Smoke Signals Indian Law Blog Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Paddling Together Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:41:37 +0000 Continue Reading]]> I Stock photo - canoePicture it – February 24, 2015, Washington DC and NCAI Winter Session and NACA Congressional Outreach Summit are in full swing.  Native people from Kotzebue to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida have descended on the most powerful city in the world and are combing the halls of Congress and the Departments of Interior, Commerce and Labor. Many issues are being discussed – health care, marijuana, dental aides in Indian Country, integration of marijuana into our health care systems, taxes, access to broadband, development of a national emergency response system, the new BIA ICW guidelines, access to housing, homeland security, federal acknowledgement, Alaska land-into-trust rule, the Native 8a program, President Cladoosby’s reservation and the smelly plume of doom, just to name a few.

There is a lot going on. Let’s just say the Capital Hilton vacuums may never be the same. (As many Hoovers as Native hair has put to rest, we really ought to invest in vacuum companies…)

But in the midst of all this seeming chaos, there is a sense of purpose. A sense that (to borrow from my Coast Salish relatives) “we are all paddling together in the same canoe”.

I think this sense of community and purpose is a gift. As an advisor to tribes in all facets of their governments and business, my practice has run from gaming to child welfare, drafting tribal court rules, real estate, business development, marijuana, and on and on. I don’t think my experience is the exception, rather, the rule.

Indian Country is incredibly diverse. But no matter how many paddles we have on the canoe or how many different hands pull them, we are all paddling together to make life better for our community.

Shout out to all those tribal leaders freezing in their jeans and slipping on the ice in cowboy boots as they charge the Hill to ensure we are never forgotten. Hands up to all their staff and the staff of these organizations listed on this site who track these important issues and let us know when we need to act. Prayers for those warriors embedded in the enemy camp who work that side on our behalf.

Keep Paddling,


Warning Regarding Federal Law: The possession, distribution, and manufacturing of marijuana is illegal under federal law, regardless of state law which may, in some jurisdictions, decriminalize such activity under certain circumstances. Federal penalties for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act (the “CSA”) are serious and, depending on the quantity of marijuana involved, can include criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000,000. 21 U.S.C. § 841. The penalties increase if the sale or possession with intent occurs within 1,000 feet of a school, university, playground, or public housing facility. 21 U.S.C. § 860. In addition, the federal government may seize, and seek the civil forfeiture of, the real or personal property used to facilitate the sale of marijuana as well as the money or other proceeds from the sale. 21 U.S.C. § 881. Although the U.S. Department of Justice has noted that an effective state regulatory system, and compliance with such a system, should be considered in the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion, its authority to prosecute violations of the CSA is not diminished by the passage of state laws which may permit such activity. Indeed, due to the federal government’s jurisdiction over interstate commerce, when businesses provide services to marijuana producers, processors or distributors located in multiple states, they potentially face a higher level of scrutiny from federal authorities than do their customers with local operations.

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Grants Expert Ron Flavin Featured on Smoke Signals Blog Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:32:17 +0000 Continue Reading]]> On October 15, Ron Flavin, will be a featured panelist at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA.

Ron Flavin is an internationally acclaimed Business Organizational Strategist who has specific expertise in developing and writing grant proposals for businesses of all sizes as well as for non-profit organizations, government agencies and educational institutions. To date, Ron Flavin has helped his clients secure more than $175 million in funding and develop successful, sustainable short and long term business growth strategies.  Due to his knowledge and contacts, Ronald Flavin is the bridge between two worlds: big businesses and organizations of all sizes, including NGOs and small businesses.

According to Ron Flavin, “Many entrepreneurs and organizations may not be aware that they are good candidates to secure millions of dollars in grants funding. The problem is a shrinking pool of dollars and few tribes are able to develop competitive applications that get funded. Compounding the problem further, many grant applicants do not follow the directions in their grant applications. They don’t develop solid proposals. And they don’t plan for the strategic development of the proposal. It’s surprising how many grant applicants do not do the research they need to do to get the accurate and current information that could win the grant. “

He has a successful track record in getting grants for tribal initiatives related to telecommunications. Clients include the Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative (KRRBI) for the Karuk Tribe (California). He has also had a 100% success rate with the USDA’s Community Connect program and obtained a $1.4 million award for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Keller, Washington).

