Is there anything more sacred, or more important than our children?
It is through our children that we as a people continue to live. From one generation to the next, tradition and culture shape how a people walk the earth. Stories about community and ancestry enable a person to live in a good way through all the stages of their life.
Yet throughout the inconsistent history of federal Indian policy, one constant has persisted in a number of nightmarish forms: the displacement of Native American children. And this is what the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is meant to address.
- Beginning with the opening of the “Carlisle Indian School” in 1879, countless Native American children were taken from their homes and enrolled in boarding schools under a forced assimilation policy of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” This lasted until the 1970s.
- During 1958 to 1967, the Child Welfare League of America, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Children’s Bureau conducted the Indian Adoption Project. The unequivocal intent of the project was to place Native American children with white families. Systematically, there came to be entire Native American communities without children, as noted by Terry Cross, the Executive Director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA).
- A 1976 investigation by the Association on American Indian Affairs found an estimated 25% to 35% of Native American children were being placed in out-of-home care, and 85% of those children were ending up with non-Indian families.
- Just 40 years ago, the cultural genocide that was happening proved to be as real of a threat to Native Americans as any in the history of indigenous people in North America. After all, a culture without children is a culture without a future.
Finally in 1978, in response to startlingly high numbers of Indian children being taken for unjustifiable reasons, Congress passed the now highly publicized Indian Child Welfare Act. Public and private child welfare agencies and state courts must comply with ICWA standards in any state child custody proceedings involving a child who is enrolled or eligible to be enrolled in a federally recognized tribe.
How does ICWA work?
According to NICWA, “When ICWA applies to a child’s case, the child’s tribe and family will have an opportunity to be involved in decisions affecting services for the Indian child. A tribe or a parent can also petition to transfer jurisdiction of the case to their own tribal court. ICWA sets out federal requirements regarding removal and placement of Indian children in foster or adoptive homes and allows the child’s tribe to intervene in the case.”
Most importantly under ICWA, Native American children being placed in out-of-home foster care must go to a relative, a member of the same tribe, or any other Native American before being placed with a non-Native American individual or family. Yet Native American parents and communities in South Dakota are still losing their children to non-Native families, despite ICWA requirements.
In February 2013, NPR reported that 8 tribes accused South Dakota of disregarding ICWA, in part for the $100 million the state receives in annual federal funding for foster care. Since then, the Great Plains Indian Child Welfare Act Summit in Rapid City brought together tribal officials with high profile federal officials like Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of the BIA, to discuss ICWA violations and the future of ICWA in South Dakota (SD). Despite the significance of this gathering, the SD Department of Social Services was strangely absent.
Beyond state borders, ICWA has also been propelled into national attention with the ongoing controversy around Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. The ruling in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. The ruling in this case could forever alter the future of ICWA and federal Indian policy. I will write more on this case next week.
In 1974, the US government re-designated some of Hopi’s land to the Navajo, forcing many Hopi people to abandon their long-time homes, yet another trail of tears. Some of the Hopi resettled in a new community – Yuwehloo Pahki Village (YPV), also known as Spider Mound. Only 24 people live there, including 10 Elders.
YPV is extremely isolated and essentially cut off from the rest of Hopi. Because of the forced relocation, the Navajo community of Jeddito separates YPV from the rest of Hopi. Also standing between YPV and the rest of Hopi are rough roads, rough terrain between villages, and scarcity of transportation, placing its residents:
- 60-minutes from the nearest post office and tribal headquarters in Kykotsmovi (Second Mesa), which is also home to the only full-service grocery store on Hopi
- 45 minutes from the Indian Health Service hospital in Polacca
- 35 minutes from the nearest gas station in Sichomovi (First Mesa)
- 15 minutes from a community grocery store and laundromat in Keams Canyon
YPV is also challenged by a lesser portion of tribal funding for community services. They are still working on the basics, such as an arrangement with Navajo utility authorities to pipe in uncontaminated drinking water. Most Elders in YPV burn coal and wood, but the community lacks a vehicle and dry facility for cost-effectively hauling winter fuel or storing it.
Another key concern for YPV is the isolation of Hopi Elders. For two years, their Youth & Elderly Program was closed due to a lack of funding. The Community Service Administrator was considering renovating a condemned trailer, but the faulty wiring, roofing, and flooring made it unsafe for use. This left YPV Elders alone, uninvolved, and generally more vulnerable. Thankfully, YPV has a new place where Elders in their community can connect!
National Relief Charities initiated a project to secure a Senior Activities Trailer for use by Hopi Elders in YPV. The project was made possible in part by a grant from the S.L. Gimbel Foundation Advised Fund at The Community Foundation serving the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino. The project was also supported by a grant from the H.O.M.E. Foundation (Helping Our Mobile Elderly) of the Greater Los Angeles area.
The YPV project is about a trail of togetherness. Isolation is challenging. In a recent blog post, Helen shared about Huskie, a Navajo Elder in the Spider Rock community near Chinle, AZ who said, “the hardest thing I’ve ever come across is being alone all the time.” This will no longer be the case for YPV Elders. The community expects a big boost for the mental health and wellbeing of Elders who spend most of their time alone.
On Tuesday, June 5, 2013, a special ceremony was held to dedicate the Senior Activities Trailer to the Yuwehloo Pahki Village Elders. It is “their place,” a place where they have a sense of belonging and a place where they can be together. The trailer is set up and ready for use. Typical activities will include classes on traditional gardening, sewing circles, arts and crafts, health screenings, and more.
Pub. by DemocraticUnderground at http://bit.ly/dugWoundedKnee
May 1, 2013 was a Wednesday like any other in South Dakota. If you were like me, you were expecting to hear some big announcement about the Wounded Knee land sale, being the last day for the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) of the Pine Ridge Reservation to buy the land. Instead, the day came and went without incident.
James Czywczynski has put up for sale a 40-acre tract of the Wounded Knee Massacre site, as well as a 40-acre tract near Porcupine Butte. He originally set May 1, 2013, as the deadline for OST to buy this historic land, after which time he intended to offer the land for sale to the general public.
Since OST did not purchase the land, I was anticipating a report by Czywczynski no later than May 2 that he sold Wounded Knee to a private interest. Yet, as of today, he remains the not-so-proud owner of this controversial site. While sources report the land is now listed on the open market, one source cites that Czywczynski is considering extending the deadline by a month, prior to a public sale of Wounded Knee.
You may be wondering why OST hasn’t jumped on the opportunity to buy back such hallowed ground. For one thing, Czywczynski has been uncompromising on his $4.9 million asking price, despite the assessed value of $14,000 for the two parcels. This may be, in part, linked to a Czywczynski backstory about property he lost during the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement (AIM).
Another factor is that Czywczynski mistakenly holds OST, one of the poorest tribes in the US, responsible for returning Wounded Knee to the people of Pine Ridge. But it was the Dawes Act of 1887 that stripped ownership of the land from the people of Pine Ridge in the first place. At that time, a formal sovereign government did not exist and Pine Ridge was unable to resist assimilation, a process that ultimately divided land into individual allotments and sold the remainder as “excess” to non-Indians.
Pub. by Politifake.org at http://bit.ly/PFkWoundedKnee
In fact, the Dawes land allotments and other Indian policy contribute heavily to the controversy surrounding Wounded Knee. For instance, on December 29, 1890, the US 7th Cavalry massacred some 300 Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, making it one of the most poignant places in U.S. history. In 1973, AIM occupied Wounded Knee for 71 days, making known the US government’s failure to honor rights guaranteed by treaty to federally recognized tribes. Czywczynski did lose property during this siege, but that is hardly OST’s responsibility.
While three private buyers have been in talks in with Czywczynski, none have been able to strike a deal. Meanwhile, the fate of Wounded Knee is left to the highest bidder while the federal government remains uninvolved. Imagine the immensity of reconciliation if the federal government stepped in to protect Czywczynski’s tract of Wounded Knee from commercialization by giving it National Monument status.
OST is also holding out hope for a different remedy. Using its authority as a sovereign nation, OST’s governing council filed in federal court for eminent domain of a 40-acre tract next to the Wounded Knee Massacre site. Eminent domain refers to “the power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.” While the land being sought under eminent domain wasn’t specified as Czywczysnki’s, one thing is clear: “Just compensation” should be the word of the day.
Memorial Day has become a time for cook-outs and gathering with friends and family, but let us also remember its true purpose. Originally called “Decoration Day,” it was intended as a time of remembrance for those who died in service of the US.
U.S. Army Veterans & Color Guards. Copyright National Relief Charities. All rights reserved.
