This Week in Native American News (4/6/18): Resilience in Traditions, the Violence Against Women Act, #DeleteFacebook, and Insect-Eating

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April 6, 2018


Great People Doing Great Things: Finding Resilience Through Ancient Traditions

 Debra Dommek, Inupiaq, center, performs traditional dances at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, Alaska.

Debra Dommek, Inupiaq, center, performs traditional dances at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, Alaska.

For thousands of years, the lives of the Yup’ik people of Alaska centered around the "qasgiq," a communal house where men lived and worked, where community celebrations were held, and most importantly, where leaders and elders passed on knowledge, skills and life lessons to Yup’ik youth.

“Our ancestors and grandfathers were like psychologists,” said Billy Charles, a fisherman and former mayor of the southwestern town of Emmonak, one of the last settlements along the Yukon River before it empties into the Bering Sea. “They had a system of early childhood development in place, and with every teaching, they’d say, ‘It may not apply to you now, but later on in life, when you meet the challenge, you’ll know what to do.’”

Today, ANs face an array of stressors: poverty, substandard housing, underemployment, alcohol and substance abuse, violence and mental illness. Geography is also a factor, said Evon Peter, a Neetsaii Gwich’in and Koyukon Native from Arctic Village in northeastern Alaska who is currently vice chancellor for rural, community and Native education at UAF.

The reasons are rooted in the historic trauma of colonization — first by Russia in the 18th century, then by the U.S. government after it purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. As with Native-American children in the lower 48 states, the government removed AN children from their families and placed them in missionary and boarding schools. There, children were forced to give up their language, culture and religious practices.

But not all Native Alaskans are vulnerable to addiction or suicide, she stressed. Previous research has shown that Natives who are more connected to their traditional culture and language are less likely to take their own lives.

Rasmus and Charles have developed a cultural-based training and teaching manual called the Qungasvik, the Yup’ik word for “toolbox,” named after the carved wooden boxes Yup’ik men once used to store tools and tobacco and designed to help youth build resiliency.

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Tribes Ability to Charge Non-Natives Shows Improvements in Community

 President Barack Obama greets Our Sisterís Keeper Executive Director Diane Millich, from left, and Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Vice Chairwoman Deborah Parker, after signing the Violence Against Women Act in Washington, D.C., March 7, 2013. Five years after a federal law gave tribes authority over non-Natives for some domestic violence crimes, public safety advocates say communities are empowered to report wrongdoing and governments are working better together. Photo credit: VOA File

President Barack Obama greets Our Sisterís Keeper Executive Director Diane Millich, from left, and Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Vice Chairwoman Deborah Parker, after signing the Violence Against Women Act in Washington, D.C., March 7, 2013. Five years after a federal law gave tribes authority over non-Natives for some domestic violence crimes, public safety advocates say communities are empowered to report wrongdoing and governments are working better together. Photo credit: VOA File

American Indian tribes have taken greater control over prosecuting non-tribal members who commit some violent crimes in Indian Country five years after Congress passed a key law, a new report shows.

But gaps remain after the Violence Against Women Act allowed tribes to bring criminal charges against non-Natives in domestic violence cases. For example, it doesn’t extend to violence against children or other family members, and tribal prosecutors are urging lawmakers to expand the law to cover everyone in a household.

Tribal land was long known as a safe haven because U.S. authorities would only prosecute the most serious offenses and tribes lacked the ability to charge those who weren’t Native Americans. Since the law passed in 2013, tribal communities are empowered to report wrongdoing, governments are better collaborating and tribes are updating their laws, public safety advocates say.

“It really has changed the culture in some of these tribes around domestic violence in a way that many people there report as overwhelming evidence,” said Elizabeth Reese, a project attorney for the National Congress of American Indians.

The Violence Against Women Act allows tribes to charge non-Natives for domestic violence against intimate partners or spouses and when protection orders are violated. The authority doesn’t extend to violence against children, family members or law enforcement and doesn’t include crimes by non-Natives who don’t know their victims or crimes by tribal members against non-Indians.

Tribal prosecutors also cannot charge property crimes, sexual misconduct, false imprisonment, threats, trafficking or stalking — things they say limit their ability to make plea deals with offenders.

Legislation pending in Congress seeks to address some of those holes and ensure tribes have the financial resources to implement the law — the most substantial hurdle for tribes, Reese said.

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Native American tribes get funding boost for crime victims

 

Roughly $133 million is expected to be made available to tribes to support Native American and Alaska Native crime victims who advocates say had been largely left out of a federal funding program for decades.

The new money meant to help tribes serve crime victims will come from funds that have long been made available to states and federal agencies under 30-year-old legislation. It directs the Justice Department to use convicted federal offenders' court fines and penalties to assist crime victims or surviving family members.


Native Hawaiian Culture is Science

 Photography by Elyse Butler Mallams. Based at Kaʻalaea in Kāneʻohe Bay, Kānehūnāmoku, a 29ft double hull sailing canoe is a hands-on, dynamic, and living classroom for students of all ages.

Photography by Elyse Butler Mallams. Based at Kaʻalaea in Kāneʻohe Bay, Kānehūnāmoku, a 29ft double hull sailing canoe is a hands-on, dynamic, and living classroom for students of all ages.

From a Native Hawaiian perspective, modern science is a valuable tool but may lack an element needed to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems involving climate change, sustainability and other challenges. Hawaiian culture and learning can offer the missing component. To understand why, you must first understand that Hawaiian culture is science. Like modern science, Hawaiian culture is based on research and observation. In both cases, you watch and study the Earth and learn. What Hawaiian culture adds to science are values. Hawaiian culture is Hawaiian knowledge through the lens of Hawaiian values.

Hokulea, which originated in the 1970s, is the best-known example of the intersection of Hawaiian culture, learning and values. Malama Honua (Take Care of the Earth) was the message shared by Hokulea as it connected people, cultures and their values in its recent round-the-world voyage. However, few people remember that Hokulea’s conceptualization back in the 1970s was based on a science experiment partially funded by the National Science Foundation – to study the performance characteristics of a large double-hulled voyaging canoe in varied ocean conditions.

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#DeleteFacebook? Not in Indian Country!

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In the last 48 hours, I've seen several people turn to one social network, Twitter, to vent their frustrations about another one: Facebook.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which data from over 50 million Facebook profiles were secretly mined for voter insights, it sparked what some have called a #DeleteFacebook movement.

But not in Indian Country.

Deleting Facebook would be like pulling the plug at the party, rendering total darkness and, what's more, deafening silence (where there's already plenty of that).

And it's not just Indian Country that would feel the extreme disconnect in a Facebook-less scenario. The entire Indigenous world would reel from its absence. To be sure, the social network has done more for bolstering the modern Indigenous rights agenda than perhaps any other platform of our time.

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Your Weekly History Lesson:

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Insect-Eating is an American Tradition

Entopreneurs, dozens of newly minted bug farmers and cricket-laced protein bar hawkers, built their culinary foothold through compelling arguments about nutrition and sustainability. Crickets, for example, provide leaner protein than animal meats, require minimal feed and water to rear, and produce far fewer greenhouse gas emissions per pound.

Common wisdom holds, however, that the industry still faces one major headwind: culture. There’s a little problem with this common wisdom, though. America does have a history of insect-eating. Native communities across the modern United States developed culinary traditions around dozens of insect species, from crickets to caterpillars, ants to aphids. White settlers and other newcomers ultimately denigrated these traditions. But well into the 19th century, they occasionally participated in them, or formed limited insect-eating cultures of their own. In some communities, insect eating remained relatively common well into the mid-20th century; a few continue today.



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