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News Across Indian Country

Lapwai boy dies in accidental shooting

LAPWAI (AP) — Northern Idaho officials have identified the 8-year-old Lapwai boy who police say died in an accidental shooting on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.
Nez Perce County Coroner Gary Gilliam says Michael A. Bisbee III died Wednesday following a gunshot wound to the chest.
Gilliam told the Lewiston Tribune on Thursday that Bisbee after being shot was taken to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center at about 5 p.m. Wednesday where he later died.
Additional information about the shooting has not been released.
Bisbee is the son of Roberta Bisbee, who serves on the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.

High court wrestles with Indian adoption dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is trying to sort out a wrenching adoption case involving a Native American child, a biological father who first renounced any interest in her and adoptive parents who were eventually ordered to hand her over to the father.
The justices heard an appeal Tuesday from the South Carolina couple who wanted to adopt the girl, named Veronica. The outcome of the case was unclear after arguments that included an unusually emotional appeal from the couple's lawyer. Justice Anthony Kennedy said he wished he could call upon King Solomon to figure it out.
The case turns on the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, enacted in 1978 because Indian children were being removed from their homes and typically placed with non-Indian adoptive or foster parents. The law gives tribes and relatives a say in decisions affecting a child. State courts have been at odds on the law's application.
The Obama administration, 18 states, several Indian tribes, current and former members of Congress and children's welfare groups have lined up in support of the father. The National Council for Adoption and the American Association of Adoption Attorneys are among the groups supporting the South Carolina couple.
Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, invoked the federal law to stop the adoption arranged by the girl's non-Indian mother when she was pregnant and the Charleston, S.C.area couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. The couple was present at Veronica's birth in Oklahoma. Brown had never met his daughter and, after the mother rebuffed his marriage proposal, played no role during the pregnancy and paid no child support after Veronica was born.
But when Brown found out Veronica was going to be adopted, he objected and said the law favored the girl living with him and growing up learning tribal traditions.
South Carolina courts agreed and Brown took Veronica, now 3, back to Oklahoma at the end of 2011, even though she had lived with the Capobiancos for the first 27 months of her life.
The justices seemed to recognize there is no ideal outcome to a case in which one side or other will be left without Veronica. "Domestic relations pose the hardest problems for judges,'' Kennedy said.
But Justice Antonin Scalia said the law clearly favors the biological father and does not direct courts to take into account the best interests of the child.
“I know a lot of kids that would be better off with different parents,'' said Scalia, who has nine children.
The conservative justice got considerable support from a liberal colleague, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who does not have children.
“If the father's fit, why do you think that the federal statute requires that it be given to a stranger rather than to the biological father?'' Sotomayor asked Lisa Blatt, the Capobiancos' lawyer.
Blatt argued repeatedly that Brown had relinquished his parental rights and should not have been allowed to intervene at the last minute to block the adoption. She ended her case by warning the justices about the consequences of a ruling in favor of the father for future cases in which the birth mother is not Native American.
“You are rendering these women second-class citizens with inferior rights to direct their reproductive rights and who raises their child. You are relegating adopted parents to go to the back of the bus and wait in line if they can adopt. And you're basically relegating the child to a piece of property with a sign that says, `Indian, keep off. Do not disturb,''' Blatt said.
Chief Justice John Roberts, father of two adopted children, seemed sympathetic to Blatt's clients and pressed Brown's lawyer, Charles Rothfeld, about why he should win custody of Veronica in spite of his early renunciation of his duties as the father.
When Rothfeld said Brown was excited to learn his girlfriend was pregnant,  Roberts said, “He was excited, but there is no doubt he paid nothing during the pregnancy and nothing at the time of the birth, right, to support the child or the mother?''
Rothfeld began to answer. “That is true. But I, I am,'' he said before Roberts cut him off.
The chief justice said, "So he was excited by it. He just didn't want to take any responsibility.''
One outcome that seemed to have some appeal would be for the justices to order South Carolina courts to consider the case anew, with more of an emphasis on the best interests of the child. Paul Clement, representing a guardian appointed by the state to look out for Veronica, suggested such an approach.
“From the child's perspective, the child really doesn't care whose fault it was when they were brought in one custodial situation or another. They just want a determination that focuses on at the relevant time, that time, what's in their best interest,'' Clement said.
An evaluation of the child's interest could well leave Veronica with her father, said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Now the child has been some 15 months with the father. So if a best-interest calculus is made now, you would have to take into account uprooting that relationship, would you not?'' she asked.
Clement agreed. “We're not here to try to say that anybody is entitled to automatic custody of this child based on some legal rule,'' he said.
A decision is expected by late June.
The case is Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, 12-399.

'Lone Ranger' aims to take Tonto beyond sidekick

LAS VEGAS (AP) — To watch a snippet of “The Lone Ranger'' is to empathize with the stoic looks of concern its star, Johnny Depp, deadpans throughout the action film.
A white man playing Tonto, one of the most famous American Indian stereotypes of all time, might work. Then again, trouble might be coming.
In director Gore Verbinski's remake of the popular 1950s Western television series, Depp speaks in broken English, chants prayers, and wears feathers, face paint and — for some reason — a stuffed crow headdress.
But he also loses the subservience that helped make the original Tonto, played by a Canadian Mohawk, such a problematic sidekick to the masked hero.
The Disney remake has Tonto in the role of coach to John Reid, the idealistic law school graduate who finds himself out of his depth when he returns to his hometown and eventually becomes the Lone Ranger.
Verbinski framed the film as a buddy picture with a zany Western edge Wednesday during a teaser screening at the movie theater convention CinemaCon in Las Vegas.
“The movie is an origin story,'' he said before showing about 20 minutes of material. “You'll get a sense about the delicate partnership that's arranged between these two guys, and their wildly diverse sense of justice.''
Armie Hammer, who plays the square-jawed ranger, made a brief appearance with Depp, who was in full movie-star mode, sporting a cowboy hat, four gold necklaces, expensively ripped jeans and a bandanna hanging to his knees.
“Armie is very tall. Which means that we're not short,'' Depp told the industry crowd.
“Anything to add to that?'' Verbinski asked.
“No,'' Depp responded, hoisting his microphone to the ceiling like a rock star and then strutting back off stage.
He might have been saving his voice for a fan question-and-answer session scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at a nearby Las Vegas theater.
At that appearance, the 49-year-old actor said he wanted his portrayal of Tonto “to give as much back to the human beings, the Native Americans as possible; to show that they have a fantastic sense of humor, very dry.''
“The goal was to try to, in my own small way, right the many wrongs that have been done to those people and to show Tonto not only as a proud warrior but also as a man outside, just a bit outside,'' Depp said.
Verbinski also directed “Pirates of the Caribbean'' films, and in “The Lone Ranger,'' Depp appears to be reprising some elements of his flamboyant Jack Sparrow character, including what could be the same head scarf.
Depp is not quite donning “red face,'' as he wears a mask of white and black paint through the film. That heavy eye makeup sets off the whites of his eyes, which he widens to comic effect when confronted with handcuffs, rifles and hurtling trains.
The film, set for release July 3, is Hollywood's first attempt to modernize the Lone Ranger franchise, which has gathered dust for several generations.
Today's viewers might not feel a shiver of recognition when John Reid's brother tosses him a Texas Ranger pin, or when Tonto first calls him “kemosabe.''
And that might be a good thing.


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