A 2015 advance: Tribal prosecution of non-native abusers

This story is from March 2015, but it just came across my radar today:

Two years after Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, Native American tribes can finally take advantage of one of the law’s most significant updates: a provision that allows tribal courts to investigate and prosecute non-Native men who abuse Native women on reservations.

Starting Saturday, tribes can claim jurisdiction over non-Native men who commit crimes of domestic violence, dating violence or who violate a protection order against a victim who lives on tribal land. Until now, that jurisdiction has fallen to federal or state law enforcement, who are often hours away from reservations and lack the resources to respond. The result has effectively allowed non-Native abusers immunity from punishment.

During the preceding two years, several tribal governments worked through a pilot program with the Federal government to develop the rules and guidelines necessary to handle the complexity of sovereign arrest and prosecution of U.S. citizens by non-U.S. tribal governments and non-U.S. tribal law enforcement.

This new power will be critical to halting rampant non-native abuse and assaults of native women.


AFD Micron #9

We like to think of historical people as trapped in the morals of their times, but history is filled with well-researched, articulate debates on the moral harms of slavery or Indian genocidein societies that decided in favor of them anyway. The fact that we talk a lot about racism or sexism today can’t be taken as evidence that we’re effectively dealing with them.


California environment laws now include more Native input

A law signed last week in California has finally amended existing environmental laws to establish a pathway for more direct and cohesive input from Native American communities when they are concerned that land-use approvals for development might negatively affect heritage and sacred sites. Crown City News:

“This is an important step toward aligning California’s environmental laws with the values that are often espoused about respecting tribal heritage and history, not only for this generation, but for future generations of all Californians,” said Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. “We deeply appreciate Assemblymember Gatto for his leadership, and the legislature’s support.”
California is struggling to preserve the last remnants of its Native American past. Recently, thieves stole carvings from an unprotected sacred site on the Volcanic Tableland, north of Bishop, and developers have sought to place everything from dumps, to housing developments, to granite mines, near or on top of ancient sacred sites.

“If we don’t do something, future generations will wonder what happened to California’s pre-Columbian heritage,” said Gatto.
Currently, tribes are not treated as coherent sovereign entities under CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act], but instead as mere members of the public, even if wishing to express a unified opinion about a site which has been a unique part of the tribe’s heritage for thousands of years.

With this oversight finally rectified, it’s expected that other long-sought reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act will now be passable, because new measures to “streamline” the law won’t risk the unintended side effect of making it even easier to roll over Native concerns.

Cherokee Nation to get $1 million grant for health research

According to Grand Lake News, the Cherokee Nation recently received a $1 million health research grant from the National Institute of Health and Indian Health Service to fund four years of research into chronic health conditions in the Cherokee population, as well as to recruit (and mentor) more Native American undergraduates into the health profession and health research. Here’s how it’s going to help:

This award is good news for the Cherokee Nation in a myriad of ways. First, we will offer better relief to our citizens with these debilitating afflictions,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Just as importantly, we have an opportunity to cultivate our brightest young Cherokees who have a passion for biological research. It has been shown time and time again that Native people respond better when their health care is provided by another Native. That is why it is so critical to cultivate our health care providers and researchers. It will improve the health of our people for generations.”


Flag of the Cherokee Nation. (Credit: Hosmich - Wikimedia)

Flag of the Cherokee Nation. (Credit: Hosmich – Wikimedia)

Never Alone: Video game brings an Alaska Native story to life

Note added January 11, 2015: We are hoping to have a review of the game available on this website soon from one of our correspondents. Unfortunately, he has reported that there’s a bug that stops the game about a third of the way through. You might want to wait for it to be patched before buying the game.

NPR recently reported on a very cool video game that brings to life a traditional Iñupiat adventure story from Alaska. It’s called “Never Alone” and is produced by “Upper One Games,” a studio founded in 2013 by Cook Inlet Tribal Council of Alaska to help promote the native cultural heritage to a new generation of its members and to the wider world.

The game, which brought on board a number of respected veterans from the video game industry, was developed with extensive input — on plot, in-game art, and structure — from those who know the story best:

“We didn’t want this to be an outsider’s view of what the Inupiaq culture was. We wanted it to come from the people themselves.”

Never Alone is based on a traditional story known as Kanuk Sayuka and the experiences of Alaska elders, storytellers and youth. The story follows a young Inupiaq girl and an Arctic fox as they go on an adventure to save her village from a blizzard that never ends.

Game developer Sean Vesce has 20 years of experience in the industry working on action titles like Tomb Raider. He recently went to Barrow, in far northern Alaska, to watch the students play a demo of the game. He says that day was his most memorable experience from the project.

The puzzle platformer game will be released for Windows (via Steam), PS4, and Xbox One in November. Here’s the official trailer:

It looks like an incredible game, and it features a female lead playable character, as well as bringing both cultural diversity and an unusual structure (since it was built around the Iñupiat cultural/linguistic worldview and oral traditions, rather than around the industry-dominant Euro-U.S. cultural framework).

Here’s the gameplay description from the official website:

– Play as both Girl and Fox – switch between the two characters at any time. Girl and Fox must work together to overcome challenges and puzzles as each has unique skills and abilities. A second player can join at any time for local co-op play.

– Explore perilous Arctic environments, from tundra to coastal villages, from ice floes to a mysterious forest. Brace yourself against gale-force winds and blizzards; face treacherous mountains.

– Meet fascinating characters from Iñupiaq folklore – Manslayer, the Little People, Helping Spirits, Blizzard Man and more. Never Alone was crafted in partnership with Alaska Native elders and storytellers for true authenticity.

– Hear the story of Kunuuksaayuka as told by a master Iñupiat storyteller in the spoken Iñupiaq language — a first for a commercial video game.

– Unlock special video Insights recorded with the Iñupiaq community to share their wisdom, stories and perspective.

They also worked to appropriately balance the game play with the source material:

One famous Iñupiaq storyteller named Robert Nasruk Cleveland, born in the late 1800s, was renown for his storytelling skill. Many of the great examples of traditional Iñupiaq stories are closely associated with him, including the story of Kunuuksaayuka.

The Never Alone team located Robert Cleveland’s daughter, an Iñupiaq elder named Minnie Gray, to obtain permission to use the story as the inspiration and main narrative spine of the game. The team worked directly with Minnie to ensure that, as the story was adapted to the needs of a video game, it maintained the wisdom and teachings of the original.

Here’s another video on the impact they hope to have with “Never Alone”:


“…the several States and with the Indian Tribes…”

The title above is a quotation from one the few passages of the U.S. Constitution of 1787 making any references whatsoever to the multitude of indigenous nations on the North American continent at the time. That sort of vague afterthought attitude probably encapsulates well the attitude of most of the Founding Fathers and Constitutional Framers, despite the hundreds of distinct native communities in just the northeast woodlands and southeast woodlands regions alone (i.e. the original U.S.).

The early national leaders and writers of those key documents were generally coastal elites without much direct contact with the American Indian nations that had already been cleared by war, disease, and expulsion from those areas. The backcountry mountain settlers, who had helped precipitate much of the events that spiraled into Revolution by repeatedly trying to cross the Appalachian Mountain “line in the sand” drawn by the British Crown, were neither represented in the circles that established the country nor under their authority most of the time. They generally just wandered off to attack indigenous communities when they felt like it — and then waited either for retroactive approval by the coast or substantial military reinforcements from the coast, if things got out of control. Even the rare treaties made in good faith by colonial and U.S. coastal governments were generally violated by factions who had not been involved in the negotiation process or did not consider themselves subject to those powers anyway. But the U.S. government rarely ever gave more than a slap on the wrist to the offenders.

In general, the country and its predecessor colonies had a very inconsistent and not systematically planned relationship with the American Indian nations — apart from the consistency of overall negativity and genocidal behaviors, and in particular of pushing them westward and into generally ever-smaller areas. That last pattern is tracked in the Lower 48, from the 1783 Treaty of Paris to 1892 and then 2010, in the eHistory video below:

This of course does not really get into the situations in Alaska or in Hawaii. It’s also really important to remember that the semi-systematic thoughtlessness toward and theft from Indian Country by the U.S. government is not some 18th century relic, but continues to present, as we discussed in a recent episode of the radio show.

A more rapid animated gif version of the video is below:
Read more

June 22, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 89


Topics: Washington NFL trademark, U.S. oil royalties for American Indians, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, and US/Iran in Iraq. People: Bill and Nate.

Discussion Points:

– Continued U.S. oppression of American Indians
– Will Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence with Turkey’s support?
– Should the US and Iran work together in Iraq?

Part 1 – Washington NFL trademark & American Indian policies:
Part 1 – Washington NFL – AFD 89
Part 2 – Turkey/Kurdistan:
Part 2 – Kurdistan – AFD 89
Part 3 – Iran in the Iraq Crisis:
Part 3 – Iraq – AFD 89

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links
Segment 1

– Nate’s AFD Essay: “Washingskins”
– Greg’s AFD Essay: What took so long? Washington NFL team loses trademark for racial slur.
– DOI: Interior Considers Procedures to Reestablish a Government-to-Government Relationship with the Native Hawaiian Community
– DOI: Interior Announces Improved Valuation Method for Oil Produced on American Indian Lands

Segment 2

– AFD: Iraqi Kurdish PM calls for Sunni autonomy; Will Kurds leave Iraq?

Segment 3

– WSJ: Secret U.S. Plan to Aid Iraq Fizzled Amid Mutual Distrust
– AFD: Iran Supreme Leader not keen on working with US on ISIS


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.