Ron Flavin stated, “At the conference, I want the participants to understand the most common reasons why tribal proposals do not get funded. They’ll have a better understanding of why some proposals get funded and others don’t. They’ll learn strategies or tips for strengthening their proposals. And finally, the participants will benefit by learning how they can improve their access to broadband funding.”
NOTE: Ron Flavin recently wrote the grant and consulted to the Three Rivers Valley Educational Foundation. The grant awarded was $10.8M.

As the author of Business Grants: Everything you need to know to connect with local, state and federal grants for business,he is known for identifying potential revenue streams in any organization and implementing a plan to develop these new sources of revenue. Flavin frequently announces current grants opportunities on his highly popular blog that is located at or on Twitter @rflavin.

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Andrea Alexander Featured on Smoke Signals Blog Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:23:34 +0000 Continue Reading]]> On October 15-16, Andrea Alexander (Makah) will be a featured speaker at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA.

Andrea Alexander has over 30 years experience of development in the native community and runs her own business, Energy Innovation Foundation. Her firm provides strategic planning and project development for Tribal governments and non-profit organizations. Andrea Alexander has been a native community activist for 10 years for telecommunications and energy and stays current on the policy & programs that impacts the tribes.

Andrea Alexander commented on the problem facing native communities: The lack of reliable broadband has an adverse impact on the many services each Tribal government has to deliver in aspects of healthcare, education, transportation and commerce.

According to Andrea, “My tribe doesn’t have full access to broadband. The current policy depends on the private sector to build the infrastructure, but if the population is too small, the investment will not happen. It’s a huge problem and we’re in a huge crisis situation. The fact that our children can’t take the required state tests because we don’t have 4G has helped to motivate leadership to take action and give new to life to this important policy issue. We are seeking economic parity to broadband to gain full access to the internet as well as broader cell phone coverage for all rural tribal communities.”

Andrea has served as the Director of Energy for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Deputy Director for the Washington State Office on Indian Affairs, and her own tribe, the Makah Nation to create public/private partnerships in the Northwest. As the current Co-Chair for the ATNI Telecommunications Committee, she hopes the conference attendees will help:

“Recruit new stakeholders to this issue that will travel to Tulalip and learn about our issues. The conference location will help attract active allies willing to help northwest native people address the growing technology issues we face. We need help in building a broad-based, diverse movement committed to solving the lack of connectivity. In today’s world, all services and businesses are dependent on the internet and without it the people who live and work in these areas are at a distinct disadvantage. The fact that we still have large areas without broadband service is a form of economic racism and is essentially redlining these communities.”

“On October 16, there will be an ATNI Technology Committee work session to bring the common policy issues to light and build the necessary consensus to create strategies to overcome obstacles in the technology field. Once we get people to agree on the problem, then we can work on developing a shared strategy to overcome any barriers. Funding for broadband initiatives is our biggest challenge right now; the lack of funds and the high level of complexity in the application process is one area we can address right away. We have a short game and long game for policy change. As northwest native people, we linked to our sense of place – we will always be here. I have been taught by my Elders, success is not just about big money or big politics, it is also being committed to hanging in over the long haul. We always look forward to the great hospitality of our Tulalip brothers and sisters & thanks to all the organizers”.

Andrea gained her philanthropic experience through the First Nations Development Institute, than as the Director of Grants for Social Justice Fund Northwest, as a volunteer for the

Philanthropy Northwest Grantmakers of Color and as the founder for the Potlatch Fund. Here are her comments about the need for new funding for technology training programs.

“We need new sources of funding so any rural community, tribal or not can apply to get access to technology training. Technology is changing so rapidly and a native led effort will ensure we can keep up. We are developing the Tribal Technology Training Program or T3 to educate people at the grass roots level with tech skills that will support their educational and employment potential. One of the main outcomes I’d like to see is direct financial support for T3 initiatives. The technology training needs to happen now.”

Andrea Alexander and her husband Mike, a Haida tribal member, along with their 13 year old daughter, Antonia, reside in the Seattle area.

