Lakota Language Loses Fluent Speaker

Written by at January 31, 2012

The Lakota language has lost one of its most fluent speakers. Johnson Holy Rock, of Wakpamni, South Dakota, walked on January 21 at the age of 93. Holy Rock was one of the founders of the Lakota Language Consortium. He served on its board of directors from 2004 to 2008. “His leadership regarding the Lakota language was very influential as he was one of the most fluent Lakota speakers surviving into the 21st century,” says an entry about Holy Rock posted on “His decisions and recommendations significantly shaped the Lakota Language Consortium’s policies, products and services. Johnson strongly believed…

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Museum gives back artifacts to Native Americans

Written by at January 29, 2012

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) – In the basement and back rooms of Kingman Museum, the remains of people from long ago wait to return home.

That’s the goal of the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which became law in 1990. Since then, the museum has been working to return the remains of Native American people and artifacts back to the tribes from which they originated.

It can be a daunting task, correctly identifying and returning such materials for any institution; notices of the remains have to be sent to the relevant tribes and the National Park Service’s NAGPRA Program, which then publishes notices for Native American tribes to review to see if there are remains to be repatriated to them.

Kingman is no exception and has been working on becoming fully compliant with NAGPRA while dealing with, they say, understaffing and limited space. That’s why the museum has announced an opening for an intern to help with the task of returning a dozen or so items and remains.

“Because of snail mail it takes a little while,” Collections Manager Beth Yahne said. “Between that and in 2000, with the museum kind closing down for a couple of years, we tried to pick it back up since the museum’s been open. The Internet has made it a little easier.”

Western Michigan University Professor of Archaeology Michael Nassaney said the remains would be given to museums with an eye toward scientific study.

“The idea was that these would have some research potential, that they would be studied and so forth, and in some instances they were,” he said. “In other instances, they just lay in boxes and bags on museum shelves.”

One of the items Kingman would like to return is a mummified human head originating from the Alaskan Tlingit tribe.

Yahne said it was sent to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg from a missionary named Esther Gibson about 100 years ago. The inventor of Corn Flakes and proprietor of the Battle Creek Sanitarium gave it to the museum.

Being carefully watched over in the Kingman basement, the head is in a box and covered with a protective wrap.

Nearby, in another container, sits a buckskin sack found with the head.

According to the missionary’s letter to Kellogg, the box also contained the long-lost man’s ashes, but she could not send them.

Taking the lid off the box recently, Yahne revealed the face of someone undoubtedly with a story to tell. The top of his head was full with long hair. His face was thin, even when accounting for the decay of time.

Above his top lip, a thin layer of facial hair still clung.

Whatever story this man had that led to his remains being found in a box in an Alaskan cave by two Native American boys is long gone. A few marks on his face show where Yahne thinks the two boys struck him with an axe while opening the box before they knew what was inside.

“We think it’s a shaman or a warrior; someone that’s pretty important,” she said.

Other human remains were returned to places such as Muskegon and Mesa Verde, Colo., over the years the museum has been working on compliance.

There are other objects that need to be returned that are still important, if not as dramatic. For example, a rattle-like device made out of a tortoise shell and head sits in a storage room near Kingman’s large collection of artifacts.

It, too, needs to find its way back home.

That’s because the museum receives federal funds, and any institution that does is required to conform to NAGPRA. Nor is the museum allowed to display such artifacts and remains, or allow photography of them, out of deference to the tribes.

Nassaney said NAGPRA has resulted in attitudes changing over time regarding the final placement of Native American remains.

“In the past, archaeologists didn’t have much to say to native people,” Nassaney said. “Understandably, native people didn’t want to talk to archaeologists because they were seen as grave robbers. Now those relationships are beginning to change, partly as a result of NAGPRA.”

After an archaeological dig uncovers remains, Nassaney said the first step is to contact local police, a medical examiner or a state official, such as the Michigan Office of the State Archaeologist. Once it is determined that the remains are not from a person who has been missing, then the ethnicity must be determined through genetic work.

If they are from a native population, the search for the relevant tribe is made and it will determine what is to be done with the remains. Sometimes any handling of the remains is not permitted, resulting in them being reburied.

Still, some artifacts can be displayed, and Kingman is planning an exhibit featuring local Native American pieces of history.


Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer,

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Report reviews first year of scholarship program

Written by at January 27, 2012

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – Caucasian students in Alaska are 4 1/2 times more likely to be academically eligible for state-funded merit scholarships than Alaska Native or American Indian students, a report released Wednesday shows.

But the report also finds that once eligible, public school students from most ethnic groups – including whites and Natives – take advantage of the scholarship at the same rate, around 36 percent.

Girls are more likely to be eligible for scholarships than boys, the report finds, but 36 percent who were eligible from each group took an award during the first year after graduation.

The report, released by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, provides a status update on the Alaska Performance Scholarship Program. Last year’s graduates were the first who could be eligible for the program, a pet project of Gov. Sean Parnell.

Parnell has called scholarships key to raising expectations for students and helping to transform a public education system marred by lackluster graduation rates, truancy and drop-outs.

Students who complete a set curriculum with at least a C+ average can qualify for aid. Award levels range from $2,378 to $4,755 a year that can go toward college or career and technical educations in Alaska. About three dozen institutions, from universities and community colleges to barber, Bible and trade schools, participate in the program. Qualified students have six years to use up to four years of state aid.

About $3 million was paid in scholarships for last year’s graduates, half of what the Legislature approved. At least part of that may be due to the uncertainty that surrounded the program. While the Legislature approved a framework for scholarships in 2010, it did not approve any funding until graduation season last year.

Parnell has proposed $8 million for scholarships next fiscal year. He also wants the Legislature to create a fund, with $400 million set aside last year, from which earnings would be used to pay for future scholarships.

Eric Fry, a spokesman for the state education department, said that as the program becomes better known, the department expects more students will try to earn scholarships. Schools will make sure necessary courses are available either onsite or through a long-distance learning network, and parents will monitor their children’s education more closely, he said.

“The transformations will take time,” he wrote in an email. “If Alaska didn’t need to improve career and postsecondary readiness, we wouldn’t need an incentive like this.”

Stephanie Butler, director of program operations for the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, said the commission is glad to see early signs the program is “making a difference.” She said focus now will be on trying to secure long-term, sustainable funding so students can have assurance that aid will be available as they make their post-secondary plans.

