USET’s Summit Provides a Wellspring of Experience for Attendees

The word is out: The Wampanoag Tribe of Gayhead (Aquinnah) has near perfect drinking water.

This little-known fact was revealed during the first Tribal Drinking Water Contest at the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) second Annual Tribal Utility Summit, hosted this year by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians at their Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore, Alabama. The summit took place April 5–7.

The Tribal Utility Summit is an annual training and networking opportunity for tribal water, wastewater and solid-waste professionals. The event is a collaborative effort sponsored by USET, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nashville Area Indian Health Services (IHS). More than 120 tribal professionals, vendors and federal agency representatives attended the three-day event. Training and continuing education units were provided in areas including chlorine safety, confined space entry, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and controls or computer monitoring systems, lift stations and pumps, asset management and transfer-station operation. In addition several attendees tested for 608 Certification—that’s training in how to handle solid waste products, such as safely removing Freon from discarded refrigerators so that it doesn’t affect air quality.

Scott Williams, a licensed wastewater plant operator who worked in the industry for more than two decades and is now USET’s technical assistance specialist, introduced the idea of a drinking-water contest, which was held during the summit by the USET Certification Board for Water and Wastewater Operators and Laboratory Analysts hosted the first Tribal Drinking Water Contest for USET members’ water treatment facilities. With the USET offices in Nashville, member tribes spread out from Maine to Florida, and with the summit being held in Alabama, it took a bit of ingenuity by Williams to coordinate the contest.

“I went out and found sanitary gallon jugs from a bottle supplier and we sent them to each tribe, gave them a shipping time for the jugs to arrive at Atmore and asked them to ship overnight,” Williams said. “The jugs were refrigerated when they arrived. When I got down there I found 10 jugs of water, which was great. I was hoping for six.”

The Wamanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) won first place in the first Tribal Drinking Water Contest at the United South and Eastern Tribe's Tribal Utility Summit.

Samples were received from all over USET’s south and eastern territory. A panel of judges ranked the water on a scale of one to 10 for clarity, odor and taste. The first-place Wampanoag Tribe won with a score of 9.7. Second and third places were awarded to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, in northern New York state, and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut.

All of the contestants had good water, Williams said.

“All of the drinking water was quality safe-to-drink water. Most of the tribe’s systems use well water. One of the reasons I’m here is to help them with technical assistance and water treatment training and encourage them to take pride in their work and products. But what I’ve found so far is all the tribes try very hard and do very well with meeting regulations,” Williams said. “Most of the tribes are self-regulating. The EPA is the oversight agency for water quality; Indian county doesn’t have to follow those regulations, but they do follow them, and they exceed the EPA regulations.”

Williams, who has been on the job with USET for about six months, has visited four of the organization’s 26 member tribes so far and has plans to visit the others. USET provides training and certification services to its members free of charge. The services are also available to tribes around the country.

USET was established in 1969 as a nonprofit inter-tribal organization dedicated to promoting Indian leadership, improving the quality of life for American Indians and protecting Indian rights and resources on tribal lands. USET represents its member tribes at the regional and national levels.

Seneca Celebrates Second $23 Million Community Center/Sports Complex Opening

New Center Dedicated to Supporting Healthier Lifestyles and Fitness

Ribbon cutting

CATTARAUGUS TERRITORY, Irving, NY- – On the first Saturday of April, Seneca Nation citizens flocked to the grand opening of their  new state-of-the-art $23 million community center on the nation’s Alleghany Territory. On the last Saturday of the month, they did a repeat performance, this time attending a ceremony to open a state-of-the-art $23 million community center and sports complex on the nation’s Cattaraugus Territory.

Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter, Treasurer Brad John, Seneca Nation councilors and the nation’s Capital Improvements Authority presided over a ribbon cutting and flag raising ceremony to commemorate the opening of the facility, which features an indoor lacrosse arena that seats 1,000 people, gyms, workout facilities and an indoor competition-sized swimming pool.

