Native America Today

Cherokee Heritage Center’s Sevenstar Gala
By October 27, 2016 Read More →

Cherokee Heritage Center’s Sevenstar Gala

Honorees received a custom copper-plated gorget designed by Cherokee Nation metalsmith artist Toneh Chuleewah. The gorget featured the SevenStar emblem and their award name in Cherokee syllabary.

Custom copper-plated gorget designed by Toneh Chuleewah

The Cherokee Heritage Center hosted the Sevenstar Gala on October 22.  The event is held annually, representing an opportunity to recognize those who help to advance the Cherokee National Historical Society’s mandate to preserve, promote and teach the Cherokee nation’s history and culture. Sevenstar is the Center’s marquee fundraiser.

Three prestigious awards were given out: the Stalwart Award, the Tradition Bearer Award and the last Warrior Award. This year’s celebrants received a personalized copper-plated gorget fashioned by native Cherokee metalworking artist Toneh Chuleewah.

Cherokee Heritage Center Presents Distinguished Awards at Sevenstar Gala

Bank of Oklahoma received the annual Stalwart Award, reserved for a Cherokee Heritage Center supporter that has significantly contributed to the center’s success. The award was accepted by Molly A. Kerr, senior vice president for Bank of Oklahoma.

Shan Goshorn, of Tulsa, received this year’s award and has exhibited work professionally in galleries and museums for more than 35 years. She is a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokees and a multimedia artist. A long-time human rights activist, her recent work consists of traditionally inspired political baskets that tie historical events to contemporary issues unique to Native people. Goshorn has work displayed in 17 permanent museum collections around the world.

The Warrior Award is reserved for a Cherokee citizen that has served our nation through uniform service. This service could be with the armed forces or through time spent as a first responder, such as a firefighter or emergency medical professional. Read more….

Coping With Life on Indian Reservations Today

Coping With Life on Indian Reservations Today

The modern Indian reservation is at once a far cry from what these set-apart lands were once intended to accomplish as well as an unfortunate continuation of decades of neglect toward the American Indian people by the U.S. Government. To hear the Bureau of Indian Affairs talk about ‘life on the rez’ today, conditions have vastly improved on these native lands.

But not everyone feels that way. Ask most tribal leaders and residents and they’ll tell you that the old problems still persist and years of nonchalance in regards to the welfare of those living on reservations has taken a considerable toll. There is a cycle of poverty that just will not end.


Right now, a little over a fifth of all Native Americans live on reservations. The living conditions of many of these areas has been compared to that of third world countries. There are far too few jobs, affordable housing is in short supply and essential resources are lacking. However, there are still many American Indians who call these places their homes and they are proud to at least live on their own lands – lands that are owned by the tribes and no one else.

But that pride is regularly compromised by pressure from the outside. Even now, the U.S. government is asserting eminent domain to force North Dakota Indians to sell their property to the principals who are building the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Eminent domain makes it legal for the government to move property owners around based on national priorities. And it’s clear to many that this pipeline project will line the pockets of big energy companies and, most likely, an untold number of politicians. Proponents of DAPL find it expedient to allow potentially dangerous oil transmission to put crops and water at risk in areas where containment of First Nations tribes has already left no margin for error.

What are the Economic Conditions on Native American Reservations?

reservation residents voice concerns over living conditionsMost of the available jobs on a reservation are available only through tribal government or the U.S. Government hiring. And neither of these two entities have the funding to create a large number of jobs. This leaves many American Indians living on reservations with no choice but to resort to traveling beyond the reservation for steady work. Accordingly, the reservation economy suffers.

Few resources are created on the reservation itself, and much of the work that the American Indian people perform benefits someone outside the reservation. This means that much of the resources used on the reservation have to be sourced from outside its boundaries. This is not cheap, by any means, and it drives up the price of necessary goods, such as clothing, food, electronic and many other items necessary for daily living.

