WXXI AM News

Native Americans

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Native Americans have played an important role in the U.S. military.  Tonight, a documentary that pays tribute to their stories premieres at 9 o'clock on WXXI-TV.


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In the fall of 2016, thousands of people gathered at the Standing Rock Reservation to protest the proposed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

During the protest, a Lakota woman gave birth in a teepee near the Cannonball River.

One of the reasons she cited for not going to an Indian Health Service hospital to deliver her child is the 40-year history of forced sterlizations of indigenous women by the federal government.

A language can say much about a culture, and when a language is in danger of being lost, what does that mean for the culture and those who celebrate it? WXXI reporter Caitlin Whyte spoke with local Native Americans about this question; they are working to preserve the Mohawk and Seneca languages.

This hour, we discuss the process of language shift, how languages become endangered, and what can be done to protect them. Our guests:

  • Ronnie Pollack, member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Eagle Clan, executive director of the Native American Cultural Center, and host of "Two Canoes with Ronnie Pollack" on WYSL 92.1 FM   
  • Robbie Jimerson, Ph.D. student at RIT and member of the Seneca Nation of Indians
  • Maya Abtahian, assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Rochester
  • Nadine Grimm, assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics, and director of the Language Documentation and Description Program at the University of Rochester
  • Caitlin Whyte, WXXI reporter

We discuss a documentary called "The Good Mind.” It explores Native American land rights through a look the Onondaga Nation’s battle with the U.S. government.

We discuss treaties, what sovereignty means, and how to preserve Native American culture. Our guests:

Senator Elizabeth Warren released a DNA test in an attempt to confirm her Native American ancestry. The Cherokee Nation responded by condemning the test and explaining that it does not prove that Warren is anything but a white woman.

Our guests discuss Native American identity. Our panel:

  • Ronnie Pollack, member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Eagle Clan, executive director of the Native American Cultural Center, and host of "Two Canoes with Ronnie Pollack" on WYSL 92.1 FM   
  • Ron Garrow, Akwasasne Mohawk, Bear Clan, and cultural advisor for SURJ ROC
  • Roger Dube, Mohawk, Turtle Clan/Abenaki, and fellow of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society
  • Jordan Dube, Mohawk/Abenaki
  • Michael Oberg, distinguished professor of history at SUNY Genseo, and author of “Native America: A History”

The City of Rochester is getting ready to celebrate its inaugural Indigenous Peoples' Day on October 8. The holiday will coincide with Columbus Day, which has long been controversial.

Our guests discuss the change, and what it means to grow up Native American . We also hear from the Italian-American community, which has varying opinions on the issue -- but has shown a devotion to keeping Columbus Day. Our guests:

An upcoming festival at Ganondagan explores Native American food and culture. We get a preview and discuss traditional and contemporary indigenous culinary experiences.

Our guests:

  • Chef Arlie Doxtator, chef with 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry
  • Peter Jemison, historic site manager for Ganondagan
  • Angela Ferguson, farm supervisor for the Onondaga Nation, indigenous food advocate, corn grower, and seed saver

Last month, while on a tour for prospective students at Colorado State University, a woman called police, saying she was concerned that two young men in the group were not meant to be part of the tour. She said they stood out and were wearing clothing with "weird symbolism." The two young men are Native American and had driven seven hours from New Mexico to take part in the tour. Police patted them down and eventually allowed them to rejoin the tour, but by that time, the group was long gone. The story has caused outrage, with many people comparing it to the racial profiling incident at a Starbucks, where two black men were arrested while waiting for a friend. 

Two local groups say communities need to better understand indigenous rights and history; they are partnering to combat racism against Native Americans. We discuss their efforts. In studio:

A documentary called Lake of Betrayal tells the story of the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania, and how its construction forced the Seneca Indian people from their ancestral land. It’s a story of politics, commercialization, broken treaties, and the Seneca Nation’s fight to protect its sovereignty and culture.

The film will be shown at Ganondagan this weekend, and we’ll get a preview with the filmmaker. Our guests:

  • Scott Sackett, writer and producer of Lake of Betrayal
  • Peter Jemison, historic site manager for Ganondagan
  • Michael Leroy Oberg, distinguished professor of history at SUNY Geneseo, and author of Native America: A History

A new exhibit opening at Ganondagan next week honors the impact Hodinöhsö:ni’ women have had on our culture. The exhibit focuses on five moments in history, including the women’s suffrage movement, when the achievements of Hodinöhsö:ni’ women have shaped society.

Our guests discuss the exhibit and Hodinöhsö:ni’ history and culture:

  • Peter Jemison, historic site manager for Ganondagan
  • Michael Galban, curator and historian at the Seneca Art and Culture Center at Ganondagan
  • Michelle Schenandoah, writer, speaker, and member of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York and Wolf Clan

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