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Year in Review - 2023. During 2023, Native News Online published over 1,200 articles. Here are our top 10 most-read news stories of the year. 

Hospitalized Lakota Elder's Waist-length Hair Cut without His Permission; Family & AIM Demand Answer

In Aurora, Colorado, hospital staff cut the waist-length hair of 65-year-old Lakota elder Arthur Janis without his permission, as the effects of a stroke had left him unable to speak. Janis had worn his hair long since childhood, adhering to the sacred Lakota belief that hair is imbued with one’s memories, ancestors and spirit. Janis’s sister discovered his hair was cut short during a video call to discuss his ongoing treatment with UCHealth staff, leading his family to take legal action. 

Native American High School Graduate Sues School for Forceful Removal of Feather

High school graduate Lena’ Black, an enrolled member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and of Osage descent, filed a lawsuit on May 15 against the Broken Arrow School District for violating her rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. 

The lawsuit alleges that at Black’s 2022 high school graduation, school officials attempted to forcefully remove a sacred eagle plume Black wore on her cap. The lawsuit and widespread exposure of this incident comes in the wake of Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt's recent veto of Oklahoma Senate Bill 429, which was passed by the state legislature with near-unanimous bipartisan support to prohibit discriminatory graduation dress codes. 

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US Circuit Court Rules in Favor of Seneca Nation

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Seneca Nation when it rejected the State of New York’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Tribe in 2018. The lawsuit alleged ongoing violations of federal law related to the continued occupation of the New York State Thruway on the Nation’s Cattaraugus TerritoryAt issue is a three-mile stretch of highway on I-90 that goes through the Seneca Reservation, which is about 30 miles south of Buffalo, New York.

The Court’s decision upholds a 2020 United States District Court decision that denied the State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

House Subcommittee Considers “Racially Motivated” and “Unnecessary” Bill on Mount Rushmore

A House subcommittee in June considered the third attempt at a bill that would block future efforts to remove or rename Mount Rushmore, which Native Americans have long said is built on stolen, sacred Indigenous land. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hosted a legislative hearing to hear testimony on the Mount Rushmore Protection Act.The bill aims to prohibit the use of federal funds in any efforts to alter, change, destroy, or remove the monument. The legislation drew rebukes from a Native American advocacy group with ties to Mount Rushmore, as well as the National Park Service (NPS), which called the bill “unnecessary.”

The Largest Holder of Native American Human Remains is Preparing to Return Thousands of Indigenous Ancestors

The single-largest holder of Native American human remains—a federally-owned power company in Tennessee—is taking steps to complete the decades-long repatriation of more than 14,000 Native American ancestors who were unearthed in dam construction projects across the Tennessee valley from the 1930s through the 1970s.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federal agency created by Congress in 1930 to deliver electricity to Tennessee and six surrounding states. Nearly a century ago, in preparation for its construction of large dams to prevent the valley from flooding, TVA partnered with archeologists from local universities to conduct salvage archeology and “remove everything of cultural nature,” Meg Cook, an archeologist and NAGPRA specialist for TVA, told Native News Online.

Vatican Rejects Doctrine of Discovery

In a landmark statement made in March, the Vatican formally repudiated a centuries-old theory of church decrees that endorsed the forceful seizing of Native lands and near-total destruction of Indigenous peoples.

The decrees, or “papal bulls,” underpin “The Doctrine of Discovery,” a legal concept created in an 1823 U.S. Supreme Court decision that justified the forceful seizing of Native land by European colonizers under the guise that colonizers “discovered” the land. 

In a joint statement issued by the Vatican’s development and education departments, the Catholic Church repudiated “those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of Indigenous peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political ‘doctrine of discovery.’”

Yellowstone Bison See Deadliest Season Since 2008 

Bison conservation organizations are calling the most recent season the deadliest wild buffalo have seen since the 2007-2008 season. 

Roam Free Nation and Alliance for the Wild Rockies, both Native-led and Montana-based conservation groups that advocate for wild buffalo, wildlife, and wild lands, say recent documented losses result from mismanagement of wild bison herds.  

Yellowstone National Park is home to two buffalo herds — the Central herd in the park's Hebgen Basin and the Northern herd in Lamar Valley. According to the most recent report from the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) — a multi-agency bison management effort launched in 2000 — 1548 of Yellowstone buffalo — or 25% — have been removed, with 1,172 killed this season. Some area tribes manage hunts and numbers may increase.

Court Recognizes Reservation Status of Three Oklahoma Tribes 

Three tribal nations in Oklahoma had their reservations deemed "never disestablished" in May by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. 

Winston Whitecrow Brester, a citizen of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation, filed for post-conviction relief in November 2020 over crimes he was convicted of between 2018 and 2020 in Ottawa County. Brester claimed that since his crimes were committed on the Ottawa, Peoria, and Miami Tribe's reservations, he should be tried in federal court, not state court — per the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling in 2020 that established that crimes committed by Native Americans on tribal lands fall under the jurisdiction of the tribal nations and federal courts. In response, the state filed an opposing motion, claiming that the reservations in question had been disestablished by termination-era policies in the 1950s, and the state, therefore, had the right to prosecute Brester. 

ESPN Anchor Apologizes for Mocking Indigenous Hockey Player’s Name

Las Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud (Sioux) accepted an apology yesterday from ESPN anchor John Anderson, who made a crass comment about the Indigenous hockey player’s last name on air.  

During a “SportsCenter” broadcast on Monday recapping the Golden Knights win against the Edmonton Oilers, Anderson, describing the Native American defenseman’s goal, said, “Zach Whitecloud, what kind of name is Whitecloud? Great name if you’re a toilet paper.”

Whitecloud is the first Indigenous NHL player from the Sioux Valley North Dakota Nation. 

Anderson issued an apology the next day, saying he should have been more aware of the player’s background. He also reached out to the Golden Knights to personally apologize to Whitecloud. 

State-Funded Charter School Says Native 1st-Grader's Traditional Hair Violates Dress Code

A North Carolina Native American family is fighting against a state-funded charter school’s demand that their first-grade boy get his hair cut. The school system recently changed its dress and grooming code to define a boy wearing his hair in a bun or braids as “faddish.”

The Lomboy family are members of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe, one of North Carolina’s eight state-recognized tribes. The young boy’s mother, Ashley Lomboy, told Native News Online on Friday that her son, Logan, is embracing the Native American culture through being a powwow dancer and growing his hair — which extends beyond his shoulders —in a traditional way that dates back to how tribal ancestors.

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