The ANA Messenger - Spring Edition
We hope you are enjoying Wetú - The Moons of Renewal and Growth (which in Lakota is similar to the Spring), a time of rebirth and renewal for Mother Earth. As we experience this time of year, our ceremonies and traditional activities that take place during this time, we are thankful to our ancestors for teaching us the importance of being good stewards of our land, our Mother, and treating her with care and respect. The theme of the Messenger this spring is Tribal Governance and Environment. Many of our articles relate to these two topics. Additionally we have events taking place over the last quarter and the quarter going forward which fit nicely into Governance and Environment. Please see the descriptions below.
Tribal identity, culture, and traditions are intimately tied to the land and animals. For example, many eastern Tribes have kinship systems (clans) named after animals (wolf, bear, turtle, etc.), and in the Southwest, for the Dine, the traditional way to introduce yourself is to name where you were born, your clans, and your parents and grandparents. The connection to the land is strong in Native cultures, and desecration of the land is felt spiritually. Tribes most often seek to exert their sovereignty in the area of natural resource utilization and protection. In this issue of the ANA Messenger we recognize Tribal Governance and environment projects.
Since 1990, ANA has supported Tribes and Tribal consortia with funding to strengthen Tribal government capacity to identify, plan, develop and implement environmental programs. The Environmental Regulatory Enhancement (ERE) program is designed to bolster regulatory efforts in a manner that is consistent with a Tribe's cultural preservation and natural resource management priorities. What is unique about ERE, is funding is restricted to entities having control over their land or other natural resources, generally this includes federally or state recognized American Indian or Alaska Native Tribes.
ANA is currently funding 12 ERE projects in Tribal communities. We look forward to reviewing and funding more ERE projects, as well as those from our SEDS and Language program areas, as our Fiscal Year 2013 funding opportunities for these areas closed June 6, 2013.
For the last two funding cycles, ANA has held a separate competition for Tribal Governance projects. During this time we have been able to fund 22 projects ranging from constitutional revisions, formation of public utilities departments, to strategic planning for recreational facilities.
Similar to many ERE projects that improve tribal codes or ordinances, tribal governance grants strengthen the capacity of Tribes, but their impact are sometimes difficult to quantify or are experienced on a longer term, less immediate timeframe. It was for this reason that we held a separate competition, and we look forward to hearing back from communities both at impact visits in the next couple of years, but also in the future about the difference this capacity building has made for your citizens. Tribes and organizations may still apply for Tribal Governance projects this year within the broader Social and Economic Development Strategies program.
May is recognized as both Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and National Foster Care Month. ANA is recognizing these national observances, both the tremendous contributions of our Pacific Islander partners and the great need there is for licensed foster care families for native children. In this edition of the Messenger, we are featuring some of our Pacific Island grantees and in Getting to Know Us, you will meet a special Technical Assistance Provider from our Pacific region, Napua Harbottle.
We are also including the President’s Proclamation in honor of National Foster Care Month. Readers will see a very timely article on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), as we await a Supreme Court decision on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. Several staff from ANA attended a prayer circle on the morning of April 16th, as the Supreme Court prepared to hear oral arguments in the case. Two articles in the Messenger deal directly with the ICWA case, both written by Camille Loya, discussing why ICWA is important in one article and Camille’s contributions to the Talking Stick. The Messenger also highlights a Pacific Islander family preservation project which included foster licensing.
As many of you may be aware, June is National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. You will see an article in Community in the News by Harlan Pruden. Harlan is nationally recognized for his research into health disparities experienced by the Two Spirit/LGBT populations. If you are unaware of the challenges faced by Two Spirit community members and/or their traditional place in many of our native communities, please read Harlan’s article titled, Gathering of Two Spirit People. In a demonstration of Tribal sovereignty the Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians in Michigan now allow for same sex marriage. The Tribe is the third to vote on this. The Coquille Tribe in North Bend, Oregon, began recognizing the same-sex unions in 2009, while the Suquamish Tribe in Suquamish, Washington, followed suit in 2011.
Many native people across our nation joined in recognizing and celebrating the international event known as Earth Day, celebrated on April 22nd. Our native communities have celebrated and acknowledged the importance of Mother Earth far before this was an international focus. We didn’t wait until pollution and poor land stewardship practices had created what seem to be irrevocable consequences. We have included an article under Grantee in the News, describing one of our grantee’s efforts to draw attention to our water. Please see Mississippi River Water Walk.
This past March President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act. This is inclusive of specific Tribal considerations, also supporting our topic of Tribal Governance. Please see our VAWA update.
We hope you benefit from this issue of the Messenger where we highlight our ERE and Tribal Governance grants and resources.
Lillian A Sparks
Implementing Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Court Infrastructure
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Court in Mashpee Massachusetts is a new court, established in 2006 with the formation of the Elders Judiciary Committee (EJC). At that time the Judicial Ordinance was being developed which would provide some structure to the Court layout, which consisted of a Supreme Court, District Court, and Peacemaker Court. The EJC was considered judges and did hear one case. The EJC developed a two page Rules of Civil Procedure which were very rudimentary. When cases became more complicated and lawyers were brought in, it was decided to add a contract judge.
The Judicial Branch of government could not operate as separate but equal to the Legislative Branch until three Supreme Court Judges were hired. In 2009 those Judges were interviewed and recommended by the EJC. With the arrival of Supreme Court Judges, the Chief Judge adopted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It was soon discovered the Federal Rules put Tribal members at a disadvantage, especially those who wanted to represent themselves because they could not afford a lawyer. The Federal Rules were too complicated to understand and allowed cases to drag on.
The EJC, who were given the task of developing the Court, decided the Court needed its own Rules of Civil Procedure, specific to Mashpee Wampanoag and reflective of our own tradition and culture. We also noted when the Rules were developed, they needed to be easily understood by our members. Rules had to be assessable to our community along with events happening in Tribal Court. The EJC surveyed the Tribal members to find out what they wanted in their Tribal Court. The clear answer was speedy justice with cultural and traditional elements prevalent. The EJC, in collaboration with the Development Department, wrote a proposal for a two year ANA SEDS TG grant to help develop Mashpee specific Rules of Civil Procedure, Policy and Procedure for Tribal Court, a website, Peacemaker Code of Ethics and a Pro Se Litigant Guidebook.
Since the EJC had managed a Tribal Courts Assistance Program (TCAP) grant, which helped lay the Tribal Court foundation, it was decided the EJC was in the best position to oversee the grant and participate in the activities the grant generated. Vivian Bussiere, Chair of the EJC; Barbara Harris, Vice-Chair of the EJC; and Marita Scott, Court Clerk were identified as key project staff members during the first year of the project. Tribal Court had put out feelers for law schools to help with such a lofty project prior to being awarded the grant. We were fortunate Suffolk University Law School partnered with the Tribal Court to help develop the infrastructure needed to service our community.
As we progressed through the project, other Rules were identified as needed, Rules of Evidence and Appellate Rules of Civil Procedure. We also needed laws. Transitioning from the end of the first year to the second year brought all kinds of challenges we did not foresee. The Court Clerk resigned from the second year of the project. Tribal Court was displaced several times and actually closed while cases were continued.
Our goal was to increase tribal members’ participation in Tribal Court. The first year of the grant exceeded our goal of a 25 percent increase in cases. We are currently working on the Pro Se Guidebook to be distributed at the end of the project. This will provide a visual of the court processes, making it easier for our members to negotiate Tribal Court. The Mashpee Wampanoag Rules of Civil Procedure are in simple language with as little legal language as we could get away with. Simple language is also contained in the Rules of Evidence and the Appellate Rules of Civil Procedure. We will have a Full Faith and Credit Law allowing collaboration between jurisdictions. We will have a Child and Family Law to provide guidance for our ICWA cases.
Once all the Rules are adopted they become part of our Tribal Court forever. It will be the same for the Pro Se Guidebook, Peacemaker Code of Ethics, and the Employee Handbook which is considered part of our policy and procedure for court staff. Our web site is up and running www.mwtribejudicial.com and continues to be a work in progress.This was a big project and very ambitious. With the help of our partners, Suffolk University Law School, the Chief Judge, Supreme Court Judge, Judicial Advisory Board, the Elders Judiciary Committee, Tilden & McCoy LLD we have been successful. The EJC discovered, for a project of this scope to be successful, you needed a dedicated team, willing to do the work needed in the time accorded to it.
Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma
The Tonkawa Tribe has approximately 1,200 acres of Tribal lands in north-central Oklahoma, plus 800 acres located near the Kansas state border. Although the Tribe developed several environmental ordinances in the past, none had been fully adopted by the governing body prior to the project. Tribal staff therefore identified several environmental challenges needing to be addressed through regulations: cultural resources protection and management; abandoned and disabled vehicles; water quality protection and management; wastewater storage, treatment and disposal; hazardous waste disposal; animal carcasses; dumpsite access; pollution clean-up responsibilities; animal control; and hunting and fishing controls.
The purpose of this project was to protect the health and safety of Tribal members through the regulation of environmental activities under principles of Tribal sovereignty. The first objective was to develop an Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and an Environmental Protection Board (EPB). The APA established regular meeting dates, terms of office, by-laws, and clearly defined duties for the three-member EPB, and included a written environmental protection code.
The second objective was to draft and conduct a legal review of 10 environmental ordinances, including enforcement policies, procedures, and penalty and fine schedules. The project director worked with the Tribal Administrator and an attorney to develop and finalize the codes, which were then approved by the EPB and sent to the Tribal governing body for ratification. The third objective was to inform the community of the new environmental regulations, and train Tribal court personnel, Tribal police officers, and all environmental department staff on the updates. Tribal administrative, court, and police personnel received training, and over 10 community meetings were held.
All Tribal codes are now in a digital format and posted on the Tribe’s website, and the community is continually informed about environmental activities and issues. In addition, the fine schedule and court fees established as part of the new ordinances generate additional revenue for the Tribe. One Tribal administration staff said, “It is not just about the extra revenue, but about making things better. There has been a huge increase in awareness, and everyone is more in tune with environmental issues.”The EPB continues to hold regular meetings, which are well publicized and open to the community. Project staff also put in place a plan for holding public hearings when necessary, and reported the community now has a voice. The project not only developed the Tribe’s capacity to prevent pollution of air, water, land, and all other natural resources, but also provided opportunities for forming partnerships and exercising Tribal sovereignty.
Yukon River Inter Tribal Watershed Council
Building Capacity to Self- Regulate and Monitor Sewage Discharge
The Yukon River Inter Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) is a coalition of 70 Tribes and First Nations spanning the Yukon River Watershed; 47 of the member Tribes are located on the watershed in Alaska. Many of the Alaskan member Tribes live in rural, isolated communities with outdated or insufficient sewage systems. Few Tribal members have the necessary training to manage waste, and governments have difficulty offering competitive salaries to attract waste management specialists. YRITWC members were deeply concerned improper sewage systems could be harming Tribal and wildlife health.
The project goal was to gain a greater understanding of Tribal sewage systems across the Yukon River Watershed and build the capacity of Tribal members to monitor water quality. The project’s environmental specialist and project director worked intensively with 16 Tribes to develop site-specific water sampling strategies. The project team provided training on collecting water samples and procedures for shipping samples to the laboratory for all 47 Tribes at multiple locations. By the end of the project, staff trained 67 people in water sampling, and project staff and technicians collected 120 viable samples from the 16 targeted sites.
The environmental specialist and project director also visited all 47 sites to complete an inventory of the sewage management systems in place. In addition, project staff held bi-annual summits and several teleconferences with Tribal leaders, Elders, youth, and technicians to discuss how to adapt and improve existing systems. Project staff collected feedback and created a series of pamphlets detailing adaptation strategies.
Preliminary data show water collected at 80 percent of the sites is safe for use, a higher percent than project staff predicted, but still a cause for concern. Tribes in the other 20 percent are moving quickly to address the problem, and all Tribes recognize the need to continue monitoring. Many of the Tribal technicians are funded though the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indian General Assistance Program (IGAP) grant funding, and will be supported for the coming years to continue collecting water samples, as many have written this task into their IGAP work plans.By expanding access to water quality data, this project significantly strengthened the Tribes’ capacity to plan services, adapt existing systems, coordinate assistance, and advocate for their rights.
Getting to Know Us
Can you provide us with some background, including what lead you to the kind of work you do for ANA?
At first thought, my former careers as a T.V. Producer and a Botanist don't seem a likely fit for becoming a Training Specialist for Kā'anani'au, but in actuality, both careers have contributed to my ability to coordinate and make presentations for training workshops and webinars. Having to write grants and manage projects as a botanist, I have an edge when it comes to providing TA to potential and active grantees. My involvement in the Hawaiian culture is also extensive and adds to my passion for helping other native cultures to thrive. I bring strengths from both my professional and personal backgrounds to fulfill my responsibilities in providing training and technical assistance to those interested in applying to ANA to fund projects for native communities.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The best thing about being a Training Specialist for ANA, is being in a position where I can see the birth and infancy stages of many wonderful project ideas. I get to witness the passion that our native people have for their culture and communities.
Can you share with our readers your thoughts on the importance of environmental efforts? What do you see in the communities you have visited that speaks to this?
The influx of invasive species is a huge environmental issue here in the Pacific. The presence of these species not only degrade our natural environment, but also have a negative impact on our cultures, as our Pacific Island cultures are directly connected to the land. Many folks don't realize how small our islands are in comparison to the continental U.S., but this limits our resources, one of them being ka wai ola loa/the life giving waters of Kane (fresh water). Invasive species degrade our watersheds and in the long term, our water quality. Efforts to improve and reverse this trend are important for the perpetuation of our island cultures and communities.
What are some of your interests or hobbies? What do you like to do most in your free time?
I have always been interested in nature, specifically plants. This interest led me to obtain a degree in Botany, but also connected me to my culture. Today, I am a practitioner of l ā'au lapa'au (Hawaiian medicine) and enjoy cultivating kalo (taro) to make poi, a Hawaiian staple. In my free time I love to go hiking. I also love getting together with my 3 children and grandson (and friends) for a good meal, which means I love to cook and EAT!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Being part of the ANA family allows me to give back to my community in a way that I never imagined. I am privileged to be part of this organization! Me ka Ha'aha'a (with humbleness)
Getting It Right for Indian Country
The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act is now law and for the first time ever Tribes can request and receive federal disaster assistance directly – without going through the state. The President has already signed two disaster declarations directly for Indian Country. It is important our Tribal Head Start Programs that are federally recognized governmental entities are aware of this new law.
Getting It Right for Indian Country
When you're tackling a new and challenging topic, starting from a solid foundation is crucial to success. Right now, there is an opportunity to change how the federal government provides disaster assistance and we’re looking for tribal leaders to help set a solid foundation for those changes.
When President Obama signed into law the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, he amended the Stafford Act to recognize the sovereignty of tribal governments, and this was a big step in the right direction to better meet the unique needs of Indian Country after disasters. However, there's still work to be done to shape disaster assistance programs and processes most effectively. That's where we are now -- we are consulting with tribal governments, tribal leaders, and tribal stakeholders to consider changes to a range of federal disaster assistance processes and topics:
I encourage our tribal partners to join us in developing rules through consultation. You’re invited to join a series of upcoming tribal consultation calls, provide ideas to FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send an e-mail to email@example.com. Now is a great time to make sure the unique needs of Indian Country are considered throughout the federal disaster assistance process.
Why are we looking for input from the community? Up to this point, FEMA has established rules around the disaster declaration process, assistance programs, and other aspects of federal assistance to meet the needs of state governments and individuals in those states. Now, with the recent amendment to the Stafford Act, we have an opportunity to change those rules with regards to the sovereignty of tribal nations.
In a little more than two months since the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act became law, the President has already signed two disaster declarations directly for Indian Country. The new changes have already resulted in federal disaster assistance going directly to tribal communities.
But there’s still much to be done. That's why we're having these consultation calls, gathering feedback online, and asking for e-mails. Once the consultation concludes, FEMA will draft proposed rules. Learn more about how to join this discussion by visiting FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.Craig Fugate is the Administrator of FEMA.
OCSE’s Model Tribal System
Realizing the importance of automated systems to the effective delivery of child support services OCSE worked with tribal partners in the child support community to plan, conceptualize, and design a generic model computer system for use in Tribal Child Support Enforcement programs nationwide. Known as the Model Tribal System, or MTS, it was designed to be highly customizable, ensuring every tribe is able to adapt a copy of the system to its own individual program and cultural requirements. The initial development of the MTS was completed in May 2010. In FY 2010, the final rule: Computerized Tribal IV-D systems and Office Automation was published in the Federal Register on February 25, 2010 [75 FR 8508.] Two tribes, the Forest County Potawatomi Community in Wisconsin and the Modoc Tribe in Oklahoma, volunteered to perform user acceptance testing and pilot test the MTS. OCSE provided hands-on technical assistance to both tribes in developing funding requests and contract preparations for the pilot testing.
