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Ancient Voices - Contemporary Contexts

American Indian Institute, Bozeman, Montana


No. 067, December 2016



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From Cowboy To Civil Rights Activist, A White Elder Reflects On Racism Toward Indigenous Peoples
December 26, 2016 | Todd Wilkinson

Robert Staffanson, the "cowboy-conductor," had his life profiled decades ago in a feature story that appeared in Look magazine.

"If your view of cowboys is forged by Hollywood portrayals, then Robert Staffanson's trail in the saddle will ring false. Staffanson has been described as 'possibly the most interesting living [person] in Montana.' Just five years shy of becoming a centenarian, he is an enigmatic visionary who has reinvented himself not once, but twice.

"Raised as a Western ranch kid near Sidney and Deer Lodge, he followed in the path of his fiddler father, majored in music during college and then became founder of the Billings, Montana Symphony before landing a prestigious conducting post in New England where he became friends with Eugene Ormandy, Aaron Copeland, Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Fiedler..." Read the Entire Article.




Published December 27, 2016

"MANKATO, MINNESOTA - Concluding a 330-mile journey from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota, the Dakota 38+2 Wokiksuye Ride assembled at Reconciliation Park in Mankato on Monday.

"It was the 154th anniversary of the largest execution in American history when 38 Dakota were put to death by hangings on orders from President Abraham Lincoln...." Read the Entire Article





Published November 29, 2016

"Custer's Ghost Rides again- This time he's riding in on the back of a big black snake. On December 5th, which is Custer's birthday, the U.S. Army Corps has issued an eviction of Native people and their allies from Sioux Treaty lands.

"These lands were granted to the Sioux Tribe in the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. The treaty was signed two years after Custer was sent in to kill all the Cheyenne and Dakota Sioux, so the U.S. could steal their lands. Custer failed, so the U.S. begrudgingly signed the Treaty..." Read the Entire Article.



Bison getting more space in Badlands

Chris Huber Journal staff Dec 13, 2016

Chris Huber, Journal staff
A bison saunters through a field near Sage Creek while snow falls Monday afternoon at Badlands National Park. The park approved a plan to expand the area where the bison can roam.

"More home for the buffalo to roam is coming to Badlands National Park.

"The park is expanding the area where bison range in the north unit by more than 35 square miles after a yearlong stewardship and environmental impact plan was finalized...." Read the Entire Article.



'It's their backyard': Inuit voice essential in Arctic climate studies, scientists say

Residents' knowledge of the fastest warming place on Earth fills gaps in scientific data
By Nicole Mortillaro, CBC News Posted: Dec 25, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Dec 25, 2016 5:54 PM ET

Scientists looking to track the changes in the Arctic need the help of the Inuit who have been living there for generations, researchers say. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

"The Arctic: a cold, snow-swept landscape. It's a place few have had the privilege to see; its wildlife, plants and delicate ecosystem are a mystery to most.

"But that icy image is being replaced. Now the images of the Arctic most Canadians see include chunks of ice bobbing on shallow waves in the Arctic Ocean, polar bears swimming long distances to find food and hunters using boats instead of sleds to carry on age-old traditional hunting.

"The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth...." Read the Entire Article.



Nations Rising

Across North America Indigenous people are pushing for a renewable energy future.


UPDATE: On Sunday, December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not grant the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river, handing a major victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe after a months-long campaign against the pipeline.

Under the big North Dakota sky, in a sparsely populated slice of Indian country, a dramatic uprising has been underway that some say could change the conversation around fossil fuels and quite possibly spark the climate resistance movement of the future.

Daily acts of nonviolent civil disobedience by the water protectors have included prayer ceremonies, road blockades, and people locking themselves to active machinery in an attempt to stop work on the pipeline. The response to their peaceful, prayerful demonstrations has been quite the opposite.

"It started small - with two people setting up the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in April to express opposition to the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline project. The 1,172-mile pipeline, which is supposed to deliver fracked oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale to markets in the US Midwest and Gulf Coast, is to pass half a mile north of the reservation border, cross several sacred sites, and burrow under Lake Oahe, the reservoir where the Cannonball and Missouri rivers meet. The Standing Rock Sioux say the project desecrates sacred burial grounds. They also fear that if the pipeline - which is designed to transport as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily, equivalent to roughly 50 percent of North Dakota's current oil production – breaks or leaks, as pipelines tend to do, it would contaminate the reservation's water supply as well as that of some 10 million people who rely on the region's watershed...." Read the Entire Article.



Six Solutions That Support Native Sovereignty -- From Tribal Schooling to Bison Herds
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
By Araz Hachadourian and Christa Hillstrom, YES! Magazine | Op-Ed

More supporters arrive at dusk to celebrate at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, just outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, December 4, 2016. (Alyssa Schukar / The New York Times)

This article is part of Yes! Magazine's state-by-state exploration of local solutions.


"In the Alaskan village of Kwigillingok, a group of volunteers has found a way to keep children out of foster care...." Read the Entire Article.



Alaska indigenous people see culture slipping away as sea ice vanishes

In a year almost certain to be history's hottest, drastic environmental changes are taking a toll on food supply and even language in Arctic communities

Yupik women prepare freshly caught salmon for curing. Yupik culture is threatened as sea ice melts. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

"The extreme warmth of 2016 has changed so much for the people of the Arctic that even their language is becoming unmoored from the conditions in which they now live.

"The Yupik, an indigenous people of western Alaska, have dozens of words for the vagaries of sea ice, which is not surprising given the crucial role it plays in subsistence hunting and transportation. But researchers have noted that some of these words, such as 'tagneghneq' (thick, dark, weathered ice), are becoming obsolete..." Read the Entire Article.



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