Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy to present at MSU Indigenous Law Conference

This week, NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy will present at Michigan State University College of Law’s 11th Annual Indigenous Law Conference.  The theme for the 2014 conference is “Dismantling Barriers in American Indian Education.” 

NARF was instrumental in the creation of the Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (TEDNA), and Melody will be presenting on tribal education agencies in federal, tribal, and state law.   Her conference materials  and PowerPoint presentation are available from the TEDNA website.  You also can see Melody’s previous work in the NARF publication, Tribalizing Indian Education Series.  Finally, to learn more about the conference, visit the Michigan State website.

Monday, November 17, 2014

NARF works for the protection of sacred places and celebrates Heritage Month

The Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark in the National Forest
Long before Europeans landed on the shores of America, the Native peoples of this continent revered and protected the lands and natural resources that they knew as their homeland.  Native Americans have held ceremonies, made spiritual journeys, and buried their relatives according to time-honored customs and traditions on sacred lands.  These places are forever tied to our cultural identity and everyday life.

Many of these hallowed grounds are once again threatened.  Mining, reservoir projects, oil and gas development, and even recreational parks are causing tribal sacred places to become vulnerable.  For example, a mine proposed by Cortez Joint Venture, Ltd., would destroy Mt. Tenabo, a precious cultural site of the Western Shoshone.  Mount Tenabo and its surrounding area are part of Newe Sogobia, the ancestral land of the Western Shoshone.  Newe Sogobia means the people’s earth mother.  Mount Tenabo has a role in Shoshone creation stories and is the site of ancient burials.  Today, the Western Shoshone still have ceremonies and gather medicinal plants there.

Medicine Mountain, in the Bighorn National Forest in north central Wyoming, is the site of a large Medicine Wheel, and remains an important focus of contemporary Native American spiritual life for members of regional tribes, including the Arapaho, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Crow, and others.  Approximately 80 feet in diameter, it is described by the Interior Department as “the largest and most elaborate Indian structure of its type.”  Archeologists estimate that the area was used by prehistoric Native Americans for nearly 7,500 years.

Every day we must answer the call to fight for justice with knowledge, understanding and determination in our legal arguments and in the courts.  In the case of Wyoming Sawmills v. United States and Medicine Wheel Coalition, NARF fought to uphold the U.S. Forest Service’s Management Plan for the Sacred Medicine Wheel under the Historic Preservation Plan.

At NARF, we believe that our domestic laws and social policies must provide adequate legal protection for its citizens, regardless of race.  On behalf of our clients, we seek to enforce and strengthen laws that affect the basic survival and traditions of Indian tribes.

Your generosity makes it possible to protect Native sacred places, preserve Native rights, and defend tribal sovereignty.  This holiday season, please remember the Native American Rights Fund as you plan your year-end giving.

And, when making your vacation plans for next year, try to visit at least one of the many Native American historical sites where you can learn more about tribal ancestry and history. Some suggested sites are:

• Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
• Aztec Ruins National Monument (New Mexico)
• Taos Pueblo (New Mexico)
• Effigy Mounds National Monument (Iowa)
• Fort UnionTrading Post (North Dakota)
• Grand Portage (Minnesota)
• Katmai (Alaska)
• Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve (Florida)
• Mashantucket Pequot Museum (Connecticut)

In addition, November is American Indian & Alaska Native Heritage Month.  Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. It’s also an opportunity to highlight the important contributions of Native peoples and the shared histories between tribal nations and other communities.  Please visit the Native American Heritage Month website to read more about it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Former NARF employee and Native rights advocate Suzan Shown Harjo named recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom

White House seal
Native rights advocate Suzan Shown Harjo has been named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.  Suzan is a well-known writer, curator, and activist who has advocated for improving the lives of Native peoples throughout her career.   As a member of the Carter Administration and as current president of the Morning Star Institute, she has been a key figure in many important Indian legislative battles, including the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.  Suzan is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, and is a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

Suzan is a longtime member of the NARF family, and she previously served as a Legislative Liaison for NARF.  NARF Executive Director John Echohawk congratulated Suzan on the award, saying “this honor means that Suzan is one of the greatest fighters for Native American rights in history.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom will be awarded in a ceremony at the White House on November 24th, 2014.  More information on the Medal of Freedom and other recipients can be found at the White House website.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NARF co-hosts 2nd Annual Chief Niwot Forum with Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell

flyer for the event
Please join us on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. for the 2nd Annual Chief Niwot Forum – Congress Meets Sand Creek: Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell’s Fight for a National Historic Site.  Senator Campbell sponsored the legislation for the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, which opened to the public in 2007. The National Park Service calls the site 'profound, symbolic, spiritual, controversial, a site unlike any other in America.'   David Skaggs served with Campbell in Congress and will interview Campbell about the groundbreaking historic site and its importance to all Americans.

Admission for the event is $20, or $10 for Boulder History Museum members and NARF donors.  Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the Museum at (303) 449-3464.  The event will be held at the Museum of Boulder, (2205 Broadway, at the northwest corner of Broadway and Pine) in Boulder, Colorado.  Please join us!