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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.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Dizzying Rise and Abrupt Fall for a Reservation Drug Dealer

LUMMI INDIAN RESERVATION, Wash. — For a time, Room 246 at the Scottish Lodge Motel, 13 miles south of the Canadian border, was a Shangri-La for Eugenia Phair.

With its stained carpets, its stench of vomit and stale cigarette smoke, its bathroom sink smudged with burn marks from the crack-cocaine cooks who had used the room before, Room 246 was where her drug smuggling operation began to take off, she said, the first headquarters of what would become a well-organized and lucrative drug ring on and around this reservation.

Over the next few years, Ms. Phair, 26, a Lummi Indian, and her family grew flush and dizzy with drug money, as she rocketed to the top in the ripe and cutthroat world of Indian drug trafficking, selling painkillers, she said, to everyone including tribal officials and jobless strung-out addicts.

"It was almost an answer to your prayers," said Ms. Phair, who was released on Feb. 6 after serving 20 months in state prison. "If you came from rags and then you had a chance at riches, wouldn't you choose riches? If you lived your whole life in poverty and then you had a chance to be rich, what would you do? It's almost impossible. I never had anything ever, no new clothes, no school-clothes shopping, no nothing at all. Then you're able to have your kids go to a good school and look nice and fit in. I never fit in."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Drug Traffickers Find Haven in Shadows of Indian Country

ST. REGIS MOHAWK RESERVATION, N.Y. — He had eluded the authorities for years. Witnesses against him had mysteriously disappeared. Shots were fired from his highly secured compound here last year when the state police tried to close in.

The man, John V. Oakes, like a fast-rising number of American Indian drug traffickers across the country, saw himself as "untouchable," as one senior investigator put it, protected by armed enforcers and a code of silence that ruled the reservation.

After he was finally arrested last May, Mr. Oakes was recorded from jail talking on the phone with his estranged wife. "I can't believe people let this happen to me," he said, according to Derek Champagne, the Franklin County district attorney who listened to the recorded call. "You can't touch me. I'm on the reservation, and I do what I want."

Investigators described Mr. Oakes as an intimidating trafficker who concentrated on stealing drugs and cash from a prosperous and growing cluster of criminals who, like Mr. Oakes, have built sprawling mansions near worn-down trailers on this reservation straddling the Canadian border.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

As Tribal Leaders, Women Still Fight Old Views

PINE RIDGE, S.D.— Political life has been tense for Cecelia Fire Thunder since a little over a year ago, when she defeated Russell Means to become the top leader of the Oglala Sioux tribe, often remembered for its male leaders of long ago, men like Crazy Horse and Red Cloud.

Mr. Means, an American Indian activist and actor, challenged Ms. Fire Thunder's election in a federal lawsuit. Months later came the calls from some tribe members for her impeachment, amid complaints she had unilaterally made questionable financial choices and ignored the wishes of respected elders.

The Tribal Council voted in December to drop the impeachment complaint and keep Ms. Fire Thunder, but by then she and many of her supporters had come to believe that her sex was really at the root of so much turmoil. Though some disagree with Ms. Fire Thunder's assertion of bias, she stands as an illustration of the shifting role American Indian women are playing in tribal governments.

Ms. Fire Thunder is the first woman to be elected president here on Pine Ridge, the country's second largest reservation in land area, and one of a growing group of women Indian leaders. Since 1999, at least 11 leaders, including Ms. Fire Thunder, have become the first women elected to the top post on their tribes' governing councils.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Inca Show Pits Yale Against Peru

NEW HAVEN, Jan. 26 — By any conventional measure, Yale's exhibition about Machu Picchu would seem a windfall for Peru. As one of the most ambitious shows about the Inca ever presented in the United States, drawing over a million visitors while traveling to half a dozen cities and back again, it has riveted eyes on Peru's leading tourist attraction.

Peru has asked for the return of many of the artifacts in "Machu Picchu," an exhibition now back at the Peabody Museum at Yale University. More Photos >
Yet instead of cementing an international partnership, the exhibition, which returned to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale in September, has brought a low ebb in the university's relations with Peru. At issue are a large group of artifacts that form the core of the show, excavated at Machu Picchu in a historic dig by a Yale explorer in 1912. The government of Peru wants all of those objects back.

Peru contends that it essentially lent the Machu Picchu objects to the university nearly a century ago and that the university has failed to return them. Yale has staunchly rebuffed Peru's claim, stating that it returned all borrowed objects in the 1920's and has retained only those to which it has full title.