This Week’s Current Events Roundup

Native America focuses on a number of communities in order to tell the story of Native American people in what became the continental United States.  In the past few days, news stories have appeared connected to the tribes and nations we focus upon in the book that you might want to share with your students.

According to the Newport News Daily Press, the Pamunkeys of Virginia, one of the constituent nations that belonged to the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom, are looking into the possibility of opening a “destination resort with legal gaming and employing 4000 full-time workers somewhere in eastern Virginia.”  The project, with a proposed budget in the vicinity of $700 million, is still in the planning stages.  The Pamunkeys were not one of the six Virginia tribes to recently receive recognition through long-delayed Congressional legislation–those tribes were barred by the law signed by President Trump for engaging in gaming.  The Pamunkeys, who earned recognition in 2016 through the BIA process created back in 1978, face no such prohibition in gaming.  Sovereignty matters.  It can bring jobs that enliven native communities and provide employment to native and non-native workers.  Meanwhile, the Kiowas have opened this week a new gaming facility in Carnegie, Oklahoma: 117 gaming machines and a cafe.  It’s a relatively small operation, according to a press release, but “the Kiowa Tribe prides itself on its Las Vegas-style guest experience at each location, bringing big entertainment to the local communities.” And in the Cherokee Phoenix, a story appeared on how the Cherokee Nation will break ground on the new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah on 26 March, a sizable development involving gaming and destination shopping.  The Cherokees and Kiowas may be able to take advantage of changes in Oklahoma gaming laws that, if adopted, will permit “casino games that use a ball or dice” in Native American casinos.  The legislation passed the Oklahoma Senate and is headed for the statehouse.  According to its advocates, the legislation will “raise an estimated $22 million for the state in the first year and $45 million in the second year.”  According to the NewsOK website,

Ten percent of a tribe’s winnings from table games are sent back to the state, along with percentages of revenues generated from certain electronic games. From the state’s share, $250,000 goes to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services each year and the rest is split with 12 percent directed toward a fund used for general state appropriations, while 88 percent is earmarked for public education.

The roulette games will increase the amount of money collected by the state from the compacts it negotiates with gaming tribes, in essence a tax on people who are really bad at math.

And if you have been following the news, you likely saw something about the teacher strike in West Virginia, and the poor pay experienced by teachers in Oklahoma.  Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation proposed “and the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved—a lump sum payment of $5,000 to all certified teachers, effective immediately. Additionally, certified teacher pay will increase by $5,000, effective the beginning of teacher contracts in FY18-19.”  Tribes are using their resources to attract motivated educators to work in their communities.  Well-paid teachers are happy teachers.

On this blog I have written a lot about the entire #MMIWG movement.  The federal government has done little in the United States, so some tribes are acting on their own.  In Minnesota, Tribes United Against Trafficking (TRUST), comprised of representatives from eleven tribes, have established a program “working on training tribal police, casino surveillance staff, and staff at local hotels to recognize instances of sex trafficking and help tribes create a coordinated method of responding to the crime and helping victims.”

I have tried to keep an eye as well on recent attacks on the Indian Child Welfare Act.  The conservative Goldwater Institute has continued its assault on this important piece of legislation, claiming victory in an Ohio case involving a child from the Gila River Indian Community.  You can read the decision here. Graham Lee Brewer published last week an essay explaining why these conservative attacks on the ICWA are so menacing a threat to Native American communities.  Your students can read it here.

For Indigenous affairs in Canada, and the nation’s movements toward “reconciliation,” be sure to check out the CBC project “Beyond 94: Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.”  The website tracks progress on each of the ninety-four “Calls to Action” that resulted from the work of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. So far, only ten of the 94 have been completed.

It has been hard to find good news coming out of Indian country as of late.  The racial fallout from two recent murder trials has shown that native peoples cannot expect justice from juries and judges in Canada.  In the United States, assaults on Native American lands continue, from Standing Rock to Bears Ears.  And as our Clown Prince of Mar-a-Lago continues to blunder his way around the presidency, it is perhaps not surprising that an unprecedented number of Native American people have decided to run for elective office. Even the New York Times, taking a break from its practice of interviewing Trump voters who seem to do little but sit in diners, ran a story on this important development.

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