Living Conditions

reservation children have very few job prospects to look forward toWhen the adults and teenagers go off the reservation to work, the grandparents are left to take care of the smaller children. They are responsible for most of the child-rearing on the tribal lands, as the older children and parents often have to travel great distances to and from work and school every day.

Most families live together in overcrowded houses, pooling their resources and working as a unit to share responsibilities, income and their meager possessions. Many times, the grandparents will live in their children’s homes with their grandchildren and other family members who are too poor to afford their own housing.

When one family struggles to pay for their own housing, they may leave their own home and move into the same house as other family members. The tight-knit family communities mean that no household is likely to deny the request of another household to come live with them, even if there are not enough resources to go around.

Almost half of the Indian population lives in substandard housing – home that are in serious need of repairs, and made from shoddy materials. These often fall well short of the standard of housing regulations outside the reservation. But with few resources at hand and most income going toward daily needs, there is nothing left over to put toward improving the housing. Most home improvements are made by the family members themselves.

In many Indian households, the utilities that most American families have taken for granted are simply unaffordable. Resources are prioritized toward food and transportation, with little left over to cover electricity, running water and indoor heating and cooling.

Health and Lifestyle

indian health services are resource constrainedThe life expectancy for the average Native American has certainly improved over the last few decades. However, it still lags behind that of the average American. While Indian Health Services provide affordable health care to many of the people living on reservations, this organization is underfunded, and is unable to meet the demands of the populace. Outside of hospitals, there are almost no doctor’s offices and pharmacies on most reservations.

Many native people have tried to adapt to a more American way of life, simply because they feel they have little choice due to the lack of resources on their own lands. This has led to the spread of tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer in massive numbers. They are suffering from all the diseases that plague their neighbors, but with few of the same resources to manage those health problems, their situation is much worse.

These problems are only exacerbated by the rampant poverty within American Indian reservations. There has been shown to be a direct link between heart disease and poverty, and that disease is the now the leading cause of death in Native American communities.

Hope for the Future

Amazingly, these awful conditions are miles ahead of what they once were. The five-year gap in average lifespans between Native Americans and non-native Americans is one that is much smaller than it has been in decades past.

As mentioned above, life expectancy has definitely improved among native peoples. However, there is still much work to be done. The living conditions in many of these communities are incredibly harsh and not sustainable over the long run.

Efforts from a variety of tribal, U.S. Government and charity organizations has brought improvements, but these have been slow to take effect, and many thousands of people are still suffering on reservations due to lack of proper healthcare and basic daily requirements.

The needs of the Native Americans are great, and only by making their voice heard and continuing to fight for what they need will they be able to survive. The work that has been done to improve life on the modern reservations cannot stop now. It must continue with sustained fervor if life on the reservations is ever going to be comparable to life beyond them.Many Native Americans remain hopeful that in their lifetime they will see significant improvements, but for many others, the damage has already been done, and they are suffering from a life of just scraping by, and their hope is that their children and grandchildren will have a better world to live in.

‘Protectors’ At Dakota Access Pipeline Disrupted by Police

‘Protectors’ At Dakota Access Pipeline Disrupted by Police

About 300 protectors from the Oceti Sakowin, Red Warrior, and Sacred Stone camps, along with other supporters from some surrounding camps, decided that strong prayers were needed at the site where construction continues on the Dakota Access Pipeline.


Prayers sung after corn is planted

Prayers sung after corn is planted

The group formed a car caravan and traveled to two construction sites along County Highways 6 and 134 near the unincorporated community of  St. Anthony in Morton County. They were met by more than 50 police from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, North Dakota Highway Patrol and the National Guard with a military style vehicles. As a line of police officers moved toward the group, they maintained their space with signs and songs. Construction workers ran from their work sites when the throng arrived.

