Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mashantucket Pequot Want to Restructure $2.3 Billion in Debt

Reeling from the economy, Foxwoods Casino is seeking to restructure more than $2.3 billion in debt, according The article described the Mashantucket Pequot, owners of Foxwoods, as being on the "brink of default." The debt is $1 billion more than the tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino - North America's largest casino and once the world's most profitable - can sustain, a source said.

In an e-mail to tribal members, sent out last week, tribal council Chairman Michael Thomas described the situation: "Earnings are down considerably and there are no signs of immediate improvement. These are dire financial times for our tribe."

In the past two years, the tribe has laid off workers at The Foxwoods Resort, reduced the size of the tribal government and reduced payments to tribal members.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nisqually Use Stimulus Funds to Clean Puget Sound

Here's a story in the New York Times about the Nisqually Tribe's $4.6 million stimulus-financed effort to clean up Puget Sound. The Tribe has formed a dive team that removes fishing nets that were lost or discarded decades ago but can still kill fish, birds and other animals. Check out the photos too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Justice Department Listening Conference -- Will it Help Indian Country

Below is a release from the Department of Justice regarding a tribal nations listening conference. We'd like to hear from anyone who was part of the last Justice Deparment listening conference -- the one described in the last paragraph of the release.

Do you think it had any impact on fighting crime in Indian Country? Did you feel as if your concerns were addressed by the Administration and/or Congress?

Dates for Justice Department Listening Conference Set

The Justice Department today announced the dates of the 2009 Tribal Nations Listening Conference to be led by Attorney General Eric Holder. Prior to the Listening Conference, the Department will also convene two working sessions with tribal leaders and experts in law enforcement to be led by Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli:

      • Working Session #1: Aug. 25-26 in Seattle, Wash.
      • Working Session #2: Sept. 21-22 in Albuquerque, N.M.
      • Listening Conference: Oct 28-29 Minneapolis, M.N.

The Listening Conference is part of an ongoing Justice Department initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on tribal justice in Indian Country. It will allow top Department officials to confer with tribal leaders on how to address the chronic problems of public safety in Indian Country and other important issues affecting tribal communities. The working sessions will include Department component leaders and tribal experts in relevant areas to begin a dialogue on a range of important issues including, 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.

In 1994, Attorney General Janet Reno convened the only other National Listening Conference, sponsored jointly with the Department of the Interior, which led to numerous initiatives, including major funding for tribal police, jails and courts.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

IHS Not Like Public Option Insurance, Says White House

The Indian Health Service (IHS) is not an example of how public option health insurance would work, says an Obama administration official.

Yesterday on the White House blog, Kimberly Teehee, a senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council, posted a rebuttal to those who have used the Indian Health Service as an example of what could go wrong with a public option health insurance plan.

“The IHS system is not an insurance plan,” Teehee said in a video and written message. “And comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. IHS provides comprehensive health care services to approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living on or near reservations in 35 states. Some of these health services include doctor visits and check-ups, dental and vision care, diabetes prevention and treatment, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and home health care. IHS also helps construct hospitals and clinics and provides safe drinking water and sanitation facilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Health insurance, by contrast, provides individuals a guarantee to a defined set of benefits for a price. While the IHS accepts insurance payments for care it provides, it is not an insurance plan.”

In a recent interview with the Rapid City Journal, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds pointed to the Indian Health Service to caution South Dakotans against supporting more government involvement in medical care.

"Right now in
South Dakota, we've got one of the best examples of a health-care system run amok, and that is Indian health," Rounds said in an interview with the Journal. "And I wouldn't wish that health care on anybody. It would be an absolute disaster in America."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

High-Tech Toys Turn into Language-Learning Tools

Hand-held video games, iPhones and iPods are the top toys of today’s kids, and they spend hours and hours every day on them. But, just as one Native American-owned company has figured out, these interactive gizmos can also be great language-learning tools.

This summer, Banning, Calif.-based Thornton Media introduced its Language Pal, software that can program an indigenous language onto Nintendo DSi hand-held consoles and the first ever Native American language iPhone/iPod app.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Proclaim New Calendar

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians voted unanimously to replace recognition of Columbus Day, which is celebrated in October, with Nanih Waiya Day -- a day celebrated on the second Friday of August each year to commemorate the Tribe's Mother Mounds. The Mother Mounds are the cultural and religious center of the Choctaw.

"For Native Americans, Columbus Day should not be a day of celebration," said Mississippi Band Chief (Miko) Beasley Denson. "His arrival on our shores marked the beginning of centuries of exploitation of our people and our land. Much better that we should celebrate our rich culture and our traditions."

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, with close to 10,000 members, is the only federally recognized Indian tribe in the state of Mississippi.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Energy-Efficient Lighting Brightens More Places in Indian Country

The Burns Paiute in Burns, Ore., may be a small tribe, but it is pretty big on being green, which is why it decided early this summer to do what no tribe has done yet: switch all of its residents from incandescent light bulbs to the far more efficient compact florescent (CFL) bulbs.

The effort, funded by the Bonneville Power Administration’s Energy Efficiency program, aims to switch residents in 55 homes on the reservation, amounting to around 1,200 energy- and cost-saving bulbs. The goal is to have all residents brightening up their homes with the CFLs before the end of August.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Onondaga Chief Calls on Pope to Renounce Doctrine of Discovery

Onondaga Nation Chief Oren Lyons is calling on Pope Benedict XVI to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery "as a critical step on the road to right historic wrongs visited upon indigenous peoples here and elsewhere around the world where it was similarly applied."

In an article in Sunday's Albany Times-Union, Lyons argues that the doctrine, known as Inter Cetera, forms the basis of Indian law in United States and has been cited as recently as 2005 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a case denying sovereign status to land purchased by the Oneida Nation.

Lyons is a traditional Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, and a Member of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, or the Haudenosaunee ("People of the Long House").

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Indirect Cost Alert – ARRA Awards do Include Overhead Costs

There has been some confusion over the ability of tribes to collect indirect costs from funding received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Contrary to previous statements made to tribal leaders, overhead costs may be covered with ARRA funds. Even though the contract support costs will not be added onto the ARRA awards, tribes can apply their approved IDC rate to these funds to determine how much of the money can be allocated for overhead. However, if you receive ARRA funding through an existing or new program which places a cap on indirect costs, then the cap will still apply.

Here is a link to a document from Health and Human Services that might prove helpful. For more information, contact Richard Phelps, 1-800-992-4489, extension 101.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tribes in Wisconsin Join Forces to Combat Gangs

The Green Bay Press Gazette in Wisconsin reports that tribal law enforcement and the state Justice Department have formed the Native American Drug and Gang Initiative, which Oneida Police Chief Rich Van Boxtel heads.

The team has developed a group of undercover officers, given all tribes access to the state's criminal data system and holds regular training for drug officers in an attempt to combat the problem of gangs and drug dealing on reservations, which can be compounded by a lack of authority, making prosecuting crimes difficult. A bill that would give tribal police and courts more power is moving through Congress.

Tracey Fischer Named CEO at Oweesta

First Nations Oweesta Corporation has named Tracey Fischer, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, its new CEO. Fischer is an attorney and previously served as Oweesta’s director of the Enterprise & Entrepreneurship Development Department, providing training and technical assistance to Native communities. Fischer obtained her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1999. She also has a B.S. in business administration and accounting. Fisher takes the helm from Elsie Meeks, who stepped down as CEO of Oweesta to become the USDA Director of Rural Development for South Dakota. Fischer has acted as interim CEO since Meeks stepped down and officially took the helm at Oweesta on August 1.