Friday, June 26, 2009

Swearing-In Ceremony for Larry EchoHawk

On May 22, Larry EchoHawk was officially sworn in as the Department of the Interior’s 11th Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. This morning, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar administered the oath of office to EchoHawk at a Swearing-In Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

EchoHawk is an enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. He joins the Department of Interior in D.C. after a move from Utah where he was a Professor of Law at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. EchoHawk is a former U.S. Marine, served two consecutive terms in the Idaho House of Representatives, and was the very first American Indian to serve as a state attorney general (for Idaho, 1990).

Hosted by Nedra Darling, Director of Public Affairs for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the event gave tribal leaders, family, friends, congress and Native organizations the opportunity to celebrate this momentous appointment.

Salazar expressed that while he and EchoHawk stand at a new beginning, they will be met by many difficult challenges; however, he is sure that, “Indian Country will not be forgotten” by the United States.

During his remarks, EchoHawk stated that “things are lined up just right to do something special, something magical.”

Director of Public Affairs for the BIA Nedra Darling
After a cedar blessing performed by Marshall Gover of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Darling welcomed EchoHawk and Salazar to the “Indian family of this country.”

Lee Juan Tyler of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Ft. Hall Reservation of Idaho
Lee Juan Tyler led a prayer.

Assistant Secretary Larry EchoHawk, Wife of Larry EchoHawk Terry EchoHawk, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar


EchoHawk, Salazar, President of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma George E. Howell

Photo Credit (All): Cerissa Hontiveros

Native American Languages Preserved with Technology

Indian tribes have really embraced technology, but when it comes to solutions and tools that can help them save their languages, their arms could not be open any wider.

As the Indigenous Language Institute sees it, there is a definite symbiosis from old knowledge and new tools. To show tribes just how harmonious this relationship can be, ILI launched, in collaboration with the University of Washington, a workshop series in 2001 called Ancient Voices, Modern Tools: Native Languages and Technology.

More than 300 Native American languages have already been lost, according to Santa Fe, N.M.-based ILA, and more than 75 of those languages went extinct over the last century.

Read the full story here.

A Digital Story created by Deborah S. Bia. The story is about the history of Canyon De Chelly. It is told in the Navajo Language.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

State Budget Crunch Could Mean Gambling in PA

Here's a story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that legislation in the Pennsylvania house would allow table games and slots as a way of raising revenue to support state programs. Such measures have always failed in the past, but the state's severe budget crunch -- a projected deficit of $3.2 billion this year -- has generated renewed interest in the possibility of expanded gaming.

With so many states in such dire need, this could be a trend around the country and that could mean trouble for Indian casinos in the form of more competition.

Monday, June 22, 2009

AI/AN-owned Farms up 88 Percent

Information from the 2007 Census of Agriculture is now available for 73 American Indian reservations, including reservation-level information on agricultural production, economics and demographics for individual farms.

The Census counted 79,703 American Indian and Alaska Native farmers operating 61,472 farms and ranches, up 88 percent from 2002, significantly outpacing the 7 percent increase in U.S. farm operators overall.

The 2007 Census of Agriculture marks the first time the USDA's National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) has attempted to collect census forms from individual farm and ranch operators on American Indian reservations in every state, which accounts for the steep increase in American Indian farmers.

"In the past, a reservation was counted as a single farm. Now, each individual farmer or rancher on the reservation is counted, providing a truer picture of agricultural activity on our nation's American Indian reservations," said Carol House, deputy administrator for NASS.

During the 2002 Census of Agriculture, NASS conducted a pilot project to collect and publish reservation-level data for individual farms and farm operators on 19 reservations in Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota.

"Because of the success of this project, we significantly expanded our efforts in 2007, collecting data from farm and ranch operators on American Indian reservations in every state," House said.

The publication, along with all other 2007 Census of Agriculture publications and results, is available online at or by calling (800) 727-9540.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Spirits Producers Send out an SOS

The clock is ticking for Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender, and the Murder of Fred Martinez, an award-winning documentary that explores homophobia and the powerful story of a transgender Navajo teen who became one of the youngest hate crime victims. The producers need to raise $19,000 to finish the film, and they must do it fast.

A goal of the documentary is to educate society on how multi-gendered people enrich lives and why people must be free to be their true selves.

Five years in the making, the documentary has important deadlines to meet. The producers sent out their call for help in March, but as of early June had not yet raised any money.

Read more here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Only Native American U.S. Attorney to be Replaced

The Arizona Republic is reporting that President Obama is poised to replace the first and only Native American to serve as a U.S. attorney.
Dianne Humetewa, an enrolled member of the Hopi tribe, worked her way up through the ranks of the U.S. attoney's office, starting as a tribal liaison and victim rights advocate. She was appointed to the post 18 months ago by former President George W. Bush.

