Navajo Nation Council Opposes Arizona 'Anti-Ethnic Studies' Bill - Native Leader Urges Meeting On Gulf Spill
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – An Arizona “anti-ethnic studies” bill signed into law May 11 by Gov. Jan Brewer should be repealed, according to the Navajo Nation Council.
A resolution sponsored by Delegate Kee Allen Begay states that though House Bill 2281 is purported not to restrict or prohibit courses or classes for Native American pupils that are required to comply with federal law, those exceptions are negated by other general language prohibiting courses or classes “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
When Shiprock Delegate GloJean Todacheene was a youngster in Catholic private school, and later, Shiprock High School, she said, “In the textbooks we were called 'bloody heathens' – that we should be killed in the name of God.” Some of the Navajo parents in Shiprock said supplemental materials were needed to counter such statements.
“This happened in the '70s. People got called a lot of names. Some of the Navajos themselves were saying, 'We're savages.' But these brave parents changed it so that the public school system would have better textbooks. This can come back again if you don't teach the importance of ethnic people,” she said.
Leonard Gorman of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission told Council that according to the United Nations, culture is the foundation of a human being, and that by not respecting the cultural diversity of the people within Arizona, the state is violating a commitment made by the United States on international human rights.
He cited as example a Navajo person who felt like his cultural rights had been violated by the state prison system.
“He went into incarceration with his long hair. He came out with short hair. His belief – as many Navajos out there, and some maybe on the floor of this Council – is that the length of your hair represents your thought processes, your integrity.”
He said they asked state representatives to the Legislature to introduce legislation to address this cultural issue. “The feedback has always been that Native American issues are not popular issues in the Arizona state Legislature.”
Navajo Nation law specifically recognizes under Title 10 that it is important for the Navajo people, through the school system, to ensure that culture, language, government and history are recognized from generation to generation. Although the law provides an exemption for Native American instruction, his office has raised questions about which particular law is being cited, but so far, there has been no specific feedback, he said.
Delegate Amos Johnson, his long hair tied back in a tsiiyeel, or traditional bun, told delegates, “I do support this legislation for the very reason that our elders and our forefathers have said not to forget your language and to continue to teach these to your young ones.
“Today we have our language taught in schools. We are sovereign, as we say, from the state. We should oppose this legislation so we can continue to practice our culture and tradition.”
Lorenzo Bedonie said he was in full support of the proposed legislation and believed they all needed to stand behind it. “We only want to support our core belief, which is the Navajo and Native American belief,” he said.
“Bilagaanas (whites) forget that they created America as a nation of immigrants,” Todacheene said. “They invaded us, and yet now they don't like it because the United States is becoming more brown, more of an ethnic mix.” She commended Begay for introducing the resolution, “because the pendulum of civil rights can swing back at any moment.”
The measure passed 45-2.
South Dakota Tribal Leader Urges Meeting On Gulf Spill
The Associated Press
Submitted by Monica Davis
The president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe has asked the National Congress of American Indians to hold a meeting in New Orleans to discuss how the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has affected Native Americans in the area.
Teresa Two Bulls sent a letter this week to Jefferson Keel, president of the national organization. The letter says the executive committee of the National Congress of American Indians should hold an emergency meeting with Native Americans in the Gulf region.
Two Bulls, who is president of the tribe in southwestern South Dakota and secretary of the national organization, says the meeting could help determine how tribes across the nation could help Native Americans and wildlife affected by the oil spill.
Millions of gallons of oil have spilled since the BP PLC-operated oil rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.
Oil Threatens French-Speaking Cajuns, Native Choctaw
Edited from AFP
Submitted by Monica Davis
The Louisiana Indians and the Cajuns are the last French-speaking communities in the United States. But for decades, French has been losing ground.
In 2000, only about 200,000 Louisianans spoke French at home -- 50,000 less than 10 years earlier. "I think Isle de Jean Charles, of all (Indian) communities, is probably gonna be the first one to go," said documentary film maker, Rebecca Ferris.
"We're French Indians," Choctaw tribal chief Albert Naquin said proudly. "When I started the school, I couldn't speak English.
"I use the French language just when I'm in the island. Basically our culture is the same than the Cajun."
The oil spill risks speeding up the death of the French language here, said singer Zachary Richard, who has fought for the survival of Francophone Louisiana. If the shrimpers are forced to shut down, that will spell the end of French in the bayous.
"The shrimpers are the last bastions of the French language because French is passed on on the boats. The young boys learn to fish using a French vocabulary," Richard said.
"We will see French disappear along a certain part of the Louisiana coast."
Filmmaker Glen Pitre, dubbed the father of Cajun cinema, predicted that for this unique place in America's deep south, the gathering oil slick forming off the coast "could be the last nail in the coffin."
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