Here is a summary of some of the top Native American-related headlines around the U.S. this week:
November Proclaimed Native American Heritage Month
U.S. President Joe Biden Monday declared November a time to “celebrate Indigenous peoples past and present and rededicate ourselves to honoring Tribal sovereignty, promoting Tribal self-determination, and upholding the United States’ solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations.”
“America has not always delivered on its promise of equal dignity and respect for Native Americans,” the President wrote. “For centuries, broken treaties, dispossession of ancestral lands, and policies of assimilation and termination sought to decimate Native populations and their ways of life.”
Even so, he noted that Indigenous Americans, their governments and communities have prevailed and flourished.
“As we look ahead, my Administration will continue to write a new and better chapter in the story of our Nation-to-Nation relationships,” he pledged.
Kansas Schools Face Pressure to Drop Native American Mascots
The state of Kansas is home to four federally recognized tribes: the Iowa Tribe, the Kickapoo Tribe, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Sac and Fox Nation.
The state is also home to almost thirty school districts with sports teams using Native American-themed names like Braves, Warriors, Redmen and the racial slur, R—skins.
In October, the recently formed Kansas Advisory Council for Indigenous Education, which includes representatives from all four tribes, called on the Kansas State Board of Education to press schools to abandon the mascots, a matter that could be decided when the board meets again on November 9. See video below to hear their recommendations and reactions from educators.
The board lacks authority to force school districts to change their mascots. That would be up to the local boards of education.
And, as Kansas Public Radio noted, their recommendation may not be enough to “overcome decades of tradition and identity invested in mascots that communities often see as honoring American Indians rather than symbols of racist stereotyping.”
New Mexico Pueblo Turns to Tradition in Face of Climate Threats
Fortune Magazine this week reports that Pueblo citizens are turning to tradition to fight the effects of the worst megadrought in more than 1,000 years.
For three hundred years, the Tewa people of what is today the Santa Clara Pueblo lived in cliff dwellings near Española, New Mexico, until drought conditions drove them ten miles east to the banks of the Rio Grande.
Today, the Santa Clara Pueblo is once again under threat: it has suffered three large wildfires in just over a dozen years. The worst was the June 2011 Las Conchas fire that burned more than 6,710 hectares—about half of the entire reservation. When rain finally came—just a quarter inch—it set off devastating flash floods that drained ponds and unleashed boulders, trees and sediment.
They are now engaged in a race against time and climate change, using both modern science and traditional farming and burning techniques to restore their land, forests and waterways.
Google’s New Logo Features ‘Little Brother to War’
Google users this week may have noticed that its latest logo celebrates Indigenous North American stickball, one of America’s oldest team sports.
Marlena Myles, a Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee artist and illustrator based in St. Paul, Minnesota, designed the logo, and explained to Google what stickball, represents to Native communities.
“It’s a healing sport for the whole community, people aren’t just playing to win, but are playing for their community’s health. This sport has played an active role through the generations in our many Tribes, and it will continue to do so,” she said.
As VOA has previously reported, stickball is sometimes called “the little brother to war,” as it was historically seen as a healthier alternative to solving conflicts by going to war.
The rules of the game are simple: Team members use long wooden sticks with woven cups at one end to scoop up and drive a small ball toward goals at either end of the playing field. Players do not wear any protective gear or shoes and they are not allowed to use their hands.
To learn more about stickball, watch video below:
Native American Fashion Showcased
Denver Arts and Venues recently hosted a fashion show featuring Native American designers with historic ties to Colorado and nearby states. Kelly Holmes, the Cheyenne River Lakota founder of Native Max Magazine, curated and produced the runway event. VOA reporter Scott Stearns was there and filed this video report: