Good morning, NUNAverse:

The Navajo Nation met their goal of administering 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of February yesterday, with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer announcing that the Navajo Area Indian Health Service has administered 101,332 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

NPR has set up a tool to help individuals understand how the vaccination process works in different states, providing a way to connect with local resources. There are a few larger cities across the country operating on their own immunization plan, and they are included in the tool as well.

The South Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 166 yesterday, which would protect individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity with specific identification as Native Two-Spirit. The bill, if approved, will expand the prosecution of hate crimes to include race, color, ethnicity, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or identification as a  Native Two-Spirit person.

An investigation from local NBC affiliate King 5 in Seattle accuses the city-owned utility that generates that power of harnessing cost-effective electricity on the backs of Puget Sound salmon, killer whales, and the way of life for Native tribes in the Skagit Valley. Since the federal government last relicensed Seattle’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project in 1995, three species of fish that inhabit the river have landed on the endangered species list: bull trout, steelhead and Chinook salmon. And in 2005, orcas, who depend on Chinook salmon from the Skagit to survive, were also listed as endangered.

Yesterday afternoon the Perseverance Rover landed on Mars, marking the end of its six month journey to the red planet and the start of its mission to extract rock samples from Jezero Crater over the next two years. Native News Online spoke to Aaron Yazzie (Diné), one of just a handful of Native people working on the project, about Perseverance and his journey to working as an engineer at NASA.

Keep reading for a full news update.


Here’s How Severe Weather Is Affected COVID-19 Vaccinations In These States

CNN, Christina Maxouris, February 19

The frigid temperatures, snow and ice that have devastated parts of the country are having an impact on Covid-19 vaccinations, delaying deliveries and appointments for shots.

How To Sign Up For A COVID-19 Vaccine In Your State

NPR, Selena Simmons-Duffin, February 18

The COVID-19 vaccines are here, but if it’s your turn to get vaccinated, how are you supposed to sign up?

More Than 100,000 COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Administered on Navajo Nation – 76% of Population

Native News Online, February 18

The Navajo Nation set a goal of administering 100,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of February. The goal was met on Thursday, February 18. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer announced that the Navajo Area Indian Health Service has administered 101,332 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines on the Navajo Nation as of Thursday. Navajo Area IHS reported that 133,765 total vaccine doses have been received, 101,332 administered, which represents 76 percent so far. 23,729 individuals have received a first and second dose of the vaccines.

Pfizer To Begin COVID Vaccine Clinical Trial In Pregnant Women

NBC News, Erika Edwards, February 18

Pfizer-BioNTech said Thursday that it is beginning clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine in pregnant women, the first such trials to include expectant mothers in the U.S.


South Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Passes Bill Protecting Native American Two-Spirit

Native News Online, Darren Thompson, February 18

Senate Bill 166 unanimously passed in the South Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning, making the bill the first time a state government in United States history has approved protections for Native American Two-Spirit individuals. The bill would protect individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity with specific identification as Native American Two-Spirit.

California Bill Swaps Columbus Day For Native American Day As Paid Holiday For Court Employees

Native News Online, Alina Bykova, February 18

Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) introduced a bill which would make California Native American Day, on the fourth Friday of September, a judicial holiday.

The measure, brought forward by Assemblymember Ramos, a lifelong resident of the San Manuel Indian Reservation and the first California Native American elected to the state Legislature, swaps the paid holiday on Columbus Day for California Native American Day. All state and local court employees would receive a paid holiday in celebration of California Native American Day if the bill is approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.


Cherokee Nation Closes 10 Casinos To Prevent Electricity Shortages As Cold Snap Hits Oklahoma

Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, February 18

When an unprecedented winter storm bringing freezing temperatures rolled through the Midwest earlier this week, Cherokee Nation Businesses answered the call from energy companies to conserve power to protect against cut-offs. Starting Monday, Cherokee Nation Businesses, an enterprise of the Cherokee Nation, shut down its 10 casinos throughout northeast Oklahoma to do its part.


