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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

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Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller Dies

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller, one of the few women ever to lead a major American Indian tribe, has died. She was 64.

Tribal spokesman Mike Miller said Mankiller, who became one of the nation's most visible American Indian leaders during her 10 years as chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, died Tuesday.

Mankiller had battled lymphoma, breast cancer and several other health problems. On March 2, 2010, Mankiller's husband, Charlie Soap, announced that his wife had stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer.

As the first female chief of the Cherokees, serving from 1985 to 1995, Mankiller led the tribe in tripling its enrollment, doubling employment and building new health centers and children's programs.

Her first taste of federal policy toward Indians came in the 1950s when her family participated in a government relocation program and ended up in a housing project. As chief, she took Indian issues to the White House and met with three presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Mankiller earned a reputation for facing conflict head-on.

She met snide remarks about her surname -- a Cherokee military title -- with humor, often delivering a straight-faced, ''Mankiller is actually a well-earned nickname.''

Continual struggles with her health appeared not to deter her. A 1979 car accident nearly claimed her life and resulted in 17 operations. She developed a muscular disorder called myasthenia gravis and underwent a kidney transplant in 1990.

Mankiller used some hospital stays to work on her autobiography with Michael Wallis called ''Mankiller: A Chief and Her People,'' which came out in 1993.

After the announcement that she had pancreatic cancer, Mankiller said she was ''mentally and spiritually prepared for this journey.''

''I learned a long time ago that I can't control the challenges the creator sends my way, but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them,'' she said in a March 2010 statement released by the tribe.

''On balance, I have been blessed with an extraordinarily rich and wonderful life, filled with incredible experiences.''

Mankiller succeeded former Chief Ross Swimmer, who left at midterm in 1985 for a job in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She was re-elected in a landslide four years later, with 83 percent of the vote. She decided not to seek re-election in 1995 and accepted a teaching position at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., where she held an honorary degree.

Among her other honors was a Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation's highest civilian award -- presented by Clinton in 1998.

Born at W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah, Mankiller moved with her family to San Francisco in the 1950s when their farm in Adair County failed. The pledge of opportunity turned out to be a life of poverty in a housing project.

She married Ecuadoran accountant Hector Olaya in 1963, and they had two daughters, Felicia, born in 1964, and Gina, born in 1966.

Mankiller moved back to her family's land in Oklahoma after divorcing Olaya in 1975, and she married Soap in 1986.

In 1969, she got what she called ''an enormous wake-up call'' and took her first step into Indian activism by participating in the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island.

Seventy-nine Native Americans took over the site of the former federal prison to protest a policy that terminated the federal government's recognition of tribal sovereignty and the exclusion of Indians from state laws. The policy was based on the belief that Native Americans would be better off if they assimilated as individuals into mainstream American society. Federal officers removed the remaining protesters in June 1971.

As chief, Mankiller was less of an activist and more of a pragmatist. She was criticized for focusing almost exclusively on social programs, instead of pushing for smoke shops and high-stakes gaming.

In her autobiography, Mankiller said she wanted to be remembered not just for being the tribe's first female chief but for emphasizing that Cherokee values can help solve contemporary problems.

''Friends describe me as someone who likes to dance along the edge of the roof,'' she wrote. ''I try to encourage young women to be willing to take risks, to stand up for the things they believe in, and to step up and accept the challenge of serving in leadership roles.''

A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Cherokee Nation Cultural Grounds in Tahlequah.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sherman Alexie Wins Pen/Faulkner Fiction Award

Sherman Alexie has won the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced Tuesday morning. Alexie's 2009 novel, "War Dances," came out on top of a list of finalists that included literary greats Barbara Kingsolver and Lorrie Moore, along with Coleson Whitehead and Lorraine N. Lopez.

Sherman Alexie has previously won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, awarded in 2007 for "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," as well as the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 for his contribution to Native American writing. Alexie's writing, which includes four novels, three short story collections, and poetry, focuses on Native American characters and issues, though he is well known for making these topics widely accessible and relatable.

PEN/Faulkner judge Al Young commented on choosing "War Dances":

"War Dances" taps every vein and nerve, every tissue, every issue that quickens the current blood-pulse: parenthood, divorce, broken links, sex, gender and racial conflict, substance abuse, medical neglect, 9/11, Official Narrative vs. What Really Happened, settler religion vs. native spirituality; marketing, shopping, and war, war, war. All the heartbreaking ways we don't live now--this is the caring, eye-opening beauty of this rollicking, bittersweet gem of a book.

Sherman Alexie recently turned heads when he appeared on "The Colbert Report" in December and spoke out against eBooks and the digitization of reading. "The localized appreciation of books is gone," he said in the interview.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Lessons at Tuba City Hospital, Run by Navajos, About Births - NYTimes.com

Published: March 6, 2010

TUBA CITY, Ariz. — After less than two hours in the maternity ward, with her boyfriend, his mother and a nurse-midwife by her side, Jacquelynn Torivio gave birth to a five-pound, five-ounce son with his grandmother’s dimples and a full head of shiny black hair.

A 3-day-old girl, Allisyn Dohi, who was born at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation hospital in Arizona.
As she held him, Ms. Torivio’s spirits clearly matched her Hopi name, Nuquahynum — “a feather flying high.”

It was the kind of birth that many women in the United States could only wish for. Ms. Torivio had a vaginal birth, even though her previous child had been delivered by Caesarean section. Because of that prior surgery, many hospitals would not have let her even try to give birth vaginally, but would have required another Caesarean.

The Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation is different. Its hospital, run by the Navajo Nation and financed partly by the Indian Health Service, prides itself on having a higher than average rate of vaginal births among women with a prior Caesarean, and a lower Caesarean rate over all.

As Washington debates health care, this small hospital in a dusty desert town on an Indian reservation, showing its age and struggling to make ends meet, somehow manages to outperform richer, more prestigious institutions when it comes to keeping Caesarean rates down, which saves money and is better for many mothers and infants.

This week, the National Institutes of Health will hold a conference in Bethesda, Md., about the country’s dismal rates of vaginal birth after Caesarean, or VBAC (pronounced VEE-back), which have plummeted since 1996. “I think it’s the purpose of this conference to see if we can turn the clock back,” said Dr. Kimberly D. Gregory, vice chairwoman of women’s health care quality and performance improvement at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Tuba City will not be on the agenda, but its hospital, with about 500 births a year, could probably teach the rest of the country a few things about obstetrical care. But matching its success would require sweeping, fundamental changes in medical practice, like allowing midwives to handle more deliveries and removing the profit motive for performing surgery.

Changes in malpractice insurance would also help, so that obstetricians would feel less pressure to perform Caesareans. (The hospital and doctors in Tuba City are insured by the federal government, and therefore insurance companies cannot threaten to increase their premiums or withdraw coverage if they allow vaginal births after Caesarean.) Patients, too, would have to adjust their attitudes about birth and medical care during pregnancy and labor.

The national Caesarean rate, 31.8 percent, has been rising steadily for the last 11 years and is fed by repeat patients. Critics say that doctors are performing too many Caesareans, needlessly exposing women and infants to surgical risks and running up several billion dollars a year in excess bills, precisely the kind of overuse that a health care overhaul is supposed to address.

Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has acknowledged that the operation is overused. Though there is no consensus on what the rate should be, government health agencies and the World Health Organization have suggested 15 percent as a goal in low-risk women.

