This Week in Native American News

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The Choctaw Nation's response  to the Lexi Page Uproar

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

For the last few days, news feed have been inundated with stories of Lexi Page, the little girl who was taken from her foster parents home after 4 years to be returned to her Choctaw family. Stories from the foster parents are everywhere, many claiming she's being moved because she's native, but there are far fewer stories explaining the Native side.

As with everything, it's always best to know both sides of the story before making a decision.

Here's the Choctaw side.

Native American Heritage Day to be celebrated in more states

Every year on the second Monday of October the same debate arises. Should we or shouldn't we celebrate Columbus day?

Scores of Native Americans would like to see the holiday disappear, saying it celebrates the cruelty and violence of the colonial age, and be replaced with a Native American day. On the other hand, the European descendants say it represents their heritage and the voyage that brought them here, and ask that a different day be set aside for indigenous people.

In a recent Los Angeles City Council meeting both sides were present:

"Columbus Day is for the immigrants and to celebrate what was brought here and the Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples should have a day, because they are the ones who started here," stated Ann Potenza, a representative of the Federated Italo-Americans umbrella organization.
"This [holiday] is so critical to the future of our people and we want to make sure that we're able to celebrate the survival, the beauty, the resilience of our peoples and what we contribute to this city every day," said Chrissie Castro, vice chairperson of the L.A. City/County Native American Indian Commission. Read the full article here.

While LA discussed how to move forward, Virginia General Assembly officially passed the bill to create a Virginia state holiday: Indigenous People's Day will now officially fall on the fourth Wednesday of November, the day before Thanksgiving. See native students react to the announcement.

Need some more days to celebrate:

August 9th - United Nations Indigenous People of the World Day (established in 1994)
4th Monday in September  - Tennessee's American Indian Day (established in 1994)
4th Friday in September - California's American Indian Day (established in 1998 by then-Governor Ronald Reagan)
2nd Monday in October - South Dakota is the only state to practice non-observance of Columbus day by recognizing Native American Day (established in 1990)
4th Friday in November (the day after Thanksgiving) - Native American Heritage Day (signed into existence by then-President George W. Bush in 2008)
November is also Native American Heritage Month

We suggest celebrating all of these with picnics and fireworks!

Michigan community working to rebuild Native Heritage

Cecilia Stevens teaching at Saginaw Chippewa Academy. Photo by Rachel Harrison,  Central Michigan Life

Cecilia Stevens teaching at Saginaw Chippewa Academy. Photo by Rachel Harrison, Central Michigan Life

While other native communities are feeling the loss of their languages and culture, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation, in central Michigan, is working to teach their children the traditional ways and rebuild their community. Between the tribally-funded Saginaw Chippewa Academy, the Sasiwaans Immersion School, and the local public schools, tribal members are teaching more than 950 native children their ancestors songs, stories, and ceremonies. Read the full article here.

The native children of central Michigan getting both a top notch education and a strengthened community. Unfortunately, this is not the case in most federally-run Native schools. Fifteen years after the 2001 Native American Education Improvement Act, reports are showing Federal Native Schools students are performing lower than any other group studied, and they're doing it in run-down schools.

In response to recent reports, Arizona Senator John McCain has proposed the Native American Education Opportunity Act, which would grant students at Bureau of Indian Education schools funds to pursue other educational opportunities, to try to fix the situation. Read the full article here.

Bet you didn't know he was native...

Dave Anderson of Famous Dave's (photo courtesy of  Famous Dave's )

Dave Anderson of Famous Dave's (photo courtesy of Famous Dave's)

The past few weeks, we've been highlighting Native Americans who have made a name for themselves in their field or done something significant for the Native community.

This week we thought it would be fun to highlight someone many people have heard of but few know is native: David Anderson, THE Famous Dave, is from the Choctaw and Ojibwe nations.

Beyond his famous barbeque, Dave served as the ninth Assistant Secretary of the Indian Affairs, part of the Department of the Interior which oversees the work of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. He also has a heart for at-risk Native youth and was given Oprah's Angel Network Award and the Big Brothers Big Sisters Odyssey Award for his work.

Want to learn about other prominent Native Americans? This list is a good starting point and includes Natives throughout history into present day..