Archive for February, 2010

Hoopa Valley Tribe Opposes the Klamath Restoration Agreement

Friday, February 19th, 2010
Tony Skrelunas

Tony Skrelunas

The Hoopa Valley Tribe, California, which is located in the very northwestern portion of the State of California, has refused to sign the historic Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement today, Thursday, February 18, 2010.  The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, and several Native American tribes of the Klamath River Basin, have agreed to sign the accord in Salem, Oregon.


Skrelunas: Fossil Fuels Cost Far Too Much

Friday, February 19th, 2010
Tony Skrelunas

Tony Skrelunas

As another week rolled past on the Fort Lewis campus, the Sociology club hosted an important event which included guest speaker Tony Skrelunas from the Grand Canyon Trust.

The event took place Wednesday night in the Chemistry building room 130 lecture hall, with a good turnout at hand. Tony introduced the movie, The Sacrifice Zone, Power Paths.

The film, based upon issues involving native lands and coal companies, was a huge eye opener for many and put into perspective the issues revolving the use of fossil fuels. 

Since Peabody mining opened operations of the Black Mesa coal pit back in the Early 1970s, over 35 billion gallons of water have been pumped from aquifers near the mining operation. 

This is a substantial amount and it’s finally taken its toll upon the land as well as its inhabitants-18,000 of which are without electricity. This is very awkward considering most of the energy for all the major cities of the Southwest is produced upon this land.

Wells and springs that flourished no less than five years ago are dry to the bone.

Over-pumping of groundwater and the combustion of coal is going to become more of an issue than anyone ever imagined.

In coming years the Tribes will look to more renewable sources of energy, wind energy being the first step. Many are already pursuing in their search for a clean future.

Tony Skrelunas was on hand to take questions and comments after the film and he strongly believes in a transfer in the economy and jobs towards renewable energy and not fossil fuels.

This will not only help the lands survive but will also keep energy in the homes and supply people with a new form of work.

The Navajo Nation is active in renewable energy and Tony says,” it’s cool to be green and that the Nation is cooperating.”

Kristan Hearst of the Sociology club feels that this is an important issue and more should be aware of what’s happening to the people and the land.

Tribe Devastated as Storms Sweep the Plains

Friday, February 19th, 2010
Ice Storm

Even the aftermath of aa ice storm was devastating to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. FEMA was on site performing assessments before releasing any funding to offset the damages caused by a winter blizzard sweeping across the central plains of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. Donations from MSNBC Keith Obermann Countdown raised over $500,000 in aid for the beleaguered reservation.

The final week of January witnessed severe ice storms and freezing temperatures, which collapsed over 3,000 utility poles, causing power loss across to an area the size of the State of Connecticut.  Power outages cut electricity to over 12,000 residents of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, according to Joel Millman of the Wall Street Journal.  Residents have been without electricity, heat and running water for over a week.

Joseph Brings Plenty, Chairman of the declared a state of emergency from tribal headquarters in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, on January 27, 2010.  In an interview with the chairman, the elderly and infirmed were evacuated to Rapid City Regional Hospital to continue their dialysis treatments and be saved from the weather.  “The only source of heat in my house was the oven, which is heated by propane gas. I could still see my breath in the house.”

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has the highest incidence of Indian Child Poverty in the United States and is the fourth poorest county in the nation.  The South Dakota National Guard and Department of Public Safety, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have supplied emergency generators, while FEMA is still assessing the damage for disaster aid, according to a press release from the tribe.  The Navajo Nation sent tribal utility crews to help restore power to the reservation. 

Chairman Brings Plenty worries about the long term effects on the tribal water system.  “The water intake and distribution system has already been at capacity for decades. In addition to the severe health and safety issues the Tribe now faces, it remains one of the biggest impediments to economic development (on the reservation).”

The Chairman and the author testified before House Appropriations Sub-Committee Chairman, Norm Dicks, concerning the lack of a tribal public water infrastructure in 2007-2008.  Funds for the tribe were authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.  The 110th Congress overrode the veto of former President George Bush by majority vote. 

The funds were authorized but not appropriated to the tribe.  The ice from the storm collected on the power lines, pulling the wires to the ground and snapping wooden utility poles.  “Residents have been looting abandoned homes and business for food and water.” according to Tracy Fischer and as reported in the Wall Street Journal.  The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has already expended $175,000 dollars earned from land leases in 2009 for emergency aid. 

Keith Obermann televised the dire situation for the tribe on MSNBC Countdown where the situation in Haiti has overshadowed domestic concerns at home.  Obermann states, “Chairman Brings Plenty says 95 percent of the power has been turned on.”  The Chairman said that the Obermann broadcast has helped raise $500,000 in relief for the tribe.

Donations provided relief to the tribe before any federal aid has been received.  Donations can be sent to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Attention Tribal Treasurer, P.O. Box 590, Eagle Butte, SD 57625 or contact the tribal office at (605) 964-4155.

