The New York Times reports on the “intensive contact tracing” done by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, who have a COVID-19 infection rate 10 times higher than the overall infection rate in Arizona, but a death rate of just 1.3 percent as opposed to 2.1 percent in the state at large. While contact tracing has not slowed the spread of COVID-19, public officials believe it has lowered the mortality rate.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Trent Shores said the number of criminal indictments more than doubled in the last month as a result of the ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which held that criminal cases on reservation land in which the suspect or victim are tribal citizens must be tried in federal court.
Following the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling, there has been an increasing amount of people who falsely claim a tribal identity to avoid arrest, said U.S. Attorney Shores. According to Shores, people are telling officers they are tribal citizens because they believe it is a “get out of jail free card.”
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is seeking another hearing before the state Supreme Court regarding its recent ruling on tribal gaming compacts that deemed the state’s agreements with two Native American tribes invalid. Stitt’s attorneys filed a request seeking a rehearing of the case to clarify whether parts of the compacts that do not conflict with state law remain valid.
Indian Country is turning to renewable energy to achieve energy and economic independence as energy infrastructure is becoming essential to living with and containing COVID-19 outbreaks. Not only would energy sources like solar and wind provide clean, cheaper energy to reservations, it also serves as a method to bring electricity to areas that were previously without it.
Keep reading for a full news update.
On Native American Land, Contact Tracing Is Saving Lives
New York Times, Gina Kotala, August 13
The coronavirus is raging through the White Mountain Apache tribe. Spread across a large reservation in eastern Arizona, the Apaches have been infected at more than 10 times the rate of people in the state as a whole.
U.S. Health Secretary Meets In Anchorage With Tribal Leaders And Alaska Congressional Delegation
Anchorage Daily News, Annie Berman, August 13
The nation’s top health official spoke highly of Alaska’s pandemic response during a brief visit to Anchorage on Wednesday.
Alaska has “much to be proud of in how you’ve responded to COVID-19,” said Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at an afternoon news conference, citing the fact that the state is currently “number one” in tests completed per capita.
Living In The Dark: Native Reservations Struggle With Power Shortages In Pandemic
The Guardian, Joseph Lee, August 12
Within hours of posting a video to Facebook and Twitter in which she offered to donate iPads to K-12 Native students, Amanda Cheromiah was inundated with increasingly desperate requests. This was back in March, as schools across the country started closing because of Covid-19. Cheromiah, a PhD student at the University of Arizona, had begun hearing stories of Native students parking outside gas stations to finish their homework or reading for class. It was there they could maybe get better cell reception, or wifi, or enough light when the power was out at home.
Navajo Nation COVID-19 Death Toll Rises To 477
Native News Online, August 12
On Wednesday, the Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reported 22 new positive COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation and four more deaths. The total number of deaths has reached 477 as of Wednesday. 6,920 individuals have recovered from COVID-19 and 86,759 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of COVID-19 positive cases is 9,356 and negative tests total 72,605.
White Hand Sculpture Honoring California Tribes Painted Black During Protest
Native News Online, Nanette Kelly, August 12
A sculpture of a white hand in Santa Rosa, Calif. has been repeatedly painted black in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that followed after George Floyd was killed by Minnesota police in late May, despite the fact that the monument partially honors California’s Indigenous people. Located in the Santa Rosa Plaza, the 7½-ton hand statue happens to be white, but was not created to represent white people.
‘Shame On You’: Authorities Warn Criminals Not To Make False Claims About Indian Status
Indianz.com, Acee Agoyo, August 12
Lying about your tribal identity could land you in trouble on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, whose reservation boundaries were reaffirmed last month in a historic U.S. Supreme Court decision. With the state of Oklahoma finally barred from exercising “unlawful” jurisdiction on the reservation, tribal and federal authorities are stepping in. But enterprising offenders have already attempted to assert a tribal identity in the weeks since McGirt was issued on July 9. People who have been stopped by local law enforcement are claiming to be Indian, hoping they will be let go because of the jurisdictional realities in eastern Oklahoma.
Stitt Seeks Another Hearing In Tribal Gaming Agreements Case
AP News, August 12
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is seeking another hearing before the state Supreme Court regarding its recent ruling on tribal gaming compacts that deemed the state’s agreements with two Native American tribes invalid. On Wednesday, Stitt’s attorneys filed a request seeking a rehearing of the case to clarify whether parts of the compacts that do not conflict with state law remain valid. The attorneys also want the high court to explain the governor’s authority related to entering cooperative agreements with sovereign tribes.
