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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, December 11, 2016

The biggest news stories in Indian country the week leading up to December 11, 2016: DAPL, Trump cabinet, and more.
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A historic victory, a poignant final visit, and a foundation that devotes 40 percent of its allocations to Native causes. This and more prevailed in Indian country during the week of December 11, 2016.

AGAINST ALL ODDS: On Sunday December 4, history was made as the U.S. Department of the Army (not the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which it oversees, and which had recommended proceeding) denied the missing easement that Energy Transfer Partners needed to drill under Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River, and complete the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Exultation ensued in the wake of the decision, with reaction coming from Washington DC, and erupting at Oceti Sakowin and other water protector camps. What comes next, given that Standing Rock defied history by upending what was thought to be a done deal, asked Mark Trahant. The decision and the unfolding events have already caused Energy Transfer Partners to restructure to avoid a junk rating, as Steve Russell reported. Indeed, with the pipeline project losing $20 million a week, the DAPL battle moved to the courts as Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archbambault II asked the water protectors to go home, citing the descending winter and the need to “pivot to the next phase of this struggle,” taking the NoDAPL fight to the courts and the banks. The Camp of the Sacred Stones called for a day of action on each day of December as it analyzed what’s next for the water protectors. A week before the decision, 4,000 veterans had arrived at Standing Rock to provide support and ask forgiveness in a moving ceremony that had many in tears. The victory was cause for much reflection, and spiritual leader Oren Lyons spoke about water, spirituality and connection to the land. Halfway across the country, at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Clara Pueblo artist Eliza Naranjo Morse updated a piece of her work that has been on display for nearly a year to mirror what had just transpired. Legal scholar Steven Newcomb created an “Original Nations Anthem” for listeners to decolonize their minds. Some of what inspired the NoDAPL movement can be found in the fight of Pacific Northwest tribes against coal rail terminals.

LURCHING AHEAD: As the cabinet of President-elect Donald Trump continued to take shape, the specter of what might happen to Indian health care in the event of an Affordable Care Act repeal loomed. Mark Trahant also speculated about various possible cabinet picks.

SELF-SUFFICIENCY: KILI Radio, the first independent Native-owned and -operated reservation radio station, began generating up to 15 percent of its electricity via wind turbine.

HONORS AND ACCOLADES: Madison, Wisconsin celebrated the first annual Ho-Chunk Day after a unanimous vote by the Madison Common Council. Suquamish Tribeal Council member Rich Purser, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission executive director Paul Lumley, and Pat Courtney Gold, founder of the Northwest Native American Basketweavers Association and an instructor at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., were honored by the Potlatch Fund. And the information technology (IT) departments at two tribal nations—the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians and the Cherokee Nation—were praised at the Industry Awards at the recent TribalNet Conference and Tradeshow in San Diego.

IT CAN BE DONE: The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria expanded its Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park, California, to the tune of $175 million, including numerous amenities for employees, to combine glitter with social conscience. Mark Fogarty profiled the Minnesota-based Northwest Area Foundation, which acknowledges 75 tribal governments in eight states and earmarks 40 percent of its grants for Native-led organizations.

RECONCILIATION AVERTS WALKOUT: Despite high tensions on the first day of the Assembly of First Nations in Gatineau, Quebec, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reassured indigenous leaders of his commitment to rebuild nation-to-nation relationships and unveiled the new Indigenous Language Act to ensure the preservation and revitalization of First Nations, Métis and Inuit languages across Canada, some which are already in jeopardy of going extinct.

NOSTALGIA TRIP: U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made what she said is her last official trip to Indian country with a visit to Acoma Pueblo, a nearly 1,000-year-old village about 70 miles west of Albuquerque that is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America.

LAST LAUGH? Famed Native writer Sherman Alexie, notorious for having his books banned or censured year after year, will now be adapting his Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to the big screen in a movie to be produced and acted in by Hugh Jackman.