The New York Times reports that tribes are suing the Treasury Department amid Indian Country internal conflict for failing to provide the $8 billion allocated for tribal governments in the CARES Act. The House Committee on Natural Resources is requesting an investigation (PDF) of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney for her involvement in the administration of the $8 billion relief funds for tribal governments, claiming she violated ethics laws because she is a shareholder of an Alaskan Native Corporation.

The Kiowa Tribe was recently awarded a forgivable $1.1 million CARES Act loan, while stay-at-home orders have been extended on Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, and a Winnebago Public Health Administrator explains how tribes in Nebraska can avoid a full-scale outbreak in their community.

A U.S. District Judge signed a deal that will allow Native American voters in North Dakota to use other methods for identifying addresses and acceptable forms of identification, and Federal land managers plan to hold a series of virtual meetings that will discuss drilling and oil plans around parks in New Mexico that are revered by Native American tribes.

The Lummi Nation is attributing 16 new cases of COVID-19 to kids playing together against social distancing regulations, while the Makah Tribe of Washington have officially closed their reservation to outsiders to prevent a possible outbreak. Multiple tribes are set to receive substantial financial assistance for fishery disaster assistance, while tribes are pleading for lawmakers to address transboundary mining pollution that is affecting waterways in Alaska.

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the death penalty for Lezmond Mitchell, the only Native American on federal death row.

Keep reading for a full news update.


Lummi Nation Has Its First Coronavirus Cases In Weeks; Outbreak Attributed To Kids Playing Together

The Seattle Times, Lynda V. Mapes, May 3

A new cluster of coronavirus cases detected by testing at the Lummi Nation has been traced to children playing together, tribal health officials said. 

Native Communities Ask Nevadans For Help During Pandemic Crisis

Reno Gazette Journal, Benjamin Spillman, May 3 

For people on the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute reservation it takes an hour to get to West Wendover, Nev., the closest town of any kind. 

Makah Tribe Fights Coronavirus With Self-Reliance and Extreme Isolation

The Seattle Times, Lynda Mapes, May 3

The coronavirus quarantine checkpoint went up at the entrance to the Makah Indian Reservation March 16: For the Kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx or People who Live by the Rocks and Seagulls, it was time to protect themselves once more from the outside world.

Sean Penn, Homeland Security Join Covid Fight On Rez

Native News Online, Cindy Yurth, May 3

Add Sean Penn to the list of celebrities helping the Navajo Nation in its fight against COVID-19.

Nebraska’s Native American Tribes, Working To Avoid Pandemic Fate Of Navajo Nation,  Tara Campbell, April 30

Nebraska’s Native American Tribes are going to great lengths to avoid an outbreak of the coronavirus like one striking Navajo Nation, the county’s largest reservation.

Crow, Northern Cheyenne Tribes Extend Stay-At-Home Orders, April 30

The Crow and Northern Cheyenne tribes both extended their stay-at-home orders on their south-central Montana reservations.

Native American Leaders Describe Challenges In Controlling Spread Of COVID-19

KGUN9, April 30 

The Native American community has been one segment of Arizona’s population most significantly impacted by COVID-19 — the Navajo Nation alone has seen close to 2,000 cases.

CARES Act and Lawsuits:

House Committee Calls For Investigation Of Indian Affairs Secretary Tara Sweeney

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, May 3

The House Committee on Natural Resources on Friday sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Inspector General Mark Greenblatt to request an investigation of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney.

Native American Tribes Sue Treasury Over Stimulus Aid As They Feud Over Funding

New York Times, Mark Walker and Emily Cochrane, May 1

A group of Native American tribes is suing the Treasury Department for failing to provide billions of dollars in coronavirus relief allocated for tribes in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package, setting off one of the most significant legal battles between tribal governments and the United States in years.

CARES Act Litigation, May 1

The Trump administration still doesn’t know how to distribute $8 billion in coronavirus relief to tribal governments, more than a month after being charged to do so by Congress.

That’s the word from a highly-anticipated joint status report filed in federal court on May 1, 2020.

Kiowa Tribe Approved For $1.1 Million In COVID-19 Relief

The Lawton Constitution, Scott Rains, April 30

The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma has been approved for $1.1 million in relief funds made available under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 


Virus Widens Gap Between Internet Haves, Have-Nots

Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, May 3

When the Hopi village of Bacavi had its first positive COVID-19 diagnosis in early April, the decision to close its doors to nonresidents was slowed by poor internet access.

Stay-at-home orders prohibited meetings in the Arizona community, so tribal leaders had to make decisions about closures via phone calls, said Bacavi resident Barbara Poley, Laguna and Hopi.

Congress, Tribes Want New Mexico Cultural Site Comments Extended

Bloomberg Environment, Bobby Magill, May 1

New Mexico Democrats and tribal leaders want more time for the public to participate in a federal plan for oil and gas leasing near Chaco Culture National Historical Park because area tribes are diverting attention and resources to fighting the coronavirus.

Judge OKs Native American Voter ID Deal Easing Ballot Access

U.S. News, April 30

A federal judge has approved an agreement between Native American tribes and North Dakota officials that aims to ensure qualified Native American voters have valid identification to comply with state law.

Native Physicians Finding The ‘Silver Lining’

Indian Country Today, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, April 30

Even during these dark, pandemic days Native physicians are trying to see the light. In Seattle, the first COVID-19 hotspot in the United States, Dr. Socia Love-Thurman, a Native physician, said she and Native relatives are “doing well” in the Pacific northwest.

Virtual Meetings Set for Drilling Plan Near National Park

Associated Press, Susan Montoya Bryan, April 30

Federal land managers plan to hold a series of virtual meetings on a contested plan that will guide for at least the next decade oil and gas development around a national park and other areas in northwestern New Mexico that are revered by Native American tribes.

Tribes Ask Feds To Stop Work On Roadless Rule Plan

Juneau Empire, Ben Hohenstatt, April 30

Eight Southeast Alaska Native tribes want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop working on a plan to rollback the Roadless Rule for the Tongass National Forest.

Court Upholds Death Penalty For Only Native American On U.S. Death Row

Cronkite News, Christopher Scragg, April 30

An appeals court Thursday upheld the death sentence for Lezmond Mitchell, the only Native American on federal death row, and one of five inmates targeted last year for execution under a revived federal death penalty policy.