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:

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U.S. Supreme Court decides Indian Child Welfare Act case

On June 25, the Supreme Court decided only its second case interpreting the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (in 1989 the Court strongly upheld the Act in Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30 (1989)).

In the 2013 case, the Court continued to apply ICWA but its restrictive interpretation of the Act seems to have limited Congress' original intentions for ICWA to protect Indian children from adoptions to non-Indian families and tribal community interests in protecting and retaining their youngest citizens.

The Association on American Indian Affairs wrote about the case, in part:

the case involves a dispute between a Cherokee father, Dusten Brown, and a non-Indian prospective adoptive couple seeking to adopt his child. The South Carolina courts had applied the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), held that the father was a fit parent, and returned custody to him about 18 months ago. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the South Carolina Supreme Court and remanded the case for further hearings before the South Carolina trial court to determine who should have custody of Veronica. . . .
Jack Trope, Executive Director of AAIA [said] "It is unfortunate, however, that the uncertainty regarding Veronica's future has been prolonged by the decision and that the Court adopted a problematic interpretation of some ICWA provisions. The Court did not adopt arguments asserting that ICWA is unconstitutional, however, so the decision is narrower than it could have been."
In short, the Court held that
  • the heightened standard of proof for termination of parental rights in ICWA does not apply when a parent has never had prior legal or physical custody (although Justice Breyer in his concurrence suggests that there may be exceptions to this rule),
  • active efforts are not required to prevent the breakup of an Indian family when a parent abandons a child before birth and has never had physical or legal custody of the child, although the section may apply to a non-custodial parent in other factual circumstances, and 
  • adoption placement preferences are not triggered until a party within the placement preferences (relative, tribal member, or other Indian person) seeks to adopt the child.
Contrary to some media reports, the Court did not adopt the Existing Indian Family Exception (EIF). The EIF, which has been followed by a small minority of states, provides that the Act does not apply when there has not been a prior Indian family. Rather, the Court appeared to accept the dissent's view that many provisions of the Act, such as the notice, transfer and consent provisions, would still apply in cases involving biological fathers regardless of whether they ever had custody."

Read more:

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President Obama creates a White House Council on Native American Affairs

On June 26, the President issues an executive order creating a White House Council on Native American Affairs.  I have reprinted the order below.

 Executive Order — Establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs

Executive Order — Establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs

– – – – – – –


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to promote and sustain prosperous and resilient Native American tribal governments, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The United States recognizes a government-to-government relationship, as well as a unique legal and political relationship, with federally recognized tribes. This relationship is set forth in the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, administrative rules and regulations, and judicial decisions. Honoring these relationships and respecting the sovereignty of tribal nations is critical to advancing tribal self-determination and prosperity.

As we work together to forge a brighter future for all Americans, we cannot ignore a history of mistreatment and destructive policies that have hurt tribal communities. The United States seeks to continue restoring and healing relations with Native Americans and to strengthen its partnership with tribal governments, for our more recent history demonstrates that tribal self-determination — the ability of tribal governments to determine how to build and sustain their own communities — is necessary for successful and prospering communities. We further recognize that restoring tribal lands through appropriate means helps foster tribal self-determination.

This order establishes a national policy to ensure that the Federal Government engages in a true and lasting government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner, including by better carrying out its trust responsibilities. This policy is established as a means of promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient tribal communities. Greater engagement and meaningful consultation with tribes is of paramount importance in developing any policies affecting tribal nations.

To honor treaties and recognize tribes' inherent sovereignty and right to self-government under U.S. law, it is the policy of the United States to promote the development of prosperous and resilient tribal communities, including by:

(a) promoting sustainable economic development, particularly energy, transportation, housing, other infrastructure, entrepreneurial, and workforce development to drive future economic growth and security;

(b) supporting greater access to, and control over, nutrition and healthcare, including special efforts to confront historic health disparities and chronic diseases;

(c) supporting efforts to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems and protect tribal communities;

(d) expanding and improving lifelong educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives, while respecting demands for greater tribal control over tribal education, consistent with Executive Order 13592 of December 2, 2011 (Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities); and

(e) protecting tribal lands, environments, and natural resources, and promoting respect for tribal cultures.

Sec. 2. Establishment. There is established the White House Council on Native American Affairs (Council). The Council shall improve coordination of Federal programs and the use of resources available to tribal communities.

Sec. 3. Membership. (a) The Secretary of the Interior shall serve as the Chair of the Council, which shall also include the heads of the following executive departments, agencies, and offices:

(i) the Department of State;

(ii) the Department of the Treasury;

(iii) the Department of Defense;

(iv) the Department of Justice;

(v) the Department of Agriculture;

(vi) the Department of Commerce;

(vii) the Department of Labor;

(viii) the Department of Health and Human Services;

(ix) the Department of Housing and Urban Development;

(x) the Department of Transportation;

(xi) the Department of Energy;

(xii) the Department of Education;

(xiii) the Department of Veterans Affairs;

(xiv) the Department of Homeland Security;

(xv) the Social Security Administration;

(xvi) the Office of Personnel Management;

(xvii) the Office of the United States Trade Representative;

(xviii) the Office of Management and Budget;

(xix) the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xx) the Small Business Administration;

(xxi) the Council of Economic Advisers;

(xxii) the Office of National Drug Control Policy;

(xxiii) the Domestic Policy Council;

(xxiv) the National Economic Council;

(xxv) the Office of Science and Technology Policy;

(xxvi) the Council on Environmental Quality;

(xxvii) the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs;

(xxviii) the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation;

(xxix) the Denali Commission;

(xxx) the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs; and

(xxxi) such other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the Chair may, from time to time, designate.

(b) A member of the Council may designate a senior-level official, who is a full-time officer or employee of the Federal Government, to perform his or her functions.

(c) The Department of the Interior shall provide funding and administrative support for the Council to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.

(d) The Council shall coordinate its policy development through the Domestic Policy Council.

(e) The Council shall coordinate its outreach to federally recognized tribes through the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.

(f) The Council shall meet three times a year, with any additional meetings convened as deemed necessary by the Chair. The Chair may invite other interested agencies and offices to attend meetings as appropriate.

Sec. 4. Mission and Function of the Council. The Council shall work across executive departments, agencies, and offices to coordinate development of policy recommendations to support tribal self-governance and improve the quality of life for Native Americans, and shall coordinate the United States Government's engagement with tribal governments and their communities. The Council shall:

(a) make recommendations to the President, through the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, concerning policy priorities, including improving the effectiveness of Federal investments in Native American communities, where appropriate, to increase the impact of Federal resources and create greater opportunities to help improve the quality of life for Native Americans;

(b) coordinate, through the Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, Federal engagement with tribal governments and Native American stakeholders regarding issues important to Native Americans, including with tribal consortia, small businesses, education and training institutions including tribal colleges and universities, health-care providers, trade associations, research and grant institutions, law enforcement, State and local governments, and community and non-profit organizations;

(c) coordinate a more effective and efficient process for executive departments, agencies, and offices to honor the United States commitment to tribal consultation as set forth in Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000 (Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), and my memorandum of November 5, 2009 (Tribal Consultation); and

(d) assist the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in organizing the White House Tribal Nations Conference each year by bringing together leaders invited from all federally recognized Indian tribes and senior officials from the Federal Government to provide for direct government-to-government discussion of the Federal Government's Indian country policy priorities.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) The heads of executive departments, agencies, and offices shall assist and provide information to the Council, consistent with applicable law, as may be necessary to carry out the functions of the Council.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(d) For purposes of this order, "federally recognized tribe" means an Indian or Alaska Native tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community that the Secretary of the Interior acknowledges to exist as an Indian tribe pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. 479a.

(e) For purposes of this order, "American Indian and Alaska Native" means a member of an Indian tribe, as membership is defined by the tribe.

(f) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


         June 26, 2013.

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Retaining Native languages

I have often blogged about the importance of native communities working to retain and restore their languages. Language is a crucial aspect of retaining traditional cultures and lives. This article from a Vancouver B.C. paper reinforces that point.

Language is culture

If B.C. native languages are lost, important parts of culture are lost with them



[I have edited and shortened the article here]  “Barbara Harris [is an instructor in] the master-apprentice program through the First Peoples' Cultural Council. A First Nations-run corporation, the council's mandate is to support the revitalization of Aboriginal language, arts and culture in B.C. The council does this through documentation, cultural programming, curriculum development and programs like the master-apprentice program.

. . . Linguists include B.C. on the list of global hot spots for language extinction. There are 34 First Nations language groups left, and of those 13 are spoken by fewer than 50 people each. Most of the fluent speakers are 60 or older.

There are just over 400 fluent speakers of Gitsenimx in a population of nearly 15,000 Gitxsans. . . .

For Khelsilem Rivers, language is necessary for a culture to continue and retain its identity. The 23-year-old is working with the Tsleil-Wau-tuth nation on developing a program to learn and teach its language, Hun'q'unin'um. He's also developing a language immersion program for his own community, Squamish, to help preserve their native tongue Skwxwú7mesh Sníchum.

. . .  A culture stands to lose much more than just a language, Rivers says. "Its values and world view are lost. The way people will view the world, the way they'll view each other, their environment, all are carried within the language. When our minds are dominated with an English or European language, we are coming from a colonized world view."

Language flavours everything, he says, "whether it's a hunting culture or fishing culture, whether it's our ceremonies, whether it's our families. It's the language making it more complex and it's binding it all together in a way English doesn't do." . . .

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Idle No More is still busy in Canada

I received this press release from Idle No More activists.

"July 1, 2013-North York—At this evening’s Canada celebration … a group of activists as part of Idle No More’s Sovereignty Summer campaign, scaled the main stage at Toronto’s official Canada Celebration and ‘dropped’ a banner reading, “Oh Canada, your home on Stolen Native Land.”

[They were also] handing out educational flyer’s about Idle No More and also No More Silence’s campaign to call attention to the tragedy of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Silvia McAdams, a spokesperson for Idle No More says, “there is a deep interconnection between the ongoing extractive industries based economy of Canada and the violence that industry represents against our most sacred mother earth and this country’s ongoing failures to address and resolve the murdered and missing First Nations  women's  and girls’ crisis. Sovereignty Summer calls for an immediate national Inquiry led by grassroots Indigenous women to develop a national action plan.”

. . . Sovereignty Summer is the new campaign of the Idle No More movement and the Defenders of the Land Network, intended as an education and action-based campaign focused on Indigenous Rights and in defense of Mother Earth. Building on the momentum and enthusiasm of the Idle No More Winter and Spring towards a strategic and effective next stage of this movement."

Clayton Thomas-Muller, National Campaigner, Idle No More/ Defenders of the Land #SovSummer Campaign – 613 297 7515,,, #IdleNoMore

Audrey Huntley, No More Silence, 647 981 2918,

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New Yorker magazine joins chorus of voices against Washington Redskins

Check out this article in the New Yorker calling for the team to change it's mascot name.

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Hopi masks sold by French auction house

I blogged on this issue a few days ago –

Up to 70 Hopi maks were offered for sale at a French auction house. The Tribe and others objected but a French judge allowed the auction to proceed over the objections of the Hopi Tribe and the U.S. government.

The auction was interrupted by protests, but dozens of Native American masks were sold last Friday.

The Drouot auction house said one mask was bought by an association to give to the Hopis.

Read more:

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