NCAI Issues Statement of Concern for President’s Proposed FY2019 Budget

On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, more than 500 tribal representatives from across the United States raised a unified voice in opposition to the FY 2019 President’s Budget during the Third General Assembly at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2018 Executive Council Winter Session (ECWS) in Washington,

NCAI President Jefferson Keel, on behalf of the NCAI Executive Committee, voiced concern for the untenable cuts proposed for programs that directly uphold the treaty and trust obligations of the federal government to tribes.

“We seek only those things promised to us and every citizen by the U.S. Constitution, and the solemn treaties and agreements reached between our Tribal Nations and the United States. At the founding, the United States dealt with our tribal governments as sovereign equals. In exchange for federal protection and the promise of certain benefits, our ancestors gave forever to the people of the United States title to the very soil of our beloved country.  To settle the process for admission of new states, the thirteen original states agreed to transfer western land claims to the United States under the principles in the Northwest Ordinance, including:

The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.

These provisions signify the intent of the Framers to provide for the governance of Indian Country, a compact between the original states and all that followed. We have never asked anything except that these protections be continued. Today the federal government is threatening to limit this protection and these benefits.

The proposed budget cuts to tribal governmental services, if enacted, would represent a clear retreat from the federal commitments and treaty promises made to tribes.

This week, we see the President’s budget would cut the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) by about half a billion dollars, or 15%. BIA Social Services would be reduced by more than 30%, Indian Child Welfare by more than 25%, and critical human services programs, law enforcement and courts programs, environmental protection, housing, and education programs would face unconscionable reductions. Infrastructure programs such as the Indian Community Development Block Grant would be eliminated, and the Indian Housing Block Grant and road maintenance would be reduced.

We support proposals that treat tribal governments equitably, such as the proposed budgetary set-asides in the Department of Justice for tribes. Tribal parity should be the guiding principle for every other department or initiative as well, including addressing the opioid epidemic and building and repairing infrastructure.

We call on Congress to uphold the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations. When tribal nations agreed to accept a smaller land base, the federal government promised to safeguard our right to govern ourselves and to enable tribal governments to deliver essential services, and provide them resources to do so effectively. That is the trust relationship embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Congress and the Administration are responsible for carrying out that trust in the federal budget.”

NCAI released the Indian Country FY2019 Budget Request and provided and in-depth analysis of the impact of the President’s proposed budget on tribes. To learn more, read the initial NCAI FY2019 Budget Analysis here.


About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit



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Native Nerd Movie Review: Black Panther Slashes at Colonialism Using More than Vibranium

Truth be told, I ordered tickets to see the “fan night movie premiere” over a month in advance to be sure I could see Marvel’s Black Panther in all its IMAX 3D glory. Yes, I even arrived two hours early for a 6:00 pm viewing and was not surprised to see an impressive handful of audience members as excited as I was to watch a film featuring a full cast of actors of color.

As the all-too familiar Marvel Comics Studio graphics began to play on the screen and I adjusted my 3D glasses in the dimming theater. I was surprised by something I didn’t expect. The theater was completely silent. No food wrappers crinkling, no idle chatter, nothing, I was…like so many others, completely mesmerized by Ryan Coogler’s take on a superhero based in Africa.

Matt Kennedy Disney Marvel Studios

Chadwick Boseman stars in ‘Black Panther.’

For so many of my childhood years, I have been force-fed the history ‘That any civilization of color was the less than superior race of people.’ I have been taught that the colonizers were the ones that brought knowledge, technology, weaponry and skill-sets to bring other ‘inferior races of color’ into the modern age.

I have always been taught: brown skin means you are inferior. I have brown skin as a Mohawk man. I grew up in the streets of Compton, feeling inferior, just as so many of my friends did. I never dreamed there would someday be a movie, where a black hero could be something ‘superior.’

I wept as the movie started. Many of my brown friends never made it out of the streets. Many never got to see a black President, many never got to see a black superhero.

Then a black director – a man with brown skin, did something SUPERIOR. He made a BRILLIANT FILM.

This movie undid so much of that damage in my childhood mind, I literally wept with relief that: “Yes, world, people with brown skin can be intelligent, people with brown skin can be scientists, they can be strong women warriors, brown people can excel more than colonizers have done in history.

There was a lot about Black Panther that a comic aficionado like myself could expect. (Prince T’Challa is bound to become king, that much is already known as per previous incarnations of Marvel movies as seen before this one.) But Prince T’Challa’s process of becoming King  is where the magic happens.

Ryan Coogler introduces different tribes of Africa. He shows that each tribe has separate belief systems, cultural perspectives, types of dress and regalia and ways of life. All of this is compared and contrasted to the urban ways of America, a powerful sentiment that resonates throughout the film.

Photo - Matt Kennedy Disney Marvel Studios

Chadwick Boseman stars and fights with Michael B. Jordan in ‘Black Panther’ .

There will not be any spoilers in this review. But Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the Black Panther / Prince T’Challa was elegant, charismatic and profound perfection. Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Erik Killmonger was pure brilliance. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia was fantastic, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett were genuine and enjoyable as always.

Worth mentioning most of all was the other shining star in Black Panther. Watch for Danai Gurira as the female warrior, though it would be impossible to miss it. Her performance was powerful brilliance and the truest representation of the power of women. Every time her powerful staff hit the ground with an ominous ‘boom,’ the whole audience would gasp. I was among them, losing my breath with each magic moment.

- Photo Disney - Marvel Studios

Danai Gurira in in ‘Black Panther’.

The costuming of the world of Wakanda is nothing less than pure genius, I marveled (Pun-intended) at the flawless wardrobe, the female warriors and the intricacies of tradition infused with the most modern of technologies. The set design was a miracle of cinema as presented by Patrick Dunn-Baker, for at more than one occasion, I felt myself literally gasping for air at some of the cinematic works of art I was looking at at any given time.

The movie was an absolute blast. I enjoyed every slash of vibranium claws by the Black Panther and screamed with excitement with the overtaking of the bad guys. I also screamed with excitement when one character uses the word ‘colonizer’ as an insult.

I enjoyed every single solitary moment of this spectacular film! It is a MUST SEE!

As I left the movie behind, I did go through a bit of a grieving process as a Native American man. I am all too familiar with the term ‘colonizer.’ I am all too familiar with being called (first-hand) an inferior race, even though indigenous peoples invented such things as watertight wetsuits, syringes from quills and animal bladders, medicines and more.

I grieved because Native Americans don’t yet have a superhero as completely fantastic as the Black Panther. He has a suit that is impenetrable, and has claws with the strongest metal in the world, vibranium.

I have hope that one day we will have a Native superhero without an eagle or wolf friend standing at his side, one that doesn’t have super tracking abilities or anything else related to the elements.

But with the success of Black Panther, people in the film industry will see how people of color films make a TON of money, and more than anything else, that seems to affect change in an industry that is slow to do much more than give an academy award to another musical film filled with non people of color. This is certainly not an undermining statement to the talents of all actors and actresses in the industry, but statistics are statistics.

If the Black Panther is overlooked by the Oscars this year, I am going to give the biggest SMH the social media world has ever seen.



Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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Shooter of Native Man ‘Not Guilty’– RCMP Investigating Facebook post: “He Got What He Deserved”

In 2016, a 22-year-old Red Pheasant First Nation man by the name of Colten Boushie was shot and killed by a 56-year-old farmer by the name of Gerald Stanley. Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder last week by an all-white jury. The acquittal sparked outrage all over the world, most noticeably on social media.

In addition to the outrage, the RCMP is investigating reports that an officer made a post suggesting Colten Boushie “got what he deserved” in a Facebook group tilted “News Stories that Matter to or May Impact RCMP,” which has an approximate 1,200 members. According to an APTN report, the woman making the comment was allegedly an officer.

Her comment read: “Too bad the kid died but he got what he deserved. How many of us work on or near reserves and are getting fed up with the race card being used every time someone gets caught breaking the law?,” she said.

RCMP Facebook group claims Colten Boushie ‘got what he deserved’

— APTN National News (@APTNNews) February 15, 2018

“Obviously, this remark is absolutely appalling and unacceptable,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a teleconference with journalists Thursday as was reported in The Star. “It’s under very, very serious investigation to determine exactly what has happened here, and who is responsible for it.”

Since the initial post, The RCMP told the Star that there are no officers with the name linked to the Facebook account, but since that time, the user also put up the post of a gun silhouette, stating,  “This home is protected by the good Lord and a gun. If you came here to steal or do harm you might meet them both.”


