New Monument Pays Respect to Tlingit Burial Ground


Juneau Empire

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Clarence Laiti stood in the cafeteria of Sayéik Gastineau Community School — which was built on a Tlingit burial ground — and reflected on times he’s visited the graves of departed relatives in cemeteries.

“You always end up talking to them,” Laiti said. “At least I do.”

On a recent afternoon, the ongoing conversation between the dead and the living was on full display at the school.

In 1956, the city paved over a Tlingit burial ground to build a highway and the school. In 1962, the city of Douglas burned down the Douglas Indian Village to make way for Douglas harbor.

When the school was being renovated in 2012, contractors inadvertently unearthed five graves. Since then, the City and Borough of Juneau has worked with the DIA to acknowledge the past and to try to heal the deep wounds that were caused by previous events.

In the past two years, a Raven totem pole was raised in front of the school and the Tlingit name for the area, Sayéik, was added to the school’s name.

The Sayéik Sacred Site Memorial, which was designed by Tlingit/Unangax multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Galanin, includes a few main aspects. The focus of it is a ceremonial bronze fire dish, which is symbolic for the Tlingit practice of placing food into a fire to feed and comfort the spirits of the departed.

Just below the fire dish is a light, representing an eternal flame. Below that is a bronze plaque in the shape of a Tináa that explains the significance of the site and memorial. The memorial is built on a granite boulder. There’s a stone path leading from the memorial to the school’s entrance.

In front of the entrance is a large semi-circle of bronze that carries words from the late Tlingit elder Elizabeth Nyman: “You are truly precious, (you and) all the Children of the Yanyèidi, (and those whose names come) from the Taku River. Therefore I want you to see your background, your history, what happened in the past. As long as (I live) — I will not live forever, but those of you who come after will read it. If only you were taken by boat along the Taku River you could write down the whole story in a book.”

Galanin’s work has gained attention from people around the country, and he’s been heavily involved in the healing process on Douglas Island. He was the lead carver on a Wolf totem pole that went up at Savikko Park earlier this year.

Galanin wasn’t able to attend the unveiling ceremony, but many people made sure to praise his work on the memorial. University of Alaska Southeast Assistant Dean Ronalda Cadiente-Brown said it was clear from early on that Galanin was the correct choice for the project.

“He delivered in a variety of ways,” Cadiente-Brown said. “I had such a sense that the work was in the right hands and appreciated that he is now tied to this community both with the poles he was involved with and with this piece.”

The memorial was a collaborative effort between the DIA, CBJ, Juneau School District and North Wind Architects. Representatives from all of those organizations were present at the unveiling, but it was a fairly small ceremony with about 40 people in attendance.

DIA Tribal Administrator Andrea Cadiente-Laiti did much of the moderating during the ceremony, but DIA Secretary Barbara Cadiente-Nelson and Tlingit elders David Katzeek and Paul Marks also spoke at length. Katzeek and Marks, who often team up to speak at important Tlingit events and ceremonies, spoke just before the memorial was unveiled.

They talked about their personal experiences with the school and the area and about how important it is for the children attending the school to understand the significance of the land they’re on. Katzeek spoke at length about the example that the totem pole and memorial are setting, but more importantly he spoke about the example that the people working together to put them up are setting.

“We’re holding each other up, encouraging each other,” Katzeek said. “Our children need to see that. This nation needs to see.”


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire,


Utah School District Eyes Revamped Native American Lessons

PROVO, Utah (AP) _ A Utah school district is working to revamp its lessons around Native Americans to tackle stereotypes.

The Daily Herald of Provo, Utah, reports the Provo City School District has been setting up meetings with schools about curriculum development and questioning sources teachers have been using.

Meredith Lam, the Native American specialist and Title VI coordinator for the Provo City School District, says around 90 percent of the lessons plans about Native Americans teachers have shown her this year have needed to be reworked. She says it's part of the process to give students a complete picture.

Lam says she'd like to see an American Indian history class offered as an elective to the older grades to give students the opportunity to learn the other half of U.S. history.


Information from: The Daily Herald,


White Supremacy Signs Placed on Montana College Campuses

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ Signs bearing the name of a white supremacist group have been left on two college campuses and elsewhere in Montana's largest city.

The Billings Gazette reported Monday some signs had a drawing of Uncle Sam with the words ``Thank you, veterans!'' and the group's name, Identity Evropa, in smaller type. The group's triangular logo appears on Uncle Sam's lapel.

