Indian Country headlines for Wednesday

Rep. Deb Haaland (Photo by Vincent Schilling, File)

Indian Country Today

Stories we're following on Nov. 11, 2020: Rep. Deb Haaland says she'd 'of course' accept cabinet job; Ohkay Owingeh dance goes viral, Colville tribes push for dam removal, and more * Updated

Haaland says she'd be interested in cabinet post

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, says “of course” she’d be interested in becoming Interior secretary in Biden’s administration.

According to a Huffington Post report, more than 120 elected tribal leaders and intertribal group officials plan to send a letter to President-elect Joe Biden this week suggesting Haaland for the post.

They say the country is long overdue for an Indigenous person in the cabinet, particularly in the U.S. Interior Department because of its special role overseeing Native and environmental issues.

(Related: Assembling an inclusive Biden cabinet)

“We’ve never had a Native American serve in any Cabinet position,” Bryan Newland, tribal chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan and a lead organizer on the letter, told the outlet Tuesday. “Rep. Haaland is more than qualified and capable of serving as secretary of interior and would be a great choice.”

Asked if she would be interested in the job, Haaland told HuffPost on Sunday that she is “honored and privileged” to represent her New Mexico district in Congress, but noted she would “of course” take the Interior Department post if it’s offered.

The newspaper, The Hill, also reported that Haaland is on a shortlist along with New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. "Any of those picks would likely lead to a sharp turnaround at an agency with 70,000 employees that critics say has been more focused on oil and gas leases than conservation during the Trump presidency," The Hill said Wednesday.

Video of spontaneous Pueblo dance of victory goes viral

A video of an Ohkay Owingeh man performing a traditional celebratory dance in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, has gone viral.

Saturday evening, Ashkia “Kia” Randy Trujillo got out of his car during a community car parade and started doing a men’s northern traditional storytelling dance. All around him cars were honking their horns in a celebration of Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump.

Trujillo told the Daily Lobo the dance has been done for generations “to depict a successful hunt or a victorious battle” depending on the dancer.

University of New Mexico journalism student and Daily Lobo photographer Sharon Chischilly, Navajo, shot the video and posted it to her Instagram and Twitter accounts. The Daily Lobo reports Chischilly has built a reputation for “her prowess in depicting Indigenous communities.

“Over the last six months, Chischilly’s photography has been featured in the Navajo Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other international outlets," reported Lissa Knudsen. 

By Tuesday afternoon, the video had 5.2 million views. It had been shared by the rapper Common, Congresswoman Deb Haaland and actor and Indigenous rights activist Mark Ruffalo among others.

Trujillo said he’s been the leader of a youth dance group from the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh for ten years.

Colville tribes pushing for dam removal

This Oct. 28, 2020 photo shows the Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River near Oroville, Wash. Tribal leaders in northern Washington state have announced an effort to determine the feasibility and costs associated with removal of the dam that has not generated electricity since 1958. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times via AP)
This Oct. 28 photo shows the Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River near Oroville, Washington. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times via AP)

A tribe in Washington state is working to determine the feasibility of removing a 100-year-old dam that hasn't generated electricity since 1958.

The 54-foot-high Enloe Dam blocks fish from reaching the Similkameen River. It’s of no use to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, which wants to bring salmon back to the river, The Seattle Times reported.

“It’s got to go,” tribal business council Chair Rodney Cawston said. “Our people have lived off salmon for thousands of years. This is of just huge importance to us.”

Cody Desautel, natural resources director for the tribes, said the dam's removal is crucial for rebuilding stocks of steelhead, lamprey and chinook salmon in the river.

Colville tribes biologist Chris Fisher agreed, saying the dam's removal could add decades to the survival of cold-water species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, according to The Associated Press.

The Okanogan Public Utility District has spent $15 million on the inactive dam and is now expected to spend about $7 million to conduct a dam-safety study demanded by the state Department of Ecology. Earlier plans to remove and revive the dam failed due to cost and liability.

Sterritt among 'most respected voices' in Canadian media

Angela Sterrit, an award-winning Gitxsan reporter at CBC, has been named one of Vancouver’s 50 most influential people of 2020, according to an annual ranking by Vancouver magazine.

“Today, Sterritt is one of the most respected voices in Canadian media, and we’re looking to her for in-depth coverage on the stuff that matters,” the magazine said.

Sterritt was cited specifically for her reporting on missing and murdered Indigenous women and local cases of police brutality. She took to Twitter saying, “this award is for any Indigenous woman who has felt pushed out of institutions (like media & academia) to know they can succeed despite efforts to undermine.”

Sterrit is an author, columnist, keynote speaker and visiting professor. Earlier this year she was nominated by the Canadian Screen Awards for best reporter of the year. Previously, she has been awarded Investigative Award of the Year from Journalists for Freedom of Expression and Best Audio Work of the Year at the ImagineNative film festival in Toronto.

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Remains found in California will receive ceremonial burial

Human remains found at another California site. Humans, 130,000 years ago, mastodon, Two mastodon femur balls, one face up and one face down, are among the remains found at the Cerutti site in San Diego.
Two mastodon femur balls, one face up and one face down, are among the remains found at the Cerutti site in San Diego.

Two sets of remains of Native Americans found at a construction site in a Santa Ana neighborhood in Orange County, California, will receive a ceremonial burial.

The bones, discovered in late October by city workers, were determined to be at least 100 years old. They are possibly those of members of the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe who once lived in the area, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. For at least 10,000 years, the Tongva lived in the Los Angeles Basin, northern Orange County and the Channel Islands, including Catalina.

Gabrielino-Tongva Chief Anthony Morales was identified as the descendent responsible for recommending a place and method of burial.

After researchers study the remains, Morales will find a suitable place to bury the two sets of Santa Ana remains in a traditional ceremony, held in a secluded area and attended by a small group of tribe members.

“Through prayer, through song, through reburial — that’s our healing,” Morales told the Times.

A Tongva village is believed to have once stood on the area where both sets of remains were found.

It was the second time in recent months that remains were found by crews excavating for a streetcar project in the area, prompting detectives to begin an investigation.

Watch: The responsibility of being a trickster

Northern Arapaho and Kickapoo filmmaker Missy Whiteman joins the Indian Country Today show to talk about the all Indigenous, all female virtual film festival she's been selected for.

She talks about the work on one of her upcoming films, a short sci-fi and how her culture, and her father shaped her as an artist. And Indian Country Today reporter Kolby KickingWoman is on the show to talk about the kick off of the National Congress of American Indian's virtual conference.

Whiteman said she’s working on the second part of a trilogy. The first of the three is a film called 'The Coyote Way: Going Back Home.' It's a short sci-fi docu narrative about a young boy named Charlie who has to make a decision on whether he wants to join a gang or go on an epic pilgrimage. It was filmed in the twin cities at the Little Earth of United Tribes housing projects which is the only one in the US founded by the American Indian Movement.

“It's really about him [Charlie] being immersed in the environment of Little Earth of United Tribes and introducing different characters that are also in the film,” Whiteman said. “And it's also passing on that responsibility as being a trickster."

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