The commission’s executive director is also interested in raising public awareness of the program.

The vast majority of scholarship recipients are attending either the University of Alaska Anchorage or the University of Alaska Fairbanks, according to the report. About $2.5 million in aid went to students pursuing a bachelor’s degree. About $339,000 went to students pursuing an associate’s degree, and about $70,800 to students pursuing certificates.

Preliminary information from the University of Alaska indicated scholarship-eligible students took fewer remedial courses when they got to university and also enrolled in more credit hours their first semester than scholarship-ineligible students, the report states.

A more complete picture of the program’s impact is expected as recipients continue through school and into the workforce, the report states.


Becky Bohrer can be reached at

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Foundation awards $2.88 million to improve food systems

Written by at January 27, 2012

First Nations Development Institute Awarded $2.88 Million To Improve Food Systems In Native American Communities

LONGMONT, Colo. (Jan. 25, 2012) – First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has been awarded $2.88 million over the next three years by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., to increase positive outcomes in Native children’s health and economic well-being. 

First Nations will explore the increase of local control over reservation-based food systems, such as a higher proportion of traditional and local foods, as well as better linkages with local producers, all with the hope of creating positive outcomes in the lives of America’s Indian children. 

“This project links local and regional economic development with the provision of culturally appropriate foods for Native youth, while at the same time celebrating and preserving Native culture and reinforcing Indian children’s cultural identity,” shared Michael E. Roberts, president of First Nations. “Using food as an entry point for community involvement, is not only good business, but it also enables young people to feel pride about their culture and their communities.”

The food security program will focus on: Native community-based food systems projects to expand provision of healthy foods; to build the organizational and program management capacity and sustainability, and assist Native communities in evaluating their local food systems; management of agriculture-based businesses that focuses on the development of a tribal college agri-entrepreneurship curriculum; link locally-grown foods to institutional buyers including the farm-to-cafeteria movement and the influence of federal regulations on tribal and local control of food systems, and examine the challenges and opportunities; and, provide health and wellness information through printed media and online communications for Native communities to encourage healthy lifestyle choices. 

The project intends to make ten (10) grants annually through a competitive selection process targeting Native American organizations or tribal programs that are currently addressing food systems issues.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation 

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Based in Battle Creek, Mich., WKKF works nationally and internationally, and engages with communities in priority places in across the U.S., Mexico and Haiti to create conditions that propel vulnerable children to realize their full potential in school, work and life. For more information, visit

About First Nations Development Institute

For more than thirty years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage, or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native communities. First Nations serves rural and reservation-based Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information about First Nations, visit

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OSU-Tulsa Financial Aid Awareness Week highlights higher education funding options

Written by at January 26, 2012

TULSA, Okla. – Have questions about paying for college? Oklahoma State University – Tulsa is offering answers.

The OSU-Tulsa Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid will host Financial Aid Awareness Week Jan. 30-Feb. 3 to help students find solutions to fund their college education.

“We host Financial Aid Awareness Week each semester to educate current and prospective students on federal, state, and institutional funding opportunities available,” said Megan Voss, Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid advisor. “Securing financial aid is a vital step for many students in funding their higher education endeavors.”

An information table will be located in the North Hall Lobby all week, offering guidance on scholarships and other forms of financial aid available for students.

Graduate Student Services will present Graduate Funding on Monday, Jan. 30 in North Hall 140 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Several graduate education funding resources will be presented, including university scholarships, external resources, grants, graduate assistantships, fellowships and graduate funding databases.

OSU-Tulsa financial aid counselors will be available Jan. 31-Feb. 1 from 3:30-5 p.m. in the North Hall Lobby to answer questions about higher education funding.

OSU Financial Aid 101 will be held Thursday, Feb. 2 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in North Hall 150 and again from 6-7 p.m. in North Hall 150. The presentation covers the basics of applying for federal and state aid, as well as, scholarships and tuition waivers.

For more information on Financial Aid Awareness Week, contact the OSU-Tulsa Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at or (918) 594-8273.

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Kohl’s accepting scholarship program nominations

Written by at January 26, 2012

Kohl’s Department Stores will be accepting nominations for outstanding young volunteers beginning next week for the 2012 Kohl’s Cares®  Scholarship Program. Nominations for kids ages six to 18 will be accepted February 1 – March 15 at, and nominators must be 21 years or older. Through the program, Kohl’s will award more than 2,200 young volunteers more than $440,000 in scholarships and prizes honoring kids who have made a positive impact on their communities.

Two nominees from each of the more than 1,100 Kohl’s stores nationwide will win a $50 Kohl’s gift card.

More than 200 of the store winners will win regional scholarships worth $1,000 toward post-secondary education.

Ten national winners will be awarded a total of $10,000 in scholarships for post-secondary education and Kohl’s will donate $1,000 to a nonprofit organization on each national winner’s behalf.

The Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program is part of Kohl’s Cares®, Kohl’s philanthropic program focused on improving the lives of children. Since the program began in 2001, Kohl’s has recognized more than 15,000 kids with more than $3 million in scholarships and prizes. To learn more about last year’s winners, visit

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A Day of Honor For Last Remaining Navajo Code Talker

Written by at January 24, 2012

On Monday, January 23, the last remaining Navajo Code Talker, Chester Nez celebrated his 91 birthday and in his honor, Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Richard Berry declared the day Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez Day. Nez, who shared his stories in Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, was born in a time when your age was based on the seasons, making pinpointing his actual age tough. But in his book, Nez shares his birthdate as January 23, 1921. The Code Talkers began in World War I, but made their…

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Students of Native languages invited to language fair

Written by at January 23, 2012

NORMAN, Okla. – Students of Native American languages from preschool to high school age are encouraged to enter the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, April 2 and 3, at the Sam Noble Museum in Norman. Participants in grades pre-K through 12 will demonstrate their language skills as groups or individuals in the spoken language and language in song categories.

Other competition categories include poster art and book categories, open to grades three through 12; language with PowerPoint presentation and film/video categories, both open to sixth- through 12th-graders; a language advocacy essay category, open to grades nine through 12; and a language masters performance category for grades nine through 12, designed to showcase the language skills of students who have grown up speaking a Native American language.  A new category for 2012 is poetry writing and performance; it is open to all ages. Registration deadline is March 12.