Similar to the post on Facebook: “This home is protected by the good Lord and a gun. If you came here to steal or do harm you might meet them both.”V

In the past week and a half since the non-guilty verdict, social media has erupted with pro and con sentiments for both Colten Boushie and  Gerald Stanley. Many of the posts contain the hashtag #JusticeForColtenBoushie.

In Canada you can still legally murder Natives. White farmer shoots him in the back of the head and then the justice system points a gun at the rest of us just to remind us our lives have no value. #JusticeForColtenBoushie

— Anwaan Jiimiz (@SixEightSuited) February 10, 2018

The details of the killing. The way the RCMP treated his family. The court proceedings & verdict. Every single detail makes me shake with rage.

No one should be treated like this. And to be so callously degraded by settlers on your lands? The mind reels. #JusticeForColtenBoushie

— Jared A. Walker (@JAWalker) February 10, 2018

I am ANGRY and Devastated. And the Worst Part NOT Surprised! #JusticeForColtenBoushie#JusticeForColten#ColtenBoushie

Gerald Stanley found not guilty in death of Colten Boushie –

— Delores Schilling (@DelSchilling) February 10, 2018

In an interview with CBC News, National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the Colten Boushie verdict ‘wrong.’

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VIDEO: Senator Elizabeth Warren Condemns ‘Pocahontas’ Slur: Commits to Indian Country

Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) took the stage today to share remarks at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2018 Executive Council Winter Session (ECWS.) During her remarks, she addressed her heritage, and committed to recognizing tribal sovereignty and committing to uplifting the stories of tribal communities.

Warren also called out the President’s use of Pocahontas. “Our country’s disrespect of Native people didn’t start with President Trump. It started long before President Washington ever took office…But now we have a president who can’t make it through a ceremony honoring Native American war heroes without reducing Native history, Native culture, Native people to the butt of a joke. The joke, I guess, is supposed to be on me.”

Warren then addressed the over 500 Tribal delegates about her heritage and made her family history clear – that her family members are not on any rolls, and that she is not an enrolled member or citizen of a tribe – but a descendant of a tribal community.

“And I want to make something clear. I respect that distinction,” said Warren. “I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.”

Then, she made a promise to lift up Native people. “I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities,” said Senator Warren.

NCAI courtesy

Senator Elizabeth Warren received a standing ovation and appreciative comments after her speech.

She went on to discuss stories she will uplift, including stories of missing and murdered Native women, the health care divide, tribal lands and natural resources, historic monuments like Bears Ears, access to capital and credit; and infrastructure and access to rural broadband.

“In addressing NCAI, Senator Warren addressed the world, and we are deeply honored by the courage she showed today,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “We appreciate her candor, humility, and honesty, and look forward to working with her as a champion for Indian Country.”

Following the Senator Warren’s remarks, the NCAI Board of Directors, and NCAI Tribal Delegation rose to a standing ovation.

Senator Warren’s written remarks are available for download here.

Watch the video of her speech here:

Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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Native Humor and Love: A Fun List of Be My Native Valentine Tweets!

Today is Valentine’s Day! The day where some weird winged baby in a diaper goes around shooting arrows at people. (It’s kind of frightening when you think about it.) Considering many of you in Indian country were up late last night contributing to the Be My Native Valentine hashtag on Twitter, it is only fitting to highlight some of the best.

Thanks to Native Hashtags on Twitter for getting the Be My Native Valentine hashtag started.

Here are a great bunch of #BeMyNativeValentine tweets posted since yesterday.

Nice one Native #’s

#BeMyNativeValentine & make me LeLe

— Native #’s (@Native_Hashtags) February 13, 2017

Beads and Candy Hearts by Kat #NoDAPL

I’ll bead my heart out for you!  #BeMyNativeValentine

— Kat #NoDAPL (@rasberet) February 14, 2017

Pernell Thomas nailed it with ‘Natives Be Like’!

#BeMyNativeValentine starter kit

— #noDAPL -Pernell (@PernellThomas) February 14, 2017

Village Girl Forever says it well

#BeMyNativeValentine and I’ll rip my fry bread in half and share with you

— VillageGirlForever (@aie2009) February 14, 2017

Tipi Creepin Humor is cruising for love

#BeMyNativeValentine and we’ll cruise like this

— tipicreepin’humor (@tpcreepinhumor) February 14, 2017

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Enjoy films for and about real Indians Natives when you download our special free report, 50 Must-See Modern Native Films and Performances!

Nothing like a Valentine’s Day Drum Song

OFFICIAL UNOFFICIAL #BeMyNativeValentine round dance song! Not bad I think. I sound better in person ???????? big S/O to Thomas KW for making lead

— Skoden Danny Joe (@_E_A_D_) February 14, 2017

Martie Simmons has love for her NoDAPL protector

#BeMyNativeValentine & I’ll have the bail money ready for the next #noDAPL protest

— Martie Simmons (@msimmons444) February 14, 2017

Sydnee will lock the door like a true ‘Be My Native Valentine’

#BeMyNativeValentine and I’ll be sure to lock the bedroom door w one of the good butter knives

— sydnee (@sydneemarie403) February 14, 2017

Waylon’s Native Valentine will be ‘Idle No More’

#BeMyNativeValentine and our bed will be idle no more.

— Waylon, has no canoe (@BannockHammock) February 14, 2017

Go Brayden, Get Busy — just not in the same clan

#BeMyNativeValentine because you’re not my cousin or the same clan

— Brayden Sonny White (@RabzEast) February 14, 2017

How could Fancy Bebamikawe’s Valentine resist?

#BeMyNativeValentine and I’ll bead you some regalia

— Fancy Bebamikawe (@FancyBebamikawe) February 14, 2017

Robert Giving Respect Where Respect is Due

#BeMyNativeValentine because our women deserve our respect. They deserve to have us be warriors for them.

— Robert Lassiter (@BaseballFanRML) February 14, 2017

Only Native People will get this joke

Hey @DelSchilling #BeMyNativeValentine

By the foggy tree brook as a rainbow flies from your hand and a sun and desert lives in a bowl.

— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) February 14, 2017

My Valentine’s Day wish

I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day. Truth be told, this day is not for everyone, as we should always do the best we can to share sentiments of appreciation and love, no matter the day.

There is a great story my wife’s mother told me in regards to Valentine’s Day. She told me that Valentine’s Day is a special day to our animal relatives, as they are all looking to choose their mates. On a whim, I went outside and saw geese on our lake, swimming in pairs.

Yes @DelSchilling, your mom is right.#Valentine‘s Day is when all the animals find their mates.

I literally just took this photo today.

— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) February 14, 2017

It is also worth noting that geese mate for life. A great lesson from our feathered relatives.
Much love to all on this Valentine’s Day.

For a few more Valentine’s Day fun stories, check out a few fun posts from previous years.

Native Humor: 10 Funny Native-Style Valentine’s Day Gifts

8 Native-Themed Valentine’s Day Gifts to Avoid

(This article was originally published in 2017)

Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) – ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wows and Sports Editor –

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U.S. Senator Tom Udall’s Remarks at Listening Session on Combatting Violence Against Native Women

On Monday, a few hours after delivering the congressional response to the ‘State of Indian Nations 2018’ speech, (which was delivered by NCAI President Jefferson Keel,) U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, co-hosted a listening session on combatting violence against Native women. The listening session was part of the NCAI’s 2018 Executive Council Winter Session.

In the listening session, Udall sought input from Tribes on implementing and improving the landmark legislation that amended the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to restore Tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians who commit domestic violence crimes on Tribal lands.   “Thank you for your work and advocacy on these important issues. Congress needs to hear directly from you – the Tribal leaders and stakeholders who are doing the daily work at the grassroots level to combat violence against Native women,” Udall said in his opening remarks. “We must make this a front-and-center issue, and your contributions here today help strengthen the call to do just that.”   In response to previous feedback from Tribes, Udall recently introduced the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act (NYTOPA) to build on the Tribal jurisdiction provisions in VAWA by extending protections to children and law enforcement personnel involved in domestic violence incidents on Tribal lands. The bill also will enhance federal coordination of victim resources for Tribal communities. Udall also was a leader in the 2013 effort to amend VAWA and restore Tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes committed on reservations.   Udall’s remarks at the listening session are posted below:
  Welcome to everyone here. Thank you for joining us today.     Chairman Hoeven and I are hosting this listening session because it is important that the Senate record reflect your voices, your experiences, and your priorities.    Unfortunately, he could not be here this afternoon. But, I am pleased to work with him on this important issue – as the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Indian Affairs Committee.   Our work in the Committee and my work with other strong advocates for Native Women’s issues, like Senator Murkowski, shows that these are truly bipartisan priorities. We recognize that Indian Country is facing an alarming epidemic of violence against Native women, and we know that Congress must do more to support Tribes as they work to protect Native communities from violence.     Many of you were here when these issues were center stage in the Senate in 2013. It was a battle to amend VAWA and restore Tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes committed on reservations.     Thanks to Indian Country’s tireless advocacy – we did it. It was a historic legislative victory.    Indian Country didn’t rest on the laurels of that victory, though. Over the last five years, Tribes across the country have worked to translate that landmark legislation into real-world outcomes. I hope that some of you will speak to that work in your comments today.     It is important for Congress to hear from folks on the ground implementing the laws we pass. Feedback is key to refining and improving the legislative process.   In fact, feedback from the five original VAWA Pilot Tribes served as the basis for the bill I introduced in December – S. 2233, the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act. This bill addresses three critical but unanticipated gaps in the 2013 special jurisdiction restoration: attempted domestic violence, family violence committed against Native children, and crimes against Tribal law enforcement tasked with arresting and prosecuting violent offenders under the 2013 restoration.   I hope some of you will provide more insight into the need for Congress address these gaps. We must build on the progress gained in 2013 – and your input will help us push this goal forward.   Chairman Hoeven’s SURVIVE Act is another measure that is key to addressing violence against women in Indian Country. I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill which will increase resources and assistance to Tribal victims of violence by creating a 5 percent Tribal set-aside in the Crime Victims Fund. S. 1870 is important because it reflects feedback from Tribes and Native victim services stakeholders, who have long decried the ineffective state pass-through structure of the Crime Victims Fund.     And, it will ensure that Native communities can finally access funding to support locally-designed, culturally-tailored victim service initiatives.    Part of the problem is that the high incidence of violence toward Native women and children isn’t well documented. Crimes go unreported, investigations are left un-started, and good data isn’t kept. Despite the warnings raised by Indian Country, the general public just doesn’t understand the extent of the violence being committed against Native women.   To draw attention to this issue over the last few years, I’ve worked with members of this committee to declare a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. And, just today, we introduced a resolution to continue this vital awareness tool into 2018.    Thank you for again for being here today. And, thank you for your work and advocacy on these important issues. Congress needs to hear directly from you – the Tribal leaders and stakeholders who are doing the daily work at the grassroots level to combat violence against Native women.     We must make this a front-and-center issue. And your contributions here today help strengthen the call to do just that. ###

On Monday, February 12, 2018, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) began hosting its 2018 Executive Council Winter Session (ECWS) at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., where tribal leaders, the Administration, government officials, and members of Congress will convene.

Please review the NCAI’s draft agenda for the most recent list of speakers, including:

  •         Ryan Zinke, Secretary, Department of the Interior
  •         Ben Carson, Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development
  •         David Shulkin, Secretary, Department of Veteran Affairs
  •         Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Department of Justice
  •         Jovita Carranza, Treasurer, Department of the Treasury
  •         Justin Buller, Associate, Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Army
  •         Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (CA)
  •         Congressman Jack Bergman (MI)
  •         Senator Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
  •         Congressman Darrell Issa (OH)
  •         Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA)
  •         Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV)
  •         Senator Jeff Merkley (OR)
  •         Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK)
  •         Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ)
  •         Congresswoman Norma Torres (CA)
  •         Congressman Steve Pearce (NM)
  •         Senator Tom Udall (NM)
  •         Congressman Don Young (AK)
  •         Byron Dorgan, Former U.S. Senator, Founder of Center for Native American Youth

About the National Congress of American Indians:

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit

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Indian Country Celebrates Across the Country With State of Indian Nations 2018 Speech

Hundreds filled Washington DC’s Knight Studio at the Newseum as President of the National Congress of the American Indians (NCAI) Jefferson Keel took the stage and delivered the State of Indian Nations (SOIN) 2018.

In addition to the hundreds in attendance, thousands in Indian country participated in Livestream watch parties across the country to hear the status of Indian country as delivered by President Keel.

Immediately following the SOIN, the senior United States Senator from New Mexico and a member of the Democratic Party, Tom Udall delivered the official Congressional response.

Shortly before the SOIN, two princesses from the Haliwa-Saponi Indian tribe shared their thoughts about introducing the event and delivering the opening invocation. Miss Haliwa-Saponi Selena Lynch, who introduced the event said she was excited. “It is a major honor to do this, I am the first Miss Haliwa-Saponi ever asked to do this.” Junior Miss Haliwa-Saponi Abby Richardson said though she was nervous, thought ‘it was a great privilege.”

Vincent Schilling

Shortly before the SOIN, two princesses from the Haliwa-Saponi Indian tribe shared their thoughts about introducing the event and delivering the opening invocation. Miss Junior Miss Haliwa-Saponi Abby Richardson and Miss Haliwa-Saponi Selena Lynch. President Keel is in the center.

NCAI President Keel’s #SOIN2018 Speech

To kick off his speech, President Keel remarked that the number of federally-recognized tribes had just recently been changed due to six Virginia state tribes that recently gained federal status, which was received with gracious applause.

“Normally, at this point I’d say: on behalf of the 567 federally-recognized tribal nations and dozens of state-recognized tribal nations that we serve, I’m honored to welcome you here today.

But, last month, six Virginia tribes were finally granted federal recognition. I congratulate the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Monacan, and Nansemond tribes on this long-overdue affirmation of their sovereignty.

So now, on behalf of the 573 federally recognized tribal nations and dozens of state-recognized tribal nations we serve, I’m honored to share this message of our power and purpose with members of Congress and the Administration,” said Keel.

During the SOIN, Keel ascertained that Indian nations are now “strong, resilient and everlasting,” and though many nations had been through great struggles, including his own Chickasaw tribe who were removed from Mississiippi in the 1830’s, Keel asserted Indian Nations have “inherent rights.”

“We have inherent rights.  Not only were we born with them – we have earned them. The right to be recognized as equal governments. The right to be seated at the table where key decisions are made.”

NCAI President Jefferson Keel on the state of Indian Nations. #SOIN2018

— NCAI (@NCAI1944) February 12, 2018

Keel also said any disregard for the inherent sovereignty of tribal nations, failed policies and disparaging rhetoric was “unacceptable.”

Keel lauded Indian nations as great agriculturists who have put food on Americans tables, builders of the infrastructure of America and innovators. Keel noted in Arizona, Native businesses generate hundreds of millions of tax dollars and pay 1.9 billion in wages to tens of thousands of Native and non-Native employees.

“In Mississippi, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians provides 6,000 full-time jobs through its diverse array of businesses, more than half of which are held by non-Natives. It also has re-invested over $500 million of its profits in economic development projects across the state.

Not only do these jobs often pay more than other jobs, they’re not going anywhere. You’re never going to read about how they are being moved overseas. Because Native businesses don’t pull up stakes, even when market conditions change. We root our businesses in our local communities—for good.

You want to ‘Buy American’? Then do business with Indian Country,” said Keel to more applause.

Keel then asked policy makers to remove the barriers that stifle an estimated 1 trillion dollars through solar, wind, and traditional energy resources.

Keel noted the original forms of government came from the Native governments,to include the Iroquois Confederacy.

“Our proven ways of governing informed the governing approach forged by this country’s founders. The U.S. Senate acknowledged this fact in 1987, declaring — and I quote — ‘the Congress, on the occasion of the two-hundredth anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution, acknowledges the contribution made by the Iroquois Confederacy and other Indian Nations to the formation and development of the United States.’ End quote.”

“We were peoples long before ‘We the People.'” – NCAI President Jefferson Keel #SOIN2018

— NCAI (@NCAI1944) February 12, 2018

Near closing, and considering the recent tax overhaul of Indian Country’s top priorities were absent from the version the President signed in December, President Keel outlined three principles he outlined as crucial for improved tribal/governmental relations which were:

  • To honor and affirm the federal-tribal relationship.
  • To engage tribal nations on all matters of national policy that potentially impact them.
  • That tribal self-determination and self-governance is the only policy that has ever worked for Indian Country.

“Today, we call on federal policymakers to consult tribes on ALL major national policies,” asserted Keel. “All we want is a level playing field. That is only fair, and it’s not too much to ask.”

Congressional Response from Senator Tom Udall

Vincent Schilling

Senator Tom Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee delivered the Congressional response immediately after President Keel’s SOIN.

Senator Tom Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee delivered the Congressional response immediately after President Keel’s SOIN. Upon coming to the stage, Sen. Udall said he applauded President keel for his “powerful remarks” and that the NCAI was “fortunate to have his leadership.”

Senator Udall also congratulated the six tribes in Virginia who received federal recognition.

In the midst of Sen. Udall’s response, he addressed tribal sovereignty, law enforcement and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the importance of the survival of Native languages, the Farm Bill and economic development, energy and the opioid crisis.

“As Vice Chairman, three core principles guide my Committee work: respecting tribal sovereignty, promoting tribal self-determination, and ensuring that meaningful government-to-government consultation happens when federal action affects Indian Country.

“When I prepare legislation that affects Indian Country, I work to stay true to these principles. This means acknowledging that tribal sovereignty is written into the Constitution, reflected in treaties, and codified in federal law,” said Udall.

Vincent Schilling

President Keel and Senator Udall at #SOIN2018

Udall also stressed the importance of consulting, and engaging tribes whenever federal legislation affects their interests and making sure that tribes retain the authority to make decisions for themselves.

“Decisions made for Indians by Indians produce the best outcomes for the unique needs, cultures, and beliefs of their communities,” he said.

“President Keel’s address poignantly recognized the challenges Indian Country faces.  But it also recognized your successes and determination in uncertain times,” said Udall.  “I appreciate that sentiment. I pledge that I will do my very best to elevate and achieve your legislative priorities.”


Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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Watch the National Congress of American Indians “State of Indian Nations 2018” Livestream Here

Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians will deliver the annual State of Indian Nations Address on February 12, 2018 from the Newseum in Washington, DC. For more information and for past President speeches, click here.

The event will be available for viewing Monday, February 12 for livestream starting at 10:30am (EST), and for later viewing through the month of February.

Follow @IndianCountry‘s coverage of the @NCAI1944 “State of Indian Nations 2018”

Follow the hashtag #SOIN2018

— Indian Country Today (@IndianCountry) February 12, 2018

Follow @IndianCountry’s coverage of the @NCAI1944 “State of Indian Nations 2018”

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NCAI To Honor Distinguished Leaders at 20th Annual Leadership Awards

On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) will award seven distinguished leaders in Indian Country at NCAI’s 20th Annual Leadership Awards Ceremony at their Executive Council Winter Session (ECWS). The awards are given annually to individuals or groups who are critical to tribal issues as well as those who serve as champions in their institutions.

“NCAI and Indian Country owe a debt of gratitude to those who unselfishly give of their time, talent and spirit for the betterment of our peoples,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “The Leadership Awards Ceremony continues to be a special event to show our appreciation for those who have committed tremendous service to Indian Country.”

Every year NCAI receives nominations in six award categories, including: Public Sector Leadership Award, Native American Leadership Award, Government Leadership Award, Congressional Leadership Award, Special Recognition Award, and Native Voice Award. This year’s honorees are below:

Public Sector Leadership Award

Google American Indian Network (GAIN), Employee Resource Group Making a Positive Impact in Indian Country

GAIN continues to foster tribal youth through programs and support, raise the visibility and awareness of tribal nations, and collaborate on solutions for improved services to Indian Country.

Native American Leadership Award

Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock Tribe), Native American Journalist and Founder of Trahant Reports

Courtesy Trahant Reports

Mark Trahant, Trahant Reports

As an independent journalist, Trahant elevates the presence of tribal nations and peoples through journalism, media, and innovative technologies to advance the authentic histories, stories and modern issues facing tribal nations and their citizens.

Government Leadership Awards

Three tribes have been recognized for leading the successful implementation of the groundbreaking tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Act of 2013:

  • Tulalip Tribes
  • Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
  • Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Congressional Leadership Award

Senator Jerry Moran, United States Senator from Kansas

Senator Jerry Moran

Senator Moran demonstrated steadfast support of Indian Country and leadership in championing law and policies that strengthen tribal sovereignty and the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations.

Special Recognition Award

Julie Johnson (Lummi Nation of Washington State), President of Julie Johnson, Inc.

Julie Johnson (Lummi Nation of Washington State.)

For the past 22 years, Johnson organized the National Indian Women’s Honoring Luncheon and continues to demonstrate strong support of Native women leaders and commitment to the continued success of present and future Native women.

Native Voice Award

Ray Halbritter (Oneida Nation), Representative of the Oneida Nation and Oneida Nation Enterprises CEO

As a leader who uplifted Native voices through Indian Country Today Media Network, Halbritter also championed accurate and respectful portrayals of Native peoples through the Change the Mascot movement.


About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit


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Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico to Deliver Congressional Response at the 2018 State of Indian Nations

United States Senator Tom Udall (NM) is confirmed to deliver the Congressional Response at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 16th Annual State of Indian Nations (SOIN) address on Monday, February 12, 2018, at the Newseum’s Knight Studio in Washington, D.C.

Senator Udall serves on the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee and advocates for the priority concerns of tribal nations and communities, including economic development, the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities, land management, and education and health programs.

Senator Udall’s Congressional Response will directly follow NCAI President Jefferson Keel’s SOIN address, which will outline the goals of Indian Country, opportunities for advancement by Native peoples, and the priorities for tribal nation’s government-to-government relationship with the United States.

Please refer to the full schedule below for more details:


2018 State of Indian Nations
Delivered by NCAI President Jefferson Keel


Knight Studio
555 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
*Use the C Street Entrance


Monday, February 12, 2018


9:15 a.m.             Media Registration and Setup
9:50 a.m.            General Registration and Doors Open
10:15 a.m.           Final Seating
10:20 a.m.          Program Begins
10:30 a.m.          State of Indian Nations
11:00 a.m.          Congressional Response
11:15 a.m.           Questions & Answer Session/Press Availability
11:30 a.m.          Closing Remarks

Space is limited in the Knight Studio. Press should RSVP ASAP here, and contact NCAI Communications Associate Erin Weldon with any questions at


About the State of Indian Nations:
Each year, the President of the National Congress of American Indians presents the State of Indian Nations address to members of Congress, government officials, tribal leaders and citizens, and the American public. The speech outlines the goals of tribal leaders, the opportunities for success and advancement of Native peoples, and priorities to advance our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States. For more information, visit  

About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit

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Rebecca M. Benally: Final Appointee to the Tribal Treasury Advisory Committee Announced

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has recently announced Rebecca M. Benally as the final appointee to the Tribal Treasury Advisory Committee (TTAC) according to a release by the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA.)

The appointment, announced by the Department of Treasury, signifies that Benally is the final appointment necessary for the TTAC to begin conducting business on behalf of Indian Country.

Benally is a member of the Navajo Nation and currently serves as the county commissioner of San Juan County in Utah. She is the first Native American woman to hold this post. Benally has over 20 years of experience in the education field as a teacher, school principal, and at the college administration level.

Rebecca M. Benally has been announced as the final appointee to the Tribal Treasury Advisory Committee!

— NAFOA (@NAFOAORG) February 8, 2018

Benally joins six other appointees to the TTAC who will serve an important role in Indian Country by advising the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury on taxation issues and establishing training and education programs for Internal Revenue Service field agents who work with tribal governments.

  • W. Ron Allen, Chairman and CEO, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
  • Sharon Edenfield, Tribal Council Member, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians
  • Lacey Horn, Treasurer, Cherokee Nation
  • Patricia King, Treasurer, Oneida Nation
  • Lynn Malerba, Lifetime Chief, Mohegan Tribe
  • Eugene Magnuson, Treasurer, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi

For more information please visit To submit comments or solicit feedback on the TTAC activities and policy ideas, use the following email

About the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA.)

The NAFOA advocates sound economic and fiscal policy, develops innovative training programs in financial management, builds the financial and economic skills of the next generation, and convenes tribal leadership, experienced professionals, and economic partners to meet the challenges of economic growth and change. ###

Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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Native Actress Irene Bedard Spearheads 2018 ‘Stop Disenrollment’ Campaign

On Thursday, February 8, 2018, the online visual advocacy movement, Stop Disenrollment, will launch once again. Stop Disenrollment went viral on February 8, 2016, and again last year on February 8, catching international media attention. The movement is poised to raise social consciousness again this year.

Prominent Native Americans like author Sherman Alexie, former U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, rapper-actor-entrepreneur Litefoot, film director Chris Eyre, fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail, and Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills headlined the 2016- and 2017-campaigns.

Courtesy image

Joining Bedard is award-winning Oneida musician Joanne Shenandoah, and emerging Suquamish musician-activist Calina Lawrence, who is helping catalyze a Native MeToo movement.

The visual advocacy movement is a grassroots Native reaction to tribal politicians who have, over the last decade, exiled thousands of their own relatives from tribal communities and homelands, through a colonially inspired practice called “disenrollment.”

