Participants Selected for the 2019 Native American Animation Lab

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Published December 12, 2019 

Sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company,  Cartoon Network Studios, Sugarshack Animation, Women in Animation, Crunchyroll, Fullscreen and Rooster Teeth

LOS ANGELES — The LA Skins Fest, a Native American film festival announced today they have selected 8 participants for the 2019 NATIVE AMERICAN ANIMATION LAB, a talent development program that aims to boost the careers of Native American in the field of animation.

“We have a talented community in need of exposure, access, and opportunity. This new endeavor will get more Native American voices in front of the right people who can develop their animation projects and build their animation careers.” stated Ian Skorodin (Choctaw), LA SKINS FEST Founder.

The participants will take part in a five day curriculum that will have them meeting with executives from Universal Pictures, Cartoon Network Studios, Kung Fu Monkey Productions and many others. The lab will consist of daily workshops, seminars and one-on-one mentoring to help each participant develop a project for the pitch panel at the end of the lab.

The five day total immersion lab will be mentored and guided by Writer/Producer Donick Cary (Simpsons/Parks and Recreation/Ap Bio). At the end of the program, each participant will pitch a panel of executives from our corporate supporters.

The NATIVE AMERICAN ANIMATION LAB was created to expand the amount of Native Americans working behind the camera, as a way to increase fair and accurate portrayals of Native Americans on television.

The 2019 NATIVE AMERICAN ANIMATION LAB is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company, Cartoon Network Studios, Sugarshack Animation, Women in Animation, and Otter Media brands, Crunchyroll, Fullscreen and Rooster Teeth.

The eight participants:

Ben-Alex Dupris is Mnicoujou Lakota, and also an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes where he grew up. Dupris creates work that pushes the boundaries of modernity and traditionalism in hopes of changing perspectives of Indigenous concepts without censorship. His directorial debut “Sweetheart Dancers” won Grand Jury Award for Best Short Film at Outfest 2019. He recently directed an American Masters “Masters in the Making” for PBS and Firelight Media about the artist Bunky Echo-Hawk that premiered at DOC NYC 2019. He is developing an animation series based on tribal legend stories that reflect the changing nature of Indigenous relationships to the earth in the 21st century.

Pasquale Encell and Steve Encell

Pasquale (Modoc) and his partner, Steve (Modoc), who is also his father, started a small animation team in Thailand. Steve served in the US Army and studied Agricultural Business at Cal Poly, and realized that the Native elders he knew were disappearing and soon they would be gone forever. Because of this, he decided to study with several medicine men and leaders before their knowledge disappeared. With his partner and son, Pasquale, they created Thunder Eagle Productions and chose animation as their main conduit of production. They have made several animated movies that have played in film festivals all over the world. They have won awards including Best Animated Film in the New Hope International Film Festival for their animated feature film Eagle Feather.

Jeanette Harrison is a director, writer, actor, and producer, who has spent most of her career in theater. For television, she co-wrote with Sharmila Devar a half-hour comedy about family and cultural identity, FEATHERS AND DOTS, DOTS AND FEATHERS. She created and was Head Writer for the webseries The Breakdown (3 seasons); and was a staff writer for the webseries Coach Dan. For SPASigma, she was Head Writer and 2nd Unit Director for their most recent documentary, and a staff writer on Personality Quotient (2018). In 2004 she co-founded the award-winning AlterTheater in the San Francisco Bay Area. At AlterTheater, she architected the ground-breaking AlterLab playwright residency program. She has shepherded more than 20 new plays to world premiere productions. A Native New Yorker, she is of Onondaga descent.

Chag Lowry is of Yurok, Maidu, and Achumawi ancestry from northern California.  He is an author, filmmaker, and educator.  His most recent publication is the graphic novel titled Soldiers Unknown with art by Rahsan Ekedal.  This book was published by Great Oak Press and focuses on the Yurok Native American military experience in World War One.  Mr. Lowry has a M.A. in Education and is currently writing a comic anthology titled Reflection.

