Good morning, NUNAverse:

Johnson & Johnson announced this morning that its one-dose COVID-19 vaccine was 72% effective in the United States, but dropped to 57% in South Africa, where a highly contagious variant is driving most cases. The vaccine was 85% effective in preventing severe disease regardless of variant in all three regions where the trial was run: the United States, Latin America and South Africa. After 28 days, none of the vaccinated participants who developed COVID-19 had to be hospitalized.

The Navajo Nation reached 1,000 deaths related to COVID-19 on Thursday when 11 additional deaths were reported. The Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, also reported 59 new COVID-19 positive cases. According to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, over 40,000 doses of the vaccines administered so far and there have been no reports of adverse effects on the Navajo Nation.

Representative Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) has been named Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The new leadership role will allow Davids to help shape infrastructure policy in Kansas and across Indian Country. Davids has been a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee since she took office in 2019 and served as Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation. Before being elected to Congress, Davids worked at the U.S. Department of Transportation as a White House Fellow.

AT&T donated $1.5 million worth of supplies – hand sanitizer, disinfectant, gloves and more – to tribal colleges and universities across the country in order to tackle the disproportionate infection rates Native Americans face during the pandemic. “There is much more work to be done to ensure Native American communities have access to the resources needed to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” said Tom Brooks, vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T.

Keep reading for a full news update.


Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Offers Strong Protection But Fuels Concerns About Variants 

New York Times, Carl Zimmer, Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere, January 29 

Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that its one-dose coronavirus vaccine provided strong protection against Covid-19, potentially offering the United States a third powerful tool in a desperate race against a worldwide rise in virus mutations.

How Trump Will Be Remembered In Indian Country, According To Native Historians

Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, January 28

How will former President Trump be remembered by Indian Country? Native News Online asked university historians specializing in Native American studies, University of New Mexico’s Melanie Yazzie (Navajo) and Harvard’s Phil Deloria (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe). “The way that Donald Trump injected old… stereotypes goes back to when he was a casino person and he was so dismissive and focused on race and phenotype,” Deloria said. “He’s never thought about Native people at all, other than to mobilize a stereotype and think negative and derogatory kinds of things.”

Rep. Sharice Davids Named Vice Chair Of House Committee On Transportation & Infrastructure

Native News Online, January 28

Representative Sharice Davids has been named vice chair of the full House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The new leadership role will allow Davids to help shape infrastructure policy in Kansas and across Indian Country that will create jobs, improve public safety, tackle the climate crisis, and build the American economy. Davids, along with Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01), were the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress in 2018. While representing her constituents in her congressional district, Davids, who is a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, has supported issues important to Indian Country since entering Congress.


Navajo Nation Reaches 1,000 COVID-19 Related Deaths On Thursday

Native News Online, January 28

The Navajo Nation, the country’s largest Indian reservation, reached 1,000 deaths related to Covid-19 on Thursday when 11 additional deaths were reported. “Unfortunately, we reached 1,000 deaths today. We offer our thoughts and prayers to all of the families who have lost loved ones. We can all do our part to honor their memory and to prevent more deaths by keeping our guard up and taking all precautions to rescue the number of cases,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said.

Study: 75 Percent Of Natives Would Get Vaccinated

Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, January 28

American Indians and Alaska Natives are willing to get vaccinated at rates above the national average to prevent COVID-19 — despite safety concerns about the vaccines. Many are motivated by a desire to protect their community. That’s according to the first national study of Native American and Alaska Native attitudes toward, knowledge of and beliefs about COVID-19 vaccines. The Urban Indian Health Institute posed 49 questions in an online survey between Dec. 11 and Dec. 30, 2020. It received responses from 1,435 American Indians and Alaska Natives in 46 states and representing 318 tribal affiliations.

Democratic Lawmakers Push For Race Data In Vaccinations

AP News, Aaron Morrison, January 28

Democratic lawmakers are urging federal health officials to address racial disparity in vaccine access nationwide, as data from some states show hard-hit nonwhite Americans who are eligible to receive it are not getting COVID-19 vaccinations in proportion to their share of the population. The appeal comes as the U.S. recorded nearly 26 million COVID-19 cases and more than 429,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic nearly a year ago. The virus has taken a particularly severe toll on Black populations in the U.S. Along with Hispanic and Native American people, Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at nearly three times the rate of white Americans.


Pueblo Sues Feds Over Hospital Service

Indian Country Today, Dalton Walker, January 28

A pueblo in New Mexico fighting to keep its Indian Health Service facility fully operational has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Acoma Pueblo has sued the federal agency that oversees the Indian Health Service weeks after its leader accused the service of shuttering key hospital services without meaningful consultation. The lawsuit accuses the department of “failing to abide by federal law” and “refusing to take advantage of existing funding in millions of dollars” in pandemic relief money to fund Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Service Unit.

Ex-Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Fights Charges

Indian Country Today, Kolby Kickingwoman, January 28

The former chairman of a Massachusetts tribe is seeking to dismiss some of the federal bribery and extortion charges he’s facing over the tribe’s long-planned casino project. Cedric Cromwell served as chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag from 2009 until his November arrest. He filed a motion last week to dismiss three bribery counts. Cromwell also said in the filing he reserves the right to file a separate motion to dismiss a number of extortion charges he faces.

Beachgoers Cannot Access California Tribe’s Coastal Land, Appeals Court Rules

Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, January 28

In a win for tribal sovereignty, a California appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against a Northern California tribe requesting beach access to the tribe’s coastal property in Trinidad, Calif. on Wednesday. The Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria purchased the coastal property in 2000, and applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take the property into trust in 2016, a petition that is still pending but which would allow the tribe sovereignty rights over the land. 


Navajo Nation Reports Error In Hardship Assistance Checks

AP News, January 28

About 120,000 checks have been issued to Navajo Nation members who applied for hardship assistance from the tribe because of the coronavirus, the tribe said. That includes 370 checks that accidentally were duplicated and mailed. The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller announced the error Tuesday, a week after the first batch of checks was issued and blamed a printer server failure.

AT&T Gives $1.5m Worth Of Supplies To Tribal Schools

Indian Country Today, Kalle Benallie, January 28

Hand sanitizer, disinfectant and gloves are now available to more than 20 tribal colleges and universities across the country thanks to AT&T. The telecommunications company donated $1.5 million worth of supplies on Thursday to tackle the disproportionate infection rates Native Americans face during the pandemic. Schools from New Mexico, Minnesota and Washington are receiving the supplies from the American Indian College Fund, the nation’s largest charity for Native scholarships, and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, a national advocacy group that supports tribal colleges and universities.