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

#AmINext Campaign To Protect First Nations Women


As reported by the BBC, in February an Inuit woman who was passionate about ending this violence went missing herself, her body found two weeks later in New Brunswick. Her former roommates have been charged in her death. The death of Loretta Saunders has led to calls for a wider public inquiry into the high rate of murdered First Nations women, and pressure has stepped up on social media thanks to a new hashtag campaign.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police report in May found First Nations women account for 16% of female homicides and 11% of missing women despite only making up 4.3% of the Canadian population. The #AmINext campaign asks which woman will be the next to go missing or murdered.

Saunders's cousin, Holly Jarrett, originated the phrase. "I wanted to spearhead a movement after Loretta's death," Jarrett told the BBC. "I didn't want to let her go."

Jarrett began a petition in support of a public inquiry and started the hastag after seeing the initials AIN online. She said it reminded her both of "ain", an Inuit term of endearment, and "Am I Next" - her feelings after the death of her cousin and 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, a First Nations woman who was found in a Winnipeg river early in August.

Women are posting photos of themselves with a piece of paper in front of them saying "#AMINext" and "#MMIW" - missing and murdered indigenous women. Many use the tag to call for action from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He has said the deaths should be viewed as individual crimes and not as a "sociological phenomenon".

Jarrett says she will continue calling for a Canada-wide inquiry. "There's been tons of independent research, but an inquiry is the most thorough process." she says. "[The government] knows an inquiry will hold them responsible."


Shinnecock Nation Fights for Ancestral Lands in The Hamptons


Elder women of the Shinnecock Nation - Photo by Andrew Brannan.

VICE Magazine is featuring an article regarding the struggle of the Shinnecock Indian Nation to reclaim ancestral lands located in what is now known as The Hamptons, home to some of America's wealthiest people including George Soros, Howard Stern, and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs.

The Shinnecock Indians have lived on Long Island's famed East End for thousands of years. Like so many other tribes along the east coast, the Shinnecocks were ravaged by disease brought by European settlers. Today, the Shinnecock Indian Nation consists of less than 1,500 members, about half of whom live on the tribe’s 750-acre reservation on the island’s southeastern shore. The Nation finally earned federal recognition in 2010 after a brutal, decades-long legal battle that one tribal leader described as a “degrading, humiliating, intrusive experience.” Four years later, though, some of the optimism that accompanied that historic moment has dissipated. Economic development remains a serious challenge. It would not be a stretch to describe the Shinnecocks as desperate.

The story of what has happened to this proud tribe over the past century and a half involves some fundamental questions about the American project: Who owns what? What is to be done for those victimized by the system and left with nothing? When do grievances from the past cease to be legitimate? As with so many other native tribes, none of these questions have thus far been resolved in the Shinnecocks’ favor. Their saga serves as a sobering reminder of how those who stand in the way of the capitalist mission—merely by existing—get bulldozed and forgotten.

“The language barrier and lack of familiarity with the US legal system at the time would have made it nearly impossible for the tribe to assert their rights,” said Greg Guedel, chairman of Native American Legal services at the Foster Pepper law firm in Seattle and a researcher at the University of Washington, when I asked him what the holdup was. Indeed, one of the central points the tribe made in the suit is that “institutional barriers prevented the Nation from having a forum to subsequently vindicate its rights.”

The Nation credibly claims that it has vehemently objected to the theft ever since it occurred. There was just no realistic way for them to do anything about it. Aside from the language barrier, the unfamiliarity with the legal system, and the fact that virtually nobody in power at the local, state, or federal level would have been on their side—the Indian Wars were raging at this time—the Shinnecocks would have been unable to even prove with documentary evidence what had been done.

Guedel pointed out that all documentation from the fraudulent land deal would certainly have been created solely “for the purpose of justifying the seizure of the tribe’s lands” and “without any input from the Shinnecock people.” He described it as “theft wrapped in legal paperwork.”

The Nation has pursued redress through legal action, but their lawsuit was recently dismissed due to the statute of limitations. The Judge ruled:

"To be sure, the wrongs about which the Shinnecocks complain are grave, but they are also not of recent vintage, and the disruptive nature of the claims that seek to redress these wrongs tips the equity scale in favor of dismissal."

An appeal of this decision is still pending.







Tribal Crypto-Currency MazaCoin Gaining Recognition


Newsweek is reporting on how the virtual currency Mazacoin has joined the ranks of alternatives to Bitcoin now trading in the “Wild West” of 21st century digital currencies. The brainchild of Payu Harris, a Cheyenne with Oglala Sioux heritage and a mysterious programmer known only as “AnonymousPirate,” Mazacoin announced its ambition to replace the U.S. dollar as the official currency of the Oglala Sioux nation, historically known as the Oglala Lakota, and its 46,855 members.

Some 507,185,000 Mazacoins are now on the market, trading in a handful of obscure online markets. But with each coin currently worth little more than one ten-thousandth of a dollar, the Mazacoin world is valued only around $63,000—a speck of dust in the crypto-currency galaxy dominated by Bitcoin, an $8 billion giant where coins trade at around $620 apiece.

Harris, 39, a resident of Rapid City, South Dakota, wants to keep half of all Mazacoins in a tribal trust, out of the tax-collecting and regulating hands of the federal government. Mazacoin, he tells Newsweek, is designed to replace the more than $200 million in annual federal funding that supports the Oglala Sioux nation “with funding we control. We can build our economy from scratch.”

“The source of those funds in a trust would be exempt from U.S. taxation,” W. Gregory Guedel, a lawyer who chairs law firm Foster Pepper’s Native American Legal Services Group, tells Newsweek. One potential scenario: If the slowly growing number of national retailers now accepting Bitcoin, which now include Overstock.com and Dell, ever move to accept Mazacoin in exchange for goods, then a consumer in, say, Sweden, could use the tribal currency to buy books on Amazon, with a percentage of the transaction going to the tribal trust, Guedel says. Mazacoin, he asserts, “potentially opens up a global market to this Tribe.”