Celebrating Indian Country milestones

On this weekend edition of Indian Country Today, we’ll introduce you to a two-spirit fancy dancer, profile a groundbreaking museum director, celebrate a victory, and we're jamming out to the Snotty Nose Rez Kids
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A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The senate confirmation hearing process is starting for Bryan Newland
  • The Keystone XL Pipeline may be terminated but land defenders are still facing charges for their part in the protests against the pipeline. 
  • As a challenging school year comes to a close, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is congratulating Tribal graduates of the Class of 2021. 
  • Canada’s Yukon government is agreeing to establish a separate school board for First Nations students. 
  • This week marks the 77th anniversary of D-Day when Allied forces landed in Normandy, France, to help liberate Europe from Germany and turned the course of World War II.
Sherenté Harris, Narragansett 

Sherenté Harris, Narragansett 

Sherenté Harris is a cultural educator, artist and activist. Harris is the subject of a new documentary, "Being Thunder." Over the course of several years, the film documents the two-spirit, gender-queer teenager from the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island, revealing the struggles faced by the determined teen. She is currently attending Brown University.

Sherenté Harris:

"My story begins as a young teenager realizing that I was two-spirit, and luckily having a family that loved and supported me and was in touch with our traditional ways. And then that journey was a process of many comings out to my tribal community and the tribal communities around me. And that was all facilitated through dance. And I come from a family of champion powwow dancers and it is, I have always been taught that through our dance."

"We give sacred prayer and if I was not dancing in a style that spoke to my two-spirit identity, I would be lying to myself and my prayer would be empty. So I began fancy shawl dancing as a two-spirit person, biologically born male and shook things up in a drastic way within my tribal communities."

Faith Spotted Eagle (photo via Facebook)

Faith Spotted Eagle, Dakota (photo via Facebook)

Indian Country scored a big victory this week with the end of the KXL Pipeline. Faith Spotted Eagle is an elder activist, who has made it her life’s work to stop it, as it impacted her home lands in South Dakota.

Faith Spotted Eagle:

"I think at the foundation of all of this, Mark, was spiritual activism because every time we were going to do something and there were times that we didn't know what to do with them, we would offer prayer and ask for guidance and those doors would open. And one of the things that happened on Jan. 25, in 2013, we created the international treaty to protect the sacred. So I'm on the chair of a treaty committee."

"And I thought they did stop making treaties with the government because they just changed it to a different name, a different name to steal land, but there's nothing that stops us from making treaties with each other. So ours was the first organized time of the Oceti coming together because I kept thinking somebody has got to do something and maybe that somebody is us. So we created the international treaty to protect the sacred against KXL and tar sands."

W. Richard West, Jr., Cheyenne and Arapaho

W. Richard West, Jr., Cheyenne and Arapaho

Rick West has led the Autry Museum for the last nine years as its president and CEO. Now he's retiring. He's also the founding director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, where he served as director from 1990 to 2007. He is an attorney and a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma. 

W. Richard West, Jr.:

"You refer to one of our lead favorite programs of mine, Native Voices, a Native theater program that sits with the Autry. And I liked it so much that you may not remember, but when I was the director of the National Museum of the American Indian, I actually tried to bring that program to the NMAI and the artistic director and leaders of the Native theaters operation at that point said, well, Washington D.C., living near San Diego, I think we'll stay on the west coast. And so that's how it came to be with the Autry museum of the American West."

"So in a way I followed it rather than it following me. But it's a great addition. And you're correct. While I have been here, we have attempted to strengthen, if you will, all of the museum that relates to the native side of its collections and staff, and that has included doing more things with the collection after it has been finally merged completely into the Autry and hiring staff to support it in the form of Joe Horse Capture, for example, who is now a vice president for native collections."

Thank you for watching!

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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.

Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter @VinceSchilling. Email: vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com he is also the opinions’ editor, opinion@indincountrytoday.com