Good morning, NUNAverse:
On Saturday the U.S. Senate voted 50-49 to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, with every Democratic Senator voting yes and every Republican Senator voting no with the exception of Senator Dan Sullivan from Alaska, who was absent. The bill will go back to the House of Representatives for a final vote next week, and in its current form provides $1,400 checks to individual Americans who earn up to $75,000 annually or $150,000 per couple. The bill includes $31.2 billion in dedicated funding for tribal governments and Native communities – read more about the historic investment here.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting that aims to protect voting rights. Included in the President’s executive order is the establishment of an interagency Steering Group On Native American Voting Rights, which is to engage in “meaningful and robust consultation” with tribal nations and Native leaders on focus areas and concerns for Native American voting rights and to develop a report on best practices and recommendations after one year.
P4 Production LLC, a Monsanto subsidiary, has reached a toxic-waste cleanup agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes over mining waste in southeastern Idaho. Under the proposed agreement, P4 Production wouldn’t admit fault, but it would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the EPA, the tribes, and other agencies to cover the costs of responding to toxic waste releases from the mining site.
The Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and the luxury department store Neiman Marcus have settled a lawsuit over the sale of a coat with a copyrighted, geometric design taken from Indigenous culture. In the federal lawsuit filed in April 2020, SHI maintained that the Dallas-based retailer falsely linked the $2,555 “Ravenstail” coat to northwest coast native artists from California to Alaska through the design and use of the term Ravenstail. SHI said it discovered that the retailer was selling the coat in 2019. The SHI said in a statement on Wednesday that both sides, including 10 other named defendants besides Neiman Marcus, agreed to terms “to resolve all disputes between them under U.S. and Tlingit law.”
Keep reading for a full news update.
Executive Order On Promoting Access To Voting
White House, March 7
There is hereby established an Interagency Steering Group on Native American Voting Rights (Steering Group) coordinated by the Domestic Policy Council. The Steering Group shall engage in meaningful and robust consultation with Tribal Nations and Native leaders to inform the Steering Group regarding concerns and potential areas of focus for the report described in subsection (d) of this section, and to assist the Steering Group in developing that report. The Steering Group shall study best practices for protecting voting rights of Native Americans and shall produce a report within 1 year of the date of this order outlining recommendations for providing such protection, consistent with applicable law.
President Biden’s Voting Rights Executive Order Includes Creation Of Steering Group On Native American Voting Rights
Native News Online, March 7
President Joe Biden on Sunday signed an Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting that aims to protect voting rights for all eligible Americans. The president signed the executive order on the 56th annivesary of Bloody Sunday, a day when police beat Black marchers as they marched to gain the right to vote. “The right to vote is sacred and fundamental – and this is just the beginning of our work to ensure every American can freely exercise that right,” Biden said. Included in the president’s executive order is the establishment of an interagency Steering Group On Native American Voting Rights.
Biden, Dems Prevail As Senate OKs $1.9t Virus Relief Bill
AP News, Alan Fram, March 6
An exhausted Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill Saturday as President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies notched a victory they called crucial for hoisting the country out of the pandemic and economic doldrums. After laboring all night on a mountain of amendments — nearly all from Republicans and rejected — bleary-eyed senators approved the sprawling package on a 50-49 party-line vote. That sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can whisk it to Biden for his signature.
House OKs Bill To Ban Mining Around Grand Canyon
Cronkite News, Haleigh Kochanski, March 6
The House voted to permanently ban new mining claims on more than 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park, with supporters calling protection of the landmark canyon a “moral issue.” The bill would make permanent a current mining moratorium that is scheduled to run through 2032. Supporters said a permanent ban is needed because the Grand Canyon is too valuable to risk possible damage from future mining. The threat of mining in the area is particularly concerning to members of the Havasupai tribe, whose ancestral home is in the canyon.
New Mexico Senate Backs Bill To Change School Funding
AP News, Cedar Attanasio, March 5
With the clock ticking and hundreds of bills on the table, New Mexico legislators are advancing funding priorities for public schools, higher education and early childhood programs. In the Senate, lawmakers on Friday considered landmark changes to the public school funding formulas amid court judgments that require the state to funnel additional money to underserved students.
American Indian Groups Urge Senate To Show Bipartisan Support For Hhs Nominee Xaveir Becerra
Native News Online, March 6
Facing pushback from Republican senators, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee to become the next Health and Human Services secretary, only garnered a 14-14 tie coming out of Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. This means Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to bring the nomination to the full Senate for a four -hour debate prior to taking a vote to confirmation. If all Democrats and Republicans vote down party lines, Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, would be needed to cast the deciding vote to confirm Becerra.
