The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country

It’s our roundup of all the big news coming out of Indian country; this week saw nastiness in the Massachusetts Senatorial race,

MASSACHUSETTS CHOP: Without a doubt, the most eye-catching story in Indian country concerned video of staffers of Scott Brown, Republican Senator from Massachusetts, taunting supporters of his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren with racist “Indian war whoops” and “tomahawk chops.” The mocking and gestures referred to Warren’s lifelong belief that she has Native ancestry, which has been called into question over the course of the campaign. Both Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the NCAI released statements critical of the Brown campaign; although Brown initially dismissed the behavior, saying he didn’t condone it, but that “the real offense is that [Warren] said she was white and then checked the box saying she is Native American, and then she changed her profile in the law directory once she made her tenure.” A day later, the campaign released a more strongly-worded statement that said “Senator Brown has spoken to his entire staff—including the individuals involved in this unacceptable behavior—and issued them their one and only warning that this type of conduct will not be tolerated … He regrets that members of his staff did not live up to the high standards that the people of Massachusetts expect and deserve.”

YUP, IT’S THE FRACKING: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has confirmed that groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming, on the Wind River Indian Reservation contains contaminants associated with fracking—linking, for the first time, the hydraulic-fracturing method of extracting oil and gas from shale with water pollution.

OBAMA LAUDS J. CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: President Barack Obama opened his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City by paying tribute to slain U.S. Ambassador and Chinook tribal member J. Christopher Stevens. “Chris Stevens embodied the best of America,” Obama said. “He acted with humility, but he also stood up for a set of principles – a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.”

WILDFIRE KILLED BISON: ICTMN correspondent Jack McNeel reported that Natives on the Fort Peck Reservation are now mourning the loss of 10 of the animals killed in a wildfire that raged there in mid-September. “The wind carried that fire so fast they couldn’t get out of the way,” said Fort Peck’s director of fish and wildlife.

FIGHTING SIOUX LOGOS WILL STAY: Even though in June 68 percent of voters said they wanted to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname, the NCAA and the state’s attorney general have reached a new agreement allowing the University of North Dakota to keep thousands of the logos in the hockey and basketball arenas.

HAWAIIAN ART GOES TO WASHINGTON: A painting by Native Hawaiian artist Brook Kapukuniahi Parker is now hanging in the room where the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs meets; although the room has hosted many works by Indian and Alaska Native artists, this is the first time a Native Hawaiian’s work has been featured.


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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country