The signs appeared at Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College, as well as at some city intersections.

One was placed beside a display honoring veterans set up by the Native American Achievement Center at Montana State Billings. Reno Charette, director of the center, said she hadn't heard of the group but alerted campus police when she learned what it advocated.

It wasn't clear who placed the signs. Both colleges condemned them.


Information from: The Billings Gazette,


Oglala Sioux Tribe's New Police Chief Revamps Department

PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP) _ The Oglala Sioux Tribe's new police chief has revamped the department six months into the position, bringing new ideas and programming to the law enforcement agency that was lacking leadership and manpower.

The tribe's police chief Robert Ecoffey tells the Rapid City Journal that the biggest impact the last six months has been the number of officers the department has spread throughout Pine Ridge Reservation. He says the Oglala Sioux Tribe's police department now has 54 police officers, compared to 24 officers in April.

Ecoffey says he's assigned three full-time officers to work on enforcing the tribe's drug and alcohol laws on the reservation.

Many people thought illegal alcohol sales would decrease after the border town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, shuttered its beer stores, but Ecoffey says he's seen more bootlegging.


Information from: Rapid City Journal,


Facebook Adds Alaska's Inupiaq as Language Option

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Britt'Nee Brower grew up in a largely Inupiat Eskimo town in Alaska's far north, but English was the only language spoken at home.

Today, she knows a smattering of Inupiaq from childhood language classes at school in the community of Utqiagvik. Brower even published an Inupiaq coloring book last year featuring the names of common animals of the region. But she hopes to someday speak fluently by practicing her ancestral language in a daily, modern setting.

The 29-year-old Anchorage woman has started to do just that with a new Inupiaq language option that recently went live on Facebook for those who employ the social media giant's community translation tool. Launched a decade ago, the tool has allowed users to translate bookmarks, action buttons and other functions in more than 100 languages around the globe.

For now, Facebook is being translated into Inupiaq only on its website, not its app.

``I was excited,'' Brower says of her first time trying the feature, still a work in progress as Inupiaq words are slowly added. ``I was thinking, `I'm going to have to bring out my Inupiaq dictionary so I can learn.' So I did.''

Facebook users can submit requests to translate the site's vast interface workings _ the buttons that allow users to like, comment and navigate the site _ into any language through crowdsourcing. With the interface tool, it's the Facebook users who do the translating of words and short phrases. Words are confirmed through crowd up-and-down voting.

Besides the Inupiaq option, Cherokee and Canada's Inuktut are other indigenous languages in the process of being translated, according to Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Argyres.

``It's important to have these indigenous languages on the internet. Oftentimes they're nowhere to be found,'' she said. ``So much is carried through language _ tradition, culture _ and so in the digital world, being able to translate from that environment is really important.''

The Inupiaq language is spoken in northern Alaska and the Seward Peninsula. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, about 13,500 Inupiat live in the state, with about 3,000 speaking the language.

Myles Creed, who grew up in the Inupiat community of Kotzebue, was the driving force in getting Inupiaq added. After researching ways to possibly link an external translation app with Facebook, he reached out to Grant Magdanz, a hometown friend who works as a software engineer in San Francisco. Neither one of them knew about the translation tool when Magdanz contacted Facebook in late 2016 about setting up an Inupiatun option.

Facebook opened a translation portal for the language in March 2017. It was then up to users to provide the translations through crowdsourcing.

Creed, 29, a linguistics graduate student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, is not Inupiat, and neither is Magdanz, 24. But they grew up around the language and its people, and wanted to promote its use for today's world.

``I've been given so much by the community I grew up in, and I want to be able to give back in some way,'' said Creed, who is learning Inupiaq.

Both see the Facebook option as a small step against predictions that Alaska's Native languages are heading toward extinction under their present rate of decline.

``It has to be part of everyone's daily life. It can't be this separate thing,'' Magdanz said. ``People need the ability to speak it in any medium that they use, like they would English or Spanish.''

Initially, Creed relied on volunteer translators, but that didn't go fast enough. In January, he won a $2,000 mini grant from the Alaska Humanities Forum to hire two fluent Inupiat translators. While a language is in the process of being translated, only those who use the translation tool are able to see it.

Creed changed his translation settings last year. But it was only weeks ago that his home button finally said ``Aimaagvik,'' Inupiaq for home.

``I was really ecstatic,'' he said.

So far, only a fraction of the vast interface is in Inupiaq. Part of the holdup is the complexity of finding exact translations, according to the Inupiaq translators who were hired with the grant money.

