INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY MEDIA NETWORK

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Updated: 2 hours 58 min ago

Oshie vs. Price for a Chance at Olympic Hockey Gold

20 February 2014 - 12:00am

On Friday at noon EST, the United States will play Canada in the Olympic men’s hockey semifinals. For Team USA it’s a chance for redemption after losing to Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. And for Canada—the country that invented the game, after all—it’s a chance to move one step closer to a record ninth gold medal in the sport.

But for Indian country, it’s a chance to watch two of the top Native hockey players go at it.

T.J. Oshie, Obijwe, a power forward on St. Louis Blues, became an instant hero after his shootout goal against Russia helped propel the U.S. to a spot in the quarterfinals. Carey Price, Ulkatcho First Nation, goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, has started—and won—three games for Team Canada in Sochi thus far.

"I'm just excited," Price told NHL.com when he learned he’d be the starting goalie in the Olympics. "It's been a lingering thought, but this whole season I've been preparing one game at a time. That doesn't change once I get here. I've been preparing these last two days for this game [Thursday] and I'll just continue to do the same." 

Price saved 19 of 20 shots in Canada's 3-1 victory over Norway; 14 of 15 shots in the Canadians' 2-1 overtime win against Finland; and notched another 15 saves in a 2-1 win over Latvia.

Oshie, meanwhile, scored on four of his six shootout attempts against Russia to lead the Americans to a heart-stopping 3-2 win last Saturday. 

“It’s something you practice at the end of practice all the time, just kind of messing around,” Oshie told CBS Sports about his shootout against Russia. “I had to go back and maybe think of some different moves that I can do and maybe go back to some that I already did. It was a fun end.”

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10 Ways to Tell: ‘You Know You're a Native Elder When…’

20 February 2014 - 12:00am

As the years begin to pass us by and it seems there are more and more young ones running around at pow wows, how is it we know when we are becoming a Native Elder?

We decided to reach out to Indian country on social media by asking the following: Finish the following phrase: "You Know You're a Native Elder When…” we received hundreds of responses on our Facebook Page.

So if you were wondering if you might be a Native Elder check this list we have compiled below from the hundreds of comments we received. Then you too will be able to finish the phrase, You Know You're a Native Elder When…”

10. When all the kids call you Grandma or Grandpa, even if you are not related to them

Are you Grandma or Grandpa to every young person that you see? Even to those young ones you don’t recognize? Then you are definitely a Native Elder. If they are using auntie or uncle, you are getting close.

We have to give credit to Agnetha Gloshay on Facebook for coming up with this, the most popular comment with 76 likes and growing. A lot of folks also gave similar comments including 60-year-old Inupiaq elder, Lena Oksoktaruk-Wood who said everyone calls her grandma even though she doesn’t have grandkids.

9. You tell stories that contain “back in my day, when we were children” and usually end with ‘we played outside with a stick and imagination”

Yes, the good ole days…these words often may leave your lips if you are a Native Elder according to Heather Trevino Baroch from Great Falls, Montana. Other phrases also count like, “when the water was clean, when there were a lot more trees on the earth and before the white man came here.”

8. The ravens and eagles start to follow you everywhere

Trish Courtoreille from Lethbridge, Alberta gave us this pointer about Native elders. We think it might have something to do with the years of dedication toward respecting the world and the animals and now they are deciding it’s safe to hang around.

7. When you say “Young one,” and the whole tribe turns around.

If everyone in the tribe is younger than you and saying the words “Young One” causes every head to turn around, yes, you are a Native Elder. Thanks to Tonia Hart Roberts on our Facebook page for this one.

6. When your spirit animal or the animal in your name is extinct

“You know you’re an Indian Elder when the animal in your name is extinct!” Al Garza of Oceanside, California came up with this one. If your animal is on the endangered species list, it might be time to consider yourself an elder as well. (Worth a mention – Dan Bailey also commented - When the grizzly leaves you alone because you`re too tough to chew!)

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Churches Off the Hook for Pedophilia; What’s Next for Survivors?

20 February 2014 - 12:00am

For now, the Catholic Church in South Dakota—along with schools, religious orders and other churches and institutions—appears to be off the hook for sexual abuse that Native Americans say they suffered while attending Church-run boarding schools during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. On February 18, the state legislature’s Senate Judiciary Committee listened to statements for and against Senate Bill 130, which was intended to give their day in court to Native victims who’d had their lawsuits against the Church terminated after legislative action in 2010.

