Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and powerful Indian Country activist Suzan Shown Harjo has tested positive twice for COVID-19 over the last two months. Harjo says she has been asymptomatic, and insists she feels fine.

An Indian Health Service hospital serving South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation will once again be able to bill Medicare after earning the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission, a healthcare accrediting organization.

Tribes in Wisconsin that rely mostly on casino revenue to support their communities are struggling to provide government services after the pandemic forced businesses to shut down to curb the spread of the virus. About 241 tribes, including the 11 in Wisconsin, stand to lose about $22.4 billion, more than half their projected revenue this year, according to the National Indian Gaming Association.

Jessica Imotichey, Los Angeles Region Partnership Coordinator for the U.S. Census, spoke with Indian Country Today about the self-response mapping tool at where tribes and Native community members can keep up to date with their self-response rates. With the tool, individuals can search by a specific tribe, tribal reservation area, county, city, or state and see local response rates to the 2020 Census. This is part of a larger effort to encourage self response across Indian Country to ensure an accurate count of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States. published an opinion piece from Doug George-Kanentiio, vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge, calling for African American allies to support efforts to replace offensive mascots that use Native imagery and stereotypes, and to remove statues to controversial individuals such as Christopher Columbus and other colonizer statues.

Tribal nations are imposing stricter lockdown and social-distancing measures than their neighboring states, as reported by The Hill. This has created tensions with governors and the federal government. Many Native American leaders are worried that the recent surge in cases could disproportionately impact tribal members, just as they did in April and May. 

Keep reading for a full news update.

Nationwide Protests:

Theodore Roosevelt Statue, Flanked By African /and Native American Men, To Be Removed In New York 

Washington Post, Meagan Flynn, June 22

For decades, a hulking bronze statue of President Theodore Roosevelt atop a horse, flanked by Native American and African men on foot, has greeted visitors at the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

No Longer On A Pedestal, California Columbus Statue Gets Closeted

Native News Online, Nanette Kelley, June 22

Due to past mayhems concerning his sculpted likeness, Christopher Columbus was taken into protective custody last week in Chula Vista, Calif. Despite the fact a statue can be cloistered, systemic historical racism cannot. For example, although the Christopher Columbus Memorial at the so-called Discovery Park, located on traditional Kumeyaay land in Chula Vista, offers a false impression of history to visitors, TripAdvisor members give the site a 5-out-of-5 rating. One member, Arktosjewel, noted, “Imagine my delight upon viewing school children’s artwork depicting Columbus’s arrival into the Americas as well as a bronze statue of Columbus shipped all the way from Spain! This is a treasure for anyone interested in history.” Throughout the United States, memorials of Christopher Columbus and other heroes of American historical fiction are increasingly at risk of torture, dismemberment, burning, and drowning by protesters. 

Now Is The Time For The Washington NFL Team To Drop Its Racist Name

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, June 22

As an American Indian, I have tried for years to understand the psychology behind non-Natives taking on our names and images for local schools or in the world of professional sports. Three years ago, I attended two school board meetings in Paw Paw, Mich., where a group of American Indians were calling on the school system to drop the Redsk!ns name. Both meetings were emotionally charged with multiple generations of “Redsk!ns” testifying during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying they would never change and threatened to vote school board members out of office if they voted to drop the name. Among the most memorable speakers to come forth at the second meeting I attended was an elderly man, who appeared to be in his 80s.  As he spoke, his face turned red and he pointed his finger at the group of American Indians in the crowd, telling them he had some tar at home and if he had some feathers, he would have come to “tar and feather” the group.

The First Americans Can Help Find A Path To Healing In America

Indian Country Today, Hilary C. Tompkins, June 22 

In the midst of the coronavirus global pandemic, it is hard not to feel like the world is out of balance. From the Native American perspective, Mother Nature and Father Sky are telling us that the world is not well. My tribe, the Navajo Nation, has faced a very tough fight against the coronavirus. While we are located in a remote area of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, the virus has found us and taken a serious toll. At last count, the Navajo Nation had a total of 4,253 cases and 146 confirmed deaths, reaching the highest rate of infection per capita in the country. Drastic measures have been necessary given the gravity of the situation. The Navajo Nation has imposed 57-hour weekend lockdowns, including the closure of grocery stores and gas stations.

Doug George-Kanentiio: We Need African American Allies To Replace Offensive Mascots And Statues, Doug George-Kanentiio, June 22

Our Native people have marched with millions of others to protest the killing by police of African Americans. The tragic fact is that of all ethnic groups this country’s indigenous people have the highest rate of death by cop. We endure, despite the small pockets of casino wealth, critically high rates of poverty, violence and discrimination. We are dehumanized by American sports team mascots, trivialized in the media and burdened by the vicious myths in school textbooks. It is small wonder that the local, state and federal law enforcement agents see us as little more than savages and respond accordingly.


Indian Health Service Cites Strides In Era Of COVID-19 As Challenges Linger, Kevin Abourezk, June 22

A troubled Indian Health Service hospital serving South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation will once again be able to bill Medicare after earning the highest level of approval from a prestigious healthcare accrediting organization. The Pine Ridge Hospital lost its ability to bill Medicare for services provided to its patients in November 2017 after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) placed the facility on “immediate jeopardy” status, a category used to indicate the likelihood of imminent injury, serious harm, death or impairment to patients. The decision also affected the hospital’s Medicaid funding. James Driving Hawk, IHS Great Plains Area director, said last Thursday that a CMS survey team conducted a survey of the hospital in December and found the hospital to be 100 percent compliant with federal healthcare standards. The Joint Commission, the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care, then conducted a survey in May and later granted the hospital its highest level of accreditation, its Gold Seal of Approval for Hospital Accreditation.

Sunday COVID-19 Navajo Nation Update: 27 New Cases And One New Death

Native News Online, June 22

On Sunday, the Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reported 27 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and one death. The total number of deaths reached 335 as of Sunday. Reports from 11 health care facilities on and near the Navajo Nation indicate that approximately 3,603 individuals recovered from COVID-19, with one health care facility report still pending. 49,027 people have been tested for COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation is 6,990.

‘I Feel Fine’: Legendary Activist Suzan Shown Harjo On Living With COVID-19, Acee Agoyo, June 22

Suzan Shown Harjo has been at the forefront of every major Indian Country battle. From protecting sacred sites to addressing cultural appropriation and racist mascots, the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient has seen it all and has been celebrated for her role in advancing tribal causes. The Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee activist is now facing a new challenge. Over the last two months, she’s tested positive not once, but twice, for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But as she spoke via phone from the nation’s capital, Harjo sounded as strong as ever. She said she has been asymptomatic, meaning she hasn’t experienced a high fever, shortness of breath or any of the conditions associated with the virus. “I feel fine,” Harjo told Indianz.Com on Sunday. She repeated her assessment: “I feel fine.” 

Native American Tribal Nations Take Tougher Line On COVID-19 As States Reopen

The Hill, James Bikales, June 21

Native American tribal nations are imposing stricter lockdown and social-distancing measures than their neighboring states, creating tensions with both governors and the federal government. Many Native American leaders are worried that the recent surge in cases could disproportionately impact tribal members, just as they did in April and May. In response, some tribal governments have exercised their sovereignty to reinstate lockdowns and travel bans as neighboring states move in the opposite direction. “It’s a greater challenge for us to deal with knowing that just right across the borders, everyone else is doing things different,” Cheyenne River Sioux chairman Harold Frazier told The Hill. 


Gila River Tribe Recloses 3 Arizona Casinos After COVID-19 Cases Spike, Employee Death

Native News Online, June 22

Five weeks after reopening its casinos, Gila River Gaming Enterprises Inc. temporarily closed three facilities for two weeks as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Arizona. The Gila River Indian Community said it opted to again close the properties, citing the rising COVID-19 case numbers in Arizona, following a review of its safety plan and feedback from the community and team members. The tribe operates casinos in Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva. “Nothing is more important to our Community than the well-being of our team members and guests, children, elders and families,” Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said in a statement. “Like our sister tribes and businesses all over Arizona, we have tried to do what is best for all, while processing new information and new guidelines about the pandemic with little in the way of definitive guidance.” The temporary casino and hotel closures, effective as of Thursday, June 18, came less than five weeks after the Gila River Indian Community’s hotel and casino operations reopened in central Arizona. The casinos were closed from mid March through May 15.

Wisconsin Tribes Reliant On Casinos Hit Hard By Pandemic

AP News, June 22

Tribes in Wisconsin that rely mostly on casino revenue to support their communities are struggling to provide government services after the pandemic forced businesses to shut down to curb the spread of the virus. About 241 tribes, including the 11 in Wisconsin, stand to lose about $22.4 billion, more than half their projected revenue this year, according to the National Indian Gaming Association. The organization is dedicated to protecting the welfare and sovereignty of tribes, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. “Gaming, for the most part, is what we survive on,” said Ernest Stevens Jr., a citizen of Wisconsin’s Oneida Nation and chairman of National Indian Gaming Association. “In a lot of cases, if we don’t have gaming, we don’t have dollars. We don’t have a tax base.” All the state’s casinos made nearly $1.3 billion in gross revenue based on nearly $17.6 billion in wagers made in the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to recent figures from the Wisconsin Department of Administration, which regulates the compacts that govern tribal gaming.


Trump To Celebrate Border Wall Milestone In Arizona

AP News, Astrid Galvan, June 22

President Donald Trump is set to mark 200 miles (322 kilometers) of wall along the southwest border in Arizona on Tuesday, in an area where crews have built dozens of miles of new fencing amid a coronavirus breakout and protests from opponents who say construction is destroying important habitats. “Trump’s racist border wall has scarred our public lands, destroyed cultural sites for Indigenous people, and pushed wildlife closer to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, chief political strategist at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “With the country’s economy wrecked and coronavirus cases spiking in Arizona, his visit is a cheap political campaign stunt that only reveals how out of touch he is.” 

2020 Census: Six Tribes, One Count And A Lot At Stake

Indian Country Today, June 22 

Every ten years the federal government requires a census count of every person living in the United States. Counting so many people is a daunting task and this year the coronavirus pandemic is making it especially tough to count American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Jessica Imotichey, Los Angeles Region Partnership Coordinator for the U.S. Census talks about concerns of not having an accurate count in Indian Country. “We have had some challenges due to the coronavirus to COVID-19. So that did put a hold on a lot of our operation. That was particularly difficult in Alaska where you already have remote villages.” “Well, because of coronavirus, many villages closed and they also limited travel to those villages, therefore it did not allow us to move forward with that operation.”

Alaska Lawmakers Allege Discrimination In Arctic Decision

AP News, June 22

Alaska’s congressional delegation has asked federal regulators to investigate possible discrimination against Alaska Natives by large banks refusing to fund Arctic oil and gas projects. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young issued a letter Tuesday saying banks may be discriminating against Alaska Natives who depend on the oil and gas industry for their livelihoods, The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday. The Republican members of Congress sent the letter to the head of the Federal Reserve, the comptroller of the currency and the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. There was no immediate response from the agencies. Five major American banks and several international banks have announced policies since November prohibiting or limiting investment in new oil and gas projects in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The banks include Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Swiss bank UBS.

Santa Fe Indian Market Launches New Fellowship Program To Help Artists With Digital Marketing

Native News Online, Tamara Ikenberg, June 22

The decision to shift August’s Santa Fe Indian Market into digital territory due to COVID-19 raised concerns that talented artists without online marketing skills may be at a disadvantage. “We have several hundred artists who will be participating in the virtual market and they really run the gamut as far as technical savvy,” said Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) PR and Marketing Director Amanda Crocker. “Although some have an incredible web presence already and are rocking it, there are people who need help with digital marketing.” To level the virtual playing field, Crocker conceived SWAIA’s new Artists Helping Artists Fellowship, a chance for indigenous multimedia professionals and experienced amateurs, including photographers, videographers, and web designers, to help artists maximize their online selling and storytelling power.

Annual ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival Goes Digital For 2020

Native News Online, Rich Tupica, June 22

For more than two decades, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival has celebrated Indigenous storytelling in film, video, audio, digital and other forms of interactive art. While it’s based in Canada, imagineNATIVE has spotlighted a diverse roster of talent from around the globe, reflecting the dynamism of Indigenous nations in contemporary media. Now, with COVID-19 concerns still looming, festival organizers announced this year’s festival has moved online and will run October 20-25.  The event, now in its 21st year, may have moved to a streaming platform, but organizers confirmed it will feature as much Native talent as ever. The six-day digital gathering will spotlight over 100 Indigenous artists while presenting live screenings, featured discussions, interactive engagements, live pitches, performances, virtual exhibitions, and other special events.

Menominee Tribal Police Ask For Public Assistance To Locate Missing Native American Woman, Katelyn Kelley

Native News Online, June 22

The Menominee Tribal Police Department is asking for public assistance in locating a 22-year-old Native American woman who has been missing since last Tuesday, June 16. Katelyn L. Kelley was last seen walking on the Menominee Indian Reservation at about 10:30 p.m. in the area of County Highway VV (East) and Silver Canoe Road. She was walking on the highway towards the village of Keshena. Kelley was wearing a grey t-shirt, black swimsuit top, blue jean shorts and black flip-flops. Kelley is described as being Native American, 5’2” tall, weighing 140 lbs. with brown eyes and brown hair. Kelley’s family reported her missing on Thursday, June 18 and say it is highly unusual for her to not check in with family for this long of time. The Menominee Police Department continues to investigate and search for Kelley. The department has followed up on numerous tips about her whereabouts but have not resulted in locating her. 

Nazko First Nation Man Had A ‘wonderful Energy’

Indian Country Today, Kalle Benallie, June 22

William Prince spread joy to everyone he met and smiled so much growing up that he gained the nickname “cheeks” from his classmates and teachers. “He was never mad or anything like that,” said his mother, Rosemarie Massey. Prince, Nazko First Nation, died May 17 from heart failure after being hospitalized with the coronavirus. He was 31. Prince was born in British Columbia, but Massey raised him since he was 6 months old in South Dakota. She said he was always keeping her on her toes. She remembers on one birthday, she gave him a skateboard and roller skates. Later she found him ready to jump off the porch, with his skates on, onto the skateboard.