Humetewa will likely be replaced by Phoenix lawyer Dennis Burke, who was formerly the chief of staff for former Ariz. Gov. Janet Napolitano. Some are charging that his appointment to the post is political patronage.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Holder to Convene Listening Conference with Tribal Leaders

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will convene a Tribal Nations Listening Conference later this year to confer with tribal leaders on how to address the chronic public safety problems in Indian Country.

The Listening Conference was announced today by Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year session in Niagara Falls, New York.

Prior to the Listening Conference, Perrelli and Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden will convene a series of regional summits to seek tribal representatives’ input in setting the agenda. Those planning sessions will include Department component leaders, tribal leaders and experts in relevant areas to begin a dialogue on a range of important issues including the following: law enforcement policy and personnel; communications and consultation; grants and technical assistance; detention facilities; federal prosecution in Indian country; tribal court development; domestic violence; drug courts and substance abuse; federal litigation involving tribes and civil rights. No locations or dates have been announced.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Feds Bust Network Trafficking in Stolen Native Artifacts

Twelve indictments charging 24 defendants with violations of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) were unsealed this morning in Salt Lake City.  The case involves 256 artifacts totaling $335,685.

The indictments were announced this morning in Salt Lake City and are the culmination of a two-year undercover operation targeting a network of individuals allegedly involved in the sale, purchase and exchange of artifacts illegally taken from public or Indian lands in the Four Corners region of the country.  The investigation represents the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts.

 “These archaeological treasures are precious and protecting them preserves a rich history and heritage. That is why the Justice Department will use all of its tools to vigorously enforce the laws designed to safeguard the cultural heritage of Native Americans,” said Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden.  “Recommitting resources and focus to criminal justice in Indian Country is of paramount importance to the Justice Department.  We are currently conducting a training initiative with the Interior Department for federal prosecutors and law enforcement personnel on looting, vandalism, and illegal trafficking of cultural heritage, and are planning to reach out to with Indian Country leaders in the near future to engage in an ongoing consultation on these issues.”

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mohawk Protest Could Lead to Permanent Closure of Border Crossing

The Seaway International Bridge, which spans the St. Lawrence River and links Canada to the United State along the northern border of New York State, could be closed permanently unless Akwesasne Mohawk Indians accept the Canadian government’s decision to arm border guards at the crossing. 

Speaking on a Canadian news program yesterday, Peter Van Loan, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, said there would be no exceptions to the decision and federal officials were considering several options, including moving the border crossing to another location. The crossing at Cornwall Island, which is Mohawk land, handles about 2.4 million passengers a year.

Canada Border Services Agency workers left their posts on Cornwall Island, citing safety concerns, just before midnight May 31 in advance of an Akwesasne Mohawk protest.  Protesters say they are worried that arming guards could lead to violence on their land.  Read more here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Indirect Cost Rates and the Stimulus Funds

Increased funding from the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, together with the inflow of money from the stimulus package, could mean that for the first time in decades, tribal governments may be able to recover the total amount of the costs associated with the administration of federal programs under P.L. 93-638 contracts. 

The Indian Health Service is slated for a 13 percent increase in funding to cover contract support costs and the Bureau of Indian Affairs will receive a significant increase in funding for this item as well. These budget increases and the increased availability of federal funds from the stimulus package, present tribal governments with a tremendous opportunity and challenge.

An inflow of funds from the stimulus bill could expand the funding base for tribes significantly, thereby driving down the indirect cost rate by as much as 30 to 40 percent.  While increased funding is a great development for Indian Country, the consequences of a reduced indirect cost rate could be quite negative unless the additional overhead costs of administering these new programs are taken into consideration.

Each organization should be conducting an analysis as to how much of the stimulus funding is being devoted to construction as opposed to services. As a general rule construction funds carry a reduced amount of overhead burden, because much of the work is contracted out. This might not be the case if the tribe has its own construction company. In that case the indirect costs associated with the project can be high as the general contractor (the tribe) must incur the same overhead as other contractors.

For more information on indirect costs and how the stimulus package may impact your rate, contact Richard Phelps.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Former Navajo Housing CEO Indicted

Former Navajo Housing Authority CEO Chester Carl was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Nevada on charges of conspiracy, bribery, and embezzlement. The charges are related to a U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant program which funded development of low-income housing on the Navajo Nation. William Aubrey, 66, of Mesquite, Nev., was also charged.

Both men are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery relating to federal program funds and bribery relating to federal program funds. Aubrey also is charged with two counts of embezzlement and theft from Indian tribal organizations.

Read more about it here.