Four Oklahoma Tribes Sue Federal Agency, Gov. Stitt Over Gaming Compacts
Native News Online, August 12
Four Oklahoma tribes late last week filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt over the approval of two new tribal gaming compacts signed in April. Also included in the lawsuit brought by the Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation and Citizen Potawatomi Nation are Comanche Nation Chairman William Nelson and Otoe-Missouria Tribal Chairman John Shotton. The lawsuit claims federal law was violated when the Interior Department approved the tribal gaming compacts between the state of Oklahoma and the Comanche Nation and the Otoe-Missouria tribes in April 2020.
New Office In New Mexico To Focus On Indigenous Cold Cases
AP News, August 12
U.S. officials have opened an office in New Mexico dedicated to investigating cold cases involving Indigenous people who are missing or have been killed. The office in Albuquerque is part of an effort to address violence against Native Americans and Alaska Natives, particularly women and girls. It’s the fourth of seven offices that are being established across the country as part of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force created via executive order by President Donald Trump in November. The goal is to develop protocols for law enforcement to respond to cases involving missing and slain Indigenous people and to improve data collection.
US Attorney Experiencing ‘Tidal Wave’ Of Cases After Ruling
AP News, August 11
Federal prosecutors from as far away as New York and Florida are helping the U.S. attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma, deal with what he described Tuesday as a “tidal wave” of new cases resulting from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Trent Shores said the number of criminal indictments more than doubled in the last month as a result of the ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which determined that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remains a Muscogee (Creek) Nation Indian reservation.
Tribe Says New Border Wall Harming Burial Sites; Sues Trump
AP News, Julie Watson, August 11
A California tribe whose ancestral lands span across the U.S.-Mexico border is suing the Trump administration to block construction of a section of border wall that the Kumeyaay people say is desecrating sacred burial sites. The La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians filed the lawsuit in federal court in San Diego on Tuesday asking for an injunction to temporarily halt the installation of a towering metal wall until the tribe can protect its religious and cultural heritage. La Posta is one of 12 bands of the Kumeyaay people.
Ryan Reynolds And Paul Mccartney Appear On Ballot For Chief Of Walpole Island First Nation
Native News Online, August 12
A First Nation with about 5,000 band members is seeking to remove the names of Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and legendary ex-Beatle Paul McCartney from its slate of candidates for chief after community members nominated the two. Walpole Island First Nation in southwestern Ontario can elect non-Indigenous people as leaders under the Indian Act, James Jenkins, Walpole Island’s director of operations, told CBC News.
Republican Turned Democrat Runs For U.S. Senate In Alaska
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, August 12
Edgar Blatchford, Inupiaq and Yup’ik, is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in Alaska, a heavily Republican state. He’ll face three contenders in the primary on Aug. 18. Blatchford says he’ll work on solutions tailored for small Native villages, as well as urban and pro-development interests. He also wants to seek amendments to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which he says is a failed experiment.
Fort Peck Tribes’ Buffalo Relocate To 16 Tribes, 9 States
Great Falls Tribune, Nora Mabie, August 12
Life is about to look a whole lot different for the Fort Peck tribes’ buffalo. Forty of the tribes’ buffalo were loaded onto trucks Wednesday to be relocated to 16 Native American tribes across nine states, including Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas and Alaska. The Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes partnered with the InterTribal Buffalo Council to prevent the slaughter of buffalo while promoting the development and sustainability of herds managed by tribes.
‘This Land Is All We Have Left’: Tribes On Edge Over Giant Dam Proposal Near Grand Canyon
The Guardian, Cody Nelson, August 12
Phoenix-based Pumped Hydro Storage LLC has received a preliminary permit from federal regulators for its Big Canyon Pumped Storage Project – a string of four huge dams near the Little Colorado River, along with reservoirs and a power-generation facility about three miles from Daniel’s home. The preliminary permit does not allow construction, but it gives Pumped Hydro priority in getting a license to build.
School-To-Prison Pipeline Has Deep Roots In Tangled History Of Tribal Schools
Cronkite News, Calah Schlabach, August 12
In the early 1930s, Robert Carr, a member of the Creek Nation, was expelled for “incorrigible behavior” from Chilocco Indian Agricultural School near the Kansas-Oklahoma border.
By the time he was 21, Carr had been incarcerated in three different institutions. He died in a Kansas state prison where he was held for stealing $30 worth of food, said his niece, K. Tsianina Lomawaima, a professor and Indigenous studies scholar at Arizona State University.
‘Mothers Are Medicine’
Indian Country Today, Mary Pember, August 12
Indigenous “lactivists” have declared this week as Native Breastfeeding Week. This is the second year a self-described grassroots group has organized the event. Due to COVID-19 this year, all events are virtual and offered on the Native Breastfeeding Week Facebook page.