Native American News Roundup August 6-12, 2023

Here are some Native American-related news stories that made headlines this week:

New national monument will curb, not halt, uranium mining near Grand Canyon

President Joe Biden was in Arizona on Tuesday, where he designated more than 404,000 hectares of land around the Grand Canyon as a national monument, the fifth of his presidency.

America’s natural wonders are our nation’s heart and soul,” Biden said, speaking at Red Butte Airport in Williams, Arizona. “And so, today, I’m proud to use my authority under the Antiquities Act to protect almost 1 million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park as a new national monument, to help right the wrongs of the past and conserve this land of ancestral footprints for all future generations.”

The monument will now be known as Baaj Nwaavjo l’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. The name is a blending of the languages of two tribes, the Havasupai and Hopi, who are among more than a dozen tribes whose ancestors made their home here. See video below to understand more about the name.

In 2012, the Interior Department enacted a 20-year moratorium on any new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. Mining operations in the area that predate that moratorium will be allowed to continue.

VOA’s Matt Dibble filed this story:

Group calls on Washington football team to ‘Reclaim the Redskins’

Name changes are on the agenda of another group this week: the Native American Guardians Association (NAGA) sent a three-page letter to the owners and leaders of the Washington Commanders football, calling on them to change the team’s name back to the “Washington Redskins.”  

According to the letter posted on the NAGA Facebook page, the group aims “to stop the further cancel culture” against Native Americans.

“As you are undoubtedly aware, the Redskins had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the American Indian community, dating back to their founding in 1932 as the Boston Braves, when their original coach was Native American (and former Carlisle Indian star) Lone Star Dietz.”

It is a claim former Redskins owner Dan Snyder often used to justify keeping the team’s name. But there’s a bit of a problem with the assertion: that coach was born William Henry Dietz and served time in jail after twice being indicted for faking Native American identity.

VOA reached out to Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee activist Suzan Harjo, who was instrumental in the fight to get the Redskins name changed.

“Dietz was definitely a pseudo-Indian who stole a dead man’s identity and tried to steal his money and land, but didn’t get away with that,” she said via Facebook.

NAGA has threatened to encourage a national boycott of the team; in June, it launched an online petition that has garnered more than 75,000 signatures.

Read more:

Report: Dams have played big role in Native American land loss

Today, federally recognized tribes’ federal tribal landholdings across the entire U.S. total approximately 28.3 million hectares (70 million acres), less than 3% of the total U.S. land area. Most of this is due to the colonial taking of Native American land.

A new report from Penn State University looks at an understudied cause of tribal land dispossession: Dams.

A team of researchers looked at data from federal Indian reservations and Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Areas near about 8,000 dams across the country. They also measured the size of dam reservoirs. 

They conclude that 424 dams have flooded more than 520,000 hectares (1.13 million acres) of tribal land — an area larger than Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park combined.

“The consequences of dam-induced land loss are far-reaching,” lead study author Heather Randell said. “The disruption of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems not only devastates natural resources but also destroys culturally significant sites.”

Randall also said that the impact on tribal communities’ livelihoods is “equally severe.”  

Read the study and its recommendations here:

Remembering Red Bird

The Violin Channel this week looks at the life and times of Zitkala-Sa (“Red Bird”), a Yankton Dakota writer, composer and activist for Native American and women’s rights. 

She was born in 1876 at the Yankton Sioux Agency in South Dakota to a Dakota mother and a white father. She was sent to be educated at a Quaker boarding school in Indiana, where she was given the name Gertrude Simmons. Later, she studied music at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

She taught for two years at the Carlisle Industrial Indian School in Pennsylvania and wrote about the experience in her 1921 book, “American Indian Stories,” and would go on to become a celebrated author who influenced Congress to pass the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, which granted full citizenship rights to Native Americans. 

Read more and watch a documentary on her life here:

 

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