Freedom Of Information Act was first in Indian Country

BY TESINA JACKSON
06/12/2014 10:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation enacted its Freedom of Information and Rights of Privacy Act in 2001, becoming the first Federally recognized tribe to allow citizens access to public records of a public body. Governmental bodies in the United States, including some tribes, have similar laws governing the availability of information contained in public records.

“Native Americans have as much right as anybody else to get information from their government,” Kevin R. Kemper, former journalist and University of Arizona assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences, said. “When a tribe doesn’t have a freedom of information law, it’s extremely tough for journalists and the public.”

Kemper, who also serves as a Native American Journalists Association Legal Hotline intake liaison, said he believes strongly in freedom of information and tribal sovereignty.

“Each tribe needs to have the opportunity to have a freedom of information act, incorporate freedom of information as a way of helping the people,” he said.

According to the CN FOIA, a public record includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body.

“The requirements under FOIA are that (a request) be in writing to the department with a specific request for the document you are requesting,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “The department will take it, the process is to have it reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office to see if it meets the requirements of FOIA, and we handle it according to process.”

However, Hembree said there are documents, such as meeting minutes of a public body, that don’t need a formal request.

Each department of the tribe’s executive and legislative branches, after receiving a records request, has 15 business days to fulfill the request. According to the act, if written notification of the response is neither mailed nor personally delivered to the person requesting the documents within the 15 days, the request must be considered denied and the requestor may appeal the denial.

After reviewing the CN FOIA, Joey Senat, Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications associate professor, said if a record is obviously public information then the person handling it should know that.

“Anyone should be able to walk up and make a request right there,” Senat, who served on the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee, said. “If the law was written so it was effective, it would allow anyone in the tribe to walk up to a public agency and make a request for a record that’s with that agency or with that official.

“If the record is right there and it can be made a copy, it should be provided on the spot, under the ways our law is written,” he added. “Having a 15-day delay wouldn’t be acceptable under (Oklahoma) state law.”

Hembree said he hasn’t received any complaints about the current process so he assumes it’s working fine. However, he said his staff has been overwhelmed by an increase of requests that come from a select group of people.

“The purpose of the act ¬– and it’s a great purpose – is to make sure that citizens know how their government is run, know how their money is made, know how their money is spent and the system has worked greatly up until October 2011, at which time there had been a dramatic increase in the amount of FIOA (requests),” he said. “That’s always been my number one goal, people will have that right and I, for one, will never stand in the way of that right.”

But Senat said because the CN FOIA gives tribal citizens the right to know what their government does the costs and number of requests shouldn’t matter.

“God forbid that the citizens know what their government is doing and that they want to find out,” he said. “It costs too much and there’s an increase? Well God forbid that the public actually put into effect the statute that says they have a right to know. That’s the purpose of these statutes and people should put them into effect and make requests. That’s why they’re there.”

Senat added that a list of all record requests should also be a public record and anyone should be able to ask for it.

“It’s a way to provide a paper trail so that the public can judge how well their government is responding to records requests,” he said. “Every time they have gotten a request, that’s a record.”

What records are public?

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered exempt or confidential. Under the CN FOIA, certain categories are specifically made public information, however the use of the information for commercial solicitation is prohibited.

Public information includes the names; sex; race; title and dates of employment of all employees of public bodies; administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public; final opinions; documents identifying persons confined in any jail, detention center or prison; statements and interpretations of policy; statute and the Constitution; written planning policies and goals and final planning decisions; final CN audits and of its subsidiaries; information in or taken from any account; voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by public bodies; the minutes and votes of all proceedings of all public bodies; and reports that disclose the nature, substance and location of any crime or alleged crime reported as having been committed.

“Tribal people expect transparency and accountability from their leaders, and there are a lot of great leaders throughout Indian Country,” Kemper said. “The best leaders tend to recognize transparency.”

The Nation’s FOIA states that any person has a right to inspect and/or copy public records.

