Archive for March, 2012

Hi everyone!

Hope this quarter / semester is going well for all of you.  The big news here is that the application deadline has been extended until April 13th.  That gives everyone an additional 2 weeks to finish up filling it out and sending it in.  It’s hard to believe it’s almost April already.  The trip itself is only 4 months away.  Wow!  Gotta start packing…

Click here to check out the website for the PBS Frontline / American Experience program “God In America.”  On the site, you can watch the entire program, hear audio of American scripture, or do one of the interactive activities, like test your religious literacy.  It relates to the American civil religion / Washington DC portion of the course.

Finally here is this week’s history timeline from the BBC:

March 22…

1765: The British parliament passes the Stamp Act, a tax on American documents that ignites revolution.

1945: The League of Arab States is formed with the aim of achieving complete independence from colonial powers.

March 23…

1919: Benito Mussolini founds the Italian Fascist Movement, a model for far-right parties across Europe.

1933: The German Reichstag passes the Enabling Act, allowing Adolph Hitler to rule by decree as a dictator.

2001: The first permanently-inhabited space station, ‘Mir,’ is destroyed as it hits the Earth’s atmosphere.

March 24…

1999: NATO begins bombing Serb forces in Kosovo, where atrocities are being committed against ethnic Albanians.

March 25…

1957: Germany, France, Benelux [Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg] and Italy sign the Treaty of Rome, establishing the European Economic Community.

March 26…

1979: Israel signs a peace treaty with Egypt – the first Arab neighbor to recognize Israel’s ‘right to exist.’

TODAY, March 28…

1854: Britain and France join the Ottoman empire in the Crimean War against Russia, to halt Russian expansion.

1930: Constantinople is rename Istanbul as part of Kemal Ataturk’s campaign to create a secular Turkey.

This week in history from the BBC and National Native News:

March 16…

1988 – A chemical attack by Saddam Hussein’s forces on the town of Halabja, Iraq, kills up to 5,000 Kurds.

2011 – Navajo Code Talker Lloyd Oliver passed away. The 88-year-old was from Shiprock, New Mexico. He joined the Marines in 1942 and was one of the original 29 Navajo men who created an unbreakable code in their traditional language. The code was used to transmit messages in the Pacific during World War II.

March 17…

2003 – Britain and the US abandon attempts to gain UN backing for the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

March 18…

1992 – White South Africans vote overwhelmingly for an end to the racist apartheid system in a referendum.

March 19…

1179 – The Third Lateran Council of the Catholic church calls a crusade against the Cathar heretics in Toulouse.

1920 – American senators reject the Treaty of Versailles, ensuring the US will not join the League of Nations.

March 20…

1933 – The first Nazi concentration camp is completed at Dachau, near Munich.

2003 – ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ the invasion of Iraq by US and British forces, begins with airstrikes.

March 21…

1556 – The first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, is burned at the stake for heresy.

1918 – General Erich Ludendorff launches his huge spring offensive, which ultimately exhausts the German army.

1960 – South African police kill 72 people (majority black South Africans) protesting against identity papers in the township of Sharpeville.  The event has come to be known as the ‘Sharpeville Massacre.’

Today in history…

…in 44 BCE* Julius Caeser, dictator of Rome for life, is assassinated in a conspiracy led by Cassius and Brutus.

…in 1912 CE** Judson Lawrence Brown was born in Kluckwan, a small Tlingit village 40 miles from Haines, Alaska. He was the first Native person to attend an integrated school in Alaska. Brown was the first Alaska Native to serve as mayor of Haines and served two terms.

 …in 1917 CE Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicates after the February Revolution, ending 1000 years of Imperial Rule.
*BCE (Before Common Era) is used in place of BC (Before Christ); for more info click here.
**CE (Common Era) is used in place of AD (Anno Domini / The year of the Lord); for more info click here.


