The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, May 14, 2017

Joy Harjo's prestigious poetry prize, a new fight against Keystone XL, and combatting appropriation and racism in Indian country, all during the Week That Was, May 14, 2017.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

A historic water compact, a renewed anti-pipeline alliance, and the usual assortment of misogyny and racism marked Indian country this past week, punctuated by a prestigious poetry prize, and a pushback against cultural appropriation.

ONE OF OUR OWN: In recognition of her contributions to poetry, The Poetry Foundation awarded Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, its lifetime achievement 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

35 YEARS LATER: In what the Blackfeet Nation is calling their most important development in a century, a majority of tribal members approved the Blackfeet Water Compact and Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act with Montana and the federal government, by a vote of 1,894 to 631. The legal fight for water rights began 35 years ago.

UNITED AGAIN: The Cowboys and Indians Alliance is alive and well in Indian country with the revival of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. The Ponca are planting sacred corn along the route.

DAPL: The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) continues to unfold in the legal and financial arenas as Mark Fogarty gives advice on how to start a credit union to hold disinvested funds.

NOT IF BUT WHEN: Meanwhile, DAPL sprung a leak almost as soon as it started running, and the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, was cited in Ohio as it mopped up a two-million-gallon spill of drilling material from several wetlands.

CLEAN IT UP ALREADY: The Yakama Nation reiterated its longstanding push for complete cleanup of the Hanford Site, an abandoned nuclear facility in Washington State, after a tunnel holding radioactive waste collapsed, prompting a state of emergency.

BEARS EARS IN PERIL? Among the nearly two dozen national monuments and five ocean preserves under scrutiny by the administration of President Donald Trump is Bears Ears, designated by then–President Barack Obama in December. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited the 1.35 million–acre region and tried to assuage fears about ceremonial access, while Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch insulted Natives and non-Natives alike in Indian country with allegedly racist comments.

MEANWHILE, IN TRUMPLANDIA: As the Democratic Party struggles to find its footing in a new world being remade by Trump, Native American Democrats are conflicted about which side of the party—the establishment wing symbolized by the vanquished Hillary Clinton or the insurgent wing led by her 2016 Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders—will bring the most fruitful results for Indian country, reported Washington Bureau Chief Rob Capriccioso. With the firing of FBI Director James Comey, proceedings of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) were put on hold.

‘ABORTION VACATION’: Sticking his foot somewhere it should never go, Alaska State Rep. David Eastman (R. Wasilla) asserted that women in remote villages get pregnant on purpose so as to receive a Medicare-funded trip to Anchorage or Seattle for an abortion. The remarks, which he refused to retract, spawned the oxymoronic term “abortion vacation” and earned him official censure from the Alaska House of Representatives, by a vote of 25 to 14, given that most of those women are Native, and are living in places with some of the highest rape statistics in the nation.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN? Vandals defaced the walls of a language immersion school for Native American children in Spokane, Washington, writing racial slurs and other hateful messages on the inside walls. The investigation is ongoing.

ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK: The Writer’s Union of Canada, which publishes the quarterly magazine Write: The Magazine of the Writers’ Union of Canada, issued a public apology after one of their editors, Hal Niedzviecki, wrote an article in Write magazine titled, “Winning the Appropriation Prize,” in defense of allowing non-Native writers to “write what you don’t know.” The article, published in an issue dedicated to highlighting indigenous issues, led to Niedzviecki’s resignation.

GHOST TOWN: As Anheuser Busch distributor trucks carted away cases of beer, White Clay, Nebraska was converted into a ghost town after alcohol was essentially outlawed in this town next to the dry Pine Ridge Reservation. But appeals against the ruling were fast-tracked, reported David Rooks.

CHICKASAW NATION MOURNS: Lila Dean (Sealey) McManus, granddaughter of original Chickasaw allottees and a decades-long public servant to the Chickasaw Nation, walked on at age 78. “She was [with Chickasaw Nation] for 40 years,” said Karen Goodnight, McManus’s daughter. “That was her life’s work. She was devoted to the tribe, and she loved the tribe.”