Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voter Identification: Know What to Bring to the Polls

Native groups like the National Congress of American Indians are mobilizing Indian voters like never before; they are counting on them to make the difference they know they can make. But before they go to polls next week, they need to know what they must have on hand and show poll workers before casting their ballots — we’re talking about identification.

Since the passage of the Help American Vote Act in 2002, the number of states that require voters to show a photo or non-photo ID has doubled from 11 to 25, according to the Pew's Center on the States. Seven states now require voters to present a government-issued photo ID. They include Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota. Another six have legislation pending that would impose the same requirement.

According to the Center for American Progress, some 20 million Americans do not have a driver’s license. These are generally disabled people, elders, impoverished Americans and folks living in metro areas that have mass transit systems. Minorities, including Native Americans, are also among the do-nots.

Some states will accept a tribal photo ID. If the voter does not have an acceptable photo ID, then other identifying documents, such as a utility bill or bank statement, should do.

When identification documents do not meet the poll worker’s muster and the voter is, indeed, eligible to vote, then provisional ballots are usually available. Though rules vary from state to state, these ballots ensure that no one gets turned away.

Use the widget in the sidebar to learn more about your state’s ID requirements.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Polling Places Not Prepared for Record Voter Turnout

This year’s presidential election is expected to be a record turnout year, particularly for Native American voters, who have been rallied over the last few months by local, state and national get-out-the-vote efforts. But a Common Cause report released last month found that polling places may not be well-prepared to handle the massive influx of eager-to-vote citizens.

“Voting in 2008: Ten Swing States,” a follow-up to a report published two years ago that found major flaws in the 2004 election, suggests that 2008 could be a repeat of the last presidential election year — or may even be worse.

Based on a survey of 10 battleground states, the report predicted issues with voter registration, and there have been plenty of them. “Many of the most pressing problems from 2006 have gone unaddressed, or have worsened. States are still failing to comply with certain provisions of the National Voting Registration Act designed to make registration forms more accessible to traditionally disenfranchised voters,” the report said.

As we edge closer to Election Day, the report warns of long lines at polling places, a lack of and inadequately trained poll workers, insufficient language assistance, deceptive practices and disenfranchisement due to voter identification laws.

The states reviewed in the report include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Mexico Says it Owes American Indian Vets $2 million

The New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department released a report Oct. 1 revealing it owes as much as $2 million in tax refunds to about 7,000 American Indian veterans serving in the military between 1977 and 2004.

But veterans claim the department unlawfully settled without seeking input from American Indians.

Veterans also claim the state Taxation and Revenue Department acted beyond its authority when it compiled its report. Read more about it in the Farmington Daily Times.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Harvard Honors Indian Nations

The Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University honored ten Indian Nations Tuesday night at the National Congress of American Indians Conference in Phoenix. Since the Honoring Nations program began in 1998, more than one-third of the more than 560 tribes in the United States have applied for the award, which recognizes tribal programs that demonstrate the tenants of good governance. The program has recognized 102 tribally operated programs.

Five High Honors and five Honor recipients were selected from a pool of 110 applications from more than 60 tribes. Programs are judged on their significance to sovereignty, their cultural relevance, their transferability and their sustainability. In addition to the awards -- $20,000 for High Honors and $10,000 for Honors – the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development prepares reports, case studies and instructional materials based on the winning programs. Honoring Nations is funded by the Ford Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and private donors.

This year’s honorees are:

High Honors
Archie Hendricks, Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility and Tohono O’odham Hospice
Tohono O’odham Nation

Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program
Muscogee Creek Nation

Pine Hill Health Center
Navajo Nation, Ramah Chapter

Project Falvmmichi
Choctaw Nation

Osage Nation Governmental Reform Initiative
Osage Nation

Chickasaw Press
Chickasaw Nation

Community Council Task Force
Ak-Chin Indian Community

Intercultural Leadership Initiative
Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

Tsigo bugeh Village
Ohkay Owengeh

Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways
Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

IHS Becomes More Transparent with New Web Site

Want to know how your Indian Health Service facility is doing in terms of quality of care? Now you can find out instantly via its Health Transparency Website, its launch announced early this week.

Developed in support of Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13410, Promoting Quality and Efficient Health Care in Federal Government Administered or Sponsored Health Care Programs, the site allows IHS patients to compare the performance of the IHS facility where they receive care to the performance of other IHS facilities within their geographical area.

The site also provides information to help patients advocate for their own health care. It offers a checklist with important items to be discussed with the provider to ensure they are receiving the proper care, such as family history of disease, current medications and immunizations and procedures received at other facilities.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OSHA Fines Tribal Business

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza $54,000 for failing to respond to and correct safety hazards at its facility, according to a report in the Las Vegas Sun . The travel plaza is off I-15 in Moapa, Nevada and is on Moapa Paiute land, which means that the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA has jurisdiction, not the state.

In July OSHA issued six serious safety violations against the company. Total proposed fines were $2,100, but because the company did not respond within 15 days, there were additional fines levied.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Colville Tribes Want a Shot at Buying Traditional Lands

The Colville Tribes are suing to stop an auction of U.S. Forest Service property in Twisp, Washington, until it’s determined whether the tribes should be offered the property first.

