News 4-7-11

After almost a century, a Lake Superior band of Chippewa is just weeks away from getting part of their tribal home back. The U.S. Department of Interior has agreed to return 15 acres of land on Wisconsin Point in Superior, land taken from the Fond du Lac Band in 1918, when tribal members were evicted from their village and treated as trespassers. Documents filed with the Department of the Interior say U.S. Steel wanted to build ore docks there, and the village and Indian graveyards were in their way. Many of the graves were removed, but many remain.

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The Department of Justice has opened a criminal inquiry into the August 30, 2010 fatal shooting of John T. Williams by Seattle, Washington police officer Ian Birk, now resigned. Williams, who was deaf and a member of the Dididaht First Nation of British Columbia, was shot 5 times by Officer  Birk. Williams was walking down the street carving a piece of wood at the time. The shooting was unjustified, but the former officer, Ian Birk, isn't being charged in a Washington court for the incident.  "The Department was previously monitoring the local investigation and now that their review is complete, we will conduct an independent review of the facts to determine if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil-rights laws," a spokesperson from the Department of Justice told The Seattle Times.

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In an article from the Native Sun News written and reported by Talli Nauman titled “Radiation high on South Dakota reservations,” it states that Defenders of the Black Hills, a non-profit environmental watchdog group, has done some testing in the area over the last 6 years and found high levels of radiation on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Cheyenne River  Indian Reservation, Lower Brule Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, as well as the city of Yankton and in the Angostura Reservoir. The U.S. Forest Service states there are 89 abandoned uranium mines in Northwest South Dakota as well 200 abandoned uranium mines upstream from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The high levels of radiation on these reservations are known to cause cancer.

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A documentary that follows Shoni Schimmel, Umatilla basketball star, formerly in Portland, Oregon and now playing for the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, will be showing  at the Tribeca Film Festival, in Manhattan, New York. The film, “Off the Rez,” is produced by Nelson Hernandez, and follows Shoni Schimmel’s outstanding 2010 season at Franklin High School in Portland, Oregon.  “I’m hoping it opens people’s eyes to give more Native American athletes a shot," producer Nelson Hernandez told The New York Post of the documentary.

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The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association passed a resolution last month that opposes the use of Indians as mascots with a vote of 11-0 with 5 tribes not present for the meeting.  The resolutions states that “the use of American Indians for school nicknames, logos and mascots at colleges and universities continues to be dehumanizing and disrespectful to American Indians and is a racist statement.” The vote came after North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) signed into law a bill to save the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo at the University of North Dakota. The university was moving to retire the name before lawmakers intervened.  The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association represents tribes in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska.

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