PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Pacific Northwest tribe is traveling nearly 5,000 miles across Canada and the United States with a 22-foot-tall totem pole on a flatbed truck in a symbolic journey meant to galvanize opposition to fossil fuel infrastructure projects they believe will imperil native lands.
This is the fourth year the Lummi Nation in northwest Washington has embarked on a "totem journey" to try to create a unified front among tribes across North America that are individually fighting plans for coal terminals and crude oil pipelines in their backyards.
The highly visible tours, which include tribal blessing ceremonies at each stop, fit into a trend of Native American tribes bringing their environmental activism to the masses as they see firsthand the effects of climate change, said Robin Saha, a University of Montana associate professor who specializes in tribal issues and environmental justice.
"I wouldn't go as far as to say there's an anti-development movement, but tribes are feeling the effects of climate change quite dramatically and are responding in a lot of different ways," Saha said. "Some of them feel as if they're not going to survive."
In North Dakota, for example, people from across the country and members of 60 tribes have gained international attention after gathering in opposition to the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline. The totem pole heads to that site, near the Standing Rock Sioux's reservation, next week.
Tribes in the Pacific Northwest have engaged in public protests and taken legal action as West Coast ports have emerged as strategic locations for crude oil and coal companies to reach customers in energy-hungry Asia. Seven crude oil or coal export terminals are proposed for conversion, expansion or construction on the Oregon and Washington coast. Some have already led to increased freight train traffic along the scenic Columbia River Gorge, where local tribes fish salmon.
A coalition of tribes turned out in June after an oil train derailed in Mosier. The oil from the derailment mostly burned off in a huge fire, but a small amount entered the Columbia River where the tribes have federally guaranteed fishing rights.
"We're all trying to unite our voices to make sure we're all speaking out," said Jewell James, a Lummi tribal member and head carver at the House of Tears Carvers.
In recent years, cheap natural gas has prompted many domestic utilities to abandon coal, driving down production at major mines in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, the nation's largest coal producing region. Asian coal markets have become a potential lifeline for the mining industry — and Pacific Northwest ports are seen as the anchor.
The Lummi Nation launched a savvy public relations campaign last year against what would have been the nation's largest coal export terminal proposed for Cherry Point, Washington, at the heart of their ancestral homeland.
In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a needed permit for the Gateway Pacific terminal after finding it would damage tribal fishing rights.
This year's 19-day totem trek started Tuesday in Vancouver, British Columbia, and makes a stop Friday in Longview, Washington, where a similar shipping terminal would export 44 million tons of coal annually to Asian markets. With the Gateway Pacific project on ice, the Longview project would now be the nation's largest coal export terminal.
It would mean 16 coal trains a day, mostly from mines in Montana and Wyoming, and an additional 1,600 round-trip vessel calls a year in the lower Columbia River, said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, senior organizer with the Columbia Riverkeeper. There are concerns that wake from the ships could strand juvenile salmon and impact tribal fishing, she said.
Bill Chapman, president and CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview, said in an emailed response to questions that a draft environmental review by Washington state and county officials found there would be no impacts to tribal fishing. Trains already run through the area on established tracks and have caused no issues, he added.
The terminal on the site of an old aluminum smelter plant would create hundreds of much-needed family wage jobs and is supported by labor unions, Chapman said.
"We're building on a location where industry has existed for over 70 years," he wrote. "Our export terminal is sited on a stretch of the Columbia River dotted with manufacturing plants and docks."
A third large coal terminal in Oregon was dealt a blow this month when a judge upheld the state's right to deny the project based on a similar threat to tribal fishing rights.
If proponents decide to appeal, the case will go to trial in November.
This year's brightly painted totem weighs 3,000 pounds and is carved of western red cedar. An eagle with a 12-foot wingspan sits on top, and the pole itself features a wolf and bear — symbols of leadership, cunning and courage — as well as white buffalo and tribal figures, said James, who has been carving totem poles for 44 years.
To the sounds of drums and a prayer song, the 22-foot-tall totem pole was blessed in a smudge ceremony at the entrance of Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle Thursday. Lummi Nation member Linda Soriano fanned smoke from burning sage, covering the pole in a haze as sun rays beamed down. She then fanned the smoke through the crowd gathered outside the church.
"Mother Earth is hurting," said Lummi Nation member Randy Peters Sr. as he began his prayer song, "Mother Earth has been hurting from all of the abuse that has been going on. The unsafe practices of the coal, and the mining and the transportation of energy."
Tribes in Oregon, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada will host the Lummi until their end point in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where tribes are fighting oil pipelines bound for the East Coast.
"You can't put a price on the sacred. Our land and our water are sacred," said Reuben George, manager of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative in Vancouver, British Columbia, where his tribe is opposed to a major oil pipeline. "This totem pole represents our laws, our culture and our spirituality."
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Sky Wildcat, 21, was crowned Miss Cherokee during a leadership competition on Aug. 27 at the Cornerstone Fellowship Church.
Wildcat, a senior at Northeastern State University, earned a $3,000 scholarship and will represent the tribe as a goodwill ambassador to promote the government, history, language and culture of the Cherokee people for the next year.
“Being crowned Miss Cherokee means I get to represent our tribe and represent the young Cherokee women that competed…who represent resilience and strength much like our ancestors,” she said.
Wildcat competed against nine women for the crown. The Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition judged contestants on their use of the Cherokee language, cultural and platform presentations and an impromptu question.
Wildcat shared the history of traditional Cherokee basket weaving for her cultural presentation and her platform focused on protecting the land and water and preserving natural resources.
“I really want to advocate for my platform of environmental preservation during my year as an ambassador for the tribe,” she said. “I also just want to educate others and our youth that there is a lot that they can do to change the world.”
Wildcat’s first public event as Miss Cherokee will be Sept. 3 at the State of the Nation Address during the 64th Cherokee National Holiday in Tahlequah.
First runner-up for the title was Amari McCoy, of Sallisaw, who earned a $2,000 scholarship and second runner-up was Madison Shoemaker, of Muskogee, who earned a $1,000 scholarship.
HOMINY, Okla. (AP) — Members of the Osage Nation have celebrated the $74 million purchase of CNN founder Ted Turner's ranch north of Tulsa.
More than 300 Osage citizens attended a handover ceremony on Wednesday, the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/2bS3yQ6 ) reports. A spokesman says Turner wasn't able to attend.
The deal was finalized in June.
Turner experimented with environmentally friendly ranching methods on the 43,000 acres of prairie. The tribe placed a winning bid for the ranch, and the deal was financed with casino profits.
Osage Nation Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear has received several proposals about what could be done with the land, including raising bison and renting out parts of the land to cattle operations.
Standing Bear has rejected a proposal to puts thousands of wild mustangs on the property. He said it would bring in a lot of revenue, "But it would take a heavy toll on the land. It's our responsibility to preserve this land for the future."
The tribe has begun the process of putting the land in trust with the federal government, which would give the Osage Nation sovereignty over the land.
The Osage Nation once owned nearly 1.5 million acres before the land was divided and distributed among individual tribe members in the early 1990s. Tribal holdings had decreased to less than 5 percent of the original Osage Reservation by the time Standing Bear took office in 2014.
The chief has said the tribe now controls more than 9 percent of its original landholdings.
"We had one home left, and this was it," said Osage Minerals Council chairman Everett Waller. "Our ancestors walked on this land. Our warriors died for this land. And today, this land is ours again.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a National Indian Gaming Commission letter, NIGC officials are scheduled to conduct an “oversight internal control assessment” at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa starting Sept. 7 that could take up to three weeks.
The letter states that after approving the Cherokee Nation’s Gaming Act amendments in 2014, NIGC Chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri noted his “misgivings over some aspects of the gaming act.”
