Indigenous women rise, chaos erupts under a new administration, and a beloved artist and culture keeper walks on. This and more took Indian country on a roller coaster ride during the Week That Was.
NOT NORMAL, NOT OKAY: This was the rallying cry of hundreds of thousands of women across Turtle Island who marched in Washington D.C. (at least 500,000) and more than 600 other cities on January 21 in opposition to impending federal policies that are widely viewed as antithetical to women’s health and well being. Led by indigenous women in many cases, people—male, female and everyone in between—thronged the streets of New York City (400,000), Oklahoma City (12,000), Seattle (100,000 to 140,000) and Reno, Nevada (10,000-plus). D.C. marchers included a contingent of Haudenosaunee women who overcame numerous obstacles and an almost interminable bus ride to arrive in the nation’s capital. In many cities, indigenous women led the charge, with an impetus that exploded across social media.
CEREMONY, THEN CHAOS: In contrast, the widely documented low attendance at the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States heralded a week of upheaval that reverberated around the world. The Native Nations Inaugural Ball spotlighted Indians’ crucial role in the U.S. military by honoring veterans, and indigenous people in the Republican Party began jockeying for positions in the Trump administration. But even that day was marred, as an accidental trip to the doorstep of the so-called Deplora-Ball turned into a racist encounter for youth organizer Eryn Wise. Mark Trahant warned of tough times and dramatic budget cuts ahead, while Dean B. Suagee stressed the importance of including tribal nations in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Marty Two Bulls summed up the whole shebang with a picture (in his case a cartoon) worth the proverbial thousand words, titled Rare Fluffy Headed POTUS Twitter Bird. And Steve Newcomb pointed to the proverbial elephant in the room in bringing to light once again the hidden code of domination that underlies all federal political logic: “an assumed right to dominate our Native nations, our lands, and our lives, and to expropriate our water and resources.” Philip Baker-Shenk mused over whether the current incarnation of Indian nations’ “arranged marriage” with the Trump administration—after what felt like a shotgun wedding—could be saved. All the while, Steve Russell pointed out, a cabinet full of recession-proof one-percenters may not leave much room for Indian country.
DON’T FORGET THE INDIANS: Outgoing U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell sent a message to the Trump administration in an exclusive interview with Indian Country Media Network: “Don’t forget the Indians.”
DISENROLLMENT DEFEATS: President Barack Obama got disenrollment right eventually, but only during his last few months in office, wrote Gabriel S. Galanda. That notwithstanding, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case about the disenrollment of dozens of members by the Pala Band of Mission Indians in California, a case that sparked a firestorm in Indian country over culture, identity, treaty rights and tribal sovereignty.
WASTING NO TIME: While Trump was getting sworn in on Friday January 20, Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault was issuing an evacuation order for the water protector camps to be cleared within 30 days, due to concerns about spring flooding. As the new workweek began, the Trump administration first implied it would try to not only push forward the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) but also revive the Keystone XL. And this he did, the next day, signing a series of Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda that sought to expedite the building of pipelines. Archambault sent a swift volley back, calling the order a treaty violation and promising legal action. He emphasized that now is more important than ever to register public comment about the DAPL Environmental Impact Statement before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On MSNBC, he told Tamron Hall that the President was trying to circumvent federal law, and that it most certainly wouldn’t fly. He said as much in a letter to Trump as well, as pipeline opponents rallied by the thousands around the nation. Even Presidential daughter Malia Obama attended an event to support Standing Rock at the Sundance Film Festival, a move that was lauded by event host and actress Shailene Woodley.
INDIGENOUS RISING: The cable series RISE, coming off of its recent showing at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and hosted by indigenous women Michelle Latimer and Sarain Fox, premiered on the cutting-edge network Viceland.
SHAMELESS: Faux fund-raisers are ripping off the work of ICMN editorial cartoonist Marty Two Bulls, putting it on t-shirts and pretending that the proceeds are going to support Standing Rock. In reply, Two Bulls has created t-shirt designs of his own.
CLUELESS: Also appearing on MSNBC, U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he did not think the water protectors’ stance was “principled” and that now, with cold weather weakening the resistance, is a good time to stick the pipeline in the ground.
STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE: Water protectors in Texas showed up at a meeting of the state Parks and Wildlife Commission, of which Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren is a member, to decry the project and his involvement in both that and the commission. He did not attend the meeting, but they made their views known anyway.
JOB CREATION AND LIES: Meanwhile, revival of the Keystone XL pipeline idea had U.S. Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Arizona, reminding us that in fact the project will not be much of a job creator, with three dozen permanent positions at most needed to keep the thing running once it’s built.
TAKING ROGUE OIL TRAINS TO COURT: The Swinomish Tribe’s lawsuit against BNSF Railway, alleging the railroad company violated an agreement related to the carrying of cargo across Swinomish lands, will proceed in federal court thanks to a judge’s ruling in Washington State.
WALKING ON: David Moses Bridges, a maker of traditional birch bark canoes and a Passamaquoddy culture keeper, walked on at his home on the banks of Passamaquoddy Bay on the Pleasant Point Indian Reservation. The 54-year-old activist and artist had suffered from sinus cancer.