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April Issue

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A Message from the Executive Director

In the beginning, the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) stood alone in the darkness with only a torch to light its way. Not many understood its role, its purpose; its existence was marginalized. Many asked why it existed at all. Within the organization, there was a woman who understood its purpose and believed that one day others would too. That woman was former Executive Director Juana P. Lyon.

She was a formidable fighter, an intellect with an uncanny ability to understand and foresee the world we were to inherit. She understood that as Indian people, we need to stand up and fight for our rightful place in society. When I was a young person I worked with her and thought she was too abstract and at times, very demanding. She expected perfection and a devotion to what she believed to be the purpose of the organization: To ensure that the nation’s Indian tribes had a right to exist, complete with its languages, cultures, histories and traditions.

As a result, NICOA challenged the system and in 1978 walked away with the first social service program directly funded by the federal government — Title VI of the Older Americans Act, “Grants to Indian Tribes”. I know because I fought for its passage. I have always understood our purpose.

That belief still drives NICOA today. At this time in American history, the federal government is questioning whether our designation as “political entities” is a misnomer and determining whether we should be considered a racial group. There are still many struggles ahead.

The Indian elders of 2019 are very different than those of 1978. Those who are elderly now are of the “baby boomer” generation; they are the young men and women of 1978 who returned from the Vietnam war. Many are disabled, some are mentally challenged and every one of them is still fighting the aftereffects of that war.

We have young people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, who are losing their language and forgetting their culture. Elders have a responsibility to ensure that we Indian people continue to exist and thrive. The National Indian Council on Aging must look to the future, assess it and identify its path. That path must include the young, the disabled, and those soon entering elder status.

We can no longer wait for the future but must act now to work with the young to ensure that the Indian elder of the future ages healthier and in wellness. We will do this by collaborating with other organizations, entities and individuals who share our common purpose. So when someone asks, “What has NICOA done for Indian tribes and their elders?”, we can tell them we continue to fight for our existence as Indian people. 

Larry Curley
Executive Director

In January 2019, NICOA executive director Larry Curley traveled to Picuris Pueblo, New Mexico to discuss legislative committee goals at the New Mexico Indian Council on Aging's quarterly meeting.

NICOA's Recommendations for OAA ReauthorizationT

In 2018, there were 296 tribes receiving Older Americans Act (OAA) Title VI funds. OAA language indicates that Title VI programs be comparable to those under Title III, but unfortunately this is not the case.

The National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) recommends increasing funds for caregiver programs, fully funding Title VII-B, increasing the funding for Title VI, moving Title V “set aside” funds to Title VI, implementing and establishing a White House Conference on Indian Aging; and elevating the director of the Office for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians Programs to assistant secretary of American Indian and Alaska Native Elders.

The increased funding for Title VI should ensure that tribes receiving Title VI funds maintain funding levels that will ensure services are delivered and at 1.5 times the inflation rate, as costs are higher on tribal lands. The “set asides” of Title V (SCSEP) are an acknowledgment of the unique government-to-government relationship enjoyed by tribes. Moving Title V “set aside” funds to Title VI would consolidate programs for Native elders in one office rather than fragmented among several federal agencies.

Title VII-B has never been funded and with the increasing incidence of elder abuse, fraud and neglect in Native communities, this is a need that must be addressed. Many tribes don’t have their own specialized elder protective service so there may not be anyone to report abuse to, or insufficient resources for a response even if a report was made.

For over 40 years, tribal elders and officials have been recommending the implementation and establishment of a White House Conference on Indian Aging. The meeting would recognize the federal trust responsibility and be equal to a national consultation between Native elders and the U.S. government.

The elevation of the director of the Office for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians Programs to assistant secretary of American Indian and Alaska Native Elders is another recommendation submitted over the last 40 years to no avail. The elevation of this office to assistant secretary, with jurisdictional authority, is a recognition of the importance of the unique government-to-government relationship between Native tribes and the U.S. government.

Click here for additional information.

Meet our Board of Directorsi

NICOA’s board of directors is comprised of enrolled members of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes who are 55 years of age or older. Board members represent each of NICOA’s 12 regions.

Click here for additional information.

Profile: James DeLa Cruz, Sr.

James DeLa Cruz, Sr. of Quinault Indian Nation in Taholah, Washington has been serving on NICOA’s board of directors for nearly 40 years.

Previously he was a national Title VI director. He secured funding for tribal governments as well as Title VI programs. “I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to address the needs of Indian elders,” he said.

As a member of NICOA’s board of directors, James says he’s had the opportunity to work with many gifted people in Indian and non-Indian Country. “I’ve made a lot of great connections,” he said, “and many friends in the field of aging.”

He likes being part of an advocate organization that listens to elders and has enjoyed working with them through the years. It was the elders of his tribe that encouraged him to become a member of NICOA’s board. “Elders give a different perspective,” said James. “They’re a gift. Elders give medicine, knowledge, assistance in our personal lives. We need them.”

NICOA Joins 2019 Aging in America ConferenceT

NICOA traveled to New Orleans for the 2019 Aging in America conference this month to learn best practices and gain insights from leaders in the field about the current state of aging in America. We joined nearly 3,000 professionals to discuss a multitude of issues affecting older adults as well as the latest policies and trends.

NICOA Executive Director Larry Curley was part of several informative panels: “Best Practices for Reaching and Serving Diverse and Underserved Communities”, “Supporting Family Caregivers in Diverse Communities”, and “Native Elders: Building on Cultural and Community Strengths for Program Development and Evaluation”.

Curley, along with the other members of the Elder Equity Consortium, spoke about the unique populations they represent and the work they’re doing in their communities, along with best practices and examples from the field. They shared the wisdom gained from working with diverse groups, as well as the tips and innovative techniques that target elders to help agencies deliver person-centered care.

Click here for additional information.

The National Indian Council on Aging recently traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana​ for the American Society on Aging's 2019 Aging in America conference where Executive Director Larry Curley took part in several informative panels. 

A Thank You to CVS Health

When I received a scholarship from CVS Health to attend the American Society on Aging’s (ASA) 2019 Leadership Institute in New Orleans in April, I wasn’t sure of what to expect from the training. But ASA’s claim that graduates would leave the leadership development program with a broad exposure to key influencers and multiple opportunities to connect with other professionals in the aging field was right on target.

In preparation for the Leadership Institute, we were asked to complete several reading assignments and review an aging toolkit. We also completed two online self-assessments on communication and leadership styles. Although the results weren’t surprising, it helped me understand my actions and how to work with other styles more effectively.

The Leadership Institute offered valuable information about the qualities and behaviors desired by leaders. Leaders must be flexible and adapt to changing situations. I learned about the different leadership styles and behaviors, and how each one is vital. I gained information about my personal leadership strengths as well as weaknesses and learned how to improve. I realized that our styles are also developed by the culture we live in and our past experiences. We need to recognize that with everyone.

The time spent talking with other attendees helped me further develop my leadership skills. Not only did I meet many of the leaders in the field of aging, I developed relationships that will withstand the test of time. It was very motivating to meet Jim Sykes, winner of the 2019 ASA Hall of Fame award, and to discuss which direction the aging arena is headed.

The Leadership Institute and conference was exciting. Each event I attended was informative and delivered valuable networking opportunities. Every aspect of the conference was helpful to me personally and professionally as I continue a career in aging and assisting American Indian and Alaska Native elders.

I would like thank CVS Health for their scholarship and support that allowed me to attend the institute. Without them I wouldn’t have had this amazing opportunity to increase my skills to work with our community elders. Thank you.

Cheryl J. Archibald
Assistant to the Executive Director

NICOA Earns Silver Seal of Transparency

NICOA just earned a 2019 Silver Seal of Transparency by adding information to our nonprofit profile on GuideStar, the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. Now our community members as well as over 10 million GuideStar users can find in-depth financial information about our organization.

We’ve also provided fresh information to over 200 charitable websites and applications that use GuideStar data, such as AmazonSmile, Facebook and Network for Good. 

Earlier this year, Executive Director Larry Curley went to Santa Fe, New Mexico​ to meet with Alice Liu McCoy, cabinet secretary for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, and Deputy Cabinet Secretary Sam Ojinaga; along with Lynn Trujillo, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department​ (pictured below).

NICOA To Present at the National Tribal Public Health Summit

On May 14, Executive Director Larry Curley will be conducting an in-depth presentation on “Healthy Aging in Indian Country” for the National Indian Health Board’s 10th Annual National Tribal Public Health Summit. The National Tribal Public Health Summit is a premiere American Indian public health event that attracts over 500 tribal public health professionals, elected leaders, advocates, researchers and community-based service providers.

