This Week's Program: Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Native Americans, Military Service and PTSD

We take a look at the culturally-unique experience of Native Americans and combat experience. How are Native American veterans coping with post traumatic stress disorder and why are they the ethnic group with the highest proportion of military enlistment in the U.S.? Compared to the general population, nearly three times as many Native Americans have served in the armed forces as non Indians during the 20th century.

Red Lake Elder and Vietnam Veteran Says PTSD Best Treated With Tribal Ceremonies. The Iraq war has sparked a rise in Vietnam Veterans seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that PTSD disability compensation cases have nearly doubled since 2000, most notably since 2003, when the U.S. and UK invaded Iraq. A survey of Vietnam Veterans revealed that watching reports about the war on TV triggered flashbacks, sleeplessness, and depression among the Veterans. Many said they sought counseling since the 2003 Iraq war. And now as thousands of veterans are returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, concern is growing about the ability of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to meet the demand for mental health services. Over the past year, the number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan diagnosed with PTSD has more than doubled, increasing from a cumulative 9,000 by May 2005 to 25,000 by last month, according to a recent VA report. A statement from the Democratic members of the House VA Committee said that even as the number of PTSD cases increased, the VA had cut back the number of PTSD therapy sessions for veterans by 25% in the last 10 years.

For many Native American Veterans, culturally-specific treatment for PTSD is an even more important issue. This week, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley and the director of a VA Medical Center in Arizona signed an agreement to add the traditional Lifeway Ceremony to a dozen ceremonies for which the VA now pays. Returning Navajo veterans reportedly used traditional ceremonies for healing more than anything else. Other Native nations show similar patterns. Many Native veterans suffering from PTSD supplement or replace standard psychotherapeutic techniques with culturally specific healing techniques. The path to healing for Native veterans is oftentimes more complicated and meaningful than a visit to the nearest VA medical center.

Larry Stillday, a tribal elder from Ponemah, a village on the Ojibwe Red Lake Reservation in Northern Minnesota. He is a Vietnam Veteran and outpatient supervisor at the Ponemah Health Center.

Gulf War Veteran on the Cultural Barriers Encountered when Struggling with PTSD. We continue talking about Native Americans and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the combat experience in general for Native Americans. Sean Fahrlander, (Anishinaabe) Navy Gulf War veteran.

Indigenous News Roundup

Committee to release results of Abramoff investigation

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is releasing a report today on its Jack Abramoff investigation. The staffs of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the committee chairman, and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the vice chairman, worked on the report. It summarizes what the committee learned over the course of its investigation and makes recommendations for potential changes to prevent tribe from being defrauded again. The committee held five hearings and investigated how much money tribes spent on the services of Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, one of Abramoff's associates. The probe did not focus on members of Congress who are tied to Abramoff. The report will be considered at a business meeting this morning.

Former BIA official Reveals former Interior Department deputy secretary Griles as Abramoff's "Point Man."

Smith said Griles regularly advocated for the interests of Abramoff's tribal clients. In the wake of the election of George W. Bush, Smith said Abramoff and other Republicans wanted to "make a killing inside the BIA" by representing wealthy gaming tribes. Smith said "They have no respect whatsoever for Native Americans. They're there to make a lot of money."

Racist Cartoon Targets Seminole Tribe

In Davie Florida, the mayor has denounced a cartoon as racist that a member of the town’s planning board circulated. Davie Mayor Tom Treux charged Karen Stenzel-Nowicki with sending around a cartoon depicting Seminole Leader Max Osceola as shirtless and banging on a drum as his canoe passes the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. A local councilwoman is depicted at the other end of the boat, with the words “open space princess” tattooed on her arm and a cocktail in hand. Treux said Stenzel-Nowicki denied drawing the cartoon, but he is calling for her removal for circulating it. The town council postponed a decision last night on whether to remove her. Stenzel-Nowicki is defending her actions as her constitutional right to free speech. According to the Miami Herald, Osceola hasn’t seen the cartoon and he said he doesn’t need to. He said “They’re stereotyping natives. They think every native lives in a tepee and has drums as a musical instrument. That’s the uneducated nonnative trying to stereotype us.”

