August 2017

Native Newsbites – August 2017


Services for Nations, Tribes and Pueblos Threatened by Federal Budget

Last month New Mexico’s legislative Interim Indian Affairs Committee held meetings in Gallup to listen to presentations and testimony from tribal leaders and community members about the myriad of challenges facing the 22 pueblos and tribes in the state. Cuts in services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) proposed in President Trump’s 2018 budget would dramatically impact an already underfunded and strained system, potentially forcing parents, seniors and the most vulnerable to seek services from state government to help fill the gaps. “State resources are already stretched past their limit,” stated Rep. D. Wonda Johnson (D-Crownpoint).


Under the president’s budget, funding for programs that help families secure housing loans will be eliminated entirely. Funding for the BIA will be slashed by $181 million. The Bureau of Indian Education, which operates 44 schools throughout New Mexico, would suffer a reduction of $64 million. The draft proposal calls for $300.5 million in cuts to Indian Health Services. According to vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), “Passing the president’s budget would mean less money for inpatient services, preventive health programs, drug addiction treatment, mental health programs and specialty care. It would mean fewer resources to recruit and retain a qualified workforce and to address already underfunded facility infrastructure needs.”


A Push to Privatize Native American Lands

The Trump administration’s 27-member Native American Affairs Coalition has been drafting proposals on Indian policy issues ranging from energy to healthcare to education. The coalition, which includes Sharon Clahchischilliage (R-NM, 4th District), a Navajo tribe member, as one of its four co-chairs, wants to privatize all tribal lands to free them from federal regulations they see as impeding self-reliance. Indians, they say, will then be able to pursue development projects that will lift them out of poverty.


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently suggested that tribes should consider incorporating, a move that would help privatize tribal lands and reduce land held “in trust” by the federal government. U.S. Native American reservations are federally owned lands held in trust for tribes. The reservations may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with shale and coal reserves. The administration’s energy policy aims to allow industry to drill on many of those lands.


“Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred,” said Tom Goldtooth (Navajo-Dakota), director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Privatization has been the goal since colonization—to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty.”


Santa Clara Awarded Nearly $3 million for Los Alamos Pueblos Project

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a cooperative agreement to the Pueblo of Santa Clara, near Española, N.M., to conduct a broad assessment of environmental, ecological and human health conditions on the Santa Clara Reservation. The study is to identify issues of concern and then determine the extent that those issues impact and compromise the Pueblo community’s traditional uses of its natural resources.  The $2.8-million award will run for a period of five years.


Members of Santa Clara Pueblo and other tribal communities have raised concerns for decades about the effects of living downwind and downstream of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the contamination from decades of nuclear weapons work. Santa Clara Pueblo Gov. J. Michael Chavarría expressed concerns that the new cleanup agreement among the lab, the state and the DOE released in June wasn’t stringent enough to protect the lab’s neighboring communities.

From 1956 to 1972, LANL flushed water from its hexavalent chromium-lined cooling system into Sandia Canyon. Since then, runoff has created an underground chromium plume, discovered in 2005, that is threatening drinking wells, a major aquifer and San Ildefonso Pueblo’s land, which borders the federal property. LANL has said that addressing the plume is one if its “highest environmental priorities” and has installed a pilot pumping well.


Grand Canyon Uranium Mines

Four old uranium mines near the Grand Canyon were able to reopen since former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s 2012 moratorium. One of them, the Canyon Mine, has been forced to suspend operations pending the outcome of a federal district court ruling. The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust and others sued the U.S. Forest Service for letting Energy Fuels Resources re-open the mine without consulting the tribe or conducting environmental reviews beyond one from 1986.


If the lawsuit fails, the mine would produce up to 109,500 tons of high-grade ore per year. As much as 13,100 tons would be stored on-site; 25 flatbed trucks each day would take the rest 300miles through towns and cities such as Flagstaff, Ariz. and over the San Juan and Little Colorado rivers, across the Navajo reservation and Ute Mountain community to a mill near Blanding, Utah.


