Thursday, March 19, 2009

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Told Systemic Vision and Inspiring Leadership Needed to Address Indian Country Suicides

Indian Country suicides reach epidemic level
Written by Shelley Bluejay Pierce

Native American Times
Original Publication: March 11, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Senate Indian Affairs Committee convened on Wednesday for a hearing that specifically addressed the crisis levels of suicides in Indian country. The hearing, called by Chairman Byron Dorgan, (D-ND) brought experts and community leadership together to discuss this urgent and increasing epidemic.

Dana Jetty, a 16-year-old North Dakota high school student, testifies March 5 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about the loss of her 14-year-old sister this past November to suicide. Jetty said she and her family seek troubled Indian youth and tell them, “help is out there for you.” Photo courtesy of Senate Indian Affairs

The hearing assessed previously launched initiatives and discussed both the minor progress made in some communities while clarifying critical needs for developing resources to address suicides in total across Indian country.

Dr. R. Dale Walker, director of the One Sky Center at Oregon Health and Sciences University, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation explained that reservation communities lack mental health services.

“We need a systemic vision and inspiring leadership in order to bring together a concerted, coordinated effort. An emphasis in policy and investment on comprehensive vision, coordinated programming, and monitored and enforced collaboration from the highest levels to the front line would be helpful. We all feel a profound ignorance in the face of so shocking an event as suicide,” Dr. Walker stated in his submitted testimony.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest suicide rates in the United States revealing a shocking 70 percent higher rate of suicide than in the general population. Native youth ages 15-24 have suicide rates more than three times higher than the national average. Across the Great Plains, this rate is even higher.

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) told Native American Times, “We need to get to the root of the problem, which is poverty and a lack of hope and opportunity in too many Indian communities. As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I’m working hard to create jobs, and to improve education, health care and housing throughout Indian Country. This will restore hope and opportunity to Indian communities, and it will provide the tools these communities need to become self sufficient.”

Senator Tester has reason for concern when statistics reveal that Montana’s general population of 15-24 year olds have suicide rates that rank third highest in the country, behind Alaska and North Dakota. Addressing suicide is at the top of the list for many health organizations and Tribal representatives all across the Great Plains.

Robert Moore, elected Councilman of the Antelope Community, Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota spoke to the hearing participants as the representative for the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. He reminded the participants of the obligations held in the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie that requires the U.S. Government to provide health care to the Tribes.

“Over the past several years in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe alone, we have witnessed dozens of suicides and hundreds of documented suicide attempts. The situation became so bad that in 2007 our Tribal President declared a State of Emergency in order to draw attention and resources to the problem,” explained Moore.

Senator Byron Dorgan stated that the lack of funding and ignoring treaty obligations was another part of the problem when addressing Native suicide rates at epidemic proportions.

“We need to go back and read the treaties that signed the federal government up for its obligations. Right now, health care rationing takes place on every Indian reservation in America. That is shameful,” Senator Dorgan reminded the hearing participants.

“Forty percent of Indian health care needs go unmet,” stated Dorgan.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, who lost his father to suicide, also attended the hearing. Reid explained from his personal experience that, ”It’s important to break the silence about suicide, too often a taboo subject, and to talk openly about it.”

Perhaps the most moving testimony at the hearing came from Dana Jetty, a 16-year-old high school student from Fort Totten, North Dakota. A member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, Dakota Nation, Jetty recounted the painful events surrounding her 14-year-old sister, Jami, who committed suicide in November.

Jetty told hearing members that her mother had been concerned about her sisters’ well-being, and “did everything right” by taking her sister to doctors and counselors. Following the evaluations, each professional had diagnosed Jami as a “typical teenager.” Then, in November, Jami took her own life.

Dealing with young people on Ihanktonwan Makoce, the Yankton Sioux Reservation is the daily responsibility for Oitancan Zephier, Athletic Director, Assistant Varsity Boys Basketball coach and Physical Education teacher for K-12 students at Marty Indian School in Marty, SD.

Zephier told Native American Times that funding addresses only part of the needs in Indian country as it applies to suicide rates among young people. “We do need more funding. However, we need more community involvement in the teaching of our children. The more involved our communities are in accepting and praising our youth for their accomplishments, the stronger they will be.”

“In the old days, we had buffalo hunts and battles to prove ourselves and earn recognition. These days we have basketball, football, and other avenues to do that. Yet, in my own community, the people, although they love basketball, don’t see the children as winners. Therefore, the children don’t see themselves as winners and don’t have a winning attitude. They don’t develop the self-confidence needed to compete and become strong individuals,” Zephier explained.

“Elders, parents, teachers, and leaders need to promote healthy lifestyles and extra curricular activities. The funding needs to include such things. The federal or state government will give us millions of dollars for a program targeting children with special needs. They won’t give money to prevent those children from becoming problems in society,” Zephier said.

Robert G. McSwain, Director, Indian Health Services, in written testimony provided for the suicide hearing explained that, “Traditional knowledge, along with the role of Elders and spiritual leaders, needs to be respected and validated for the important role they play in healing and wellness. Understanding and decreasing suicide in our communities will require the best holistically and culturally sensitive, collaborative efforts our communities and the agencies that serve them can bring together. We will strive to bridge concepts between American Indian and Alaska Native communities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations in order to effectively prevent suicide.”

Though many recommendations, successes and failures were discussed during the Senate Indian Affairs hearing on suicide, the clearest and most heart-felt plea for action came from Dana Jetty in testifying about her younger sister, Jami.

Jetty left the committee members with her own words to serve as guidance to the leadership by saying, “I ask that you support suicide prevention programs in our tribal communities and I ask that when you have your discussions on the issue of suicide, you remember my sister. She was 14-years-old. She was a beautiful, outgoing teenager with her whole life ahead of her. She was my sister and she is what suicide looks like in Indian Country.”

Copyright © 2009 Native American Times

Photo: Courtesy of Senate Indian Affairs Committee

Native Rights News is making this material from available in accordance with a Creative Commons License. This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.

Read more!

Central Electric Cooperative Cuts Power to Crow Creek Indians in Dead of Winter Endangering Lives of Sick Elders and Children

Families Freezing in Nation's Poorest County: CAN-DO Documents Public Utilities Cut on Crow Creek Reservation

(Los Angeles, CA) Electric company caught "pulling meters" in the poorest community in the nation, leaving America's most vulnerable people without power in the dead of winter. According to CAN-DO, electric companies continue to conduct these practices amid growing public outcry and damning national media scrutiny. Headlines in newspapers across the country highlight unnecessary tragedies as arctic winter months reveal the electric company's controversial conduct of shutting off the community's power, despite the rest of South Dakota having Seasonal Termination Protection Regulations.

Crow Creek, South Dakota (PRWEB) February 25, 2009 -- This winter, the Crow Creek Indian Reservation is experiencing record-low temperatures reaching fifty below zero. Hundreds of families living in government housing have had their electric meters removed by Central Electric Cooperative, the local electric cooperative. When these power meters are pulled the
families are left in the cold; the propane heaters do not run; pipes freeze; and there is no water for cooking, drinking, bathing or flushing toilets. Many of these households have family members whose lives depend upon electronic medical equipment such as defibrillators.

Ironically these families are paying some of the highest electricity rates in the country even though they live adjacent to the Big Bend Hydro-Electric Dam on the Missouri river. These homes are poorly insulated causing electric bills in excess of $300.00 in the coldest months.

Median income in the region is approximately $5,000 a year (typical of the thirteen Lakotah (Sioux) Reservations in the "Great Sioux Nation" as defined in the Treaties of 1851 and 1868 with the US Government).

"I've been to disaster areas around the world including Sri Lanka after the tsunami, hurricane Katrina, and after the Iowa floods, but I have never witnessed such blatant disregard for human life as I have here in my own country on the Crow Creek Reservation," stated Eric Klein, Founder and CEO of Compassion into Action Network - Direct Outcome Organization (CAN-DO). "Especially now, with the new administration focusing on the development of America's infrastructure, we need to focus our energies and resources immediately to address these critical situations where such infrastructure is being blatantly manipulated."

Appalled by the abuse and neglect, one US Marine and Crow Creek resident took action to publicize the exploitation. Using a hand-held video recorder, he documented local power companies physically cutting electricity lines and removing meters in the peak of winter.

Watch the footage at: YOU TUBE

Utilizing their proven approach to providing lasting solutions with full accountability, efficiency and results, CAN-DO is addressing the operation at the Crow Creek Indian Reservation on the local level to raise the nation's awareness of the urgent human right abuses taking place in the South Dakota region.

"We are calling for a collaborative effort by ethical individuals, organizations, schools and political leaders to assure that this damage is reversed," said Klein. "Together, we can contribute to real change here at home."View the complete Crow Creek plan at CAN-DO.ORG.

South Dakota Law states:



49-34A-2. Service required of utilities. Every public utility shall furnish adequate, efficient, and reasonable service.

49-34A-6. Rates to be reasonable and just - Regulation by commission. Every rate made, demanded or received by any public utility shall be just and reasonable. Every unjust or unreasonable rate shall be prohibited. The Public Utilities Commission is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to regulate all rates, fees and charges for the public utility service of all public utilities, including penalty for late payments, to the end that the public shall pay only just and reasonable rates for service rendered.Source: SL 1975, ch 283, § 16.

