February 9, 2011

Leukemia Patients of Native American Ancestry More Likely to Relapse

Filed under: News Alerts — Kristin Butler @ 5:37 pm

American Indian heritage may increase odds leukemia patients will relapse, new research from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) indicates, recently published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics.

A genetic variation, PDE4B, specific to Indian ancestry was linked to a higher risk factor of leukemia recurring in youth and young adults. Cancer was 59 percent more likely to return in patients with at least 10 percent Native American ancestry in their genetic makeup, the study found. About 25 percent of the 2,534 patients, children and adolescents battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), in the study met the 10 percent point, states a St. Jude’s press release.

The presence of PDE4B variants is also linked to patients who respond with less sensitivity to glucocorticoids, vital medications in treatment of ALL, which is the most common childhood cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The find marks the first study using genomics to define ancestry, rather than self-declared status, shedding new light on the ability of an inherited genetic trait to actually influence one’s likelihood of overcoming cancer and remaining healthy.

Investigators discovered a strategy that may increase survival—an additional chemotherapy treatment may increase the likelihood of maintaining remission.

While cure rate of ALL has risen from 15 percent to 85 percent in the past four decades—“one of the leading success stories in all of cancer research,” according to the Cure Search for Children’s Cancer website, and the rate at St. Jude is 94 percent, according to its website, racial and ethnic disparities remain.

“To overcome racial disparity you have to understand the reasons behind it,” said Jun Yang, Ph.D., St. Jude Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences assistant member and the study’s first author, in the news release. “While genetic ancestry may not completely explain the racial differences in relapse risk or response to treatment, this study clearly shows for the first time that it is a very important contributing factor.”

Knowing ALL patients with Native American ancestry can benefit from an extra chemotherapy treatment can help doctors adapt recovery strategies for some ethnic and racial communities.

“These are important steps on the way to personalized cancer care, whereby treatment can be tailored to provide maximal benefit to patient subgroups, and someday, individual patients,” said co-author Stephen Hunger, M.D., University of Colorado professor of pediatrics and chair of COG’s ALL committee, in the St. Jude’s news release.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Obama Won’t Kill BIA or IHS

Filed under: News Alerts,Politics — Matt @ 5:52 pm

If his budget for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) can be used to gauge federal responsibility to Indians, President Barack Obama is measuring up okay. His first year in office, the president’s first budget request for IHS was 13 percent more than President George W. Bush’s 2009 request—$4.03 billion. IHS health care facilities construction was the one item in the proposal that was decreased over the previous year, from $40 million to $29 million. For 2011, the president requested $4.4 billion, an 8 percent increase over the 2010 level appropriated by Congress. Given the constant underfunding of the agency, some advocates said that doubling the budget would be appropriate, but the requests under Obama have at least been increases, a welcome development compared to the flat or reduced numbers during the Bush administration. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization, signed into law last year, calls for future funding to cover Indian population increases plus medical inflation.

Obama’s requests for funding the BIA have been a mixed bag. His 2010 budget proposal for the agency represented an increase by $161.3 million, or 6.8 percent, over the previous year for a total of almost $2.7 billion. A new Interior appropriation wasn’t passed by Congress for 2011, so the BIA has been operating under a continuing resolution, meaning the 2010 level has remained stagnant. For 2011, Obama requested less than the 2010 level, proposing a net decrease of $3.6 million from the 2010 enacted level.

Despite Obama’s willingness to trim at BIA, he is never going to support Sen. Rand Paul’s proposal to eliminate it. Said Shin Inouye, a spokesman for the White House: “The president would oppose efforts to cut off all funds for the Bureau of Indian Affairs—such a step would severely impede its ability to fulfill its responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives. While we need to make tough choices to get our deficits under control so that we can be competitive in the global economy, we should do so in a responsible manner.”

Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said, “Senator Paul’s ‘termination era’ proposal to eliminate funding to Bureau of Indian Affairs is as troubling in principle as it would be devastating to Indian country in practice. [It would] undermine the real and meaningful progress the Obama administration has made over the last two years in strengthening nation-to-nation relationships with tribes.