Take the comment button, which is still in English. There's no one-word-fits-all in Inupiaq for ``comment,'' according to translator Pausauraq Jana Harcharek, who heads Inupiaq education for Alaska's North Slope Borough. Is the word being presented in the form of a question, or a statement or an exclamatory sentence?

``Sometimes it's so difficult to go from concepts that don't exist in the language to arriving at a translation that communicates what that particular English word might mean,'' Harcharek said.

Translator Muriel Hopson said finding the right translation ultimately could require two or three Inupiaq words.

The 58-year-old Anchorage woman grew up in the village of Wainwright, where she was raised by her grandparents. Inupiaq was spoken in the home, but it was strictly prohibited at the village school run by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Hopson said.

She wonders if she's among the last generation of Inupiaq speakers. But she welcomes the new Facebook option as a promising way for young people to see the value Inupiaq brings as a living language.

``Who doesn't have a Facebook account when you're a millennial?'' she said. ``It can only help.''


Online: Facebook translations,


Follow Rachel D'Oro at


Tribes Write Letters Opposing Keystone Oil Pipeline

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. (AP) _ American Indian tribes have written letters to South Dakota's Public Utilities Commission, expressing their opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe and a grassroots group called Dakota Rural Action wrote letters seeking more information about developer TransCanada's compliance with permit conditions.

The tribes say ground-disturbing activity near the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation and the Rosebud Sioux Reservation prompted the letter. It says that if TransCanada's actions are found to be unlawful, the commission should order that construction be stopped.

The tribe says the pipeline would run through Great Sioux Nation homelands.

A TransCanada spokeswoman has said previously that its site near the reservation is a pipe yard, one of four being prepared in South Dakota before planned construction next year.


Haskell Foundation Welcomes New Executive Director

Lawrence, Kan. - The Haskell Foundation is pleased to announce that Aaron Hove has joined the organization as Executive Director.

Hove provides key leadership skills and will oversee support services for the foundation's efforts to financially promote Haskell Indian Nations University, an institution of higher learning for members of federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S.

Aaron earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Kansas, and also earned a Juris Doctorate from University of Kansas School of Law. For 25 years he acted as an attorney for Payless Shoesource; lastly as the Vice President of International Legal, with significant involvement in International operations. During his career at Payless, Aaron developed the business organization skills and integrity that the Executive Director position requires.

As an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Haskell Foundation provides means for other organizations, tribal communities, foundations, agencies and individuals to contribute monetary support to Haskell Indian Nations University.


Oklahoma City Mayor Proclaims Oct. 8 Indigenous People's Day

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt has proclaimed Oct. 8 as Indigenous People's Day, adding the city to dozens around the nation that acknowledge Native Americans on the day known nationally as Columbus Day.

At least three Oklahoma cities, Tulsa, Norman and Tahlequah already recognize the day, but efforts to do the same in Oklahoma City have failed.

Holt, who is a member of the Osage Nation, wrote that arguments over whether to declare an Indigenous People's Day in the city was unfortunate due to the city's indigenous population and that other cities have already done so.

The Oklahoma City Council repeatedly turned down requests for the day in recent years. City spokeswoman Kristy Yager says Holt's proclamation eliminates the need for the issue to go before the council again.


New Culture Center to Honor Shoshone Killed in 1863 Massacre

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation is on a mission to make sure hundreds of tribal members who were killed by U.S. troops in the 1863 Bear River Massacre are never forgotten with a new cultural center in southeastern Idaho.

Darren Parry said he developed a deep respect for the site from frequent visits with his grandmother.

``She would say that if you're here at just the right time in the evening sometimes you can hear the cries of the little ones for their mothers,'' he said. ``She instilled in me a love for my people.''

Parry and other tribal council members are working with GSBS Architects in Utah to develop the Boa Ogoi (Big River) Cultural Interpretive Center, the Deseret News reported earlier this month.

He hopes the center will teach others about Shoshone history, so they can appreciate it the way he does.

The tribe purchased about 1 square mile (3 square kilometers) of the massacre site for $1.75 million last January, two days before Perry and the Shoshone Nation commemorated the 155th anniversary of the Bear River Massacre. Between 250 and 500 Shoshone men, women and children were killed by Col. Patrick Connor and his federal troops on Jan. 29, 1863.

The site is designed to be minimalistic by being built into the earth.

Michael Gross, a tribal councilman and Parry's cousin, said incorporating the landscape into the design was key. He thinks it will help to foster education and understand his people's story.

``Everything they did was based off the land. That's how they survived. The land was of great importance for a lot of reasons,'' Gross said. ``The design encapsulates everything we're about.''

The Shoshone Nation is also working with the Utah State University College of Natural Resources to clean up the site and return it to the state it was in in 1863, with more willows and vegetation.


Information from: Deseret News,


US House Backs Bill Giving Montana Tribe Federal Recognition

Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ The U.S. House passed a bill Wednesday that would give federal recognition to Montana's Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians following a decades-long effort.

Federal recognition would validate the Little Shell's identity and make its roughly 6,000 members eligible for government benefits ranging from education to health care. The tribe was recognized by the state of Montana in 2000.

Little Shell Chairman Gerald Gray said he was optimistic a companion measure would now advance through the Senate and be signed into law.

``I feel very optimistic. It's the first time we've ever had a House bill come out of the chamber,'' Gray said.

The bill was approved by a voice vote. A companion bill was endorsed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in May 2017 but has yet to receive a vote from the full Senate.

Montana U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, the first-term Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill, said it became clear to him after his election that the Little Shell had suffered an injustice in being denied recognition.

``This is a big milestone,'' Gianforte said. ``This recognition is really due them through a treaty arrangement that dates back a long period of time.''

Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester issued a statement calling on the chamber's Republican majority to take up the measure with ``no strings attached.''

Both the House and Senate versions would require the U.S. Department of the Interior to acquire 200 acres (80 hectares) for the Little Shell's members that could be used for a tribal government center, housing or other purposes.

The Little Shell evolved from a group of French and Indian hunters and trappers affiliated with the historical Pembina Band of Chippewa Indians.

The tribe has been without a recognized homeland since the late 1800s, when Chief Little Shell and his followers in North Dakota broke off treaty negotiations with the U.S. government. Tribe members later settled in Montana and southern Canada.

Tribal leaders first petitioned for recognition through the Interior Department in 1978. Gray and other members trace their other attempts back to the 1860s, when the Pembina Band of Chippewa signed a treaty with the U.S. government.

The Interior Department gave preliminary approval to recognizing the Little Shell in 2000 but rescinded the move in 2009. The agency denied recognition for the Little Shell again in 2013.

There are more than 500 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.


Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at


Sculpture Planned for Native American Cemetery to be Moved

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) _ A new sculpture planned for the entrance of a Native American burial site in western Michigan is being relocated after a tribe raised concerns it would disturb sacred ground.

Construction was already underway to place the 16-foot (4.9-meter) granite sculpture titled ``All My Relations'' in the Old Indian Cemetery in Muskegon. The sculpture was crafted by Anishinaabe artist Jason Quigno.

Members of the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians recently expressed disapproval of the decision and advocated for a different location.

Cemetery caretaker Joseph Genia says the cemetery is a sacred place to the Ottawa people. He says placing a statue in the cemetery would ruin its integrity.

City Manager Frank Peterson says groups reached a consensus to find a new location for the sculpture. The new site is expected to be announced soon.


River Raisin National Battlefield Redevelopment Begins

MONROE, Mich. (AP) _ The River Raisin National Battlefield Park in southeastern Michigan is undergoing an estimated $100 million redevelopment to turn the historical site into a tourist destination.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and private partners will fund the redevelopment project in Monroe at the location of the Battle of Frenchtown, an important battle in the War of 1812, The Detroit Free Press reported .

The project launched Monday will begin with the purchase of 20 houses that will be demolished to make room for a recreation of historic Frenchtown and a $20 million education center.

Officials estimate the changes will attract more than 1 million visitors annually, including 100,000 school children. The area had 239,000 visitors last year, said Park Superintendent Scott Bentley. Monroe has a population of about 20,000 and lies 35 miles south of Detroit.

``Fourteen million people live within three hours' drive of the park,'' said Mark Cochran, Monroe development coordinator. ``We've been working on gearing our economy more toward tourism. We've got Lake Erie, the River Raisin, the battlefield and a heritage trail.''

Bentley said the Battle of Frenchtown was an important moment in U.S. history that went on to shape U.S. policy toward Native Americans and led to westward expansion.

``It was the greatest defeat for the U.S. in the entire War of 1812,'' he said.

