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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

At this Indigenous Elders’ literacy circle, survivors find healing


'We’re not going to be walking around in the dark anymore,' says founder, Cowichan Tribes Elder and survivor Linda Jack.

The first day in The Literacy Circle, a new Indigenous Elders’ literacy program at Vancouver Island University, meant a new experience for Elder student ‘U’nihi-ya (Catherine) Jim: For the first time, she felt encouraged to pursue her education.

“[Years ago] I went back to school and did some upgrading, and when I was doing that, the instructor told me that he didn’t think I was ever going to amount to anything except being a housekeeper. And that discouraged me, so I quit,” she says.

“I’ve always been discouraged by the words that people have said to me when I did try to go back [to school]. And right here, it’s like, ‘We’re here to support you.’ Wow. I’ve never heard that,” says Jim, who is a day school survivor from Cowichan Tribes and is currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

GOOD READ: At this Indigenous Elders' literacy circle, survivors find healing

This story shares information about residential “schools.” The Indian Residential School Survivor Society’s Crisis Line can be reached any time at 1-866-925-4419.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

After an early forced adoption, an Indigenous man rediscovers his identity #60sScoop

Eric Wardell, an Indigenous man from Canada’s Northwest Territories, was taken from his parents at just three weeks old, in what is known in Canada as the “sixties scoop.” In this first-person story, Wardell explores his identity — what it means to discover who you are, and how your past can shape your future. This story is part of the ‘Turning Points’ series: stories told by Indigenous people from Yellowknife, Canada in partnership with the Global Reporting Centre.  Transcript Audio


Turning Points

Eight short films about alcohol use, addiction, and healing in Yellowknife, directed by the storytellers themselves. WATCH

PBS NewsHour Global Reporting Centre


Survivors see a link between Indigenous boarding schools’ harsh discipline and later domestic violence

 Utah had boarding schools in Aneth, Intermountain, Ouray, Uintah and Panguitch.

(Rick Egan  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)   Yolanda Francisco-Nez, Executive Director, Restoring Ancestral Winds, speaks about "Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Utah" during a workshop at the Salt Lake City Library Auditorium, Monday, July 22, 2019.
(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Yolanda Francisco-Nez, Executive Director, Restoring Ancestral Winds, speaks about "Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Utah" during a workshop at the Salt Lake City Library Auditorium, Monday, July 22, 2019.

Since the discovery of Indigenous children at boarding schools in Canada and then the unverified findings of Paiute bodies at the Panguitch Boarding School, the nonprofit Restoring Ancestral Winds (RAW) began research on the association between Indigenous boarding schools and domestic violence across Utah’s Indigenous communities.

On a panel called “Utah Native American Boarding Schools and other Assimilation Projects on Native Children and Families” hosted by RAW, Indigenous organizers said the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 is a precursor to some of the domestic violence among Native Americans in Utah.

The Indian Civilization Act, or Civilization Fund Act of 1819, is a federal policy that encouraged the assimilation of Indigenous children via boarding schools. From that policy came the formation of Utah boarding schools in Aneth, Intermountain, Ouray, Uintah and Panguitch.

“We have known that there’s a connection between missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit with domestic violence,” said Yolanda Francisco, executive director for RAW. Two-spirit people identify as being both feminine and masculine in spirit. “We have to mention that domestic violence plays a role; it’s a precursor to going missing or murdered.”

While the correlation between domestic violence and Indigenous boarding school has not been well studied, Francisco says she knows that the discipline experienced among Indigenous children influences how they eventually parent.

“There is definitely a role that punishment plays in the life of an individual who survives the boarding school experience, particularly those who were victims of that abuse that occurred,” she said.

Children were subjected to harsh punishments in the schools, ranging from the forced cutting of their hair, which is considered an important part of tribal identity, to eating soap for speaking their language, and other physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The living conditions were also poor and kids died from tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles, the flu and smallpox.

Thursday’s panel featured speakers Davina Smith, who is Navajo (Diné), Denae Shanidiin, who is Diné and Korean, and Kalama Ku’ikahi, who is Diné and Native Hawaiian, who all shared their experiences of boarding schools — either as survivors or through the experience of their parents and grandparents.