“Moreover, Senator Paul’s proposal would prevent the BIA from implementing numerous federal laws, agreements and regulations, abridge ratified treaties, and would be contrary to the United States’ fundamental trust responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives and hundreds of years of well-established law and policy.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Arizona Gov. Signs Bill, Undermines Tohono O’odham Nation’s Casino Plans

Filed under: Business,News Alerts — Kristin Butler @ 6:43 pm

The Tohono O’odham Nation’s plans to build a Las Vegas-style casino-hotel in the heart of the Phoenix metro area just hit a roadblock, reported the Associated Press.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill intended to prevent the Southern Arizona tribe’s proposed casino from rising. She signed the bill February 1, the day prior to her deadline to act on it—the bill was approved by the Legislature last week.

The governor briefly explained the law ‚Äúassures that local officials will continue to have a say in local development matters that affect their community,” noted YumaSun.com. Brewer said that promotes ‚Äútransparent discussion because the public interest is best served when communities work together.”

The bill goes into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends, allowing the city of Glendale to annex the 54-acre site—non-reservation land that the Tohono O’odham Nation purchased with rights from a 1986 federal law, according to YumaSun.com.

The tribe bought the land with federal money received for the purpose of purchasing land to replace nearly 10,000 acres flooded by a federal dam project, reported YumaSun.com.

The same law allows the tribe to petition to have the new lands included in its reservation, if the land does not fall within any city limits. This law was designed to derail the transfer of land to reservation status, reported YumaSun.com.

The Nation’s request for the federal government to add the purchased land to its reservation is pending in federal court, according to the AP.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Use It or Lose It: Inuit Language Week in Full Swing

Filed under: Canada,Education,News Alerts — Theresa Braine @ 7:00 pm

Inuit and other indigenous people have long fought for the right to speak and be spoken to in their own languages. But the best way to ensure that that continues is by regular usage, Nunavut officials say.

“The Inuit Language is our own unique way of expressing ourselves and a wonderful reason to celebrate every day,” said James Arreak, Minister of Languages, in a statement.

“Nunavummiut have the right to use and be served in the official language of their choice from government offices,” said Nunavut Languages Commissioner Alexina Kublu.“The Official Languages Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act is only one aspect of the struggle to protect languages. The best way to ensure survival of a language is through regular use.”

They were kicking off Inuit Language Week, or Uqausirmut Quviasuutiqarniq, which goes from February 7–11 and includes a host of activities throughout the territory.

It’s an attempt to reverse a decline in the use of the Inuit language in Nunavut homes, the territory’s press release said. Over the past 10 years it has dropped from 60 percent to 53 percent, prompting the languages minister and commissioner to challenge Nunavummiut “to reverse this trend, not only during Uqausirmut Quviasuutiqarniq but everyday,” the press release said.

Various activities are promoting the use of the language, including an Inuit Language Standardization Symposium from February 8–11 hosted by the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit (Inuit Language Authority) in Iqaluit. In addition, schools have received packages outlining Inuit Language activities, and a set of language posters is being launched. There’s also a contest for Nunavut government employees to submit an Inuktitut Word of the Day and win prizes.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Fast-tracked Wind Power Project Challenged in Nevada

Filed under: Environment,News Alerts — Theresa Braine @ 7:00 pm

Fast-tracking a renewable energy project seems to have backfired on a U.S. government agency again. Three tribes have joined the Center for Biological Diversity and the Western Watersheds Project to sue the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for giving permission last fall to build a 75-turbine, 150 megawatt wind project on 31 square kilometers of public land in eastern Nevada, the energy website Recharge News reported.

As with lawsuits filed against U.S. and California state agencies late last year over various solar projects, the plaintiffs alleged that the project did not undergo a complete environmental analysis and asked that approval be reversed until a new environmental impact report is done.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada, aims to “protect pristine mountain valley adjacent to Great Basin National Park in Nevada from a poorly-sited, 8,000-acre industrial wind energy project approved by the Department of the Interior with minimal environmental review,” the Center for Biological Diversity stated in a press release. “The valley is home to rare and imperiled wildlife such as the greater sage grouse, as well as sensitive species like golden eagles and free-tailed bats. The project area is also a sacred site to Western Shoshone tribes.”

Recharge News said that the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the Ely Shoshone Tribe hold another adjacent area sacred because it is the site of ancient Indian villages and festivals, as well as where massacres took place.

“Tribes use the site for hunting, gathering, and religious purposes,” the plaintiffs stated. “Tribal members will continue using the project area into the foreseeable future and will be adversely affected by the construction and operation of the proposed wind energy facility. The integrity of sacred sites directly sustains the identity of the Tribes that hold them sacred.”

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the BLM approved the proposal by Spring Valley Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Pattenr Energy of San Francisco (which is not named in the lawsuit, Recharge News said), just north of Great Basin National Park, on October 15, 2010.

“The BLM approved the project over the objections of state and federal wildlife officials, nearby tribes and conservation groups,” the Center said in a press release. “Rather than carrying out a detailed review involving the preparation of an environmental impact statement, the BLM instead prepared only a cursory environmental assessment.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Southern California Tribes’ Lobbyist Slapped with $30,000 Fine

Filed under: News Alerts,Politics — Josh Robertson @ 7:00 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A lobbyist for a number of successful gaming tribes in Southern California has been fined $30,000 by the state’s ethics commission.

Frank J. Molina of Strategic Solutions Advisors waived his procedural rights, including his right to an administrative hearing, to legal representation, and the right to testify and cross examine witnesses, and instead agreed in a stipulation before the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission that he and his lobbying firm had violated the Political Reform Act of 1974 by failing to file quarterly lobbying firm disclosure reports from January 2007 through December 2009. During that time, the firm received $840,000 in lobbying payments, according to the stipulation.

Strategic Solutions Advisors had several clients, including the hugely successful San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Tule River Indian Tribe and Deloitte Consulting LLP.

The violations carried a maximum penalty of $60,000, but the commission weighed “aggravating factors” against “mitigating factors” to arrive at the $30,000 penalty.

Among the aggravating factors was Molina’s uncooperative attitude with the investigation, which caused “significant delays in obtaining information and compliance with (his) filing obligations,” the stipulation says.

Molina also failed his contractual and oral agreements to file lobbying employer reports for several of his clients, leaving no record of the lobbying.

“Lastly, Respondent Molina worked in the Legislature for nearly nine years, including as the Chief of Staff to a member of the Legislature. Thus, he was not an unsophisticated party,” the stipulation says.

But Molina had no prior history of violating the act and this mitigating factor allowed the commission to set the penalty at $30,000 instead of $60,000.

The stipulation was entered into in late January and is scheduled for review by the full commission on February 10. If the commission declines to accept the stipulated agreement, it becomes null and void and a full evidentiary hearing before the commission will take place.

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) was created by the Political Reform Act of 1974 (Act), a ballot initiative passed by California voters in 1974 as Proposition 9.

The Political Reform Act says, in part, that lobbyists’ activities should be regulated and their finances disclosed so that improper influences will not be directed at political officials. The act established a reporting system for lobbying firms and lobbyists, which is designed to accomplish this kind of disclosure.

The commission investigates alleged violations of the Political Reform Act, imposes penalties when appropriate, and assists state and local agencies in the development and enforcement of conflict-of-interest codes.

It also adopts and amends regulations and develops forms, manuals and educational materials, conducts seminars and training sessions and provides written and oral guidance to public agencies and officials.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Denver Art Museum Focuses on Art Rather than Artifacts

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment,News Alerts — Josh Robertson @ 7:02 pm

DENVER—American Indian artists through the ages have been painting, carving, decorating and incising but their works have often been presented in mainstream museums and galleries as artifacts, representations of cultures or time periods, rather than as art produced by individuals.

That’s changing with Denver Art Museum’s new Native Arts galleries’ “artist-centric” presentation of some 700 Native pieces ranging from prehistoric to contemporary that focus on individual artists, some of them working locally.

Instead of merely identifying pieces by tribe or geographic region, artists’ names are used whenever possible, Nancy Blomberg, curator of Native Arts at DAM, said of the Native galleries that reopened Jan. 30 after months of redesign.

