Supreme Court Case Could Limit Tribal Court Authority; Report on Duluth Native History Coming; Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee Worldwide Ceremony; Holiday Sales of Native-made Food and Gifts; Native Rights Cut from Climate Compact; Bush Foundation Announces Native Nation ReBuilders

A U.S. Supreme Court case is reviewing the power and reach of Indian Tribal Courts and it is drawing national attention.

On December 7, The Atlantic ran a piece Who Can Tribal Courts Try?: The U.S. Supreme Court weighs which disputes America’s Indian tribal courts can adjudicate. The same day, The Nation wrote a piece titled: Dollar General Takes Its Case Against Indigenous Sovereignty to the Supreme Court.

As The Nation article frames it:

The case is rooted in accusations of child sexual abuse brought over a decade ago. In the summer of 2003, a 13-year-old Choctaw student, whose name has been withheld, claimed a white store manager named Dale Townsend repeatedly molested him at a Dollar General store. The teenager was enrolled in his tribe’s job-training program and was placed in the store on the reservation. …

The 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oliphant prevents tribes from bringing criminal charges against non-Indians for crimes committed on tribal land. That decision is up to U.S. prosecutors. The story continues:

When federal prosecutors refused to bring charges, the victim’s family sued Townsend and Dollar General for [civil] damages in Choctaw Tribal Court, alleging the company had failed to properly vet and supervise the manager and was responsible for his violent conduct.

Dollar General Store is arguing that the Tribal Court should not have civil jurisdiction in this case, even though it is willingly operating on tribal land. It is expected to argue that tribal courts are unfair to non-Natives.

According to The Atlantic article, the National Congress of American Indians has filed an amicus brief, warning that if Dollar General’s argument prevails:

… tribal governments couldn’t regulate off-reservation businesses that dump waste on tribal land; … Tribal courts could not hear cases against abusive non-Indian spouses who live on the reservation; tribal courts couldn’t evict non-tribal members squatting in tribal housing.

Report on Duluth’s Native History: An Effort Towards Improved Relationships

The city of Duluth’s Indigenous Commission is working on a report to document the history of Native Americans in the city, according to a recent report by MN Native News. “Many hope it will have a positive impact on the city’s landscape and relations between Natives and non-Natives in the region,” the news account said.

“We wanted to have our stories from our ancestors be known,” said Babette Sandman, who is Ojibwe and sits on the Duluth Indigenous Commission. “If you come to Duluth, you don’t see anything that says we ever existed.

Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee: An Effort Towards Peace

Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee is holding its 25th annual horse ride and promoting a world-wide sacred ceremony of healing. According to its website:

The Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee [HHAWK] Committee extend invitation to Indigenous communities, religious institutions, … and people in all walks of life in order to end massacre, racism, war and to further global healing of the essential “multi-generational wounding” caused by these acts. Since religion is one of the historical modes of oppression, focusing on healing the wounds between Indigenous people and world religions — in particular Christianity — we believe could create a significant shift in consciousness and healing from 2015 – 2018.

The recent apology to Indigenous people by Pope Francis is a significant step in this process and demonstrates the need for work in these areas. The work by the Canadian Truth & Reconciliation Commission with their First Nations people is another example of “breaking ground,” and should not be an end point, but the beginning of historic healing work.

The organization is encouraging people to participate in world-wide prayer on December 29 (the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre) at noon in your time zone.

Click on the links for more information, including this background on the memorial horse ride.

Holiday Sales of Native-Made Food and Gifts

  • The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Building at 1308 East Franklin Avenue, will host a holiday sale of gifts made by urban Indians. The dates are Friday-Saturday, December 11-12 and Friday-Saturday, December 18-19, each day from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Dream of Wild Health will hold a separate holiday sale Saturday, December 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, December 13,  1-4 p.m. at the All Nations Church, 1515 East 23rd Street in Minneapolis. Youth Leaders will have tribal-produced foods for sale: jellies and jams from Red Lake, Lakota popcorn, wild rice, maple syrup, Native American teas, and more! Many other vendors will be there as well with arts and crafts, herbal products, and jewelry.

Native Rights Written Out of Climate Pact

Negotiations in Paris to develop global solutions to address climate change have deleted text that would protect Native rights. A December 7 story in The Guardian newspaper read: Indigenous activists take to Seine river to protest axing of rights from Paris climate pact. It starts:

Indigenous groups from across the world staged a paddle down the Seine river in Paris on Sunday, calling on governments to ensure Indigenous rights are included in the United Nations climate pact currently being negotiated in France.

The United States, the EU, Australia and other states have pushed for Indigenous rights to be dropped from the binding parts of the agreement out of fear that it could create legal liabilities.

Bush Foundation Announces Native Nation ReBuilders

The Bush Foundation created the Native Nation ReBuilders Program in 2010 after elected tribal leaders from the 23 Native nations called for community leaders to help with nation-building work, according to a foundation announcement. The latest group of “ReBuilders” has 22 tribal citizens. Over the next two years they will share strategies and insights to make a brighter future for Native people across the region. Here are their names: