August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dine' Medicine Men's Association halts bill to regulate ceremonies

Dine' Medicine Men's Association said Arizona legislation could open the door to state control of Native American ceremonies

Statement from Sen. Albert Hale, Navajo, regarding Native American practices bill
Censored News

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – A bill to regulate the use of traditional Native American practices off of Indian Nation lands will not be heard Thursday, Feb. 11 by the Senate Committee on Government Institutions at the request of Sen. Albert Hale, Dist. 2, the sponsor of the bill.
"I asked to have the bill held at the request of the Diné Medicine Men Association. After a lengthy discussion with the Association it appears that they still have significant questions about the bill. I explained to the Association that the bill intends to direct the Arizona Department of Health Services, in conjunction with the Arizona Commission on Indian Affairs, to develop rules to regulate the off-reservation practice of Native American traditional ceremonies by non-Indians or others, and did not apply to ceremonial practices on Indian reservations.
“The state does not have jurisdiction to regulate or apply its laws on Indian reservations. I further assured them that an amendment was to be considered to make clarifications. The amendment would clarify that the bill did not apply to ceremonies performed by enrolled members of an Indian tribe for another enrolled member on or off Indian Nation lands.
“The Diné Medicine Men Association were opposed to the bill in its present form and wanted further discussion of the bill. I understand and appreciate the fear that these regulations may open the door to state regulations of Native American ceremonies. Pursuant to the Association's request, I request the bill to be held and it was subsequently removed."
Media Contact:
Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication
Senate Democratic Caucus

With courage, they walk into that dark night

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Over the years I've had the bounty of meeting many incredibly brave people. People who face off with the military in Chiapas and look down the barrels of AK47s. People who step softly and assuredly into prison time and time again to expose the US reign of terror and torture. People who live on the backroads alone and centered, facing the rangers and herding their sheep, facing the border patrol and tribal police. They are Mayan, Maori, O'odham, Mohawk, Yaqui, Pueblo and Navajo. They are Indigenous, Australian, Canadian and European. They come from all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old.
Still, there are times when the courage of these people stops me into stillness. I am spellbound by their courage. Here is one of these, an invitation and a poster, from a delegation going to El Salvador. It is from the School of Americas Watch, struggling for closure of the US military's training school of assassins in Fort Benning, Ga.:
"Join Fr. Roy in events commemorating the 30th anniversary of Monseñor Romero´s assassination at the hands of SOA graduates. Walk in the footsteps of martyrs Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, Celia Ramos and others. Accompany SOA Watch's Partnership America Latina (PAL) Coordinator Lisa Sullivan in visiting high level Salvadoran government officials in asking that El Salvador send no more soldiers to this school of assassins."

Dalai Lama, pack a lunch

Dalai Lama, pack a lunch

By Brenda Norrell

Hopefully President Obama's meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama will go better than Obama's meeting with American Indian leaders. Although Obama invited Native American leaders to the White House, in the end, they had to stand in line to get into the Interior Building, without even a handshake from the president.

The Dalai Lama won't have to worry about a row of white Interior officials staring down at him from the podium, the way American Indian leaders did.

The meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama will probably go well, if it happens on Feb. 18. After all, Obama is not likely to chit chat with the emblem of peace about his new funding focus on wars, drones and the development of nuclear energy.

Obama will probably keep it light, a smile about his Nobel Peace Prize and that sort of thing. There's not likely to be talk about how US soldiers sit safely at their computers in Nevada and direct drones which kill women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama isn't likely to mention how his friends over at General Dynamics will financially benefit from war dollars. There won't be any need to be sad over photographs of dead US soldiers or their coffins, since there aren't any photos. Obama probably won't discuss the fact that no one in the US seems to know why the US is at war in Afghanistan or mention the messy US business with narcotics there.

Obama will likely shy away from details of US torture at the current CIA torture site in Afghanistan, while visiting with the Tibetan spiritual leader. There won't be talk of how the US has decided it can kill US citizens abroad who are suspects, never charged or prosecuted. Likely, there won't be a mention of how the secret renditions are continuing under the Obama administration or how the Obama administration approved oil drilling in the Arctic. There's not much chance Obama will debate his decision to appoint George W. Bush to raise funds for Haiti disaster relief.