The competition draws more than 600 participants from across Oklahoma as well as neighboring states competing in as many as 27 Native American languages.  Pre-K through fifth-grade competitions will take place on Monday, April 2; sixth- through 12th-grade competitions are set for Tuesday, April 3.  The top three award-winners in each age group and category will receive a trophy that can be displayed at their school or tribal center. Every student who participates will receive a medallion and Language Fair T-shirt.  For the 10th anniversary, every student also will receive a 2012 calendar with poster art for the last 10 years in addition to other language prizes. Fair participants will be honored at the state capitol on Monday, April 9, and all students and programs are invited to attend.

A panel of elders and teachers from several different tribes will judge the spoken language and language in song competitions. Native artists will judge the posters based on creativity and use of this year’s theme, “Language in My Heart.” In addition, Native authors will judge the book and poetry competitions.

To register and for additional information, visit Deadline for registration is Monday, March 12.  PowerPoint presentations, films, books, poetry, and poster entries  must be received by March 16.  No late entries will be accepted.

To have forms sent by mail, or for additional information, participants may contact the museum’s Native American Languages department at (405) 325-7588 or by email at The 2011 Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair is made possible, in part, by the Boeing Company and the Cyril Foundation.

The Sam Noble Museum is located on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus at Timberdell Road and Chautauqua Avenue. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors 65 and up, and $3 for youth ages 6 to 17. Children ages 5 and under are free. Discounts are available for military personnel and their immediate families. There is no additional admission fee to see Warrior Spirits.

For more information about the museum, call (405) 325-4712, or visit the museum’s website at

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Legislative fight over historic artifacts looms

Written by at January 19, 2012

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A battle over historic artifacts hidden below the surface of Alabama’s rivers, lakes and bays is surfacing in advance of the opening of Legislature’s 2012 regular session on Feb. 7.

Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, has introduced a bill to amend the Alabama Cultural Resources Act, a law that requires underwater explorers to get a permit from the Alabama Historical Commission before going after submerged wrecks and relics.

In Ward’s version, the law would still require permits for recovery of artifacts related to shipwrecks and would forbid disturbing Native American burial sites. But treasure hunters would otherwise be able to search state waters and keep what they find.

“The waters, just like the air, belong to the people,” said Steve Phillips, an advocate for the changes to the law. Phillips, an owner of Southern Skin Divers Supply Company of Birmingham, is the only person to ever have been arrested under the Alabama Cultural Resources Act.

At trial, Phillips was found not guilty of felony theft of a cultural resource but was convicted of misdemeanor third-degree theft. The charge stemmed from Phillips’ 2003 expedition in the Alabama River near Selma in search of Civil War relics, which ended with his arrest and the confiscation of a Civil War era rifle he’d found.

The incident sparked a still simmering conflict pitting Phillips and his fellow divers and collectors against the state Historical Commission and professional archaeologists who fear that removing the restrictions would lead to raids on underwater historic sites.

Aside from the protection of burial sites, there are no restrictions on the recovery of historic artifacts on private property, but artifacts on state-owned property — whether on land or under water – should not be available for wanton scavenging, opponents of the changes say.

Teresa Paglione, president of the Alabama Archaeological Society, said without legal protections, artifacts from the Civil War, the settlement of the state, the age of European exploration and thousands of years of Native American history could be extracted, kept privately or sold, and lost to history. Those artifacts in state waters belong to all the people of the state, Paglione said.

“(The changes to the law) would allow divers like Mr. Phillips to conduct little more than scavenger hunts for relics — like a game of finders-keepers, except individuals get to keep what belongs to the state of Alabama and its citizenry,” she said.

On a recent afternoon, Phillips was at the Museum of Iron and Steel at Tannehill Ironworks State Historical Park where more than 100 artifacts he’s loaned — from Selma-made bullets to a tree trunk with a large shell lodged in it — are on display.

Phillips recovered some of the items by diving but much of the rest he bought from museums whose collections are overflowing with artifacts. Phillips has more of his personal collection on loan to Confederate Memorial Park in Clanton and other museums, and the remainder is available for loan, too.

His interest in being able to dive the rivers flows from a personal passion, not profit, he said.

“I haven’t sold a relic in 25 years,” Phillips said. “I want to know what is under there.”

Besides, you couldn’t make a living selling relics anyway, Phillips said.

“Not a chance. You couldn’t make enough to pay for your gasoline,” he said.

Phillips doesn’t hide the fact he’d like to see more divers in the waters of the state. It’d be good for business, but, he argued, it would also be good for recovery of lost history.

Without amateurs and collectors, Phillips said, much of the knowledge base professional archaeologists rely on wouldn’t exist.

And besides some shipwreck exploration, there isn’t any professional underwater archaeology going on anyway. An energized corps of amateurs would likely produce new discoveries.

“Archaeologists don’t do it,” he said. “Is it better for it to rust and fall apart and be lost forever?”

Paglione and others said that artifacts in freshwater environments are oftentimes better off remaining underwater rather than being brought to the surface where they quickly decay unless carefully preserved. And for archaeologists, random expeditions and finds that might or might not be reported add up to a recipe for lost knowledge.

Knowing where an artifact is found and what is found near it is often more important than the physical artifact itself, Paglione said.

“A popular saying in archaeology is, `It is not what you find, but what you find out,”’ she said. “If an object is removed from its context with no understanding of its intrinsic informational value, there is a substantial loss to the archaeological record — and the heritage of Alabama,” she said.

The conflict over the issue has led to poor relations and name calling between the two sides of the issue.

Ward said he hoped that through discussion in the legislative process, the conflict can be resolved. Ward said he found the wording of the current law ambiguous. He said he would be open to amendments that would be more protective of valuable historic sites. He doesn’t want to lose valuable archeological sites, either.

“That is not my intention at all,” he said.

At the same time, Ward said, it should be clearer what is permitted. Ward said he’d like to get suggestions from academics and Historic Commission representatives.

“I’m glad to sit down and work with them,” Ward said. “I don’t want to give the divers carte blanche. I want to make the law better.”


Information from: The Birmingham News,

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Obama Takes Actions to Increase Travel and Tourism in the United States

Written by at January 19, 2012

This morning, President Obama will sign an Executive Order and announce new initiatives to significantly increase travel and tourism in the United States. The U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. GDP and employment, representing 2.7% of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010 – with international travel to the United States supporting 1.2 million jobs alone. The travel and tourism industry projects that more than 1 million American jobs could be created over the next decade if the U.S. increased its share of the international travel market. Today’s announcement offers important steps to bolster job creation through a range of steps to better promote the United States as a tourism destination and improve secure visa processing. This is the most recent of a series of executive actions the President has announced to put Americans back to work and strengthen the U.S. economy.

