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2011 Retrospective: July

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The Muse

The great art, good works and abundant devotees of Suzan Shown Harjo have touched and inspired many in Indian country. She has become an icon for her activism and leadership, and is beloved as a writer, a curator and a dedicated advocate for American Indian art and culture.

Wilderness Done Right

Alaska’s Bristol Bay is a vast and mystical land of astounding beauty that is popular with both salmon and tourists. It is a pristine, primordial land where immense tectonic plates collide at the edge of the Arctic. The heavy hand of progress has not yet touched this place.

The Hero's Hero

It was a very special and moving Fourth of July at Talmaks Camp as Jessica Lynch, America’s most famous POW, came to Nez Perce country to honor the Hopi woman who saved her life during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Lori Piestewa was, sadly, the first U.S. woman killed in that conflict.

Race Is a European Disease

In his provocative new book, Sequoyah Rising, Steve Russell argues that identifying tribal citizenship by bloodlines is a racist trap that could bring doom to all Indian nations. He argues that buying into the whole idea of race has done harm to Indian nations on a scale similar to that of smallpox and measles.

Cherokee Elections in Tribal Court

The The June 25 election forCherokee Nation Chief between incumbent Chad "Corntassel" Smith and challenger Bill John Baker is now heading into its second week, with at least three unofficial, certified and recounted votes. This election has also seen injunctions and appeals filed in the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court by both sides. The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court is scheduled to hear appeals and motions.

Forest Service Broke Rules?

A coalition of Indian citizens has filed a last-ditch legal appeal against the U.S. Forest Service, hoping to push back a tide that has long seemed unchangeable. By using science and the law to back their religious and spiritual beliefs, the coalition wants the courts to find that the federal agency failed in its duty to protect the public’s health, while breaking the federal government’s own environmental rules as a result of deciding that a company could develop a ski resort using treated wastewater sprayed on Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks.

Two Plead Guilty in Branding Case

Paul Beebe, 27, and Jesse Sanford, 25, pleaded guilty before a San Juan County jury in the April 29, 2010 attack of Vincent Kee, a 22-year-old Navajo man who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. Beebe and Sanford, along with a third man, William Hatch, were accused of branding a swastika on the arm of Kee, along with drawing degrading sexual and racial pictures on him. Both men could face more than eight years in prison, in what they called a mere “prank.”

Native All-Star Football Game

The annual Native All-Star Football game played on July 9 was renamed in Jim Thorpe’s honor this year. Roughly 60 high school players from more than a dozen tribes competed at the University of North Texas, near Dallas. Thorpe—one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century—was Sac and Fox from Oklahoma. His Indian name, Wa-tho-huck, means “Bright Path,” and organizers hope the game encourages youths to find their own bright paths. Only 17 percent of Native American high school students go to college according to the American Indian Education Foundation. But Ha:san Preparatory and Leadership School in Tucson, Arizona, is trying to change that. This year 19 of its 23 seniors who graduated are enrolled in college.

The Moving Movie

In 2006, approximately 30 years after the Ford Motor Company dumped toxic waste on the land of the Ramapough Mountain Indians, the Ramapough filed a class action lawsuit against Ford and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to countless premature deaths. Producer Jamie Redford made Mann v. Ford a documentary of the battle of the Ramapough Indians.

EPA Helps Clear the Air

A new and long-awaited set of rules strengthens tribal regulation of clean air standards in Indian country, putting tribes on equal footing with states in regulating their environments. The action, which tribes have been pushing for since the early 1990s, had been long delayed as the EPA putmany priorities ahead of regulations that would improve the health and economies of tribal citizens.

Big Drug Bust on the Rez

Normally the presence of federal authorities on reserve lands evokes resentment and painful memories, but First Nations leaders expressed relief after helping the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Sûreté du Quebec seize 40 suspects in the Kanesatake and other territories. It was the latest success for the Aboriginal Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, a partnership created in 2004 to combat aboriginal-based crime.

The Royals Get Real

Moose-hide tanning was on the agenda and caribou on the menu as royal newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton visited aboriginal territory from July 4 to 6 during their first international trip as a married couple. With international media descending on Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, the eyes of the world were on aboriginal culture. Aboriginal leaders welcomed the royal couple. Then the two observed aboriginal athletic events and a youth parliament.

Healing Through Hip-Hop

The Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations proves that music, and particularly hip-hop, can dramatically impact the recovery of youth from drug and alcohol addiction. The Spokane Valley, Washington-based treatment center for drug- and alcohol-addicted youth houses 45 residents ages 13 to 17, most of whom are American Indian. In addition to using music to treat youth, the facility offers traditional American Indian sweat lodges, a large medicine wheel, a talking circle and walking trails among coniferous trees and low hills, with a trail leading to a fire pit.

Upside and Downside

First Nations governments must now comply with the Canadian Human Rights Act. The repeal of section 67 of the Act, which excluded Indians from lodging complaints about violations on reserves, means aboriginals have the same protections and privileges on-reserve as off. Sexual harassment on the job, for instance, is now actionable through the human rights act in a reserve workplace; previously, it was not.

—Click here if you missed our January 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our February 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our March 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our April 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our May 2011 retrospective.

—Click here if you missed our June 2011 retrospective.