Celebrating Native American women

On this weekend edition of Indian Country Today, the Colville Tribes celebrate a milestone. And we salute the mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters and grandmothers.
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Rodney Cawston is the Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. He joins the show to talk about an important anniversary for all Native Americans.

On the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Mary Kathryn Nagle, who is Cherokee, joined the show to talk about the continuing crisis.

Shari Pena, who is Cherokee, is a wife and the mother of four who has always wanted to have a large family. Shari said she and her husband Hyrum wanted to be foster parents long before they had biological children.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi is expanding its tribal casino operations in Indiana to include Class Three Gaming. 
  • The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is getting help to defend a historic site from vandals. 
  • An affluent Boston suburb wants to keep a high school’s controversial mascot and logo.
  • You can now find the history and culture of Native Americans in California classrooms.
  • If you know a Native high school student who is interested in exploring a career in journalism a summer program starts soon.
  • Yup’ik artist and designer Peter Williams is bridging the worlds of fashion and art with cultural traditions in his latest exhibition.

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show.

Chairman Rodney Cawston, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, stands in front of the Lucy Covington Government Center. Fifty years ago this week an election at Colville, led by Covington, ended the federal policy of termination. (Photo courtesy of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation)

Rodney Cawston, Confederated Tribes of the Colville

Earlier this week, Chairman Rodney Cawston joined us to talk about wildfire season with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Fifty years ago, May 8 1971, the Colville Tribes held a contentious election over Tribal Termination. We asked him to reminisce about that event. The tribe voted against termination, ending an era of misguided government policy.

Rodney Cawston:

"One of the things that I remember was in my own family, my parents, it just, even between them, it was such a huge argument. I remember hearing them argue about it all the time. And I think that was the thing that really brought my attention to it as a child and hearing their discussions back and forth, if we terminate what would happen, if we don't terminate, what would happen. To hear the argument to not terminate, because if we do terminate, we're going to lose all of our reservation lands. We will no longer have a home or children will no longer have the hunting and the fishing and gathering that we are enjoying here today. And there'll be no more revenue or anything, opportunities for a test as a prime or a tribal government to address the needs of our people."

"And all of our lands would be sold and people would probably move in very quickly, as well as other operations or governmental operations. And I used to think about that as a child. I thought, well, if I can't go out hunting, and if I can't go out fishing, why would I want any amount of money? That was at least, I remember that in my mind and I thought, and then that would be forever and we even heard that tribes who did terminate that their birth certificates were even changed from Native or Indian to white. And I thought, well, how could you do that? It's just because you sold your lands. Like, whatever it doesn't change your ethnicity or who you are but that's what we had heard, whether that was actually factual or not."

Mary Kathryn Nagle works with actors on the script of her play “Sliver of a Full Moon,” that paints a picture of the Violence Against Women Act.

Mary Kathryn Nagle works with actors on the script of her play “Sliver of a Full Moon,” that paints a picture of the Violence Against Women Act.

This week, we bring Awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Native women face murder rates more than 10 times the national average, more than 5,000 American Indian and Alaska Native women are missing 55 percent of Native women have experienced domestic violence, according U.S. Department of Justice. Joining us today is Mary Kathryn Nagle. She’s a partner at Pipestem and Nagle. She represents the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and works on issues facing women. Mary Kathryn has written and produced several plays relating to Indians and the law.

Mary Kathryn Nagle:

"There's been a lot of advocacy at the grassroots level for generations on this issue. And of course, we all know this violence begins. Native women began with the colonial conquest of our nations and violence against our women was a very strategic tactic use to conquer our nations. And unfortunately that's because that violence has never been directly addressed, we're still dealing with it today. Today, we have had progress, folks are probably familiar with laws like Savannah's Act, Not Invisible Act, and those are wonderful achievements and those are achievements made possible through the advocacy of our tribal leaders, victims, families, victims, advocates, Native women. Spokeswomen out there who have been fighting for this issue. I think what's important to remember is that those laws specifically, that I just mentioned, that were signed into law last October, do not restore the criminal jurisdiction that the Supreme court erased in Oliphant, which severely limits the ability of tribal nations to arrest and criminally prosecute homicides committed against tribal citizens, Native women on tribal lands."

"If they're committed by a non-Indian, which many of them are, and also does not provide funding for tribal law enforcement, tribal courts, victim services, tribal, governmental institutions. And that's another issue that we faced in Indian Country is lack of resources. It's also an issue that we're hearing from many federal law enforcement agencies as well who claim that they cannot investigate these cases because they simply do not have the law enforcement personnel on ground. So I think moving forward, one thing that we're really advocating for us first and foremost, just restore restoration of tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction full stop so that our tribal nations can fully protect anyone living within their borders  as their inherent sovereign right to do so. And we're also looking for greater funding, but also to, at the end of the day, collaboration and dedication. I think that the FBI, United States attorney's offices, I think they have a federal trust duty and responsibility from the hundreds and hundreds of treaties, they signed with our tribal nations to investigate and prosecute these cases."

Shari Pena, Cherokee

Shari Pena, Cherokee

For Mothers Day we’d like to congratulate the Foster Mother of the Year, Shari Pena. She’s Cherokee and has always wanted a large family. Shari is a wife and the mother of four. She and her husband Hyrum wanted to be foster parents long before they had biological children. The Pena's have been fostering since 2017. Shari took time out from taking care of her biological and foster children to speak with us about her experiences learning to become someone who takes on the challenge of caring for the future of Indian County.

"We've had 13 children in our home. We have a set of three at first. Their ages were four, three and eight months. They, that was an experience the first day that they were there. They clogged three toilets. They had flushed rubber duckies down the toilet. And then we had we had those children for 18 months. So they're a big part of our family. Even still today. We had a set of five and in fact, we have the three with us still when the five came in and their ages was from eight to five weeks. And the five week old baby was very sick at the time and had to have surgery."

"I try to talk to the family and ask what they do within their culture for a baby's first laugh. You have a big celebration. I rely on books and like I said I've reached out to my friends who have different tribes and ask them what should we be doing with the children? And and it's fun too, because the older kids that have come into my home have taught me different things about their tribe, and we apply them in our lives while they're here. And even after they're gone, we still keep up those traditions."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

Shirley Sneve, Sicangu Lakota, is vice president of broadcasting for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter @rosebudshirley She’s based in Nebraska and Minnesota.

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

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