Vladimir Perez  (Taino) is a comedian from Brooklyn NY. As an actor he can be seen in network sitcoms that include Modern Family, Brooklyn Nine Nine, The Unicorn and the upcoming Disney+ show Diary of a Female President. As a writer, Vlad was honored to be a part of the LA SKINS FEST Native American TV writers Lab. Vlad is also a proud recipient of the Groundlings NBC/Universal Diversity scholarship 2018. Vlad’s sketch “Resting Gangster Face” was selected to be filmed for the 2017 IFC Showcase during the San Francisco Sketchfest. At UCB, Vlad hosted the LA Weekly Top Pick show The Hip Hop Source Awardz and performed improv on UCB Mess Hall team Fresh Kicks. He is a proud alumni of the CBS Diversity Showcase as a writer in 2016 and an actor in 2017. Vlad is currently working on an animation series based on a Taino super hero.

Sierra Revis (Yuchi) is a Graphic Designer currently working for the Native-owned marketing agency, Buffalo Nickel Creative based in Pawhuska, OK. Her design work on the Native Now and Indigenous People’s Day campaigns was praised by audiences throughout Indian Country. Sierra has also put her video editing and animation skills to work on various documentary-style shorts for a state-wide campaign on commercial tobacco-use cessation and prevention among Native American tribes.  A graduate of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology with a degree in Visual Communications, Sierra recently developed an animated language video and created the story board, illustrated the visuals and animated the components.

Jason Turner (Potawatomi and Kickapoo) is an accomplished filmmaker, producer, editor, and director. A music video he shot and directed won the Art at Work award in 2013 from the Arts Council of Kansas City (ArtsKC). Many of his films have screened at film festivals. His motion comic, The Iron Detective: Sentinel, won the Achievement in Animation award at the 2017 LA Skins Fest and streamed nationally on Xfinity Streampix. Those same shorts have screened at Planet Comicon in Kansas City. Jason has also served on Planet Comicon panels. For four years he ran the Kansas City 48 Hour Film Project (KC’s branch of the 48 Hour Film Project). He is also a published comic book author. His comic book “Sentinel” can be found on Amazon and has been made into an animation short, The Iron Detective: Sentinel.


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Partnership With Native Americans Announces Joshua Arce as New President and CEO

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PWNA president and CEO Joshua Arce

Published December 12, 2019

ADDISON, TexasPartnership With Native Americans (PWNA), a nonprofit serving immediate needs and supporting long-term solutions for Native Americans living in reservation communities, announced today the appointment of Joshua Arce as their new president and chief executive officer (CEO) effective Jan. 6, 2020.

PWNA’s current president and CEO Robbi Rice Dietrich announced her retirement after seven years with the charity. Arce, a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, previously served on PWNA’s Board of Directors and will now oversee operations for the Native-led and Native-serving nonprofit.

“I am both honored and thrilled by the opportunity to work for Partnership With Native Americans,” said Arce. “The current board and staff have charted a path for success and positioned PWNA with the credibility and relationships to positively impact Native communities. I deeply appreciate their work and look forward to leading PWNA in this next chapter.”

Arce brings more than 20 years’ experience in education management, social work and business development to PWNA. Originally from Kansas, Arce earned his B.A. in social work from the University of Kansas and then his J.D., specializing in tribal law, applied indigenous leadership, federal Indian law and Indian gaming law.

He most recently served as the first chief information officer (CIO) of Haskell Indian Nations University, over 12 years advancing IT infrastructure and services to better meet their mission. Earlier, he worked at the University of Kansas Tribal Law and Governance Center and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Court and served the tribe’s Entertainment Corporation Board.

Arce actively supports the advancement of Native communities, most recently as a volunteer of the court-based Citizen Review Board, a member of Lawrence Memorial Hospital Board’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity committee, and a Board member of the Citizen Review Panel of Kansas for child welfare. Arce joins PWNA in their 30th year of serving Indian country.

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IHS Rosebud Hospital Accredited by The Joint Commission

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Published December 12, 2019

ROSEBUD INDIAN RESERVATION — IHS Rosebud Hospital has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval®   for Hospital Accreditation by demonstrating continuous compliance with performance standards. Additionally, Rosebud Hospital received Primary Care Medical Home certification, which focuses on care coordination, access to care, and how effectively a primary care clinician and interdisciplinary team work in partnership with the patient and their family. These achievements reflect IHS’ commitment to providing safe and quality patient care at Rosebud Hospital.

“I am proud of the teamwork and tireless efforts of the Rosebud staff in achieving this milestone,” said Rear Adm. Michael D. Weahkee, IHS principal deputy director. “This prestigious accomplishment demonstrates the commitment across IHS and the Department of Health and Human Services to fulfilling the IHS mission of raising the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. We remain dedicated to sustaining and continuing the improvements we have made at Rosebud Hospital.”

The IHS Rosebud Hospital underwent a rigorous, unannounced onsite review to evaluate compliance with standards spanning several areas including emergency services, environment of care, and infection prevention and control.

Earlier this year, IHS established the Office of Quality, which has made significant strides in addressing priority areas for quality improvement agency wide including implementing credentialing and privileging software; hiring an IHS credentialing program manager at headquarters; awarding a new contract for an adverse events reporting and tracking system; and aligning quality standards and measures across service sites. The Office of Quality supports IHS hospitals and health centers by providing resources and tools for quality assurance and improvement to attain and maintain compliance with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulations and accreditation standards.

At IHS Rosebud Hospital specifically, efforts have focused on recruiting and retaining permanent staff in several key leadership positions, integrating quality improvement and infection control measures across disciplines, and instilling a culture of pride, focus, and responsibility among staff.

The Joint Commission’s standards are developed in consultation with health care experts and providers, measurement experts and patients. They are informed by scientific literature and expert consensus to help health care organizations measure, assess and improve performance. The surveyors also conducted onsite observations and interviews.

“As a private accreditor, The Joint Commission surveys health care organizations to protect the public by identifying deficiencies in care and working with those organizations to correct them as quickly and sustainably as possible,” says Mark Pelletier, RN, MS, chief operating officer, Accreditation and Certification Operations, and chief nursing executive, The Joint Commission. “We commend IHS Rosebud Hospital for its continuous quality improvement efforts in patient safety and quality of care.”

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The National Indian Health Board Endorses Nomination of Rear Admiral Weahkee to Head IHS

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Rear Adm. Michael D. Weahkee, Acting Director, Indian Health Service

Published December 11, 2019

Click here to watch the confirmation hearing on December 11 at 2:30 PM Eastern.

WASHINGTON — The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) has submitted a letter of support to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs as it considers the nomination of RADM Michael Weahkee to be Director of the Indian Health Service.

RADM Weahkee is currently the Principal Deputy Director of the agency. He is an enrolled member of the Zuni Tribe. Weahkee began his health career as a public health specialist in the United States Air Force and has received two Masters degrees from Arizona State University; a Master of Health Services Administration and a Master of Business Administration.
Click here to read NIHB’s letter supporting RADM Weahkee’s nomination.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a confirmation hearing on December 11 for RADM Michael Weahkee, who was nominated by the White House as IHS Director in October.
IHS has not had a permanent Director–a post that must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate–since 2015. If confirmed, RADM Weahkee would serve a four-year term at the head of IHS.

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Your G Suite Environment Is Not Safe from Human Error Data Loss

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Published December 11, 2019

There are many scenarios and situations that lead to data being deleted.  When thinking about threats to data, it is often easy to assume data is only at risk from outside sources.  However, for organizations today hosting their business-critical data either on-premises or in a public cloud environment, human error is one of the primary reasons for having a robust data protection solution in place.  In fact, one of the most common reasons driving the need for data restoration is the accidental deletion of data by an employee.  It happens and there are many scenarios that lead up to data being deleted either accidentally or intentionally.

Focusing further on Google’s G Suite public cloud environment, data can potentially be deleted just as easily in the public cloud environment as it can be on-premises.  While Google has a few built-in mechanisms to help with human error disasters, we will take a look at why organizations will want to have a solution in place to protect G Suite environments from human error data loss.

Human Error Poses a Tremendous Threat to Data

Human error can encompass a wide range of actions that lead to data getting deleted.  Both accidental and intentional data deletion can happen without a user being aware.  How can this be?  A user can intentionally delete data but unintentionally delete data from the wrong file.  Or, instead of performing a “Save As” operation, a “Save” operation may be chosen instead.  As you can expect, both of these actions can potentially result in the deletion of business-critical data.

Unintentional data loss can happen just as easily and really falls into the same types of scenarios mentioned earlier.  A user may unintentionally select the wrong file and choose to delete it.  Unintentional or intentional user actions can both have disastrous consequences.  They can lead to business-critical operations being brought to a halt and cause DR plans to be enacted.

Whether on-premises or in public cloud environments, human error poses an extremely dangerous threat to business continuity.  Organizations must have a disaster recovery solution that can account for any scenario where data might be lost or accidentally deleted due to human error.

Public cloud environments such as Google G Suite are extremely popular today for organizations looking to house data in the powerful and very capable Software-as-a-Service offerings from Google and others.  However, when it comes to data protection, the native capabilities built into the solution for businesses looking to protect their data is limited.  Let’s take a look at the built-in functions with G Suite storage for recovering data that has been deleted due to human error and see what functionality is available to recover from these types of events.

Google G Suite Native Data Recovery Functionality

To be perfectly clear, Google G Suite has no functionality that is billed or listed in official documentation as a true native backup solution. While the features of the G Suite SaaS offerings have certainly gotten better, there is still no true versioned enterprise backup solution built into the functionality of G Suite. There are, however, a few features that we will call “lightweight” data protection that has a limited ability to retrieve your data in case a human error disaster happens and data is deleted.  Let’s take a look at the features that can be used for limited data retrieval. These include:

  • File Versions
  • File Permissions
  • Restore from Trash

File Versions

With Google G Suite File versions, G Suite users can right-click a file and select Manage versions which allows downloading a different version of the file.  This would certainly help to protect in situations where users accidentally “Saved” a document instead of performing a “Save As” function.  The previous version of the file will be before changes were committed and data loss occurred inside the file.

Manage versions can restore a different version of files contained in G Suite storage

File Permissions

When thinking about human error including accidental, unintentional, or intentional actions that lead to data loss, the scope of data loss in the G Suite Team Drive affects every member belonging to the team.  So, one user human error affecting data affects that data for all users with access to the Team Drive.

Properly controlling who has the Full Access permission will limit users who have the ability to outright delete files from Team Drive.  A simple bump of permissions down to the Edit Access level will allow modifying the contents of the file but not moving or deleting it.

Restore from Trash

With the Restore from Trash functionality, items that have been deleted from G Suite Team Drives can be restored by users who have Edit or Full Access permissions.  The items that are deleted by Team Drive users with Full access are stored in the trash for roughly 25 days.  After the 25 days in the trash, the item will be auto-purged from the trash.

G Suite administrators have the ability to restore items from Team Drives or even deleted Team Drives using the G Suite admin console.  Once again, the limitation of 25 days applies to the G Suite administrator as well.  Once the data has been auto-purged from the Trash, the data is gone forever if relying on this native built-in functionality found in G Suite.

Restoring an item from the Trash bin in Google public cloud storage

More Data Protection in the Cloud Needed

Today’s “always-on” web-driven businesses need more protection for business-critical data than the simplistic capabilities afforded to them by the default capabilities of G Suite Team drives.  Businesses need a data protection solution that allows them to create custom RPO and RTOs based on their individual business needs.

What if a human error that resulted in critical data loss was not discovered until after the 25-day window of time was available for the restore processes in G Suite?

Spinbackup provides the answer for businesses looking for a powerful, robust solution filled with features to protect business-critical data in SaaS environments such as G Suite.  Data loss threats such as human error do not stand a chance against the rock-solid Spinbackup functionality provided to businesses.

