Friday, October 29, 2010

DOJ Publication Offers Strategies for Offender Reentry in Indian Country

The Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) last week announced the availability of a new publication that offers promising practices and strategies for adults and juveniles who are transitioning from prison back into tribal communities.

The 55-page publication, titled Strategies for Creating Offender Reentry Programs in Indian Country, provides a historical overview, including a look at the challenges that tribes, states and the federal government face, like the growing population of incarcerated Native Americans; sub-standard conditions and a lack of programming and transitional services at Indian Country jails; a lack of formal relations between tribal and state criminal justice authorities; a lack of culturally relevant care or services and tribal involvement in planning the reentry of Native American offenders at federal prisons; and issues specific to incarcerated juveniles.

Strategies for Creating Offender Reentry Programs in Indian Country explores best practices for tribes and correctional facilities and practical steps for designing and developing reentry programs in tribal communities, such as community policing, which includes listening to community members about their needs and concerns on returning ex-offenders, and developing stand-alone reentry courts to monitor offenders’ progress.

The publication also lays out seven policy recommendations. Among them: conducting needs assessments to identify reentry programs and initiatives; researching incarceration facilities to gather information on the conditions of confinement and reintegration practices in each facility; developing model reintegration policies; developing culturally competent programming and training curricula; and conducting tribal planning sessions involving tribal, state and federal practitioners to design and implement reentry plans.

At the end of the publication, there are several case descriptions, highlights of successful reentry programs in Indian Country, including the Leech Lake-Cass Wellness Court: Joint Tribal-State Jurisdiction Initiative and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program. There is also a section that provides information on federal funding that is available for Indian Country reentry programs and for training and technical assistance.

Strategies for Creating Offender Reentry Programs in Indian Country is available online at:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fort Peck Tribes Get Guidance from Federal Government on Youth Suicides

The federal government is providing guidance to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes to help the community deal with a rash of youth suicides, according to an article published by on Oct. 26.

The guidance is in the form of a 200-page report put together by commissioned officers with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report examines social problems on the Fort Peck Reservation, located in Montana, and provides recommendations to the community.

Last month, the tribal council declared a state of emergency after four teenagers and preteens committed suicide. This summer, two more killed themselves. In the last school year, another 20 attempted to commit suicide.

The report, drawn from visits to the reservation by HHS team members, focuses on suicides committed between January and July, with information gathered from families, the Indian Health Service and local hospitals, according to the article.

The report says that socio-economic factors, like alcohol and drug abuse, may have played a major role in the suicide cluster, but a “lack of effective parenting skills, lack of appropriate role models, or just the imitating of the examples set by others” may have had a part too. There are also issues related to access to appropriate care.

Among the recommendations made in the report: establishing a safe house; building upon local resources already in place; hiring a behavioral health program director for IHS; continuing to improve access to care; overhauling the tribes' treatment center; hiring a suicide prevention coordinator; appointing a leadership board; saturating the community with prevention skills and training; and improving access to parenting skill classes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Avoiding the Racist Halloween Costume: Fashion Tips from Gawker

We're not sure what you were planning for Halloween, but here are some costume tips from Gawker on how to avoid the most racist costumes. First on their list of fashion don'ts for Halloween: Do not wear this Seductive Squaw costume. Now granted, dressing up as an Indian might not be offensive if you are an Indian. But this particular costume crosses the line on so many levels, you will still want to steer clear.

Monday, October 25, 2010

IHS Launches Influenza Web Site

The Indian Health Service has launched an influenza surveillance and information-sharing Web site, according to a press release issued by the agency last week.

The site ( features information for health professionals on influenza activity in the United States along with information on IHS influenza surveillance activities, reports and educational resources specific to American Indian/Alaska Native people. It also contains links to influenza information for patients and the general public.

Flu season has already begun, although peak season typically runs from November through March. While not certain, as nothing ever is with flu seasons, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says it is likely that the 2009 H1N1 viruses will continue to spread along with seasonal viruses in the United States during the 2010-2011 season.

American Indians/Alaska Natives have long experienced an influenza/pneumonia mortality rate that is nearly twice that of the general U.S. population.