For more than two centuries, Native American people have served with distinction in all U.S. military actions. We have written before about the importance of Veteran’s Day in Indian country and about Native Americans having the highest rate of military service of any ethnic group in the US.
But a higher rate of military service isn’t the only thing that distinguishes Native American veterans. They also experience higher rates of joblessness and health issues such as diabetes, alcoholism and depression connected with PTSD, and complications related to Agent Orange. For instance, Native Americans exposed to Agent Orange are more likely to get adult-onset Type II diabetes than non-Natives. They are also more likely to incur nervous system damage from Agent Orange and DMZ (demilitarized zone) action, which can contribute to onset or instability of diabetes. Add to this the fact that mortality from diabetes is three times more likely for Native Americans than for non-Natives, and you start to get a sense of the health impact for Native veterans.
These health concerns are compounded when there is a lack of access to proper healthcare. Currently, there are 185,000 to 200,000 Native American veterans that served in World Wars I and II, the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf conflicts, and Iraq. These Veterans represent the 566 federally recognized tribes and the 400 non-federally recognized tribes throughout the US.
Northern Cheyenne Morning Star Chapter – Copyright National Relief Charities. All rights reserved.
Many Native American veterans are eligible for healthcare services through both the Veterans Administration and the Indian Health Service (VA and IHS). On the other hand, a veteran who is a member of a non–federally recognized tribe may be eligible for VA health care services but not IHS health care services. And, on the reservations that NRC serves, both VA and IHS facilities are often long distances from the home communities of our Native veterans. Accessing these services sometimes requires special transport and an overnight stay just for a regular office visit.
To support community-based healthcare, National Relief Charities provides products that are needed by health and wellness programs, community health representatives, and public health nurses in reservation communities. These health professionals conduct health screenings and education on self-care, make home visits, transport people for appointments, and generally assist Native American veterans and other homebound people on the reservations.
To honor Native American veterans and veterans everywhere, National Relief Charities would like to share this dedication of a Veterans Wall in 2010 by the American Indian Society:
We have contributed to the American dream with the hope that one day we will live in peace as brothers and sisters under one flag… This is not a time of mourning, but a time of celebration when we can come, joined as one people… Let us all remember who we are today and why we meet today and why we remember who we are and why we celebrate our heritage. Why we keep our tradition and our land is to pass it on to our children. We must hold onto our land and our traditions or we will be left to wander aimlessly in the land of our Fathers.
I hope you enjoyed the introduction to treaties in my recent blog topic, Treaties: What are they? In that, I promised to take a closer look at some specific treaties and this is the first, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. There’s a lot of history in this, so it’s longer than my typical blog posts but worth the read.
Natl Archives group 11-id 299803 at http://bit.ly/1868Treaty
The Fort Laramie treaty was made at a time when Native Americans were in a position of strength with the United States. I say this because, during the 1860s, there was a great push westward on the part of the US and a great “push back” by the Native Americans living on the lands that were being traversed and settled by non-Native peoples. The US was weary from skirmishes and loss of life as it intently forged its way west and specifically eager to “seal a deal” with the tribes that ensured safe passage of settlers and railroad workers through Nebraska, Montana, and Wyoming.
Now, although I mentioned that the tribes were in a unique position of strength for this particular treaty, let’s not forget that the US still wanted to maintain the upper hand and secure its vested interests along the way. Especially in the 1860s, the US government was comfortable making promises to Native American tribes as it was deemed unlikely any of the promises would ever have to be kept.
Article I of the Fort Laramie Treaty
Even the language contained in the Fort Laramie Treaty was deliberate. The various articles in the treaty make clear the reasons why the US government wanted it: To stop Red Cloud from attacking forts and persons along the Bozeman Trail, and to secure unrestricted westward expansion by taking away the culture and structure of the Native Americans.
For example, Article I states: From this day forward all war between the parties to this agreement shall for ever cease. The government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it. The Indians desire peace and they now pledge their honor to maintain it. Pretty straight to the point. The US wanted the Indians to quit attacking and preventing their westward ambitions across the lands.
Sadly, all wars between the United States and the Native Americans did not end in 1868. The US continued pushing and when Custer surveyed the Black Hills in 1874 and mentioned gold, well, you can guess what happened next. The US seemed to want peace… but only if it served them. The Native Americans wanted to quit feeling the crunch of whites pressing onto and across their lands and to live the way as they had for centuries before Europeans landed on the easternmost shores of what would become known as the United States.