“When I think about boarding and foster care children, they’re also considered underneath this umbrella of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples,” Shanidiin said. She hoped the panel would bring more awareness of the Paiute children who attended the Panguitch Boarding School and other Indigenous children at other schools.

Ku’ikahi made connections between the Indian Civilization Act and the early boarding schools in Utah, noting that Christian churches and missionaries influenced the policy.

For example, the Uintah Boarding School, or Ute Indian Boarding School, was established in 1881 by the Episcopal Mission, as was the Ouray Boarding School in 1885. The Panguitch school was Presbyterian.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Indian Student Placement Program, which operated from 1947 to 2000, took approximately 50,000 Native children from reservations and placed them in Latter-day Saint homes, he said.

Smith said the connections between domestic violence and boarding schools run deep in her family.

Recently, Smith ran over 360 miles from Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to bring awareness to Indigenous issues like boarding schools and missing and murdered Indigenous people.

“I know for me I had to end that generational trauma for my kids because I did not want them to go through that,” Smith said. “And it was also about me talking and opening up my traumas with my kids. Just recently, I was able to open up to my mother and talk about it.”

Monday, October 25, 2021

Lawyering ICWA | White Mother to a Dark Race

Fletcher and Singel have posted "Lawyering the Indian Child Welfare Act," forthcoming in the Michigan Law Review's upcoming symposium on civil rights lawyering. Here is the abstract:

This Essay describes how the statutory structure of child welfare laws enables lawyers and courts to exploit deep-seated stereotypes about American Indian people rooted in systemic racism to undermine the enforcement of the rights of Indian families and tribes. Even where Indian custodians and tribes are able to protect their rights in court, their adversaries use those same advantages on appeal to attack the Constitutional validity of the law. The primary goal of this Essay is to help expose those structural issues and the ethically troublesome practices of adoption attorneys as the most important ICWA case in history, Brackeen v. Haaland, reaches the Supreme Court.


White Mother to a Dark Race

Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, 

and the Removal of Indigenous Children 

in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940

AUTHOR Margaret D. Jacobs

592 pages
24 photographs, 2 maps, index


March 2011



In The News

 Here are some links if you are interested in the latest news:

Indian Law Issues in the News (10/25/2021)

by Wenona T. Singel


Detroit News: First lady Jill Biden visits Saginaw Chippewa center to discuss youth mental health

Arizona Capitol Times: Ducey gives tribe $30M for water rights

NYTs: Can This Tribe of ‘Salmon People’ Pull Off One More Win?

WaPo (April article): Canada’s Supreme Court says some Native Americans who are not Canadian citizens can hunt in British Columbia

Grist: EPA finally has an action plan to improve water infrastructure and sanitation for US tribes

AP: Oklahoma court adds Quapaw Nation to those covered by McGirt ruling

Curbed: A Lenape Tribe Finally Wrests Its Sacred Site Back from Developers

AZ Central: Indigenous peoples seek greater voice and more influence at COP26 climate conference

NYTs: How Is ‘Dune’ So Prescient About Climate Change? Thank This Native American Tribe.

KTAR: Apaches ask appeals court to oppose transfer of Arizona land

The Hill: Human rights panel will hear case claiming US regulators violated Navajo tribe's rights: report

Tulsa World: Tulsa, Owasso join state in seeking to overturn McGirt ruling

Great Lakes Now: Enbridge temporarily stops Michigan pipeline due to protests

NYTs: Film Club: ‘A Conversation With Native Americans on Race’

Salt Lake Tribune: Survivors see a link between Indigenous boarding schools’ harsh discipline and later domestic violence

Keloland: South Dakota ACLU says Dept. of Education may have violated federal and constitutional law by removing elements of Native American culture and history from draft of state social studies standards


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Creating a Separation Plan and Preparedness Kit

From the StrongHearts Native Helpline

It has been a long time coming, but you’ve made up your mind. It’s time to escape a life of domestic and sexual violence and leave an abusive partner. You're scared and for good reason. Danger increases when leaving an abusive partner because they often lash out to regain control over their partner. It is imperative that you carefully navigate the following process.  

You are the best judge of your own safety. Consider a safety plan — a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe while in an abusive relationship, planning to leave or after you leave. Safety plans can be continuously updated, even if you return to a partner that is abusive.

