Dulce man sentenced to 20 months for manslaughter

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

GALLUP, June 13, 2014

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Jeremiah Burns, 33, a member of the Navajo Nation who resides in Dulce, N.M., was sentenced Thursday in federal district court in Albuquerque to 20 months in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release for his involuntary manslaughter conviction.

Burns also was ordered to pay $2,080.25 to cover funeral expenses for the victim of his criminal conduct.

Burns was arrested in Aug. 2013, based on an indictment charging him with killing a man on Oct. 22, 2011, while driving under the influence of alcohol within the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation.

On Jan. 3, Burns pleaded guilty to the indictment and admitted killing the victim while driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, which rendered him incapable of exercising clear judgment and a steady hand in handling a vehicle. Burns acknowledged operating the vehicle without due caution and with a reckless disregard that imperiled the lives of others.

Burns was ordered to surrender himself by noon Thursday to the U.S. Marshals Service to begin serving his prison sentence.

Shelly signs guardianship act into law

Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 13, 2014

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed the Navajo Adult Guardianship Act of 2014 into law on June 12, reaffirming the rights of disabled Navajos, according to a press release from the president’s office.

“The most important thing we need to remember is that (disabled citizens) have rights that are guaranteed by Navajo Fundamental Law” said Shelly.

Such rights include decision making in regard to finances, education, housing and guardianship consent.

He explained that when the Shelly-Jim administration first took office, they hosted a series of town hall meetings across the Navajo Nation to engage the Navajo people on their needs.

From those discussions, the challenges facing disabled Navajo citizens came to light, in particular the fact that there have been no major amendments to the tribal code regarding the disabled since 1945.

The newly enacted Guardianship Act changes all of that, according to the release.

“We have been meeting with Hoskie Benally, president of the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disabilities to assist with legislation that meets (the disabled) needs,” said Shelly. “We’ve also been meeting with the Native American Disability Law Center to discuss the legal aspects of the legislation."

Shelly said the executive branch would make the recommendation to invest funding from the $554 million trust settlement for accessibility at tribal offices and buildings, including facilities at the chapter level.

We have not forgotten the needs of our disabled Navajos, he said, especially since many are returning home with disabilities from the war.

Benally expressed gratitude for the new law.

“It’s been since 1945 that (the tribal code) has been revised to meet the needs and give the due process to those with disabilities,” Benally said.

The 26-page legislation took one-and-a-half years to get enacted by the Navajo Nation Council and Shelly.

Obama’s makes visit to Standing Rock Sioux tribe

Navajo Times

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will visit the Standing Rock Sioux tribe today, June 13 in Cannon Ball, N.D., his first visit to a tribal nation since he became president in 2008.

U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) is the co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and released the following statement in advance of the president’s visit:

“I commend the president for his visit to Standing Rock to see first-hand the challenges and opportunities within this Lakota and Dakota nation. President Obama’s visit sends a strong message of his administration’s commitment to Native American issues. His administration has implemented major reforms that are important for Standing Rock and other tribal nations, such as the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and the HEARTH Act. Indian Country has a strong partner in President Obama."

McCollum serves on the House Appropriations Committee. She is Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

B&F endorses amendment of radiation exposure act

Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK – On Tuesday, the Navajo Nation Budget and Finance Committee approved legislation seeking the Navajo Nation’s support of New Mexico House Resolution 1645.

The bill aims to amend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which would improve compensation to former uranium mining workers in the state of New Mexico.

Historically, the Navajo Nation uranium resources were mined by outside companies that did not warn or provide safety measures to the tribe regarding the dangerous side effects from mining the harmful mineral.

In support of the act, the Budget and Finance Committee’s vice chair Jonathan Nez (Shonto/Navajo Mountain/Oljato/Ts’ah Bii Kin) urged committee members to endorse the legislation to remind the people that former Navajo uranium mine workers are not forgotten.

“As lawmakers for the Navajo Nation, it is our responsibility to continue advocating for past miners suffering from diseases and ailments caused by the uranium, they deserve the best that we can offer on their behalf,” said Nez.

At the conclusion of the discussion, BFC members unanimously passed Legislation No. 0114-14 with a vote of 3-0.

The legislation was first considered by the Resources and Development Committee on June 3, which referred it to the BFC with a “do pass” recommendation with no amendments.

The legislation now moves forward to the Naabik’iyátí’ Committee for consideration, and has final authority on the legislation.

National board, BIE partner to certify 1,000 teachers by 2020

Navajo Times

ARLINGTON, Va. —The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced June 13 a groundbreaking initiative with the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) to boost accomplished teaching in BIE-funded schools.

As part of the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to working with tribal leaders to address the challenges facing Indian Country, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Education Secretary Arne Duncan convened a study group to work with tribes and other BIE stakeholders to identify the causes of low-performance in BIE-funded schools.

After numerous listening sessions and tribal consultations, the study group released a “Blueprint for Reform,” a comprehensive plan to redesign the BIE to achieve one overarching, mutual goal for the BIE and tribes: to deliver a world-class education to all students attending BIE schools.

One of the study group’s recommendations was for the BIE to partner with the National Board. The effort will help teachers pursue certification, a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process similar to board certification in fields such as medicine, with a goal of 1,000 Board-certified teachers in BIE schools by 2020.

The initiative also provides support to increase the instructional capacity of teachers who are not yet eligible for certification. By fostering a dialogue among all 4,000 BIE teachers and supporting aspiring teachers in their pre-service training, the initiative builds a self-sustaining culture of professional learning and peer support. Professional development of existing staff delivered by the National Board is a critical component of the Blueprint’s recommendations because of the difficulty BIE has in attracting teachers and principals to remote locations.

“It is not enough to increase the number of Board-certified teachers in Native American schools,” said Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board. “We need to create an expectation and a pathway for every teacher to achieve certification, which includes support and resources beginning in pre-service teacher preparation."

BIE schools, numbering 183 in 23 states, play an important role in preserving Native cultures and providing access to students in remote tribal areas. However, students at BIE schools lag far behind their peers in mainstream public schools. Test scores for Native American students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress fourth grade-reading test are 25 points below the national average, and the high school graduation rate for students in BIE schools is 59 percent, compared with 80 percent for students across the country.

“Our schools are central to building our communities,” said BIE Director Charles M. Roessel. “Our partnership with the National Board shows a real commitment to providing students with advantages that will help them break the cycle of poverty."

The National Board will provide leadership support and work to connect Board-certified teachers who have self-identified as Native American with the BIE schools. Additionally, participants will attend the National Board’s Teaching & Learning Conference in order to engage with Board-certified teachers from across the country.

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