie in central New Mexico where land preparation for the project is minimal, reported the Associated Press. A 115-kilovolt power line already runs through the trust land site, leading to Albuquerque 21 miles away, according to a presentation by Rob Burpo, president of First American Financial Advisors, Inc., one of the consulting groups working with the To’Hajiilee. With no upgrades to the line required, energy transmission would be cost efficient.

Restitution From the White House
In May the Justice Department announced it would resolve 41 long-standing disputes with Indian tribal governments stemming from federal mismanagement of trust funds and resources. The settlements would amount to $1.023 billion. The proposal also set forth a framework for promoting tribal sovereignty and improving nation-to-nation federal-tribal relations.

Stating Their Case
On March 19 approximately 2,000 Mayan and Ladino farmers in Guatemala started a nine-day march from the highland city of Coban, in Alta Verapaz, to the capital of Guatemala City. The march commemorated the first anniversary of the eviction of 600 families from several large farms in the Polochic Valley. Mayans ended the march in front of the country’s presidential palace and held meetings with members of the country’s congress and new president, Otto Perez Molina.

United Auburn Indian Community Buys Course
The United Auburn Indian Community has purchased Whitney Oaks Golf Club in Rocklin, California, for $3.95 million.

Get Your Wahoos Out!
Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team insists that its name, mascot and logo honor American Indians, but many Natives disagree and are taking to the streets to protest, as they have done for many years at the start of the baseball season. And, as usual, they are met with ugly displays of racism and insensitivity.

The Deepest Cut
Vern Traversie, who is  legally blind, checked into his local hospital for heart surgery, and checked out branded with what appear to be racist taunts on his torso. The hospital denies any wrongdoing, but activists fear a cover-up and are rallying to the man’s cause.

The Human Zoo and You
A soccer star attacks racism by pulling it out by its roots. His foundation reaches out to children, helping them analyze the origins of racism in order to avoid repeating harmful mistakes from the past. The foundation curated an exhibit of artifacts associated with the once-common phenomenon of “human zoos, in which Native populations were displayed as exotic and inferior."

What Did She Know, and When Did She Know It?
The confounding controversy over the claims of  Massachusetts senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren that she has Native heritage can have a happy ending if it forces institutions to think more seriously about minority hiring and spurs Warren to embrace Indian issues.

In case you missed it, here are:
January's recap
; February's recap; March's recap; April's recap


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