A former employee of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana pled guilty to stealing nearly $80,000 from the tribe.
Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton reports.
Federal prosecutors say former Blackfeet Operations Manager James McNeely admitted to stealing COVID relief funds.
Prosecutors say McNeely submitted fraudulent reimbursement requests to tribal officials for COVID-19 supplies on Amazon, but never actually purchased anything.
McNeely faces up to ten years in prison.
His sentencing is scheduled in June.
A bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation/D-KS) and Eli Crane (R-AZ) to support Native entrepreneurs has passed the House Committee on Small Business with bipartisan support.
The legislation is intended to enhance the Small Business Administration’s Office of Native American Affairs.
Rep. Davids says small businesses are the heartbeat of tribal communities and economy.
She spoke Wednesday during a committee markup.
“The SBA currently lacks congressional mandate for this office limiting the capacity for the office to do the work it needs to do and leaves it vulnerable to challenges or changes to one administration to the next.”
The legislation would codify the office into federal law, establishing an administrator role to oversee operations in order to create a better government-to-government relationship with tribes.
Enhancements include being able to expand its grant-making ability, provide training, counseling, and technical assistance.
Since October of last year, Anchorage, Alaska, has been visited by a rare, feathered celebrity – a white raven.
The bird is not an albino, but leucistic, which means it has a gene that causes a loss of pigmentation. It also has blue eyes.
Almost every day you can find new photos of White Raven on the page aloft with its feathers, translucent through the light, and at play with another raven in the snow.
The photos that have caught the eye of Meda DeWitt, a Lingít healer who works with medicinal plants.
She says she first heard about White Raven years ago from another traditional healer, the late Rita Blumenstein, a Yup’ik from Southwest Alaska, known as Grandma Rita – trained by her elders from childhood to ease pain and suffering.
“This is one of the stories that she would tell that brought hope. She would say, ‘We will see a White Raven and that’s when we’ll know that humanity as a whole, and not just Alaska Native people, is shifting towards one of peace.’”
DeWitt says it’s a prophecy Grandma Rita heard from her elders.
She says not to forget that raven is also a trickster.
Her uncle tells a story about how Raven wanted to bring mankind fresh water to drink, so he stole a bucket from a chief’s house.
Soot blackened his feathers as he escaped through a smoke hole.
In another version, Raven steals the sun, the moon, and the stars to bring light into the world.
DeWitt believes Raven has transformed yet again to encourage mankind to save the planet, a message especially important to Alaska Natives.
“Our whole job is to steward the earth, and if the earth is sick, that means that we’re sick. And we are actually possibly looking at human extinction. When I see something like the White Raven, it gives me a profound sense of hope. Even beyond hope, knowing that we’re going to be successful.”
Floyd Guthrie (Tsimshian, Lingít, and Haida), another traditional healer, has been waiting for White Raven’s arrival.
“It makes our hearts feel good, because we connect to the truth of his existence.”
Guthrie and his wife, Dr. Marianne Rolland, specialize in treating trauma.
Years ago, long before the bird appeared, they named their counseling center in Anchorage the White Raven Healing Center.
“White Raven opens hearts. And opening up hearts, opens up flow of creativity.”
Rolland says she’s not surprised to see all the White Raven-inspired artwork that has been posted on Facebook – sculptures, paintings even beaded earrings.
The photos run from regal to rogue.
One of the latest shows the bird demonstrating the trickster nature of White Raven, as it strutted with an empty container of Häagen Dazs White Raspberry Chocolate Truffle ice cream.