August 2015




Madelena Rediscovers Ancient Jemez Pueblo Pottery Process

Joshua Madelena, an award-winning potter, self-taught archaeologist and recent governor of Jemez Pueblo, has recaptured an art form dating back 300 years: Jemez Pueblo’s distinctive black-on-white pottery, which thrived from 1300 to 1700 but vanished with the Spanish reconquest.

During 10 years of painstaking research and experimentation, Madelena analyzed broken shards to figure out the original recipe. In the process, he was able to track the Jemez people’s history to before 200 A.D., when the tribe was part of Utah’s Fremont culture. Through analyzing the pottery, along with clues in the Towa language, Madelena says a direct connection has been established between the Jemez people and early Puebloans at Mesa Verde.

The Jemez people originally lived on top of the mesas that overlook their village. Conquistadors drove them to the valley below as part of efforts to convert them to Catholicism. On one of his treks up a mesa as part of his research, Madelena discovered an original mine from which he accessed clay to use in his attempts to recreate the coiled pottery. Paint formulas came from his grandmother. Through trial and error, and many cracked pots, he figured out traditional pit firing. Madelena exhibits his work each year at the Santa Fe Indian Market.


New Mexico Women in the Arts To Honor Filmmaker Jill Momaday

Too often in American culture, the stories of great men and women aren’t told until long after they’re gone. Filmmaker Jill Scott Momaday believes that the tradition of passing stories among generations is “the thread that connects all humanity.”

On Sept. 10, the New Mexico Committee of Women in the Arts (NMCWA) will celebrate Jill Momaday at a gala entitled “Weaving Legend, Legacy and Landscape through Filmmaking.” Momaday is the director, producer and writer of Return to Rainy Mountain, a documentary about her father, Pulitzer Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, and their Kiowa heritage as told from a woman’s perspective. The film ( will air on PBS in 2016.

Segments from the film-in-progress will be screened at the gala. In addition, N. Scott Momaday will read a poem he has composed in honor of his daughter Jill. The gala will also feature music and poetry performed by Jill Momaday’s husband and daughters.


The NMCWA was established in 1997 to support the museum’s mission to bring recognition to achievements of women artists in New Mexico. The gala fundraising dinner will take place on Sept. 10 at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, in Santa Fe. Proceeds will benefit the NMCWA scholarship program. Tickets ($125) can be purchased online at



Nakotah LaRance

Nakotah LaRance (Hopi/Tewa/Assiniboine ), seven-time World Hoop Dance Champion, recently returned from Toronto, Canada, where he was the star performer for Cirque Du Soleil’s opening ceremonies of the 2015 Pan American Games. LaRance was the principal dancer for the Cirque Du Soleil show “Totem” and is the master instructor for the Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth Hoop Dancers. He resides in Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico.



Acoma and Santa Clara Pueblos Seek More Control of Their Schools

Acoma and Santa Clara pueblos want to be able to design classes that support the teaching of their Native languages. The two pueblos have been considering taking on self-governance and having their schools become tribally- rather than federally operated. The federal Bureau of Indian Education (BIE—part of the BIA) would still pay for operational costs.

The two pueblos, along with five other tribes across the country, received BIE funds last month to develop their own curricula and school boards. The move reflects the Obama administration’s desire to help make tribes self-reliant. In recent and current years, the BIE has provided an unprecedented amount to build the capacity of tribal education departments.

The Santa Clara Tribal Council has voted for the pueblo’s schools to be independent. Acoma is still deliberating. As part of the process of asserting sovereignty in Indian education, the pueblos—Acoma, home to 5,000 tribal members, with two schools; and Santa Clara, with 1,000 tribal members and two schools—would be able to choose how much to spend on particular expenses in line with their priorities.

The pueblo of Jemez has implemented a Towa language-immersion approach in its Head Start programs. The University of New Mexico’s American Indian Language Policy Research and Teacher Training Center is providing Native language curriculum design, development and implementation assistance to support Pueblo tribes’ vision for culturally based early-childhood development.


First Nations Development Institute Awards

Native Agriculture and Food Systems Grants 

First Nations Development Institute has announced nine tribes and Native American organizations around the country that will receive grants through the institute’s Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI). The NAFSI is intended to help Native communities build sustainable food systems that will help eliminate food insecurity and enhance economic development in rural areas. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation makes the funding possible. Three innovative projects in New Mexico were selected for funding:

  • Tewa Farms’ Crop Expansion Project, $24,500, Pueblo of Pojoaque – This grant will support the expansion of the tribe’s farm. It will make possible the purchase and installation of two hoop houses, a heated greenhouse and a milling machine that will allow the farm to operate year-round, significantly improving community health and nutrition.


