South Dakota Nonprofit Lakota Funds, Supports Increase in Native-Owned Agri-Businesses

The latest USDA Census of Agriculture shows 3,218 agricultural operations on Indian reservations in South Dakota, but only 924 – less than a third – are actually Native American-owned. Lakota Funds, a nonprofit organization, is working to increase that number by supporting Native American farmers and ranchers through their agricultural business program.

A major barrier to starting or expanding any type of business is lack of access to capital. This is especially true for agri-businesses, because of their large working capital needs. If you factor into the mix a business location that is on a reservation, finding a lender that will meet your financing needs can be nearly impossible.

This is a dilemma that Craig Lafferty (Rosebud Sioux), partner in Lafferty Family LLC, faced when he was looking to expand his cattle operation on the Rosebud Reservation.

“It just seemed like it was a closed door,” he says.

However, doors began to open when he reached out to Lakota Funds on a recommendation from family members.

“It’s just awesome from the time you walk in the door – a warm welcome. And, it’s Native-owned and operated. I can feel proud about that,” he says.

To date, Lafferty Family LLC has utilized two loans from Lakota Funds to grow their Red Angus / Charolais operation to 200 head.

“The great thing about this is that the Lafferty’s are building assets and building an operation that will be passed on for generations,” says Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of Lakota Funds.

Craig’s business partner is his father, Rock Lafferty, who is now retired after a 33-year career at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Craig’s two sons, Taylor (9 years old) and Harper (22 months old), are also involved.

“Ranching has always been in the family. It’s in my roots,” says Lafferty.

He explains that he and his dad are doing all of the hard work now with the intention of passing the business onto his sons.

“But only if they want it,” he says.

As the Director of Radiology at Indian Health Services in Mission, South Dakota – his day job – Lafferty recognizes the value of education. He stresses the importance of getting an education first to his sons.

“You’re not going to be a millionaire in the ranching business – you’re just not. For me it’s time to spend with my dad and boys out in nature,” Lafferty says. At their operation where everything is done on horseback, he gets lots of time to do just that.

Lafferty feels lucky that “Lakota Funds believed in us enough to take a chance.” He is grateful for the relationship he has with his lender and wants to keep building his operation.

For the moment, he is satisfied that he has “created good memories for my boys that they can pass down to my grandkids.”


About Lakota Funds

Lakota Funds, a Native community development financial institution (CDFI) established more than 25 years ago, has played a vital role in improving the quality of life for the Oglala Lakota Oyate by placing capital with new and growing businesses, providing customized business development services, and educating adults and youth on financial management concepts. Lakota Funds’ mission is to promote economic sustainability on the Pine Ridge Reservation and geographic service area, through business loans, technical assistance, and wealth building education for families and businesses. 

For more info visit


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post South Dakota Nonprofit Lakota Funds, Supports Increase in Native-Owned Agri-Businesses appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Paul Ryan’s Goal Was A Republican Party of Ideas, Promising To Shrink Government

Paul Ryan came to Washington to blow up Washington. He was first elected to represent his Wisconsin district at 28 years old. He campaigned over his career for a federal government that should shrink dramatically, spend far less, that taxes should be low, and the Republicans should be the party of big ideas.

Ryan announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election. He says he will complete his term as Speaker, but that’s not certain. He likely will face pressure to step down early, so another Republican can lead the party’s team into the November election. (More than forty Republicans have already announced their retirement contributing to the story about a coming Democratic wave.)

The Speaker leaves behind a different kind of legacy. He did get his tax cuts and substantial changes in the regulatory framework. But he also delivered more federal spending than ever. The deficit will hit $804 billion this year (a jump of 21 percent in a single year) and exceed $1 trillion by 2020. And, a new report by the Congressional Budget Office, says that a decade from now the total debt will be larger than the entire economy. “That amount is far greater than the debt in any year since just after World War II,” the CBO said Monday.

Federal debt held by the public.

The problem for Ryan, like Speaker John Boehner before him, is that the Republican majority is nearly ungovernable. The only way for Congress to function, to actually pass a budget, is to build a coalition that includes most Republicans, some Democrats, and work with a similar coalition in the Senate. That often means spending more money. That’s not the Congress — and the party of big ideas — that Ryan once had imagined.

And President Donald J. Trump has made that process worse. He caters to the bloc in Congress that cares little about actually governing. Chaos is fine. Big ideas, not so much.

Ryan proposed a major reform of government in 2010 long before he was elected Speaker of the House. It had his big ideas: Replace Medicare with direct payments to seniors who then could buy their own health insurance; turn Medicaid into a block grant to states; end employer-based health insurance; and dramatically cut government and taxes. There was no support for that plan.

Paul Ryan’s ‘A Better Way’ slogan.

Then two years ago, as a new speaker, Ryan unveiled another plan for reshaping government. “A Better Way” included a reform of the Indian Health Service by “giving choices to American Indians.” His big idea was to have the government issue vouchers for Indian health, outside the system. “Not only will this give American Indians more choice in where they receive care,” the Ryan plan promised. “It will challenge Indian health facilities to provide the best care possible to American Indians.”

And of course that voucher system would have cost less. The Ryan plan also included a provision for a Native American Health Savings Account so individual tribal members could buy their own health care services  (Never mind a treaty sanctioned right.)

The basic premise of Ryan’s plan was that poverty is a problem because of government programs, thus, shrink the government, and poverty will go away. He told National Public Radio: “Let’s break up the welfare monopoly, instead of having just the welfare agency at the county level give people their benefits, which they basically rubber-stamp. … They don’t actually treat the person. Let other providers also provide these full-scale wraparound benefits. Let the Catholic Church do it. Let Lutheran social services. Let America Works, a for-profit agency that’s good at this.”

This is not a new idea; it was the same logic in the 1940s when Republican complained then that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was responsible for poverty, horrible living conditions, and general mismanagement. The solution over the next decade was the idea of “freeing the Indians” by terminating the federal responsibility, Termination. And a hundred and nine tribes were terminated, representing some 12,500 tribal members, and the end result was poverty conditions that were far worse.

That’s likely what would have happened again had Ryan’s “choice” approach to Indian health became law.

Ryan’s, “A Better Way,” once again called for turning Medicaid over to the states. “Instead of shackling states with more mandates, our plan empowers states to design Medicaid programs that best meet their needs, which will help reduce costs and improve care for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Medicaid has become a significant revenue source for the Indian health system. Under current law, Medicaid is a partnership between the federal and state governments. But states get a 100 percent federal match for patients within the Indian health system. Four-in-ten Native Americans are eligible for Medicaid insurance.

Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma and a Chickasaw Nation citizen, said Ryan will be missed in Congress. “Paul Ryan is a visionary leader, a committed conservative and a master of the legislative process. His tenure as been marked by exceptional accomplishments – the largest tax cut and reform in a generation; the most regulatory reform for any Congress in the modern age; the most substantial defense buildup in 15 years; the end of the individual mandate in Obamacare – and a host of other important legislative accomplishments,” Cole said.

“He is not only the best Speaker I’ve had the opportunity to serve with, he’s also the finest person. Even Paul’s political opponents readily concede that he’s a person of absolute integrity, deep sincerity and of profound decency.”

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter

The post Paul Ryan’s Goal Was A Republican Party of Ideas, Promising To Shrink Government appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Evergreen College Names Tina Kuckkahn-Miller, Ojibwe as Indigenous Arts Vice President

The Evergreen State College has named Tina Kuckkahn-Miller, J.D.,  as its Vice President of Indigenous Arts and Education. Kuckkahn-Miller has been the founding director of the college’s Longhouse Education and Cultural Center since 1996.

“The work that Tina will be doing, within our community, with Northwest tribes, and nationally and internationally, forms an important part of Evergreen’s strategy for future success,” said Evergreen President George Bridges in a release.

A member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior OJibwe, Kuckkahn-Miller will lead the integration of the Longhouse and the Indigenous Arts Campus with Evergreen’s Native academic programs.

“The Native programs at Evergreen are unique in the U.S.,” Kuckkahn-Miller said. “I look forward to working with our students, staff and faculty to find ways to build on our strengths.”

Kuckkahn-Miller’s appointment coincides with the expansion of Evergreen’s Indigenous Arts Campus and art-making studios featuring indigenous architectural design and cultural concepts. The Indigenous Arts Campus includes a carving studio, Pay3q’ali, that opened 2012. A fiber arts studio, will begin housing academic programs this summer, and an expanded carving studio will be built by December 2018.

Evergreen hosts a variety of indigenous education programs, including the Native American and World Indigenous People studies program, the Native Pathways program, the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, the Master of Public Administration Tribal Governance Concentration, and the Native Student Success Pilot Program.

Tina Kuckkahn-Miller (Ojibwe) has been named Evergreen’s Vice President of Indigenous Arts and Education. This is a new position and one of very few VP-level positions in American higher ed specifically dedicated to indigenous education or affairs.

— Evergreen (@EvergreenStCol) March 29, 2018

In her position, Kuckkahn-Miller will seek to engage with indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. “I’m hopeful that a result of integrating the Longhouse and our new arts buildings with undergraduate programs will be attracting Native students who are drawn to what we can offer in spaces that affirm cultural identity.”” Kuckkahn-Miller said in the release.

“As we work to fulfill Evergreen’s mission, it is clear that we should build on the success of our indigenous arts and education programs,” said Bridges.

In addition to her leadership in academics and tribal relationship building, Kuckkahn-Miller is also eager to continue to advance the Longhouse and Indigenous Arts Campus as a place for supporting the work of Native artists.

In 1996, the Longhouse established an artist-in-residence program with six local Washington tribes. Today, it hosts artists from throughout the Pacific Rim and maintains a partnership with the government of New Zealand that began in 2006. In August 2017, the Longhouse hosted its second Gathering of Indigenous Visual Artists of the Pacific Rim. It was attended by more than 100 artists who created art in eight different media forms over the course of nine days.

“These kinds of cultural exchanges are transformative for the artists who participate in them,” Kuckkahn-Miller said. “The artists simultaneously inspire each other and push each other’s creative boundaries. Their creative energy was felt by many across the Evergreen campus.”

Kuckkahn-Miller’s new position is supported by a three-year grant from the NoVo Foundation’s Indigenous Communities Program. The Indigenous Arts Campus studios are funded primarily by private donations, including five foundations, seven tribes and more than 170 individual donors.


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post Evergreen College Names Tina Kuckkahn-Miller, Ojibwe as Indigenous Arts Vice President appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Heitkamp-McCain Bill to Expand AMBER Alerts in Indian Country Passes in the Senate

U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John McCain (R-AZ) recently announced that their bipartisan bill to expand AMBER Alerts in Indian Country passed the U.S. Senate and has been sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law. Heitkamp’s Savanna’s Act to help address the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women builds off this bill to expand AMBER Alerts in Indian Country.

Heitkamp and McCain introduced the Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act to expand the child abduction warnings in Indian Country.

Heitkamp told Indian Country Today that AMBER alerts are critical for law enforcement efforts to quickly disseminate information to the public about abducted children to generate leads as quickly as possible, but currently such alerts are not available in many parts of Indian Country – or are limited to tribal lands.

The bill being signed into law, by making tribes eligible for AMBER Alert system resources, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and government officials will better be able to coordinate to find and rescue missing or abducted children, particularly if they have been taken off of their reservation.

“Tribal lands should not be safe havens for criminals or a weak link in our ability to find and protect children who have been abducted or run away,” Heitkamp said in a release. “Making AMBER Alerts more accessible to Indian Country is critical to making sure children and families are protected on tribal lands in North Dakota and across the country – an issue that both Sen. McCain and I are passionate about.”

“Passage of this bipartisan bill is a big win for safety on tribal lands, and I look forward to the president signing it into law. We must continue the fight to give law enforcement agencies at all levels the tools they need to prevent crimes in Indian Country and bring criminals to justice, which is why I also introduced Savanna’s Act and fight every day to keep communities in North Dakota strong and safe. Every child and every family in Indian Country should know that all resources are at their disposal to stay safe – and our bill soon becoming law is an important step in that direction.”

“I’m proud the Senate has passed our bill, named for Ashlynne Mike, to expand the AMBER Alert child abduction warning system in Indian Country,” said McCain. “This bipartisan legislation addresses serious gaps in current law that have prevented tribes from quickly issuing AMBER Alerts and helping victims like Ashlynne escape tragedy. I look forward to the president quickly signing this legislation into law so we can give tribes the resources they need to track down perpetrators and save lives.”

Heitkamp told Indian Country Today that many people across the country don’t realize an AMBER can be a resource taken for granted.

“I don’t think people realize is that parts of this country are not covered by AMBER alerts. They take AMBER alerts for granted,” said Heitkamp. “I think it shocks people when you talk about the numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women and everytime this happens, it is an unfortunate opportunity to point out that there are people left behind that don’t have the same level of protection that our children enjoy. I hope this not only begins a discussion in protecting children, but  how can we recover any missing person on a reservation that is one of the challenges.”

“For instance there is a missing woman at MHA Olivia Longbear, you say how can we use a network, how can we build support  not only protect children, but all Indian people. We need to get workable systems out there. I think until we have a system of justice in Indian Country that protects Native American women and children the same way women and children in Bismarck, I’m not going to be happy,” said Heitkamp.

The bill is named for Ashlynne Mike, an 11-year old Navajo girl who was abducted and murdered in 2016. In that high profile case, authorities did not issue an AMBER Alert for Ashlynne until the day after family members reported her abduction. According to the FBI, more than 8,000 children are listed as missing in Indian Country today.

The DOJ currently operates a pilot program that offers AMBER Alert training services to Native American tribes, but the Heitkamp-McCain bill will make that initiative permanent and enhance DOJ oversight of how the grants are used. The legislation also reauthorizes the DOJ grant program that assists state and local governments in developing and implementing AMBER Alert communication plans. These communication plans are used by law enforcement agencies to expedite child abduction alerts to the public. The bill will also require the DOJ to perform a needs assessment of AMBER Alert capabilities on Indian reservations.

Heitkamp told ICT she was encouraged by the passage of the bill and was hopeful other lawmakers

“When you are coming to the table with great partners such as John McCain, you are able to get stuff done,” said Heitkamp. “Cindy McCain has been an inspiration as well.”

Heitkamp has also addressed crime and human trafficking in Indian Country and last October, introduced Savanna’s Act to make sure North Dakota’s tribes have the information and resources they need to protect women and girls from violence, abduction, and human trafficking.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post Heitkamp-McCain Bill to Expand AMBER Alerts in Indian Country Passes in the Senate appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

The First Native Hawaiian To Serve, Former U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka dies at age 93

Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the Senate, who served in Washington for thirty-five years, died early Saturday morning at the age of 93 after being hospitalized for several months at The Villas hospital.

Akaka began his service in the House of Representatives in 1976 and continued a long career that ended with his role as Senator in 2013. Senator Akaka focused largely on issues related to Hawaii and fought for over a decade on the Akaka Bill, a bill that was never able to garner enough votes and would have granted federal recognition to Native Hawaiian people.

Senator Akaka was a well-known ally to Hawaiian Senator Dan Inouye and together they were able to obtain federal funds for Native Hawaiian health care, social services and educational services. The two senators were also able to obtain an apology from the U.S. government for the overthrowing of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, for which President Bill Clinton apologized.

He was at times controversial such as when he supported oil-drilling at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but stated his decision was to support a promise he made to the Inupiat who saw drilling as an indigenous right.

Daniel Kahikina Akaka was born Sept. 11, 1924, in Honolulu, attended the Kamehameha School for Boys, he worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, served in the Army and later spent 18 years in the public school system. He was later chosen by Governor John Burns to serve as state director of the Office of Economic Opportunity.

When serving in the House, Akaka oversaw federal spending on the Appropriations Committee, he also served as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and worked to reform veterans medical care and education benefits.

He worked diligently on the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act, and caused the federal government to replace land previously taken from Hawaii.

In 2000 Akaka introduced the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, later known as the Akaka Bill. The bill was consistently blocked by conservatives who called it racially-based and discriminatory.

Akaka retired at age 88 in 2012, he died at age of 93.

The post The First Native Hawaiian To Serve, Former U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka dies at age 93 appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Forget Party Labels; President’s Trade Policies Are Politics All Mixed Up

The growing trade war with China is politics that’s all mixed up. Forget left or right, red or blue, Democrat versus Republican. This issue divides many Republicans from President Donald J. Trump. While many Democrats think this battle overdue. And some of the president’s most strident supporters from coal companies to farmers are not happy with his policy choices.

But make no mistake: The outcome (when it finally occurs) is a dollar-and-cents issue that will impact the daily lives of Native people, tribal governments, and businesses. Wall Street’s jitters are a good indication of that. The market has dropped by nine percent since January, shrinking retirement accounts, tribal investments, and personal wealth.

The story so far. In January, the White House said it would levy a tariff, or a tax, on the importation of solar panels from other countries. Then, a month ago, the White House announced a 25 percent tax on steel and 10 percent tax on aluminum. But the White House scaled back the countries involved, focusing mostly on China.

See related article: What Is A Tariff? And How Does A Campaign Against China By Trump Affect Indian Country?

China responded with trade sanctions on some $20 billion worth of meat, wine, fruit, nuts. Then the U.S. responded again. And China countered. So the list of taxed imported items is growing. The actual tariffs won’t start for a couple of months and the administration is thinking is there will be a deal before then.

Agriculture is already losing in this trade war. This week the market dropped for soybeans, corn, and wheat because if China buys less, there will be more of those same products available for sale and prices will drop. Supply and demand. So those same market forces will make products like Spam cheaper, too.

“Soy growers are frustrated, but not surprised this week, as a trade war looms with U.S. soy’s top customer,” the American Soybean Association said on its website. “The Chinese Commerce Department announced plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans in retaliation for the U.S. proposed $60 billion in tariffs against Chinese goods. Soybean futures were already down nearly 40 cents a bushel the morning after this announcement.” The association has a Twitter campaign, #RethinkTheTariffs to stir public support.

The U.S. government and #farmers have partnered for decades and spent millions of dollars to establish foreign markets for U.S. #soybeans. These tariffs put years of work to expand markets, and our livelihoods, in jeopardy. @POTUS #RethinkTheTariffs #SupportSoybeans

— American Soybean (@ASA_Soybeans) March 23, 2018

Other farm groups make a similar case. The Republican Party has long argued for free trade, benefitting farm states by opening new markets around the world. This is where the politics get mixed up. Many Republicans in Congress are critical of the administration’s trade policy for this very reason. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in The Louisville Courier Journal that Kentucky is “a great exporter” and that he is “nervous about getting into trade wars.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, wrote last month, “In general, free trade contributes to our national prosperity as well. However, having open markets is not an invitation for others to take advantage of us.” Cole, Chickasaw, called tariffs bad news for his state. “In addition to a rise in prices for farm production equipment like tractors, mills, processors, trucks and more, other trade partners may retaliate with their own tariffs. Consequently, the rise in production costs will have an impact on produce and canned goods. That impact will be felt by American families who will have to pay the price of costlier goods.”

Cole told CNBC Friday that “outside of agricultural areas” the trade issue is a net plus because “somebody is finally doing something about China, which has simply ripped us off since we let them in” the World Trade Organization.

The conservative think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is less nuanced. It raised concerns “that a shift from free-market policies to more protectionist policies will erase any and all gains this administration has made on the economic front.”

Some Democrats say the president has a point. There has been a decades long decline in manufacturing (and middle-class jobs) because of lower prices from global trade. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who just returned from a trip to China, says she is not afraid of tariffs and that they should be a part of trade policy.

A good example of at least limited progressive support for Trump’s actions comes from The Nation magazine. “The classic economic case for free trade holds that, while there would be winners and losers, the benefits were so great that the winners can compensate the losers. But the deals are about political power, not economic theory. Corporate globalization has empowered the few, and it has largely scorned the losers,” writes. Robert L. Borosage.  “Trump’s decision to take on China is long overdue … Not surprisingly, however, Trump and his team have thus far provided more theater than substance, and are executing this trade war with an extremely haphazard approach—overall, they are simply clueless about the core elements of a sensible globalization strategy.”

A potential trade war also has huge implications for global warming. The Trump administration, of course, has attacked virtually every climate policy from the past administration. And, the first action in this trade dispute involved solar panels. But if the trade war could upend extractive industries, especially coal.

China has not yet levied a tariff on coal, but it’s widely expected because of the industry’s ties to President Trump. China is the world’s largest importer of coal. Wall Street analysts estimated that Chinese coal imports were 4.03 million tons for the first seven months of 2014, exceeding the full year imports for both 2016 and 2015.

Tribes that produce coal, such as the Crow Nation in Montana, have looked toward China and Asian markets as a way to make coal great again. But other tribes along the shipping route, such as the Lummi Nation in Washington, see dirty coal trains as a threat to salmon and their treaty rights.

A short documentary on the Lummi campaign to stop coal terminals is “Not For Any Price.

A week ago, Bill Chapman, the chief executive officer of the proposed Millennium coal terminal, was still making the case for coal exports. In an op-ed for Crosscut he wrote, “It may seem counterintuitive, but building the proposed coal-exporting shipping terminal, Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview facility, can reduce global greenhouse gases by making U.S. coal readily available to Asia.” But that terminal has not received permits and a revised applicatiation would require several regional governments, including tribes, to rethink their stands. And this trade dispute would have to go away for banks to finance this enterprise.

But there is a connection between global trade and global warming. A report by United Nations says this issue presents an “important policy conundrum: behind every trade transaction there is a production process and, in turn, associated greenhouse gas emissions. Policies that modify trade (trade policies) can influence emissions, while policies for reducing emissions (climate change policies) can also influence trade.”

Thus, a slowdown in trade stemming from a trade war could reduce carbon emissions. Think of many, many planes, trains and trucks that are no longer packed with goods for delivery around the world. At the very least, a trade war could give global governments time to rethink trade policies in the context of climate change. Then again higher tariffs also impact solar panels, steel for wind mills, and other ingredients used to create alternative energy.

Another question might be: Can trade even be reimagined? A decade ago most global trade was when consumers bought something, say, a radio, or a car. Now the entire chain of supply is global. So a product made in America, such as an airplane, has parts from China, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada, as well as the United States. It’s the same for cars, televisions, and washing machines.

“What all this means is that tariffs are a very poor instrument for punishing China for any unfair trading practices,” writes David Dollar and Zhi Wang for the Brookings Institution. “Some of the cost will be borne by American consumers; some by American firms that either produce in China or use intermediate products from China; some by firms in countries (mostly U.S. allies) that supply China; and some by Chinese firms (mostly private ones).”

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter

The post Forget Party Labels; President’s Trade Policies Are Politics All Mixed Up appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Families Have Chance To Testify At Final Week of MMIW Canada National Inquiry

Several families shared tragic accounts of missing and murdered indigenous women in testimony that began Wednesday in Richmond, British Columbia. This is the final public hearing of the national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Among the family members sharing testimony is Roxana Wilson, who told the CBC about her own daughter Adriana Cecil Wadhams, who was brutally murdered in 1989. “A six-year-old who was so loving, so full of energy and so boisterous,” she said.”I can’t believe the date is finally here to be able to share my story and share her story and give her a voice.”

Lorelei Williams said she is seeking justice for her cousin, Tanya Holyk. Williams’ cousin’s DNA was found on the farm of serial killer Robert Pickton. Williams’ cousin is not the only woman missing in her family, Her aunt Belinda has been missing for 40 years.

Families Are Losing Confidence

Though Williams is offering her own testimony, she is afraid about what might ultimately happen due to all of the red tape related to the Canadian National MMIW Inquiry, and if the end result will be positive due to the firings and resignations.

“I lost all confidence,” said Lorelei Williams to the CBC. “I was on the fence but then I started to teeter toward maybe this inquiry isn’t good.”

Williams said even with all of the problems, the families finally have a chance to share their stories and perhaps some good will come of it. “This is all we’ve got right now, so many Indigenous women’s lives depend on this,” Williams said.

The Chief Commissioner of the MMIW / MMIWG Inquiry Marion Buller told the CBC she can empathize with families who might be losing faith in a system plagued with problems. “I can understand that people would be frustrated and had other expectations, but this is a national inquiry with a strict timeline handling horrible, horrible subject matter,” Buller said. The commission had to “design the car, build the car and drive the car all at the same time…It was very challenging,” Buller added.

After the public hearings, there will be community hearings and institution hearings. The final report must also be translated into several Indigenous languages. The report must be completed by the end of 2018, but Buller has asked the Canadian federal government for an extension. She has not yet received an official response for her request.

An Extension Is Acceptable – “But Canada Needs To Do A Better Job”

Viviane Michel, the president of Quebec Native Women, says the federal inquiry into MMIW / MMIWG needs to do a better job of gathering information for families after observing hearings in Montreal in early March.

In a press conference Michel told reporters that the national inquiry should be put on hold to make more beneficial changes such as using its powers to collect coroner reports, police reports and autopsy results ahead of time so families have a better understanding of the facts.

Michel said she supports the request for an extension made by Buller — but only if changes are made to better support those testifying. “We want justice to be done,” she said.

In 2016, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said that 1,107 indigenous women were killed between 1980 and 2012. But that number is in dispute. Native activists, the Native Women’s Association of Canada and families closer to the matter claim over 4,000 women and girls. The government says it was all but impossible to pinpoint an accurate figure.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post Families Have Chance To Testify At Final Week of MMIW Canada National Inquiry appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Judge Approves #NoDAPL Activist Chase Iron Eyes’ Demand For Withheld Evidence

Chase Iron Eyes, a 2016 North Dakota Democratic congressional nominee, was in court Wednesday at the Morton County Courthouse in Mandan, North Dakota, to fight charges stemming from protests of the Dakota Access pipeline.

During Iron Eyes’ appearance, attorneys for Iron Eyes argued that the state of North Dakota was withholding key evidence needed for their defense. According to the Lakota People’s Law Project, the judge upheld the request of Iron Eyes’ defense team.

“Judge Lee Christofferson today upheld earlier rulings that the state of North Dakota, law enforcement agencies and private security contractors must comply with discovery demands from former congressional candidate, Dakota Access pipeline protester and Lakota People’s Law Project attorney, Chase Iron Eyes,” said the release.

Additionally, the judge admonished the deputy state’s attorney Chase Lingle for his previous lack of compliance and ordered Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier to court to testify under oath. The Judge then gave Kirchmeier less than a month to comply with all discovery demands, saying the sheriff must produce an affidavit by the end of April stating that he has done so.

In additional support for Iron Eyes’ defense team, Judge Christofferson ordered militarized security contractor TigerSwan to respond to the defense’s discovery demands. The defense will be given 120 days of time for discovery, beginning May 1. The Iron Eyes trial date has now been moved to November 5.

In a news release, Iron Eyes said he was pleased with the decision.

“We hoped for an encouraging outcome today, and we got it. Our liberty depends on our collective ability to stand in protest of injustices and in support of our inherent constitutional, human and environmental rights,” said Iron Eyes. “My personal liberty is also at stake, and I’m proud to stand on the front line of such a critical battle at a pivotal moment in history. This trial can safeguard our right to free speech and assembly. That’s something that’s already great about America, and I mean to make sure it is never compromised.”

Attorneys for Iron Eyes, Standing Rock Sioux, said that “the evidence they were after “is extensive and will exonerate Iron Eyes by clarifying events that took place prior to or on the day of his arrest in February, 2017.”

Daniel Sheehan, the chief counsel of the Lakota People’s Law Project that represents Iron Eyes said in a release the state is months late in gathering and turning over evidence required for his team to present a “necessity defense” for his client.

Sheehan also said he was encouraged by the ruling.

“We’re elated that Judge Christofferson upheld the court’s prior decisions. In order for real justice to be served, it’s imperative that all those involved in the policing of Standing Rock during the pipeline protests be held to full account. We must be allowed to gather all available information and documentation as a crucial first step in that process, and we couldn’t be happier that our right to do so will be vigorously enforced. At the trial in November, we look forward to presenting a complete picture of what really happened at Standing Rock.”