American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) joining the aging baby boomer generation have been shaped by tumultuous changes in technology, society and culture. These external forces impact them mentally, spiritually and culturally in both positive and negative ways.

How can our elders create their own response to aging — one which demonstrates healthy resilience and avoids common pitfalls? How can we guide them on their path to find the person-centered approach that best fits them and their family? Our panel will discuss what we know about actively engaging in the aging process, the impact of aging on AI/AN LGBTQ elders, opioid issues, the differences between urban and rural AI/AN elders, and the increasing need for trained caregivers for our elders. 

The presentation will take place on Tuesday, May 14 in the Cochiti Room of the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Click here for additional information

Indian Day at the National Senior Gamesi

The 2019 National Seniors Games are special for two reasons: This is the first year the Games have been held in New Mexico, and the first time there’s been a designated Indian Day!

Indian Day (June 17) will have an exclusive focus on American Indian and Alaska Native elder athletes. The National Indian Council on Aging is designing a program that will reflect the rich diversity of Native culture here in Albuquerque, including songs, drumming and dancers. This is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to learn more about New Mexico and the pueblos and tribes within its borders. 

The National Senior Games, which has been held every two years since 1987, is the largest multi-sport event in the world for people 50. Qualifying takes place through 52 NSGA member and associate games held throughout the country and Canada. More than 10,000 athletes are expected to compete in 19 medal sports, with more than 800 events staged at multiple venues over a two-week period during the summer of 2019.

Click here for additional information.

Last month, Executive Director Larry Curley traveled to North Dakota to meet with Collette Adamsen, director of the National Resource Center on Native American Aging (NRCNAA), and Cole Ward, NRCNAA project coordinator.
Senior Community Service
Employment Program

A Message from SCSEP

Happy spring! For many of you, this was a winter that just wouldn’t end! For some, it hasn’t ended yet. Others are enjoying the spring weather and the many activities that come with it.

For NICOA’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), we can finally meet with our elders and tribal leaders without flight cancellations or risking life and limb driving in dangerous weather.

NICOA is working hard to educate our leaders on the importance of SCSEP in Indian Country and the impact it has on the lives of elders and their communities. Executive Director Larry Curley and I have spent this past season traveling the country to meet with tribal leaders, as well as elected and appointed officials, to discuss our position on the Older American’s Act.

For more information on NICOA’s SCSEP or to find a program in your area, visit our website, call 505-292-2001 or send an email. If you’re interested in participating in the program, fill out the pre-application form.

Sue Chapman
SCSEP Director

SCSEP Organizes Workforce Trainings in Arizona

In January, NICOA’s SCSEP Assistant Program Manager Jose Troncoso and Abigail Pestalozzi-Conley, job developer and trainer, traveled to Phoenix and the beautiful Navajo reservation of Chinle, Arizona to conduct employment education seminars.

NICOA's Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) offers trainings on subjects like resume writing, navigating impromptu interviews, crafting “the elevator pitch”, and finding hidden job markets.

Sixteen people attended the training session at the Navajo Department of Workforce Development in Chinle, including Patricia Tso, a participant living an hour away who was determined to attend, and one non-participant who was intrigued by our presentation topics.

At the Goodwill Career Center in Phoenix, SCSEP participants Azar Hakami, Martha Vasquez, John Garza, Jesus Zamarron, and Dianne Malone were advised of the many advantages of Goodwill’s services by host agency partner Troy Maskell.

The trip was a wonderful reminder that our program’s success depends on the help of great partners like Goodwill, and pueblo workforce centers like the Navajo Department of Workforce Development.

Click here for additional information.

Earlier this month, our SCSEP team and its participants attended a career fair expo by the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City.

Elder Equity

A Message from the Elder Equity Program

Happy spring everyone! All living things seem to be growing strong here in Albuquerque. 

If you have not yet seen the recent photos taken of our executive director and board of directors, you can browse them here. In my haste to share them with everyone I did not properly acknowledge our amazing photographer, Leslie Maly. Leslie works as a records specialist for the Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP). She volunteered to take pictures using her iPhone and the pictures are wonderful.

Thank you to the board of directors and executive director for their time and for Leslie for jumping in to help. We have an amazing team at NICOA and appreciate their many talents!

Rebecca Owl Morgan
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Elder Equity Project Coordinator

New Survey for Caregivers of Older Adults

The National Indian Council on Aging has launched a new online survey for caregivers of older adults and we want to hear from you. If you’re caring for an aging spouse, partner, family member or friend, you may need support. The Caregiving Community Survey was developed to better identify the needs of caregivers.