In 2012, OCSE provided on-site, hands-on technical assistance to both Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Modoc Tribe in their testing, use, and operation of the MTS. We held multiple webinars to provide project status information on the MTS to interested tribal child support programs nationwide and provided systems funding training and demonstrations of the system at the National Tribal Child Support Association Training Conference in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Testing is now complete and Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Modoc Tribe entered live cases into their copies of the MTS and began operational use of the system. We reached out to tribal leaders through a Dear Tribal Leader Letter to gather information on tribes’ plans for potential use of the system to determine a plan for the MTS nationwide launch. To further understanding of the options for use of the MTS, we also held a webinar to elaborate on the information contained in the Dear Tribal Leader Letter. We anticipate the launch of the system will begin this year.
You can read more about it in OCSE’s, the Commissioner’s Voice.
OCSE Tribal Innovation Grants
The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) published a grant forecast for: Tribal Innovation Grants: Building Family-Centered Services. Eligibility for this grant program is open to tribal child support agencies operating comprehensive programs. Applicants will have the opportunity to compete for funds to develop and administer innovative, family-centered child support services that help parents provide reliable support for their children as they grow. The grant forecast gives advance notice of grant funding opportunities with basic details applicants can use for planning until OCSE publishes the full funding opportunity announcement.
OCSE held two listening sessions to discuss the new Tribal Innovations grants (November and December, 2013.) The purpose of the calls was to gather feedback and learn of interests, concerns, questions, and recommendations to take into consideration when developing the policies for the grant program.
OCSE Works With BIA and FMS to End
Offset of BIA General Assistance Payments
The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) recently learned beginning in November 2012 the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) updated their automated system changing the way they submit payments to Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS). As a result of this change, FMS intercepted several hundred general assistance payments issued by BIA via the administrative offset program. Although these general assistance payments are not currently exempted by law or the Secretary of the Treasury from administrative offset, they are means-tested payments and may reflect that the payees do not have sufficient resources to meet their needs for food, clothing, shelter, and utilities. OCSE alerted states and Tribes to the needs based nature of these payments via an E-Flash and posted this information on the OCSE Tribal Webpage newsfeed.
OCSE’s Scott Hale and Paige Hausburg facilitated a call with BIA and FMS to open the lines of communication and help BIA submit an exemption request to Treasury. If the Treasury Secretary approves the exemption request, BIA will be allowed to code these payments as exempt from administrative offset when they submit to FMS, preventing future intercept matches. We will keep everyone apprised of the results of BIA’s exemption request.
We are working closely with BIA to get additional details regarding the noncustodial parents whose BIA general assistance payments have been or may be administratively offset. Once the information is received, OCSE will contact the state’s offset coordinator and/or point of contact with the information.
Partnering for Success
Tribes and states collaborate on tax intercept process
By Jim Fleming, Director
Child support workers from five jurisdictions braved winter temperatures and met in Bismarck, North Dakota, to share information about effective tribal and state child support program partnering for the federal income tax refund intercept process. Not long after the meeting, a single offset in a Three Affiliated Tribes’ case, submitted for offset by the North Dakota Child Support program, resulted in a collection of over $6,200.
The Three Affiliated Tribes and the State of North Dakota have a long history of working together for effective child support. As early as 1986, an agreement was in place for tribal child support work. Unfortunately, the agreement was discontinued for many years until the Three Affiliated Tribes started its own IV-D child support program. Since that time, the Three Affiliated Tribes and the North Dakota Department of Human Services have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with several addenda for specific services, including federal income tax refund offset and access to the state’s automated system.
In addition, the tribe and the state have offered joint presentations at national conferences on working together to provide effective services for tribal children. As a result of improved collaboration on federal offset and other services with the tribes and tribal courts in North Dakota, the number of North Dakota child support cases that cannot proceed for lack of jurisdiction has dropped in half in just the last five years, from 10 percent of the total caseload to less than 5 percent.
The meeting was held at the request of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in Wyoming to discuss in person the steps needed for a tribe and state to work together to submit tribal cases for offset. The Northern Arapaho Tribe and the State of Wyoming joined the meeting as well to discuss how each program can help complete the offset process.
The meeting started with a discussion between the five jurisdictions and the North Dakota Governor’s cabinet member for Tribal Affairs about the status of federal legislation to provide direct access for tribes to federal offsets. From there, representatives of the Three Affiliated Tribes and the Child Support Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services described each step of the offset process, from notice to the obligor to final disbursement to the tribe and payment of the offset fee. Meeting participants came away with clear action steps for implementing a similar, effective process in Wyoming.
Partnerships between tribal and state child support programs are truly an example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Acting alone, each jurisdiction has a limited ability to establish and enforce child support obligations, but together, the jurisdictions can ensure a case does not slip through the cracks and tribal children receive the support they deserve.For more information on tribal and state collaboration on IV-D services in North Dakota, contact Jim Fleming, Director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services’ Child Support Division, at 701-328-3582 or email@example.com.
The Tribal Child Support Program Continues to Grow!
On April 9, 2013, Commissioner Turetsky signed a Dear Colleague Letter announcing the fact that 50 tribes now operate a comprehensive tribal child support program, and 10 more tribes are receiving funding to put a program in place!
In the past year, eight tribes have transitioned from the start-up phase to comprehensive program status: the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Inc.; the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe; the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation; the Blackfeet Nation; Fort Belknap Indian Community; the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. These tribes now provide child support services that meet federal requirements to the children and families within the jurisdiction of their Tribal Nation.
Also in the last year, OCSE approved start-up applications for six more tribes: the Ho-Chunk Nation; the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; the Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation); the Delaware Tribe of Indians; the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes; and the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. The start-up phase allows the time for tribes to develop a culturally appropriate child support program that meets the federal requirements.
In 2011, 42 comprehensive tribal programs distributed over $30M in child support obligations. Collections will continue to increase with the addition of new tribal programs. This is truly an exciting time.
Visit the OCSE website for more information.
This issue’s author: Camille Loya
Trust /truhst: Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing
‘If a people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists—to protect them and to promote their common welfare—all else is lost.’ President Barack Obama 8/28/2006
The establishment of the Administration for Native American in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act, the Native American Programs Act, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Indian Civil Rights Act, amendments to the Stafford Act, the tribal amendments to the Violence Against Women Act, the Tribally Controlled Schools Act, and Akiachak Native Community v. Salazar. Each of these represents or affirms commitments made by the United States to Native peoples and communities.
Interesting, you may say, but what does that have to do with the themes of this ANA Messenger issue: the Environment and Governance? My answer is simple: the legal commitments made or affirmed by the United States have everything to do with the themes of this issue.
The extent to which the United States honors its commitments to American Indian and Alaska Natives daily affects the natural world and environment within which Native peoples live. The extent to which the United States honors its commitments to American Indian and Alaska Natives daily affects the ability of Tribes to meet the specific needs of members in concert with the United States’ legal and trust responsibility to Native peoples and communities. Our collective futures may elude our present visions, but it is not beyond our control. It will be neither fate nor the pull of history, but the work of our own hands and minds together, that will determine our destiny.
In my nearly nineteen years in the Federal government, my life’s work has been as an advocate for and defender of commitments made to Native peoples and communities; particularly children and their families. I could not think of a more honorable career. The bad news is that the vitality and very existence of these legal commitments are under attack. Such attacks are real and are illustrated by the following quotes:
“Federal Indian policy, modern tribal governments and the concept of sovereignty violate the most basic principles of the American Revolution...Indian policy and law defies the democratic principles of liberty and equality by giving Indians as a group political sovereignty...Integration is the law of the land....To allow Indians as a group to practice political sovereignty as a general government ruling non-Indians or a geographical territory is wrong.”
“[A]ll American Indians have been citizens since 1924, and the federal government should no longer be honoring treaties with its own citizens.”
As a lawyer trained and experienced in Federal law and policy, I know the above sentiments have no foundation in federal constitutional or administrative law. Still, such misconceptions are troubling. Nonetheless, from my vantage point in ANA, there is good news and reasons to look forward. ANA-funded projects have tangible impacts on capacity and skills building, self-sufficiency and family preservation, economic development and innovation, preservation and transmission of culture through language and spiritual practice. All these honor this nation’s commitments to protect and promote the common welfare of Native peoples and communities and support our deeper understanding of cultural protective factors that contribute to the resiliency of Native peoples and communities.
I read something once in a children’s book called Wonder by R.J. Palacio that stuck in my mind for a long time:
“The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you.”
That’s true, don’t you think? So, let’s each of us continue to work together to do something. All is not lost. It remains possible to shape the future if we set our minds and bodies to the task. This will take passion and courage and a mutual commitment to the ideals of trustworthiness. That is, after all, the United States’ commitment to Native peoples and communities as well as the mission of ACF and ANA.
What president had a dog who pulled off the French Ambassador's pants at a White House event?
Correct answer: B. Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt's pit bull, Pete, horrified White House guests by tearing off the ambassador's pants with his teeth.
Q: What do you call a fish without an eye?
Q: What do you call lending money to a bison?
Q: What is as big as an elephant but weighs nothing?
Q. What does the local department store and teenagers have in common.
I met a guy who’s a walking economy, the front of his hair is in recession, his stomach is a terrible victim of inflation, and the combination together are putting him into a deep depression!
Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas. ~Paula Poundstone
War does not determine who is right – only who is left.Two men met at a bus stop and struck up a conversation.
One of them kept complaining of family problems.
Finally, the other man said: “You think you have family problems? Listen to my situation:
“A few years ago I met a young widow with a grown-up daughter.
We got married and I got myself a stepdaughter.
Later, my father married my stepdaughter.
That made my stepdaughter, my step-mother.
And my father became my stepson.
Also, my wife became mother-in-law of her father-in-law.
Much later, the daughter of my wife, my stepmother, had a son.
This boy was my half-brother because he was my father’s son.
But he was also the son of my wife’s daughter which made him my wife’s grandson.
That made me the grandfather of my half-brother.
This was nothing until my wife and I had a son.
Now the half-sister of my son, my stepmother, is also the grandmother.
This makes my father, the brother-in-law of my child, whose stepsister is my father’s wife, I am my stepmother’s brother-in-law, my wife is her own child’s aunt, my son is my father’s nephew and I am my OWN GRANDFATHER!”
What We Are Reading
La Maravilla, a fictional story set in the small town of Buckeye, Arizona, is the Administration for Native Americans’ Book Club suggested reading for April 2013. Set back in history before the town had paved roads or other modern-day amenities, Buckeye’s main occupants are mostly day-laborers, Mexicans, Native Americans, African Americans, and Anglo “Okies,” who each bring their own language, religion and perspectives on life to form a community that somehow seems to work.
One of the main characters is a Yaqui grandfather, Manuel, who holds on to his native heritage and strives to pass that identity down to his grandson, despites protests from his Hispanic and stridently-devout Catholic wife, Josephina. In his life, Manuel straddles three different cultures yet is secure in his sense of self and his ability to maintain his linguistic-cultural roots despite all obstacles he encounters:
“Yet for the old man neither Spanish nor English were enough when it came to speaking with his grandson. To say his family was poor would be accurate enough but not really true. In Spanish pobre would be true, but, in his mind, not very accurate. In Yaqui to be kia polove is to be without desire for “things.” There is no concept of “poor” for a noncomparative, communal society. A Yaqui is only poor when he deals with the whites or the Mexicans. When he is forced to pay taxes on land he has always lived on or when the laws of Arizona require that he buy a tombstone, then he is poor. Then he must reach outside his language for the word.”
In developing the relationship with his grandson, the old man provides for him a foundation from which the boy (and later, the grown man) can fully appreciate and draw from his Yaqui ancestry in order to successfully navigate life’s challenges – including the influences of competing cultures. Josephina also later comes to appreciate the indigenous culture, although in her earlier years, she valiantly tries to battle against it and shield her grandson from its influences.
One evening out in the desert, while initiating his grandson, Manuel asserts the validity of the Yaqui perspective, despite how other cultures might try to sway one:
“I will never tell you, boy, that there is only one way to believe. I will never tell you that there is only one way to know about things. But tonight, I will tell you that our way is better…. I’m proud to say it. I can show you much of who you are. I will give you a sight of your own blood so that someday years from now you will not be made anxious by wrong questions and you will not look for answers in the wrong place.”
La Maravilla artfully written by Alfredo Véa, Jr., does a wonderful job of interweaving cultures and characters, and providing thought-provoking answers for life’s questions we may not have yet contemplated!
Brian D.F. Richmond
La Maravilla by Alfredo Véa, Jr. © 1993. Plume Book/Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0-4525-27160-6.
HHS Tribal Affairs Update
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently held the 15th Annual HHS Tribal Budget Consultation here in Washington, DC and the Regional Tribal Consultation sessions throughout Indian Country.
Annual Tribal Budget Consultation
Prior to the consultation, the Department conducted Tribal Resource Day. This annual session, designed to give an overview of the programs, grants, and services HHS provides to Tribes also included an education session on the impacts of the Affordable Care Act on Tribes.
In addition to consultation and tribal resource day, the Department held one-on-one sessions with HHS officials from each of the Operating Divisions and program offices for the second time in as many years. Designed to allow tribal leaders to share their individual Tribe’s health and human service concerns with leadership, the one-on-one sessions were held on Thursday, March 7, 2013 from 8:00 am to Noon.
Regional Tribal Consultation
The dates and locations of each of the regional sessions are listed below:
March 26 – 28, 2013 Phoenix, AZ (Region 9)
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Shadow ANA Staff
February 24th through March 2nd was National Peace Corps Week, an annual event honoring the 250,000 plus Americans who have served in the Peace Corps since it beginning in 1961. Many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) work and have worked for the Administration for Native Americans. Currently, eight RPCVs work for ANA and they have served in a diverse array of countries including Guatemala, Senegal, Bulgaria, Morocco, Burkina Faso, and have worked on health, environment, youth education, and small business development projects. They speak Arabic, Berber, Spanish, Bulgarian, French, Seereer, and Wolof among other languages.
On March 1st ANA once again participated National Peace Corps Week by hosting newly returned volunteers for Take an RPCV to Work Day. This event is designed to encourage RPCVs to visit corporations, federal agencies, nonprofits and other host organizations around the country. It aims to help newly returned volunteers learn more about professional opportunities and build networking connections. Participating organizations benefit from learning about the cultures and traditions of the countries where Volunteers served, while also sharing the mission and values of their organization with the talented, passionate, and resourceful members of the RPCV community.
This year three newly returned volunteers visited ANA. Marlene Riquelme, Danielle Sanni, and Alayna Garvin served in Costa Rica, Lesotho, and Romania respectively. Originally from New Jersey, Chicago, and Seattle these three women have worked with diverse populations and communities both in the US and in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. While at ANA they learned about the work of the Division of Program Operations, Division of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation, the Office of the Commissioner, and Training and Technical Assistance. They learned about ANA’s work with Tribes and Native organizations throughout the United States as well as about Federal Indian Policy and working in Indian Country. Part of their day was spent presenting about their countries of service and projects to the staff of ANA and other RPCVs throughout the Administration for Children and Families. They spoke about women’s empowerment and nurse education in Lesotho, a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS; about working with educators and programs helping the marginalized Roma people of Romania; and helping teach English as a second language to aspiring students and workers in Costa Rica.
The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship. Today, over 250,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries working in issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology to environmental preservation. You will find them in academia; research organizations; local, state and federal governments; nonprofits; international non-governmental organizations; political organizations, and as businesses leaders and educators.To learn more about the Peace Corps visit www.peacecorps.gov
Tribe Marries Same-Sex Couple But State Won't Recognize It
(CNN) -- Gene Barfield and his partner, Tim LaCroix, celebrated their 30th anniversary by getting married.
The pair exchanged vows on a cold but sunny morning at the government headquarters of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
LaCroix is a citizen of the LTBB, a federally recognized Native American tribe.
Violence Against Women Act
On March 7th 2013, President Barack Obama marked a historical and victorious moment for Native American women across Indian Country. Witnessed by Tribal leaders during a ceremony at the Department of the Interior, President Obama signed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), with historic tribal provisions, into law. The reauthorized VAWA recognizes and affirms that tribal courts have jurisdiction over criminal cases brought by tribes against non-members, including non-Indians that arise under VAWA. This is the first time since a 1978 Supreme Court decision that the federal government has recognized tribal courts’ criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. This is particularly important since, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 86 percent of rapes and sexual assaults against Native American women are committed by non-Native American men and, according to the Government Accountability Office, between 2005 and 2009, 67 percent of sexual abuse cases sent to the federal government for prosecution were declined.