The 45-minute hearing pitted the survivors, all non-lawyers, against Catholic and Lutheran church attorneys. The committee chairman then requested that the victims produce legal documents they hadn’t been forewarned they’d need to show. Finally, the members voted 5-2 to kill the measure, while noting that they opposed sexual abuse of children and “felt for” the victims.

RELATED: Are Pedophiles Getting Free Pass in South Dakota?

One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Troy Heinert, Rosebud Sioux, said he will talk to the survivors who came forward and to South Dakota’s House Judiciary Committee to see what options lie ahead. “I truly believe the survivors still have support. We’ve got to keep this issue moving, because a lot of people haven’t received justice.”

This is the second time the South Dakota legislature failed to remedy a 2010 bill that let institutions off the hook for abuse once the victim had turned 40; the first attempt was in 2012. The 2010 law, written by a Catholic Church lawyer, was passed after scores of middle-aged and elderly Native Americans sued the Church and individual perpetrators under the childhood-sexual-abuse statute of limitations in existence at the time.

“So many plaintiffs had come forward by 2010, the legislature was in panic mode,” said Heinert. “It passed a law that doesn’t allow for nuances among the cases.”

RELATED: South Dakota Legislature Quashes New Childhood-Sexual-Abuse Bill

Going into the meeting, some victims’ supporters criticized the bill’s draft language and claimed the measure, if passed into law, could have been construed to mean the opposite of what was intended. Speaking on background, an official of the legislature’s research council, which wrote the bill, admitted to ICTMN that it could have been better crafted.

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Indigenous Leader Acquitted of Weapons Charges Connected to Protest

19 February 2014 - 12:00am

Indigenous Honduran leader Bertha Cáceres, Director of the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was acquitted on possession of an illegal weapons charge on Tuesday, February 11 at the First Court of Law in Santa Barbara, Honduras.

RELATED: Honduran Military Kill Indigenous Protestor at Agua Zarca Project

The Honduran government had charged Cáceres with illegal possession of a weapon as a threat to the internal security of the state on May 24 of last year; on the previous day, May 23, police had removed protestors from the site of the contested Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project. Cáceres was one of the leaders of the protest, and they noted that the government had not consulted with the indigenous community before selling the property to Desarrollos Energeticos, SA (DESA), which made the sale illegal. COPINH had also released a press statement at the time saying that they considered the hydroelectric dam to be a threat to the environment as well as an attack against indigenous rights to control of their territory.

RELATED: Indigenous Leader of Protests Arrested Again in Honduras, New Charges

In this recent case COPINH noted that, “The Honduran government has recognized its error, and has abandoned judicial persecution in this case and accepts…the obligation of the Government of Honduras to respect international treaties that protect this activity and the right to culture and defense of indigenous territories.”

RELATED: Arrested Honduran Indigenous Leader Promises More Mega Projects Protests

The rights of the indigenous communities that are spelled out in international treaties was a very important aspect of this case said Paola Limon, an attorney with the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). CEJIL attorneys were part of the legal team that represented Cáceres in her precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Limon stated that the measures were granted by the IACHR immediately following the Coup in 2009 and have been maintained since that time in order to protect her life, “given the dangerous context in which environmental and human rights defenders carry out their activities in Honduras.”

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Celebrating Killers: Yes, Natives Should Care About a Dead Black Teen

19 February 2014 - 12:00am

The original inhabitants of Turtle Island are not an island. As much as we might want to pretend otherwise, we are not the remote tribes in the Amazon....

If Only! 'Columbus Day Cancelled' & 9 Other Long-Overdue Headlines

19 February 2014 - 12:00am

Considering all of the news Native American people see on a daily basis that is tough to stomach—why not have a bit of fun? We all know those news stories we would like to see happen, so we thought we would take some time to construct a few.

Here are 10 headlines Natives would love to see:

President Obama Forces Government to Honor All Treaties

In a stunning move by the President Barack Obama has decided to honor all of those old Native American treaties created throughout history. President Obama also told all of those affected Native Americans, “to get ready to move back to your ancestral lands, get paid back for all of those resources used over the years and check all of your mailboxes tomorrow for a big, fat check.”

Snyder Agrees Redskins is Offensive

In a surprising turn of events, Redskins team owner Dan Snyder has broken down and admitted his team’s name is racially insensitive. “I actually feel kinda bad about it and I realize the games my dad and I went to as a kid have nothing to do with another culture’s feelings.” After talking with a stadium packed full of game-goers Snyder also said, “Yeah, money also had a lot to do with it.”