If you’re providing support to a friend or other family member, please tell us about your experiences. You could win a $25 Target gift card for participating! The Caregiving Community Survey ends May 10.

Click here for additional information.

Membership Information
Do you care about helping to improve aging services for American Indian and Alaska Native elders? Then please join NICOA! We need you as an advocate. NICOA is the premier organization calling attention to the needs of elders.

Your involvement and support can bring attention, education, and improved services to elders across the country. Every elder should have the freedom to age in place and access services and resources in every community across Indian Country as well as urban areas.

If you're interested in learning more, email NICOA or call (505) 292-2001.
Elder Wellness

Cold Weather Safety for Elders

Elders are at an increased risk of hypothermia because their body’s response to cold can be diminished by certain illnesses such as diabetes and some medicines, including over-the-counter cold remedies. According to Centers for Disease Control, more than half of hypothermia deaths are among elders. For an older person, a body temperature of 95 degrees or lower can cause health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse. It can be difficult to recognize hypothermia in elders because older people tend to shiver less or not at all when their body temperature drops.

Hypothermia can even occur indoors if the temperature inside isn’t warm enough. Elders should keep their thermostats above 65 degrees, dress warmly and seek assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) if they lose heating. LIHEAP is a federally funded assistance program that helps low-income families stay warm during winter and cool during summer. Help can also be found from the National Energy Assistance Referral service at 1-866-674-6327 or by emailing the National Energy Assistance Referral project.

Click here for additional information.

Native HIV/AIDS Awareness

Raising awareness of the risks of HIV and AIDS to Native communities and the impact it has on American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians is especially important because of its significant rate among the Native population. Stigma, fear, discrimination, and homophobia can place many at higher risk, especially those who live in rural communities or on reservations.

Compared with other racial/ethnic groups, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and AI/ANs have the third and fourth highest rate of new HIV infections, respectively. Of those diagnosed with AIDS, AI/ANs had the shortest overall survival time, with 87 percent living longer than three years.

Click here for additional information.

Adaptive Equipment Can Increase Driver Safety

Consider what physical challenges can be compensated for by utilizing adaptive driving equipment. If neck turning is limited or painful, a wide-angle mirror may offer a solution. If foot pedals are harder to manage when diabetic changes have resulted in partial amputation, hand controls can offer a safe alternative.

Adaptive driving equipment can help bridge the gap between individual needs and standard automobiles. Click here for additional examples of adaptive equipment.

The Importance of Food Sovereignty

Food sovereignty is about the right of a people to determine their own policies relative to food and agriculture as opposed to having their food supply subject to market forces. Food and food production are fundamentally important to Native communities’ health, well-being, economic resilience, cultural heritage and self-preservation. Restoring food sovereignty to Native communities requires the re-introduction of American Indian food production, distribution practices and infrastructure.

Food sovereignty initiatives empower tribal members living on the reservations to grow their own healthy, fresh produce, ease low food insecurity and prevent heart disease and type II diabetes. Many tribal communities are regaining control of their food supply. They’re growing traditional foods, plants and medicines and collaborating with the federal government to retain rights for hunting and gathering.

Click here for additional information.

Social Services

The Price of Unpaid Caregiving

On average, caregivers spend 13 days a month on laundry, house cleaning, transportation, giving medication, and shopping for and preparing food. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index reports that caregivers spend six days a month feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, and bathing, and 13 hours a month researching disease and care services, coordinating physician visits, and managing financial matters.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. Over 75 percent of caregivers are female, and they spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than males, according to the Institute on Aging.

Click here for additional information.

Take Advantage of State Libraries

In the U.S., each state supports a state library supporting the work of the legislature and other state employees. The library typically maintains a collection of state publications, works by local authors, and local publications, such as newsletters. Like local libraries, state library agencies serve diverse audiences.

State libraries serve as official agencies charged by law with the extension and development of library services under the Grants to States program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

For a list of all 50 state library agencies, plus the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories (Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and the Freely Associated States (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands), see this Directory of State Libraries, compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Library Services for Persons with Disabilities

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54.4 million Americans —18.7 percent of the population — have a disability, and due to an aging population, the number of individuals with a disability is expected to grow exponentially. In addition to representing a significant portion of the library community, the American Library Association (ALA) recognizes that people with disabilities are a large and often neglected part of society.

