April 5, 2019
One of the Largest Native American Tribes Has Just Voted to End Their 100-Year Dependency on Coal
For almost an entire century, the Navajo Nation has been economically dependent on coal – but after approving a historic new piece of legislation last month, the tribe will now be pursuing more eco-friendly alternatives.
After nearly eight years of deliberation, the Navajo Council recently announced that they would no longer be pursuing the acquisition of a coal-fired power plant in Arizona.
Upon rejecting the mine’s purchase in an 11-9 vote, the committee passed a new piece of legislation which highlighted the tribe’s commitment to investing in more sustainable sources of revenue and renewable energy.
Since the Navajo Nation is the second largest native tribe in America by populace, their shift away from coal is a landmark moment for national climate action.
In Other Navajo News…
Nearly everyone in the Sanostee chapter has a story about Indian service route 5010, a seven-mile corridor that connects as many as 2,500 residents to the outside world – or denies them access altogether.
“During winter or early spring, life really revolves around the condition of the road,” the Sanostee chapter president, Frank Smith, said. “People leave early in the morning when the ground is still frozen, and they can’t come home until it’s frozen again. Sometimes, people can’t leave home for a week at a time, or longer.”
Meet Vernan Kee, a Navajo freelance graphic designer who has been living in his van around the Four Corners for the last year, particularly touring the almost 30,000-square-mile Navajo Nation.
“I enjoy explaining what ‘van life’ is to the community on the reservation,” he said. “Most people on the reservation don’t have cable TV or even electricity, so keeping up with what’s going on in the world is limited.”
Task Force to Look Into Child Sexual Abuse in Indian Health Service
The Trump administration will convene a task force to examine why a pediatrician was allowed to sexually abuse Native American boys for decades while working for the Indian Health Service and try to prevent such a crime from happening again.
The team of law enforcement and other government officials will examine why the IHS failed to stop the doctor, Stanley Patrick Weber, and also how better to protect Native American children under the care of the federal health agency, senior administration officials said. The committee will be co-chaired by Trent Shores, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Oklahoma, and Joe Grogan, the White House’s domestic policy council chairman, the officials said.
The announcement of the task force Tuesday is the latest inquiry into the IHS’s mishandling of Mr. Weber’s case, following an investigation by The Wall Street Journal and FRONTLINE.
Chicago museum cancels exhibition launch over concerns from Native American community
One of America’s most visited art museums has announced it is delaying an eagerly anticipated exhibition, out of concern that the Native American story within it was not being properly told.
The Art Institute of Chicago, one of the largest and oldest art museums in the country, which last year had over 1.5 million visitors, was due to open an exhibition of thousand-year-old pottery from the Southwest in May.
The show, entitled Worlds Within: Mimbres Pottery of the Ancient Southwest, had been controversial from the start as many of the pieces came from graves.
A “scholars day” was organised by the museum in December, for Native American researchers and community representatives to discuss the show, but it ended with many of the experts unhappy at the exhibition content.
In Other Art News…
After a Sunday screening of “Tracing Roots,” a film about the master Haida weaver and her quest to learn more about a centuries-old hat, Churchill spoke about the circumstances that led to her decades-long infatuation with weaving and effort to perpetuate the endangered Alaska Native art form.
“There are many things that happened in my life right at the right time to make sure weaving could continue be taught,” Churchill said during a 40-minute discussion after a movie screening Sunday at the Gold Town Theater.
Indian Country Today to open newsroom at Arizona State; goal is to create national TV news program
Indian Country Today is on the move. It has a new legal framework — and soon will have a new newsroom and partnership with Arizona State University.
Last month the news organization officially incorporated as Indian Country Today, LLC., a non-profit news company, owned by the non-profit arm of the National Congress of American Indians. The new legal structure codifies the news organization’s independent course.
This summer Indian Country Today will open a newsroom in Phoenix at the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State University. Indian Country Today will maintain a Washington newsroom for its digital operations.
“We are excited to be partners with Arizona State University,” said Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today. “This is game-changing because it builds on so much of the work that ASU is already doing with the journalism focused on borders, its large population of Native students, a new research professor, and its commitment to representation in media. Plus the Cronkite school has become a magnet for great journalism with Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, and other innovative programs.”
In Other Arizona News…
Arizona Native American tribes on the hunt for animal hides, antlers, teeth and other parts for cultural and religious use have a unique new resource: the state's wildlife agency.
A recently launched program allows Arizona's nearly two dozen tribes to make requests to the state Game and Fish Department for animals that have died from poaching or natural causes, or after being hit by a vehicle.
Agency game managers, researchers and other employees then keep an eye out for the carcasses as part of their regular work.
"It's all just opportunistic collection of what we find out in the field," said the department's tribal liaison, Jon Cooley, who grew up on the Fort Apache reservation in eastern Arizona.
How A Cosmic Collision Sparked A Native American Translator's Labor Of Love
On April 1, scientists will officially restart their search for gravitational waves after a year spent making improvements to massive twin detectors. Discoveries should soon start rolling in, and when they do, there's a good chance the news will be translated into a Native American language called Blackfoot, or Siksika.
That's thanks to Corey Gray, who works at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) site in Washington state. He has been collaborating with his mom to translate this cutting-edge field of science into an endangered languagespoken by just thousands of people worldwide.
Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein more than a century ago. They're like the ripples in a pond created by a tossed-in pebble, only these waves move through the very fabric of the universe, space-time, and they're created by powerful collisions such as two black holes smashing together.
The first detection of these waves — in 2015 — made history. "It was just a life-changing experience when we had that first detection," Gray says.
People from around the world were involved in the discovery. So before it was publicly announced, colleagues started translating the press release into about 20 major languages, such as Russian, French and Spanish.
"I thought, 'Whoa, wouldn't it be just really cool if we could get this translated into an indigenous language?' " Gray recalls.
Road Trip To These Sites To Support Indigenous American Communities
My desire to travel through Indigenous America — to see the significant sites and support the local businesses — started with my dad. You see, when we would road trip across America, we didn’t stop at Waffle Houses or roadside McDonald’s, we stopped off on the Rez — any Rez — to give our cash to people there. Instead of grabbing Double-Doubles at another In-N-Out in Utah, we drove the extra miles to eat fry bread from a Navajo shack at Four Corners. I’ve lived that ethos my entire life and have gained a deep cultural identity from it.
Reminiscing on my own adventures got me thinking about the wider Indigenous world in America. Reservations and Indigenous communities are rich with history, scenery, and adventure — but far too often ignored when people start making travel plans. With that in mind, I thought I’d lay down some of my favorite places to stop across Indigenous America when you’re road-tripping this spring and summer. These are places where you can support Indigenous communities with your tourist dollars and maybe learn something new about your country along the way.