Here are some of the Native American-related stories making headlines this week:
Lawmakers seek to combat child abuse, neglect and family violence
The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed the Native American Child Protection Act to help Native American communities respond to and head off family violence and child abuse.
Introduced by Representative Ruben Gallego, the Native American Child Protection Act revises programs that were originally established in 1990 and passed as part of then-Senator John McCain’s Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act.
Its provisions are aimed at helping tribes develop programs to identify, investigate and prosecute cases of child abuse, child neglect and family violence.
“For too long, Congress has failed to uphold its promise to address the disproportionate levels of child abuse in tribal communities,” said Gallego, former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the U.S. “My bipartisan Native American Child Protection Act corrects that by providing tribes the resources they need to prevent, prosecute, and treat instances of family violence and child abuse.”
The bill now passes to the Senate for consideration.
BIA’s Missing and Murdered Unit steps in where law enforcement has failed
Agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Missing and Murdered Unit are reexamining the case of Kaysera Stops Pretty Places, who went missing on August 24, 2019, in a suburban neighborhood of Hardin, Montana, less than 0.8 kilometers from the Crow Reservation boundary.
Law enforcement found her body five days after she disappeared but did not notify her family until September 11. Since then, the family says it has not heard from the Big Horn County Sheriff’s office, the FBI or the Montana Justice Department about investigations into her death.
The BIA unit was formed in 2021 by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and has received 845 case referrals, primarily from victims’ families. Nearly 375 cases are still under review or being investigated.
White House to boost restoration of Columbia River Basin salmon
The Biden-Harris administration this week announced a historic agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians to reintroduce salmon into blocked habitats of the Upper Columbia River Basin.
Salmon were once abundant in the upper Columbia, Sanpoil, and Spokane rivers but disappeared after their habitats were blocked by the construction of hydroelectric dams in the 20th century.
As a result, tribal communities have had to change their traditional diets and traditional ways of life, and this in turn has changed the way they once taught and raised children in the cultural and spiritual beliefs centered around these fish.
“Since time immemorial, tribes along the Columbia River System have relied on Pacific salmon, steelhead, and other native fish species for sustenance and their cultural and spiritual ways of life. Today’s historic agreement is integral to helping restore healthy and abundant fish populations to these communities,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said.
The agreement includes funding to support implementing these plans, including $200 million over 20 years from the U.S. Energy Department and $8 million over two years through the Bureau of Reclamation.
Southern Baptists expel church after pastor defended racist role play
The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant organization, this week voted to oust an Oklahoma pastor in Ochelata who failed to respond to allegations that his church “affirms, approves, or endorses discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.”
While the convention didn’t offer further details, it is believed to be related to two Matoaka Baptist Church events in which pastor Sherman Jaquess dressed in blackface and as a “Native American.”
The Convention’s Executive Committee voted Tuesday that the Matoaka Baptist Church was “deemed not in friendly cooperation with the convention” — the official terminology for an expulsion.
In a video released on Facebook earlier this year, Jaquess can be seen at a 2017 Valentine’s Day event dressed in blackface at a piano, posing as singer Ray Charles.
A separate Facebook photo shows Jaquess at a 2012 youth camp event dressed in red face, wearing “Native American” braids and a feathered headband.
Jaquess defended his actions, saying that it is “repugnant to have people think you’re a racist” and claimed that he was paying tribute to the iconic soul singer.
“It wasn’t derogatory, wasn’t racial in any way, and we’re not racist at all,” he said. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body. I have a lot of racial friends.”
He also stated he is of part-Cherokee heritage.
Native American earthworks listed as World Heritage Site
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee this week added 27 new sites to the World Heritage List, among them the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in southern Ohio. Those are eight enormous earthen enclosure complexes that American Indians — known as the Hopewell Culture — built between 1,600 and 2,000 years ago.
These served as centers for Hopewell feasts, funerals, and other social and spiritual gatherings. Archaeologists excavating the site have found pottery, copper and shell ornaments, and carved pipes made from raw materials obtained through trade with tribes in the Great Lakes, Carolinas, the Rocky Mountains and elsewhere.
Danish trolls come to Seattle
John “Coyote” Halliday, an artist enrolled in the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in Washington State, helped design one of six gigantic trolls that have appeared in the Puget Sound area.
Standing as tall as 6 meters, they are all made from recycled materials.
It is part of a larger body of work conceived by Danish artist/activist Thomas Dambo, to bring attention to sustainability and the environment.
VOA reporter Natasha Mozgovaya spoke with Halliday and Dambo in Seattle and filed this report.
UPDATE: Seattle’s KOMO News reports that vandals defaced the troll sculpture featured in Natasha Mozgovaya’s video report. Read more: