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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, September 3, 2017

Savannah Greywind, Freedmen and heinous Hurricane Harvey predominated during the Week That Was in Indian country, September 3, 2017.
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Worst fears confirmed, Cherokee Freedmen redeemed, and a catastrophic salmon spill all grabbed headlines during the Week That Was, September 3, 2017. Here’s a recap of what transpired in Indian country over the past week.

UNFATHOMABLE: Chelsey Luger reported that the body of Savanna Greywind, a 22-year-old woman who had been missing for more than a week, was found days after her newborn baby girl was discovered alive in the home of suspected kidnappers. Neighbors Brooke Lynn Crews and William Henry Hoehn were arrested and still in custody. Greywind was eight months pregnant when she disappeared. The case captured attention throughout Indian country as indigenous people across Turtle Island became profoundly vested in the tragedy, reported Sarah Sunshine Manning. Such violence against Native women perpetuates genocide, noted Ruth Hopkins in an op-ed.

FREEDMEN REDEEMED: The group of disenfranchised, disenrolled Cherokee Nation members with African roots who had fought for the right to remain in their tribe won their court case, and the Cherokee declined to appeal. Jenni Monet reported on the Cherokee Freedmen and their long road to that point.


HEINOUS HURRICANE: At least three American Indian tribes in Oklahoma sent representatives to the Houston area to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, reported Kristi Eaton. Other tribes sent donations. This hurricane in particular was characterized by the participation of everyday citizens in the rescue efforts, which led to a new term, coined by Steve Russell: Dunkirking.

WINNING (FOR REALZ): All six nominees in the Fight Against the System category were honored at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, including Stand Up/Stand N Rock #NoDAPL by Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas. It was a tribute to the victims of the Charlottesville riots and the death of Heather Heyer at the hands of a white supremacist who drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters.

SALMON CATASTROPHY: More than 300,000 farmed Atlantic salmon were released into Pacific waters in an environmental catastrophe that prompted the Lummi Nation to declare a state of emergency. Tribal fishermen hauled in at least 200,000 pounds of invasive Atlantic salmon, but officials still believe many of the invasive fish are already on their way to spawn in local streams and rivers, Daniel Mesec reported. Overall, salmon habitat is being depleted faster than it can be restored, reported Richard Walker. Gyasi Ross went so far as to posit that the salmon industry intentionally poisoned Native stock.

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SUSTENANCE DEATH THREATS: Yupik teen hunter Agragiiq, 16, became a striker earlier this year, harpooning a 57-foot-long bowhead whale in April. In addition to the praise accorded by his family and village for a job well done, the sustenance hunter also got death threats and was viciously cyber-bullied online. The Alaskan people defending him in an enormous reponse, wrote Frank Hopper.

STILL TEETERING: The 1.35 million–acre Bears Ears National Monument could be reduced to about 160,000 acres, according to one report about Interior’s final review of national monuments, commissioned by President Donald Trump earlier this year. The tribes that lobbied for the designation, made by President Barack Obama before he left office last January, have vowed to sue, as Kim Baca found.

BUDGET BUNGLING: Acting Director of Indian Health Service (IHS), Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee was unable to justify the need for a $300 million cut in the $4.7 billion IHS budget that’s responsible for the health of 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 567 federally recognized tribes in 36 states. His weak defense drew ire from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and others, according to reporting by Renae Ditmer.

RECOGNIZED: A civil rights lawsuit by the Lanticoke Lenni-Lenape against the State of New Jersey gained traction after the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division reversed a previous ruling by the Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division that had dismissed the tribe’s case on the grounds that it’s not federally recognized. The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenap have a civil rights lawsuit pending against New Jersey’s Attorney General John Hoffman, which can now proceed, according to reporting by Lisa J. Ellwood.

HEALING: Sexual abuse carries an intense stigma, especially for men, but new therapies are helping. Greg Grey Cloud bravely spoke up about his experiences, and is being helped by horse therapy, reported Mary Annette Pember.

BUH-BYE, COLUMBUS: The City of Angels sent Columbus Day on its way when the Los Angeles City Council voted 14–1 to dump Columbus Day as a city-recognized holiday and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October. Chrissie Castro, vice chairwoman of the Los Angeles City-County Native American Indian Commission, told the Los Angeles Times that it was imperative to “dismantle a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous peoples.”

CRIME DOESN’T PAY: Two more companies have decided to no longer support the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in Honduras, the same project that slain indigenous leader Berta Cáceres had protested before her murder in 2016, reported Rick Kearns.