This Week in Native American News - September 9, 2016

This Week in Native American News - September 9, 2016

Bill Passed for Native Choice Schools

Senate passed a bill Wednesday, September 7, 2016, to allow the expansion of School Choice to Native Americans, as proposed by Senator John McCain.

This bill is set to improve education for Native Americans living on reservations by providing additional educational choices outside of their current BIE (Bureau of Indian Education) schools. The Native American Education Opportunity Act would create Education Savings Accounts (ESA) for these Native American students in states where an ESA program is currently in place, (currently: Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Florida).

“A new school year has begun for about 41,000 Native American students in 185 BIE schools around the nation,” said Senator John McCain (R-AZ), author of this legislation. “Statistically, half of them will not graduate high school. Their test scores will trail by double digits compared to their peers attending public schools in urban areas. While some BIE schools have not been inspected for safety in 10 years, BIE spends more money on Native students than most other school systems in the nation—an estimated $15,000 per student per year. This is unacceptable. I thank the committee for passing my legislation that builds upon school choice initiatives run by states like Arizona, Mississippi and Florida, that empower low-income families to send their kids to a school of their choice – including charter schools, distance learning, and special needs classes.” Read the full story here.

Loss of Bird and Plant Species = Loss of Culture in Hawaii

hawaiian rain forest

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 87% of Hawaii's native plant species are endangered, meaning a total of 415 plants are on the organizations "red list" and on the verge of extinction. Each of these individual  species have an important role in the forest, as well as in the Hawaiian culture. (Read the full story here.)

“If we have one of these super rare plants go extinct that’s not only a piece of biodiversity that the world loses, that’s a word in (the Hawaiian) language that goes extinct. That’s a story we can no longer tell our grandchildren,” according to Kawika Winter, director of the Limahuli Garden and Preserve at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai.

Likewise, a study published recently in Science Advances states that there is a significant decline in the native Hawaiian bird numbers. (Read the full story here.) Both of these declines are blamed on environmental changes and outside forces, and the Native Hawaiians are concerned.

Crampton said that feathers were a part of the ancient Hawaiian attire. “If we lose these forest birds, we lose our connection to our past,” [Lisa Crampton, co-author of the study and project leader with the Kaua’i Forest Bird Recovery Project] reportedly said. “Even though the situation is dire, it's not too late. It’s not hopeless.”
Hawaiian attire

Alongside scientists, Native Hawaiians are helping to preserve their culture and its connection to nature through art. Jeremiah White's company, Akua Creative, sells unique articles of clothing that showcase designs of fish, sharks, whales, sea turtles, octopuses, wild boar, owls, and more are inspired by both the science and mythology of Hawaii. Read the full story here. And visit his store here.

Here's Your Lastest Dakota Pipeline Update

Photo Credit: Andrew Cullen/Reuters

Photo Credit: Andrew Cullen/Reuters

The protesting continues. Catch up on the latest North Dakota news here.

For the non-Natives, this article calls for us to put on our "listening ears," and pay attention to what is truly going on. The author, Clay Jenkinson, suggests that now is great time to re-assess what we know, or think we know, about Native Americans, their culture, and their place in the world.

Looking to do some reading on North Dakota History? Here are the books Jenkinson recommends:

P.S. The Justice League stands behind Standing Rock.

If you're in the St. Louis Area, Head to Cahokia This Weekend


Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in southwest Illinois is hosting two days of cultural presentations by Native Americans.

Native American artists, story tellers and dancers will display clothing, demonstrate crafts, and discuss customs and beliefs on Sept. 10 and 11 at the site's Interpretive Center. Learn more about Cahokia here.

First Earthship Built on Native Land

First Earthship on Native Land

No, not a space ship. An Earthship is a "Self-sustaining house, made entirely out of recycled materials." This particular Earthship was built on Six Nations of the Grand River territory near Brantford, Ontario to a grandmother, her daughter, and her four children. The house took a total of 14 days to build, runs on solar energy, contains a greenhouse (for food and insulation), and provides plenty of room for this growing family.

Thousands of Earthship homes have been built around the world in the last 20 years, but this is the first one to be built on a reservation and could help to fix housing issues that are rampant across Indian Country. Read all about this home here.

So that's where Eagle Feathers Come From!

eagle talons

By federal law, it is illegal to possess, use, or sell eagle feathers. A violation can result in a fine of up to $200,000, one year of imprisonment, or both. And yet, Native Americans use still use them in religious and culturally ceremonies. That's because, Native Americans, who are members of federally recognized tribes, can obtain a permit under the Federally Recognized Tribal List Act of 1994 to gain access to golden eagles and bald eagles. 

And when they need them, they get them from the National Eagle Repository, a part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which "provides a central location for the receipt, storage, and distribution of bald and golden eagles found dead and their parts throughout the United States." Read more here.

We try to share the best of the best, but that means there are really interesting articles we have to leave out. Check out more articles here.