 Youth Council holding their banner in front of the pipeline

Youth Council holding their banner in front of the pipeline

This land and water they are fighting for is of the utmost spiritual, cultural, and environmental significance to local tribes. It represents the sacred burial grounds of ancestors, historic village grounds, and Sundance sites. The water of the Missouri River is essential to life itself, not only for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation but for the many other Native Nations upstream and downstream as well. To desecrate these sites without so much as an adequate consultation with indigenous nations or a full environmental impact assessment is a continuation of what is now centuries of disregard for Native American rights.  While the government’s use of its Eminent Domain powers is straightforward enough, the clear intent to minimize the dangers associated with the environmental impact is very distressing to tribal leaders who understand how vulnerable their people are because of reservation boundaries.

Photo taken from the frontlines today as law enforcement with shotguns and more. We come peaceful…yet they still bring guns. We are protectors.

On the other hand, law enforcement responded to the protests with specialized equipment and weapons, including armored vehicles. Protesters were arrested for allegedly resisting arrest, trespassing private property, and possession of stolen property.

“Officers are trained to respond to the threats they perceive and to take appropriate action. A charging horse combined with totality of the situation presented an imminent threat to the officer,”
said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, in the release.

In similar situations in the past, some Native Americans have said “charging” is the traditional Sioux way of introducing horses. Native American protesters — who call themselves protectors — have meanwhile maintained that demonstrations are peaceful.

So far, 95 people have been arrested for protest activities since the start of the Dakota Access pipeline protests, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

The Past & Present of Native American Activist Leonard Peltier
By September 9, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

The Past & Present of Native American Activist Leonard Peltier

The case of Leonard Peltier is perhaps one of the most prominent modern examples of the continued wrongs wrought against the American Indians by the United States Government. He has been incarcerated since 1976 for the unconfirmed killing of two FBI agents.

The evidence against him, as you will see, is both circumstantial and supported by illegal terror tactics, yet somehow, his case has never been seriously revisited.

Peltier’s History with the American Indian Movement (AIM)

indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.comLeonard Peltier started working with Native American activist groups in Seattle Washington in 1965. Eventually, he joined AIM, which represents the many U.S. tribes and works to safeguard tribal spirituality while attempting to make the U.S. Government honor the promises made to the native peoples in treaties throughout the years.

A few years later, word reached Leonard about political and factional tensions that were boiling over in South Dakota, many of them centered at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The tribal chairman there, Richard Wilson, had created a militia of his own (infamously called GOON) to attack anyone who opposed him politically and to antagonize the American Indian Movement members who lived on the reservation.

The problem became so bad that federal forces besieged the area known as Wounded Knee for 71 days. Leonard spent much of that time in prison pending trial for the attempted murder of a police officer – a charge unrelated to the events simmering around South Dakota’s reservation lands and a crime for which he was later acquitted.

When he was released on bail, he was contacted by American Indians living at the Pine Ridge reservation who feared for their lives due to the violence that was breaking out between FBI agents and the AIM and GOON members. Despite the trouble he knew it would put him in, he traveled to the Pine Ridge reservation to help out the AIM activists in 1975.

What Happened in Pine Ridge, South Dakota?

scene from pine ridge indian reservation protestsFBI agents, AIM members and GOON militia were all warring with one another in and around the Pine Ridge reservation in June of 1975. Tensions were high, small skirmishes continued to breakout and one Native American, Jimmy Eagle, was suspected of assault and robbery. He was being pursued by two FBI agents – Ronald Williams and Jack Coler.

The agents chased Jimmy to a ranch, and engaged in a firefight with several Native Americans there, including Leonard Peltier. One Native American, Joseph Stuntz, was shot dead, but his death never received a formal investigation.

The FBI agents had called for backup, but by the time their reinforcements arrived, the initial two agents had been shot dead. Peltier fled to Canada to hide out while several of his friends were arrested and he was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

It seemed Leonard would be safe in Canada for a time, until a signed affidavit from someone claiming to be his girlfriend placed him at the scene of the shootout and directly implicated him in the two agents’ deaths. In light of the affidavit, the Canadian government handed Leonard over to the U.S. government. Leonard was subsequently arrested and scheduled for trial.

Later, the supposed girlfriend, Myrtle Poor Bear, recanted the statements of her affidavit, and it was discovered that she never knew Leonard and was not present at the shooting. These new facts were not admitted into the trial on the grounds that the judge decided she was mentally incompetent.

Leonard Peltier’s Murder Trial

The trial of Leonard Peltier has been called a farce by no less than Amnesty International, and an examination of the facts makes it obvious why that is.

The evidence against Leonard seed circumstantial at best. He was placed at the scene of the shooting, and he owned the type of firearm that was used to kill the agents. He also had a less than savory history with federal law enforcement. None of this was enough to convict him of murder, however, until witnesses were brought forth.

Several teenage Native American witnesses came forward against Leonard. Although none of them identified him as the person who shot the two agents at close range and killed them, they placed him at the scene at that time. Later, these same witnesses admitted that they had been forced by the FBI, after being tied to a chair and terrorized, to implicate Leonard in the crimes.

Left out of the evidence presented for the case was evidence that seemed to exonerate Leonard, including a ballistics test that proved the killing shots did not come from his weapon. Also left out of the case were the many reports of FBI violence against AIM activists in the area, illegal monitoring by the FBI in Pine Ridge and the fact that the FBI supplied GOON militia with weapons and information to help them launch attacks on AIM members.

What didn’t help Leonard was that his own accounts of what happened conflicted with one another and he told different officials different stories, even admitting later that he lied about his involvement. He declared his innocence in the killings though, and he retains that to this day.

Leonard Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in a trial that has all the earmarks of an unfair court case. He was incarcerated at U.S.P. Lewisburg.

The Movement to Free Leonard Peltier Continues Today

advocates push for peltier to be released

Still serving his sentence, with no hope for parole because he holds onto his plea of not guilty, Leonard has little hope for the future. He has attempted to appeal his case, as new evidence has been brought forward that casts doubt on the verdict he received. He was nearly pardoned under former U.S. President Bill Clinton, but that fell through due to a demonstration made by FBI agents in protest.

He hopes President Barack Obama will pardon him before he leaves office, but he is also realistic about his chances. While AIM and a variety of activist groups have worked to free him for years, their efforts have not made any difference in his sentencing. He has received numerous humanitarian awards and serves as an inspiration to many people who have been treated unfairly, but his case has never been brought back before the courts, and Leonard is not scheduled to be released until 2040. However, his health is in such dire shape that he is not expected to make it that long, and he will likely die in prison, wrongfully incarcerated.


Peltier pushes for amnesty from prison

A Letter From Leonard Peltier –

Sisters, brothers, friends and supporters: June 26 marks 41 years since the long summer day when three young men were killed at the home of the Jumping Bull family, near Oglala, during a firefight in which I and dozens of others participated.

I would guess that, like me, many of my brothers and sisters who were there that day wish that somehow they could have done something to change what happened and avoid the tragic outcome of the shootout. This is not something I have thought about casually and then moved on.


Do You Understand How Native American Team Names Became Popular in the World of U.S. Sports?
By September 9, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

Do You Understand How Native American Team Names Became Popular in the World of U.S. Sports?

As a lifelong fan of sports in America, I’m fascinated by the way we select team names. And as a Native American, I am particularly curious about the way organized sports references American Indian by name and mascot.

In fact, I played a number of sports at a high school whose team identity was the “Warriors” too, albeit with a very tasteful logo and mascot.

redskins logo on fedex field

WASHINGTON — Native American team names mean honor and respect. That’s what executives of pro sports clubs often say. History tells a different story.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE: The real history of Native American team names

Understanding the American Indian Movement: Past, Present & What’s Ahead
By September 5, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

Understanding the American Indian Movement: Past, Present & What’s Ahead

Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee

Recommended Reading

Back in 1968, the American Indian Movement, or AIM, was established by leaders of various Indian tribes as a way to campaign for their rights. It has often been seen as a parallel to the African American civil rights movements, but it has different goals entirely. While rights are important to the organization, they are more of a secondary benefit rather than a primary motivation.

