Skip to main content

The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, June 18, 2017

Chokecherry medicine, a tragic death in police custody, and Pocahontas in the Senate in Indian country during the Week That Was, June 18, 2017.

Yet another Native death at police hands, a traditional food fights cancer, and Pocahontas in Congress (it’s not who you think). This and more gripped Indian country during the Week That Was, June 18, 2017.

MANY QUESTIONS: Many, many questions. The family of a mentally ill Native man tazed and beaten to death while in police custody is seeking answers, while the Omaha police chief calls for two of the officers to be fired.

POCAHONTAS IS IN CONGRESS: But she’s not who we’ve been talking about. The name Pocahontas has been flying around Washington as President Donald Trump trash-talks Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. All the while, as it turns out, an actual relative of the storied Native woman has been residing in the Senate: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has said she is a direct descendant of Pocahontas—a claim supported by records.

WREAKING (MORE) HAVOC IN WASHINGTON: While Trump’s budget is destructive and disruptive, it probably won’t go through, and Congress is the one that will have to fix it, wrote Mark Trahant. Meanwhile, several senators demanded an accounting from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) of the progress—or lack thereof—of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) management of the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and Indian energy development, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) management of the Indian Health Service (IHS). The programs are now considered high-risk by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

BEARS EARS BULL? U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said that tribes are happy with his proposal to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, created by then President Barack Obama in December. The tribes themselves said, Um, no.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD? The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) approvals ordered by President Donald Trump soon after he took office did not quite comply with the law, a judge found. Jury is still out on whether the pipeline will have to close down while the issues are resolved, in what is being hailed as a victory for Indian country.

BUYING TIME: The Navajo Nation Council is pondering legislation that would keep the Navajo Generating Station operational for another couple of years with a lease extension. If the legislation passes, the plant will be open through December 2019. If not, it closes on July 1, leaving the Hopi and Navajo economies in the lurch.

BUSTED: The Nooksack Indian Tribe has been ordered to close the Northwood Casino in Deming, Washington by the National Indian Gaming Commission for “numerous violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), NIGC regulations and the Nooksack Tribal Gaming Ordinance,” the order read.

CHOKECHERRY MEDICINE: In yet another instance of traditional knowledge trumping modern science, a high school student showed that this vitamin- and mineral-rich fruit, a staple in Indian country for millennia, wields medicinal cancer-fighting properties.