Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crow Creek Officials and Contractor Plead Guilty in Bribery Case

Three Crow Creek officials and a Fort Pierre contractor face up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges related to a bribery and retaliation case involving a $383,000 home-building contract, according to an AP article published on yesterday.

The contractor, Archie Baumann of First Dakota Enterprises in Fort Pierre, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery for trying to influence the three officials, the AP article said. Vice Chairman Randy Shields and Treasurer Norman Thompson Sr. pleaded guilty to a count of bribery. And Secretary Thomas Thompson Sr. pleaded guilty to a count of retaliation against Tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue, who assisted law enforcement in gathering information for the case.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Native Americans Encouraged to Participate in Census

National and tribal leaders and the U.S. Census Bureau are putting extra effort into encouraging Native Americans to participate in the 2010 Census count.

“The goal of the 2010 Census is to paint a Portrait of America and each and every Native person who is counted makes a huge difference in ensuring the face of Indian Country is truly a part of this portrait,” said Derek Valdo, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Southwest Area vice-president, at a news conference last Thursday during a 2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour stop in Albuquerque.

Valdo was among several national and local tribal leaders and U.S. Census officials touting the importance of participating in the count.

Valdo, along with Amadeo Shije, U.S. Census Tribal Partnership Coordinator of the Denver Region, encouraged tribes to participate as the data is used extensively for the distribution of funds to state, tribal and local governments. It forms the basis for more than $1 billion that flows into Indian Country.

NCAI has joined with the National Call to Action with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which is made up of the Asian American Justice Center, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, the NAACP and other national organizations.

NCAI has created the Indian Country Counts campaign, in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, to ensure an accurate count of all Native people.

The Indian Country Counts strategy includes a Web site with a downloadable tool kit for tribes, news about the Census, contact information for federal workers, Census job postings, updates from the Census Bureau, a discussion board and stories about the Census across Indian Country.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Facebook Group Provides a Forum for Disgruntled IHS Patients

Angel White Eyes never imagined her six-hour wait at an Indian Health Service facility would be of interest to so many. But her Facebook group about the experience – “I just spent 6 hours at IHS just for them to give me Tylenol” – has drawn more than 1,900 members since she started it in January.

The group’s name is a summary of what happened on her trip to the clinic. To date 1,946 people from throughout Indian Country have signed onto the group, most of them to share their own frustrations with the IHS.

To read the full story, click here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Report Alleges Quapaw Officials Misused Funds

A report issued by the Quapaw Tribe’s Grievance Committee alleges that tribal officials misused funds, as reported by Tulsa World yesterday.

The report, based on complaints from several tribal members, alleges that three Business Committee officers — Chairman John Berrey, Vice Chairman Willis Matthews Jr. and Treasurer George McWatters Jr. — had profited from their involvement in the Downstream Development Authority, the entity that manages the tribe’s casino, Downstream Casino Resort.

Specifically, it alleges that the three were paid excessive salaries, benefits and bonuses through their positions with the Development Authority; misused Development Authority credit cards; and used funds for expenses like comp services, a $225,000 donation to the University of Arkansas Razorback Foundation and skybox leases at the University of Arkansas without showing proof that these expenses promoted the casino.

Berrey, who is up for re-election this year, says the allegations are false.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Seneca President Calls on Obama to Veto PACT Act

Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder Sr. sent a letter last week to President Obama calling for his veto of the PACT (Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking) Act, legislation that would prohibit the mailing of tobacco products, according to a press release issued by the tribe.

The act could mean the loss of some 3,000 western New York jobs tied directly and indirectly to the Native American tobacco economy, the release said.

The tribe estimates enforcement of the act could result in up to a 65 percent loss in import/export revenue, which it uses to fund health and education programs.

In the letter, sent the day after the U.S. House approved the legislation, Snyder said, "If signed into law, the PACT Act will seriously impact the Seneca Nation and the Seneca people. We will be subject to racial profiling for the simple act of mailing a package. We will lose thousands of jobs and important health care support. And most damaging, we will be set back in our journey to self-determination by the very treaty partner that pledged to support and protect us.”

Snyder reminded Obama that the bill conflicts with his promise to improve relationships between the White House and Native Americans. He said the legislation was developed without “meaningful consultations” with tribes.

The letter also noted that the National Congress of American Indians and United South & Eastern Tribes both oppose the PACT Act.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Indian Country Police Forces Still Severely Understaffed

Indian reservation police forces remain understaffed, with some operating at levels as low as 50 percent, officials told members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee at a hearing yesterday.

As reported by the Argus Leader today, approximately 3,000 police officers serve all of Indian Country, citing the Bureau of Indian Affairs as the source. Even Washington, D.C., has more officers on its force.

Reasons for the staff shortages are many. One of the biggest ones, though, is poor pay. It has made recruiting and retaining difficult. Some departments are so under-funded that they don’t have the money to hire new staff or to provide the training for certification.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

HUD Audit of Fort Belknap Finds Accounting Deficiencies

An audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General found that the Fort Belknap Indian Community is not properly administering housing funds, reported this morning.