As a result, there is a bandolier from 1865-75 by an unknown Ute artist, but also a robe by Dah-haw, a Ute, from about 1900 and a depiction from the late 1800s of the Bear and Sun Dances by Louis Fenno, a Ute artist. Names are used in many other installations.

“There’s the automatic assumption that American Indian art is more an anthropological exploration rather than an artistic exploration,” she said. “People have thought the objects just sort of bubbled up out of immutable cultures with no artists behind them.”

“I can’t imagine interpreting this material without talking to people whose heritage is represented on the floor,” she said.

“Every artwork in our collection was created by an individual artist, with his or her own opinions, influences and inspirations,” she said during planning for the new Native exhibition, describing it as “art, not anthropology,” or, as a DAM press release puts it, “art rather than artifacts.”

Denver-area women asked to create touchable items for the education area of the art museum “brought their own voice and perspective to the process,” said Heather Nielson, head of DAM’s community and family program and master teacher for Native Arts.

“We are sharing with our non-Native visitors the fact that the American Indian community in Denver is active and present,” she said of DAM’s decision to feature local talent and perspectives as well as the work of internationally known Native artists.

One of the local artists, Ann-erika Whitebird, “embraced the idea of creating a jean jacket that kids could try on, and was a blend of her traditional and contemporary perspectives,” Nielson noted.

“An eagle is in the center which represents protection for a child—the eagle being such a strong part of our culture, carrying our prayers, able to transcend earth’s confines by flight,” Whitebird said. “The design above the eagle is a traditional design that could be quilled but I’ve used some contemporary colors and cut beads as well.”

Whitebird, who is Sicangu Lakota and originally from Rosebud, S.D., has lived both on- and off-reservation and said she was honored at being commissioned by the museum. In creating the jacket, she said she thought of the children who would try it on, “especially Indigenous children who do not know where they come from.”

“If a child were to make a connection that way, through our art to where they come from, then my work could be a part of returning our children home,” said Whitebird, who has been beading about 14 years. “We affect each other in many ways that we can’t possibly know or understand. My intentions, thoughts and prayers went into this piece.”

Other Native contributors from Denver are Jan Jacobs, Osage, daughter of a renowned ribbon worker, who created new ribbon work for display with a historical cradle board; Raelene White Shield, Kiowa, who created a fancy shawl dress for an exhibit depicting ceremonial regalia among Plains tribes, a “highly important art form;” and Denise Litz, Tuscarora, who crafted a touchable beaded picture frame and pieces to demonstrate in-process technique learned from well-known family beadworkers.

Additional commissioned contemporary pieces are part of the new 23,000-square-feet gallery, where visitors will be able to watch Roxanne Swentzell, Santa Clara, Santa Fe, N.M., create a 10-feet-tall sculpture of a Pueblo mother and her four children.

“She worked with the museum to decide the best material for the artwork” titled “Mud Woman Rolls On,” Blomberg said, noting Swentzell is part of “our collection (which) is encyclopedic” and part of the belief that “It’s important to get work from the most significant artists working today as well as historic artworks.”

Other purchased or commissioned works include a “Land O Bucks, Land O Fakes, Land O Lakes” depiction by David Bradley, Chippewa, Santa Fe, N.M.; “Hummingbird and Copper Dress,” Dorothy Grant, Haida, Vancouver, B.C.; “Half Indian/Half Mexican,” a triple portrait, James Luna, Luiseno, San Diego County, Calif.; “Corn Blue Room” installation, Jolene Rickard, Tuscarora, faculty of Cornell University, N.Y. and “Modern Warrior Series: War Shirt #4, Bentley Spang, Cheyenne, Billings, Mont.

Interactive experiences in the new galleries will involve Luna; Mateo Romero, Cochiti, “Bonnie and Clyde Series;” and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Salish/Kootenai/Cree/Shoshone, “Trade Canoe for Don Quixote.” There will also be an interactive Bead Studio, Meet the Artist media installation, and a digital gallery posing the question, “What is American Indian art?”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Alaska Congressman Introduces Frankenfish Ban

Filed under: Environment,News Alerts — Kristin Butler @ 7:15 pm

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced two pieces of legislation on February 8–one would require that genetically engineered fish are labeled as such, and the other would ban genetically-modified fish, according to a government press release.

