Good morning, NUNAverse:
On Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s first official day of work after being sworn in, she sat down virtually for her first interview as Interior Secretary with 10 reporters from the Native American Journalists Association. Haaland frequently spoke to tribal consultation being a hallmark of her new role. She said she would aim to be flexible with tribal leaders and would prioritize consultation meetings before decisions were made on key issues.
Next month, Secretary Haalnd is planning to visit Utah before submitting a report on whether to reverse President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink national monuments in the state. Haaland is expected to submit the report to President Joe Biden after the trip in April where she will meet with tribes, elected leaders, and others. Specific dates were not immediately announced.
In Oklahoma, the Chickasaw, Osage, Choctaw, and Citizen Potawatomi Nations have expanded their vaccination eligibility to the general public, including both Native and non-Native peoples. Cherokee Nation appointments are open to anyone who lives within the tribe’s 14-county area, regardless of whether they’re a tribal member. Oklahoma is still in Phase 3 of vaccine distribution, which includes health care workers, first responders, people 65 years old and older, essential workers, and people with underlying medical conditions. The general public will not be eligible for vaccination through the state until Phase 4.
Dr. Stephen Hoge, President of Moderna Therapeutics, recently said his company has begun testing its vaccine on children ages 6 months to 12 years. The new trial, likely to take most of this year, will involve nearly 7,000 children in the United States and Canada. In a separate study which began in December, Moderna was also testing its vaccine in adolescents between 12 and 18 years old. Speaking about the safety of vaccinating children, Hoge said “we certainly have not seen anything concerning in any of our prior work that would suggest we can’t use the vaccine in children.”
Two casinos on the Navajo Nation will reopen this week as the tribe eases its restrictions on businesses amid a downturn in coronavirus cases and high rates of vaccination. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise has four casinos but will open only two Friday and limit patrons to those who live on the reservation. The enterprise will keep Fire Rock east of Gallup, New Mexico, and Northern Edge in Farmington, New Mexico, open for two weeks before determining whether to reopen two other casinos.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Secretary Deb Haaland’s First Day
Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, March 17
Wednesday began Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s first official day of work after being confirmed to the post. She is the first Native American to ever lead a Cabinet agency. Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, held an all staff meeting where more than 15,000 Interior employees joined her virtually. Shortly after the meeting, Haaland sat down virtually for her first interview as Interior secretary where she was interviewed by 10 reporters from the Native American Journalists Association. She addressed goals to accomplish a shared vision outlined by President Joe Biden to tackle the climate crisis by developing key approaches to build a clean energy future.
Interior Secretary To Visit Utah Ahead Of Monument Review
AP News, Lindsay Whitehurst, March 17
Newly confirmed Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is planning to visit Utah next month before submitting a review on whether to reverse President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink national monuments in the state, the agency announced Wednesday. Haaland is expected to submit the report to President Joe Biden after the trip in April where she will meet with tribes, elected leaders and others. Specific dates were not immediately announced. Biden ordered the Interior Department to research whether he should restore the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante on the day the Democrat took office.
Navajo Nation To Reopen 2 Casinos In Northwestern New Mexico
AP News, March 17
Two casinos on the Navajo Nation will reopen this week as the tribe eases its restrictions on businesses amid a downturn in coronavirus cases and high rates of vaccination. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise has four casinos but will open only two Friday and limit patrons to those who live on the vast reservation that stretches into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The enterprise will keep Fire Rock east of Gallup, New Mexico, and Northern Edge in Farmington, New Mexico, open for two weeks before determining whether to reopen two other casinos — one in northwestern New Mexico and the other east of Flagstaff.
Moderna Chief: COVID-19 Vaccine Not Expected To Be Unsafe For Children
NBC News, Yuliya Talmazan, March 17
There is no evidence that it’s unsafe for children to receive Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, the company’s president said Wednesday. In an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on the “TODAY” show, Dr. Stephen Hoge said his company has begun testing its vaccine on children, ages 6 months to 12 years. The new trial, likely to take most of this year, will involve nearly 7,000 children in the United States and Canada.