Article I of the Fort Laramie Treaty goes on to state that if any Indians are harmed by “bad men” among the whites, they will be reimbursed or compensated for such injuries and losses. This Article was used successfully in a landmark case in 2009 after a young Native American woman was violated by an Army recruiter – the first successful use of the “bad men clause” since the treaty was signed 141 years earlier. The case ruling states: …the court finds that defendant is liable under the “bad men” clause of the 1868 Treaty and that, as a result, plaintiff is entitled to damages in the amount of $590,755.06.
This twenty-first century ruling was a victory against injustice and also a precedent for future lawsuits against the US when Native Americans are harmed by “bad men among the whites.” The precedent is important because it begins to pave the way to call upon the US to keep the other promises made to the Native Americans under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
Articles XI and XVI of the Fort Laramie Treaty
Article XI reserves for Native Americans the right to hunt on any lands north of North Platte, and on the Republican Fork of the Smoky Hill river, so long as the buffalo may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase. This is a vast area set aside for them to hunt buffalo as the Smoky Hill River is located in Kansas. Similarly, promises under Article XVI assured the tribes eternal ownership of the vast lands located in present day South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. These lands were collectively referred to as the Great Sioux Reservation and legally promised to the Sioux forever.
Yet once again, there is the issue of specific language: So long as the buffalo may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase. Hmmm. Who decides what numbers constitutes a justification for the Native Americans to continue to hunt buffalo? Well, as history has told us, it never mattered because the people of the US set out to exterminate the buffalo from the earth in the 1870s and 1880s. By 1885, the US government estimated that only 200 buffalo remained in the wild.
Learn More About the Fort Laramie Treaty
Sure, there was that one case in 1980, UNITED STATES v. SIOUX NATION OF INDIANS, which awarded the collective Sioux tribes approximately $100 million dollars for the Black Hills. But, what does that do? On the one hand, it sets a legal precedent for the need to honor treaties. On the other hand, it gives a monetary alternative to honoring legal promises. But, as the Sioux have always said: “The Black Hills are not for sale.” $100 million? For the attempted destruction of many unique and beautiful cultures? For the racism against Native Americans through time since 1868? For the billions and billions of dollars made through gold, timber, and tourism? And that’s just in the Black Hills alone! It does not include the money made from oil, tourism, wind and water energy, timber, consumerism, and the construction of infrastructure and cities in every other place contained within what was once the Great Sioux Reservation. Hmmm.
I will stop here. My point is this: What good is a promise if you do not keep it? And, what good is a treaty, which is a legally binding document, if you do not honor it? As history has written, for all those who are dishonored in a treaty, the effects can be devastating. I encourage you to read the complete Fort Laramie Treaty for yourself. And to look at the promises of land, education, money, and hunting rights that were made to the Native Americans. And then realize how dismally the United States has failed to honor the 1868 agreement.
For my next few blog topics, I will be writing a series on some of the treaties between the United States and various Native American tribes. Today’s topic will serve an as introduction to treaties in general – what they are, what they promised, and how they serve to create confusion and impact the tribes even today.
To begin with, many people might not understand that a treaty between a Native American tribe and the United States is a legal and binding document made between two distinct and sovereign nations. It is as legal and binding as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that the United States signed with Russia in the past. And, as with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, it is understood by the signing nations that it will be honored.
Additionally, treaties are upheld by Article Six of the United States Constitution as “the supreme law of the land” and, like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, treaties do not expire with time.
Treaties also serve as a promise of sovereignty for the tribes by the United States and, by definition, sovereign means self-governing and autonomous. So, by entering into these legal contracts with the tribes, the U.S. effectively and legally confirmed the sovereign status of tribes. Whether or not the tribes have since been treated as sovereign nations is an entirely different topic.
Early on and in times of war between European countries, treaties served as a way to form alliances with tribes in an effort to expand European defenses against adversaries. And, in the very beginning, treaties were a way to offer new residents to this land – which would ultimately become the United States – some amount of protection and security.
Yet, as the dynamic between the tribes and the ever-increasing American population changed, treaties became more and more a U.S. method of usurping from the tribes lands that were rich in natural resources. However, in exchange for these lands, the U.S. government in the treaties made definite and legally binding promises to the tribes. And, items such as monies, education, healthcare, and hunting and fishing rights were promised to be given to the tribes in perpetuity which, by definition, was intended to mean forever and without end.
