Native Americans | KNKX

Native Americans

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law Thursday a bill aimed at shedding light on the cases of missing or murdered Native American women. 
 At the bill signing ceremony, Native women in traditional regalia performed a women’s honor song.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

This week, Seattle schools have been putting an extra emphasis on Native culture because of Indigenous Peoples' Day. 

But some parents at the school with the highest concentration of Native kids are frustrated with the school district. They say a shortage of classroom space in the brand-new facility for Licton Springs K-8 threatens their kids’ ability to learn.

Students in Oregon would learn more about the history and culture of the state's Native American tribes under a proposal being considered by state lawmakers.

A severe lack of housing on the nation's reservations means many Native Americans are forced to find rentals in nearby communities. That's the case for the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming. But tribal members there still struggle to find places to live because of what they say is racial discrimination.

Ever since last summer, Ken Hebah has been unable to find a place to live. The Eastern Shoshone Tribe member says he doesn't need much.

"Well, like a, maybe a one bedroom just for me," Hebah says.

The U.S. Department of the Interior will consult with tribes this winter on how best to modernize laws that regulate business in Indian Country. Interior made the announcement on the Swinomish reservation in Western Washington Thursday.

When she was growing up, Dina Gilio-Whitaker was constantly asked, "How much Indian blood do you have?" She could never figure out how to respond, which is not to say she didn't know who she was.

"I knew that I was Native, I knew that I was Colville, I knew my family up there on the reservation," she said recently. "But what I grew up with was a process of not being seen and not being recognized as being Native, because I was completely out of context.

The U.S. government has agreed to pay a total of $492 million to 17 American Indian tribes for mismanaging natural resources and other tribal assets, according to an attorney who filed most of the suits.

Jennifer LeBret-White

Native American dropout rates are nearly twice the national average.

A new certificate program at the University of Washington aims to improve outcomes for Native American students, by teaching educators better ways to connect with them and their heritage.

Brian Glanz / Flickr

Seattle’s City Council has declared the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day. They voted unanimously in favor of the resolution to replace city celebrations of Columbus Day and encourage other institutions to do the same.  

Mel Sheldon, former chairman of the Tulalip Tribe, was among many who testified in favor of the measure before the vote. To rounds of drumming and warm applause, he said thanks in his indigenous language, Coast Salish. 

"This initiative makes me proud. It makes all Indian people proud, because you're thinking about the future generations — the children, the little ones, who are not born yet," Sheldon said.

Brian Glanz / Flickr

Members of Seattle’s City Council and Mayor Ed Murray say they’re in favor of a resolution to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. But the council postponed a vote on the measure. 

Members of several Native American tribes and their supporters rallied outside City Hall, then filled  council chambers to testify. They said Columbus brought genocide and slavery to the Americas and celebrations of him as a discoverer need to stop.

Finding an address on a map can be taken for granted in the age of GPS and smartphones. But centuries of forced relocation, disease and genocide have made it difficult to find where many Native American tribes once lived.

Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker in Warner, Okla., has pinpointed the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans.

Courtesy of Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

They call her Naia. She was probably about 16, a forager living mainly on fruit in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. One day she ventured into a cave when the floor gave out. She plunged maybe 100 feet and died.

And that’s how divers would find her, some 12,000 years later, alongside saber-tooth cats and other extinct animal bones in the now-underwater cave system.

“It’s the most complete female paleoamerican skeleton, period,” said James Chatters, owner of the Bothell-based company Applied Paleoscience.

Josh Marshall / Josh Marshall Photography

Each year, 50 teens  from all over the country fly into Seattle to participate in a fast-and-furious film challenge. They have to produce short films in 36 hours, or "on the fly." Which is why the program is called "SuperFly."

Most of the participants are Native Americans, creating Native-themed films out on location on an Indian reservation.

Seattle filmmaker Tracy Rector and her Longhouse Media company launched the workshop 8 years ago.

YAKIMA, Wash. — Washington's Supreme Court says a lawsuit challenging the state's gas tax compacts with American Indian tribes may proceed even though the tribes are not party to the lawsuit.

In the late 1960s, Native Americans fed up with what they saw as years of mistreatment by the federal government formed an organization known as the American Indian Movement.

Founded in Minnesota, the group followed in the footsteps of the civil rights movement and took up protests across the country. One of those protests took place in 1973, when some AIM members occupied the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Charla Bear / KPLU

With all the totem poles in Washington State, it might surprise you to know the cedar monument isn’t from this region.