Plenty Of Vaccines, But Not Enough Arms: A Warning Sign In Cherokee Nation
The New York Times, March 17
As people across the United States jockey and wait to get vaccinated, a surprising problem is unfolding in the Cherokee Nation: plenty of shots, but not enough arms. “We’re running out of people to vaccinate,” said Brian Hail, who helps oversee the tribe’s vaccination efforts. It is a side effect of early success, tribal health officials said. With many enthusiastic patients inoculated and new coronavirus infections at an ebb, the urgency for vaccines has gone distressingly quiet. Now, the tribe is confronting what looms as a major hurdle for the entire country as vaccine supplies swell to meet demand: how to vaccinate everyone not eagerly lined up for a shot.
Native Tribes Have Expanded Vaccines To Everyone In Oklahoma
ABC News, Erin Schumaker, March 17
Vaccinations in Oklahoma are now open to everyone in the state thanks to a surprising source: Oklahoma’s Native tribes. The Chickasaw, Osage, Choctaw and Citizen Potawatomi Nations have expanded their vaccination eligibility to the general public, include Native and non-Native Oklahomans. Cherokee Nation appointments are open to anyone who lives within the tribe’s 14-county area, regardless of whether they’re a tribal member.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Clinic Plans Vaccine Clinic In Tulsa
AP News, March 17
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health and the federal Indian Health Service said Wednesday they will provide 4,000 coronavirus vaccinations to all Native Americans and members of their households during a two-day clinic in Tulsa. Any member of a federally recognized tribe and members of their households, Native American or not, are eligible for an appointment to receive the vaccine, said Muscogee (Creek) Health Secretary Shawn Terry. About 21,000 of the nation’s estimated 65,000 Oklahoma citizens have received at least one vaccine dose and the clinic is an effort to reach out to a larger population of Native Americans, according to Terry.
Vice President’s Husband Visits Pueblo Leaders
Indian Country Today, Kalle Benallie, March 17
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, met with five pueblo leaders in New Mexico on Wednesday as part of President Joe Biden’s “Help is Here” tour. Emhoff also toured the Kewa Pueblo’s Santo Domingo Health Center, where the majority of tribal citizens have been vaccinated. He was joined by Kewa Pueblo Gov. Sedelio Tenotio Sr. and state Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The Kewa health center can vaccinate about 200 people per day and Emhoff called it a vaccination model. He acknowledged how hard the coronavirus has hit Native communities, and said he was inspired by the work Kewa and other pueblos have done to bring their communities together.
Enbridge Line 3 Work Halts Temporarily
Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, March 17
Enbridge’s fast and furious pace of construction on its Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota will come to a temporary halt as crews pause work for two months beginning in April for what officials said were seasonal restrictions. Enbridge officials announced that work will continue on eight pump facilities but did not say why restrictions kicked in after the long winter. Nearly 50 percent of the controversial 337-mile pipeline has been completed despite several lawsuits that have tried to halt the project while their challenges work their way through the courts. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., denied a request in February by the Red Lake and White Earth Nations, the Sierra Club and Honor the Earth to suspend construction as the court considers their request to overturn a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer permit allowing Enbridge to discharge materials into rivers and streams.
Republicans Want Columbus Statue Restored To Capitol Campus
AP News, March 17
A Minnesota Senate committee on Wednesday approved a Republican plan to restore a statue of Christopher Columbus to the Capitol grounds, where it was torn down by demonstrators last summer. The Senate’s State Government Committee voted to repair and return the statue, an idea that one Democratic lawmaker called a “giant slap in the face” to Native Americans. The full Senate is likely to debate and vote on the measure in the coming weeks.
Blackfeet Tribe Allows East Entrances Of Glacier National Park To Open
AP News, March 17
Glacier National Park announced its east-side entrances would open for winter recreation starting Thursday after the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voted Wednesday to allow the entrances to open for the 2021 season. The park’s five entrances on the east side of the million-acre park have been closed since last March after the Blackfeet tribe declared a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic. The park’s west-facing entrances closed briefly last year in response to the pandemic but they reopened in June.
American Indians Incarcerated At Among Highest Rates In Wisconsin, As Many As Half The Inmates In Some Jails
Green Bay Press-Gazette, Frank Vaisvilas, March 17
Nationally, American Indians are incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the U.S. average for all groups, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 19 states, they are overrepresented in the prison population more than any other ethnic group. In 2015, American Indians were incarcerated in the state at a rate of 1,421 for every 100,000 residents who are age 15 to 64 in their ethnic group, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent nonprofit national research and policy organization. The rate for Blacks was 1,445 and for whites it was 210.