Category Archives: Culture

Town [sort of] Pushes to Stop Selling Beer to Natives

“Whiteclay is a rural skid row, with only a dozen residents, a street strewn with debris, four ramshackle liquor stores and little else. It seems to exist only to sell beer to people like Tyrell Ringing Shield, a grandmother…On a recent morning, she had hitched a ride from her home in South Dakota, just steps across the state line. There, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, alcohol is forbidden. In Whiteclay, though, it reigns supreme.” J. Boseman, The New York Times

Tyrell Ringing Shield,with her partner of 16 years, Stewart, said Nebraska should not renew the liquor licenses for the stores in Whiteclay, Neb. Credit K. Barker NYT,

Excerpt: Nebraska May Stanch One Town’s Flow of Beer to Its Vulnerable Neighbors by Julie Bosman New York Times

“’You visit, you talk, you laugh, you drink,’ said Ms. Ringing Shield, 57, as she stood on the sidewalk with friends, chain-smoked Montclair cigarettes and recounted her struggles with alcoholism, diabetes and cirrhosis. ‘It makes you forget.’

Over the decades, there have been frequent protests outside the stores. Lawsuits against the retailers and beer distributors have been filed. Boycotts of brewers that sell to the stores have begun with enthusiasm. All those efforts have sputtered, though, and little has changed.

Graffiti in Whiteclay urging alcohol consumers to free their spirit. Credit- K Barker for NYT

Now many residents of Nebraska and South Dakota are pushing for the liquor stores of Whiteclay to be shut, disgusted by the easy access to alcohol the stores provide to a people who have fought addiction for generations. The Nebraska authorities, in turn, have tightened scrutiny of the stores, which sell millions of cans of beer and malt liquor annually. Last year, for the first time, the state liquor commission ordered the stores’ six owners to reapply for their liquor licenses…The issue has left people in South Dakota and Nebraska deeply divided. Most agree that alcohol abuse on the reservation is an entrenched problem, but they are unsure of the solution — and who is responsible.

WhiteClay. Photo: -Daily Mail

WhiteClay. Photo: -Daily Mail

The grim scene in Whiteclay has scarcely changed for decades. Particularly in the warmer months, Native Americans can be seen openly drinking beer in town, often passed out on the ground, disheveled and ill. Many who come to Whiteclay from the reservation spend the night sleeping on mattresses in vacant lots or fields. Even under the chill of winter, people huddle outside the liquor stores, silver beer cans poking from coat pockets.

A man sits outside WhiteClay Grocery, where he will likely spend the night. Next to him, another man lies passed out in his own urine.

Others argue that the problem of alcohol abuse on the reservation goes well beyond the stores in Whiteclay. Even some Native Americans said they were uneasy over upsetting the status quo. Vance Blacksmith, 47, a Native American and teacher on the reservation, said he favored leaving the stores alone.

‘They’re not hurting anyone,’ he said. “Drinking is a personal choice. The people who drink are trying to accept life as it is. And it’s depressing, being here on Pine Ridge.’

Terry Robbins, the sheriff of Sheridan County, has found himself at the center of the fight over Whiteclay. Sheriff Robbins echoed a common sentiment heard from both Nebraskans and Native Americans: If the stores lose their licenses and close down, people in search of beer will just drive farther to get it, endangering themselves and others on the roads. He favors containing the problem in Whiteclay, rather than allowing it to spread out over the county’s nearly 2,500 square miles.

Passed out in fron tof liquor store in WhiteClay. Photo-indianz.

‘The people that want to drink are going to drive and get alcohol somewhere,’ he said. ‘What I’m thinking is that it’s going to put more drunk drivers on the country roads.’”