“That’s one of the problems with how it is written now,” Senat said of the tribal law. “It should say ‘have the right to inspect and copy.’ It shouldn’t say ‘or.’ You should have the right to inspect a record and make your own copy if it means with a pencil and paper, to write down what you’re reading. Even with technology today, with a cell phone, the simplest thing is to take a photograph of a document.”

Some record copying may require a fee

According to the act, a public body – which is any CN board, commission, agency, authority, any public or governmental body or political subdivision of the Nation, including any organization or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds – may establish and collect fees that do not exceed the actual cost of searching for or making copies of records.

However, records must be furnished at the lowest possible cost and be provided in a form that is both convenient and practical for use by the person requesting copies of the records concerned. Fees may not be charged for examination and review to determine if the documents are subject to disclosure.

Open meetings and their rules

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, an executive session is a meeting or portion of a meeting that is convened in private. Only members of the governing body are entitled to attend but they may invite others to stay at the pleasure of that board, council, committee or commission. A motion is required to go into executive session and a majority must approve it. Those present must maintain the confidentiality of the discussion.

The regular meeting minutes should indicate when the board went into an executive session, what the primary reason was, any formal decisions that were made in executive session and when the board, council, committee or commission came out of executive session.

Investments or other financial matters may be in executive session if disclosure of the deliberations or decisions would jeopardize the ability to implement a decision or to achieve investment objectives.

A record of the board or of its fiduciary agents that discloses deliberations about or a tentative or final decision on, investments or other financial matters is exempt from disclosure as long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement an investment decision or program or to achieve investment objectives.

The panel may discuss, deliberate on and make decisions on a portion of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters in executive session if disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

A record of the panel that discloses discussions, deliberations or decisions on portions of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters is not a public record to the extent and so long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

Matters exempt from disclosure

A public body may, but is not required to, exempt from disclosure information of a personal nature that would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, trade secrets, records of law enforcement under investigation and documents to proposed contractual arrangements and proposed sales or purchase of property.

Specific, individual salaries are also exempt from disclosure but annual budgets contain position listings without names.

Senat said omitting salaries from the public eye is “fodder for corruption.”

“You can go down to OSU and you can ask to see what I get paid as a state employee,” he said. “There’s no way to figure out who’s getting paid what? The public is the employer. The tribal citizens are the employer. They’re the ones paying the bill. They should be entitled to know who’s being paid what specifically. It should be open because that’s one way to fight corruption. That opens it up to favoritism, political patronage, basic corruption.”

Information that would violate attorney-client relationships, the identity of the maker of a gift to a public body if the maker requests to be anonymous and the identity of an individual who makes a complaint, which alleges a violation or potential violation of law or regulation also may be exempt from disclosure.

Memoranda, correspondence and working papers in the possession of individual members of the executive and legislative branches or their immediate staff are exempt. However, nothing may be construed as limiting or restricting public access to source documents or records, factual data or summaries of factual data, papers, minutes or reports.

Other memoranda, correspondence, documents and working papers relative to efforts to attract business or industry to invest within the CN may be exempt from disclosure. However, any record that is requested and is exempt and not disclosed or is disclosed and marked confidential should have a statement explaining the reasons for that determination.

“It does has a lot of common exemptions,” Senat said. “This is a strength under the law where it says that if they’re going to deny it they have to explain why something is exempt. These statutes can be very strong, but if they’re not enforced they’re worthless.”

Photographs, signatures, addresses, race, weight, height, Social Security number and digitized images from a driver’s license or personal identification cards are also not considered public records.

“Some leaders keep things secret and that could violate the right of the people,” Kemper said. “You see a lot of that throughout Indian Country and the tribe will have to sort that out.”

Kemper added that he believes there are some understandable exceptions such as sacred knowledge.

“Every tribe’s culture is different, that’s why it’s important to create freedom of information that’s a cultural match,” he said.

Penalties for not providing records

Any CN citizen may look to the District Court for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in FOIA cases as long as the application is made not later than one year following the date on which the alleged violation occurs or one year after a public vote in public session.

The court may order equitable relief as it considers appropriate and a violation must be considered to be an irreparable injury for which no adequate remedy at law exists.

If a person or entity seeking such relief prevails, they may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation. If they prevail in part, the court may award them reasonable attorney fees or an appropriate portion.

According to the act, any person or group of persons who willfully and maliciously violates the provisions of the FOIA may be found guilty of a crime and upon conviction shall be fine not more than $100 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days for the first offense. For the second offense, the fine shall not be more than $200 or imprisoned for not more than 60 days and shall not be fine more than $300 or imprisoned for not more than 90 days.
About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/17/2014 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – On Sept. 30, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell convened the fourth meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, formed by executive order of President Obama, to work more collaboratively and effectively with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to help build and strengthen their communities. Obama Cabinet secretaries and senior officials participated in discussions focused on several core objectives including reforming the Bureau of Indian Education, promoting sustainable tribal economic development, and supporting sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. The discussion also included potential additional areas of focus based on consultation with tribal leaders. The meeting follows the president’s June visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota where he announced new initiatives to expand educational and economic opportunities, which the council oversees and promotes, and Jewell’s 20th visit to Indian Country, where she joined Navajo Nation leaders to announce a $554 million settlement of the tribe’s trust accounting and management lawsuit. Since 2009, this administration has resolved more than 80 tribal trust settlements with federal-recognized tribes, providing more than $2.5 billion in settlements, in addition to the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement of individual Indian trust claims. “The landmark Cobell Settlement and resolution of more than 80 other individual tribal trust management lawsuits under President Obama has launched a new chapter in federal trust relations with tribes, reflecting this administration’s continued commitment to strengthening our government-to-government relationship with tribal leaders,” Jewell said. “Today’s meeting of the council is another step toward building upon that relationship by working to better coordinate the resources of the federal government so that tribal nations can more easily cut through red tape and access the tools they need to advance their economic and social goals.” The council’s subgroup on Indian education highlighted progress to date on the Blueprint for Reform, which was announced via secretarial order in June. The Blueprint is to restructure and redesign the BIE, transforming the agency from solely a provider of education into a capacity-builder and service-provider to tribes that will operate schools. The redesign will help ensure students attending BIE-funded schools receive a high quality education delivered by tribal governments. The subgroup on infrastructure and economic development reported on its efforts to increase tribal sovereignty, remove regulatory barriers to development and support Native entrepreneurs. The Sept. 30 meeting also included updates from the energy subgroup regarding coordination of federal agency efforts to promote energy and energy infrastructure development in Indian Country. The climate change subgroup discussed its efforts to work with tribal leaders to prioritize the major climate change challenges facing Indian Country and help tribal communities combat and minimize the adverse effects.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/17/2014 10:00 AM
TEMPE, Ariz. – What does the future hold for Native peoples in an era defined by climate change? How does indigenous knowledge work within the realm of sustainability science? How do these two worlds collide and ultimately benefit native peoples and the earth? Indigenous scholars, sustainability scientists and tribal leaders were expected to gather from Oct. 6-7 to discuss and debate indigenous sustainability and environmental issues. The Arizona State University “Conference on Indigenous Sustainability: Implications for the Future of Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations” offers an unprecedented opportunity to address some of the most pressing issues facing Indigenous people and the earth today. Sustainability is a concept that is engrained in the practices of indigenous people throughout the world who have traditionally practiced living in harmony with natural forces, but Native peoples today are also among the most susceptible to environmental degradation. “Experts agree that indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable populations in the world to climate change. Most indigenous peoples live in areas that are being heavily impacted by climate change and forms of development including timber harvesting and mining that are quite damaging to the natural environment,” Rebecca Tsosie, ASU Regent’s professor in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, said. Conference participants will discuss indigenous knowledge and how it is expressed in different parts of the world, said Donald Fixico, ASU distinguished foundation professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We’ll look at how indigenous knowledge has enabled Native peoples to thrive in a comparative discourse with western thinking and western scientists, while both intellectual approaches face similar sustainability issues that involve preserving and renewing natural resources,” Fixico said. Conference participants will discuss and debate topics such as “The Future of Sustainability, Educating the Next Generation;” “Sustaining Indigenous Knowledge and Culture;” “Entrepreneurship and Economic Sustainability;” “Sustaining Inherent Tribal Self-Governance;” and “Tribal Energy and the Environment.” “We look forward to engaging in this historic dialog at ASU while we look toward the future of sustainability studies and educating our next generation of leaders who will serve as stewards of the planet,” said Gary Dirks, ASU professor of practice and director of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and ASU LightWorks. The conference is sponsored by the ASU President’s Office of American Indian Initiatives and supported by the ASU Office of the Provost. For more information, go to https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/ or email annabell.bowen@asu.edu or Justin.hongeva@asu.edu.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/16/2014 02:45 PM
HARDIN, Mont. (AP) – A Montana town that once offered to take in suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay out of desperation to fill an empty, $27 million jail has finally started to fill its cells with American Indian inmates from across the Northern Plains. The Two Rivers Regional Detention Facility in Hardin was built in 2007 on hopes it would boost an economically depressed area of southeast Montana bordering the Crow Indian Reservation. But it suffered a series of failures after Montana prison officials said the jail wouldn’t suit their needs. Hardin officials in 2009 sought unsuccessfully to take in detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They later partnered with a California con man, Michael Hilton, who promised to turn the jail into a paramilitary training site until his criminal background was revealed by The Associated Press and other news organizations. Now local officials said they at last have found a legitimate and reliable operator for the 464-bed jail in Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private corrections company. Warden Ken Keller says Two Rivers has taken in almost 60 inmates in recent weeks from American Indian reservations in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. Most are serving time for alcohol or drug crimes and must go through an intensive rehabilitation program in Hardin, Keller said. As Keller showed an Associated Press reporter around the jail this week, guards wearing patches with Emerald's green logo patrolled the halls. Inmates clothed in orange were locked into 8- and 24-bed dorm rooms watching television, playing board games and sleeping as they waited for their next therapy session to begin. Others were seen working in the kitchen and being processed in the jail's intake area. “Everybody always said it wasn’t going to happen,” Keller said. “It’s happening.” Yet the latest turn for Two Rivers has raised a new concern for at least one tribal leader: Huge distances separate Hardin from the reservations and will make it difficult for family of inmates to visit. After the jail’s prior setbacks, Emerald representatives cast a wide net in the search for inmates. They delivered what Hardin had long sought: A contract with a government agency, in this case the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which should provide a steady flow of inmates potentially for years to come. The federal agency is paying about $70 per inmate per day, and it anticipates placing 80 to 100 inmates at Hardin at any given time, agency spokeswoman Nedra Darling said. For now, all the revenue the jail brings in will go to Emerald and to pay off the $27 million in bonds that paid for its construction. Eventually, Hardin stands to receive 50-cents per inmate, per day, said Jon Matovich, who chairs Hardin’s economic development authority, which owns the jail. Matovich and other town officials said that doesn’t account for the 50 jobs created so far with the jail’s belated opening. That could reach 150 workers if the jail ever reaches full capacity, according to Emerald. “All the Gitmo and Michael Hilton stuff was kind of a black eye in the way those things turned out, but it’s all good now,” Matovich said. Keller said Emerald is talking with law enforcement across the region as it looks to fill the jail’s remaining space. The drug and alcohol treatment provided by Emerald is unavailable in BIA-managed jails, Darling said, and inmates are sent to Hardin only with the agreement of tribal leadership. However, Blackfeet Nation Chairman Harry Barnes said federal officials gave him only three days’ notice before relocating inmates from an outdated jail on his northwestern Montana reservation to Hardin, 380 miles away. “They should have consulted us beforehand,” Barnes said. “They showed up on a Friday and said they were going to tear the jail down Monday. ...We were only in a position to listen, but we had some concerns with people going all the way to Hardin.” Barnes said that could present a hardship for family of inmates who