Coeur D’ Alene Tribe Brings Culture and Cardio Tips to DC

“Imani Antone, a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, has been dancing for as long as she can remember. Dressed in a traditional ‘jingle dress,’ a multicolored outfit covered with silver ornaments that clink when she moves, Antone and other members of the tribe’s Powwow Sweat dance group visited the nation’s capital last week to teach visitors to the National Museum of the American Indian how to perform tribal dances and – more important – the cultural significance of those dances to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. The event was part of the eighth-annual Living Earth Festival.” R. Prasad, Medill News

Sweat dancers from the Coeur d’ Alene tribe after their interactive performance Friday at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (Ritu Prasad:Medill News Service)

Excerpt: Coeur D’ Alene Tribe Brings Dance, Culture and ?Cardio to Washington DC, by Ritu Prasad and Katie Watkins, Medill News

“The three-day festival brings together Native American artists from across the country, featuring dancers, artisans and chefs cooking traditional cuisine. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe is one of 567 federally recognized tribes in the U.S, according to the National Congress of American Indians. Their Powwow Sweat dancers kicked off the festival with a 45-minute class that taught visitors the basics of their dance exercise routine.

‘Powwow Sweat is a really fun way to exercise,’ said dancer Nikki Pitre. ‘It’s fusing together our traditional and social dances with some cardio and a structured way to really get your heart rate going.’

Created by Lovina Louie, who runs the tribe’s wellness programs, Powwow Sweat aims to get tribal members excited about exercise, while also practicing traditional dances. It was developed under a $1.9 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce obesity and other chronic diseases in the Coeur d’Alene Tribe…The Powwow Sweat dancers taught classes twice a day throughout the weekend as part of the Living Earth Festival.”

NOTICE: UPDATE: 

Obama’s tweet after Charlottesville one of most popular tweets ever by Rebecca Savransky

From former President BarackObama

“In subsequent tweets, Obama continued the quote, which read: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Category: Culture

Some Tribes Use Tradition To Stop Tobacco Use

“States and cities have come to understand that if they jack up the taxes on cigarettes — teenagers especially have a harder time buying them. This year, the National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization concluded that a big price increase is one of the most effective tools for decreasing tobacco use. But there are certain communities where relatively cheap cigarettes are still easy to get. In western New York, where I grew up, there is at least one place to avoid paying high prices: on the reservations of the Seneca tribe.” J. Kourkounis, Newsworks

A man passes benches advertising Native brand cigarettes outside a gas station on the Seneca Nation’s Cattauragus reservation. Photo- J. Kourkounis

Excerpt: Tribes hope tradition will fight unhealthy tobacco use, By J. Kourkounis

“There are more than 500 tribes across the country. Each is a sovereign nation and they set their own rules. For example, the New York state cigarette tax is $4.35 per pack, but smoke shops on Seneca reservations don’t add on that extra tax, which keeps prices lower…I was hoping to ask Seneca Nation officials about the low tobacco prices and the health costs of smoking among tribe members but they declined my request for an interview.

As a group, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest cigarette smoking rates compared to all other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health research shows that across decades, cigarette companies have targeted American Indians by funding cultural events such as powwows and rodeos and by using Native American images in advertising and packaging.

Roadside ad of Big Indian Kool. Photo- Roadside America

Kristine Rhodes, an enrolled member of Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa tribe, leads the American Indian Cancer Foundation.

‘Smoking rates among American Indians and Alaskan Natives vary tremendously by region and by tribe,’ she says.

For example, in the Southwest United States, American Indians have the lowest smoking rates, even lower than mainstream America. This is really great news that we celebrate and we see a corresponding lower cancer rate there for smoking-related cancers,’ Rhodes said. The Cancer Foundation is working on control policies around the nation. But tobacco sales are big money for some tribes and and Rhodes says a readiness to change is different from community to community.

Ad on rez. Photo- Blueridge tobacco

No health research yet, but there is a movement that Kristine Rhodes and others think might decrease rates of smoking among native people. The plan is to help people give up unhealthy habits while holding on to native traditions. And that includes using and reclaiming sacred traditional tobacco.

Seneca Nation ad. photo-From Garden Warriors to Good Seeds

‘Some tribal communities also use tobacco for weddings,’says Coco Villaluz, a community educator for the nonprofit organization ClearWay Minnesota. She says traditional tobacco is offered as a sign of respect. It’s often used without burning the plant, other times it is smoked in a pipe to carry prayers to the Creator.

For decades, a federal law cut American Indians off from many religious practices and prevented many people from using sacred tobacco.