Among the issues the audit revealed: failing to collect $1 million in rent from 2006 to 2008; spending $183,000 on non-accepted renovation work; and being reimbursed for $32,000 in unallowable costs, including $2,600 used for burial expenses for nine tribal members.

Though the tribe disputes the allegations, it has agreed to fix some of the accounting deficiencies.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Obama Gives Portion of Peace Prize to Indian College Fund

It’s been a great first quarter for the American Indian College Fund. First came the announcement in February that the late actress Bea Arthur left the organization $100,000. Last week, the Fund announced via press release that President Obama is donating $125,000 from the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize that he was awarded.

The Fund is among nine charitable organizations getting a piece of Obama’s Nobel Prize. The others are: Fisher House, which provides housing for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers; the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, which raises money for long-term relief efforts in Haiti after its earthquake; College Summit, which partners with elementary and middle schools and school districts to increase college enrollment and student preparation; the Posse Foundation, a scholarship organization which identifies public high school students with academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes; the United Negro College Fund, which helps 60,000 students yearly to attend college through scholarship and internship programs; the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the nation's leading Hispanic scholarship organization; the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation, which supports and enables young Appalachians to pursue higher education though scholarship and leadership curriculum; AfriCare, which supports health and HIV/AIDS, food security and agriculture, and water resource development projects in 25 countries; and the Central Asia Institute, which promotes and supports community-based education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The president stated in the release, "These organizations do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need. I'm proud to support their work."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Online Network Offers Free Native American Video Content

Native American Entertainment Network (NAE Network) announced on March 11 the launch of its Web site, which offers free video content that features Native stories and news.

The site’s content is targeted to both Native and non-Native audiences, NAE Network said in a press release. Video categories include: news, government, sports, health and wellness, lifestyle, arts and entertainment, history and biography, culture and tradition.

“Native American Entertainment Network is an empowering resource for all Indigenous Peoples of North America,” said Tlingit storyteller, performer and NAE Network Board Member Gene Tagaban in the release. “It provides a means for our People to tell their stories and come together through the arts — strengthening a sense of pride and honor in who we are historically and moving forward into the future.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pedro Molina Becomes First Assistant Secretary for Native American Veterans Affairs

Last week, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger swore in Pedro Molina as Assistant Secretary for Native American Veterans Affairs, the first such appointment in the nation.

The swearing in ceremony was attended by nearly 200 people, mostly Native Americans from California, according to a press release issued by the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

Molina, Yaqui, served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1973. Before his appointment, he served the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as American Indian program manager and marketing and community relations representative since 1998.

Monday, March 8, 2010

11 Blackfeet Police Officers Furloughed

Eleven police officers serving the Blackfeet tribe have been furloughed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Great Falls Tribune reported on March 6.

At issue is the tribal department not conducting complete background checks, as required by the federal agency, on the officers, all who have been with the department since last January. The officers have been trained and certified but only passed preliminary background checks.

The tribal department is pointing the finger at the BIA. Henry Devereaux, the department's interim director, said the agency never adjudicated the officers with the more in-depth background checks.

Yet the BIA tosses the blame back. Elizabeth Hall, deputy special agent for the BIA in Billings, said: "That's not our responsibility. … The tribe is supposed to do the background checks."

Also, before January, the BIA had not conducted a review of the two-year-old program, which is under a three-year contract.

The furloughed officers have been replaced with nine BIA officers, who will remain in place until the background checks are done.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cherokee’s First Female Chief Diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer

Wilma Mankiller, 64, the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief, has been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, according to an Associated Press story that ran in the Muskogee Phoenix on March 2.

Mankiller served as the Cherokee’s chief from 1985 to 1995. She has coped with several ailments in her lifetime, including a muscular disorder and lymphoma and breast cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer, as it often does have distinctive symptoms. Survival rates are low: the one-year relative survival rate is 20 percent and the five-year rate is 4 percent.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NAHASDA Block Grant Program Needs Improvement, Report Says

Although tribes consider NAHASDA block grants as effective, improvements need to be made in tracking infrastructure plans, so says a U.S. Government Accountability Office
report published last month.

The report tells how many small grantees do not develop new housing with their block grant funding. Out of 359 grantees in FY 2008, 102 received less than $250,000, with 22 of those reporting that they had developed new housing, the report said. These grantees often provide tenant-based rental assistance and other such services.

HUD does not track activities that are not unit-based (units built, acquired or rehabilitated) and it does not report these activities to Congress.

HUD, though, is revising its reporting to track more activities, which should help efforts to assess the impact of NAHASDA, the report said. It also plans to obtain IHS data on housing-related infrastructure deficiencies on tribal lands.

To read the complete report, click on “report” above or go to:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Be Heard at Upcoming Indian Education Listening Session

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will be conducting a listening session to discuss priorities and recommendations for Indian education on March 3 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., according to a press release from the National Indian Education Association. There will be a focus on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and its application in Indian Country.

NIEA encourages participation, either by attending the session or by submitting comments, as these observations and recommendations will be used to ensure that tribal priorities for improving educational opportunities for Indian students are part of the discussions surrounding national education reform.

Comments can be submitted no later than March 31 to: Denise Desiderio at or via fax at (202) 228.2589.

Have questions, email NIEA: