By Jim Kent
The families of 17 Standing Rock Sioux veterans are receiving Congressional Gold Medals in honor of the men’s service as code talkers during World War I. The men were among those fighting in the trenches along the Western Front in France seven years before Native Americans were granted citizenship by the United States government. Standing Rock Sioux Veterans Service Officer Manaja Hill says the tribe’s World War One code talkers served to defend their people and ancestral lands.
“Their commitment and their willingness to fight for, truly, our way of life, and our land, their families, their relatives,” Hill said. “Truly that’s what it was because there was none of this patriotic stuff that goes on now. We weren’t citizens. They weren’t citizens. What they fought for was what they believed in and that came from the heart. It can’t come from anywhere else.”
Hill also adds that for the Lakota, it was less a matter of talking in code than of simply speaking their own language to each other..
“During this period of time I think very few of our ancestors knew the English language,” he said. “The people who were listening – even on our side – couldn’t understand what they were saying. So I think the term code talker is misinterpreted to a large degree because our ancestors didn’t know how to speak English.”
The Standing Rock Sioux was among nearly three dozen tribes that used their Native languages as an unbreakable code to communicate vital information during World Wars One and Two. The code talkers were often not recognized at the time and for decades after because the strategy was classified. The program that used Navajo speakers during World War II was among the first to go public. They were honored by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and their story was popularized in the fictionalized 2002 film The Wind Talkers.
The Standing Rock code talkers were first honored by Congress in 2008. In all, 63 Standing Rock Sioux veterans were awarded Congressional Gold Medals.
By Lee Strubinger
Following the massive, months-long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, lawmakers in South Dakota enacted laws curtailing protests in that state. The legislation is in anticipation of demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Now that it’s in effect, the bill stiffens penalties for protesters, expressly restricts blocking highways, and allows the governor to establish temporary ‘safe zones’ where access is limited.
The law went into effect immediately after the governor’s signature because of an emergency clause included in the language. That language initially hampered progress of the bill as it worked through the legislature. State Democrats opposed it, and conservative Republicans viewed it as a power grab by the governor.
Some House Democrats, like Representative Dan Ahlers, changed their stance after public safety officials briefed them on potential actions against the Keystone XL pipeline.
“I talked to our local sheriff and collected a little more info and data and decided I wanted to hedge on the side of safety and continue to work,” Ahlers said. “Hopefully with this letter from the governor to the tribes, to get them together and meet, maybe we can mend a few fences there too.” Ahlers wouldn’t comment on what information he received.
Other Democrats didn’t budge. Representative Shawn Bordeaux represents portions of the Rosebud reservation.
“I think what we’re doing is sending a message to the tribes that we don’t care what they think,” he said.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard sent letters to all nine tribes in the state encouraging communication on how to handle looming pipeline protests.
Authorities name a suspect in the fatal shooting of a Navajo Nation police officer
A federal appeals court rejects claims that a California tribe denied members land access and casino revenues
Native organizations work with Congress and the Trump administration to advance Indian Country
The appointment of Ryan Zinke as U.S. Interior Secretary has landless Montana tribe optimistic about federal recognition
Tribes opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline continue their legal fight
South Dakota lawmakers approve an emergency measure to restrict protests
Business leaders want to modernize regulations to boost economic development
A suspect is in custody after the fatal shooting of a Navajo Nation police officer
Indigenous activists promise continued vigilance in protesting oil and gas pipelines after Friday’s rally in Washington, D.C.
A Palm Springs tribe won a water rights victory in an appeals court
A new campaign by Amnesty International seeks to defend the human rights of peaceful protesters
by Aaron Bolton
The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency could total $2 billion, putting 3,000 people out of work nationwide, according to the Washington Post and other news sources. Eighteen Southeast Alaska tribes who use the EPA’s Indian General Assistance Program could also see steep cuts in funding as a result. President Donald Trump’s proposal, intended to boost the defense budget, would slash the program’s $65-million funding by 29 percent.
According to an EPA press release, Region 10, which includes Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska, received $32 million for the program in 2016.
Those funds go towards tribal projects such as stream restoration, solid waste disposal, ocean acidification prevention and paralytic shellfish poisoning monitoring throughout the region.
Hydaburg Cooperative Association Environmental Coordinator Anthony Christensen says the cuts would eliminate about four year-round jobs within his tribe. Christensen, who is also in charge of obtaining additional grants for the tribe, added 10 to 15 seasonal jobs could also be lost.
“That’s my job. You take me out of the equation, that puts us in a tough position. Because I’m core to six other grants, sort of capacity building – if I’m unable to do that, the domino effect starts.”
Trump’s budget is not final. The EPA declined to comment for this story.
Law enforcement officials declare the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota closed
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe refutes claims by the Trump administration
Legal fights continue against the Dakota Access Pipeline
By National Native News staff
Law enforcement officers arrested at least 10 people Wednesday (2/22) during a short confrontation with those left in the former Oceti Sakowin camp on federal land in North Dakota. Officers moved in again Thursday morning to clear remaining inhabitants and start the process to clean structures and debris off the land.
Most of the remaining protesters—about 150 people—marched out of the camp accompanied by singing, drumming and prayers before the 2 p.m. deadline. Among those leaving was Dan Nanamkin (Nez Perse Umatilla and Lakes Okanogan). He had been at the camp since September. He said it was a heartbreaking decision.
“We decided among ourselves, if we were to be peacefully removed, we were going to do so with dignity, we are going to leave with dignity and in a respectful, prayerful way,” Nanamkin said. “So we could have our heads help up high in regards that we did the best that we could and there’s no shame in leaving. So we took care of ourselves in that way.” He said he has set up for now at the nearby Eagle Nest camp and is deciding whether to stay on.
Those leaving the camp set fire to as many as 20 structures, reportedly for ceremonial reasons. The Morton County Sheriff’s office reports two people were treated at the hospital for burns although it’s still unclear how those happened. A large contingent of officers in riot gear moved in about two hours after the 2 p.m. Wednesday deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota officials passed. The officers repeatedly rushed a group of protesters, grabbed selected people, then retreated.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum said those remaining had another chance to leave Thursday without risk of arrest. State officials said clean-up would continue and anyone interfering would be arrested.
North Dakota officials offered meals, short-term lodging, medical exams and even bus tickets for protesters who left by Wednesday afternoon. Officials say only four people made use of the services.
Construction on the pipeline has already resumed. Pipeline backers say oil could be flowing as early as March 6th.