For further information contact Andrea Alexander,

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Senator John McCoy Featured on Smoke Signals Blog Mon, 13 Oct 2014 20:51:10 +0000 Continue Reading]]> On October 15, Senator John McCoy (Tulalip), Washington State Legislature, will be a featured speaker at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA.

John McCoy represents the Everett, Marysville, and Tulalip communities, and neighborhoods of Snohomish County in the Washington State Senate. John was elected to the House of Representatives in 2003, and appointed to the Senate in November 2013.

John served in the United States Air Force for 20 years, retiring in 1981 and went to work as a computer technician in the White House, where he stayed from 1982 to 1985, continuing his career in computer programming and operations and management in the private sector.

He returned to his home state almost two decades back to help bring the Tulalip community into the digital world. John was instrumental in the development of the Quil Ceda Village Business Park. John and his wife, Jeannie McCoy, make their home in Tulalip. Bringing the tribe and other underserved areas of Snohomish County fully into the 21st century with high speed broadband access to the Internet has been one of the driving goals for John since coming home.

“There are still many areas of Washington State where being underserved or not served by broadband is still a prevalent problem,” said McCoy recently. “We still have neighborhoods in Seattle that do not have broadband. For example in there are pockets in the 11th legislative district in South Lake Union, close to where Amazon is located, that do not get broadband. The problem is how to get broadband in there.

“There are wide expanses of rural areas that are going without broadband. For example on the Makah reservation the connectivity issue has been moving forward and making progress and yet, on the day the students have to take tests online, the tribal government has to shut down so the kids have bandwidth to take their tests. Another example is when high school seniors from Davenport had to drive 35 miles to Spokane to find Wi-Fi hotspots, and stop in parking lots so they could do their homework and get their senior projects done.”

McCoy said he can point to other areas of the state where the situation is the same. In the 1980s and 1990s, he points out, the term “Digital Divide” was being used to refer to individuals – who had broadband and who did not. These days, however, it means whole areas that are underserved or not served at all.

“When I served in the United States Air Force,” he recalled, “I learned technology from the ground floor. When I came home to the Tulalip Reservation, Stan Jones [Chairman of the Tulalip Reservation Board of Directors] recruited me to build an economy. I grew-up in technology but all I had on the reservation was dial-up. I had to figure out how to get the latest technology on the reservation.”

“When it comes to being wired,’ he said, “people claim 90 percent of Washington State had broadband connectivity, but the majority live in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Everett, and in the small cities and towns between Seattle and Olympia.” Places outside of these areas, he said, have pretty sparse connectivity. “In the Tri-cities, they have holes in their network too,” McCoy said. “This is a statewide problem and we need to fix it.” In some places, city and county codes are keeping broadband out for aesthetic reasons. Cities and the counties both need to address this problem and fix it, he said.

“My frustration is that so many schools are doing without broadband connectivity, especially when the Washington state Board of Education is pushing for wide scale electronic testing. How can they implement that requirement when there are so many areas without broadband?

As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, Sen. McCoy is in a better situation than many to try to address this problem.

“The problem with the lack of broadband has been identified,” he said. “Now, there will be a lot of conversation on what kind of funding the government will provide. How do we get funding? How do we get the big telecoms to play? The telecom companies will not go to an area unless it’s financially feasible. At what point should they do something because it’s the right thing to do?”

Wherever broadband goes, business follows, he points out. “Broadband is an economic engine. Let’s take a look at the Quil Ceda Village Business Park that was developed in 2000. The Quil Ceda Village business park has become vital to building and sustaining the Tulalip culture and regional economy. Today the Quil Ceda Village is a popular destination for thousands of shoppers and provides a highly visible opportunity for a variety of businesses.

Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of John McCoy, the entire area in and around the Tulalip Reservation is double ringed in fiber. Tulalip owns its own phone and broadband Internet providers, an HDTV company and a fiber optic company.

“Once the latest technology was adopted, many businesses came knocking on our door and said they wanted to be there because the infrastructure was there,” said McCoy. “We think our success can be shared and serve as an example to many other areas on the state of Washington.”

Sen. McCoy also serves on the Senate Government Operations Committee and the Senate Rules Committee. He is an active member of four National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) panels. John is a co-chair of the NCSL committee on the Environment, and he’s also a member of the NCSL Labor & Economic Development Committee; the NCSL Communications, Financial Services & Interstate Commerce Standing Committee, and the NCSL Environmental Management Legislative Roundtable.

