Native News and Events
Native News and Events
June 26, 2013 - Executive Order establishes the White House Council on Native American Affairs
The order, signed by President Barack Obama on June 26, establishes the White House Council on Native American Affairs (Council) to improve coordination of Federal programs and the use of resources available to tribal communities. It “establishes a national policy to ensure that the Federal Government engages in a true and lasting government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner, including by better carrying out its trust responsibilities. This policy is established as a means of promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient tribal communities. Greater engagement and meaningful consultation with tribes is of paramount importance in developing any policies affecting tribal nations.”
The Department of the Interior will provide funding and administrative support for the Council. The Secretary of the Interior will serve as the Chair of the Council, which includes the heads or a number of executive departments, agencies and offices, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, among others.
The mission and function of the Council is to “work across executive departments, agencies, and offices to coordinate development of policy recommendations to support tribal self-governance and improve the quality of life for Native Americans, and shall coordinate the United States Government's engagement with tribal governments and their communities.”
August 6, 2010 — Hoonah soldier awarded Silver Star
Hoonah, Alaska’s Jarrett Brown earned the Silver Star for his actions on his third tour with the Army in Afghanistan. On patrol in the Arghandab River Valley, described as a “hotbed of Taliban resistance” at the time, they ran into an ambush taking small arms, machine gun and rocket propelled-grenade fire.
“According the U.S. Army's account of the battle, Brown's unit was on patrol in August of 2009 when it was attacked. Brown was serving as an assistant M-240 machine gunner, exposing himself to direct machine gun fire while having to fire his own rifle to cover a team caught in the open. After Brown's gunner collapsed in the 100-degree heat, Brown grabbed the machine gun and the gunner, dragging them to cover before returning enemy fire. When the platoon sergeant determined the situation was untenable, the sergeant ordered the squads to break contact. Brown provided cover fire and dragged the gunner with him.
When an enemy fire team came to within 30 meters of Brown's position, he "threw the gunner behind the last concealment available, abandoned his own cover and engaged them, killing one and wounding a second enemy fighter." On the way back to base, with Brown still carrying the gunner, the platoon came under fire again, with Brown again returning fire and driving the enemy far enough away to create a space for aircraft to come in and neutralize the enemy, allowing the platoon a safe return to base.”
April 7, 2013 - Veterans encouraged to use VA Rural Outreach teams
Lihu’e, Hawaii—One goal of the VA is to increase access to mental health care for Veterans who have had difficulty accessing these services. In rural and remote areas, barriers to accessing health care services include long travel distances, lack of transportation and weather, among other issues. Charlene Burgess of the VA Rural Mental Health Outreach Team on Kaua’i said their goal is to reach new Veterans in the rural districts of Kaua’i including Veterans who have not accessed VA services in the past.
“The Rural Mental Health Outreach Team started holding informational sessions in late February on the North Shore and the Westside of Kaua‘i,” Burgess said. “We have been going out weekly to these locations and are able to provide mental health services. A new location in Kilauea will start Monday and another site in Kekaha is scheduled to start in May.”
March 1, 2013 - Stand Down Stands Up for Vets' Health
PABLO — With one of the nation’s highest rates of Veterans per capita, Montanans certainly recognize the value of military service. And, as evidenced by the robust show of support at the volunteer-driven Veterans Stand Down held at Salish and Kootenai College last weekend, they also understand the importance of giving back to those who have dutifully served our country.
Dedicated to providing Veterans and their families with resources that promote their mental and physical well-being, the Stand Down is “an all-in-one stop for VA health,” according to W. J. ‘Buck’ Richardson of the VA Rocky Mountain Health Care Network, a Veterans advocacy organization that covers nine states in the region. Too often, the fight is not over for Veterans after their service is through, as they return home and face a new set of challenges.
December 6, 2012 - VA and Indian Health Service Announce National Reimbursement Agreement
“American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans will soon have increased access to health care services closer to home following a recent Department of Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Service (IHS) joint national agreement.”
“As a result of the national agreement, VA is now able to reimburse the IHS for direct care services provided to eligible American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans. While the national agreement applies only to VA and IHS, it will inform agreements negotiated between the VA and tribal health program.”
“The VA and IHS, in consultation with the federally-recognized tribal governments, have worked long and hard to come to an equitable agreement that would ensure access to quality health care would be made available to our Nation's heroes living in tribal communities," said Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health, Veterans Health Administration. "This agreement will also strengthen VA, IHS and tribal health programs by increasing access to high-quality care for Native Veterans, particularly those in highly rural areas."
September 2012 - American Indian and Alaska Native Servicemembers and Veterans Report
American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Veterans have played a vital role in the United States military for over two hundred years. Recognizing their long history of distinguished service, this report seeks to provide comprehensive statistics on this important cohort of Veterans through an examination of AIAN Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard data together with demographic, socioeconomic, and health status statistics for AIAN Veterans.