Category: Culture, Health

New Elk Hide Provides Glimpse into Native Culture

“The Rockwell Museum has a new addition to its Native American Gallery. It’s a painted elk hide estimated to be about 100-years-old. The painting on the hide shows a visual record of a traditional buffalo hunt, and what would have happened back at the camp once the hunt was over.” M. Ross, My Twin Tiers News”

Rockwell’s New Elk Hide

Excerpt: The Rockwell Museum has a new addition to its Native American Gallery.  Michelle Ross, My Twin Tiers News

“It’s believed to have been made by Washakie or one of his followers – a famous artist in the Shoshone tribe. The museum says the work was made during captivity on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Chief Washakie, Shoshone

‘One of the most fascinating aspects to me is this division of labor that you see depicted on the hide that is really split along gender lines,’ Rockwell Curator of Collections said.

Members of the Shoshone tribe

There were very specific jobs that men would have done and very specific jobs that only the women would have done.

Elk Hide Robe Shoshone, 1900 The Brooklyn Museum

hide painting by Shoshone Chief Washakie Buffalo Hunt

The museum also has an activity for families where children can trace symbols of the Indian nation on a paper hide to illustrate events during their own year.” 

Category: Culture

The Moon Over Temple Mounds at Crystal River

“The Moon Over the Mounds program at the Crystal River Archaeological State Park began at least 15 years ago as a way to invite people into the park to learn about the Native American mounds there in a different way…  They will get an overview of the site, where there are burial mounds, temple/platform mounds, and a plaza area. They will also learn why it was a great place to gather for so many years.” L. Root, ICTMN

Temple mounds at Crystal River Archaeological State Park

Excerpt: Learn About Native American Mounds By Moonlight by  Leeanne Root, ICTMN

” Moonlit tours of the Native American mounds are led by retired park rangers as well as archaeologists like Gary Ellis, director emeritus of Gulf Archaeology Research InstituteDuring a Moon Over the Mounds walk held February 10, Ellis noted that the site is a National Historic Landmark and still retains most of its cultural integrity, and the park service intends on keeping it that way. Rangers make sure the Native American mounds are protected from the possibility of falling trees, which are removed if deemed dangerous.

The area was occupied from about 1500 BC to about 1300 AD, and according to Ellis is the best example of a burial complex in the southeast. He noted that burial complexes are common in the Ohio River Valley, but not so much in the southeast.

Temple Mound glows in the dark to lead visitors to the top during the Moon.

‘To see it in Florida, in this context and almost the only one of its kind with a society that is essentially hunters and gatherers, that’s a pretty marvelous thing, Ellis told the nearly 90 attendees gathered on February 10.”

The next Moon Over the Mounds event will be held on March 10 at the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, 3400 N. Museum Point in Crystal River, Florida. For more information call 352-795-3817.

Category: Culture

President Obama’s Last Gift to Natives and Others

“President Obama has designated two areas in the deserts of southern Nevada and Utah as national monuments, after years of fighting and debate over the management of both areas. The newly created Bears Ears National Monument will protect roughly 1.35 million acres of land in southeast Utah from future development. Gold Butte National Monument will give federal protections to roughly 300,000 acres in southwest Nevada…The designation is a win for a number of groups. Environmental activists and Native American tribes have been fighting for protection of both areas for years and are applauding the decision.” N. Rott, NPR

Obama at Tribal Nations Conference

Bear’s Ears. photo- hear2heal

Map of proposed Bears Ears National monument in southeastern Utah. St George News

Excerpt:  Obama Designates Two New National Monuments In Nevada And Utah–By Nathan Rott, NPR

“In a statement, Obama said the designations protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes. Those protections begin immediately, but how long they’ll last is uncertain.

State and local politicians in Utah and Nevada have vowed to fight any federal designations on state land, calling them land grabs and executive overreach — arguments heard in many parts of the rural West…Obama has used executive power to establish or expand national monuments 29 times during his tenure, most recently in California, Hawaii and the Atlantic Ocean. But the designations in Nevada and Utah, two largely rural, Republican-held states, could prove to be the most contentious.

The Navajo, Hopi, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni all have ancestral ties to Bears Ears. Under the new designation, they’ll co-manage the national monument with the federal government and will still be allowed to access the land for tribal ceremonies, firewood and herb collection, hunting, grazing and outdoor recreation.