The property was a traditional fishing and gathering spot for member tribes of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, according to documents the Tribes filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane. The Colville Tribes filed a request Thursday for a temporary injunction. To read more about this click here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

NYT Profiles Northern Arapaho Language Preservation Efforts

Today’s New York Times features a story on the efforts of the Northern Arapaho Tribe to preserve the Arapaho language. There are only about 200 Arapaho speakers living today, and tribal leaders on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming fear their language will not survive. As part of the effort to see that the Arapaho language does not disappear, this tribe of 8,791, recently opened a new school where students will be taught in Arapaho. Elders and educators say they hope it will create a new generation of native speakers. To read more about it click here. To watch an audio/slide show click here. To learn more about language preservation efforts, such as this one, and to learn about other strategies for preserving native languages, don’t forget to register for Falmouth Institute’s Language Preservation Summit, Oct. 28-29 at the Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio, Calf.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Worker-Starved Welding Industry Woos Native Americans

Despite climbing unemployment rates, some trades still face worker shortages, one of them being welding. As others have done in the past, this industry is turning to Native Americans to increase its pool.

As reported by Industry Week on Nov. 1, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting, a trade union, has joined forces with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to recruit and train Native Americans. Together, they created a fast-track, 16-week apprenticeship welder program to move more into the field quickly. Late this summer, 19 Natives had enrolled in the program, which is being run by Local 597, the union’s Chicago-area chapter. The program is expected to expand, with one already in the works for the Phoenix area.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wisconsin AG says Off-Reservation Tribal Records Off Limits to Public

Police reports and records related to arrests and other law enforcement actions by tribal police officers are not available for public inspection under Wisconsin’s open records laws even if they relate to police activity off the reservation and non-tribal citizens, the state attorney general's office told The Lakeland Times late last week.

The Times had posed the question to the Wisconsin Department of Justice after some citizens raised concerns about their ability to access police and incident records if they were ticketed or arrested in Oneida County by a Lac du Flambeau police department officer. In an Oct. 3 letter to the newspaper, assistant attorney general Mary Burke said tribal police departments could not be compelled to comply with the open records law or to waive tribal immunity from lawsuits to enforce that law.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mashantucket Pequot and UAW to Negotiate

The Norwich Bulletin reported Saturday that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the union representing dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino released a joint statement announcing that have agreed to consider negotiating under tribal laws.

“The UAW and the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise agreed to enter into discussions for 30 days to determine if an agreement can be reached to bargain under tribal law,” according to the statement.

In doing so, neither side will waive its rights or legal positions under the National Labor Relations Act, according to the statement. Read more about it in the

Palin's Rural Advisor Quits Amid Criticism Over Lack of Native Representation in Administration

Gov. Sarah Palin’s Rural Advisor quit Monday, saying the role would be better filled by an Alaska Native, Associated Press reported. In an e-mail to Alaska Native leaders, Rhonda McBride said, “In all honesty, I have never felt authentic in my role.” Alaska Native leaders have said that Palin neglected them when she made appointments after becoming governor. Alaska Natives are 20 percent of the state’s population. Palin, now the Republican vice-presidential nominee, has two Alaska Natives in her cabinet and her husband Todd is part Yup’ik Eskimo. However, she has been criticized for appointing white people to positions previously held by Alaska Natives and for appearing to tolerate bigoted remarks about Alaska Natives from some of her appointees.

Rosebud to Construct Wind Farm

The New York Times last week reported on the Rosebud Sioux’s efforts to construct a wind farm on tribal land. The Owl Feather War Bonnet wind farm is a 30-megawatt project that could power about 12,000 homes and bring about $5 million to the tribe over 20 years.

Friday, October 10, 2008

State Appeals Court Rules Tribal Casino Can Collect on Bad Checks

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ordered a patron of the Bay Mills Resort and Casino to pay the full amount for bad checks he passed at the casino in addition to punitive damages. The court overturned a trial court ruling that said the casino lost the right to recover on $19,500 in bad checks because it had not followed administrative procedures pursuant to Michigan gambling regulations. The appeals court ruled that the Bay Mills Resort and Casino, operated by the Bay Mills Indian Community, was not regulated by the state, but by the National Indian Gaming Commission or the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the tribe.

The court also disagreed with the trial courts finding that the casino, by not adhering to its own policies which prohibited cashing of checks in excess of $3,000, lost its right to recover. The court ruled that simply not following your own policies it does not mean you lose your right to recover damages under state law.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hilton Offers Free Seminar on Hospitality 101

Hilton Franchise Development is offering a free seminar, “Hospitality 101,” October 22-24, 2008 in Las Vegas, NV for those in Indian Country who are most closely tied to the investment, hospitality and community development efforts of their tribal organizations.

Hilton Hotels Corporation has developed a targeted outreach program designed to increase awareness, among tribal governments and enterprises, on investment and ownership opportunities in the hotel industry and within the Hilton Family of Brands.
This complimentary program covers all the fundamental considerations when evaluating investment in hotel development. Several entrepreneurs who have developed and/or purchased hotels, with the Hilton Family, will share their experiences and lessons learned.

