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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, February 19, 2017

Indian country wins: Northern Cree wows the Grammys, uranium cleanup commences on the Navajo Nation, and SIxties Scoop children validated.
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A Grammy shout-out and more, water protectors wind down, and Valentine’s Day, Native style. This and more grabbed headlines, and attention, in Indian country during The Week That Was, February 19, 2017.

GRAMMY LOVE: The seven-time Grammy-nominated Native drum group Northern Cree and Carla Morrison performed “Cree Cuttin'” and “Un Beso” at the 59th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony. Group leader Steve Wood called it an amazing tribute to Indian country and First Nations people. The NoDAPL movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) also made a Grammy appearance, of sorts: Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Jackson, gave a shout-out to the water protectors.

NoDAPL SPREADS: As a court denied the temporary restraining order requested by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on DAPL, the battle continued to move away from the water protector camps and into the courts, and divestment, taking new shapes on new fronts, as Mark Trahant reported. Case in point: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a motion to overturn the Lake Oahe easement granted by the U.S. Department of the Army on February 8. Meanwhile, on the ground, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum ordered the water protector camps to evacuate, moving up the February 22 deadline out of concern for potential earlier spring flooding due to unseasonably warm temperatures. Many did not want to go, even as pressure intensified. Folk-rock icon Melissa Etheridge, scheduled to perform at Turning Stone Resort and donate proceeds to legal assistance for those arrested in the conflict, said the water protectors were battling for Mother Earth. Steven Newcomb noted that in the DAPL approval exposed the degree to which the chosen people/promised land model is still being used against the Oceti Sakowin Nation. Peter d’Errico exposed the fact that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withheld key documents from the public, including Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leaders and experts. With cracks beginning to develop in the historic unity that prevailed in the camps throughout the late summer through the end of 2016, Laughing Coyote came out in defense of Chase Iron Eyes in an opinion piece. In Rome, Pope Francis surprised everyone by reiterating his assertion that Indigenous Peoples should be consultation partners and stakeholders in industrial projects on their lands—but with words that many took as a nod to Standing Rock.


HE JUST CAN’T LEAVE THAT ALONE: President Donald Trump, faced with myriad international and domestic concerns, steeped himself instead in an attack on Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. In a meeting with Democratic leaders, he called her Pocahontas, harking back to an earlier dispute. Democrats condemned the epithet as racist. In truth, the story of Pocahontas is incredibly sad, and ICMN’s Vincent Schilling dispelled the myths. As Steve Russell reported, Pocahontas was either a frightened child or an exotic sexual fantasy, depending on whom you ask. Two indigenous filmmakers responded to the epithet hurled at Warren, calling it a “racially-charged comment that reinforces the need for accurate retelling of Native American and First Nations history.”

GAMING GAMBLE? Amid rumors that Trump was gunning for gaming in Indian country, Native American Coalition chair Markwayne Mullin worked to assuage those fears.

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NATIVE LOVE: Valentine’s Day came and went in Indian country, with musings from Sarah Sunshine Manning, a series of hilarious tweets about Native Valentines compiled by Schilling, and the true story of St. Valentine, on account of his association with that stereotypical Native standby, the bow and arrow.

INUNDATION: As the Oroville Dam spillway sprung a leak while handling reservoir overflow, members of the Estom Yumeka Maidu and the Mechoopda Indian tribes were among the nearly 200,000 evacuees.

URANIUM: A historic, $600 million settlement agreement reached by the Navajo Nation, the United States and two subsidiaries of the mining company Freeport-McMoRan aims to address a legacy of uranium mining that stretches back to 1944, with the cleanup of 94 mines.

GOLD KING: In contrast, victims of the Gold King Mine spill of August 2015 were given the runaround by federal agencies in the wake of the unleashing of three million gallons of toxic waste into key rivers, they told a Senate panel.

MURDER, MURDER AND MORE MURDER: Activists in Colombia, including a prominent Indigenous leader, are still being murdered at an alarming rate less than two months after the signing of peace accords, according to observers, with 15 activists assassinated in the two months since peace accords were signed.

VINDICATED AT LAST: Survivors of the Sixties Scoop in Canada, a two-decade-long program under which indigenous children were put into non-Native foster care and stripped of their heritage, were vindicated by a court ruling that stated the federal government had failed its duty to protect them.

WALK IN PEACE: Indian country mourned Doris ‘Coke’ Meyer, Will Rogers’ grandniece and the last relative to know him personally, who walked on at the age of 97.