Native American Groups Expect Xavier Becerra To Take On Opioid Crisis As Head Of HHS
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, March 6
With Indian Country being hit hard by the opioid crisis, Native American organizations are counting on California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to confront the issue head-on. Becerra, President Biden’s nominee to become the secretary of the U.S. Dept, of Health and Human Services (HHS), has proven track record for dealing with the opioid crisis. As attorney general of California, Becerra played a lead role in holding corporate opioid manufacturers and marketers accountable, forming a successful coalition of attorneys general from 47 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
One Year In: COVID-19 Has Been Devastating For Indian Country
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, March 7
As COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, the first documented case in Indian Country was on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Ore. on March 2, 2020. The tribes announced that day a staff member at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino tested positive for the coronavirus. The next day, the tribes announced their casino would be temporarily closed. Since then, the deadly virus has spread throughout Indian Country with a deadly force.
Death Toll Passes 1,200 On Navajo Nation As New COVID-19 Cases Pace Slows Down
Native News Online, March 7
Even as the new COVID-19 positive cases have slowed down during the past two weeks, the total number of deaths from COVID-19 stands at 1,201 as of Sunday. There were three more deaths reported on Sunday. The death toll surpassed 1,200 in less than a year. The Navajo Nation began reporting its COVID-19 data on March 17, 2020.
The Jeep Cherokee Is Not A Tribute To Indians. Change The Name.
The Washington Post, Angela Riley, March 7
Last week, the chief executive for the parent company of Jeep signaled that it was open to granting the Cherokee Nation’s request to change the name of its wildly popular SUV. Even this modest gesture represents a shift. When Jeep revived the then-dormant Cherokee brand back in 2014, it never even bothered to contact the Cherokee Nation — and its first response to the request to drop the Cherokee name was to praise itself for choosing names that “celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess, and pride.”
Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion Relief Package On Saturday; Bill Goes Back To The House
Native News Online, March 6
The U.S. Senate passed on Saturday President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan Act, after a marathon session. The bill will go back to the U.S. House of Representatives for a final vote next week. Once the House passes the legislation it will be sent to President Biden for his signature to turn it into law. The bill provides $1,400 checks to individual Americans who earn up to $75,000 annually or $150,000 per couple. The final vote was 50-49 with all Republicans voting no for the legislation. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) was absent.
Winter Storms Show How Much Cherokee Nation Means To Local Communities, Families
Native News Online, March 6
When a natural disaster occurs, our response can reveal our deepest values. The Cherokee Nation believes in “gadugi” – working together to better our tribe and for the greater good. Our talented workforce at Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses lived up to this value during the treacherous 2021 winter storm that hit our communities in February. The weather emergency proved the immense importance of Cherokee Nation to the families and communities of northeast Oklahoma.
Race, Sovereignty Clash As Congress Meddles In Tribal Enrollment
Underscore, Brian Oaster, March 5
The chief of one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States is fighting a behind-the-scenes battle with Congress that pits racial justice against tribal sovereignty. Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, says he’s trying to head off efforts by powerful legislators who want to cut housing funds for his tribe unless the Choctaw change their citizenship rules. The fight spilled into public view last year, when Batton circulated a letter he wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisting that Congress stay out of deciding who qualifies as Choctaw. Batton warned that language some members are trying to include in a routine housing reauthorization bill would amount to “holding hostage housing assistance otherwise due the Choctaw Nation.”
Alaska Native Group, Neiman Marcus Settle Lawsuit Over Coat
AP News, March 5
An Alaska Native cultural organization and the luxury department store Neiman Marcus have settled a lawsuit over the sale of a coat with a copyrighted, geometric design borrowed from Indigenous culture. The Sealaska Heritage Institute said in a statement on Wednesday that both sides, including 10 other named defendants besides Neiman Marcus, agreed to terms “to resolve all disputes between them under U.S. and Tlingit law.” The Juneau-based institute is the cultural arm of the Sealaska Corp., the Alaska Native corporation for the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of southeast Alaska.
EPA, Shoshone-Bannock Reach Cleanup Agreement
AP News, Rebecca Boone, March 4
A phosphate mining company has reached a toxic-waste cleanup agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes over mining waste in southeastern Idaho. Officials with P4 Production LLC, a Monsanto subsidiary, said in a prepared statement Thursday that they worked with the tribes and EPA to develop the remediation plan for the Ballard Mine near Soda Springs.