Good Morning/Afternoon, NUNAverse,
Earlier today, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster in adolescents 12 to 15 years old. The agencyalso shortened the time between the completion of primary vaccination of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and a booster dose to five months from six. Finally, the FDA allowed for a third dose of vaccine in immunocompromised children 5 to 11 years of age. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, must still weigh in with a recommendation on the FDA’s announcement before the changes can take effect.
An Apology to Native Peoples of the United States was signed into law in 2010, included on page 3,453 of the 3,475-page-long Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Passed during President Barack Obama’s tenure in office, it “recognizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by the citizens of the United States.” No president has ever presented the apology nor read its words publicly, as noted by the Washington Post. Now, former Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who drafted the apology and worked diligently to get it passed in 2010, is launching an effort to champion the law and convince President Joe Biden to formally recognize it with a ceremony at the White House.
For over a decade, residents of the Fort Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona have been promised miles of pipeline that would bring clean drinking water to their communities. Now, a one-time windfall to help carry out the agreement could be on its way. The federal infrastructure bill signed last month includes $2.5 billion for Native water rights settlements, a tool tribes have used to define their rights to water from rivers and other sources and get federal funding to deliver it to residents. The federal government has not disclosed how the money will be divvied up. But tribes involved in more than 30 settlements — many in the U.S. West, including the White Mountain Apache of the Fort Apache Reservation — are eligible and eagerly awaiting specifics. Access to reliable, clean water and basic sanitation facilities on tribal lands remains a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people. The funding for settlements is part of about $11 billion from the infrastructure law headed to Indian Country to expand broadband coverage, fix roads, and provide basic needs like running water.
The Squaxin Island Tribe in western Washington state, along the southernmost inlets of the Salish Sea, have received lands back from private owners, a forestry company called Port Blakely Companies. The company returned 2 miles of waterfront and 125 acres of the tribe’s ancestral tidelands on Little Skookum Inlet at no cost. Separately, Port Blakely Companies also sold 875 acres of upland forest back to its original stewards for an undisclosed amount. Chairman Kris Peters told The Seattle Times that the tribe has no plans to develop the waterfront property. The forested property the tribe re-acquired this week was part of the land they stewarded before the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854, when they ceded 4,000 square miles, or 2,560,000 acres, to the United States government.
Keep reading for a full news update.
FDA Authorizes A Pfizer Booster Shot For children Ages 12 To 15
NPR, Scott Hensley and Joe Hernandez, January 3
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of a Pfizer-BioNTech booster in adolescents 12 to 15 years old. The agency on Monday also shortened the time between the completion of primary vaccination of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and a booster dose to five months from six.
NYC’s First Health Survey Of Native American Residents Reveals Inequities
New York Post, Carl Campanile, January 2
The New York City Health Department has conducted its first ever study to highlight the conditions of more than 100,000 Native Americans/Indigenous Peoples who live in the five boroughs. The department’s collaboration with the groups representing aboriginal peoples aided city health officials in providing this population with crucial information during the coronavirus pandemic, city officials said. The report said that “existing health, economic and other forms of inequities have converged during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase risk of exposure, infection, and death among Indigenous peoples.” A higher percentage of Native Americans also reported heavy drinking of alcohol, consuming sugary drinks or being overweight/obese.
Native American Tribes Have Made Progress Against COVID-19. Omicron Has Them ‘Back In Crisis Mode.’
AP News, Bill Keveney, January 1
Native American tribes have been especially vigilant in encouraging COVID-19 vaccines and enacting stringent safety protocols. The next challenge for these communities that have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic: The omicron variant. Tribes and the federal Indian Health Service are reporting huge case spikes in the days after Christmas, reflecting the situation across much of the country.
Will Indigenous People Get Apology From Us?
Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, January 2
An Apology to Native Peoples of the United States was signed into law in 2010, included on page 3,453 of the 3,475-page-long Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Passed during President Barack Obama’s tenure in office, it “recognizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by the citizens of the United States.” The apology landed with a mysterious, unacknowledged thud and has essentially been ignored and forgotten ever since. No president has ever presented the apology in public nor read its words publicly, as noted by the Washington Post. Now, former Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, who drafted the apology and worked diligently to get it passed in 2010, is launching an effort to champion the law and convince President Joe Biden to formally recognize it with a ceremony at the White House.
In these times of calls for racial reckoning, as news emerges of the discoveries of thousands of remains of Indigenous children who died at boarding schools in Canada and the U.S., a public apology with no strings attached seems like a win-win all around.
Court Rules Mining Rights Stay with the Feds on Oklahoma Tribal Lands
Native News Online, December 30
In the battle between state and federal government over who has surface mining jurisdiction on the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation in Oklahoma, a federal judge favored the feds last week when he shot down the state’s injunction. The legal footing for the battle began last year, when the Supreme Court said that a chunk of land in eastern Oklahoma was never disestablished from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation, and is therefore sovereign tribal lands. The implications of the McGirt vs. Oklahoma ruling—which effectively expanded the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation—allowed the Interior Department in April to take over mining jurisdiction on the reservation. In response, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt (Cherokee and Choctaw) sued the federal government to stop the jurisdictional change. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot wrote in his ruling on Dec. 22 that, while the case represents “a prime example of the havoc flowing from the McGirt decision,” his decision was also “legally unavoidable.”
