Wildfires Rapidly Destroying Native Land

“In Oregon, Karuk tribal citizen Troy Hockaday Sr. watched helplessly last fall as a raging wildfire leveled the homes of five of his family members, swallowed acres of forest where his people hunt deer, elk and black bear, and killed a longtime friend.” J. Estus, ICT, July 15, 2021

A scoop plane drops water onto a burning ridge in Washington state (Pete Caster:Lewiston Tribune via AP)

Excerpt: Wildfires in the west hitting tribes hard By, Joaqlin Estus, Indian Country Today, July 15, 2021

“Now, less than a year later, the tribal councilman is watching in horror as flames encroach on the parched lands of other Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest that already are struggling to preserve traditional hunting and fishing practices amid historic drought. At least two tribes have declared states of emergency amid the devastation…In California, a fire was rapidly expanding Wednesday in the Feather River Canyon, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Paradise, the foothill town largely destroyed by a 2018 wildfire that killed 85 people.

The largest fire in the U.S. on Wednesday was burning in southern Oregon. The lightning-caused Bootleg fire was encroaching on the traditional territory of the Klamath Tribes, which still have treaty rights to hunt and fish on the land, and sending huge, churning plumes of smoke into the sky visible for miles…Chuwea Creek Fire is one of several fires in north central Washington, where hundreds of people are under level 1 and 2 evacuation orders. At level 1, people are advised to get ready and be alert to danger. At level 2, people may leave voluntarily or make plans and pack to be ready to go at a moment’s notice as significant danger is in their area…The Federal Emergency Management Agency Tuesday authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs for the Chuwea Creek Fire…Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Chairman Andy Joseph Jr., said in a prepared statement Tuesday, “our priority is always the safety of all people on the Colville Reservation, and we will also protect property to the best of our ability,” Joseph said.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the people already impacted by these fires. We thank those coming onto our land to assist us in fighting these fires, and we appreciate the donations and offers for help that are already coming in. The need for action to protect our climate, and to mitigate the effects of climate change, becomes clearer with each passing year and each round of devastating fires,” Joseph said.

On Tuesday the tribe closed the reservation to the public and to industrial activities. It placed non-essential staff on administrative leave.”

Category: Culture

First Native Owned Sea Tour Launches in Seattle!

“Seattle’s newest waterfront attraction is a Native-owned, Native-designed voyage offering a narrated tour sharing the history of the city and its Indigenous people. Salish Sea Tours, located at Miner’s Landing on Pier 57, opened to the public on June 25.” N. Brennan, ICT, July 2021

Salish Sea Tours Launch 2021

Excerpt: Salish Sea Tours Launch, By Natasha Brennan, ICT

“Various Native artists and leaders were involved in the creation of the company’s two 93-foot catamarans and its hour-long narrated tour of Elliott Bay. Owner Kyle Griffith, an enrolled member of the Chinook Indian Nation, said the tour is a tangible representation of tribes coming together.

George Montero, Tlingit, is presented with a traditional Duwamish blanket at a ceremony before Salish Sea Tours made one of its first voyages on June 24 from Miner’s Landing on the Seattle waterfront. (Photo by The Bellingham Herald


The Chinook Indian Nation, located less than 100 miles southwest of Olympia, and the Duwamish Tribe, native to the Seattle area, are not federally recognized. Griffith hopes the tour will bring attention to the tribes’ fight for recognition.

Inside the ship.

‘It’s not just a tour, it’s about being seen. This is the first tour in the city of Seattle that mentions the name of the Duwamish,’ Jolene Haas, director of the Duwamish Longhouse, said at the tour’s maiden voyage and launch party Thursday afternoon, June 24.