After all, this is a bourgeois presidency, not one with the thunder and voice of Martin Luther King, Jr.

OK, so President Obama did already cancel one meeting with the Dalai Lama, choosing instead to meet with the Chinese president first.

Still, the meeting with the Dalai Lama will probably go better than the meeting with Indian Nation leaders.

After all, there's only one of him.

Tabloid television: A new circus in town

Tabloid television: A new circus in town

While attempting to portray border agents as heroes, the media exposes buffoons

By Brenda Norrell
Photo: Border patrol costume sold online for children

TUCSON -- The human rights activists on the US/Mexico border have done their work well. Their labors of love have brought new attention to the xenophobia and profiteering behind the border migration hysteria. They have put human faces on the hundreds who die each year in the Sonoran desert, including women and children, as the US criminalizes giving a cup of water or aid to the dying.

Activists on the border have exposed the murders, rapes, beatings and drug running of the US Border Patrol and other border agents. Activists have also exposed the billion dollar profiteering on the border from imprisoning migrants, including women and children, in private prisons and the Apartheid security produced by the same company, Elbit Systems, on the border of Palestine. Activists have brought attention to the drones, unmanned aircraft, above which are also used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US for rogue assassinations and the killing of civilians.

In light of all this, it is nauseating to watch the new tabloid TV journalism which attempts to portray border agents as heroes and grand trackers. In the sensationalized coverage of narco trafficking at the border, both television and print media, including the New York Times, fail to investigate deeper. They fail to expose the crimes of the border agents and the US clandestine role in the ongoing drug smuggling at the border. They fail to report the murders, rapes, beatings and drug smuggling by border agents and the US military. They fail to expose the fact that the deadliest of the narco traffickers, the Zetas, now controlling the drug war in northern Mexico, were trained by US special forces of the US military.

Sadly, while trying to perpetuate the hype of grand border trackers, the TV media exposes the fact that most of these trackers can't even follow basic tracks and are too out-of-shape to climb a hill or even chase a suspect. It is obvious that what they spend most of their time doing is riding around in air-conditioned vehicles or on off road vehicles that tear up the desert.

Some of the media now attempt to give voice to the oppression that the Tohono O'odham people live with, the militarization of their land and the corruption of their elected tribal government. Still, it is more often than not tokenism, a little splash of truth without taking the risk to investigate deeper into the root causes. The media takes the safe route, focuses on drug trafficking, without examining who is doing it and how and why they are getting away with it.

There is little mention of the displacement and homelessness, assassinations and terror, caused by US and Canadian mining and energy companies in Mexico, Central and South America. As more Indigenous Peoples are made homeless by the US reign of terror -- the US and Canadian governments working in concert with corporations -- more come on foot in search of survival. Many, including women and children, die in the Sonoran Desert or are imprisoned in private prisons where they are abused and voiceless.

The borderzone is Indigenous territory. Even with the tribal governments coopted by Homeland Security, it is Indian land. They were the original occupants. Non-native border agents are johnny come latelies, white immigrants descending from the oppressors of Indigenous peoples.

Chile: Mapuche Indians imprisoned for defending land

CHILE: Mapuche Indians Set Up Autonomous Legal Defence Unit
By Pamela Sepúlveda
SANTIAGO, Feb 11, 2010 (IPS) - As tensions mount in Chile's Mapuche territories, the indigenous people have created a new legal defence body for cases involving resistance against the state, as they put little stock in the justice system for working out cases such as land disputes.
"Practically everyone in our family is in prison, and those of us who aren't are subject to restraining orders that restrict our movements," Antonio Cadín, "werkén" (spokesman) for the Juan Paillalef community 730 kilometres south of the capital, told IPS.
The Mapuche activist is serving a five-year sentence under which he is only locked up at night, for defiance of authority and disorderly conduct. His wife, Juana Calfunao, the "lonko" (maximum traditional authority) of the community, is serving four-and-a-half years on the same charges. Their youngest daughter, 12-year-old Relmutray, has applied for political asylum in Switzerland.

BLM sued for withholding info on Grand Canyon uranium mining

Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (928) 310-6713,

Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Kaibab Paiute and Navajo Nation among those fighting new uranium mining in Grand Canyon

Bureau of Land Management Sued for Withholding Records on Uranium Mines
That Threaten Grand Canyon
Agency Ignores Obama's Freedom of Information Directive
By Center for Biological Diversity
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK— Today the Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for illegally withholding public records relating to uranium mines immediately north of Grand Canyon National Park. The suit asserts that the Bureau violated the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to disclose records pursuant to a July 30, 2009 request submitted by the Center. The Bureau is withholding the vast majority of eight linear feet of responsive records despite directives from the Obama administration requiring the agency to respond to information requests “promptly and in a spirit of cooperation” and to adopt a “presumption of disclosure.”
“The chasm between Obama’s policies and the Bureau’s practices are as wide as the Grand Canyon itself,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center. “We’ve spent months giving the Bureau every opportunity to fulfill our requests, but this is an agency that, even with the Grand Canyon and endangered species hanging in the balance, refuses to voluntarily comply with open government or environmental laws.”
Some of the records being withheld relate to the Arizona 1 mine. In November, the Center for Biological Diversity and other plaintiffs sued the Bureau of Land Management for refusing to undertake new National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act reviews prior to allowing Denison Mines to resume mining. The Bureau insists that 1988 compliances are adequate for the mine, which operated for a short period prior to closing in the early 1990s. Despite a host of new circumstances since 1988, including the listing of threatened and endangered species, Bureau officials refuse to update analyses for any of the mines near Grand Canyon National Park.
“The Bureau of Land Management has painted a caricature of itself at the Grand Canyon,” said McKinnon. “The agency is acting as a secretive surrogate for the mining industry that views open government, endangered species, and environmental laws as a nuisance rather than a priority.”
The Interior Department in July 2009 enacted a land segregation order, now in force, and proposed a 20-year mineral withdrawal, which is now being analyzed, for one million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Both measures prohibit new mining claims and the exploration and mining of existing claims for which valid existing rights have not been established. The Bureau of Land Management has failed to produce any documents demonstrating the establishment of valid existing rights for the Arizona 1 mine or other mines around Grand Canyon.
Bureau officials have stated that many of the records requested by the Center for Biological Diversity would be made available on a Bureau Web site relating to the segregation order and proposed mineral withdrawal. However, to date the Bureau has only posted Federal Register notices, a few maps, fact sheets, and – perhaps speaking to its orientation toward Interior’s proposed mineral withdrawal – an antiquated video promoting uranium mining that the Bureau developed in conjunction with the uranium industry in the late 1980s.
“The legacy of past uranium mining still lingers as deadly radiological contamination of land and water near and within Grand Canyon National Park,” said McKinnon. “To think that new mining will yield different results is foolish and irresponsible.”
Amy Atwood, senior attorney and public lands energy director at the Center, wrote and will argue today’s lawsuit.
Spikes in uranium prices have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of proposed exploration drilling projects, and proposals to reopen old uranium mines adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Renewed uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park; it also threatens to deplete and contaminate aquifers that discharge into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River. The Park Service warns against drinking from several creeks in the canyon exhibiting elevated uranium levels in the wake of past uranium mining.
These threats have provoked litigation; legislation; public protests and statements of concern and opposition from scientists, city officials, county officials – including from Coconino County – former Governor Janet Napolitano, state representatives, the Navajo Nation, and the Kaibab Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, among others. Polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies shows overwhelming public support for withdrawing from mineral entry the lands near Grand Canyon; Arizonans support protecting the Grand Canyon area from uranium mining by a two-to-one margin.

