SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) _ The state of New Mexico may have celebrated its last Columbus Day.
A legislative proposal to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day has cleared its first hurdle in the New Mexico Legislature with a unanimous committee endorsement.
Sandia Pueblo tribal member and Democratic state Rep. Derrick Lente is preparing a bill for the coming legislative session that renames the state holiday celebrated on the second Monday in October.
He told fellow lawmakers that it is fitting that the tribute to Christopher Columbus be dropped in a state with 23 designated Native American communities.
Tributes to European conquerors are fading or being rewritten out of consideration for Native Americans in many New Mexico communities amid enduring expressions of pride in the state's Spanish colonial heritage.
Pokagon Band Invests $25 Million for Health Services Expansion
DOWAGIAC, Mich. (AP) _ The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is investing $25 million to expand health services in southwestern Michigan.
The project is expanding the Pokagon Health Services' Rodgers Lake campus, the South Bend Tribune reported .
The health service has 2,200 registered members, up from 700 in 2014, said Jason Wesaw, tribal government manager. Tribal members get health care services at no cost.
Keeping members healthy is a priority for the tribe of about 6,000, Wesaw said.
``The life expectancy of a Pokagon is 60 compared to the national average of 76,'' Wesaw said. ``Even Native Americans as a whole have a higher life expectancy than us.''
The 35,000-square-foot health services building currently offers family medical clinic, pharmacy, workout facility, counseling, and optical and dental care, Wesaw said. There is also traditional healing that involves medicinal plants and herbs.
The facility will nearly double in size with the addition of a Pokagon Family Center. It will host the annual tribal meeting, dances, indoor powwows and other large gatherings.
``The big thing for us is expanding our dental,'' Wesaw said. ``We need to have more chairs to meet the demand.''
Money will also be used to install a new water system for the buildings that sit on the 300-acre reservation, as well as to construct a new 30,000-square-foot justice center, which will house tribal court and tribal police headquarters.
``We're combining the two but they're separate, so there's a clear distinction between court and law enforcement,'' Wesaw said.
About 50 police officers from an office south of Dowagiac would move onto the reservation land, he said.
Blackfeet College Building Named in Honor of Elouise Cobell
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) _ The Blackfeet Community College has named its new health science and education building in honor of Elouise Cobell, a tribal elder and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Great Falls Tribune reports the $7.5 million building in Browning is named the Oahtkwii Piiksakii Iikohkon-Yellow Bird Woman Lodge for Cobell.
Cobell led a 15-year legal fight against the federal government over mismanagement of Native trust funds, ending with a $3.4 billion settlement.
President Barack Obama posthumously recognized Cobell in 2016. She died in October 2011.
Officials say they hope the future health care workers and teachers trained in the building will be a step toward improving access to health care and other services on the Blackfeet Reservation.
Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com
First Native American Women Elected to U.S. Congress
Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico and member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, and Sharice Davids, a fellow Democrat from Kansas were elected to the U.S. Congress during the mid-term elections. They are the first Native American women to be elected to Congress and both have promised reforms, to benefit their constituencies.
Haaland and Davids join Congressmen Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Tom Cole (R-OK), totaling four Native Americans currently serving in the House of Representatives. Rep. Mullin is Chair of President Trump's Native American Coalition and sits on various subcommittees, including House Energy and Commerce, Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, and Health. Rep. Cole is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. His other committee assignments are Defense and Interior.
Davids graduated from Johnson County Community College, earned her law degree from Cornell, and worked as a White House Fellow during the Obama-Trump transition. Haaland is a former Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of New Mexico. She obtained her Juris Doctor in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2006 and served as the Tribal Administrator for the San Felipe Pueblo Tribe.
Extra Effort Saves Indian Artifacts Threatened by Storm
By ANNICK JOSEPH
PEMBROKE, N.C. (AP) _ The selfless efforts of a local educator helped save rare American Indian historical artifacts that were threatened when heavy rains from Hurricane Florence poured into the Indian Education Program Museum.
``I got a text that the roof was off the building. I jumped in my vehicle during the hurricane and came with my husband,'' said Connie Locklear, director of the Public Schools of Robeson County Indian Education Program. ``We went running in there to salvage as much as we could. We got drenched when pulling all this stuff out. Everything was falling in.''
Her voice cracked and tears flowed down as she spoke of Sept. 15, a Saturday and Day 2 of Florence's visit.
``It was so emotional. It was like you were losing a part of who you are. That is what these artifacts mean to this community,'' she said. ``It's their identity, our identity. It's who we relate to. It's who we are.''
A tarp was placed over a section of the art gallery, adjacent to the main room, which was filled with works created by American Indians from Robeson County.
``You are pulling this stuff out and you think, `This was somebody's grandparent's item over here. Somebody donated this over here.' You want to protect that `cause it means so much. Some of them, we were able to keep and some were damaged.''
Some yearbooks from the 1940s, a school registry from the 1800s and stories written by American Indians were damaged, Locklear said.
``I don't think people really understand, unless you are from this community, when you walk in you feel the people,'' she said. ``This is our history.''
Help came from the state's Cultural Resources Emergency Response Team, which brought in a team with expertise and equipment to clean and repair artifacts. The CREST team is trained in soot removal, photograph salvage, freezing techniques, and textile cleaning, for temporary or long-term conservation and storage, according to Adrienne Berney, an administrator with CREST.
``Most of the objects in the Indian Education Program Museum, we have been able to clean or stabilize on-site. At our next workday, we will finish cleaning some oversized objects and organize archival materials for Digital NC,'' Berney said. ``That is another free service to cultural heritage organizations based at UNC.
``They will send a team down in the near future to digitize photographs and tribal records. Conservators at the NC Museum of History plan to work on two damaged objects, a drum with water damage and a vest with significant mold growth.''
The vest is believed to be more than 100 years old, she said. It is on loan from a private citizen.
Locklear was able to proect many historical pieces by moving them into a room not affected by the rain.
``She was amazing. I don't know how she did it,'' Berney said. ``It's because of Dr. Locklear most items were salvageable.''
The museum, located at 808 W. Third St. in Pembroke, is more than a building, said Kenneth Clark, the museum's cultural enrichment specialist. He is charged with the upkeep, inventory and description of each artifact housed in the museum.
``We are oral people, we like to tell our stories orally. We want to pass it down. That's what we do, `` he said. ``When, especially children, visit the museum, history is told through objects made by our people.
``Some items that were damaged can, maybe, be reproduced. Fortunately some of those artists are still alive, so we might be able to get as close as we can to what we lost,'' he said. ``Unfortunately some things we can't replace. We've got some baskets that were from an individual that is no longer alive.''
Cleveland Jacobs, a well-known basket weaver, taught children the art of basket-making, he said.
``You look at a piece he made 50 years ago. You can't replace it after he is gone. He passed on his skills. Hopefully we can get as close as we can get to what he made,'' Clark said. ``When he taught the kids how to make these baskets, he taught them their culture and about their history, about being Indian.''
The buiding itself is historical.
``This was the first American Indian high school during the segregation period. It was built to create jobs as part of the `New Deal' in 1939 during the Franklin Roosevelt era after the Depression,'' Clark said. ``It was built for that purpose, then it became a place to educate our people.''
County natives often return with their children to share with them their customs, traditions and the historical events they experienced.
``We got a lot of people coming through here. One guy was in here with his grandchild and said, he was standing right there in that spot when he heard about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy,'' Clark said. ``His grandkid stood there and cried with him.''
Clark has a photo, hanging in his home, of his mother on the front steps of the museum, he said. Talking about that photo brought tears to his eyes.
``This building meant a lot to my mother. I am a part of her. It means a lot to me,'' Clark said. ``Heritage meant a lot to our ancestors.''
Craig Lowry, county school board member, said his concern is to make sure the building is structurally sound.
``It's important to make sure to preserve artifacts and items that we have because, they are one of a kind,'' Lowry said. ``They (children) would lose, to me, part of their identity if these items were lost.
``These items are from 30, 40, 70 years ago, some more than 100 years. Just like everybody has a history, this is ours. Instead of somebody telling you about it. You can see it which is very important.''
Susi H. Hamilton, Natural and Cultural Resources secretary, expressed the importance of preserving the history of North Carolina through relics.
``It's not necessarily the first thing people think of in a disaster, but our cultural and historical treasures are also at risk following events such as floods or hurricanes,'' Hamilton said. ``This amazing team is trained to recover and restore artifacts of every kind after almost any type of disaster. I am so very proud of the vitally important work that they do in protecting our state's heritage.''
Information from: The Robesonian, http://www.robesonian.com
On Exhibit: Washington's Hair, Rib of Woman Killed in 1777
TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (AP) _ A display of Benedict Arnold's hair at Fort Ticonderoga this year proved so popular that curators dug into the museum's vast collection to see what other 18th century curiosities they could find.
Among the items they turned up: locks of George Washington's hair and a rib bone from a woman killed by British-allied American Indians during the Revolutionary War's 1777 Saratoga campaign.
