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Just Joking: Humor from National Congress of American Indians






National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby looks a bit uncomfortable in his new gear. Photo from NCAI / Flickr

A dose of Indian humor from last week's winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.

A Bad Bet
Anyone who's attended any National Congress of American Indians events in the last two years knows President Brian Cladoosby is a huge fan of the Seattle Seahawks. He's always talking about the team and boasting of its exploits.

But the chairman of the Swinomish Tribe in Washington found himself on the losing end of a big bet this year. Since the Seahawks lost to the New England Patriots at Super Bowl 49, he was forced to wear the rival team's jersey at the opening session last Tuesday.

"This is an historic moment, ladies and gentlemen," said Patriots fan Randy Noka, a council member from the Narragansett Tribe who presented the jersey to Cladoosby.

"Next year, Randy!" yelled out another Washington leader -- Ron Allen, the chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.

Cladoosby wasn't ready to take defeat lying down, though. "This is burning!" he protested after sporting the jersey.


Randy Noka and Brian Cladoosby. Photo by Indianz.Com

"Is there a button where you can inflate it?" Cladoosby added, drawing boos from the crowd as he invoked the Deflategate snafu that ensnared the Patriots before the 49 game.

"That's what I love about Indian Country, you know -- our humor," he said. "When we lose our humor in Indian Country, we're in trouble."

Cool Runnings
Temperatures were freezing last week when NCAI was in town but they were even colder in Michigan, home of Secretary Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. "It was 31 below before we left to come out here," Payment said.

But Michigan cold doesn't appear to mean much to Kevin Washburn, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Payment recalled what happened when the assistant secretary visited his state late last year and wanted to get some exercise.


Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn addressed NCAI on February 24. Photo from Bureau of Indian Affairs / Twitter

"He asked me if I would run with him in Lansing," Payment said of Washburn. "He showed up and it was only 20 degrees out. He had shorts and a short-sleeve shirt."

"That's crazy -- I know you're from Oklahoma but that's crazy," Payment added. He ended up lending some running gear to Washburn.

"They probably were a little loose on him," Payment said.

So next time you think it's too cold out just think of Washburn in shorts and a t-shirt and that might warm you up.

Don't Get Sick After October
If you attended NCAI's annual conference last October, you might remember Yvette Roubideaux, then-acting director of the Indian Health Service, was recovering from a cold. She was giving tribal leaders elbow-bumps at the time because she didn't want to get anyone sick.

But she was all better for the winter meeting. "Don't worry, I won't be coughing all over President Cladoosby," she said last Tuesday.


Yvette Roubideaux participated in the Department of Health and Human Services annual tribal budget consultation in Washington, D.C., on February 26. She is seated next to Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim. Photo from HHS / Flickr

There was even better news, too, for those following Roubideaux life-transforming events and not just her nomination worries. "And I got the hot flashes under control!" she informed everyone.

Roubideaux, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, also couldn't resist poking fun at Cladoosby. "Where's your Patriots thing?" she asked. He had already taken the jersey off by the time she got to the stage.

Grandpa Senator
When Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) is on the stage, you know there's going to be laughter, even at 8:30am on a cold Tuesday morning and even when you're the first speaker on the agenda. But his best moment came when he beamed at becoming a grandfather for the first time.


Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) met with Champion For Change Rory Taylor in his office on Capitol Hill on February 25. Photo by Patty Talahongva / Twitter

"I'm trying to figure out what he’s going to call me," Franken said of his grandchild, who is approaching two years of age. "I’m thinking Senator."

Go Joe
Joe Garcia of Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico is known for many things, including his guitar and his grey hair. But is the former two-time NCAI President old enough to be a part of The Greatest Generation?

Well, a little lady on the National Mall thought so. When she spotted the ex-Air Force recruit in his veterans hat, she went up to him to thank him for his military service but he was taken aback by her follow-up question.

"Excuse me, sir, did you serve in World War II?" the lady asked.

"I just kept on walking," Garcia said, unable to come up with a response to the query.


The Vietnam War-era veterans were honored at NCAI on February 24. Photo by Ho-Chunk Nation PR / Twitter

For the record, Garcia is in his early 60s. The surviving World War II veterans are in their 80s and 90s.

"I wouldn't have guessed World War II, sir. I just want you to know that," Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez told Garcia after hearing the story.

A Joke, Almost
Rep. Mike Honda (D-California) is a familiar face in Indian Country, having spoken at NCAI several times. Before his remarks this year he happened to listen to the update on the Tribal Supreme Court Project.


Rep. Mike Honda (D-California) spoke at NCAI on February 25. "I reconnected with old friends and forged new relationships with Native leaders. Most important, I reaffirmed my strong support for tribal sovereignty and strengthened my resolve to make sure the R-word is no longer protected by federal trademark laws," he said after his remarks. Photo courtesy Rep. Mike Honda

"Y'all got a lot of lawsuits going on," the civil-rights minded Honda observed last Wednesday.

Tribal interests have won just two cases and have lost nine since 2005, NCAI was told that day.

Related Stories:
Wrapup from National Congress of American Indians DC meeting (2/27)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians meet in DC (2/26)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians winter session in DC (2/25)
National Congress of American Indians set for winter conference (2/23)