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2011 Retrospective: April

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The White Wash
Walter Plecker, Virginia’s registrar in the 1920s, eradicated records of Indian births and marriages to support his directive that all Indians be categorized as blacks. Because of his racist policies, six Virginia tribes are having a hard time getting federal recognition because much of their documentation was destroyed.

The Revolution Will Be Indigenous
The Bolivian government is aggressively implementing its radical program for agrarian reform and giving farmland back to the poor. The government says it has distributed 400,000 acres this year alone and plans to give away much more in the next few years.

Native Government Contracting Program
On April 7, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs heard a parade of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal and business leaders urging Congress to protect Native participation in the Small Business Administration section 8(a) government contracting program. Lance Morgan, chairman of the Native American Contractors Association (NACA) and president and chief executive of Ho-Chunk, Inc., the economic development arm of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Nebraska, told Congress that tribes are just now starting to benefit from the federal contracting marketplace “after being left out, locked out, and elbowed out for decades.”

In this March 1959 file photo, Dodie Bacon, of Honolulu, holds a newspaper celebrating Hawaii statehood (left). On the right, Chester Kahapea holds a paper announcing the statehood.

The proposed wind-energy project in Nantucket Sound has angered some.

Some Serious Blowback
A massive offshore wind-energy project in Nantucket Sound has outraged local tribes and many environmental groups, who say they weren’t properly consulted on the endeavor, and are now trying to blow the project out of the water with a slew of appeals and lawsuits.

Bankrupt Catholic Order Must Pay
Between the 1940s and the 1990s, children at boarding schools ranging from remote Alaskan villages to those on northwestern tribal lands faced sexual, physical or psychological abuse from Jesuit missionaries. On March 25, the approximately 524 victims in the five-state area of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, most of them American Indians and Alaska Natives, received some justice in the form of $166.1 million—the third-largest settlement in the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse saga and the largest ever by a single Catholic religious order. Insurance companies will pay $118 million of the settlement, with the Jesuits paying $48.1 million. The Jesuit order ran schools in villages and on reservations throughout the five-state area.

Betting on His Record
A hot and smoky election campaign battle for chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) turned out to have very little fire after all. After weeks of speculation, tension, rumors and uncertainty, Ernie Stevens Jr., NIGA’s incumbent chairman, won the election over challenger Ivan Mikal by a vote of 121-14. Stevens, who has led NIGA for 10 years, now begins his sixth term as chair of and spokesman for the country’s biggest Indian gaming organization. He is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin.

Goodbye, Redskins!
When students at Wiscasset High School (WHS) in Maine begin a new school year, “Redskins” won’t be their nickname anymore. They and seven other schools in the area have voted to replace the Redskins mascot at WHS with “Wolverines.” The Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission asked the school board to stop using the Redskins mascot last fall because it’s racist and offends Indian people, particularly Maine’s Wabanaki nations of Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmacs. But supporters of the racist image and name have said they will continue the battle.

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NAJA Cut From Wikipedia
In January Wikipedia administrators deleted the entry for the Native American Journalists Association—for the second time. Wikipedia lists 76 organizations under the category, “American journalism organizations.” It includes boxing, soccer and baseball writers associations. It includes the associations of Asian American journalists, black journalists, Hispanic journalists, Korean American journalists, lesbian and gay journalists, and UNITY: Journalists of Color, of which NAJA is a member. But unlike their journalism cohorts, they’re non-existent to Wikipedia.

Good P.R.
Close to 20,000 people in Puerto Rico identified themselves as “American Indian” in the 2010 U.S. Census report, a 49 percent increase in the number of island Puerto Ricans to do so. In 2000, the number was 13,336. Some see this reporting as yet another reflection of a growing awareness of the indigenous roots, or Taíno aspect, of Puerto Rican identity—more and more people are joining Taíno organizations and attending Taíno-related celebrations. Others see it as a signal that Puerto Ricans are asserting their own identity, separate from the influences of first the Spanish and then U.S. colonizers.

Harper’s Watergate
Canada is facing its 41st federal election after a vote of no-confidence for Prime Minister Stephen Harper prompted the dissolution of Parliament. This traces back to a scandal over Harper’s aide Bruce Carson, who allegedly lobbied to get First Nation contracts for a water-filtration company that employs his fiancée, a 22-year-old former escort, who stood to gain millions from a deal.

Free at Last
Five First Nations on western Vancouver Island rejoiced as April 1 dawned and they celebrated the end of their thrall to the Indian Act. The nations now share 24,550 hectares of treaty settlement lands and a $73.1 million capital transfer, and negotiated deals that could bring in $1.8 million a year from commercial forestry operations.

A Sign of Hope
Subtle and not-so-subtle racism against Indians has always been a problem in Bemidji, Minnesota. But then Michael Meuers came up with a modest proposal. He asked business owners to put the Ojibwe words for “women” and “men” on their restroom doors. That small step led to a happy bridging of two cultures.

—Click hereif you missed our January 2011 retrospective.

—Click hereif you missed our February 2011 retrospective.

—Click hereif you missed our March 2011 retrospective.