Tuesday, November 26, 2013


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.

Each November in America we celebrate the harvest festival of Thanksgiving. Over the years, much lore has evolved surrounding early Thanksgivings and feelings of brotherhood and good will between pilgrim settlers Photo of corn cobsand the Native inhabitants of North America. Sadly, most of these stories are inaccurate at best, and serve to ignore or gloss over a broad history of atrocities. In our hearts, we cannot celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the way revisionist history teaches our school children. We still feel the pain and suffering of our ancestors as the pilgrims celebrated their thanksgivings by theft of our lands and the genocide of our peoples.

Still, Native Americans are grateful for all that nature provides, and many of us celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in our own ways. Moreover, we give thanks every day as we greet the morning star in the eastern sky giving thanks to the Creator, our families, our ancestors and our survival.

We wish you and your families a happy holiday, and hope you are able to set images of pilgrims aside and join in gratitude for the bounty the living earth provides us. In that spirit, let us share with you the words of “Thanksgiving” from our Mohawk relatives in belief that one day there will truly be a Thanksgiving for all.

Thanksgiving Address
Greetings to the Natural World
The People
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.
Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Waters
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms-waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.
Now our minds are one.

The Fish
We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Plants
Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.
Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants
With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs
Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.
Now our minds are one.

The Animals
We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.
Now our minds are one.

The Trees
We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.
Now our minds are one.

The Birds
We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds-from the smallest to the largest-we send our joyful greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds
We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.
Now our minds are one.

The Thunderers
Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.
Now our minds are one.

The Sun
We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.
Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon
We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night-time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.
Now our minds are one.

The Stars
We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.
Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers
We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.
Now our minds are one.

The Creator
Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.
Now our minds are one.

Closing Words
We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.
Now our minds are one.

Send a Thanksgiving e-card today!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Indian Law and Order Commission releases final report


Yesterday the Indian Law and Order Commission released its final report and recommendations—A Roadmap For Making Native America Safer—as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, Public Law 111-211 (TLOA).  As described by the Commission, the recommendations are intended to make Native American and Alaska Native nations safer and more just for all U.S. citizens and to reduce the unacceptably high rates of violent crime that have plagued Indian country for decades.  This report reflects one of the most comprehensive assessments ever undertaken of criminal justice systems servicing Native American and Alaska Native communities.

Notably, Alaska was the only state to have its own chapter, and the report found that Alaska’s law enforcement and justice systems “do not serve local and Native communities adequately, if at all.”   As the report states, “the status quo in Alaska tends to marginalize and frequently ignores the potential of tribally based justice systems, intertribal institutions, and organizations to provide more cost effective and responsible alternatives to prevent crime and keep all Alaskans safer.”

To read a press release issued by NARF’s Alaska Office and Tanana Chiefs Conference, click here.  The full report can be found here.  The Alaska chapter can be found here.  And, more information on the Commission can be found here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Veterans' Day - Remember those that served

In many Native American traditions, the role of warrior is a sacred trust.  Though a degree of glory might be won, that was not the primary goal.  Protecting family and community, personal responsibility and respect for traditions played much bigger roles. 

Crazy Horse, one of the warriors best known to a wide audience, was a quiet and humble man, rarely speaking of his experiences in battle.  Yet his community was well aware of his courage and sacrifices and what they meant to their survival.  Today, Tribes and Native communities across the country continue this tradition of respect for warriors and their sacrifices. 

Despite a sometimes contentious relationship with the U.S. Government, Native Americans remain resolutely patriotic.  Native young men and women are among the first to answer the nation’s call when soldiers are needed, serving with distinction in every branch of the service.  When they return from service, soldiers are remembered and thanked not just for a day, but for a lifetime.  Veterans are accorded a place of honor at the front of every parade and procession at every pow-wow and gathering.

November 12th, at NARF, we will be honoring our employees and relatives who have served in the military with a feast, prayers and songs.  Please take a moment that day to recognize the veterans in your own lives, whether friends, co-workers or loved ones.  All our warriors are sacred.  Let us remember them on Veterans' Day and every day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NARF receives grants from U.S. Department of Justice to continue partnership with Indian legal services organizations

Last week the U.S. Department of Justice announced $6.7 million in grants to improve legal defense services for the poor and NARF was again awarded funding to continue its partnership with Indian legal services organizations.  NARF received $715,944 to continue its partnership with the National Association of Indian Legal Services and its twenty-five Indian Legal Services organizations providing civil legal representation to tribes and tribal members, as well as a second award of $515,940 to provide indigent defense services to tribes and tribal members.  These are primarily pass-through grants, and NARF keeps only 1% of the total money for administrative costs.  The two grants announced last week are two of ten grants that NARF has received from the Department of Justice since 2004, and we are proud to have helped bring over $10 million total to Indian legal service organizations. 

To read more about the grants, click here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

NARF Staff Attorney Don Wharton presents at First Annual Chief Niwot Forum

On Thursday, November 14, 2013, NARF Staff Attorney Don Wharton will present at the First Annual Chief Niwot Forum.  The event is titled Let All That Is Indian Within You Die: The History of Native American Boarding Schools, and Don will present on the philosophy behind these schools, the experiences of the students, and the emerging effort to heal the damage done during the boarding school years.

The event will take place at NARF’s Boulder office at 1506 Broadway in Boulder, Colorado.  General admission is $20, or $10 for NARF members and Boulder History Museum members.  To learn more, click here.

NARF co-authors amicus brief in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community

Have you been following the important tribal sovereign immunity case, Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, which will be heard by the United States Supreme Court this term?  In addition to NARF's work on the case through the Tribal Supreme Court Project, NARF has also authored a brief on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Gaming Association, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the Council for Athabascan Tribal Governments, and fifty-one federally recognized tribes.  To read the brief, click here.

To read visit the Tribal Supreme Court Project's page on the case and read all other briefs, click here.