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Friday, 27 February, 2015

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Menominee tribe considers growing marijuana

MILWAUKEE (AP) — If the Menominee tribe can't open a casino in Kenosha, maybe it'll grow marijuana instead.
Tribal legislator Craig Corn opened the door Friday to growing marijuana on tribe's impoverished reservation near Shawano. He tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1F5ng2d ) the tribe has numerous legal hurdles it must research and overcome before it could legally plant and sell marijuana.
The question of tribes entering the marijuana business has been smoldering since last year, when the U.S. Department of Justice told federal prosecutors not to prevent tribes from growing or selling pot on their reservations, even in states that ban it. Indian law experts say the Justice Department memo left many questions unanswered.
Still, interest has grown since Gov. Scott Walker last month rejected the tribe's proposal for an off-reservation in Kenosha.


Klamath Tribes: Timberlands sale jeopardizes agreements

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The chairman of the Klamath Tribes said Friday that the unexpected sale of private timberlands the tribes had hoped to regain to rebuild their lost reservation jeopardizes agreements to settle longstanding battles over water.
Chairman Don Gentry said a key provision of the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement is funding so the tribes could buy 140 square miles of lodgepole pine known as the Mazama Tree Farm. It also lays out ways to divide water between protected fish and farms in times of drought.
This week, Fidelity National Financial Ventures announced it had sold the assets of Cascade Timberlands, LLC, including 300 square miles of timberlands in Deschutes and Klamath counties, to Whitefish Cascade Forest Resources, LLC, based in Singapore. The sale included the Mazama Tree Farm, which straddles U.S. Highway 97 between Chemult and Chiloquin. Fidelity National received a distribution of $63 million from Cascade at closing.
Gentry said the tribes had an option to buy the land, but it expired. He added that Fidelity had emailed a tribal member, but that person was no longer involved in tribal government, and it was not noticed until too late.
Gentry said the tribes' participation in the agreement depends on regaining that land, or some substitute. He adds that two other agreements are closely related and would also be in jeopardy. One would remove four Klamath River dams to help salmon and another would help ranchers when they have to stop irrigating due to tribal water rights.
“Certainly the agreements are at risk,'' Gentry said. ``I'm not sure what other benefit would satisfy our tribes. Our members voted on the agreements as they are.''
The agreements grew out of a desire by farmers, tribes, salmon fishermen, conservation groups and others to settle longstanding battles over water that reached a peak in 2001, when water had to be cut off to a federal irrigation project straddling the Oregon-California border to leave enough water for fish protected by the endangered Species Act _ endangered suckers in Upper Klamath Lake and threatened coho in the Klamath River.
The next year water was restored to irrigators, and tens of thousands of adult salmon died in the lower reaches of the Klamath River from diseases that thrive in low warm water conditions.
Meanwhile, PacifiCorp agreed to give up four aging hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Oregon and California to restore salmon to the upper basin and avoid having to pay millions of dollars to upgrade the dams so salmon could swim over them.
Those agreements have languished for years in Congress, where House Republicans have been strongly opposed. Last year, a third agreement was added that helps ranchers forced to stop irrigating when there is only enough water in streams running through the former reservation to satisfy tribal water rights, which are devoted to fish.
The Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Band of Snake Indians were terminated by Congress in 1954, and their 1,400-square-mile reservation sold off, becoming ranches, rural subdivisions, private timberlands, and parts of two national forests. Since tribal status was restored in 1986, the tribes have been working to regain some of the reservation as an economic base.


Washington football team says feds decision infringes on free speech

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — A federal government decision to cancel the Washington Redskins' trademark because it may bedisparaging infringes on free-speech rights and unfairly singles the team out, lawyers argued in court papers filed Monday.
The team wants to overturn a decision last year by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the Redskins' trademark on the grounds that it may be offensive to Native Americans. But the team's attorneys say the law barring registration of disparaging trademarks is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
The trademark board's decision unfairly singles out the Redskins “for disfavored treatment based solely on the content of its protected speech, interfering with the ongoing public discourse over the Redskins' name by choosing sides and cutting off the debate. This the U.S. Constitution does not tolerate,'' the lawyers write in their brief.
The lawyers argue that the government has no business deciding that a name such as Redskins is disparaging and undeserving of trademark protection while deeming other names such as Braves to be content-neutral and allowable for trademarks.
The team still disputes that Redskins is a disparaging term and has asked the judge to rule in the team's favor based on that argument. But the court papers filed Monday focus on the constitutionality of the law that bans registration of disparaging trademarks.
The government has intervened in the civil lawsuit to defend the law's constitutionality. In similar cases, government lawyers have argued that the law doesn't ban disparaging speech; it just denies the protection of a federal trademark to those words. For instance, the Redskins would not be prohibited from calling themselves the Redskins just because they lose the trademark case _ they would just lose some of the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark.
The team says free-speech protections should be understood more broadly. The team says the First Amendment can be violated by government restrictions that burden speech even if they don't ban it outright. The team argues that canceling a trademark represents such a burden, especially for a football club that has used the name since 1933.
A lawyer for the group of Native Americans that sought cancellation of the trademark did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
The team also argues that canceling the trademark after decades of lawful registration amounts due a denial of due process because of the difficulty in trying to defend itself so many years after the fact.
A hearing on the issue is scheduled for May 5.

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