Separation Plan

A separation plan can help you to safely leave an abusive partner. A preparedness kit contains documents, clothing and comfort items needed to stay away from home for an extended period of time. Once you complete your separation plan and preparedness kit, be sure to keep any documentation of them in an accessible but secure location and/or consider storing them with a trusted friend, family member or advocate. 

The Escape Route

The important first step to creating a separation plan is being mindful of your surroundings and to plan an escape route from any room in the home. You may also want to identify alternate routes to the grocery store, school and/or work. Practice using escape routes regularly. When tensions are starting to escalate, plan to do the following:

      Try to be in a room close to an exit and/or plan an escape route from any room in the home. 

      Look for potential exits through windows and practice using them. 

      Stay away from the kitchen where the abuser has access to weapons.

      Stay away from bathrooms, closets, or small spaces where the abuser can trap you. 

      If the violence escalates, call for help! Call 911, a close relative, friend or neighbor.

Assemble a Preparedness Kit 

When assembling a preparedness kit, pack a bag with a change of clothes for you (and your children) and include comfort items. Store the preparedness kit outside of the home either with a trusted neighbor, friend or relative or keep it in a secret location where you can safely retrieve it. Important documents can be included or stored separately.

Important documents include:


      Tribe-issued enrollment card

      Driver’s License or State ID

      School ID(s)


      Social security card(s)

      Birth certificate(s)

      Health insurance card(s)

      Copy of Protection/Restraining Order

      Marriage, divorce and custody papers

      Vehicle registration and insurance

      Lease or rental agreements 

Important items include:

      A change of clothes for you (and your child)

      An extra cell phone and/or cell phone charger

      Extra set of house and car keys

      Medication (e.g., asthma inhaler, insulin, Epi-Pen)

      Cash or ATM card

      Personal items such as your medicines, smudge and sentimental items

      Comfort items such as a favorite stuffed animal, blankets and baby supplies (formula, diapers, and wipes).

There Is Hope

There is hope in planning to leave an abusive relationship. You can escape violence. You can call for help. StrongHearts advocates are available 24/7 to support all victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence regardless of relationship status, gender identity or sexual preference. To speak with an advocate: Call or Text 1-844 672-8483 or chat online at

Other resources include: National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women: Call 1-888-7HELPLINE (1-888-743-5754). The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: Call 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 (TTY).

Preparedness kit adapted from information from The National Domestic Violence Hotline. 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Brantford discovery prompts review into cases where human remains were found in vicinity of residential schools

 A discovery of decades-old child remains near the Mohawk Institute last year was the catalyst for a larger probe into historical deaths...

Ontario’s chief coroner says he has begun the work of reviewing unidentified human remains found near former residential schools in Ontario to determine if any investigations should be reopened.

“We’re looking at our files from the past many years,” Dr. Dirk Huyer told The Spectator.

Huyer said he plans to evaluate past cases of unmarked burials “in the vicinity of residential schools” to see if they’ve missed deaths linked to the institutions that sought to systemically — and, often, violently — strip Indigenous children of their culture, language and identity.

The coroner’s office will begin with files starting in the 1980s.

Plans to review old cases follow an announcement on Friday that a newly created task force responsible for investigating deaths at the Mohawk Institute would probe an unmarked burial found by police Aug. 5, 2020, near Glenwood Drive in Brantford to determine whether it is connected to the former residential school.

Archaeologists’ report revealed the bones, initially deemed not of forensic interest, belonged to a child.

Lawyer and former Truth and Reconciliation Commission director Kimberly Murray, who is heading up a survivor-led search of the Mohawk Institute, said Six Nations archeology contacted her after receiving the report in the summer.

“It was concerning to archeology because it’s a child,” she said.

The archeology company presented its findings to survivors, community members and the task force — comprising three police services and representatives from the province’s death investigation system — it was decided there should be further investigation.

“We’re like, that needs to go to the task force because it’s starting to look a lot like this might be a residential school child,” Murray said. “We don’t know ... but there are some things pointing that way.”

Huyer said sex, race and identity have not been determined.

The remains discovered in August 2020 were not believed to be of forensic interest, in part due to their age.

“Based upon the anthropologist’s examination of the bones and the scene, it was not felt to be representative of a new crime scene or a typical crime-scene location,” he said.