The new site, aimed at decreasing the disparity, provides useful information on influenza prevention and treatment, including weekly influenza surveillance updates; vaccination resources, contacts and supplies; prevention guidance from the CDC; and the latest information on resources specific to Native people and the IHS.

There are downloadable brochures, fact sheets, articles and posters available for personal and educational use as well as links to podcasts, videos and public service announcements on seasonal influenza information.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rebound On the Way for Indian Country Tourism?

The bad economy has definitely taken a toll on Indian Country tourism, but could a rebound be finally underway?

For an idea of how the recession has impacted Native American tourism, we contacted the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA). Based in Albuquerque, N.M., AIANTA measures the ups and downs of visitor flows with statistics from the annual Survey of International Air Travelers, conducted by the U.S. International Trade Administration’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

AIANTA considers the survey the most reliable source of Indian Country tourism data. Completed in-flight by travelers from overseas, excluding those from Canada and Mexico, it includes a box that can be marked if a traveler plans on visiting a tribal community.

Based on this survey, Indian Country has consistently captured 3 percent to 4 percent of overseas visitors each year for the last two decades, according to Staci Eagle Elk, a public affairs specialist for AIANTA.

In 2006, the Commerce Department reported that 25.3 million overseas travelers visited the United States; in 2007, the volume increased to 27.4 million. But then the recession took hold, spreading around the world. In 2008, the number fell to 25.3 million; and in 2009, it dropped to 20.4 million, the lowest count since 2004.

“When the world economy suffers and tourism to the U.S. declines, so does Indian Country’s market capture,” Eagle Elk said.

But new data from the U.S. Department of Commerce suggests the downward trend is reversing. For the first six months of 2010, 27.5 million international visitors traveled to the United States, an 11 percent increase over the same period in 2009.

While international tourists are important to Indian Country, the volume of domestic tourists is usually higher. Unfortunately, the industry does not yet have a reliable way to measure the flow to Indian reservations, so AIANTA must look at national data to gauge trends.

“The trips/visits dipped dramatically in 2009 during the recession, but in 2010, domestic travel has bounced back and the trends overall for the U.S. look good, which is also good for Indian Country,” Eagle Elk said.

AIANTA is currently working on a pilot project to collect data from a dozen tribes on visitation. It also has several upcoming projects to promote Indian Country tourism. One is a partnership with the National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs to ensure full, uncensored tribal participation in NPS centennial anniversary in 2016 interpretation, education, tourism as well as other programming efforts. In 2009, AIANTA collaborated with Small World Publications and Discover America to produce an insert and stand alone piece featuring Indian Country titled “Discover Native America.” AIANTA and SWP will collaborate on a second issue for 2011.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Native American Farmers Awarded $760 Million in USDA Class Action Settlement

Native American farmers that alleged discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a class action lawsuit will receive close to a billion dollars from a settlement agreement announced yesterday by the agency. 

The lawsuit, Marilyn Keepseagle et al., v. Vilsack (Civil Action No. 99-3119 (D.D.C.)), was first filed on November 24th, 1999, but the discrimination complaints from thousands of Native American farmers span a decade (1981-1999). The complaints, in general, alleged that Native American farmers and ranchers did not have the same opportunity to obtain USDA farm loans as white farmers and ranchers.

Under the settlement agreement, known as the “Keepseagle Settlement,” $680 million will be made available to eligible class members to compensate them for their discrimination claims, according to a press release issued yesterday by the USDA.

In addition, the agreement provides up to $80 million in debt forgiveness to successful claimants with outstanding USDA Farm Loan program debt. Also, a moratorium on foreclosures of most claimants’ farms and a moratorium on accelerations and administrative offsets of class members’ farm loan accounts will be put into place until after claimants have gone through the claims process or the Secretary of Agriculture has been notified that a claim has been denied.

The settlement also provides a broad range of programmatic relief, including the creation of a new Federal Advisory Council for Native American farmers and ranchers and a new ombudsman position to address farm program issues related to Native American farmers and ranchers as well as all other socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. 

The settlement will not be final until it is formally approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release announcing the settlement, “Today’s settlement can never undo wrongs that Native Americans may have experienced in past decades, but combined with the actions we at USDA are taking to address such wrongs, the settlement will provide some measure of relief to those alleging discrimination.”

In a press release issued yesterday, the National Congress of American Indians praised the settlement.  

