Current News

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — Cherokee Nation officials say fear of losing the tribe's heritage is driving a lawsuit alleging distributors and retailers of prescribed medications have contributed to opioid abuse within the tribe.

Opioid use is so prevalent among members of the Oklahoma-based tribe that 70 percent of Cherokee foster children in Oklahoma have been placed in the homes of non-Indians, The New York Times reported Sunday.

"We have addicted mothers and fathers who don't give a damn about what their children will carry on," said tribal Attorney General Todd Hembree, a descendant of a revered 19th-century chief. "They can't care for themselves, much less anything else. We are losing a generation of our continuity."
Attorneys for the tribe say the lawsuit seeks to make the companies accountable for creating an oversupply of the drugs.

The lawsuit against big opioid distributor is similar to those filed by authorities in dozens of cities, counties and states, including New Jersey, Ohio and Oklahoma itself. Attorneys general from 41 states recently joined forces to investigate similar options.

The tribal lawsuit, filed in Cherokee Nation District Court in April, argues that pharmacy chains as well as giant drug distributors flouted federal drug-monitoring laws and allowed prescription opioids to pour into the Cherokee territory in northeastern Oklahoma at some of the highest rates in the country. Such neglect, Hembree claims, amounts to exploitation of a people.

The companies have responded by asking a federal judge to deny the tribe's authority to bring the case. They argue that a tribe cannot sue them in tribal court, much less enforce federal drug laws.

Hembree argues that over a five-year period, drug distributors ignored red flags and allowed alarming quantities of prescription opioids. In 2015 and in 2016, 184 million pain pills poured into the region, he said.

A ruling on the companies' request is expected soon and, regardless of the outcome, will almost certainly be appealed.

"They know Native Americans have higher rates of addiction," Hembree said.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Five Native American tribes that own an Oklahoma site where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security intends to conduct bioterrorism drills next year now oppose the government's plan, saying the agency didn't inform them about chemicals it plans to release on grounds the tribes consider sacred because more than 100 children are buried there.

The Oklahoma-based Council of Confederated Chilocco Tribes is made up of five tribes that jointly own what's left of the former Chilocco Indian Agricultural School outside Newkirk where the testing would be conducted. The Chilocco school, which operated from the late 1800s until 1980, was one of several federally run boarding schools where the U.S. once sought to assimilate Native American children. The tribes say the federal agency is failing to protect a site with religious and cultural significance.

In the early 1950s the federal government, through its agency the Bureau of Indian Affairs, decided, in its infinite wisdom, to evacuate the Indian reservations.

They did it with a newly devised program they called “Relocation.” It was a clever euphemism for “Removal.” What followed was a program that cost the federal government, and the taxpayers, millions of dollars and in the end was a program that was an abysmal failure.

Entire families were relocated to Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Dallas just to name a few. Dave Brewer loaded up his family and relocated to Dallas, Texas. Amanda Takes War Bonnet and family ended up in San Francisco as did Theresa Giago. Buddy White Eyes and his brother Teddy ended up in Redwood City in the San Francisco Bay Area. All of these families were relocated from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - More than a year after a Native American girl was killed and her tribe was criticized for not having an alert system in place when children go missing, the Navajo Nation has signed a contract to purchase the software it needed to get the notification system running by the end of this month.

The tribe, whose reservation is the largest in the U.S. and spans three western states, came under fierce criticism in 2016 after 11-year-old Ashlynne Mike was reported missing. She never made it home from her school bus stop and was found dead the next day, killed by a stranger who sexually assaulted her and struck her twice in the head with a crowbar.

An Amber Alert that would have sent information about her via cellphone messages and information to the media did not go out until the day she was found. The case raised questions about gaps in communication and coordination between tribal and local law enforcement.

Callers Representing More Than 50 Tribal Nations Reach Out To StrongHearts Native Helpline for Culturally-Based Support for Domestic Violence

AUSTIN, Texas – In its first eight months of operations, the StrongHearts Native Helpline (1-844-7NATIVE) has taken calls from Native Americans affected by domestic violence representing 53 tribal nations across 38 states, demonstrating the widespread need for culturally-rooted resources to support tribal communities affected by intimate partner abuse.

As South Dakota headed into December of 1890 there was serious consternation among the colonists about a religious ceremony appearing on the Indian reservations called the Ghost Dance.

Shortly after allowing the ceremony to take place at his home on Standing Rock the great Lakota leader Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull) was assassinated by the Tribal Police. A few days after his death the Bismarck Tribune wrote on December 19, 1890: “Another old-timer, Sitting Bull, is no more. To be sure Sitting Bull was only an Indian and the possessor of a bad record, yet there is something pathetic in the manner of his sudden disappearance from the cares of life.”

DENVER – The American Indian College Fund Native scholars at Harvard Law School have what it takes to succeed. A law degree is the foundation to creating strong future leaders. Thanks to a gift of $1 million from an anonymous donor, the American Indian College Fund will award the first American Indian Law School Scholarship in the fall of the 2018-19 academic year. The scholarship covers all costs of attendance, including tuition for the three-year course of study at Harvard Law School, for one Native student.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “Indigenous students and scholars know they are carrying the tremendous responsibility of protecting and honoring who we are as the First People of this country. To do this, we need educated individuals who understand the complexities of our diversity, the laws of our peoples, and the laws of this land. This gift provides a remarkable resource so that we can educate people needed to ensure Native prosperity.” 

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump made a curious case for stripping federal protections from vast stretches of two of America's national monument lands.

For one, he said his decision will give Native Americans back their "rightful voice over the sacred land." But they already have specified rights on the land, thanks to the national monument designation under the Antiquities Act, and fear losing those rights under his decision. That's why they're fighting his action in court.

Trump also said that because of his decision, "families will hike and hunt on land they have known for generations, and they will preserve it for generations to come. Cattle will graze along the open range. Sweeping landscapes will inspire young Americans to dream beyond the horizon."

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) – A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II has died in Arizona.

Navajo Nation officials say George B. Willie Sr. died Tuesday at age 92.

Tribal officials say Willie lived in the community of Leupp, Arizona.

He served in the Marine Corps with the Second Marine Division from 1943 to 1946.

According to his family, Willie served in the Battle of Okinawa, delivering and receiving coded messages using the Navajo language.

He and other Navajos followed in the footsteps of the original 29 who developed the code and received the Congressional Silver Medal in 2001.

Willie is survived by his wife Emma, 10 children and several grandchildren.

A celebration of life is scheduled Dec. 8 at the Presbyterian Church in Leupp.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Outdoor retailing giant Patagonia on Wednesday joined a flurry of lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump's decision to chop up two large national monuments in Utah could finally bring an answer to the much-debated question of whether presidents have the legal authority to undo or change monuments created by past presidents.

Until that question is answered months or years from now, the fate of the contested lands in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments will remain unresolved.

Proclamations signed Monday by the president allow lands no longer protected as a national monument to be opened up in 60 days to mining, but conservation and tribal groups will likely try to keep that from happening.