John and Jeannie McCoy have three daughters, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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Indian Country Influence in Politics Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:30:19 +0000 Continue Reading]]> Below is a great article analyzing the important role that Indian Country can play on impacting Congressional and local elections.  While our population may appear small in the aggregate, we have majority populations in many states that will matter in the upcoming elections.  The opportunity is enormous.

I’ve spent a ton of time chatting with Dick Trudell of the American Indian Resources Institute about the need for Indian Country to cultivate friends and advocates in Congress.  One way to do this is to participate in key elections – even if those elections are not in your state or even your region.  Seems strange, but consider this: the late, great Senator Daniel Inouye did not have any tribal constituents in his state and there was no greater advocate for tribes in the recent past than him.  We need to find our next “Inouye’s” (we need more than one) and participation in election campaigns and strategic political contributions are key to developing those friends and allies. 

Check out the article below. I want to hear your comments!

Remember to “Get out the Native Vote!”  

– Lael


Could American Indians Decide the Senate Majority? 

Henry Gass, E&E reporter, published on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 

Shortly after Rep. Steve Daines (R) took office as Montana’s lone member of the House in January 2013, one of his first meetings was with Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow Tribe, one of the state’s largest American Indian tribes. Daines said he asked Old Coyote what his top three priorities were for the tribe.

“He said No. 1 is jobs, No. 2 is jobs, and No. 3 is jobs,” Daines recalled.

Daines has since emerged as a leading candidate for Senate in this year’s election, vying to win one of the critical Democratic-held seats in Republican-leaning states and re-establish a GOP majority in the upper chamber. Montana is lining up to be one of a handful of Senate races that could determine which party will control the chamber for the next two years. Many of those states, including Montana, South Dakota and Alaska, are home to a large number of American Indians.

In these large, sparsely populated states, American Indian votes have often proved the difference in elections. Despite ongoing issues with voter access in tribal communities, senators like Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have benefited from strong, decisive Native support to win their seats. Daines said the influence of the Native vote in these states could help explain why Democrats are enjoying the slim majority in the Senate they have now.

“I think Republicans have done overall a poor job of working with our tribes,” Daines said. “We need to be much more proactive in reaching out and listening to what their issues are.”

Politically, it makes sense. In Montana, American Indians are 6.3 percent of the population — still a minority, but enough to carry elections often decided by a few thousand votes, especially when they vote in a block. That helps explain why Tester was eager to take over the gavel of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee earlier this year, though he isn’t up for re-election until 2018.

The Native share of the population is even higher in other states — almost 9 percent in South Dakota and almost 15 percent in Alaska, the highest proportion in the country.

Tom Rodgers, a lobbyist on American Indian issues and a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, said American Indians have played a key role in recent Senate wins for Democrats like Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.). He expects the Native vote to be crucial in some races this November.

“If Democrats want to succeed in some of these races, they have to get [American Indians] to the polls,” Rodgers said.

Historically, he added, Natives have leaned toward voting for Democrats at the national level. But as American Indians seek to alleviate the crushing poverty that exists on many reservations, how candidates align on energy and environmental issues — especially on fossil fuel development — could help carry key Western Senate races and determine the chamber’s majority in 2015.

‘Divisions’ over energy development

The issue facing many American Indian communities across the fossil-rich West is how to reconcile their culture of environmental stewardship with their need for revenue. On the Blackfoot Reservation, for example, where unemployment is 69 percent, Rodgers said the debate over oil and gas development has been “very tension-filled.”

“Native Americans are wonderful stewards of the land. The problem is once again our people also need to eat; they need health care; they need education,” he said.

Daines said Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow tribe, once told him that “a war on coal is a war on the Crow people of Montana.” In most of Indian Country, energy issues are not that black and white. A quarter of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in poverty, a third don’t have health care, and a resident of an Indian reservation has less than half the U.S. average income.

And despite the economic woes, there is strong Native opposition to controversial energy extraction methods like fracking for natural gas and to construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Reached by phone in late March, Kathy Little Leaf, an activist with Indian Peoples Action, had just been organizing the blockade of megaload trucks carrying equipment through tribal areas in Montana to oil sands operations in Alberta, Canada.

