Tag Archives: Native American

11/17/2011 Indian Country Today: Growing Native American Student Base at Yale Prompts More Space

11/17/2011 Indian Country Today: Growing Native American Student Base at Yale Prompts More Space By ICTMN Staff: Next fall the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) at Yale University will get its own house, instead of sharing space with the Asian American Cultural Center, like it currently does.This move is to help NACC increase its presence on campus and to give the largest Native American class ever—roughly 40 students—at Yale space of their own.

Having its own space puts NACC on par with the other cultural centers on campus. “It’s a matter of equity—the Native American community has long been the only cultural center without its own distinct space,” said Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, a professor of history and American studies and member of the NACC Advisory Board. “Having autonomy over this new space will have an extraordinary impact on the development of the NACC. As everyone who has ever lived with a roommate knows, it’s hard to share space.”

Having a place of their own is important to many who have left their tribal homes behind to pursue higher education.

“I come from a very distinct background,” Chris Brown, Navajo, Class of ’15, told Christopher Peak, of Yale Daily News. “It’s complete sand and desert, painted valleys and rock walls. I live on a table-top mesa. Coming here is very different.”

Having a place to celebrate his heritage will help him on his way to academic success.

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Yale Dean Mary Miller feels the new space will contribute to that, saying “strong cultural houses with robust programs contribute to and support academic success.”

Ned Blackhawk, Western Shoshone, a professor of history and American studies and member of the NACC Advisory Board, thinks the new house will enable NACC to expand its outreach and ability to hold events.

“Ideally, the new, expanded NACC can enrich Native American as well as other Yale students’ experiences through expanded outreach efforts to local, national and indeed global indigenous communities,” he said. He also hopes to add programs that can connect NACC alumni with current students.

The new center may also help to attract Native students to Yale, something the school has struggled with in the past. The school now has two Native outreach coordinators in the admissions office, and Yale uses College Horizons—a summer camp where Native students get help on writing college applications—as a way to recruit.

This is far better than recruitment efforts of the late 1980s, which had 1993 graduate John Bathke spending his freshman year spring break driving across the Navajo Nation Reservation—an area that spans three states—in his aunt’s truck.

“Yale didn’t really recruit Indians [at the time],” Bathke, founder of Association for Native American Students at Yale (ANAAY) and a student recruitment coordinator during his time at Yale, told Peak. “The only Indians that came were happenstance, ones that fell into the system.”

Native American students at Yale are looking forward to a bigger NACC presence on campus because many say other students don’t realize they are there.

“Most people don’t know we exist cause we don’t have a specific color of our skin,” Amanda Tjemsland, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe ANAAY president, told Peak.

“Since I’m not full blood, I don’t look Choctaw,” said Chelsea Wells. “People had never heard of the Choctaw Nation, so I had to explain my whole background again and again. Then my mom came, who looks very Native, and people were very confused.”

To read the history of Yale’s and New Haven, Connecticut’s relationship with Native populations, visit YaleDailyNews.com.

Why Governments Are on the Hook to Ensure Clean, Safe Water for Everyone: The right to water and sanitation are living documents waiting to be used for transformational change around the world

7/28/2011 Alternet: Why Governments Are on the Hook to Ensure Clean, Safe Water for Everyone: The right to water and sanitation are living documents waiting to be used for transformational change around the world: One year ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an historic resolution recognizing the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation. Two months later, the Human Rights Council adopted a second resolution affirming that drinking water and sanitation are human rights, and setting out the new obligations and responsibilities all governments now carry to develop appropriate tools and mechanisms to progressively achieve the full realization of these rights. Together the two resolutions represent an extraordinary breakthrough in the international struggle for the right to safe clean drinking water and sanitation and a crucial milestone in the fight for water justice.

The struggle to achieve this milestone was a long one and blocked for years by some powerful corporations and governments who prefer to view water as a private commodity to be put on the open market for sale. Indeed, forty-one countries, including the U.K., Australia, Japan, Canada and the U.S., abstained in the General Assembly vote. (However, in a welcome and surprise move, the U.S. voted in favour of the Human Rights Council’s resolution.) Some of these governments insist that they are still under no new obligations in this area, as they claim the General Assembly vote was not binding. This is incorrect. Because the Human Rights Council resolution is an interpretation of two exiting international treaties, it clarifies that the resolution adopted by the General Assembly is legally binding in international law. Said an official UN press release, “The right to water and sanitation is a human right, equal to all other human rights, which implies that it is justiciable and enforceable.”

This means that whether or not they voted for the right to water and sanitation, every member state of the United Nations is now required to prepare a Plan of Action for the Realization of the Right to Water and Sanitation and to report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on its performance in this area. This plan of action must meet three obligations: the Obligation to Respect, whereby the state must refrain from any action or policy that interferes with these rights, such as removing water and wastewater services because of an inability to pay as has happened in inner city Detroit and Boston; the Obligation to Protect, whereby the state is obliged to prevent third parties from interfering with these rights, such as protecting local communities from industrial pollution and inequitable extraction of water; and the Obligation to Fulfil, whereby the state is required to adopt any additional measures directed toward the realization of these rights, such as providing water and sanitation services to communities currently without them. In the U.S., this would include the 13 percent of Native American households without access to clean water and sanitation.

