Category Archives: Contemporary Issues

Current Events and Politics

Four Beer Stores Near Pine Ridge Reservation Must Stop Sales After April 30th

Whiteclay | omaha.com

  • By Black Powder | RPM Staff – April 28. 2017

Due to an appeal by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission of a district judge’s decision on Thursday, four beer stores in Whiteclay must stop selling alcohol on Monday.

The stoppage will go forward despite the stores winning an appeal with a Lancaster County judge, after the LCC refused to renew their licenses last week, citing a lack of adequate law enforcement in the area.

The judge said the LCC did not show that the stores had failed to qualify for renewals, but the state Attorney General filed an appeal of the decision late Thursday. That means the original ruling will stand until the court can issue another one as early as next week.

The unincorporated saloon town of Whiteclay has a population of 14 people and sits on the Nebraska-South Dakota border next to Pine Ridge home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Pine Ridge is a dry reservation struggling with alcoholism.

The four beer stores sell millions of cans annually to Native Americans from the reservation, where Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) has reached epidemic proportions. 1 in 4 babies are born with FAS.

The status of Whiteclay’s beer stores has been a constant political issue in the region, prompting waves of activism to end the alcohol sales.

As of right now, the four beer stores will have to stop sales April 30th at midnight.

Piapot First Nation Youth Lead Alcohol, Drug Ban, Violators to Be Fined

The Piapot First Nation is just northeast of the city of Regina

Youth resolution asking for a ban on alcohol & drugs, accepted and passed

By Red Power Media, Staff | April 27, 2017

A group of youth from Piapot First Nation are taking a stand for a drug- and alcohol-free community.

CTV Regina reports, the band council on the First Nation, about 45 kilometers northeast of Regina, is following the lead of youth from Payepot School.

Thursday morning, the student body and community walked to celebrate and support the resolution of a drug- and alcohol-free community.

According to the Regina Leader-Postmany walkers including the chief and council wore red T-shirts that read, “We choose to live for what we believe in” to support the youths’ initiative.

Jr. Chief Thomas Kaiswatum said he and the members of the junior council wanted to do something to help create a safer environment for the elders and the children in the community.

Earlier this week, Kaiswatum and the other youth presented a resolution to chief and council asking for a ban on drugs and alcohol which was accepted and passed.

Piapot aims to keep drugs, alcohol off reserve

“An open-alcohol fine would be $200, but in order to get a federal prosecutor out here to prosecute that infringement on that bylaw, it could cost upwards of $3,000,” said Piapot First Nation Chief Jeremy Fourhorns.

Kaiswatum said he’s also noticed drunk driving as a problem on the reserve.

Earlier this year, the youth entered a video in SGI’s Save a Life Challenge, which was part of a drinking and driving awareness campaign.

The 16-year-old said the efforts will make the community safer for youth and elders.

The First Nation’s leaders hope to make the walk an annual event.

Sagkeeng First Nation Mourns Slain Teen at Vigil Attended by Hundreds

Family, friends and supporters met at Sagkeeng’s powwow grounds on Thursday as part of a vigil for Serena McKay. (CBC)

Serena McKay was found dead on Sunday; 2 teens have since been charged with her murder

CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2017

Hundreds of people from Sagkeeng First Nation came together Thursday night in honour of a 19-year-old woman from the community who was killed over the weekend.

Serena McKay was found dead on Sunday in the community of roughly 4,000 people, 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The body of Serena McKay, 19, was found Sunday evening in Sagkeeng First Nation. Two teenage girls have been arrested in connection with her death. (Del Daniels/Facebook)

On Thursday, family, friends and supporters met at Sagkeeng’s powwow grounds to honour her memory and begin community healing.

“I didn’t really know her. It’s just really devastating, because I have a sister. When I heard about that, it kind of touched me,” said Elvis Atkinson, 20.

“The community needs to open up their eyes on the younger generation … how these young generation drink, drugs in the community.”

McKay had recently moved to Sagkeeng and was set to graduate high school in June. Two girls from her school, aged 16 and 17, have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death.

People at Thursday’s vigil for Serena McKay say the community needs to begin healing. (CBC)

Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School principal Claude Guimond said the environment at the vigil was moving and emotional. Indigenous leaders including Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Kevin Hart were in attendance, he added.

“There’s nothing so devastating as losing a young life like that, so senselessly taken, before she even started to live, really, you know? Never got that chance,” he said. “That’s one of the most devastating things to endure.”