Stop Disenrollment Poster

Motivated by graft and greed, it is estimated that by 2016, 11,000 Native Ameicans were disenrolled from almost 80 tribes—nearly 15% of United States-recognized tribes.

Dr. David Wilkins, the co-author of a recent book “Dismembered: Native Disenrollment and the Battle for Human Rights,” said the practice reached “epidemic” proportion in recent years.

But there are signs that with a sharp rise in awareness about disenrollment, the practice in Indian Country is in retreat.

After several consecutive years dating back to the early 2000s, during which multiple tribes were simultaneously disenrolling large swaths of tribal members according to Wilkins’ research, there has not been a new mass disenrollment effort since early 2016.

“While we are not out of the woods, it does seem that Indian Country is coming to its senses regarding disenrollment,” said Wilkins. “Disenrollment re-education efforts have taken many forms in recent years, and they seem to be working.”

When a picture is worth an infinite number of words. #StopDisenrollment

— Galanda Broadman (@NDNlawyer) February 8, 2018

As anecdotal proof, Wilkins cites the Cherokee Nation’s decision to forgo appeal of an August 2017 federal court decision requiring the reenrollment of 2,800 disenrolled Cherokee Freedmen; and Robinson Rancheria’s independent decision to reverse the disenrollment of 67 members last year.

Wilkins also cites a “helpful” federal policy change in 2016 as a reason why disenrollment is down.

Federal intervention in the 5-year Nooksack 306 disenrollment saga, spanning both the Obama and Trump Administrations and involving the withholding of $14 million in federal monies and the closure of Nooksack Northwood Casino, bears that out. According to Wilkins, “the Feds have finally said enough is enough.”

Having featured images from the Stop Disenrollment movement in his book, Wilkins heralds the movement as “very effective. . . . It has most certainly helped change tribal, federal and public opinion.”

For more information, visit the Stop Disenrollment website.


Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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Hostiles Movie Reflects Native Culture With Sensitivity and Accuracy

Chief Phillip Whiteman

Scott Cooper’s Hostiles movie is a reminder to humankind that we are all connected, a notion that is a large part of Cheyenne culture and one that this country needs right now.

A classically styled Western with modern themes, the Hostiles movie tells the story of Army Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) who reluctantly agrees to escort dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back home to their tribal lands. Making the harrowing and perilous journey from New Mexico to the grasslands of Montana, the former rivals are forced to work together to survive, eventually transitioning their relationship from hate to respect and ultimately acceptance and love.

The movie is an echo of the actual historical journey of my Northern Cheyenne People in 1878-79 and the desire that our chiefs had to live in the north and bring their people home, regardless of military attitudes. More currently, it hearkens to retracing the footsteps of our ancestors in the Annual Fort Robinson 400-Mile Spiritual Run. This run by Northern Cheyenne youth honors their ancestors and symbolizes the strength and resilience of their spirit and heart as Cheyenne people. Although the movie is not based on historical events of the Cheyenne, I believe there are no coincidences.

It was important to Cooper that the film present an authentic portrait of the native peoples living in 1890s America, so as a culture and language consultant to the film, I worked with the native actors as well as Christian Bale to ensure their performances were rooted in the time and place of the film. I was fortunate that Bale took learning our sacred Cheyenne language very seriously and excelled at speaking it because using the historically accurate dialect of the Cheyenne language guided each character’s shift in perception of each other.

The set itself also was infused with native culture. We started each day of shooting with a blessing that brought the cast and crew’s energy into alignment, allowing them to be more effective and to complete the scenes in fewer takes. Because of this attention to detail, the movie elevates your consciousness and helps you become more “woke.”

American history has forgotten the love its First Nation peoples have for the land and America’s sacred landscape. We are connected to Mother Earth–the breathtaking scenery in the movie is a reminder of our responsibility to be good stewards of the land.

This movie is important with its message in this time of division and disconnection in this country. What we call “Turtle Island” was home to diverse First Nations peoples who spoke thousands of their own languages. Today America is home to many diverse populations. It’s in our respect for diversity that creates unity.

Today we are stuck in duality; it’s a perfect place to return to oneness. Blocker and Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) go through the process of acceptance, forgiveness and understanding in the film. Chief Yellow Hawk was already there. It was reflected in his belief system: his love, compassion, respect, honor, and sacrifice he had for his family. These basic principles that give us direction and lead us back to connection.

First Nations peoples have been historically traumatized because of attempted genocide. Today we are reconnecting our youth to history, culture, land and language; and to the spirit of resilience. We are still here. We must tell the stories, for too long Hollywood has depicted us as “the savage Indian.”

I commend Cooper for the making of this film and for portraying native peoples accurately. I brought my Cheyenne beliefs, way of life, whole heart and energy to the set of the Hostiles movie in the depiction of and understanding of the Cheyenne people.

We are all capable of being hostile, but love is a far greater force. We can forgive, but never forget. I encourage you to see this movie and go with an open mind and open heart.

Northern Cheyenne Chief Phillip Whiteman, Heoveve’keso (Yellow Bird), served as cultural advisor and language consultant on the Hostiles movie. He resides on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana and can be reached at or 406.477.8781.


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Beaded Vans Slip-ons by Standing Rock Sioux Artist Charlene Holy Bear featured in VOGUE

Standing Rock Sioux Artist Charlene Holy Bear has found herself thrust into the national spotlight. Her beautifully beaded Vans slip-on tennis shoes are now being featured in VOGUE magazine.

In the article Holy Bear told VOGUE that she made the beaded Vans tennis shoes four years ago as a last-minute consideration when going to the Gathering of Nation’s Powwow in Albuquerque.

The beaded Vans tennis shoes were an immediate hit and went viral as the readers shared the article.

Artist Charlene Holy Bear, a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux Tribe, has become a viral fashion sensation after creating traditional powwow wear for her son out of a pair of Vans.

— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) February 6, 2018

Holy Bear told VOGUE she hadn’t had any time that year to prepare regalia for her family but wanted her 4-year-old son Justus to look cool wearing the slip-ons. “He had a new pair of slip-on Vans and I suddenly had an idea, looking at the checkerboard design,” said Holy Bear.

The process took Holy Bear three days. As a result of the exposure at the powwow, Holy Bear now has a long line of customers wanting their own pair.

“Those Vans really reminded me of traditional moccasins… I braided my son’s hair, put on those shoes and he was the coolest little guy at the powwow. People were stopping us to take photos, he made such a splash.”

And another pair is completed and heading out today…! Similar to another pair finished last month. My hands and back are protesting but I beaded them in record time!

A post shared by c.holybear (@c.holybear) on Jan 9, 2018 at 12:56pm PST

The photos of Holy Bear’s shoes made their way to social media. Amanda Miller, the communications director at PayPal contacted Holy Bear for a pair of the beaded Vans, even the Vans tennis shoe company sent the artist an entire pallet of sneakers to work on.

Holy Bear has been an artist her entire life, she crafted traditional dolls at five-years-old and won a second place ribbon at Santa Fe Indian Market. She studied fine art in college at the University of New Mexico.

You can check out Charlene Holy Bear’s website (there are also beautiful beaded earrings and jewelry in addition to the beaded Vans) here –


Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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Native Trailblazers Announces 2017 Native Trailblazers Music Awards Winners: Country Star Teagan Littlechief Wins #1

Native country music artist Teagan Littlechief has just been announced as the overall top indie artist for the 2017 season’s Native Trailblazers Music Awards. The announcement was made on the Native Trailblazers Radio Show on Friday February 3rd.

The announcement of several Native indie music award winners were made on the Native Trailblazers radio program that airs each Friday at 8pm est. Winners included Brendt Diabo, Shawnee Talbot, Simon Moya-Smith, Rob Saw, Witk0 and more. The submissions were played back in 2017 for a Native indie music showcase and the names of the musicians were posted on the Native Trailblazers website where listeners could vote.

The number one indie artist, Teagan Littlechief, was recognized Friday and will receive PR support and a show segment on Native Trailblazers.

Native Trailblazers Radio Announces:
2017 Native Trailblazers Music Award Winners – Teagan Littlechief Wins #1

List of winners here:

Make sure to check out the @NativeTrailblaz radio show every Friday at 8pm est!

— Native Trailblazers (@Nativetrailblaz) February 3, 2018

The additionally-named top five indie artists were Indian City, Twin Flames, Brendt Thomas Diabo, Rob Saw (Both Diabo and Saw tied for third,) Simon Moya-Smith and Shawnee Talbot.

For the past eight years, the Native Trailblazers radio program—an online radio show that has featured Native American topics and is hosted by Delores Schilling, Vincent Schilling and occasional co-host Michael Bucher—has had an annual series of shows highlighting today’s independent Native artists from every genre to include folk, hip-hop, country and electronic, traditional and more.

In addition to the Native Indie artists, the Native Trailblazers radio show has also featured a long list of Indian country notables to include Smoke Signals director Chris Eyre, Indian country icon Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mr. Las Vegas Wayne Newton, political leaders in the U.S. and Canada, tribal leaders, tribal elders and much more.

Since first airing in November 2009, Native Trailblazers has entertained hundreds of thousands of listeners. The show was also nominated in 2011 and 2013 for an Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, now called the Indigenous Music Awards or IMA’s.

Native Trailblazers is on BlogTalkRadio, an online radio site that receives millions of visitors daily. For more information about the Native Trailblazers radio show which airs Fridays at 8 pm EST, visit the website at or listen Fridays at

The show’s 437 episodes are also available anytime on the BlogTalkRadio site in archives or as a free downloadable podcast on iTunes.

Here is the list of the 2017 Season Native Trailblazers Music Awards winners:

Native Trailblazers Music Awards TOP ARTIST

Teagan Littlechief (Country) –

Top 5 Native Trailblazers Music Awards Winners

Indian City – (Contemporary Rock) –

Twin Flames (Contemporary Rock) –

(Tied for third place)

Brendt Thomas Diabo – (Contemporary Rock) –

Rob Saw (Drum / Native Americana) –

Simon Moya-Smith (Alternative Rock) – /

Shawnee Talbot (Alternative, Electronic) –

Native Trailblazers Music Awards Crowd Favorite

Witk0 (Hip Hop) –

Native Trailblazers Music Awards Artist To Watch

Roger Cultee (Contemporary Rock) –


You can follow the show and hosts on Twitter:

Delores Schilling –
Vincent Schilling
Michael Bucher –
Native Trailblazers Radio Show

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A Conversation with Jennifer Podemski: ACTRA Toronto’s 2018 Award of Excellence Recipient

Actor, Director and Producer Jennifer Podemski, known for such award-winning feature productions as Empire of Dirt (2013) and Dance Me Outside (1994) and has had roles on such hit series as Moccasin Flats (2003), Cardinal (2018), Blackstone (2014-2015) and a featured recurring role as Ms. Chantel Sauvé in Degrassi: The Next Generation (2003–2010,) is being honored this month with the highly coveted ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence for 2018.

Jennifer Podemski is Israeli (her father was born in Kfar Saba) and her mother is Saulteaux (Bear/Thunderbird Clan, from Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan.) As a woman who embraces her culture, she is being honored by ACTRA, the largest organization of cultural workers in Canada.

As described on their website, ACTRA Toronto (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), is the largest branch of ACTRA, the union representing performers in the film, radio, television and new media industries. ACTRA Toronto’s jurisdiction includes all of Ontario and represents over 15,000 of ACTRA’s 22,000 members.

The 16th Annual ACTRA awards will take place Saturday, February 24th in Toronto at The Carlu venue. According to the ACTRA awards site, ‘The annual ACTRA Awards in Toronto recognizes outstanding performances by ACTRA Toronto members and celebrate accomplishment and excellence in our industry.’

In a conversation with Podemski, the actress and producer told Indian Country Today how it felt to be honored, a bit about pursuing her dream of working in the film industry, and what the career trajectory of a dancer, producer and actor is all about.

Last week I flexed the #director muscle.#setlife?

A post shared by Jennifer Podemski (@jenniferpodemski) on Nov 15, 2017 at 2:13pm PST

Ok, admittedly an introductory standard question, but certainly relevant. How does it feel to be honored by ACTRA?

It really is such an honor and I have to say I was kind of shocked. As I have said in other interviews as well, sometimes as an artist we become so immersed and so deep into our work, we don’t often think of recognition and it catches you off-guard. This award is coming at a great time as I have been feeling sometimes haggard with my work.

This is a message from the universe to keep going. Yes, it is coming at a good time.

You have advanced in your career so much since The Diviners (a TV movie in 1993) and Big Soul Productions. In terms of acting and then directing, what were your fondest memories in each of these two professions?

Just to clear up the trajectory, I began as a performer, mostly as a dancer, and I went to the high school of performing arts in Toronto for dance. That’s where I got the so-called acting bug.

I started off as extra and I would work weekends beginning in grade 9. I loved performing until it started to become all about auditioning—when I was in grade 11—then it slowly became clear to me that I was put in a box—the “native” box—and that’s where I would stay.

It worked for me to some degree. I got a lot of great work, The Diviners, Dance Me Outside, The Rez etc etc. But it was the in between of those projects where I was really struggling to be seen.

Getting into producing was partly out of frustration due to the lack of work for native actors and storytellers and part out of the desire to create more of an industry of indigenous people behind the scenes.

It bothered me that over the first 10 years of my acting career I rarely, if ever, saw any native people working on the crew, or as producers and directors. It bugged me because all the work I was doing was native stuff. So I decided to become a producer. I was 25 when I opened Big Soul Productions with Laura Milliken.

We dedicated every waking hour to building a production company rooted in authentic indigenous stories and perspectives while training a new generation of talent both behind the scenes and in front of the camera.

So in short, my two careers are not actually separate. They are one. I’m a storyteller and I will take whatever position has to be taken to honor the story and get it made.

Among the impressive body of work you have created in your career, one stand out is Degrassi TNG, which still airs all over the world, Why do you think such a show that discusses real-life issues of our youth stays so relevant?

I think Degrassi: The Next Generation was a success because it told real stories. From the beginning, even when I was a kid watching the original, it was the only place to watch stories that teens could relate to. I was so happy to be a part of that series for so long. I was a super supporting role but it was a long gig and I loved it. Especially the stories I got to be a part of, playing the guidance counselor I got to be a part of some pretty brave storytelling.

Can you discuss any other project in your past that resonates with you or that you feel passionate about?

As an actor I’ve done some really amazing work. I feel so grateful for some of the opportunities that came my way and allowed me to explore parts of myself that I had never been able to expose on TV or film.

For example, the movie Bogus (although my entire part was cut out) gave me the opportunity to work with the genius behind Cirque du Soleil, Franco Dragone. He picked 11 of 1,500 us out of a two day audition of dance, singing, clowning and movement. For two weeks we learned how to clown by the clown-master. That was one of my most favorite things ever.

Then there was the Indigenous-made series called Moose TV, where I got to do slapstick comedy and play many different characters. I feel I’ve been very, very lucky with the work I’ve done and the roles I’ve had.

As a producer I feel the same. But definitely Moccasin Flats has to be the most important and incredible experience I’ve had. Although there were many projects after that, including Empire of Dirt, there was something about the process of making that series, that was one-of-a-kind experience that I will forever be grateful for.

When we did the short film of Moccasin Flats and got into Sundance, and brought all the kids from the movie, I just had the most incredible time. I could go on and on.

You had massive success with the matriarchal cinematic story Empire of Dirt—which received the 2014 ACTRA Award in Toronto—and you were the recipient of the 2016 Nell Shipman Award, which honors a female producer. What does your work and accomplishments say about the power of sacred Indigenous women?

I don’t know if I have an answer to that question. Maybe that we, Indigenous women, have the incredible ability to transform and overcome, we have immediate reference of women who were rendered voiceless and therefore feel the power and sometimes the desperation to do something, say something, BE something.

If for no other reason than to fill the void left when the women who came before us were silenced.

What are you doing these days?

I’ve spent the past couple of years on a TV series that I created with Kris Nahrgang and produced and directed called Future History. It will air on APTN sometime in 2018.

I directed Future History. It is a series committed to exploring the diversity of perspectives and knowledge within the Indigenous community and sharing it with our viewers, in an effort to create a deeper understanding about our shared history while looking forward to a brighter future, anchored by the hashtag we are using: #IndigenousKnowledge.

Where is Jennifer Podemski headed in the film industry?

I’m really not sure, but if someone has the answer please let me know.


Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter

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Tribal Leadership Unified on Land Recovery, A Moral Obligation of the United States

Letter to the Editor: From NCAI President Jefferson Keel and NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens

Tribal Leadership Unified on Land Recovery, A Moral Obligation of the United States

January 30, 2018

The Department of the Interior has embarked upon changes to Federal Indian policy that could negatively impact our tribal nations for generations to come.