Though some local tribes now carve them, they didn’t originally.

In fact, the first one here was pilfered from another state.

Read More on I Wonder Why ... ?

Austin Jenkins / KPLU

GRAND MOUND, Wash. - Great Wolf Resorts is a Wisconsin-based chain of indoor water parks and hotels. Four years ago, the company expanded what it calls its “paw print” to the Northwest.

It opened its first west coast property at Grand Mound, Washington south of Olympia. The state of Washington declared the resort tax exempt because Great Wolf partnered with the Chehalis Indian Tribe.

Now, Correspondent Austin Jenkins has obtained internal state documents that question that tax-free status – potentially worth tens of millions of dollars.

A landmark settlement announced this week between the federal government and American Indian tribes is expected to have long-term effects beyond the $1 billion in the agreement. Nine Northwest tribes are part of the deal .

Forty-one tribes filed lawsuits alleging the federal government mismanaged tribal accounts for generations. The accounts held decades of royalties on timber, farming, grazing and other leases on land held in trust for the tribes.

YAKIMA, Wash. — The federal government says it will pay more than $1 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by American Indian tribes over mismanagement of trust lands.

There are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, and linguists project that as many as half may disappear by the end of the century. That works out to one language going extinct about every two weeks. Now, digital technology is coming to the rescue of some of those ancient tongues.

Members of the Native American Siletz tribe in Oregon say their native language, also called "Siletz," "is as old as time itself." But today, you can count the number of fluent speakers on one hand. Siletz Tribal Council Vice Chairman Bud Lane is one of them.

VANCOUVER, Canada - Usually it is good news when the Northwest appears on a top five list. But this one is not. Our region ranks near the top of a list of global hotspots for disappearing languages. The reason is that speakers of Native American languages are dwindling. Now digital technology is coming to the rescue of some ancient tongues.

Members of the Siletz tribe on the Oregon coast take pride in a language they say "is as old as time itself." But today, you can count the number of fluent speakers on one hand. Bud Lane is one of them.

miracc / Flickr photo

A new study is shedding some light on a long-debated question about Native Americans. Just how much smaller was the indigenous population in North and South America after the European conquest? 

Clues can be found in DNA, according to research conducted at the University of Washington and University of Goettingen in Germany. 

Paula Wissel / KPLU

YAKIMA, Wash. — Eight Native Americans have filed suit against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, claiming the agency placed them in a mission school where they were sexually abused by a Jesuit priest decades ago.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

An Indian tribe on the Washington Coast on Thursday renewed its plea to Congress to expand its tiny reservation onto higher ground. Quileute tribal leaders previously traveled to the nation's capital after the devastating Japanese tsunami in March.

Robin Cedar / KPLU

A brightly colored totem pole was given a send off celebration at the Seattle Center. The carved cedar log is embarking on a 4,000 mile journey.  It’s headed to the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where it will be the centerpiece of an exhibit on Native American concepts of  healing. 

The Environmental Protection Agency says hazardous contaminants that most schools have gotten rid of remain in more than 160 government-operated tribal schools. That includes six in the Northwest. A new settlement aims to bring schools in Native American communities up to standards.

EPA inspections of tribal schools between 2005 and 2008 found violations of seven environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Charla Bear / KPLU

Native Americans have struggled to hang onto their cultures for decades. On August 20th, a local tribe will have a new resource to help.

The Tulalips are opening a cultural center on their reservation. It not only shares history the way the tribe sees it, but bridges the past with modern-day life.

Charla Bear / KPLU

It’s been more than nine months since a Seattle police officer killed First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams, and tensions are still running high among Native Americans. They say the shooting brings up the long history of brutality Native people have faced.

The anxiety has also affected children, who’ve had a tough time putting Williams’ death in perspective.

This coming weekend, a local theater group will debut a performance to help young Native Americans move forward, starting with a look at the past.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

One of the largest clergy sex abuse cases in the country has turned into the case of a lifetime for one Northwest attorney.

The settlement between the Northwest Jesuits and abuse victims will soon go before a federal judge in Portland for confirmation. The north Idaho attorney who helped negotiate this $166 million deal says he was a small town “nobody” before the case.

KPLU’s Jessica Robinson tells the story of how going up against the Catholic church shook up his own long-held beliefs.

Decades after the federal government stopped taking Native American children from their homes and putting them in boarding schools, Native families still face challenges staying together.

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