Historically, remains approximately 50 years or older would not be considered “new.”

Instead, the burial site was referred to the registrar from the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, who worked with the landowner to conduct an archeological assessment. The assessment revealed the remains were bones of an adolescent — a child under the age of 14.

“In retrospect ... given the proximity to the Mohawk Institute and the recognition of unmarked burials in locations that are at or associated with residential schools, this is obviously of forensic interest,” Huyer said.

KEEP READING: Brantford discovery prompts review into cases where human remains were found in vicinity of residential schools |

Ontario coroner reviews cases of unidentified human remains for links to residential schools


The office of Ontario's chief coroner is embarking on a review of unidentified human remains found in the last four decades to determine if any are linked to former residential schools.

"Burials that may have occurred within the residential school period of time could be many years old," he said in an interview Tuesday.

"We are going to look back into our files to see if there are cases ... that are at or near residential schools."

READ: Ontario coroner reviews cases of unidentified human remains for links to residential schools | CTV News

CANO-SANTIAGO: The Supreme Court must uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act


The rights and sovereignty of Native American tribes must be protected

By Yssis Cano-Santiago 

There have always been critics of ICWA, many on racially discriminatory grounds. These critics wish to undercut the legal protections of Native children and to challenge tribal sovereignty. For example, in the 1950s a group of conservative congressmen claimed that the “collective rights of tribes shouldn’t trump individual rights of U.S. citizens.” This led to seizing Native lands to build businesses and homes for white Americans. The grounds of this recent petition against ICWA have similarly skewed logic. The plaintiffs of the case claim they are victims of reverse racism for being non-Native and that the federal government is overstepping states’ rights. The phrase “states’ rights” has historically been used to mask the racist nature of one’s political agenda. The irony, however, is that ICWA was created to prevent further cutural erasure and genocide of Native people which was driven by government policy.

If the Supreme Court finds ICWA unconstitutional, it could lead to further undercutting of tribal sovereignty and future challenges for the 573 federally recognized Native tribes. It could also leave Native Americans vulnerable to attacks on their legal rights and ability to craft legislation within their tribes concerning housing, education and healthcare. The desires of Native people and tribes to uphold ICWA must be respected, and regular U.S. citizens should not be making decisions on behalf of Native children and affairs. Further, the U.S. government should not be controlling the decisions and desires of Native tribes when they have historically committed mass atrocities against them. Native tribes are not just a racial group, they are a federally protected and sovereign political identity. The Supreme Court must uphold ICWA for the preservation of Native culture for generations to come.

More here

Residential school, 60s Scoop survivor from Curve Lake dedicates his life to protecting next generation

Arnold Taylor says he was five or six years old when government officials came to his home in Curve Lake First Nation and tore him away from everything he knew in a nightmare that would last nine years.

Being told they were going to buy new clothes, Taylor says he went with the strangers only to end up at the Mohawk Institute in Brantford, where the symbolic cleaving of his culture started immediately with the cutting of his long hair.

“At the residential school we couldn't talk our language or even practise our culture. Any time the staff heard us talking our language, we’d get a severe strapping, or some of the staff would just give us a toothbrush and we'd have to scrub out the washroom,” Taylor recalls.

Taylor says just two outfits were provided; one to wear all week, and a second for wash days.

His new home soon became known to him as The Mush Hole, so-called for the porridge the children were fed three times a day.

“If we didn't eat that porridge that day, we'd have to eat it the next day,” says Taylor.

Although being housed with lots of other children didn’t feel traumatic for Taylor as a young boy having grown up in the close-knit First Nation, as he aged, he began to understand more of what was happening around him.

“As I grew older, I realized that they're trying to segregate us and take the Indian-ness out of us,” Taylor says.

He was completely cut off from his siblings from the time they entered the residential school. The only time he saw them was in passing on the way to church, but communication was forbidden.

“I’d see some kids there just keep crying all the time because they were really homesick and missed their parents. Every once in a while, I used to cry,” Taylor says, getting choked up.

“Then, if the supervisor saw you crying, you'd get another strapping.”

In spite of the constant threat of physical violence, Taylor says he did learn resilience and how to look after himself.

“The only thing I lost was just my language. I can hardly speak it now or understand it.”

The experience also bred a rebellion inside the boy, leaving him with little respect for authority and especially the Church.

