New Mexico City near Navajo Nation Sees Tourism Jump

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) _ A western New Mexico city surrounded by Navajo culture and Native arts and crafts is experiencing a tourism boom not seen since the 1970s.

The Gallup Independent reports officials in Gallup, New Mexico, says the city has seen an increase of around 7 to 10 percent in visitors thanks to foreign tourists.

Officials believe a favorable exchange rate and increased interest by the media in anything to do with Native culture and crafts led to millions of foreigners vacationing in the United States each summer.

Gallup-McKinley County Chamber of Commerce director Bill Lee says the area is seeing visitors from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and Belgium.

Gallup is located on the edge of the Navajo Nation and sits along the historic Route 66.


Information from: Gallup Independent,


Montana Officials Work to Boost Tribal Tourism

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) _ Montana officials are working to inform tourists of the state's Native American tribal history.

The Missoulian reports the Montana Office of Tourism and Development and the state Tribal Economic Development Commission are pushing to promote tourism to the state's reservations and tribal nations.

Carla Lott, the state tribal tourism officer and a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and Heather Sobrepena, a member of the Crow Tribe and the state's Indian Country economic development program manager, are leading the charge.

Lott says the goal is for tribal tourism to benefit underserved, rural areas of the state while promoting a greater understanding of modern Native American culture.

In 2017, the state conducted a national survey of potential visitors and found that 82 percent of leisure travelers express interest in exploring sites related to Native American culture.


Supreme Court Sends Land Dispute back to Wash. Top Court

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court is asking Washington state's highest court to take another look at a land dispute between a Native American tribe and its neighbors.

The dispute concerns a roughly 40-acre plot of land purchased by the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe in 2013. A land survey convinced the tribe that a barbed wire fence between its land and land owned by Sharline and Ray Lundgren is in the wrong place. The tribe wanted to tear down the fence and build a new one in the right spot. The Lundgrens sued, but the tribe argued it was immune from suit.

The Washington Supreme Court sided with the Lundgrens. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Monday the court's reasoning was flawed and asked the court to take another look at the dispute.


Illinois group needs $500K to restore Black Hawk statue

OREGON, Ill. (AP) _ A group needs to raise $500,000 to complete the restoration of a century-old landmark in northern Illinois known as the Black Hawk statue.

Restoration efforts began five years ago on the 48-foot-tall, 270-ton landmark in Lowden State Park, but the project stalled in 2016 amid a lack of state funding and a dispute on the restoration team, the Rockford Register Star reported . The statue's been covered in black protective sheets since work stopped.

``People were bewildered when it came to a screeching halt. People were confused about what happened and what will happen,'' said Jan Stilson, a historian who's leading the 20 volunteers on the Black Hawk Team.

Lorado Taft sculpted the statue to pay homage to the region's American Indians. The work, which is also known as the Eternal Indian Statue or the Rock River Colossus, was dedicated in 1911 in the Ogle County seat of Oregon.

The Black Hawk Team has gathered volunteers to begin fundraising efforts to continue the restoration project. That team is part of Oregon Together, an organization that aims to improve quality of life in the area.

Work on the statue could resume this summer if fundraising goes well. That work would continue through October and then pause for the winter.

The restoration project will include recreating the statue's original mix of concrete, cement and red granite, Stilson said. The statue will still require annual upkeep.

Money raised for the effort would be monitored by the Illinois Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that supports programs by the Department of Natural Resources.

Stilson said she hopes the state will approve a $350,000 grant for the state Department of Natural Resources for restoration. The statue sits on property owned by the state agency.


Information from: Rockford Register Star,


Study: Decline of salmon also impacts salmon genetics

The Spokesman-Review

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ As Chinook salmon populations declined across the Pacific Northwest, scientists suspected the fish lost a great deal of genetic diversity, too.

But until recently, the theory hadn't been tested. Ancient salmon bones are hard to come by, and it's even harder to extract workable DNA samples from them.

``Science finally caught up with what we already believed and allowed us to test it,'' said Bobbi Johnson, the lead author of a new Washington State University study that raises concerns about the Chinooks' ability to respond to environmental change.

Starting in 2010, Johnson's team collected hundreds of salmon bones from Native American archaeological sites some more than twice as old as the first Egyptian pyramid and compared their DNA with modern samples from the same areas.

The researchers found that Chinook in the upper Columbia River, where the Grand Coulee Dam cut off about 40 percent of the species' historic habitat, have lost about two-thirds of their genetic diversity. In the Snake River, they lost about one-third, a difference that surprised the researchers.

That basically supports the longstanding assumption that the Chinook gene pool was much larger before European settlement in the Pacific Northwest.