Lack of access to clean water and sanitation is the number one killer of children in our world. A new report on diarrhea by the World Health Organization says that in the global South, a child dies every three and a half seconds of water-borne diseases. In every case, if their parents could pay for clean water, these children would not be dying. While the resolutions recognizing the human right to water and sanitation will not immediately resolve this travesty, they do set the stage for a plan of action to address it. All countries now have the obligation to ensure, in a progressive manner and within available resources, that all of their people have access to water and sanitation services and special attention is to be paid to the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

And while not specifically prohibiting private water delivery, the resolutions make it clear that the state retains the responsibility and authority to provide these services and can step in to prevent cut-offs to the poor or the charging of exorbitant water rates by for-profit providers. Clearly, in recognizing the human right to water and sanitation, the United Nations has endorsed the notion that water is a public trust best delivered on a not-for-profit basis.

The first anniversary of this historic General Assembly resolution presents an incredible opportunity for groups and communities around the world suffering from water shortages, unsafe drinking water and poor or non-existent sanitation services. It is not often that a new right is recognized at the United Nations, especially around an issue as increasingly political and urgent as the global water crisis. The right to water and sanitation are living documents waiting to be used for transformational change around the world.

Maude Barlow chairs the board of both Ottawa-based Council of Canadians and Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She served as the Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assembly.

8/31/2011 The Advocate: Ignoring the epidemic – Contemporary Native American issues neglecte

8/31/2011 The Advocate: Ignoring the epidemic – Contemporary Native American issues neglected By Alexandra Waite, news editor: United States history classes may teach the injustices brought upon Native Americans by Europeans hundreds of years ago, but most do not take the initiative to find out how those acts are still largely affecting Native Americans today. Native Americans living on American Indian reservations experience some of the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, disease, teen pregnancy and the worst housing conditions in our nation. Poverty is a recurring problem for Native Americans, but especially for those living on Native American lands.

An Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Although the federal government recognizes more than 550 tribes in the country, there are only 326 Indian reservations.

Federal officials said violent crime rates on reservations are more than twice the national rate and epidemics of domestic and sexual violence exist, along with high instances of child abuse, teen suicide and substance abuse. There is also a proliferation of gang activity on reservations, yet law enforcement recruitment and retention across reservations lag far behind the rest of the nation.

These conditions Native Americans must endure hit close to home for me.

This July, I traveled by myself to Denver to meet my biological family, which is full Native American, for the first time. During that trip, my mother introduced me to the Native American culture within the city and opened my eyes to a problem not visible from the Bay Area.

Driving along the streets, one could identify the large presence of homeless Native Americans asking for assistance. Like my mother, many of these Native Americans left reservations at a young age to go to large cities, escape poverty and better their lives.

My mom and older sister live in Denver. My three younger siblings live a couple states away on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota while my mom tries to collect enough money to provide for them.

The Pine Ridge Reservation, located in Shannon and Jackson counties, is one of the poorest regions in the country.

The population of Pine Ridge suffers from health conditions commonly found in Third World countries, including high mortality rates, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, malnutrition and diabetes. Reservation access to health care is limited and insufficient compared to urban areas.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, unemployment on the reservation ranges from 80 to 85 percent, and 49 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty level. Many families have no electricity, telephone access, running water or sewage systems; many use wood stoves to heat their homes, reducing limited wood resources.

Gang-related violence is also an issue that plagues Pine Ridge with nearly 5,000 young men from the Oglala Sioux tribe involved in at least 39 gangs.

The gangs at Pine Ridge, along with many reservations in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and Southwest, are blamed for an increase in vandalism, theft and violence and the growing fear of a changing way of life.

Court decisions involving serious crimes on reservations are investigated by the federal government, usually the FBI, and prosecuted by U.S. attorneys of the U.S. federal judicial district in which the reservation lies. These crimes have a low priority both with the FBI and most federal prosecutors, according to the Tribal Law and Order Resource Center. Serious crimes are often either poorly investigated or prosecution has been refused.

Tribal courts were limited to sentences of up to one year until July 29, 2010, when the Tribal Law and Order Act was enacted, which aims to reform the system and permits tribal courts to impose sentences of up to three years.

However, Indian Law and Order Commission Chairperson Troy Eid said most tribes determined they cannot afford to enact the law or are content with their current systems that do not always determine a winner and loser, instead focusing on collaborative or “restorative” justice.

Native Americans are by no means to blame for these issues they face and it is up to the federal government, the institution that forced them into this situation, to make long overdue reparations.

Finding resolutions to reverse the crime and poverty among reservations is a difficult task, but that does not mean the government should not do so at once, before Native Americans lose grasp of what diminishing culture they have left.