Today, Villaluz urges people to reject commercial tobacco and stop using it for ceremonies and prayers. Her organization offers people help to quit smoking. And the group also advocates for smoke-free areas on Indian lands.

We all want the same mission as everybody else who’s working on tobacco, whether it’s in tribal communities or non-tribal communities. We want our people to be healthy, we don’t want to see any more of our loved ones suffering from commercial tobacco related illnesses.”

Category: Health

“Maya Weave Their Identity Into Their Soccer Team”

“It is a relief to take a detour and head toward a plateau, with its tropical vegetation, after driving through a steamy landscape of sugar cane fields in southern Guatemala. An hour later you arrive in Xejuyup, Xejuyup, a town of about 4,000 people that is ‘under the mountains’ or ‘at the feet of the hill’ — which is what Xejuyup (pronounced shay-who-YOOP) means in the language of the K’iche’ Maya who live here. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car was a huge banner with the official picture of the local soccer team, called C.S.D. Xejuyup. The first thing I saw in the banner were the team’s uniforms.” D. Volpe, The New York Times

Members of C.D.S. Xejuyup soccer team. Credit- Daniele Volpe,

Excerpt: Maya Weave Their Identity Into Their Soccer Team by Daniele Volpe, The New York Times

“Maya culture retains a strong presence in Guatemala. Colorful traditional clothing, usually worn by women, is among the first things tourists may notice upon their arrival. It is less common to see men wearing traditional clothing, and in Xejuyup only a few elderly men do so.

Antonio Perechú Sui, 67, an assistant of C.D.S. Xejuyup, at his home. credit- Daniele Volpe

This worried Antonio Perechú. A former goalkeeper, Perechú played for several regional teams but gave up the pursuit of his dream of becoming a professional soccer player because his family could not afford it. He founded C.S.D. Xejuyup in 1982 as something of a community organization — the Spanish acronym C.S.D. translates as Sports Social Club — and today his son, Miguel, is the team’s captain. Antonio Perechú’s ambition to have his team reflect, and respect, its community has been echoed in the team’s decision — since its first days — to incorporate Maya clothing into its uniforms.

The players explained to me that the coxtar (the skirt), the kutin (the shirt) and the pas (the sash) have meanings associated with the ancestral Maya worldview. Their colors, their embroidery and the weaving line patterns suggest the relation between humans and nature and its elements.

A picture of C.D.S. Xejuyup on a T-shirt.credit-Daniele Volpe, ff

From 1960 to 1996, during Guatemala’s brutal civil war, more than 80 percent of the estimated 200,000 dead and missing were Maya, according to a report from Guatemala’s Commission for Historical Clarification.

Xejuyup was occupied by the army during that time. In 1982, the year Perechú started the soccer club, the civil defense patrols, or local militias, were formed nationwide. All male adults were forced to join; the conscripts included Perechú and other members of the current Xejuyup team.

For years, Guatemala’s indigenous population kept a low profile. Parents refrained from teaching the Mayan languages to their children, and from wearing their traditional clothing. When a peace deal was signed, opening the country to a globalization boom, Guatemala was flooded with used clothes from the United States. The items cost less than one quetzal (about 14 cents) each, and even more people stopped wearing traditional clothing.

Miguel Perechú, who works as the gymnastics teacher at a school and has attended several soccer courses, led the session.

His pride in his Maya identity matches his father’s. In our conversation he mentioned Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the twin gods.

In pre-Columbian oral history, the twins save the Maya people by defeating the Lords of Xibalba (the underworld) in an ancient ballgame. It is part of the reason Miguel Perechú feels a strong connection between the past and the present.

‘The costume is a symbol, and we, the team, carry it with great responsibility,’ he said. ‘It stands for all the indigenous peoples of the country, and for Guatemala as a whole.’ But to the men of C.S.D. Xejuyup, it is also why the mission undertaken by Antonio Perechú is so ambitious, and so important.

Category: Culture

US Tribes Will Commit to Paris Climate Agreement

“The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community started planning for climate change a decade ago. Located on the southeastern peninsula of Fidalgo Island on Puget Sound in Washington, the reservation is surrounded by water and at high risk for sea-level rise. When the sitting president announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement, the Swinomish reacted swiftly and, together with other tribes, publicly committed to uphold the accord.” L. Gilpin. High Country

Excerpt: Tribes commit to uphold Paris climate agreement, By Lyndsey Gilpin High Country

“In the West, where many tribal communities and reservations are on the frontlines of climate change, tribal leaders are determined to move forward on climate action as sovereign nations despite budget cuts, climate denial, and inaction. ‘We came together with one another to raise the level of environmental awareness,’ said Debra Lekanoff, governmental affairs director for the Swinomish. ‘We can’t just pick up and move the places where we live.’ Though Indigenous communities have a small carbon footprint, they are often the most severely impacted by climate change.

