Safeguarding Sacred Tribal Items

There is a clear difference between supporting tribal artists or collecting artifacts ethically and legallyas opposed to dealing or exporting items that tribes have identified as essential pieces of their cultural heritage.

Earlier this year, the Pueblo of Acoma discovered that a sacred ceremonial shield that had been stolen was about to be sold to the highest bidder at an art auction in Paris. Gov. Kurt Riley notified U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, who wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the U.S. State Department to help repatriate the shield and other stolen cultural items to American Indian tribes. In that particular case, public outcry and diplomatic pressure were enough to postpone the sale. In hundreds of other cases, tribes have been unable to stop sales of their religious and cultural items in international markets.

Under federal law, it is a crime to sell these types of objects. However, penalties in the Antiquities Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act are not as high as similar statutes, such as the National Stolen Property Act. Prosecutions are infrequent, and there is no explicit ban on exporting such items.

Sen. Heinrich plans to introduce the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act, which would double the prison time to 10 years for illegally trafficking in tribal cultural patrimony. It would also prohibit exporting these objects and would create a tribal working group to help federal agencies better understand the scope of the problem and how to solve it. The Navajo Nation’s Naa’bik’íyáti’ Committee has passed a resolution to support the act. It has also been endorsed by the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the pueblos of Acoma, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambé, Ohkay Owingeh, Santa Ana and Zuni, as well as the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the National Congress of American Indians.

Changing the hearts and minds of art collectors and dealers who are engaging in this practice is also needed. The STOP bill includes an immunity period for collectors who may have illegal items in their possession to voluntarily repatriate those items without the threat of prosecution.

 

New Right of Way Rule for Indian Lands In Effect

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s new right of way rule for Indian lands took effect in April. The new rule will increase deference to tribal decisions, preempt state taxation of on-reservation economic activity (so that tribal governments can develop their own tax bases) and prevent uncompensated “piggy-backing” of new uses on old rights of way. The new rule also fixes the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Strate v. A-1 Contractors; going forward, tribes and tribal courts will have authority and jurisdiction over new rights of way.

Some members of industry are opposed to tribal sovereignty, but the new rule will speed decision-making and approvals, so tribes and their industry partners will see economic development projects move more swiftly. The Department of Justice has already begun to defend the rule successfully. The rule is a success for tribal sovereignty and self-governance.

 

Pueblo of Santa Ana Purchases Alamo Ranch

Tribes have been buying back ancestral lands. The Pueblo of Santa Ana recently spent nearly $33 million to purchase the Alamo Ranch from the family of the late former New Mexico Gov. Bruce King. The former cattle ranch near the edge of Río Rancho borders Zia and Laguna pueblos. It was historically a part of the tribe’s migration routes and hunting grounds and is nearly equal in size to the pueblo’s present reservation.

“In traditional Santa Ana culture, land, water, life, traditions, family and cultural identity are the foundation of what makes us go,” said Santa Ana Gov. Myron Armijo. “We will keep this land in its natural state.” The pueblo will use parts of it for ceremonies and is developing a natural resources and wildlife management plan. The governor said that some non-native recreational access might be possible.

In 2013 Santa Ana Pueblo used profits from its casino to buy the 600-acre Montoya ranch, southwest of San Ysidro. The tribe intends to apply to the U.S. Department of the Interior for other lands to be put into trust. In the past seven years, the U.S. government has placed 415,000 acres into trust for tribes, and that may expand to 500,000 acres before President Obama leaves office. Putting land into trust is a process that takes many years. A congressional vote ultimately is required for the land to be taken by or sold to a tribe.

 

HEARTH Act Agreement Supports Home Ownership on Tribal Lands

Earlier this year, Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo Gov. Earl Salazar met with U.S. Department of the Interior Acting Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Roberts to sign an agreement that formally approves a new tribal leasing regulation that gives the pueblo greater control of leasing on tribal lands. Sandia Pueblo has also signed the agreement.

The agreement was made possible through the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act, a bill sponsored by then-Rep. Martin Heinrich in 2012, which gives tribes the option of approving federal trust land leases for residential, business, renewable energy and other purposes directly through tribal regulations, rather than having to wait for approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Sen. Heinrich, who attended the signing ceremony, called the regulation change “a milestone in strengthening self-determination and tribal sovereignty that will open doors to more jobs and economic development in Indian Country.” He also said, “The agreement will make it easier for Native families to buy houses and open businesses in the communities where their families have lived for generations.”

Cultivating Coders—SxSW’s Startup of the Year

A new Albuquerque nonprofit, Cultivating Coders, takes eight-week intensive-coding bootcamps on the road for aspiring web developers in tribal, rural, inner-city neighborhoods and other underserved communities. The company has Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act certification, which allows low-income students to receive federal aid for training.

Cultivating Coders partners with local businesses to provide internships. Students give back by working on web and software projects for nonprofit organizations. The company has signed a deal with the Farmington, New Mexico-based Episcopal Church in Navajoland to train up to 45 Native American students and help the church establish a software development shop for program graduates that can provide immediate employment opportunities.

In March, the tech startup’s chief technology officer, Charles Sandidge, and the company’s president, Charles Ashley III, attended the South by Southwest interactive festival in Austin, Texas. They were there looking for large-scale partners with the same vision of helping add diversity in the technology industry by teaching coders that wouldn’t otherwise have access to the computer training. Competing against 18 others in the pitch competition, Cultivating Coders was one of two companies to take first place in the seventh annual Tech.Co SxSW Startup of the Year and received an invitation to Tech.Co’s prestigious national startup competition.

For more information, contact Ashley at cashley@cultivatingcoders.com

Helping Tribal Nations with Broadband

Low Internet connectivity and lack of broadband access can be a detriment to education, healthcare and business. New Mexico has the 10th-worst broadband speeds in the nation. Only one-fifth of people living on tribal land in New Mexico have access to wired broadband.

AMERIND Risk Management Corp. ranks second on Albuquerque Business First’s list of largest American Indian-owned businesses. The insurance provider’s clients include the Pueblo of Acoma and the Pueblo of Santo Domingo. AMERIND Risk has launched a new line of business focused on increasing connectivity in rural areas. The company has begun to assist tribal nations with analysis, planning, management, financing, design and execution of broadband deployment.

In March the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) awarded a New Mexico telecommunications company, Sacred Wind, a $13.8 million low-interest loan to improve Internet service by extending fiber-optic cable from Gallup to the Navajo community of To’hajiilee, west of Albuquerque. The project will take three years to complete. In 2015 the RUS Telecommunications Loan Program and the Substantially Underserved Trust Land (SUTA) Program provided a $5.3 million loan to Mescalero Apache Telephone, Inc. to build a broadband communication system.

The Santa Fe Indian Center

The Santa Fe Indian Center (SFIC) was formed in 2008 by a concerned group of local Native American residents who saw a need for an organization that would be of service to all Native Americans living in Santa Fe. SFIC operates under a fiscal sponsorship of the New Mexico Community Foundation.

 

Native people residing in urban areas are among the most invisible populations, yet … 72 percent of all American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN), and 78 percent of all AI/AN children live in cities. This invisibility perpetuates extreme disparities … for tribal citizens including: children and family services, housing and homelessness, economic development and employment, and health and wellness (including the justice system). 

Making the Invisible Visible; A Policy Blueprint from Urban Indian America by the National Urban Indian Family Coalition, June 2015

 

Through a $10,000 grant from the Buckaroo Ball Foundation plus additional individual gifts and food concessions proceeds at the Santa Fe Powwow, since 2011, 55 adults and 75 children have been assisted through a financial hardship or crisis, including rent, utilities, car repairs, educational, medical and funeral expenses. Another $2,000 has gone towards gift cards for gas, clothing and food for families in urgent need.

In partnership with Rotary Del Sur and their Shoes for Kids program, SFIC has enabled Indian schoolchildren living below the poverty level to receive one pair of shoes and six pairs of socks. Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation recently contributed $1,500 in support of this initiative. Financial support also comes from the Native American Advised Endowment Fund at Santa Fe Community Foundation.

Thanks to funding from the New Mexico Health Equity Partnership, SFIC is currently sponsoring a Health Impact Assessment of the urban Indian community and the ability of the Indian Health Service to meet its needs. The Santa Fe Indian Hospital serves nine pueblos but does not receive funding for members of other tribes that represent much of the Santa Fe Indian population. Results of the assessment will be available in the fall.

SFIC has hosted many gatherings and workshops, such as “The Importance of Growing Your Own Garden,” “Native American Gardening Techniques” and “Leading a Healthier Lifestyle.” In association with Wings of America, SFPS Native American Student Services and Railyard Stewards, SFIC has sponsored “Laps 4 Life,” a day for health and wellness with free workshops on physical fitness and goal setting.

 

American Indian Community Day – Sept. 17

Each year SFIC hosts “Indian Summer: American Indian Community Day in Santa Fe,” which brings the community together to socialize, participate in cultural awareness, share a meal and have fun. It will be held this year on Sept. 17, noon to 4 pm at Ragel Park. It is free, open to the public, and features Native American dancers and singers, stories, music, games, art, breakdancing and nonprofit booths.

 

If you are interested in helping the center’s efforts, call 505.620.4210, email sfindiancenter@gmail.com or visit www.santafeindiancenter.org