About CAN-DO:
Founded by Eric Klein, CAN-DO has set a new standard for humanitarianism and is changing the face of philanthropy. It quickly has become an organization people can trust and depend upon to "get it done" fast and effectively. It is a 501c3, relief organization dedicated to working on the local level to provide lasting solutions, with full accountability, efficiency, and results.

Video footage, photographs and the web site offer documentation of the organization's efforts at every phase. CAN-DO supporters take pride in watching their generosity directly affect the lives of those in need through the organization's

CAN-DO's successful missions to bring immediate and direct relief to areas in need have captured the attention of renowned philanthropists including Oprah Winfrey and former president Bill Clinton. The organization was recently awarded the Global Compassion Award at the United Nations for its global impact, unparalleled transparency and accountability. For further information, please visit CAN-DO.ORG or email Eric Klein at

About the Republic of Lakota:The Republic of Lakota is an organization from the Sioux Indian reservations of Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana dedicated to serving the Lakota communities through political activism, education, health, energy/economics, international awareness, and the promotion of sustainable/energy efficient housing. For further information, please visit or call 605-867-1111.
Copyright © 2009 Entrepreneur Media, Inc.

Native Rights News is making this material from Entrepreneur Network available in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine codified at Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.

Read more!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dodson Says Australia Set to Sign UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples as Early as Last Two Weeks of May

Australia will sign UN charter on indigenous rights: Dodson
Joel Gibson Indigenous Affairs Reporter

The Sydney Morning Herald
March 12, 2009

AUSTRALIA could reverse its position on a United Nations charter of indigenous rights as early as May, the Australian of the Year, Professor Mick Dodson, says.

The Howard government had misgivings that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would elevate customary law above Western law and conflict with aspects of government policy. But it is Rudd Government policy to support the declaration and it has been looking for a way to reconcile support with its own approach to indigenous affairs.

The declaration, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007 after more than two decades of drafting, outlines the rights of an estimated 370 million indigenous people around the world.

Only Australia, the US, New Zealand and Canada voted against it.

The shadow attorney-general, Senator George Brandis, has warned that the declaration includes provisions "that go well beyond the rights recognised in Australian domestic law".

He said it conferred the right to seek compensation for land taken without permission and to veto projects affecting land, without providing recognition for the rights of third parties.

The Northern Territory intervention, which the Rudd Government will alter in the second half of this year, breaches about half of the charter's 46 articles, according to Claire Smith, an intervention critic and academic at Flinders University.

Professor Dodson said an announcement was imminent, in an interview published yesterday. "The Labor Party's politics has always been to support the declaration, to endorse the declaration. They're going to do that and it may be as soon as the next meeting of the Permanent Forum which will be at the UN headquarters in New York City in the last two weeks of May."

But he remained concerned that the Government's support would be watered down by "too many riders or qualifications or explanatory statements".

Yesterday the Government would say only that it supported the declaration's underlying principles and was "consulting with indigenous organisations, State and Territory governments and other key stakeholders on an appropriate public statement to reflect this".

Meanwhile, the United Nations has agreed to investigate a complaint against the intervention. The case, which claims the intervention is racially discriminatory, is being run by lawyers including George Newhouse on behalf of a group in the NT.

Copyright © 2009. Fairfax Digital

Native Rights News is making this material from The Sydney Morning Herald available in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine codified at Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.

Read more!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Karuk Tribe Vows to Protect Traditional Fishing Grounds on Klamath River from Recreational Miners

Klamath Tribe battles ‘recreational genocide’

Native American Times

March 16, 2009

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Over the past many months, new threats to the Klamath River salmon populations have prompted decisive action by the Karuk Tribe in California. Leaf Hillman, Vice-Chairman for the Tribe, told Native American Times in an interview this week that the recent attacks upon their ancestral fishing grounds are, “Nothing more than Recreational Genocide.”

Dams, drought, developmental expansion and environmental contaminations have plagued the local rivers and experts have said that California may be faced with the worst fisheries collapse in history.

In 2008, the Karuk Tribe, California Trout, and Friends of the North Fork formally petitioned California Fish and Game to restrict suction dredge mining. This controversial gold mining technique has brought strong criticism from local groups who demand that state agencies limit the recreational mining technique.

The Karuk, aided by support from the Tsi-Akim Maidu Tribe, the Sierra Fund, various sport-fishing groups, and several other conservation organizations are fighting to protect the endangered fish populations. Despite strong opposition by all of these groups, the agency decided not to act on the petition, allowing the recreational mining to continue.