The foremost goals of the American Indian Movement are three-fold:

  1. To ensure that the promises made to the American Indian peoples by the US Government are upheld.
  2. To retain and assure the sovereignty of the American Indian peoples.
  3. To preserve the spirituality of the American Indian peoples and to continuously strengthen it.

These goals go hand in hand, fortifying one another. The promises that have been made to the American Indians through treaties over the years would have ensured that the tribes retained their sovereignty. It would allow them to govern themselves autonomously, without oversight or control from US authorities. While it may seem to an outsider like this is the current state of affairs, not all native tribes enjoy the level of autonomy and sovereignty to which they were promised.

Furthermore, the current state of affairs for the American Indians is far better than it was when AIM was first established. That is primarily due to the focused and tireless work of the organization and the changes they have been able to effect.

What Does the Membership of AIM Look Like?

AIM is comprised of a number of spiritual leaders from various Native Tribes. The leaders have changed, of course, over the decades the movement has been working. However, the core tenants and goals remained the same, and the group has always been backed by the many native tribes scattered about the United States. Without the support of many Indian people, the organization could not have flourished and would not have been effective.

Time and time again, AIM has called many hundreds and thousands of native people together to present a case before the US Government or to stand up for their promised rights. AIM is as much a product of the people as it is of its leaders. It relies on the few leaders to drive its actions and efforts, but it would not be able to survive and carry out those actions without the support of many thousands of native people over the course of several decades. Generations have given their time, energy and finances to support AIM and to become a driving force for change in the American Indian community.

How It Differs from Other Civil Rights Movements

Drawing a comparison between AIM and various civil rights movements may seem obvious, but to do so would be to conflate ideas. The organization has never tried to end segregation of any kind, and in many ways, it has done quite the opposite, trying to separate the native tribes into their own independent nations that have the ability to rule over themselves, free of outside interference.

While AIM does work in some capacity to end racial discrimination and racism against native peoples, that has never been its primary focus. By ensuring the sovereignty of the native people and by receiving assurances that past treaties will be honored, the organization has been able to earn a level of respect that ensures people from all races are working together to fight for an end to racial discrimination for American Indians.

Who the American Indian Movement Helps

While the leaders of the tribe of AIM only hail from a few native tribes, they represent all American Indian people and work for the benefit and progress of all native tribes. AIM has worked to help achieve equality of sovereignty for all native tribes, even those who are not directly represented in the organizations members.

One of the main tenants of the organization has always been to ensure that all Indians be governed by treaties alone, without any US Government jurisdiction on Indian lands. The organization started with 20 simple tenants, all focused on restoring respect, spirituality and sovereignty to the American Indians. None of them were specific to any individual tribe, which allowed for all efforts to be aimed equally at all the varied tribes.

Whenever AIM has come before Congress to say its peace and present its case, they have always tried to bring representatives from as many different tribes as possible to ensure equality in representation. All their efforts have been focused on the Native Nations as a whole rather than to help one or a few separate nations. They work toward the benefit of all native people.

A History of AIM

While AIM as an organization was not established until the late ‘60s, they had been around in spirit for hundreds of years. In the centuries before their formation, native people sought for fair representation and for a fulfillment of the promises made to them in treaties. Their efforts and their spirits live on through AIM’s current leaders and goals.

When AIM was first established, it worked to combat police brutality against American Indians, but its focus has never been in one particular place, but rather for the greater holistic benefit of the Native Nations.

In the following year, the organization established a Health Board, created Indian broadcasts and worked to reclaim federal land for the Native Nations.

The next decade saw AIM provide legal representation for all American Indians who wanted it. They also established an education system and schools that taught Indian values and culture and took children from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In the next few decades, AIM helped to educate adult Indians, gave Indian youths easy access to employment and worked to achieve justice for countless Indians. On the last few years, the organization has been able to focus more on the spiritual and cultural aspects of its goals, holding annual meetings to highlight native accomplishments and to ensure the perpetuation of Indian ideals among the Native Nations.