A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and ordered the Department of the Interior to reexamine its previous decision on the tribe’s more than 300 acres in Massachusetts. Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled that the Department of the Interior’s 2018 decision that the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.” Read the decision here.
Across the country, Native communities are coming together in solidarity to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, while District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser had “Black Lives Matter” painted on the street that leads to the White House where protesters have been demonstrating following George Floyd’s death in police custody.
The Washington Post ran a piece outlining Native communities’ longtime issues with police brutality and how that has driven widespread support from the Native community in the nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and as a result of the nationwide protests against police brutality, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council on Sunday announced they intend to defund and dismantle the city’s police department.
After recent worries that the salmon fishing season may have to be called off in the Bristol Bay region due to COVID-19, Alaska state officials are requiring fish processing companies to develop plans with strict safety procedures to ward off the virus. Tribes, agencies, the military and community groups have moved in quick cooperation to carry them out.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is planning to reopen its electronic bingo casinos today, with all three Alabama casinos reopening with COVID-19 safety changes. Meanwhile, Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise officials said Friday that casino closures ordered to help curb the spread of the virus will stay in place until July due to a recent order by President Jonathan Nez that continues closures of tribal government operations through July 5.
While the state of Montana is quickly moving forward with reopening businesses – including tourism this month – the state’s tribal nations have approached COVID-19 with greater caution and stricter controls, placing an emphasis on elder safety.
In other news regarding the 2020 election cycle, CBS News reported on the difficulties that many Native Americans, particularly those living on reservations, will face if upcoming elections shift to all mail-in ballots.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Bernhardt:
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Bernhardt [Documents]
Turtle Talk, June 8
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Wins Ruling In Federal Court Battle Over Sovereignty
Native News Online, June 7
On Friday, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in its battle with the Trump administration to retain its tribal land in trust. Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District Of Columbia ruled that the Department of Interior’s 2018 decision that the Tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934 was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.”
NCAI & Other Native Organizations Encouraged By Mashpee Wampanoag Court Victory
Native News Online, June 7
Yesterday, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rendered a decision in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in the case of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Bernhardt. In its opinion, Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled: The Court will grant the Mashpee Tribe’s motion for summary judgment and deny the federal defendants’ and defendant-intervenors’ motions for summary judgment.
Mashpee Wampanoag: US Court ‘Stood Up For Justice’
Indian Country Today, Kolby KickingWoman, June 5
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has cleared a major legal hurdle in its battle to maintain its reservation status. A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Interior Department to reexamine its previous decision taking the tribe’s more than 300 acres in Massachusetts out of trust. “While we are pleased with the court’s findings, our work is not done,” tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement. “The Department of Interior must now draft a positive decision for our land as instructed by Judge Friedman. We will continue to work with the Department of the Interior — and fight them if necessary — to ensure our land remains in trust.”
Minneapolis City Council Members Intend To Defund And Dismantle The City’s Police Department
CNN, Dakin Andone, Christina Maxouris, Josh Campbell
Nine members of the Minneapolis City Council on Sunday announced they intend to defund and dismantle the city’s police department following the police killing of George Floyd.
Longtime Police Brutality Drove American Indians To Join The George Floyd Protests
The Washington Post, Katrina Phillips, June 6
The nationwide protests roiling the country ignited in Minneapolis where people gathered to protest the long history of racial violence by the Minneapolis Police Department and the killing of George Floyd. On those first nights of protest, there was a noticeable indigenous presence among the protesters: a person in beaded earrings and a red and black mask calling attention to the violent acts perpetrated against indigenous women, someone carrying a hand drum and another protester wearing a “Free Leonard Peltier” shirt with a sign that read “Derek Chauvin is a murderer.” Protesters flew the flag of the American Indian Movement and wore shirts, jackets or vests that bore the organization’s insignia.
D.C. Mayor Bowser Has ‘Black Lives Matter’ Painted On Street Leading To White House
NBC News, Rebecca Shabad, June 5
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser on Friday had “Black Lives Matter” painted on the street that leads to the White House where protesters have been demonstrating following George Floyd’s death in police custody. “There are people who are craving to be heard and to be seen, and to have their humanity recognized, and we had the opportunity to send that message loud and clear on a very important street in our city,” Bowser said at a press conference.
From Alaska To D.C., Natives March In Solidarity
Indian Country Today, Dalton Walker, June 5
From tiny Unalakleet, Alaska, to an intersection on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to the streets of Havre, Montana, to a public park in Riverton, Wyoming — places that might take a bit longer to find on Google Maps — people are participating in the Black Lives Matter movement. Tricia Ivanoff, Inupiaq and Yupik, carried a Black Lives Matter sign Wednesday and marched with about two dozen others through their coastal Alaska town, home of the Native Village of Unalakleet and around 700 people. About half of the participants were Alaska Native, and all were out in solidarity with a movement that continues to grow in momentum across Turtle Island.
COVID-19 Cases Surpass 6,000 On Navajo Nation; Death Toll Stands At 277
Native News Online, June 7
Numbers released by the Navajo Nation on Sunday night report the number of positive COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation has surpassed 6,000 with 6,020 cases. On Sunday, 102 new cases have been added to the total. The Navajo Nation first reported its first cases of COVID-19 on March 17, 2020.
As Montana Opens For Tourism…Tribes Take A Different Course Based On The Value Of Elders
Indian Country Today, Kathleen McLaughlin, June 7
As Montana plows forward with its reopening, including throwing open the doors to tourism this month, the outlook is starkly different for members of the state’s tribal nations, which have approached the coronavirus with greater caution and stricter controls.
Surviving Apocalypses … Again
Indian Country Today, June 5
For months now the global pandemic has dominated the news cycle. Now the country is facing the biggest wave of civil rights protests ever. Joining us today on our Reporters’ Roundtable are two journalists who have been covering these stories. Dana Hedgpeth, Haliwa Saponi, is a reporter with the Washington Post. She’s been at the Post since 1999 and covers breaking news, courts, military spending commercial real estate and other beats.
Quarantines, Curfews, And Checkpoints. How Sovereign Nations Deal With The Coronavirus
Indian Country Today, Terry Anderson, June 7
With more than 8 million residents, it is no surprise that New York City has the highest cumulative number of COVID-19 cases, but, with a reservation population of 175,000 and 3,632 confirmed infections, the per capita infection rate on the sparsely populated Navajo Nation surpasses New York City and is among the highest in the world. The number of deaths on the reservation is higher than some states with more than 15 times the population and is 10 times more than the neighboring state of Arizona.
Rigorous Preparations Help Ease Virus Fears In Alaska Fishing Towns
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, June 5
When the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and began spiking in parts of the lower 48, people in Alaska fishing towns got worried. Relatively few cases had emerged in their state, but fishing season was approaching, meaning workers would soon be arriving from across the U.S. In Dillingham and other communities in the Bristol Bay region, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, many locals demanded the season be called off.
Wind Creek Casinos In Alabama To Reopen
Indian Country Today, June 7
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is planning to reopen its electronic bingo casinos on Monday. Wind Creek Hospitality said all three Alabama casinos will reopen with safety changes. The casinos had been closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Masks or face coverings will be required for everyone. Wind Creek said in a news release that all of the properties will be limiting the number of guests on the casino floor. The new capacity will be roughly one-third of normal operations.
Navajo Nation Extends Casino Closures
Indian Country Today, June 6
The Navajo Nation’s gambling operation had hoped to reopen its casinos in mid-June, but they’ll stay closed until at least early July because of the coronavirus outbreak. Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise officials said Friday that closures ordered to help curb the spread of the virus will stay in place due to a recent order by tribal President Jonathan Nez that continues closures of tribal government operations through July 5.
Curfew Curtailing Casinos? Don’t Bet On It, Owners Say
Indian Country Today, Lisa Diethelm, June 6
Public spaces around Arizona this week may have been closed overnight by a statewide curfew, but the casinos have stayed open. After being closed for months by COVID-19, casinos around the state had just started to reopen when Gov. Doug Ducey last weekend imposed a statewide dusk-to-dawn curfew in response to protests over George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis. But casinos around the state said their hours are unchanged, curfew or no curfew.
CARES Act Funding:
‘The Delay Must End’: CARES Act Litigation
Indianz.com, June 5
The tribal plaintiffs in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Mnuchin renewed their motion for a preliminary injunction on June 5, 2020, calling for the distribution of the money remaining in the $8 billion coronavirus relief fund by an “immediate and definitive date.” Title V of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, required the Department of the Treasury to distribute the fund “not later than 30 days” after enactment of the law on March 27. Despite the deadline, tribes are still waiting on the full amount promised to their governments.
Navajo Nation Stymied By CARES Act Restrictions
NPR, Laurel Morales, June 5
At the end of March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, set aside $8 billion for tribes. But the money came with restrictions. It can only be used to cover expenses that are “incurred due to the public health emergency.” On the Navajo Nation, the public health emergency is inherently related to some basic infrastructure problems. Navajo President Jonathan Nez says the way to address this public health emergency is to make sure people can wash their hands with clean running water.
Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Seeking Public Help To Find Navajo Elder And Witness Of Home Depot Incident
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, June 6
An alleged incident at the Gallup, New Mexico Home Depot involving an elderly man and an assistant manager has drawn the attention of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. The incident was chronicled in a May 18 Facebook post that claims an elderly man was mistreated and subjected to abusive racial remarks by the store’s assistant manager.
Vote-By-Mail Systems Could Offer Challenges For Native Americans
CBS News, Grace Segers, June 5
As the coronavirus has ravaged the country, killing 100,000 Americans and leaving 40 million without jobs, states are beginning to consider voting by mail as a safer alternative to in-person voting.
The U.S. Commission On Civil Rights Announces COVID-19 Updates To Prior Reports On Voting Rights And Native American Needs
Indianz.com, June 5
On June 5, 2020, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights voted to take up two short-term projects, focused on studying the particular civil rights implications of the coronavirus pandemic. Several of the Commission’s Advisory Committees have also voted to look at civil rights implications of the coronavirus pandemic.
Arizona Tribes Fearful After Losing Court Battle Over Uranium Mine Near Grand Canyon
AZ Central, Debra Krol, June 5
Havasupai Vice Chairman Matthew Putesoy is worried that a federal court decision regarding a uranium mine could lead to environmental catastrophe for his community and surrounding lands. A U.S. District Court judge ruled May 22 against the tribe and two environmental groups in a seven-year-old lawsuit that sought to close the Canyon Mine, a uranium mine located about 10 miles south of the Grand Canyon’s south rim.