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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, March 5, 2017

The Trump train continued off the rails, water protectors organized, and other hot stories in Indian country the Week That Was, March 5, 2017.
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Water protectors scattered to the four directions, the Trump presidency continued to wreak havoc, and a marijuana festival won out. All this and more during The Week That Was, Marcy 5, 2017, in Indian country.

LET’S PARTY: The marijuana festival known as the Cannabis Cup, scheduled to be on the Moapa Paiute reservation outside Las Vegas, was nearly canceled, but a last-minute reprieve allowed it to go on. The Moapa Band of Paiutes, hosts of this year’s High Times Cannabis Cup, will proceed as planned, although in a scaled down concert format. This will be the first time the event will be held on tribal lands in Indian country. The kerfuffle came just as the Trump administration announced, through Press Secretary Sean Spicer, increased crackdowns on marijuana use—something that Jeff Doctor, executive director of the National Indian Cannabis Coalition, called a “scare tactic.”

POT WOULD HAVE BEEN PREFERABLE: Members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe are trying to prove that dioxin-laced herbicides sprayed on the reservation during the 1960s and 1970s—at the same time that Agent Orange was being dumped on Vietnam as an act of war—is the cause of lingering health effects among tribal members who were exposed.

AFTER THE RAZING: The NoDAPL movement scattered as water protectors were forced out of Oceti Sakowin and then Sacred Stone camps, and the former was bulldozed to the ground. After the razing, the remaining water protectors took their inspiration, and the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, to other pipeline-threatened sites throughout Turtle Island. One of the venues, besides the banks, is the courts, where the Cheyenne River Sioux’s religious beliefs are essentially on trial in its attempt to convince the court that the U.S. has violated Article VI of the Constitution. Back to those halls of finance: New York City’s very own Mayor Bill DiBlasio warned Wells Fargo and 16 other banks to stop investing in DAPL—or else. And Norway’s biggest private investor, Storebrand, divested from the three companies behind the pipeline, pulling nearly $35 million out of Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, and Enbridge. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, began demanding answers from the FBI in the wake of reports that the government’s anti-terror forces have contacted at least three water protectors after they left Standing Rock.

HOT SEAT: The Government Accountability Office blasted leadership at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services over allegations of fraud and mismanagement, among other issues, in several programs serving Indian country.

PRESIDENT TRUMP AND THE GANG: President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress, poised to release his first federal budget, which proposes cuts of at least $54 billion, which he will add to defense spending, reported Mark Trahant.

DEMS UNITE: Meanwhile, with the election of Tom Perez as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, that party’s Native members pulled together after being divided leading up to the vote.

JUST LIKE JASON: The Pebble Mine project, held up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2014, could be brought back from the dead just like in a horror movie. As Scott Pruitt takes the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. House Science, Space, & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is urging him to reconsider the Pebble Mine proposal in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, home to one of the world’s biggest wild salmon runs.

GENERATING ANXIETY: The Navajo Generating Station, whose lease runs through 2044, may be closed by 2019, and is operating on borrowed time.

BAD CALL: Cierra Fields, a Fort Gibson high school student and member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, said she was removed from her classroom after refusing to stand for or say the pledge of allegiance, scolded by her teacher for refusing to participate.

SUSPENSION: A Billings, Montana, radio jockey was suspended just days after he called for the segregation of Native American student athletes. Paul Mushaben had said that the Montana High School Association (MHSA) should consider creating a separate basketball tournament for Native American students because they are “unruly” and “disrespectful of the facility.”

TWO BULLS, NO BULL: Indian Country Media Network's own Marty Two Bulls was named the Finalist in the 2017 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning, one of two awarded for “distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous, independent standard set by Herblock.”

MOURNED, AND WAY TOO SOON: Hundreds honored the memory of artist, linguist and Native rights advocate Tyrone Tootoosis, who walked on at his home in Duck Lake, Saskatoon at age 58 after battling colon cancer.