Elvis Atkinson, 20, lives on Sagkeeng First Nation. He didn’t know Serena McKay personally, but said her death moved him. (CBC)

Guimond said ceremony and tradition play a powerful role in community healing.

“Of course, the drumming, you know, that’s the heartbeat of our nation,” he said. “That’s the heartbeat of Anishinaabe people, is the drum, and it’s so strong.”

Claude Guimond, principal of Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, said the Thursday evening vigil was moving and emotional. (CBC)

[SOURCE]

Principal After Violent Death: Drugs and Gangs ‘Killing Our Youth’

Views of Sagkeeng First Nation which sits on the north and south shore of the Winnipeg River near Pine Falls Manitoba. Dec 19, 2014 Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

  • Staff | CP – Apr 26, 2017

SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, Man. — The killing of a 19-year-old high school student and a graphic video believed to be linked to the death has shocked a small Manitoba First Nation that has seen more than its share of tragedy.

RCMP said Wednesday they were reviewing the video circulating on social media to determine whether it was indeed connected to the death on the Sagkeeng reserve, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

They also said they had arrested two girls, 16 and 17 years old, on charges of second-degree murder.

RCMP would not identify the victim, but community members said she was Serena McKay. The two accused cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

All three were students at the Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, said principal Claude Guimond.

“We’re not a very big school. We only have about 220 students here … and all three of the students in the video, I know them personally and it was hard to take,” Guimond said.

“Tuesday we had a healing ceremony for our students and staff … and one of the recurring things that came out was how social media — Facebook, you know — made things even worse by people reposting the video.”

The video shows a young woman lying bloodied on the ground and barely conscious as she is repeatedly kicked and punched in the head. It appears to have been taken on a cellphone. Female and male voices can be heard.

McKay is the woman being attacked in the video, Guimond said.

RCMP would only say the victim’s body was found Sunday night, near a home in Sagkeeng, about two hours after she was reported missing to the detachment in the neighbouring town of Powerview.

Counsellors were brought in this week to help students and staff at the school deal with the death. A vigil was planned for the community on Thursday evening.

Sagkeeng, a community of some 3,000 residents, was also the home of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg in 2014. She had left Sagkeeng just two months earlier. Her father, Eugene Fontaine, was beaten to death on the reserve three years earlier.

The small community has seen several other cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, including 17-year-old Fonessa Bruyere, who was killed in Winnipeg in 2007.

Guimond said gang activity and drug use have encroached on the community from the city.

“Over the last 10 years, what I’ve noticed is that more and more of the gang influence is filtering on to the reserve from Winnipeg,” Guimond said.

“With gang activity comes drug trafficking and stuff like that, and that’s what’s killing our youth here.”

Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson said everyone is trying to come to terms with the latest death.

“It’s been tragic and it’s pretty sombre right now.”

By Steve Lambert in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

[SOURCE]

Video Linked to Serena McKay Homicide Needs to Be Pulled Off Facebook, Chief Says

The body of Serena McKay, 19, was found Sunday evening in Sagkeeng First Nation. Two teenage girls have been arrested and charged in her death. (Del Daniels/Facebook)

2 teenage girls from Sagkeeng First Nation charged with 2nd-degree murder in McKay’s death

CBC News Posted: Apr 26, 2017

The chief of Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation wants the video of a vicious attack on a young woman — some say the same woman later found dead in the community — pulled off Facebook.

The body of the woman believed to be the victim in the video, 19-year-old Serena McKay, was found Sunday night near a home in the community 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The video is disturbing and its continued existence is extremely difficult for McKay’s mom, who hasn’t even seen her daughter’s body yet, said Chief Derrick Henderson.

Serena McKay

“I know the mom personally. It’s very hard for her,” he said, adding he hopes she will see her daughter on Wednesday and then funeral arrangements will be made.

“Today’s going to be a tough day for her,” he said.

Two teenage girls from the community have been charged with second-degree murder in McKay’s death. The girls, aged 16 and 17, cannot be identified due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Both are being held in custody.

​All three went to Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, but McKay lived in the neighbouring community of Powerview-Pine Falls.

The video, which has been shared many times on Facebook, shows a girl being beaten but doesn’t clearly identify anyone.

“I’ve asked Facebook and I’ve asked the major crimes unit to get that video removed, whatever it takes,” Henderson said. “I mean that’s part of the investigation again, right? It’s evidence.

“It’s pretty hard once it gets out there, I guess. But there must be some mechanism there available.”

RCMP are aware of the video, but a spokesperson would not confirm whether the person being attacked is McKay. Sgt. Paul Manaigre said officers are reviewing the video to determine if it is relevant to their investigation.

He also said the video is being passed around via Facebook Messenger, which means it cannot be controlled by Facebook but only by those sharing it.

Henderson hopes the homicide sparks a conversation that starts to bring changes to Sagkeeng.

​”It’s devastating for everybody. Even me, as a leader, it’s so hard to stomach, but we have to continue and move forward and try to make it a better place for our people,” he said.

“I’m not sure what the circumstances are of what happened but I know a lot of it can be related to lots of factors like addictions. I know that’s an issue in my community, it’s an issue everywhere, and we need to deal with those things.”

Henderson also wants to see parents held more accountable for keeping an eye on their children.

“They need to be more responsible towards their children: ‘Where are you? Why are you not home?’ Things like that,” he said. “Where’s the moms and dads?”

Henderson plans to speak about those issues at a vigil for McKay planned for Thursday at 6 p.m. in Sagkeeng.

McKay was last seen by a family friend on Saturday evening and was reported missing to Powerview RCMP on Sunday around 6 p.m.

As officers searched the area, they received a call two hours later — around 8 p.m. — that her body had been found.

[SOURCE]

Manitoba Families of Missing, Murdered Say Hearings Must Go Ahead

An open letter signed by officials with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Manitoba Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition says the hearings have been long in coming and families are anxious. (Francis Vachon/The Canadian Press)

Staff | The Canadian Press – April 25, 2017

A coalition that represents Manitoba family members says national hearings into missing and murdered indigenous women must begin soon despite the uncertainty surrounding the process.

An open letter signed by officials with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Manitoba Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition says the hearings, slated to begin at the end of May, have been long in coming and families are anxious.

“Indigenous families, women and girls cannot afford a ‘pause’ in your process. We have heard directly from families of (missing and murdered indigenous women) they are quickly losing hope that your inquiry will actually be relevant to them,” states the letter, dated last Wednesday.

“We call on you to, at a minimum, announce in the near future when you, as commissioners, will finally go out and listen to our people.”

Inquiry officials announced April 13 that they were postponing a series of regional advisory meetings, which were supposed to help determine what issues should be covered when the formal hearings get underway.

Since then, the Manitoba coalition said there has been no communication. The group is also worried many family members may have a hard time being included in the hearings.

“You have not yet initiated meetings with Manitoba survivors of violence or who were missing, families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, as well as First Nations and communities that are part of your mandate,” the letter states.

A spokesperson for the inquiry commission said Monday the advisory hearings were put on pause to look at possible changes for the inquiry hearings, and the May start date is still a go.

“The message we received is that we must be flexible and be prepared to change course if need be. This time is an opportunity for us to reflect on our approach for future truth-finding gatherings,” Tiar Wilson wrote in an email.

The uncertainty over how families across Canada may be ensured participation in the inquiry has led some indigenous leaders to call for the inquiry to be postponed.

Eric Robinson, former deputy premier and aboriginal affairs minister of Manitoba, said a delay is warranted to ensure the inquiry is fair and thorough.

“Let’s not do a job that’s in half-measures. I think that it’s got to be done in a thorough fashion and there’s got to be satisfaction … for the families,” Robinson said.

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson, who represents First Nations in northern Manitoba, said the process so far has been troublesome.

“I still believe that it should take place and that they should go forward and I respect the fact that they’re being flexible,” she said.

“But at the same time, I’m worried that the families … are losing a little bit of faith in the process because there seem to be some false starts.”

[SOURCE]

Men Arrested for Murder After Allegedly Tying Woman To A Tree, Shooting Her

Matthew Onesimo Armstrong (right) and Nicholas Earl Faulkner (left) arrested for the kidnapping and murder of a woman.

  • Police say two American Indian men tied a woman to a tree and fatally shot her because they believed she had stolen drugs and money from one of them

Staff – kfor.com  April 25, 2017

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Okla. – Two men have been arrested for the kidnapping and murder of a woman.

On April 17, officials said 27-year-old Matthew Onesimo Armstrong and 30-year-old Nicholas Earl Faulkner tied Nichole Owl to a tree in Seminole County after they believed she had stolen drugs and money from Armstrong.

“One of the two, either Faulkner or Armstrong, believed it was an old Indian custom,” said Jessica Brown with the OSBI. “If you could not remember where you placed something, then you were to be tied to a tree and that would help you to remember.”