North Dakota: Group Challenges Right to Use "Fighting Siouxs" Mascot

The University of North Dakota is moving forward with a lawsuit against the NCAA’s Indian mascot policy. The NCAA has asked colleges and universities with an American Indian mascot to conduct a review. The State Board of Higher Education voted 8-0 last week to challenge the placement of the "Fighting Sioux" logo and name on the list of hostile and/or abusive mascots. The NCAA has rejected two UND appeals, saying the university may not use the nickname or logo during NCAA postseason tournaments and it may not host a tournament if it continues using them. A number of Indian tribes, as well as faculty members and students on UND's Grand Forks campus, support dropping the nickname and logo, contending that they cause campus divisiveness. David Gipp, president of Bismarck's United Tribes Technical College, sent a letter to board members this week, asking them to forgo legal action.

Six Nations Caledonia Update

Police arrested a prominent Six Nations businessman on assault charges relating to an incident in Caledonia, Ontario on June 4. Ken Hill is charged with two counts of assault stemming from a confrontation between native protesters and Caledonia residents. Protesters have been occupying the housing development since Feb. 28. They say the property is part of a land grant dating from 1784, but provincial and federal governments insist the land in question was surrendered in 1841. Yesterday, dozens of non-aboriginal Caledonia residents protested outside a convention center where Ontario Premier McGuinty was speaking. He met briefly with three of the protestors who complained that the Ontario Provincial Police failed to respond to violent clashes between residents and aboriginal protesters and accused the government of abandoning the rule of law in the community. Meanwhile, Six Nations protesters say they are conducting an archeological dig at the occupied housing site in search of a burial site. They reportedly believe thousands of bodies may be buried there. They have had to publicly insist they are not digging a bunker after residents reported fears of militant actions. A survey done earlier for the developers found fragments of aboriginal artifacts, but no evidence of a burial ground. And the Ontario government is refusing to disclose how much it paid last week when it bought out the developer for the tract of land at the center of the occupation. However, the sale does not mean the province is giving the land back to the First Nations, and talks are continuing to end the occupation. On the same day, the government increased aid to compensate Caledonia-area businesses hurt by road blockades to about $1.7 million. The province is also talking about compensating those residents who suffered during the blockade.

Hawaiian School Ruling

Judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Tuesday about the Hawaiians-only admissions policy at Kamehameha Schools. Admission to the elite school is first granted to all qualified Native Hawaiian students. Only one in eight eligible applicants get in, and tuition is 60 percent subsidized by the private trust. The case began three years ago when a Caucasian boy, only identified as John Doe, sued for admission to the school. Following the initial ruling last year declaring Kamehameha's Hawaiians-only admissions policy illegal, 15,000 people marched through downtown Honolulu in protest. The attorney for the school Kathleen Sullivan said yesterday, QUOTE "What we argue is that our admissions policy is entirely legal under U.S. civil rights laws because it helps redress the continuing harms from a legacy of devastation against the Native Hawaiian people that Congress has acknowledged and for which Congress has apologized. The success story of the Kamehameha Schools in lifting up Hawaiian children, educating them and sending them off to seed the society with leaders is exactly what Princess Pauahi intended when she left her charitable testamentary trust, and it's exactly what the Kamehameha Schools do today."

Michigan Tribe Seeks Boost in Recognition Struggle

The Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians asked the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday to speed up its federal recognition petition. The tribe needs federal recognition to obtain $4.4 million, its share of a Congressional settlement fund. The tribe also wants to provide health, education, housing and other services to its members, said Ron Yob, the chairman. Virginia Tribes Press for Recognition Measure A bill to extend federal recognition to six Virginia tribes went before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The bill contains no language on gaming rights. Members of Congress from Virginia and Chief Stephen R. Adkins of the Chickahominy Tribe said legislative recognition is warranted due to special circumstances. A state law forbade tribal members from identifying themselves as Indian. Adkins said, "The state systematically worked to destroy us. I call it paper genocide." The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. National Aboriginal Day Celebrated in Canada Yesterday people celebrated the 10th National Aboriginal Day in Canada. A festival kicked off in Montreal yesterday that will last through the weekend. It will have singing, dancing and storytelling. The opening ceremony brought together aboriginals from across Canada and the United States, the Montreal community and visitors from around the world. Celinda Sosa, a Quechua Indian, and minister for economic development for Bolivia spoke in support of the solidarity of Aboriginal people in Canada. Visit to learn more about the 2006 First Peoples Festival.