Good afternoon, NUNAverse:
Sections of the Indian Child Welfare Act that gave Native families preference in the adoption of Native children were struck down yesterday after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the federal law’s preferences for Native families or licensed “Indian foster homes” violate constitutional equal protection requirements. The full implications of the decision on adoptive children in this and future cases were not immediately clear as some of the key points were the result of 8-8 votes. The lack of a majority meant the lower court’s ruling prevailed on those points, but that no binding precedent was set by the appeals court. Read the full 325 page decision here.
President Biden announced yesterday that he is moving up the deadline for states to open up COVID-19 vaccinations to all U.S. residents 18 and older by about two weeks. Less than a month after directing states to expand eligibility to all adults by May 1, Biden changed that deadline to April 19. Most states have either made vaccines available to all residents 16 and older or announced plans to do so by mid-April. The White House did not say how it intends to get the handful of remaining states to move up their timelines. Meanwhile, a recent NPR/Marist poll found that one in four Americans said they would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine outright if offered, and another 5% are “undecided” about whether they would get the shot.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland met with the All Pueblo Council of Governors in New Mexico to hear their experiences leading during COVID-19 pandemic. Haaland is traveling this week in New Mexico and Utah on her first official trip leading the Interior Department to consult with tribal, federal, and state officials and stakeholders on stewardship of two national monuments, and the impact of the pandemic on tribal communities.
Finally, Philadelphia City Council member Mark Squilla alongside Italian American groups are suing the mayor’s administration in federal court following the mayor’s decision to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. The lawsuit argues that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney “may not take action that discriminates against Italian Americans to exalt another ethnic group in its place” and insists that the change is in-line with the mayor’s pattern of Italian-American discrimination.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Biden Says All Adults Will Be Vaccine Eligible By April 19
NPR, Rachel Treisman, April 6
President Biden announced Tuesday that he is moving up the deadline for states to open up COVID-19 vaccinations to all U.S. residents 18 and older by about two weeks. Less than a month after directing states to expand eligibility to all adults by May 1, Biden changed that deadline to April 19.
Vaccine Refusal May Put Herd Immunity At Risk, Researchers Warn
NPR, Geoff Brumfiel, April 7
Joyce Ann Kraner is eager for the pandemic to end and for life to get back to normal. Kraner, 49, wants to be able to hug her mother, who lives in a nursing home.
But she says she has no plans to get the vaccine, even though it’s widely available in her community of Murfreesboro, Tenn. “I feel like I’m healthy,” she says.
Navajo and Hopi Families Relief Fund Reinforces PPE Usage To Prevent Further Spread Of COVID-19
Native News Online, April 6
Even with the high rates of vaccinations taking place among Navajo and Hopi citizens, the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund (Relief Fund) is still stressing the importance of the usage of personal protective equipment (PPE). To date, for the past 19 weeks, Relief Fund has conducted 243 PPE distributions in approximately 32 tribal communities. The sum of these distributions includes dispersing over 93,000 adult PPE kits and over 7,200 kid PPE kits. To complement the adult PPE distributions, on March 15, the Relief Fund rolled out a kids’ PPE kit.
Navajo Nation President Nez: “Stay The Course”
Native News Online, April 5
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has been monitoring the number of COVID-19 for over a year now. Even as more Navajo citizens get vaccinated, Nez says it is important for the Navajo Nation to stay the course and keep taking all the precautions to stay safe. On Monday, the Navajo Department of Health reported six new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and no recent deaths. The total number of deaths remains 1,258 as previously reported on Sunday. Reports indicate that 16,423 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 255,760 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 30,178.
Deb Haaland’s Visit Home: Grandparents’ Prayers
Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, April 6
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland listened to the concerns of various pueblo governors then vowed for a “new era” in working with tribes, adding President Joe Biden has a shared commitment to restore the nation-to-nation relationship. Haaland’s first business trip away from the nation’s capital Tuesday included a listening session with a delegation of nine pueblo governors of the All Pueblo Council of Governors at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Tribes Talk Priorities With ‘Formidable Guardian’ Haaland
AP News, Susan Montoya Bryan, April 6
Native American leaders told U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland they see her as a “formidable guardian” and steward of their interests Tuesday during the pueblo woman’s first official trip to her home state, an emotional visit that focused on pandemic relief and underscored the significance of her confirmation.Dozens of tribal leaders gathered in the courtyard of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque for a discussion with Haaland, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo and members of the state’s congressional delegation. Tribal leaders told the group their prayers were answered when Haaland was chosen to head the Interior Department, which has broad authority over Native Americans.
Interior Sec. Deb Haaland Visits New Mexico And Utah This Week On First Official Trip
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, April 6
Today, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland attended a listening session with the All Pueblo Council of Governors in Albuquerque, N.M. to hear about their experiences leading during COVID-19 pandemic. Also in attendance were New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico congressional delegation. Haaland also spoke about President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, according to another press release from the Interior Department. Haaland is traveling this week in New Mexico and Utah on her first official trip in her new role leading the Interior Department to consult with federal, state, and tribal officials and stakeholders on stewardship of two national monuments, and the impact of the pandemic on tribal communities.
