Thursday, January 24, 2008

Uncle Oliver's Obituary...

MACY, Neb. -- Oliver Saunsoci Jr., 76, of Macy departed this life Monday, Jan. 21, 2008, at the Winnebago Indian Hospital in Winnebago, Neb.

Services will be 10 a.m. Friday at the Alfred Gilpin Building, with Mr. Frank Saunsoci officiating. Burial will be in Omaha Tribal Cemetery, Macy. Visitation will be held begin today and will continue until service time Friday at the Native American Church (VFW building) in Macy. Arrangements are under the direction of Munderloh Funeral Home in Pender, Neb.

Oliver was born on June 17, 1931, in a home west of Macy. He attended school in Plainview district 151, a country school. He went on to attend Flandreau Indian School. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a veteran of the Korean War from 1949 to 1953. He was a staff sergeant by the age of 18 years old with the 111th Infantry. He graduated from Milford Technical School for auto body repair, which he practiced for 10 years in Lincoln, Neb.

He was a husband to Charlotte Lasley Saunsoci for 36 years, and a father to eleven children.

He was the cofounder of the Lincoln Indian Center and served on its board of directors. He moved back to the Omaha Indian Reservation in Macy and was the director of the Employment Assistance Program. He attended the Nebraska Indian Community College and was one of its first graduates in 1978. He went on to become director of the Omaha Tribal Housing Authority. He served as chairman of the Omaha Tribal Council in 1980. He was an Environmental Health Technician at the Carl T. Curtis Health Center for 16 years. His other activities included being a bull rider and competing in other rodeo competitions. He also was an activist for Native American Rights and a Tribal Spiritual leader.

He is survived by his daughters, Gail J. Saunsoci of Macy, Olivia Saunsoci of Sioux City, Mary Saunsoci and Michelle Saunsoci, both of Macy; sons, Gary Lasley of South Sioux City, Adrian Saunsoci of Macy, Oliver Evan Saunsoci III, Quentin Saunsoci and Brennan Lasley, all of Macy; 52 grandchildren; 46 great grandchildren; and sisters, Eleanor Baxter and her husband Everett of Macy, Maxine Anderson and her husband Gary of Lincoln, Neb., and Cora Belle Saunsoci of Macy.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Oliver Saunsoci Sr. and Mae Blackbird Saunsoci; his wife, Charlotte Lasley Saunsoci; brothers, Franklin, Henry, Gary and Vincent Saunsoci; sisters, Mary Ann Saunsoci Cayou, Anna Belle Saunsoci and Rhea Sue Saunsoci; and children, Timothy, Wayne and Corwin Saunsoci.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Good Time to Remember Standing Bear

As the country honors the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. this week, I think it's a good time to remember a man many consider to be our country's first civil rights activist.

He is widely known in Nebraska, but I would dare say few have heard of him beyond the state's borders.

He is Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Tribe.

In January 1879, Standing Bear and 30 of his followers left Indian Territory in Oklahoma to return to their former lands in Nebraska.

You see, as it had done to so many Native people, the U.S. government had forcibly moved the Poncas from their homes and sent them to Oklahoma two years earlier.

But Standing Bear and his followers preferred their homelands along the Niobrara River to the barren earth of Oklahoma.

Then the chief's son died.

But before Bear Shield died, he asked his father to bury him in the soil of his homeland.

Like any father, Standing Bear wanted to fulfill his son's dying wish.

So on Jan. 2, 1879, he and 30 followers left for Nebraska. Two months later, they were arrested, and Standing Bear was put on trial.

The trial of Standing Bear lasted two days. Shortly after it ended, the chief offered this impassioned plea to the court in an effort to prove he was a human being and entitled to the same right to freedom as every human being:

"That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both."

About two weeks later, federal Judge Elmer Dundy ruled that "an Indian (is) a person within the meaning of the law," entitled to the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens.

The decision allowed the Ponca to return to their lands and freed Standing Bear.

For the first time in this country's history, Native people had the right to go where they wanted, to leave the confines of the reservation and roam where they pleased.

All because a father wanted to fulfill his son's wish.

Kevin Abourezk, Oglala Lakota, is a reporter and editor at the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. He is a reznet assignment editor and teaches reporting at the Freedom Forum's American Indian Journalism Institute.

Monday, January 07, 2008

U.S. tribes back Titla’s run for Congress

Paul Giblin, East Valley Tribune

American Indian tribes from across the state and country are pumping money into Mary Kim Titla’s congressional campaign.

The former Phoenix TV news reporter is running as a Democrat in the crowded race in Arizona’s vast 1st Congressional District. The mostly rural district has the largest Indian population of any congressional district in the country at 22 percent.

Titla is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in southeastern Arizona.

Overall contributions to her campaign are approaching $100,000, and American Indian tribes have contributed more than half of the total, she said Wednesday.

“There is a real excitement about my ethnicity, of course, being Native American. There’s no doubt about that,” she said. “People in general are excited about helping me become the first Native American woman elected to Congress.”

The campaign’s latest financial figures will be reflected in its final 2007 campaign finance report, which is due to the Federal Election Commission by Jan. 15.

Third-quarter 2007 financial reports indicated Titla’s fundraising was fourth among candidates hoping to succeed Rep. Rick Renzi, a Republican incumbent under federal investigation into possible public corruption and not seeking re-election.

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick led the field with $217,000 in contributions by Sept. 30. Republican Sydney Hay had $108,000, Democrat Howard Shanker $66,000 and Titla $42,000.

To date, 25 tribes have contributed to Titla’s campaign, she said. The list includes the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, among others.

“There are tribes all over the country who are giving,” she said. Several tribes have donated $4,600, the maximum amount allowed by law from a single source.

Titla’s campaign chest establishes her as a serious candidate, said Mike O’Neil, president of O’Neil Associates, a public opinion research firm based in Tempe. Her ability to draw contributions from a national base is also telling, he said.

“Number 1, it says that she has presented a credible case to those tribes; and Number 2, the power of affinity,” O’Neil said.

“That’s not enough. You have to be credible. If she’s raised that amount of money at this point, I’d say that she’s convinced them that she’s a credible candidate,” he said.

In October, Titla addressed about 1,000 tribal leaders at a convention of the National Congress of American Indians, a lobbying organization. During her 20-minute speech in Denver, she pledged to address the needs of children, families, seniors and veterans. She also told the delegates she will ensure tribal sovereignty.

Those themes carry across state lines, she said.

“What’s important to remember is that once you’re elected to Congress, there are no boundaries, and people understand that. So there is a real genuine interest all over the country in my candidacy,” Titla said.

She has also received the endorsements of several Arizona tribes.

“I believe that the tribes in the district and outside of the district want to make sure that there is going to be someone in Congress who can be a voice for the tribes and can relate to what they’re going through. And I’m that candidate,” she said.

Titla said that her 20 years as a TV reporter in Tucson and the Valley also have helped establish her reputation among non-Native Americans.

“People appreciate where I’ve come from, how hard I’ve worked to get to where I’m at, and that I’m concerned and that I’m passionate about the same issues that they’re concerned about,” she said.