In California and the Pacific Northwest, tribal nations are at increased risk of sea-level rise. Coastal communities like the Quinault Indian Nation in western Washington and at least 31 Alaska Native villages, including the Shishmaref village near the Bering Strait, face the danger of coastal erosion. Already, several have been forced to relocate… Tribes have already taken a lot of leadership in planning for the negative impacts of climate change,’ said Kyle Powys Whyte, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and professor of philosophy and Indigenous studies at Michigan State University. ‘It’s really important that some tribes begin to take the lead on what it means to have the biggest possible energy-saving impact in the area they live, and to exercise self-governance.’ Though tribes and states are sovereign entities within the U.S., they are not allowed to enter treaties or negotiate with foreign nations. Under United Nations policy, Indigenous people are treated as self-determining when it comes to cultural issues, but lack the political self-determination of member nations.

Health Equity and Climate Change Montana State University

The 2008 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples allows tribal communities to participate in U.N. matters. Signing an agreement like the 2015 Paris climate accord, however, would require changing policies at the U.N. and in the U.S. Tribal leaders say it’s possible. “Just to have them recognize us was a step in the right direction,” said Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians…’Tribes are really trying to get out there and represent themselves, and become stronger partners in agreements where U.S. representation isn’t necessarily good for them, like the Paris Agreement,’ Whyte said.

The Swinomish have partnered with the Skagit Climate Consortium to protect the region’s salmon from pollution and warming waters. In Southeast Alaska, the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes are monitoring ocean acidification levels and harmful algae blooms while adapting buildings and infrastructure to cope with rising sea levels along rivers and the coasts. It behooves tribes to find ways for their climate change plans to be part of discussion,” Whyte said.”

Category: Culture

Natives Fight Back for the Grizzly!

“When Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke removed grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the Endangered Species list in late June, at least seven environmental groups filed notices of intent to sue him. But nine Indian tribes have beaten them to the punch, citing violations of religious freedom.” L. Lundquist Courthouse News

Excerpt: Indian Tribes Take the Lead in Fight for Grizzly Bears by Laura Lundquist courthouse News

“Zinke announced on June 22 that he was removing grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from protections of the Endangered Species Act. Conservation groups filed notices of intent to sue June 30, but must wait 60 days under the Endangered Species Act to give the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service an opportunity to respond.

Native Americans have other avenues of recourse, and sued the United States on June 30 in Federal Court. The four-count lawsuit, filed by nine tribes or their representatives, plus three spiritual societies and spiritual leaders, claim the defendants failed to consult with them in developing the delisting documents, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the delisting violates their religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act…As Fish and Wildlife proceeded to work with other federal and state agencies to delist the Yellowstone grizzlies, tribes were not represented in the meetings.

Mama Grizzly and cubs

Had they been present, tribal representatives would have cited the religious importance of the grizzly bear, according to the tribes’ 34-page lawsuit. The spiritual leaders say grizzly bears need to be allowed to expand throughout their historical range for tribes such as the Hopi to freely express their faith. They say that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Fish and Wildlife should not take action that prevents grizzlies from repopulating their homeland, such as allowing states to conduct trophy hunts.

Education- image windigotravel

‘It’s not surprising, but it’s not acceptable for our tribes to be ignored of our needs and our requests. We wanted full consultation, meaningful consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service. But even though they promised us, that’s not happening,’ Ben Nuvamsa, former chairman of the Hopi Tribe, told the Public News Service…The tribes seek an injunction against the delisting until Fish and Wildlife properly consults with them and considers their religious needs.

The nine tribes and their representatives are just a fraction of more than 120 tribes and nations in the United States and Canada that have signed a Grizzly Treaty in the past year to protect the bear. On July 4, some of those tribes met in Rapid City, South Dakota, to renew their opposition to the delisting, among other issues.

However, the tribes do not comprise a totally unified front. On the Blackfeet Reservation in north central Montana, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council supports the delisting, though it opposes trophy hunting on the reservation. But in a June 17 letter to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, the Crazy Dogs Society of the Blackfeet Nation said the Business Council did not have the authority to speak for the tribe on matters related to the grizzly bear, and Society leader Leon Rattler questioned whether the council had conflicts of interest. Erik Molvar of Western Watersheds Project expects grazing leases to proliferate on federal land occupied by grizzlies and the resulting conflict will mean more dead bears.