“We had a hearing before Judge David Nelson on Nov. 3. The State was given until Dec. 31 to provide our requested documents,” said Sheehan. “And they stiffed us. Our opinion is that, frankly, they are afraid of the necessity defense, and they are jumping through every hoop to try to stop it.”

The evidence requested by Iron Eyes’ legal team include internal memos between law enforcement agencies and TigerSwan, a subcontracted security firm that allegedly operated in North Dakota without a license and were hired by the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners. TigerSwan is facing civil litigation for whether they were able to operate without a license, the court date is October 8th.

Internal memos published by the investigative website The Intercept allege that TigerSwan led a violent anti-protest campaign labeling protesters as “jihadist” and “terrorists.”

Moving forward with the case

Using the necessity defense, the defense says they will argue that any actions Iron Eyes took during the protests were necessary to prevent a greater harm.

Using the necessity defense has been successful as a defense for pipeline and other climate-related protestors. A judge in Massachusetts recently found a group of pipeline protesters in Boston ‘not responsible by reason of necessity.’

“This legal defense is gaining momentum,” Sheehan said. “In our case, it’s a potential landmark for our legal system. We want every climate advocate, every Native rights advocate and every advocate for the Constitution to have this defense at his or her disposal to protest injustices in this nation.”

“I’m entitled to a fair trial under the United States Constitution,” said Iron Eyes in a release. “If the prosecution is unwilling to pursue and turn over required evidence, I’m being denied my constitutional rights. The process so far shows a continuation of the pattern of denying rights to Native people. But I have faith in our judicial system, and I’m hopeful that Wednesday will be a watershed moment for this trial and our movement as a whole.”

According to South Central Judicial District trial court administrator Donna Wunderlich, she confirmed that Iron Eyes’ case is one of 171 still open from the Dakota Access pipeline protests, which ended more than a year ago. To date, 543 cases have been completed. According to Sheehan, all but a few have ended in acquittals, dismissals of all charges, or deferrals of all charges.

Chase Iron Eyes appeared at the Morton County Courthouse on April 4.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post Judge Approves #NoDAPL Activist Chase Iron Eyes’ Demand For Withheld Evidence appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Denise Juneau is Picked to Lead Seattle’s Public Schools

Denise Juneau has been picked to lead the Seattle School District as its next superintendent after a unanimous 7-0 vote by the city’s school board Wednesday.

The Seattle Times put the hire in historic terms. The paper wrote: “When Denise Juneau takes the reins of Seattle Public Schools in July, she will be the first Native American superintendent in the city’s history.”

Juneau, a Mandan Hidatsa Arikara tribal citizen, was twice elected to run Montana’s schools as the Superintendent of Public Instruction. She has said her journey has taken her from Head Start to Harvard. She has been working as an educational consultant and in 2016 was the Montana Democratic Party’s nominee for the U.S. Congress.

The Seattle School district educates more than 53,000 children from kindergarten through 12th grade. The district’s annual budget is $857.7 million a year.

Seattle makes sense in so many ways for Juneau and vice versa.

Seattle is a city that sees itself as diverse and ready to face the challenges of a multicultural, multilingual society. The school district says its “students speak 108 languages, and, according to federal data, Seattle’s 98118 zip code is home to speakers of 66 languages, more than any other zip code in the United States. But, like many urban districts, there is an educational achievement gap that persists across ethnic groups.”

Juneau is also Blackfeet and she grew up in the community of Browning. Seattle has been an urban destination for many Blackfeet, starting around World War II. (Deborah Juarez, a Blackfeet citizen serves on the Seattle City Council). Juneau also has ties to Sealaska, a regional Alaska Native corporation, that represents another significant population group in Seattle.

There are some 2,000 Native American students in the district that could benefit from the same educational attention that Juneau gave students in Montana. (It’s worth noting that more than half of the American Indian children in Montana’s schools were in urban districts.)

Juneau told The Seattle Times in an interview that she was most proud of the “Graduation Matters” initiative that worked to reverse dropout rates. The Times said: “The initiative was considered a success; graduation rates rose from 81 percent in 2009 to 86 percent in 2017. For Native students, the rate was much lower but also increased, from 61 percent in 2009 to 69 percent in 2017. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said the overall graduation increase was thanks to Juneau’s leadership, calling her a “fierce advocate for public education and public service.”

Seattle school’s statistics

Another Juneau initiative, the Schools of Promise program was designed to help turn around troubled schools, especially small schools, with resources and collaborative partnerships.

The school board will meet again in April to offer Juneau a formal contract. The pay is expected to be around $300,000 a year.

To say that Juneau has a passion for education is an understatement. A couple of years ago in an interview she said ‘whenever she gets down by what’s going on around her’ she has an antidote. “I just love going into schools and be with students and talk to them about their hopes and dreams,” Juneau said. “They are always optimistic about the future. Hands down, the most optimistic people about what the future holds. You can’t help but leaving that school being more optimistic about our future, every time.”

The post Denise Juneau is Picked to Lead Seattle’s Public Schools appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

What Is A Tariff? And How Does A Campaign Against China By Trump Affect Indian Country?

President Donald Trump has launched a campaign to fight a trade imbalance against China because ‘China and other nations trade unfairly with the United States.’ The goal is to use tariffs (or the threat of tariffs since they have not yet occured) to get China to back down on other trade issues.

What does this mean? And, how will Indian Country be impacted?

It’s important to say over and over again that a tariff is fancy word for a tax. A tariff affects how much corporate consumers are charged for, say, steel from China that is used to make a car. And in response to such a tariff — China will levy a similar tax on its consumers when they buy pork, making that meat more expensive in China.

“Under my administration, the theft of American prosperity will end,” the president said. “We’re going to defend our industry and create a level playing field for the American worker — finally.”

Trump tweeted about trading with China:

We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S. Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 4, 2018

The three issues the Trump White House wants China to address come from a plan called “Made in China 2025.”

First, the administration opposes the idea of a “technology transfer” in the plan that requires U.S. companies to teach Chinese companies how to “extract technologies from other countries” so that the products can be made there. A Chinese version of an iPhone, for example.  

Second, the administration says China hurts U.S. products by selling too many, too cheaply. “This excess capacity has led to lower global prices and a glut of supply that undermine the viability of even the most competitive manufacturers, and policies like  Made in China 2025 call for this pattern of distortion to continue,” says the Office of U.S. Trade Representative.

And, finally, the U.S. wants less of China’s rigid security protocol.

But in a way, the issues are less relevant than the tactics here. The tactic is for the United States to levy (impose) its tariffs (taxes) on 1,300 Chinese products worth $50 billion. The list includes products from the Chinese aerospace, tech and machinery industries, medical equipment, medicine and bookbinding equipment.

China responded with its own list, also totaling some $50 billion, and that includes pork, soybeans, aluminium scrap, and steel pipes. A statement from the Chinese embassy put it this way: “As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate.” The U.S. Trade Representative responded that there is no basis for the Chinese tariffs.

China’s Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai. A statement from the Chinese embassy put it this way: “As the Chinese saying goes, it is only polite to reciprocate.”

Each side will tax products and the result will cost consumers more. And the producers of those products will make less money.

That’s where Indian Country comes in.

The tax bill will be paid every time someone buys a product that’s on the list, such as a car. And, on the other side of the ledger, Native American consumers will benefit as the price of pork (and its competitor, beef and chicken) drop because there will be more supply on the market. But the producers, the farmers, will make less.

According to the National Congress of American Indians: “Agriculture is increasingly important to Native economies, representing the economic backbone of more than 200 tribal communities and witnessing an 88 percent increase in the number of American Indian farmers between 2002 and 2007. According to the Census of Agriculture, in 2007 annual Indian agriculture production exceeded $1.4 billion in raw agriculture products.”

Agriculture represents one risk in a trade war. But there is another side to this story. Many economists are concerned about the imbalance of trade, in other words, United States consumers buy more than the country makes. This is the trade deficit — and the Trump administration’s goal is to shrink it. And there is evidence that this trade deficit impacts wages and job creation, especially in manufacturing jobs.

This is where politics and policy gets messy. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill support free trade and are not inclined to start a trade war with any country, let alone China. On the other hand, some Democrats are eager for a trade policy that protects jobs.

The trade-off is that a protectionist policy will make TVs, cars, and phones, more expensive, while, at the same time creating less demand for international consumers to buy pork, wheat and soybeans from U.S. farmers.

The National Congress of American Indians is the owner of Indian Country Today and manages its business operations. The Indian Country Today editorial team operates independently as a digital journalism enterprise.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter

The post What Is A Tariff? And How Does A Campaign Against China By Trump Affect Indian Country? appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Walmart Foundation Awards $499K Grant to Center For Native American Youth

The Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute and the Walmart Foundation have announced a nearly half-a-million dollar grant to support Native youth from ages 18 to 24 participating in an emerging leaders program called Fresh Tracks.

In addition to the grant for the Center for Native American Youth, the Walmart Foundation announced nearly $4 million in Diversity and Inclusion grants of support to 12 organizations around the country working to strengthen communities, create economic mobility and help more people reach their full potential.

The Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute will receive $499,129.00 to support Fresh Tracks, a 3-5-day training expedition program that brings together participants from urban and indigenous communities for cross-cultural leadership experiences.