The Canyon mine is not far from Red Butte or “Wii’ gdwiisa” (clench fist mountain), Traditional Cultural Property that the Havasupai say, if destroyed, would destroy them and their world. Red Butte is also culturally significant to the Diné and Hopi, as well as to the Hualapai, Kaibab Paiute and Zuni. The mine is directly above a groundwater aquifer that feeds into seeps, springs and the Havasupai’s main source of water. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality does not require monitoring of deep aquifers, remediation plans or bonding to prevent aquifer contamination.


Meanwhile, after a wet winter, water has been filling the mineshaft. Energy Fuels has reportedly been spraying the water into the air, onto the adjacent Kaibab National Forest, and trucking it from the site.


 Grand Canyon Escalade Project on Hold

The confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers has been proposed as a site for a major tourist development. A 1.6-mile tram would take visitors from the rim, down 3,200-feet into the Grand Canyon in about 10 minutes to commercial and retail spaces, a multimedia complex, a river walk and administrative buildings.


The development has faced ardent opposition from numerous Navajo chapters, neighboring tribes such the Hopi and Zuni, environmental advocacy groups and the public. They say it would turn part of the Grand Canyon into an amusement park.


Some Navajo lawmakers are in favor of the project. However, last month, following a 14-2 vote in opposition by one of the four committees that must approve the project, the Navajo Nation Council again put off debate on the project until their fall session.


For the Hopi Tribe, according to its chairman, Herman G. Honanie, at stake are decades of extensive negotiations regarding the Intergovernmental Compact between the two tribes. The compact commits each tribe to protect religious sites and landscapes they are located in. The Hopi consider the confluence as an area to which they have aboriginal title and use.


Native American Business Ownership in New Mexico

Ranking after Alaska and Oklahoma, New Mexico, at 5.8 percent, had the third-largest share of businesses Native American/Alaska Native owned in the country as of 2012. Those businesses generated $591 million in sales, receipts and shipments that year. Yet, only 4.6 percent of those businesses had paid employees, totaling 3,890 people, according to the Minority-Owned Business in New Mexico report by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.


Most of those businesses were in the wholesale trade industry, followed by manufacturing. The majority are labor-intensive industries and arts and services.


New Mexico is home to more than 219,000 Native American citizens, more than 10 percent of the population.


Acoma Pueblo’s 25-Year Agreement with Bright Green

Acoma Pueblo has a 2,000-year history of farming; but nothing like what is being developed on the tribe’s land in western New Mexico. A $160-million state-of the-art greenhouse for researching and growing medicinal plants, including marijuana, is being built. Bright Green Group of Companies, under a landmark 25-year business agreement with the pueblo, is creating the nation’s largest commercial growing operation and research center that will eventually cover 6 million square-feet, or about 100 football fields. Once construction is completed, operating the facility will create high-tech jobs for the region and opportunities for universities to collaborate with the research center, according to Bright Green’s website.


The Delaware-based company’s business plan details the production of herbal supplements, oils and popular homeopathic remedies. Pennywort and Indian ginseng will be among the millions of organic medicinal plants grown, although marijuana is expected to constitute a significant portion of the operation. New Mexico is one of more than two-dozen states with medical marijuana programs, but because of federal laws, marijuana currently cannot be shipped out of state. Acoma leaders and the company think that, with science backing up the medicinal benefits of marijuana for pain and other conditions, eventually the laws will change.


As their operation will be on tribal land, Bright Green doesn’t intend to seek a state license, believing that the enterprise will be subject only to tribal and federal laws. The company plans to work with the FDA to approve its “novel prescription drugs.” Bright Green holds a number of provisional patents.


Navajos Greenlight Hemp Cultivation

In 2016, the Navajo Nation signed a resolution to grow industrial hemp. The tribe, whose lands are larger than 10 states in the U.S., has taken steps to establish agricultural commerce on a 70,000-acre farm in New Mexico. “We are striving for the first, if not the largest, hemp crop in the country,” CannaNative CEO Anthony Rivera told Forbes magazine. CannaNative’s website says the company’s goal is to help tribes develop hemp and cannabis-based economies on Native lands throughout the U.S. The global hemp market is said to already be an $800 million market.


Rivera said that his company is working closely with the commerce and agricultural divisions of the Navajo tribe. The company also expects to negotiate with the federal government and the State of New Mexico, which currently doesn’t allow hemp cultivation, in contrast to at least 27 states that have enacted laws since 2014.