“In one month the Seneca Nation has opened not one, but two truly awesome community centers for the benefit, wellness and physical fitness of our people,” Porter said. “I hope our Nation’s citizens feel as I do today—a little blessed and privileged to be Seneca, to live on our territories in a time of relative good fortune, when our Nation is able to provide many more benefits, beautiful facilities and a quality of life that many other tribes throughout Indian Country are unable to give their members. We are truly fortunate. I hope that we can all appreciate how far the Seneca Nation has come and that we rededicate ourselves each and every day to the hard work it takes to continue to push the Nation forward and keep the next Seven Generations of Seneca strong and thriving.”

The opening days was filled with family-oriented activities including a shuffle board tournament, exhibition lacrosse games, basketball and volleyball games, a karate demonstration; vendors and information booths, a children’s bounce house and a community lunch.

“The opening of this facility is yet another indication of the level of growth and development occurring at the Seneca Nation,” said Seneca Nation Treasurer Brad John said.  “I am so proud to be a part of this moment in time for the Nation as we promote healthy activities, sports and lifestyles, and give young and old alike opportunities for growing strong and coming together in fun and meaningful ways. I look forward to being a part of future Seneca Nation initiatives and programs that utilize our community center to promote our social, intellectual, spiritual and physical well-being.”

Construction on both centers began two-and-a-half years ago at the at the beginning of what turned out to be one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, but the nation continued the projects since “it was a priority to deliver signature buildings such as the community centers to the Nation,” Porter said.

The nation’s Capital Improvements Authority has almost a dozen projects underway, which once completed will have injected more than $180 million into the local economy and created hundreds of jobs.

The Allegany and Cattaraugus Community Centers were built on schedule at a cost of approximately $23 million each. Both community centers are “green” buildings that will be Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified. The design team used recycled materials, regional building products and ultra-high efficient equipment to construct the facilities. The Alleghany Community Center is located on the site of the former Seneca Nation government complex.

The 93,000-square-foot facility was constructed in collaboration with the Seneca Nation leadership, Capital Improvements Authority, Seneca Construction Management Corporation, and KTH Architects. The design was developed by using community surveys and meetings to determine the interior programming. The centers on both territories will feature similar programming:
•    Capacity to serve more than 3,000 people.
•    Entryway is a community gathering place, with large screen TVS, soft seating and free Wi-Fi.
•    Indoor, competition-sized swimming pool with zero-depth entry for easy access.
•    Therapy pools.
•    Double wood-floor gymnasium that separates into two full-size gyms.
•    Elevated walking track overlooks the gym and has two walls full of windows.
•    Brightly lit lacrosse arena has tiered seating for more than 1000 people; larger than the Allegany indoor arena.
•    Luxury box seats with coffee bar designated as “elder seating,” in the arena, with high-end finishes and movie-theater seats.
•    Commercial concession areas, with kitchens.
•    Multipurpose rooms in each facility with commercial kitchens. Rooms may divide into two rooms so more than one group can utilize the room at a time.
•    Fully equipped state of the art fitness rooms with cardio and weightlifting equipment.
•    Small studio for dance, yoga, or spinning classes.
•     Colorful room designated for youth recreation.

Todd Gates, Seneca Nation Councilor and owner’s representative for the CIA was involved with the building of both facilities from the start. Gates gave an emphatic welcome to the Seneca citizens and guests attending the opening event and invited everyone in the community to enjoy the new community center. “In large part, it is with the proceeds from the casino that we were able to build this tremendous facility. This demonstrates a true healthy benefit for the entire community that will carry on into the future,” said Gates.

KTH Architects from Dubois, PA designed both buildings, under the leadership of Sr. Project Manager Darryl John of the Capital Improvements Authority, which supervised the design and construction of the project. The facilities’ designs integrate Seneca culture throughout by using the eight Seneca Clans and other features. The curving walls emulate the Allegany territory’s rolling hills.

Lumbee Tribe Bids to Operate Golf Course

The Lumbee Tribal Council voted in favor of pursuing the state’s offer of a lease agreement to operate the Robbins, North Carolina-based Riverside Golf Course.

The tribe has 60 days to begin maintaining and making permanent improvements to the property, reported The Laurinburg Exchange. The tribe may then be granted a five-year lease, with the option of three additional five-year extensions for $1 year, according to the contract. The agreement also requires the state to do $50,000 work on the grounds. Estimates call for $650,000 and $800,000 of capital repairs to be done at the course–repair costs and the cost of operating the course would fall under the tribe’s responsibility (federal money cannot be used to operate the golf course).

“It won’t be easy. It will take a lot of community support,” Louise Mitchell, a member of the LumbeeTribal Council, told The Laurinburg Exchange. “We will have to do heavy campaigning.”

One of 15 votes vetoed leasing the golf course. “I just don’t think we are prepared to take it on at this time,” Council member Charles Bullard told The Laurinburg Exchange. “I don’t know how we can get the money. I think our focus should be on housing, not a golf course.”

Contemporary Cherokee Artists Show Diverse and Edgy Works in Albuquerque

"Commodity" by Roy Boney, Jr.

"Commodity" by Roy Boney, Jr.

The Fire God Gallery in Albuquerque, NM is exhibiting contemporary and experimental art in a mixed-media show called “Kantuche Dogs: Contemporary Cherokee Art.” The show takes its name from a folk term for an indigenous dog of the American southeast, also known as an American dingo, Cherokee dog or Carolina dog, that had a place in Cherokee culture for centuries. Kanutche is a traditional Cherokee food made from hickory nuts.

The diversity of artists whose work is on display is impressive. Roy Boney, Jr., Cherokee Nation, is a painter, illustrator, and computer animator who has also created a series of zombie comics for Slave Labor Graphics. Daniel Horsechief, Cherokee Nation/Pawnee, is a sculptor whose bronze “Stickball Player” was recently installed in the atrium of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Lisa Rutherford, Cherokee Nation, specializes in traditional beadwork and featherwork, while Lara Evans, Cherokee Nation, a professor at Evergreen State College in Washington, is an experimental photographer and painter. In all, eleven Cherokee artists from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington and North Carolina are exhibiting work.

“Kantuche Dogs: Contemporary Cherokee Art” is on display from May 6 through May 31. On Saturday, May 28, participating artist America Meredith will deliver a presentation on Cherokee art history from precontact times to thepresent. For more information, visit The Fire God Gallery Facebook page.

More Aboriginal Candidates than Ever; High Indigenous Voter Turnout Expected

Canadians head to the polls today, May 2, amid much debate about whether to vote. The Akwesasne in particular are staunchly opposed to casting a ballot in a nation whose government is not theirs.

That said, there is a lot of political involvement on the part of Canada’s aboriginals, and more First Nations, Métis and Inuit candidates are running in this federal election than ever before. Moreover, First Nations voter turnout is expected to be at an all-time high.

The Assembly of First Nations and its leaders across the country have made a concerted effort to raise awareness about indigenous issues and engage First Nations citizens in the political contests. While National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo has carefully avoided encouraging people to vote, leaving that decision up to individuals and their communities, other leaders have been proactive about getting aboriginals to the polls.

“More and more First Nations leaders, for example, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Dene Nation and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, are publicly encouraging their community members to vote, and have also hosted public forums to provide community members with the opportunity to fully engage with all political parties,” Atleo said.

First Nations citizens are active voters in Canadian elections in many regions. In the last election, especially in ridings across Atlantic Canada and northern regions where indigenous peoples are a significant portion of the population, rates of participation for on-reserve residents exceeded 50 percent and exceeded Canadian averages, according to the AFN.

The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) will broadcast live coverage of the Canadian election all day. There’s also a Twitter feed, #aptnelxn41, the station said. Voters and other interested parties will be able to track the 33 aboriginal candidates vying for seats in 24 ridings—the highest number ever of indigenous candidates in a federal election—as well as get a gander at how it might go for the billions of dollars in platform promises that have been made to the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

Another first: For the first time, four aboriginal candidates are competing for a seat in one riding: the Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River riding in northern Saskatchewan, where incumbent Conservative Rob Clarke (Cree) is facing three challengers—Green Party George Morin (Cree), Liberal Gabe LaFond (Métis) and NDP Lawrence Joseph (Cree).

Clarke is touting the $10.4 million he has brought to the area for projects such as road upgrades, the water treatment system, student housing and funding for Northwest Regional College. There is no mention on his website platform of First Nations or indigenous issues; however, Clarke states his “belief that English and French have equality of status, and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada.”

