American Indian

Eva Petoskey

State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra talks to members of two Michigan tribes about the incredibly high rate of suicide among young American Indians. It's a devastating issue some say is fed by a community level sense of hopelessness and "code of silence."

Read or listen to the entire story at State of Opportunity.

Jennifer Guerra from the State of Opportunity team checks in with members of two Michigan tribes about some of the issues faced by the young people in their community.

User: Linda Stephan / Interlochen Public Radio

More than 100 years ago, Methodist missionaries set up Indian Mission churches in northern Michigan. The goal was to bring Christianity and to do away with traditional American Indian beliefs.

Today the missions blend those traditions. But they serve small congregations that can’t afford to pay their pastors.

The United Methodist missions have survived with lots of financial help from the denomination, but now leaders say they have to scale back.

For one mission pastor, it feels like a broken promise.

Interlochen Public Radio’s Linda Stephan reported this story.  

* Listen to the story from Linda Stephan above.

http://uofmhealthblogs.org

A new organization in Ypsilanti that promotes cancer awareness for Native Americans is struggling to stay afloat.

Shoshana Beth Phillips is executive director of Heritage of Healing. It incorporates native traditions and activities into its services, and supports families with a parent dealing with cancer. (Phillips is originally from the Omaha Nation of Nebraska and was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer seven years ago.) 

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

City of Hamtramck facing a financial emergency

Following a state review, Governor Snyder has confirmed that the city of Hamtramck faces a financial emergency.

“In 2010, city officials asked to file for bankruptcy. And they asked for this state review, too — which found the city is still running continuous deficits, and can’t make pension payments on time…. The city could get an emergency manager. But Hamtramck officials potentially have other options, including a consent agreement or mediation,” reports Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek.

Terry Lynn Land to run for U.S. Senate

“Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land is the first Republican to announce she’s running for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat. Land is also a Republican National Committeewoman. There could be other candidates waiting in the wings. But Land says the eventual Republican nominee will need the next two summers to raise money, and get out a winning message,” Rick Pluta reports.

Feds dismiss complaint against American Indian mascots

The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed a complaint from the Michigan Department of Civil Rights over schools’ use of American Indian mascots. The civil rights department had argued that the images hurt Native American students’ academic performance, and create an unequal learning environment. But federal education officials say opponents of Indian mascots and logos need to prove that they create a hostile environment for Native American students,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett reports. 

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Buena Vista schools to reopen

Students in the Buena Vista school district will soon be heading back to the classroom. 

“The state Department of Education has approved the Buena Vista school district’s deficit elimination plan. The state will resume making aid payments, and school is expected to begin again next week for about 400 students,” Rick Pluta reports.

Unemployment rate falls and workforce grows

Michigan’s jobless rate continued to fall as 19,000 people found jobs last month, bringing the unemployment rate to 8.4% in April. The biggest gains were in the leisure, manufacturing, and health services industries while professional and business services declined. The size of the state’s workforce also grew by 2,000 people over the past year.

Department of Civil Rights faces budget cuts over mascot complaint

“The Michigan Department of Civil Rights could see its budget cut by $3 million over its stance on American Indian-themed school mascots. The department recently filed a complaint with the federal government over the mascots … Lawmakers in the state House have introduced a bill that would take money from the department and put it into a fund to help schools pay for any mascot changes,” Jake Neher reports.

On today's show: We've been alloped by wet weather. We get an update from West Michigan on the cleanup of the flooded Grand River.

And, we find out just what's behind a new ranking that says Grand Rapids is one of the tops places in the nation to find a job.

Later in the hour, on this 250th anniversary of his historic council of tribes, we learn just who Chief Pontiac was. We talk with his great, great, great, great grandson.

First on today's show, Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) formally announced legislation today that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Just what would House Bill 4623 mean for Michigan? Representative Jeff Irwin explains.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The law is designed to make sure Native American children in the child welfare system stay connected with their tribes.  

The court's decision will affect Michigan, as the state recently passed a stronger version of Indian Child Welfare Act.

I produced a story on these laws and the people they affect for State of Opportunity.

You can listen to the full version here.

And for those with limited time, here are three important points to know about this story:

  • Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act 35 years ago to put a stop to private and state workers taking Indian children away from their homes and tribes often with little reason other than a desire to assimilate them to white and Christian culture. Many families in Michigan are still dealing with the effects of this, including Judge Alli Greenleaf Maldonado who tells her personal story of her mother and her grandmother being removed from their homes. 
  • A Michigan law that is clearer and stronger than the federal law was passed in January with almost unanimous, bi-partisan support. The abusive practices of the past have stopped, but Indian children are still over-represented in the state's child welfare system.
  • Some child welfare advocates are looking to Michigan's law, the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act, as a model for the state because it takes a different approach to child welfare. It tries to keep children out of the state system in the first place. The law requires child welfare workers to work actively with parents to make changes that will benefit their children. The law also allows Indian children to have their cases in a smaller and more personal tribal system.  But the success of the law depends on everyone knowing the law and following it. Many people have concerns, like the Burrows family, who personally experienced a devastating loss when the law was applied incorrectly. 

Read more about the personal stories behind this law and why people have hope it can change Michigan's child welfare system at State of Opportunity

Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights / Michigan Radio

Update 4:10 p.m.

Here's the update from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol have some harsh words for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights .

During a budget hearing today, state Representative Anthony Forlini , said the department has no business filing a complaint with the federal government against Michigan schools.

“Where does it stop? I mean if you’ve got, for instance, an eagle, which is an endangered species, can you imagine the guilt of a team that beats a team that’s named after an endangered species? You can go on and on with this.”

Department representative Leslee Fritz, says there are studies that show the mascots and nicknames hurt American Indian student performance.

“What our complaint filing argues is that that is no longer the issue that’s at play here, that, in fact, research shows that the use of American Indian mascots, imagery, etcetera, is harming children’s performance in the classroom.”

Republican lawmakers want the department to withdraw the complaint. The Republican chair of the House Education committee has also called on the department to withdraw the complaint.

They say the decision on mascots and nicknames should be entirely up to districts.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's House Education committee chairwoman is calling on a state department to rescind its complaint over the use of American Indian mascots in schools.

Alto Republican Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons released a statement Monday criticizing the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for taking its complaint to the federal level.

Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education asking the federal agency to issue an order prohibiting the continued use American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, slogans, chants and/or imagery.

MDCR's complaint asserts that there is new research which clearly establishes the use of American Indian imagery "negatively impacts student learning," and creates "an unequal learning environment in violation of Article VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

From the complaint:

"A growing and unrebutted body of evidence now establishes that the use of American Indian imagery reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American Indian ancestry," the filing argues. "Continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery creates a hostile environment and denies equal rights to all current and future American Indian students and must therefore cease."