Native American student denied diploma after wearing tribal feather in her mortarboard

June 04, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege


From Salon:

Alabama high school graduate Chelsey Ramer was fined $1,ooo and denied her diploma and transcripts after wearing an eagle feather attached to her mortarboard as a symbol of her Native American heritage.

Ramer is a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, and had previously attempted to appeal the school policy banning students from wearing “extraneous items” with the school’s headmaster, but her request was denied. “About two months ago, me and the other Indian seniors from the graduating class asked our headmaster if we could wear the feathers on our caps,” Ramer told Indian Country Today Media Network. “She told us ‘no’ and that if we did, she would pull us off the field.”

Ramer wore the feather anyway, saying it was important to her to represent her heritage. “Being honored with a feather for graduation is a wonderful experience. It’s a lot more than showing off your culture. It has ties into our spirituality as well,” Ramer’s former teacher Alex Alvarez told WMPI-TV.

Now, more than a week since the graduation ceremony took place, Escambia Academy High School is still withholding Ramer’s diploma. Ramer has appealed the fine and may seek legal counsel, but says she does not regret the decision to wear the feather in her cap: ”It was worth it. It means a lot to me,” she said.

Thanksgiving Takeaways

November 21, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege

From Indian Country Today:

The U.S. has long treated Indian religion and creation stories as quaint myths, but it sure holds dearly to its own mythical stories of creation. The colonizer’s myth of the first Thanksgiving is a delightful story where Native nations of the east broke bread with the colonists of the “new world.” Native peoples, however, know the full fabrication of the historical circumstances surrounding this celebration. But one thing that cannot be forgotten is the central role that food plays in this historical pageant. Food takes center stage in this narrative because Native peoples were in control of their food.

Connecting the dots between vibrant Native food systems and economies, however, is far from complicated. Agricultural and food-systems production provided the backbone of trade and exchange for most Indian nations. One aspect of American history rarely receives attention was the U.S. government’s strategy to deliberately starve Indians into submission by deliberately destroying their food systems—whether it was George Washington’s torching of hundreds of thousands of bushels of Iroquois corn, or the willful destruction of the fields and orchards of the Apache and Pueblo people.

Roughly 400 years after this first Thanksgiving, many Native peoples are dependent upon public assistance to eat, including the USDA’s commodity food program. Statistics also tell us that Native people in 22 states receive commodity food, and that approximately one in four Native households is “food insecure,” and do not have enough to eat. Moreover, another one in 10 households is experiencing hunger. We can easily connect the dots between the current state of Native food systems, and Indian peoples’ lack of control, and horrifying Native health statistics.

Health studies show that six of 10 Native Americans are likely to develop type 2 diabetes—mostly the result of poor dietary health—and have higher instances of obesity and heart disease. It is troubling that diabetes was essentially unknown among Indians in 1912, and still clinically nonexistent in 1930. Today, Indians suffer diabetes more than twice the national average (some places, the rate is much higher), and it is consuming more and more American Indian health-care resources. A final startling fact, from “State of the Science: A Cultural View of Native Americans and Diabetes Prevention.” In it Edwards and Patchell alarmingly report that per-capita health care expenditures in 2003 were $3,803 for each federal prisoner, but only $1,914 per capita in the federal allotment to Indian Health Services. How can we not conclude that spending priorities on health are directly linked to access to care and health outcomes.

American Indian Activist Russell Means Dies at Age 72

October 22, 2012 By: seeta Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Terrorism, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty

Russell Means was an early leader of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and led its armed occupation of the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, a 71-day siege that included several gunbattles with federal officers. (Jim Mone / AP)

From LAT:

Russell Means, who gained international notoriety as one of the leaders of the 71-day armed occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973 and continued to be an outspoken champion of American Indian rights after launching a career as an actor in films and television in the 1990s, has died. He was 72.

Means died Monday at his home in Porcupine, S.D., his family announced on his website,

The nation’s most visible American Indian activist, Means was a passionate militant leader who helped thrust the historic and ongoing plight of Native Americans into the national spotlight.

In joining the fledgling American Indian Movement in 1969, Means later wrote, he had found a new purpose in life and vowed to “get in the white man’s face until he gave me and my people our just due.”

Diagnosed with throat cancer in July 2011 and told that it had spread too far for surgery, Means refused to undergo heavy doses of radiation and chemotherapy. Instead, he reportedly battled the disease with traditional native remedies and received treatments at an alternative cancer center in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I’m not going to argue with the Great Mystery,” he told the Rapid City Journal in August 2011. “Lakota belief is that death is a change of worlds. And I believe like my dad believed. When it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.”

Pine Ridge Reservation Deaths To Be Reinvestigated

August 19, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege

From NPR:

In the late 1960s, Native Americans fed up with what they saw as years of mistreatment by the federal government formed an organization known as the American Indian Movement.

Founded in Minnesota, the group followed in the footsteps of the civil rights movement and took up protests across the country. One of those protests took place in 1973, when some AIM members occupied the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Their protest followed the murder of an Oglala Lakota man and the failed impeachment of a tribal president that AIM members accused of corruption. The protests escalated into a violent standoff with federal authorities.

The 71-day siege was only the beginning of turmoil on Pine Ridge. Local residents, such as AIM member Milo Yellowhair, say the violence continued for years.

Yellowhair says the violence in the 1970s left behind a festering wound. Many on the Pine Ridge reservation think FBI officials backed the tribal police in carrying out assaults and murders against AIM supporters.

Today, widespread mistrust of the federal government continues, so much so that the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government recently asked U.S Attorney Brendan Johnson to look at 45 deaths that tribal officials believe have not seen justice. The cases include two unsolved execution-style murders in 1998. Johnson says he agreed to re-examine all 45 cases in question.

Oregon Joins Wisconsin in Banning Native American Mascots

May 21, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Imperialism, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege


n a 5-1 vote on Thursday, May 17 the Oregon Board of Education decided the fate of Native American mascots in the state’s schools—they will be no more.

While many districts complained that changing logos would cost too much, the board chose to join Wisconsin in the fight to end the stereotyping by banning Native American mascots—Wisconsin was the first in 2010.

At least 15 schools across the state have five years to get rid of the offensive images or face losing state funding. The ban specifically prohibits the use of names, symbols or images that refer to Native tribes, customs or traditions. Specific names that have been banned include “Redskins,” “Savages,” “Indians,” and “Braves,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

This is stricter than the Wisconsin ban, which allows district residents to lodge a complaint about an offensive mascot and then requires the school to prove that the mascot does not promote discrimination.

New Legislation to End Violence Against Native Women

March 08, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Imperialism, International Law, Intersectionality, Poverty, White Privilege


On February 2nd, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Originally passed in 1994, VAWA has combined criminal justice, social services and community-based initiatives to enhance the prevention and response to violence against women.

This reauthorization is all the more crucial this year because VAWA now also incorporates the groundbreaking new protections for Native American and Alaska Native Women found in the SAVE Native Women Act, such as clarifying tribal civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders. These protections will help address many of the safety and justice challenges faced by Native women in the United States and documented in our 2007 Maze of Injustice report.

For the first time, VAWA would restore the authority of tribal governments to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence. Why is this so important? Because without this ability, Native women survivors of domestic violence are too often denied the ability hold their perpetrators accountable. This is in violation of international law and U.S. constitutional guarantees. Without justice, Native women survivors are being unlawfully ignored.

Violence against women in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions, especially against Native American and Alaska Native women. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime, compared to the one in five of other women in the U.S. And 85% of these rapes are committed by non-Native individuals.

Apologies Not Enough For Native Language Debacle

March 06, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Education, Imperialism, Intersectionality, White Privilege


Miranda Washinawatok, Menominee, and her family have been in the public eye since the 12-year-old was punished back on January 19 for using her Native American language in class.

The family has received apology letters from the teacher who reprimanded Miranda, the assistant coach who benched her from that night’s basketball game and the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. But Tanaes Washinawatok, Miranda’s mother, still feels three people have earned termination.

She’s asking the Catholic Diocese, which runs Sacred Heart Catholic School in Shawano, Wisconsin, to remove the principal, the teacher and the assistant coach.

Tanaes said that Julie Gurta, the homeroom teacher who reprimanded Miranda, didn’t accept responsibility for her actions, but blamed a lack of communication.

“Any disciplinary actions taken were not targeting the use of her Native language,” Gurta wrote, reported The Shawano Leader. “Rather, disciplinary actions were taken in response to the disrespectful comments and behaviors exhibited by Miranda over the course of the entire day.”

Gurta goes on in the letter to apologize for not bringing these issues to the attention of the family sooner, but does apologize for her actions. Native News Netork reported that she slammed her hands on Miranda’s desk and said: “You are not to speak like that! How do I know you’re not saying something bad? How would you like it if I spoke in Polish and you didn’t understand?”

Navajo Nation Sues Urban Outfitters

March 05, 2012 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Terrorism, Imperialism, Intersectionality, White Privilege

From IndianCountryToday:

In a sequel to the drama that unfolded in the fall, the Navajo Nation has sued Urban Outfitters for trademark infringement and violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

Last year, the Navajo Nation sent Urban Outfitters a cease and desist letter demanding it stop promoting items in its store such as socks, underwear and plastic trinkets as “Navajo.” A public furor erupted in October when a member of the Santee Sioux nation distributed “An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day.” With bloggers hurling outrage and mainstream media picking up the story, Urban Outfitters quietly pulled the controversial items from its website.

The Nation’s lawsuit, filed [last week] in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, addresses Navajo-branded items in Urban Outfitters catalogs and sold by different arms of the Philadelphia-based company, such as Free People.

The lawsuit states, according to an AP report, “The fame or reputation of the Navajo name and marks is such that, when defendant uses the ‘Navajo’ and ‘Navaho’ marks with its goods and services, a connection with the Navajo Nation is falsely presumed.”

Federal Complaint