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Native News Briefs | Joy, sadness intertwine at Normandy’s D-Day commemorations


Joy and sadness in acute doses poured out Monday on the beaches of Normandy.

As several dozen D-Day veterans — now all in their 90s — set foot on the sands that claimed so many colleagues, they are thankful for the gratitude and friendliness of the French toward those who landed here on June 6, 1944.

The sadness comes as they think of their fallen comrades and of another battle now being waged in Europe: the war in Ukraine.

As a bright sun rose Monday over the wide band of sand at Omaha Beach, U.S. D-Day veteran Charles Shay expressed thoughts for his comrades who died here 78 years ago.
“I have never forgotten them and I know that their spirits are here,” he told The Associated Press.

The 98-year-old Penobscot Native American from Indian Island, Maine, took part in a sage-burning ceremony near the beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

Shay, who now lives in Normandy, was a 19-year-old U.S. Army medic when he landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

He said he was especially sad to see war in Europe once again, so many years later.

“Ukraine is a very sad situation. I feel sorry for the people there and I don’t know why this war had to come, but I think the human beings like to, I think they like to fight. I don’t know,” he said. “In 1944, I landed on these beaches and we thought we’d bring peace to the world. But it’s not possible.”

This year, Shay handed over the remembrance task to another Native American, Julia Kelly, a Gulf War veteran from the Crow tribe, who performed the sage ritual.

“Never forget, never forget,” she said. “In this time, in any time, war is not good.”

San Francisco schools ban ‘chief’ from occupational titles

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco Unified School District will no longer use the word “chief” in job titles because of concerns from Native Americans.

District officials said they haven’t decided what they will use instead of “chief.” The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the ban on May 25.

“While there are many opinions on the matter, our leadership team agreed that, given that Native American members of our community have expressed concerns over the use of the title, we are no longer going to use it,” the district statement said.

“With nearly 10,000 employees, SFUSD is one of the largest employers in San Francisco and in addition to site leaders, we need central leaders who serve all of our 119 schools,” it said.

The statement acknowledged that those positions require significant responsibility and specific expertise.

“By changing how we refer to our division heads we are in no way diminishing the indispensable contributions of our district central service leaders,” it said.

The district’s decision follows such moves as the recent renaming of Northern California’s former Squaw Valley Ski Resort.

The word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, has morphed over generations to a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women.

Signing signals return of sacred item to Yaqui

STOCKHOLM – A signing ceremony on June 3 at the residence of Francisco del Rio Lopez, the Mexican ambassador to Sweden, formally authorized the transfer of the sacred Maaso Kova back to the Yaqui Nation, according to the International Indian Treaty Council.

The signing is the culmination of a 19-year struggle by the Yaqui and the IITC to achieve repatriation.

The document was signed by Swedish and Mexican government representatives, the Yaqui traditional authorities, the Maaso Kova Cultural leaders committee, and the IITC.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Francisco Cali Tzay, signed as an international witness.

The Maaso Kova will be accompanied by a collection of other cultural items acquired in Mexico in the 1930s by the Swedish Museums of World Culture.

The Maaso Kova (ceremonial deer’s head) was found on Aug. 11, 2003, on display in the museum by IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen, a member of the Yaqui Nation.

Yaqui cultural leaders and the IITC, with the support of the Sami Council and Parliament of Sweden, immediately began a campaign to bring the Maaso Kova home.
Sweden announced its decision to support the repatriation after the museum consented in March 2020.

Juan Gregorio Jaime Leon, the representative of the traditional authorities of Huirivis Pueblo, Rio Yaqui, member of the Kolensia (the Yaqui spiritual society related to the deer dance), said, “The Maaso Kova, which has been used in the deer dance, is for us a living being of the highest spiritual value.”

Also attending was a representation of the eight Yaqui Pueblos of Sonora, Mexico.

Representatives of the Yaqui authorities will meet the Maaso Kova and other items when they arrive in Mexico City in the coming days and accompany them home to Rio Yaqui.


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