  • Red Willow Center, Growing Community Food Systems, $26,000, Taos Pueblo – This grant will allow the expansion of several projects including a greenhouse, farmers’ market and food-distribution program. This project seeks to increase access to fresh, healthy foods by implementing two new, tribal food-service programs for tribal youth and elders.


  • Ramah Navajo School Board, Inc., Wild Food Orchard, $14,192, Pine Hill – This project is a permaculture model for young entrepreneurs. During the school year, middle-school students will plant, grow, harvest and sell wild pine nuts. The project is intended to teach the basics of agriculture and business.



UNM Health Sciences Center Helps Zunis Address Health Problems

Zuni Pueblo, about 150 miles west of Albuquerque, has some of the highest rates of diabetes and kidney disease in the world. About 400 residents, most 45 and younger, are in early stages of kidney disease. UNM Health Sciences Center researcher, Vallabh “Raj” Shah, Ph.D., along with his colleague Dr. Philip Zager, have been working with the pueblo on the Zuni Health Initiative for 16 years to help tribal members address these chronic conditions. The researchers say that a sedentary lifestyle, a diet of mostly processed foods and reluctance to take advantage of available health care are mostly to blame.

Shah recruited health-care workers from the community to provide testing and coaching, diet and exercise programs that can be implemented at home or at a new, nearby exercise center. They monitored compliance and progress. After six months, all of the disease markers, including blood glucose and body-mass index, had dropped.

The Center for Native American Health, part of UNM’s Health Sciences Center, partners with New Mexico’s 22 tribes around health issues, addresses health disparities and runs a student recruitment and retention program. It also helps students find ways to pay for medical school. The Health Sciences Center recently graduated a record 39 American Indians in the health professions.



McClellan Hall Awarded the Alec Dickson Servant Leader Award

In April 2015, McClellan Hall, founder and director of the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NYLP), based in Gallup, New Mexico, was presented with the Alec Dickson Servant Leader Award at the National Service Learning Conference in Washington, D.C. For over 35 years, Hall, an educator of Cherokee descent, has engaged Native youth through outdoor adventure, service learning and culturally based activities that have grown from summer camps into year-long programs. Early in his career, he became aware that these teaching modalities were much more suited to Native youth, particularly those who came from difficult home situations and were struggling to find hope in their lives.


In 1990, NYLP received five-year funding to implement Project Venture, a year-long outdoor adventure program that facilitated individual and group development within a cultural context. It achieved model-program status from the Office of Health and Human Services. Concurrently, it was recognized by the Center for National Crime Prevention and the First Nations Behavioral Health Association in Canada for its effectiveness in redirecting the lives of Native youth toward positive goals. Project Venture has since been replicated across all of Canada and much of the United States.



Redskins Trademark Status Cancellation Upheld

In a major blow to the team’s owners and stalwart defenders of the team’s name, a U.S. judge last month affirmed a decision by the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration. The team had sued in federal court to overturn a 2014 decision by an administrative appeal board and orders from the federal Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the registration because the name Redskins is “derogatory” and “offensive.” Many—but not all—Natives consider it a racial slur and something that perpetuates stereotypes. The Redskins team, which maintains that the name honors Native Americans, will appeal.



Native Americans Face Disparities in Federal Sentencing

Native Americans are incarcerated at a rate 38 percent higher than the national average. In the past five years, the number of Native Americans incarcerated in federal prisons has increased by 27 percent, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission data. Native youths are 30 percent more likely than whites to be referred to juvenile court than to have charges dropped, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article in April examined whether Native Americans living on reservations are disproportionately dealt harsher punishments for crimes than other Americans. The Tribal Issues Advisory Group, a panel comprising 22 judges and law-enforcement administrators, has been reviewing the subject and will issue a report to the Sentencing Commission in May 2016. The commission, which establishes policies for federal courts, conducted a similar review more than 10 years ago, but it resulted in few changes.

The WSJ’s Dan Frosch said, “Native Americans are typically prosecuted under federal law for serious offenses committed on reservations. State punishments for the same crimes tend to be lighter.” In New Mexico, the average sentence for a Native American convicted of assault in state court is six months, compared with an average of 54 months for Natives convicted of assault in New Mexico federal court.

Inadequate funding of child and family services and tribal juvenile and addiction-rehabilitation centers on reservations are also frequently cited as factors in Native American over-representation in prisons.




BIA Hinders RE Development on Tribal Lands

The Energy Information Administration estimates that homes on reservations are 10 times less likely to have access to electricity than homes in non-Indian communities. Fourteen percent of reservation households are without electricity. Many reservations have homes scattered over large areas, far from a utility grid.


Some tribes are looking to utility-scale renewable-energy projects to improve tribal members’ quality of life and also serve as revenue generators for the tribe. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in June, tribal lands could produce 5 percent of the country’s solar energy and more than 3 percent of electricity from wind. Yet, while developers have built hundreds of utility-scale wind farms and solar arrays on private and federal lands since 2004, only one significant wind project is generating power from tribal lands. Another tribal wind farm and a solar project are under construction.


Critics accuse the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) of impeding renewable energy (RE) development. In a holdover of historical protocol, the BIA has to sign off on RE projects on tribal lands, although other Interior Department agencies are better equipped to consult on and approve such projects. That results in obstacles and long delays. In June, in a report to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the GAO cited the BIA’s “poor management.” The BIA responded, saying that it is getting ready to deploy a system nationally that will do a better job of tracking data and review times and acknowledged that it needs to give tribes more guidance on how to take over some federal responsibilities.


There is a complicated relationship between the United States government and the sovereignty that Native American tribes are entitled to under treaties and federal law. Although tribes are sovereign nations capable of making their own decisions, in 2005, Congress authorized Tribal Energy Resource Agreements, to be administered by the BIA, to assist tribes’ efforts to enter power-purchase deals and leases. Not a single tribe has used the process because the agreements don’t clearly outline where tribal and BIA responsibilities begin and end, and the agreements lack funding to pursue control. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) says that Congress needs to help address tribes’ qualms and figure out how to get tribal RE in motion.

The BIA has identified 25 tribal RE projects that could be completed within the next five years and produce up to 2,200 megawatts (MW) of power. The Obama administration has awarded millions of dollars in federal grants for RE, hydropower and fossil-fuel projects on tribal lands. Last month Rep. Grijalva and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Tribal Tax Incentive for Renewable Energy Act, which would amend a section of the Internal Revenue Code to allow tribal governments to use existing federal renewable-energy investment tax credits.


Picuris Pueblo to Receive Technical Assistance

On July 9, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy announced that Picuris Pueblo in northern New Mexico will receive on-the-ground technical support from the DOE’s Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START). The customized assistance will help the pueblo understand and prioritize its resource opportunities and financing options as it seeks to develop approximately 1 MW of solar photovoltaics on its land and facilities.



National Native Food Sovereignty Summit Oct. 26 – 29

Native agriculture is an economic and cultural cornerstone of most Native American communities. Many tribes are implementing traditional food initiatives such as local food production, seed saving, educational workshops and ecological restoration work for culturally essential foods. Traditional diets have the potential to undo much of the illness and harm processed foods have caused Native communities.

Native communities will come together to learn from one another to promote health, wellness and food sovereignty at the third annual Food Sovereignty Summit, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Oct. 26 – 29. The event will be co-hosted by First Nations Development Institute and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It will take place at the Radisson Green Bay Hotel and Conference Center.

The summit will feature three tracks: Applied Agriculture. Community Outreach and Products to Market. Native farmers, ranchers, gardeners, businesses, policymakers and other practitioners from around the United States will share information, program models and tools to meet growing and marketing challenges, as well as provide inspiration, mentoring and networking opportunities. There will be Experiential Learning Field Sessions (farm practices, food preservation, food handling, organic certification), a Chefs’ Corner (culinary creations from various tribal regions) and a session to connect mentors and mentees.

For more information, visit



First Nations L.E.A.D. Institute Conference

Santa Fe, Sept. 22 – 24

For 35 years, First Nations Development Institute has worked with Native nations and organizations to strengthen American Indian economies and support healthy Native communities. As an extension of that mission, First Nations’ L.E.A.D. conference is designed to help emerging and existing leaders in Indian Country grow professionally, share ideas and learn new asset-building skills.

The 20th annual L.E.A.D. conference will be held at the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort, near Santa Fe, Sept. 22 – 24. It is geared for Native American nonprofit professionals, Native Americans interested in launching or expanding nonprofit or philanthropic organizations, tribal leaders and those in tribal organizations, tribal economic-development professionals and those interested in Native American food sovereignty. Attendance at the event is required for many of First Nation’s grantees, but a limited number of seats are open to the general public.

