December 30, 2011

2011’s Memorable Quotes: Good and Bad Part 1

Every year Indian country is filled with leaders, politicians, broadcasters and talking heads provide memorable quotes for anyone listening to catch. Some ignorant, some out of touch, and some commendable. Indian Country Today Media Network has compiled a list of quotes that we will break down into three parts, Perceptions, Politics, and On The Past, the Present, the Future, that will be shared over the New Year’s weekend.


“Why is there a Bureau of Indian Affairs? There is no Bureau of Puerto Rican Affairs or Black Affairs or Irish Affairs. And no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians, because we have the treaties, we stole their land. But 200 years later, no group does worse.” – TV talking head John Stossel, speaking on Fox News about how the U.S. government has done more during the course of 200 years to “help” Indians than anyone else.

“What group of people would even want ‘help’ like this?”—Tex G. Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, in response to Stossel’s claim.

“Our grandfathers well understood that each time a new promise was held out another was about to be broken.”—Joe Valandra, on the importance of protecting sovereignty

“So you go and so you study the area and you find out what happened, what did the indigenous people worship, you know?  And…and…and…if they did blood sacrifice, like, we found some areas where they were very violent because the former culture was a murderous violent …like in Texas here and all the coast around Houston and Galveston and some other areas the Native American people were cannibals, you know? And they ate people. And so you could see a manifestation of that in the churches where people turned against people and kinda cannibalized other people’s ministries.”—Evangelist Cindy Jacobs, in a YouTube video posted by Right Wing Watch praising Rick Perry’s August 6 cluster-prayer event, The Response. Jacobs is a Perry supporter.

“If my Haudenosaunee passport is a fantasy document, I’m a fantasy person living in a fantasy land and looking at a fantasy border.”—Joyce King, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe citizen, on being told her Haudenosaunee passport is a ‘fantasy document’ when it was confiscated by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

“Citizenship by blood quantum alone is a guarantee of physical extinction. Know the tribal population, the required blood quantum, birth and death rates, rate of exogamous marriage, and the date of extinction is easily calculated. This is not opinion. This is arithmetic.”—ICTMN columnist Steve Russell in his new book, Sequoyah Rising.

“They were rejecting me because I’m unrecognized.”—Marine Sisk-Franco, explaining why she didn’t get a permit to carry an Eagle feather, and the pain of being a member of a tribe not recognized by the federal government.

“The measure of being Indian should be a pain index—How many funerals have you gone to?”—author Sherman Alexie on the many battles over blood quantum and tribal enrollment.

“Most Americans do not even consider whether the language they use about Natives might be considered discriminatory. In fact, when they think about ‘Native Americans,’ the image that comes to mind is a romanticized, historical image, not a contemporary 21st century Native. The notion that we might feel offended by their language does not even enter their minds.”—Stephanie Fryberg, an assistant professor of psychology and affiliate faculty in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, explaining why Indians are perennially talked about negatively in mainstream society.

“The celebrations of our extinction turned out, of course, to have been premature. However, certain ideas and themes in the popular culture remain persistent and influential.”—Kevin Gover, Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, on the use of Native mascots in sports.

“[S]hut the fuck up Dan Snyder, you own the most sickeningly racist relic of a brand in all of professional sports.”—Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan calling out the hypocrisy of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for alleging anti-Semitism based on a newspaper article published in the D.C. City Paper. Snyder in September, facing a public backlash, dropped his lawsuit against the paper.

“(The Redskins name has) been there since the early ‘40s and no one has complained about it. No one has complained until the people from the Indian nations came down here and made their complaint.”—Wiscasset High School Board of Education member Ed Stover in defense of continuing to use the offensive name for the school mascot.

“It’s spreading the word that no matter if you want to play baseball or be a mechanic—whatever it may be—your dream is your dream and nobody’s going to take it away until you take it away from yourself.”—Joba Chamberlain on the importance of emphasizing good news in Indian country.

“Honor the memory of heroic Native warriors like Geronimo, Lori Piestewa and many others, not by promoting false stereotypes, but by bringing attention to the plight of veterans, both Native and non-Native, who continue to be plagued by substandard health care and homelessness.”—ICTMN columnist Ruth Hopkins urging a change in the mindset of the leadership of the U.S. military in the wake of its offensive use of Geronimo as the code-name for Osama Bin Laden.