According to the Walmart Foundation, the funding is part of a larger commitment to building more inclusive and vibrant communities among youth and young adults, as well as close economic, educational and social divides across racial, ethnic and gender lines. Fresh Tracks also seeks to reduce barriers to workplace training and skills gaps that limit career opportunities.

The Center for Native American Youth states that the Fresh Tracks program was inspired by the Obama Administration’s commitment to connecting more young Americans to the outdoors, and is a partnership between the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance at The Obama Foundation, and the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders.

Fresh Tracks launched in 2016. During the program, young adults from Los Angeles and Alaska Native communities went a two-week leadership expedition from southern California to the Arctic Circle. Since 2016, more than 100 young leaders ages 18-24 have completed Fresh Tracks training programs in Los Angeles, Alaska, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

BIG NEWS! With the help of @WalmartGiving, CNAY is bringing #FreshTracksAction to 4 US cities! Learn more about how Fresh Tracks can help YOU make a change in your community. #MLK50

— CNAY | Native Youth (@Center4Native) April 3, 2018

“Fresh Tracks puts culture and the outdoors at the center of our strategy to build the next generation of leaders,” said Erik Stegman, Executive Director of the Center for Native American Youth in a release. “In a nation as divided as ours, we’re proud to offer a program that helps Native and non-Native youth draw on the strength of their diversity to find innovative solutions to today’s challenges.”

“The Walmart Foundation is committed to helping advance solutions to bridge divides and build more inclusive, empathetic communities where all people have equal access to the tools and opportunities they need to reach their full potential,” said Julie Gehrki, Vice President of the Walmart Foundation in the release. “By supporting organizations working to build trust and foster cross-sector partnerships including the Center for Native American Youth, we’re helping to build capacity for organizations and practitioners working on the front lines to help strengthen communities.”

The Center for Native American Youth was selected from over 150 applicants that applied through an open RFP issued by the Walmart Foundation as part of their larger commitment to building more inclusive and vibrant communities.

In addition to the funding from the Walmart Foundation, other funders of Fresh Tracks include REI, Casey Family Programs, and The Newman’s Own Foundation. The funding will allow Fresh Tracks to offer four regional training expeditions in 2018 and 2019 in cities across the country.

Kimberly Pikok, a Native youth from Barrow, Alaska, has spoken about her Fresh Tracks experience to audiences at the White House and at the Aspen Institute.

“Fresh Tracks definitely changed the way I think about how I see the world and the issues communities face with stereotypes, wealth, and the wellbeing of society,” said Pikok in the release. “I also think Fresh Tracks contributed to me being more open with people and confident with my opinions and thoughts.”

?? Bringing different cultures together
?? Exploring the outdoors
?? Developing and amplifying leaders

That’s #FreshTracksAction

— CJ Goulding (@goulding_jr) October 11, 2017

Eligible youth may now apply here to attend the next training expedition in Boston.

The list of Walmart Foundation Diversity and Inclusion Grantees are as follows:

Coalition for Queens
Funding will support C4Q’s 10-month Access Code curriculum to equip disadvantaged adults with the coding and professional skills necessary to gain well-paid jobs at leading tech companies.

Cabrini Green Legal Aid
CGLA will collaborate with the Chicago Cook County Workforce Partnership to provide legal services and wraparound support to clients in need.

The Arc
To actively support the inclusion and full participation of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) throughout their lifetimes, the Arc will work with at least 20 organizational chapters around the country to successfully place 630 individuals with I/DD in open jobs.

Funding will help expand adult education and training capacity services, providing education and career laddering for un- and underemployed adults. EMERGE will pilot gender-specific General Education Development (GED) classes for East African women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds and others seeking supportive women-only classes.

Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute
Funding will support Fresh Tracks, an innovative platform for emerging leaders ages 17-25. The program’s 3-5-day training expeditions bring together participants from urban and indigenous communities for cross-cultural leadership experiences that tap into the power of the outdoors to unite and ignite, transforming personal dreams into civic action.

LISC will support place-based initiatives that draw residents of underserved, diverse communities impacted by crime, together with each other and with law enforcement for collaborative action to address community challenges.

Tides Center
Funding will support Cities United, the backbone organization to a network of mayors committed to the seemingly aspirational yet critically urgent goal of reducing the homicides of young black men and boys.

Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis
Funding will help launch a national collaborative to galvanize resources and create cross-sector partnerships to advance equity and outcomes for young women of color.

Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque
Funding will increase CFGD’s capacity to develop its equity and inclusion framework and hire equity experts for trainings, speaker series and coaching for business leaders and 20 nonprofits in order to create an informed, equitable and inclusive community where all people are respected, valued and engaged.

National Black Justice Coalition
Funding will support historically black colleges and universities’ (HBCU) efforts to accelerate community cohesion and inclusion by expanding and deepening LGBTQ cultural competency trainings at HBCUs for faculty and students.

Voto Latino
To help foster a pipeline of civically engaged students who identify as and help to elevate the voices of Latino students (and faculty), the funding will provide resources needed to help implement leadership development trainings and other activities for Voto Latino university chapters.

National Urban League
Funding will support the program Project Lead to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure and improve overall execution by providing training and development opportunities for its professional staff from across the nation.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post Walmart Foundation Awards $499K Grant to Center For Native American Youth appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

#NativeVote18: Paulette Jordan for Idaho Governor Among List of 100-plus Native Candidates

A couple of weeks ago I was driving across the border into Idaho from Montana. I stopped the car and took a picture of the “Welcome to Idaho” sign. I thought: It would be cool if that sign read, just under the Idaho greeting, Paulette Jordan, Governor.

All I see: A sign that reads Welcome to Idaho. Paulette Jordan, Governor. #nativevote18 #thereisnoplacelikehome @paulette.jordan

A post shared by Mark Trahant (@trahantreports) on Mar 4, 2018 at 12:58pm PST

Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, is running as a Democrat in what is perhaps the reddest, most Republican state in the country. So it’s an impossible task, right?

No. Let’s do the math.

The first part of that equation is done: Running. So many talented people survey a political campaign and then, for whatever reason, pass. But the inviolate rule of politics is that you must run in order to win. So that is a huge step.

Paulette Jordan is one of seven Native American candidates running for statewide office and one of two Native women running to a lead a state, (something that has never been done before.) She will be the first of those candidates to face voters and she will need to win a contested Democratic primary on May 15. A date that’s coming up fast.

One of the most important reasons for Native American candidates is the aspirational aspect. It’s a way for young people to see a future, (one that is far more important than just politics.) During a recent trip to Fort Hall, and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Jordan took time out to visit the students. She also met with community members where she said on KPVI 6 that the issues that “tribes push forward are good for everyone, all of humanity. So when we talk about education in tribal communities, it’s the same for Hispanic communities, it’s the same for every single district up and down this state.”

The state of #NativeVote18: 100+ candidates and growing

Jordan is running against A.J. Balukoff, who, unlike Jordan, can use his own wealth to fund his campaign. (Something he has already done to the tune of $175,000.) Four years ago Balukoff was the Democratic nominee for governor and lost by a wide margin.

Idaho has an odd primary. The Republicans limit their ballots to anyone except those who publicly claim party membership. But anyone who is “unaffiliated” or independent can pick up a Democratic Party ballot on election day. Because Idaho is such a conservative state, most voters sign up with the Republicans. Four years ago more than 155,000 voters did just that, while only 25,638 voted in the Democratic primary.

This is actually an advantage for a candidate like Jordan. She only needs to find a few thousand votes (my bet is there will be more interest than four years ago.) So, let’s say that means the primary winner will earn at least 25,000 votes. That’s a plausible number in a season where nontraditional candidates are getting a second and third look.

There is only one county in Idaho that regularly votes for Democrats: Blaine County. That’s Sun Valley, Ketchum, the Wood River Valley. Think lifestyles of the rich and famous. Hillary Clinton had a two-to-one margin over President Donald J. Trump in Blaine County. Jordan must do well here.

Votes from Idaho’s five reservations could help, too. The numbers are small, but if they are one-sided, say 100, 200, 300 votes to a handful, it could give her an edge. Especially in a primary.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people while traveling Idaho for this campaign. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. With your support, there is no limit to what we can achieve. #AllinforIdaho #JordanforGovernor

— Paulette Jordan (@PauletteEJordan) April 3, 2018

Jordan should also poll well with younger Democratic voters and with Hispanics. These two constituent groups are growing in numbers and importance. Well, sort of. Idaho is a young state: There are more people under 18 than any other demographic group. And younger voters from 18 to 25 are a relatively small cohort at roughly 155,000 people. But in the last elections this group increased its turnout rates, so there is a potential upside. Hispanics now account for 12 percent of Idaho’s population and, according to Pew Research, are some 80,000 eligible voters (far more than what would be needed in a primary election.)

The math is there. It’s possible.

What about Jordan’s message? Is she connecting with primary voters? That’s a much tougher call. She has to reach voters in a state with two time zones and a distinct geographic divide. I often joke that Idaho is the only state with three capitals: Salt Lake City, Spokane and Boise. Each major city has its influence over regions of the state.

Recently Jordan’s team made a rookie mistake adding the word “ever” to an email about her being the only Democrat elected in North Idaho. This took away from an important message: Jordan won re-election to the Idaho House two years ago in a terrible cycle for Democrats. Her campaign convinced voters who would not normally vote for a Democrat. This should be said over and over as a reason why Idaho Democrats should vote for Jordan.

And after that? The toughest hill to climb come after the primary. Jordan would then need to make her case to Idaho’s deeply conservative Republican voters. But if there is ever a year to do just that, it’s this one.