The report focuses on demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics of AIAN Servicemembers and Veterans, and presents similar summary information for all Servicemembers and Veterans.
Read the full report. (725 KB, PDF)
October 4, 2012 – Oglala Sioux Tribe Breaks Ground on Veterans Cemetery Amid Opposition.
Four years in the making, on October 4, 2012, the Oglala Sioux Tribe broke ground on a new tribal Veterans cemetery near Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. In September, the tribe received official notification that their grant application had been approved for over $6.5 million and would cover 100% of the costs associated with the project.
“Our tribal members have answered to the call to arms and have served honorably in every conflict the United States has ever engaged in, and now they will be buried with honor and dignity near their homelands.”
Some members of the tribe who are Veterans, however expressed concern about the location of the cemetery and that they were not involved in the planning process.
Find more information on grants for Tribal Veterans Cemeteries on the VA’s Web site.
May 28, 2012 - In Sweat Lodge, Vets Find Healing 'Down To The Core'
Substance abuse. Violence. Even thoughts of suicide. These are some of the problems that many Veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with.
Today it's called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, but it has affected Veterans going back much farther. While doctors and researchers put enormous efforts into developing new treatments, one group of Veterans in Salt Lake City is finding relief in a very old tradition: a Native American sweat lodge.
If you didn't know to peer over the six-foot brick wall next to a parking lot at Salt Lake's Veterans Affairs center, you'd never guess it was there.
May 15, 2012 - Oglala Tribe Plans Veterans Cemetery
The latest American Indian tribe to receive a grant to construct a Tribal Veterans Cemetery is the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The project is slated for groundbreaking in July 2012 and will hopefully be operating in the spring or summer of 2013. The plan for the Cemetery blends the requirements of the Veterans Administration with the Oglala Sioux Tribes values, according to Eirik Heikes, project manager at FourFront Designs, Inc. The Tribe’s project representative, Jackie Big Crow stated that ”The design contemplates Lakota traditions such as horseback escorts delivering the deceased to their destinations and the ritual of families taking food to the interment site to feed the dead.” Read the full article.
Find more information on grants for Tribal Veterans Cemeteries on the VA’s Web site.
September 20, 2011 - Rosebud Sioux Tribe gets $7M for Veterans Cemetery
As a follow up on a story from February 2011, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe was awarded approximately $7 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to build a Veterans cemetery near Mission, South Dakota. This is the first grant awarded to an American Indian government by the VA for a Veterans’ cemetery. “Rosebud Sioux director of Veterans Affairs Orlando Morrison, Sr., a Vietnam Veteran, said the cemetery will incorporate Lakota symbols in its design. Having a Veteran cemetery on the reservation will alleviate the financial and travel hardships on families of deceased Veterans who find it difficult to make the 3-1/2 hour trip to the nearest Veterans’ cemetery - the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis.”
From the Rapid City Journal:
May 13, 2011 The article in Indian Country Today: Reaching Out with Veterans’ Affairs Office of Rural Health
This article highlights the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office or Rural Health (ORH) and its Director, Mary Beth Skupien. “Some of the more prominent goals the ORH is working to accomplish are to improve access and quality of care for rural and highly rural Veterans…There is a big push within the ORH for improving services for mental and behavioral health services. ‘We funded about $150 million worth of tele-health projects in the last year to bring care closer to home for Veterans.’”
“Other goals include providing health care services to the growing number of women Veterans and providing training opportunities for rural VA providers, including a web based program. “Our focus this year has been to get a handle on the programs that have worked effectively for the Veterans. We have funded over 600 projects and are evaluating them to make sure they are improving quality of life and access to and quality of care,” Skupien said. “Although we are proud of our progress, there is still much to be done to provide rural Veterans with the care they deserve.”
Vietnam Veterans Honored with Special Day. Congress recently passed a resolution to observe Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day on March 30th. “The day marks the anniversary of the withdrawal of United States troops from Vietnam in 1973… The Vietnam conflict claimed the lives of more than 58,000 members of the U.S. services, with more than 300,000 wounded. Per capita, the American Indian community has the highest record of service in the armed forces compared to other ethnic groups. During Vietnam 226 American Indians died, not counting those who were not federally recognized as Native by the government.”
March 30, 2011
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2011 (S. 675). “The bill would extend the opportunity to build a government-to-government relationship with the United States, a right already enjoyed by 565 federally recognized tribes across the U.S. mainland and in Alaska, to Native Hawaiians. Representatives Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) introduced an identical companion bill (H.R. 1250) in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
According to a press release from the Committee, “The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act would begin a process to re-form a Native Hawaiian government that could negotiate with the state and federal government on behalf of Hawaii's indigenous people. Any agreements would require implementing legislation by the state or federal government; no jurisdiction would be changed without approval.
While Congress has traditionally treated Native Hawaiians in a manner similar to American Indians and Alaska Natives, the current federal policy of self-governance and self-determination has not been fully extended to Native Hawaiians. Upon enactment, the bill authorizes the process for federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian governing entity, a necessary component to advancing the current federal policy and efforts towards reconciliation.”
