Maya Axes, and Moles Under the Pyramid
Hawaii could step in to grant Native Hawaiians self-government rights after federal proposals to do so failed. Two Senate committees voted Monday to advance legislation setting up a process for Native Hawaiians to eventually negotiate directly with the governor for land and money. The two bills move on for votes in the full Senate this month. If passed, they would be taken up in the House. The proposals recognize Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of the state and call for the creation of a commission tasked with forming a roll of qualified Hawaiians who could be part of their future government. Native Hawaiians are the last remaining indigenous people in the United States who haven't been allowed to establish their own government, a right already extended to Alaska Natives and Native American tribes.
In archaeology, we examine changes in society and culture systematically through large amounts of data rather than relying on single unique finds. But in the course of our careers, unforgettable discoveries can happen. One of these magical moments came to me in 2009 when we were excavating Ceibal’s Central Plaza. At a depth of 2.5 meters, we found a cache of 12 axes placed in a pit dug into the natural soil. This was a ritual deposit that marked the beginning of major settlement at Ceibal. These brilliantly polished greenstones shone in the sunlight for the first time since they were buried 3,000 years ago. The beliefs of those who placed them had been lost to us, but we could sense the importance and value that the ancients attached to those stones. We felt incredibly privileged.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has announced the recipients of the organization’s prestigious Indian Country Leadership Awards. Senator Daniel Akaka (D – HI) Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and long time tribal leader and advocate Billy Frank Jr. will be honored Monday by the organization for outstanding contributions to Indian Country. Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation who passed away in 2010, will be recognized posthumously among the 2011 recipients. NCAI will honor her by naming the organization’s fellowship program in her honor.
North Dakota's Board of Higher Education decided Tuesday to fight legislation that would require the University of North Dakota to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname. The state House last month overwhelmingly approved a bill that says UND must keep the nickname and a school logo that shows the profile of an American Indian warrior. UND has been preparing to retire the nickname and logo in August to meet the terms of a lawsuit settlement with the NCAA, which considers both to be hostile to American Indians.
Hawaii, the nation's most ethnically diverse state, has seen a big increase in residents identifying themselves as being of mixed race, according to Census data released Thursday. Among adults, those saying they are of two or more races rose 31% from 2000 to 2010. They now make up 18.5% of the state's adult population. Among all ages, the increase of those citing two or more races was 23.6%. Overall, they are almost one in four residents. The state's overall racial breakdown for the non-Hispanic population: white, 22.7%; black or African American, 1.5%; American Indian and Alaska Native, 0.2%; Asian, 37.7%; Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 9.4%. The Hispanic or Latino population, of any race, was 8.9%, an almost 38% increase. Among those identifying as mixed race, the largest group was a combination of Asian with Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, 5.3% of the population.
Even before oil began spewing into the Gulf of Mexico last spring, Louisiana's American Indian fishing villages were on the brink of collapse because of social change and the dramatic loss of coastal wetlands. Now, Indians who've known nothing but fishing all their lives find their futures tied to the man handing out checks for damages, paid from a multibillion-dollar fund started after the April 20 gulf spill. There are about 20,000 American Indians in coastal Louisiana who trace their roots to Houma, Chitimacha, Choctaw and Biloxi tribes. Tribal leaders say they're worried many members won't be compensated fairly, so they've brought on a New York City law firm to help the tribes navigate the difficult claims process.
The tribes of the Umatilla reservation in northeast Oregon are hunting bison in southern Montana for the first time in more than a century. It's part of an effort to revive traditions that were once the heart of the tribe's religion and economy. If the bison stay in Yellowstone, they're safe from hunters. But in the winter, the herd often searches for food outside the park, where they're fair game for tribes. The Umatilla tribes signed a treaty in 1855 that ceded more than 90 percent of their land to the U.S. government, but they reserved the right to keep hunting and fishing on it.
The Teslin Tlingit Council in southern Yukon has signed a historic agreement to run its own justice system, allowing the self-governing First Nation to enact its own laws and set up its own court. The agreement allows the First Nation to enact its own laws in a variety of areas, including wildlife protection, control of the First Nation's settlement land, controlling overcrowding of homes, local zoning and planning, adoption, the solemnization of marriages and wills and inheritances, according to the release.
The emerald ash borer, which is just one-half-inch long, is busily wiping out more than a billion ash trees in the United States and Canada, wreaking ecological havoc on watersheds and forests, as well as the economies of more than 10 states and provinces, and doing incalculable damage to Northern Woodlands tribal cultures. Kelly Church, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and a nationally acclaimed basket weaver, is one of the leaders of the battle against the emerald ash borer. She’s determined to preserve Northeastern tribes’ cultural traditions against this onslaught, even if it takes generations.
“Sky Boys: The Building of the Empire State Building,” a new musical for families, recreates that period, on the eve of the completed design’s 80th birthday. Produced by Making Books Sing, an organization that adapts children’s books into theater, it presented its own structural challenges. The picture book inspiring it — “Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building,” by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2006) — has no real story line. But if “Sky Boys” doesn’t offer absolute realism, it never fails to entertain. It also gives history a human face. That the face is often that of a Mohawk underscores Ms. Krieger’s dedication to illuminating American Indians’ contributions to many New York buildings.