“In particular, the provision of the gaming act that requires tribal regulations and controls not to exceed federal control undermines the spirit of the NIGC regulations, especially the MICS (Minimum Internal Control Standards) – which are designed to be the ground floor of regulations upon which a tribe could build up from to address its specific requirements,” the letters states.
Chaudhuri states the act’s provisions “limit the ability” of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission “to create controls it finds uniquely and perhaps better suited to its needs.” He states the MICS are in place to allow tribes to develop “tribal-specific regulations,” which are unique to their gaming operations.
The letter also states that by the tribe amending its Gaming Act it has chosen not to heighten its use of MICS and has chosen to work by the standards set in place by federal regulations and state compact terms. The letter states that if the CN continues to work under the amended Gaming Act it could be difficult for “tribal regulators” to determine what would “exceed” the “NIGC MICS.”
The letter states because of the Gaming Act amendment, the NIGC would need “to review the Tribe’s gaming operations with greater scrutiny.”
For the assessment, the NIGC is to send out a team of five to eight people and is requesting documents to be at the team’s disposal. The letter states that documents are to come from March 19 and June 30 and are to contain “all gaming revenue documents” associated with “all gaming-related activities” from both 24-hour periods.
According to the letter, the NIGC is requesting:
• Cage, cashier and vault accountability reports;
• All currency drop and count reports;
• Documentation supporting the calculation of gaming machine win;
• Documentation supporting the calculation of bingo win;
• Documentation supporting the calculation of revenue received from all other gaming activities offered by the facilities;
• Gaming revenue journal entries;
• Inventory logs for gaming inventories, i.e. cards, keys, etc.;
• Class II gaming machine statistical analysis reports;
• Statistical analysis reports for all other gaming activities offered at the facilities;
• Internal audit reports, work papers, checklists, approved audit plan and all other work product documenting the internal audit process for the completed audits for fiscal year-end 2015 and FY-end 2016;
• All management letters prepared by an independent certified public accountant;
• Complimentary services and items reports;
• IT gaming network topology;
• All other documents supporting or relating to the gaming activities conducted; and
• Reconciliation of NIGC quarterly fee assessment reports submitted in 2015 to the audited financial statements for FY 2014.
The NIGC is also requesting a copy of the Tribal Internal Control Standards, which were established by the CNGC, as well as a copy of the System of Internal Control Standards regarding the implementation of the TICS.
The letter states once the audit team completes its on-site work “it will take approximately eight weeks to process and analyze the information.” Once the review is complete the CN would be briefed on the NIGC’s findings.
Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said it is the NIGC’s responsibility to periodically perform audits and reviews of all tribal gaming and that Cherokee Nation Entertainment, CNB’s gaming entity, was selected for a standard internal control assessment scheduled for September as part of NIGC’s regulatory oversight. He added that an internal control assessment is not an audit.
“Cherokee Nation Entertainment is highly regulated for and by the Cherokee Nation and oversight is rigorous. In addition to the NIGC, oversight is provided by various bodies, including our own internal audit department, independent external auditors, the Internal Revenue Service, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, which has on-site offices with near constant oversight,” Slaton said. “We’re confident the NICG’s upcoming inquiry will confirm the findings of all other reviews – that CNE operates earnestly and with the utmost integrity, meeting or exceeding NIGC standards.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council’s Executive & Finance Committee unanimously passed the Cherokee Nation’s $934.2 million comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2017 during an Aug. 22 meeting.
The comprehensive budget is a result of the operating budget, used for tribal expenses and expected costs, approved at $656.4 million plus the capital budget, which includes land purchases and construction of facilities and roads, approved at $277.7 million.
The committee-approved FY 2017 comprehensive budget surpasses what the committee approved during the FY 2016 budget hearings by about $167.1 million.
“To be more specific, this is the (Cherokee) Nation’s largest ever beginning-of-the-year budget,” Treasurer Lacey Horn said.