$2.5B Headed To Tribes For Long-Standing Water Settlements
AP News, Suman Naishadham, December 24
For over a decade, residents of the rural Fort Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona have been promised miles of pipeline that would bring clean drinking water to their communities.
Now, a one-time windfall to help carry out the agreement could be on its way. The federal infrastructure bill signed last month includes $2.5 billion for Native American water rights settlements, a tool tribes have used to define their rights to water from rivers and other sources and get federal funding to deliver it to residents. The federal government has not disclosed how the money will be divvied up. But tribes involved in more than 30 settlements — many in the U.S. West, including the White Mountain Apache of the Fort Apache Reservation — are eligible and eagerly awaiting specifics. Access to reliable, clean water and basic sanitation facilities on tribal lands remains a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people. The funding for settlements is part of about $11 billion from the infrastructure law headed to Indian Country to expand broadband coverage, fix roads and provide basic needs like running water.
Tribes Hope Legal Win Will Shift Attention To Health Care
AP News, December 23
Native American tribes across the Great Plains are hoping that a decisive legal victory will shift federal officials’ attention to their struggle to obtain quality health care. The Rapid City Tribune reported Wednesday that the U.S. Justice Department has dropped an appeal of a federal judge’s 2020 ruling that the Indian Health Service must provide adequate health care to the South Dakota-based Rosebud Sioux Tribe as part of a treaty dating back to 1868. The tribe sued after the agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, closed its Rosebud emergency room in 2015, forcing tribal members to travel at least 50 miles to other hospitals. The U.S. Department of Justice under the Trump administration appealed the ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court upheld the ruling in August, saying the federal government must provide competent health care for the tribe.
Catholic Dioceses Investigate Their Role In Boarding Schools For Native Americans
The Wall Street Journal, Dan Frosch, January 1
Catholic dioceses across the U.S. are beginning to investigate their role in operating boarding schools for Native American children in the late 1800s and 1900s, including searching for evidence of students who might have died at the institutions. The inquiries under way at numerous dioceses follow an Interior Department investigation launched in June into the institutions, which were set up by the federal government to assimilate young Native Americans. Native students sometimes faced physical and emotional abuse, and thousands might have died from accidents, disease and other causes. Most of the schools were shut down by the 1970s. In November, two leading bishops in areas with large Native American populations—Gallup, N.M., and Oklahoma City—sent a letter to fellow bishops, urging them to examine the history of the boarding schools in their areas and to comply with the Interior Department investigation. The federal probe was initiated by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and is seeking to determine how many students died and where they are buried. The investigation was prompted by the discovery of unmarked graves of indigenous children at a church-run boarding school in Canada in May.
Navajo Nation To Distribute CARES Act Hardship Assistance To Navajo Elders
Native News Online, January 2
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer on Thursday signed a resolution that reallocates CARES Act funds for Hardship Assistance for enrolled citizens of the Navajo Nation who are 60 years old and over, and who previously demonstrated need for assistance to mitigate the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution was passed on Wednesday night by the Navajo Nation Council during a special session held on Wednesday. Nearly $16 million in CARES Act funds will provide approximately $300 dollars per eligible person 60 years and older. Elders will not need to re-apply for the hardship funds. The Office of the Controller is beginning the payment process and elders can anticipate receiving the check payment in this week or next.
Native American Child Advocate To Speak At Conference
AP News, January 1
A Native American child welfare advocate will be the keynote speaker in February at an annual conference hosted by Mississippi’s only federally recognized Native American tribe. Sandy White Hawk will speak at the 10th-annual Indian Child Welfare Act Conference. The event will be held on Feb. 16 at the Silver Star Convention Center at the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian’s Pearl River Resort in Choctaw. The annual conference began as an effort to educate state judges and social workers on requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act, according to a press release from Mississippi’s Administrative Office of Courts. The law gives Native American families priority in foster care and adoption proceedings involving Native children, and places reporting and other requirements on states.
French Diplomat Forges Ties With Native American Tribes
AP News, January 1
A French diplomat is working to build ties with French-speaking people in Louisiana in part through strengthening education programs. Consul General Nathalie Beras, who is based in New Orleans, recently traveled to southern Louisiana to learn more about Native American tribes in that area and that meetings with other groups are planned as well as possible weekend French classes. Beras and her team went to Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe-aux-Chenes and met with French-speaking members of Native American tribes during her outing that took place about two weeks ago. The newspaper said other meetings and visits are also being planned. Representatives of Tele-Louisiane, a media company that works to preserve the French language and culture in Louisiana, was also along for the trip including the company’s CEO, Will McGrew. The company is working with the Pointe-au-Chien tribe to start weekend French classes for local children in the future. McGrew told the newspaper that the company is also ready to assist local school boards if they want to start French-language programs in their areas.
Climate Change: Navajo Nation Faces Drought, Fires, Flooding
Indian Country Today, Pauly Denetclaw, December 29
The Navajo are among tens of thousands of Indigenous people in the U.S. feeling the impacts of climate change. An informal survey by Indian Country Today found that Indigenous communities have been hit particularly hard by the changing climate, with some forced to choose between their homelands and their safety. In coastal areas from Alaska to Louisiana and Florida, tribes are facing floods, rising sea levels, coastal erosion and increasingly powerful storms. In the Southwest and Plains, extreme drought and heat has taken hold, increasing the risk of wildfires and depleting water sources. All are facing the loss of their environment and threats to traditional foods and medicine. In the arid climate of the Navajo Nation, any changes in precipitation have drastic effects on the land. From 1996 to 2009, extreme drought conditions in the Navajo Nation caused some 30,000 livestock to perish. The drought also lowered water levels in aquifers, making the water so salinated that it became unusable, leaving whole communities without water.
Report Shows Reality Of Homicides In Indian Country
Native News Online, December 27
On November 19, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control released a report on homicides of American Indians/Alaska Natives from 2003-2018, as part of the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). According to the report, homicide is a leading cause of death for American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs). For homicides related to intimate partner violence (IPV), nearly 90 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native female victims were killed by a current or former intimate partner. The report covers data on 2,226 American Indian/Alaska Native homicides collected from 34 states and the District of Columbia. The homicide rate was 8 per 100,000 AI/AN population, and the rate was three times higher in men than women. The median age of victims was 32 years old, and the average age range was 23–44 years old.
Disaster Declaration Made For Wildfire-Ravaged Colville Reservation
Native News Online, December 24
President Biden has approved a disaster declaration for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in northeastern Washington, making federal dollars available to the tribe to build back facilities damaged by summer wildfires. The federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, according to The White House press release. One of the July wildfires, the Chuweah Creek fire, burned its way through four homes and 34,694 acres of the tribe’s timberland, The Spokesman Review reported at the time. It was the third major fire the Colville Reservation has sustained in six years, which directly correlates to the tribe’s economic development. Colville Tribal Chairman Andrew Joseph Jr told The Spokesman Review that 20% of the tribe’s finances come from logging.
Company Seeks To Restore Oil Lease On Land Sacred To Tribes
AP News, Matthew Brown, December 23
Attorneys for a Louisiana oil and gas company have asked a federal judge to reinstate a drilling lease it held on land considered sacred to Native American tribes in the U.S. and Canada. The long-disputed energy lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area of northwestern Montana near the Blackfeet Reservation was cancelled in 2016 under then-U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. That decision was upheld by a federal appeals court last year. Now Solenex LLC — the company that held the lease — is making another run at getting a court to restore its drilling rights. In court documents filed Thursday in a lawsuit against the Interior Department, its attorneys argued that Jewell exceeded her authority and the lease should be reinstated.
Private Company Returns Some Land To Squaxin Island Tribe
Native News Online, December 23
The Squaxin Island Tribe of western Washington state, along the southernmost inlets of the Salish Sea, have received lands back from private owners, a forestry company called Port Blakely Companies. The company returned 2 miles of waterfront and 125 acres of the tribe’s ancestral tidelands on Little Skookum Inlet at no cost. Separately, Port Blakely Companies also sold 875 acres of upland forest back to its original stewards for an undisclosed amount. At the time of publication, Chairman Kris Peters had not responded to Native News Online’s request for comment, but told The Seattle Times that the tribe has no plans to develop the waterfront property. Squaxin tribal members are descendants of the maritime people who lived along the shores and watersheds of the seven southernmost inlets of Puget Sound for many thousands of years, their website reads. “Our culture is still very much connected to this aquatic environment.” The forested property the tribe re-acquired this week was part of the land they stewarde before the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854, when they ceded 4,000 square miles, or 2,560,000 acres, to the United States government.
Alabama Responds To Tribal Claims; Repatriation Tentatively Moves Forward
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, December 23
Earlier this month, a federal committee determined that at least 5,892 human remains held in The University of Alabama’s museums collection are culturally linked to seven present day Muskogean-speaking tribes located throughout Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida. That determination—called “cultural affiliation” under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)—means that the tribes that have been attempting to reclaim their ancestors and their corresponding artifacts for over a decade are finally backed by the law. The University of Alabama had previously considered the remains and artifacts “unaffiliated.” Under NAGPRA, once human remains or objects are culturally affiliated, the institution must file a federal Notice of Inventory Completion to enable other tribes to determine their interest in claiming them. If there are no additional claims by another tribe after 30 days, an institution can move ahead with a Notice of Intent to Repatriate and move forward with returning the remains and/or objects. In response to the Nov. 24 ‘cultural affiliation’ determination, the University of Alabama sent a four page letter to the seven tribes, dated Dec. 4.