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Native News Briefs | Santee tribe welcomes new leader in South Carolina

HOLLY HILL, S.C. (AP)

A Native American tribe in South Carolina has welcomed a new leader.

Gregory Crummie was sworn in as chief of the Santee Indian Tribe on March 19, taking over for Randy Crummie, who died of COVID-19 in October after 12 years leading the tribe.

The tribe, which is recognized by the state, but not the federal government, has over 6,000 members across the United States with about 450 still in South Carolina, WLTX-TV reported.

Gregory’s goals are to keep working toward federal recognition and keeping the tribe’s culture alive. Part as that is trying to bring back as much of the Santee Indian Tribe’s language, most of which has been lost over the years.

“There is no known dialect of our language so we’re trying to find that back,” Gregory said.

Part of the language is playing the drums and chanting.

“To a lot of people it just sounds like we’re just yelling but it actually means something so we’re gonna try and teach them all of that,” Gregory said.

California governor floats $100M plan for tribes to buy land

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proposed giving Native American tribes $100 million so they can purchase and preserve their ancestral lands.

The proposal is part of his pledge to make sure nearly one-third of California’s land and coastal waters are preserved by 2030.

But rather than have the government do all of that, Newsom said tribal leaders should have a say in what lands get preserved.

“We know that California Native peoples have always had an interdependent relations with land, waters, everything that makes up the state of California,” Newsom said. “Unfortunately, we also know that the state has had a role in violently disrupting those relations.”

The money is one piece of Newsom’s $286.4 billion budget proposal. The state Legislature would have to approve the spending before it could happen.

The funding would not function like a traditional state grant program, where the state decides who gets the money and how they can spend it.

Instead, California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said the administration is “committed to developing a structure or a process where tribes are deciding where these funds are going.

“There’s so much that we need to learn, obviously, from the tribal communities about how to do this,” Crowfoot said. “We’ve disconnected ourselves from all the tribal ecological knowledge that we need to heal and care for the lands.”

The proposal comes amid a growing Land Back movement to return Native American homelands to the descendants of those who lived there for millennia before European settlers arrived.

Haaland: Report on Indigenous boarding schools expected soon

The Interior Department is on the verge of releasing a report on its investigation into the federal government’s past oversight of Native American boarding schools.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told journalists during a call March 16 that the report will come out in April but didn’t specify a date. She first outlined the initiative in June, saying it would uncover the truth about the loss of life and the lasting consequences of boarding schools.

Starting with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819, the U.S. enacted laws and policies to establish and support boarding schools for Native Americans across the nation.

For more than 150 years, Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into these assimilation-focused schools.

Discoveries of the remains of more than 1,000 children in Canada renewed a spotlight in the U.S. and stirred strong emotions among tribal communities that included grief, anger, reflection and a deep desire for healing.

“We have been very cognizant of the fact that we need to create a safe space for people to share information and seek resources,” Haaland. “We recognize this is a very traumatic experience for many people.”

The Interior Department said it had no further details when contacted by The Associated Press.

The work on boarding schools will include compiling and reviewing records to identify past schools, locate known and possible burial sites at or near those schools, and uncover the names and tribal affiliations of students, Haaland said.

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition signed an agreement with the Interior Department in December to share research but has noted that Interior’s authority is limited.

Hearing set for arguments on Oklahoma appeal in McGirt case

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for April 27 in an appeal by the state of Oklahoma in what is known as the McGirt ruling.

The state argues in the case of Victor Castro-Huerta that it has concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes committed against Natives on tribal reservations.

The state child neglect conviction and 35-year prison sentence of Castro-Huerta, a non-Native American, was overturned by the state appeals court.

Castro-Huerta was charged with malnourishment of his 5-year-old stepdaughter and has since pleaded guilty to a federal child neglect charge and is awaiting sentencing.

The state says federal authorities are overwhelmed since the court’s ruling that the state has no jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against Native Americans on reservations.

Castro-Huerta’s attorneys say only the U.S. Congress can draw jurisdictional lines.

The Supreme Court in January agreed to hear the case at the same time that it refused Oklahoma’s request to overturn the McGirt ruling.

The ruling found some tribal reservations were never disestablished by Congress and that Oklahoma prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants on tribal lands.

Feds once again nix Noem’s Mount Rushmore fireworks event

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The National Park Service has denied South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s request to mark the Fourth of July with fireworks at Mount Rushmore, citing opposition from Native American tribes as well as the possibility of igniting wildfires.

“Mount Rushmore is the best place in America to celebrate our nation’s birthday – I just wish President Biden could see that,” the Republican governor said in a statement Tuesday. “Last year, the President hypocritically held a fireworks celebration in Washington, D.C., while denying us our own event. This year, it looks like they are planning to do the same.”

Noem said she would continue a court battle to hold the fireworks. She filed a federal lawsuit against the Biden administration after it refused to issue a permit for a similar celebration last year.

A federal judge rejected her arguments in June, prompting an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

In a letter dated Monday from the U.S. Department of Interior, Mount Rushmore National Memorial Superintendent Michelle Wheatley said a fireworks event would not be “safe and responsible.”

Noem successfully pushed for a return of the event in 2020 after a decadelong hiatus. It gave former President Donald Trump an opportunity to be featured at a patriotic display attended by thousands of people during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the letter to the South Dakota Department of Tourism, Wheatley noted the March 2021 wildfire that closed the memorial for three days.

“Current drought conditions and the 2022 wildfire outlook indicate that fireworks would cause a high likelihood of a wildfire ignition,” she wrote.

Local Native American tribes objected to the celebration being held on land they hold as sacred.

“There is ample documented opposition for the tribes to the 2020 event, and we understand from ongoing meetings with the tribes that these concerns have not diminished.” the letter stated.

Interior OK’s first-ever tribal energy development organization

WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior’s Office for the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs announced March 16 the approval of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa’s application to create the first tribal energy development organization.

According to a DOI news release, the Minnesota tribe is the first to receive such approval to support ongoing efforts to develop renewable energy resources.
A tribal energy development organization is a business organization in which the tribe owns the majority interest.

These organizations are an alternative to tribal energy resource agreements, which allow a tribe to enter and manage energy-related leases, rights-of-way, and business agreements without obtaining secretarial approval for each.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians applied on Dec. 17, 2021, to approve and certify Twenty-First Century Tribal Energy Inc.

“The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians is reclaiming its sovereign authority to control the development of energy resources,” said Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “This is an exciting development that will lead to greater energy security for their people’s comfort and prosperity.”


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