Navajo Nation Imposes New Tax On Junk Food

The sales tax on cookies, chips, sodas and other junk food sold within the territory of the Navajo Nation is set to increase. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed legislation that raises by 2 percentage points the sales tax on food with little to no nutritional value.

Tribal advocates for the junk-food tax sought a bill that could serve as a model for Tribal communities to improve the rates of diabetes and obesity among Native Americans. "We want them to think twice about buying healthy foods instead of soda pop, potato chips and the junk food," said Gloria Begay, an advocate of the tax. "The effort is really much more in the message of Navajo people making better choices for quality foods."

The bill cited statistics from the Navajo-area Indian Health Service that said about one-third of Navajo citizens are diabetic or pre-diabetic, and the obesity rate for some age groups is as high as 60 percent. Diabetes was the fourth-leading cause of death in the Navajo area from 2003 to 2005, the health service said.

The $1 million-a-year that the tax is expected to generate will pay for projects including farmer's markets, vegetable gardens and wellness and exercise equipment in the tribe's 110 communities. To increase the affordability of healthier foods, another bill to eliminate the 5 percent sales tax on fresh fruit and vegetables sold on the Navajo Nation went into effect October 1.


President Obama Proclaims National Native American Heritage Month



Every year, our Nation pauses to reflect on the profound ways the First Americans have shaped our country's character and culture. The first stewards of our environment, early voices for the values that define our Nation, and models of government to our Founding Fathers -- American Indians and Alaska Natives helped build the very fabric of America. Today, their spirit and many contributions continue to enrich our communities and strengthen our country. During National Native American Heritage Month, we honor their legacy, and we recommit to strengthening our nation-to-nation partnerships.

As we celebrate the rich traditions of the original peoples of what is now the United States, we cannot forget the long and unfortunate chapters of violence, discrimination, and deprivation they had to endure. For far too long, the heritage we honor today was disrespected and devalued, and Native Americans were told their land, religion, and language were not theirs to keep. We cannot ignore these events or erase their consequences for Native peoples -- but as we work together to forge a brighter future, the lessons of our past can help reaffirm the principles that guide our Nation today.

In a spirit of true partnership and mutual trust, my Administration is committed to respecting the sovereignty of tribal nations and upholding our treaty obligations, which honor our nation-to-nation relationship of peace and friendship over the centuries. We have worked to fairly settle longstanding legal disputes and provide justice to those who experienced discrimination. We have taken unprecedented steps to strengthen tribal courts, especially when it comes to criminal sentencing and prosecuting individuals who commit violence against Native American women. And next month, my Administration will host our sixth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, part of our ongoing effort to promote meaningful collaboration with tribal leaders as we fight to give all our children the tomorrow they deserve.

Today, as community and tribal leaders, members of our Armed Forces, and drivers of progress and economic growth, American Indians and Alaska Natives are working to carry forward their proud history, and my Administration is dedicated to expanding pathways to success for Native Americans. To increase opportunity in Indian Country, we are investing in roads and high-speed Internet and supporting job training and tribal colleges and universities. The Affordable Care Act provides access to quality, affordable health insurance, and it permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides care to many Native Americans. And because the health of tribal nations depends on the health of tribal lands, my Administration is partnering with Native American leaders to protect these lands in a changing climate.

Every American, including every Native American, deserves the chance to work hard and get ahead. This month, we recognize the limitless potential of our tribal nations, and we continue our work to build a world where all people are valued and no child ever has to wonder if he or she has a place in our society.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2014 as National Native American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities, and to celebrate November 28, 2014, as Native American Heritage Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.



Methane Gas Cloud Hovers Over Navajo Lands


NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan

Space-based measurements have revealed a gigantic cloud of methane gas hovering over a coal production region on and near the Navajo Nation. This methane “hot spot” covers 2,500 square miles near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. It was reported in a study released on October 9 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. It can be produced from industrial activities, agriculture, forest fires, and the mining and processing of fossil fuels. In this case the sources include heavy production of a fuel called coal-bed methane, which exists as a gas in the pores and cracks of coal deposits, as well as emissions from two power plants well known for their pollution: the on-reservation Four Corners Power Plant and the neighboring San Juan Power Plant.

“Both methane and carbon dioxide warm the climate,” explained Manvendra Dubey, a climate scientist at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Lab and one of the study authors. “Methane, if you leak it, has a 10-year lifespan in the atmosphere compared to hundreds of years for carbon dioxide. But the warming potential is very high.”