Incumbent Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) took office Feb. 11. Photo courtesy of the John Walsh Senate campaign.

Little Leaf said she doesn’t think the potential long-term impacts of fossil fuel development are being conveyed to American Indians on reservations in Montana.

“There’s just so many other things happening on reservations,” she said. “I understand that they are looking to get economic prosperity within the reservation, but, at same time, we need to acknowledge: Are they understanding the consequences of oil extraction? Are they understanding the long-term effects, especially with our water source?”Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), appointed this year to take the seat vacated by former Sen. Max Baucus (D), said in a statement emailed to E&E Daily that natural resources development “must be done safely and fairly.” In speaking with tribal leaders in Montana this year, he said they’d voiced concern over red tape and other obstacles to investment in resource development.

“Any resource development we undertake must be done responsibly and with protections for property owners, as well as for our clean air and water,” said Walsh, who is expected to square off against Daines as he seeks a full term in November. “Coal development on the Crow Reservation specifically has been a long-standing source of good-paying jobs and non-federal revenue to the tribe.”

Issues with access

Despite the significant American Indian population in many Western states, their voting power could be hampered by how many are physically able to get to the polls this year. Lawsuits in both Montana and Alaska are currently being heard over this issue, and both rulings could have a major impact on how many Natives get to vote later this year.

In October 2012, 19 members of the Northern Cheyenne, Crow and Fort Belknap tribes sued Montana’s secretary of State, arguing that the lack of satellite late registration and absentee voting offices on reservations, combined with the immense distances many of those on reservations had to travel in order to vote, constituted a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Without the voting stations, voters on many of the state’s reservations have to travel almost 100 miles round-trip to cast their ballot at the county seat. In communities where only one of every three homes has a vehicle and poverty can make gas money unaffordable, such a trip becomes even more difficult. For a Washington, D.C. resident, it would be like having to drive to Gettysburg, Pa., to vote, Rodgers said.

“Extreme poverty plus geographical distance is by definition unequal access,” said Rodgers, who is volunteering to help with the case.

The decision in the case, which Rodgers expects to come in June, could have extra significance this election. Indian Country voter turnout — as in many other parts of the country — “falls off a cliff” in midterm elections, dropping by roughly 50 percent, he added.

And adding satellite voting stations works, according to similar work carried about by Four Directions Inc., an American Indian voting rights group that is also helping the plaintiffs in the Montana case.

Beginning with a South Dakota special election in June 2004 for a vacant seat in the House, a months-long voter registration effort from the group resulted in an American Indian turnout of 3,374. The special election was decided by just over 3,000 votes, with Democrat Stephanie Herseth winning. When Herseth defended her seat that November, Four Directions worked with local county governments to set up early voting offices on Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Crow Creek reservations in South Dakota — the same offices Four Directions hope to establish in Montana — and delivered the highest Indian voter turnout in the state’s history. Herseth won again by almost 30,000 votes. In the Senate race that year, Republican John Thune was able to beat incumbent Democrat Tom Daschle, then the Senate majority leader, by a few thousand votes — again thanks to Native influence, according to OJ Semans, executive director of Four Directions.

Thune had learned his lesson well: Two years earlier, he lost to Sen. Tim Johnson (D) by just 524 votes — with Johnson’s showing on the Pine Ridge Reservation thought to have made the difference.

In 2004, “Senator Thune opened campaign offices in Pine Ridge and Rosebud [reservations]. Although he did not carry the Native vote his efforts increased his votes on the reservation. By increasing his votes on reservations he was able to win,” Semans said.

The disposition of the American Indian vote in South Dakota may not matter as much in this year’s Senate election as it once did: former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) is the strong favorite in the race to replace Johnson — and South Dakota is considered one of the Senate GOP’s top pickup opportunities this election cycle.

‘Very basic things are missing’

In Alaska, another lawsuit could have implications for the seat held by Sen. Mark Begich (D).

A group of Alaska Natives have sued state Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell — who is one of three Republicans seeking Begich’s seat — accusing him of violating the Voting Rights Act. A motion for summary judgment in the case submitted to the U.S. District Court in Alaska last Friday argues that Treadwell’s office failed to disseminate the required written ballot materials in minority languages Yup’ik and Gwich’in and that the few materials that were translated were done poorly and non-uniformly.