Attendee lodging, meals and tickets to KA by Cirque du Soleil will be covered by Hilton. For additional information, please contact Tom Wilkins at 800-992-4489, ext. 119.

For additional information about Hilton Franchise Development, please click here.

Former Tribal Housing Director to Begin Serving Sentence October 31

The former executive director of the Ki:Ki Association -- the tribally designated housing entity of the Tohono O’Odham Nation -- on October 31, will begin serving a 12-month sentence on charges related to embezzlement, theft and failure to file individual and corporate federal income tax returns.

Loren A. Goldtooth, Sr., 52, of Tuba City, was found guilty by a federal jury in May of two counts of embezzlement/Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization, three counts of failure to File Individual Federal Income Tax Returns, and two counts of Failure to File Corporate Federal Tax Returns.

Goldtooth was also ordered by the Court to make restitution to the Tohono O’Odham housing authority in the amount of $52,239 and was ordered to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service in resolving his outstanding tax obligations.

Between February 2000 and August 2002, Goldtooth, a certified public accountant (CPA), served as Executive Director of the Ki:Ki Association. During that time, he received $34,831 in overtime payments to which he was not entitled. Goldtooth also used his Ki:Ki Association credit cards for unauthorized personal expenses, totaling $17,861. These unauthorized personal expenses included charges related to 15 trips to Las Vegas and Reno, rock band concert tickets and tickets to a professional baseball game.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Indian Casino Jeopardized by Credit Crunch

The credit crisis is hitting Indian Country, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune. Fitch Ratings has downgraded $155 million in bonds issued for the new Quechan casino in California and is warning that the tribe may face default on the bonds if it is unable to secure a final $25 million source of external funding for the project. The tribe hopes to financing secured by the end of the week.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Foxwoods Must Bargain with Union, Labor Board Rules

In a ruling issued on Sept. 30, the National Labor Relations Board has ordered Foxwoods Resort Casino, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot in Connecticut, to bargain with the United Auto Workers union for its dealers and assistant floor supervisors.

The NLRB had rejected Foxwoods’ argument that it is exempt from NLRB jurisdiction because it is a sovereign nation. It found that by failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with UAW as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the employees, the casino-resort has engaged in unfair labor practices, specifically violating Section 8(a)(5) and (1) and Section 2(6) and (7) of the National Labor Relations Act.

Northern Arapaho Takes State and County to Court

The Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Fremont County and the state of Wyoming with the hope of settling an old reservation boundary dispute, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

Although the suit challenges things such as sales tax and vehicle registration fees, it will ultimately call for defining what lands in the Riverton area are "Indian Country" and, thus, should be included within the boundaries of the tribe’s Wind River Indian Reservation.

Should the court see it the tribe’s way, all of Riverton and some unincorporated areas near the towns of Pavillion, Shoshone and Hudson are within the exterior boundaries of the reservation and, therefore, should be exempt from sales tax and vehicle registration fees.

A 1905 act opened up the area in question to non-Indians for settlement. However, the tribe contends that the act never terminated the reservation or “Indian Country” status of that land.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tribe Breaks Ground on Geothermal Plant

Today, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony for its Shoshone Renaissance, a 100-MW geothermal power plant.

The plant, the tribe said, is a culmination of development efforts between the tribe, Idatherm, Lotus-Meridian, Shoshone Energy Services and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development.

The tribe, headquartered in Brigham City, Utah, has a 30-year agreement with the City of Riverside, Calif., to provide up to 64-MW from the plant, which will supply 20 percent of Riverside's renewable base load energy.

Geothermal power plants use high temperature fluid from the earth (steam), which turns the blades of a turbine to create electricity. Compared to solar or wind generation, which provide intermittent energy sources, geothermal plants are a uniquely suited to deliver base load (24/7) green energy, the tribe said.

Tribal Chairman Bruce Parry sees this project as "renewing and sustaining" the tribe while delivering "green" energy in a culturally consistent and technically advanced way.

United Keetoowah Sues Federal Government Over Hospital

As of Oct. 1, the W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital, a 58-bed hospital in Tahlequah, Okla., is being operated by the Cherokee Nation, but the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians contends that the Indian Health Service violated federal law when it turned it over to the tribe, 5 News reported yesterday. The lawsuit requests an injunction to stop the Cherokee from having operational control of the facility.

Opened in 1984, the facility provides medical services, including specialized services, to more than 100,000 Native Americans in a 4,300-square-mile area. The Cherokee Nation would like to expand it to accommodate increased demand.

5 News reported that Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said the lawsuit is an attempt by the Keetoowah to claim jurisdiction within Cherokee boundaries.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Senate Passes Code Talkers Recognition Act

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2007, H.R. 4544, legislation that would honor all Native Americans from various tribes, including the Sac and Fox Tribe and Comanche, who served as code talkers during War World I and World War II with commemorative congressional gold medals. The bill passed the House on Sept. 25.

In 2001, the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers received congressional gold medals from President Bush, most posthumously, for their service in War World II. An additional 300 Navajos who later served in the same capacity received congressional silver awards.