In 2015, the committee approved the FY 2016 comprehensive budget for $767.1 million. Approximately, $647.7 million was for the operating budget and $119.4 million was for the capital budget.
Horn said tribal revenue increased by $171.5 million as a result of a $160.5 million increase in Planning and Developments budget thanks to the tribe’s and Indian Health Services Joint Venture project at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.
Horn added that the FY 2017 budget includes an added $2.3 million for the tribe’s Adair County landfill; a $5.9 million increase in financial operations as a result of the 2014 Contract Support Cost Settlement; a $2 million dollar increase for highway construction and roads; and $800,000 focused on service improvements and new programs.
The focus on service improvements included increases for the Adult Language program at $145,000 because of the need for more Cherokee speakers; the hunting and fishing license service at $104,000 for the implementation of a new employee to solely operate the service.
The tribe’s Educations Services budget also implements two initiatives that include an archery program with the Joe Thorton Archery Park at $30,000; education outreach at $30,000.
Other departments that saw significant budget increases were the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission at $177,000 for new employment and new fingerprinting units. The Information Technology department also received $318,000 for needed salary adjustments.
The official 2017 budget will not be available until approved at the Sept. 12 Tribal Council meeting. For information on previous budgets and reports, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/AnnualReports/BudgetAndFinancials.aspx" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/AnnualReports/BudgetAndFinancials.aspx</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The second Tribal Film Festival will be held during Cherokee National Holiday in downtown Tahlequah to include more than 30 Native American films as well as a Native Pop art show.
Founder and Executive Director Celia Xavier will host the festival. This year she’s partnered with Brent Learned of Native Pop, who will feature top Native Pop artists for a live art exhibit at 6 p.m. at the NSU Jazz Lab on Sept. 2 for the red carpet reception on opening night.
The festival takes place Sept. 2-4 at the Dream Theater.
Xavier said the festival saw great success in 2015 and expects to have more than 1,000 attendees during the three-day weekend. She added that this year’s festival will bring a “wide range of films and shorts,” and each one is indigenous with some being in their own language. Proceeds from the silent auction to be held during the red carpet event will be used to benefit the Student Filmmaking Bootcamp.
Films and short films will begin screening at 2 p.m. on Sept. 3 and children’s movies will be on Sept. 4 beginning at 2 p.m.
2 p.m. We Eat Fish!
2:30 p.m. St’at’ic The Salmon People
2:45 p.m. Nowhere to Call Home
4:10 p.m. Blessed
4:40 p.m. What does God smell like
5 p.m. Gambling for the Future
5:15 p.m. Q&A with Director Alan O’hashi
5:30 p.m. Ode to a Mentor
5:35 p.m. Q&A with sculptor Eddie Morrison
5:45 p.m. Rod Pocowatchit
5:57 p.m. Miss Lady
6 p.m. The Price of Peace
8 p.m. Smoke That Travels
8:03 p.m. Native Evolution
8:15 p.m. One Who Talks with God
8:30 p.m. Reign of Terror Preview
8:40 p.m. Q&A with Mark Williams
8:50 p.m. Wait a While
9 p.m. Shiloh with Wes Nofire & Shy
9:30 p.m. Q&A with Mark Williams
(Children’s movies from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
2 p.m. Agrinoui
The No Face Doll
Glooscap and the Baby
Ogress of the Gravel Bank
Little Folk of the Artic
Adzaa Doo Ats’a- The Lady and the Eagle
No. 16, Da An Road
The Ice Cream Man
3 p.m. Voyage into the depths of Kanloa
4 p.m. Medicine Woman
5 p.m. Punks for West Papua
5:45 p.m. Marovo Carver
5:57 p.m. Story of Rock
6 p.m. Honor Riders
7:45 p.m. Amazon Voice
8:30 p.m. What was Ours
9:30 p.m. Yacuna