Interior’s draft regulations on Tribal Land recovery would increase considerably the barriers standing in the way of tribal sovereignty, and give an increased role to state and local governments in deciding whether tribes are eligible to claim and restore lands that have been stolen from us.

We strongly urge tribal leaders to attend consultation sessions in your area to demonstrate Indian country’s unified resolve to oppose these regulations and equitably restore the land base of every tribal nation.

(Full list of consultation sessions are also listed below)

Interior’s draft regulations are built on a mistaken assumption that tribes generally have adequate reservation land bases. Tribal nations must present the facts, and share their stories and histories at these consultation sessions.

Many tribes have only scattered parcels; many have extremely small or diminished reservations or are entirely landless; many are geographically land-locked by surrounding federal lands, or mountains, or bodies of water; and many have important cultural resources or population service areas that are located off-reservation. Most have a reservation insufficient as a viable land base for their people.

Creating a heavy presumption against taking land into trust would have a devastating impact on tribal nations and was clearly not the intent of Congress in the Indian Reorganization Act.

The new regulations are contrary to every goal of the Trump Administration to decrease federal regulatory burdens. Moreover, they would inject gaming matters into the broader land-into-trust process, which is prohibited by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This is wrong, and we need to make our voices heard.

Gaming only occurs on trust lands acquired after 1988 and under very limited statutory conditions – these limited conditions should not be driving the tribal land recovery process which is critical to restoring our tribal nations.

It is particularly troubling that this is taking place while the Senate has yet to confirm an Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. The Assistant Secretary is primarily responsible for carrying out the Department’s trust responsibility to tribal nations and helping to set this Administration’s policy agenda for Indian Affairs.

We cannot have confidence in policies developed while key political appointees remain unconfirmed.

Land acquisition is the most important power that the Secretary of the Interior has to assist tribal nations and peoples. Congress intended to redress the effects of land loss and its devastating impacts on our communities, economies, cultures, and tribal government authority.

NCAI, NIGA, and all tribes will work together to protect the legal responsibility and the fundamental moral obligation of the United States to restore tribal lands.

For additional information, please see the NCAI’s webinar on Fee-To-Trust Consultations video to learn how the land into trust process is carried out.

Full list of consultation sessions Tribal Consultation Session on Fee-to-Trust Regulations

02/20/18 – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM local time

Heard Museum 2301 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85004 Tribal Consultation on the Native American Children’s Safety Act (NACSA)

02/21/18 – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM local time

National Indian Training Center 1011 Indian School Road, NW Albuquerque, NM Tribal Consultation Session on Fee-to-Trust Regulations

02/22/18 – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM local time

Miccsukee Resort & Casino 500 S.W. 177th Avenue Miami, FL 33194 Tribal Consultation on the Native American Children’s Safety Act (NACSA)

02/27/18 – 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM local time

Mystic Lake Casino Hotel 2400 Mystic Lake Boulevard Prior Lake, MN 55372 Tribal Consultation on the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act

02/27/18 – 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM local time

Mystic Lake Casino Hotel 2400 Mystic Lake Boulevard Prior Lake, MN 55372 Tribal Consultation on the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act

03/1/18 – 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM local time

TBD Portland, OR Tribal Consultation on the Native American Children’s Safety Act (NACSA)

03/6/18 – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM local time

Conference Call Number: 877-716-4291 Passcode: 6919058 Eastern Time, Tribal Consultation on the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act

03/8/18 – 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM local time

Conference Call Number: 888-324-7176 Passcode: 3730875 Tribal Interior Budget Council, March 20-22, 2018

03/20/18 – 9:00 AM to 03/22/18 – 5:00 PM local time

Washington Plaza Hotel 10 Thomas Circle, NW Washington, DC 20005

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Native Feature Film: Neither Wolf Nor Dog Celebrates Record Breaking Year for 2017

With a theatrical run of 49 weeks, Steven Lewis Simpson’s adaptation of the bestselling novel, Neither Wolf Nor Dog, which opened in January 2017, is celebrating the longest theatrical run of any movie released in 2017.

The main boasting point for Neither Wolf Nor Dog is that the film is an independent audience-financed and self-distributed release. The film was launched in small towns and went on to outperform Hollywood blockbusters in numerous multiplexes.

According to the film’s producer and director, Simpson, ‘No other filmmaker distributed movie has performed anywhere near as well in 2017.”

Hugh Wronski, Senior Publicist for Lagoon theaters in Minneapolis, MN said, “The Lagoon’s opening weekend of Neither Wolf Nor Dog was the best weekend gross in the entire country. It’s nice to see that beautifully told stories can still find an audience.”

In addition to the outpouring of support for the film in theaters, the Rotten Tomatoes movie site scored the film 4.7 out of 5 stars, which Simpson says is “a higher number than any Hollywood blockbuster in 2017.”

The filmmakers of Neither Wolf Nor Dog  also cited a higher proportion of Native-owned cinemas playing the film than any film before. “Around 10% of theaters were owned by tribes, or tribal members, including the Ak-Chin in Maricopa,” said Simpson.

“Hollywood has a simplistic view of the U.S. audience,” said Simpson. “I flipped the usual model of major cities first to first land the film in the heart of its audience. I knew we could be a big fish in a small pond rather than a minnow in an ocean. Thanks to a remarkable groundswell of audience support, we’re no longer perceived as a minnow.”

Simpson also says Neither Wolf Nor Dog has been a big hit with schools, particularly the Bureau of Indian Education schools that have taken up to 200-300 pupils to see the film in a day.

Neither Wolf Nor Dog is a film based on the best-selling Native American novel by Kent Nerburn that takes audiences on a road trip through contemporary and historical Lakota life and culture. The film is worth noting for its simplicity and attention paid to Native culture. The film had 18 shooting days on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a crew of 2 and a 95-year-old lead Native American actor, Dave Bald Eagle.

Courtesy InYo Entertainment

Native American actor, Dave Bald Eagle sizes up Kent Nerburn in the film ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog.’

Bald Eagle, died at the age of 97 in 2016. For a time, his obituary was the most-read story in the world on the BBC. NPR’s All Things Considered team debated whether Bald Eagle was “the world’s most interesting man.”

Schools and other groups that would be interested in setting up a showing of the film can email Those waiting for the DVD release can join the mailing list for information

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And Now There Are 573! Six VA Tribes Get Federal Recognition as President Signs Bill

After a near two-decade long fight for federal recognition through legislation, President Donald Trump has signed legislation, known as the Thomasina Jordan act, to grant federal recognition of six Virginia Indian tribes.

The last tribe to receive recognition was also a Virginia tribe, the Pamunkey. With the passing of this final legislation on Monday, the number of federally recognized tribes in the Commonwealth of Virginia now stands at seven. The amount of federally recognized tribes now stands at 573.

In February of 2017, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, introduced H.R. 984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a voice vote in May, and the Senate approved it with unanimous consent on Jan. 11 with the strong support of Senators’ Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both former Virginia governors.

After the president signed the legislation on Monday, Rep. Rob Wittman announced the results on Monday evening immediately after giving tribal leaders of the six tribes — the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond and Monacan — the good news.

Wayne Adkins, first assistant chief for the Chickahominy, told the Richmond Times, “It’s definitely a historic day for the tribe and for the commonwealth … We’re really looking forward to planning the future of our tribe.”

Courtesy Office of Senator Mark Warner

Senator Tim Kaine (left) Chief Stephen Adkins (Chickahominy), Chief Lee Lockamy (Nansemond) and Senator Mark Warner (far right) share a moment of congratulations.

In a prepared statement, Rep. Wittman said, “Today, we celebrate a decade of hard work. This is an issue of respect … Federal recognition acknowledges and protects the historical and cultural identities of these tribes.”

Senator’s Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement: “Today closes a chapter on a decades-long pursuit of justice for Virginia’s tribes. Virginia’s tribes have loved and served this nation, and today our country is finally honoring them with the recognition they deserve.”

In addition to the statements from Rep. Wittman and Sens. Warner and Kaine, the National Congress of American Indians also issued a statement of congratulations to the six tribes.

“The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) congratulates the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond tribal nations on the recent passage of H.R. 984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017.”

“This is an important moment in U.S. history,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “As the U.S. government continues to correct the mistakes of the past, we look forward to seeing the federal government honor its trust obligations to these six tribal nations in Virginia and all tribal nations.”

After many years of hard work by these six tribal nations in Virginia, there are now 573 federally recognized tribes recognized by the U.S. government. This status provides for a government-to-government relationship between the six nations and the U.S. Government, and endows them with greater ability to create and enforce their own laws and manage their lands and resources.

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What We Learn About Indian Country in the UK, from Journalism Student, Darcy Brown

In my daily workings as an editor and journalist at Indian Country Today, I receive a fair share of inquiries from people all over the world who are curious, or have insights to share about Indian country. One such inquiry came from a young journalism student in Northern England by the name of Darcy Brown.

She asked—as young student of journalism—if she might be permitted to share her experiences as a student in regards to Native Americans.

I was admittedly curious as to what students from other countries outside of Turtle Island might be taught, so I agreed to her inquiry. I found Miss Brown’s writings to be insightful and thought-provoking and I appreciated the insight she offered. Thanks to her letter, I was able to see a bit of perspective into her world as a young student in the United Kingdom.

Here are her words to Indian country, I hope readers of ICT might also gain some insight to her world.

I’d also like to say thank you to Miss Brown for taking the time to share her respectful and heartfelt words.

Vincent Schilling
Editor / Journalist
Indian Country Today


My name is Darcy Lily Rachel Brown, I’m 17. I’m from South Yorkshire in Northern England, where I study journalism and creative media in the city of Sheffield. In my attempt to learn a bit about Native culture, I’ve even been learning a little bit of the Lakota language.

When I was a little girl, I remember clearly during a daily walk to my primary [elementary] school, my grandmother mentioning to me about the Indigenous peoples in the United States. It was the first time my awareness was brought to the American Indian.

“It wasn’t just the cowboys who lived in the United States,” said my grandmother. “The American Indians were pushed off their lands by the cowboys, the settlers.”

My then eight-year-old mind was rather puzzled. ‘Pretty much every child across the world must know all about the gloriously-fictionalized cowboy,’ I thought. “But why had I not ever heard about these ‘Indians’?”

I now realize I surely heard ‘cowboys and Indians’ at intermittent times, though I simply had no picture in my mind of the latter. I could have inquired about Indians, yes. But for whatever reason, I didn’t ask.

Upon reminiscing about primary school with a close friend, she recalled a time when we had a dress-up day, the theme being cowboys and Indians.

Though I had no memory of this, she said none of the kids in our class came dressed as an ‘Indian.’ Of course, I’m very pleased that was the case, as I have since read many times about Native people angered by people using regalia as a costume inspiration.

I wonder whether as children, we were influenced to respect and revere the cowboys much more than the Indians. Maybe none of us wanted to be seen representing the people who had been portrayed by the media as people to be pitied, in a negative way.

From a kid’s perspective, none of us wanted to be seen representing the ‘weaker’ group portrayed by history.

So by now, I had a very general idea about what an American Indian was and looked like.

I had seen a couple of children’s Western films, such as Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which meant I only associated Native Americans with the plains stereotype.

When I’d talk to relatives about the Old West (the only geographical area I associated with American Indians), they pretty much all referred to Natives as ‘Red Indians.’

This made me very confused about why that term was used and as I would later learn, my older relatives were not certain, either. ‘It was simply a generational thing,’ they told me. Everyone their age referred to Natives that way.

Fast forward seven years to the beginning of studies for my end-of-high-school exams. I was quite intrigued that part of one history course was The American West, c.1845-1890.

Courtesy Darcy Lily Rachel Brown

Text from the workbook of 7-year-old journalism student Darcy Lily Rachel Brown.

Delving into the past of my nation’s royal family, as well as daily life for the ‘peasants’ had been fascinating enough. However, it seemed well overdue that we were to study the past of another part of the world.

One topic of study was the ‘Plains Indian way of life,’ which focused largely on the Lakota.

We covered the significance of the conical structure and composition of the tipi according to a nomadic lifestyle, the way in which all parts of the bison were used for survival and how vastly different intertribal warfare was in comparison to the Europeans with all their ‘guns blazing’ – literally.

I was in awe of how the Lakota could make use of every single component of the bison’s anatomy to aid their survival in an area with ‘extreme weather and conditions’, we learned.

When it came to looking at how homesteaders tried to build a life on the plains, I remember finding it quite ironic that white folks would criticise Natives for ‘not living in proper structures’ –  when they were forced to build sod houses because there wasn’t really an alternative.

Our teacher certainly made the revision process fun, with a short, snappy quiz at the start of each lesson.

“What was the most significant shape to the Indians?”

“The circle!”

“How many buffalo hides were used to construct a tipi?”

“Between ten and twenty.”

“What was the most prestigious act a warrior could do in battle?”

“Counting coup.” (Counting coup refers to the winning of prestige against an enemy by the Plains Indians of North America.)

Being an animal lover, I admired the Lakota hugely for their symbiotic relationship with the bison.

As our teacher told us: “The bison were revered as a friend, father and a brother. So much that when the animal was hunted to close-extinction, the Lakota struggled immensely to cling to a way of life that revolved around the bison.”

My teacher brought history to life. The classroom was not bland like every single other one in this newly built school. With its wartime propaganda posters, postcards, timelines, maps, you could see something to do with a historical period in each direction.

Quotations from Red Cloud and Chief Seattle, even a huge photo canvas of Chief Sitting Bear, helped us visualise true Native American figures, instead of fictional stereotypes.

As a side note, she also gave her final year students the option to cover their work folders with faux leopard print. I loved that! This was a rare privilege for us, as exercise books were expected to be kept pristine.

Courtesy Darcy Lily Rachel Brown

A school textbook containing a ‘Tipi village of the Comanche tribe,’ belonging to 17-year-old journalism student Darcy Lily Rachel Brown.

I adored my teacher and the subject she instructed in. Not only did she teach the real story, she let us express ourselves, unlike my other instructors. Lessons were always varied. One day, we’d have aching wrists from all the ink flowing from our pens, another, we’d be set free with felt-tip pens to create spider diagrams.

I still have ‘Beryl the buffalo’ — as I named it—a drawing we made, then labelled with what each part was used to make: horns for drinking vessels, tongue for hair-brushes, sinews for thread, to name a few.

The only contradiction to my confidence in trusting what we were taught about Native history was that we were told to annotate a map of the Bering Strait with: “The Indians crossed the land bridge between 1400 and 1500 AD.”

Consequently, I decided to learn some things on my own.

Once I began to research Native history independently, I recalled the above with disbelief. We’d been taught that Native Americans were arriving on Turtle Island around and even after its alleged ‘discovery’ by the man Christopher Columbus?

I thought to myself: ‘How were Native Americans less new to America than bloody Columbus?’

Despite this incredible misinformation, I oftentimes wondered—perhaps correctly—whether myself and fellow students were becoming better informed about some of America’s original inhabitants than kids across the pond.

Our studies included the many groups of encroaching whites during the latter half of the 19th century and ended with the reservation system and the ways in which the culture of the plains people was intentionally destroyed.

I felt very heartbroken that people from my nation had been a large part in this destruction.

Quite haunting words from my teacher were: “Reservation life was very similar to concentration camp life, minus the gas chambers.”

A vast number of Brits don’t believe, I quote: ‘that Native Americans are still a thing.’

In other words, some think that today in North America, there are no longer any Native Americans in existence.

Though I must say, it’s a bloody disgrace that the number of Americans who are plagued with education-induced ignorance seems, from things I’ve read on social media, even higher.

I don’t know this for certain, though to me, it seems apparent that some Americans also do not recognise the resilience of the Native population.

Another issue is there is a lot of appropriation of Native culture here in the UK. Kids’ play tent tipis are not exclusive to stores in the US. People also think it’s acceptable to dress up as an Indian.

I remember on a recent trip to London how uncomfortable I felt upon seeing a woman at a hen [bachelorette] party dressed as a Native Plains woman. I almost pitied her. She had no idea how much she was misrepresenting real Native women.

It was upsetting because people should at least understand that clothes worn by another culture are not intended to be misinterpreted in this way for ‘fun.’

Regarding the average Brit’s knowledge of Native America today, it would be daft (a term we use for ‘silly’) to exclude the fact that overall, the extraordinary, just, rightful DAPL resistance certainly did allow my tiny, rainy land to gain an insight into continued struggles for Native people.

I felt a surge of hope when the BBC and other UK news organizations reported on the events at Standing Rock.

I wanted everyone in the UK to become aware as I had, for there to be progress in understanding that Native Americans are still here and are still the stewards of this planet as they always have been.

Even though some of my fellow students are still perhaps completely unaware of anything happening in Native America since 29th December, 1890 (Wounded Knee was the final event we covered in this study), I feel we were extremely lucky to have this opportunity to learn the truth behind America and its first inhabitants.

I thank you for reading.

Darcy Lily Rachel Brown
Instagram: darcy_lily28

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