Good afternoon, NUNAverse:

On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use after a panel of advisers to the agency unanimously voted in its favor. The main study included in the company’s application found that 28 days or more after immunization, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine prevented hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, a new study from the Cambridge University Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust and the University of Cambridge found that a single dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine reduces infections and lowers the risk of transmission of the virus.

President Joe Biden spoke to the National Congress of American Indians’ 2021 Virtual Winter Session last week, reiterating his commitment to Indian Country. “I promise you as President I’m committed to working with you to write a new and better chapter in the history of our nation to nation relationship,” the President said. “From health disparities to gaps in economic opportunities we see how Indigenous communities still live, still thrive in the shadow of a long and painful legacy of broken promises.”

Native Hawaiian teacher, cultural practitioner, and filmmaker Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu has been gaining international acclaim for her latest short animated film “Kapaemahu.” The film garnered a coveted spot on the 93rd Academy Awards Oscars shortlist in the Animated Short Film category and, after playing at more than 100 film festivals internationally, “Kapaemahu” received the top award at three Oscar-qualifying festivals.

While Native leaders and independent statistics have said that COVID-19 deaths have heavily impacted California’s Native communities, state figures show fewer Native deaths in the state compared to others with significant Indigenous populations. Leaders and experts fear deaths in their communities have been undercounted because of a long history of Native people often being declared white, Latino, or Black on official forms by uninformed hospital workers.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced awards totaling $652 million to nearly 600 tribes and villages in the U.S. as part of the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) that provides money to Native tribes for activities such as housing development, operation, modernization, and crime prevention.

Keep reading for a full news update.

Deb Haaland Confirmation Hearing:

Haaland Hearing Brought Pride And Disgust

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, February 28

It was difficult to not get emotional as Rep. Deb Haaland testified at her confirmation hearing to become the 54th secretary of Dept. of the Interior before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The hearing that was held over two days and three rounds of questioning produced feelings of pride and disgust. Haaland’s confirmation hearing was truly historic and Indian Country was proud. Unfortunately, not everyone is pleased by Haaland’s historic nomination, especially the Republican members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They showed up in full force, their paternalistic and condescending behavior in full display.

Not One Republican Asked Deb Haaland About Her Vision For Indian Country 

Huffington Post, Chris D’Angelo, February 27 

In 2019, Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) pressed a Trump administration Interior Department official about his history of ridiculing Native Americans over their religious beliefs regarding sacred lands. After downplaying his 2009 statement as one made “as a private attorney representing private clients,” William Perry Pendley, then-acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, said he was excited about the opportunity to work with Native American tribes ― especially to help them develop their oil, gas and mineral resources.

GOP Senator Offers Lame Apology For Calling Rep. Deb Haaland “A Neo-Socialist, Left-Of-Lenin Whack Job”

Native News Online, February 27

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), President Joe Biden’s nominee to become the next secretary of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, faced tough questioning during two days of questioning before the Senate Committee of Energy and Natural Resources. Haaland faces intense opposition by several Republican senators who have shown their displeasure of her nomination. The opposing senators have attempted to make Haaland out to be a left-wing radical — even though during the 116th Congress, her first term in Congress, of all of her freshman colleagues, she had the best bipartisan voting record. The GOP senator’s opposition caused at least one senator to apologize for an inappropriate comment about Haaland.

Deb Haaland’s Grilling Raises Questions On Bias

AP News, Felicia Fonseca, February 26

When Wyoming U.S. Sen. John Barrasso snapped at Deb Haaland during her confirmation hearing, many in Indian Country were incensed. The exchange, coupled with descriptions of the Interior secretary nominee as “radical” — by other white, male Republicans — left some feeling Haaland is being treated differently because she is a Native American woman. At Wednesday’s hearing, Barrasso wanted assurance that Haaland would follow the law when it comes to imperiled species. Before the congresswoman finished her response, Barrasso shouted, “I’m talking about the law!”