Gold Butte. photo- Friends of Nevada Wilderness

As a coalition of five sovereign Native American tribes in the region, we are confident that today’s announcement of collaborative management will protect a cultural landscape that we have known since time immemorial said Alfred Lomahquahu, vice chairman of Hope Tribe.

Gold Butte is home to the Moapa Band of Paiutes and has a number of archaeological sites, which have seen a recent rise in vandalism as anti-federal-government sentiments have simmered in Nevada.”

President Barak Obama

Today, I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes… Importantly, today I have also established a Bears Ears Commission to ensure that tribal expertise and traditional knowledge help inform the management of the Bears Ears National Monument and help us to best care for its remarkable national treasures.

Thank you all for your partnership. Thank you for this journey.

I’ll see you on the other side. May God bless you. God bless the United States of America. ~President Barack Obama~December 28, 2016

Category: Culture

Amazing and Beautiful Pueblo Gingerbread Houses!

“The annual Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest is a favorite holiday tradition at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Children and adults are invited to enter a gingerbread house inspired by a Pueblo village, house, community, church, or historic building with prizes awarded in children’s and adult categories. This annual holiday event is a unique way to share and enjoy Pueblo culture with your family.” IPCC

Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest submission (courtesy IPCC)

Excerpt: 8th Annual Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest

“The 8th Annual Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest is just one of many events at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center this holiday season… Children can listen to tales told by Pueblo elders and community members while gathered around the fire in the courtyard. The IPCC’s Pueblo Harvest Cafe will offer hot chocolate for sale.

(courtesy IPCC)

(courtesy IPCC)

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is a world-class museum and cultural center located in Albuquerque’s historic Indian School District. Founded in 1976 by the 19 Pueblo Indian Tribes of New Mexico, the IPCC’s stated mission is to preserve and perpetuate Pueblo culture and to advance understand by presenting the accomplishments and evolving history of the Pueblo people of New Mexico with dignity and respect.” ICTMN

The show is up for visitors to enjoy December 5, 2016 – January 8, 2017

(courtesy IPCC)

Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest submission (courtesy IPCC)



Ulihelisdi Unadetiyisgv’i

Category: Culture

The Navajo Mystery of Skin-walkers

“There is little documented information about the details of witchcraft among the Najavo—or Diné, as they call themselves. What is relatively well known is their term ‘Skin-walker,’ or ‘yee naaldlooshii,’ which means, ‘with it, he goes on all fours.’ This is a reference to the special ability to transform into a four-legged animal. According to most modern descriptions, this seems to be the only real determinant for defining someone as a Skin-walker…In Navajo cultural beliefs, witchcraft itself is regarded as a taboo subject because it deals with concepts and objects surrounding death. Therefore, Navajo people are strictly prohibited from even speaking of such things.” N. Nez, CSI



Excerpt: Skinwalkers by Noah Nez, CSI

“The description of the Navajo witch consists of a rather general description that resembles the more familiar “witch doctor” found in much Haitian voodoo folklore. But even the standard American image of the witch character is depicted as casting spells and, more importantly, possessing the supernatural ability to transform shape; the witch is often depicted as mimicking the form of a black cat. While it is frequently mentioned that the Skin-walker possesses the ability to assume the form of any animal, it is most often reported in the forms of a few key carnivorous animals: a coyote, a wolf, a fox, an owl, or a crow.

Navajo tribal beliefs include the concept of living in harmony with nature, which is anthropomorphized as Mother Earth. The beliefs also involve two different types of beings: the Earth People and the Holy People. For instance, medicine men are thought to be the bridge between Earth People and the spirit world.



Skin-walkers are really just another type of Navajo witch; more specifically, they are considered to be practitioners of what is called the witchery way. The distinguishing characteristics between these different variations of witches are in the details. For example, one specific type of witch relies on the usage of objects to transmit curses, referred to as the frenzy way. However, in most contemporary accounts, Skin­-walkers often possess certain supernatural abilities that encompass multiple types of Navajo witch.”

“For the Navajo people, witchcraft is just another part of their spirituality and one of the “Ways” of their religion.”



Category: Culture