As a result of the Karuk Tribe filing a lawsuit in 2006, the Fish and Game department is under a court order to re-write mining permit rules statewide. Due to extreme budget constraints in California, however, the agency has yet to act on the new mining rule mandate.

Recently, a recreational gold mining club, referring to themselves as, “The New 49ers,” legally challenged the Karuk Tribe’s right to fish at their ancestral fishing area, Ishi Pishi Falls. The hobbyist miners contend that this violation of the California state constitution, allows the Tribe to kill far more salmon than gold mining and other activities combined and that the commission has illegally granted fishing privileges to a specific group of people, specifically, the Karuks.

Dr. Craig Tucker, spokesman for the Karuk, told Native American Times, “Depending on how far the mining groups want to challenge the ancestral fishing rights, the tribe may seek federal fishing rights as a remedy. In the meantime, we are asking the Department of Fish and Game Director, Don Koch, to immediately implement emergency restrictions on where and when suction dredging can take place. This same authority is used to restrict recreational and commercial fishing when the fish runs are low.”

The groups banding together to protect the fish species in the Klamath River are battling against a mining process called “suction dredging.” These dredges, powered by gas or diesel engines, use powerful vacuum hoses to pull the gravel and sediment from the bottom of riverbeds. This sediment material passes through a sluice box and allows the heavier gold particles to settle into a series of riffles. After the gold is removed, the balance of the dredged material is often dumped back into the river.

This dredging technique is known to redistribute toxic mercury into the environment. As stated in earlier press reports, Izzy Martin, Director of the Sierra Fund, explained, “There is a lot of mercury settled on the bottom of these rivers as the result of gold mining operations in the 1800’s. Dredging reintroduces mercury to the stream creating a toxic hazard for fish and people.”

Mercury contamination has become a global concern as it applies to fish species in that testing has revealed increasingly high levels of mercury in fish populations that may be harmful when consumed. Exposure to mercury can lead to mental retardation, birth defects and neurological damage.

Suction dredging has come increasingly under attack as declining numbers of fish species such as steelhead, Coho salmon, green sturgeon, and lamprey are reported. Damage to the spawning grounds for the fish and the environmental impacts to critical river habitats are drawing the varied groups, including the Karuk Tribe, to take strong action to stop recreational mining.

“Dredging disturbs spawning gravels and kills salmon eggs and immature lamprey that reside in the gravel for up to seven years before maturing. In a system like the Klamath where salmon can be stressed due to poor water quality, having a dredge running in the middle of the stream affects the fishes ability to reach their spawning grounds,” explained Toz Soto, lead fisheries biologist for the Karuk Tribe, in previous press reports.

California Fish and Game manages suction dredge permits and opponents to this type of mining state that the CFG sustains a significant financial loss since the mining fees fail to cover expenses. Figures given by these groups explain that this amounts to spending $1.25 million per year to subsidize the destruction of California fisheries by gold mining hobbyists.

Many of the recreational miners come into California from other states because the mining laws are less restrictive there.

The Karuk Tribe, indigenous to the Klamath River region, states that the threat to them is greater than ever. Vice-Chairman Hillman told Native American Times, “The first gold rush killed more than half our people in 10 years. This modern gold rush continues to kill our fish and our culture.”

Hillman added, “The salmon populations have been effected in so many ways from dams on the rivers to environmental damage and mining. As it is now, we cannot harvest enough fish for our ceremonies or to meet our families’ food needs. The recreational gold miners are just a repeat of what began over 100 years ago.”

Though the Karuk Tribe does harvest salmon for food and ceremonial use only, the Tribe rarely harvests more than 200 fish. Since the population of the Tribe is approximately 4,200 members, the amount of fish taken from Ishi Pishi Falls doesn’t begin to meet the needs of their members. With recent drought warnings across California being issued, the Karuk fear that the salmon numbers will be far less given the stresses all ready upon the fish.

In response to the newest attacks from the recreational gold miners, The New 49-ers, Leaf Hillman stated, “Our fishing grounds have been used by the Karuk long before this land was called ‘America.’ We still use traditional dip nets to fish for the migrating salmon and our way of catching them allows us to release the more endangered species back into the river so that their populations can increase.”

Vice Chairman Hillman concluded by telling Native American Times, “We will not be removed from our traditional fishing grounds in favor of these miners. Harvesting and consuming salmon is a fundamental part of our Karuk culture. The recreational miners now threaten more than the survival of fish, they threaten the culture of the Karuk.”


Copyright © 2009 Native American Times

Native Rights News is making this material from available in accordance with a Creative Commons License. This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.

Read more!
Add to Technorati Favorites