NFL Team Owners Appeal "Redskins" Trademark Revocation To US Supreme Court

The owners of the Washington Redskins NFL team have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their trademark cancellation appeal, even though the Fourth Circuit has yet to rule on the team’s case. The case challenges a June 2014 decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to revoke the trademark registrations on its controversial name.

The team filed a prejudgment petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court in part because of another petition in the similar case of Lee v. Tam, which also involves “disparaging” trademark issues. Following the cancellation of the team’s registrations by the US Patent and Trademark Office, the team appealed to a Virginia federal district court. In July 2015, that court ruled against the team and held that the restriction against registering disparaging trademarks is constitutional.

In December, a panel of judges in the Federal Circuit ruled differently in the Lee v. Tam case, declaring that the restriction on disparaging trademarks violated the First Amendment by denying the benefits of a federal trademark registration based on "unpopular speech". “Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities,” U.S. Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore wrote for a nine-judge majority. “But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech.” The USPTO filed a petition for writ of certiorari from that ruling, and the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to hear the Lee v. Tam case is currently pending.


RESPECT Act Seeks To Repeal Laws Discriminating Against Native Americans

 Senator Mike Rounds with members of the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux nations (

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) has introduced the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act, which seeks to repeal 12 outdated statutes that are still part of current law related to Native American education, forcible relocation of Native American children to boarding schools, war-time status between Native Americans and the federal government, and the withholding of rations or money owed to Native Americans.

“Native Americans are currently still legally subject to a number of historically wrong laws,” said Rounds. “These statutes are a sad reminder of the hostile aggression and overt racism displayed by the early federal government toward Native Americans as the government attempted to ‘assimilate’ them into what was considered ‘modern society.’ There is no place in our legal code for such laws.

In South Dakota, which is home to nine tribes and roughly 75,000 enrolled members, we strive to work together, to constantly improve relationships and to mend our history through reconciliation and mutual respect. It is long past time to repeal these antiquated, racist statutes.”

According to Senator Rounds’ website, examples of the laws that the RESPECT Act would repeal include provisions that allow for the forced removal of Native American children from their homes to be sent to boarding schools. If their parents refused, they would be denied rations. Additionally, Native Americans can still be subject to forced labor on their reservations, as a condition of their receipt of “supplies.”


Tribes Push Congress To Pass Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

More than 100 tribes, tribal organizations and tribal businesses have signed a letter asking the Senate to take action on the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. The bill (H.R.511 | S.248) would exempt tribes and their business enterprises from the National Labor Relations Act and the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. Federal, state and local governments already have these exemptions, and tribal leaders argue that Native American nations are entitled to the same status.

"By amending the NLRA to expressly treat tribal government employers and their enterprises and institutions the same as it treats state, local and federal government employers, H.R. 511 would provide corrective guidance to the NLRB and bring parity to tribal government employers across the nation," the Coalition for Tribal Sovereignty wrote. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed H.R.511 by a large margin last November but the bill faces opposition from the White House, labor unions and Democratic lawmakers - only 24 Democrats voted for the Act during a previous vote in November 2015.


Special Presentation: The Creek Story of Tulsa

From Tallassee, AL to Tulsey, I.T.: The Creek Story of Tulsa
Presentation by J.D. Colbert
Saturday, April 23rd, 11:00 AM

It is widely believed that the history of Tulsa only dates to 1882 with the arrival of the Frisco railroad in Tulsa. However, the history of Tulsa can actually be traced to the arrival of DeSoto at Talisi (present day Tallassee, AL) in 1541. As such, the City of Tulsa may be said to be one of the oldest cities on the North American continent.

This presentation, From Tallassee, AL to Tulsey, I.T., will tell this rich, but mostly unknown, early history of Tulsa. It is the story of the Creek founders of Tulsa-the Locvpokv Creek tribal town- and is set against the backdrop of monumental events such as the tidal wave of European immigrants to the Creek homelands in present day Georgia, Alabama and Florida; the Creek Civil War; the Trail of Tears, the U.S. Civil War; the Dawes Allotment Act and the transition of Tulsa from Creek town to Oil Capital of the World.

This special presentation will be conducted by Mr. J.D. Colbert (Muscogee-Creek/Chickasaw) one of the nation’s most recognized and foremost expert on matters related to the economic development of Indian tribes. Mr. Colbert served a White House appointment to the Board of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund at the U.S. Treasury and he has actively assisted many Indian tribes and Native groups to start Community Development Financial Institutions.

More information regarding this unique program is available HERE.


Harry Potter Author Offends Native American Scholars With New Story

The first story of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's new "History of Magic in North America" series has offended some indigenous scholars and members of Native American communities. The story, which chronicles wizards from the 14th to the 17th centuries, was criticized for lumping all Native Americans into one group, appropriating their stories and "completely re-writing these traditions," in the words of Cherokee scholar-blogger Adrienne Keene.

In Rowling's story, published on the Pottermore website, wizards existed among Native American tribes, though some faced the same scrutiny and stigmatization as their European peers. Some were "skin walkers," people who could change into animal form, like the Animagi in Rowling's Harry Potter novels. "It's not 'your' world. It's our (real) Native world. And skin walker stories have context, roots, and reality," Keene wrote.