“To Natives Geronimo is a hero because he fought America. To Natives Bin Laden was evil because he fought America…[try to] explain that to a kid.”—Filmmaker Chris Eyre commenting on the Geronimo/Bin Laden blunder.

“Native people say they feel more welcome in town now, and shopkeepers are picking up some Ojibwe phrases. Promoting the language does a lot to bridge barriers.”—Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe, on the use of Ojibwe language signs in Bemidji, Minnesota.

“Another language is not just a different way to communicate the same thing. It’s a whole other thing. It’s an intricate web of meanings and relationships and thoughts.”—Alaska Native storyteller Ishmael Hope on the artist’s role in preserving Tlingit.

“Currently the public doesn’t know enough about Native people because our news is rarely covered, as many still think our people are in the past.”—Lori Edmo-Suppah, editor of the Sho-Ban News, arguing in January that the mainstream media, including the Huffington Post, need to do a much better job of covering Indian issues.

“It is important as an indigenous people that we not allow Hollywood to define who we are, and I believe we have been very successful in that endeavor.”—Quileute Nation Chairwoman Bonita Cleveland on educating fans of Twilight’s Wolf Pack.

“The first time I saw a Native actor laugh it was Chief Dan George in Little Big Man. I remember thinking, I have never seen a Native actor laugh, ever.”—Neil Diamond, director of Reel Injun, on Indians in the movies.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comHappy Native New Year From the Pow Wow Comedy Jam - ICTMN.com.

February 16, 2012

Proposed IGRA Amendment Would ‘Sanction’ Extortion of Tribes

Rep. John Sullivan 2 270x329 Proposed IGRA Amendment Would Sanction Extortion of Tribes

In this June 7, 2010 photo, U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, is pictured in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, David McDaniel)

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma) has introduced an anti-Indian casino bill that gaming experts say would give local governments the power to shake down Indian nations for money.

H.R. 4033, introduced on Feb. 15, would amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to give local governments veto power over Indian casinos offering Class III gaming even if the casino has been vetted and approved by the Interior Department and a negotiated tribal-state gaming compact. The bill has no co-sponsors yet.

The bill “is more than anti-Indian, it is anti-state government,” said Joe Valandra, a citizen of the Sicangu Lakota, principal owner and president of VAdvisors, LLC, chairman and CEO of Tehan Woglake, Inc., and former chief of staff of the National Indian Gaming Commission.  “It presumes that local governments should have a veto over the considered decision of a governor and/or legislature. Frankly, it is really more of a ‘place at the table’ proposal i.e. about money. Non-Indian governments wanting the sanction to exhort money from Tribes.”

The proposal, called “Giving Local Communities a Voice in Tribal Gaming Act,” says, “No Class III gaming activities may commence, irrespective of an approved Tribal-State Compact, unless the elected governing body and elected executive officials of each county, city, or other general purpose political subdivision in which a class III gaming activity under the Tribal-State Compact is to occur have approved the Class III gaming facility.”

The bill would be a disaster for tribal nations, Gabriel Galanda said. “This bill would destroy tribal economic sovereignty as we know it, by giving municipal government not just a say but veto power over on-reservation economic development.” Galanda is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and partner in the Seattle-based firm Galanda Broadman.  “One can imagine the demands a city or town would place upon a tribal government, in exchange for the municipal government’s ‘approval’ of an on-reservation Class III casino development,” Galanda said. “The demands would certainly include money, likely in the form of so-called impact fees in lieu of taxes. This bill would basically allow local governments to extort monies from tribal governments that hope to engage in the only federally sanctioned economic development activity that has ever brought meaningful money to Indian reservations.”

The bill would apply only to gaming to compacts entered into after January 1, 2011. Sullivan said the bill is intended to stop the Kialegee Tribal Town’s construction of the Red

Clay Casino, a facility that is under review by Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk. “My goal with this legislation is to ensure that situations like the Kialegee Tribal Town Casino never happen again,” Sullivan said in a press release on his website. “As I have said before, I am deeply concerned this precedent setting situation could lead to the opening of pandora’s (sic) box where Indian land can be leased by private contractors to open up casino’s (sic) anywhere they please – regardless of the churches, schools and homes that may be right across the street.  We cannot allow that to happen without ensuring all citizens within a community are given equal consideration under the law,” Sullivan said.