Native American and Alaska Native women experience sexual violence at a rate two and half times higher than other women in the United States according to U.S. Department of Justice Report authors Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes. The newly signed law not only provides a legal tool to address violence in Indian Country it affirms tribal courts and tribal sovereignty. In day-to-day terms, the reauthorized VAWA empowers tribes to exercise their sovereign power to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence both Indian/non-Indians on tribal lands. However, Congress’s recognition of tribal criminal jurisdiction comes with significant limitations and preconditions requiring some tribes wishing to take full advantage of VAWA’s jurisdictional provisions to amend their existing tribal codes, hire new judges, and devote resources to pay for public defenders in order to qualify. In addition, there remain limitations on who can be prosecuted in tribal courts, for what crimes, and involving only certain victims.
Under the reauthorized VAWA, tribes can prosecute any type of violence committed by a person who is or has been in “a dating or domestic relationship” with the victim so tribal codes must be clear that the court’s jurisdiction is based on the presence of a “dating or domestic relationship” and not just the commission of the violent act alone. Tribes also can prosecute violations of protection orders that occur in Indian country as long as those protection orders were issued to prevent violent or threatening acts, or to prevent contact, communication or physical proximity with or to the victim.
Tribes can only prosecute VAWA cases against a non-Indian defendant if he or she resides in Indian country, is employed in Indian country, or is the spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner of an Indian living in Indian country or a tribal member. The last category includes former spouses, individuals who share a child in common, and individuals in social relationships of a romantic or intimate nature. Tribal codes should be clear that prosecutors must prove these facts as part of any VAWA case.
Tribes can only use the jurisdictional provisions of VAWA to prosecute crimes against Indian victims. The reauthorized VAWA does not recognize tribal authority to prosecute non-Indians for violent acts against non-Indian victims.
Although VAWA was first enacted in 1994 with bipartisan support, provisions specific to tribes were only recently included through the reauthorization process. On February 28th 2012, the final hurdle was passed when the Senate passed VAWA reauthorization. In addition to recognizing tribes, VAWA now also includes provisions that recognize the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community; and immigrant victims of domestic violence. Additionally, VAWA 2013 supports the work of community-based organizations that are engaged in work to end domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual violence.
Although tribes can issue and enforce civil protection orders now, generally tribes cannot criminally prosecute non-Indian perpetrators until March 7, 2015. However, a tribe may begin prosecuting non-Indians prior to March 7, 2015 if the U.S. Department of Justice determines the tribe’s criminal justice system fully protects defendants’ rights under federal law, the tribe participates in the new pilot project, and the U.S. Department of Justice grants the tribe’s request and sets a starting date. For more information look on the U.S. Department of Justice, Tribal Justice and Safety Homepage.
The outlook for tribal communities and Native American women is encouraging, with the anticipation that tribal communities are to exercise, enforce and determine their own law, while at the same time, offering victims a voice. VAWA 2013 supports self-governance, a stronger sense of community, and will hopefully reduce the number of female victims who encounter violence on the reservation.
The History of Earth Day
Each year, Earth Day is celebrated globally on April 22. Inspired by the student anti-war movement in the late 1960s, Senator Gaylord Nelson organized the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 as a “national teach-in on the environment.” This demonstration drew participants from thousands of colleges, universities, primary and secondary schools, and communities across the U.S., and “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.”
This first Earth Day is widely recognized as marking the beginning of the modern environmental movement. The 1960s was a dynamic time for ecology in the U.S.; increasing grassroots activism and the publication of Rachel Carson’s bestseller Silent Spring in 1962 brought public awareness to the environment and public health. Different groups that had been fighting against issues such as oil spills, toxic dumps, air pollution, and the loss of wildlife realized they all shared common values. This grassroots level response effectively put environmental protection onto the national political agenda.
The first Earth Day and the birth of the modern environmental movement is credited with the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 1970, and the passage of the landmark Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, as well as many other groundbreaking environmental laws.
Environmental groups around the world continue to use Earth Day as a platform to inspire policy and human behavior changes; annual events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection and a healthy, sustainable environment. More than 1 billion people now celebrate Earth Day activities in over 192 countries each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. The April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day by the United Nations in 2009, and is now coordinated by the Earth Day Network. The fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the damaging effects of climate change become more evident every day.
Each decade sees Earth Day celebrated in more countries by more people, tackling issues such as recycling, global warming, clean energy, and climate change. Much like 1970, Earth Day 2013 comes at a time of great challenge for the environmental community: climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, uncompromising politicians, economic downturn, and a divided environmental community all contribute to a strong narrative that overshadows the need for continued progress and change on environmental issues. In spite of these challenges, efforts continue to keep environmental policy on the national and global political agenda.The information for this article was gathered from the Earth Day Network’s webpage, “Earth Day: The History of a Movement” at http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement, and the EPA’s Earth Day website at http://www.epa.gov/earthday/. Please visit these sites for more information on Earth Day and the work these organizations do.
Interior Releases Updated Draft Rule for Hydraulic
Fracturing on Public and Indian Lands for Public Comment
As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to support safe and responsible domestic energy production, the Department of the Interior today announced the release of an updated draft proposal that would establish commonsense safety standards for hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands. Following the release of an initial draft proposal in 2012, Interior received extensive feedback, including over 177,000 public comments that helped inform today’s updated draft proposal. The new proposal maintains important safety standards, improves integration with existing state and tribal standards, and increases flexibility for oil and gas developers. The updated draft proposal will be subject to a new 30-day public comment period.
What Does a Well-Run Tribal Utility Look Like?
Jennifer Wilson posted on April 22, 2013 14:05
The Tribal Utility Governance (TUG) training series is designed to help the managers of tribal water systems better understand how all the pieces of utility management fit together. Like other water systems, tribes often face competing pressures from the public they serve and the government that ultimately makes many decisions.
Effective and sustainable utility management requires that a holistic and long-term view serves as the broader context for short-term decision making. A federal government task force committed to working on tribal infrastructure issues states this goal:
Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation shall be provided through entities that are sustainable and implemented through integrated agency planning that links the development goals of the tribe with the need for such services and infrastructure.
Such a large charge to water and wastewater systems means that heads must come together within the tribe to discuss the financial, managerial and technical issues. It is often the utility manager or another senior operator, who must serve as a leader to balance needs and facilitate understanding of all parties.
To assist with this important communication and education challenge, the task force prepared a short document that outlines commonalities and best practices of sustainable tribal utilities. I'm sure few would disagree that it is often the following recommendation is one of the most challenging:
Day-to-day management and funding for the utility should be isolated from politics, either through an independent utility board (e.g., NTUA, TOUA) which provides oversight and high-level direction, or a separate entity (e.g., ARUC).
However, this reference can serve as the perfect launch point for discussions that initiate baby steps in the right direction.
This article originally appeared at SmallWaterSupply.org on April 22, 2013. It is republished with permission.
Presidential Proclamation – National Foster Care Month, May 2013
NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH, 2013
As a Nation, we have no task more important than ensuring our children grow up healthy and safe. It is a promise we owe to the hundreds of thousands of youth in foster care -- boys and girls who too often go without the love, protection, and stability of a permanent family. This month, we recommit to giving them that critical support, and we recognize the foster parents and professionals who work every day to lift up the children in their care toward a bright, productive future.
May 2013 Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month
For the 2013 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center cordially invite you or your organization to participate in a national observance of this event. The theme of this year’s Heritage Month is “I Want the Wide American Earth,” chosen by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center to highlight the poem by acclaimed Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan.
This year’s AAPI Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of millions of AAPIs to the American story and reminds us of the unique and emerging challenges facing AAPIs as they continue to embrace the American dream. Like Bulosan’s poem, the AAPI community is aspirational, unwavering in its belief in the promise of America for all. As Bulosan so eloquently writes:
Environmental Justice at HHS
Environmental Justice (EJ) is defined as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Executive Order 12898 requires each federal agency to “make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low‐income populations.” The Executive Order also states that “each federal agency responsibility set forth under this order shall apply equally to Native American programs.”
In response to the Executive Order, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) vision for EJ is: “A nation that equitably promotes healthy community environments and protects the health of all people.” In 2012, HHS developed an EJ strategy, which provides direction for the Department to make achieving EJ a part of its mission by: (1) identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects on low‐income populations and Indian Tribes; and (2) encouraging the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of affected parties with the goal of building healthy, resilient communities and reducing disparities in health and well‐being associated with environmental factors.
The 2012 HHS Environmental Justice Strategy and Implementation Plan (HHS EJ Strategy) provides clear goals, strategies, and actions to address EJ in minority and low-income populations and Indian Tribes. The plan is organized into four interrelated strategic elements: Policy Development and Dissemination; Education and Training; Research and Data Collection, Analysis, and Utilization; and Services.
In May 2013, ANA had the opportunity to present an update to the HHS EJ Leadership Advisory Group on its work under the Services action item of the HHS EJ Strategy, specifically “to expand funding opportunities to underserved communities for economic development and social services.” In 2012, ANA provided funding to support 186 new and continuing projects divided among three main funding program areas: Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS), Native Languages (which includes Esther Martinez Act funding for language immersion), and Environmental Regulatory Enhancement (ERE). ANA’s 2012 grant portfolio included 111 SEDS grants, 63 language grants, and 12 ERE grants.
While the ERE program most directly addresses environmental issues, including EJ, all of ANA’s funding areas help Native communities establish and maintain healthy environments that protect the cultural, economic, and social health of their people. For example, current and past language grantees report that when people learn their Native language, they often experience increased self-esteem and a stronger connection to their culture. For youth especially, this can translate to improved performance in school, more responsible choices and behaviors, and an overall improvement in social indicators. Similarly, SEDS grants encompass a wide variety of projects, from Tribal governance to strengthening families. Increasing Tribal sovereignty through governance projects allows for more meaningful involvement of Tribes and their members in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws and policies, while strong family relationships are vital to the social well-being of Native communities. Similarly, economic health provides a foundation for communities to make environmentally responsible decisions; when a community is facing conditions of poverty or economic disparity, it is often difficult to address the long-term health of the environment and people because short-term needs are not being met.
In 2012, ANA also offered a total of 50 free training courses for more than 200 different Tribes and nonprofits; data shows applicants who participated in the training were more successful in attaining ANA grants. Additionally, ANA’s regional technical assistance centers hosted 34 monthly webinars for 630 participants on a variety of issues identified by Native communities such as financial management, Native asset building, grant writing, and strategic planning. This type of capacity building further supports ANA grantees in protecting the health of their communities and the environment.To further expand social and economic development funding opportunities for Native communities, the ANA Commissioner has proposed a new funding opportunity announcement for 2013 under SEDS that will target 5-year projects seeking to implement economic development strategies that focus on sustainable employment and business opportunities in Native American communities.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)—Why it Matters
By Camille Loya
Put simply, the Federal government enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) 35 years ago to address and to prevent abuse and harm caused by state-sponsored or authorized removal of Indian children from their families and their tribes. In enacting ICWA in 1978 Congress made the following specific findings of fact:
(1) that clause 3, section 8, article I of the United States Constitution provides that ''The Congress shall have Power * * * To regulate Commerce * * * with Indian tribes '' and, through this and other constitutional authority, Congress has plenary power over Indian affairs;
(2) that Congress, through statutes, treaties, and the general course of dealing with Indian tribes, has assumed the responsibility for the protection and preservation of Indian tribes and their resources;
(3) that there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe;
(4) that an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions; and
(5) that the States, exercising their recognized jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings through administrative and judicial bodies, have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.
Against this backdrop, ICWA established minimum federal jurisdictional, procedural and substantive standards intended to accomplish two things: protecting the right of an Indian child to live with an Indian family AND to stabilize and ensure the continued existence of Indian tribes. When ICWA applies to an Indian child’s case, the child’s tribe and family are required as a matter of legal right to have an opportunity to be involved in decisions affecting services for the child. A tribe or a parent can also petition to transfer jurisdiction of the case to their own tribal court. ICWA sets out federal requirements regarding removal and placement of Indian children in foster or adoptive homes and allows the child’s tribe to intervene in such cases.
At the time ICWA was enacted Indian children faced a disproportionately high risk of removal from their homes, families, and tribal communities. Most of these children ended up in non-Native homes leading to the break-up of Indian families and, ultimately, to the loss of future tribal members. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, this situation remains largely true today. It remains an absolute that “there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe.” That is why ICWA matters so much and its enforcement is a matter of honor.There are many sources of information about ICWA and ICWA practice. A good place to start is the Native American Rights Fund’s A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act which can be downloaded for research or educational use at http://www.narf.org/icwa/print.htm or purchased for a nominal fee at https://secure2.convio.net/narf/site/Ecommerce?ecommerce=store_list&a...
ANA’s Commissioner Meets with Indigenous Representatives from Brazil
ANA recently hosted a delegation from indigenous communities from Brazil. The delegation met with Commissioner Sparks, Courtney Roy, and Michelle Sauve. They were here as part of the United States U.S. Department of State’s International Visitors Program. The delegation will visit different agencies and organizations in the U.S. as part of an experiential learning curriculum entitled, “21st Century Indigenous Societies and Cultures/A Project for Brazil”.
During the visit to ANA, Mr. Marcelo De Jesus Kiriri, Chief of the Kiriri Indigenous Tribe, Mr. Agostiniho Eibajiwu, Curator of the Community Museum and Bororo Cultural Center of Meruri, Mr. Almires Guarani, President of the Indigenous Association Atygua, Jaguarapiru Village, and Mr. Urariwe Surui, Regional Coordinator, National Indigenous Foundation shared with Commissioner Sparks the challenges indigenous communities in Brazil are facing, including “hidden” Tribes who shun contact with urbanized parts of the country, as a self preservation tactic, yet face encroachment, violence, and environmental devastation at the hands of corporations who want their natural resources.
The delegation shared that there are over 320 ethnic groups, 51 linguistic groups, and 186 languages spoken in Brazil, including the 100 or so “hidden” Tribes. They had many questions for the Commissioner about sovereignty and self-governance, as the current status of the indigenous peoples in Brazil is not government-to-government, as it is in the United States. It is only since 1988 indigenous groups were considered persons with legal standing constitutionally in Brazil. They are hoping the “free, prior, and informed consent” outlined in the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will one day be enforced for the Tribes in Brazil. Right now they are using Facebook and social media to inform the public about the human rights and other abuses the people are facing. They likened this to their version of the “Arab Spring,” where every day citizens used the power of social media to generate public support for their cause.
Gathering of Two Spirit People
By Harlan Pruden, Director and Co-Founder, NorthEast Two-Spirit Society
“We know there are LGBT people all over the world. We can go out to a bar anytime we want to be around LGBT community. But when you go to Gatherings, you know that there are others who smudges, there are others who offer a spirit plate and make sure elders eat first at meals, that prays like I pray, that dances like I dance, that sings these songs. Gatherings allow spirit to soar.”
--Joey Criddle, Jicarilla Apache
Currently, there are sixteen (16) Two-Spirit organizations in the country that make up membership of National Confederacy of Two-Spirit Organizations. These organizations work with the Two-Spirit community, an often overlooked and marginalized sub-population of the Native and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities. The work of these organizations is a holistic and culturally appropriate approach that promotes individual and community health and well-being. At the heart of this work is union of an individual’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self. This unification is often only found at one of the Two-Spirit Gatherings held around the country.
Gatherings are safe, supportive and alcohol/drug free forums for Two-Spirit people to explore, heal, experience and share a place within a cultural setting that is affirming and nurturing of their Two-Spirit identity, culture and traditions. Gatherings also provide an opportunity to span the generations and celebrate the talented youth and elders from all over the United States and Canada so there is an exchange of knowledge and teachings. This is often some of the only opportunities where Two-Spirit people build lasting connections and friendship to end isolation and for the Two-Spirit leadership to meet in-person to discuss the future direction of the National Two-Spirit movement. Gatherings also provide an opportunity for health and well-being educational workshops to be offered and at some Gatherings, host organizations have offered HIV/AIDS testing to all participants. Gatherings also strengthen and increase the capacity of host organizations.
This April 19-23, 2013 was the 20th annual Tulsa Two-Spirit Gathering held at the Osage State Park, located an hour north of Tulsa, Oklahoma, May 24-26, 2013 was the 2nd annual Two Spirit Gathering in Indian Canyon, located hour and half south of San Jose, California. This July 18-21, 2013 is the date of the 16th annual Montana Two Spirit Gathering being held in Wolf Creek, Montana, about a 40 minute drive north of Helena, Montana. The NorthEast Two-Spirit Society (“NE2SS”) is honored to be hosting this year’s 25th International Two-Spirit Gathering in the great State of New York this September 18- 23, 2013 at Camp deWolfe in Wading River, New York, about an hour and half drive east of New York City on Long Island. The theme for this year’s International Gathering is: Celebrating 25 Years of Resilience, Healing & Restoring Honor.
Gatherings serve as a platform for the learning and sharing, either in structured workshops or informally, promoting the reclamation and restoration of the Two-Spirit role to rightful place of honor in their respective communities. There is marked difference non-Native LGBT community and the Two-Spirit community when it comes identity.
