It's our weekly roundup of the stories that mattered most in Indian country:
• VAWA PASSES: The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization passed the U.S. House by a vote of 286 – 138. It includes the U.S. Senate provisions that allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who commit violence against women and families on Indian lands. The Senate passed the same bill on February 12.The legislation now goes on to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
• AGREEMENT ON COMMITTEE: The Canadian Parliament voted unanimously on February 27 to launch a special committee on missing and murdered Native women. Many groups hope that the committee—approved 278–0, in a rare show of nonpartisan unity—is merely the first step in establishing a long-sought national public inquiry into what advocates say is more than 600 disappearances across the country.
• WOUNDED KNEE ANNIVERSARY: On February 27th, tribal citizens on the Pine Ridge reservation celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Occupation of Wounded Knee with American Indian Movement members in attendance that led to an activist march on the nearby town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. During the celebration, Frank Lamere, shared a story about being arrested with the late Russell Means in 1999 during a march against alcohol sales on the same town.
• YUROK CASINO DREAMS: Members of the Yurok Tribe have voted in favor of a special referendum to distribute funds secured in the Nez Perce v. Salazar settlement, as well as use the money as an investment in the Tribe’s first hotel and casino. The unofficial elections results concluded 1,016 voted in favor and 642 opposed, and voter turnout was 56 percent.
• NATIVES POOREST: The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its American Community Survey that measured poverty rates by race from 2007 to 2011. Two race groups exceeded the national poverty rate of 14.3 percent by more than 10 percentage points: American Indian and Alaska Natives at 27 percent and black or African-American at 25.8 percent. Rates for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders were also above the national rate at 17.6 percent
• CREATION STORY, THE MUSICAL: Fewer than 50 people were expected to turn out for a staged reading of "The Glooskape Chronicles: Creation and the Venetian Basket," the only known musical drama based on an Indigenous People’s creation story and teachings of their culture's hero, but more than double that number showed up. The Indigenous people are the Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn or First Light, in the northeast part of the United States and the playwright is Donna Loring, a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation.