Same sex marriage in the Navajo Nation

The Arizona Republic published an interesting article on Sunday Nov. 2, at A12, about whether the Navajo Nation might change its position and begin recognizing same sex marriages. In 2005, the Nation enacted the Dine Marriage Act that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman (several states enacted similar laws and/or citizen initiative measures around that same time, e.g. Oregon in 2004). While the legal recognition of same sex marriage is sweeping the nation, the Navajo Nation has not yet revisited the issue.

The Republic article states that the “current Navajo President Ben Shelly has said he’s against changing it [the Dine Marriage Act].” But the article also cites the President’s aide, Deswood Tome, as saying that President Shelly supports any Navajo’s choice to go elsewhere to get married.

Same sex marriage is now legal in Arizona and New Mexico (where most of the Navajo Nation reservation is located), and same sex supporters hope that the issue of marriage equality will gain momentum in the Navajo Nation. In addition, in the current election for a new president, the front runner Joe Shirley Jr. vetoed the gay marriage ban in 2005 but his veto was overridden by the Navajo Nation Council. If he is elected president again, maybe a change in the Nation’s position is in the air?

Posted in Indian Law | Leave a comment

Indian healthcare conference – ASU College of Law

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is putting on a conference on important legal and policy issues regarding health care in Indian Country – “Opportunities and Challenges to Providing Healthcare in Indian Country.” The conference will be held Thu. Feb. 26 – Fri. Feb. 27, 2015 at the law school in Tempe Arizona.

Posted in Economic Development | Leave a comment

Hopi Tribe attempts to stop French sales of sacred masks

The Hopi Tribe has filed suit in a French court to attempt to stop the Drouot auction house from selling 32 sacred tribal kachina masks. The Tribe attempted in April to halt a similar sale of 70 masks but a Paris court ruled that the sales were legal. The Tribe and its advocates argue that the masks represent ancestral spirits and cannot be treated like merchandise.

The Tribe considers the masks as communal property which have never belonged to anyone. The auction house say they belong to a private collector and are not stolen property.

The Paris court held a hearing on the lawsuit on Tuesday and a verdict is expected as early as today. Lets hope the Tribe prevails in this latest effort to protect its cultural patrimony.

Posted in International Indigenous issues | Leave a comment

American Indian economic development conference Feb. 27-28 ASU College of Law

The Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is hosting a conference entitled “Sustaining the Reservation: Creating Tribal Economies” on February 27-28, 2014. The conference will be held on the main ASU campus in Tempe, Arizona. Speakers include Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, Kevin Washburn, Patrice Kunesh, Deputy Undersecretary U.S. Department of Agriculture, President Diane Enos, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Dean Stacy Leeds, University of Arkansas, and professors and attorneys from across the country.

Get more information at:

Posted in Economic Development | Leave a comment

Catholic groups call for Pope Francis to rescind 15th Century papal bulls on Discovery

Yesterday, thirteen Catholic groups requested that Pope Francis formally rescind the 15th century papal bulls that provided the basis for the international law Doctrine of Discovery and the legalized colonization and subjugation of most of the world by Europeans.

This call was made by the Loretto Community and the elected leadership of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the 19 member congregations of Dominican Sisters Conference, the Sisters of St Francis (Rochester, Minn.), Sisters of St. Joseph (Concordia, Kan.), Sisters of St. Joseph (Philadelphia), Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (Kan.), the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (Fond du Lac, Wis.), Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Casa Loreto, Rome), Sisters of St. Joseph and Associates of Buffalo New York; Pax Christi International; as well as the 8th Day Center for Justice; and the Franciscan-founded Nevada Desert Experience, in collaboration with Chief Johnnie L. Bobb of the Western Shoshone National Council.

The request by these groups stands in solidarity with indigenous peoples’ requests to every pope since 1984 to do the same. The 13 groups call upon Pope Francis to start a new era of justice with a public declaration that formally rescinds the Dum Diversis Bull of 1452, which ordered Europeans “to capture, vanquish and subdue the Saracens, pagans and other enemies of Christ and put them into perpetual slavery and to take all their possessions and their property,” and the Inter Caetera Bull of 1493, which divided the world for Spain and Portugal to “take all lands and possessions” and to colonize and convert indigenous peoples.

These 13 Catholic groups join other church denominations who have called for a repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and the settler-colonial thinking that the Doctrine spawned and sanctioned.  The other religious groups include the World Council of Churches, the Episcopal House of Bishops, the Philadelphia, New York, and Canadian Yearly Meetings of the Religious Society of Friends and the Boulder Friends Meeting (Quakers), the United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalists and others.

Read the entire Loretto Community press release at:

Posted in Doctrine of Discovery | Leave a comment

Klamath Tribes invoke water rights

Big news in Oregon water issues is the fact that the Klamath Tribes are exercising their water rights and the federal government will support those rights by limiting irrigation water to cattle ranchers and farmers in the Klamath basin this summer.  The water will be used to protect the Tribes' traditional fishing grounds and two species of fish that are on the endangered species list.  Scott Learn, Tribes invoke water rights, Oregonian, June 11, 2013, at A1.

As I understand it, the State of Oregon refused to enforce anyone's water rights while the 38 year long Klamath basin stream adjudication went through the Oregon administrative process. Obviously, during that long period of time, other people were using water that has now been determined to belong to the Klamath Tribes. Now that the Tribes' water rights are quantified, and will be protected, it is largely their decision on how their 1864 treaty reserved water rights will be exercised.

The Oregon process, however, allows the administrative decision to be challenged in Oregon courts and apparently some cases are already underway.

Posted in Indian Law | Leave a comment

Indian Mascots and schools

An oped article in today's Portland Oregonian addresses the possible veto by Gov. Kitzhaber of a bill just enacted by the Legislature to allow a sort of local choice for public schools to use Indian mascots.

The authors wrote, in part: "Gov. John Kitzhaber has gone on record as saying he will veto Senate Bill 215. This bill, which has passed the House and Senate, would effectively overturn the Oregon Board of Education's 2012 decision to eliminate the use of Native American mascots in Oregon schools.

At issue here are both group and individual rights — sovereign tribal cultural property rights, and Native students' human and civil rights. Exposing individual Native students to mascots, targeting and bullying for sport, recreation and entertainment is not dignified or honoring, and is race-based discrimination. . . . "

Read the entire piece:

Posted in General | Leave a comment