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Image: Lummi Nation
So far, the Lummi tribe has reported three Covid-19 cases, but they expect numbers to rise as the pandemic progresses. Unlike many constituencies, the Lummi are prepared.

Here are a couple things we can learn from the kind of people who think about the effects of their actions on seven generations: Be generous; act like a grownup.

Consider the Lummi tribal leaders in this article from the Guardian. They began to prepare as soon they heard about the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, and now they are even offering help to people outside their community.

Nina Lakhani reports, “The Lummi nation, a sovereign Native American tribe in the Pacific northwest, will soon open a pioneering field hospital to treat coronavirus patients, as part of a wave of strong public health measures which have gone further than many governments.

“Tribal leaders have been preparing for Covid-19 since the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, with medical staff beefing up emergency plans, reorganizing services and gathering medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment.

“The Lummi reservation is located in Whatcom county – 115 miles north of Seattle, Washington, where the first US Covid-19 case was confirmed in January, followed by the first death in February. …

‘We quickly recognised the need to make sacrifices for the greater good, in order to protect our people and the wider community,’ said Dr Dakotah Lane, medical director of the tribal health service, who is in strict self-quarantine after coming into contact with a Covid-19 patient. …

“The tribe swiftly introduced mitigation and prevention measures such as social distancing, drive-through testing, telemedicine clinics, and a home delivery service for the elderly.

“The tribal council declared a state of emergency on 3 March – 10 days before … the US – and approved $1m to prepare and respond for the evolving pandemic, which includes setting up the hospital.

“A community fitness centre, located next to the tribe’s health clinic, has been repurposed into a makeshift hospital, with beds, protective gear and other essential equipment in place. It will open once the pharmacy is fully stocked. The 20-bed hospital will treat less critical inpatients, in order to free up intensive care units in nearby facilities, and prioritize Native Americans from any tribe. …

“The tribe’s proactive response to the evolving global pandemic has been possible thanks to vast improvements to the quality and capacity of its community healthcare system over the past decade.

“Like an increasing number of tribes, the Lummi nation has opted for ‘self-determination,’ which enables greater financial flexibility and clinical autonomy – as opposed to depending on the federally controlled Indian Health Service (IHS) which has suffered decades of severe underfunding.

“As a result, the Lummi health services raises substantial revenue by treating patients on Medicaid and Medicare. … This extra cash has allowed them to invest in infrastructure and build capacity: the tribe now has eight doctors compared with just three in 2013, including three physicians with public health expertise. …

The Lummi want to help. Dr Lane said: ‘The Lummi believe in controlling our own destiny. We don’t count on help reaching us, but the hospital is something we can do to help the community.’

More at the Guardian, here. By the way, do you read the Guardian? It’s free online. It just requests donations. The US coverage is amazing.

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Photo: Blue Lake Rancheria
The Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid powers a number of buildings on the reservation and helped provide energy when California’s Pacific Gas and Electric shut off power during wildfires.

In the following story, disempowered people lacking reliable services not only took action to help themselves but were generous to more-privileged neighbors who suddenly learned what it’s like not to have services.

This is a story about two kinds of power.

Erik Neumann reports at National Public Radio (NPR), “California’s largest electric utility took the unprecedented step of shutting off power to millions of customers beginning last October. The decision was meant to prevent power equipment from sparking catastrophic wildfires.

“Now a renewable energy microgrid on a tiny California Native American reservation is proving to be one solution to this ongoing problem. The Blue Lake Rancheria is located just north of Eureka, Calif. On the 100-acre campus, just behind the casino and hotel, Jana Ganion opens a chain-link fence. …

“Inside, in an area half the size of a football field, are more than 1,500 solar panels, slanted toward the noonday sun. Ganion is the sustainability director with the Blue Lake Rancheria, which includes about 50 members.

[Ganion] helped build this solar microgrid as part of the tribe’s goal to develop climate-resilient infrastructure and to be ready for earthquakes and tsunamis. But then beginning in October, it became useful in a whole new way. …

“As one of the only gas stations in the county with power, the reservation provided diesel to United Indian Health Services to refrigerate their medications and to the Mad River Fish Hatchery to keep their fish alive. The local newspaper used a hotel conference room to put out the next day’s paper. Area residents stopped by to charge their cell phones.

“Ganion estimates that on that day more than 10,000 nearby residents came to the reservation for gas and supplies.

“County officials had been warned about the utility shutoffs, but they didn’t know they were happening until that day, says Ryan Derby, emergency services manager for Humboldt County, where Blue Lake Rancheria is located.

” ‘Our entire planning model for the last 18 months got thrown out the window,’ Derby says. … ‘Humboldt County prides itself on being resilient,’ Derby says, ‘But I think in light of these public safety power shutoffs we realized how dependent we really are on electricity.’

“The county focused on residents who relied on medical devices like respirators or oxygen tanks. At the Blue Lake Rancheria, Anita Huff was directing emergency services for people with critical medical needs.

” ‘We had eight people here who could not have lived without electricity,’ Huff says. ‘So, we saved eight lives.’ …

” ‘Microgrids are very complex. In some ways they’re kind of like snowflakes where no two of them are the same because it depends on where you are on the grid and what your facility is,’ says Dave Carter, the managing research engineer at the Schatz Energy Research Center and the lead technical engineer on the [Blue Lake] project.

“Microgrids keep the electricity flowing to customers even after disconnecting from the overall power grid. During an outage, the Blue Lake microgrid goes into ‘island mode’ and a large Tesla battery system stores extra power and balances the energy supply and demand.

“By comparison, Carter says, conventional solar arrays have to automatically shut down during outages for safety so they don’t electrocute powerline maintenance workers or people who could come in contact with a downed line.

“Microgrids do come at a price. The Blue Lake installation cost $6.3 million. Five million dollars came from a California Energy Commission grant, and the tribe helped raise the rest. …

“Carter’s lab at the Schatz Energy Research Center is looking for ways to lower the cost of microgrids. In spite of the upfront price, he says, communities should consider what it’s worth to stay in control during a natural disaster. …

“Jana Ganion, with the Blue Lake Rancheria, says with future electricity shutoffs, rural communities, and Native American reservations in particular, need to be especially resilient.

” ‘Many, many tribal nations are located at the end of the line in terms of the electricity grid,’ Ganion says. ‘They may have no power. They may have poor quality power. Microgrids are just a way to do an end-run around all of that.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo: Lex Talamo
Houma artist Lora Ann Chaisson works on palmetto stitch basketry at the Native American Crafts day at Northwestern University. Crafts using palmetto are threatened by climate change.

A recent interview conducted by Tegan Wendland on National Public Radio (NPR) provided new-to-me information on how climate change is jeopardizing an indigenous culture.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro introduced the story thus: “When storms like Hurricane Barry batter Louisiana’s coast and water replaces marshland, people move away. And that puts at risk a unique cultural mix — Europeans, Africans and Native Americans all living off Louisiana’s land and water. As Tegan Wendland of member station WWNO reports, the state is trying to preserve some of their traditions before they disappear.

“WENDLAND: Janie Luster walks through crunchy oak leaves in the humid Louisiana air to a stand of green palmetto in the shade. She reaches her arm deep down into the stems and starts hacking.

“JANIE LUSTER: Takes a sharp knife, pointed knife. And this is where you have to be careful, a little spider there. There’s also ants.

“WENDLAND: She pulls out a stem and unfolds it like a giant fan. … We’re in Houma, about an hour southwest of New Orleans. Luster will dry the leaves out and tear them into strips and use them to weave baskets — not just any basket — the Native American Houma half-hitch.

“LUSTER: We were the only tribe in the whole country to make this type of basket.

“WENDLAND: The art of the half-hitch has already been lost once before, generations ago, when tribal members were forced to assimilate. But Luster researched it and brought it back in the ’90s. Today, she’s brought a big stack of dried palmetto into a classroom in the offices of the United Houma Nation, where about 15 students of all ages are gathered around a table. … It’s a laborious process. It can take several days just to weave one basket. Pretty much everyone’s struggling. But 15-year-old Rhett Williams’ fingers dart fast. … He’s attended a few of these classes. Now his mom gets mad when she catches him weaving instead of doing his homework.

“RHETT: Growing up, you know, you’re not in touch with your elders. Now that I’m getting in more within the tribe and, like, learning culture and tradition, I’ve realized, like, I was, like, deprived of, like, the true tradition and culture.

“WENDLAND: Many in Williams’ family have moved north over the years, joining the exodus after every devastating coastal storm. Some areas have lost more than 40 percent of their population over the past several decades. Hurricanes and saltwater intrusion from rising seas are also killing off the palmetto and other plants sacred to the Houma. That worries Maida Owens, director of the Louisiana Folklife Program.

“MAIDA OWENS: When people move, you know, some things get left behind. And one of the things that frequently is left behind is something that relies on natural materials. … If it doesn’t move with the people, then the tradition may not continue.

“WENDLAND: The state estimates that thousands more will have to migrate as the coastal erodes. But Owens is happy to see that some young people, like Rhett Williams, are embracing these folk traditions.”

More at NPR here and at the Shreveport Times, here.

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Photo: Minot Daily News
Norma Baker-Flying Horse is owner of Red Berry Woman, a fashion designing business that was accepted into Paris Fashion Week.

Yesterday I mentioned that APiermanSister was a blogger whose writing I admired. She says she is shy, but as far as I can tell, one of her personal characteristics is fearlessness.

As a regular visitor to and connoisseur of Paris, she had always wanted to attend Fashion Week. In a recent post, she describes how she wrangled an invitation — finding a publication back in the US that would take an article and help to justify her admission to the show as a writer.

This is from Alison’s February Minot Daily News report on designer Red Berry Woman, an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara (MHA) Nation and member of the Dakota Sioux and Assiniboine tribes.

“Norma Baker-Flying Horse has been having a whirlwind of fashion success.

“ ‘I recently had a dress walk the red carpet at the Grammy’s earlier this month and I’m also preparing to show in France,’ said Baker-Flying Horse of Mandaree, Oklahoma.

“Baker-Flying Horse said she will be the only Native American who will be showing in a show for the opening of Paris Fashion Week. …

“Baker-Flying Horse’s fashion line, Red Berry Woman, incorporates Native American traditional garment styles into contemporary couture garments for both men and women. She also creates different types of Native American traditional-style garments,’ according to her Red Berry Woman website at redberrywoman.com. …

“Baker-Flying Horse also was an invited designer for the international fashion showing in Vancouver, British Columbia, during Vancouver Fashion Week this past September.

“Another event in past months includes being the designer for a fashion show in Cornwall, Ontario, where actor Adam Beach was a guest. His wife, Summer, was Baker-Flying Horse’s guest runway model. One of Baker-Flying Horse’s creations also was worn by Alice Brownotter, an activist from the Standing Rock Reservation, for an event held by actress Jane Fonda who invited young people to participate who have had leadership rolls in their community. …

“Last March Baker-Flying Horse had the special honor of having one of her fashion designs worn at the Academy Awards show, the Oscars. She was the first contemporary Native American fashion designer to have a gown worn at the Oscars.”

More on Red Berry Woman at the Minot Daily News, here, and at the Smithsonian, here. But the most fun piece to read is Alison’s blog post about crashing Paris Fashion Week, here.

Photo: kfyrtv.com
The 2018 Native American Cultural Celebration closed with a Red Berry Woman Fashion Show.

redberrywoman

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Photo: Ann Hermes/ Christian Science Monitor
Judge Abby Abinanti presides over the Yurok Tribal Court in Klamath, California.

There has been a movement lately to restore to tribal courts the adjudication of certain types of crimes committed by Native Americans. The idea is that the traditional ways of handling problems often work better than those imposed by an outside system.

Henry Gass writes about one such court at the Christian Science Monitor.

“The mouth of the Klamath River – the spiritual heart of Yurok country – can be hard to find.  … Ira Thompson is here for his court date anyway, having made the 30-minute drive south from Crescent City. He grew up here, and when he got in serious trouble for the first time – a third DUI and a possible four months in jail – he knew he needed to come home. …

“So he reached out to the Yurok Tribal Court. He reached out to Abby Abinanti. …

“As Mr. Thompson enters, the air tastes of musky angelica root (burned by a paralegal minutes earlier to cleanse the room of pain, anxiety, and other negative energy).

“Judge Abby, as everyone calls her, is not your average judge. She sits at a table across from Mr. Thompson wearing her typical court attire: gray jeans and a crimson turtleneck. …

“ ‘How are things going?’ she asks him.

“ ‘Staying home,’ he replies.

“Mr. Thompson is under house arrest and participating in the court’s wellness program, a treatment employing Yurok cultural immersion. That’s the deal the tribal court struck with the county instead of jail time. He’s been home carving earrings out of redwood, making elk horn purses, and selling them. ‘That sounds good,’ she says, bringing the hearing briskly to an end about five minutes after it started. …

“When Judge Abinanti joined the Yurok Tribal Court in 2007 it operated like a normal state court, albeit on a much smaller scale. When most Yuroks got into trouble with the law they went to local state courts, and they entered a system designed to be adversarial and punitive. Root causes often went ignored and unaddressed, and recidivism inevitably followed.

“Judge Abinanti has taken the court in a different direction: one more communal and rehabilitative. It’s a judicial path followed by other tribes around the country. Personal responsibility and renewal – two pillars of the once nearly extinct Yurok culture – now permeate the court’s functions.

“Incarceration has largely been replaced by supervised release combined with Yurok traditions such as dancing and wood carving. Lawyering up for family disputes and child custody battles has been replaced by mediation. Almost every case is resolved through mediation – victims and perpetrators talking with each other – even if it takes years. Tribal courts resemble the growing U.S. restorative justice movement, which emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior and getting all stakeholders involved. Judge Abinanti says it just resembles the old Yurok values system.

“The Yurok were village people, she likes to say. Living in clusters of redwood cabins along the Klamath River, people in the communities were so interdependent that when villagers did something wrong, they couldn’t just be locked away. They had to face consequences, but also become responsible, productive community members again. That’s tribal justice.

“After what she calls ‘the invasion’ by European settlers, the Yurok way of life was lost. By helping revive those values and applying them to modern-day problems – addiction, domestic violence, foster care – the Yurok say she’s not only meting out justice, she’s helping revive the tribe itself. And some U.S. criminal justice reformers are now beginning to explore what lessons can be learned from tribal courts. …

“Any Yurok tribe member is eligible to have their case heard in the tribal court (except for felony cases, which go to state or federal court). Judge Abinanti has expanded the kinds of cases the tribal court hears. … She also negotiates with other judges for alternative sentences for Yuroks convicted in other jurisdictions. …

“To fully understand Judge Abinanti’s approach to justice requires going back to the mid-19th century. … Massacres, slavery, and disease reduced California’s native population to about 30,000 within 23 years of statehood. Some tribes lost 95 percent of their population. The Yurok Tribe says three-quarters of its population died in this period, and the tribe faded into obscurity. …

“Judge Abinanti says that the Yurok history of decimation creates a generational trauma, a mental framework that shapes a cycle of behavior among some tribal members. ‘Until they get that, they feel sort of caught up in something that they can’t control or stop because they don’t know what it is or where it came from,’ she says. ‘We have to take responsibility for acquiring those habits and we have to deal with it….

“ ‘It’s one thing to just stop behavior, but I think it helps to stop the behavior if you know why,’ she says. …

“Understanding the ‘why’ helped change the ballgame for Jon Riggs, who has Yurok, Chetco and Cherokee ancestry. Raised off the reservation in a drug-addicted family, he started drinking and doing drugs at a very young age. He was 18 when he was arrested for the first time. …

“When last year he came back to the Klamath for the Jump Dance – a dance that’s meant to renew the world – he ‘was able to connect with something that was much deeper than I had ever done before.’ In January, he became a wellness case manager for the tribal court.”

More here.

 

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Photos: Lucy Sherriff/PRI
Neris Uriana, the Wayuu tribe’s first-ever female chieftain, stands in her garden. With her leadership and new water-saving techniques, the northern Colombia tribe is finally able to grow food year-round.

I’ve been reading articles by my friend Ann Tickner on Jane Addams, best known for founding Hull House in Chicago in the early 20th Century. Addams, an international peace activist who influenced the thinking of world leaders after WW I, was a more extraordinary woman than I realized in third grade, reading one of those little orange biographies in the school library. She was a model of all that women can be if they choose.

In South America, there’s another surprising example of female leadership that I just heard about. It’s in an indigenous tribe, where the women are making sure that the people achieve their potential while living in harmony with nature.

Global Post reporter Lucy Sherriff writes at Public Radio International (PRI), “For years, the Wayuu tribe in La Guajira, a remote area in northernmost Colombia, was run by a male chieftain. But 13 years ago, male elders decided to appoint a woman as its leader. After the success of being led by a female head, the community changed its governance traditions and now exclusively appoints women to lead.

“ ‘When I first started, I didn’t know anything,’ Neris Uriana, the tribe’s first-ever female chieftain, told PRI. ‘But over time, one learns how to lead, the required skills you need to be head of a community.’

“Neris Uriana was elected in 2005. She was already involved in providing support to the community’s mothers, and Jorge Uriana, along with other elders, believed she had the qualities needed to lead the tribe. It was a first for Wayuu communities in Albania, in La Guajira.

“ ‘We had had some problems with communicating with leaders of other tribes and in our own village,’ explained Jorge Uriana, who was the community leader until 2005 and is Neris Uriana’s husband.

“Jorge Uriana explained that traditionally, Wayuu men negotiate and resolve disputes but that some male leaders can come off as confrontational and even aggressive at times.

“ ‘Whereas women, when they speak, they address the human side. They tend to be more peace-loving and more humanitarian in their outlook.’ ”

Excuse me, I have to stop here and marvel: that is exactly why Jane Addams and her contemporaries in the peace movement are considered the founders of what is known today as feminist diplomacy.

Back to my story.

” ‘We wanted to turn the way things were on its head. We wanted women to use their way of dialogue to resolve our conflicts, and we wanted to transform our culture,’ [said Jorge Uriana].

“ ‘I realized I had a commitment and an obligation to my people,’ said Neris Uriana, who will lead for as long as she likes (or until someone else steps up). ‘I really trained myself in leadership, and now, I feel like I am able to really achieve great things.’

“Marta Pushiana is one of the many women who have become more involved in the tribe’s community since Neris Uriana’s appointment.

“ ‘Now, we have a female leader; more women are taking more responsibility in the tribe. Before, we always had to stay at home and look after the children and cook and clean,’ said Pushiana. ‘Now, the men share those responsibilities with us, so that women have the opportunity to work, to help build, to be involved in leadership. The whole dynamic in the tribe has changed for the better.’ …

“Although Wayuu tribes have traditionally treated women as equals to men and have a more matriarchal culture than other nonindigenous Colombians, few tribes are led by women, and even less — if any — have permanently pledged to only appoint women. …

“Since Neris Uriana took up her position, she has introduced a long-term agricultural initiative to help sustain her community, rather than continually living hand to mouth. Neris Uriana sought the help of outsiders to teach her and other women in the tribe about irrigation, crop cycles and land use, so they could have ample produce throughout the year. The women also use their ancestral knowledge of lunar cycles to plant food and strongly believe the can use their connection with the Earth to sustain themselves.”

Oh, my, I am in love with these people! Read more about them at PRI, here.

A woman from the Wayuu tribe who is part of the female chieftain’s food initiative waters the saplings. The initiative has been such a success that the tribe now produces surplus food and sells it to other communities.

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Photo: Walter Siegmund
Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, says her life was transformed by a bookmobile. The first book she chose was about volcanoes because the previous night she’d heard a scary story about Mt. Rainier erupting.

Maria Popova has a wonderful blog that she often links to on twitter, which is where I picked up her heartwarming story about what access to books can mean in a poor child’s life.

From Brainpickings: “A beautiful testament to that emancipating, transformative power of public libraries comes from one such troubled little girl named Storm Reyes, who grew up in an impoverished Native American community, had her life profoundly changed, perhaps even saved, by a library bookmobile, and went on to become a librarian herself. She tells her story in this wonderful oral history animation by StoryCorps:

“The piece was adapted into an essay in Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work

“Here is Reyes’s story, as it appears in the book:

Working and living in migrant farmworkers’ fields, the conditions were pretty terrible. My parents were alcoholics, and I was beaten and abused and neglected. I learned to fight with a knife long before I learned how to ride a bicycle.

When you are grinding day after day after day, there’s nothing to aspire to except filling your hungry belly. You may walk down the street and see a row of nice, clean houses, but you never, ever dream you can live in one. You don’t dream. You don’t hope.

When I was twelve, a bookmobile came to the fields. I thought it was the Baptists, because they used to come in a van and give us blankets and food. So I went over and peeked in, and it was filled with books. …

The night before, an elder had told us a story about the day that Mount Rainier blew up and the devastation from the volcano. So I told the bookmobile person that I was nervous about the mountain blowing up, and he said, ‘You know, the more you know about something, the less you will fear it.’

At Brainpickings, you can find out what happened next, here.

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