Good morning, NUNAverse:
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than half of all American adults have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC reported that about 130 million adults have gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 84 million, or about a third of all adults, are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday that he expects a decision on future use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine this Friday, and that he anticipates experts to recommend some sort of warning or restriction on the use of the vaccine.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Thursday Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will serve as the chair of the newly reconstituted Council on Native American Affairs. The Council will meet for the first time since 2016 on April 23, and the meeting will be convened by Haaland and Susan Rice, the White House domestic policy adviser.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over whether Alaska Native corporations should receive a portion of the CARES Act’s $8 billion tribal allocation. The Court will hear from Alaska Native corporations, Alaskan delegation, and tribal organizations who support the funding, as well as the six tribes, five states, and one member of Congress who are against it. On September 25, 2020, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alaska Native village and regional corporations were not eligible to receive the funds. If the decision stands, the Alaska Native corporations would miss out on roughly $720 million that were intended to help Alaska Native people combat the pandemic, according to the Treasury Department.
A new bill signed into law by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly will make it a misdemeanor to trespass near oil and gas pipelines. The bill Kelly signed last week gained bipartisan support in the state Senate, but drew criticism from some House Democrats, including two Native legislators who said the bill targets Native protestors like those who opposed the Dakota Access oil pipeline. The new law goes into effect on July 1.
Keep reading for a full news update.
More Than Half Of U.S. Adults Have Gotten At Least One COVID-19 Vaccine Dose
NPR, Matthew S. Schwartz, April 18
After a year of grim milestones, Sunday marked a hopeful statistic in America’s fight against the coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of all American adults have now gotten at least one vaccine dose.
Fauci Says He Expects A Decision Friday On Whether The U.S. Can Resume Using Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine
New York Times, Emily Anthes, April 18
A decision about whether to resume administering the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine should come this Friday, when an expert panel that is advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet, according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.
Navajo Nation COVID-19 Saturday Update: No Reported Deaths For Seventh Consecutive Day
Native News Online, April 17
For the seventh consecutive day, there were no Covid-related deaths on the Navajo Nation on Saturday. The death toll stands at 1,262. Additional good news was there were only two new COVID-19 positive cases reported on Saturday. Reports indicate that 16,477 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 260,477 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 30,357.
White House Plans $4 Billion COVID-19 Response
Indian Country Today, April 16
The Biden administration is planning a price tag of $4 billion to respond to the pandemic in Indian Country. Federal dollars will be used to increase vaccinations, increase detection and response to infections, and replace lost funding from Medicaid and other government insurance programs. A fact sheet released Friday morning said the American Rescue Plan “will expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and treatment; increase preventive health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives at higher risk for COVID-19; expand hospitals’ and health clinics’ ability to serve their communities during the pandemic and beyond; and provide the Indian Health Service, tribal health programs, and urban Indian health programs with needed funding to make up for lost reimbursements experienced during the pandemic.”
Another Variant COVID-19 Case Identified on Navajo Nation
Native News Online, April 16
Another COVID-19 variant case was discovered on the Navajo Nation, which brings the total of three cases on the nation’s largest Indian reservation. Nez says a cluster of COVID-19 cases recently resulted from a large family gathering in which face masks were not used. The Navajo Department of Health reported 13 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and no recent deaths.
Secretary Deb Haaland Creates Climate Task Force With Interior Department; Orders Tribal Consultation
Native News Online, April 17
U.S. Dept. of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday issued two Secretarial Orders that will prioritize action on climate change throughout the Department.
The first Secretarial Order establishes a Climate Task Force to coordinate work across the Interior Department, including accelerating renewable energy development and identifying actions to foster investments in energy communities. The second Secretarial Order seeks to rectify the reckless Secretarial Orders issued during the Trump administration by revoking a series of Secretarial Orders issued in recent years that are inconsistent with the Department’s commitment to protect public health; conserve land, water, and wildlife; and elevate science. Collectively, those Orders tilted the balance of public land and ocean management without regard for climate change, equity, or community engagement.
