Good morning/afternoon, NUNAverse:
Earlier today a car rammed into two Capitol Police officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol. The driver reportedly got out of the vehicle brandishing a knife, and was shot by authorities. The two Capitol Police officers and the suspect have all been transported to the hospital.
The Department of the Interior announced yesterday evening that Secretary Deb Haaland will create a unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to investigate missing and murdered Native peoples. Haaland said the new unit will expand on that work and establish a unit chief position to develop policy for the unit. The unit will review unsolved cases and work with tribal, BIA and FBI investigators on active cases as well, according to the department.
The Montana State House of Representatives voted against legislation that was aimed at making it easier for Native people living on reservations to vote. Despite passing out of the House State Administration Committee unanimously, and being endorsed by a vote of 53-47 during a reading earlier this week, the bill failed 48-51 on a third reading Wednesday evening. Committee members and Native voting advocates said the hope the failed effort could be a starting point to improve voting access on reservations, where people can live far from polls and have limited access to vehicles or mail services.
Colorado lawmakers are considering a proposal that would ban Native mascots in public schools and colleges. The measure, which cleared the state Senate Education Committee on Thursday, would include a $25,000 monthly fine on public schools, colleges and universities that use American Indian-themed mascots after June 1, 2022. The committee passed amendments exempting schools that have or will seek agreements with local tribes to use such mascots. The changes also would exempt schools on tribal lands.
The Pueblos of Jemez and Laguna in New Mexico are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a revised federal rule that lifts protections for many streams, creeks, and wetlands across the nation, saying the federal government is violating its trust responsibility to tribes. The challenge filed last week in federal court follows a similar case brought in 2020 by the Navajo Nation and several environmental groups.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Deb Haaland’s First Cabinet Meeting
AP News, Darlene Superville, April 1
President Joe Biden’s first Cabinet meeting looked and felt different from those of his predecessor. Biden immediately pointed out the diversity of his Cabinet, which includes the first Black defense secretary in Lloyd Austin, the first openly gay Cabinet member in Pete Buttigieg at transportation, the first Native American secretary in Deb Halaand at Interior and the first female treasury secretary in Janet Yellen, among others. Vice President Kamala Harris is the first woman, Black person and Indian American elected to her office.
Haaland To Create Unit To Investigate Missing And Murdered Native Americans
The Hill, Zack Budryk, April 1
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the U.S.’s first Indigenous cabinet secretary, will create a unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to investigate missing and murdered Native Americans, the department announced Thursday evening. There are some 1,500 American Indian and Alaska natives in the National Crime Information Center’s database of missing persons, while about 2,700 murders and nonnegligent homicides have been reported to the federal Uniform Crime Reporting program.
Cashwell Named By Cooper As NC Administration Secretary
AP News, March 31
Pamela Cashwell, a veteran North Carolina state agency administrator and former federal prosecutor, was appointed on Wednesday by Gov. Roy Cooper as the Department of Administration secretary. Cashwell, a chief deputy secretary and senior policy adviser at the Department of Public Safety, will become the first Native American woman to lead a Cabinet agency in North Carolina, Cooper’s office said. The Administration Department oversees many internal business affairs, including purchase and contracting, the state’s motor fleet and government buildings and property.
Montana House Kills Bill On Native American Voting Rights
AP News, April 1
The Montana House has killed legislation aimed at making it easier for Native Americans living on reservations to vote. The bill would have required counties to maintain an alternate election office on reservations and negotiate days and operating hours with tribes. It would put into law the provisions of a 2014 settlement in a voting rights lawsuit that required three counties to open satellite voting offices on reservations twice a week in the month before Election Day. It would also have put into law guidance issued by the Secretary of State’s Office directing other counties with tribal voters to comply with the settlement.
Choctaw Nation Preparing To Take Over 125 Cases Following McGirt Decision
KFOR, K. Querry-Thompson, April 1
Following a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, the Choctaw Nation says it is preparing to take over more than 100 criminal cases. On July 9, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished. It’s a ruling that has a big impact on the state’s criminal justice system. As it stands, these decisions alter the State’s legal jurisdiction and law enforcement capabilities on a significant portion of eastern Oklahoma, creating uncertainty for many Oklahomans.
New Mexico Tribes Sue US Over Federal Clean Water Rule
AP News, Susan Montoya Bryan, April 1
Two Indigenous communities in New Mexico are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a revised federal rule that lifts protections for many streams, creeks and wetlands across the nation, saying the federal government is violating its trust responsibility to Native American tribes. The pueblos of Jemez and Laguna are the latest to raise concerns over inadequate protections for local water sources in the desert Southwest. The challenge filed last week in federal court follows a similar case brought in 2020 by the Navajo Nation, the nation’s largest Native American tribe, and several environmental groups.
Oklahoma Court Tosses 5 More First-Degree Murder Convictions
AP News, Sean Murphy, April 1
Oklahoma’s highest criminal appeals court tossed out five more first-degree murder convictions on Thursday based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision about criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. Two of the rulings by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals also affirm that Congress never formally disestablished the reservations of the Choctaw and Seminole nations and because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in what is known as the McGirt case, the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute crimes by or against Native Americans inside those historic boundaries.
Colorado Is Latest To Weigh Ban On Native American Mascots
AP News, Patty Neiberg, April 1
Colorado lawmakers are considering a proposal that would ban Native American mascots in public schools and colleges amid a nationwide push for racial justice that gained new momentum last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the NFL team in Washington changing its name. The measure that the state Senate Education Committee is scheduled to discuss Thursday would include a $25,000 monthly fine on public schools, colleges and universities that use an American Indian-themed mascots after June 1, 2022. Colorado is one of seven states considering legislation that would prohibit the use of Native American mascots, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.
COVID-19 Has Laid Bare the Inequities in Indian Country. It’s Time to Invest in Infrastructure.
Native News Online, Aaron Payment, April 1
As Chairperson of the largest tribe east of the Mississippi, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and 1st Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians I can confirm that Tribal infrastructure needs to mirror that of our surrounding jurisdictions. ARRA funds helped one of my Tribe’s five reservation sites connect to the City water-sewer system. This was a win-win-win as our tribal use expedites the debt pay down on the City system. I hope to see mutual gain projects in the implementation of the 2021 Biden Infrastructure Plan. Given a number of my Tribal Citizens live in affected areas of Flint, I support a large amount of infrastructure funds be committed to replace the old and dangerous water lines in Flint, the many cities in Michigan and across the Country.
Native Americans Living In Urban Areas Search For COVID-19 Vaccines
NPR, April 1
The federal Indian Health Service, or IHS, has successfully delivered coronavirus vaccines to some of the most remote parts of this country. But for many Native people who live in cities, getting the vaccine hasn’t been that easy.
Navajo Nation Has No COVID-19 Deaths For 6th Time In 11 Days
AP News, April 1
The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported 15 new COVID-19 cases, but no deaths for the third time in the past four days and sixth time in the last 11 days. Tribal health officials said the latest figures bring the total number of cases since the pandemic started to 30,095 with the known death toll remaining at 1,247. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Justice Department Working With Tribes On Missing Persons
AP News, Michael Balsamo, April 1
Jermain Charlo vanished in June 2018. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal member hasn’t been seen since. Charlo’s case brought the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women to the fore in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. Now, almost three years after her disappearance, the tribes on Thursday became the first in the nation to complete a community response plan — a Justice Department initiative aimed at creating collaboration between law enforcement agencies, including tribal police, county police and federal authorities, when Native Americans go missing on tribal land.
Vermont House Unanimously Supports Eugenics Apology
AP News, April 1
Legislators in the Vermont House have unanimously supported a resolution apologizing to all Vermonters and their families and descendants who were harmed by state-sanctioned eugenics policies and practices that led to sterilizations. Under the eugenics movement, some Vermonters of mixed French Canadian and Native American heritage, as well as poor, rural white people, were placed on a state-sanctioned list of “mental defectives” and degenerates and sent to state institutions. Some had surgery after Vermont in 1931 became one of more than two dozen states to pass a law allowing voluntary sterilizations for “human betterment.”
RezTok: Indigenous Storytellers Find Stronger Voice On Popular Platform
Cronkite News, Joseph Perez, April 1
Native people across Turtle Island – an Indigenous name for North America – logged onto the video-sharing app for different reasons, but they stayed for the community, for the culture and to fulfill their sacred duty. In recent months, TikTok has become wildly popular with Generation Z. Communities of all sorts have sprouted up on the app, and one in particular has been especially empowering and important to its members. Native TikTok – also known as RezTok or Indigenous TikTok – has fostered important conversations around Native American issues and identities through a mixture of humor, education and the sharing of dancing, beadwork, poetry, storytelling and other artforms sacred to Indigenous people.
Native Children Discriminated By School, Parents Say
Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, April 1
Kelly Maday’s husband Eric Maday, a citizen of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, warned her early on in their marriage that one day she would encounter the ugly reality of racism. According to the Madays, their three children, who attend school at the Ashland School District in northern Wisconsin, were singled out and treated differently by school leaders regarding the school district’s COVID-19 response. After their eldest son was suspected to have had close contact with another student who tested positive for COVID-19, all three Maday children were placed in isolation rooms at the school until their parents could pick them up. The district’s policy of quarantining students is not applied equally, according to the Madays and their attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick.
Alaska Files To Defend Tongass Exemption From Roadless Rule
AP News, March 31
The state of Alaska and several other groups have filed to defend the Tongass National Forest’s exemption from a rule that limits development on federal land. The tribal and conservation groups said in their lawsuit that the Trump administration’s decision to lift the rule on more than 9 million acres (about 36,400 square kilometers) of the Tongass is based on a flawed environmental analysis and ignores the input of Alaska Native tribes and the rest of the public. President Joel Jackson from the Organized Village of Kake said he is concerned that development could hurt the region’s other industries.