Although the scientific community hasn’t been able to agree on how much methane in the atmosphere is too much, “everyone agrees emitting methane at the high rates we are is not a good thing,” Dubey said.


Historical Artifacts Halt World's Largest Tunnel Project

The Seattle Times is reporting that workers on the Highway 99 tunnel project on Seattle’s waterfront, the largest underground road tunneling project ever undertaken, have encountered a collection of shells that could indicate the presence of historic activity from indigenous tribes.

Archaeologists with the Washington State Department of Transportation noticed the deposit and ordered the tunneling contractors to stop work. An archaeological investigation will be undertaken to seek further evidence of historical settlements and activity by indigenous communities. Any such finds are to be disclosed to the Tulalip, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Snoqualmie and Duwamish tribes. DOT said it is presently notifying the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, tribal governments, and the Federal Highway Administration.


Legal Battle Keeps Jim Thorpe's Remains Far From Home


As reported in Sports Illustrated, the family of sports legend Jim Thorpe has lost the latest round in a protracted legal battle to have his remains returned to his homeland of the Sac and Fox in central Oklahoma. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by a U.S. District judge that authorized Thorpe's remains to be relocated to Oklahoma. His body is currently buried in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania – at town with which he had no connection during his lifetime, but which changed its name to “Jim Thorpe” after his death specifically so he would be buried there.

The Thorpe family is of Sac and Fox ancestry, and Jim Thorpe was born in Oklahoma. After attending the Carlisle Academy, he became renown as the greatest athlete of 20th Century for his achievements in track, lacrosse, professional football, baseball, and winning gold medals in the Pentathalon and Decathalon at the Stockholm Olympics. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 as part of its inaugural class after a pro playing career that lasted from 1915 to 1928, and the annual award given to college football's top defensive back is the Jim Thorpe Award.

Thorpe's son Jack sued the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, in 2010 to have his father's remains moved to Sac and Fox land in central Oklahoma, Thorpe's home state, and Jack's brothers Bill and Richard took over the suit after Jack's death in 2011. Upon Thorpe's death in 1953, the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk in eastern Pennsylvania merged and named the new town after the athlete in order to have him be buried there, even though Thorpe had no connection to the area. Thorpe's sons claimed in their case that Thorpe's third wife, who wasn't their mother, agreed to the arrangement for financial reasons.

At Thorpe's burial site in the town, two statues and signage surround his tomb and comprise a monument to him.


Tribal Payday Loans Under Fire In Federal Courts



United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has denied a request by two Native American Tribes to stop New York State’s top financial regulator from cracking down on their online lending businesses. The decision comes more than a year after the Tribes sued Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of the state’s Department of Financial Services, arguing that he had overstepped his jurisdictional bounds in trying to regulate business activity that takes place on Tribal reservations in Oklahoma and Michigan.

The ruling upholds a decision from Judge Richard Sullivan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who suggested that once tribal businesses go online to attract consumers - many of whom live far beyond the borders of their reservations - the Tribes effectively lose their rights to operate as sovereign nations.

In their lawsuit, the Otoe Missouria Tribe in Red Rock, Oklahoma and the Lac Vieux Desert Bank of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Watersmeet, Michigan argued that their sovereign status shielded them from the reach of New York State. The appeals court disagreed, outlining in a 33-page opinion that the borrowers reside in New York and received the loans “certainly without traveling to the reservation.” The decision is the latest setback for the Tribes. Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rejected an argument from three Tribal online lenders that argued their sovereign status protected them from an investigation by the agency.

The lawsuit is continuing in federal district court, and the opinion does note that “a court might ultimately conclude that… the transaction being regulated by New York could be regarded as on‐reservation, based on the extent to which one side of the transaction is firmly rooted on the reservation.”


Seattle Replaces Columbus With "Indigenous Peoples' Day"

The Seattle City Council has unanimously approved a resolution designating the second Monday in October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” October’s second Monday also is Columbus Day, a federal holiday named for explorer Christopher Columbus and widely marked by the celebration of Italian-American history and culture. Washington is among the states that do not recognize Columbus Day as a legal holiday, and Columbus Day is not a Seattle holiday. Indigenous People’s Day won’t be an official Seattle holiday either — just a day to honor indigenous peoples.

Councilmember Bruce Harrell encouraged Italian Americans so inclined to continue honoring Columbus, arguing that Indigenous Peoples’ Day will add to the Seattle’s cultural landscape without detracting from the Columbus Day tradition.

“We are not reveling in the pain of our past, but indeed we are rejoicing in the celebration of a triumph, a Native voice that says, ‘We are here. We still matter. We were here hundreds of years before you and we will be here 100 years after you.’