What To Know About Deb Haaland’s Confirmation Hearing

Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, February 18

New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing will be held on February 23 before she can become the nation’s next Interior secretary. The hearing allows Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, to provide various senators on the committee with information about her plans to lead the Interior agency. Then senators will ask her questions about her views on managing the nation’s public lands, water, and national parks. This dialogue will likely be lively. Some senators, who support the extractive industry, have previously stated their opposition to Haaland’s nomination because she protested the Keystone XL pipeline and she publicly supports the Green New Deal.

Native Americans ‘Left Out In The Cold’ Under Trump Press Biden For Action

The New York Times, Mark Walker, February 18

After showing political clout in the 2020 election, tribal communities are hoping for more attention and money to address their long-running problems with poverty, health care and other issues. But with Mr. Biden’s election and Ms. Haaland’s nomination, tribal communities are looking for more than vague pledges. Angry over their treatment during the Trump administration, which oversaw a deeply flawed response to the pandemic on tribal lands and pursued other policies at odds with Native American priorities, they are now hopeful that Mr. Biden, who benefited from their enthusiastic support in battleground states like Arizona last year, will back a far-reaching agenda to address the poverty that has long ravaged their communities.


A Navajo Engineer Talks About Life At NASA, And The Rover Set To Land On Mars

Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, February 18

A NASA rover launched from Earth six months ago to collect rock core samples on Mars will make landing on a dry lakebed on the red planet this afternoon. The Perseverance Rover — the fifth robot NASA has launched since 1997 as part of a larger mission to understand whether life exists on Mars — has a name that holds significance for both the pandemic launch, and also for team members like Aaron Yazzie (Diné), one of just a handful of Native Americans working on the project.

Kiowa Volunteers Hand Out Supplies Amid Harsh Weather

Gaylord News, Nancy Spears, February 18

Oklahoma’s Kiowa Tribe is moving to expand emergency assistance efforts for tribal citizens as severe weather conditions are now only beginning to abate. The tribe is offering free firewood, and households with tribal elders are the first priority. In sub-freezing weather conditions, more than 20 Kiowa tribal employees volunteered on the frigid plains of the Kiowa Dance and Activity grounds to hand out food boxes to anyone who showed up on Friday, Feb. 12.

‘Tough As Nails:’ First Diné Woman Participates In Gender-Integrated Marine Corps Training

Navajo Times, Donovan Quintero, February 18

She turned 19 the day she stepped foot onto the yellow footprints. Jordan Peshlakai stepped off the bus on Feb. 9 to be the first Navajo female to train at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, which traditionally trains only men. More importantly, she arrived at Receiving Company to be the first in her family to step on the infamous footprints on which every Marine must first step.

Missing 8-Year-Old Girl’s Body Found On Crow Indian Reservation

Native News Online, Darren Thompson, February 18

An 8-year-old girl’s body was found on the Crow Indian Reservation on Thursday, according to a statement by Crow Tribal Chairman Frank White Clay. The girl’s name is Mildred Old Crow and she was reported missing in March 2019. Her body was found on Wednesday. Montana’s Department of Justice didn’t issue a missing and endangered persons advisory for Mildred until November 2020.

Native American Landowners Push Eighth Circuit To Order Dismantling Of Oil Pipeline

Courthouse News Service, Levi Lass, February 18

An Eighth Circuit panel will determine whether an oil pipeline running through Native American land should come down because its easement permit — issued in 1993 — expired years ago.

Seattle’s Skagit River Dam Hurts Salmon, Orcas And Native American Culture, Agencies Say

King 5, Susannah Frame, February 18

Citizens of Seattle enjoy some of the most affordable electricity in the country, but the city-owned utility that generates that power is accused of harnessing cost-effective electricity on the backs of Puget Sound salmon, killer whales and the way of life for Native American tribes in the Skagit Valley, a KING 5 investigation found.