President Biden To NCAI: “I’m Committed To Working With You To Write A New And Better Chapter”

Native News Online, Nanette Iron Eagle Deetz , February 28

With just over one month into his term, President Joe Biden addressed the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2021 Winter Session virtually last week. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NCAI decided to hold its annual winter session remotely this year. President Biden addressed the Winter Session on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Tribal leaders were pleased president addressed the conference because during the 2020 presidential campaign, the he promised to work closely with Indian Country. In his virtual message, President Biden reiterated his administration’s commitment to Indian Country.


Montana Bill Would Make Voting Easier For Native Americans

AP News, Amy Beth Hanson, February 27

Emotions ran high Friday as a Montana House committee heard a bill seeking to make it easier for Native Americans to vote. The bill proposes putting into law and advancing terms of a settlement in a voting rights lawsuit and guidance issued by the secretary of state’s office for counties and tribes to comply with the settlement, said Democratic Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy of Crow Agency, the bill’s sponsor. After the hearing, the bill was amended to add a $5,000 appropriation to give the committee more time to work on it without missing next week’s transmittal deadline for non-appropriations bills.

Tribes In Legal Limbo Over Relief Funding

AP News, Felicia Fonseca, February 26

Nearly a year after Congress passed a coronavirus relief bill, some Native American tribes remain in legal limbo over what’s been distributed. The issue didn’t become any clearer for three tribes that argued during a federal court hearing this week that they were shortchanged under the formula used to dole out a portion of the $8 billion set aside for tribes. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta set deadlines to move the case forward after attorneys for both sides said Thursday they couldn’t reach an agreement on interim payments while the U.S. Treasury Department comes up with a new method to distribute the remaining $533 million.

Two Men Plead Guilty To Looting Over 1,500 Artifacts From Federal Land

NBC DFW, Demetrius Harper, February 26

Two men pleaded guilty this week to illegally excavating approximately 1,500 artifacts from federal land, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Prerak Shah. In March 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) received a tip there was an illegal excavation that occurred on a Native American cultural site at the Cross Bar Management Area north of Amarillo. BLM determined that the illegal excavation took place at a site known as 41PT109 – a former homestead of the Antelope Creek Culture, Native Americans who lived in the Texas panhandle between approximately 1200-1500 A.D.


CDC Panel Endorses Johnson & Johnson’s One-Dose COVID-19 Vaccine 

NPR, Nell Greenfieldboyce, February 28 

A panel of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given its blessing to a new one-shot vaccine for COVID-19.

With New COVID-19 Cases Are On Decline On Navajo Nation, President Nez Still Pushes Caution

Native News Online, February 28

There is encouraging news on the Navajo Nation: New COVID-19 cases are trending downward. For almost two weeks, daily reports of new cases have been less than 50 per day. Even with the new COVID-19 on the decline, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez is still advising Navajo citizens to exercise caution. On Saturday, the Navajo Department of Health reported 7 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and three more deaths.

FDA Authorizes Johnson & Johnson’s One-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine 

NPR, Scott Hensley, February 27 

A third COVID-19 vaccine is on the way, and this one requires only one shot for immunization.

Pandemic Leaves Tribes Without US Recognition At Higher Risk

AP News, Christine Fernando, February 27

Rachel Lynne Cushman is used to getting calls from Chinook Nation members worried about losing housing or having their power shut off. Since COVID-19 hit, they come in daily. Cushman is secretary-treasurer for the group of tribes whose rural, ancestral lands are based in one of Washington state’s poorest counties. While they mostly have been spared from the health effects of COVID-19, the pandemic has taken a significant economic toll. Unlike federally recognized tribes, the Chinook Nation doesn’t have a political relationship with the United States, which would make it eligible for federal coronavirus relief funding for state, local and tribal governments. Hundreds of tribes lack the designation, which they say leaves them struggling to help their members and less equipped to combat a pandemic that’s disproportionately affected Native Americans and other people of color.

