News Updates: Police Abuse; Sacred Sites and Water Rights

Here is a series of national and international news stories concerning Native American rights.

Police Abuse: In a CNN story: The forgotten minority in police shootings, it said:

Native Americans are killed in police encounters at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet rarely do these deaths gain the national spotlight. …

Because the numbers of Native Americans is relatively small compared to African Americans, they don’t get as much media attention. Still, their mortality rate from “legal intervention” (police shootings or manhandling) “is 12% higher than for African-Americans and three times the rate of whites,” the story said.

The recent media attention is due to the police shooting that killed Jason Pero, an 8th grader from the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation. Police say he had a knife, his family disputes it.

Here is a similar story from Newsweek: Why Are So Many Native Americans Killed By Police? It said:

The number of Native Americans killed by police doubled from 2015 to 2016. Per capita, Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other demographic in the U.S., according to a 2014 study by The Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice. And that’s probably undercounted.

Canadian Supreme Court Deals Blow to Indigenous Sacred Site

The Globe and Mail reported a Canadian Supreme Court decision that dealt a significant defeat for an indigenous sacred site, in a story headlined: Top court deals blow to Indigenous peoples,

The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to grant special protection for religious freedom for aboriginal peoples, ruling that a private ski resort in British Columbia can be built on a site sacred to an Indigenous community.

The Ktunaxa Nation had opposed a resort on Crown land near their community in southeastern British Columbia, arguing that it would affect a grizzly-bear habitat and drive away the Grizzly Bear Spirit essential to their faith.

Continue reading

Poor Native American Nutrition Linked to Historic Trauma; Pipeline Updates

Minnesota Public Radio reported on the First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition and interviewed Ryan Bad Heart Bull (Oglala/Hunkpapa Lakota) the first Native American to graduate from the University of Minnesota’s Dietetic Internship program.

Ryan, enrolled at Pine Ridge, said:

I go back and I always feel like I have to have my guard up, unfortunately, because I walk and I see the young men, and they’re angry, they’re mad. And you can see the history of oppression, the history of pain, and the racism that we have faced, and alienation as well. I think if you’re dealing with issues like this, the last thing anyone cares about is what they’re eating.

For the full story, click here. Continue reading

This Day in History: Supreme Court OKs Road Through Sacred Site

There are any number of examples of the clash between the Western view of the earth as a resource to be harvested and the Native view of the earth as Mother and sacred. Today’s example comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, decided this day in history April 19, 1988.

Background: The U.S. Forest Service wanted to build a 75- mile road connecting two towns. A six-mile stretch would pass through the Chimney Rock area of the Six Rivers National Forest in California, with the potential to harvest timber in the area. The proposed route went through an area sacred to the Yurok, Karuk, and Tolowa Indians.

The Forest Service commissioned a draft environmental impact statement (EIS). According to the Court record: “The study concluded that constructing a road along any of the available routes would cause serious and irreparable damage to the sacred areas which are an integral and necessary part of the belief systems and lifeway of Northwest California Indian peoples.”

The U.S. Forest Service decided to go ahead with its plans anyway. Native groups, environmental groups and the state of California challenged the Forest Service’s decision. Native groups argued the road would violate their First Amendment rights. They lost the legal battle and the Freedom of Religion argument, but did eventually save the sacred space. Continue reading