Native American tribes fought alongside British and Canadian soldiers to capture Fort Detroit before taking over Frenchtown. The Canadian and Native American troops later withdrew from the town. The Native American tribes brought about 500 U.S. prisoners with them during the retreat and killed between 20 to 100 soldiers who couldn't walk.

Bentley said that event led to the forced removal of native populations.


Information from: Detroit Free Press,

Advocates: Ruling Holds Promise for Native American Students


Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ It's being billed as a landmark ruling that could reshape New Mexico's education system and how it gets funded.

And some advocates say Native American students are among those who could benefit the most as the state has been tasked by a district judge to follow through with promises made years ago under New Mexico's Indian Education Act.

Adopted in 2003, the act calls for an equitable and culturally relevant learning environment in schools that serve Native American students.

Regis Pecos with the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School says the recent court ruling provides a monumental opportunity for tribes to define their vision of education in New Mexico and elsewhere.

State officials plan to appeal, arguing that spending on education has increased. They also say Native American students are now seeing record academic gains.

Solicitor General: Supreme Court Should Hear Crow Case

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) _ A top official within the U.S. Department of Justice says the U.S. Supreme Court should review a case in which a Crow tribal member and game warden from Montana is asserting his treaty right to hunt elk in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.

Clayvin Herrera was found guilty of killing an elk in the forest in January 2014. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay $8,080.

The Wyoming Supreme Court declined to hear his case, saying the issue was decided by a federal appeals court in 1995. That ruling was based on an 1896 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said tribal treaty rights ``are irreconcilable with state sovereignty.'' The 1896 Supreme Court ruling has since been overturned.

The Billings Gazette reports U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said Idaho and Montana recognize tribal hunting rights and the Supreme Court should resolve the disagreements.


Information from: The Billings Gazette,

Postage stamp to honor Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore 

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan will be honored with a postage stamp being released this year.

The illustration features a sweeping view of a sandy beach, lapping Lake Michigan waves and towering dunes for which the park is famous.

The U.S. Postal Service says the Priority Mail Express stamp will cost $24.70.

ABC's ``Good Morning America'' named Sleeping Bear Dunes the nation's most beautiful spot in 2011. More than 1.1 million people visit annually to wander the park's 35 miles of shoreline, climb the dunes, hike forest trails and tour historic structures including former lifesaving stations.

The park also includes the North and South Manitou Islands, both popular with campers.

Its name was inspired by a Native American legend of a mother bear and her two cubs.


Ancient DNA gives glimpse of ancestors of Native Americans

AP Science Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ DNA from an infant who died in Alaska some 11,500 years ago is giving scientists the best look yet at the genetics of the ancestors of today's native peoples of the Americas.

Decoding the infant's complete set of DNA let researchers estimate the timing of key events in the ancestral history of today's Native Americans and indigenous peoples of Canada and Central and South America.

Expert said that while the new work doesn't radically change the outlines of what scientists have thought, it provides more detail and better evidence than what was available before.

The infant girl was buried about 50 miles southeast of Fairbanks, and her remains are the earliest known in the far north of North America, said anthropologist Ben Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He reports the analysis along with others in a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature.

The first Americans were descended from Asians, and they reached the New World by way of Beringia, a now-submerged land bridge that used to connect Asia to Alaska. Recent research suggests they followed the shorelines of Beringia and the Pacific Coast as they spread into the Americas by at least 15,000 years ago.

The new paper supports a theory that the migrants from Asia spent thousands of years in isolation, either in Beringea or Asia, before entering the Americas. During that time they developed unique genetic signatures that are now found in natives of the Americas.

The DNA analyzed by Potter and his colleagues came from a skull bone. The infant's remains, along with remains of a fetus, had been uncovered in 2013 in a circular pit that showed signs of ritual burial. The fetus was related to the infant, perhaps a cousin, but contained too little DNA for a full analysis of it.

By comparing the genetic details of the infant to those of genomes from other populations, the researchers were able to estimate the times of key events in the ancestral story of today's indigenous Americans. For example, they calculated that the ancestors completed their split from Asians by about 25,000 years ago.

Ancestors of the Alaskan girl split away from this group about 20,000 years ago. So her DNA allows a direct glimpse of the ancient population that led to today's native peoples, said Jennifer Raff of the University of Kansas, who didn't participate in the study

Much of the research in this area has been based on DNA that tells only about a person's maternal ancestors, she said. A complete genome is more informative and allows scientists to have more confidence in their time estimates, she said.


Follow Malcolm Ritter at (at)MalcolmRitter His recent work can be found at

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