Good morning, NUNAverse:

Yesterday saw the second day of Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing to become the next Secretary of the Interior, and Indian Country Today provided live updates throughout the questioning from Senators. Following the hearing, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat who had been publicly undecided throughout the process, said that he will vote to confirm Congresswoman Haaland to serve as the head of the Interior Department. 

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is effective and prevents hospitalizations from the virus. Johnson & Johnson also revealed new data showing the vaccine may do a better-than-expected job at protecting patients against new variants of the virus. Meanwhile, VaccineFinder – a website run by Boston Children’s Hospital to coordinate the distribution of flu and childhood vaccines – has expanded to include the availability of COVID-19 vaccines at more than 20,000 locations. 

Following the ongoing news of COVID-19 variants spreading in the United States, the Los Angeles Times spoke to epidemiologists, doctors, and infectious-disease experts to find out of worry or fear are warranted. None of the people that the Los Angeles Times spoke to were “freaking out,” with Dr. Anabelle De St. Maurice from UCLA Health speaking on the impact vaccines will still have despite new variants. “Even in years when we don’t get a great match with the flu vaccine, we see some benefit of immunization,” she said. “And that’s the same for SARS-CoV-2. Even if the vaccines are less efficient, getting the vaccine is better than not getting the vaccine.”

In Colorado, a new bill that was recently introduced would require schools that use Native mascots would have to change their names and imagery or face monthly fines of $2,500. Schools like Arapahoe High School and Strasburg High School that have existing agreements about their mascots with Native tribes may be exempt from the ban, though that is still being discussed.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in California announced during a livestream event yesterday that it will be donating $20,000 to fifty small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. The tribe and the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, a non-profit organization, selected the businesses in San Bernardino County due to the devastating economic impact from the pandemic.

Keep reading for a full news update.

Deb Haaland Confirmation Hearing:

‘Obligated To Protect This Land’: Haaland Stands Ground On Day Two Of Confirmation Hearing

Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, February 24

On the second day of confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Interior Department — a position that ranks eighth under the president and tasked with overseeing federal lands and waters across the country — Rep. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) of New Mexico reminded senators that, if confirmed, she will work together with lawmakers to find bipartisan solutions. Rep. Haaland sat for an additional two and a half hours of questioning Wednesday morning, picking up the hearing from an initial two and a half hours the day prior. Some Republican Senators drove hard questions addressing what they said were concerns about “radical views” and Haaland blindly advancing Biden’s “non-scientific based agenda.”

Deb Haaland’s Heated Day Two Hearing

Indian Country Today, February 24

Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico will continue to testify for her nomination to become the next secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, answered second round of questions for more than two hours from a bipartisan group of 20 senators on the Senate Committee of Energy and Natural Resources Wednesday. The following article outlines the question and response portion from Wednesday’s hearing.

Indian Country Defends Deb Haaland

Indian Country Today, February 24

Social media has Deb Haaland’s back. Rep. Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat, answered a series of questions for the second straight day as part of a historic Senate confirmation hearing. Haaland, 60, is President Joe Biden’s nominee for Interior secretary, and could potentially be the first Native to serve in a president’s Cabinet. At times, questions or interactions directed at Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, were intense, mostly coming from Republican Senators. The hearing’s second day lasted a little more than two hours.

Haaland Retains Her Composure In The Face Of “Immense Disrespect” In Confirmation Hearing

Native News Online, Arianna Amehae, February 24

“I carry my life experiences with me everywhere I go. It’s those experiences that give me hope for the future. If an Indigenous woman from humble beginnings can be confirmed as Secretary of the Interior, our country holds promise for everyone,” Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) shared in her opening statement before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a former chairman of Indian Affairs, set the tone for Haaland’s confirmation hearing. After some predictable quick fire “yes or no” questions on the continued viability of fossil-fuel extraction which Haaland answered in the affirmative, Barrasso took issue with an October 2020 Tweet from Haaland in which she suggested, “Republicans don’t believe in science.”

Manchin Says He’ll Vote For Haaland For Interior Secretary

AP News, Matthew Daly, February 24

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Wednesday that he will vote for New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland to serve as interior secretary, clearing the way for her likely approval as the first Native American to head a Cabinet agency. Manchin, a moderate from West Virginia, had been publicly undecided through two days of hearings on Haaland’s nomination by President Joe Biden. Manchin caused a political uproar last week by announcing plans to oppose Biden’s choice for budget director, Neera Tanden, a crucial defection that could sink her nomination in the evenly divided Senate.

Alaska Native Enthusiasm For Interior Nominee Puts Murkowski On The Spot 

Alaska Public Media, Liz Ruskin, February 24 

President Biden’s choice for Interior secretary presents a dilemma for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, pitting a long-held political goal against one of her base constituencies.


Cherokee Nation Removes “By Blood” From Its Constitution

Native News Online, Darren Thompson, February 24

The Cherokee Nation removed the term “by blood” from its Constitution, paving a path for other tribes on an often debated topic in Indian Country: blood quantum. The decision was made by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, and was made in response to the federal Cherokee Nation v. Nash case where descendants of Black slaves, known as Freedman, have full rights as Cherokee citizens based on the Treaty of 1866.

Native Mascots: 

Local Representative Says Bill To Ban Native American Mascots “Not Necessary” 

KEPR TV, Eliana Sheriff, February 24 

About 30 schools in our state may need to find a new mascot after a bill to ban the use of Native American mascots at schools is advancing.

Colorado Lawmakers Want To Force Schools To Get Rid Of American Indian Mascots – Or Pay Up 

Loveland Reporter-Herald, Saja Hindi, February 24 

Colorado schools with mascots like “Savages” and “Reds” would have to change the derogatory American Indian symbols or face monthly fines under a bill just introduced in the Colorado legislature.


FDA Scientists Endorse J&J’s COVID Vaccine, As New Data Shed Light On Efficacy 

STAT News, Matthew Herper and Helen Branswell, February 24 

Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that the single-shot Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is effective and prevents hospitalizations from the disease.

Helping People Find COVID-19 Vaccines Is Aim Of C.D.C.-Backed Site

New York Times, Rebecca Robbins and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, February 24 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hoping to make it easier for Americans to find Covid-19 vaccines, is backing the test of a centralized online portal where the public can search for nearby vaccination locations with doses on hand.

Navajo Area IHS Reports That 116,611 Vaccine Doses Have Been Administered

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, February 24

As of Tuesday, the Navajo Area Indian Health Service (IHS) reported that 135,685 total vaccine doses have been received, 116,611 administered, which represents nearly 86-percent so far. 28,961 individuals have received a first and second dose of the vaccines. The Navajo Department of Health reported 20 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and seven more deaths. The total number of deaths is now 1,152 as of Tuesday.

‘Bring Vaccine To Our People’: Clinics Target Alaska’s Pacific Islanders, A Group Hit Hardest By COVID-19

Anchorage Daily News, Zaz Hollander, February 24

Lusiana Hansen knows too well the toll COVID-19 has taken on Alaska’s Pacific Islander community, a group hit harder by the virus and vaccinated less than any other in the state. So Hansen, president and founder of the Polynesian Association of Alaska, watched closely as the state’s vaccine rollout began, starting with health care workers and people in long-term care centers before moving to seniors. It seemed to her that most in her community fell outside those tiers. As Hansen tried to urge others to sign up for appointments, her efforts fell short. Her people seemed like the last in line.

New Coronavirus Variants Are Everywhere: Will They Drag Out The Pandemic? 

Los Angeles Times, Deborah Netburn, February 10 

Just when it looked like there might be a light at the end of this dark pandemic tunnel, along comes a suite of new coronavirus strains that are more transmissible, at least partially resistant to vaccines and able to infect people who’ve already had COVID-19.


Tribe Gives Thousands To Small Businesses

Indian Country Today, Kalle Benallie, February 24

Fifty small businesses in California were clueless about how much money the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians were going to give them. It was a big surprise of $20,000 each. Tribal Chairman Ken Ramirez broke the news to the business owners in a livestream event and said he aspires that it will encourage others to help businesses. The tribe and the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, a non-profit organization, pre-selected the businesses in San Bernardino County due to the devastating economic impact from the pandemic.

Feds Looking Into Drug Pipeline From Detroit To North Dakota

AP News, February 24

Federal authorities said Wednesday they are investigating a drug pipeline that involves moving the powerful opioid fentanyl and other painkillers from the Detroit area to three Native American reservations in North Dakota. The operation includes the sale of “tens of millions of dollars” of narcotics and thus far has targeted 22 defendants from Michigan and eight from North Dakota, U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said in a news conference.

Enbridge Line 3 Divides Indigenous Lands, People 

Huron Daily Tribune, Mary Annette Pember, February 24

Jason Goward was overjoyed to get a high-paying job on Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project.

The job, clearing ground with a contractor for the Canadian energy company, meant he could at last pay child support for his two young sons. He could buy groceries, pay for heat.