Young’s legislation comes in response to a proposal by AquaBounty Technologies, a Boston-based company seeking to produce a biotech salmon called AquAdvantage, currently under consideration by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

“Frankenfish are uncertain and unnecessary,” Rep. Young said in a statement.  “The assessments of these ‘fish’ are flawed at best and the threat to the population of our wild salmon stock is unacceptable.  Additionally, consumers have the right to know that they are eating a supposedly sterile fish spliced with the growth hormone of a Chinook and the genetic code of an ocean pout.  We cannot allow these alien fish to infect our stocks and I will put forth every effort to ensure they stay in the labs where they belong.  I choose Alaskan wild salmon every time.”

If FDA-approved, frankenfish would become the first genetically-engineered animal available for human consumption. AquAdvantage was created from a fertilized egg of the North Atlantic salmon. This process is far different from cloning—scientists extract the growth hormone from the chinook, or king, salmon and a gene from the bottom-dwelling, eel-like ocean pout fish—a combination that causes the salmon to grow year-round, while wild salmon only grow in the warmer months. The AquAdvantage salmon hits the eight-pound market weight in only 18 months rather than the typical 36, and consumes less food over its lifetime, compared to a wild North Atlantic Salmon.

Read more about genetically-modified super-salmon that Rep. Young seeks to derail from entering grocery stores and overtaking the place of wild salmon on kitchen tables.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

Navajo Citizen Hired to White House Team

Filed under: News Alerts,Politics — Josh Robertson @ 8:01 pm

WASHINGTON — Charles Galbraith, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, has been named deputy associate director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

In the position, Galbraith will largely interact with tribes and Indian officials, as did Jodi Gillette, a Standing Rock Sioux Tribe citizen, who left the OPE earlier this year to become deputy assistant director if the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“The work has really just begun,” Gillette told McClatchy Newspapers in January regarding White House progress to date on Native American affairs. “It’s a wonderful start, but we’re by no means finished.”

Galbraith now takes the ball, having most recently served as a deputy associate counsel for presidential personnel in the White House. He previously worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Arizona and as a legislative assistant to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D. He worked for President Barack Obama during his campaign for president, serving as an organizer of the Native American Domestic Policy Committee, which was a nationwide group of tribal leaders and activists.

Galbraith is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, and graduated from the Arizona State University College of Law. During law school, he served as the vice-president of the Native American Law Students Association and clerked for the Native American Rights Fund in Washington.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

February 10, 2011

Michigan Indian Education Council to Honor Identity and Embrace Diversity

Filed under: Education,Native Education — Elena @ 2:00 pm

Are you interested in the education of Native American students? If yes, then this year’s Michigan Indian Education Council (MIEC) Native American Critical Issues Conference (NACIC) could be for you. The theme “Honoring Identity and Embracing Diversity” was designed to discuss challenges and strategies for respecting Native culture and honoring diversity within Anishinaabe communities.

According to MIEC’s conference announcement, cultural competence, cultural attunement, and cultural humility will be examined, and recommendations for effective community practice in working with Native groups and organizations will be shared.

MIEC’s goal, “is to provide leadership, which will foster continued improvement of academic achievement and to address school-related variables that adversely affect the educational outcomes for Native youth in Michigan,” states the announcement.

“Since many of our young people continue to be under-represented among academic achievement gains and over-represented in poor and poorly performing schools, the NACIC underscores the rich potential of investing in our young people through concrete strategies to help them succeed academically.”

Conference topics to achieve those goals include a session on dynamics and inclusivity of youth programming, which will discuss the needs of youth and their families, the malleability of urban Indian programs, and the dynamics involved in establishing a cultural curriculum in an urban setting; preparing for higher education, which will cover necessary steps to make sure parents and children are ready for college.

Keynote speakers include Philip “Sam” Deloria, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux and director of the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Linda Keway, a member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and a professional development and human rights consultant with the Michigan Education Association.

The conference will be held March 10 to 12; for more information visit miec.org.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.
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