The Conservative Party was conspicuously absent from an AFN-hosted town meeting on April 27 at the University of Toronto. The Assembly had invited all the political parties to attend and debate the top issues that First Nations leaders have determined as priorities: affirmation of indigenous rights, equitable education for indigenous children, partnership supporting indigenous economies, and safety and community health for all indigenous peoples.

During the debate, NDP candidate Charles Angus promised to treat First Nations “as equal partners—not as a problem, not as something to be controlled, but as equal partners to say how we move forward.”

John McCallum from the Liberal Party said that the “implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must not be symbolic but must be used to significantly improve Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples to reflect the principles of the Declaration.

“We’re waiting for the implementation plan—and then another set of dusty books I’ll pull out for my aboriginal politics class from time to time,” said Green Party candidate Jacqueline Romanow, a Métis. “Something fundamental has to change.”

Atleo closed the debate with an impassioned speech for progress, calling on Canada to fulfill human rights obligations at home as it does abroad.

“Whether it’s in the streets of Toronto or in the villages of the far north, these are challenges that Canada faces. Canada stands as a beacon of human rights around the world. It can deploy clean drinking water to Africa, build schools and homes in South America,” he said. “There was always, always this vision of living together in full mutual respect and recognition, and somehow over the course of history we’ve seen this drifting apart, this deep gap of misunderstanding start to come into play.”

The treaties don’t just belong to the indigenous nations, but belong to Canadians as well, Atleo reminded the audience: “You’ve inherited an obligation that is borne to you by the ancestors.”

Weapon Used to Kill American Indians Now Arizona State Gun

On April 28, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB 1610, which designates the Colt .45 caliber handgun—a weapon that was used to kill many Indians, including women and children during the Indian Wars of the 19th century—to its roster of official artifacts. Ironically, this list includes turquoise, a gem used by many southwestern tribes and acclaimed by Navajos as one of their four sacred stones and the bola tie, a men’s neckware item almost exclusively crafted by Indians.

State Representative Albert Hale, D-Window Rock, noted that “The honoring of any gun is offensive to Native Americans.” Hale, who served as Navajo Nation president before being elected to the Arizona Legislature, added, “Guns were used to kill Native Americans and take everything that belonged to them. They were used to put Native Americans on reservations.” Hale made at least two impassioned speeches on the House floor before the bill came up for the first of two votes. After the first full House vote nixed the bill with less than the 31-vote majority needed, Representative Steve Montengro, R-Litchfield Park, asked for a revote. The bill passed with a vote of 32-25 and three representatives not voting. Five Republicans voted against the measure in the Arizona House, which is dominated by Republicans.

The original Colt pistol was patented by Sam Colt in 1836. In the following decades, the name Colt became synonymous with guns in the minds of millions in the U.S. and the world. Colt’s website notes that “During 1845, certain units of the U.S. Dragoon forces and Texas Rangers engaged in fighting the Indians in Texas credited their use of Colt firearms for their great success in defeating Indian forces. U.S. War Department officials reportedly were favorably impressed. “ The Army was so impressed that “when the Mexican War began in 1846, Capt. Samuel H. Walker, U.S. Army, traveled east, looked up Sam Colt, and collaborated on the design of a new, more powerful revolver.” The U.S. government subsequently ordered 1,000 of the newly-designed revolvers, which Sam Colt called the “Walker.”

In 1871, the Colt .45 pistol was developed and in 1872, the larger caliber and deadlier revolver was issued for Army use.

The deadly little gun has starred in many Hollywood westerns, including the 1950 film “Colt .45” and has become embedded in the nation’s collective memory as the gun that won the West. There’s even a malt liquor named after the revolver.

However, the Colt .45 pistol, the darling of the Indian fighters, also gave the U.S. Army a way to quickly kill and wound Indian people. In just one incident, in the dawn hours of December 28, 1872, a 130-man force from the 5th Cavalry from Fort McDowell and Old Camp Grant and 30 Apache scouts under the command of Capt. William H. Brown conducted a surprise raid on a band of Yavapais hidden in a cave hideout deep in Salt River Canyon. The Yavapais refused to surrender, and the Army shot and crushed to death 100 Yavapai men, women and children in what is today called the “Skeleton Cave Massacre.” The Yavapai consider this the most horrible massacre in their history, and newspapers and Army reports of the day describe it as one of the most “terrible battles in Apache history.” Reports indicated 75 “hostiles” were killed and 25 captured. In 1925, the Fort McDowell Yavapais retrieved the bones of their massacred relatives and brought them home for burial in a mass grave on the reservation.