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Crazy Horse Memorial’s Indian Museum of North America Undergoes Transformation

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Andrew Dunehoo, the Crazy Horse Memorial’s museum curator and director of cultural affairs, and his team working on the collection at The Indian Museum of North America.

Published December 11, 2019

CRAZY HORSE, S.D.  — Most South Dakota residents and visitors are familiar with the massive carving of Oglala Lakota leader Crazy Horse taking shape in the Black Hills, which honors Native Americans throughout North America. Not everyone, however, is aware that the Crazy Horse Memorial also hosts The Indian Museum of North America, which is currently undergoing a dramatic transformation.
“We’re going to redefine the public’s understanding of what a museum is,” said Andrew Dunehoo, museum curator and director of cultural affairs. “We’re moving away from the chronological, linear model; instead, we’re using a native lens, one that shares cultural concepts from eight eco-regions, with the principle of connection to the Earth at the center.”
The 60,000-square-foot facility’s six galleries will be organized by these cultural concepts: Geography, Home and Community, Ecology and Food, Adornment, Leadership, and Modern and Contemporary Art. Within each gallery, visitors will have access to the artifacts and stories of native peoples from the Arctic, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Great Plains, Northeast/Woodlands, Southeast, Central America and the Hawaiian Islands.
To tackle this three- to five-year project, Dunehoo and his team are working closely with Jhon Goes In Center, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation who was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, earned a degree in museum studies from the University of Colorado’s Henderson Museum at Boulder, and went on to work with the Denver Art Museum’s Native Arts Department, where he also served on the Board of Trustees for nine years. 
In addition, Goes In Center served in an advisory capacity with History Colorado and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He currently lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he has served on the South Dakota Art Museum’s Board of Directors for one term; he also has been an advisory board member for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation’s Red Cloud Heritage Center for 10 years.
“Millions of people visit Crazy Horse each year, drawn to native cultures, so we have a tremendous opportunity here,” Goes In Center said. “The Indian Museum of North America at Crazy Horse is evolving, and with native consultation, the museum will be able to tell stories with context and a strong sense of place. We need to erase what Hollywood has done, because it’s not a good story, and it’s told from the point of view of the conquerer.
“In the native view, we don’t dominate the Earth, we’re part of it,” he continued. “So in telling our stories, we’re also sharing our adaptability and resilience — and emphasizing the importance of environment, because our North American cultures evolved in these distinct eco-regions. In this way, we’re reaching out to the next generation of learners who are not influenced by stereotypes.”
“We’re grateful for Jhon, because he’s helping us define our geographic concept, with that Earth connection at its center,” Dunehoo said.
Dunehoo and Goes In Center have their work cut out for them, as The Indian Museum of North America’s collection comprises 11,000 artifacts that all have potential roles to play. These artifacts, according to Dunehoo, also set this museum apart from its contemporaries.
“We are not a collecting museum,” he explained. “We’re dedicated to sharing the traditions and heritage of living cultures, not creating a collection. Families entrusted their precious items to us, and each piece comes with its own story and its own energy. We are their stewards, and it’s our responsibility to share those stories and ensure that North America’s native perspectives are not lost.”
To date, the Crazy Horse Memorial has completed the Modern and Contemporary Art gallery, which demonstrates the intersection of native cultures and artistic expression. Not only does it share the various mediums in which artists explore the connection with Earth, it emphasizes the richness and diversity of native cultures, which continue to thrive today.
Dunehoo and his team also will be working with Sean Sherman to develop the Ecology and Food gallery, which will explore how food affects culture. Sherman is the well-known Oglala Lakota chef and author who founded The Sioux Chef and the nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems organization.
“This is part of fully realizing our stewardship role,” Dunehoo said. “It’s about our deep responsibility to today’s culture bearers, which was so important to Korczak and Ruth Ziolkowski from the very beginning.
“At Crazy Horse, we all know that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves,” he added. “As (daughter) Monique Ziolkowski says, ‘The mountain carving is the smallest task we’re working on here.’”