Navajo writer Brian Young added: "My ancestors didn't survive colonization so you could use our culture as a convenient prop."


US Department of Interior Allocates $3 Billion for Native Programs in 2017

Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has presented Congress with the Department’s overall budget request of $13.4 billion for 2017, which earmarks nearly $3 billion for Native American programs — a $137.6 million increase above the enacted level for the 2016 budget. It asks for a $1 billion investment to support native youth education and $278 million to fund contract support costs.

Secretary Jewell stated that the budget expands economic opportunities for Native Americans and promotes responsible energy development. “It gives us the tools to help communities strengthen resilience in the face of climate change, conserve natural and cultural resources … promote a balanced approach to a safe and responsible energy development and expand opportunities for Native American communities,” Jewell said. “These areas are core to our mission and play a vital role in job creation and economic growth.”

In response to questions about the department’s priorities for Indian Country and tribal policy, Jewell identified education as being “critically important.” One-third of DOI-supported Native American schools are in “poor condition,” Jewell said, adding that the department has begun a pilot program within schools to train parents and provide youth programs to address deep, persistent issues that have led to an epidemic proportion of suicides among Native Americans. The proposed 2017 budget also strives to provide 100 percent support for contract costs with the Indian Health Service and other agencies to address concerns about funding shortfalls from tribes working to attain self-determination, Jewell said.

Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. has stated his support for the proposed budget: “The budget requests that the secretary submitted would result in more than $10 billion in revenue flowing into the pockets of American taxpayers,” Grijalva said. “The request also includes legislative proposals that, if enacted by the Congress, would result in another $4.5 billion in revenue. In other words, if Congress just got out of the way and enacted this budget request, the department would pay for itself and have more than a billion dollars left over.”


New Film On Alaska Native Life And Culture: "I Am Yup'ik"


ESPN Films has released a new film by Daniele Anastastion and Nathan Golon entitled "I am Yup'ik" - a powerful portrait of life in an Alaska Native community on the Bering Sea coast.  The film can be viewed HERE.


Tribes Receive $940 Million In Federal Contracts Settlement

A federal judge has approved a $940 million settlement between the United States and Native American tribes over claims the government shorted tribes for decades on contract costs to manage education, law enforcement and other federal services. The approval starts the funds release process, which will pay out to claims by individual tribes over several months. Nearly 700 tribes or tribal agencies are expected to claim compensation, with amounts ranging from an estimated $8,000 for some Alaska Native villages and communities elsewhere to $58 million for the Navajo Nation.

Some tribes claimed compensation for federal contracts dating all the way back to the 1970s, when a policy change allowed tribes to gain more oversight of federal programs meant to fulfill obligations established through treaties and other agreements. The case was first filed in 1990 by the Ramah Navajo Chapter, along with the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and Zuni Pueblo.

Val Panteah, governor of Zuni Pueblo, described “a financial death spiral” that came as his government tried to offset losses from the contracts in New Mexico. Other tribal leaders described trying to stem losses from the underfunded contracts with painful budget cuts as they tried to meet critical needs in their communities. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the tribes and sent the case back to the lower courts before the Interior Department announced a proposed settlement in September 2015. Congress has since appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to fully fund ongoing contract support costs for tribes.

The settlement is the latest in a recent string of major agreements between the United States Department and tribes to resolve long-running legal disputes that languished for years. “It just shows the Obama administration has been working throughout two terms to stop litigating with tribes,” said Kevin Washburn, former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. “Now, even in the last year of the administration, they’re getting this lengthy case settled.”


APTN To Launch New 24-Hour Native American Cable Network

Canadian cable television broadcaster the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is starting a new network across the border in the United States.  APTN has announced it is launching the All Nations Network with Castalia Communications.

Described as a “24-hour network” APTN said ANN intends to provide “native news sports, scripted, lifestyle, feature-length movies and children’s programming written, produced, and directed by Native Americans.”

APTN’s CEO Jean La Rose said it’s the right time for Native Americans to have their own channel.

“Certainly, our experience in Canada has been one of creating and providing opportunities for our producers, for our storytellers, to tell our stories, in our words, to our Peoples and to the world,” said La Rose in a statement. “Native American producers are poised and eager to have the same opportunities and we believe that we can work together to provide a unique window into the lives – past, present and future – of this community.”

APTN’s statement said the network has the support of actor Robert Redford and Oscar-nominated actor Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves), as well from musician Robbie Robertson (The Band) and director Jim Jarmusch.

“There is demand for a national Native network across the country,” said Jarmusch. “A vibrant new generation, a golden era of Native film-makers and artists will be born and have a dedicated channel through which to express their voices. There is a market that is waiting. There is an audience that is waiting. The time is now.”

The new network will be headquartered in New Mexico.  APTN has been operating in Canada for more than 15 years providing Indigenous content.


Pope Authorizes Mass In Indigenous Languages

The Vatican says Pope Francis has presented a decree to Mexican indigenous peoples approving the use of the Aztec language Nahuatl in Mass.  Pope Francis celebrated a Mass in three other indigenous languages Monday during a visit to the southern state of Chiapas — Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Chol. Official approval for those languages is still pending, but the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the fact that Francis celebrated a Mass in which readings, prayers and the Gospel were read out in those languages is a sign that they are allowed to be used.