The men allegedly left Owl in the woods for several hours and later returned.

When Owl could not tell Armstrong where she hid the stolen items, he allegedly shot her several times.

Once she was dead, investigators said Armstrong and Faulkner returned to the scene with a woman and buried Owl’s body.

Allegedly, the men poured concrete over her body before burying it.

“They knew the rain was coming,” Brown said. “They were afraid, if they dug a hole and put the body in there, that it would float to the top.”

A witness reported the crime to investigators the next day.

OSBI agents and archaeologists excavated Owl’s body.

Agents with the OSBI arrested Armstrong and Faulkner at Armstrong’s home in Wewoka.

Armstrong’s father, Jimmy Armstrong, was also arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Armstrong and Faulkner were arrested on complaints of first-degree murder and kidnapping.

[SOURCE]

Family, Friends of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace Continue Push For Inquest A Year After Her Death

Family, friends and community members walked through Kenora in memory of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace on Monday, April 17, which marked a year since the 14-year-old Grassy Narrows First Nation teenager’s body was found across the street from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital after a two-day search. The Winnipeg-based community group Urban Warrior Alliance and members of the Winnipeg Bear Clan Patrol marched in support. Kathleen Charlebois/Daily Miner and News

By Kathleen Charlebois | Miner and News, April 18, 2017

Braeden Kokopenace held up a picture of his twin sister emblazoned with the words “We will not forget” and “#Justice4Azraya” for all to see during a march in her memory.

He and Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace’s family, friends and community members from Grassy Narrows First Nation walked from Knox United Church to the wooded site across from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital where Azraya’s body was found after a two-day search a year ago on April 17. She disappeared from the hospital after police brought her there.  Friends, family and provincial representatives continue to press for inquest into her death.

Braeden said Azraya was “a sweet girl” who he loved and cared for. “I want justice for my sister,” he said during a press conference at the vigil. “She didn’t deserve to be treated like that by police.”

He referred to a video that showed a Kenora OPP officer in an altercation with Azraya a few weeks before her death, and he said he believes the incident impacted her badly. “I think it put fear into our community,” he said.

Braeden also said both youth and elders have been mourning for her in the year since her death. “Justice for my sister would mean answers about what happened to her and improving the system so less suicides take place,” he said.

Azraya’s aunt Lorenda Kokopenace said her niece’s death has been difficult to bear and the system “really failed all of them.”

She said she feels like the Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services, who had Azraya in their custody, is another kind of residential school system.

“That stuff needs to stop, and we need to all work together and quit sending our kids away,” Lorenda said. “She wanted to come home and they ignored that.”
Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth in Ontario, said he has written in the past to the regional supervising coroner, Dr. Michael Wilson, to ask for an inquest.

Wilson said last October that the involvement of Child Protective Services adds “additional elements” to his investigation and requires more time, although Kenora Rainy-River MPP Sarah Campbell and Azraya’s family say an inquest is legally required as Azraya was in police custody when she died.

“A coroner’s inquest will investigate and explain circumstances around Azraya’s death and will provide us with the first step that we need to go forward so we can prevent the further loss of Indigenous youth,” Campbell said.

After walking through Kenora, marchers visited the memorial site across from the hospital, where they lit candles and put down tobacco.

Azraya’s friend Kyra Fobister shared that she often visits her friend’s grave in her home community and talks and plays songs they both like.

“We as a whole deserve to know the truth,” she said. “It may not bring her back but it’s our only way to cope with everyday life without her.”

http://www.kenoradailyminerandnews.com/2017/04/18/family-friends-of-azraya-ackabee-kokopenace-continue-push-for-inquest-a-year-after-her-death

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First Nations Issue Resolutions to Ban Drug Traffickers

Signs promoting living a life free of alcohol and drugs can be seen throughout Esgenoôpetitj First Nation. (Gail Harding/CBC)

Addictions counsellor hopeful Esgenoôpetitj band council will follow Elsipogtog and Tobique

By Gail Harding, CBC News Posted: Apr 16, 2017

As Esgenoôpetitj First Nation mourns and prepares for the funeral service of a suspected overdose victim, an addictions counsellor says they’re remaining vigilant and hopeful there will be no more overdoses.

Leo Bartibogue said there should be help available for people with addicitions, but he would also like to see something done to keep drugs like the pills suspected to have caused 35-year-old Ann Marie Lambert’s death — and four other overdoses — off the reserve.