Those artifacts, Arnold's hair and five other items make up ``Pieces of Eight: Curiosities from the Collection,'' a new exhibit opening Friday and running through April at the tourist attraction in the southeastern Adirondacks.
Curators say the rib bone came from Jane McCrea, who was engaged to a loyalist officer when she was killed near Saratoga. It's believed someone took the bone as a souvenir.
Navajo Tech Gets $1M for New Workforce Training Center
CROWNPOINT, N.M. (AP) _ More than $1 million is being awarded to Navajo Technical University to build a training center to help displaced workers from the energy sector develop new skills.
The Metrology and Materials Center at the Crownpoint campus will specialize in industries that include 3D metal printing, machining, robotics and advanced manufacturing.
The funding comes from the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration. Officials there estimate that the effort could attract $15 million in private investment.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan says it's important for Navajos have high-tech tools within their communities to train the next generation of workers.
U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich said the center has the potential to bolster job training across the region, which has been home for decades to oil and gas development and mining.
Tribal Official: Medical Marijuana Possession Still Illegal
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ A Cherokee Nation official says medical marijuana won't be legal on the Oklahoma-based tribe's property even though the state's voters approved use of the plant.
The Cherokee Phoenix reports Cherokee Nation Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo says the tribe must adhere to its own laws as well as federal regulations, and that Oklahoma law does not apply. Nimmo says possession and sale of cannabis remain illegal under tribal and federal law.
Nimmo says some of the tribe's funding is conditioned on prohibiting the use of marijuana in any form.
Oklahoma voters in June approved use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The state health department is accepting applications from potential patients, growers, dispensaries and caregivers.
Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation to Examine Poultry Operations
By KEN MILLER
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A new council will study the expansion of poultry operations in northeastern Oklahoma as some residents in the region complain of pollution from such facilities.
The Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth will be co-chaired by Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese and Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced the council's formation on Wednesday.
Critics of large poultry operations say the study is a good start, but that more must be done to reduce pollution from waste produced by chickens, which can get into the watershed.
``Talk is cheap; we want to see some action,'' Tahlequah resident Ed Brocksmith, a co-founder of the group Save The Illinois River, a watershed in the area, said. ``These are factory farms we're talking about. (We) see the dust and feathers, chicken feathers in swimming pools.''
Hill said she doesn't know how many birds are currently being grown in the area. But Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry records show about 200 permits have been issued in the past year for new houses that could hold more than a million birds, many with contractors of Simmons Foods.
In statement to The Associated Press, Simmons said it supports creation of the council.
``We care about the communities where our contract grower farmers operate and welcome efforts to address meaningful, science-based solutions, studies and research,'' according to the statement.
Officials with the governor's office, the Cherokee Nation and the attorney general's office say the council is not related to an unresolved 2005 lawsuit filed by then-state Attorney General Drew Edmondson against a dozen Arkansas poultry companies.
Edmondson, the Democratic nominee for governor, said he was not aware of the council until seeing media reports. He added: ``There was no reason to reach out to me. I'm not in elective office.''
The council is to include staff from the Cherokee Nation, the Oklahoma Department of Food, Forestry and Agriculture, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, the Grand River Dam Authority, and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.
New Report Sheds Light on Reservation Hospital's Woes
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ A hospital serving the Rosebud Indian Reservation failed to give patients appropriate medical care or ensure their safety, including a man who died in the hospital after being pepper-sprayed and restrained, according to new federal reports.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently released inspection reports that detail why the federal agency threatened to pull critical funding this month from the Rosebud Indian Health Service hospital, The Argus Leader reported . The reports were compiled from an investigation conducted in July.
One incident cited involved a drunken 12-year-old girl who tried to hang herself while left alone. The report found that the patient wasn't property triaged and should've had a monitor throughout her visit. It also found that there was a faulty call button in her room.
Another incident involved a 35-year-old man who was hallucinating while on methamphetamine and died of a heart attack in the emergency room after being pepper-sprayed and restrained.
Hospital administrators said they take the report ``very seriously'' and have submitted an improvement plan.
Employees are now trained to test and monitor call lights every 12 hours and maintain a log of their use. Staff members have also reviewed restraint policies and protocols for treating minors. Employees will review high-risk cases within 24 hours of their occurrence, the proposal said.
The hospital's deficiencies identified in the inspections triggered the federal agency to issue a warning last week that the hospital will lose funding if it doesn't fix the problems by the end of the month. The hospital would be unable to bill Medicare and Medicaid if it fails to enact its improvement plan by the Aug. 30 deadline.
