“Yellowtail” | Indian Country News | #ICWA | Food Insecurity

Yellowtail from Keenan Wetzel on Vimeo.

“Yellowtail” by Keenan Wetzel

A poetic short by Detroit-based director Keenan Wetzel, “Yellowtail” tells the story of a young Native American cowboy (Stephen Yellowtail) searching for purpose amidst a chaotic lifestyle. (previously featured here). Shot in Wyoming and the Crow Reservation in Montana, “Yellowtail” tells the story of a young Native American cowboy (Stephen Yellowtail) searching for purpose as his chaotic lifestyle begins

READ: Premiere: “Yellowtail” by Keenan Wetzel – BOOOOOOOM TV – A daily selection of the best short films, music videos, and animations.

You will recognize that narrator’s voice – it is John Trudell!

In the News

The Navajo Nation and Utah Governor signed an inter-governmental agreement Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, to strengthen and further protect the Indian Child Welfare Act for the benefit of Navajo children in the State of Utah. Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer met with Governor Gary Herbert to make it official at the Utah State Capitol during the annual American Indian Caucus Day.

Read why ICWA is so important

GOOD NEWS: Navajo Leaders Boost ICWA with Utah | News for Page Lake Powell Arizona

Let’s take a quick look at the erratic history of federal Indian policy.

In the early republic, the federal government made treaties of friendship with Indian tribes east of the Mississippi. In the 1830s, it stopped feeling friendly and removed the eastern Indians to the West. It set up reservations for eastern and western tribes and solemnly promised in treaties that the land would be theirs forever. In 1871, Congress decided there would be no more treaties, because Indian nations were no longer sovereigns; the courts soon confirmed that Congress could void any treaty without the consent of the tribes that had signed it. Next, from the 1880s until the 1930s, came the “allotment era.” The government decided to break up the reservations and “allot” much of the land to individuals, who could sell them. By the 1930s tribes had lost 60 percent of their previous land base. The New Deal was a brief respite: Allotment ended and tribes were allowed to re-form their governments. Then in 1953 came the “termination era,” when Congress decided that the federal government would no longer provide services to tribes, or deal with their governments. It sold off some tribes’ reservation lands and proclaimed that those tribes no longer existed.

BIG READ: Herrera v. Wyoming: Can U.S. Void Any Tribe’s Treaty? – The Atlantic


No records of the size of Native American populations before 1492 and the arrival of Europeans survive. A new study has found answers.

WOW: European colonisation of the Americas killed 10% of world population and caused global cooling


University College London researchers estimate that settlers killed 56 million indigenous people, causing farmland to be reforested. That increase in vegetation resulted in a massive decrease in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

WOW: European slaughter of Native Americans changed the climate, study says – CNN

I call this the (his)story “We’re Not Supposed to Know”



But they conceal another side of Columbus: the exploitation and repression of Native Americans, said the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame. It is a “darker side of this story, a side we must acknowledge,” Jenkins said in a letter Sunday.

READ: Notre Dame to cover 19th century Columbus murals due to portrayal of Native Americans | CBC News



In December 2018, the Trump administration plotted to gut SNAP, the food assistance program more than 40 million Americans rely on to feed themselves.  (I have friends and relatives on SNAP, what used to be food stamps).  This attack on the poor would impose oppressive work requirements that will have a devastating impact on our nation’s most vulnerable and the “food insecure.”    This rule will drive 755,000 poor folks deeper into poverty across the country over the next three years.  It’s a cruel and cynical attempt to chip away at our social safety net by defining who is and who isn’t suffering in our nation.  Read about the Poor People’s Campaign.

Food insecurity is very real and a war on the poor.  And when the climate fails and disaster hits, what new countries start a new land grab?  Will they hit Third World Countries? Indian Country?  Will they take children to accomplish this again?  History repeats itself over and over until we get it right…and so we are entering a dangerous new age of food insecurity… and climate change.

If I were in charge, I’d have two priorities: ending poverty and improving the existing infrastructure.

Trudell said it best in an interview I have in my new book Mental Midgets | Musqonocihte :

“I called the album Blue Indians because there is a kind of spiritual and cultural genocide perpetrated on everyone that is poor in this country,” Trudell said. “The advance of technology has put all of us on a kind of reservation.  These are the people who can’t educate their children, or afford health care. They’ve been robbed of life, which is what happened to Native people, so in that context, we’re all Indians.”