Cheyenne River Sioux Emergency Video

Cheyenne River Sioux 2010 Disaster Account
Direct to: United Bkrs Bloomington ABA # 091 001 322
Beneficiary Bank: Account Number 250 3373
State Bank of Eagle Butte
Eagle Butte, SD 57625
Final Credit: Account Holder @ UBB Customers Bank
Account Holder: CRST 2010 Disaster, Account Number 103173

TO: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe/2010 Disaster Account
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman’s Office
Attn: Ice Storm Emergency Fund
PO Box 590
2001 Main Street (Tribal Offices)
Eagle Butte, SD 57625

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman’s Office
Attn: Ice Storm Emergency Supplies
PO Box 590
2001 Main Street (Tribal Offices)
Eagle Butte, SD 57625

Robin Le Beau, Chairman’s Assistant c (610) 568-2101
Joe Brings Plenty, Tribal Chairman c (605) 365-6548
CRST Emergency Coordination Center (605) 964-7711 (7712)

Record Snowfalls Batter Indian Country

Record Snowfalls Batter Indian Country

California Tribes Come to the Aid of Plains, Southwest Nations
New America Media, News Report

By R.M. Arrieta
Posted: Feb 10, 2010

While all eyes were on Haiti after a devastating earthquake ravaged the country, another crisis was unfolding here in the midwest and southwest parts of the United States, where Native American tribes are getting hammered with unusually fierce weather.

Reservations across the northern plains, specifically in South Dakota and Nebraska, and in the Big Mountain region of Black Mesa in Arizona are fortifying themselves after enduring several weeks of snowstorms with little or no heat, water or food, and impassable roads.

In South Dakota, on the reservations of the Cheyenne River Sioux and Oglala Sioux on Pine Ridge, as well as the Omaha tribe in Nebraska, residents have been dealing with heavy ice storms since January 22. Since Sunday night, a wind chill advisory has been in place.

Among the hardest hit is the Cheyenne River Sioux, where the accumulation of ice brought down
3,000 power poles, broke water pipes and hampered efforts to get food and propane by blocking roads and creating unsafe driving conditions.

“It’s safe to say over 10,000 people and 4, 000 to 5,000 homes were affected. The power is back on but it’s very hard for people,” said tribal chairman Joseph Brings Plenty. “We’re dealing with the aftereffect of trying to get some lines going. The water tower there is frozen. We have to try to get that un-thawed, which might take another week or so.”

Local elder David Bald Eagle is settling in because “we’re snowed in again. There’s no transportation really. In our place the snowdrift is so high we can’t even get to the road. Luckily, we have a wood stove and wood. We don’t have water of course but we can always melt snow. The main water line to the tribe around Eagle Butte has been broken for two weeks. We’ve had no water since then.”

Throughout Indian Country, help has been coming from tribes who are financially stable to those with few resources. Among native nations, there exists a communications network that responds to situations that adversely impact the relatives of other tribes. This has been helped by such new technologies as the Internet, which are shrinking the distances between Native peoples.

“The moccasin telegraph has never been so strong. Even though we know that First Nations always had contact with one another, our communities, until very recently, were isolated by a certain regionalism, one that was perceived as much as it was physical, because, I think, in our collective mind we felt restricted by the reservation system,” explains statement on website

Brings Plenty said had the tribe relied solely on help from the governor’s office they would have remained in dire straits. “We are probably better off trying to respond to these emergencies on our own,” he said. “We were a week into it and still dealing with the situation out here like it was the day after — but we were running out of resources and everything.” So Brings Plenty put out a call on the Internet for help throughout Indian Country. He got a quick response.

California Indians Send Help to the Great Plains

Tribes from as far away as California came forward. The San Manuel band of Serrano Mission Indians, through their special assistance fund, worked with the Red Cross to send help.

“It’s just overwhelming and very humbling to see that much care and concern. It was really good to see the human spirit being able to reach out and be supportive at this time,” said Plenty. "I think
you have less of a bureaucracy to deal with. I think that accounts in part, for the speed we are able to dispatch our resources and I think that’s a good thing,” said Jacob Coin, spokesperson for San Bernardino-based San Manuel band, who donated $220,000 to the midwest tribal communities struck
by the severe weather.

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in California in Capay Valley, provided $100,000 to assist the Cheyenne River Sioux with disaster relief efforts.

“I think the tribe felt this was a situation that wasn’t very well known or well understood and hoped that by their actions they would be able to spread the word about the situation with the Cheyenne River Sioux and encourage other people to help if they possibly can,” said Brent Andrews, spokesman for the Wintun Nation.