can’t afford the journey. The BIA is working to provide video conferencing or other means for distant family members to communicate with inmates, Darling said. Regarding consultations with tribes, she said agency representatives spoke with Barnes and other member of the Blackfeet tribal council before moving inmates to Hardin. Darling said the agency would listen to any concerns raised by the tribe and follow up as needed. Beyond its agreement with the BIA, Emerald has a separate deal with North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes. Drug and alcohol addiction has spiked in recent years on the reservation near Newtown, North Dakota, fueled by the easy money being generated by an oil boom in the surrounding Bakken region. “We are in the middle of a heroin and meth epidemic. It’s killing everybody, including our kids,” said Bruce Gillette, who directs a drug treatment program for the Three Affiliated Tribes. “We’ve sent people to other treatment facilities but there are no locked doors so they can literally walk out of get kicked out ... From where I’m at, only God could have sent those guys from Hardin to me.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/16/2014 01:16 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. –Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals will be at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa on Dec. 29. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. In 1965, Cavaliere created the group Young Rascals, which later went on to be The Rascals. The Rascals hits include “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin’,” “A Beautiful Morning,” “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “People Got to Be Free” and “A Girl Like You.” The group later disbanded in 1972. This is when Cavaliere’s solo career took flight. He has since released albums “Destiny,” “Castles in the Air,” “Dreams in Motion” and more. For more information, visit <a href="http://www. felixcavalieremusic.com" target="_blank">felixcavalieremusic.com</a>. Tickets start at $35 and are on sale. Ticket prices and information on upcoming shows can be found under The Joint section at <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is located off Interstate 44 at exit 240. All who attend must be 21 years of age or older.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
10/16/2014 08:18 AM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Trail of Tears Association, Memphis and National Park Service officials gathered Oct. 7 with TOTA members to dedicate a Trail of Tears marker on the east bank of the Mississippi River. The NPS marker tells the story of how Cherokee people were moved from their homelands by riverboats in 1838 following the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. It also provides information about the Indian Removal Policy and the land trails used by Cherokee people to reach Indian Territory during the removal. The marker dedication was part of the TOTA’s annual convention held Oct. 7-9 in Memphis. TOTA President and Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Jack Baker thanked the NPS for “fast tracking” the placement of the marker. “I think it’s significant that we remember the water route because so much of our work is done on the land route and marking sites along the land route that we tend to forget there was a water route. We forget the three (Cherokee) detachments that were sent west almost immediately after the roundups. One of the detachments had 145 deaths on the way,” Baker said. He said some of his ancestors used the water route to go to Indian Territory, one of who died. Baker said Principal Chief John Ross came through Memphis on a boat and three or four days after passing Memphis his wife Quatie died near Little Rock, Arkansas. TOTA Director Graydon Swisher said Memphis is known as a bluff city, which made it an ideal landing spot for boat traffic on the Mississippi River. “This is Chickasaw territory. We’ve got a lot of history here in Memphis. The Bell Route (Cherokee) came through Memphis. It was a land route and it came in...where the Wolf River came in,” Swisher said. “We are working on a land route marker just like this one to be put up there some time in the next year or so. Because the convention was here, we were able to make some things happen.” [BLOCKQUOTE]Swisher said other signage has been placed around Memphis to commemorate and mark events that took place during the forced removal of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee Creek and Choctaw in the 1830s. The Seminoles, who were moved to Indian Territory from Florida, were moved by ship across the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi for part of their journey. NPS National Trails Superintendent Aaron Mahr said Swisher played an important role in this year’s conference and for getting the Trail of Tears marker placed along the river. “This is (a) particularly exciting development here. This is in an urban area. It’s highly visited by families, by all sorts of groups, by ethnically diverse groups who come here and see this on a daily basis. It’s really important that we have that ability to reach so many people,” Mahr said. “You can’t really understand the trail unless you come to Memphis, unless you come to Tahlequah, unless you come to Cherokee, North Carolina. Tying all of these together – these urban areas, these rural areas – that’s what the trail experience is all about, so having this development here in Memphis is particularly important for us. It just raises awareness of the trail that much more.” The TOTA – made up of nine state chapters from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia – met for the first time in Memphis. TOTA Executive Director and CN Supreme Court Justice Troy Wayne Poteete said the annual meetings are held in part “to encourage scholarship” about the Indian removals among its members. “It encourages the scholars and professional historians who study our history to continue in that vein and to share their work, and it provides an opportunity for the enthusiasts, the people who study the trail, who work on marking it, to come together and hear those scholars, to interact with them, to hear about their research,” Poteete said. “It also raises public awareness of the removal story in whatever community we go to.” He said the association does not study and share the Trail of Tears story so that the Cherokee and other tribes who were affected by the forced removals can be seen as “victims.” “We work on marking this route and talking about this history because it gives us the opportunity to honor their resilience because they persevered. They overcame those hardships and rebuilt the Cherokee Nation. It gives us an opportunity to say, ‘their endurance wasn’t in vain; we’re still here. We’re a viable people,’” Poteete said. There are around 600 TOTA members, Poteete said, with about 125 to 175 members who attend the annual conference. He expects close to 175 attendees at next year’s 20th annual conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Also, at the TOTA conferences participants get acquainted with the NPS and the services they provide to aid the TOTA in carrying out the Congressional mandate, Poteete said. “The Trail of Tears Association backs up their efforts to carry out the Congressional mandate to mark the trail. A lot of times we look on like they’re helping us, but we’re helping them do what Congress said to do,” he said. “Congress is able to give relatively small amounts of money to the Park Service. Through the volunteer efforts of people in the association, we leverage that funding to get a lot more trail marked than if they (NPS) had to do the research themselves, and if they had to have the personnel to interact with the local officials to make arrangements for the signs to go up.” For more information about the TOTA, call 501-666-9032 or visit <a href="http://www.nationaltota.org" target="_blank">www.nationaltota.org</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/13/2014 11:14 AM
SEATTLE (AP) – The Seattle City Council has voted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as the federally recognized holiday Columbus Day. The resolution that passed unanimously on Oct. 6 honors the contributions and culture of Native Americans and the indigenous community in Seattle. Indigenous Peoples’ Day will be celebrated on the second Monday in October. Tribal citizens and other supporters say the move recognizes the rich history of people who have inhabited the area for centuries. “This action will allow us to bring into current present day our valuable and rich history, and it’s there for future generations to learn,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic Peninsula. She is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. “Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” she said to a round of applause. Several Italian-Americans and others objected to the move, saying Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors one group while disregarding the Italian heritage of others. Columbus Day is a federal holiday that commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus, who was Italian, in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492. It’s not a legal state holiday in Washington. “We don’t argue with the idea of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We do have a big problem of it coming at the expense of what essentially is Italian Heritage Day,” said Ralph Fascitelli, an Italian-American who lives in Seattle, speaking outside the meeting. “This is a big insult to those of us of Italian heritage. We feel disrespected,” Fascitelli said. He added, “America wouldn’t be America without Christopher Columbus.” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is expected to sign the resolution Oct. 13, his spokesman Jason Kelly said. The Bellingham City Council also is concerned that Columbus Day offends some Native Americans. It will consider an ordinance Oct. 13 to recognize the second Monday in October as Coast Salish Day. The Seattle School Board decided last week to have its schools observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day. Earlier this year, Minneapolis also decided to designate that day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. South Dakota, meanwhile, celebrates Native American Day. Seattle councilmember Bruce Harrell said he understood the concerns from people in the Italian-American community, but he said, “I make no excuses for this legislation.” He said he co-sponsored the resolution because he believes the city won’t be successful in its social programs and outreach until “we fully recognize the evils of our past.” Councilmember Nick Licata, who is Italian-American, said he didn’t see the legislation as taking something away, but rather allowing everyone to celebrate a new day where everyone’s strength is recognized. David Bean, a member of the Puyallup Tribal Council, told councilmembers the resolution demonstrates that the city values tribal members' history, culture, welfare and contributions to the community.