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Webmaster's Blog - Native American Resources

A place to put resources of a more ephemeral nature, such as events, recommended new websites, new books, etc.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Forces Clash on Tribal Lands

BLACK MESA, Ariz. - The gigantic earth-moving crane sits idle, a 5,500-ton behemoth stilled by a legal, cultural and environmental dispute playing out far from the rich vein of coal beneath the desert of remote northeastern Arizona.

The rig, known as a dragline, may never again scrape the earth's surface at the Black Mesa Mine to get at the coal beneath the Hopi and Navajo lands.

Some welcome the idling of the earth-gobbling beast, a symbol, they say, of the rape of the land and precious water below. Others, mostly American Indians who have come to depend on the high-paying jobs at the mine, are furious.

For 35 years, the Black Mesa Mine has produced coal for a power plant in southern Nevada. But it suspended operations at the end of December, ending the jobs of nearly 200 people.

Most of them are members of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe whose livelihood and dreams depend on work at the mine, jobs that pay as much as $80,000 a year in wages and benefits, 10 times the average annual income on the reservations.

The mine is ceasing work indefinitely because the sole power plant it supplies, the Mohave Generating Station 273 miles away in Laughlin, Nev., is shutting down under a legal agreement with environmental groups that sued because of repeated pollution violations.

Senecas Add Hotel to Niagara Falls Casino

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y., Dec. 30 - The new Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel does not just dominate the skyline of the one-time Honeymoon Capital of the World. For all practical purposes, the 26-story glass-and-steel building, which officially opened on Friday, is the skyline on the American side of the Niagara River.

The 26-story Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel is at the end of Falls Street in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Jutting from land owned by the Seneca Nation in downtown Niagara Falls and adjoining the Senecas' existing casino, the $240 million hotel and its colored glass and lights, arrayed in American Indian patterns, contrasts sharply with the decaying neighborhoods that surround it.

"People have been coming here for years, and the place looked like it looks," said David Rosenwasser, the president and chief executive of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. "Now, there's a sign of life, and it's so large it subliminally sends a message."

To residents and business owners, the message is mixed.

Proponents mention the 1,000 jobs created by the hotel, bringing the work force of the city's largest employer to about 3,000. The city receives a share of the revenue, $14 million in 2004.

But owners of many local restaurants and bars say they have lost regular customers to the casino. "It just hurts when you hear people say, 'I went to the casino and had a free meal and a drink,' " said Kathy Lewis, who owns Kelly's Korner, a neighborhood restaurant and tavern about five miles from the casino. "You didn't have a free meal or drink - you might have lost $100 to get that bottle of beer."

Friday, December 23, 2005

Homeless for Over a Century, a Tribe Awaits U.S. Redemption

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Here at the base of a rise called Hill 57, a steady, cold wind blows on a cloudless day as James Parker Shield and Russ Boham tell of life for the landless Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

James Parker Shield helps lead an effort by the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians to win federal recognition, which would mean money to buy land.
The tribe, its land taken away more than a century ago, squatted in Great Falls and elsewhere in north-central Montana through the late 1960's, living as many as 12 to a tar-paper shack without plumbing, and scavenging at the dump for scrap metal, rags and food. Parents often ran afoul of state child welfare officials. "They'd see you sleeping in a car body and take you away from your family," said Mr. Boham, who, like Mr. Shield, was among those shipped to the state orphanage when he was a child.

Today, with most of its members living in public housing around Great Falls, Mr. Shield and Mr. Boham are leading a protracted fight for government recognition of the tribe. Recognition would allow their people to gain control of federal money to buy land here for a tribal headquarters and housing, and to win back a measure of dignity.

The 112 families led by Chief Little Shell lost their North Dakota homeland to the government in 1892 when a chief of the Pembina Chippewa signed away their rights to it, without their authority and in their absence. The Little Shell had left home, in the Turtle Mountain area, to go hunting, and an Indian agent forced the other Chippewa to accept the Ten Cent Treaty - so called by Indians because it bought about 10 million acres of Chippewa land, including that of the Little Shell, for a million dollars.