To Purchase Tickets Visit:   https://www.salishseatours.com

How Natives Link Cultural Tattoos To Their Ancestors

“As scientists find more tattoos on preserved remains from Indigenous cultures, artists living today are drawing from them to revive cultural traditions.” K. Langolis, The New York Times, July 5, 2021

Elle Festin, a California tattooist of Filipino heritage, uses the Ibaloi and Kankanaey fire mummies. Credit- Nia Macknight for The NYT.jpeg

Excerpt: Inked Mummies, Linking Tattoo Artists With Their Ancestors, By Krista Langlois, The New York Times,  July 5, 2021

“In the 1970s, hunters stumbled upon eight 500-year-old bodies preserved by the Arctic climate near Qilakitsoq, an abandoned Inuit settlement in northwest Greenland. Later, when scientists photographed the mummies with infrared film, they made an intriguing discovery: Five of the six females had delicate lines, dots and arches tattooed on their faces.

Tattoos on an Ibaloi woman in 1999. Credit-Getty Images

For thousands of years, tattoos were more than just body decoration for Inuit and other Indigenous cultures. They served as symbols of belonging, signified coming-of-age rituals, channeled spiritual beliefs or conferred powers that could be called upon while giving birth or hunting. Yet starting around the 17th century, missionaries and colonists intent on ‘civilizing’ Indigenous people put a stop to tattooing in all but the most remote communities.

The practice so thoroughly disappeared in Greenland that Maya Sialuk Jacobsen, who spent her childhood there, worked for a decade as a Western-style tattooist before realizing that her Inuit ancestors had also been tattooists, albeit of a very different nature…’I take great pride in tattooing a woman,’  she said. “When she meets her foremothers in the next world, it will be like looking in a mirror.’

Aaron Deter-Wolf studies ancient North American tattooing tools like this one used by the Pueblo in southeast Utah. Credit- R. Hubner, WSU

Until recently, Western archaeologists largely ignored tattooing. Because of these scientists’ disinterest, tools made for tapping, poking, stitching or cutting human skin were cataloged as sewing needles or awls, while tattooed mummies ‘were regarded more as objects of fascination than scientific specimens,’ said Aaron Deter-Wolf, a prehistoric archaeologist at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and a leading researcher in the archaeology of tattooing…But as tattooing has become more mainstream in Western culture, Mr. Deter-Wolf and other scientists have begun to examine preserved tattoos and artifacts for insights into how past people lived and what they believed.”

Climate Change Hits Native Americans Harder than other Americans

“Many Native people were forced into the most undesirable areas of America, first by white settlers, then by the government. Now, parts of that marginal land are becoming uninhabitable.” C. Flavelle, The New York Times, June 27, 2021

Chefornak’s preschool sits on stilts in thawing permafrost. At high tide, water reaches the building, which needs to be moved to safer land.Credit…Ash Adams for The New York Times

Excerpt:Dispossessed, Again: Climate Change Hits Native Americans Especially Hard, By Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times, June 27, 2021

“In Chefornak, a Yu’pik village near the western coast of Alaska, the water is getting closer. The thick ground, once frozen solid, is thawing. The village preschool, its blue paint peeling, sits precariously on wooden stilts in spongy marsh between a river and a creek. Storms are growing stronger. At high tide these days, water rises under the building, sometimes keeping out the children, ages 3 to 5. The shifting ground has warped the floor, making it hard to close the doors. Mold grows.

‘I love our building,’ said Eliza Tunuchuk, one of the teachers. ‘At the same time, I want to move.’ The village, where the median income is about $11,000 a year, sought help from the federal government to build a new school on dry land — one of dozens of buildings in Chefornak that must be relocated. But agency after agency offered variations on the same response: no.

From Alaska to Florida, Native Americans are facing severe climate challenges, the newest threat in a history marked by centuries of distress and dislocation. While other communities struggle on a warming planet, Native tribes are experiencing an environmental peril exacerbated by policies — first imposed by white settlers and later the United States government — that forced them onto the country’s least desirable lands.

A home that collapsed into the eroding coast. Credit- Ash Adams NYT

And now, climate change is quickly making that marginal land uninhabitable. And now, climate change is quickly making that marginal land uninhabitable. The first Americans face the loss of home once again.

A totem pole in Taholah, Wash., that was carved to commemorate the 2013 Tribal Canoe Journey, an annual event for Pacific Northwest tribes.Credit…Josué Rivas for The New York Times

In the Pacific Northwest, coastal erosion and storms are eating away at tribal land, forcing native communities to try to move inland. In the Southwest, severe drought means Navajo Nation is running out of drinking water… Many tribes have been working to meet the challenges posed by the changing climate. And they have expressed hope that their concerns would be addressed by President Biden, who has committed to repairing the relationship with tribal nations…FEMA said it is committed to improving tribal access to its programs.

Taholah is exposed to storms and flooding but the tribe has struggled to get enough federal help to relocate.Credit…Josué Rivas for The New York Times

Chefornak’s efforts to relocate its preschool illustrate the current difficulties of dealing with the federal government.

While FEMA offers grants to cope with climate hazards, replacing the school wasn’t an eligible expense, according to Max Neale, a senior program manager at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, who helped Chefornak search for federal aid.

Damian Cabman, a member of the Navajo tribe, filled buckets of water to take home at the Bataan water loading station in Gallup, N.M. Kalen Goodluck:NYT

Twice a week, Vivienne Beyal climbs into her GMC Sierra in Window Rock, a northern Arizona town that is the capital of Navajo Nation, and drives 45 minutes across the border into New Mexico. When she reaches the outskirts of Gallup, she joins something most Americans have never seen: a line for water… The facility, which is run by the city of Gallup, works like an air pump at a gas station: Each quarter fed into the coin slot buys 17 gallons of water. Most of the people in line with Ms. Beyal are also Navajo residents, crossing into New Mexico for drinking water…But unlike nearby communities like Gallup and Flagstaff, Navajo Nation lacks an adequate municipal water supply. About one-third of the tribe lives without running water…The drought is also changing the landscape. Reptiles and other animals are disappearing with the water, migrating to higher ground. And as vegetation dies, cattle and sheep have less to eat. Sand dunes once anchored by the plants become unmoored — cutting off roads, smothering junipers and even threatening to bury houses…As a presidential candidate last year, Mr. Biden highlighted the connection between global warming and Native Americans, saying that climate change poses a particular threat to Indigenous people…[President Biden] appointed Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet secretary, to run the Interior Department…Ms. Haaland’s role as interior secretary gives her vast authority over tribal nations. But the department declined to talk about plans to protect tribal nations from climate change…Instead, her agency provided a list of programs that already exist, including grants that started during the Obama administration… In Northern California, wildfires threaten burial sites and other sacred places. In Alaska, rising temperatures make it harder to engage in traditions like subsistence hunting and fishing.”


Navajo Nation Held First Gay Pride Parade Since Covid-19 Closings

“When Navajo Nation Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown came out to his dad, he was terrified. ‘He’s such a macho man, he doesn’t speak English, very hardcore traditional,’ Brown said. But when Brown told him he was nádleehí, a third gender in Navajo culture, he was surprised by his father’s reaction.” C. Norwell, The Washington Post, June 19, 2021

Drag performer Anya C. Mann in a pride ribbon skirt at the first Navajo Nation Pride Parade at Window Rock, Arizona on June 19, 2021. (Cecilia Nowell for The Washington Post)

Excerpt:Navajo Nation celebrates its first official Pride parade after a devastating year, By Cecilia Nowell, Washington Post, June 21, 2021

‘My father was telling me that I am born the way the Holy People made me,’ Brown said in Navajo, and later repeated in English, from a stage at the now annual Navajo Nation Pride on Saturday. ‘I am a product of his prayers’ and in the Diné kinship system, ‘there is no ‘other’ clan.’

Earlier this month, the Navajo Nation celebrated its fourth annual Pride Week — the largest Indigenous Pride in the country — with a series of virtual gatherings culminating in its first official pride parade on Saturday.


People gather in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers during the first Navajo Nation Pride parade. (Cecilia Nowell for The Washington Post)

Brown was among speakers who addressed attendees at one of the Navajo Nation’s first public events since covid-19 restrictions have begun to lift. In front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock, Ariz., organizers and public leaders reaffirmed their commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2S+) community members and to overturning policies like the Diné Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex marriage in Navajo Nation…’This year is our fourth year and in Diné culture we understand that the number four is a very sacred number,’ invoking the four directions and the four sacred colors, said Navajo Nation Pride’s youth director Geronimo Louie (Navajo). ‘We are a matriarchal society at heart and through our teachings and understandings and our origin stories, women have always been leading and paving the way for all of us as Indigenous people.’ Reclaiming language, organizers say, is an example of overturning colonial influences; so is repealing the Diné Marriage Act.”