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NTU Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Henry Fowler Appointed to Navajo Nation Board of Education

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Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez appointed Dr. Henry Fowler to the Navajo Nation Board of Education. He was selected along with four other individuals to serve on the board for six years.

Published December 11, 2019

CROWNPOINT, N.M. — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez selected five members to the Board of Education (NNBE) to serve six-year terms beginning in 2020. Among those chosen for the board is Navajo Technical University Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Henry Fowler who was appointed to represent as the Diné culture and language specialist.

The board has eleven members with six representing from each Navajo nation agency and the remaining five being appointed by the president of the Navajo nation. The Health, Education and Human Service Committee (HEHSC) have confirmed the positions and will finalize their appointment on the board after being sworn in by the District judge.

“My passion has always been in education. I became an educator in 1996 at Red Mesa High School and have since been teaching mathematics, including Navajo language and culture,” said Dr. Henry Fowler in discussing his role as a member of the NNBE. “For those of us that have been recently appointed and confirmed to the board now have a tremendous responsibility to strengthen the education system through our leadership.”

Dr. Fowler came to Navajo Technical University in the fall semester of 2018 as a faculty member teaching mathematics and Diné studies.  In June 2019, he was delegated as the Dean of Graduate studies at NTU after the retirement of then Dean Dr. Wesley Thomas. Each year, Dr. Fowler presents the Navajo Math Circles for students ages 11-18, a two-week mathematics learning camp that brings together Navajo culture with math. He is the co-founder and co-chair of the summer camp that aims to increase enthusiasm for the often-challenging subject to Navajo students.

Originally from Tonalea, AZ, Dr. Fowler has been influential in helping students on the Navajo nation to become fluent with math while integrating the traditional aspects. His clans are Tódich’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan) born for Tóbaahi Náneesht’ézhí (Zuni Edgewater clan). His maternal grandparents are Tł’ízí lání (Manygoats clan) and his paternal grandparents are Táchii’nii (Red running into the water clan). He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in math from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and an Educational doctorate from Felding University.

According to the education codes Title X, each of the members are required to serve in their positions for six years. The selection process begins with the appointee being sponsored by a council delegate and a confirmation vote from the HEHSC. Four of the five appointees by President Nez were confirmed by HEHSC and were sponsored by Navajo Nation Council Delegate Daniel Tso, who is the HESHC Chairman.

To learn more about NTU’s Master’s degree program in Diné Culture, Language, and Leadership at or the Navajo Math Circles contact, Dr. Henry Fowler at

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Utah Federal District Court Dismisses Case Filed against Ute Indian Tribe by Banished Tribal Members

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Published December 11, 2019

FORT DUCHESNE, Utah — On December 3, 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Utah, Judge Dale A. Kimball presiding, dismissed a case, Angelita M. Chegup, et al. v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, et al., filed by four members of the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation who had been banished by the Tribe in 2018.  The case was filed against the Tribe, its Business Committee, which is the Tribe’s governing body, and the individual members of the Business Committee.

In describing the background of the case, the court explained as follows:

In 2018, the Tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia wherein it alleged that the United States was violating federal law by treating certain reservation lands as though they were owned by the United States outright, rather than in trust for the Tribe.  The Tribe claimed that, as a result, the United States has been wrongfully appropriating revenue relating to the sale or lease of lands within the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (the “Reservation”). The Tribe also averred that Bureau of Land Management employees have been continuously trespassing upon Reservation lands to the extent that such employees have entered Reservation lands without the Tribe’s authorization. Accordingly, the Tribe sought injunctive relief along with an order quieting title in the name of the United States.

After the Tribe filed the lawsuit, Plaintiffs [i.e., the Plaintiffs in the Utah case] filed a motion to intervene. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the subject land should be preserved for the Uintah Band of Ute Indians, not the Tribe. The Tribe opposed Plaintiffs’ request to intervene, and the court eventually denied Plaintiffs’ motion.

