New Year’s resolutions, retrospectives and looks ahead to the possible ramifications of a new Presidential administration marked the first week of 2017 on January 8.
REZ-OLUTION CENTRAL: A number of Native movers and shakers revealed their New Year’s resolutions and their wishes for humanity over the past week, and we sampled the likes of National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby (Swinomish), actor Chaske Spencer, New Mexico Democratic Party Chair Debra Haaaland (Pueblo) and many more for a mix of aspiration and inspiration.
LOOKBACK CONTINUED: The review of 2016 continued unabated, and despite public perception, the news was not nearly all bad. For one, the Indians “won” 2016, opined Alex Jacobs, from the Dakota Access Pipeline standoff’s temporary victory to the establishment of a federal commission to study the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. Other wins included the honoring of a number of Native artists in 2016, for craftsmanship and excellence working in media, music, beadwork, jewelry, fashions, serigraphs, quilts, clay, wood and more. ICMN selected eight great Native music videos of last year, imbued with messages of strength, resilience, determination, and introspection. Likewise we compiled a list of great performances by Native actors as indigenous actors took important strides worldwide. The wave of excellence extended to the sports arena, with many Native stars shining bright. And in fashion, four businesswomen launched new businesses in 2016 that either facilitated buying authentic Native designs, or created new ways for indigenous artists to succeed. And to cap it all off, young Tlingit photographer Christian Gomez shared his most memorable moments of 2016.
SOBERING STATS: One statistic we would rather not have in the lineup, but is necessary to confront, is that the number of Native Americans killed by police in 2016 nearly doubled over the previous year’s number. Gun violence has been particularly bad of late on the Pine Ridge Reservation. These two factors converged on Tuesday December 27, capping a year in which five Pine Ridge Indian Reservation youth were victims in separate incidents of gun violence, when three shots fired by a tribal police officer ended the life of a sixth youth.
OUTRAGE: It’s almost inconceivable that this could still happen in the 21st century, but happen it did, though perhaps not for much longer. Public outcry ensued after the Westmoreland County Historical Society reenacted the hanging of a Native man convicted of murder in 1785 in Hanna’s Town, Pennsylvania. The video has since been taken down.
TAKING (POTENTIALLY ALARMING) SHAPE: Steve Russell pointed out that the Affordable Care Act isn’t the only essential public-health tool in danger of being repealed under the administration of incoming President Donald Trump. There’s also Federal Indian Law. Likewise, the choice of billionaire school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education could be bad for Indian country, some educators fear. This leaves the future of Native students uncertain, wrote Sicangu Lakota educator Cheryl Crazy Bull. The White House, too, has expressed concern about the shape of tribal relations under a Trump administration, by releasing a report listing President Barack Obama’s outreach to Indian country. Chief among the initiatives was the White House Council on Native American Affairs, which he created as an official pathway for Cabinet secretaries and top federal agency officials to coordinate and make progress on Indian issues. Could it be on the chopping block? Mark Trahant, looking both back and ahead, went so far as to compare Trump to President Andrew Jackson. Last, of overarching concern, is the prospect of a volatile personality in possession of the nuclear codes, and the potential threat it brings for nuclear war, wrote Lee Hester, fresh off his annual viewing of Dr. Strangelove.
DAPL: Though the standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has largely receded from public view as it moves to the courts and the halls of finance, a recent stunt brought it rushing back. During a recent NFL game at US Bank Stadium between the Vikings and the Chicago Bears, two water protectors climbed up a truss, then rappeled down from a catwalk, unfurling a banner as they went. “US Bank DIVEST #NoDAPL,” read the 10-foot by 40-foot NoDAPL banner, urging US Bank to divest its $175 million from the controversial project. The two were arrested but not charged.
NO MONUMENT STATUS FOR YOU: As proponents of Bears Ears National Monument celebrated the region’s newly acquired national monument designation, it came to light that the Grand Canyon will most likely not receive the same status. This left several tribes and their leadership, not to mention U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, profoundly disappointed, the Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member said.
FIRST NATIONS’ 20,000 ‘BABY VERONICAS’: Thousands of indigenous adoptees in Canada who had been “scooped” up from their families as children during the 1960s through the 1980s and placed with non-Native families in a massive foster care program dubbed the Sixties Scoop are suing for loss of cultural heritage and family ties. From the class-action suit to the personal adoption stories, the heartbreak is clear.
GAMING TRUMPS MASCOTS: The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi has established the Michigan Native American Heritage Fund with revenue from its casino. The money will be used to promote positive relationships with an understanding of the history and role of Michigan’s Indian tribes and Native Americans in the state, and it includes a component to help Michigan schools replace offensive mascots.
MEANWHILE, IN PERU: Good news was happening all around, as the first Quechua-language TV news show in Peru hit the airwaves, serving the country’s four million Quechua speakers for the first time not only in their language but also with a Quechua perspective that includes indigenous news stories usually not featured in mainstream broadcasts. Quechua was the principal language of the Inca Empire and is the mother tongue of approximately eight million people concentrated in Latin America, along with smaller groups in Europe and the United States.