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Tribes and 113th Congress

Crow Nation Code Talkers were honored Thursday, December 4, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Family members were presented the Congressional Gold Medal. Crow Nation Chairman Darrin Old Coyote shakes hands with U.S. Senator Jon Tester at the U.S. Senate on Thursday, December 4, 2014. (Photos-Office of U.S. Senator Jon Tester)

Crow Nation Chairman Darrin Old Coyote shakes hands with U.S. Senator Jon Tester at the U.S. Senate December 4, 2014. (Photo-Office of U.S. Senator Jon Tester)

By Matt Laslo

The 113th Congress was unmemorable, as it’s the second least productive Congress since the 1940s. Lawmakers may be remembered for shutting down the government, which cost the economy some $24 billion. That was a 2013 battle, but things didn’t improve much in 2014, according to some lawmakers.

Congressional allies of Native Americans won an end of year battle to help send more money to Indian Country.The spending bill to keep the government funded past December includes a record $430 million to implement the Violence Against Women Act.

Washington was also consumed by the debate over the name of the football team in the nation’s capital.The Washington Post editorial board decided to no longer call the team by its name and the U.S. Patent Office revoked the team’s numerous trademarks. The team is appealing the decision, which Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said “this is not the end of this case, but this is a landmark decision by the patent office.”  It remains a divisive issue in Washington. Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch argues fans of the Washington football team admire Native Americans. “If you look at their symbol it’s a proud Indian chieftain and there’s no intent to malign anybody,” said Hatch.

Washington also witnessed protests in 2014 over the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would deliver tar sand oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Tribes say the project would hurt sacred lands. That’s why Cyril Scott, President of Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, joined dozens of other Native leaders from across the U.S. in peacefully protesting the project on the National Mall.  “This land is not ours. We have borrowed it from future generations. So we need to leave it just as we found it or as close as we could,” said Scott.

In 2014, Diane Humetewa was appointed as the nation’s first female Native American to serve as a federal judge for the District of Arizona. U.S. Senators also appointed the first ever Native American to serve at an ambassador-level rank. Maryland attorney Keith Harper was confirmed as a representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council.