The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, July 2, 2017

Wilma Mankiller documentary premieres, an oil train lawsuit verges on trial, and other incidents in Indian country during the Week That Was July 2.
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An anti-oil-train lawsuit on the verge of trial, a devastating health care bill, and a perfectly crafted documentary about a legendary leader all took center stage in Indian country during the Week That Was, July 2, 2017.

DAMP AND DREARY HOLIDAY: We’re not talking about how many American Indians are wont to feel about the U.S. Fourth of July holiday. Before that comes Canada Day, which this year marks the high point of that country’s 150th birthday, but it was a far from ebullient occasion for Indigenous Peoples above the 49th Parallel. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed, visiting a teepee erected on Parliament Hill to draw attention to indigenous issues, and issuing statements later that said he understood there was a lot of work to be done.

DEVASTATING HEALTH CARE: As the Prime Minister of Canada tweeted about the need for reconciliation, recognition and understanding between his government and Indigenous Peoples, the latest iteration of the health care bill was emanating from the U.S. Senate. The current Republican proposal would be devastating to Indian health care, containing as it did nothing but a tax cut and the destruction of Medicaid, reported Mark Trahant. TrumpCare would hit Indians hardest, according to two Democratic Senators who weighed in on this bill crafted without one iota of indigenous consultation.

SQUARING OFF OVER DAPL: In the latest courtroom volley the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe squared off against Energy Transfer Partners in the ongoing U.S. District Court fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The parties crafted a schedule for submitting documents and briefs for their last shot at resolving the dispute at this judicial level, with the first deadlines on July 17.

KILLER DOC: The long-awaited documentary about the late Wilma Mankiller, the renowned Cherokee leader, opened to a sold-out house in Los Angeles. Indian Country Media Network’s own Vincent Schilling called it a “true work of artistic perfection.”

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed a bill into law officially designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day. He signed the bill in the village of Utgiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, one of 28 communities represented by bill sponsor Rep. Dean Westlake, an Inupiaq Democrat from Kiana.

UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP: The notion of partnering with an American Indian tribe to retain a mascot may seem counterintuitive, but in one Oregon school district, it appears to be working. The Philomath School District, about 90 miles south of Portland, will work with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in devising new curriculum to include Native American history and culture. This will allow them to comply with a state law mandating a partnership with a Native American tribe, or ditching their mascots—in this case, the high school’s Warriors and its middle school’s Braves.

GRRRRRR TO GRIZZLY DELISTING: Indian country was incensed at the removal of the Yellowstone grizzly from the federal Endangered Species List, leaving management of the species’ growing numbers up to state and tribal jurisdiction.

HEADED TO TRIAL: The Swinomish Tribe’s lawsuit seeking to force BNSF Railway to comply with an easement agreement could go to trial sometime next year, according to schedules proposed by lawyers for both sides in documents filed with U.S. District Court for Western Washington. That same court ruled on June 9 that the lawsuit would go forward to trial.

BIRTHDAY BOY BILLY MILLS: Iconic Olympian Billy Mills turned 79 and presided over the groundbreaking for a monument to Virginia Indians. Six Nations Mohawk artist Alan Michelson will design the Virginia Indian Mantle, as it will be called.

AN INVENTION WE CAN ALL GET BEHIND: Indigenous Peoples are known to have initially invented much of what ended up morphing into modern conveniences and lifesaving initiatives—including one that turned out to be both. Among the numerous indigenous inventions that changed our world was the suppository.