Category Archives: Culture

Tribes Need Fed Recognition to Protect Their Land

“Can Native American Tribes Protect Their Land If They’re Not Recognized by the Federal Government?” D.  Utacia Krol, The Revelator


Excerpt: Tribes without recognition struggle to protect their heritage, By Debra Utacia Krol, The Revelator

“State laws and policies in California have made some progress possible, but many tribes still lack legal recognition and struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and the environment. Louise Miranda Ramirez has fought to protect her ancestral lands and cultural sites for most of her 60-plus-year lifetime.

‘It’s so hard to save our lands and ancestors when we’re living in areas with people who make lots of money and don’t care about us,’ says Ramirez, the tribal chairwoman of the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation, known as OCEN. Ramirez and her fellow leaders have a rough task on their hands: Their traditional lands encompass Carmel, Pebble Beach, Big Sur,  Asilomar and other highly coveted — and uber-expensive — communities along the Central California coast and Coast Ranges. Preserving burial sites, protecting traditional gathering areas from development and preventing villages from being bulldozed was at one time virtually impossible, as the tribe lacks federal recognition.

Native Stewards of the Amah Mutsun tribe tend hummingbird sage

Nearby, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is addressing similar issues. ‘Creator gave us the responsibility to care for Mother Earth and all living things’  says Chairman Valentin Lopez. The Amah Mutsun’s lands lie within the contemporary northern Salinas Valley, portions of San Benito County and Pinnacles National Park. ‘We knew that we had to find a way to exert stewardship over those lands to restore our relationship with the land.’  Like Ramirez’s tribe, Amah Mutsun is also not federally recognized.

California has the largest number of non-federally recognized tribes in the United States…In 1851-52, shortly after the state entered the Union, the country negotiated 18 treaties with California tribes guaranteeing lands and other rights. But the Senate refused to ratify the treaties, leaving most California Indians without land or legal protections. Only Natives who ended up on small settlements called rancherias eventually received federal recognition, which didn’t all last.

Then, in the 1950s, Congress terminated 109 tribes across the country, including 41 California tribes. Some of those tribes have never been restored. Today 55 tribes in California lack federal recognition, more than 20 percent of non-recognized tribes nationwide, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The Winnemem Wintu learned that descendants of their salmon are thriving in a New Zealand river. The tribe has been fighting to return them home.

One of the best-known examples of how non-recognized tribes’ rights get overrun concerns the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. The 125-member tribe in Northern California has called the McCloud River home for millennia, but saw its lands taken by the federal government in the 1940s when Shasta Dam was constructed. Many of the tribe’s village, burial and cultural sites soon disappeared under the reservoir’s rising waters — and the salmon runs, upon which much of Winnemem’s culture and food supply is centered, are gone.

So where does this leave tribes like OCEN, Amah Mutsun and Winnemem? Ironically enough, the tribes have turned to the state of California, which in recent years is finally making up for its history and recognizing the environmental and cultural advantages of working with all the Indigenous peoples within its borders.

In fact, the situation is better for tribes in California than on the federal level, says Angela Mooney D’Arcy. She’s the executive director of the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, an organization that advocates for Native peoples and helps them to build their own advocacy structures… One of D’Arcy’s goals is to showcase how Indigenous peoples can similarly use state laws and policies to reclaim lands. Amah Mutsun and other California tribes have created land trusts — nonprofits that work with landowners and agencies to preserve important cultural and ecological sites… Non-recognized tribes are still navigating choppy waters, though. D’Arcy points out that California cities and counties are the next level of government that needs education on inherent sovereignty, and federal and state policies can come into conflict when non-recognized tribes exert their rights.”

Category: Culture

The Red Dress: Symbol to Bring Awareness to Missing Indigenous Women

“This dress is fashioned after the traditional buckskin dresses of the Northern Plains, but made with velvet in powerful electric red. For our necklace, we referenced the Turtle Mountains, the medicine wheel, the cycles of life, and the wild prairie rose. The dress and necklace is the second set that we have designed to bring awareness to the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women from throughout the US and Canada.” J.  R. Metcalfe and T. Jerome, Beyond Buckskin

The Red Dress, II (2019)


Excerpt:  The Red Dress II (2019) J.  R. Metcalfe and T. Jerome, Beyond Buckskin

“Edged in a rich matte gold, each bead holds a prayer that these precious souls will be found and justice served. I am grateful for the opportunity to create, always; it is immensely therapeutic for me to go through the process, especially when I think of and pray for the thousands of women who had their power to create unjustly stripped from them.

*The dress will be on display at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND, as part of their exhibit Waasamoo-Beshizi (Power-Lines), which will be on view Jan 31-July 31.

(The first Red Dress was purchased by the Turtle Mountain Community College to be included in their permanent collection.)

Category: Culture

Beautiful Native Fashion Designs Still Remain in Display Cases

“In the world of fashion, elements of indigenous culture are reduced to the latest misappropriated trend called ‘tribal’. N. D. Henry, ICT

Acoma designer Loren Aragon’s Disney princess-inspired gown based on an Acoma olla pot. (Photo- National Museum of the American Indian)

Excerpt: … successful designers remain trapped in display cases, By Niya D. Henry, ICT

“Growing up on the Navajo reservation, television was my only resource to the outside, American world… Today, if you walk into any tribally-owned casino, in the midst of all that beautiful, modern architecture, there is always a section dedicated to cultural artifacts from the past. Similarly, if you are traveling in the Southwest, and you stop by a jewelry shop or dine-in at a local restaurant, you will see a mish-mash of indigenous culture on full display like some curated collection.  Attend any Coachella or Burning Man festival, and you will see this trend run amok via makeshift headdresses, leather fringes, and faux-feathered accessories –

Fortunately, a group of emerging indigenous designers is changing the way indigenous culture is represented on the runways of fashion week. Still, a bulk of their work is reserved for the vacant display case in some newly commissioned project.

In 2017, notable designers such as Project Runway alum Patricia Michaels (Taos), Bethany Yellowtail (Crow & Northern Cheyenne), Jared Yazzie (Diné), Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock) and Orlando Dugi (Diné), were part of a travelling exhibition called Native Fashion Now, which took up residence in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian – New York.  The exhibition featured contemporary works by indigenous designers ‘making their mark in today’s world of fashion.’ As groundbreaking as the exhibit was, it still encapsulated Native Fashion as relics.

Designer Loren Aragon

Fashion designer Loren Aragon created a couture dress for the Walt Disney Company using this traditional Acoma Pueblo pottery as inspiration.

This past summer, and fresh off his 2018 Designer of the Year win at Phoenix Fashion Week, Acoma designer Loren Aragon of the couture fashion brand ACONAV, was handpicked by the imagineers of Walt Disney World to design a Disney princess-inspired gown based off an Acoma olla pot pulled from the Smithsonian. The finished product was nothing short of breathtaking.

Acoma designer Loren Aragon’s Disney princess-inspired gown based on an Acoma olla pot from the Smithsonian. (Photo- ACONAV)

‘This project made me realize that there is support behind what I’ve been trying to push for, as far as representing Native Art, Native Fashion, and Native Culture by Native People. It gave me the confidence to speak to the ideas of us Natives being able to represent ourselves outside of our communities and outside of the usual Native-themed museums, galleries, casinos, et cetera,’  said Aragon. Still, Aragon had some reservations about the inadvertent limitations of museum-based projects. I strongly agree that we can’t let this be our limiting factor. The more people see our work in the modern world, the more visible and existent we are to the world.”

Category: Culture, Fashion

“Media Bias and Racism Are Still Killing Indians”

“The following is the text of a letter sent by Ian Zabarte of the Western Shoshone Nation to editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez and The Las Vegas Review-Journal.” News

By Michael Ramirez January 28, 2019-

Excerpt :

“Yesterday, January 28, 2019, the Las Vegas Review Journal published a propaganda cartoon in derogation of Native Americans using a stereotype of Indian alcoholism. Racism is an abuse no matter how softly or funny media represent its abuse.