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We’re In the Funding, White House Confirms Full Contract Support Costs

19 February 2014 - 12:00am

The White House confirmed February 18 that it has backed off its request last year to Congress to cap contract support costs (CSC) owed to tribes for services provided to tribal citizens by tribal contractors.

RELATED: Administration Agrees to Fully Pay Tribal Contract Support Costs

“The administration will fully fund contract support costs for federally-recognized tribes in 2014,” said a White House official. “Last fall’s FY 2014 continuing resolution funded the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) contract support costs at the agencies' estimates of full costs. Based on the funding provided in the FY 2014 omnibus, which was enacted in January, both BIA and IHS will fund CSCs at the agencies’ estimates of full costs.

“The administration is working with BIA and IHS to develop a long-term accounting and budget strategy to address CSCs in consultation with tribes,” the White House official added.

In terms of hard numbers, the IHS budget obligates $587 million to fund CSC in full this year, which is $139.6 million more than had been appropriated in fiscal year 2013.

It was initially unclear on February 18 whether the BIA has budgeted sufficient funding to fully fund CSC this year, according to tribal advocates. That’s because the BIA budgeted its CSC funding requirement based on its April 30, 2012 submission to Congress. That submission was based on a $230 million cap, which was reported at the time to be $12 million short of the full $242 million requirement.

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8 Allegedly Anti-Sovereignty Actions Taken by Maine Attorney General’s Office

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

In calling for an investigation of the office of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis cited a number of actions on the part of her ...

Penobscot Chief Calls for Investigation of Maine Attorney General's Office

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis is calling for an investigation of the state attorney general’s office following the latest successful effort by Attorney General Janet Mills to thwart a tribal-state agreement that would have benefited all stakeholders while acknowledging the sovereignty of the Wabanaki nations.

Francis and leaders of the Passamaquoddy Tribe learned on February 12 at a meeting of the Maine legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) over elvers fishing licenses and conditions, which had been hammered out over months of negotiations, would not be finalized as planned. DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said the department was backing off from its support of the MOA because of “legal concerns” raised by Mills. According to Indian law experts, neither the U.S. Constitution nor case law supports Mills’s legal concerns.

The undermining of the Memorandum of Agreement is just the latest in a long line of actions by the attorney general’s office to quash any enterprise that would acknowledge, recognize or affirm the tribes’ sovereignty and right to self-determination, Francis said.

“This is getting infuriating; that office needs to be investigated,” Francis said in an exclusive statement to Indian County Today Media Network in response to a request for comment.

RELATED: Mills Kills Passamaquoddy-State Elvers Agreement

Francis testified in front of the marine resources committee a number of times during the months of negotiations. The Memorandum of Agreement was critical to amendments to Legislative Document 1625, a bill to codify the rules over elvers fishing. Although only the Passamaquoddy Tribe was a signatory to the MOA, the agreement would affect all Wabanaki nations—the Penobscot, the Houlton Band of Maliseets and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs.

“The negotiated MOA proved that when the tribes are treated as governments and dealt with as sovereigns, solutions and mutual compromise can provide for an acceptable solution to both sides,” Francis said. “But there really is no place in the state system for meaningful government-to-government negotiations and agreements when the attorney general’s office wants this relationship totally managed by state law.… The reality is, while this makes them feel better, it is wrong! And as we’re starting to see, the tribes are not the only ones seeing this behavior for what it is—criminal,” Francis said.  

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Wampanoags and Harvard Celebrate Historic Ties

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

Harvard University hosted the leaders of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag tribes at a clambake at the Harvard Faculty Club February 7 to honor...

Interior Approves Mechoopda’s Trust Land for Gaming

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

A small California tribe will be able to move forward with its plan to develop an Indian gaming Casino on its land in the Sacramento Valley.

On January 24, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn approved a request by the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria to acquire 626 acres in trust in Butte County, California, near the city of Chico for gaming purposes. The Mechoopda Tribe will construct and operate a modest gaming facility on 91 acres of the site. The project is estimated to create 214 full-time jobs.

“The Mechoopda Tribe has pursued this initiative for more than a decade,” Washburn said. “The acquisition of the land into trust for the purpose of establishing a class III gaming establishment will result in substantial financial benefits to the tribe and help stimulate economic development.”

Mechoopda Chairman Dennis Ramirez could not be reached for comment.