“VBAC” has become a battle cry, with fierce advocates on both sides—women who insist that they should not be forced into surgery versus doctors and hospitals who insist on repeat Caesareans, citing the risks of labor and concerns about liability and insurance.

Originally, the mantra was “once a Caesarean, always a Caesarean” because of fears that the scar on the uterus would rupture during labor, which can be life-threatening for both the woman and the child. But after an expert panel in 1980 declared it safe for many women, vaginal birth after Caesarean had a heyday: in 1996, the rate reached 28.3 percent in women with previous Caesareans.

Then, there were some ruptures, deaths and lawsuits. The obstetricians’ group issued stricter guidelines, and the rate sank. It is now below 10 percent, and some experts think the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

In Tuba City last year, 32 percent of women with prior Caesareans had vaginal births. Its overall Caesarean rate has been low — 13.5 percent, less than half the national rate of 31.8 percent in 2007 (the latest year with figures available). This is despite the fact that more women here have diabetes and high blood pressure, which usually result in higher Caesarean rates.

The hospital serves mostly Native Americans — Navajos, Hopis and San Juan Southern Paiutes. Four other hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona, run by the Indian Health Service, also offer vaginal birth after Caesarean to some women (it is not safe for all) and have relatively low Caesarean rates without harming mothers or children, whose health in the first month after birth matches nationwide statistics. Doctors say there is no scientific evidence that Native American women are more able than others to have vaginal births.

“There is a significant lesson here about the ability of most women to deliver vaginally,” said Dr. Jean E. Howe, the chief clinical consultant for obstetrics and gynecology at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M.

Nurse-midwives at these hospitals deliver most of the babies born vaginally, with obstetricians available in case problems occur. Midwives staff the labor ward around the clock, a model of care thought to minimize Caesareans because midwives specialize in coaching women through labor and will often wait longer than obstetricians before recommending a Caesarean. They are also less likely to try to induce labor before a woman’s due date, something that increases the odds of a Caesarean.

In the rest of the country, nurse-midwives attend about only 10 percent of vaginal births, though their professional society, the American College of Nurse Midwives, hopes that will grow to 20 percent by 2020.

Dr. Kathleen Harner, an obstetrician in Tuba City, said: “Midwives are better at being there for labor than doctors are. Midwives are trained for it. It’s what they want to do.”

Dr. Amanda Leib, the director of obstetrics and gynecology at Tuba City, said: “I think the midwives tend to be patient. They know the patients well, and they don’t have to leave at 5 to get home for a golf game or a tennis game. As crass as that sounds, I do think it has some influence.”

Senecas See Comeback Over Sale of Cigarettes - NYTimes.com

Published: March 5, 2010

There is a relatively short list of people who like mail-order cigarettes: teenagers, adults evading sales taxes and the Seneca Nation of Indians of western New York, which dominates the national market.

Even the big tobacco companies oppose the practice, in part to stamp out the Senecas’ competition. And with the industry’s strange-bedfellow backing, a bill to block the shipment of cigarettes passed the House of Representatives last spring by a vote of 397 to 11. A Senate committee approved it unanimously last fall.

But then the Senecas, who control a gambling and cigarette empire that brings in more than $1 billion a year, began a campaign of back-room lobbying and public political threats. That now appears to have shut down the legislation and kept the tribe in the cigarette business, a case study in the power of a well-financed special interest to thwart what had seemed to be a national consensus.

“Isn’t that the way things go in the American system?” asked Richard Nephew, co-chairman of the Seneca Nation’s foreign relations committee. “It is something new for us to actively get involved in the American political process,” he said. “But we are trying to learn what works in America, and I guess making political contributions is something that works.”

As recently as December, a ban on mail-order cigarettes called the PACT Act — for Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking — looked all but certain to become law. After the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the House measure, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, prepared the bill for passage on the floor. No senator has publicly opposed the legislation.

But at the last minute, two or three Democratic senators told party leaders privately that they might block the bill, according to senior Senate Democratic aides. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The Senecas and their lobbyists said they did not know who their Senate protectors were. Records of the tribe’s campaign contributions offered few clues; the only significant donation was a $15,000 check to the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The Senecas’ apparent victory — at least for now — is a comeback of sorts. Five years ago, the Indian nation lost much of its business when Eliot Spitzer, then attorney general of New York, pressured private carriers like FedEx and UPS to stop delivering cigarettes in the interest of keeping them away from children. That forced the Senecas to rely on the United States Postal Service, which declined to join the ban. The tribe’s sales fell to about 12 million cartons a year from a peak of about 30 million cartons in 2004, according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Despite its professed inexperience in Washington, the Seneca Nation is well represented on K Street. Last year, the tribe spent more than $300,000 in reported fees to three lobbying firms: the powerhouse Akin Gump; Holland & Knight, where its lobbyists include Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a former senator and American Indian; and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, which represents many Indian nations and led the Senecas’ side of the cigarette fight. Sonnenschein reported that its fees from the Senecas jumped threefold to $110,000 in the fourth quarter as the battle heated up.

The Senecas and their lobbyists won the support of other Indian nations and advocacy groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, by attacking the proposed legislation as an intrusion on Indian sovereignty. The Senecas charged that it would give states powers to police Indian land; its Congressional sponsors dispute that.

“Conferring jurisdiction to the states — that should be very troubling to every Indian tribe,” Mr. Nephew said.

On Capitol Hill, the lobbyists distributed memorandums painting the legislation as a ploy by big tobacco companies to scapegoat American Indians for teenage smoking, beating back low-price competition in the process. (The tribe’s online Seneca Smokeshop specializes in Indian-made and other “economy” brands.)

And in hard-pressed western New York, the Senecas warned that the proposed ban could cost 1,000 jobs in the cigarette business. “An attack on the Seneca Nation is an attack on the economy of western New York,” J. C. Seneca, who runs a tobacco business and is co-chairman of the tribe’s foreign relations committee, told The Buffalo News. With its cigarette sales and casinos, Mr. Seneca said, the Indian nation was “a $1.1 billion economic engine” that would use its tobacco profits for new investments and jobs.

By mid-December, the campaign had won two important converts. Two western New York congressmen, Brian Higgins and Eric Massa, both Democrats, wrote letters to the state’s two senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, also Democrats, urging them to block Senate passage. Mr. Higgins and Mr. Massa had voted for the bill in the House, but they said the Senecas’ arguments about the economic impact had changed their minds.

“I do not believe that western New York can afford any more job losses,” Mr. Higgins wrote to the senators. (Mr. Massa, who announced this week that he was retiring, echoed the sentiment.)

The next month, the Senecas sent a warning in the form of an electronic billboard along an upstate New York highway. “Don’t let the PACT Act destroy western New York’s economy,” the billboard declared. “Tell Senators Schumer and Gillibrand No.”

The nation, which has fought off years of New York State efforts to tax its cigarettes, had already dedicated a $1 million war chest for political retaliation against any New York State official who crossed the tribe. Also in January, the Seneca Nation’s foreign relations committee approved a proposal to spend $250,000 opposing Ms. Gillibrand’s campaign for election this fall; it will be her first statewide race because she was appointed last year to fill the seat left open by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Both New York senators are sponsors of the bill, and both said through spokesmen that they had not worked behind the scenes to slow its passage. Matt Canter, a spokesman for Ms. Gillibrand, said she supported economic development but not at the price of enabling teenage smoking.

Seneca officials and their lobbyists said the tribe tried to prevent under-age sales, in some cases by requiring faxed proof of age. Critics said faxed identification was easy to fake or borrow. The Senecas noted that online wine merchants use private carriers like UPS and FedEx that allow them to require the signature of an adult, but the Seneca cigarette dealers must rely on the United States Postal Service, which does not offer that option.

“It seems very discriminatory, as if they were targeting the Seneca Nation,” Mr. Nephew of the Senecas said of the federal legislation.

Senate Democratic leaders could still revive the measure, perhaps by attaching it to some other bill. Republicans have talked of pushing forward, possibly to make trouble for Ms. Gillibrand. But even if it did pass, Mr. Nephew said, it would ban only cigarette shipments and not cigars. “I guess there are a lot of cigar smokers in Washington and places where powerful people hang out,” Mr. Nephew said. “It appears that they are protecting their own habit.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

War Without Borders - In Drug War, Arizona Tribe Feels Invaded by Both Sides

Published: January 24, 2010

SELLS, Ariz. — An eerie hush settles in at sundown on the Tohono O’odham Nation, which straddles 75 miles of border with Mexico.

Few residents leave their homes. The roads crawl with the trucks of Border Patrol agents, who stop unfamiliar vehicles, scrutinize back roads for footprints and hike into the desert wilds to intercept smugglers carrying marijuana on their backs and droves of migrants trying to make it north.

By the bad luck of geography, the only large Indian reservation on the embattled border is caught in the middle, emerging as a major transit point for drugs as well as people.

A long-insular tribe of 28,000 people and its culture are paying a steep price: the land is swarming with outsiders, residents are afraid to walk in the hallowed desert, and some members, lured by drug cartel cash in a place with high unemployment, are ending up in prison.

“People will knock on your door, flash a wad of money and ask if you can drive this bale of marijuana up north,” said Marla Henry, 38, chairwoman of Chukut Kuk district, which covers much of the border zone.

The tightening of border security to the east and west, which started in the 1990s and intensified after the Sept. 11 attacks, funneled more drug traffic through the Tohono O’odham reservation, federal officials said, and especially more marijuana, which is hard to slip through vehicle crossings because of its bulk.

A record 319,000 pounds of marijuana were seized on the reservation in 2009, up from 201,000 pounds the previous year, along with small amounts of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Hundreds of tribal members have been prosecuted in federal, state or tribal courts for smuggling drugs or humans, taking offers that reach $5,000 for storing marijuana or transporting it across the reservation. In a few families, both parents have been sent to prison, leaving grandparents to raise the children.

“People are afraid that if they say no, they’ll be threatened by the cartel,” Ms. Henry said.

If residents of remote villages tried to call the police, she said, help might not arrive for two hours or more.

At the same time, some residents are angry at the intrusion of hundreds of federal agents, including some who stay for a week at a time on bases in remote parts of the reservation. The surge in agents who cruise the roads has meant more checkpoints and tighter controls on a border that tribal members, 1,500 of whom live in Mexico, once freely crossed.

The once-placid reservation feels like a “militarized zone,” said Ned Norris Jr., the tribal chairman, who also says the tribe must cooperate to stem the cartels. “Drug smuggling is a problem we didn’t create, but now we’re having to deal with the consequences.”

Many residents say they live in fear of the smugglers and hordes of migrants who lurk around their homes, and also of being subjected to a humiliating search by federal agents.

The elderly avoid the desert, even in the daytime, because they might stumble upon a cache of marijuana or drug “mules” hiding in desert washes until dark.

“We can’t even go out to collect wood for the stove,” said Verna Miguel, 63, who was traumatized three years ago when a group of migrants forced her to stop on a road, beat her and stole her vehicle.

“We’ve always picked saguaro fruits and cholla buds,” Ms. Miguel said, using such desert products for consumption and rituals. “But now we don’t dare do that.”

Until recently, the reservation’s international border was porous, defended by three strands of barbed wire. Over the last two years, it has been lined with metal posts and Normandy-style barriers to stop the trucks that used to barrel through and head for Phoenix.

Federal officials describe the rise in drug seizures on the reservation as a sign of growing success on what had long been a vulnerable section of border. Barriers and surveillance have forced most of the smugglers to enter on foot rather than in vehicles and spend hours or days sneaking through the reservation, making them more vulnerable to detection, said Agent Robert Gilbert, chief of the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol.

But the large busts, here and elsewhere on the border, are also a measure of the continued trade and profits reaped by the cartels.

“The cartels use the profit from marijuana to purchase cocaine in Colombia and Peru and the ingredients for meth and heroin from other regions,” said Elizabeth W. Kempshall, special agent in charge of the Arizona office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “So marijuana is the catalyst for the rest of the drug trade.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Really Old Masters, From 16,000 Years Ago, at China Lake

Published: December 18, 2009

Ridgecrest, Calif. — We were inside Restricted Area R-505 of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, rolling in a minivan across the vast salt pan of an extinct Pleistocene lake on our way to see a renowned collection of ancient rock art. On the console between the seats was a long-range two-way radio. It was there so that our escort, a civilian Navy public affairs officer named Peggy Shoaf, could keep abreast of where and when any bombs would be dropped — or launched, or whatever — so that we wouldn’t be there when it happened.

Some of the rock paintings at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center near Death Valley have been dated as far back as 16,000 years ago.
Established in the summer of 1943 in the heat of Allied offensives in the Pacific, China Lake is the Navy’s premier weapons testing range and its largest real estate holding. “Every weapon being used overseas right now was tested here,” Ms. Shoaf said. The property comprises 1.1 million acres of Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles and west of Death Valley, including the Coso Mountain range and an active volcanic field that is one of the largest producers of geothermal electricity in the country.

The base is a haven for wild horses, burros, rattlesnakes and scorpions. It is also home to a complex of remote canyons holding the greatest concentration of ancient rock art in the Western Hemisphere, known as the Coso Petroglyphs.

With us rode David S. Whitley, an archaeologist and expert on prehistoric rock art and iconographic interpretation. Having visited hundreds of sites all over the world, including Lascaux and Chauvet in France and the Côa Valley in Portugal, he believes the Coso Petroglyphs to be one of the most important rock art sites on earth.

Mr. Whitley estimated that there may be as many as 100,000 images carved into the dark volcanic canyons above the China Lake basin, some as old as 12,000 to 16,000 years, others as recent as the mid-20th century.

Floating across a landscape strewn with more than a half-century’s weapons-testing debris — observation towers, armored vehicles, projectile-riddled shipping containers — I tried to fathom that people had been coming here and making art since at least 90 centuries before the founding of Rome.

“It was a very different place then,” Mr. Whitley explained, conjuring the end of the last ice age, 18,000 years ago, the melting of glaciers, the system of saline lakes across what is now called the Great Basin. “This had water over 100 feet deep,” he said. Mammoths, saber-toothed cats and giant Pleistocene bison still roamed the upland peninsulas.

Then, progressively, and with big ups and downs, the climate grew hotter and drier. The lakes and big animals disappeared, the pinyon and juniper woodlands moved up in elevation, and life for humans got significantly more difficult. And yet for many thousands of years thereafter people continued to carve figures and designs into the rocks.

We turned onto a washboard gravel road and 12 minutes later came to a small parking area, 49 road miles inside the base’s main gate at the edge of Ridgecrest. On this November day the thermometer read 43 degrees, but the air was still and the sun felt warm. We shouldered our lunches and camera gear and walked out along a path made of interlocking plastic tiles laid down in recent years so that Shoshone tribal elders could reach the site without having to struggle in the soft sand. Almost immediately we were in what is known as Little Petroglyph Canyon.

