Court seems wary in American Indian casino case
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seemed wary of making any changes to tribal sovereignty laws as it considered whether Michigan can permanently block an American Indian casino.
Justices heard arguments Monday from state officials who want to shutter the Bay Mills Indian Community's casino about 90 miles south of its Upper Peninsula reservation. Michigan argues that the tribe opened the casino in 2010 without permission from the U.S. government and in violation of a state compact.
The lower courts say they don't have jurisdiction over parts of this argument, and that the tribe also has sovereign immunity.
Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch says that if Michigan could sue a foreign country for opening an illegal business on state land, they should be able to sue to stop the casino.
Ex-Utah tribal official sentenced for embezzling
ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — A former economic development and trust resources director for Utah's Paiute Indian Tribe has been sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for embezzling $176,000 from tribal accounts.
U.S. District Judge David Nuffer on Wednesday also ordered Jeffrey Zander to pay $202,000 in restitution, which includes interest on the money stolen.
The Spectrum of St. George reports the 58-year-old Zander was convicted of mail and wire fraud, money laundering and willful failure to file tax returns following a weeklong trial in Salt Lake City federal court in March.
U.S. Attorney for Utah David Barlow says the case was ``particularly egregious'' because it involved someone in a position of trust who ``diverted funds intended to help the tribe for his own personal use.''
Zander, who began working for the Paiute Tribe in 1998, was sentenced to 68 months in prison.
Documentary looks at Native American traditions and PTSD
ELKO, Nev. (AP) — Native American traditions may be the key to helping modern-day veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Taki Telonidis, the producer for the Western Folklife Center's media office in Salt Lake City, has been working on a documentary called “Healing the Warrior's Heart'' that explores the ways some Native American tribes treat their veterans when they return from war.
Telonidis said around two million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some come home fine, others have life-changing injuries and “many are coming home with invisible drama,'' or PTSD.
Some tribes refer to PTSD as a wounding of the soul, Telonidis said. Part of the veteran's spirit is still on the battlefield, and he said the tribes have traditions that can heal his or her heart.
“What they're trying to do is bring their spirit home,'' Telonidis told the Elko Daily Free Press.
He said a lot of Native Americans have lost their connection to the warrior spirituality, but he is seeing a revitalization of that idea. The traditional healing methods are not only working for some Native American soldiers — Telonidis has seen the method work for other veterans suffering from PTSD.
Telonidis is studying two specific locations for his film: the George Wallen Veteran Affairs Center in Salt Lake and the Blackfeet reservation in Montana and Canada.
At the VA center, a Shoshone-Paiute medicine man is offering sweat lodges for anyone who is interested.
“Guilt and shame are the biggest things guys bring back with them,'' Telonidis said. Often, veterans with PTSD have one particular image that is frightening and they relive it over and over. Sometimes it's the death of a colleague or friend or a memory of killing an enemy.
The medicine man instructs the veteran to bring the spirits of the people in those memories with them into the sweat lodge. Then, he tells the veterans to have the conversation the veteran has been wanting to have with them all these years. Veterans are encouraged to talk to those people and tell them how they feel, and to ask forgiveness if they feel they need to.
The sweat lodge isn't a one-time fix. Veterans need to come in periodically and have the conversation often for the best results. Telonidis described it as a lifting of a burden.
“Just like any other therapy, you have to keep coming back,'' Telonidis said.
Some find the experience uncomfortable and don't return, but for those who do, it can be life-changing, Telonidis said. He is convinced it taps into something and heals something that other therapies don't reach.
In the Blackfeet reservation, Telonidis is following Native American soldiers as they prepare to go to war and come back.
Historically, the Blackfeet have been a warrior culture, and the young people of the tribe are still attracted to the warrior idea. In the tribe, warriors were leaders and protectors as well as fighters. The younger Blackfeet are interested in becoming a warrior because their ancestors were warriors, Telonidis said.
Those veterans who shun the tribe's traditions usually find the transition from soldier to citizen harder, Telonidis said. The documentary is following one young man who served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He initially ignored the traditions of the tribe, and was having a hard time adjusting to being home.
A medicine man began working with him and counseling him, telling him about the native religion. Now, while he still has struggles, he believes he is in a much better place.
Telonidis said Native Americans offered to show others their traditions for healing warriors. He thought the idea first began resurfacing in 2004. Groups of psychotherapists, scholars and chaplains are studying these traditions and trying to adapt them for all veterans.
“They said, ‘This is our tradition ... we would be interested in you offering this to at least as many non-natives as natives,'' Telonidis said.
As for Telonidis' own interest in the project, he was disturbed by the effect of war on so many people. However, he said, most Americans are able to separate themselves from the issue. He wanted to explore the problems of war using the Western Folklife Center's vision.
The Western Folklife Center is dedicated to documenting and celebrating traditional culture. While the center usually studies cowboy culture, it is also interested in Native American culture.
“I was wondering if there was a way to combine the Western Folklife Center with this particular issue of veterans coming home,'' Telonidis said.
He has researched the project for about a year and a half. Filming began in July 2013 and will be completed in late spring 2014. It's possible the film will air on Veteran's Day 2014. Since November is also Native American Heritage Month, Telonidis said it was the perfect combination to honor both topics in the documentary.
“Healing the Warrior's Heart'' is a Western Folklife Center production in partnership with KUED Channel 7 in Salt Lake as the PBS affiliate. Gary Robinson from Tribal Eye Productions is a partnering producer.
Telonidis is looking for funds to complete the project. Those who would like to donate can become a Western Folklife Center Stakeholder at http://contribute.westernfolklife.org/ and select the “Media Programming'' designation.
Klamath task force reaches water agreement
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Ranchers and the Klamath Tribes signed a tentative deal Monday in Klamath Falls for sharing water in the drought-stricken Upper Klamath Basin.
The rest of a special task force on water issues were to join them Tuesday at the Oregon Institute of Technology to announce the 17-page agreement in principle.
Their goal is to reach a final agreement early next year that will guide legislation to be offered by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden to break a logjam in Congress over resolving Klamath water battles. Republicans in the House have blocked legislation to implement existing agreements to remove four dams from the Klamath River to help struggling salmon runs, restore environmental damage from a century of irrigation development in the Klamath Basin, and provide a higher level of certainty for farmers on a federal irrigation project straddling the Oregon-California border that has had to shut off services to conserve water for protected fish.
Under the tentative deal, ranchers on the Wood, Williamson and Sprague rivers would agree to significantly cut water use to help provide for farmers on the Klamath Restoration Project downstream, and support fish habitat restoration projects and tribal economic projects, such as securing federal money to buy back private timberlands once part of the reservation. The tribes would agree not to cut off irrigation if ranchers significantly reduce their irrigation withdrawals. The agreement supports low-cost federally generated electricity to help ranchers reduce water pumping costs.
The task force was brought together last June by Wyden, Gov. John Kitzhaber and others after water was shut off for the first time to hundreds of ranchers in the upper basin to meet water rights newly awarded to the Klamath Tribes on their former reservation lands.
Cattle rancher Roger Nicholson, who signed the agreement in principle, said last summer's water shutoffs cost ranchers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to their herds and land values.
“If you could bring peace, it would be well worthwhile and would be very welcome to the community,'' he said. “The community needs to stay economically whole for ranchers and tribes. We lived in peace for years and want to re-establish that. It only comes about by having everybody fairly and equitably treated.''
After decades of a process called adjudication, the Klamath Tribes were granted water rights to time immemorial on their former reservation lands. To protect endangered sucker fish that spawn in those rivers, the tribes called for enforcement of their water rights, forcing irrigation shutoffs to hundreds of ranchers.
Nicholson is part of a group that has challenged the adjudication. He said a final agreement would include terms for ranchers being paid to cut water use. If a final agreement is reached and put into action by legislation going through Congress, the challenge would likely be dropped.
Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said the agreement in principle was a critical step in resolving years of conflict over water, but there is a lot of negotiating left to do.
“The intention is to address water management issues, protect the viability of the agriculture community, which includes protecting the resource concerns the Klamath tribes have,'' he said.