But first the May 15 primary is coming fast. That’s a hurdle that Jordan needs to clear first.

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter

The post #NativeVote18: Paulette Jordan for Idaho Governor Among List of 100-plus Native Candidates appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Federal Indian Bar To Honor Heather Kendall-Miller, Eric Eberhard For Contributions To Indian law

The Federal Indian Bar Association this week will honor two lawyers for their significant contributions to Indian Country. Heather Kendall-Miller and Eric Eberhard will receive the Lawrence R. Baca Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Federal Indian Law at a conference on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona.

Kendall-Miller, Athabascan, has been an advocate for Alaska Native rights for more than 25 years. Her career includes serving as judicial clerk for Chief Justice Jay Rabinowitz of the Alaska Supreme Court, a Skadden Fellowship, and practicing law as a staff attorney for the Alaska Service Corporation. She joined the Native American Rights Fund in 1994 and argued Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998.  Kendall-Miller received her J.D. from Harvard Law School where she was a classmate of former President Barack Obama.

The Alaska Legislature honored Kendall-Miller’s work in 2014. She was cited for her tireless advocacy on behalf of Katie John and subsistence rights for Alaska Natives. She wrote in Indian Country Today after John’s death.

“The Katie John litigation, more than any other subsistence case exemplifies the contentious battle waged between federal, tribal and state interests over jurisdiction of Alaska Native subsistence fishing rights … With Katie John’s passing, her determination to protect and preserve the Alaska Native subsistence way of life will live on through her family, her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It has been an honor and privilege for all of us at NARF to have worked with such a great and wonderful matriarch. She is an inspiration to all Native peoples and to all people who believe in right and justice. Rest in peace, Katie, your legacy lives on.”


Heather Kendall-Miller with Billy Frank.

Kendall-Miller is the co-author of a new essay in the academic journal, Daedalus, where she explores how Alaska Native cultures and governance structures are evolving and reasserting the inherent authority of sovereign governments.

Eberhard started his tribal legal career at DNA Legal Services in Window Rock, Arizona in 1973. His career included serving as Executive director of the Navajo Nation’s Washington, DC office; staff director and counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; Chair of Dorsey & Whitney’s Indian and Gaming Law Practice Group; and is now affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law.

Archival photo: DNA Legal Services

Eric Eberhard (far left) started his tribal legal career at DNA Legal Services in Window Rock, Arizona in 1973.

In his 1999 testimony to the Senate about the importance of legal services, Eberhard talked about his days with DNA Legal Services.

“No longer was I engaged in the urban practice of poverty law. The libraries, courthouses, law firms, law enforcement, electricity, telephones and fax machines that were so readily available and which had been taken for granted in my practice a few weeks earlier were either gone, in scant supply or only available at great distances. The easiest of tasks became something to be planned well in advance,” he said.

“The nearest state court was a sixty-mile round trip over a stretch of highway that had more fatalities per year than any other rural road in the United States. The nearest federal district court was about two hundred miles away. The nearest federal court of appeals was 1,900 miles away. The tribal court was more accessible geographically, but was still very much a developing institution.”

“Congratulations to two exceptional attorneys for their lifetime commitment to the development of Federal Indian Law,” said Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section Chair Tracy Toulou in a news release.  

“We look forward to honoring them.”

The post Federal Indian Bar To Honor Heather Kendall-Miller, Eric Eberhard For Contributions To Indian law appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

From Fort Berthold to Hollywood to Charting on Billboard: Native Drag Queen VIZIN Is Killing It!

VIZIN, pronounced ‘vision,’ is a Native American drag queen from the Arikara Tribe who told Indian Country Today that she used to see copies of the newspaper at the Fort Berthold gas station and now was thrilled to be doing an interview as a successful dance music vocalist.

VIZIN currently lives in Los Angeles and just this year, her song, a remix of the 1978 gay anthem “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” reached the No. 24 slot on the Dance Club charts.

Though she is now in the limelight and doing well as a drag queen without having appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race, things haven’t always been peaches and cream, VIZIN once weighed just over 700 pounds and went on a miraculous road to weight loss to achieve her success today.

In a personal and candid interview with Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling, VIZIN, the Arikara drag queen, tells how a once as a shy teen, she overcame struggle and maintained consistency to achieve success.  

Schilling: A lot of drag queen entertainers lip-sync, some sing themselves, but with your own voice, you have charted on Billboard as one of the top 40 in dance music. You even charted above Taylor Swift how does all of this feel?

VIZIN: It has been very exciting. This has really been unexplainable. It is beyond my wildest dreams.

Schilling: Since you are fairly new to Hollywood, do people look at you like, ‘who is this person?’

VIZIN: Yes, I think they do. It’s like, ‘where did she come from?’ (laughs)

Schilling: Do you think you prefer dance music because the tempo is similar to the beat of a Native drum?

VIZIN: Yes exactly. I love dance music, but truth be told I love all types of music. And I don’t just listen to one type either. I have made mixes for myself in the past which contained opera, Benni Benassi (dance) and a lot of others. I definitely connect with the beat of the drum in dance music.

Schilling: How does it feel to be a Native American drag queen in California?

VIZIN: It’s definite culture shock. I grew up on a reservation in North Dakota. Coming out to Hollywood and Los Angeles was definitely a culture shock. I grew up knowing my culture and my heritage, but I always reached out toward white popular culture as well. It is funny now that I’ve come out here, I am immersed in this white culture, I now find myself clinging to what I know in terms of tradition. And now that I’m here I find myself wanting to explore more into my heritage now than ever before.

Schilling: What do you mean by clinging to what you know?

VIZIN: I guess I wouldn’t consider myself a culturally traditional Native person. I am not saying I don’t embrace my heritage, I grew up and didn’t do a lot of traditional things. I mean obviously I’m gay, but I never really grew up wearing beadwork or expressing myself in a way that says definitively I was Native American.

Now that I’m living out here in Los Angeles, everyone just assumes I am Hispanic. I find myself having to tell people more that I am Native American, I am Arikara from Fort Berthold, and now I find myself trying to teach or inform people in how to respect the culture that I grew up in. It feels really strange here.

Courtesy Q Haus

From Fort Berthold to Hollywood to Charting on Billboard: Native Drag Queen VIZIN Is Killing It!

Schilling: I guess it’s safe to say sometimes you never feel more Native than when you are in a place where there are no Native people.

VIZIN: Exactly.

Schilling: So you say you come from a place of traditional humility but now you are this flamboyant figure in Los Angeles as well as a correspondent for the fashion world.

VIZIN: Well you know, in a way fashion is drag. Drag queens like to embrace this sense of fashion. The essence of drag is dressing up in your best, the word drag itself means ‘dress as a girl.’

Schilling: There is one amazing aspect of your life story. You once weighed 700 pounds?

VIZIN: I was 500 pounds in high school. I was very tall. I was always artistic and always had a bit of femininity in my voice. Everyone knew I was different. I wasn’t really in a bad place, but I always felt I was looking for some sort of change. However, there was always an excuse since I was that large.

When I came out is when I essentially cut loose in my life. I was able to allow people to see the person I was behind sadness. Once I came out as gay, everyone told me, ‘Well, DUH.’

Schilling: How old were you when you came out?

VIZIN: I was actually 19 years old. That is considered late nowadays.

Schilling: So in your story, you have talked about getting gastric bypass surgery. Which would account for losing the first 200 pounds, then the body tends to plateau. How did you manage to lose the additional approximate 300 pounds? It’s no mystery that many Native people do get caught in cycles of destruction.

Courtesy Q Haus

VIZIN, a Native American drag queen and vocalist, reached #24 on the Billboard Dance Chart with her remix of Sylvester’s 1978 gay anthem ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’

VIZIN: To lose that much weight is definitely a struggle. My mother was a recovering alcoholic, she sobered up before I was born. My mother always held a ‘One Day at a Time,’ mentality. Losing weight is about consistency, the finish line may appear far, but you will still get there when you get there. That is how I’ve taken my weight loss, I lost the first 200 pounds in six months, I was stagnant for a while but then I realized it had to do something. I started walking, walking turned into running, running turned into the gym and now I’m here. My biggest fear was dying on the surgery table. But my mother’s fear was having me die on the couch because I couldn’t breathe. I had sleep apnea and was tired all the time.

Schilling: So you self-identify as Two-Spirit. How is this received in the LGBT community in Los Angeles?

VIZIN: For the most part, it is generally accepted for exactly as it is. I think the Two-Spirit community finds refuge in the gay community. It is nice that we can connect in the sort of way in which we connect our identity today to gender. Even within the trans community, we connect in this way because Two-Spirit can go both ways in terms of gender. I do a lot of personal soul-searching as to what my actual intent on earth is, and acknowledging the Two-Spirit inside of me gives me a better perception of the world.


— VIZIN (@VIZINOFFICIAL) February 9, 2018

Schilling: What kind of experiences have you had?

VIZIN: As a Two-Spirit I am blessed to see two sides of the spectrum, the sacred feminine and masculine. I am usually the one that my friends come to. They have an ear that listens to them, I am able to help put things in perspective for people.  

Schilling: What would you say to Native youth who might be struggling with their own gender?

VIZIN: For the Native youth, things are not very safe for them right now. Especially with issues like DAPL and the trafficking of Native women. One of my friends from back home has been missing for a while now. The issue touches home for very many people. For the Two-Spirit Native youth, it is about being strong and you are not going to know you are right now. But you are strong enough to know that you are just a little bit different. To find strength in that is a place you can find and pull from. Be yourself. Take every day at a time, because it’s going to get better. Nothing bad ever stays bad for too long.