The Mechoopda Tribe has a little more than 400 members, according to its website, and little in the way of economic development.

“Having seen firsthand the remarkable transformations Indian gaming has brought to other tribes, the Tribal Council of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe believed it was in the best interest of all members to pursue the development of a world-class gaming facility at Highway 99 and Highway 149 in Butte County,” tribal officials say on the website. “The profits garnered from the gaming project will undoubtedly allow the tribe to meet the housing, medical and cultural protection needs of its members. It will allow the tribe to drastically reduce debt, fund youth and employment programs and academic scholarships. Finally, this generation of Mechoopda has hope and – for the first time in a century – the prospect of living better than their parents and grandparents.”

The 1934 Indian Reorganization Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to acquire land in trust for Indian tribes. According to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the Secretary can allow gaming on trust land if it is determined that the property to be acquired in trust qualifies as “restored lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to federal recognition.”

The Department of the Interior approved the tribe’s first application for land into trust in 2008. This decision was challenged in federal court and ultimately remanded by the court to the Department of the Interior for reconsideration.

Washburn said that the Department conducted a thorough review of the tribe’s history and application, and determined that the lands meet the “restored lands exception” of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Department’s implementing regulations, and that the Department is authorized to acquire the proposed lands in trust pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act.

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Cherokee Nation Marshals Secure Military Vehicle for Search & Rescues

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

Cherokee Nation marshals recently secured a military grade vehicle to assist in searches, rescues and other emergency situations involving Cherokee citizens....

North Dakota Oil Town Has Higher Rents Than New York City!

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

The oil boom in the Dakotas and Montana has raised concerns about everything from environmental degradation to human trafficking....

Cape Wind Battle Continues as Foes File New Lawsuit

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

Longtime opponents of Cape Wind’s controversial $2.6 billion industrial wind energy proposal off the coast of Cape Cod have filed a new lawsuit, challenging the developer’s state-approved no-bid contract to sell its energy at three times the price of competing out-of-state green energy companies.

The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, the umbrella group for dozens of Cape Wind opponents including the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod and the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe on Martha’s Vineyard, filed the lawsuit in late January in U.S. District Court in Boston against Massachusetts state regulators, energy company NSTAR and Cape Wind. The lawsuit alleges that state regulators’ approval of the contract between Cape Wind and NSTAR violated federal law in two ways. First, by pressuring NSTAR to buy power from the in-state Cape Wind the regulators discriminated against out-of-state power companies with lower electricity costs, the suit alleges. Second, they exceeded their authority by setting wholesale rates for the contract, an action reserved for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Audra Parker, the president and CEO of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said the organization is confident the suit will succeed.

“It is yet another example of the deficiencies characterizing state and federal decisions that have been made in favor of Cape Wind,” Parker said.

She pointed to recent court decisions in New Jersey and Maryland that not only found state programs directing utilities to sign long-term contracts to be unconstitutional but also raised questions regarding the authority of states in general to direct utilities to purchase wholesale energy under specific state mandates.

“Our case alleges that NSTAR was coerced into signing a no-bid contract that violates federal law, discriminates against affordable green power producers from out of state and burdens small businesses and municipalities with unnecessarily high electricity costs,” Parker said. “The state’s actions on the Cape Wind contract are even more disturbing given the increasing availability of alternative energy sources available at a fraction of the price of Cape Wind.”

This latest lawsuit is one of several still-pending legal challenges to the Cape Wind project, which proposes erecting 130 turbines, each towering 440 feet above the water across a 25-square mile area between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Cape Wind has battled its opponents since it was first proposed in 2001. The project has been touted by the Obama administration as America’s first offshore wind farm and enthusiastically supported by Massachusetts state government.

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Coalition for Prisoners’ Rights Addresses UN Human Rights Committee

18 February 2014 - 12:00am

The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently heard about the violations of indigenous prisoners’ religious freedoms at the hands of the United States throughout the country.

Huy, a Settle, Washington based non-profit formed in 2012 to reform state policy in regard to Native prisoners’ Indian religious freedoms and cultural expression, was joined by the National Congress of American Indians, Native American Rights Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union in presenting their information to the U.N.

Related: Huy: Washington State Non-Profit to Improve Indian Prisoner Ceremonies

Kate Fox Principi, secretary of the Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland heard the coalition’s concerns, which came in the form of an update to a previously submitted 15-page report, titled “Joint Submission to Human Rights Committee Concerning Indigenous Prisoners’ Religious Freedoms in the United States of America.”

“This update, as with the original report, concerns the United States’ violations of indigenous prisoners’ religious freedoms and the United States’ failure to fully implement the ICCPR on state and local levels, in particular response to paragraphs 1(b), 4, 16, and 27 of the Human Rights Committee’s list of issues concerning the United States, for the 110th Session. The Human Rights Committee’s review of the United States’ human rights record was scheduled to occur last October during the 109th Session, but was postponed due to the United States government shutdown last fall,” according to a Huy press release.

All the information presented through the update and the report address the treatment and violations occurring in California, Montana, Hawaii, Arizona, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming and Missouri.

“The religious and human rights violations being committed by state and county corrections agencies against indigenous prisoners remain prevalent,” said initial Chairman of the Huy Board Advisors, Gabriel Galanda, Round Valley, a tribal lawyer with Galanda Broadman, PLLC in Seattle. “International intervention is now needed to bring the U.S. and its state and local siblings into universal compliance with American federal law and worlwide human rights norms.”

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When the Mohawk Lacrosse Team Played at the Olympics

17 February 2014 - 12:00am

Hockey star T.J....

Administration Agrees to Fully Pay Tribal Contract Support Costs

17 February 2014 - 12:00am

The Obama administration has reportedly agreed to congressional demands for it to abide by Supreme Court decisions requiring reimbursement of full tribal contract support costs (CSC).

Congressional members and staffers say that full CSC reimbursements tribes for 2014 “are reflected in revised spending plans for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) that are to be delivered to the House and Senate appropriations committees within a week,” according to a February 13 article published by The Washington Post. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a Chickasaw Nation citizen, is quoted in the article, saying the failure to fully pay tribes “should have never happened in the first place.”

The White House controversially suggested to Congress last year a cap on CSC reimbursements to tribes, despite tribal trust and treaty obligations and Supreme Court decisions that require total reimbursement.

RELATED: White House Trying to Cheat Tribes on Health Costs

Tribal supporters in Congress, including Alaska senators Mark Begich (D) and Lisa Murkowski (R), spoke out against the plan after tribal leaders made their bewilderment widely known to the administration.

The tide for tribes improved on this matter in January when Democratic and Republican Congress members announced a budget agreement that said the federal government must treat tribal contractors the same way as any other government contractor by getting reimbursed for work that they perform. Until 1999, payments to tribal contractors were reimbursed by the federal government, but at that time the IHS began citing budget shortfalls as a reason to not reimburse these costs. Since then, hundreds of millions of claims have gone unpaid to tribes.

RELATED: New Congressional Budget Reimburses Tribal Contract Support Costs

In early February, as final budget considerations were underway at the White House, leaders with the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) told IHS Acting Director Yvette Roubideaux at a meeting in Arlington, Virginia that full CSC should be reimbursed this year, and they rebuked her for poor consultation on this and other budget issues in the recent past, pointing to a conference call set up by the administration earlier this year on short notice that was difficult for tribal leaders to attend.

“A conference call does not take the place of meaningful and constructive consultation and outreach,” Brian Patterson, president of USET, told Roubideaux.

“I think that using a call is difficult,” added Lynn Malerba, chairwoman of the Mohegan Tribe. “It’s not good consultation for you, and it doesn’t feel like consultation to us either.”

Roubideaux warned that the cost of paying for full CSC this year may end up being more than the amount of money that Congress has appropriated to her agency. “At this point, we have more things to fund than we have [in congressional appropriations for IHS],” she said at the February 5 meeting, adding that she wanted to confirm with tribal leaders that they would be fine with her dipping into other parts of her budget to pay all CSC obligations.

Malerba noted to Roubideaux that tribes have already faced a reduction in some services as a result of federal sequestration, so tribes are widely concerned about more reductions.

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Mills Kills Passamaquoddy-State Elvers Agreement

17 February 2014 - 12:00am

Leaders of the Passamaquoddy Tribe were disappointed and frustrated when a proposed negotiated fishing agreement with the state was terminated at the last minute by Attorney General Janet Mills based on a claimed “constitutional” issue that Indian law experts say is not supported in the law.

A delegation of Passamaquoddy leaders traveled to the Maine capitol of Augusta on February 12 to attend a meeting of the legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources to finalize a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Marine Resources for the 2014 elvers’ fishery season. The agreement had been hammered out over months of negotiation. Instead of finalizing the agreement, Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said that the department was backing off its support of the agreement because of “legal concerns” raised by the attorney general.