After hearing Hale’s speech, at least two Republican legislators changed their votes. Rep. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix noted in an e-mail that, while she supports the Second Amendment and believes the Arizona Legislature should “pursue legislative policy that strengthens our right to bear arms,” she adds that “Representative Hale’s impassioned plea to his colleagues to not memorialize a weapon that symbolized pain and destruction to his people convinced me that this bill was not in Arizona’s best interests.” McGee also noted that “supporting one weapons maker over another is not the job of the legislature.”

That’s cold comfort to the descendents of the Skeleton Cave Massacre’s survivors. When told that the bill had been signed Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Vice President Bernadine Burnette remarked that “this is a disgraceful day for Arizona and to our ancestors and the Native people of today when a law is passed that honors a weapon used to kill so many of our people.”

11 Essential Genealogy Blogs

With so much fervor and passion for genealogy online, it’s hardly surprising that the community of genealogy bloggers is lively and always growing. And as with everything on the internet, there are so many options it’s hard to know where to begin. We consulted a few very useful lists—Family Tree magazine’s Fab 40 and 40 Best Genealogy Blogs 2011, and ProGenealogists’ 25 Most Popular Genealogy Blogs 2009—and came up with our own shortlist of essential reads.

Bear in mind that it may be worth your while to read genealogy blogs that don’t line up exactly—or even partially—with your areas of investigation. Genealogy work is detective work, and learning methodology from resourceful genealogists is invaluable.

A Daily Must

Genealogy Tip of the Day
Michael John Neill’s indispensable tips range from the arcane to the obvious, and are often delivered with sly wit. These bite-sized pieces of advice will get you thinking like a genealogist and may send you back into your source material with a fresh perspective. If you subscribe to just one genealogy blog, this is the one.
http://genealogytipoftheday.blogspot.com/

The Pros

About.com Genealogy Blog by Kimberly Powell
Kimberly Powell has been the genealogy guide for About.com since 2000, which makes her one of the elder statesmen of online ancestry experts. Her posts can be about resources specific to her own research (for example, “Civil War Era Letters of the Stoner Family”), but as an 11-year veteran she knows the landscape of internet genealogy better than anyone. If, say, you’re an Ancestry.com reader, don’t miss “Dig into Ancestry’s Card Catalog.” She’s also the author of About.com’s “Learn How” genealogy pages.
http://genealogy.about.com/

Genealogy Insider at Family Tree Magazine
Diane Haddad runs a useful genealogy blog that has been posting since 2007 and provides an entertaining mix of news, tips, and timely just-for-fun stories. Examples of that last category, both posted within the last week, include “Resources for Researching Your Royal Roots” and a genealogy-based Mother’s Day gift guide.
http://blog.familytreemagazine.com/insider/

Olive Tree Genealogy Blog
Lorine McGinnis Schulze’s blog is an offshoot of her massive free resource site Olive Tree Genealogy, which has been a project since 1996(!), but it’s plenty entertaining and informative on its own. She finds good stuff—we were particularly fascinated by the link to an item about laws forbidding the sale of alcohol to Indians called “The Indian List – A Revelation”.
http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/

Egghead Central

The Genetic Genealogist
As we mentioned, DNA-based genealogical research is the hottest topic in genealogy. It’s also way confusing, drawing as it does on biology, chemistry, sociology, history, ethnography, and a bunch of other fields you probably haven’t mastered. The Genetic Genealogist knows his or her stuff, and although this isn’t the most frequently-updated blog, the material is instructive and if you read it carefully you just might get the hang of haplogroups and admixtures. Two recent posts also caught our eye: “Sequencing the Genome of Sitting Bull and Other Famous People” and “Additional Native American Haplogroup Discovered by Genetic Genealogists”.
http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/

Information Overload

GeneaBloggers
Information overload can be crippling—but if you’re in the throes of obsession (or you just have insomnia) more is more. GeneaBloggers collects news, posts from blogs on its exhaustive blogroll, conference information, event listings, and a bunch more. Another interesting feature is the daily themed posts submitted by bloggers: “Surname Saturday,” “Black Sheep Sunday,” “Amanuensis Monday,” etc.
http://www.geneabloggers.com/

American Indian Genealogy

Black and Red Journal
Blogger Terry offers “Opinions and Commentary on issues pertaining to African-Native American history among the so called Five Civilized Tribes, and anything else that comes to mind…” His meticulous posts are fascinating reading and he’s particularly good at supplying supporting documents and photos. If you’re thinking of starting a blog about your own family investigations, Terry’s would be good to emulate.
http://www.blackandredjournal.blogspot.com/

GWILODWÔGAN – exploration, research, investigation
Created by Nancy Lecompte, or Canyon Wolf, this blog follows her journey to reveal the history of her Wabanaki Ancestors. Her posts read like a real life detective series, investigating a singule Wabanaki family at a time and divulging the results of her research as they come to her each day. This is a blog that will keep you highly intrigued.
http://nedoba.blogspot.com/

Polly’s Granddaughter
As a “true” Cherokee descendent, known only as The Granddaughter, this blogger strives to reveal fraudulent Cherokee Tribes while assisting other “true” Cherokees find avenues to connect with their heritage. Thoughtsfrom Polly’s Granddaughter is filled with endearing family stories, Cherokee pride, and plenty of attitude and sass as well. A must-read for the Cherokee descendent; just make sure you have the paperwork to back your heritage up.
http://pollysgranddaughter.blogspot.com/

Other Voices

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter
Dick Eastman has studied genealogy for over thirty years and his daily newsletter, Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, is fifteen years strong. Having used one of the first computers available to the public forty years ago, it is no surprise that Eastman’s blog would meld is two passions together. His posts range from genealogical news to all things tech. So if you’re wondering when the newest and latest family tree generating app for your smart phone is coming out, this would be the blog to follow.
http://blog.eogn.com/

The Armchair Genealogist
Lynn Palermo’s down to earth blog gives essential genealogical tips in a language that we can all understand. This is the type of blog that will make you feel right at home with Palermo’s own family recipes and photos. With The Armchair Genealogist’s help, you’ll be building your own family tree without ever having to get out of your seat.
http://www.thearmchairgenealogist.com/

Seattle Woodcarver’s Family Receives $1.5 Million

The city of Seattle agreed on April 29 to award $1.5 million to the family of Native woodcarver John T. Williams, shot to death by former Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk, in a case later ruled unjustified by the Seattle’s Police Firearm Review Board. His death fired up Seattle’s American Indian community, who united for the first time to stand up for their civil rights.

Williams, a 50-year-old member of the Ditidaht people on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island was shot to death August 30 last year in an encounter with Birk that lasted seven seconds. Birk spotted Williams walking in an impaired state with a piece of wood and a carving knife. Williams had his back to Birk as he yelled “hey,” next “put the knife down” before shooting him five times.

The senseless death of a harmless and talented carver, who had spent many of his years living homeless and much of that succumbing to alcoholism, triggered outrage in a community that had felt oppressed for too long. They marched, they rallied and were soon joined by people from all of Seattle’s minority groups. Minority leaders spoke out. A letter writing campaign by more than 30 civic organizations led the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation to determine if Williams’ civil rights were violated. A separate DOJ investigation is underway on policies and procedures of the Seattle Police.

The money awarded to the family “is not justice,” said the victim’s brother Rick Williams. “The [Seattle police department] cares about saving face and not saying they did something wrong to a Native man. There has to be justice, this man has to pay. That’s what gives people hope that anyone can stand up for their civil rights.”

William’s mother, Ida Edward of Vancouver, British Columbia sued the City of Seattle after the family’s efforts to have Birk charged were unsuccessful. She will receive $250,000, and $1.25 will be paid to William’s estate. Rick Williams said his elderly wheelchair bound mother won’t see any of it. “Her hospital bills will eat it up.” He said mother expressly told two lawyers handling the case she wanted all the awarded monies divided between her seven remaining children. The money in the estate will eventually go to the victim’s siblings, Rick Williams said.