This year’s conference will include three training tracks: Empowering Native Youth through Asset-Building, Strengthening Tribal and Community Institutions, and Nourishing Native Foods and Health. Conference registration fee is $475. Registration, conference logistics and agenda and opportunities for sponsors and vendors can be found at



Arizona’s Senators Trade Apache Sacred Lands to Mining Companies

In February 2015, 300 people, mostly San Carlos Apache, marched 44 miles from their tribal headquarters to occupy Oak Flat, a National Forest campground east of Phoenix, Arizona, where they have camped for months to protest what they see as an assault on their culture. The campground is in the center of an ancient Apache prayer site, Chi’Chil’Bilda’Toteel, which includes an Apache burial ground and ceremonial site, where coming-of-age ceremonies have been performed for many generations. The San Carlos opponents’ website is

As public land, Oak Flat has had special protection since 1955 when, because of its cultural and natural value, President Eisenhower designated the area as off-limits to mining. Despite this protection, in December 2014, Congress—through a fine-print, last-minute rider attached to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—authorized the transfer of the land’s title to Resolution Copper Mining, which is owned by Río Tinto, a private, Australian-British mining company, and BHP Billiton. Both are world leaders in strip-mining. Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona—without public scrutiny—engineered the “Southeast Arizona Land Exchange,” which would trade 2,400 acres of Forest Service land, including Oak Flat, for 5,300 acres of private land Río Tinto already owns. McCain has called the bill a compromise that protects 800 acres of sacred land along nearby Apache Leap.

The companies say the mine could generate $64 billion in economic value over its 60-year life. It will reportedly use about 18,000 acre-feet of water annually, enough to supply about 40,000 homes. Five square miles will be used to store toxic mining waste. According to the companies, once “block-cave” mining has been completed, the result will be a caved-in pit, 1,000 feet deep and two miles wide, that will appear similar to a nearby meteor crater.

A full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be written and approved. However, the bill’s language stipulates that 60 days after the EIS is complete, the land will belong to Resolution no matter what the study says. On June 17, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), with 14 bipartisan cosponsors, introduced the “Save Oak Flat Act.” The bill would repeal Section 3003 of the FY15 NDAA. In July, the Apache Stronghold group walked/caravaned from Tucson, Arizona, to Washington, D.C to call for the land to once again be protected.


Drilling Permits for Oil in Mancos Shale Formation Could Be Halted

As a result of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Native American and environmental organizations, a federal judge could impose a moratorium on new oil-drilling permits in the Mancos Shale formation in the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico. The area includes the Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The groups want a more thorough environmental impact statement from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Judge James Browning, who, last January, struck down a fracking moratorium in Mora County, is expected to rule this month.

There are 260 well sites in the area. About 150 have been drilled since 2011, and 3,600 are proposed for the greater Chaco region. The oil has become accessible as a result of horizontal drilling and fracking. The impacts on people, water, ecosystems and climate have not been adequately studied by the BLM, the groups contend. Nearly 30 top archaeologists from universities and organizations around the nation have called on the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect the Chaco area from oil and gas development.

BP America, ConocoPhillips, Encana Corp. of Canada and WPX Energy of Oklahoma, along with the American Petroleum Institute, have joined the lawsuit in support of the BLM. Encana and WPX have reportedly invested $1 billion in drilling projects in the Mancos formation. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez has urged the U.S. Interior Secretary to support the BLM’s position.


Uranium Mining in the Southwest

Uranium mining and milling wastes, after more than 30 years, still have not been remediated in Milan, Church Rock and throughout northwestern New Mexico. “Waste from Río Grande Resources’ ‘zombie mines,’ left on standby for 25 years, continues to contaminate air, land and water,” says Susan Gordon, coordinator of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE). “At the same time, federal and state governments continue to permit new uranium mines.”

“The communities that are members of the MASE coalition have been irreparably harmed by uranium mining and milling in the Grants Mineral Belt,” Gordon added. “We stand united in our position that no new mines should be allowed to open until the toxic legacy has been cleaned up.”


Uranium Resources, Inc. announced in June that it is selling its Roca Honda Project in west-central New Mexico to Energy Fuels, Inc. of Toronto, Canada, for $2,875,000. The Colorado-based company has a processing plant in Texas.


In Arizona, Energy Fuels, Inc., is planning to mine uranium about four miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and truck the ore up Highway 64 to Williams and, from there, to Flagstaff on I-40 and on to Highway 89 North to the Navajo Nation, through Kayenta and Bluff before reaching the White Mesa Uranium Mill. The EPA has found that communities in the vicinity of uranium mines, mills and processing sites risk dangerous levels of exposure to radon-222, an isotope of the chemical element, known to dissolve in the bloodstream and capable of causing chronic radiotoxicity, which is tied to a high incidence of lung cancer. There are also added hazards of road accidents from the mining operations.


The company is using a loophole in a 2012 ban on new uranium mines and is hoping to operate under an operational plan and environmental review from 1986. The Havasupai Tribe, the Grand Canyon Trust and other environmental groups have appealed the mine opening to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.



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