I follow up in a few weeks with my doctors… See you soon! xox


Crow woman aims to break stigma after son’s suicide


GARRYOWEN – Many American Indians, particularly those on the Crow Reservation, are taught by their elders not to invoke the name of loved ones who have died.

They believe they are not really gone. Their spirit lives on in the “Other Side Camp.”

Jackie YellowTail dares to break the Crow taboo by calling out the name of her dead son. She wants to break the stigma of suicide, especially on Indian reservations.

“Even though the tradition of not saying my baby’s name is there, these stories need to come out so that our children can be educated and our adults can be made aware,” YellowTail said. “They can be educated so that another mother doesn’t have to go through this.”

Despite living in Indian Country where suicide rates are epidemically high, YellowTail said that until her 16-year-old son killed himself she knew no one who had committed suicide. She was ignorant of the warning signs.

“I’m not saying my son was mentally ill,” YellowTail said. “I’m saying he had problems.”

The problems stemmed primarily from growing pains, YellowTail said.

As such, she sought help from the Indian Health Service. She entrusted educational leaders at St. Labre Indian Catholic High School, a private, Roman Catholic boarding school in Ashland, with her son’s care.

Both, she said, disappointed her.

“I’m not blaming them,” YellowTail said. “I’m just saying I don’t think they did their job in a thorough manner.”


Her son, Lance Bird in Ground, shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber hunting rifle on Jan. 28, 2001. He was 16. It was a Sunday night about 9:15.

The teen, who was beginning to take an interest in girls, wanted to go into Crow Agency with his buddies, cruise and flirt. He asked to borrow either his father’s pickup truck or his mother’s Camaro. Both refused.

The 15-minute argument he had with his mother at about 8:45 p.m. was emotionally taxing. She had to work in the morning and told him she could not continue to argue and perhaps they could discuss it further the next day.

“I really didn’t pay attention when he said, ‘I might as well kill myself,’ ” YellowTail said. “I thought he was just mad. I didn’t think he would do it.”

It was one of several warning signs the 56-year-old mother of seven said she missed.

“I learned a lot since this happened to my baby,” she said. “Up to that point, I didn’t know the signs of suicide. I didn’t know the things I know today.”

After his death, a cousin told YellowTail that Bird in Ground had attempted suicide before, during his freshman year at boarding school. He attempted to overdose on aspirin, and no one from the school told her, she said.

Deb Cady, an administrative assistant at St. Labre, said she couldn’t confirm that Bird in Ground had made a suicide attempt because records from his time there are no longer available.

YellowTail now knows that previous suicide attempts are the biggest risk factor of a person successfully completing suicide.

And there were other signs of trouble. In March 2000, Bird in Ground had taken his mother’s car to go drinking with friends, leaving his parents to wonder where he was. When they finally found him, he bolted. It wasn’t until 4:30 a.m. the next day that they found him passed out drunk in a snow-covered ditch. They took him to the emergency room.

The attending physician made an appointment for an assessment with a tribal-run program to determine if Bird in Ground had a drinking problem. Program leaders assured YellowTail her son did not have an alcohol problem and advised that no follow-up was needed.

“I turned to the professionals for help for my son and I don’t believe he got that help,” she said. “They let me down. This is who we are as a people. I’m not blaming.”

It was one more sign YellowTail believes was ignored. Alcohol has long been known to play a role in suicides. About 7 percent of the suicides in Montana during 2010 and 2011 involved alcohol, according to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.


Since her son’s death, YellowTail has made it her business to know about the warning signs and to speak candidly about suicide among American Indian youth.

“A lot of our children are falling between the cracks,” she said. “I believe that’s what happened to my baby.”

Indian Health Service officials declined to be interviewed. Officials would answer only questions that had been submitted in advance, and refused to answer follow-up questions.

In a prepared response, Hillary Corson, a behavioral health consultant for the Billings-area Indian Health Service, said risk factors occur both on and off the reservation.

“We consider suicides an emergency and as a result … we’ve been focusing our efforts on our suicide prevention programs and initiatives in our tribal and urban communities,” Corson said.

YellowTail said both Indian Health Service and the tribal court system are ill-prepared to address the suicide rate in Indian Country.

“I hate to be the person that says the glass is half empty but there is a lot of work that we as community members still need to do,” she said. “We don’t talk about it. That’s the start.”

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