Pagan Community Notes: Week of February 22, 2021

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PHOENIX, Arizona – Apache Stronghold announced late last week their intent to challenge the most recent ruling by federal judge Steven P. Logan, which we reported on last week, and that attorney Luke Goodrich, with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, will be representing them in the appeal.

The case that was largely dismissed for “lack of standing” last week would allow the transfer of the land to Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, to move forward on March 11. There are several other lawsuits pending that have been filed by Apache Stronghold, but they will likely take months to be heard and resolved, and Resolution Copper Mining would already hold title to the land, Oak Flats or Chi’chil Bildagoteel, which the Apache identify as sacred ancestral land.

The type of mining process Rio Tinto reportedly intends to use is “block-caving,” which opponents say will destroy the area by leaving craters up to two miles wide and roughly 1000 feet deep. They add that it would also generate a substantial amount of waste and require a tremendous amount of water which is already in scarce supply in the region.

In news reports Goodrich said, “If the government, in this case, is allowed to destroy a centuries old sacred site and cut off all possibility of religious practices there, it really poses a threat to people of all faiths.”

Goodrich continued, “The government is actually destroying a centuries old sacred site and making the religious practices there impossible. This case is actually really an easy case when it comes to finding a substantial burden on religious exercise.”

He also noted that the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has won seven cases over nine years, and has an undefeated record when it comes to cases that are heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

As the case has received increasing attention, it has continued to draw more support. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival, started in 2018 by Reverend Dr. William Barber II, and Liz Theoharis, has started a new campaign on the action network, “Calling Faith Leaders to Help Protect Oak Flat” and already has 399 members of various faiths who have signed on to the cause.

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MORTON, Minnesota – Earlier this month, the Minnesota Historical Society held a ceremony that officially returned 114 acres to the Lower Sioux Indian Community, one of 11 sovereign tribes within the state with about 1,000 enrolled members.

The state legislature approved the land transfer in 2017, but the transfer had to be voted on and approved by the board of the Minnesota Historical Society, which happened in January. The land was then officially transferred back to the Lower Sioux on February 12.

As reported by the Star Tribune, Lower Sioux President Robert Larsen said, “I don’t know if it’s ever happened before, where a state gave land back to a tribe. [Our ancestors] paid for this land over and over with their blood, with their lives. It’s not a sale; it’s been paid for by the ones that aren’t here anymore.”

Kate Beane, director of Native American Initiatives at the Historical Society and a member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota said, “This is a victory for the Lower Sioux Community … it’s more than symbolic, it’s actionable. What this specific incidence highlights is that there are actionable things that some agencies and organizations can do to help support the healing.”

The tribe currently owns 1800 acres, and the 114 acres that contain bluffs along the Minnesota river will be a welcome addition. They intend to continue to maintain the trails on the land and hope that it draws more visitors interested in learning the history of the tribe.

Larsen is optimistic about the future and hopes that the return of tribal land will increase discussion about tribal land, and causing others to consider transferring other sacred sites to tribes to manage.

“This isn’t the end. “We hope this is just a kick-start to showing people that it can be done,” Larsen said.

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In other news:

  • A new podcast series, Live From Mount Olympus is geared towards tweens but will likely appeal to anyone who has an interest in the stories of Greek mythology presented in dramatic fashion. The podcast is produced by the Onassis Foundation. “The richly imagined audio drama is co-produced by the Brooklyn-based theater ensemble The TEAM, directed by Tony Award-winner Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown) and Zhailon Levingston (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical), and created by Peabody Award-winning producer Julie Burstein. Karen Brooks Hopkins is the executive producer.”
  • A new white buffalo calf was spotted in Lampe, Missouri at the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. The white color makes it one of the rarer wild animals found in the U.S.,  The calf is named Takoda, which means “friend to everyone.” The birth of a white buffalo is considered a sacred event by a number of  Native American tribes and often is seen as prayers being heard, and some believe it can pertain to prophecy being fulfilled.
  • 23-year-old, Annie Neevee Buscemi who is Inuk has been using her Instagram account to try to counter the high rates of suicide with an Inuit-specific reason to stay alive each day. Inuit in Canada have among the highest suicide rates in the world, primarily among their youth, according to The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Buscemi began recording and posting a message each day starting October, at first mostly to encourage herself, but her messages blossomed into mini-cultural lessons. Buscemi told Native News Online, “I can’t even count how many people that have been in my life that have lost their life to suicide. And these communities are so small, that it affects the whole community.” She went on to say, “I get messages every day from not only just Inuk people like me, but from non-Inuk as well that feel that they resonate with the reasons that I put out.” Some even credit her for saving a life. “I think that’s the most beautiful thing.”


In “witch-hunt” news:

  • During the vetting process for the position of the head of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Minister-designate Sarah Adwoa Safo told the Appointments Committee of Parliament that she would seek to rebrand the “witch camps” and secure government funding rather than shut down the camps. Adwoa Safo said, “So I believe in a rebranding of these camps because as far as the women of these camps are concerned they have found families in these camps and so I will engage them. Attempts to withdraw these women have proven difficult in the past that is why I believe that another and novel approach to dealing with the matter will be more prudent. So, if they see it as homes and the ministry supports them with the necessary social amenities that are expected of a state  – they are given food, they are put on LEAP (Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programme), and they are given clothing – I believe that negative branding as a witches camp will be taken away and I intend to go through with them some education on the need for them to also know that the abusive methods on them are not legal and they can speak out and report to the Police.” Two opinion articles. one by Modern Ghana and another by Pulse published after Adwoa Safo’s statements support the idea of maintaining the camps and renaming them until a better solution can be achieved.
  • Peter Nyaga Ivara, a pre-primary (pre-school) teacher was attacked by his own family members as he was walking home from Gatete Primary School in Mbeere South in Kenya. Ivara’s relatives accused him of being a “witch” and forced him to their land where they poured fuel on him and set him on fire. Ivara managed to remove his shirt and put out the fire, but unable to escape his relatives who attacked him a second time. Ivara told reporters that a passerby tried to intervene, but his relatives ignored the person. He said he had already moved once to avoid family and conflicts. He remains in the hospital where he is being treated for serious burns.
  • Last month, two women, Chhutni Mahato, 62, of Jharkhand state, and Birubala Rabha, 72, from Assam received one of India’s highest civilian awards, the Padma Shri, for their work to stop “witch-hunting” in India. Rabha was instrumental in getting the 2015 Prevention of and Protection from Witch-Hunting Act passed. Mahato is credited with saving the lives of over 100 women who had been accused of  practicing “witchcraft.” Despite the efforts of both women, only eight of the 28 states in India have made “witch-hunting” a crime. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, over 2,500 people, mostly women have been murdered in “witch-hunts” between 2000 and 2016. Just a few days before the award ceremony, it was reported that a husband and wife, both teachers in southern Andhra Pradesh state murdered their two adult daughters by beating and stabbing them to death, believing they would return to being alive the next morning.


Positively Noteworthy

The unusually cold weather in Texas last week impacted wildlife as well as humans. This footage is from inside the South Padre Island Convention Center where efforts to save over 2,500 sea turtles were underway. More recent reports cite that Sea Turtle Inc. saved more than 4,700 that were stunned by the sudden and prolonged cold. As of yesterday, approximately 2,200 of those rescued were released back into the gulf.

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: African American Tarot by Jamal R., artwork by Thomas Davis, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Card: Two (2) of Chalices

This week could offer opportunities for balance, with an emphasis on emotional relationships and underlying  passions. There is also an indication of lucky chance encounters. Conversely, any discord or imbalance that exists could be exposed and require attention.



Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.