“Every year, tens of millions of tourists from all over the world come and visit America. And the more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work. We need to help businesses all across the country grow and create jobs; compete and win. That’s how we’re going to rebuild an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, and where anyone can make it if they try,” said President Obama.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international travel resulted in $134 billion in U.S. exports in 2010 and is the nation’s largest service export industry, with 7% of total exports and 24% of service exports. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that every additional 65 international visitors to the United States can generate enough exports to support an additional travel and tourism-related job. According to the travel industry and Bureau of Economic Analysis, international travel is particularly important as overseas or “long-haul” travelers spend on average $4,000 on each visit.

Today’s announcement calls for a national strategy to make the United States the world’s top travel and tourism destination, as part of a comprehensive effort to spur job creation. The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes – such as China, Brazil, and India – is projected to grow by 135%, 274%, and 50% respectively by 2016 when compared to 2010.  Nationals from these three countries contributed approximately $15 billion dollars and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010.  In addition, Chinese and Brazilian tourists currently spend more than $6,000 and $5,000 respectively each, per trip, according to the Department of Commerce. The Department of State has made tremendous progress in processing non-immigrant visas from these key markets, allowing them to issue more than 7.5 million visas in the last fiscal year, a 17% increase from the previous fiscal year. In the 2011 fiscal year, consular officers adjudicated more than a million visa applications in China and more than 800,000 in Brazil, representing 34 % growth in China and 42% growth in Brazil. Improving visa processing capacity for China and Brazil is particularly important because of this growth.


Today’s Executive Order charges several agencies to take part in efforts to increase travel and tourism in the United States:

·         The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior will be charged with:

o   Co-leading an interagency task force to develop recommendations for a National Travel & Tourism Strategy to promote domestic and international travel opportunities throughout the United States, thereby expanding job creation. This Task Force will coordinate with the Corporation for Travel Promotion (currently doing business as BrandUSA), a non-profit corporation established by Congress through the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 to promote travel to the United States, and the Tourism Policy Council to ensure private sector participation and cross-agency coordination.

o   A particular focus of the Task Force will be on strategies for increasing tourism and recreation jobs by promoting visits to our national treasures. The Department of the Interior manages iconic destinations in our national parks, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, monuments and other public lands that attract travelers from around the country and the globe. In 2010, more than 400 million visits were made by American and international travelers to these lands, contributing nearly $50 billion in economic activity and 400,000 jobs. Eco-tourism and outdoor recreation also have an outsize impact on rural economies, particularly in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. 

·         The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security will be charged with:

o   Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40% in 2012.

o   Ensuring that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.

o   Increasing efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and expanding reciprocal trusted travel programs for expedited travel (such as the Global Entry program).

·         The Department of Commerce will be charged with:

o   Establishing and maintaining a publicly available website with key information and statistics from across the Federal Government to assist industry and travelers in understanding visa processes in key travel and tourism markets, and entry times into the United States.

Additional initiatives announced today include:

·         New Pilot Program and Rule Change for Visa Processing in China and Brazil:

o   Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants, such as individuals from any country renewing non-immigrant visas, or, in Brazil, younger or older first-time applicants. Link to fact sheet HERE for more information.

·         Final Rule to Expand and Make the Global Entry Program Permanent:

o   Global Entry is a program within the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection that was created as a pilot in 2008 to facilitate expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Through a final rule, the Administration will expand and make the Global Entry program permanent. Due in part to innovative public-private partnerships, the Global Entry program now has more than 246,000 members, more than one million trusted travelers have Global Entry benefits, and efforts are underway to expand enrollment even further. There are currently 131 Global Entry kiosks at 20 airports and since launching, members have used Global Entry kiosks over 1.7 million times, saving CBP officers over 36,450 inspection hours—staff hours that CBP has then re-allocated to expedite regular passenger queues. This final rule will allow the program to be expanded to an additional 4 airports in Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix, making the Global Entry program and expedited clearance available in airports that service approximately 97% of international travelers.

·         Appoint new members to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board:

o   A new membership of 32 private sector CEOs have been appointed by Commerce Secretary Bryson to serve on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The Advisory Board will build upon the work undertaken by the past Board addressing travel facilitation, visa policy, improving the international travel entry experience, aviation security, energy security, crisis communications and research and data, among other issues. This Board consists of corporate executives across the nation, representing all aspects of the travel and tourism industry, who are appointed to a two-year term to advise the Secretary of Commerce on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry. See the full list of new members HERE.

·         Nomination of Taiwan to Visa Waiver Program:

o   Currently, more than 60% of international tourists do not require a U.S. visa, in most cases because they travel under the Visa Waiver Program.  The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for the Visa Waiver Program. Over the past year, Taiwan has undertaken significant efforts to improve its law enforcement and document security standards to meet the strict requirements for Visa Waiver Program eligibility. Under the Visa Waiver Program, participating nationals can travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established to promote travel and tourism with our foreign partners, stimulate the tourism industry, and permit the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. Since November 2008, the Department of Homeland Security has added nine countries to the Visa Waiver Program, bringing the program total to 36 countries.

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Hula Preservation Society Shares Rare Forms of Hula with Visitors and Residents

Written by at January 19, 2012

Kaneohe, Hawaii – The Hula Preservation Society (HPS), under the leadership of Kumu Hula Maile Loo, has completed a nine-month project titled, Honoring the Ancients. Over 100 people, including residents and visitors from around the world, were educated on the existence and significance of three rare implements of hula through a series of workshops held at the organization’s Hale Pulelehua Studio in Kaneohe.

The project, funded in part by the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) 2011 Kūkulu Ola: Living Hawaiian Culture Program and the Josie and Don Over Memorial Dance Fund, provided workshop participants with information on the Papa Hehi, Ulili, and Ohe Hano Ihu in order to help individuals understand and share the beauty, richness, and depth that is the ancient hula of the kupuna.

“We were happy to take this first step in sharing knowledge of these rare forms from our kupuna with the Kumu and dancers of today. Their interest and dedication will help keep these unique and challenging forms alive and celebrated into the future. We look forward to continuing to offer this kind of training to our hula community locally and globally, and we invite interested Halau to contact us at to make plans for 2012.”

