I made this blog two years ago out of frustration at the lack of American Indian history in circulation/ lack of Native news in the mainstream media. I was instructed in my writing class to write a paper on a “modern day” topic. American Indian reservations was something that I was curious about, so I started to do some research online and at the local university’s library. It was overwhelming, to say the least. I was overwhelmed by everything I didn’t know. Everything that happened then and still happens today.

This coincided with a man speaking about the genocide of American Indians at my local college. Afterwards, I talked to the speaker and then to the man standing next to him. The man next to him was named Tom and told me that he was apart of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde. In my ignorance, I asked him about his “spiritual/ native” name and he graciously answered my questions about how he got it, etc. It wasn’t until later that I learned this is rightly considered inappropriate and disrespectful. He was very kind to me. I mentioned the paper I was going to write and I briefly said something like, “I wasn’t aware of how the oppression from so long ago still affects what happens today,” to which he replied, “Yes, that’s what people don’t understand. The oppression. Write about it, talk about it. People need to know.”

Something about the way he said it has stuck with me these past two years. It encourages me that 357 people are reading these posts. 

Thank you.


The dancers performed sun dance around a large center pole, the tallest tree a chosen scout could find. Participants consumed neither food nor drink. Piercing was central to the ceremony. Each dancer was prepared by having loose skin on his chest and shoulders pierced in several places; wooden skewers attached by lassos of rawhide were then inserted through the incisions and attached to the center pole. The participant danced with incresing vigor, pulling away from the pole, stretching his skin out, and trying to break it. “Every time a break was made in his skin,” as Sarah Olden described the traditional dance, “the relatives of the dancer had to give something to the poor. When all the skin was torn through, the women gathered around him and saing, ‘Li! Li! Li! Li! Li! Li! Li!’ ” to express their admiration for the dancer’s endurance and bravery.

(Source: Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations)

FARMINGTON, N.M. — Navajo Code Talkers became legendary for using their native tongue during World War II to transmit messages the enemy could not decipher. To this day, they are celebrated at parades and honored at military events nationwide.

They’ve shaken hands with presidents, and their heroics have been portrayed in a major motion picture.

But when they return home to Navajo country, it’s often to something less than Hollywood splendor. Some Code Talkers live without electricity or running water. Others lack central heating. One Code Talker even lives in a house that has been struck by lightning, which is taboo in Navajo tradition. The lightning strike left a mark that is visible above the door. 

Recently, a group of Navajo Code Talkers and their families gathered at a community center and expressed their disappointment in the difficult housing conditions many of them face.

They detailed their concerns and frustrations to a Los Angeles Times reporter.

Two code Talkers, their wives, a widow and daughter laid out their grievances. Alfred Newman Sr. and his wife, Betsy, said they feel a bit used when paraded around at events.

“People talk about Code Talkers. They say how famous they are,” Betsy Newman said.

Every person in the room told similar stories.

Anne Tso, widow of Code Talker Samuel Nakai Tso, spoke about how her husband died recently without seeing the dream of his tribe-sponsored home completed.

Across the room, Samuel F. Sandoval, a 90-year-old Code Talker, said his wife must work several jobs to make improvements to their home.

They don’t feel like they are famous,” Newman said.

Navajo Nation officials think about Code Talkers and invoke them around tribal elections, she said, but otherwise “they forget about us.


Killer whales are considered a particular symbol of power and strength, and catching sight of one is considered a momentous omen. Some tribes, such as the Tlingit, view the killer whale as a special protector of humankind and never hunted killer whales (although they were accomplished whale hunters of other species.) (x)

Top photo: A pod of orca in Alaska.
Bottom photo: Some members of the Tilingit tribe; date unknown. (x)

Steven Garcia with his daughter Cheyenne during the Oglala College powwow on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (date unknown).

The hard lives — and high suicide rate — of Native American children on reservations

SACATON, ARIZ. The tamarisk tree down the dirt road from Tyler Owens’s house is the one where the teenage girl who lived across the road hanged herself. Don’t climb it, don’t touch it, admonished Owens’s grandmother when Tyler, now 18, was younger.

There are other taboo markers around the Gila River Indian reservationeight young people committed suicide here over the course of a single year.

“We’re not really open to conversation about suicide,” Owens said. “It’s kind of like a private matter, a sensitive topic. If a suicide happens, you’re there for the family. Then after that, it’s kind of just, like, left alone.”

But the silence that has shrouded suicide in Indian country is being pierced by growing alarm at the sheer number of young Native Americans taking their own lives — more than three times the national average, and up to 10 times on some reservations.

A toxic collection of pathologies — poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, sexual assault, alcoholism and drug addiction — has seeped into the lives of young people among the nation’s 566 tribes. Reversing their crushing hopelessness, Indian experts say, is one of the biggest challenges for these communities.

“The circumstances are absolutely dire for Indian children,” said Theresa M. Pouley, the chief judge of the Tulalip Tribal Court in Washington state and a member of the Indian Law and Order Commission.

Pouley fluently recites statistics in a weary refrain: “One-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, versus 13 percent in the United States. They graduate high school at a rate 17 percent lower than the national average. Their substance-abuse rates are higher. They’re twice as likely as any other race to die before the age of 24. They have a 2.3 percent higher rate of exposure to trauma. They have two times the rate of abuse and neglect. Their experience with post-traumatic stress disorder rivals the rates of returning veterans from Afghanistan.”

In one of the broadest studies of its kind, the Justice Department recently created a national task force to examine the violence and its impact on American Indian and Alaska Native children, part of an effort to reduce the number of Native American youth in the criminal justice system. The level of suicide has startled some task force officials, who consider the epidemic another outcome of what they see as pervasive despair.

Last month, the task force held a hearing on the reservation of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale. During their visit, Associate Attorney General Tony West, the third-highest-ranking Justice Department official, and task force members drove to Sacaton, about 30 miles south of Phoenix, and met with Owens and 14 other teenagers.

“How many of you know a young person who has taken their life?” the task force’s co-chairman asked. All 15 raised their hands.

“That floored me,” West said.

Read more

An old Indian once told me that when the missionaries arrived they fell on their knees and prayed. Then they got up, fell on the Indians, and preyed.
Vine Deloria, Jr, Custer Died for Your Sins

Native children forcibly being removed from families in South Dakota



"Young people and Indian people need to know that we existed in the 20th century. We need to know who our heroes are and to know what we have done and accomplished." -Russell Means


International Indian Treaty Council representative Winona LaDuke addresses a U.N. conference on discrimination against indigenous populations in the Americas, in Geneva, Switzerland, in this September 1977 handout photo, by Dick Bancroft.