Native American Church members fight harassment by authorities


“Peyote Drummer,” photogravure, Edward Sheriff Curtis, 1927.

Editor's note: The Oklevueha Native American Church, or ONAC, is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legal freedom to observe Native American spiritual traditions. Some of these involve sacramental or medicinal use of various plants: Peyote, Ayahuasca, San Pedro, Cannabis, Mushrooms and others. I am an ONAC member. While law varies state by state, those who grow or use these plants--Native Americans, or otherwise--risk arrest, property confiscation, legal harassment, and police abuse. One of ONAC's members in California was recently arrested, and his property confiscated, shortly after local law enforcement were notified they have no right to do these things. ONAC is holding a press conference today to announce their response. —Xeni Jardin

There will be a press conference today, 2 PM at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa California, at 170 Railroad Street.

Noted Constitutional and Civil Rights Lawyer Matt Pappas will be announcing lawsuits and other legal actions against a number of Law Enforcement and County officials and entities.

These legal actions have become necessary because of repeated abuses of power and evidence of collusion by these groups to deprive members of the Native American Church of their Native Ceremonies and Sacraments by raiding their sacred grounds, confiscating their objects of worship and destroying the sacraments and medicines.

All of these items are protected under the 1st, 4th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. These protections have repeatedly been upheld by numerous court cases around the country including the US Supreme Court, US District Courts and State Supreme Courts. Read the rest

What ethnic group is mostly likely to be shot by police in the USA?


Spoiler: Native Americans.

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Mayor says town seal depicting white man strangling Native American is a "friendly wrestling match"


“The first thought that anyone has of this image is, "There’s some white guy killing an Indian, strangling an Indian,"?" says Cliff Matias, director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council in Brooklyn. Apparently not Whitesboro mayor Patrick O’Connor, who intends to keep using the village seal. "It’s actually a very accurate depiction of friendly wrestling matches that took place back in those days.” Here's the original seal (below). See how friendly the white man is?

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Native American teens commit suicide at alarmingly high rate

A pair of young Native American dancers stand together during the opening "grand entry" to start the Oglala Nation Pow Wow and Rodeo in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, August 4, 2006. The annual festival is a bright spot for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which struggles with high unemployment and problems with substance abuse and gangs and is one of the poorest communities in the United States. (REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
The reservation struggles with high unemployment and problems with substance abuse and gangs and is one of the poorest communities in the United States.

Photographs: Native Americans of the early 1900s

In the early 20th century, ethnologist Edward S. Curtis made 10,000 wax cylinder recordings of Native American language and music and took 40,000 photographs of people from more than 80 tribes, such as these. Read the rest

Native Americans were digging up bones long before Columbus

Paleontology has a long history in the Americas, dating back to (at least) the Aztec and Inca, who excavated the bones of mammoths and other mega-fauna and showed them off to Spanish invaders. Read the rest

Mayan Oxlajuj Baktun: "End of an Era, More of the Same," photo essay by James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez, a brave and talented photojournalist in Guatemala, has a striking photo-essay up on his blog.

On this occasion I share a photo essay documenting events in the Guatemalan northern city of Huehuetenango during the much-awaited end of the Mayan Oxlajuj Baktun. These provide a clear reflection of the divisions and challenges faced by Mayan communities today. The media exploited erroneous apocalyptic rumors, the government and business sectors viewed it as an opportunity to gain economically through tourism, and progressive groups seized the opportunity “to strengthen ancestral wisdom and never-ending search for balance” while vindicating what seem never-ending struggles for justice, inclusion, and self-determination.
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Indigenous Americans and Carl Sagan agree: We are star stuff

In the language of the Diné (what the Navajo call themselves), the word for "star" is "sitsoi yoo." But that word means more than just "star." According to Nancy Maryboy of the Indigenous Education Institute, sitsoi yoo means something closer to "my ancient relation from which I came," a reference to a traditional Diné belief that humans were born from stars. Remind you of anything?

I'm currently attending the 6th Science Center World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. Tomorrow, I'll be talking about how science museums are failing adult visitors, but I've also gotten the chance to sit in on several really interesting panels. The anecdote above comes from a panel on Indigenous Astronomy, which I hope to write some more about in the future.

Image: Sergio Eguivar — Buenos Aires Skies, via Astronomy Picture of the Day

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