Native American Traditions

Remains of massacred ancestors returned to Wiyot Tribe

January 27, 2022

The most vulnerable members of the Wiyot Tribe were asleep the morning of Feb. 26, 1860, when a band of white men slipped into their Northern California villages under darkness and slaughtered them.

Many of the children, women and elderly slain in what became known as the Indian Island Massacre had their eternal rest disturbed when their graves were later dug up and their skeletons and the artifacts buried with them were placed in a museum.

After nearly 70 years of separation from their tribe, the remains of at least 20 of those believed to have been killed have...

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Indigenous activist found not guilty on religious freedom grounds in border wall case

January 21, 2022

An Indigenous woman facing federal charges for blocking construction of former President Trump’s border wall in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was found not guilty Wednesday on religious freedom grounds. 

More than a year since she was arrested, Amber Ortega left the federal courthouse in Tucson in tears, surrounded by an elated group of supporters. 

It was the second time she was in court over the two...

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Christian nationalism has deep roots in America, faith leaders say

January 6, 2022

Shannon Rivers believes that Indigenous people are the moral compass of this country.

A member of the Native American Akimel O’otham, or River People, of the southwestern United States, Rivers points to historical accounts of the northeastern Wampanoag, who in the 1600s taught the Pilgrims how to grow crops and weather harsh winters.

“We were the ones who had that initial moral understanding of how you take care of one another, and we still maintain that today, despite every wrong...

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Judge grants pause on geothermal construction near sacred hot springs, rare toad habitat

January 4, 2022

A Nevada tribe succeeded Tuesday in getting a district judge to temporarily pause construction of a planned geothermal energy project near the Dixie Meadows Hot Springs, a site considered sacred to the tribe.

U.S District Judge Robert Clive Jones granted a 90-day pause that will temporarily prevent construction of the Dixie Meadows geothermal energy project, proposed by developer Ormat Technologies. 

The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe requested a halt on construction that was scheduled to start Jan. 6 while the...

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Ex-boarding school for Native children owning up to its past

January 2, 2022

Middle schooler Rarity Cournoyer stood at the heart of the Red Cloud Indian School campus and chanted a prayer song firmly and solemnly in the Lakota language — in a place where past generations of students were punished for speaking their mother tongue.

Her classmates stood around her at a prayer circle designed with archetypes of Native American spirituality, with a circular sidewalk representing a traditional medicine wheel, crossed by sidewalks pointing to the four cardinal directions.

Lakota language teacher Amery Brave Heart walked quietly with a small bundle...

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Company seeks to restore oil lease on land sacred to tribes

December 23, 2021

 Attorneys for a Louisiana oil and gas company have asked a federal judge to reinstate a drilling lease it held on land considered sacred to Native American tribes in the U.S. and Canada.

The long-disputed energy lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of northwestern Montana near the Blackfeet Reservation was cancelled in 2016 under then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court last year.

Now Solenex LLC - the company that held the lease - is making another run at getting a court to restore its drilling rights. In...

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Federal Agencies Sign Memorandum of Understanding for the Protection of Indigenous Sacred Sites

December 22, 2021

In November 2021, the secretaries of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (the participating agencies) entered into a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to “improve the protection of, and access to, Indigenous sacred sites through enhanced and improved interdepartmental coordination, collaboration, and action.”

The MOU provides by...

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Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan/Ohlone Continue Working to Protect Sacred Land

December 20, 2021

Since 2015, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan/Ohlone have been vehemently opposing a proposed quarry in central California that will eventually destroy four sacred mountains and cause serious ecological damage to Juristac, an area that is the heart of the tribe’s ancestral lands.

The proposed sand and gravel quarry would be located on and around the former Sargent Ranch in Santa Clara and San Benito counties near Gilroy, about 40 miles southeast of San Jose. The Debt Acquisition Company of America, a wealthy developer group from San Diego bought the land at auction in...

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Lakota Racial Justice and Religious Freedom Case Headed for Trial

December 18, 2021

A lawsuit accusing a Nebraska school district of violating a Lakota family's First Amendment rights and unlawful racial discrimination is headed to court.

The suit was filed after a school employee cut two girls' hair during school lice checks, even after the parents raised concerns.

Rose Godinez, interim legal director for the ACLU of Nebraska, the group representing the family associated with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, explained hair is considered a sacred symbol that should only be cut by specific people under certain conditions.

Source:...

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U.S. Catholic bishops encourage government search for boarding school graves

December 2, 2021

Two influential U.S. Roman Catholic Church bishops are encouraging their peers to cooperate with a federal investigation into abuses committed within the former Native American boarding school system.

In a letter sent to all U.S. bishops in November, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, who heads a church committee on domestic justice, and Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, who leads a church committee on Native American affairs, asked fellow bishops to hand over records investigators may seek and allow access to...

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Washoe tribal women reflect on Tahoe resort name change

November 29, 2021

The Wašiw Tribe took a step forward in September of 2021 when Squaw Valley announced the name change of their resort to Palisades Tahoe. The name was changed following an official yearlong process of planning and working with the Wašiw (Washoe) Tribe of Nevada and California, along with several public discussions.

While many eager, and some angry, onlookers from around the country waited only a year for the official name change of the resort, the Wašiw Tribe was finally able to breathe a small sigh of relief after decades of fighting the oppressive word.

In August...

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Reviving Ojibwe spiritual traditions, one pet at a time

November 28, 2021

Animal neglect used to be such a problem on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, with basic services like sterilization out of reach for many due to poverty and remoteness, that packs of stray dogs would sometimes bring traffic to a halt on the main highway.

Today, strays are rare. Kids are helping their elders in animal rescues, pet food and supplies are routinely distributed in the community and the first veterinary clinic in the main town, Cass Lake, is one final permit away from breaking ground.

It’s all thanks to a yearslong and increasingly...

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Arizona Duo Charged With Climbing Sacred Native American Site

November 22, 2021

A pair of Arizona men are facing federal charges for allegedly climbing up and into a set of protected pre-Columbian cliff dwellings considered sacred by many Native American tribes, shooting video of their illegal escapades that they later posted to Facebook. That’s according to a criminal complaint filed in Arizona federal court, accusing Levi Lee Watson and Shayne McKenna Brunt with trespassing, unlawfully entering...

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Biden to protect Native American heritage site, boost safety

November 15, 2021

 President Joe Biden on Monday ordered several Cabinet departments to work together to combat human trafficking and crime on Native lands, where violent crime rates are more than double the national average.

Speaking at a White House summit on tribal nations, Biden signed an executive order tasking the Justice, Homeland Security and Interior departments with pursuing strategies to reduce crime. Biden also asked the departments to work to strengthen participation in Amber Alert programs and national training programs for federal agents, and appoint a liaison who can speak...

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Haaland announces effort to protect, improve indigenous access to sacred sites

November 16, 2021

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has announced a new initiative to protect and improve access to sites across the United States considered sacred by Indigenous peoples.

Haaland’s announcement came Tuesday (Nov. 16), on the second day of the Biden administration’s first Tribal Nations Summit.

“Since time immemorial, the Earth’s lands and waters have been central to the social, cultural, spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing of Indigenous peoples. It is essential that we do everything we can to honor sites...

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