Everywhere we looked, for a mile or so down canyon, there were images pecked or scratched into the rock faces: stylized human figures in a variety of headgear, stick figures with bows and arrows, dogs or coyotes, bear paws with extra digits, all manner of abstract geometric patterns, zigzags and circles and dots, and hundreds upon hundreds of what looked like bighorn sheep, some small, some larger than life size.

Theories abound as to what the images might mean — all but the most recent, that is — or why they were put there. Some archaeologists believe that the images are evidence of simple hunting rituals. Mr. Whitley sees in them nothing less than the origins of human creativity and religion.

He theorizes, based on his research, that the petroglyphs are the work of generations of shamans, or medicine men, who traveled here (from all over what is now the southwestern United States) to fast and smoke native tobacco, to hallucinate or have visions, and to render their hallucinations on the rock. Perhaps the goal was to make rain. Perhaps it was to impress upon their followers a sense of the supernatural. Either way, where some might see a dearth of material wealth and technology, Mr. Whitley sees evidence of cognitive sophistication.

“We think of intelligence as expressed in iPods and the latest iPhone,” he said. But technology is often a poor substitute for knowledge: “Drop any of us in Death Valley and unless we had an RV fully stocked with all sorts of supplies we’d be dead in a week,” he said. The people who came before us, on the other hand, were adapted to this environment, so they could survive with nothing but what they could find or make, in a way that, he said, “runs counter to our technological materialistic view, is probably more admirable, and certainly more sustainable.”

For a time, after 9/11, civilian visits to the petroglyphs were suspended. “There’s always a risk when you let civilians into a secured area,” Ms. Shoaf said. But she said she felt the place was too precious for the public not to have access. So she rewrote the protocol to show the commanding officer how it might be possible to allow tours and still protect the base’s security. He agreed. More than 1,100 civilians visit the site every year, either on tours available to the public or as part of private tours with command-approved escorts arranged through Ms. Shoaf’s office.

We rested near the southern end of the canyon, sitting on the rocks in the sun and tucking into our lunches. I looked at one particularly elaborate frieze of images and tried to imagine what it would be like to spend four days here without food, smoking a native plant and thinking about the cosmos. I tried to imagine the distance between myself and the person who made those images. Then we stowed our garbage in our packs, made our way back up to the minivan and headed down to the base’s armaments museum, evidence of more modern human creativity of a different kind.


Public petroglyph tours are available through the Maturango Museum (100 East Las Flores Avenue, Ridgecrest, Calif.; 760-375-6900, maturango.org) $35 per person for nonmembers; $25 for members of museum and the Friends of Last Chance Canyon (tflcc.org).

Arrangements can be made through the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake itself by calling the public affairs office at (760) 939-1683. The base’s Web site has information about the petroglyphs and the tours, which carry a number of restrictions, at navair.navy.mil/nawcwd/nawcwd/recreation/petroglyphs.htm.

Tours are held on weekends and holidays. Certain Fridays are available for school tours. All tours are subject to cancellation on short notice because of military testing, security concerns or the weather.

Visitors are responsible for finding two command-approved escorts, arranging car pools and for filing all necessary paperwork. Up to three groups of 20 are allowed in the canyon each weekend day. No children under 10, and no pets.

Only American citizens are now allowed to go on tours, and proof of citizenship is required for participants 16 and older.

Also on the base is the U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology (760-939-3530, www.chinalakemuseum.org).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Long Island Shinnecock Indians Set to Win U.S. Recognition

Published: December 15, 2009

The Obama administration said Tuesday that the Shinnecock Indians on Long Island meet the criteria for federal recognition, signaling the end of a 30-year court battle and clearing a path for the tribe to pursue its plans for a casino in New York City or its suburbs.

The announcement all but assures that the 1,066-member Shinnecock Indian Nation will receive formal federal recognition, though a public-comment period of up to six months must be held before the final order is issued.

The news could mean significant changes for the relatively poor tribe, most of whose members live on 800 acres in Southampton, N.Y., not far from some of Long Island’s wealthiest communities and expansive celebrity-owned estates.

Shinnecock leaders have long argued that a casino could turn around the tribe’s fortunes.

“This recognition comes after years of anguish and frustration for many members of our Nation, living and deceased,” Randy King, chairman of the Shinnecock trustees, said in a statement, adding, “Perhaps this recognition will help some of our neighbors better understand us and foster a new mutual respect.”

Once it is federally recognized, the tribe would be entitled to build a “Class II” casino on its land that could have thousands of video slot machines but no table games. That has worried some local officials because of the implications that such a casino would have for traffic and tourism in the wealthy resort areas.

Tribal leaders have said they would prefer to negotiate with the state and federal government to build a or Class III casino on land elsewhere that would have table games and could be more lucrative both for the state and the tribe.

Tribal officials have expressed interest in a variety of sites for a casino, including other locations on Long Island or at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens or Belmont, in Nassau.

The state would get none of the proceeds from a Class II casino built on the tribe’s reservation, but would almost certainly insist on a percentage of any proceeds if it permitted construction elsewhere of a bigger casino — which could generate billions of dollars in revenue.

Gov. David A. Paterson had supported the tribe’s bid and urged the Obama administration to recognize it.

“As Governor Paterson has said, federal acknowledgment of the Shinnecock Indian Nation was long overdue,” said Morgan Hook, a spokesman for the governor. “This is a proud day for the Shinnecock. Governor Paterson looks forward to continued government-to-government relations with the Nation, and will continue to support their efforts to achieve full federal recognition.”

The difficult fiscal situation may bring new urgency to casino discussions.

State Senator Craig Johnson, a Long Island Democrat whose district encompasses Belmont, said the state should immediately begin serious talks about the issue.

“The first topic I want to discuss is how Belmont fits into this,” he said.

Gordell Wright, a tribal trustee, said in a statement that “there is no reason to wait for the recognition process to end, and every reason to act now so we can resolve these matters sooner than later.”

Tuesday’s announcement capped an arduous effort by the tribe, which had to meet seven criteria for approval. According to the Interior Department, the Shinnecock tribe needed to demonstrate that it was “continuously identified as an American Indian entity since 1900” and able to trace its origins back much further than that.

It was also required to establish that it was a viable political entity and that its current members are not members of another federally recognized tribe.

“I think their case was very strong,” said George T. Skibine, the acting principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs. “This was not difficult,” he added. “They met those pretty straightforwardly, fairly and squarely. I don’t think there is much room, based on the evidence, for concluding otherwise.”

Mr. Skibine made the decision after Larry Echo Hawk, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, recused himself from the matter because his brother had a role in representing the Shinnecock tribe.

The tribe’s history goes back hundreds of years; both the Dutch and English skirmished over the area in the 1600s, but the tribe remained there and was granted a 1,000-year lease by British colonists in the town of Southampton in 1703 — a deal that was later renegotiated.

In 1792, partly as a means of settling land disputes with the town farmers, the Shinnecock Indians began their current practice of annually electing three tribal trustees, according to John A. Strong, a retired Long Island University professor who has written three books about the Indians of Long Island.

Other chapters of the tribe’s lore are tragic. In the 1870s, a number of the tribe’s young men died when they were part of a salvage operation of a ship called the Circassian, which sank before they could return to shore.

The tribe’s court fight for federal recognition dates to 1978, when the tribe filed a petition for recognition.

In 2006, when it still had no answer, the tribe sued the Interior Department, saying that the agency had failed to process its request in a reasonable amount of time. Earlier this year, it entered into a settlement with the Interior Department that required a preliminary ruling by the end of this year.