Interior Secretary Haaland To Chair The White House Council On Native American Affairs
Native News Online, April 16
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Thursday Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will serve as the chair of the newly reconstituted Council on Native American Affairs. The Council was first created under President Obama, which was dormant during the Trump administration, will meet on April 23. Officials said the interagency Council, which includes leaders from across the federal government, has not met regularly since 2016. It began in 2013 in response to a request from tribal leaders. “The White House Council on Native American Affairs represents an important commitment to strengthen tribal sovereignty, uphold our commitment to tribal nations, and honor the United States’ nation-to-nation relationships,” Haaland said in a statement.
White House Plans Tribal Nations Conference This Year
Indian Country Today, April 18
The White House Tribal Nations Conference — a hallmark event for tribal leaders to meet with the nation’s top officials — is set to return later this year. Press Secretary Jen Psaki told Indian Country Today at a White House press briefing Friday that officials are hoping for an in-person gathering, if the pandemic eases toward the end of the year. The conference, first established by President Barack Obama, provides an opportunity for a President and members of the Cabinet to meet directly with tribal leaders. The conference began as a promise Obama made during a visit to the Crow Nation in 2008, but has not been held since Obama’s last year in office in 2016.
Supreme Court Hears Alaska Native Corporations Case
Indian Country Today, Meghan Sullivan, April 18
The debate over whether Alaska Native corporations should receive a portion of the CARES Act’s $8 billion tribal allocation has reached the highest court in the land. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday from Alaska Native corporations, Alaskan delegation, and tribal organizations who support the funding, as well as the six tribes, five states, and one member of Congress who are against it. The hearing is the culmination of a year-long battle that has divided some in Indian Country and called into question long-standing legal precedents.
High Court Takes Up Case On Virus Relief Funding For Tribes
AP News, Felicia Fonseca, April 17
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that will determine who is eligible to receive more than $530 million in federal virus relief funding set aside for tribes more than a year ago. More than a dozen Native American tribes sued the U.S. Treasury Department to keep the money out of the hands of Alaska Native corporations, which provide services to Alaska Natives but do not have a government-to-government relationship with the United States. The question raised in the case set for oral arguments Monday is whether the corporations are tribes for purposes of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which defines “tribes” under a 1975 law meant to strengthen their abilities to govern themselves.
New Kansas Law To Make It A Crime To Trespass At Pipelines
AP News, Andy Tsubasa Field, April 17
A bill signed into law by Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly will make it a misdemeanor to trespass near oil and gas pipelines. The bill Kelly signed last week gained bipartisan support in the state Senate, but drew criticism from some House Democrats, including two Native American legislators who said the bill targets Native American protestors like those who opposed the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the subject of months of sometimes-violent protests in 2016 and 2017. The new law goes into effect on July 1. The legislation makes it a misdemeanor to trespass near oil and gas, rubber manufacturing and wastewater treatment facilities. It would also make it a felony to trespass with the intent to damage them.
As Voting Fight Moves Westward, Accusations Of Racism Follow
AP News, Acacia Coronado, April 17
The Arizona Legislature was debating one of several Republican proposals to overhaul voting when GOP Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita said she’d had enough. “I don’t like to be characterized as supporting discriminatory laws!” she told Democrats, who say the legislation will hurt Latino and Native American voters. Democrats are escalating their charges that the Republican push for tighter state voting laws is designed to make it hard for people of color to vote. As the fight moves from the Deep South to the Southwest, that’s put increased focus on the impact the proposals would have on Latino and Native American voters — groups with distinct histories of fighting for voting rights.
Kansas District Ditches Native American Mascots
AP News, April 17
A Kansas district has decided to ditch its “Redmen” and “Braves” mascots after public opinion shifted. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Atchison school board approved the change unanimously this past week. It was a reversal from 2018 when the board voted to keep the “Redmen” mascot for the district’s high school and the “Braves” mascot for the middle school. Sowers said the board heard considerable support in 2018 for keeping Native American-themed mascots. But this time, all nine people who addressed the matter at a public input session asked the board to do away with the mascots.