Ever since, the Little Shell have known only diaspora.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Democrat Returning Donations From Abramoff's Tribal Clients

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 - The ranking Democrat on the Senate committee investigating the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff announced on Tuesday that he was returning $67,000 in political contributions from Mr. Abramoff's former partners and Indian tribe clients.

The lawmaker, Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, has been accused of hypocrisy by Republicans for having not acknowledged the contributions from Mr. Abramoff's clients while at the same time sharply criticizing him in hearings of the Senate panel, the Indian Affairs Committee.

"Even though those contributions were legal and fully reported as required by law, I will not knowingly keep even one dollar in contributions if there is even a remote possibility that they could have been the result of any action Mr. Abramoff might have taken," Mr. Dorgan said in a statement emphasizing that he had never received a direct contribution from Mr. Abramoff himself.

Mr. Abramoff is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in Washington focused on whether his lobbying operation corrupted public officials, including members of Congress, to get them to perform official acts for Indian tribes and their gambling operations. His former lobbying partner Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to bribe public officials.

While Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon urged their Indian tribe clients to shower most of their political contributions on Republicans, they also urged the tribes to be generous with some Democrats, including Mr. Dorgan and others who might be able to assist on legislation that the tribes sought. Mr. Dorgan has served on the Indian Affairs Committee since 1993.

The senator has been the focus of recent articles by The Associated Press into the timing of a series of contributions from Indian tribes and actions he took that were seen as favorable to them. His decision to return the money was first disclosed in an interview with The Forum, a newspaper in Fargo, N.D., that published an account of it Tuesday.

In his statement, Mr. Dorgan described Mr. Abramoff as a "corrupt individual who bilked Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars." He said, "I have never met Jack Abramoff, I have never received a political contribution from him, and I have never knowingly received one that was directed by him." A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff had no immediate response.

A spokesman for Mr. Dorgan, Barry E. Piatt, said the senator had directed his staff to review donations both to his campaign committee and to his political action committee, the Great Plains Leadership Fund, and return any from Mr. Abramoff's former tribal clients or former lobbying partners.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Earliest Known Maya Painting Found

Archaeologists reported yesterday that they had uncovered a masterpiece of Maya art showing a surprisingly early flowering of the civilization, well before the classical period that began after A.D. 250.

The find, a 30-by-3-foot mural in vivid colors depicting the ancient culture's mythology of creation and kingship, is the centerpiece of a larger mural, parts of which were first discovered and exposed in Guatemala four years ago. New radiocarbon tests revealed the painting to be 200 years older than originally estimated, dating to about 100 B.C.

"In Western terms," said William Saturno, an archaeologist at the University of New Hampshire who is a research associate at Harvard, "it's like knowing only modern art and then stumbling on a Michelangelo or a Leonardo."

In a statement released by the National Geographic Society, a supporter of the research, Dr. Saturno wrote, "The mural shows that early Maya painting had achieved a high level of sophistication and grace well before the great works of the Classic Maya in the seventh century." The mural appeared to have extended around all four walls of the chamber, only two of which were standing when archaeologists excavated the site, known as San Bartolo. The western wall was the centerpiece, the wall that people faced as they entered the room. The mural there shows two coronation scenes: one mythological, the other the coronation of a real king.

The first part of the mural illustrates the Maya creation story. Four deities represent the creation of water, land, sky and paradise. At the center, the maize god crowns himself king. Archaeologists said they were having trouble deciphering the glyphs of the much earlier Mayan script.

Karl Taube of the University of California, Riverside, a member of the research team and an expert on Maya art, said the murals provided an unparalleled view of the early development of Maya mythology and art. The painting is on a flat plaster surface and is composed of a greater variety of colors - oranges and yellows, grayish blues, gray, red - than the previously uncovered section.

"All too often, such artifacts are broken or heavily eroded," Dr. Taube said. "In contrast, the murals at San Bartolo are in brilliant polychrome."

Archaeologists are at a loss to understand the role the chamber had in Maya culture. Dr. Saturno suggested that it could have been the room - something like the greenroom in television studios - where the king rehearsed his public performances reinforcing his mythic right to rule.

In recent excavations at San Bartolo, Mónica Pellecer Alecio, a Guatemalan archaeologist, found what experts say is the oldest known Maya royal burial.