Here is a summary of Native American-related news around the U.S. this week:
Interior secretary Haaland hears emotional testimony on boarding schools
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland heard from former students of federally backed Indian boarding schools as part of a year-long “Road to Healing” initiative. At the Riverside Indian School in Anadarko, Oklahoma, July 9, elders from different states and tribes shared stories of physical and emotional punishment, sexual abuse and other indignities suffered as part of an educational program designed to sever children from families and tribes and assimilate them into mainstream U.S. society.
Conservative magazine takes aim at Haaland boarding school initiative
An article in the July/August 2022 issue of American Conservative magazine slams the Interior Department’s Federal Indian Boarding Schools Initiative as “a thoroughly political scheme contrived by activists to stoke outrage regardless of the facts.”
“The most commonly cited complaint is that students were forbidden from speaking their native languages,” senior editor Helen Edwards writes. “Today it would be called immersion learning. The goal was not to eradicate Indian languages but to equip students to operate in the modern world, including as citizens.”
As for physical punishment of Native children in the schools, Edwards states that conditions “were, by the standards of the age, about average.”
Episcopalians to examine role in Indian boarding schools
The Episcopal Church is acknowledging its role in “the intergenerational trauma caused by the Doctrine of Discovery, colonialism, genocide, ethnocide through the operation of Indigenous boarding schools, and other systems of white supremacy that have oppressed Indigenous peoples.” At a July 11 meeting in Baltimore, the church set aside $2.5 million to research its role in operating Indian boarding schools, gather testimony from survivors, and establish spiritual healing centers in Indigenous communities.
Justice department makes violence against Indigenous women a priority
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco is directing all U.S. Attorneys with Indian Country jurisdiction and all federal law enforcement partners to develop new plans to promote public safety in Indian Country.
“The new directive stresses that the department has a duty to investigate and prosecute serious crimes in Indian country, including domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking,” Monaco said at the close of a two-day meeting of the Trilateral Working Group on violence against Indigenous women and girls. “The directive also sets forth specific steps that U.S. Attorneys and law enforcement officers should take to ensure that their work is victim-centered and culturally and linguistically appropriate.”
Athletic legend Jim Thorpe reinstated as sole 1912 Olympic gold winner
Indianz.com reports that descendants of Native American sports legend Jim Thorpe are ecstatic over the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision Friday to reinstate gold medals Thorpe won after spectacular performances in 15 pentathlon and decathlon events at the 1912 Stockholm Games.
At the time, King Gustave of Sweden declared Thorpe, a citizen of the Sac and Fox Nation in present-day Oklahoma, the “most wonderful athlete in the world.”
But the glory was short-lived. In 1913, the Amateur Athletic Union, the predecessor of the United States Olympic Committee deemed that he had infringed on the rules regarding amateurism because he had previously played minor league baseball and stripped him of his medals.
“We welcome the fact that … a solution could be found,” said Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC. “This is a most exceptional and unique situation, which has been addressed by an extraordinary gesture of fair play from the National Olympic Committees concerned.”
Tulalip Tribes take on vaping giant
The Tulalip Tribes of Washington State have sued e-cigarette giant Juul Labs Inc. (JLI), alleging the company and its affiliates illegally targeted teenaged tribe members with deceptive ads about the addictiveness of its fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes.
The tribes’ 316-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle July 7, alleges that JLI and its affiliates deliberately targeted young tribal members through “a diabolical pairing” of notorious cigarette company advertising techniques and cutting-edge viral marketing campaigns designed to make nicotine “cool again.”
The suit says that as a result, use of Juul’s products “became rampant” among Tulalip tribal youth, with the percentage of 12th graders who reported consuming nicotine nearly doubling from 2017 to 2018.
Tribes to Montana museum: ‘Give back Big Medicine’
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSK) of the Flathead Reservation in Montana want the Montana Historical Society to return “Big Medicine” — a white bison that was born on the reservation in 1933. After his death in 1959, the bison underwent taxidermy and was put on display in the state museum in Helena. White bison are extremely rare and considered sacred by a number of Native American tribes.
“He inspired our people, and he represents hope for the future and positive things,” CSK Chairman Tom McDonald said. “If you think about when he came and the tough times that they lived through, it was seen as a sign of renewal.”
Decisions about the future of Big Medicine rest with the historical society’s board of trustees.
Navajo photographer looks at modern Native Americans through old lens
Native Americans have long decried their depiction in art and media as romantic relics of a vanishing past, particularly in the work of early 20th-century photographer Edward S. Curtis. Now, Navajo photographer Will Wilson is using a 19th-century process to produce tintype portraits of contemporary Native Americans.
“People don’t want to deal with the traumatic reality of history, of genocide, of attempted ethnic cleansing,” Wilson told Native News Online. “They’d rather see these noble, beautiful images of a ‘better time.’ I want to make the case that we’re still here doing interesting and important things.”
An exhibit of his work, In Conversation: Will Wilson, is currently on display through September 11, 2022, at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.