Sen. Mark Begich (center) meets with community members in Wainwright, Alaska. Natives make up almost 20 percent of the state’s voting population. Photo courtesy of the Mark Begich Senate campaign.

Natalie Landreth, the lead lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case and a staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund, said basic ballot materials like information about the candidates and voting deadlines aren’t translated. Various ballot measures are also translated poorly, she said.

“Very basic things are missing, and that’s a huge problem,” she added.

Issues with the translation of ballots — which is the substance of the lawsuit — are exacerbated by a lack of early voting in many Alaska Native villages. Landreth said as many as 100,000 Natives are only able to vote on Election Day or by absentee ballot. Voting on Election Day can be further constrained by polling machines that are shared between villages separated by rivers, and absentee balloting can be confusing for voters who don’t speak English. Twenty-four Alaska villages didn’t have a polling place in the 2004 election. Native Alaskans also have the highest unemployment, lowest education and most people living in poverty of any Alaskan ethnic group.

“It’s very rare to see this [nationally]. Differential access to early voting, differential access to materials,” Landreth said. “It’s very, very rare, but it’s widespread up here.”

The summary motion filed last week is the first substantive action in the case, which has been ongoing since last July. Landreth said their team intended to ask the court for a release on the case this year, but she doubts that all their demands will be met in time for this year’s election.

The consequences of the case could be significant in the race for Begich’s seat. With no early voting for some villages and poorly translated ballot materials during the 2012 presidential election, voter turnout across Native villages ranged from 7 to 30 percent below the statewide average.

“I think the race is so close that the Native vote decides who wins,” Landreth said. “Even with a lower turnout they decide who wins the Senate.”

Alaska Natives have helped swing recent federal elections in the state. In 2010, incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) became the first Senate candidate in more than 50 years to win an election with a write-in campaign after losing the August GOP primary to tea party favorite Joe Miller.

After Murkowski’s primary loss, Alaska Native communities launched a statewide effort to mobilize Native voters to write in Murkowski’s name on their ballot. Some villages gave 90 percent of their vote to her.

Alaska Natives are almost 15 percent of the total state population and almost 20 percent of its voting population, according to Liz Medicine Crow, president of the First Alaskans Institute. But access issues can limit the power of the population, she said.

“When we vote and when we show up to vote we can basically call any election based on our numbers,” she said. “But again it goes back to the access issue.”

Environmentalism in an oil-dependent state

In Alaska, more than three-quarters of state revenue comes from oil development; Alaskans pay no state income tax and even receive a check every year with a dividend from the Alaska Permanent Fund — a fund established in 1976 and sustained by the state’s slice of hydrocarbon development. Last year, each eligible Alaskan received $900 from the fund.

“You can’t get elected to any office here — you can’t get elected to the school board — if you oppose oil and gas development,” said Ethan Schutt, senior vice president of land and energy development for Cook Inlet Region Inc., a tribal corporation based in Anchorage.

The energy reality for the various Native corporations differs dramatically across the state.

Cook Inlet is trying to diversify its energy supply with wind power and coal gasification projects. Communities in southeast Alaska, along the Canadian border, are concerned about the effect of hydropower projects on vital salmon runs. In Alaska’s North Slope, ongoing oil development in Prudhoe Bay and proposed development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has divided Native communities much like it has in Montana.

The Gwich’in Steering Committee — representing residents of the northernmost Indian nation in the country — has opposed drilling in ANWR since it was first proposed in the late 1980s, claiming it would impact caribou populations and other resources the tribe depends on to survive.

Begich and most elected Alaska officials support development in ANWR, which is federal land, to compensate for declining production from Prudhoe Bay. Instead of voting based on a candidate’s position on oil development, Alaska Natives are likely to be scrutinizing how all the candidates compare when it comes to protecting Native hunting and fishing rights, self-governance and overall environmental justice in the midst of expanded oil development.

Ben Nageak, a Democrat in Alaska’s House of Representatives who was born in ANWR, has attracted headlines by taking to the House floor, wearing a polar bear claw necklace, to make fiery speeches in favor of opening the refuge for development.