There is a genuine and pervasive failure of trust by the media to report the truth of issues concerning Indigenous people. It is media disservice to openness, freedom of information and democracy. The Shoshone people seek understanding and reconciliation and get abuse from the Las Vegas Review Journal. Similar abuse was reported in the recent submission to the UN International Convention on Civil and Political Rights as, propaganda in support of genocide.

The point is that media bias and racism kill Indians. In 1850, California passed An Act for the Protection and Governance of Indians that authorized Indian hunters to take Indian hands and scalps for $25 and make slaves of Indians found not working. Slaves were taken until they showed miners where the gold was such as in the case of a Shoshone tortured to give the location of gold at Rhyolite…Before any settler or miner saw an Indian, media propaganda was there.

Today, the media does not report Native American past exposure to radioactive fallout from US/UK secret nuclear testing and disproportionate burden of risk.

The Shoshone people cannot endure any increased burden of risk from any source including resumption of WMD testing by US/UK, plutonium disposal from the Savanna River Site, depleted uranium disposal, proposed high-level nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, coal ash uranium or fracking released radiation.

We should all be offended by genocide.

The motive for the US to is to defraud the Shoshone people of our property. The intent to commit genocide is the culture of secrecy because we will never know what is killing Indians in secret. Biased media does not help protect the Shoshone people by providing unbiased information of importance to indigenous people so we can take protective action.

Las Vegas Review Journal stop fanning the flames of hate and intolerance. We are all responsible for addressing genocide.”


Ian Zabarte, Principal Man

Western Bands of the Shoshone Nation of Indians

Category: Culture, Social

Tribes Intend to Celebrate Grand Canyon’s 100-Year Centennial …Shutdown or Not!

“This is the year to GO GRAND as the National Park Service celebrates the Grand Canyon National Park’s Centennial acknowledging the canyon’s significant relationships with the park’s 11 traditionally-associated tribes. The celebration will be very Native-inclusive as the regions Tribal Nations have all been invited to participate. ” ICT

Canyons–Arizona–Grand Canyon National Park–1900-1940 : National Photo Company Collection.

Excerpt: Shutdown won’t stop it: Grand Canyon 100-year Celebration, Native American Style

“…The Grand Canyon is, by far, Arizona’s most-visited national park unit, and Governor Doug Ducey’s decision to use state funds to keep it open during the shutdown means that visitors did not have to alter their travel plans, and the park’s concessionaires—including the lodges and restaurants—could remain open. Tour companies, too, continue to do business at the Grand Canyon. While there are no federal employees counting cars at national parks right now, indications are that visitation to the Grand Canyon has remained strong through the shutdown.

The centennial celebration will take place on February 26.

Grand Canyon’s Native American Havasupai Tribe has been living in and around the South Rim of the canyon for 800 years.

‘The 100th year milestone celebration is a time for reflection on the past and inspiration for the future, honoring those who have called the canyon home for thousands of years,’ says Park Superintendent Christine Lehnert… While millions of visitors ooh and aah at the canyon’s splendors each year, others have quietly appreciated its beauty for centuries.

The Havasupai tribe has been living in and around the South Rim of the canyon for 800 years. Anthropologists say the Havasupai maintained life by hunting along the plateau during the winter and raising crops and tending orchards in Havasu or Cataract Canyon during the summer.

Recognizing the economic boon called tourism, the Hualapai opened its lands to the public 30 years ago, promoting it as ‘an untouched piece of land where the Grand Canyon could be experienced without the crowds found along the North and South Rims’.  Today’s quarter of a million reservation inhabitants fan out over some 27,000 square miles, most of it in northern Arizona that stretches west to Grand Canyon National Park.

The Grand Canyon is an iconic national park accessible from Kanab, UT

Also present are the Hopi people, one of the oldest-living cultures in documented history, who have resided for the past 2,000 years in the Four Corners region where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet.

Other tribes that have roamed this territory and called parts of the Grand Canyon sacred areas home include the Zuni, Kaibab Paiute, Shivwits Paiute, and San Juan Paiute.