‘The Yellowstone region is one of the last places where grizzly bear still occupies its natural place as the king of the mountains,’ Molvar said. ‘But the livestock industry continues to push sheep and cattle deep into the mountains, causing conflicts with grizzly bears and other native wildlife in their natural habitats. Turning grizzly bear management over to trigger-happy state agencies without guarantees that the bears will be protected turns back the clock to the dark days when predator killing was the rule and grizzly bear populations were eliminated.”

Category: Animals

New Mexico’s “Gathering” Partners with the Pot Industry!

“A cannabis company believes the pot industry could save tribal nations from poverty. But many argue it would only make a drug problem worse.” C. Lugar, The Atlantic Daily

Pot company Ultra Health (top of poster) funded the Gathering this year

Excerpt: New Mexico’s Contentious ‘Pot Powwow’ By  Chelsey Luger, The Atlantic

“You going to Gathering this year? Most Native people have heard this question. Short for the Gathering of Nations, the ‘Gathering’ is the largest powwow in North America—one of few pan-Indian cultural fixtures shared by nearly every indigenous group on the continent. Thousands of people from hundreds of tribal nations show up in Albuquerque each year to experience it.

Unlike a traditional powwow, where no commercialization is involved, the Gathering is a contest powwow.  More than a display of culture, it is a massive, showy, fiercely competitive athletic event. Dancers are divided into age groups and categories like jingle, fancy, grass, and traditional, and are judged based on style, rhythm, intricacy of regalia, and creativity. Competitors are eligible to win thousands in prize money. For many, powwow dancing is their livelihood, a source of joy and community that also puts food on the table. It is precisely because of the Gathering’s community-focused nature that the event stirred up controversy this year when its organizers announced a partnership with a new title sponsor: a cannabis company.

Gathering of Nations Pow Wow

A chain of dispensaries called UltraHealth is now in a five-year contract with the Gathering as their primary funding source. The deal earned the event a new nickname: the pot powwow.

UltraHealth’s monetary support might be exactly what the Gathering needs to keep the beloved event up and running. Still, many are skeptical of the company’s intentions. Does marijuana—medical or otherwise—belong at a family event like a powwow?

Duke Rodriguez of Ultra-Health.

Duke Rodriguez, the CEO of UltraHealth, believes that the cannabis industry is a way out of economic deprivation for tribal nations, many of which have struggled for generations with high rates of unemployment and poverty.

In 2014, the Justice Department made it so that all tribal nations have a right to legalize growing and selling of marijuana if they want to, so Rodriguez now dreams of building marijuana growing and distribution enterprises across Indian country.

On wide-open reservation lands where some outsiders see a whole lot of nothing, Rodriguez sees an opportunity to strike a competitive advantage.

The UltraHealth headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, doesn’t exactly scream “controversy.” It looks like a suburban realty company, or maybe a place where you could get your accounting done.

Rodriguez is business casual, too, in his polo, khakis, and full head of salt and pepper…A former CFO for a medical center and one-time secretary of New Mexico’s Human Services Department, he is committed to maintaining that same air of government-health care professionalism with his pot company.    

Rodriguez is interested not only in tribally owned enterprises, but also in tapping into the individual Native American market. Understanding that Native culture is rooted in and familiar with natural medicines, he’d like to see more people choose pot as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.

Some tribal nations are on board with UltraHealth. So far, they have partnered with the Las Vegas Paiute tribe, and Rodriguez claims they are in talks with dozens more. ‘There’s no stopping it,’ he says.  ‘This is the Superbowl of Indian country. Tribes are leading the way in the cannabis business, and I think people are tickled by it.’

Well, not everyone. Some worry that the presence of pot at a powwow will encourage drug experimentation. Vaughan Rees, the director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that UltraHealth is pulling marketing tactics from the big tobacco playbook. ‘They’re integrating their branding into the Native American community, and they’re promoting the idea that these products are safe, and something that everybody does, and that changes social norms. That makes the job of the people whose mission to reduce the introduction of drugs or other potentially risky behavior more difficult.’

Rees says that this is the most explicit example he’s seen to date of the marijuana industry advertising to a specific racial or ethnic population. It is something, he anticipates, that will continue. ‘These are the battles we’re going to have to fight as the cannabis industry spreads its tentacles,’ he says. ‘It just makes me sick.”

Category: Culture