‘We’re Born Indian And We Die White’: Indigenous Leaders In California Fear COVID-19 Deaths Are Going Undercounted

USA Today, Kate Cimini, February 27

Native American leaders across California said COVID-19 deaths have shrouded their communities, yet state figures show few American Indian people have died here compared with other states with significant Indigenous populations. Leaders and experts fear deaths in their communities have been undercounted because of a long history of Native Americans being racially misclassified. This damaging practice can bar native people from getting the help and resources they actually need, they said. California has the largest number of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States and the largest number of American Indians and Alaska Natives living in urban centers. They are often declared white, Latino, Black, or “other” on official forms by uninformed hospital workers, according to community leaders and various studies.

Cherokee Nation Now In Phase Three Of Vaccine Distribution Plan

Native News Online, February 26

The Cherokee Nation announced on Thursday it has moved into Phase Three of their COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. Since receiving the first distribution of vaccines in mid-December, the Cherokee Nation has administered more than 24,000 vaccine doses. “The Cherokee Nation vaccine rollout is moving along quickly and available in more of our tribal communities so that we can reach more of our population and protect them from this deadly virus,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Getting a vaccine protects our Cherokee speakers, our elders, our families and our tribal community.”

Pfizer Vaccine Can Reduce Transmission After 1 Dose, New Study Finds 

MarketWatch, Steve Goldstein, February 26

A single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine made by drug company Pfizer  and its partner BioNTech reduces infections and lowers the risk of transmission, according to a new study.


Protesting Pipelines Through Street Murals: “The Paint Does All The Talking”

Native News Online, Arthur Jacobs, February 28

Several Native American groups, and other allies, took to a downtown Oakland, Calif street in front of the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building on Saturday, Feb. 27, to protest oil pipelines and bring attention to the West Berkeley Shellmound that descendants of the Ohlone Tribe want returned to them as the original keepers of the land. The protest was billed as a “Stop Line 3 & DAPL – Build Back Fossil Free Solidarity” event. The road was blocked, and people painted the street. The painted murals were intended to leave a message in a good way to stop the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) and the Enbridge Line 3 in Minnesota.

Sex Trafficking Sting Nets Enbridge Pipeline Workers

Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, February 28

Seven men arrested during a sex-trafficking sting in northern Minnesota have been charged with solicitation, including two workers for an Enbridge pipeline contractor. The arrests brought renewed calls for fighting sex trafficking along the Canadian company’s Line 3 project, which stretches through northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin. The two pipeline workers – one from Texas and one from Missouri – were employed at the time of their arrests by Precision Pipeline, an Enbridge contractor based in Wisconsin.

Hawaiian Animated Short Film ‘Kapaemahu’ Hits Oscar’s Shortlist

Indian Country Today, Vincent Schilling, February 27

Native Hawaiian teacher, cultural practitioner, and filmmaker Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu has been gaining international acclaim for her latest short animated film “Kapaemahu.” The film has just garnered a coveted spot on the 93rd Academy Awards Oscars shortlist in the Animated Short Film category. Additionally, and after playing at more than 100 film festivals internationally, “Kapaemahu” received the top award at three Oscar-qualifying festivals.

Local Native Americans Seek Answers As Development Nears Their Land

Walterboro Live,

The Edisto Natchez-Kusso Native American Tribe of South Carolina has lived secluded and peacefully for centuries. The Tribe is comprised of more than 400 Native Americans living in the Four Holes area of Dorchester County near Ridgeville and in the Creeltown area in Colleton County near Cottageville. Soon, the Tribe’s lifestyle may change. A private land owner is selling more than 400 acres across from the Indian community. A request has been made to the Dorchester County Council to rezone the land for residential purposes, but that request has not yet been voted on by that elected body.

‘Pipe Dream’: Enbridge Escalates Local Tensions

Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, February 26

Even in the bitter cold, the pretty little park along the Mississippi River is inviting, a typical gathering spot for community events with its broad trees and public pavilion. But Berglund Park stood empty recently as families and community members learned about the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline cutting through their community. A group of pipeline opponents known as water protectors from the nearby Honor the Earth camp organized the small winter carnival to provide information about the impact of dependence on fossil fuels and a future built on renewable energy.

Utah Native American Tribes Receive $4.2 Million For Affordable Housing 

Fox 13 Salt Lake City, Jeff Tavss, February 26 

Five Native American tribes in Utah were awarded over $4 million for affordable housing activities Friday.