ALA’s Association of Specialized Government and Cooperative Library Agencies offer resources on assistive/adaptive technologies. Assistive technologies are electronic solutions that enable people with disabilities to live independently. People with blindness can hear computer-screen text, and people with visual impairments can enlarge text, enabling independent reading. People who are unable to manipulate a mouse can enter data, and those who cannot physically hear a computer prompt can view prompts. There is also computer software that helps persons with learning differences see and hear the information displayed on the screen.

Click here for additional information.

Economic Security

Social Security Scammers Are Calling

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is getting more reports about people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) calling to get Social Security numbers and even money.

This is a scam that is growing exponentially each year. In 2017, 3,200 people reported SSA imposter scams, and lost nearly $210,000, according to the FTC. Government imposter scams made up nearly half of the 535,417 imposter scams reported to the FTC in 2018.

In one version of the scam, the caller says your Social Security number has been suspended due to suspicious activity, or that it’s been linked to a crime involving drugs or sending money out of the country illegally. The caller says your Social Security number is blocked and that they need a fee to reactivate it or to get a new number. The scammer will ask you to confirm your Social Security number. Remember, Social Security numbers are never suspended and the SSA never requires you to pay for one.

Click here for additional information.

Cut Your Energy Costs

To reduce energy costs and save on energy bills, consider scheduling an appointment to get your heating and cooling system examined. A professional energy audit gives you a thorough picture of where your home is losing energy and what you can do to save money. This includes checking the airflow over the coil, testing for the correct fluid (refrigerant) level, checking that the combustion process and heat exchanger are operating safely, and ensuring proper air-flow to each room.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 40 percent of a home’s energy is lost due to air infiltration from the outdoors. Air seeps in through ceilings, walls, and from areas exposed to external elements like windows and doors. You can greatly reduce this by adding insulation as well as weather-stripping and caulking around windows and doors.

Click here for additional information.

Older Adult Nest Egg

One out of 20 older adults in the U.S. is a victim of financial exploitation, losing an average of $80,000 to $186,000, according to Nearly half of these crimes are committed by someone the older adult knows and trusts, like a relative or caregiver.

Forty-eight million US adults are 65 or older and worth billions of dollars in income and assets. The pursuit of these “nest eggs” is one of the fastest growing consumer fraud issues today.

Older Adult Nest Egg seeks to protect older adults from financial fraud through education, research and risk assessments. Their validated tools and trainings allow professionals who work with older adults to access and document their clients' decisional ability to make specific financial decisions.


Lower the monthly cost of your phone or internet with Lifeline – a Federal Communications Commission’s program that’s helping to make communications services more affordable for eligible consumers. You can only use Lifeline for either phone or internet, but not both. Eligible customers can get at least $9.25 toward their bill.

Lifeline consumers can receive up to $25 per month in addition to the standard Lifeline benefit amount if they live on rural federally-recognized tribal lands. Lifeline customers residing on tribal lands are eligible for Link Up, a one-time benefit per address. Link Up can reimburse the full cost of initiating service with certain phone/internet companies at your primary residence, up to $100.

To get Lifeline, find a company near you. Consumers in Colorado, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee can apply for Lifeline directly.

Native News

Upcoming Events & Observances

May: Older Americans Month
May 2-4: Native American and Rural Emergency Medicine Conference
May 6-9: 20th Annual National Tribal Forum on Air Quality
May 13-15: 10th Annual National Tribal Public Health Summit
May 14-16: Gathering of Native Americans Responding to the Opioid Crisis in Indian Country
May 15-17: AI/AN National Behavioral Health Conference
May 16: Honor our LGBT Elders Day
June 10-11: 5th Annual Native American Cannabis & Hemp Conference, the 8th Annual Native American Housing Conference, the 10th Annual Native American Healthcare Conference, and the 13th Annual Native American Economic Development Conference
June 14-25: National Senior Games (June 17: Indian Day)
June 15: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
June 26: Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum at the NCAI Mid-Year Conference
July 23-25: National Conference on AI/AN Injury and Violence Prevention
July 30-31: Building Bridges to Enhance the Well-Being of AI/AN Workers

5 Recent Tribal Newsletters

Treaty Rights News

Geothermal Land Leases

Members of the Pit River Tribe claim the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has allowed Calpine Corporation to occupy their sacred land for decades, even as the company fails to meet lease renewal requirements to produce geothermal power. The Houston-based energy giant won a U.S. government contract in 1982 to explore geothermal energy on 2,560 acres of national forest in the Medicine Lake Highlands of Siskiyou County, California.