Unfortunately, perpetuity has been redefined by the United States time and again in regard to treaties. Perhaps this is because, since the times of Vasco de Gama in the late 1400s, there existed the “Doctrine of Discovery” mindset on the part of Europeans which reasoned that, since the Native American tribes inhabiting the land were never subjects of a European Christian monarch, they had no right of ownership of the land which they inhabited. They were considered inferior peoples who needed the newly arriving Christians to save them from themselves. And, it was this ethno-centric way of thinking by the European treaty makers that has continued to so much angst and controversy among both European and Native peoples. Additionally, the “Doctrine of Discovery” is cited event today when tribes and the United States Government enter into lawsuits. It is most often used to disclaim or invalidate Native American claims to the land.
Finally, with regard to treaties, the language and the legal interpretation of Native American tribes as sovereign nations and yet domestic dependent nations has always been a conflicting duality. Likewise, the resulting precedents set forth by various legal judgments over time have further clouded the meaning of treaties. Even single words are subject to scrutiny when lawyers begin to dissect treaty language.
So, in my next few topics, I will discuss specific treaties between the United States and Native American tribes in an effort to shed light on the incredibly complex, controversial, and legal nature of the unique relationship which exists between the United States and Native American tribes, and to show how those treaties still impact the tribes today.
SPC BAE 4605 01601210 by J. Taylor, pub. at bit.ly/SmithsonianAnthroArchives
I was so moved by the words of Standing Bear’s speech that I decided to republish it here. (If you didn’t catch my May 9 blog post, Indians are “Persons” Under the Law, I suggest you read it first.)
As the story goes, Standing Bear rose and, only half facing the court, held out his right hand and stood there motionless “so long that the stillness of death which had settled down on the audience became almost unbearable.” Finally, he looked up at the judge and said:
That hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow, and I shall feel pain. The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a man. I never committed any crime. If I had, I would not stand here to make a defense. I would suffer the punishment and make no complaint.
I seem to be standing on a high bank of a great river, with my wife and little girl at my side. I cannot cross the river, and impassable cliffs arise behind me. I hear the noise of great waters; I look, and see a flood coming. The waters rise to our feet, and then to our knees. My little girl stretches her hands toward me and says, ‘Save me.’ I stand where no member of my race ever stood before. There is no tradition to guide me. The chiefs who preceded me knew nothing of the circumstances that surround me. I hear only my little girl say, ‘Save me.’ In despair I look toward the cliffs behind me, and I seem to see a dim trail that may lead to a way of life. But no Indian ever passed over that trail. It looks to be impassable. I make the attempt.
I take my child by the hand, and my wife follows after me. Our hands and our feet are torn by the sharp rocks, and our trail is marked by our blood. At last I see a rift in the rocks. A little way beyond there are green prairies. The swift-running water, the Niobrara, pours down between the green hills. There are the graves of my fathers. There again we will pitch our teepee and build our fires. I see the light of the world and of liberty just ahead.
Taking a long pause again, Standing Bear finally turned toward the judge “with such a look of pathos and suffering on his face that none who saw it will forget it.” He said:
But in the center of the path there stands a man. Behind him I see soldiers in number like the leaves of the trees. If that man gives me the permission, I may pass on to life and liberty. If he refuses, I must go back and sink beneath the flood.
You are that man.
It is said by Thomas Tibbles, the court reporter, that tears ran down the judge’s face and that General Crook buried his face in his hands — and yet the court’s ruling was based not on sympathy but on the Constitution and the law. You can read more of the details surrounding Standing Bear’s speech online.
Would you ever question whether American Indians are people? Of course not… and yet, this was actually argued in a court of law. It all started with the forced exodus of the Ponca Tribe to Oklahoma, after their homelands were ceded to the Sioux under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, forever changing the course of the Ponca people. I want to tell the whole story, so let’s start at the beginning…
- In the 1800s, Lewis & Clark first encountered a Ponca band of about 700 members who had separated from the rest of the Omaha Tribe. They were camping “just above the flatlands of the Niobrara River [and the West banks of the Missouri]…” in Nebraska.
- In 1817, the Ponca signed a treaty of “peace and friendship” with the U.S. At the time, they were vulnerable to the advancing Sioux as well as the “white settlers.”