Meanwhile, the State of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit Feb. 8 to stop the Kialegee Tribe from continuing the construction. The tribe was one of the Creek Confederacy of indigenous communities in what became Alabama and Georgia that were ethnically cleansed from their homelands under Indian killer Andrew Jackson’s removal policy The state claims that operation of a Class III casino on the Broken Arrow site would violate IGRA and a gaming compact between the Kialegee Tribal Town and the state signed last April because the property is not on the Kialegee Tribe’s “Indian lands.”

While Sullivan’s stated intention is to stop the Kialegee Town casino, his proposal would affect all Indian nations everywhere across the country. It would, for example, prevent the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from opening a casino to provide revenues for its government services to its members. Although the Wampanoag people were the first to greet the European settler colonists in the early 1600’s, the nation was not federally acknowledged until 2007 and it is landless nation and has few resources. “Congress has already provided the compact process to enable states to act as needed to protect their citizens’ interests,” Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell told ICTMN in an email. “Through the compact process, tribes and states may reach agreement to include local involvement, as appropriate. Congress should not impose an oppressive nationwide solution in response to a single local concern.”

The thought process behind targeting one tribe through an action that would impose collective restrictions on all tribes “is very parochial,” Valandra said, “and likely motivated by a fear that the unregulated unknown big bad Tribe is going to get away with something. Unfortunately, it is the worst (best?) evidence that members of the Congress, in general, do not know or care about the status of Tribal governments, the Nation-to-Nation obligations of the federal government, and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I have said it several times recently and it bears saying here – Indian land and resources are being jealously coveted by non-Indians and they will not stop until they have control over it all.”

And what effect would Sullivan’s proposal have on the nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and sovereign Indian nations? “I am afraid the concept of Nation-to-Nation goes out the window here,” Valandra said. “The federal government would in effect being giving authority over land decisions (a trust obligation) to local governments with no other obligation/motivation than extortion.”

It would also diminish tribal sovereignty itself, Galanda said. “It is bad enough that IGRA gives states certain powers vis-a-vis Class III gaming. To give counties and cities any authority over Class III gaming would mark the most dramatic erosion in tribal sovereignty since the termination era,” he said.

The only silver lining to this proposal, if it were to succeed, is that counties and cities, like the states, would still have no say over the development of Class II gaming facilities. “There is of course already movement by gaming tribes towards Class II gaming as a means of freeing them from onerous state gaming regulation and revenue-raising, if not compacting altogether,” Galanda said. “If this bill passed, I suspect we would not see any new Indian casinos assume Class III operations; in fact, we might never again see a brand new Class III tribal casino.”

The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. Luke Miller, press secretary to committee member Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), said the congressman had not yet reviewed the proposed bill. “Chairman Young still needs a chance to review the bill and will withhold judgment until he has an opportunity to do so. Additionally, as Chairman of the Subcommittee to which this bill will likely be referred to, it’s crucial that the Chairman and his staff have an opportunity to discuss the bill with stakeholders,” Miller said.


Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comJuno Awards 2012: A Look at the Aboriginal Nominees - ICTMN.com.

March 26, 2012

High Speed Internet Project in Indian Country Needs Petitions to FCC

Project Faces Opposition from “Too Big to Fail” GPS Companies

A Native-owned broadband network company that plans to bring high speed Internet access to millions of people and businesses in Indian country and rural American households is asking people to act quickly to tell the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow the project to move forward.

Tehan Woglake (pronounced tee’han wog’a lak’ki), which means “far talking” in Lakota,  is appealing to people to sign a petition urging the federal agency to approve an application by LightSquared LP to build a ground-based broadband network to use its existing frequencies integrated with its satellite service. The build-out will allow Tehan Woglake to provide high speed Internet services to a vast area of Indian country and rural America. The petition can be signed and filed at Tehan Woglake’s website and must be submitted to the FCC by March 30.