NAFOA Executive Dante Desiderio Chosen To Lead National Congress Of American Indians
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, April 18
The National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) five-month search for its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is over. Citing his experience in economic development, NCAI’s board of directors named Dante Desiderio (Sappony Tribe) the new CEO on Thursday. He has been the executive director of the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) for the past 10 years. Desiderio, who was employed by NCAI as director of economic policy during the Great Recession, will take over the helm on May 11 of the largest and most represented American Indian organization in the United States.
Minn. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Tweets Minnesota Is “A Place Where It Is Not Safe To Be Black”
Native News Online, April 18
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (D), a tribal citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, tweeted on Sunday afternoon that Minnesota is “a place where it is not safe to be Black.” Her comments come one week today after the Daunte Wright, Jr., was killed by a 26-year veteran Brooklyn Center, Minn. police officer who claimed she thought she was using her taser gun, not her service revolver. The officer, who was president of the police union, resigned on Tuesday.
Website Documents State’s Progress Returning Tribal Remains
AP News, April 18
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History now has a new website documenting its progress returning Native American remains in its collection to tribes. Since 1990, federal law has required that institutions like museums and schools that receive federal funding return human remains, funerary objects and other sacred items to their Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian descendants. The law outlining these requirements is the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA.
Score One For Wild Rice
Indian Country Today, April 18
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) disapproved Minnesota’s long-standing practice of excluding waterways used for the production of wild rice in the state’s listing of impaired waters under the Clean Water Act. In a March 2021 letter to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, EPA leaders partially approved Minnesota’s listing of impaired waters. But the state’s decision to exclude waterways with high levels of sulfate, deadly to wild rice, violates the Clean Water Act, according to the federal agency. “The 11 tribes in Minnesota have consulted with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency for years on the issue of excluding known impaired wild rice waters on Minnesota’s 303(d) list,” said April McCormick, secretary treasurer for the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Native American Remains Repatriated To Angel Mounds Site
AP News, April 17
The remains of more than 700 Native Americans have been returned to burial grounds in southwestern Indiana. Indiana University completed repatriation of the remains to Angel Mounds State Historic Site from the school’s Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology. In 2018, Indiana University researchers landed a $300,000 federal grant to preserve a treasure trove of artifacts excavated from the site. The school worked with several federally recognized tribal nations in the multi-year process to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
UNESCO Honor For Ancient Earthworks Hits Snag
Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, April 17
One thing stands between the 2,000-year-old Octagon Earthworks in Newark, Ohio, and a nomination to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List. It’s a golf course that leased the land nearly 100 years ago. The dispute over public access to the ancient ceremonial and burial earthworks landed before the Ohio Supreme Court on April 13 in a case pitting the state historical society against the Moundbuilders Country Club, within whose grounds the earthworks are located.
Infrastructure Plan Lifts Tribes’ Hope Of Turning On Water Taps
Bloomberg Law, April 16
Navajo Nation resident Percy Deal hopes that federal coronavirus relief, coupled with $2.3 trillion for infrastructure in the American Jobs Plan, will give him something his grandparents and even his parents didn’t have—running water in his home. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan is calling for the investment of $111 billion to modernize water systems, including $56 billion in grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, tribes, territories, and disadvantaged communities across the country. Nearly half of the households on tribal lands throughout the nation—about a half a million people—lack access to reliable water sources, clean drinking water, and basic sanitation. Advocates roughly estimate that about $10 billion would be required to entirely solve the problem of access to water on tribal lands.
Washington State Opts To Replace One Of Its Two US Capitol Statues With Native American Activist
The Hill, Alexandra Kelley, April 16
The statue of a noted Native American environmental activist will soon stand in the U.S. Capitol as Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a measure to install a statue of Billy Frank Jr. Frank Jr. died in 2014. He was a member of the Nisqually Tribe and was an environmental and treaty rights activist. Inslee signed House Bill 1372 on Wednesday, which will install a statue of Frank in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. He signed the bill at the Wa He Lut Indian School in Olympia. The new statue of Frank will replace one of the two current statues, Marcus Whitman. Whitman was a missionary who led early American settlements. He notably worked to convert Native Cayuse people to Christian teachings despite lacking theological training.