Schilling: Here is one thought, how annoying is it that everyone probably asks you about appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race?

VIZIN: All I can say is gag to all the questions. The truth is I have never auditioned. To be honest I really don’t want to at this point, and it is a great platform for so many drag queens and the trans community. But considering everything that is happening for me, I really don’t need it at this point right now.

Schilling: What is something interesting and funny about you?

VIZIN: I have been called the Mariah Carey of drag because I am always late. (laughs)  My mom always talked about running on Indian time, so that is one thing I am trying to do is be on time more. (laughs)


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post From Fort Berthold to Hollywood to Charting on Billboard: Native Drag Queen VIZIN Is Killing It! appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Supreme Court: Remaining $300 Million To Native Farmer Orgs, Not Keepseagle Claimants

On Monday, the Supreme Court denied a petition seeking to overturn a D.C. Circuit Court decision to distribute $380 million dollars in leftover funds from the landmark Keepseagle class action case involving Native American farmers and ranchers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Simply stated, $380 million dollars remaining in the settlement will not all be going to original claimants, but to organizations that serve Native farmers and ranchers.

The class action suit, known as the Keepseagle lawsuit, had proved discrimination against Native American farmers and ranchers in the 80s and 90s. In the initial rulings of the case, $680 million dollars was awarded and of that $680 million, 3,605 Native claimants received a combined $300 million dollars.

The $380 million dollars left over after the initial awards were given, were designated to claimants who may not have been able to file in the class action. Since those claimants never appeared, a remaining chunk of the $380 million went to cy pres distribution, meaning the funds will go to organizations serving Native farmers and ranchers.

The decision was criticized by some of those seeking further reparations.

In 2011, Keith Mandan and Donivon Craig Tingle, claimants in the case, filed separate petitions to the high court and sought to have the remaining $380 million given to the claimants. They argued the cy pres provisions were unfair.

This week the Supreme Court said no, and sent the case back to the District Court.

Giving Leftover Money To Organizations Is A Legal Move

Though Mandan and Tingle petitioned to have leftover cy pres funds given to claimants, Attorney for the claimants John Sellers said giving leftover funds to organizations that serve to better the world of Native farmers and ranchers is a legitimate one.

He said the leftover money–totaling $380 million–was supposed to go to claimants that had not originally filed.

“The money left over is money that was allocated to native farmers and ranchers who never made claims, they had died, there are a lot of reasons the cases been going on for many years some folks didn’t have evidence needed to make a claim, there were a lot of obstacles — some of them were distrustful of the U.S. government and did not participate. This does not mean those who received initial payments necessarily should get that extra money. The money was designated for other people who never claimed it.”

“The question we had to face, was ‘should that money go to benefit the broader class, or just the 3605 that Mr. Mandan was arguing for,” said Sellers.

Sellers told Indian Country Today that the attorney’s in the class action originally thought there might be one or two million additional funds. When it grew to the hundreds of millions, they felt the money should be better managed.

“When we realized we had this large of an amount of money left over, we felt that we, the lawyers, should not be making that decision. We should leave that decision to Native American leaders who understand the community and its needs. We petitioned the court to change the arrangement so that the decisions would be made by Native American leaders.”

“We went out of our way to change the system from deciding what to do with this money, to ensuring the decisions would be made by Native Americans and by the community,” said Sellers.

Sellers said he was pleased with the decision, yet wished it hadn’t taken quite so long.

“I think this has regrettably taken a lot longer to be resolved than we thought it would be or should be,” said Sellers. “We originally settled this case in 2011, so we are seven years into this solution. We’ve had about a 4 to 5 year delay in the distribution of this money. None of us are getting any younger, and that is regrettable.”

“But on the other hand, I am hopeful that we finally will have turned a corner, and there were divisions within Indian country about what to do with this money. I am hopeful people will come together and recognize the courts have now spoken, I am hopeful that this money will be used in a way that will help native farmers and ranchers in Indian country soon and in years to come.”

How The Money Will Be / And Has Been Dispersed

Due to the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday, cy pres funds–leftover after the initial $300 million was awarded to claimants–will be distributed to non-profit organizations to the tune of $38 million that have previously applied for the leftover monies.

In addition to the initial awards, claimants were also awarded another $18,500, plus a $2,775 payment sent to the IRS on their behalf to alleviate tax costs. This additional amount to claimants is just under $77 million.

According to Sellers, “The remainder, which is approximately $265 million, will be used to endow a trust overseen by 14 leaders of Native communities authorized to distribute the remainder of the money in the form of grants and loans to organizations that have served, or new ones that have been founded to assist Native farmers and ranchers. The trust will have 20 years to distribute that money.”

The amounts are to be dispersed accordingly:

Initial Distribution To 3,605 Claimants – $300 Million (Awards ranging from $250,000 – $50,000)
Additional $21,275 To 3,605 Claimants In 2018 – $77 Million (Approximate)
Non-Profit Distribution – $38 Million
Remaining Funds For Native Rancher and Farmer Orgs – $265 Million (Approximate)

The Risks Involved In The Supreme Court Appeal

According to Sellers, one major point that has not been covered in the media was the fact that the Department of Justice was considering the option of taking back monies not awarded in the original settlement.

“The Department of Justice was considering as an option to not agree with the original claimants. They were rather seeking to have the money returned to the Treasury. That was the alternative.”

Sellers told Indian Country Today he was concerned that Mandan and Tingle were “in some ways playing with fire.”

“They were warned that that might happen. Their position was, ‘we will take that risk.’ There were some high-stakes here. They said the only thing that would accept, was all of the money going to the successful claimants. The fact that other members of the class would get nothing was not their concern.”

“All of this had me on the edge of my seat that’s for sure,” said Sellers.

Glad To Be Moving Forward

Outside of Mandan and Tingle were other claimants that were thrilled with the decision to receive additional funds and that this chapter had closed.

Marshall L. Matz, an attorney for Marilyn Keepseagle, said in an article by Law360 that his client was delighted with the justices’ ruling in the case involving her, and “looks forward to a financial distribution in the near future.”

“She really feels the Supreme Court ruling proved that she really got the maximum amount possible for the claimants,” Matz said.

Sellers said the decision will ultimately benefit all Native farmers and ranchers, including the petitioners of the appeal.

“This additional money will benefit Mr. Mandan. It isn’t as though he won’t benefit. These funds will be used to serve organizations to serve the broader community of which he is a member. What it will not do is just put more money into his pocket. It will serve a much broader community than just the 3,605 who were successful initially.”


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post Supreme Court: Remaining $300 Million To Native Farmer Orgs, Not Keepseagle Claimants appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

The National Center Announces The 2018 ‘Indian Progress in Business’ INPRO Awardees

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (The National Center) recently honored deserving individuals, tribes, and businesses during the 42nd annual INPRO Awards Gala at the Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Las Vegas in the first week of March, 2018.

‘Indian Progress in Business’ or INPRO, is lauded by the National Center as the oldest and most prestigious Native American event that acknowledges the accomplishments and contributions made by Native Americans and Alaska Natives to their broader community, as well as those who support their economic and business development endeavors.

“The National Center and the work we do would not be possible without the entrepreneurs, advocates, and corporate leaders who work every day to advance our economic interests,” said Chris James, President and CEO of the National Center in a release.

“The 2018 INPRO class is an impressive and deserving group that spans Indian Country, as well as those who work tirelessly on our behalf. We are thrilled to honor these winners and their achievements and look forward to their continued contributions to the Native American and Alaska Native community.”

The 2018 INPRO awardees include Crystal Echo Hawk, Pawnee, as Native woman business owner of the year; Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, the First American Entrepreneurship Award recipient; and Indian Country Today’s editor Mark Trahant, Shoshone Bannock, as recipient of the Jay Silverheels Achievement Award for personal and professional achievements.

The 2018 INPRO awardees are as follows:

Native Woman Business Owner of The Year: Crystal Echo Hawk; Echo Hawk Consulting, Pawnee Nation. Longmont, CO. This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership, management, quality performance and commitment to excellence as a successful Native American woman business owner.

Tribal Gaming Visionary Award: Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe; Suquamish, WA. This award is in recognition of leadership demonstrated in the tribal gaming sector and efforts to advance opportunity for American Indian owned businesses.

Tim Wapato Public Advocate of The Year: Awarded posthumously to Pete Homer, Jr., Colorado River Indian Tribes; Parker, AZ. This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership in support of American Indian business and economic development.

Volunteer of The Year: The American Indian Business Association (AIBA) at The University of New Mexico; Albuquerque, NM This award is in recognition of the significant amount of time, energy and resources devoted by an individual to the advancement of the National Center and its mission of advancing the American Indian and Tribal business sectors.

First American Corporate Leadership Award: Lockheed Martin; Bethesda, MD. The First American Corporate Leadership Award is presented to a U.S. corporation whose leadership has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to economic progress for Indian Country. The awardee will have demonstrated consistent and strong support and commitment of the American Indian community.

Corporate Advocate of The Year: Nike, Inc. (N7 Program); Accepting on behalf of N7 was the program’s general manager, Sam McCracken. Beaverton, OR. This award recognizes the leadership team of a Corporation for demonstrating a sincere commitment to growing business opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native owned companies and thusly, bettering the economy of Indian Country for future generations to come.


Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota

First American Entrepreneurship Award: Sean Sherman; Oglala Lakota Nation. Minneapolis, MN. This award is in recognition business owner who has demonstrated to the American Indian and/or Alaska Native community excellent entrepreneurial spirit through the establishment of a successful business.

Small Business Empowerment Award: Ivan Sorbel; Executive Director of the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce and President of the South Dakota Governor’s Tourism Advisory Board, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Kyle, SD. This award is in recognition of leadership demonstrated in the business community and in acknowledgement of dedication to improving opportunity for American Indian owned businesses in the recipients community and across Indian Country.

American Indian Leadership Award: Nick Tilsen, Executive Director of Thunder Valley Community Development Coporation; Oglala Lakota Nation, Porcupine, SD. This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership in support of American Indian business and economic development endeavors in tribal communities.

American Indian Business of The Year: Tocabe Restaurant; Awarded to owner Ben Jacobs, Osage Nation. Denver, CO. This award is in acknowledgement of the success of an American Indian or tribal Nation owned business and its demonstration of excellent corporate citizenship.

Congressional Achievement Award: Congresswoman Norma Torres, D-CA. This award is in recognition of outstanding leadership by a member of the United States Congress and in appreciation that member’s support of American Indian business and economic development endeavors of tribal communities, Alaska Native villages and American Indian and Alaska Native entrepreneurs.

Mark Trahant, Shoshone Bannock, editor of Indian Country Today

Jay Silverheels Achievement Award: Mark Trahant, Editor of Indian Country Today; Shoshone-Bannock Tribe. Washington, DC. The Jay Silverheels Achievement Award is presented each year to an American Indian man or woman who has achieved personal and professional success while making significant contributions to the community. The awardee will have demonstrated a lifetime advocacy of American Indian issues while adhering to American Indian values.

For highlights of RES 2018, or to learn about RES 2019, which is moving to Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, please visit The National Center’s website.

Northrop Grumman sponsored the 2018 INPRO Awards Gala, and the 2017 Miss Alaska and Miss USA Contestant Alyssa London emceed the event while musical act Levi & The Plateros provided live entertainment. 12 awardees in all were honored.

About The National Center

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. With over 40 years of assisting American Indian Tribes and their enterprises with business and economic development – we have evolved into the largest national Indian specific business organization in the nation. Our motto is: “We Mean Business For Indian Country” as we are actively engaged in helping Tribal Nations and Native business people realize their business goals and are dedicated to putting the whole of Indian Country to work to better the lives of American Indian people- both now… and for generations to come


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post The National Center Announces The 2018 ‘Indian Progress in Business’ INPRO Awardees appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Denise Juneau Is A Finalist To Run Seattle City Schools

Denise Juneau is one of three finalists to be the next superintendent of schools in Seattle.

There are some 53,000 students in the Seattle schools, and this number includes Huchoosedah, the school district’s Indian education program, designed to close opportunity gaps and deliver excellence to every student.

Juneau, a citizen of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Tribes, is the first Native American woman elected to a statewide, constitutional office. She served two terms as Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2008 to 2016. She was a candidate in 2016 for Congress, though she was defeated by now Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“We are looking for a superstar superintendent, that stays with the district for years,” School Board President Leslie Harris said in The Seattle Times.

The Seattle School District will hold a forum with Juneau, Andre Spencer and Jeanice Swift on March 29. Each of the candidates will present and answer questions. The school board says it “anticipates voting to authorize contract negotiations with one finalist at the April 4 Regular Board Meeting.”

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter

The post Denise Juneau Is A Finalist To Run Seattle City Schools appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

StrongHearts Native Helpline For Survivors of Domestic Violence Celebrates One Year

The StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) the first national helpline created specifically to support Native American survivors and concerned family members and friends affected by domestic violence and dating violence, is celebrating its first year in operation.

StrongHearts Native Helpline (StrongHearts) has been in service since March 6, 2017, and has responded to calls from 68 American Indian and Alaska Native communities across 40 states, and have offered support services specifically dedicated toward Native survivors of intimate partner abuse.

Last year, StrongHearts launched as a collaborative project of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, as one way to treat the epidemic of violence in Native communities.

One year ago today, the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) launched as a safe, confidential and anonymous domestic violence helpline for American Indians + Alaska Natives. One year later… ? #StrongHeartsDV #NIWRCStrongHearts

— strongheartsdv (@strongheartsdv) March 6, 2018

“We are humbled with how much support the StrongHearts Native Helpline is receiving from advocates, programs and tribes across Indian Country and our Alaska Native villages,” said StrongHearts Assistant Director Lori Jump, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, in a release. “Every day is a step forward in the work to support Native survivors of abuse. Advocating for our callers is at the heart of what we do and why we chose to dedicate this first year to them. To all our Native survivors out there, we hear you—we hear your stories. You are not alone.”

StrongHearts expanded to serve all Native American communities across the U.S. with an initial outreach in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. By the end of 2017, the StrongHearts team completed its database project to identify culturally-specific and tribally-based resources for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

According to a recent study by National Institute of Justice, more than four in five Native women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, and more than one in three Native people have experienced violence within the past year. Of those who had experienced violence, more than one in three Native women and more than one in six Native men were unable to access the supportive services they needed.

“What we confirmed after completing our database project is what we’ve known all along—there is a severe gap in culturally-specific or tribally-run services for Native survivors in the aftermath of these crimes,” said Caroline LaPorte, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Senior Native Affairs Policy Advisor for NIWRC and StrongHearts in the release. “We know that we cannot do this work alone—our callers need to be able to access culturally appropriate, community-based resources.”

The NIJ report highlighted the rates of violence perpetrated against Native Americans and reported Native Americans are twice as likely to experience rape or sexual assault and are five times more likely to be victims of homicide in their lifetime when compared to other groups in the U.S.

“Our goal at StrongHearts is to do whatever we can to weave together a support network for Native people in a way that promotes safety and healing,” Jump said. “We have connected with so many of our relatives who have shared their stories and have told us how much the helpline is needed, and how much our peer-to-peer advocacy has helped them. Healing begins in our communities when we share our stories. This is at the heart of what the StrongHearts Native Helpline is all about.”

About the StrongHearts Native Helpline

Created by and built to serve tribal communities across the United States, the StrongHearts Native Helpline, a project of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, is a culturally-appropriate, anonymous, confidential and no-cost service dedicated to serving Native American survivors of domestic violence and dating violence, along with their concerned family members and friends.

By dialing 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm CST, callers can connect, at no cost one-on-one, with knowledgeable StrongHearts advocates who can provide lifesaving tools and immediate support to enable survivors to find safety and live lives free of abuse.

Learn more about the StrongHearts Native Helpline at


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post StrongHearts Native Helpline For Survivors of Domestic Violence Celebrates One Year appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.

Hundreds of Thousands Gather for #MarchForOurLives Protests Regarding Gun Control

Hundreds of thousands of people came together Saturday as over 800 cities all over the world participated in organized #MarchForOurLives protests. The movement was spawned by the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month in Parkland, Florida. The movement also honors any of the schools affected by shootings to include Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine and Red Lake.

#VirginiaTech #SandyHook #Columbine #RedLake #Fullerton Thoughts and prayers were sent… & then people forgot. We can’t keep letting this happen. Yet #StonemanDouglas still did. The #Parkland community is calling for action, & we, as a nation, need to stand with them and fight!

— Sarah Hyland (@Sarah_Hyland) February 22, 2018

Cities that have had major gatherings of thousands of people include Washington, D.C., New York City, London, Amsterdam, Houston, Los Angeles and others.

A beautiful day to take to the streets & #MarchForOurLives

Loved Maria’s sign: “Native youth deserve the chance to become tribal elders”

— Sarah Cline Pytalski (@spytalski) March 24, 2018

“The kids are leading the movement,” said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy in a news release. Murphy is from Connecticut, the state where 20 children aged between six and seven were killed in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In New York, marchers wore bright orange to represent the official color of a gun control advocacy group and walked toward Central Park. In Washington D.C.,  protesters held signs with with hundreds of messages and images of shooting victims. The main event was in view of the Capitol Building where movie stars and musical artists such as Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, and Demi Lovato took to the stage. In Parkland, Florida, chanters shouted “Enough is enough!”

Join us on Saturday, March 24th @ 12 PM on Delaney Park Strip to #MarchForOurLives

— March For Our Lives Alaska (@march4ourlifeak) March 20, 2018

Barack and Michelle Obama released a letter to the students of Parkland, praising their “resilience, resolve and solidarity” and said they helped “awaken the conscience of the nation.”

Barack Obama also tweeted: “Michelle and I are so inspired by all the young people who made today’s marches happen. Keep at it. You’re leading us forward. Nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.”

Michelle and I are so inspired by all the young people who made today’s marches happen. Keep at it. You’re leading us forward. Nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 24, 2018

In relation to Indian country, the #MarchForOurLives movement takes places 13 years after the Red Lake tragedy. On March 21, 2005, a 16-year-old Native youth Jeff Wiese shot his grandfather, his grandfather’s partner and several of his classmates and adult employees at Red Lake High School before taking his own life. Including Weise, 10 people died.

Yesterday marked the 13th anniversary of the shootings on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, which killed 9 and wounded 5. Seven of the victims died at Red Lake Senior High School.

— The Trace (@teamtrace) March 22, 2018

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

The post Hundreds of Thousands Gather for #MarchForOurLives Protests Regarding Gun Control appeared first on Indian Country Media Network.