Joe Valandra, Rosebud Sioux, has a controlling interest in Tehan Woglake, which was formed in 2010. “Tribal and rural America deserve to have access to high-speed broadband and the huge benefits of being connected to the Internet,” Valandra said. “They need all the help they can get to ensure that the economic development tools of the 21st century are available to those who so desperately need them.”

In 2010 when the Tehan Woglake was formed, Valandra and his partners expected to receive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and private sources to build the massive infrastructure needed to bring broadband services to the company’s service area. But the ARRA funding did not come through and so Tehan Woglake looked for a partner and found one in LightSquared.

Tehan Woglake and LightSquared have signed a Letter of Intent to negotiate an agreement that will allow Tehan Woglake to utilize LightSquared’s spectrum and broadband network to provide high-speed broadband Internet service to 2.8 million tribal and rural households in 318,000-square-mile area that includes 407 counties in 15 states and 77 Indian nations. The service will reach 2.8 million tribal and rural households, businesses and institutions.

But the project has run into opposition from a group of Global Positioning System (GPS) companies who claim that the LightSquared project would interfere with their signals. Terry Neal, spokesman for LightSquared, said the company’s filings have proved the claim to be baseless, but public support is urgently important to move forward.  “We’re in the comment phases of the FCC process which is a public process and it’s important for us to demonstrate to the agency that there’s a demand for wireless mobile broadband and that LightSquared is crucial to helping meet the demand,” Neal said. “The other side is lobbying vigorously against us and therefore it’s important for us to show that the government should balance all concerns and help resolve the issues expeditiously.”

The opposition is the powerful Coalition to Save Our GPS made up of industry giants, including Trimble, John Deere and Garmin.  According to its web site, the coalition formed to stop LightSquared’s innovative new technology that combines ground-based radio signals with its long established satellite expertise to provide an  open wireless broadband network that will be available nationwide and offer people high speed, lower cost, universal connectivity. LightSquared proposes a wholesale-only business model so that companies like Tehan Woglake, which don’t have their own wireless network or have limited geographic coverage or spectrum, can using the LightSquared network – without competition from LightSquared. LightSquared’s proposal threatens the market share of the large companies, however.

“Like Wall Street, the manufacturers of GPS devices have spent years profiting off of vulnerable technology and are now seeking protection from the government instead of implementing the necessary reforms,” Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared Executive President for Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy, wrote on the company’s blog in February. “This will harm consumers, businesses, and our national defense. Papering over the problem and not fixing it will hobble American commerce, public safety, innovation, and communications for years to come.”

The Coalition to Save Our GPS claims that LightSquared’s proposal would endanger everyone. “ LightSquared plans to transmit ground-based radio signals that would be one billion or more times more powerful as received on earth than GPS’s low-powered satellite-based signals, potentially causing severe interference impacting millions of GPS receivers – including those used by the federal agencies, state and local governments, first responders, airlines, mariners, civil engineering, construction and surveying, agriculture, and everyday consumers in their cars and on handheld devices,” the coalition says on its website.

The claim is both alarmist and unfounded according to LightSquared. “We’ve made it clear in our filing that our signal does not interfere with their devices. Their devices inappropriately read into our spectrum,” Neal said. “We’ve argued and the science has shown that our spectrum was designed with filters that keep it from leaking into anyone else’s spectrum. The other side is also required to build devices to keep in their own lane.”

Neal said the GPS companies’ are presenting a “too big to fail’ argument” — that they are too big and established to have a new comer come along and interfere with their already established products. But LightSquared has a long established satellite business that has provided services to public safety organizations, police departments and federal government agencies for several years, Neal said. ‘We’re not a startup company and we would never put public safety at risk. We view the problem as a highly technical one that can be solved through engineering rather than politics. It’s in the federal government’s interest to find a solution that allows for GPS to be strong and healthy and also allows this new emerging technology to evolve as well for the benefit of the American people, including the indigenous populations on reservations that are struggling to advance,” Neal said.