The tribe is also hoping to resolve more than $1 billion worth of land disputes in the Hamptons, including its claim to the site of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, which has played host to the U.S. Open several times.

The tribe paid at least $1.74 million to seven different lobbying firms since 2005 as part of its recognition effort, according to public records.

As part of that lobbying and public relations campaign, the tribe hired Michael McKeon, Gov. George E. Pataki’s former communications director, and Alan Wheat, a former Missouri congressman, as well as Fleishman-Hillard, a Washington public relations firm.

Native Hawaiian Bill Poised to Pass 2 Committees

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two congressional committees are considering legislation this week that would let native Hawaiians establish their own government, much like those organized by hundreds of Indian tribes.

The House Natural Resources Committee takes first crack at the bill Wednesday. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee takes up the legislation Thursday.

The legislation had been expected to easily win the committees' approval, but Hawaii's governor and attorney general voiced objections late Tuesday to some of the changes that sponsors plan to propose. In light of the objections, Republican lawmakers have asked for a delay. Democrats, however, sensing they have the votes to prevail, are determined to proceed.

''Consideration of this bill should not go forward when the people and government officials who would be directly impacted by this legislation have raised serious objections and have not even had a chance to properly review the text,'' said Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.

The legislation, known as the Akaka bill after its lead sponsor, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has a long history. The bill would provide a road map to gradually establish a Native Hawaiian government.

Once established, the Native Hawaiian government would negotiate with the state and the federal government over which assets it would own. Currently, the state administers 1.2 million acres of former monarchy land. Some of that land, which is quite valuable, could eventually revert to the new government.

Supporters say the bill is about righting an injustice to Native Hawaiians that occurred when Hawaii's monarchy was overthrown in 1893. They note that Indian tribes and Alaska Natives have the right to self-governance.

''I believe we must provide parity between Native Hawaiians and our country's other indigenous people,'' said Akaka.

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and state Attorney General Mark Bennett have been supporters of the Akaka bill in the past. However, in a letter to federal lawmakers, Bennett said changes being made to the legislation are ''detrimental to the state.''

Bennett said authority granted the new government entity should come about only after negotiations and after the passage of legislation enacted by Congress, and when applicable, by the state. But an amended version of the bill makes immediate changes that are not subject to negotiation.

''These changes may immediately incorporate into the law governing Native Hawaiians a vast body of Indian law, much of which is unsuited for the state of Hawaii, and none of which (to our knowledge) has been evaluated for its impact on Hawaii,'' Bennett said.

Congressional aides said changes being proposed to the bill were sought by lawyers at the Justice Department.

''The Obama administration requested that we make it consistent with U.S. policy toward other native groups,'' said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, a spokesman for Akaka.

The legislation allowing for a Native Hawaiian government has passed the House on two occasions, most recently in October 2007, but it routinely has stumbled in the Senate. While the Bush administration opposed the bill, the support of President Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii, has changed the political dynamic.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Indian Gangs Grow, Bringing Fear and Violence to Reservation

Published: December 13, 2009

PINE RIDGE, S.D. — Richard Wilson has been a pallbearer for at least five of his “homeboys” in the North Side Tre Tre Gangster Crips, a Sioux imitation of a notorious Denver gang.

One 15-year-old member was mauled by rivals. A 17-year-old shot himself; another, on a cocaine binge and firing wildly, was shot by the police. One died in a drunken car wreck, and another, a founder of the gang named Gaylord, was stabbed to death at 27.

“We all got drunk after Gaylord’s burial, and I started rapping,” said Mr. Wilson, who, at 24, is practically a gang elder. “But I teared up and couldn’t finish.”

Mr. Wilson is one of 5,000 young men from the Oglala Sioux tribe involved with at least 39 gangs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The gangs are being blamed for an increase in vandalism, theft, violence and fear that is altering the texture of life here and in other parts of American Indian territory.

This stunning land of crumpled prairie, horse pastures turned tawny in the autumn and sunflower farms is marred by an astonishing number of roadside crosses and gang tags sprayed on houses, stores and abandoned buildings, giving rural Indian communities an inner-city look.

Groups like Wild Boyz, TBZ, Nomads and Indian Mafia draw children from broken, alcohol-ravaged homes, like Mr. Wilson’s, offering brotherhood, an identity drawn from urban gangsta rap and self-protection.

Some groups have more than a hundred members, others just a couple of dozen. Compared with their urban models, they are more likely to fight rivals, usually over some minor slight, with fists or clubs than with semiautomatic pistols.

Mr. Wilson, an unemployed school dropout who lives with assorted siblings and partners in his mother’s ramshackle house, without running water, displayed a scar on his nose and one over his eye. “It’s just like living in a ghetto,” he said. “Someone’s getting beat up every other night.”

The Justice Department distinguishes the home-grown gangs on reservations from the organized drug gangs of urban areas, calling them part of an overall juvenile crime problem in Indian country that is abetted by eroding law enforcement, a paucity of juvenile programs and a suicide rate for Indian youth that is more than three times the national average.

If they lack the reach of the larger gangs after which they style themselves, the Indian gangs have emerged as one more destructive force in some of the country’s poorest and most neglected places.

While many crimes go unreported, the police on the Pine Ridge reservation have documented thousands of gang-related thefts, assaults — including sexual assaults — and rising property crime over the last three years, along with four murders. Residents are increasingly fearful that their homes will be burglarized or vandalized. Car windows are routinely smashed out.

“Tenants are calling in and saying ‘I’m scared,’ ” Paul Iron Cloud, executive officer of the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Housing Authority, told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in July at a special hearing on the increase of gang activity.

“It seems that every day we’re getting more violence,” Mr. Iron Cloud said.

Perhaps unique to reservations, rivals sometimes pelt one other with cans of food from the federal commodity program, a practice called “commod-squadding.”

As federal grants to Pine Ridge have declined over the last decade, the tribal police force has shrunk by more than half, with only 12 to 20 officers per shift patrolling an area the size of Rhode Island, said John Mousseau, chairman of the tribe’s judiciary committee.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has proposed large increases in money for the police, courts and juvenile programs, and for fighting rampant domestic and sexual violence on reservations.

Christopher M. Grant, who used to head a police antigang unit in Rapid City, S.D., and is now a consultant on gangs to several tribes and federal agencies, has noted the “marked increase in gang activity, particularly on reservations in the Midwest, the Northwest and the Southwest” over the last five to seven years.

The Navajo Nation in Arizona, for example, has identified 225 gang units, up from 75 in 1997.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In Twist, N. Dakota Tribe Fights to Keep College Nickname

Published: December 8, 2009

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Sometime soon, the Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota were to be no more, another collegiate nickname dropped after being deemed hostile and abusive to American Indians.

Except that some members of the Spirit Lake Tribe, one of two groups of Sioux in the state, say they consider the nickname an honor and worry that abandoning it would send them one step closer to obscurity.

“When you hear them announce the name at the start of a hockey game, it gives you goose bumps,” said Frank Black Cloud, a tribal member. “They are putting us up on a pinnacle.”

And so, in a legal standoff that has turned some preconceptions upside down, North Dakota’s top state lawyers will be in court on Wednesday to oppose members of the Spirit Lake Tribe who have sued to preserve the Fighting Sioux name and logo, an image of an Indian in profile, feathers draping down.

The battle here, like some others at the 20 or so institutions urged by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to drop their mascots, names or images, has been painful and drawn out. The University of North Dakota is the only one still sorting the matter out, an N.C.A.A. spokesman said, and it is creating rifts on this campus of 13,000 students, among its web of alumni that run through nearly every realm in North Dakota, and, especially, among American Indians here.

All around, harsh new accusations are flying. The members from Spirit Lake behind the lawsuit assert that many of the American Indians opposed to the Fighting Sioux nickname are simply from tribes other than the Sioux, and are jealous of all the recognition. (Opponents call this absurd.)

Some against the name claim that the operators of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, the gleaming hockey stadium built by a particularly successful alumnus for more than $100 million — and contains 2,400 images of the logo — are secretly behind the lawsuit, hoping to block the nickname from being abandoned. (False, the Spirit Lake members and hockey stadium officials say.)

“Still, to do what they’re doing, you’re more or less selling out,” said Frank Sage, a Navajo and one of about 400 American Indian students at the university and one who says he finds the Fighting Sioux imagery hurtful and harmful. “They’re just being used.”

The lawsuit, filed last month by eight members of the Spirit Lake Tribe, is tangled, and grows out of a similarly tangled series of events that began in 2005, when the N.C.A.A. warned the University of North Dakota and 17 other colleges to change their nicknames and mascots if they wished to show the images at N.C.A.A.-controlled championships or to host such events. (Two other institutions were later added, according to the N.C.A.A.)

Since then, some colleges changed their logos, others sought and received permission from local tribes to keep them, and a few resolved the matter in other ways.

But the University of North Dakota is still at it. The state’s Board of Higher Education and the university sued the N.C.A.A. to preserve the nickname and logo, and in 2007 reached a settlement that let it keep them if the Sioux tribal councils in the state — at Spirit Lake and Standing Rock — agreed to the idea by the end of November 2010.

But some university officials said they began worrying that the debate was leading other institutions to avoid competing against them in sports. Robert Kelley, the university’s president, has taken no position on the nickname but said he found himself being asked about it almost constantly — at the supermarket, in meetings of the state’s Congressional delegation — and wanted to ensure that the debate did not eclipse the university’s academic focus.

Politics on the reservations have also turned tense. In September, the tribal council in Spirit Lake, 100 miles west of Grand Forks, voted to allow the name. But at Standing Rock, more than 300 miles southwest of here, a past tribal chairman was deeply opposed, and a new chairman brought no clear answer, noting in a letter to state officials this fall that he would prefer an “open dialogue as opposed to a stipulated arrangement under deadline.”

By then, the Board of Higher Education, which sets policy for public universities, concluded that it was time to give up. The board voted to prepare to “retire” the nickname if a deal was not struck with Standing Rock by the end of October, but a few days after the deadline, the group from Spirit Lake secured a temporary restraining order against the plan. Patrick R. Morley, a lawyer for the group, argues that the university, under its settlement with the N.C.A.A., must at least wait until next November for an answer from Standing Rock.

And some at Spirit Lake argue that they — not students — should have the ultimate say on the matter, while some at the university say the backlash from the debate is showing up here, on campus, not on Indian land.

“We’re talking tears and heartbreak here for our students,” said Linda Neuerburg, assistant director of American Indian Student Services at the university, which has 29 programs for American Indians. Leaders at the American Indian Center held up T-shirts they have collected showing images of Indians and bison (the nickname of the rival North Dakota State University teams) in vulgar poses. They described the insult of people walking on a large logo of the Indian face on the floor of the hockey stadium.

But those suing said they were proud of the nickname.

“I am full blood and I grew up on this reservation,” said Eunice Davidson, 57, who wore a Fighting Sioux sweatshirt on a recent afternoon. “I have to tell you, I am very, very honored that they would use the name.”

On Wednesday, the statewill argue against the Spirit Lake members’ restraining order, raising questions about their legal standing, said Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota’s attorney general. This puts him, too, in an unlikely spot: Mr. Stenehjem, an alumnus of the university who, like many other political leaders here, has been supportive of the nickname, filed the initial suit against the N.C.A.A. to protect the name. But if the Board of Higher Education wants to be rid of it now, he said, that is its authority.

Still, Frank Black Cloud, the Spirit Lake member, said an end to the nickname would not soothe relations between white North Dakotans and American Indians.

“If you think there are some tensions at the university before, just think what repercussions there will be for Indians then,” Mr. Black Cloud said. “You are going to kick us back a century.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

U.S. Agrees to $3 Billion Deal in Indian Trust Suit

Published: December 8, 2009
WASHINGTON — The federal government announced on Tuesday that it intends to pay $3.4 billion to settle claims that it has mismanaged the revenue in American Indian trust funds, potentially ending one of the longest and most complicated class-action lawsuits ever brought against the government.

The tentative agreement, reached late Monday between Obama administration negotiators and lawyers for some 300,000 individual American Indians, would resolve a 13-year-old lawsuit over trust accounts established in the 19th century.

“This is an historic, positive development for Indian country and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of acrimonious litigation between trust beneficiaries and the United States,” said Ken Salazar, the Interior Department secretary.

For the agreement to become final, Congress still needs to enact legislation and the federal courts must then sign off on it. Administration officials said they hoped those two steps would be completed in the next few months.

The dispute arises from a system dating to 1887 under which the government set up trusts to manage tens of millions of acres of land owned by individual American Indians and by tribes. The acreage is scattered across the country with the heaviest concentration in Western states.

The Interior Department manages leases on the land for activities like mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and drilling for oil and gas. It then distributes the revenue raised by those leases to the American Indians.

The lawsuit accuses the federal government of mismanaging the trusts for generations. As a result, the value of the trusts has been unclear, and the American Indians contend they are owed far more than what they have been paid.

Under the settlement agreement, the government would pay $1.4 billion to compensate the Indians for their claims of historical accounting irregularities and any accusation that federal officials mismanaged the administration of the trust assets over the years.

Each member of the class would receive a check for $1,000, and the rest of the money would be distributed according to the land owned. In addition, lawyer fees, to be determined by a judge, would be paid out of those funds.

In a statement, President Obama hailed the agreement as an “important step towards a sincere reconciliation” between American Indians and the federal government. He noted that as a presidential candidate, he had pledged to American Indians that he would work to resolve the lawsuit if he were elected.

The proposed settlement also seeks to resolve an ever-growing headache created by the trust system: the original tribal members who were granted parcels of Indian land have many heirs, which has “fractionalized” the ownership interests.

For example, one 40-acre parcel of land today has 439 owners, most of whom receive less than $1 a year in income from it, said David J. Hayes, the Interior Department deputy secretary. The parcel is valued at about $20,000, but it is costing the government more than $40,000 a year to administer those trusts.

In an effort to resolve such problems — and prevent them from growing worse with subsequent generations — the settlement would establish a $2 billion fund to buy fractional interests in land from anyone willing to sell. The program would consolidate ownership in parcels of land and turn them over to tribes.

Over the years, the plaintiffs have contended that they were owed tens of billions of dollars, while the government has at times taken the position that it owed them nothing.

Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff who filed the class-action lawsuit in 1996, said she believed that the American Indians were owed more than the settlement, but that it was better to reach an agreement that could help impoverished trust holders rather than spending additional years in litigation. She said she had originally expected the litigation to last only two or three years.

“We are compelled to settle by the sobering realization that our class grows smaller each day as our elders die and are forever prevented from receiving just compensation,” Ms. Cobell said.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. described the litigation as intense and difficult. He noted that it had engendered seven full trials covering 192 trial days, generated 22 published judicial opinions, and that issues arising from the lawsuit had been brought before a federal appeals court 10 times.