The canyon’s early inhabitants will play a big part in the centennial celebration with year-long special events starting with a Tusayan Community Centennial Celebration in February and leading up to American Indian Heritage Days — and Native American Heritage Month — later in the year.

The event, a celebratory occasion to kick off our centennial year, will feature Park Service and Grand Canyon Conservancy speakers gathered at the Grand Canyon National Park Visitor Center Plaza.

In addition to the speeches and musical performances, there will be free cake to enjoy along with the scenery and its centuries of Native American history.

Info at

Homeless Urban Natives Receive Help From Rez Natives

“There were overdoses nearly every day in the grim homeless encampment near downtown. Diseases spread, with upward of 200 people cramming into dozens of tents. Fears rose among activists and the mostly Native American population living there that the city would crack down, which for them would have echoed the country’s dark history of treating indigenous people with force and contempt.” J. Eligon, The New York Times


Excerpt: Native American Homeless Crisis in Minnesota Inspires an Unlikely Alliance, by J. Eligon, NYT

“But then, an unlikely solution surfaced.

Red Lake Nation, a tribe some four and a half hours’ drive north, offered to help build temporary shelters on land it had bought two years ago for a permanent housing development in the city. Other tribes in Minnesota supported Red Lake’s shelter proposal, forming a partnership to help win concessions from local officials and secure emergency relief.

James Cross comforts Yvonne after she became emotional while talking about her situation. Star Tribune

It was a rare show of unity by tribal nations to resolve an urban crisis, Native advocates said. And it represented a potential turning point in the sometimes distant relationship between Native Americans who live in urban areas and those who choose to remain on reservations…The majority of American Indians live in cities, although very little federal funding is directed specifically toward them. Tribal governments do receive federal dollars, but they usually go toward life on the reservation. There is rarely enough to expand resources and services needed in urban areas, where Native Americans often lack basic housing.

The homeless encampment in Minneapolis.

Clarista Johnson, 20, lived on the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe reservation. When her grandfather died, she said, she left drug treatment to mourn with her family, but then fell out with her aunt and boyfriend. Both of her parents were incarcerated. She considered her prospects on the reservation to be bleak, so she left for Minneapolis, about two hours south. ‘I thought maybe the cities would have more resources, more options,’ she said. Instead, she continued her struggles with meth and heroin addiction, and had no place to live.

For the past five months, she had been staying here at the encampment, in the city’s Native American corridor. Orange buckets for disposing used needles were scattered about and mangled tents were pitched beneath a noisy thoroughfare, the scent of burning wood choking the air. An elderly man limped around barefoot, his feet stiff…Roughly eight out of 10 American Indians do not live on reservations. The mass migration to cities, experts say, was prompted by the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, when the federal government, attempting to assimilate Native people, offered them incentives to leave their reservations. But assurances of opportunity gave way to discrimination, isolation, dead-end jobs and poor living conditions that continue today.

In September, after negotiations between Native-led nonprofits and the city failed to yield an agreement on a site for temporary shelters to address the homeless encampment, Sam Strong, the Red Lake Nation secretary, offered the tribe’s property, a solution that was quickly accepted…The parcel of land is just south of downtown. The tribe plans to build a complex with 110 units of affordable housing, and is expected to break ground next summer. It will also offer social services and cultural events, such as drum circles, Mr. Strong said…Ms. Johnson moved into the new temporary shelter late last week, and she now sleeps in one of its heated dome-like tents.  She can come and go as she pleases 24 hours a day and not be turned away, even if she is high — a policy that Native leaders pushed for to ensure a welcoming environment.

But Maggie Thunder Hawk, 56, worried that officials would eventually introduce onerous restrictions. She said that the facility ‘looks and feels like jail.’ She would give it a try, she said, but if she did not like it, ‘I’m going right back outside.’

When Red Lake breaks ground on its housing complex next summer, the temporary shelters will have to come down, and many former encampment dwellers, including Ms. Johnson, may find themselves back on the streets.”

Category: Culture