Both Native and non-Native LGBT individuals have a shared experience with the “coming out” process which is typically a declaration of an independent identity: an LGBT person musters their courage and, anticipating conflict, announces their sexuality to a friend or family member - at the risk of being met with anger, resistance, violence or flat-out rejection or abandonment.
Dr. Alex Wilson of the University of Saskatchewan notes that unlike the non-Native LGBT community, for Two-Spirit individuals there is:
… a final step in the development of their identities as Two-Spirit people, group members recognized that, rather than trying to squeeze into someone else’s established identity, they needed an identity that fit who they were. Two-Spirit identity fits their distinct cultures, histories and ways of being. Unlike mainstream ‘coming out’ stories, in which an LGBT person typically announces and asserts their individual right to be who they are, the narratives of these two-spirit people describe a process of ‘coming in’ and affirming an interdependent identity. ‘Coming in’ is not a declaration or an announcement; it is simply presenting oneself and being fully present as an Aboriginal person who is GLBT.
Two-spirit identity is an empowered identity that integrates their sexuality, culture, gender and all other aspects of who they understand and know themselves to be. By coming into their identity as two-spirit people, they acknowledged their place and value in their own families, communities, cultures, history and present-day world.
Though encompassing a range of identities commonly referred to in the broader society as “LGBTI”, the Two-Spirit tradition is primarily a question of gender, not sexual orientation. Sexual orientation describes the relationship a person of one gender has with another gendered person. Gender describes an individual’s expected role within a community.
Within traditional Native communities, there was an expectation that women farmed/gathered food and cooked; men hunted big game. Although there was division of labor along gender lines, there was no gender-role hierarchy. Within the Native social construct of gender, a community could not survive without both of the equal halves of a whole. The Native commitment to gender equality opened the door for the possibility of multiple genders, without the idea that a man was taking on a lesser gender by placing himself in a women’s role and visa-versa for Two-Spirit women.
Traditional Roles of Two Spirit People
Their proficiency in mediation often included their work as communicators between the seen (physical) and un-seen (spiritual) worlds. Many of the great visionaries, dreamers, shamans, or medicine givers were Two-Spirit people. In some traditions, a war party could not be dispatched until their Two-Spirit person consulted the spirits of the un-seen world and then gave their blessings. In the Sioux tradition, before any war party’s departure, the party preformed a dance with the Two-Spirit person at the center of the circle to show their respect and honor.
It is traditional to present gifts at gatherings to those who exemplify the “spirit” of the community or who have done the most for the community. Two-Spirit people were respected and honored with gifts when they attended gatherings. They did not keep the gifts, but passed them on to spread the wealth. In this respect, Two-Spirit people were similar to modern day social workers.
When a family was not properly raising their children, the Two-Spirit person would intervene and assume the responsibly as the primary caretaker. Sometimes, families would ask the Two-Spirit people for help rearing their children. This unique role of social worker was specific to Two-Spirit people, for they had an excess of material wealth as a result of the gifts they received.
Theodore de Bry’s “Pizarro suelta los perros” - The dogs of Vasco Nunez de Balboa attacking the gay Native People of Panama
The existence of Two-Spirit people challenges the rigid binary view of the world of the North American colonizers and missionaries, not just of a binary gender system, but their entire binary system of “this or that”. The Two-Spirit’s mere existence threatened the colonizers’ core beliefs and the backlash was violent. Theodore de Bry, a 16th c. artist, painted the horrific image of the dogs of Captain Vasco Nunez de Balboa, a Spanish conquistador, being unleashed on the male-bodied Two-Spirit people from modern day Panama. Word of this brutal treatment spread quickly from Nation to Nation. Many Nations decided to take actions to protect their honored and valued Two-Spirit people. Some Nations hid them by asking them to replace their dress, a mixture of men and women’s clothing, with the attire of their biological sex. After years of colonization, some of those very same nations converted to a Western religion that did not accept traditional spirituality and community structures and forgot about and even denied ever having a tradition that celebrated and honored their Two-Spirit people.
Legacy of Colonization
Native populations also regularly deal with health and social issues that make it hard to address problems and issues. These include the legacies of contact and colonization, homophobia and racism in schools and institutional settings, discrimination, poor communication, forced (often without any consent) sterilization of Native women, and lack of adequate funding. Stereotypes and stigma due to lack of tribal affiliation often hinder access to services, which can create negative impressions about NA/AN. Other issues, such as language and culture, gender identity, and culturally based holistic treatment, are also important to trying to address the well-being of this community.
As a colonized population, NA/AN have a long history of mistrust of the government, medical institutions, and service organizations. Native Peoples have endured such traumas as removal from traditional homelands, divided nations, loss of language and culture through forced enrollment of children in boarding schools, rape, disease, etc. This history continues to influence today’s generation of NA/AN.
Remembering and Honoring Our Traditions
There was a time not that long ago when the Two-Spirit identity and community was not included by both the LGBT community and the Native community. This omission resulted in no data being collected on the Two-Spirit community. With no data, it was nearly impossible to apply for any grants because Two-Spirit leaders could not ‘document’ or ‘validate’ what they knew what was going on in their community. However, these obstacles are beginning to be overcome and now there are two main data sets on Two-Sprit health.
One of these data sets is the State of New York’s Department of Health statewide Two-Spirit needs assessment, “Reclaiming Our Voices: Two Spirit Health & Human Service Needs in New York State.” The other, with the support and funding of the National Institute of Mental Health, is Dr. Karina Walters’ five-year, multi-site health survey of Two-Spirit Native Americans, the Honor Project. This survey is still yielding much of the data for the Two-Spirit community. The Honor Project survey showed that about a third of all transgender Two-Spirit respondents, as well as respondents that identified as male-embodied men who have sex with male-embodied men (MSM), self-reported living with HIV. These rates of infection are similar to sub-Saharan Africa as well as to those among African American MSM, a community in which there is a declared AIDS crisis.
With the support from University of Iowa’s Prairielands’ Addition Technology Transfer Center, ATTC, (now the National Native American and Alaskan Native ATTC), assisted with the dissemination of the training, "Two-Spirit Then and Now: Reclaiming Our Place of Honor.” This training was developed for behavioral health, mental health, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS care providers to work more effectively with Two-Spirit people. Both Native and non-Native participants are given an opportunity to look at and discuss how historical trauma led to the dissolution of the role and the displacement of Two-Spirit people from within their Nations and native communities. The connection between the displacement of Two-Spirit people from their heritage, and who routinely experience stigma and discrimination in both in both Native and mainstream society, is presented and discussed in terms of the impact on their health and mental health risks, health disparities, and recovery support needs. For more information on this training email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since September 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Native American Center for Excellence, a national resource to address issues related to substance abuse prevention and behavioral health in Native American communities, has been hosting monthly topical Two-Spirit webinars.
Another success for the Two-Spirit community this year was in the Center for Disease Control’s recently released “Fact Sheet for HIV among American Indians and Alaska Natives” in the section titled, “Prevention Challenges” states the following: “NA/AN gay and bisexual or “two-spirit” men may face culturally based stigma and confidentiality issues that may limit opportunities for education and HIV testing, especially among those who live in rural communities or on reservations.”
Two-Spirit people are a part of the fabric of this land, and we stand here today as a testament of our collective strength and fortitude. By remembering and honoring the traditional place of Two-Spirit people in our communities, we have greater potential for effective prevention and treatment options.
For more information or to make a donation for the 25th International Two-Spirit Gathering, email the planning committee at email@example.com.
Harlan Pruden (First Nations Nehiyawewin/Cree) is an enrolled member of the Goodfish Lake Band of the Saddle Lake Indian Reservation located in Northeast Alberta, Canada, and since 1994 has called New York home. Harlan is the Director and Co-Founder of the NorthEast Two Spirit Society based in NYC and works organize the Two-Spirit (LGBT Native) community. After committing himself to sobriety 26 years ago, Harlan was the first person in his family to attend college and now devotes his life to First Nations community organizing and be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646.351.7360
Meet White House Champion of Change from the Quinault Indian Nation
Posted by Edward Johnstone on April 30, 2013 at 01:10 PM EDT
I am a Fisheries Policy Representative for the Quinault Indian Nation, a land of cliff-lined beaches on the Pacific Ocean, evergreen forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains. We fish the same waters and hunt the same lands our ancestors did thousands of years before people from other parts of the world ever came here. We meld our traditions and legacies with technological innovations and provide new opportunities for our hard-working people; however, we always maintain environmental stewardship and sustainability at the forefront of our priorities and spiritual connection.
The Quinault Nation seeks every opportunity to merge our efforts with those of other governments as well as other people from all walks of life as long as they demonstrate respect for our history, our sovereignty and our land, our treaty-protected rights, and the rights of future generations to inherit a healthy world. Economic prosperity and gainful employment are congruent with these things, as long as care, cultural sensitivity, and wise, long term decision-making are the primary considerations in management planning and implementation. Because of this, I gladly accept the honor of being named a “Champion of Change” because – as you know- change is mandatory.
It is important for other Americans to understand the perspective of Native Americans—to learn from it and hopefully adopt elements of it in their own lives. We have lived here a very long time. Survival and adaptation are concepts we Indians know very well. We breathe the same air and walk on the same land as other Americans. We drink the same water. We share a common future. In the long run, humanity will either prosper, or perish, together. Climate change is a major anthropogenic environmental concern, which affects Tribes directly. It has already had major impacts on our lands, causing massive fish kills and transmigrations through hypoxia and ocean-warming, intensified storms and flooding, glacial melting and expanded droughts, eroded beaches and invasive species.
Quinault Nation and other indigenous nations have been responding to climate change for years, and the need to support us in our efforts as well as work with us in a team effort to deal with this issue, as effectively as possible, is absolute. I was proud to be the co-chair of a non-profit organization which presented a major climate change summit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC this past summer, and which will continue to bring indigenous people for the U.S. and American territories together over climate issues in the years to come. I am currently treasurer of First Stewards. For more information on this program, please visit our website at www.firststewards.org.
I have worked in the timber and fishing industries of the Quinault Indian Nation most of my life. I am a two-term Quinault Councilman, serving from 1996-2002, and serve as treasurer of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. I also chair the Intergovernmental Policy Council, a forum of tribal and state co-managers of the ocean area that includes the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Edward Johnstone serves as the Quinault Indian Nation Policy Spokesperson on all issues regarding ocean policy and treaty fishing rights
Read the full press release: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/NOS_StLawrenceNRDA.pdf
Mississippi River Water Walk
A staff member of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a 2012 ANA SEDS grantee for “Return to First Medicines Project,” is an organizer of the 2013 Mississippi Water Walkers. Sharon Day, a 60 year old soft-spoken Ojibwe woman, joined by community members, has been walking and carrying a copper pail of water from Lake Itasca, the birth place of the Mississippi River, down to where the Mississippi River meets to the Gulf of Mexico to raise awareness about clean water. “This walk is a prayer,” Day says. “Every step we take we are praying for and thinking of the water. We carry the water and an eagle staff. We start at sunrise and end at sundown each day. Every four days, we hold ceremony. This is our life until we get to the Gulf of Mexico.”
A group of Indigenous Women will carry a copper pail of water from the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota to the place where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.
The women walkers and supporters left Lake Itasca State Park on March 1 following a traditional Ojibwe water ceremony at 7:00 am and will continue walking each and every day until they reach the Gulf near New Orleans on or around April 29th.
The Water Walkers will draw attention to the peril the river faces due to pollution. The Mississippi River is the second most polluted river in the United States. Toxic chemicals from municipalities, farms and corporations are taking their toll on the river. By the time a drop of water reaches the “dead zones” near the mouth of the river, the water is nearly depleted of oxygen. We can stop this and the walkers intend to educate people along the way as to what they can do.
“We want the walk to be a prayer,” Day says. “Every step we take we will be praying for and thinking of the water. The water has given us life and now, we will support the water.”
To learn more or participate: Join the Mississippi River Water Walk 2013 Facebook Group: Mississippi River Water Walk
OHA Received Grant to Study Kaka'ako Lands
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is receiving $400,000 in federal grants to look for the presence of petroleum and hazardous substances on several Kaka'ako land parcels it received from the state to settle a ceded land claims.
Public, Environment to Benefit from $20.3 Million from Two Settlements
for Natural Resource Damage in St. Lawrence River Area
The federal government, the State of New York, and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe have announced a $19.4 million settlement with Alcoa Inc. and Reynolds Metals Company for injuries to natural resources, recreational fishing, and Mohawk culture resulting from the release of hazardous substances into the St. Lawrence River environment since at least the late 1950s.
“This innovative settlement will restore resources that have been essential to the Mohawk community of Akwesasne for countless years, but that suffered in the twentieth century from decades of toxic contamination that degraded natural resources used for traditional cultural practices,” said U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno. “That’s why some of the funds will support traditional Mohawk cultural and language programs, youth programs, and other efforts that support health, healing, and nutrition.”
Read the full press release: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/NOS_StLawrenceNRDA.pdf
Tuscarora Migration Project
The Tuscarora Migration Project 2013 is a 70-day relay style event to commemorate the 300-year remembrance of our Tuscarora Migration home, covering 1,300 miles. Our team of indigenous youth and their supportive brothers and sisters will cross through six states starting from Fort Nooherooka in Snow Hill, North Carolina to our Tuscarora Nation in Lewiston, New York. Along the way we will pass through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. The event will wrap up at our finish line party, June 1, 2013, where we will celebrate our 1,300 mile accomplishment with free music and food.
2013 Migration Project Slogan: Çwèø Nęyaøkwanawę:rih or Still, we are stirring about.
Pronounced “jwent, neh-yaw-kwah naw-weh’-rih.” The Migration project Slogan was borrowed from the Tuscarora Indian School 2012 yearbook. The school language program consulted with language experts to confirm this was a common phrase used by old Haudenosaunee speakers to remind people of indigenous resiliency and resistance through time.
Goals: Our three priorities are global messages that we will tell through our Tuscarora/Haudenosaunee lenses with an emphasis on our beliefs and culture.
Cultural Survival: The Migration slogan might create a mental image of two friends walking down a wooded path, or maybe a large social, with family and friends dancing. Çwèø Nęyaøkwanawę:rih characterizes the resiliency of the Haudenosaunee people who are still moving about, still picking berries, still planting, still braiding corn, still hunting, still building, still raising families.
Considering the historical hardships the Tuscarora Nation has faced over the last 500 years, it is remarkable there are still Tuscarora people stirring about. The loss of land, water, forest, language, culture, ceremony, and overt attempts by European immigrants to colonize Tuscarora has undoubtedly resulted in changes to the way in which they “stir about.”
Human Powered Movement: While traditional knowledge and practice might have saved Tuscarora from extinction, most of North America’s original people did not survive. Scientists across the world are interested in why indigenous people have been able to adapt and survive in historical times, and how they plan on surviving future changes in their environments, especially shifts in climate patterns.
People, plants, and animals living may lose ground to rising sea levels caused by melting ice under these shifts. Other regions may face drastic changes in precipitation and temperature. When global weather patterns create changes in the lands and waters, plants and animals may need to move and find suitable habitat. Large-scale migrations, which also occurred during the European colonization of North America, are predicted under current climate change models. Oren Lyons, Onondaga Faithkeeper and Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF) Co-Chair, has said people should start thinking now about higher ground and access to fresh water.
Imagine the Karuk without salmon, the Annisnabe without moose, or the Haudenosaunee without the sugar maple! These are now all possible due to anthropogenic climate change. Scientists claim once CO2 levels stay above 350 parts per million in the upper atmosphere, the Earth will reach a tipping point that will result in irreversible catastrophic effects1. In 2010, transportation contributed approximately 27 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Transportation is also the largest end-use source of greenhouse gases, and accounts for 45 percent of the net increase in total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 1990-20102. Today, most Haudenosaunee People rely on personal automobiles for transportation. The way in which Haudenosaunee People are stirring about may be threatening our own survival and causing another migration. What can we do?
RE-ENACT a human-powered migration. Celebrate cultural survival and indigenous knowledge by walking, running, and paddling 1,300 miles from the Carolinas to the Great Lakes under your own power. The re-enactment helps remind people that extinction can be prevented if people live simply, moving about the Earth slower and wiser. All people need to stir about is found here on Mother Earth.
RE-CONNECT with the natural world. Participants will forge new relationships with the aboriginal territory of the Haudenosaunee using indigenous forms of travel. Migration participants will be using applied research techniques to prepare eco-cultural reports from the field, describing the current status of cultural and historic sites, natural histories of plants and animals encountered on the trail, environmental protection and planning updates from communities along the way, and foraging techniques that may hold promise for future bio-economies.
For more information about the Project, please visit the website at http://tuscaroramigration.org, or the facebook page “2013 Tuscarora Migration Project”.
One of ANA’s Grantees makes Harvard’s Top 25 Programs
for Innovations in Government
Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council