March 2, 2011
According to several news sources Hawaii Senator Akaka will not seek reelection in 2012. The Senator, 86, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs said in a statement, “As many of you can imagine, it was a very difficult decision for me. However, I feel that the end of this Congress is the right time for me to step aside."
February 8, 2011
Rosebud Sioux Tribe plans the first VA cemetery in Indian Country. According to a news story on Indianz.com, “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota is working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to plan what would be the first national cemetery in Indian Country.”
January 31, 2011
The VA announced plans to expand outreach to American Indians, Hawaiians, Alaska Natives with the new Office of Tribal Governmental Relations to serve as Advocates for Tribal Veterans.
January 14, 2011
Secretary Salazar, Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk Submit Draft Consultation Policy to Tribal Leaders. Framework Provides Greater Role for Tribes in Federal Decisions Affecting Indian Country. A press release was issued from the Bureau of Indian Affairs website:
“WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk today provided the Department’s draft Tribal Consultation Policy to the leaders of the nation’s 565 federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes for their review and comment. Receiving input from Indian country on the draft policy will guide the Department in carrying out President Obama’s directive to all federal departments to develop ways to improve communication and consultation with Tribal leaders in order to develop positive solutions for issues affecting the First Americans.
“Our goal is a comprehensive, transparent and effective policy on which the Tribes can rely,” Secretary Salazar said. “We must have a policy that embodies the best consultation practices available, responds to the needs of Tribal leaders to be more engaged in policy development and promotes more responsible decision-making on issues affecting American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Salazar said. “The success of this policy depends greatly on the depth of input received from Indian Country.” …
The draft policy was developed in response to President Obama’s Nov. 5, 2009 White House Memorandum on Tribal Consultation, which signaled this Administration’s commitment to strengthening the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Tribal nations. The President’s memorandum supported tribal consultation as “a critical ingredient of a sound and productive Federal-tribal relationship” and called on all federal agencies to develop plans of action to establish tribal consultation policy.”
December 16, 2010
President Obama’s Remarks at the 2010 White House Tribal Nations Conference held at the Department of the Interior. On Thursday, December 16, 2010, President Obama hosted the White House Tribal Nations Conference. “As part of President Obama’s ongoing outreach to the American people, this conference will provide leaders from the 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration. Each federally recognized tribe will be invited to send one representative to the conference. This will be the second White House Tribal Nations Conference for the Obama Administration, and continues to build upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the nation to nation relationship with Indian Country.”
November 11, 2010
Native American 'Warriors' Mark Military Service. National Public Radio (NPR), November 11, 2010. “As the nation remembers those who have served in our military, perhaps seldom discussed is the long history of Native American military contributions…In 2006, Steven Clevenger began a three-year project documenting the warrior tradition of soldiers serving in Iraq. His work resulted in his book, America's First Warriors: Native Americans and Iraq.”
An excerpt from interview with Clevenger: “You asked every person in your book if they had any reservations about protecting and defending a country that had not always done right by them. What did they say? I think that’s a natural question. Anybody who is the least bit familiar with taming of America or the west. These people, they’ve been brutalized, they’ve suffered through genocide, forced onto reservations. … So I would ask them, why would you want to risk your life for a country that has done all these awful things to you and your people. … They didn’t consider themselves fighting for the government, they were fighting for their nation, for their people, to protect them.”
November 10, 2010 - American Indians Fought and Bled for the Nation That Fought Them. By Ed Hooper (a military affairs writer based in Knoxville) published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on November 10, 2010.
“In June, 30 cars pulled into the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, S.D., to lay a legendary Marine to rest. South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds asked that flags be lowered across the state to half mast in tribute to Clarence Wolf Guts — the last surviving Lakota Sioux “Code Talker” of World War II. In September, one of the original Navajo “Code Talkers,” Allen Dale June, also passed away. While Navajo are the most known, 15 other Indian tribes were also involved in the top secret project that “unofficially” began in the trenches of World War I. Though declassified in 1968, their stories are little known.
Veterans Day falls in the middle of American Indian Heritage Month, but those men and others like Ira Hayes of the Pima tribe who helped raise the iconic flag on Iwo Jima and General Clarence Tinker of the Osage tribe, who was the first U.S. General killed in World War II, will sadly go unmentioned in U.S. classrooms…”
March 3, 2010
An article in Indian Country Today, “California first to create position for Native American vets.”
February 16, 2010
From an article in the Native American Times, the current administration budget for FY 2011,”includes $4.4 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to expand investments initiated in 2010. Increases for IHS will strengthen existing Federal, tribal, and urban programs that serve 1.9 million AI/ANs at approximately 600 facilities nationwide and will expand access to Contract Health Services to cover health care services provided outside of the Indian health system when services are not available at IHS-funded facilities.”
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