Valandra said he believes that “lurking behind: the GPS opposition are the big telecommunications companies “who really don’t want the competition even though they don’t provide services in any meaningful way in terms of broadband. You go out to these 407 counties and you’re lucky if you can get a signal on your cell phone.” But it’s not about cell phones and social media, as useful as they are, Valandra said. It’s about public safety, health care, education, and economic development. “With high speed Internet you can set up a business anywhere, you can access state-of-the-art health care, you can sit in a classroom and talk to another student halfway across the world.” Valandra said. “The real issue here boils down to whether or not Indian country and rural communities will ever be served by high speed broadband and the answer is not without LightSquared and us moving forward,” Valandra said. That’s why it’s vital for people to sign and send the petition ot the FCC, he said. If the FCC denies LightSquared’s application, “it would be decades before Indian country and rural American had access to high speed broadband , which means they’d continue to be the poorest of the poor and that would be a shame. It shouldn’t be that way.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comVenus, Moon and Jupiter Bid Fond Farewell on March 26 - ICTMN.com.

April 4, 2012

On Class II Gaming Regulations

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) recently published discussion drafts of a set of regulations for Class II. These are the first set of regulations for Class II put forth by Chairwoman Stevens and are the result of a strenuous consultation process and with the advice of a NIGC organized Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). All of this follows years of pain-staking hard work by the Tribal Gaming Working Group (TGWG). The good news is that this set of regulations did not come down off the mountain, as was the process in the recent past. This is not to say that some significant work is not needed to make this set of regulations workable for the industry and, most importantly, for the Tribal governments that are the primary regulators of Class II.

This set of regulations encompasses Technical Standards and Minimum Internal Controls (MICS). There is no doubt that Class II will be better off when these regulations are adopted and become the measuring rod for enforcement at both the NIGC and for Tribal regulators. This article is not intended to be a specific review of each provision; rather, it is meant to take a broader policy view.

The Technical Standards set the minimum requirements that manufacturers of Class II hardware and software must build into their products. This newest draft will modify existing regulations and will bring needed clarity and direction. A set of standards like these has long been a goal of the industry. It is my view that most of the provisions that ensure a viable and profitable Class II industry are contained in this draft. What is lacking is largely highly specific and requires that the NIGC give great weight to the comments that will come from the Tribal governments, Tribal regulators, the TGWG, and the industry.

The NIGC will benefit from the technical expertise that will be contained in many of the comments to be filed. I urge this NIGC to be open-minded to the considerable expertise offered. To do anything less may allow historical failings to overshadow an otherwise propitious record of regulatory reform, consultation, and collaboration.

MICS are the heart and soul of gaming regulation. Tribal government gaming has a proud and enviable record of regulation over the past 24 years since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Historically the role of the NIGC in fulfilling its oversight role has largely been successful, with some notable exceptions. The exceptions grew out of a fundamental misinterpretation of the language of the IGRA by the previous NIGC administration that lead to overreaching and a “policing” mentality. I point this out not to open wounds, rather to make it clear that there is no room to return to that failed view.

The work of the TAC and the consultations along with the comments that will be offered to the NIGC will shape a regulatory view that must define the fundamental role of the NIGC as defined by the IGRA – oversight. Tribes are the primary regulators of Class II gaming and must be fully accorded that role by the NIGC in all of its regulations, especially these Class II regulations.

The draft NIGC regulations are not consistent and appear to place the NIGC on equal footing with Tribal regulators. The IGRA, established law and the stated policies of this NIGC should support and strengthen Tribal sovereignty. Lest I be accused of overreacting, let me say I speculate that when all of the comments are in and when the NIGC has a chance to reflect, this concern will be remedied.

This set of NIGC regulations is a good start; we must make sure that the end product does not drift back to historically and legally unsupported conclusions. Groups like the TGWG along with the advisors to Tribal government gaming will continue their good work and focus on this issue as well as the details of the regulations.

I urge all Tribal governments and regulators to take the time to comment on this draft set of NIGC Class II regulations paying particular attention to the proper role of the NIGC.

Due date for comments is April 16, 2012. For more information, see the NIGC website at NIGC.gov.

Joe Valandra, Sicangu Lakota, is principal owner and president of VAdvisors, LLC, chairman and CEO of Tehan Woglake, Inc., and former chief of staff of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comOn Class II Gaming Regulations - ICTMN.com.

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