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Indian Country Today

A look at headlines from around Indian Country

Indian Country Today

COLUMBUS TAKES A DIVE IN MINNESOTA

In Minnesota’s state capital, demonstrators pulled down the 10-foot bronze Christopher Columbus statue on Wednesday.

The protesters, including Dakota and Ojibwe tribal citizens, said they consider Columbus a symbol of genocide against Native Americans. They said they had tried many times to remove it through the political process, but without success.

The protest followed a similar incident Tuesday night in Richmond, Virginia, where protesters pulled down a Columbus statue in a city park, set it on fire and rolled it into a nearby lake. And in Boston, the Columbus statue was beheaded.

10 NATIVE PEOPLE WHOSE STATUES SHOULD REPLACE COLUMBUS

Around the world statues are coming down. Civil War generals. Mass murderers. And Christopher Columbus.

There are a few statues of American Indians and Alaska Natives spread out across the country. In fact: Some of the most representative locations are Congress and a few state legislatures. In the U.S. Capitol (standing alongside Andrew $%!* Jackson, colonizer Junipero Serra, would-be dictator Huey P. Long and missionary murderer Marcus Whitman) there is Kamehameha I, Po’Pay, Will Rogers, Sakakawea, Sarah Winnemucca, Standing Bear Washakie and Sequoyah.

So at least 4 percent scoundrel (certainly could have added more names to that side of the ledger) and 8 percent Indigenous.

Let’s play “what if?” What if the rest of the country was like that? Who should we be honoring? 

APPLAUSE FOR ONE DAY

June 10 was a strike day for many black academics. It started because a group of academics, Particles for Justice, was formed after a noted theorist dismissed the work of women. Scientific American profiled Nausheen Shah, one of the organizers of #Strike4BlackLives, from Wayne State University. She said: “So we want to say that this is a day of rest for black academics. They don’t need to be striving anymore. They should not have to suffer again. They should do what needs to be done, what they need to do to take care of themselves. So don’t do your usual stuff. Don’t do your academic research. Don’t read your papers. Get that applause for one day.”

REP. DEB HAALAND ATTENDS GEORGE FLOYD SERVICES

Hundreds gathered in a Houston church on Tuesday for the funeral of George Floyd, including New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo. “I am here to wish George Floyd’s family well and offer my condolences,” Haaland told KRQE News. On Wednesday, Haaland tweeted about her experience saying she heard “inspirational messages” from Rev. Al Sharpton. “We will never forget #GeorgeFloyd instead, we will continue to fight for justice in his name,” Haaland said.

CELEBRATION IN ALASKA

The first virtual Celebration is underway from Juneau. The event usually draws 6,000 to 7,000 Tlingit, Haida and Tsimpshian people from across the country and Canada. Due to the pandemic, the Sealaska Heritage Institute board of trustees postponed the biannual in-person celebration to June 2-5 in 2021. The 2020 Celebration, with the theme “Have Courage,” will feature videos from the 2018 Celebration as well as videos submitted by past participants. Find the broadcast schedule here. Find the livestream on YouTube. 

“MOLLY OF DENALI,” ALASKA KIDS' SHOW, WINS PEABODY AWARD

The children’s PBS show “Molly of Denali” has been recognized with a Peabody award, one of 30 programs with “the most compelling and empowering stories in broadcasting and digital media in 2019.” The University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication received nearly 1,300 television, radio/podcasts, and web entries.

The Peabody awards program stated, “While American media depicts Indigenous characters almost entirely in historical settings, the charming story of Molly Mabray, an Alaska Native girl who helps her parents run the Denali Trading Post, represents these traditions as a living culture with much to offer at the current moment—from environmental consciousness to community belonging to creative expression.”

Pictured: Molly of Denali opening title shot.
(Image: PBS KIDS/WGBH Boston)

In a video acceptance speech, the show’s creator and producer Dorothea Gillim said, “In many ways, we become the stories we tell, and that's why for kids, the most impressionable audience, the stories that they hear or watch about themselves or others is so vital. It informs their sense of self and their outlook on others. 

“With Molly of Denali, for the first time ever Alaska Native kids get to see themselves depicted positively on screen. They are the stars of the show and non-Native kids get to learn about cultures that for too long have been marginalized, muted and stigmatized,” Gillim said.

“Molly of Denali” has some 60 Indigenous people engaged in creating the show, which is co-produced by WGBH Boston and Atomic Cartoons. 

LEGAL RIGHTS GROUP JOINS FIGHT TO RETURN TOKITAE TO PACIFIC NORTHWEST WATERS

Wednesday two Lummi women announced at a press conference they will be represented by the Earth Law Center in a lawsuit to bring an orca back from the Miami Seaquarium to Puget Sound.

LolitaPerforming-1
The orca, or killer whale Tokitae, also known as Lolita, is shown here performing at Miami Seaquarium. (Photo courtesy of sacredsea.org)

The law center’s ocean rights manager, Michele Bender, said earlier lawsuits filed under endangered species and animal welfare laws missed the spiritual aspect of the relationship between Lummi and the killer whale. She said the next suit will be filed under the Native American Graves Protection and RepatriationAct, or NAGPRA, which addresses repatriation of sacred objects.

One of the women involved in the effort, Squil-le-he-le, or Raynell Morris, Lummi, said, “It is our Xa xalh Xechngeng (sacred obligation) to bring our relation out of captivity at Miami Seaquarium, to bring her home safely to Xw ullemy (the Salish Sea),” said Morris.

The second Lummi woman working on Tokitae's return is Tah Mahs, or Ellie Kinley. She said “reuniting [Tokitae] with her family, reuniting her with us helps make us all whole.”

Earlier court rulings noted that the killer whale has outlived her life expectancy of almost fifty years while in captivity, and moving her may affect her health. A date for filing the lawsuit has not been set.

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