BLM is required to review the lease every five years and terminate if Calpine fails to show it can produce commercially viable geothermal power. According to the lawsuit, Calpine has not drilled or tested a geothermal well in the area since 1988, when it reported one site capable of generating less than five megawatts of electricity. Plaintiffs argue that the tribe's constitution is akin to a treaty and creates fiduciary duties for the federal government in its management of the area.

Land Jurisdiction Dispute

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians has a case against the state of Michigan over whether the tribe has jurisdiction over 337 square miles of land in the northern part of the state. The land stretches along the shore of Lake Michigan and includes the city of Petoskey and part of Charlevoix. The tribe is not claiming they own the land, but that the land is a reservation and therefore they have the right to operate as a government entity to decide what happens there.

The cities of Petoskey and Charlevoix, along with the counties in the area, argue that the tribe relinquished their claim years ago, and failed to raise the issue with the Indian Claims Commission created in 1946. The tribe argues that a treaty signed in 1855 set the boundaries of a reservation that would cover the 337 square miles.

The case has become incredibly complex, with over 500 entries on the docket, including thousands of pages of arguments, historical references and expert testimony. The case began in 2015 but the judge says it could be 2020 before the trial even begins.

Fuel Tax Excemption

A six-year legal battle between a Native-owned gas station and the Washington Department of Licensing finally made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court last month. The gas station is considered a tribal entity because it is owned by a citizen of Yakama Nation, which, like 573 other federally recognized tribes, is a sovereign nation with treaties that ceded land in exchange for health care, education, and a trust relationship with the federal government.

The owner argued that he had the freedom to sell gas tax-free because a clause in the Yakama Nation’s 1855 treaty guarantees a right to travel without burden, and that therefore traveling with gas for sale should not be taxed. The state of Washington disagreed.

There’s was a lot at stake in this case: If the Supreme Court had sided with the state, the gas station would have had to pay $3.6 million in back taxes. The ruling could have also set a precedence for other states to expand taxes on sovereign tribal nations.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the fuel distributor. The outcome of the case means that not only will the gas station owner avoid millions in fees, but treaty rights will be protected for at least two other Western tribes in three states with right-to-travel clauses.

The 5-4 decision was a close call for the Yakama. Associate justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Neil M. Gorsuch, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor ruled in the majority. Dissenting votes were given by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and associate justices Samuel A. Alito, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas.


Stuffed Acorn Squash

Recipe from Chef Travis Tegreeney of Y'aak'a Café at Acoma Pueblo

2 acorn squashes
Salt, pepper and ground coriander to taste
3 cups chick stock

1 1/2 cups wild rice
1/2 cup piñon nuts


"Halve the acorn squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush the flesh with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and coriander.

Place in 350° oven for 35-40 minutes until fork-tender. Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a rolling boil, add the wild rice and season with salt and pepper. When the mixture returns to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes until tender.

Heat a sauté pan on medium, add piñon nuts, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Remove from heat when the nuts are lightly toasted. Add to wild rice. Stuff rice mixture into cooked squash and serve. Optional: Top with your favorite chile sauce."

Pine Nut Soup

Recipe from Freddie Bitsoie of Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian

2 cups piñon nuts (plus a few for garnish)
1/2 teaspoon canola oil 1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
A few mint leaves, chopped


"In a sauté pan, sweat the onion in the oil over medium heat, then add the thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Add the piñon nuts and allow them to toast for a few minutes. (Do not let them burn.)

Pour in stock, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Pour the soup into a blender and purée until smooth.

Strain it through a sieve back into the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the milk and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, garnished with mint and piñon nuts."

Do you have any healthy, traditional recipes to share, or any stories or tribal news to contribute? Send them to NICOA and they may be featured in our next newsletter.
NICOA needs your financial support, as the advocacy and political work we do for our elders is not free. Grants that have helped fund NICOA are now under threat in Washington, D.C. Help us continue to serve our elders by donating at
We would like to hear from elders, service providers, and tribal programs serving American Indian or Alaska Native elders. You can email NICOA or send information by mail to National Indian Council on Aging, 8500 Menaul Blvd. NE Suite B-470, Albuquerque, NM 87112. We ask that you please share this newsletter with anyone with a limited or nonexistent internet signal.

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Big changes are coming to NICOA. Watch for our next newsletter on July 29.
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