Nageak, who is also a former mayor of North Slope Borough, said the region has been balancing oil development with wildlife conservation for decades.

“We’ve learned to live with oil development because we have worked with [industry] and they have worked with us for the past 40 years, and it has been wonderful,” he said.

At the end of the day, many American Indians, and those vying to represent them in Washington, will struggle to balance the welfare of the natural environment with the welfare of their own impoverished communities.

“People talk about [protecting] animals and stuff,” Nageak continued. “What about the people?”

Twitter: @henrygass | Email:

Copyright 2014  Environment & Energy Publishing, all rights reserved
Reprinted with permission

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Adaption Doesn’t Mean Assimilation Fri, 21 Mar 2014 22:32:54 +0000 Continue Reading]]> UPDATE: less than a week after our blog with Supa Man’s video, he was named MTV artist of the week! See it here.

I was reminded last night by my friend Tom Fernandez of Island Breeze Ministries and Island Breeze Productions that at the beginning and end of every day, indigenous people survive because we remain spiritual people. (Yes, a lawyer just said “spiritual”!!)

Past and present depictions of Native people would prefer to remember us solely as the “noble savage” standing on the beaches of Noepe, Tulalip, Oahu, Sitka, Rapa Nui, or Aotearoa waiting to greet the invaders, or riding our ponies across the Great Plains. These stereotyped pictures fail to see the beauty in who we are today. Survival does not mean we are exactly the same as we were before colonization, assimilation, termination, and all the other “-ion’s” that have been foisted on us. To me, it means we’ve adapted – taken the good, bad, and ugly, old and new and continue to pray, sing and dance as the people we have always been and will continue to be.

Here’s a video of Supa Man, member of the Crow Nation and hip hop artist, singing a prayer song in old and new ways.

Happy Friday.

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Northwest Indian Bar Association’s Annual Awards Banquet Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:23:58 +0000 Continue Reading]]>

 You’re invited to…
 The Northwest Indian Bar Association’s Annual Awards Banquet 

Speaker:  Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee)
a Native American speaker, author and attorney

We will also be giving the following awards:

Honorable Gary Bass (Colville)
Lifetime Achievement Award

Alan Stay
Tara Blair “Spirit of Service” Award

Gail Schubert (Inupiaq)
Unsung Hero Award

$85 for Board members of other MBAs
$85 for NIBA Members (must be current on dues)
$100 for Non-NIBA Members

Checks (made payable to NIBA) can be mailed to:

Lael Echo-Hawk
Garvey Schubert Barer
1191 Second Ave, 18th Floor
Seattle, WA  98101
Payments may also be made via PayPal to:


May 1, 2014

Reception at 4:30pm
Dinner at 5:30pm

W Hotel
1112 Fourth Ave
Seattle, WA

RSVP by April 15:
Lael Echo-Hawk

Please be sure to include your name, guest name(s) if applicable, and your entrée choice (wild fish, beef, or vegetarian).

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Five SBA 8a Workshops Scheduled Wed, 12 Feb 2014 00:44:17 +0000 Continue Reading]]> Has your Tribe, ANC or NHO considered participating in the Small Business Administration 8a program but you are not sure how it works?  The SBA will be holding 5 workshops in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska over March and April 2014.  This is a great opportunity to learn about the program and what it can mean for your Tribe, ANC or NHO.  Federal contracting is such a cool way to diversify economies. The U.S. buys a ton of “stuff” from pencils to chairs to airplanes to hotel rooms at a hotel in Afghanistan.  I’m not kidding.  Recently, the USAID program had a contract available for a water system in the West Bank.  Who better to build a water system in a rural developing country than Indian Country!  This is what we do!    

Check out the workshop notice below.  Feel free to contact me about government contracting if you have questions.  The Native American Contractors Association is also a great resource for Tribal, ANC and NHO 8a businesses.

