August 4, 2017
Great People Doing Great Things: Pine Ridge Teens Aiming for Greatness
Pine Ridge doesn’t get much national attention except when the news is sad. Unemployment and gang violence are rampant. The life expectancy for men is just 48. A youth-suicide epidemic has plagued the reservation in recent years, with a cluster of nearly 200 teens killing or attempting to kill themselves in the span of a few months starting in late 2014. And even though Pine Ridge remains a “dry” reservation, alcoholism is widespread; until recently, residents could, as Rosales pointed out, easily drive just a few miles south into Whiteclay, Nebraska, to buy booze.
Those realities help explain why, as Rosales explained, “it’s kind of unheard of for Native kids to go far and be successful.”
But it’s becoming less unheard of, and that’s largely because of students like Rosales who see educational attainment as key to reclaiming Native identity and culture. He is spending the summer in the Washington, D.C., area for an internship at the National Institutes of Health, after which he’ll be heading up north to start college at Yale University. Rosales has long been on a mission to attend a prestigious university, but if he hadn’t gotten in to Yale, he had plenty of backups: He was accepted to six other Ivy League schools.
Rosales, who plans on going to medical school after college and eventually working as a primary-care doctor on the reservation, is in many ways the poster child of what students at his alma mater, Red Cloud Indian School, can achieve despite growing up in one of the most destitute places in the country. A Jesuit K-12 institution at the end of a pine-tree-lined driveway in the town of Pine Ridge, Red Cloud boasts an ever-growing roster of alumni who are leaders in fields ranging from medicine to the arts and a network of faculty members with elite-college degrees. Red Cloud also has a record-high 72 Gates Millennium Scholars, more than any other school its size in the nation.
The atmosphere at Red Cloud primes students to be both community prodigies and the young leaders of an indigenous renaissance of sorts: The reservation’s young people are driving a new wave of activism, like that seen in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It’s a subtle yet intense movement that promises to define the future of Pine Ridge.
Scientists Seek Alaska Natives to Learn About Whales
On the northernmost tip of America’s northernmost state is the city of Utqiaġvik, Alaska. Hans Thewissen, a Dutch-born whale scientist who lives in Ohio, has been making the journey up here for more than a decade—at first once a year, now multiple times a year, always to coincide with local whale hunts. Utqiaġvik is one of the only places in America where one can legally procure a piece of fresh whale brain or eyeball or ear to study.
These trips to the Arctic have made possible a series of uniquely intimate studies of bowhead whales—stout, blue-black creatures that grow up to 100 tons. Thewissen has peered inside the mouths of unborn whales, which grow and then reabsorb teeth before they develop the baleen that adult bowheads use to feed on krill. He’s sawed open whale skulls to trace nerve cells from the inside of the nose to the brain—proving that bowhead whales can indeed smell. He’s investigated mysterious whiskers that grow around the blow hole. All of these studies have required working closely with the Iñupiat people native to the area; some were directly inspired by conversations with whaling captains.
Alaska Native-Owned Cruise Company Shows Visitors the True Alaska
Like many of Alaskan Dream Cruises' employees, Hook bubbles over with enthusiasm about his love for Alaska and sharing its natural wonders with passengers aboard the nicely appointed Chichagof Dream, an 84-passenger ship with 8-knot cruising speed, just right for traveling Alaska's Inside Passage.
Alaskan Dream Cruises strives to provide guests with a "true Alaska experience" seen through the lens of Southeast Alaska's Native cultures. All-inclusive tours come with onboard cultural interpreters who share their experience of being an Alaska Native with the guests as they proudly show off their ancestral homeland.
"We're the only locally owned small-ship cruise operator in Alaska, and not just locally owned, but family-owned and Alaska Native-owned," said Zaide Allen, third-generation owner. "Through personal relationships and exploration, we're able to provide our guests access to an Alaska that many travelers don't get to experience."
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Where are all the Indians?
The current U.S. Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. Nineteen percent of its members are racial minorities, according to the Pew Research Center, but only two Native Americans have seats in the House of Representatives.
Republicans Thomas Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and Markwayne Mullin, a member of the Cherokee Nation, are from Oklahoma and serve in the House. They are among eight Native Americans who ran in the November 2016 election.
Native Americans and Alaska Natives account for two percent of the total U.S. population, but many analysts believe their representation should be greater, given that the federal government recognizes more than 560 tribes as separate and sovereign governments.
“Part of the problem is that Native Americans were not granted citizenship until 1924, and it was left to individual states to decide whether “Indians” could vote or not,” said Walter Fleming, who heads Montana State University’s Native American Studies program. ". It wasn’t until after World War II that the last states lifted voting restrictions."
States used various methods to discourage Native Americans from voting, insisting, for example, that voters give up tribal residencies, imposing poll taxes or disqualifying those who couldn’t read or write English.
In some areas, barriers to voting persist.
Many Native Americans sense they have little to gain by participating in the political process, observers say. Some refuse to register to vote, recalling a time when being listed on government rolls led to them losing their property or their children to boarding schools and foster homes.
Honolulu Murals Portray Local History
On a concrete pillar supporting the Honolulu rail guideway, an engraving suggests the eyes of Lono, a Hawaiian god associated with agriculture, surveying the rich soil of Aloun Farms.
In a few years, the site will be developed into the 11,750-home Hoopili development. The history of the land, however, will remain in the images engraved into rail columns that will support a rail station.
Plans call for all 21 rail stations to incorporate artwork both inside the stations and on some of the columns beneath them, depicting the history of that particular area. The interior station art is part of the federal Art-in-Transit program.
“We wanted to tell a story that goes a little bit deeper,” said local architect Daniel Kanekuni, the artist who drew the designs for all the columns. “Gone are the days where you just stamp a hibiscus on something and call it a day.”
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Sometimes we all need a wake-up call. This is why we are doing ministry in Hawaii:
Native Hawaiians comprise roughly one-third of the homeless population in Hawaii, making them one of the largest (if not the largest) group. The largest percentage of unsheltered Native Hawaiians on Oahu live in the moku (district) of Waianae, which also has the highest concentration of Native Hawaiians per capita on Oahu.
Waianae moku isn’t the poorest place in Hawaii, but its people struggle in isolation and suffer disproportionately. With an area median income significantly less than the state’s overall, you’d think relief would fly in swiftly on the wings of justice; because the people of Waianae need good jobs, affordable housing, traffic alleviation, and access to education too.
But, that hasn’t happened.
Instead, Waianae’s struggle to survive with a decent sense of dignity and pride in the face of imposed lows (low income and low employment) is constantly stifled by exploitation.
While the native sons and daughters of Waianae fight to keep their roots anchored in the soil of their ancestors, the world turns a blind eye to their cause, seemingly transfixed solely on the profitability of Waianae’s coastal beauty.