Decision Strikes Key Parts Of Native American Adoptions Law
AP News, Kevin McGill, April 6
Parts of a federal law giving Native American families preference in the adoption of Native American children were effectively struck down Tuesday by a sharply divided federal appeals court, a defeat for tribal leaders who said the 1978 law was important to protecting their families and culture. The ruling from 16 judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court’s finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act’s preferences for Native American families or licensed “Indian foster homes” violate constitutional equal protection requirements. It also said some of the provisions of the law “unconstitutionally commandeer” state officials’ duties in adoption matters.
Italian Americans Sue Over Columbus Holiday Name Change
ABC News, April 6
A Philadelphia City Council member and Italian American groups are suing the mayor’s administration in federal court over the decision to change the name of city’s Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The lawsuit filed Tuesday argues that while both groups deserve recognition, Mayor Jim Kenney “may not take action that discriminates against Italian Americans to exalt another ethnic group in its place.” The plaintiffs, who include Councilman Mark Squilla, allege that Kenney’s recent executive order renaming the October holiday fits a pattern of discrimination by the mayor against his Italian American constituents, who they say should be designated a protected class.
‘Required’: North Dakota Passes Native Education Bill
Indian Country Today, Kolby Kickingwoman, April 6
A North Dakota bill requiring curriculum to be taught on Native American history for K-12 students passed in the State house on Tuesday. The bill passed on a 72-21 vote. North Dakota State House Rep. Ruth Buffalo of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation said that prior to this bill’s passing, the state law and century code left it to individual school districts discretion on whether or not to teach Native American history. Buffalo didn’t know what to expect Tuesday after being informed by another house member that the bill would be split into two divisions.
Former Chairwoman of Montana Native Women’s Coalition Convicted of Stealing Federal Grant Funds Meant for Victims of Violence
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, March 6
On Friday, a former board member of Montana Native Women’s Coalition was convicted by a federal jury of crimes related to unapproved spending of federal grant funds. In a five day trial, the jury found Meredith McConnell, 51, of Lame Deer guilty on counts of theft from a program receiving federal funding, wire fraud and false claims as charged in a superseding indictment, according to the District Attorney’s Office in Montana. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release, though her sentencing is pending.
‘Mitzi Bearclaw’ Filmmaker Takes On Surrealist Approach To Modern Indigeneity
Native News Online, Monica Whitepigeon, April 6
Recently released from Indican Pictures, The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw is a quirky, coming-of-age film that splices together heartbreaking moments against fantastical dream scenarios as the protagonist copes with the reality of her ailing family members and what it means for her future. Written and directed by Mohawk filmmaker Shelley Niro (Kissed by Lightning), who weaves together comedy and drama in this surrealist perspective on modern Indigeneity.
Nourishing Communities During The Pandemic
NextGenRadio, Jessica Douglass, April 6
As the owner and principal ecologist at Sakari Farms, Schreiner, Chugach Alaska Corporation and the Valdez Native Tribe, grows ancestral tribal seed for tribal food production, hosts educational tribal food events and cooking classes, and tends to her other business, Sakari Botanicals which incorporates plant material from the farm into hot sauces and teas. Although the pandemic has forced Schreiner to stop or curtail most of that, she found a way to stay in business and support her community. Now, she’s using her traditional know-how to put together food boxes filled with nutritional Indigenous foods, which they deliver to tribal communities across the Pacific Northwest region.
Vandals Deface And Destroy Native American Site
The Hill, Joseph Guzman, April 6
Ancient Native American rock carvings found at Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in northern Georgia have been defaced by vandals, according to the U.S. Forest Service. An area known as Track Rock Gap in the national forest is home to a series of rock carvings, or petroglyphs, that were created by Creek and Cherokee people on soapstone boulders more than 1,000 years ago. The area features more than a hundred carvings of a wide range of figures and is considered one of the most significant rock art sites in the southeastern U.S. But on Monday, the U.S. Forest Service announced several carvings had been vandalized and the agency shared pictures via Facebook showing petroglyphs scratched beyond recognition and painted over with bright colors.
Headdress Found In Vancouver Dumpster Makes Its Way Home After 15 Years Away
APTN, Tina House, April 6
The old saying of “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” is certainly true after a sacred headdress was found in a North Vancouver dumpster. It all started when Harry Werner was looking in a garbage bin for bottles. After the found headdress was posted on social media, Ron Baker’s niece in northern British Columbia saw the post and called her family after she recognized that it had belonged to the late Khot- la- cha chief Simon Baker of the Squamish Nation. He had given it to his son Ron. But Ron says it had been stolen about 15 years ago from the Aboriginal Friendship Centre.