“This is a time for our nation to come to the assistance of another tribe in desperate need. Our Tribal Council was deeply moved by the profound damage to the Cheyenne River Sioux people. We took immediate action,” said tribal chairman Marshall McKay in a statement. “

“We stand in kinship with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations in our commitment to help our... brothers and sisters out of this crisis.” stated chairman McKay.

The Archibald Bush Foundation provided two grants of $25,000 to match contributions made to emergency relief through The Native Americans in Philanthropy or South Dakota Community Foundation, with 100 percent reaching the tribe through support of covering transaction fees.

The Oglala Sioux helped their brothers and sisters of the Cheyenne River, who were in even worse conditions than they were. The Oglala Sioux opened their health center on Pine Ridge and took in 35 dialysis patients from Cheyenne River. The Rosebud Sioux tribe sent road crews and water tankers to help out. The Navajo Nation, undergoing severe weather conditions of their own, dispatched a utility crew to restore electricity; the Santee Tribe sent drinking water; the Hochunk Nation sent in supplies.

Wal-Mart also provided emergency food and supplies, as did many other private individuals and corporations. Joe Kennedy from Citizen Energy, and Citgo Energy Assistance from Venezuela, provided funds for heating oil.

Trans Canada sent down electricians to help with the shelters.

The South Dakota National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the South Dakota Department of Public Safety helped out with equipment and generators.

“They did everything that could possibly be done, and I know that the funding that some of the tribes sent us -– they’re not rich tribes, they’re struggling with and trying to make ends meet,” said Brings Plenty.

“We are part of a family of Indian Nations in this country and will be there in times of need,” said Chairman James Ramos. “When San Manuel hears calls from tribal nations for help, it hits close to home, and as Indian people, we are moved to respond.”

On Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux reservation, a state of emergency has been lifted but many residents still need help with foodstuffs and propane. The snow is melting but roads are extremely muddy and undriveable.

In the Southwest in Arizona in the communities of Big Mountain and Black Mesa, the same holds true where the snow has melted and extremely muddy roads are keeping some residents stranded.

Record Snow in the Southwest

George Howard with the National Weather Service branch in Flagstaff said, “The biggest problems have been getting food, water and medical care to those who may need it because they find the roads impassable due to large amounts of snowfall or even after the snow has melted, impassable roads due to the muddy and wet conditions because so many of the roadways on the Navajo nation and tribal lands are graded dirt.”

He said the winter storms have been unusually strong. “For instance here in Flagstaff our average annual, snowfall is 109 inches for a season. We’ve already had 107, and we still have two months of wintry season to go.

The San Manuel band also donated $50,000 each to the Hopi and Navajo Nations for emergency relief operations as they continue efforts to provide basic supplies. The Navajo reservation is 17 million acres and the Hopi reservation is 1.5 million acres. It is difficult to reach residents who live in the remote areas of these vast reservations in northern Arizona due to impassable roads because of the snow and mud.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as tribal, state and county offices responded to the crisis, as well as the National Guard, which dropped basic supplies to people living in remote parts of the reservations.

“This winter has brought difficulties and hardships on many of our people and communities on the Navajo reservation,” said Herman Shorty, chairman of the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management.

San Manuel has always offered a helping hand to their Indian brothers and sisters in need.
“We have a long history of having helped other tribes when natural disasters befall them. About a year-and-a-half ago, when the Havasupai community at the bottom of the grand canyon in Arizona was flooded out by huge rains, and lost almost all of their economic resources which are tourism and river guides,” the band donated $1 million to fund an economic recovery plan,” said Jacob Coin,
spokesperson for the San Manuel tribe.

“When some of the Southern California tribes lost homes and other resources on their reservation to the wildfires of ‘06, and ‘07, the tribe was able to help restore some of the housing and economic support to those tribes,” he added.

Said Brings Plenty, “I’m just grateful to all of the individuals out there and on behalf of my people I want to say ‘Wopila Tanka’ for everything. It means ‘thank you greatly.’ ”