Discomfort persists in the American Indian community. Community organizer Fern Renville, who directs an American Indian youth theater group and who has reported this issue for ICTMN, said the persistent unease stems in part from the police department’s public patting of themselves on the back when the review board announced it’s ‘unjustified’ determination. Heavy in the minds of American Indians, Renville said, is that every police officer who testified said that Burke was following proper protocol. “They perjured themselves to sway the board,” Renville said.

There has long been a strong feeling in the Native community that Seattle’s police discriminate and use excessive force, Renville said. “This oppression has gone on for a long time,” she said. She has heard some of those stories at the Chief Seattle Center, a day center frequented by homeless American Indians. “They’ve shared stories like those for years.”

Causing another kind of pain is the local media’s continuing description of Williams in their news stories as a chronic inebriate. “There is an ongoing devaluation and dehumanization of John T. Williams,” Renville said. “In researching the case in depth, I cannot help but think that racism and classism is at the root.”

There is healing, too, in a new totem pole project. “Rick is consumed in this healing project, in honor of his brother as an artist and a carver who helped carry on a thousand year tradition,” Renville said. The totem pole project is part of the city’s settlement to erect two totem poles in the city. Rick Williams started carving a 230-foot totem pole April 30, as soon as it was placed at the Seattle Center. The area is home to the city’s landmark Space Needle, and Fisherman’s Wharf that draws large crowds of tourists. The tourists are what motivated William’s grandfather to move from the north, and he carved in that spot all his life. The totem pole was visited opening day by people from all over the world, Renville said. Tribal leaders from throughout the Pacific Northwest and as far away as Alaska and Arizona came to shake Rick’s hand.

The story is far from over because, said Renville, depending on the DOJ’s determination, “Burke can still be charged with violating his civil rights,” Renville said. “The SPD could also be compelled to change its policies and practices.” She said the first investigation could result in a federal prison sentence, as happened in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when police shot unarmed African Americans trying to flee the floodwaters, and killed two and injured four. DOJ indictments sent many of those involved in the shooting and subsequent cover up to federal prison.

The fallout can be seen through the eyes of Rick’s young granddaughter, now afraid to go in the street, “because I’m part Indian.”

Cheyenne River Youth Project Continues College Night Through May

CRYP's College Night events will continue through May.

North-central South Dakota teens can still attend a College Night hosted by the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) at the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center, on East Lincoln Street in Eagle Butte, South Dakota if they haven’t been able to before.

College Nights begin at 7 p.m. and each presenting college will give information about the school, the application process, degree programs, financial aid, scholarships, housing, social activities and college life.

Upcoming presentations will be held by the University of South Dakota on May 5, Presentation College on May 10, the University of Michigan on May 11, and the University of Kansas on May 25.

“This is the fifth year that we’ve offered the College Night program, and we’ve been amazed to see how quickly it’s taken off,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, in a press release. “Each year, we draw larger crowds, and our teens have been telling us that they really look forward to this time of year. These kids are so eager to learn about higher education—what it’s like, what it has to offer them, what it can mean for their future. College Nights actually shed light on how students can make their dreams come true.”

College nights are free and open to Cheyenne River Reservation middle and high school students as well as students from other area schools.

Eight colleges have already presented at College Night events this year, including Viterbo University, Emmanuel College, Rice University, Iowa State University, Harvard University, Dartmouth College, Towson University and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Northwestern’s group specifically addressed how higher education affects which careers teens may be interested in pursuing,” Garreau said. “Our remaining school groups will do the same. We’ve also invited local entrepreneurs, tribal officials, staff and long-term volunteers to make special presentations when the colleges finish theirs. We feel this is an important additional component for College Night programming, as it really demonstrates how schooling directly impacts adult lives.”

CRYP will also be adding a Career Fair to its calendar.

“We haven’t set a date yet, but we’ll make an announcement as soon as details are finalized,” Garreau said. “We’re all very excited about this new development, as it’s a logical evolution of our College Night program. And once it’s off the ground, we hope to offer it every year.”

For more information call 605-964-8200 or visit the group’s website.