The Small Business Administration, Office of Native American Affairs (SBA ONAA), will be offering specialized 8(a) Business Development training and technical assistance for Tribally Owned companies, Alaska Native Corporations, and Native Hawaiian Organizations in the following locations:

Seattle Washington: March 4, 2014

Portland, Oregon: March 6, 2014

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: March 18, 2014

Great Falls, Montana: March 20, 2014

Anchorage Alaska: April 2-3, 2014

This training session will focus on 8(a) Business Development and the unique rules and considerations for tribally-owned companies, ANCs and NHOs. The purpose of this workshop is to provide valuable insight to those in various stages of company development and ownership. The curriculum for the workshop series will be specifically tailored to provide operational and leadership strategies to build capacity, foster growth and expansion, and ensure sustainability of entity-owned businesses in Native American communities throughout the United States. Through this workshop, attendees will gain a better understanding of the special rules and considerations for tribally owned companies in the 8(a) program.  This training is available to all tribally-owned organizations, ANCs, and NHOs.

Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions (CNTS), a division of Cherokee Nation Businesses, will be conducting these training sessions under contract with the SBA. We welcome you to attend this valuable workshop. For more information, or to register for our event, please visit:

1. We are targeting tribal representatives who may want to learn more about how to develop a business within the SBA 8(a) program, as well as established tribally-owned companies already in the developmental and/or transitional phases of the 8(a) program.

2. We ask for your knowledge to understand of your community’s specific business development needs to ensure our curriculum is targeted to enhance the development of our program participants.

SBA Mission

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. We recognize th at small business is critical to our economic recovery and strength, to building America’s future, and to helping the United States compete in today’s global marketplace. Although SBA has grown and evolved in the years since it was established in 1953, the bottom line mission remains the same. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

ONAA Mission

The Office of Native American Affairs mission is to ensure that American Indians, Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians seeking to create, develop and expand small businesses have full access to the necessary business development and expansion tools available through the Agency’s entrepreneurial development, lending and procurement programs.

CNTS mission

The mission of CNTS under this contract is to provide training services to Tribal Corporations, Alaska Native Corporations, and Native Hawaiian Organizations in the developmental and transitional stage of the 8(a) Business Development Program. CNTS is a Native American operated technical assistance firm that helps transform and build strong tribal nations, enterprises, and organizations. CNTS provides the experience and practical tools to help organizations meet the challenges facing communities today.

Together, we will be able to help many native communities work toward a brighter future. Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions feels rewarded many times over for the opportunity to help in making a difference in the success of other tribally and native-owned corporations and organizations.

Please call me today at 410.350.4930 to find out more about our program, or visit our website.

Thank you in advance for your support, and we look forward to hearing from you!


Marcia Watson, Program Manager

Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions

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NAFOA Policy Alert Mon, 20 Jan 2014 20:02:39 +0000 Continue Reading]]> The IRS and Treasury are issuing a guidance on per capita distributions from tribal trust resources.   See NAFOA notice below regarding the phone consultation next Monday, January 27, 2014.  NOTE – this is not for gaming per capitas.

Treasury & IRS to Hold Phone Consultation on Forthcoming Guidance Clarifying the Per Capita Act  

Date: Monday, January 27, 2014

Time: 2:30 p.m. (EST)

Dial-in Number: 1-(800)-639-1840 (passcode 1059)

The Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will host a phone consultation on Monday, January 27, at 2:30 p.m. EST to discuss the forthcoming guidance concerning the federal income tax treatment of per capita distributions made to Indian tribe members from funds held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior.

Generally, under 25 CFR Section 115.700-701, funds may be accepted by the Secretary of the Interior on behalf of federally recognized tribes and certain Native citizens who have an interest in trust lands, trust resources, or trust assets. Moreover, the Per Capita Act decrees that per capita payments from tribal trust funds, held by the Secretary, to tribal members are tax-exempt. The forthcoming guidance will clarify the legal right of tribal members to receive tax-exempt, per capita payments from tribal trust funds. 

No registration is required for the call. Those interested simply call 1-800-639-1840 (toll free) and enter passcode 1059 at 2:30 p.m. EST on Monday, January, 27.

If you already have relevant questions, please email using the subject line ‘Forthcoming Per Capita Guidance‘. The Treasury and IRS will address your questions during the call. 


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Puyallup Tribe ICW Positions Open Fri, 17 Jan 2014 21:47:29 +0000 Continue Reading]]> Puyallup Tribe of Indians: Job Announcements

Assistant Prosecutor/ICW Child Welfare Presenting Officer

Indian Child Welfare Attorney

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