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Kickapoo Tribe Files Lawsuit Against U.S. and Local Officials for Water Rights
The Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas relies on water from the Delaware River for consumption, but they are suffering from a serious water shortage and water quality problem. Their plans for a solution have been blocked by a disagreement with local officials. In turn, the tribe announced a lawsuit against the local watershed board, the state of Kansas and the U.S. government. The tribe filed its lawsuit in the middle of June in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, naming 14 federal, state and local officials as defendants.
The tribe’s proposed solution to their water problems is a reservoir project. Local officials say this can’t happen unless more money is offered. And now the question of who has senior water rights lies at the center of the dispute. Meanwhile, one tribal member told a reporter for the KansasCityChannel “We are crying for help. We must have water, or we won’t hold out much longer.”

  • Damon Williams, General Counsel for the Kickapoo tribe in Kansas.
Link for more information: The Native American Rights Fund

Lakota Teacher Fights for Language Rights in Public School
The issue of language has been in the news recently as a component of the “path to citizenship” for immigrants coming to the U.S. In May, the Senate passed immigration legislation that would create a program permitting undocumented immigrants who had resided in the United States for five years or more to "earn" their citizenship after paying a fine and back taxes, learning English and holding a job for six years. But as lawmakers push for more incentives to learn English, how are the first languages of this continent faring? Throughout Indian country, the fight is on to keep ancient languages from crumbling under the weight of English. Language revitalization programs are on the rise as activists struggle to get the youth interested and to make it clear that the language is still relevant. In 1995, the Alaska Native Language Center found that of 175 indigenous languages still spoken in the United States, 155 were on the verge of disappearing because children no longer learned them.

  • Susana Geliga, director of the Little White Buffalo Project, teaches the Lakota language at a public high school in South Dakota.
To contact the Little White Buffalo Project: P.O. Box 6203, Rapid City, SD 57709

News and Announcements

Fire Thunder Goes to Trial
Suspended president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota Cecilia Fire Thunder will go before the tribal council today for her third impeachment hearing. The hearing was called over Fire Thunder's public opposition to the state's restrictive abortion law. Fire Thunder said in an interview with Indian Country Today “I got really angry about a bunch of white guys in the state Legislature making decisions about my body, again." Fire Thunder was ordered not to talk to the media but she told ICT she couldn't remain silent as Native women continue to suffer sexual and physical abuse, many of them at the hands of non-Indians. She said ''The abortion issue is the key that opens the padlock to sexual deviancy that is occurring on the Pine Ridge reservation,” referring to rape and incest. Critics say her call to open a women's clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation went against traditional Lakota values. They say she solicited funds for the clinic in violation of tribal law. The tribal council subsequently suspended Fire Thunder and outlawed abortion. Some tribal members have started a drive to put a ban on abortion in the tribe's constitution.

EPA Know of Hazardous Waste Dump Near U.S./Mexico Border
Documents show a hazardous waste dump planned by the Mexican government and a private company near Tohono O’odham ceremonial grounds was kept secret from the Indigenous peoples. The documents show the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knew about the dump nearly one year before O’odham in Mexico were informed. Indian Country Today obtained the EPA reports that describe the dump and say “No significant impacts” were expected. The EPA knew Mexico had issued state and federal permits to store 45,000 tons of asbestos, organocholorides and industrial waste sludge. The permit is for 50 years in the O’odham community of Quitovac, where annual sacred ceremonies are held. Whistleblowers exposed the hazardous waste dump in February 2006, but most O’odham learned of the dump months later. According to Indian Country Today, O’odham said the government entities are working in collusion and ignoring the impact on the traditional O’odham communities and their culture and spiritual well-being. O’odham in the state of Sonora said the hazardous waste dump would expose children to deadly toxins, contaminate underground well water, desecrate ceremonial grounds and affect those who depend on tourism for livelihood.