For additional information on the HTA Kūkulu Ola: Living Hawaiian Culture Program, please contact, Katie Gallagher, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement Community Development Specialist, via email at or by calling (808) 596-8155.

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Tribe looks to teenagers to revive bison demand

Written by at January 16, 2012

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NM hospital hires its first endocrinologist

Written by at January 16, 2012

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) – The hospital recently hired a doctor with six years of experience treating American Indian patients to assist physicians who treat the most complex diabetic patients in the county.

Dr. George Ang, born in the Philippines, started work in Farmington in December as a physician at San Juan Health Partners. He’s the first endocrinologist at the health partnership or San Juan Regional Medical Center, hospital officials said.

Ang previously worked six years in Gallup at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital and moved to Farmington in search of more patients. He expects to stay busy because of this area’s high rates of diabetes, especially among American Indians.

Endocrinologists are internal medicine physicians with additional training with the body’s glands that produce hormones.

While some endocrinologists specialize in treating health issues such as infertility or excessive or limited growth, Ang is content to work primarily with diabetic patients.

“I just happened to really love diabetes,” he said. “So this was a good fit for me because there is a huge need (for an endocrinologist) among the Native Americans.”

Local diabetes rates have long concerned health officials. Statewide, New Mexico has a diabetes rate of 10 percent. Among American Indians, more than 16 percent of the population has diabetes, said Sandra Grunwaldt, the diabetic education coordinator at the hospital.

Ang said an unhealthy lifestyle coupled with a wariness to medication contribute to the discrepancy in diabetes rates among ethnicities.

Ang said personable care can improve the chance of success when treating a patient for diabetes. Especially when treating American Indian patients, he said.

“They don’t like another specialist telling them they have to do this and this. That doesn’t really work, scaring them into shaping up,” Ang said. “What I’ve found is key to being successful is building trust, especially among the Native Americans.”

Building trust comes from congratulating patients for shedding a few pounds. Or by memorizing the generic equivalents to big-name medications that are available at Walmart at a lower cost, he said.

Accepting bad health problems as a way of life is also a problem when it comes to treating Navajo diabetes patients, Ang said.

“Some think (kidney disease) is a part of diabetes. Grandma and great grandma were on dialysis, mom is on dialysis and I’ll get kidney disease. That’s a big misconception,” Ang said. “We know we can prevent that but it’s difficult. … It’s a daily battle.”

The hospital is trying to improve treatment for all diabetic patients, Grunwaldt said. Ang’s hire is at one end of the spectrum, as he will treat the most complex and difficult cases.

Because of Ang “we can see people affected by the more severe, long-term effects of diabetes and reduce their risk of getting to the point,” Grunwaldt said.

The hospital is also trying to improve treatment and awareness for people who do not yet have the disease.

In addition to offering free six-week-long diabetes education courses to diabetic patients, the hospital will start at the end of January offering a Lifestyle Balance Program. It’s a similar education program for people who are at risk of getting diabetes, Grunwaldt said.

For treating diabetes, “lifestyle is key,” Ang said. “It’s more effective than any drug.”


Information from: The Daily Times,

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U. of Mich. completes policies on Indian remains

Written by at January 16, 2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – The University of Michigan says it has completed a formal set of policies and procedures for handling Native American human remains and cultural objects that are part of its museum collections.

The Michigan Daily reports Thursday’s announcement came after years of discussion between the Ann Arbor school and tribes.

In 2010, the U.S. Interior Department updated rules on handling remains that aren’t linked to a particular contemporary tribe.

Tribes had faulted the school’s compliance with the 1990 federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The school had formed a committee to review its policies on handling Indian bones and artifacts.

Details of the policy are posted on the school’s research website.



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Some Bemidji classrooms to get Ojibwe name signs

Written by at January 16, 2012

BEMIDJI, Minn. (AP) – Classrooms in the Bemidji School District are getting some new names – in Ojibwe.

Dozens of signs featuring words in Ojibwe are being made by five students at Bemidji High School and will placed throughout the school district, the Pioneer newspaper reported Friday.

A sign for the health office says “Aakoziiwigamigoons.” A cafeteria sign will read “Wisiniiwigamig.” And an art room sign will say “Mazinibii’igewigamig.”

The project is being funded by Bemidji’s Ojibwe Language Project, a branch of Shared Vision, a Bemidji group that’s working for friendlier relations between American Indians and the majority culture.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Bemidji High School Principal Brian Stefanich said. “I think it will benefit all of our students. We want to recognize all cultures and our Native American students are a big part of our high school.”

Other principals also thought the signs were a great idea but the district didn’t have the $2,000 needed for them. So project leaders Michael Meuers and Rachelle Houle raised most of the money from local businesses They also received a grant from Ojibwe scholar and Bemidji State University professor Anton Treuer, who has been helping Meuers and Houle find the correct Ojibwe words for the signs. They still need about $250 but were confident they’d get it.

The signs are made of a two-layered plastic. The lettering is engraved by machine. When the top layer is engraved, it exposes the bottom layer’s color. Teacher Bryan Hammit said students not only supervise the engraving machine, but also chose the fonts, colors and sizes of the signs.

Bemidji High School offers Ojibwe language classes, Stefanich said, but not all students and staff know or understand the language.

“I want all our students to feel welcome and feel comfortable at the high school,” he said.

Over the past year and a half, Meuers and Houle have been encouraging local businesses and organizations to install bilingual signage to increase awareness of the Ojibwe language in the community. Their original goal was to have 20 businesses participate. Today, nearly 150 sites in the Bemidji area have gone bilingual.

Noemi Aylesworth, owner of the Cabin Coffee House, was one of the first to participate. Her shop features table tent signs with numbers, animals and the nearby Red Lake tribe’s major clans listed in both English and Ojibwe.

Last year, Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College added bilingual signs across both campuses, including multimedia materials on Ojibwe translations for nearly 100 English phrases common to northern Minnesota. Treuer also created audio clips that correctly pronounce words and phrases, first in Ojibwe and then in English.

Meuers said often people are not aware that Ojibwe predates European immigrant languages northern Minnesota. He said he is often asked why more emphasis is not placed on keeping the region’s Norwegian heritage alive.