The Seattle School Board voted last week to have public schools observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October, and some other states and cities, such as South Dakota and Minneapolis, have taken similar steps.

“I feel justified,” said Renee Roma Nose, who is of Tulalip heritage and who traveled to Seattle  for the vote. “We are not in any way wanting to denigrate any other group at all. We are asking for mutual respect and understanding. We hope that this holiday brings that.”


Navajo Nation Agrees to $554 Million Settlement with U.S. Government


The US government has agreed to pay the Navajo Nation $554 million to settle a legal dispute regarding mismanagement of Tribal lands and trust resources. It is the largest payment ever made by the U.S. government to a single tribe. The settlement concludes litigation that has been ongoing for more than 50 years.

The Navajo Nation is the largest Native American tribe in both population and land area, with more than 300,000 members and territory spanning four states. About 14 million acres of Navajo land is leased out by the U.S. government in a trust capacity for purposes including farming, oil and gas production, and mining. The settlement addresses the Nation’s claims that the U.S. government was not providing the tribe with its proper share of the revenues from the leases and other economic activities.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly called the settlement a "victory for tribal sovereignty", and "fair and just compensation for the Navajo Nation." US Attorney General Eric Holder said: "This historic agreement resolves a longstanding dispute between the US and the Navajo Nation,” and added that the deal showed the government's commitment to "strengthening our partnership with tribal nations."


Tribes and First Nations Sign Historic Bison Treaty


(CTV News)

As reported by the Seattle Times, Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations have signed a treaty establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed. Leaders of 11 nations from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana's Blackfeet Reservation.

This is the first treaty among the tribes and First Nations since a series of agreements governing hunting rights in the 1800s. The long-term aim of the new "Buffalo Treaty" is to allow the free flow of the animals across the international border and restore the bison's central role in the food, spirituality and economies of many tribes and First Nations. Supporters say they hope to begin immediately restoring a cultural tie with bison largely severed when the species was driven to near-extinction in the late 19th century.

"The idea is, hey, if you see buffalo in your everyday life, a whole bunch of things will come back to you," said Leroy Little Bear, a member of southern Alberta Blood Tribe who helped lead the signing ceremony. "Hunting practices, ceremonies, songs -- those things revolved around the buffalo. Sacred societies used the buffalo as a totem. All of these things are going to be revised, revitalized, renewed with the presence of buffalo." 

Bison numbered in the tens of millions across North America before the West was settled. By the 1880s, unchecked commercial hunting to feed the bison hide market reduced the population to about 325 animals in the U.S. and fewer than 1,000 in Canada, according to wildlife officials and bison trade groups in Canada. Around the same time, tribes were relocated to reservations and forced to end their nomadic traditions. There are about 20,000 wild bison in North America today.

Ranchers and landowners near two Montana reservations over the past several years fought unsuccessfully against the relocation of dozens of Yellowstone National Park bison due to concerns about disease and bison competing with cattle for grass. The tribes involved -- the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations -- were among those signing the new treaty.

Keith Aune, a bison expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the agreement has parallels with the 1855 Lame Bull Treaty, a peace deal brokered by the U.S. government that established hunting rights tribes. "They shared a common hunting ground, and that enabled them to live in the buffalo way," Aune said. "We're recreating history, but this time on (the tribes') terms."

The treaty signatories collectively control more than 6 million acres of prairie habitat in the U.S. and Canada, an area roughly the size of Vermont, according to Aune's group. Among the first sites eyed for bison reintroduction is along the Rocky Mountain Front, which includes Montana's Blackfeet Reservation bordering Glacier National Park and several smaller First Nation reserves.  "I can't say how many years. It's going to be a while and of course there's such big resistance in Montana against buffalo," said Ervin Carlson a Blackfeet member and president of the 56-tribe InterTribal buffalo council. "But within our territory, hopefully, someday."


Cobell Settlement Payment Update - September 2014

 The following information has been provided by the attorneys handling the Cobell settlement:

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered an Order approving Plaintiffs’ Unopposed Motion to begin distribution. This Motion obtained the final approval necessary to commence payment distribution to Trust Administration Class Members and summarizes the methodology for those payments.

GCG is prepared to commence sending checks to Trust Administration Class Members where we have a current address beginning next week. We anticipate the first checks will mail Monday, September 15, 2014. (Please note that checks may take 5-7 days to reach Class Members once they have been mailed.)







Indian Trust Settlement
P.O. Box 9577
Dublin, OH 43017‑4877