Shoshone-Bannock, Mark Trahant discuss Native American health policy at Albuquerque forum
by Akeemi and Akilah Martinez, Dawn of Nations Today

The health disparities facing Native American communities are often the focus of discussions among health care workers, tribal communities and even the news media.  On April 12 and 13, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Native American Health Policy at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the University of New Mexico brought together tribal leaders, tribal health professionals, and University partners to discuss tribal health care, policy and the community needs of tribes.
Shoshone-Bannock writer, speaker and poet, Mark Trahant gave the keynote address and spoke on how health policy needs to be linked to traditional Native American lifestyles. Trahant, a 2009-2010 Kaiser Media Fellow, focused on the positive health milestones Native American have made such as living longer, taking control of their own health care facilities and returning to traditional foods and planting. Dawn of Nations Today reporters, Akeemi and Akilah Martinez spoke with Trahant about community gardens and health policy. Rebecca Riley works for the Native American Professional Parent Resources as a tribal home visiting manager. Riley is from Acoma and gave her thoughts on Trahant’s keynote address.



Winona LaDuke, keynote speaker at the Art of Change: Climate Justice and Indigenous Solutions conference that was held at the American Indian Institute of Art in Santa Fe, N.M. on April 20-21, 2012. LaDuke addressed the students and community members about the critical issues surrounding climate change.
Photo credit: Akeemi Martinez/Dawn of Nations Today

Winona LaDuke: Tribes must harvest traditional foods
to fight climate change

by Jennifer L. Begay, Dawn of Nations Today

This semester I attended a presentation by Winona LaDuke who was invited by the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) to speak as part of The Art of Change: Climate Justice and Indigenous Solutions conference. It was a two-day event held April 20-21 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The conference addressed challenges Indigenous communities are facing with health, traditional practices and culture, due to climate change. LaDuke was perfect for the presentation as she is a well-known Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) environmentalist, economist and author who graduated from Harvard and Antioch Universities. She is currently the executive director of both Honor the Earth and the White Earth Land Recovery Project.

LaDukes’s keynote presentation emphasized that Indigenous tribes should maintain “traditional” and stay “local” to fight against climate change. She incorporated various stories of indigenous traditional foods including her own tribe’s traditional food- wild rice, and the struggle of fighting genetic engineering to protect these foods.

She used examples of traditional varieties of corn and squash, versus genetically modified food and said that the problem with genetically engineered food is that it changes or takes away the natural nutrients Mother Nature already provided. In addition, it diminishes cultural meaning and stories that are connected with traditional foods.

What really caught my attention from her presentation was the cultural aspect of reconnecting with the cosmo-genaelaogy, which is the spiritual connection with food.
For example, LaDuke mentioned the Native Hawaiians and she said they have a kin connection with Kalo, their traditional food. The story of Kalo started when Mother Earth and Father Sky had a baby whi they named Kalo. Sadly, Kalo was a stillborn and was buried but emerged as a food source for the Hawaiian people, therefore sacred to them.

I had the opportunity to speak with LaDuke face to face and was able to ask a few questions, much to my surprised she has some reassuring responses. I wondered how I as an urban Native American and engineering student could contribute to my reservation when I feared my community would not accept me for my status of not being born and raised in Dinétah. I told her I felt like an outsider of my community and I was unsure how to help the Navajo reservation if I do not feel like I belong. She was quick to offer me some comfortable words.

“Everybody has a place in our communities and community is not all geographically defined,” she said. LaDuke continued to emphasis that each Indigenous community is unique with music, food, traditions, and language that must be restored to make our home a place that we really want to live in.

“I think we need to be whoever we want to be but we need to be happy and have fulfilling communities,” she said. “And that’s only going to happen if we all is not enough to just learn the sacred stories of food, but to also physically apply your knowledge by growing food that is native to the land you reside in.”
As a student wanting to pursue a career in engineering, I asked how can I do this without going against my traditional belief system and instead apply my traditions in my career?

winona laduke
Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth and the White Earth Land Recovery Project, meets and greets the public following her keynote address. She signs her recent publication ‘The Militarization of Indian Country’. Photo credit: Akeemi Martinez/Dawn of Nations Today

LaDuke said it could be done, but it must be done intelligently. “It’s the application of skill set into appropriate and culturally based models that makes lives better,” she said.
LaDuke expanded her answer by explaining that I must look at engineering that focuses on bio mimicry, technology that imitates the natural world. She also shared a story of how the seeds of an area know the land, how they remember. Seeds like the Pawnee Eagle Corn that are now being grown once again in the homelands of the Pawnee in Nebraska. She is currently working on a corn restoration project involving several tribal communities growing traditional varieties of corn local to each area. The corn varieties are being grown for seed, seeds that will remember the land and naturally adapt to the environment. The project helped LaDuke understand what her father meant when he said, “Winona, I don’t want to hear your philosophy if you can’t grow corn.”

Her philosophy was popular with many students and audience members at the presentation.She widen some eyes during her presentation but reached out to many especially IAIA alum Alicia Marie Recnountre-Da Silva. Da Silva said she’s always been inspired by LaDuke and her work. “I appreciate how inclusive she (LaDuke) was with the community (New Mexico) and it inspired all of us to go the green path,” Da Silva said.

LaDuke was light on her feet as she kept the presentation grounded. She mentioned oil consumption and how oil is a resource that is overused in today’s society by sharing a joke she often tells her son. “Sorry if you don’t have a car to drive, because I used up all the oil,” she said. Even though LaDuke has grand titles of being a book author, environmentalist, and activist, she showed that she is still an everyday person. It made me feel like you do not have to be an executive of an organization or have a prestigious title to do the humane thing and help your community. She inspired me and I feel motivated to help my community, the Navajo, to become a part of this movement. The presentation made me aware of my surroundings. Talking with LaDuke helped me realize that being an Urban Indian doesn’t make me anything less than my people from my community.

But it does make me different because I have something new to offer to help my community reconnect with the organic path our ancestors once followed, and as an engineer focusing on environment issues, I can physically apply my knowledge.



Trayvon Martin shooting builds racial profiling conversations in New Mexico
by Jodene A. Nerva and Alicia Frank Haviland, Dawn of Nations Today

Trayvon Martin shooting builds racial profiling conversations in New Mexico

Trayvon Martin's death made news across the globe. The death of Trayvon Martin made headlines across the country and sparked conversations about ever-so-present race. The University of New Mexico’s  Division for Equity and Inclusion, Men of Color Alliance (MOCA),  UNM Men of Color Initative (MOCI) and Project for New Mexico Graduates of Color organized the discussion “How are Hoodies Suspicious?: Critical Issues Roundtable & Talking  Circle on Education's Role in Criminalizing Men of Color" on April 11, 2012 at the University.

UNM graduate student 38-year-old Chris Ramirez is the project assistant with the Division of Equity and Inclusion and helped to organize the event. Ramirez, Theresa Williams, a 35,-year-old graduate student and community health major, and Patrick Barrett, 37-year-old a member of the Men of Color Alliance and a political science major, commented on why they attended the roundtable and what’s needed to address the issue of racial profiling, as reported by Jodene A. Nerva and Alicia Frank Haviland of Dawn of Nation Today.


Georgene Louis, Pueblo of Acoma, registers herself for state representative in the newly formed District 26. She is the first Pueblo to run.
Photo credit: Keegan King

Georgene Louis, 34, first Pueblo woman to run for SW Albuquerque
by Jodene A. Nerva, Dawn of Nations Today

Albuquerque’s District 26 needs a new State House of Representative and Georgene Louis hopes to take the seat. Louis, 34, is a mother, educated Acoma Pueblo woman and the first Pueblo to run for the State House of Prepresentative in District 26, a newly formed district located in the Southwest corridor of Albuquerque and was created due to the large number of residents on the Westside. “I’m very excited,” Louis said about her running for the position.

Currently, the state representative for the Westside district has 39,000 constituents, the maximum number of constituents a representative is allowed to have is 29,000. It has become too large of a district for only one person to handle, so the new district was created.

Louis decided to throw her name in the hat for the position after realizing that the district was under represented. “There’s no parks. We only have one,” she said. “And the fire department in District 26 doesn’t have a ladder so they have to borrow.” Louis became a mother a young age but never let that stop her from achieving her dreams. She attended the University of New Mexico and received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English. She went on to law school at UNM and earned her civil law degree and later became an adjunct professor at the UNM Law School.

She said advocating for people has always been a passion of hers and that her law background could play a vital role in District 26. “It’s just like being a lawyer, you have a chance to serve your clients, you work to resolve their issues. I get to advocate on their behalf, that’s just what I’ve done in the past,” she said. Louis believes she knows that the people in District 26 need. Her slogan read “New Leadership for a stronger Westside”.

She said although her constituents are primarily Hispanic and only four percent are Native American, a lot of concerns are the same. District 26 borders the Laguna Pueblo on the West and Isleta Pueblo on the South.  Louis understands that she will have to balance the needs of both tribal constituents of Laguna and Isleta and said she’s ready to do so.

“The foundational interests are the same such as education and jobs. We also have to be looking at what can be done,” Louis said. “If people take the time to look at the situation and understand the issue, we will be able to work together.” An important part of Louis’ campaign is remembering her roots. She said it is because of her personal history and knowledge of people that she is able to step up to the task.

“Definitely no matter who you are or where you come from, make goals based on any ambition you have,” she said. “Education is key, it played a large role in my life; people who work hard find other people that will support you, it will come back to you; good things will come.”

It will be party vs. party come November when Louis, democratic candidate, meets republican candidate Louis Tafoya in the race to be state representative for House District 26, according to the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office website.


Embezzlement accusations prompt Navajo Nation government official credit card audit
by Caitlin D. Pozernick, Dawn of Nations Today

Due to the recent ethics probe launched by the Navajo Nation to investigate the possibility of the mismanagement of external federal funds, questions have been raised about the future of the legitimacy of the Navajo Tribal government. On Feb. 29, the branch chiefs of the Navajo Nation issued an immediate three-day suspension of tribal Purchase Cards, also known as P-Cards, in order to launch a full scale of probe of P-Card abuse allegations.

According to an article in the Navajo Times, more than 1,500 employees of the Navajo Nation are P-Card holders but branch executives such as the Navajo Nation President, vice-president and the 24 council delegates, were excluded from the P-Card suspension. Purchase cards are credit cards issued to members of several different departments to make official purchases relevant to their related departments. Purchases approved by P-Card guidelines include office supplies and expenses rendered during approved official travel. 

The Navajo Nation has come under heavy fire over the course of the past few months on a number of fronts. Last year, local newspapers revealed chapter employee embezzlement schemes, Council Delegate misused of appropriated funds, and that the overall disunity in the tribe over policy like SB2109-the Water Rights Settlement Act continued to split members.

The Navajo government has made little to no effort to address and mend the broken relationship with their people that came as a result of the bad publicity. Most of the scandal can be attributed to the lack of accountability, an attribute for which the tribe has become notorious.
According to the Navajo Times the P-card investigation was launched after allegations were made against the Division of Economic Development and the Division of General Services’ Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An audit managed by Acting Auditor General Elizabeth Begay confirmed the alleged misuse and an internal investigation was immediately launched.

So far, the investigation has been quiet and the only information available has been through the Navajo Times. The offices of the Navajo Nation have been hesitant to release information regarding the investigation. The Office of Public Information, whose primary job is to issue information to the public, did not return phone calls to Dawn of Nations Today for information.

In a report issued by the Navajo Times on Jan. 26, staff reporter Marley Shebala reported that the P-Card abuse was so severe that it emptied the entire Real Estate Department budget of $157,000. The report goes on to say that the purchases made were in clear violation of P-Card regulations and included purchases that extended from iPods, Mac computers, designer handbags, jewelry, power tools, clothing and other personal items.

Current law only suggests the termination of the employee who in turn is not allowed to apply for any tribal position for a couple of years. In the case of embezzlement, the stipulations of retrieving the loss of funds vary from case to case. Lastly, the Navajo Nation should launch a full internal investigation in the case of fraud and embezzlement claims made within their own government.

Most recently, the tribe has been forced to make budget cuts and has struggled to stretch the fiscal budget.


Dawn of Nations Today Volumn 7; Issue 1; May 2012, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

Dawn of Nations Today is a special edition published by the Native American Studies Department, University College, University of New Mexico
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