Canadian Native Groups Cancel Rail Blockade
Canadian aboriginal groups canceled a planned blockade of Canadian National Railway lines set for Thursday, after the company agreed to lobby Ottawa to help resolve natives' outstanding land claims, both groups said on Wednesday. CN Rail had asked the courts to stop Indian groups in the western province of Manitoba from carrying out threats to block rail lines in an effort to draw attention to their land claims disputes with the federal government. The groups requested on Wednesday that the matter be put aside in court after each had made oral commitments. According to Reuters, Rondeau River First Nation Chief Terrance Nelson said his community will rally next to a CN line about 60 miles south of Winnipeg that leads south to the United States. Another group intends to rally at a domestic CN line.

Interior Official Charged in Abramoff Scandal
The first official charge in connection with the Jack Abramoff scandal has been made against an Interior Department official. Roger Stillwell is expected to plead guilty next month to a misdemeanor charge. He worked closely with Abramoff, whose clients included U.S. territorial governments that fall under Interior's jurisdiction. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee released a report a week ago on its Abramoff investigation. The report urges tribes to develop contracting and conflict of interest laws to ensure that legal, lobbying and other contracts are subjected to an open and transparent process. The committee also urged tribes to strengthen their elections process

Bush Administration Withholds $300M from Indian Housing
The Bush administration's decision to withhold up to $300 million in Indian housing funds came under fire on Wednesday. Key members of Congress questioned why the Department of Housing and Urban Administration appeared to be punishing nearly every single federally recognized tribe by denying them access to their money. They suggested a legislative fix may be needed to prevent what tribal housing leaders predicted would be a total disaster. Sen. Byron Dorgan, the vice chairman of the Senate Indian affairs committee said HUD was going overboard by tying up the entire program over a lawsuit filed by just one tribe. The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana filed a lawsuit after HUD claimed they received excess funds under the Native American Housing and Self-determination Act. Marty Shuravaloff, the newly elected president of the National American Indian Housing Council, said some tribes may have to stop building homes altogether as a result of the administration's move.

Ward Churchill To Appeal Dismissal
Ward Churchill has vowed to appeal his firing through university channels and file a federal lawsuit if his appeal fails. The University of Colorado professor now faces dismissal for alleged research misconduct. Churchill ignited a furious controversy with a 2001 essay that compared some of the World Trade Center victims to Adolf Eichmann, who orchestrated the Holocaust. On Wednesday he called the investigation of his work "a farce" and said he is being singled out because he is a dissident scholar. Ward Churchill told The Associated Press no scholar's work could stand up to the scrutiny he is under. University officials concluded his essay was protected by the Constitution but they ordered an investigation into his scholarship. A faculty committee concluded last month that Churchill committed "serious, repeated, and deliberate research misconduct," and Interim Chancellor Philip DeStefano said Monday the university should fire him.

Canadian Tribe Rejects Treaty Money as Insult
The Chief of the West Point First Nation in the Northwest territories of Canada is demanding more money from the federal government for annuities after receiving a check for an amount which she called “an insult”. The government sent Chief Karen Felker a check for $216, that’s $3 a person for the 72-member band for their hunting and fishing allowance. It’s a legal provision under a Treaty signed in 1921. The government originally agreed to send ammunition and twine for hunting and fishing but replaced it with money in the early 1990s without consulting the band. Chief Felker sent the check back to Ottawa this month with a warning that it won’t accept any more money until the federal government accounts for inflation or at least send actual hunting supplies. A spokeswoman for the federal government’s Indian and Northern Affairs Department said the West Point First Nation’s money will be put in a special fund and returned in full if the band eventually decides to collect it. Other bands are applauding the West Point Chief’s demand.

Announcement: Upcoming IEN Conference
And then this announcement: Next week will be the 14th Annual Protecting Mother Earth Conference. An Indigenous International Grassroots Environemental Gathering. It begins next Thursday, July 6th and ends on Sunday the 9th. You can go to www.ienearth.org for more information. We’ll be webstreaming the many workshops and speeches taking place. There are activists convening from Alaska, Arizona, Montana, well, from all corners of Indian country. You can get information on webstreaming from the IEN website: www.ienearth.org