The notice comes more than two years after the hospital was cited for similar shortcomings, which resulted in the seven-month shut down of its emergency room and the closure of the facility's surgical and obstetrics and gynecology units.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com
Stolen Tomahawk Linked to Washington is Back, Displayed
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A long-missing tomahawk given to a Seneca Indian leader by President George Washington in 1792 will go on display at the New York State Museum.
The Times-Union of Albany reports that the tomahawk given to the Seneca leader Cornplanter was stolen from the museum between 1947 and 1950. An anonymous collector returned the combination tomahawk and pipe to the Albany museum last month.
Meetings between Washington and Cornplanter in the 1790s led to the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, which established peace between the United States and the Iroquois Confederacy.
The tomahawk will be exhibited July 17 through Dec. 30.
Information from: Times Union, http://www.timesunion.com
Minnesota Tribe Seeks Farm Bill Funding
PRIOR LAKE, Minn. (AP) _ Minnesota Native American leaders are part of an initiative to bring more farm bill funding to Indian Country.
More than 30 tribes across the country have formed the Native Farm Bill Coalition, Minnesota Public Radio reported . Minnesota's Shakopee Mdewakanon Sioux Community is leading the effort. The National Congress of American Indians, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the Intertribal Agriculture Council have partnered with the coalition.
``Indian tribes have been either ignored or overlooked or been the victim of policy changes since we can remember, that's just a fact of life,'' said Keith Anderson, vice chair of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
The lobbying effort is an outgrowth of programs to improve health and expand access to health food for Native Americans. The coalition illustrates a long term commitment to giving Indian tribes a louder voice, Anderson said.
``The effort of the Native Farm Bill Coalition represents the very first time such a concerted effort has been made on behalf of all of Indian Country and only Indian Country,'' said Zach Ducheneaux, of the Intertribal Agriculture Council.
The farm bill could help tribes strengthen their agriculture economy by funding projects that add value to livestock or crops produced by Indian farmers and ranchers, Ducheneaux said.
``There's really no part of a reservation community that the farm bill will not impact. Everything from the electricity to the water that you use, the food on the grocery store shelves, the buildings that you're going to house your community activities in,'' said Ducheneaux. ``It's absolutely critical that Indian Country realize how big of a player this could be in their game.''
The United States Department of Agriculture says more than 56,000 Native Americans operate farms and ranches across the U.S.
The new bill is expected to provide nearly $500 billion in funding over the next five years.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org
World War II Navajo Code Talker Dies at 92
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) _ A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to confound the Japanese in World War II has died.
The Navajo Nation says Roy Hawthorne Sr. died Saturday. He was 92.
Hawthorne enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17 and became part of a famed group of Navajos who transmitted hundreds of messages in their language without error.
The code was never broken.
Hawthorne was one of the most visible survivors of the group. He appeared at public events and served as vice president of a group representing the men.
He never considered himself a hero.
Hawthorne later served with the U.S. Army.
He's survived by five children and more than a dozen grandchildren.
A funeral service is scheduled Friday.
Photo Credit: Our Navajo Code Talkers Facebook Page
Navajo Nation approves $2.4 million for veterans facility
GALLUP, N.M. (AP) _ The Navajo Nation has given approval to help fund a veterans facility in New Mexico that will prevent patients from having to travel far for care.
Navajo Nation council members voted 19-0 this week to give $2.4 million toward the construction of a service center for veterans in the community of Thoreau.
The center, which will be about 33 miles (53 kilometers) east of Gallup, will offer physical therapy as well as medical services.
Thoreau Chapter Veterans Committee Commander Lester Emerson says they will work with the state Department of Veterans Services to hire a doctor to be based there.
Emerson says the hope is that veterans will no longer have to make the two-hour journey to Albuquerque for medical services.
The facility also will have a space for events and meetings.
Navajo Nation latest to sue over opioid epidemic in US
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ One of the country's largest American Indian tribes is the latest to sue pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors, alleging their conduct caused the opioid crisis.
The Navajo Nation's lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.
The tribe says American Indians have suffered disproportionately from opioid dependency or abuse, leading to death, family dysfunction, poverty and social despair.
The tribe says it has helped cover costs of treatment for opioid abuse, and for law enforcement and social services to respond to the epidemic.
One of the defendants denied the allegations. Others say they are working to help combat the opioid epidemic and have reported suspicious orders to the federal government.
Others declined to comment or did not reply to requests for comment.