“The United States could have continued to litigate this case, at great expense to the taxpayers,” Mr. Holder said. “It could have let all of these claims linger, and could even have let the problem of fractionated land continue to grow with each generation. But with this settlement, we are erasing these past liabilities and getting on track to eliminate them going forward.”

Mr. Salazar said he would also establish a commission to handle trust account issues in the future.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

In Bolivia, a Force for Change Endures

Published: December 6, 2009
LA PAZ, Bolivia — The slogans and posters of Che Guevara notwithstanding, this is not Havana circa 1969, nor Managua, 1979. Instead, the fervor in the offices of the Deputy Ministry of Decolonization could only be felt in the Bolivia of President Evo Morales, who seemed to be sailing toward a victory in an election on Sunday.

The writing on the wall here, literally, is in two indigenous languages — Quechua and Aymara — unmistakable signs of the political movement that has shaken the institutions of this impoverished nation.

“Jisk’a Achasiw Tuq Saykat Taqi Jach’a P’iqincha,” says the greeting at the office of Monica Rey, who explains that it is Aymara for the new unit she leads, the Directorate for the Struggle Against Racism.

“We are in the process of conquering our country’s minds and, even more challenging, its fears,” said Ms. Rey, listing a variety of projects, including changing the portraits on Bolivia’s currency from the white men who long ruled the country to indigenous heroes like Túpac Katari and Bartolina Sisa, leaders of an 18th-century revolt against Spanish rule.

With a sharply weakened opposition and his visceral connection to the indigenous majority — who make up more than 60 percent of the population — Mr. Morales, 50, is arguably the nation’s strongest leader in decades.

He easily won a constitutional overhaul this year allowing him to run for another five-year term. Now polls here show him and his supporters far ahead as Bolivians voted on Sunday. He is within grasp of solid legislative majorities that would allow him to mold the nation further as its first indigenous president.

Voting appeared to unfold calmly in much of Bolivia on Sunday, according to interviews with voters here and radio reports from other voting centers. “Evo has to stay so he can finish what he started,” said Juan Carlos Garcia, 24, a street vendor in El Alto, a city of slums above La Paz, before casting his vote at a crowded polling station Sunday morning. “Those who disagree must bend to the will of the majority,” he added.

Mr. Morales voted early Sunday in Villa 14 de Septiembre, a community in the Chapare jungle of central Bolivia, a coca-growing region that is a bastion of support for the president. He said voters had the right to decide between “the process of change or neoliberalism,” the term Mr. Morales often uses to disparage market-oriented economic policies.

But his dominance has earned him some unexpected rivals, beyond the opposition he faces from traditional elites in the rebellious eastern lowlands. His broadening influence also feels oppressive to an array of indigenous politicians struggling to emerge from his shadow.

“This government exists to spend money on Evo’s campaigns at the expense of the rest of us,” said Felipe Quispe, 67, an Aymara Indian who entered politics after leading a guerrilla insurgency in the 1980s and being imprisoned in the 1990s. “Evo is an Indian dressed in fancy clothing, surrounded by white men and mestizos.”

The iconic Mr. Quispe, who commands a radical party with a small percentage of voters, said the Aymaras, about a quarter of Bolivia’s population of 9.8 million, should reject the very idea of Bolivia to form a homeland with Aymara-speaking people from Peru’s high plains. “We must de-Bolivianize ourselves,” he said.

Ricardo Calla, an anthropologist and the minister of indigenous affairs in a previous administration, said that just as Mr. Quispe stood to the left of the president, other indigenous politicians had emerged across the ideological spectrum, suggesting a more varied political class than presented by state media here.

In the center, for instance, is Savina Cuéllar, a provincial governor in southern Bolivia. To the right is Víctor Hugo Cárdenas, a former vice president whose home was attacked by a pro-Morales mob this year. Still further to the right is Fernando Untoja, an Aymara intellectual running for Congress on the ticket of Manfred Reyes Villa, a former army captain trailing far behind Mr. Morales in second place.

“Evo himself,” said Mr. Calla, the anthropologist, “could be considered the authoritarian left.” Contributing to this classification, he argued, was Mr. Morales’s resistance to cooperating with other parties, threats to jail opponents and the celebration of his administration in government-paid advertising. Mr. Calla called the government’s exuberance over Mr. Morales’s achievements “a cult of personality” in the making.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Michael Kabotie - Leaving a vibrant legacy for the world

Arts, Culture & Community Editor
Sunday, November 01, 2009

When Michael Kabotie, 67, died Friday, Oct. 23, 2009, at Flagstaff Medical Center after battling the H1N1 flu and associated complications, he left a legacy of artistic visions that will live for generations.

Kabotie was from the village of Shungopavi, located on Second Mesa on the Hopi reservation, but had also lived many years in Flagstaff and New Mexico. He was a renowned and respected Hopi painter, silversmith and poet, a loving father and grandfather, and a dedicated partner.

"He was for so many people, both in Arizona and the world beyond, a great ambassador from Hopi to the rest of the world," said Robert Breunig, director of the Museum of Northern Arizona. "He was always willing to share insights and understanding about Hopi with other people, but he was also intensely curious about other cultures, so it was always a two-way street with Michael."

Breunig said that it was fitting it snowed lightly around the time that Kabotie died and four days after.

"In the Hopi way, when you go to the spirit world, you became a cloud person," he said. "You bring snow and rain to the living. I know Michael was out there somewhere making it snow."


After high school, Michael attended the University of Arizona, where he studied engineering. After dropping out of college, his art career was launched when he had a one-man show at the Heard Museum, and his work was on the cover of Arizona Highways magazine.

Kabotie and his father, Fred Kabotie, were known as innovators in the Native American Fine Arts Movement, as they created paintings reflecting traditional Hopi life, but with a contemporary touch.

Fred Kabotie was one of the Hopi artists responsible for developing the trademark overlay methods used today by many Hopi silver and goldsmiths.

Through the years since 1966, Kabotie participated in many art exhibits, including at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the American Indian Contemporary Arts Gallery in San Francisco, Tucson Art Festival, Los Angeles Natural History Museum, Museum of American Indian in New York City, Museum of Man in San Diego, many appearances at the annual SWAIA Indian Market in Santa Fe, as well as featured exhibits at both the Coconino Center for the Arts and the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff and at the Hopi Cultural Center Museum on Second Mesa.

At the time of his death, Kabotie was working on an exhibit and a book for the museum, called "Siitala: Life in Balance, World in Bloom."

"We'll be continuing to work on that," said Kelley Hays-Gilpin, curator of anthropology at MNA. "We planned the content of the exhibit. We just need to raise the money and design and build it."

Kabotie will also be honored as the featured artist at the Heard Indian Market in March of 2010.


According to his Web site, Kabotie's painting reflects his Hopi mentors, the pre-European Awatovi kiva mural painters and the Sikyatki pottery painters.

In 1973, he was a founding member of Artist Hopid, a group of five painters who worked together for more than five years, experimenting in fresh interpretations of traditional Hopi art forms.

Kabotie created many beautiful works of art, among them murals at Sunset Crater Visitors Center, a large mural in the Kiva Gallery at the Museum of Northern Arizona, which he painted with his friend Delbridge Honanie, and a gate he designed to look like a piece of overlay jewelry at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Breunig, who was a friend for almost 35 years, was present at a well-attended memorial service for Kabotie on Sunday, Oct. 25, at the Colton House of the Museum of Northern Arizona

He said the service was "just fabulous" and went for two hours. It was on the lawn, looking up at the San Francisco Peaks.