- In 1825, the Ponca signed another treaty agreeing that they lived within “the territorial limits of the United States” and the U.S. would regulate their trade and commerce. But soon after, the Ponca Tribe lost their land and their burial grounds.
- In 1868, they signed a third treaty — the Fort Laramie Treaty — which, due to miswording, gave their land and their burial grounds to the Sioux, never to be returned “except for a small portion on which to colonize or domesticate” the tribe.
Standing Bear, 1881, pub. at bit.ly/FirstPeople-Ponca
This set the stage for the Ponca’s forced exodus to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, a sickening journey beset by storms, poor traveling conditions, and great suffering. It was one of the many trails of tears for Native American peoples. Hundreds of Ponca died due to grief, the rough passage, and the malaria contracted in Oklahoma. Among the survivors, about a third were left sick or disabled.
The Ponca struggled to put up with the loss of their land and their people, but the final straw broke when the son of Chief Standing Bear died. When his tribe fled the reservation to return home and to take his son to the Ponca burial lands, Standing Bear was arrested.
When the case came before the US District Court in Standing Bear vs. Crook (Apr 30, 1879), the government argued that an Indian was not a “person” under the meaning of the law and that Chief Standing Bear could not even file a complaint of habeas corpus.
Judge Elmer Dundy, pub. at bit.ly/USDistCourt-NE
On May 12, 1879, presiding Judge Dundy handed down his ruling that “Indians are ‘persons’ within the meaning of the laws of the United States” and subject to the same Constitutional protections as whites. Of course, the U.S. appealed to the Supreme Court, but the case was dismissed. This Sunday marks the 134th anniversary of this landmark ruling by Judge Dundy in favor of Native American peoples – a ruling on a question one never need ask.
Standing Bear returned to the hunting grounds of his fathers and buried his son in the traditional way. Another immediate result of Dundy’s ruling was that Standing Bear did not have to move his tribe back to Oklahoma, at the time a somewhat hollow victory as his people had nowhere to go. Remember, their land had been taken in the previous treaties.
- In 1881, under a fourth treaty, the government finally returned about 26,000 acres to the Ponca, in what are now Knox and Boyd counties in Nebraska. About half of the Ponca returned to their homeland, but they were beset for years with poverty and disease from the Oklahoma tribulations and, unfortunately, this was not to be the last of their suffering at the hand of government.
- In 1945, the U.S. government set a policy to terminate certain Indian tribes. Reportedly, this affected 109 tribes and bands, over 13,000 Indians, and over 1 million acres of land entrusted to the tribes. In 1962, Congress declared that the Northern Ponca Tribe should be terminated.
- By 1966, the Ponca Tribe was no longer federally recognized. All of their entrusted holdings were dissolved, and some 442 Ponca were removed from the tribal rolls and dispossessed of 834 acres – which started yet another process of decline for the Ponca people.
- In the 1970s, unwilling to accept this fate, the Ponca started a process to restore federal recognition. Due to limited resources, it took until 1987 for the Northern Ponca Restoration Committee to incorporate as a nonprofit in Nebraska, but this then became their base for federal recognition efforts.
- In April 1988, the Northern Ponca received state recognition. It took another year, until October 1989, for the Senate to give “consent” for federal recognition. But it was not until October 31, 1990 that the bill passed into law. Thus, only for 23 years has the Ponca Tribe been privy to the benefits and support promised by the federal government for the indigenous people whose land and lives it changed forever.
Today, the Ponca Tribe is headquartered in Niobrara, Nebraska, their aboriginal homeland. They have about 2,800 tribal members. The tribe is sustaining its traditional culture. They’ve acquired a land base of about 725,000 acres in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. This includes one 50,000 acre site in Norfolk, Nebraska, for their youth, diabetes, social services programs and a dorm that generates tribal income.
All of these years, the Ponca were fighting for a land base and the right to exist – something most Americans take for granted. It’s a testament to their strength that they lost and regained land, lost and regained federal recognition, and rebuilt a tribal economy — all without losing their hope and spirit. Today, the Ponca Tribe has about 2,800 enrolled members.
Sadly, negative stereotypes about American Indians as a whole continue to persist in western culture. Any stereotype is harmful and hurtful. When used in regard to American Indians, stereotypes also reflect ignorance. What most people know about American Indians, they learned on TV and it is wrong.
Because this is so important, we are reposting below a story that was run by Indian Country Today Media Network Staff. We hope the story will help to raise awareness and encourage everyone to think twice and examine your motives before stating what ultimately are demeaning thoughts and remarks. Even if intended as humor, they cause harm to others.
‘Drunk Indians’ Joke Lands ‘Mike & Molly’ in Hot Water
March 05, 2013
American Indians were blindsided by a quip on a recent episode of the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly. At one point in the show, Rondi Reed, the actress who plays Ruth, mother of Mike (Billy Gardell) and mother-in-law to Molly (Melissa McCarthy), said “Arizona? Why would I go to Arizona? It’s nothing but a furnace full of drunk Indians.”
Many Natives in Arizona, which is home to 21 federally recognized tribes, are failing to see the humor.
“It’s offensive, it’s derogatory, it’s deplorable,” Erny Zah, communications director for the President and Vice President of the Navajo Nation, told ABCNews.com. “Ignorance is one thing, but this must have passed through a lot of eyes before it appeared on a network show.”
Zah told an Associated Press reporter that it’s “easy to make fun of” people who struggle with alcoholism, but “the disease itself isn’t funny, the coming home late at night, possibly beating on family members, the absence of family members, the fear it instills in a lot of children.”
The Native American Journalists’ Association (NAJA) said in a statement at NAJA.com that “This comment shows blatant disregard for the original inhabitants of this land and perpetuates antiquated stereotypes of Native Americans.”
Both Zah and NAJA said that an apology is in order — “but it can’t fix the damage done,” Zah added.
“To me, it’s not funny making fun of a minority group,” NAJA President Rhonda LeValdo told the AP. “Are we supposed to be the entertainment for mainstream?”
Both the Associated Press and ABCNews.com solicited comment from CBS, but were declined.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/03/05/drunk-indians-joke-lands-mike-molly-hot-water-148020
In keeping with our recent themes on tribal economies, today our focus is Indian gaming. In the 25 years or so of its existence, Indian gaming has grown to a $27 billion a year industry, while the entire U.S. gaming industry has grown to over $64 billion. Interestingly, as Business Insider highlights, gaming by Native American tribes represents 43% of the overall industry. Las Vegas represents 10%, and the remaining 47% comes from commercial gaming at regional, commercially-owned sites.
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) was created in 1988 to enforce Indian gaming regulations and to promote tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments; maintain the integrity of the Indian gaming industry; and ensure that tribes are the primary beneficiaries of their gaming activities.
It is terrific that some tribes are prospering through gaming operations and, even while NIGC ensures that tribes are the primary benefactors of Indian gaming earnings, their success is a win for both the U.S. economy and the U.S. government. Specifically, according to Indian Country Today and the Casino City Indian Gaming Industry Report, Indian casinos generated all of the following in 2011:
- $29.6 billion output (includes food, lodging, and nongaming in casino operations)
- Around 339,000 jobs
- About $12.3 billion in wages
- $6 billion in payments to the federal government
- $3.8 billion to state governments
- $2.5 billion to local governments
Still, there is a disparity between the reality and the perception of financials gains from Indian gaming and here’s what you need to know: Prosperity from Indian gaming is not universal across all tribes or even across tribes with casinos.
The reality is that the most successful gaming tribes often have small populations and are located near major urban areas. In other words, an urban customer base is easily within reach. These small tribes generate over 40% of all Indian gaming revenue, according to the Native American Rights Fund and, according to Native Americans in Philanthropy:
…the needs of reservation Indians are so great that even if the total annual Indian gaming revenue in the country could be divided equally among all the Indians in the country, the amount distributed per person would still not be enough to raise Indian per capita income (currently $11,259) to anywhere near the national average of $21,587. Of the more than 560 Indian nations, only 224 are involved in gaming. Many tribes may never participate in gaming because of their geographic location in rural, unpopulated areas. (Survey of Grant Giving by American Indian Foundations and Organizations)
National Relief Charities works with about 65 tribes in 11 states, including some of the most impoverished tribes in the United States. We see daily how public misconceptions about Indian gaming prevent the tribes that are still struggling economically from receiving the support they need. This is why we and other Native American charities work to educate donors, funders, and the general public about the economic realities on the reservations that we serve. We hope you will take the time to learn more about this topic.
A blog about Native American culture, American Indian tribes, and humanitarian concerns for the most underserved people in the U.S.