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Year in Review - 2023. Each week, we feature an opinion column by Native News Online publisher Levi Rickert and guest opinion authors, reflecting on recent breaking news and the issues that matter most in Indian Country. From the Yellowstone buffalo hunt to Supreme Court Justices to frybread, here are the ten most-read opinion and guest opinion columns from 2023. 

Arizona Must Stop the $400B Giveaway of Groundwater to the World’s Largest Foreign-Based Mining Companies by San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler 

Guest Opinion. A stunning loophole in Arizona’s water laws has left the state powerless to address a groundwater crisis rapidly unfolding in the Phoenix metropolitan region. The 1980 law allows mines to pump unlimited groundwater without paying the state a dime. Based on current water prices, Arizona is poised to give away $400 billion worth of diminishing groundwater to the two largest foreign-owned mining companies in the world that plan to construct the Resolution Copper Mine 70 miles east of Phoenix. 

Robbie Robertson: A Transcendent Musician Who Bridged Cultures, But Never Forgot his Native Roots by Levi Rickert

Opinion. Music icon Robbie Robertson (Mohawk/Cayuga) walked on in November after a long illness at the age of 80. His manager of three decades, Jared Levine, said Robertson was surrounded by his family as he moved to the spirit world. 

He was born Jaime Royal Robertson on July 5, 1943 to Rosemarie Dolly Chryler, a Cayuga and Mohawk woman. For the first six years of his life, Robertson, an only child, grew up on the Six Nations Reserve, an hour’s drive from Toronto. He often said later in life that when he was a kid, everyone he knew on the reserve played an instrument. “All my cousins, my uncles,” he said. “And I thought, I’ve got to do this.” 

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An Open Letter to Tribes Participating in the Yellowstone Buffalo “Hunt” by Jaedin Medicine Elk

Guest Opinion. The wild buffalo of Yellowstone Country are being considered for Endangered Species Act protection. Their population is not doing well. But, it seems the native hunters who come to kill them don’t care — it’s all about us tribes and our treaties, not the buffalo.The buffalo never stop giving, and they need us to start giving our voice and actions to help them.Native people should learn more about this issue and how we can help these wild buffalo rather than just take from them without a care for their well-being. These buffalo have been through a lot, and no one seems to care because it’s our “Treaty Right.”

It Doesn’t Appear Oklahoma Gov. Stitt (Cherokee) Was “Raised Indian” by Levi Rickert

Opinion.  The recent veto by Oklahoma Governor Kevn Stitt of a bill that protects the right of Native American students to wear tribal regalia and other cultural items during graduation ceremonies drew some raised eyebrows throughout Indian Country this past week.

The fact that Stitt is an enrolled tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation makes his veto confusing, because he should know every single Native American student who graduates from high school is beating the odds that have historically faced our ancestors and their descendants. 

Michigan DNR 'Kill List' Impacts Sovereignty, Cultural Preservation by Dr. Nichole Keway Biber

Guest Opinion. When the Indian Religious Freedom Act became U.S. law in 1978, we no longer had to hide our drums and dancing in the guise of tourist attractions, and our ceremonies were again openly practiced as necessary to the health of our communities.

That same year, Ma’iingan, the Wolf, was first included on the Endangered Species list, putting an end to an era of bounty hunting and vilification that nearly drove the packs to extinction. As core teachings confirm, the paths of Ma’iingan and the Anishinaabek are intertwined, and what happens to one also happens to the other. 

Rez Dogs Are A Real — and Sometimes Deadly — Problem on Indian Reservations by Levi Rickert

Opinion.  It is common to pull into a parking lot of a restaurant or a hotel located on an Indian reservation and have a stray dog hanging around for some attention and maybe Reservation dogs are real, dangerous, and sometimes deadly. The problem goes beyond begging dogs in parking lots being nuisances. 

Earlier this week, Native News Online reported on a brutal attack on Saturday, January 21, 2023, on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho, home to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. During the attack, a mother and her seven-year-old son were mauled by four dogs near a home on the reservation. 

Why AIM Chose Wounded Knee to Occupy 50 Years Ago  by Levi Rickert

Opinion. Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the takeover of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on February 27, 1973 by the American Indian Movement (AIM). 

The siege would last 71 days and would become known as the Wounded Knee II.  Some 83 years earlier, on December 29,1890, the U.S. Cavalry Regiment had massacred some 250 innocent Lakota men, women and children on the same land.  

Dear Justice Alito: What You Don’t Know About Us by Stephen Carr Hampton

Guest Opinion. 

Dear Justice Alito, 

Like many Indigenous people in the United States, I watched the Supreme Court hearings on Brackeen v. Haaland live last November. This case essentially puts the federal Indian Child Welfare Act on trial. 

During the hearing, you questioned the rationale behind the law’s “third tier” preference, which says that, if no extended family member can be found (the first tier), and no foster family from the same tribe can be found (the second tier), children in need of foster care should be awarded, if possible, to a foster family from another federally recognized tribe.

The Navajo Nation Should Not Have to Beg for Water at the Supreme Court by Levi Rickert

Opinion. Citing treaties that date back to 1849 and 1868, the Navajo Nation on Monday morning will argue in the U.S. Supreme Court that it should be granted access to water from the Colorado River. 

The Colorado River serves some 40 million people spread across seven states and some tribal communities along its 1,450 miles-long river. Some of America’s largest cities receive their drinking water from the Colorado River, including Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. 

It’s water that is needed for tribal citizens, businesses, farms, and ranches. 

The Question is Frybread. The Answer is Grandmas. By Levi Rickert

We covered a lot of tough topics in 2023:  Indian boarding schools, missing and murdered Indigenous relatives, right-wing attacks on Indian Country, and the repatriation of Native ancestors. This slightly cheeky column about a reader poll we conducted put a smile on our faces because, as Editor Levi Rickert reveals, we really knew the answer all along when we asked the question:  ““Who makes the best fry bread in Indian Country?” 

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