“If there was a God, he should have stepped in to save us. So to me, as far as I’m concerned, there is no God,” Taylor says. 

READ: Residential school, 60s Scoop survivor from Curve Lake dedicates his life to protecting next generation |

’60s Scoop exhibit stops in Saskatoon



A travelling exhibit that tells the history of the ’60s Scoop, and its survivors will be on display at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon on Wednesday.

It tells the history and impacts of the ’60s Scoop stopped at the Western Development Museum (WDM) in Saskatoon on Wednesday.

The Sixties Scoop led to an unknown number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children taken from their parents, families and communities by child intervention services and placed in non-Indigenous families, according to organizers.

Legacy of Hope Foundation president Adam North Peigan said the national exhibit is an opportunity to share and educate with the experiences of survivors, including 12 personal testimonials.

 The travelling exhibit, known as Bi-Giwen: Coming Home — Truth Telling from the Sixties Scoop, has also made recent stops in Regina, Prince Albert, Yorkton and Swift Current.

Source: ’60s Scoop exhibit stops in Saskatoon |


Read more: ’60s Scoop survivors in Saskatchewan want change, not just apology


Systemic Racism and the Dispossession of Indigenous Wealth in the United States

 I always say... "The system isn't broken, it was built this way." Blog Editor TLH

Fletcher on Systemic Racism and the Dispossession of Indigenous Wealth in the United States

I developed a short paper for the Federal Reserve Bank’s series on Racism and the Economy, “Systemic Racism and the Dispossession of Indigenous Wealth in the United States,” posted here.

Here is a video of today’s program. April Youpee-Roll was part of the program, too, and provided important commentary on heirship and federal Indian policy.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Q&A: The Transgenerational Effects of Indigenous Residential Schools

The Scientist 
spoke with Evan Adams, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Indigenous Services Canada and a member of the Coast Salish tribe in the Tla’amin First Nation in British Columbia whose parents attended residential schools, about how the experience of residential schools continues to shadow Indigenous communities in Canada, and what changes he would like to see in the healthcare system to better address Indigenous health inequities. 

The Scientist:

In one of the recent reviews, the authors noted that many of the studies assessing First Nations or Indigenous health and residential schools have really been more recent, maybe in the last 20 years. I was curious if it’s been your experience that [researchers] are now focusing more on the longstanding health impacts?

EA: I think it’s definitely easier to look at the modern consequences of the residential schools. But I really would like to look deeper than that. I’m in my 50s, and I’ve been looking at survivors of residential schools literally all my life. The finding of unmarked graves in residential schools tells us that . . . those children deserved better and it didn’t happen for them and they died. And if you listen to any survivor from residential schools, they will tell you that they were severely abused. You can listen to any of the 6,000 testimonials of those children that exist in the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation. 

For most of us, we don’t have the capacity to hold that reality. This child abuse that’s happened in generation after generation is very unique. For most people, trauma is a single event . . . but the repeated trauma of individuals generation after generation is kind of unprecedented. So what are the deep psychic effects? What are the physiologic aspects? What does that do to the spirit of a nation to be subjugated? I think research can go bigger than just: What are the incidence rates of this particular disease in this small population in this small time period?

Please, read more:


Friday, October 15, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris addresses Second General Assembly, NCAI


During the National Congress of American Indians’ 78th Annual Convention on October 12, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris joined Tribal Leaders and allies from across Indian Country to address the most critical issues facing tribal communities.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Native American Protesters Hit by Sonic Weapons in DC

The first U.S. president to officially commemorate Indigenous Peoples’ Day is facing backlash for supporting the Line 3 tar sands pipeline and other fossil-fuel expansion projects.
Message to President Joe Biden painted on the pedestal of a statue of Andrew Jackson, the U.S. president known to Cherokees as “Indian Killer,” ahead on the Oct. 11 Indigenous People’s Day fossil fuel protests. (Jennifer K. Falcon, Twitter)

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

More than 130 Native American Earth protectors were arrested in Washington, D.C. on Monday, while others were blasted with sonic weaponry as tribal leaders and members from across the continent they call Turtle Island gathered on Indigenous Peoples’ Day to protest Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline and other oil and gas ventures. The projects are backed by President Joe Biden and the protestors called on his administration to halt all fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency.

Thousands of Indigenous-led demonstrators rallied and marched, with hundreds engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience outside the White House as a week of #PeopleVsFossilFuels climate action kicked off.

Ahead of Monday’s march, protesters painted “Expect Us” on the pedestal of a statue in Lafayette Park opposite the White House of Andrew Jackson, the genocidal seventh U.S. president known to Cherokees as “Indian Killer” — and a favorite of former President Donald Trump.

Indigenous Environmental Network tweeted video footage of police using a Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) against demonstrators sitting defiantly but peacefully outside the White House fence. Some observers contrasted the deployment of so-called “sound cannons” against nonviolent Indigenous protesters both on Monday and during past #StopLine3 protests with the absence of such heavy-handed tactics during the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mostly white mob.


'Biden, Can You Hear Us Now?' Ask Indigenous Leaders Amid Arrests at Fossil Fuel Protest


One activist had a message for the president: "If you're claiming to be a leader for our climate crisis... then you need to start living up to your word."

READ: 'Biden, Can You Hear Us Now?' Ask Indigenous Leaders Amid Arrests at Fossil Fuel Protest


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

This Website Helps You Write to Your Representatives About Native Mascots in Your State #PeopleNotMascots

According to the site, one in 26 secondary schools nationwide has a Native mascot.
A 2014 protest against the name of Washington state's football team (via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

From fashion design to athletics, the appropriation of Native American cultural symbols is pervasive throughout the US. According to #PeopleNotMascots, a digital resource bringing attention to the detrimental misappropriation of Indigenous-inspired symbols in the US educational system, one in 26 secondary schools nationwide brandish a Native American mascot; in North Dakota, the number climbs to one in 15.

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Diné Tiktoker and crochet artist Lily (@sheshortnbrown) spread the word about the resource for identifying and protesting these mascots in your area. The website allows site visitors to search mascots appropriating Indigenous symbols in their state, also offering a template letter addressed to state legislators “to demand that they eliminate Native mascots within your state.”

For decades, Indigenous activists have lambasted the common trend of schools, sports teams, and other organizations appropriating Native American symbols as mascots. The usage of Native mascots is a pervasive issue. Debates around the appropriation of these images have been most visible in the realm of athletics, with several sports teams in recent years conceding to decades of protests and agreeing to change their names, including the Cleveland Indians.

Currently, just Washington, Maine, and Colorado have banned the use of Native mascots. The letter encourages lawmakers to follow in the footsteps of these states, stating: “Historically, Natives have not been treated as human beings. This has been seen through the atrocities such as residential schools, the Long Walk, the Trail of Tears, and mass genocide through colonization, and now Native mascots.”

According to the letter, “Native children that are overly exposed to racist stereotypes are more likely to have lower self-esteem, distance themselves from their culture, have a lower belief in personal achievement, and worsen mood.”

“Native people are not caricatures,” the letter beseeches. “Native people are not a monolith, they are diverse in customs and values. […] By bringing forth a bill alongside the aforementioned states, tax-payer’s funds will no longer be used to propagate harmful and dehumanizing depictions of Indigenous people — a vital step in reckoning with our nation’s past.”



In The News

Indian Law Issues in the News (10/12/2021)

MetroTimes: Activists urge Detroit to increase inclusion of indigenous communities

The Conversation: Land acknowledgments meant to honor Indigenous people too often do the opposite – erasing American Indians and sanitizing history instead

Oregon Public Broadcasting: Tribes: New evidence proves massacre was at Nevada mine site Gov. Tony Evers issues order apologizing for Wisconsin’s role in Indian boarding schools

White House: Executive Order on the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Native Americans and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities Minnetonka Moccasin issues apology for appropriation of Native American cultures

NYTs: A New Cookbook by Indigenous People, for Indigenous People

Great Lakes Now: Indigenous leaders face barriers to UN climate conference

USA Today: McGirt ruling’s ongoing impact on tribal youth and families

Democracy Now: “People vs. Fossil Fuels’’: Winona LaDuke & Mass Protests Call on Biden to Stop Line 3 Pipeline

NPR (11 min. audio): Native Americans Take Over The Writers’ Room and Tell Their Own Stories

Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom: On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Governor Newsom Announces California Truth & Healing Council Partnership to Support Philanthropic and Community Engagement


Residential School Survivors of the Holy Childhood School of Jesus Indian Boarding School


NBC News: Survivors Of Native American Boarding Schools Discuss Dark History In The US

This 21 minute video features interviews with survivors of the Holy Childhood School of Jesus of Harbor Springs, Michigan. Both of my grandparents (Henry “Hank” Shenanaquet and Laureen Peters) also attended Holy Childhood. Appearing in the video are Yvonne Walker-Keshick (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians); Eric Hemenway, Director of LTBB Department of Repatriation, Archives and Records; and Fred Kiogima (LTBB). 

Photo above: Yvonne Walker-Keshick speaks with an NBC News correspondent about the Holy Childhood School of Jesus Indian Boarding School of Harbor Springs, MI.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Joe Buffalo short documentary: Indigenous People's Day


Joe Buffalo, Indigenous Canadian Skateboarder Who Survived Ugly Residential School System

Skateboarder Joe Buffalo Films
'Joe Buffalo' director Amar Chebib
Director Amar Chebib Luminus Films

It’s a curious fact that some of the most notable documentaries of recent years have revolved, in one or another, around skateboarding.

Minding the Gap, the 2018 documentary by Bing Liu, earned an Academy Award nomination for its story of Liu and two friends who gravitate towards skateboarding as an escape from difficult upbringings. Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), director Carol Dysinger’s 2020 film on a skateboarding school in Afghanistan that caters to girls, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Skateboarding plays a central role in Joe Buffalo, a short documentary directed by Amar Chebib that’s a contender for Oscar consideration this year. The film centers on the eponymous Joe Buffalo, who was born to a family of Samson Cree heritage on the plains of Alberta, Canada. As a kid he saw a cousin pull off tricks on a board and became hooked himself.

Joe Buffalo
Joe Buffalo Films

“For me, skateboarding was definitely like a savior, given the circumstances of me growing up,” Buffalo says in the film, “having to deal with the cards I was dealt.”

The cards had to do with being raised in a country that dedicated resources to eradicating indigenous culture. At the age of 11, Buffalo was taken from his family and sent away to a residential school, an education system for indigenous children that persisted in Canada from the 1600s until the late 1990s. The system’s purpose was to reeducate children from a Christian point of view.

“They were boarding schools set up by the government and run by the church to destroy my people,” Buffalo says in voiceover in the film. “Kill the Indian and save the child.”

An estimated 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were sent to the schools across the centuries.

“During the years that the system was in place, children were forcibly removed from their homes,” according to the Canadian government, “and, at school, were often subjected to harsh discipline, malnutrition and starvation, poor healthcare, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, and the deliberate suppression of their cultures and languages.”

Once free of the schools, Buffalo resumed his skateboarding, reaching a skill level that set him up to go pro. But the trauma of the residential schools had produced psychic injuries. And when he did get the chance to become a professional, he felt unworthy—low self-esteem having been drilled into him. He spent much of his 30s coping with alcoholism and drug addiction, interrupted by bouts of incarceration.

The documentary follows its subject’s journey to sobriety and to fulfill his dream of turning pro. Chebib, a Syrian-Canadian, grew up skateboarding in the Middle East and met Buffalo back in 2005 in Montreal’s skateboarding scene. They reconnected more recently in Vancouver, where both now live, and the documentary project was born.

The New Yorker has released the film on its website in time for Indigenous People’s Day (the holiday still celebrated in some places as Columbus Day). Joe Buffalo has won numerous awards, including the audience award at SXSW and audience and jury awards at the Regard film festival in Saguenay, Québec and the Calgary Underground Film Festival.

American skateboarding legend Tony Hawk has joined the film as an executive producer. Hawk sent a message to Deadline about his support for the documentary, noting, “Joe Buffalo is an inspiring story of skateboarding as a means of escaping the trauma of the infamous Indian Residential School system.”

The residential schools were not only a Canadian phenomenon. The U.S. had its own system of Native American boarding schools, particularly in the American West, that served a similar purpose as their Canadian counterparts. They suppressed indigenous customs, language, tribal names, in favor of an assimilationist and Christian ideology.

There has been no Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States, but Canada formed one to interrogate the “paternalistic and racist foundations of the residential school system.” But the wounds run deep. In May, the latest mass grave was uncovered on the site of an Indian Residential School, this one in British Columbia. It contained the bodies of 215 children who were students at the school.



Growing up on the central Alberta plains, Joe Buffalo viewed his Samson Cree heritage as a source of pride: he could trace his bloodline, on his mother’s side, to Chief Poundmaker, a revered nineteenth-century Cree leader. At age eleven, he encountered a demoralizing reality of First Nations life. Like his parents and grandparents before him, he was shipped from his reserve to a residential school, one of many boarding institutions set up by the Canadian government to, as one early founder said, “kill the Indian in” indigenous children through Christian reëducation. First in Edmonton and then in Lebret, Saskatchewan, Buffalo endured stretches of up to a year away from his family and long days of assimilationist indoctrination. At night, he shared a living space with more than two hundred classmates stacked in bunk beds. He speaks about the experience in “Joe Buffalo,” a documentary short directed by Amar Chebib: “I could hear spirits in the walls from the dark history there. . . . It definitely fucked me up.”

Saturday, October 9, 2021

In the News: Bipartisan Coalition in Defense of Indian Child Welfare Act Protections Before the U.S. Supreme Court

 Indian Law Issues (10/8/2021)

NPR: The Indian Child Welfare Act Faces Its Biggest Challenge Yet (featuring former ILPC staff attorney and current University of Idaho College of Law Asst. Prof. Neoshia Roemer!)

NYTs: After Denying Care to Black Natives, Indian Health Service Reverses Policy

White House: A Proclamation on Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2021

Reuters: ‘Solar warriors’ train for Native America energy fight

California Attorney General: Attorney General Bonta Leads Bipartisan Coalition of 26 Attorneys General in Defense of Indian Child Welfare Act Protections Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Salt Lake Tribune: Lawmakers prep bill to protect Indigenous children in Utah’s child welfare system



Attorney General Bonta Leads Bipartisan Coalition in Defense of Indian Child Welfare Act Protections Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Friday, October 8, 2021
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today led a bipartisan coalition of 26 attorneys general in an amicus brief in support of the United States and four federally recognized tribes in their efforts to uphold critical protections guaranteed under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Filed before the U.S. Supreme Court in Haaland v. Brackeen and Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, the amicus brief highlights the states’ compelling interest in standing up for the well-being of all children, including Native American children, in state child-custody proceedings.

“The truth is that there has been a long, ugly history in the United States of policies that had the effect of separating Native American children from their culture, families, and communities,” said Attorney General Bonta. “ICWA is a critical tool for protecting Native American children, their parents, and tribes — and it is under threat. If we are to truly honor the history and legacy of our tribal partners, we must act. Alongside a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case and correct the errors the court of appeals made in its decision.” 

Congress enacted ICWA in 1978 in response to a serious and pervasive problem: State and private parties were initiating state child-custody proceedings that removed Native American children from the custody of their parents — often without good cause — and placed them in the custody of non-tribal adoptive and foster homes. That practice harmed children and posed an existential threat to the continuity and vitality of tribal communities. To address this, Congress established minimum federal standards governing the removal of Native American children from their families. ICWA’s provisions safeguard the rights of Native American children, parents, and tribes in state child-custody proceedings, and seek to promote the placement of Native American children with members of their extended families or with other tribal homes. In the four decades since Congress enacted ICWA, the statute has become the foundation of state-tribal relations in the realm of child custody and family services. Collectively, the coalition states are home to approximately 86% of federally recognized tribes in the United States.

In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts that: 

  • ICWA is a critical tool for protecting Native American families and tribes, and fostering state-tribal collaboration;
  • The court of appeals incorrectly concluded that several of ICWA’s provisions violate the anti-commandeering doctrine; and
  • ICWA’s preferences for the placement of Native American children with other Native American families and foster homes do not violate equal protection. 

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta is joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.


Wilfred Buck Tells The Story Of Mista Muskwa

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They Took Us Away

They Took Us Away
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You are not alone

You are not alone

To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

Diane Tells His Name

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Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Lost Birds on Al Jazeera Fault Lines
click to read and listen about Trace, Diane, Julie and Suzie


As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.


Original Birth Certificate Map in the USA

Why tribes do not recommend the DNA swab

Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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