Category Archives: History

Fighting for Justice for the Two Spirit Indigenous Community in Pine Ridge

“When Monique Mousseau was in the fourth grade she got expelled from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic school on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. Her classmates didn’t like the beaded moccasins her grandmother made for her and the two braids she sported, which were held together by hand-beaded hair ties.” S. R. Clahchischiligi, The Guardian, April 14, 2021

Monique ‘Muffie’ Mousseau and her wife Felipa De Leon in their kitchen. Photo- M. Wosinska The Guardian

Excerpt: By Sunnie R Clahchischiligi, The Guardian, April 14, 2021

‘I fought back,’ she says. Little did she know that would be the start of a long journey of fighting for justice for the Two Spirit Indigenous community, a term used to identify the LGBTQ community throughout Indian Country.

Mousseau, 52, and her wife, Felipa De Leon, 51, also from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, have dedicated their lives to fighting for equal rights for Two Spirit Indigenous peoples locally and nationally…Candi Brings Plenty is another vocal advocate of the Two-Spirit community. She spent February pushing for South Dakota’s hate crime protection bill to include Native American Two Spirit people, with the Native American nation recognizing them as a culturally and spiritually distinct gender. The bill was passed with those protections made.

Two friends rest their heads against one another on a cold October evening at a basketball course. Photo- M. Wosinska

Although Two Spirit people once existed harmoniously on the Pine Ridge reservation, colonizers divided them, she says. ‘Our sacred circles were broke, and the infrastructure in our families,’says Brings Plenty.

Nicole Big Crow, left, stands with her girlfriend, Ashley Colhoff, on a field on the reservation. Photo- M. Wosinska

’The Two-Spirit people have always held their roles. Two-Spirit people, just like our Indigenous land, belong to our ancestors,’ she says.

The entrance to a part of the cemetery of Wounded Knee. Photo- M. Wosinska

Most of what the community knows about Two Spirit people is from oral stories. Mosseau feels fortunate to have grown upin a traditional home that valued ceremony, including ceremonies honoring transsexual people who often prepared the food for ceremonies and dressed in women’s attire.”

COVID-19 Vaccine and Financial Aid Sources

Indian Health Services (IHS) : COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution List

https://www.ihs.gov/coronavirus/

IHS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) https://www.ihs.gov/coronavirus/vaccine/

Apply for NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) Relief Funding https://www.ncai.org/Covid-19/Get-Involved/apply-for-ncai-funding

CDC (Center for Disease and Control): COVID Data Tracker https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations

Native Tribe Prioritizes Covid-19 Vaccines for those who Speak Native Languages

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota is prioritizing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to those who speak Dakota and Lakota languages. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith tells KXMB-TV it’s about keeping customs alive.” Associated Press, Time Magazine, January 1, 2021

Jesse Jay Taken Alive died on Monday, Dec. 14, after contracting the coronavirus in October. [He taught Lakota culture and language at a school in his hometown of McLaughlin, South Dakota.] Lakota Language Consortium

“It’s something we have to pass on to our loved ones, our history, our culture our language. We don’t have it in black and white, we tell stories. That’s why it’s so important,” Faith said.

The Standing Rock reservation straddles the North Dakota and South Dakota border and is home to about 8,000 people, more than half of whom live in North Dakota. Faith said only about 300 people on the reservation are fluent in the language.

Frontline health care workers already have begun receiving he vaccine at the Fort Yates hospital, but starting next week priority will be for those who speak their native language.”

In Response to the Attack on Our Capitol By Cowards:

“My message to my fellow Americans and friends around the world following this week’s attack on the Capitol.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger~ January 6, 2021

During Covid-19, The Navajos Are Planting and Sharing

“As the pandemic has brought home the importance of the global movement for food sovereignty, members are planting and sharing.”  A. Nierenberg, The New York Times

Artie Yazzie grows produce for his community in the Arizona section of the Navajo Nation. Credit- J. Burcham- NYT

Excerpt;  For the Navajo Nation, a Fight for Better Food Gains New Urgency . Amelia Nierenberg, The New York Times

“When Summer Brown lived in Phoenix, she had no problem finding fresh produce. If the Sprouts supermarket near her home didn’t have what she was looking for, she would just drive somewhere else. This winter, Ms. Brown, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, moved back to her childhood home in Cornfields, Ariz., to start a small business as a leatherworker. Now, healthy food is harder to find for her two children, Paisley, 6, and Landon, 7. The entire Nation, which stretches 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has fewer than 15 grocery stores.

The Teesto Community Garden, which Mr. Yazzie tends, has remained opened through the pandemic.Credit: John Burcham for The New York Times

The small gardens and cornfields rising across the Nation are attempts to correct legacies of historical wrongs. Once, the Diné were prosperous gardeners, hunters and stewards of the land. Then the United States government colonized the land and displaced the Diné in the mid-1800s, during what is now known as the Long Walk, to an internment camp at Fort Sumner, N.M. Livestock were killed off. Fields were trampled. And some orchards were lost forever…Many households do not have running water, at a time when hand washing is critical.

Many multigenerational families live together in compounds, which makes social distancing impossible. And for the Diné and many other Indigenous nations, the public health crises caused by food inequality are generations old… After seeing food shortages during the pandemic, many Diné have started gardens. Normally, they would work communally, but social distancing has required some innovations.

Mr. Earle keeps corn pollen in a pouch for his morning prayers.Credit: John Burcham for The New York Times

Many Diné also receive federal food benefits. ‘You’ve got to stretch those funds, and the cheapest out there is junk food,’ said Artie Yazzie, a community gardener, who grows produce for his neighbors.  ‘People come in here and pick whatever they want,” Mr. Yazzie said. ‘I just leave a sign.’ Some programs are working to get fresh produce to Diné children. The Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment program, a nonprofit health partnership, provides vouchers for families with young children that are good for buying only fruits, vegetables and traditional foods. The amount, depending on family size, can go up to $35 a week…Felix Earle, 43,  has been advising gardeners growing Indigenous seeds. In 2015, he found a handful of white corn kernels in a jar, 35 years after his grandmother hid them for safekeeping…This year, Mr. Earle, a fashion designer, planted his biggest crop ever. Across his property, stalks of corn are rising, almost 1,000 in all. He turned his discovery into a business, Red Earth Gardens, and gives kernels to interested members of the Nation. This year, for the first time, he ran out…It took a deadly virus to make people realize just how important this is, how important it is to grow your own food, he said.’ Some gardens at schools and senior centers have been closed since March.”

Indian Country Today:

Are you a Native student whose college or university has been closed or switched to online classes? Visit this spreadsheet for resources involving technology in Native communities. It is updated by San Juan College’s Native American Center.

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basic information.

Indian Health Service

National Congress of American Indians

National Indian Health Board

COVID-19: Native advisories and event updates

“The Democrats bowed to the realities of the pandemic and canceled the major in-person speeches that were still planned for their convention this month.” By Reid J. Epstein and Katie Glueck, The New York Times

Credit: M. V. Agins/The New York Times

“I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Mr. Biden said at a fund-raiser on Wednesday. “Science matters.” ~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

Tribe Buys Back Ancestral Land After 250 Years!

“The tribe purchased the 1,200 acre ranch near Big Sur as part of a $4.5m deal and will use it for educational and cultural purposes.”M. Koran, The Guardian

The Esselen Tribe of Monterey county now owns a small piece of their ancestral land along California’s north central coast.. Credit- Doug Steakley:AP

Excerpt: Northern California Esselen tribe regains ancestral land after 250 years,Mario Koran, The Guardian

“Two-hundred and fifty years after they were stripped of their ancestral homeland, the Esselen tribe of northern California is landless no more.

This week, the Esselen tribe finalized the purchase of a 1,200-acre ranch near Big Sur, along California’s north central coast, as part of a $4.5m acquisition that involved the state and an Oregon-based environmental group…Tribal leaders say they’ll use the land for educational and cultural purposes, building a sweat lodge and traditional village in view of Pico Blanco peak, the center of the tribe’s origin story.

The deal by the Esselen tribe will protect the Little Sur River. Photograph- Doug Steakley:AP

‘We’re the original stewards of the land. Now we’re returned,’ Tom Little Bear Nason, chairman of the Esselen tribe of Monterey county, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel… Since the 1950s the property, known as Rancho Aguila, had been owned by Axel Adler, a Swedish immigrant. After his death in 2004, his family put it up for sale for $15m.

After years-long negotiations, the Western Rivers Conservancy, a Portland-based environmental group, etched a deal to purchase the land and hand it over to the US Forest Service.

Working on behalf of the tribe, the conservancy secured a $4.5m grant from the California Natural Resources Agency to cover the land purchase and studies of the area.

Nason said the 214-member Esselen tribe will share it with other groups also native to the area, including the Ohlone, the Amah Mutsun and the Rumsen people – all of whom were devastated by the arrival of white settlers.”

‘This Is About Justice’: Biden Ties Economic Revival to Racial Equity

In the last of four proposals laying out his vision for economic recovery, Joseph R. Biden Jr. pledged to lift up minority-owned businesses and to award them more federal contracts”. – By T. Kaplan and K. Glueck , The NYT

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. released the fourth piece of his “Build Back Better” proposal in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.Credit- M. Agins-NYT

 

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

Indian Country Today:

Are you a Native student whose college or university has been closed or switched to online classes? Visit this spreadsheet for resources involving technology in Native communities. It is updated by San Juan College’s Native American Center.

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basic information.

Indian Health Service

National Congress of American Indians

National Indian Health Board

COVID-19: Native advisories and event updates

Natives Deserve More Attention in the Area of Police Violence

“The issue of officer-involved shootings has entered mainstream discourse, but it has focused on the African American population, largely because of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. But Native Americans suffer from police violence at an equal or even higher rate.” O. Ajiilore, urban.org

14-year-old Jason Pero

Excerpt: Native Americans deserve more attention in the police violence conversation-By Olugbenga Ajilore — December 4, 2017 —

(NOTE: Although this article was written 3 years ago, police violence towards Natives has increased over the years-TF Staff)

“On Wednesday, November 8, in northern Wisconsin, 14-year-old Jason Pero was killed by officers from the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office responding to a call that someone on the streets had a knife. As with many officer-involved shootings, the incident sparked questions, including why the officers used lethal force for a boy with a knife…Pero was a member of the Bad River Chippewa tribe, and the shooting occurred on the Bad River reservation…We must pay attention to police violence against this neglected community and not just during Native American Heritage Month. We don’t know how many Native Americans are subject to police violence, mainly because there is little information available about police violence in general. We don’t even know how many people die at the hands of law enforcement.

Official data on police violence are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but these sources undercount fatal encounters among all racial and ethnic groups. This leaves the full scope of the problem’s size and prevalence unknown. Even with data collection issues, these sources show that Native Americans are killed at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group…

When taking the context of the police encounter into consideration, Native American fatalities tend to align with those of all victims, with the exception of substance use. Excessive alcohol consumption has a greater health impact on Native Americans than on any other racial group, which could be a factor in fatal police encounters…Wisconsin, where Jason Pero was killed, is a PL-280 state. The officers who responded to the call were not part of the tribal police department. The outcome might have been different had the situation been handled by a tribal authority.”

RELATED:  Excerpt: Minneapolis Natives condemn Black man’s death in custody, ‘racist ideologies’ By Eddie Chuculate, ICT

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“I have almost a blind faith in crisis in the American people getting it right”  ~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~

Latest Presidential General Election Polls 2020:

“Joe Biden’s lead against Trump in the 2020 election is growing wider, polls show — With the 2020 election now less than five months away, polls show former Vice President Joe Biden pulling further ahead of [Trump].”  Kevin Breuniger, CNBC June ,2020

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Resource Sites for the COVID-19:

INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY:

COVID-19 Tracker in the United States: Story summaries, lists of closures, resources. Last update 06/19/20   Information Here

COVID-19 financial strain? Here are resources in 50 states Federal and state services include monetary and food assistance, unemployment benefits, and more. 

Where to begin? After extensive research, the most comprehensive and user-friendly website for finding assistance from a multitude of programs is arguably Benefits.gov.

COVID-19 online resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

STAY STRONG — STAY SAFE 

Holding On to A Racing Tradition

“Indian Relay, a type of bareback horse racing practiced by Native American tribes in the plains states, blends heritage and danger. For one family, it’s a shared passion that means everything.” V. J. Blue, The New York Times

Richard Long Feather, left, with his sons Jace, in white shirt, and Jestin. Credit- Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Excerpt: Holding Tight to a Racing Tradition, Photographs and Text by Victor J. Blue, The New York Times

“Richard Long Feather is searching for his son Jace among the bareback riders as they storm toward the grandstand at the Crow Fair. Stepping away from the rail and onto the dirt of the track, Richard raises his arms above his head as a signal: In one motion, he is telling Jace where to aim and warning Jace’s horse to slow down. Before Jace even reaches his father, he leaps from the back of his horse. Hitting the ground bounding, Jace grabs a handful of mane of a second horse, held by his brother, Jestin, and swings himself onto its back. Jestin slaps the second mount on the rump, and it fires back onto the track. Richard hands off the first horse to a fourth teammate and braces for the next exchange. Dust swirls. The crowd cheers.

This is Indian Relay.

For the Long Feathers, races likes these are both a family undertaking and a deep-rooted passion, a form of competition practiced and sustained by Native American tribes in the plains states. In Indian Relay’s traditional form, one rider completes three circuits of a track, changing his mount after each loop.

Richard, who works as a maintenance supervisor at a local hospital, loading his horses into his trailer after an evening of training.

Each race features up to eight teams consisting of a rider, three steely handlers and three horses. The competitors ride bareback, using only reins and a whip to stay on. As the rider approaches the starting line for each successive lap, he leaps from a running horse onto a fresh one. It is dangerous, athletic and intensely competitive.

Richard Long Feather, the head of his family and his team, was born in 1963 on the Standing Rock reservation, which straddles the border of North and South Dakota and which is home to the Hunkpapa band of the Lakota to which he belongs. Raised by his grandparents, he spoke only Lakota until he was 5. The first horse he rode was yoked to his grandfather’s wagon as it delivered water and provisions to isolated families…As a teenager, he began entering so-called suicide races — unofficial cross-country competitions on improvised courses. After his uncles recruited him as a rider for their Indian Relay team, he built a reputation as a tough rider and dependable breaker of colts.

Richard’s thoroughbreds, failures on the racetrack, now carry his son in Indian Relay races.

As an adult, he and his wife, Virginia, settled their young family near Fort Yates, N.D., where Richard taught his children to ride. The Long Feathers entered their first Indian Relay in 2013… Training for relays is a constant said of the 6 a.m. agility workouts that fill his winter months…Conditioning for the horses starts early, as well. ‘This year we started and there was still three feet of snow on the ground,’ he said. ‘Make ’em jump through those big snow banks. It just builds ’em up.’ In the springtime Jace and Jestin move to the track to train the horses in pairs, working on their exchanges. These split-second handoffs are the key to Indian Relay success. The top relay teams all have quality horses, but every competitor knows a relay is won or lost in the exchanges: If the two transitions are not performed flawlessly, it will not make much difference how fast the horses are…It isn’t just the riders who have to be skilled athletes. The setup man who holds the next mount as the rider circles the track — on Richard’s team, this is Jestin’s job — has to be a great horseman, too. ‘t’s impossible to hold a horse still for longer than a minute,’ Real Bird said. ‘You’ve got to let a horse be a horse.’ And the catcher — Richard, on Team Long Feather — who must stop the speeding horse that arrives has to be fearless. ‘He’s going to get run over,”’Real Bird said, ‘and he’s got to be O.K. with that.’

Richard blessing, or “smudging,” his horses with sage before a race at the Crow Fair.

As post time nears, Richard fills a can with dried sage and lights it. While the boys wrap the legs of the three horses they will run — Cabaret, Mr. Coke Man and Runaway Cal — Richard makes his way from stall to stall, wafting the gray smoke over the horses’ backs, half-singing prayers in Lakota for speed and safety in the race.

Ken Real Bird, a Crow horseman, calls the races at the fair. He has seen the sport grow from a bush-league pastime to a high-stakes competition, with purses worth tens of thousands of dollars. No one knows for sure when Indian Relay began in its modern iteration. The Shoshone Bannock Tribe in Idaho claims to be the originator of the sport, but Real Bird notes that the first Crow Fair, in 1904, had horse racing.

The first heat goes well for the Long Feathers. The exchanges are smooth, and Jace runs hard for second place but is caught at the wire and finishes third. It is good enough to secure a spot in the Sunday’s championship race, but Jace knows it won’t be easy. Teams are getting better every year. ‘Two years ago, you could be good and win anywhere,’ he said. ‘Now, you’ve got to be good just to keep up.’

Richard Long Feather feeding his horses.

The Crow Fair races offer unsatisfying results for the Long Feather team: Jace finishes in fifth place, though the family still heads home with a check.

Richard Long Feather’s horses grazing after competition.

As the sun rises the next day, Richard pulls into his driveway and unloads the horses. Restless after hours in the trailer, they sprint off over the prairie. In minutes, they are out of sight.”