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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, December 18, 2016

Fears that Donald Trump could lunge for Indian country, and Kennewick man can return home soon.
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Fighting DAPL finances with bank boycotts, watching and pondering presidential cabinet picks, and returning an ancient ancestor all weighed on Indian country’s mind the Week That Was, leading into December 18, 2016.

BOYCOTTS, BANDS AND THE ‘BLACK SNAKE’: The Seattle City Council pondered legislation to drop Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) financer Wells Fargo and take its $3 billion operating account elsewhere. After a wildly successful Thanksgiving weekend show supporting water protectors, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Jason Mraz, Joel Rafael and John Trudell’s Bad Dog donated more than $85,000 to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, proceeds and donations from their November 27 benefit concert at the Prairie Knights Pavilion in Fort Yates, ND, seven miles from Oceti Sakowin Camp. In addition to the money raised for the Tribe, Browne, Raitt and Rafael spent the day before the show at the Oceti Sakowin camp, donating over 500 blankets to those staying for the winter. Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills, Lakota, weighed in on the NoDAPL effort in the wake of the U.S. Department of the Army’s historic decision not to grant the easement under Lake Oahe. Asian Pacific Islanders gathered in Los Angeles to hear eyewitness accounts of recent peaceful protests against armed security forces, vowing to continue the struggle against the “black snake” of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and collecting more than $1,000 in support money. Steven Newcomb, meanwhile, wrote about the DAPL developments that most likely would not show up in mainstream news outlets.

THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT TO AVOID: Just 200 or so miles west of where the 30-inch DAPL would run, a six-inch-diameter pipe leaked 176,000 gallons of crude into a North Dakota creek, courtesy of the same company that spilled into the Yellowstone River last January. Meanwhile, in Peru, the indigenous communities of Kukama and Urarina were beset by yet another oil spill in their territory, one of ten that have occurred since January along the pipeline that runs from oil fields in the Peruvian Amazon across the Andes Mountains to a port and refinery on the Pacific coast.

CABINET CASCADE CONTINUES: Budget uncertainty that has been virtually built into the fiscal process, thanks to a system called continuing resolution (CR) budgeting, promised to continue. Other uncertainties also abounded, such as what will happen to Indian health care if the new administration futzes with the Affordable Care Act. The initial choice for Interior Secretary was Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, but she was quickly supplanted by Montana Republican Ryan Zinke, a former Navy seal who is an avid hunter and fisher who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee and the Armed Services Committee and is no friend to environmentalists. In a silver-lining moment, Mark Trahant reported that if Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison chairs the Democratic National Committee, that could leave an opening for state Rep. Peggy Flanagan to take his spot.

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RESTING IN PEACE (ALMOST): Uytpama Natitayt, known in modern times as Kennewick Man, will finally be laid to rest after a bill signed into law mandating that his remains be returned to his relatives at the Colville, Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama, and Wanapum nations.

NO MORE HITTING: U.S. Education Secretary John B. King has urged governors and chief state school officers to ban corporal punishment in schools in the 22 states that still allow teachers and administrators to legally strike children. Native kids get hit more often than any other group.

TRUDEAU’S TROUBLES: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has earned few friends among First Nations with his approval of a contested pipeline and his plan to flood the Peace River valley to create BC Hydro’s Site C dam. Activist Helen Knott (Dane Zaa and Nehiyawak from Northern British Columbia) walked the prairies of the fertile Peace River valley, deftly calling out the Prime Minister through spoken-word poetry for allegedly reneging on promises and commitments made to indigenous peoples in his last federal election campaign.

HITTING THE JACKPOT: Wilton Rancheria, the only federally recognized tribe in Sacramento County, California, is moving forward with its resort and casino project with the support of many in the community. The 700-member tribe of Miwoks was one of the 41 tribes terminated in 1958 after the enactment of the California Rancheria Act. Skʌ:nʌ́:, Turning Stone’s award-winning spa, is celebrating its 10th anniversary throughout the month with treatments that honor Oneida culture.