“Ojibwe is the indigenous language of northern Minnesota,” he said. “Norwegian and German are imported languages. I want to help preserve the native language. When you lose a language, you lose culture. When you lose culture, who knows what you lose.”

Meuers said he Bemidji will become more like the state of Hawaii, where he said the native language is much more a part of the culture.

“This is going to show Indian people ‘You are welcome and respected in our community,”’ Meuers said. “It’s going to teach non-Indian people about the culture that was here before 1895. And, also, tourists eat it up, so there’s also an economic benefit as well.”



Ojibwe language resources at Bemidji State:


Information from: Pioneer,

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Outrage From Afghanistan and US Military Over Afghan Corpse Video

Written by at January 12, 2012

As GySgt Charles F. Wolf Jr. once said, “To observe a Marine, is inspirational. To be a Marine, is exceptional.” But for four Marines, this quote may not apply as their recent actions were not seen as inspirational and their status as an exceptional Marine now in question. In this video that appeared across the Internet on January 11, the four Marines are seen urinating on what appears to be the corpses of three Taliban soldiers. Shortly after the video was released, Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned it and described it as “completely inhumane,” according to an Associated Press article….

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Stunning Wanamaker Collection of American Indian Photography Comes to Michigan

Written by at January 12, 2012

Starting today, the Michigan State University will showing a new exhibit, The Wanamaker Collection: A Tribute to Susan Applegate Krouse. MSU’s Department of Anthropology and American Indian Studies Program is sponsoring the exhibit, which will feature more than 8,000 images taken between 1908 and 1923 by Joseph K. Dixon. The individuals depicted represent more than 150 tribes. This collection of photographs of American Indians is thought to be one of the largest created by a single photographic enterprise, according a university press release. The tribute to Susan Applegate Krouse couldn’t be more appropriate.  Krouse studied at Indian University, where she…

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EPA’s Healthy Schools Initiative sponsoring webinars

Written by at January 10, 2012

The U.S. Environmental Protectional Agency’s Clean, Green and Healthy Tribal Schools Initiative is sponsoring a series of six webinars each Wednesday beginning January 18, 2012 at 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. MST. The programs address issues and opportunities in educational and other settings for cleaning and greening schools to assure the health and safety of children, staff and community.

Speakers include, among others, Native American professionals such as Deenise Becenti of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, Mike Daniels, Native IPM affiliated with the North Central IPM Center, Diane Jourdan, the Recycling Coordinator for the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin for 15 years, Mansel A. Nelson, Tribal Education Outreach Program, and Graylynn Jaysue Hudson, Navajo, who has worked with the Yavapai Apache Nation Tribal Utility Office and with Tribal schools and communities. Other speakers include EPA’s Matthew Langenfeld, Chris Maksimuk, Marie Zanowick and Virginia Till. The Clean, Green and Healthy Tribal Schools Initiative contractor, Orion Environmental, specializes in construction safety for schools, such as asbestos removal. His project coordinator and facilitator for the project is Dr. Carolyna Smiley-Marquez, of the Pueblo people of New Mexico.

Topics for the Webinars range from elimination to management of dangerous chemicals, building materials, pests to conservation. Three webinars will encourage schools to reduce, reuse and recycle — with a special focus on composting and gardening.

Find links to registration for the webinars. Once registered, participants will receive instructions on how to participate in the webinars by combining telephone or headset and computer screen. In addition to a question and answer opportunity that follows each presentation, participants will be encouraged to participate in polls and surveys during the webinar.

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Around the Campfire: How to Win Scholarships

Written by at January 10, 2012

One of my frustrations is the failure of Indian students to apply for and win scholarships. In a research project completed 12 years ago, we found that the average number of scholarships Indian students apply for is only one. The minimum should be about 40. Actually, most Indian students don’t apply for any scholarships, and one out of 20 will apply for several.

There are lots of myths about scholarships. One of the most destructive is that Indian students should apply for Indian scholarships. Wrong! There are only about 100 or 150 Indian scholarships out of 1.5 million scholarships in the U. S. If you are looking for Indian scholarships you are looking in a small pile. There is a much more huge pile out there called “scholarships.” That’s where students should be.

Another myth is that scholarships are based on need. Most scholarships, at least 90% of them, are based on merit. You could be poor as a church mouse, but if you go to them with a 2.0 GPA you are not going to win. You need excellent grades, high ACT/SAT test scores, and a clear vision if you’re going to win scholarships.

A third myth is that scholarships are part of Financial Aid. The FA program, which started in 1966 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s poverty programs, is a new and separate program from scholarships. Scholarships, on the other hand, are part of the movement for higher education in the U. S. that goes back to the colonies and the founding of Harvard, Dartmouth, and William and Mary. Until the 1950s you needed to be an Old White Boy to earn these scholarships.

Minorities and women were out. But more and more these scholarships are knocking down the barriers and being fair about the process. The most hard-to-find applicants for scholarships are Native Americans. That’s why this is a golden opportunity for Indian kids. We have had only one student, Isaiah Rodriguez from Laguna Pueblo, who went all the way with scholarships.

I helped him find 102 scholarships and he won 70 of them. He had been a dropout for five years, but decided being an assistant fry cook in a restaurant was not the way he wanted to go.

Another myth is that scholarships are only for students who are just finishing high school. Our oldest graduate, Dr. Harriet Skye (Lakota), was 62 years old when she earned her BA degree. She kept going for an MA and then a Ph. D. She just wrote me the other day saying she has finally retired as Vice President of United Tribes Education and Technical College in Bismarck.

Another one of our graduates, Delbert James (Navajo), was 48 years old when he earned his BA in Social Work. But he went to work immediately in child protection for the tribe and has done great work.

Students think they can win scholarships on the first draft of their essay. They probably won’t. I help students with their essays all the time, almost every day of my life, and can tell you that almost none of them get it right on the first draft. I mean way less than one percent can do that. In fact, in 25 years of operating our scholarship program, we have only had one essay that was an A+. I want to see one more before I die, but I may not.

The students who have done well, including Isaiah and over 720 others, have worked hard on their essays. I critiqued Isaiah’s essay about six times before he had it good enough to win.

Students think they can start to look for scholarships just before they enter college. It breaks my heart to hear from them in June when they are going to start the following September. There are almost no deadlines in May, June, July, and August. There are lots of deadlines in October, November, December, January, February, March, and April.

In other words, by the end of April the scholarship season is practically over. Students need to start a year before they are going to start college, not the month before. I hate it when I hear about a scholarship from the Elks or the Lions that no one applied for.

Some of the things that students need to have in their essays and normally forget are:

•  Their mother’s name, occupation, tribe, age, and hobbies.

•  Same for dad.

•  Names, ages, occupations, and interests of siblings.

•  Name of mentor in high school, what she did for you, what you did for her.

•  What their major will be.

•  Where they plan to attend college.

•  Their GPA, both raw and percentiles.

•  Their ACT score. Most Indian students are disappointed with their ACT scores. They have a 3.8 GPA in high school, and think they will score at the 90th percentile or higher. They are disappointed when they score at the 40th or 50th. In my experience, it is impossible to score well on the ACT or SAT unless students are heavy readers. This means one to two books a week; almost none of our students read this much. The ACT is largely a test of knowledge, not a test of “academic ability.” If you don’t know a lot of stuff, you can’t score high. Students should start taking the ACT in the tenth grade, and not wait until the last possible time to take it as a senior.

• Their experience with their tribe. This counts for all the handful of Indian scholarships, and counts just as well with the other 99% of scholarships that have nothing to do with Indians.

Seniors in high school should be well on their way with their scholarship search by now, January. But as I have told students for over 40 years, it is never too late to start looking for scholarships.

At one school I visited three months ago, I talked to 200 students. I decided to ask them something I had never asked before. “How many of you have been just messing around, not really trying?” I asked them. About 40% raised their hands. Our schools are not pushing these students hard enough.

“If you want to go to Harvard,” I told them, “and you have not been really trying, go to a community college for a year or two, ace it, and I will get you into Harvard or Stanford.” And I mean it. I have done that dozens of times.

I hate to see Indian talent wasted. It does my heart good to produce a medical doctor like Dr. Lana Doxtater (Oneida) or a dentist like Dr. Drew Preston (Navajo). We need all the doctors, lawyers, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, veterinarians, and engineers we can get.

Dr. Chavers is the author of “Racism in Indian Country” published by Peter Lang. He is Director of Catching the Dream, which provides scholarships to high-potential Native college students. It also provides grants and technical assistance to Indian schools to help them improve. Contact him at

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Navajo student assistance on hold

Written by at January 5, 2012

Awarding Process for Spring 2012 Scholarships, Financial Assistance Delayed Until Late January 2012

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship & Financial Assistance this week announced that decisions regarding scholarships and financial assistance for Spring 2012 are on hold until federal funds are available.

ONNSFA, which is primarily funded by federal funds through a P.L. 93-638 contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, projects that federal funds will not be available until late January 2012.

“We understand students’ concerns about the delay in the awarding process,” Rose Graham, ONNSFA Director said. “However, our office cannot make any commitments until funding is in place.”

“We hope that by providing notice to students, they may be able to make alternative arrangements or seek additional resources to pay for their college education in the spring,” Graham said.

In Spring 2011, a majority of college students seeking financial assistance from the ONNSFA did not receive their awards until mid-semester. The same scenario is expected for Spring 2012.

“Students also should be aware that ONNSFA receives thousands of applications and federal funding will not be sufficient to fund all those who are eligible,” Graham said.

“Each semester, students are encouraged to submit their complete application package as early as possible due to the fact that scholarships and financial assistance are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

“In addition, we encourage everyone to apply for other sources of funding,” Graham said. “Many sources are listed on under ‘funding types.’”

Graham said the search for additional sources of financial aid should start as early as possible. High school students should consult with their counselors to line up financial aid before they enter college.

Information released by Carolyn Calvin, Senior Public Information Officer

Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship & Financial Assistance

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Fort Lewis College grad to lead White House effort on Native American education

Written by at January 5, 2012

WASHINGTON – In December, President Obama signed an executive order creating the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. The director of this new effort will be William Mendoza, a member of the Oglala Sioux and a graduate of Fort Lewis College.

According to a press release by the U.S. Department of Education, the new initiative will “help expand educational opportunities and improve educational outcomes for all American Indian and Alaska Native students. The order includes opportunities to learn their native languages, cultures and histories and receive a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college and a career.”

As for the initiative’s new leader, Mr. Mendoza grew up on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota. He would go on to attend Haskell Indian National University, earn a bachelor’s degree from Fort Lewis College and then a master’s degree from Montana State University.

He returned to Pine Ridge, SD, to start his professional career as a high school teacher, but his desire to do more drove him to higher and higher levels of educational leadership. Before being named as director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, he served as acting director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Part of what Mr. Mendoza will be working on in his new position is improving access to high-quality education programs, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This idea is something that Fort Lewis College is focused on as well. FLC is among the top 50 colleges and universities in the country in terms of STEM degrees awarded to Native Americans. Fort Lewis also awards more bachelor’s degrees to Native American students than any other four-year school in the nation.

“We’re delighted that Bill will continue to lead the Administration’s efforts to expand opportunities and improve educational outcomes for all American Indian and Alaska Native students,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the U.S. DOE release. “His exceptional leadership in reinvigorating collaboration between federal agencies, educators and tribal leaders will be invaluable as we move forward in addressing the challenges that face our American Indian and Alaska Native students.”

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Oaks Indian Mission needing donations

Written by at January 2, 2012

In this 2009 photo, Oaks Indian Mission residents enjoy an evening meal together in the mission’s cafeteria.  PHOTO COURTESY CHEROKEE PHOENIXOAKS, Okla. – The Oaks Mission in Delaware County is asking for donations for the Native American children it cares for at its residential facility.

The 167-year-old mission is a home for children who are abused, neglected or abandoned or children whose parents cannot care for them for various reasons. The mission usually cares for 30 to 40 children ranging in ages 3 to 18.

The mission’s needs range from recreational equipment to laundry detergent. Staff is requesting board games, pillows, dish soap, toothbrush holders, bicycles, Wii games, storage containers, arts and crafts sets, bleach, laundry baskets, disinfectant spray and wipes, clothes hampers and 14- and 15-gallon trash bags.

The mission is also in need of clothing in all sizes for children ages 5 to 18, socks and underwear for ages 10 and up, home décor items, area rugs, carpet cleaner, pot holders, Brita water filters for faucets, towels, wash cloths, hair brushes, used but good pots and pans, cooking utensils, first aid kits, medical supplies and Tylenol and Motrin.

The mission is also asking for donations of a butchered calf or pig.

In 1892, with the future of Indian Territory missions in doubt because of the assignment of land allotments by the Dawes Commission, the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church opened a school at the mission site, which was then called Springplace Mission. A church was established in October 1903 named Eben Ezer Lutheran Church and still operates today. The church and mission became the nucleus of Oaks. In 1926, the Oaks Indian Mission was established as a children’s home.

Today, the mission is a nonprofit agency and is funded through private donations. For more information, call 918-868-2196 or visit online at

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Tribe seeks easier access to Peyote plants

Written by at January 2, 2012

In this 2010 file photo, peyote dealer Mauro Morales handles peyote buttons in Rio Grande City, Texas.  He is one of three “Peyoteros,” Texans licensed to sell peyote that grows wild near the border with Mexico to tens of thousands of Native American Church members across the U.S.  LM OTERO / ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTOThe misbegotten reputation of peyote affects its availability, Native American Church proponents said.

CADDO NATION, Okla. – Peyote’s tale has long roots. It is an intricate story of reverence, piety and later; illegality. Today, the gray-green cactus is experiencing revived religious interest but lowered production-a duality that has some officials questioning its reputation as an outlaw.

Intrigue has always surrounded the plant. Peyote has been used by medicine men in the Southwest for more than 5,000 years as a spiritual barometer through its hallucinogenic effects. Alarm among non-Native groups soon followed. Dan Swan, associate curator at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (SNOMNH), said peyote is experiencing a growth spurt in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah. Swan, who has spent more than 20 years studying peyote and the Native American Church (NAC), said peyote holds firm sway.

“It’s so complicated,” Swan said in a telephone interview. “It’s difficult to know what’s up with the availability of peyote. I been down there (south Texas) and that’s undeniable there’s not as much as there used to be.”

The Sooner state remains the “cradle of peyotism.” Visiting Lipan Apaches intermarried with Plains tribes and the ground work was laid for the present-day Native American Church, Swan said.

The curator cites growth for peyote (as a religion) in the 1860s around south Texas and northern Mexico circa the 1930s. Among the Native communities, peyote’s place was low-key but essential. It was not until the 1960s that peyote drew a bad reputation when counter-culturists began to tout mescaline (active peyote hallucinogen) for its mystical and mythical qualities.

“It never caught on,” Swan said of non-Native users.  Instead, it became known as a “danger to society,” during Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1970 when drug schedules were created to rank drugs based on various criteria. Peyote was placed on the list of most dangerous drugs and remained there.

The misbegotten reputation of peyote affects its availability, NAC proponents said. Since the plant grows almost exclusively in southern Texas, that state’s laws govern and monitor its commerce (which has steadily dropped since 2006). To date, official growers or peyoteros are licensed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) while NAC church branches are also registered with the state of Texas.

Peyote’s dropping numbers are prompting one Indian tribe in Oklahoma to ask for broadened access through the federal level. The Caddo Nation in Binger, Oklahoma, hopes United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tribal liaison, Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), will carry forth their petition to ease access to the cactus for tribes. Milton Sovo, Caddo Nation vice-chairman, said the tribe sat down with Hipp in a consultation at a federal workshop touted for building bridges between tribes and federal agencies.

Leaders of the 5,500-member tribe said they wanted to reach USDA secretary, Tom Vilsack, with suggestions on peyote accessibility. Meanwhile, USDA officials allow that the tribal liaison favors protecting natural environments for plants that Indians use for medicinal purposes, but peyote is not specifically named. Hipp released a departmental statement that both addressed and skirted the issue.

“Through their actions, Native Americans have provided the world’s farmers with fiber and seeds that literally clothe and feed the planet. It is important that these original strains be preserved as a resource not only for Native American farmers and ranchers, but for those who will benefit from them in the future.”

Criss-crossing federal agencies are also a part of the Caddos’ obstacles. U.S. Department of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials said while peyote sits on the Schedule 1 drug list, changes remain unlikely. Federal statutes cite its potential for abuse or harm when using and because it has no medically sanctioned use (schedules are ranked numerically with the most dangerous drugs listed with lowest number). Currently, peyote is listed alongside drugs like Ecstasy (MDMA), Psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. Meanwhile, the Schedule 2 list has cocaine and opium which have medical applications.

Special agent Keith Brown of the DEA’s New Mexico regional office said of 16 years in the region, he has not encountered trafficking or prosecution involving peyote.

“It’s illegal, but when you look at other drug problems facing America or Native America, it’s not peyote that’s the problem,” Brown said.

Drugs that are problems on reservations or amongst Indians are methamphetamine, prescription drugs or marijuana, he said.

In Texas (the Caddo Nation’s aboriginal territory), state officials monitor the sales volume by its three legal vendors and put the figure at just under roughly $480,000 annually.  This amount limits a market that drug runners are interested in, the DEA special agent adds.

Federal law, 42 USC 1996a,  outlines genuine religious peyote use by only those who are Native American. It is illegal for anyone with less than one quarter Indian blood to possess cactus buttons. And only card-carrying members of the NAC can purchase the buttons used to ingest during religious services.

But the Caddo Nation members said they aren’t interested in bending DEA laws on legality – only in increasing how much peyote they can purchase and how easily they can get to it, Sovo said.

“She (Hipp) promised to take it back to the USDA secretary,” Sovo said. “It took us 10 years to get someone in Washington (D.C.) to sit down and listen to us.”

Caddo Nation officials said peyote is used as a traditional Indian sacrament in their religion and is covered by the U.S. Constitution. If there’s a shortage of access, they said, the feds should step up assistance to Indian peyote practitioners.

Ironically, looking for the cactus is not that difficult online. Plugging the word “peyote,” into a search engine pulled up 3 million results. Outside of the United States (excluding France and Russia) laws are more lenient about buying and possessing the Lophophora williamsii, or peyote buttons. In those countries, its legality hinges on it being a botanical specimen growth, Swan said.

Peyote’s restricted and illegal status is illogical, tribal officials maintain.

“Common sense is not so common it seems,” Sovo said.

A lot is at stake here, Caddo chairman, Brenda Edwards, said. The Caddos will keep trying.

“Not just for us but for all tribes,” Edwards said. “The soil is changing and many of the plants are not as plentiful as they once were. We’d like access to labs and answers on our soil questions as well as plants’ availability back.”

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