"He was an artist, he was a poet, he was a jeweler, and most of all, he was a wonderful friend," Breunig said. "Oh, and he was a trickster and a clown, too. He was always teasing me, reminding us all that we need to stay humble and grounded. He was just a delight to be with, so much fun."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michael Kabotie Obituary

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michael Kabotie, 67, died Friday, Oct. 23, 2009, at Flagstaff Medical Center after battling the H1N1 flu and associated complications.

Mr. Kabotie was from the village of Shungopavi, located on Second Mesa on the Hopi reservation, but had also lived many years in Flagstaff and New Mexico. He was a renowned and respected Hopi painter, silversmith and poet, a loving father and grandfather, and a dedicated partner.

Mr. Kabotie is survived by his older sister, Hattie Lomayesva; his children, Paul Kabotie, Wendell Sakiestewa, Claire Chavarria, Ed Kabotie, Meg Adakai and Max Kabotie; his partner, Ruth Ann Border; his ex-wife, Frances Fayssoux Kabotie; 14 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; his Hopi clan and blood relatives; and his many friends from all over the world.

He truly touched the hearts of many.

Mr. Kabotie created many beautiful works of art, among them murals at Sunset Crater and the Museum of Northern Arizona, and a gate he designed to look like a piece of overlay jewelry at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

He will also be honored as the featured artist at the Heard Indian Market in March of 2010.

A memorial service will be Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Colton House of the Museum of Northern Arizona.

The Kabotie family would like to extend their gratitude to the medical staff at FMC.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Health Care for American Indians - Slate Magazine

By Christopher Beam
Posted Friday, Sept. 18, 2009, at 11:20 AM ET

The health care plan released by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on Wednesday includes a requirement that every nonsenior American either buy insurance or pay a fine. There are exceptions, however, for anyone below the poverty line, people who face extreme hardship, and American Indians. Why are American Indians exempt?

Because they have their own health care system. The Indian Health Service, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services and whose funding comes out of the federal government's annual budget, provides care to any person who is a member or descendant of one of the 560 federally recognized tribes. Because they're covered by IHS, Indians don't need to purchase private insurance. (Many do anyway—more on that later.)

The IHS provides two types of service. One is direct care through one of its 48 hospitals and 230 clinics across the country, most of which are located on or near a reservation. For anyone covered by IHS, treatment at these facilities is free. The other service is so-called "contract health services," or CHS. If an IHS hospital doesn't have the treatment or procedure you need—say you have to visit a cardiac specialist for a rare condition—they will refer you to a non-IHS facility. The visit is then paid for with federal money designated for CHS. Not every American Indian, however, qualifies for CHS. To qualify, you have to live either on a reservation or in a "contract health services delivery area," which usually abuts a reservation. If you don't, you're on your own. (As a result, there is a strong incentive for American Indians who don't have employer coverage to live on or near a reservation.) Nor is CHS coverage guaranteed for those who technically qualify. Congress allocates a limited amount of money every year—about $600 million—so emergency care takes priority. When that money runs out, some patients are out of luck.

Can American Indians get other insurance, too? Of course. Of the 1.4 million American Indians covered by IHS, nearly 60 percent have some other type of coverage as well: 20 percent get private insurance, 8 percent have Medicare, and 30 percent are covered under Medicaid. Private insurance especially makes sense for Indians who live far from the nearest IHS facility. In fact, the tribes encourage private coverage, since third-party payers—private insurance and Medicare and Medicaid—are required to pay for your care before IHS does. If, for example, you're an American Indian over 65, your health care bill goes to Medicare first—even if you get treatment at an IHS facility. (Third-party revenue accounts for almost 50 percent of IHS hospital operating budgets.) Only if Medicare refuses to cover the procedure is IHS required to pay.

Government health care for American Indians is rooted in the Constitution, which states in Article I that Congress may regulate commerce with Indian tribes and was first implemented through various treaties signed by the federal government and individual tribes. The Snyder Act of 1921 provided funds "for the benefit, care and assistance" of Indians, who were then granted U.S. citizenship. In 1954, the Indian Health Service was established and took over administering health care from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But it wasn't until 1975 that the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act integrated American Indians into Medicare and Medicaid and put tribes in charge of their own care—for example, they can build a new clinic and get reimbursed by Uncle Sam rather than waiting around for the government to build one. The system still has its issues: Whereas the U.S. health care system spends about $6,000 per American, IHS spends only $2,100. American Indians are less healthy on the whole than other Americans. And CHS, whose money sometimes dries up midyear, is chronically underfunded. Hence the oft-quoted aphorism, "Don't get sick after June."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tribe That Runs Foxwoods Facing 'Dire' Finances

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- The chairman of the tribe that runs Foxwoods Resort Casino is warning of ''dire financial times'' that he says threaten the tribe's living standards.

Michael J. Thomas, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, sent a letter to tribal members last week noting earnings ''are down considerably'' in the recession with no signs of immediate improvement. He also noted the likely legalization of gambling in Massachusetts and New York will eat away at profits and market share.

''These are dire financial times for our tribe,'' Thomas wrote in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday. ''The situation is serious and threatens our tribe.''

The tribe is on the brink of default and is trying to restructure $2.3 billion in debt, the New London Day reported Wednesday, citing an adviser to the tribe who spoke on condition of anonymity. The debt is $1 billion more than the tribe can sustain, and it is at risk of defaulting Monday on a $700 million line of credit with lenders, the newspaper reported.

Telephone messages were left Wednesday with tribal officials for comment on the report, which also cited a plan by an investment bank to continue operating the casino while the debt is restructured.

The tribe opened Foxwoods in 1992 and the casino has become one of the world's largest. Foxwoods last year opened the $700 million MGM Grand, a 30-story, 2-million-square-foot property that includes a new casino, hotel, a 4,000-seat performing arts theater, restaurants, luxury stores, the largest ballroom in the Northeast and new convention space to accommodate thousands.

Thomas alluded to the troubles in his letter, saying he intended to introduce a resolution to put the tribe's money in a ''lock box'' only to be used for government and incentive payments to tribal members.

''Regardless of what may happen, I have made it clear that we will not accept Wall street mandates for cuts to tribal government or the incentive,'' Thomas wrote. ''Anyone who puts the interests of consultants, bankers and bond holders ahead of our tribal community will have to answer to me.''

Foxwoods has laid off 800 casino workers since last summer as a result of declining slot revenue because of the poor economy.

Mohegan Sun, Connecticut's other tribal casino, has cut more than 500 jobs through attrition and delayed an expansion project. But Mohegan Sun, operated by the Mohegan Tribe, said in a statement Wednesday that the casino is financially healthy.

The casinos turn over 25 percent of their slot profits to the state under an operating agreement.

Paul Young, executive director of the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue, said his agency has not been notified of a plan to restructure Foxwoods' debt.

Young said he would expect the tribe to continue operating and making its payments to the state.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Wednesday Foxwoods' financial woes were a concern.

''We know that they have been experiencing financial difficulty for some time and I think that they're working to try to address it with their lenders and hopefully they can,'' Rell said. ''Obviously, it's a concern to us. It's a revenue to the state.''

Connecticut officials said Wednesday the two tribes will pay the state $25 million in slot revenues to compensate for promotions that allowed gamblers to use slots for free.


Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this story.