Student Clubs Meet at the Native Center

Friday, February 19th, 2010


Monday, February 15, 2009 was the first meeting of the winter semester for the Native American Center club members. One officer from every NAC club attends this meeting twice a month to discuss their past, present and future plans with all the other club officials.

Six club members attended, including myself, representing six different clubs. First there was Asa Washines speaking on behalf of Wanbli Ota, Welana Fields speaking on behalf of PTS, Mandy Schwandt speaking on behalf of Native Church Ministries, Liz Alonzo speaking on behalf of Native Success Leadership Society, Ree Hoskie speaking on behalf of El Centro, and myself speaking on behalf of American Indian Science Engineering Society. 

We discussed what each club represented and what yearly events they each hosted and made plans for upcoming events. Which each club had their yearly event, AISES is hosting their regional conference, Wanbli Ota is hosting Hozhoni Day’s Pow Wow, El Centro is hosting their Cinco De Mio party, Pts is hosting there Native American Church meeting, NCM and NSLS are having their thank you party for their members coming up.

We also discussed the Dine’ College issue that is currently going on, which is the doing away with Navajo traditions and making the school more modernized teaching in such a way that white imperialism is once again and issue.  

All these upcoming events are most important to the Native American Center along with the Fort Lewis Community, each having several events to look forward to. The Fort Lewis community is looking forward to having all these well known artists, speakers and presenters come during this year’s 2010 winter semester.

Each of the six clubs who attended the meeting this past Monday, February 15, 2010 are hosting club meetings throughout the semester and are always interested in having new members. There is a calendar available in the Native American Center with a listing of times when this clubs along with a few others have their weekly meetings. Come support Native American clubs at our Fort Lewis Community.

Movie Review – Avatar or Pocahontas in Space…

Friday, February 19th, 2010


The world has changed in the 22nd century; humans are exploring space and reaching new worlds but the reasons for exploration and discovery have not changed; conquest and exploitation.  The world of Pandora has been discovered to have the rarest element in the universe, “unobtainium,” and the unwanted attention from mining corporations focuses on the planet. 

The planet Pandora is huge and inhabited by a group of people called the Na’vi.  The Na’vi live in harmony with Pandora and are literally connected to the planet with whom they share ancestral memories and knowledge.  The atmosphere of Pandora is toxic to humans and they use machines and Avatars to move about the planet. 

An Avatar is a biologically engineered person with the combined DNA of the Na’vi and humans.  The Na’vi also have the unfortunate luck to have their homes located directly in the path of mining operations and conflict arises between the Na’vi and the humans wanting to mine.  The mining company has decided to try infiltrating the Na’vi with Avatars in order to learn about their culture and how to move them from the land.

The Avatar program is lead by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) who wants to learn about the Na’vi but the interests of the company come first and the company wants to learn if the Na’vi have any weaknesses they might be able to take advantage of.   The company would like to infiltrate the Na’vi without their knowledge and spy on them and an Avatar is created to do that.  An Avatar is part Na’vi and part human but has the appearance of a  Na’vi; 9 feet tall, blue and having a tail like appendage.

An Avatar is controlled by connections between the human operator and the Avatar’s body. The human subject lies in a chamber while the Avatar moves under their control.  A replacement soldier named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has entered the program. He has the genetic make up to operate an Avatar which had been created for his brother who has died.  Sully is also paralyzed and uses a wheelchair but his Avatar is fully functional and he is able to walk.  Sully is chosen to replace his brother and he is to report to Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) about the Na’vi. 

Sully searches for the Na’vi and meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of the chief of the Na’vi.  After Natiryi rescues Sully in the forest she takes him to her village and saves his life again from her people.  Natiryi is then told to help teach Sully about the Na’vi.  Natiryi saving and teaching Sully reminded me of the Pocahontas story and it detracted from the overall enjoyment of an otherwise good movie. 

The movie becomes a romance between Sully and Natiryi and the Na’vi.  Sully is realizing the Na’vi have a complex and unique way of living with Pandora.  Sully has to make a decision about who he is and what he wants to be after encountering the Na’vi and learning about their culture.  Sully’s inner turmoil is also the impetus he needs to change and make the right decision which leads him to fight against the mining company with the Na’vi.  The final battle between the Na’vi with Sully against the mining company is well filmed and action packed. 

Avatar took over 10 years to make and James Cameron, the director, has commented it took so long to make the film because the technology did not exist to capture the scenes he wanted to create.  The landscapes are visually arresting and the glowing forests with amazing creatures add to the discovery Sully is making about the Na’vi and Pandora.  The scenes in the Floating Mountains were especially fun to watch.

 While the movie is visually stunning and the 3D is amazing, Mr. Cameron should have put as much effort into a plausible storyline besides the usual “noble savages being saved by the outsider just in time” plot.  The plot of the movie was not new and could be considered a blatant rip off of “Dances with Wolves.”  Cameron has admitted to being influenced by the film while making Avatar. 

The entertainment value of Avatar does outweigh the lack of an original story and the box office receipts have proven Avatar to be an unqualified success.