Hemp uses less water than some farmland crops such as corn, and since commodity prices have been lowered, hemp can provide a higher payback. Hemp oil and construction materials are among hemp’s many uses.


Raytheon’s New Diné Warehouse

In April, Raytheon Co. opened a new $5-million, 30,000-square-foot warehouse near the Navajo Agricultural Products Industrial Park south of Farmington. The warehouse will increase storage for the company’s 95,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which makes electromechanical assemblies and other products for missiles. Raytheon promotes itself as the world’s largest missile manufacturer.


A $200,000 Local Development Act grant from the New Mexico Economic Development Department went toward the cost of architectural design. The warehouse was financed by the Navajo Nation and leased to Raytheon.


Forty-eight percent of the Navajo population is unemployed, and the average household income is $8,240, well below the poverty line. About 350 people comprise Raytheon’s Diné workforce, including 70 new jobs that were recently added, encompassing assembly line operators, engineers, supervisors and managers. Ninety-three percent of the staff is Navajo.


Predatory Lending around the Navajo Nation

A loan company with offices in Navajo country is the subject of a federal class-action lawsuit, accused of making predatory tax-refund-anticipation loans. According to the complaint, T&R Market, Inc., Tancorde Finance, Inc. and T&R Tax Service, Inc., which make thousands of loans each year in Gallup, Farmington, Shiprock and Chinle, imposed “hidden charges, deceptively understated [the interest rate], and engaged in other unlawful and deceptive conduct.”  The company is also accused of violating the Truth in Lending Act.


A young Gallup couple who are plaintiffs in the suit were charged 385 percent annual interest on a $1,250 loan they obtained in 2014 to pay for food and travel for Thanksgiving.


A bill was passed in the New Mexico Legislature in 2017 eliminating “payday loans,” but tax-refund-anticipation loans were exempted by an amendment.


Institute of American Indian Arts News

IAIA Partners with San Juan College

The IAIA established a partnership with a Farmington community college to bring students into the institute’s film program. Students who complete San Juan College’s Associate of Applied Science degree in Digital Media Arts will be accepted into IAIA’s Cinema Arts and Technology BFA program. Those with a 2.0 GPA or higher will be able to transfer all their credits into the four-year program. IAIA will offer a 300-level film class on SJC’s campus starting in fall 2017.


IAIA Joins Achieving the Dream

IAIA has joined Achieving the Dream (ATD), a network of more than 220 colleges in 39 states. ATD helps students achieve goals for academic success, personal growth and economic opportunity. ATD’s coaches and advisors will work with IAIA to help build institutional capacity in seven areas. IAIA’s ATD initiative will start by focusing on improving students’ experience in their first year and ensuring that everyone at the institution is committed to student success. ATD’s initiatives include addressing the challenge of engaging adjunct faculty more deeply as key members of colleges’ workforces.


IAIA Receives Donation of Suzan Harjo Archives

American Indian activist, lobbyist, scholar and policy-maker Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) recently donated her archive and art collection to IAIA. Harjo’s papers document her work from 1965 to the present, including the development and passage of important pieces of national legislation such as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978), the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990), and the Indian Arts & Crafts Act Amendment (1990). The archive also follows Harjo’s role as executive director of the National Congress of the American Indian (1984-1989) and the Morning Star Institute (1984-present).


 IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Exhibitions

IAIA’s Museum of Contemporary Native Arts current exhibitions include Connective Tissue: New Approaches to Fiber in Contemporary Native Art; Action Abstraction Redefined, featuring artwork created in the 1960s and 1970s that is testimony to the Institute’s revolutionary approach to art education that sparked a cultural change within Native art; Desert ArtLAB: Ecologies of Resistance, an interdisciplinary art collaborative that reconceptualizes desert/dryland ecologies, not as post-apocalyptic growth of wasteland, but as an ecological opportunity; New Acquisitions: 2011-2017 highlights visionary works from MoCNA’s permanent collection; and Daniel McCoy: The Ceaseless Quest for Utopia. McCoy’s art addresses contemporary Native American issues, past triumphs and current disasters. His new mural project is inspired by an “end-times” story told to him by family members. 


For more information on these and other exhibitions, film screenings, artist presentations, performances and panel discussions, visit:



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