While going through the year of 2010 and looking at the stories across Indian Country, there were many ups and downs. Starting off with a positive one, as a vocal opponent of Native American Sports Mascots, I thought the end of the University of North Dakota (UND) Fighting Sioux logo would take much more time than it did. And when a final decision was made to retire the logo, I was elated and shocked. The end of the era was over for one mascot. I remembered one alumni I knew, said, it wouldn’t be replaced, and now, I wondered what he thought. I also thought about a good friend of the family, Chase Iron Eyes, who was a UND alumni and he was one of those who fought against this stereotype, and what he felt, I know he had to be happy. There is no clear winners in this issue, but I do know that young Native People who now grow up with one less stereotype.
One sad story for many people across Indian Country, was the passing of Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee. Her story as the first female leader of the Cherokee Nation was an inspiration to many women across this country. I had the pleasure of meeting this remarkable woman and hearing her speak on her life, and I know that the things she has done will always be remembered.
On December 8, 2010 President Barack Obama signed into law the Cobell Settlement. The settlement ends the long running trust fund lawsuit brought on in 1996 by Native American families whose royalties accounts were mismanaged since the 1800′s by the Department of Interior. While many Natives cheered the end to the Cobell settlement, many others felt the settlement amount was not enough.
Another group of stories I felt that happened in Indian Country, that didn’t get enough media attention, the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg saying in response to the tobacco tax Native American tribes don’t pay “You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying you know read my lips, the law of the land is this and we’re going to enforce the law,’”. The other was FOX News headline about President Barack Obama’s book praising Sitting Bull which read “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Killed U.S. General”. Again, no apology from Fox about the mistake in the headline.
Next the shooting of the Native wood-carver in Seattle, Washington. The shooting of John T. Williams, a native wood-carver from the Dididaht First Nation in British Columbia has brought much speculation from the Native community in Seattle, and ongoing investigation into whether the shooting was justified. First, Mr. Williams was found to be part deaf. The police officer Ian Birk asked him to put down his knife, and according to Birk when he didn’t, he shot at him, Williams was struck four times. There is conflicting reports about how Williams responded, but his knife was found to be in the closed position when the scene was being investigated. More is definitely to come on this story.
Last, all the Iroquois Lacrosse team wanted to do was compete in the World Lacrosse Championships in England, when they tried to go through security using their own Iroquois passports (which they had done before), they were stopped from going any further. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, granted them a one time waiver to travel overseas, but then in a surprising decision, the British were not going to allow them to travel without U.S. or Canadian passports. The Iroquois Lacrosse team would not relent, standing up for their nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s six nations sovereignty rights. This story generated much media attention to the issue of each tribal nations sovereignty status when dealing with other nations and what really the nation to nation status means.
It was a year of stories affecting all our people, many stories that didn’t make it to the mainstream media and stories that meant the world to many of us. Here is to 2011 and making the most of it! Native Americans are still here, don’t forget our tribal nations because our numbers are small and the minority of minorities, we are still human beings after all and our stories still need to be told.