In October 2018, the Business Committee received a complaint from seventy members of the Tribe wherein Tribe members requested the banishment of Plaintiffs based on alleged acts arising from Plaintiffs’ attempted intervention into the Tribe’s case that seriously threatened the peace, health, safety, morals and general welfare of the Tribe. More specifically, the complaint alleged that Plaintiffs had (1) repeatedly interfered in the Tribe’s ongoing litigation; (2) caused repeated delays and confusion in cases impacting the well-being of the Tribe; (3) engaged in vexatious litigation with the purpose of delaying legal proceedings and confusing legal issues; (4) sought to destabilize the tribal government and waste its resources; and (5) cost the Tribe millions of dollars in unnecessary legal fees by imprudently intervening into cases involving the Tribe.

The Business Committee held a hearing on the complaint, at the conclusion of which it passed a resolution banishing the four members.  As part of their banishment, the members were fined and lost certain Tribal rights for five years.  The members then filed the Utah lawsuit and claimed they had been banished without due process and sought to have their banishments ended.  The members requested relief under the Due Process Clause of the Indian Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”), a federal law that allows parties to seek relief in federal court where they believe they have been illegally detained by an Indian Tribe.

In dismissing the case, the court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the banished members had not shown they were “detained”, as that term is understood under the ICRA, where they had not been permanently banished.  In reaching that decision, the court relied upon cases decided by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and other federal appellate and district courts.  The court concluded that because the plaintiffs had not satisfied the prerequisites for relief under the ICRA their claims had to be dismissed based on the Tribe’s sovereign immunity.

The Tribe’s Business Committee believes the court’s dismissal of the case properly recognizes the Tribe’s sovereign immunity and supports the Tribe’s position that the banishment of the Tribal members was not so severe as to entitle them to review under the ICRA.

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Supporting State and Federal Efforts to Address MMIW

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“Breaking the Silence: #MMIW #MeToo” art exhibit.

Guest Commentary

Published December 9, 2019

MMIW stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. For too many Native women, violence is an ever-present threat. Murder is the third leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our Native sisters experience rates of violence at 10 times the national average. A large majority have been victimized by non-Native perpetrators.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

The grief of losing a sister, mother, niece or cousin is magnified when families feel that government officials are not doing enough to find out what happened and the case remains unsolved.

That is why I am glad that the Oklahoma Legislature approved an interim study on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Last month, the House Government Efficiency Committee heard heartbreaking testimony from victims’ advocates, researchers and family members.

I hope legislators will take what they learned and use it to create legislation that will increase investigative resources, improve data collection and ultimately stop the scourge of violence that continues to harm so many precious members of our families and communities.

At the federal level, the Department of Justice will hire 11 coordinators to respond to reports of missing and murdered Native Americans. Oklahoma will have one coordinator. The new plan also calls for the deployment of the FBI’s most advanced response capabilities when needed, improved data collection and analysis, and training to support local response efforts.

Additionally, the federal Violence Against Women Act, with language specifically protecting Native women, needs to be reauthorized, and that is something we will continue to advocate for. The Cherokee Nation passed a law expanding our tribal VAWA law to authorize prosecution of non-Indians in domestic violence cases, taking advantage of the federal VAWA authority authorizing that.

We believe these additional efforts to enhance law enforcement coordination will improve data sharing and help reduce the violence against our Native people.

Within Cherokee Nation’s sovereign government, we are committed to taking action, collaborating with others and addressing jurisdictional issues. Our Cherokee Nation Marshal Service cross deputizes with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies specifically so they can work cases on non-tribal land and even across state lines when needed.

Another important initiative is Cherokee Nation’s ONE FIRE Victim Services, which provides advocacy and legal assistance to women and men in the Cherokee Nation who are victims of crimes such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking or dating violence. Victims of domestic violence or sexual assault should call ONE FIRE’s 24-hour emergency helpline at 866-458-5399 to receive help.

We plan to increase awareness and encourage advocacy through our tribal social media pages, as well as other advertising and communication outlets.

Now is the time to put a stop to this epidemic.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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