"This settlement provides long awaited justice for American Indian farmers and ranchers who have only sought an equal opportunity to work hard and succeed,” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI. “We are pleased that the court and the Obama Administration have taken tangible steps today to right a wrong  reinforce the trust relationship between the United States and American Indian tribal nations.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Montana Has a New Logo for Native American Made Products

Montana has a new Native American Made in Montana (NAMiM) logo for products made by the state’s Native American people, as reported by Char-Koosta News on Oct 14.

In order to use the logo, an individual must be an enrolled member of a tribe in Montana, including Little Shell, and the finished product/service must be created, made or produced in the state.

The Made in Montana Program, part of the International Trade and Relations Bureau in the Business Resources Division of the Montana Department of Commerce, helps Montana businesses develop and market their products statewide, nationwide and globally. The program, which has more than 1,500 participants, was recently expanded to include the Native American Made in Montana logo, the article said.

To learn more about the Made in Montana Program, go to

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Affiliated Tribes to Vote on Enrollment Amendment

On Election Day next month, members of the Three Affiliated Tribes will vote on whether to change the requirement for tribal enrollment, as reported by The Minot Daily News on Oct. 10.

Specifically, the amendment that will be voted on would prohibit lineal descendency. Only those with at least one-eighth Hidatsa, Mandan and/or Arikara blood would be allowed enrollment.

The Three Affiliated Tribes, based in North Dakota, have around 12,000 enrolled members, but many of them live off the reservation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Native People Take Part in Hoover Dam Bridge Dedication

Yesterday’s dedication ceremony of the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the centerpiece of the Hoover Dam Bypass, not only included federal and state officials, but Native Americans also took part in the celebration.

Leroy Spotted Eagle, a spiritual leader from the Southern Paiute Tribe, offered a blessing, according to several media reports, and members of other tribes in Nevada and Arizona participated in traditional dancing on the new bridge.

The bridge spans 1,900 feet across the Colorado River, with the bridge deck and sidewalk rising about 900 feet above the river. It is located approximately 1,500 feet south of the dam itself.

The $240 million, four-lane bypass will reroute traffic for 3.5 miles from the two-lane bottleneck on U.S. 93 across the Hoover Dam.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Iowa Commission to Introduce Bill Providing Process to Restore Parental Rights

The Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs will be introducing a bill during next year’s state legislative session that would provide a process to restore parental rights to Native American parents who have lost children through Iowa's child welfare system, as reported today by

The proposed bill comes about a month after a two-day hearing during which the commission heard testimony from Native American families and advocates who are dissatisfied with the state's high rate of removal of Indian children.

The bill, which will be like one that passed in Illinois, would allow parents to appeal to have their rights restored if their children have not already been adopted and if the parents have “cleaned up their act.” 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

HHS Establishes Tribal Advisory Committee, Representatives Sought

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last week the establishment of a new Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC), according to a press release issued by HHS on Oct. 7.

The release stated that STAC signals a new level of attention to government-to-government relationship between HHS and tribal governments. Its primary purpose: to seek consensus, exchange views, share information, provide advice and recommendations or facilitate any other interaction related to intergovernmental responsibilities or administration of HHS programs, including those that arise explicitly or implicitly under statute, regulation or executive order. The first STAC meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2010.

HHS is currently seeking nominations for one primary representative from each of the 12 areas of the Indian Health Service as well as five at-large national representatives. All representatives must either be elected or appointed tribal officials, acting in their official capacity as the elected officials of their tribe or be designated by an elected tribal official with authority to act on behalf of the tribal official.

Nominations should be submitted no later than Oct. 29, 2010, to:

Paul Dioguardi, Director
Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
US Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave SW Room 630-F
Washington, DC 20201
Fax: (202) 205-2727

Monday, October 11, 2010

Former Soboba Chairman Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes from Vendors

Robert Salgado Sr., former chairman of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, pleaded guilty last week to federal charges related to his acceptance of approximately $875,000 in bribes from tribal vendors and concealing that income from the IRS, according to a press release issued on Oct. 5 by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California.

Salgado, 68, pleaded guilty to two felony charges — bribery and subscribing to a false tax return — before U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson.

In a plea agreement, Salgado admitted that he accepted a total of $874,995 in bribe payments from five vendors who did business with the Soboba Band. The payments to Salgado, which were made by vendors hoping to obtain or being allowed to keep contracts with the tribe, were given to Salgado in the form of cash, payments made to his creditors and checks payable to an entity controlled by Salgado.

Salgado is expected to be sentenced early next year, and he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 13 years in federal prison. The plea agreement contemplates a sentence of 87 months to 108 months in prison, but the actual sentence will be determined by Judge Pregerson, the release said.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oneida Indian Nation Partners with HELP USA to Provide Holiday Meal to the Homeless

Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, has initiated an effort between HELP USA and the New York tribe to help feed the homeless next month. 
With the current economic conditions causing a surge in homelessness across the country and with next month National Homeless Awareness Month, which is tied with the symbolic significance surrounding Thanksgiving, a holiday that originated from Native Americans providing food and shelter to the pilgrims, Halbritter knew there was no better time for the Oneida to give back in a meaningful way.

Joining forces with HELP USA, a non-profit group dedicated to providing housing and support services to the homeless, the Oneida will serve a Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of homeless people on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. The feast will be streamed live online.

Halbritter has recruited a bunch of celebrities to join him in a PSA campaign to raise awareness on homelessness and HELP USA and to help serve the holiday meal. Among them are Mario Cantone, Jill Flint, Thomas Jones, Evan Lysacek, Gilles Marini, Amy Carlson, Jesse Metcalfe, Leven Rambin and Justin Tuck.

To learn more about this effort or to donate, visit:,, twitter HELPUSA and (Holiday HELP Feed the Homeless).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NASA Awards $3.3 Million to Support STEM at Tribal Colleges

NASA is awarding $3.3 million to support academic excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at tribal colleges and universities, the agency announced in a press release dated Oct. 1.

The awards, which have a three-year period and range in value from $215,000 to $592,000, are part of a Cooperative Agreement Notice released by the NASA Office of Education's Minority University Research and Education Program for the Tribal Colleges and Universities Project (TCUP).

The institutions selected through a merit-based, peer-reviewed competition are: Kiksapa Consulting, LLC of Mandan, N.D.; Salish Kootenai College of Pablo, Mo.; and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium in Alexandria, Va.

TCUP is a STEM education grant and mentoring program with the goal of expanding opportunities to academic institutions that prepare Native Americans to enter the nation's STEM workforce through internships, fellowships, research experiences, outreach, information exchange, capacity building and infrastructure development.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Three Alaska Native Firms Want SBA 8(a) Program Reformed

Three prominent Alaska Native corporations say the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program needs to be changed, as reported on Oct. 3 by the Anchorage Daily News.

Native contracting has grown exponentially since the 8(a) program was created. Although developed to help increase the number of small, disadvantage companies participating in federal contracts, the program has over recent years been seriously criticized, and there have been allegations of abuse. Alaska Native firms have become major players in the program, but they have also attracted a lot of the scrutiny due to a small number of them violating the rules.

The Alaska Native firms that want the program changed — Cook Inlet Region, Inc., Doyon and Arctic Slope — have come up with a nine-point reform package, which, as the article says, mirrors revisions already proposed by the SBA and to be finalized later this year. Among the firms’ proposed changes are: requiring Native 8(a) contractors to annually disclose how they have benefited shareholders and tribal members and capping the size of contracts at $100 million.

"To reform it is to save it," Margie Brown, chief executive of Cook Inlet Region, told Anchorage Daily News.

Attend the National Indian Board Members Conference!

Join Falmouth for the 2010 National Indian Board Members Conference at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. Three general sessions and six unique and exciting workshops will provide you with important legal updates, new skills and valuable networking opportunities.

Our conference presenters this year are Richard Phelps, Tal Moore, and Rick McGee, experts with years of experience in Indian Country. With these presenters, you’ll explore strategies for managing conflict, meetings best practices, shielding yourself from potential board liability, the latest technologies available to boards and councils to increase visibility and levels of interactivity, using performance measures, and how to read and understand an audit report. 

Three general session presentations will cover timely issues facing boards/councils today, including finance, human resources, the Health Care Reform Act and more.

This dynamic conference is for both experienced and new board and council members. Don't miss this important annual Indian Country event. Register today! 

Click here for more information!