Category Archives: Uncategorized


Here in DC we’re getting ready for the Pope’s visit, he is going to canonize Junipero Serra. Serra is the 18th century missionary who was instrumental in founding California, putting this decision into a controversial place. The celebration of an undisputed colonialist, someone who put his own conceptions of the world before hearing and caring about other’s, has brought up the long history of the West forgetting how much it is responsible for.
Serra never harmed anyone directly, and maybe he was right in his belief that he was protecting the people around the San Diego mission that he converted from the Spanish Army. Maybe we can’t fault him for spreading the diseases that killed thousands of native people, we can probably only truly blame our own biology for that. He still approached the founding of California without any semblance of respect for the people there before him.
He forced them into labor to build the San Diego mission. He viewed his evangelism not simply as the spread of his religion but as the subjugation of another group of people. He forced people to abandon their food, clothes and customs. Three hundred years after his birth his form of evangelizing is still an open wound.
Pope Francis expressed the Church’s regret for their treatment of native peoples on his July visit to Bolivia. This canonization of Serra has brought the sincerity or the understanding of that into question. The Church’s official response to questions about how they can justify giving their highest honor to someone who has caused so much pain is a 1988 report by their historians and anthropologists saying that is was possible to move on but here’s still more work to do.
The story of Junipera Serra shows us how far we’ve come, how we’ve been able to let go of so much that made the past horrific. It’s difficult for people see the founders of their countries, of places and things that they are proud of, in complicated lights. It’s difficult to fully comprehend how someone who you grew up idolizing in anyway wasn’t someone you ought to be idolizing. As Serra becomes a saint we can use this as an opportunity to remind ourselves what our culture is built on, and try to find ways that those skeletons still have effects on our lives. It’s a call to find new ways of helping the people around us.


The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has approved the request of the Pamunkey Indians in Virginia, officially recognizing them as a Native American tribe. The tribe is the first in Virginia to gain recognition status, and many new opportunities are appearing for the tribe.The possibility of stores with tax-free goods and casinos has people outside the reservation worried. MGM is part of the opposition fearing competition in the gambling business. And the tax free goods make things a little less convenient for gas station and convenience store owners. Virginia officials hope that the recognition will help Congress move forward in returning rights to other tribes that are long overdue. To read more about this in the Washington Post, click here



Although Daniel Snyder has vowed to never change the name of his football team, he might have to. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has told D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser that the National Park Service will be reluctant to build a new stadium for the team unless the name is changed. With Bowser stuck contemplating her next move, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is moving to have the team relocated to Virginia. Offensive name aside, the Virginia Redskins doesn’t really have a nice ring to it, or does it? To read more about this in the Washington Post, click here



Virginia’s Indian tribes have been haunted by a ghost for nearly 70 years. Literally. Walter Plecker’s work on the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 essentially erased the existence of Native Americans. The law made it so that Virginia citizens were either classified as black or white. The Act even included a “one-drop rule,” so that if you had even “one drop of negro blood,” you could not be classified as white. Even after his death in 1947, Plecker’s ideals and efforts continue to suspend Native American rights in a bygone age. The lack of records due to the racial exclusion has made it extremely difficult for tribes to seek recognition from the government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. To read more about this in the Washington Post, click here

Chilean Mapuche Flag Waves If Only For A Moment

Soccer strife wasn’t the only thing going on during Copa América last week in Temuco, Chile. Civil strife overwhelmed the streets of Temuco as the indigenous Mapuches people raised their signs, banners, and bamboo rods in support of the Mapuche flag. During last week’s Copa América Brazil-Peru match in Temuco, Chile, a set of flagpoles were guarded by four policemen. Days earlier, someone mysteriously switched out the red, blue, and white official Chilean flag with the indigenous Mapuche flag. The Mapuches have thrived in South America long before Europeans settled in five centuries ago. Temuco is recognized as the capital of the Mapuches people. Mapuche protestors peacefully acknowledge the indigenous Mapuche flag as several Chileans look on. Protestors chose Copa América in Temuco as their protesting grounds in efforts to advocate this ongoing issue before an international audience. Ricardo Celis, a member of City council,  made a formal request of the mayor, Miguel Becker to have the Mapuche flag raised alongside the official Chilean flag. His request was denied.  To read more about it in the NewYork Times, click here.

No Justice for Canadian Natives

There has been much discussion recently over the executive summary that was released by the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission on June 2nd. It talked about the horrific government-mandated, church-run program that was in place in Canada until 1998. It had persisted for over a century. In this program, residential schools endorsed the kidnapping of native children from their communities and families. Most of the children kidnapped were girls, and were frequently physically, mentally, and sexually abused. To read the full New York Times article on this issue, click here.

Tribal school released from No Child Left Behind

The Miccosukee Indian School in Florida has been released from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law. As a result, the Miccosukee school can implement their own standards when it comes to the requirements for the school curriculum. The chairman of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe, Colley Billie, says, “Our educational standards include rigorous educational benchmarks and reflect the unique history, heritage, tradition, language, culture and values of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe and our people”. This lack of federal regulation is part of the Obama administration’s promise to make sure that tribes have supervision over their children’s education. This means that the school can make part of its curriculum anything it deems necessary for its students to learn about the Miccosukee tribe’s history and culture. Read the full Washington Post article here.

Swedish Hockey Team Called Out Over Offensive Name

A man in Stockholm has complained to Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman that the Frolunda Indians Hockey Club name and logo is offensive.  The team got their name 20 years ago due to their aggressive style of playing.  They believe their logo and name convey “courage, passion, and fellowship,” according to media manager Peter Pettersson Kymmer.  His remarks echo those made by North American sports teams whose names have been called out for being offensive.  Clas Lundstedt, a press spokesman for the ombudsman, revealed that the complaint had been dropped because “it was not covered by Swedish discrimination law.”  

Click here to read more about it at The Color of Hockey.

Native American Actors Walk Off Set of New Adam Sandler Movie

Adam Sandler’s new film The Ridiculous Six has come under fire after several Native American actors walked off the set due to jokes they deemed to be offensive.  The jokes included a Native American woman being doused with alcohol after passing out, and another urinating while lighting a peace pipe.  Netflix, the film’s distributor, defended the jokes by saying other races were ridiculed as well in the film.  However, Native American actors feel the jokes perpetuate negative stereotypes, which does not help the fact that Native Americans have the highest suicide rate of any ethnicity.

To read the article at The New York Times, click here.  Also, be sure to read Aviva Kempner’s thoughts on the matter in her recent article for The Wrap here.

Fight to legalize gay marriage in the Navajo Nation

As states across the nation continue to legalize same-sex marriage due to the Supreme Court, the LGBTQ communities in the Navajo Nation still lack the right to make a decision concerning their partners’ health as next of kin. They also cannot share the same lease on a house. The Dine Marriage Act, a tribal law passed in 2005 “prohibits same-sex unions on the reservation”, as written in The New York Times.

Potential presidential candidate and former President Joe Shirley is in favor of legalizing gay marriage. A legislator states that he respects gay people but would wait on repeal the law that bans their unions. Despite having been a part of the society and holding honorable position, the request to have the same rights at heteronormative cisgender couples still seems impossible.

Some gays in the reservation support the fight for gay marriages rights but feel like they have larger fish to fry. With issues like drug abuse and depression that sometimes leads to suicide prevalent in the Navajo tribes, marriage rights seem to be a bit lower on the list of priorities for the nation.

To read more about the Dine Marriage Act, click here.


Erica Marshall, Spring Intern