The drug involved isn’t known yet, though people are concerned it’s fentanyl, a powerful drug that has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths across CanadaNeguac RCMP have asked Health Canada’s toxicology lab for an “urgent” analysis of the drug taken by Lambert.

Ann Marie Lambert of Esgenoôpetitj First Nation died Tuesday night of a suspected overdose. An autopsy resulted in drug samples being sent to Health Canada’s toxicology labs. ((Facebook))

Bartibogue is hoping to see the band council pass a drug-trafficking banishment resolution like councils in Elsipogtog First Nation and Tobique First Nation have.

“I did talk to the chief about it and asked that he make a recommendation. He’s going to address it with the council.”

The band councils’ resolutions were passed two days after the first four overdoses occurred in Esgenoôpetitj. Both communities’ resolutions warn that people trafficking fentanyl and other drugs will be banned.

Tobique’s resolution includes not only banishment from the reserve, but also from community services and benefits.

The band councils say they are taking these steps to protect the health and safety of those living in the community.

Bartibogue said in Esgenoôpetitj so many people are related it may be difficult for some to agree to a similar measure, knowing some people may be expelled.

“Hopefully something can be done to help this situation.” said Bartibogue.

Resolutions welcome

For John Levi of Elsipogtog First Nation, the news the band council is taking action is welcome.

“I’ve been fighting with the band to get rid of the dealers. I’m proud of the chief and council for taking that stand,” he said.

Levi said he’s been confronting people identified to him as dealers, telling them to stop what they are doing.

For him, it’s personal.

“I lost my niece last year to suicide, I knew what the drugs were doing to her,” Levi said of the 23-year-old.

With the resolution, he hopes more people will join his fight and more band councils will pass the same resolution.

“It takes strong a leader to do that. We need more of that,” said Levi.

Meanwhile, Bartibogue is working to get more naloxone kits into the community and more people trained to use them.

Naloxone is administered by a needle or nasal spray to a person who is suspected to have overdosed. It reverses the effect of an opioid overdose.

“I have one myself and we have two or three others,” said Bartibogue. “But we also need people to call us for help if they think someone has overdosed. We are here to help.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/first-nations-issue-resolutions-ban-drug-traffickers-1.4072397

Indigenous Leader Invites Brian Pallister to Try Living on Reserve

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson is inviting the premier to spend a month in a remove northern community to learn more about what it’s like to live on reserve. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson says experience would expose premier to realities of poor housing, roads, food

· CBC News April 15, 2017

The grand chief for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak is inviting Premier Brian Pallister to live on reserve for a month to learn what life is really like for Manitoba’s remote Indigenous communities.

Sheila North Wilson is standing by earlier comments she made about systemic ignorance and racism at the provincial level and says Manitoba has a lot of learning to do to combat myths about Indigenous peoples.

“That invitation is open for him and anyone else that wants to experience what it’s like to live on reserve,” said North Wilson.

CBC has reached out to the premier’s office for reaction to North Wilson’s request and will update if we hear back.

Her invitation follows a statement she made Tuesday where she referred to Pallister’s government as the “most racist provincial government in Canada.”

On Friday, she clarified her point and accused not just Pallister’s government of being racist but called it a systemic issue across the province — saying Manitoba’s policies and bureaucracies are failing Indigenous peoples.

“We have some of the poorest housing conditions in Canada. We have high rates of children in care and illnesses that we have are on the rise,” she said.

She added if Pallister lived on reserve, he would have to live on the same money families in remote areas have to budget on as well as deal with the bad roads and food insecurity common in Manitoba’s north.

“I wish they would experience that and then see what they think afterwards.”

‘We’re resilient and we’ve overcome a lot’

Ideally, North Wilson said she would like to see Pallister experience life for a month in a remote, northern community but she said a lot of First Nations would vie for the chance to host the premier.

“For a day, for a week but hopefully a month —- but I doubt that’s going to happen,” she said.

The grand chief is also extending an invitation to anyone else at the provincial level who would like to learn more about living in a northern community.

“There is a lot of work that we need to do to get to a point where we’re actually trying to achieve reconciliation,” she said.

North Wilson told the premier face-to-face recently she did not like the way he characterized Indigenous communities as having high rates of chronic disease and mental illness, she said.

While statistics may bear that out, she says numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“We’re resilient and we’ve overcome a lot and there’s reasons why we are sick and that we need a greater sense of hope.”

[SOURCE]