Good morning, NUNAverse:
The New York Times published an article on the $31 billion allocated for Native populations in the recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. The new legislation allocates $20 billion to tribal governments, includes more than $6 billion for the Indian Health Service and other Native American health systems, including a $20 million fund for Native Hawaiians and $1.2 billion for housing and more than $1.1 billion for primary, secondary and higher education programs. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs also created a comprehensive resource guide and an FAQ document to provide more information on the resources available to tribes and Native communities.
The United States House of Representatives voted this week to reauthorize the lapsed Violence Against Women Act with new provisions aimed specifically at addressing Native victims. The vote was 244 to 172 in favor of the bill, with 29 Republicans joining Democrats in supporting its passage and all 172 votes against the bill coming from the GOP. The legislation will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.
New Mexico’s Secretary of State has announced that a special general election will be held June 1 to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Deb Haaland. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver made the announcement Wednesday after Haaland officially resigned the post Tuesday after being confirmed as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior. Central committee members from the state’s major political parties will now nominate a candidate to run in the special election. Independent candidates may also circulate nominating petitions.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s administration has reached an agreement with the state’s two federally recognized tribes on a gambling expansion plan that could lead to sports wagering and online gambling, the governor and tribes announced Thursday. The Democratic governor and leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes said the deal would modernize gambling in Connecticut, generate tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for the state, and improve financial conditions for the tribes’ Eastern Connecticut casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History returned the remains of 403 Native people and 83 burial objects to the Chickasaw Nation recently in the largest return of human remains in Mississippi’s history. The remains were returned in part thanks to the 1990 Native American graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which allows tribes to claim their ancestors’ remains and cultural objects from federally-funded institutions. The transfer of remains took more than two years and reburial will take place sometime this year.
Keep reading for a full news update.
History Made: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Sworn In By Vice President Harris
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, March 18
Wearing a traditional ribbon skirt embroidered with corn and butterflies, Madam Secretary Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico was ceremonially sworn in as the 54th Secretary of the Department of the Interior with an oath administered by Vice President Kamala Harris. Six guests were present at Secretary Haaland’s ceremonial swear in, identified by the Office of the Vice President. On Haaland’s list were her partner, her two sisters, two friends and her daughter Somah Haaland, who livestreamed the event over her Instagram page.
Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, March 18
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland was ceremoniously sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday morning, marking a monumental step to becoming the first Native American to ever lead a Cabinet agency. Like many big events in Indian Country, Haaland used the occasion to wear white moccasins and a colorful blue ribbon skirt adorned with corn and butterfly designs. She also wore a turquoise necklace with a pendant of the Zia symbol, representing her home state of New Mexico.
Indigenous Lawmaker Removed From Canadian House
Indian Country Today, Vincent Schilling, March 18
Nahanni Fontaine, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for St. Johns constituency in the Province of Manitoba, and only the second First Nations woman to have been elected to her position, was asked to leave the legislative chamber for the day on March 10 after using “unparliamentary language’” when speaking about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirit individuals. During the session, Fontaine, Ojibway from the Sagkeeng Anishinaabe First Nation, was speaking about the recent homicide of a First Nations woman Jana Williams, whose body was tragically discovered near to the Red River. Fontaine had attended a memorial gathering for Williams and during the session, she discussed the lack of support for the family from other Manitoba Legislature members.
House Votes To Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act, Commits To Safety For Native Women
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, March 18
The House of Representatives today passed a bill reauthorizing a lapsed Violence Against Women Act with new provisions speicifcally addressing Native American victims. The legislation will now be sent to the Senate for consideration. The bill—reintroduced March 8 by Texas’ Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and co-sponsored by 182 lawmakers, including two republicans—came with strong support from the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), the federal agency responsible for supervising the Executive Branch of the U.S. government.
US-Russia Ties Nosedive After Biden-Putin Tit-for-Tat
AP News, Vladimir Isachenkov, March 18
U.S.-Russia ties nosedived on Thursday after Russian leader Vladimir Putin shot back at President Joe Biden’s description of him as a killer. The back and forth underscored Biden’s desire to distance himself from former President Donald Trump’s perceived softness on Putin despite actions his administration took against Russia. In an interview broadcast Wednesday, Biden replied “I do” when asked if he thought Putin was a “killer.” Also Wednesday, U.S. intelligence released a report finding that Putin authorized influence operations to help Trump’s re-election bid. Later that day, Putin recalled his ambassador to the U.S. and on Thursday he pointed at the U.S. history of slavery and slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II.