The researchers also analyzed ancient samples from Spokane River Chinook, finding that population had a large gene pool and at least six lineages. They had no modern samples for comparison. The Little Falls Dam has blocked salmon migration on the Spokane River since it was built in 1911.

Genetic variation is critical for the survival of any species. It would enable salmon to pass on needed traits if disease strikes, water levels drop or temperatures rise.

``You want there to be differences between individuals, so that when change does happen, there's room for adaptation and natural selection,'' Johnson said.

In a population with low genetic diversity, she added, ``If something comes in that's bad for anybody, that's bad for everybody.''

The study, part of Johnson's doctoral dissertation, was published this week in the journal PLOS One. Her co-authors are Gary Thorgaard, a WSU emeritus professor of biological sciences, and Brian Kemp, a former WSU molecular anthropologist now at the University of Oklahoma.

They wrote that Chinook research and management practices have mostly focused on ``the four H's'' habitat, harvest, hatcheries and hydropower.

Johnson said they have now considered a fifth H, history. The study reflects millennia of dramatic changes to the Chinook's habitat, both natural and man-made, from glacial floods to commercial fishing to the construction of giant dams.

The ancient bone samples, Johnson said, ``just track that story so nicely.''

The 346 vertebrae samples were part of collections held by the Spokane and Colville tribes and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, among other entities. Johnson said many of the bones were retrieved from ancient Native American garbage heaps, called middens, in archaeological digs beginning in the 1940s.

Some of the samples dated back about 7,000 years. Many were about 3,000 years old. The youngest ancient sample came from a Chinook caught 150 years ago near Fort Colville.

Johnson said the samples were immensely challenging to work with, and she credited Kemp, an ancient DNA expert, for overseeing the extraction process. Researchers wore face masks, hairnets and double sets of latex gloves to avoid contamination, and they were able to tease out sequences of mitochondrial DNA, the kind passed down only from mothers.

Johnson said the Colville Tribe ``definitely took a risk'' by providing the first samples for preliminary testing. Samples are largely destroyed in the process, and there's no guarantee it will yield useful data.

``They gave us samples before we could prove that we could do something like this,'' Johnson said.

Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest have caught Chinook for more than 9,000 years, often near waterfalls and other natural bottlenecks along the region's river network.

Europeans introduced commercial fisheries after arriving in the 1860s, and, from 1889 to 1922, they harvested more than 24 million pounds of Chinook each year, according to the researchers. That fell to about 15 million pounds a year by the late 1950s, and annual harvests now stand at less than 5 million pounds.

The first dam on the main stem of the Columbia, the Rock Island Dam in Chelan County, was built in 1933. The Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams were built in 1941, blocking ocean-going salmon from more than 1,000 miles of the upper part of the river. Dams on the Snake came more than a decade later.

Today there are more than 400 dams in the Columbia River Basin, blocking more than half of the river system's spawning habitat, according to the researchers.

Johnson said her team can't conclude if commercial fishing or the dams are to blame for the declining genetic diversity of the Chinook. To make that connection, the researchers would need samples from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The researchers did acquire some tissue samples from that period from the University of Washington, but they were stored in formaldehyde, Johnson said.

``Formaldehyde is like cement for DNA,'' she said. ``You just can't get DNA after that.''

Johnson said her team's findings have few applications on their own, but she hopes they will inform future discussions about Chinook conservation as the effects of climate change come into focus.


Information from: The Spokesman-Review,


Thousands of Native American artifacts found at Camden sites

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ Archaeologists have found nearly 10,000 Native American artifacts at two sites in Camden, New Jersey.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the items include a rectangular ceramic vessel, tool fragments, arrowheads, and hearthstones as well as animal bones and remains of plants likely used for food, medicine and fuel.

RGA Inc. conducted the excavations for the Holtec International campus project at the former New York Shipbuilding Co. site.

Senior archaeologist Ilene Grossman-Bailey says the intact remains of Native American activity on the site can help researchers understand the lives of people who camped along the Delaware River as early as 4,000 years ago.

Some of the objects will be donated to the Camden County Historical Society and may be displayed in the museum. Executive director Jack O'Byrne calls the discovery ``mind-blowing.''


Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer,


Ancient burial site found submerged off Florida 

VENICE, Fla. (AP) _ State officials say archaeologists have located a 7,000-year-old Native American ancestral burial site submerged in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Wednesday that the Manasota Key Offshore archaeological site is on the continental shelf near Venice, preserved in what appears to have been a peat-bottomed freshwater pond.

Reports of the site began in June 2016 when divers identified possible human skeletal material. Archaeologists have since confirmed that it dates from the Early Archaic period.

Officials say offshore prehistoric burial sites are rare, with others located in Israel and Denmark.

The site is protected by law, and it is illegal for anyone not authorized by the state to excavate or remove anything.


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