This year Indian Country Today Media Network covered many intriguing topics dealing with political issues throughout 2011. Below is a snippet of some of 2011’s most memorable moments.
Dirty Hands a Sign of Guilt
In February an Ecuadorian Judge found oil giant Chevron guilty of polluting an area of the Amazon after 17 years. The landmark decision that came February 14 ordered Chevron to spend $8.6 billion to clean up the mess. Though Chevron appealed and seeing real action could be slow moving the decision marks a historic event.
Not on My Dime
In March Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., was nabbed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for using taxpayers money to pay for a charter plane her and her family used around the state. McCaskill repaid $88,000, but not before drawing attention from American Indians who have seen her leading efforts to crack down on federal contracts to Alaska Native Corporations and tribes.
Apology? What Apology?
When the Navy SEAL team made the announcement on May 1 that Osama bin Laden had been killed, the news spread throughout Indian country at lightening speed. The reason was in the way the announcement came in bin Laden’s codename being “Geronimo” a hero to many American Indians. The fall out was swift and furious as many from Native organizations to politicians and ancestors of the 19th century Apache tribesman demanded an apology. But no such apology came.
On June 20, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan took less than a day to affirm the Cobell settlement that has been in the courts for years. The settlement proposed $3.4 billion, a small figure stemming from a case that saw larger figures tossed around over its 15 years in the courts.
Indian Country’s Own Bush/Gore Florida
On June 25 the Cherokee Nation held its election for tribal chief between incumbent Chad “Corntassel” Smith and challenger Bill John Baker. An election that had drew the spotlight as the counts were so close at times after three counts and both men seemingly winning the election, the results were thrown out by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. A new election was set, but the conflicts did not end there. Before the special election, the Cherokee Council voted to disenroll some 2,800 Cherokee Freedmen, only to be held hostage by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. When the dust settled, Freedmen were still enrolled and Baker was named the new chief.
Toucan Play This Game
What happens when large corporations face off with smaller non-profits? Usually the corporations come out on top. But when the food conglomerate Kellogg Company went after the Maya Archaeology Initiative, based in San Ramon, California for its use of a toucan in its logo things didn’t turn out the way they expected. The food company aggressively pushed that the logo was too similar to the food company’s trademarked Toucan Sam from Froot Loops cereal fame. Once the news broke and focus ended up on Kellogg’s products, questions started being raised about stereotypical images and the company ultimately settled by contributing $100,000 to MIA.
Water and Oil Don’t Mix
As the Keystone XL Pipeline continued to be pushed through D.C. offices, and activists vocalized their concerns, it was made known the potential affects the oil project could have on communities throughout the states housing its planned run. One in particular in the community of Pine Ridge Reservation where the pipeline is scheduled to be built over the reservations main water supply connection.
The Battle Carries on Without It’s Fearless Leader
In October Elouise Cobell, the face of the Cobell settlement, walked on after her fight with cancer. Earlier in the year, she was able to hear the United States agree to paying a $3.4 billion settlement to those individuals who deserved it. However, the ruling has come under appeal and Cobell never saw the final outcome.
Not on Our Off-Shore, At Least Not Yet
On October 27, the communities around Nantucket Sound received some welcoming news when the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) determination on the Cape Wind project was revoked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The ruling could be the final blow, but only time will tell.
3 People x $10,000 = 2 Years
Our math isn’t off, but it seems some others may be, because in November James Arthur Ray, the self-help guru who led a sweat lodge ceremony claiming three lives and hospitalizing 18 others was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Each member paid around $10,000 to participate in the ceremony that saw Ray convicted of three counts of negligent homicide after the tragedy in Sedona, Arizona in October of 2009.
A December to Obama
President Barack Obama started out the end of the year with a bang in Indian country. Holding his third White House Tribal Nations Conference, Obama made it a point to make key announcements around this time. Some of his announcements he made were the introduction of an Indian Trust Commission, the American Indian Empowerment Act, and a strong focus on Native education and tribal colleges and universities, while reciting other highlights from the year. The news was well accepted by some tribal leaders feel there is plenty more to be done.