Special Election Set For June 1 To Fill Vacated House Seat
AP News, March 18
New Mexico’s secretary of state has announced that a special general election will be held June 1 to fill the U.S. House seat vacated by Deb Haaland. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver made the announcement Wednesday after Haaland officially resigned the post Tuesday after being confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, which manages public and tribal lands.
A Year Later, Cherokee Nation Still Grappling With COVID-19
Indian Country Today, Chad Hunter, March 18
It’s been a year since the first of nearly 15,000 COVID-19 cases was confirmed within the Cherokee Nation’s health system, but in February 2020, the tribe was already preparing for a pandemic. As of March 9 this year, the tribe had confirmed 14,844 COVID-19 cases and 100 related deaths within its health system. An estimated 260 cases remained active. A year ago, the tribe stepped up its sanitation measures and encouraged masks in an effort to slow the virus’s spread. Cherokee Nation citizens, especially elders, were asked to stay home and away from crowds if possible.
Reds Pitcher Steps Up To Plate For Native Americans During Pandemic
FOX 19 Now, Courtney McSlarrow, March 17
A Reds player is staying busy during spring training by advocating for the health and wellbeing of Native Americans during the pandemic. According to the CDC, Native Americans face the highest hospitalization rate of COVID-19 of any race or ethnicity in the country. Brandon Bailey discovered that from watching the news earlier this year. Coming from an indigenous family, he says he knew he had to do something to help. Bailey was quarantining in Arizona when he saw how hard the Navajo Nation had been hit by the pandemic. Bailey called his agent to see what he could do. The agency put him in contact with Project HOPE, an organization that’s been providing medical assistance to Native Americans during COVID-19.
Tribal Cases Swamp US Prosecutors
AP News, Alanna Durkin Richer, March 18
The U.S. Justice Department’s to-do list was already daunting, especially with this year’s flood of pandemic-delayed federal cases. And now two very different legal concerns — insurrection cases in Washington and tribal land disputes out West — are threatening to totally swamp the department. federal prosecutors in Oklahoma are seeing massive increases in caseloads as the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that determined a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remains an Indian reservation because Congress never voted to disestablish it. As a result, the state has no jurisdiction in more cases involving Native American defendants or victims that took place on tribal lands. And that is expected to invalidate hundreds of state convictions, including 10 death row cases. Those cases, and any new ones, must be tried in federal or tribal court.
Lamont, Tribes Reach Agreement On Gambling Expansion
AP News, Dave Collins, March 18
Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration has reached an agreement with Connecticut’s two federally recognized Native American tribes on a gambling expansion plan that could lead to sports wagering and online gambling, the governor and tribes announced Thursday. The Democratic governor and leaders of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes said the deal would modernize gambling in Connecticut, generate tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for the state, and improve financial conditions for the tribes’ Eastern Connecticut casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Remains Of Over 400 Native Americans Returned To Chickasaw Nation
WLOX, Jacob Gallant, March 18
Mississippi Department of Archives and History returned the remains of 403 native Americans and 83 burial objects back to the Cherokee Nation. It’s the largest return of human remains in Mississippi history. The remains were returned in part thanks to the 1990 Native American graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which allows Native Americans to claim their ancestors’ remains and cultural objects from federally-funded institutions. The transfer of remains took more than two years. Reburial will take place some time this year.
Mi’kmaw Educator And Media Personality Charged With Indecent Act
Native News Online, Darren Thompson, March 18
A well-known Mi’kmaw educator, cultural advisor and media personality is expected to arraigned for a sex crime by the Truro Provincial Court in Nova Scotia, Canada on March 31, 2021. According to documents shared with Native News Online by the Nova Scotia Judiciary, Trevor Sanipass, 45, is accused of committing an indecent act on July 7, 2019. Sanipass, of the Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia, signed an undertaking on Jan. 31, 2021, assuring the Truro Provincial Court that he would attend his arraignment for March 31. However, charges weren’t filed and made public until March 4, 2021, giving him ample time to evade reporting the allegation to his employers.