A Guide To Gender Identity Terms, By Laurel Wamsley, NPR, June 2, 2021

Image- Kaz Fantone for NPR

“Pronouns are basically how we identify ourselves apart from our name. It’s how someone refers to you in conversation,” says Mary Emily O’Hara, a communications officer at GLAAD. “And when you’re speaking to people, it’s a really simple way to affirm their identity.” L. Wamsley, NPR, June 2, 2021

Category: Culture

Navajo Nation Police Need 775 New Officers

With less than 200 officers on the Navajo Nation Police force, getting to this large amount is a lofty goal, especially when it comes to the budget.” A. Becenti Navajo Times, June 11, 2021

Navajo Nation police June 13 2021

Excerpt:Navajo police need 775 new officers, report says Arlyssa Becenti Navajo Times, June 11, 2021

“The Navajo Nation Police needs 775 officers to meet community demands across the Navajo Nation, according to an assessment done by Strategy Matter and Navajo public safety leadership…’The demands on this department are extreme,’ said Liz O’ Connor, consultant team lead. ‘The range of issues officers are called upon to address, the vast distances they must cross, and the limitation of radio and cellular coverage as well create a nearly impossible situation every day for so many officers in a department of this size.’

The Navajo Police Department’s assessment is 174 pages long and took 18 months to develop. The assessment was unveiled to the public in late May. With this assessment three basic questions are answered such as: Where are we now? Where we want to go? And how will we get there?

But the number of officers needed was the big takeaway from the report…’It’s a unique report for the Navajo Police Department,’ said Chief Phillip Francisco. ‘It’s a lot to digest…some of the recommendations is we are extremely short staffed. Seven hundred fifty would be the ideal number of officers to really do the job that our community demands and to keep our officers safe,’ he said. ‘We have a long way to go to get to that point.’

Navajo Nation

When it comes to the demands placed on the Navajo Nation Police, Navajo lawmakers are quick to express needed service from officers without investing in them. The biggest example is absolutely nothing is done to acquire safe buildings for officers and personnel in Window Rock and Shiprock.

Even more obvious is delegates continuing to advocate for outside police forces to come onto Navajo Nation to help police the Navajo people, an option that Francisco doesn’t agree with…Other weaknesses include: the sense of department unity is not consistently present; information flow is a real challenge for technical and organizational reasons; facilities, the Window Rock station is in a serious state of disrepair, and the Shiprock station is closed; general orders and rules and regulations are outdated (1979) and unhelpful; COVID-19 impacts: it is harder than ever to connect with residents; there is significantly increased demand on dwindling resources at NPD and for partners; recruitment challenges: money, interest, training, disqualifications, available housing, and perceptions among youth.

But the strengths identified include: commitment and dedication of officers at all ranks; younger generation of NPD staff see the department as a unified whole; greatly improved—and growing—confidence in department leadership, among officers, civilian staff, partners and others; thorough (top to mid-managers) commitment to officer wellness and improving early intervention programs; partners and potential partners recognize the challenging circumstances of law enforcement on the Nation and want to support efforts to improve operations, safety, and coordination…‘We learned the NPD leadership is visionary, highly accountable, and trusted by officers, residents, and staff alike,’ said O’Connor. “Invest in this department.”


A bakery lost a client when it made rainbow Pride cookies. So others bought every item in the shop.  By Sydney Page, The Washington Post, June 9, 2021

“When a small Southern bakery made rainbow-themed cookies to celebrate Pride Month, there was a swift backlash. On June 2, Confections, a tiny store in Lufkin, Tex., shared a photo on its Facebook page of heart-shaped rainbow sugar cookies with the caption, “More LOVE. Less hate. Happy Pride to all our LGBTQ friends! All lovers of cookies and happiness are welcome here.”


The photo of rainbow Pride cookies that was posted on Confections’ Facebook page on June 2.

Category: Culture