Related: Maine Attorney General Under Fire Over Elvers

The broken agreement was just another example of the state’s refusal to deal with the tribe in good faith, tribal leaders said.

“It is so bad that if the Passamaquoddy Tribe came up with a new way to grow grass so it was greener and healthier, the state of Maine would reject it,” Tribal Councilor Newell Lewey said in a media release issued by tribal leaders. “They just don’t want us to succeed—even if we make it better for everyone.”  

The MOA was to resolve a controversy over how the tribe and state would issue elver fishing licenses and address a conservation order from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to reduce the catch of the tiny translucent baby American eels for this year’s 10-week elvers season, which begins the last week of March. The commission threatened to shut down the fishery if conservation measures were not taken. In early February the Marine Fisheries Commission met with the tribe and the state and approved the state plan and tacitly, the Memorandum of Agreement, to meet the commission’s conservation goal to protect the American eel population.

“We were cautiously optimistic [going into the meeting],” Chief Joseph Socobasin said. “We were coming out of a Joint Tribal Council Meeting [between the Passamaquoddy communities at Sipayik and Motahkomikuk where the MOA was approved by a nine to one vote. We had a reliable mandate to seal the agreement.”

“By lunchtime, the agreement had dissolved before our eyes,” said Vice-Chief Clayton Sockabasin, who is also the chair of the Fisheries Committee.

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Preserving Indigenous Democracy

17 February 2014 - 12:00am

When Europeans first came to the Americas they took note of the democratic processes they observed in most indigenous nations. Indigenous political relations were usually decentralized, consensus based, and inclusive. Indigenous democracies may not seem remarkable by contemporary standards, but when Europeans arrived their governments were not democratic. Most of Europe was characterized by centralized absolutist states dominated by class structures, where the majority of people did not participate in the political process. Wars of independence, starting with the United States in 1775 and then throughout Latin and South America during the early 1800s, enabled creation of democratic states after overthrowing European colonial governments. The new democratic American states engaged market economies, and retained class structure, albeit within a nation of individual citizens.

While the influence of indigenous political cultures on American democracies is heatedly debated, contemporary indigenous nations seek respect, compatibility, acceptance, and mutually beneficial relations within contemporary democratic nation states. Indigenous political processes often remain based on kinship, community, culture, and territory. Most nation states do not recognize indigenous nations as political entities, and prefer to incorporate Indigenous Peoples into the body politic as individual citizens. Such a position is consistent with the values of equality, individual citizenship, and inclusive political processes that characterize modern liberal democratic states, but are not consistent with most contemporary indigenous political processes based on family, community, and territory. Many indigenous people want to participate in the nation as citizens, but at the same time retain loyalties to their ancient cultural and political communities. Gaining nation state recognition of the political rights and powers of indigenous governments has been extremely difficult.

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Hardcore Version of Olympics: the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks

17 February 2014 - 12:00am

Erica Meckel is hoping to add to her already impressive medal collection from a multi-sport competition.

The 25-year-old Koyukon Athabascan will be participating in the Arctic Winter Games from March 15-22 in her hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, which features 20 sports.

This will mark the fourth time that Meckel has competed in the games, which are held every two years and for athletes from the circumpolar North. Meckel will participate in Arctic Sports, which features 11 separate disciplines, including the one-foot high kick, two-foot high kick and the kneel jump.

Those in the high kick events are judged by how high they can kick a sealskin ball dangling from a pole. The kneel jump is similar to long jump, but competitors start off on their knees and see how far they can jump and land on their feet after propelling themselves forward.

Meckel said she's averaged about four medals from each of her previous Arctic Games. She'll compete in six of the seven events offered to those in the open women's category (18 and over). But she isn't necessarily keying in on how much hardware she'll garner.

"My goal isn't based on how many medals I can win," she told ICTMN. "Instead, I'm focusing on whether I can do ‘personal bests’ in my events."

She’s also looking forward to competing in her hometown. "I'm pretty excited about that," said Meckel, a former competitive gymnast. "My family and co-workers can come watch."

Since graduating from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2010, Meckel has been working as a juvenile probation officer. She first competed at the Arctic Games in 2008 in Yellowknife, located in the Northwest Territories. She also took part at the 2010 and 2012 games, held in Grande Prairie, Alberta and Whitehorse, Yukon, respectively.

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