1881 – Mohandas Gandhi begins a campaign of civil disobedience against British rule in India

1938 – Germany occupies and then annexes Austria in the “Anschluss,” supposedly intended to re-establish order


1881 – Tsar Alexander II is assassinated in St. Petersburg, ending reform and causing the scapegoating of the Jews


1939 – At Germany’s insistence, Slovakia declares independence from Czechoslovakia, becoming a German satellite

1991 – The ‘Birmingham Six,’ jailed for killing 21 people in two IRA bombings, have their convictions quashed

And, from National Native News:

During this month in 2011, an honoring ceremony was held for the first South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations Leroy LaPlante. The Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member was named to the post to foster a better working relationship with the state and nine tribes within its borders. South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard created the cabinet-level position after taking office last year.

Photograph from

Translation: Barbarism has no religion, no culture, and no race.  No to terrorism.  Not in our name.  Muslim Youth of Madrid.

On March 11, 2004, ten bombs were planted on commuter trains traveling in the Madrid metro area.  Set off during the morning rush hour, they killed 191 and wounded 1,800 passengers and bystanders.  Initially, the Basque separatist organization ETA was suspected.  After a thorough investigation, the attacks were attributed to an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group.  This marked the first time an Islamic extremist group committed acts of terrorism on European soil and is still considered the worst terrorist attack in the history of Spain (and Europe).

Also on this day (from the BBC):

On March 11, 1941, the United States Congress passes the Lend-Lease Bill, authorizing huge war loans to Britain and the Soviet Union.

On March 11, 1985, reformer Mikhail Gorbachev is confirmed as the Soviet Union’s new (and ultimately final) leader.

From the BBC:
On March 8, 1917, Russia’s February Revolution begins with riots in Petrograd over food rations and conduct of the war.

On March 8, 1983, US President Ronald Reagan calls the Soviet Union “an evil empire,” initiating a more hardline US policy.

From National Native News:

On this day (March 9) in 1970, members of the United Nations of All Tribes occupied Fort Lawton in Washington. The base was scheduled to be turned into a park by city leaders. The takeover happened after unsuccessful tries to persuade city and federal officials to return the land to Native people. A cultural and social services center was later built at the site to help urban Indians in the Seattle area.

Judge: Inmates can pursue sweat-lodge lawsuit


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

HELENA, Mont. — Five Native American inmates who filed a lawsuit over strip searches required before and after they participated in religious sweat-lodge ceremonies at a private prison in Montana can pursue part of their case, but cannot seek monetary damages, a federal judge has ruled.

“Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to pursue their claims regarding the strip searches, the alleged prohibition of essential sacred items, and one alleged retaliatory act,” U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell wrote.

However, Lovell ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to show how the prison substantially burdened their religious exercise, so they can’t seek monetary damages from the Department of Corrections or Corrections Corporation of America, which operates Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby.

Lovell referred the case to U.S. Magistrate Keith Strong for a settlement conference, the Independent Record reported on March 4.

“More cooperation between the parties will go a long way toward achieving successful continuation of this ceremony in the prisons,” Lovell wrote.

The lawsuit was filed after the Montana Human Rights Commission rejected a discrimination complaint filed by John Knows His Gun, Darryl Lewis Frost, Jason Chiefstick, William Gopher and Allen Potter. Knows His Gun and Chiefstick are now on probation, according to a Department of Corrections website.

The Department of Corrections and Crossroads Correctional Center filed motions asking Lovell to dismiss the case. He heard arguments on Feb. 23 and issued his ruling on Feb. 29.

The plaintiffs were incarcerated at the private prison in Shelby in 2008 and 2009. The men claim that in 2008, before and after sweat-lodge ceremonies, the participants were subjected to “en masse” strip searches. On some occasions, the strip searches were done in a gymnasium with video cameras that at least one female guard monitored.

Prison officials said they suspected the ceremonies were being used to move contraband, although none was ever found. Attorney Ron Waterman has said the contraband suspicions were nothing more than a pretext to discriminate against the inmates.

“Plaintiffs claim the experience was ‘extremely degrading and dehumanizing’ and caused the number of inmates attending sweat lodge ceremonies to decline,” Lovell wrote. “Thus, plaintiffs have adequately alleged that the strip searches forced them to choose between abandoning their religious exercise or being subjected to an ‘extremely degrading and dehumanizing’ experience.”

Lovell said the plaintiffs may also go forward with their claim that they were prohibited from using smudge tobacco, antlers, herbs and other sacred materials, but he noted that the prison Wasn’t required to provide the materials.