Good morning/afternoon, NUNAverse:
Yesterday, after two weeks of work between Democrats and Republicans, the Senate passed legislation that would ramp up law enforcement efforts to better protect Asian American and Pacific Islander communities from hate crimes. The legislation, introduced by Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii in the Senate, saw a breakthrough late Wednesday during negotiations with Republicans. Senator Susan Collins of Maine helped lead efforts to broaden the original scope of the bill to go beyond hate crimes initiated during the pandemic. The bill, which needed 60 votes for passage in the evenly divided Senate, was approved by a 94-1 vote. Only Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri voted no.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is scheduled to meet from 11A.M. to 5 P.M. EST today to discuss how to move forward with Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. The Committee is expected to vote on updated recommendations for use of the vaccine and whether it’s likely to be linked to a rare blood clotting syndrome they’re calling thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).
First lady Jill Biden spent the first day of a trip to the Navajo Nation listening to female tribal leaders, whom she referred to as her “sister warriors,” on the needs and priorities of the country’s largest reservation. The trip was Biden’s third to the vast reservation and her inaugural visit as first lady. She vowed to work with the Navajo Nation and all tribal nations in a recognition of their inherent sovereignty and political relationship with the United States.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden nominated Principal Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Dept. of the Interior Bryan Newland to become the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Newland was nominated his current position on February 22, and Newland previously served as chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community, located in Brimley, Michigan. Before becoming chairman of Bay Mills, Newland served in the Obama administration as a Counselor and Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior-Indian Affairs.
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed several bills this week aimed at addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People in Montana, extending programs established in 2019. Two bills will extend a legislative task force and grant program with the goal of helping tribes identify and report missing people. Another measure will create a review commission under the state Department of Justice to recommend policies and improve collaboration between law enforcement agencies to address unsolved missing person cases. A Republican-controlled committee voted down an additional bill which would have created a grant to pay for training of law enforcement teams to respond to reported missing Native people in the state.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Jill Biden Hears From Navajo Women On Needs, Priorities
AP News, Felicia Fonseca, April 22
Jill Biden spent the first day of a two-day trip to the Navajo Nation on Thursday hearing from female leaders about the needs and priorities of the country’s largest Native American reservation, including more law enforcement and medical resources. Navajo Nation First Lady Phefelia Nez thanked her for supporting a cancer treatment center in Tuba City, on the reservation’s western side, but noted it has received more patients than expected and needs to be expanded. Biden’s last visit, in 2019, celebrated the center’s opening. Others spoke about violence against women and said more resources are needed for victims. Outside, some residents who lined the streets along Biden’s route to the tribal government center held photos of Indigenous women who have disappeared or been killed.
Former Bay Mills Indian Community Leader Nominated By Biden To Lead Interior Dept. – Indian Affairs
Native News Online, April 22
On Thursday, President Joe Biden nominated Principal Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Dept. of the Interior Bryan Newland to become the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Newland was nominated to principal deputy assistant to the Secretary of Indian Affairs on Feb. 22, 2021. Prior to his February appointment, Newland served as chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community, located in Brimley, Michigan. Before becoming chairman of Bay Mills, Newland served in the Obama administration as a Counselor and Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior-Indian Affairs.
In Rare Moment Of Bipartisan Unity, Senate Approves Asian American Hate Crimes Bill
NPR, Claudia Grisales, April 22
Capping nearly two weeks of talks between Democrats and Republicans, the Senate approved legislation on Thursday to ramp up law enforcement efforts to better protect the Asian American and Pacific Islander community from hate crimes.
Governor Signs Religious Freedom Bill Allowing Challenges
AP News, April 22
Montana’s governor on Thursday signed a bill that codifies the right of people to challenge government regulations that interfere with their religious beliefs. The legislation, by Republican Sen. Carl Glimm, requires the government to have a compelling reason to violate a person’s constitutional right to freedom of religion and to meet its goals in the least restrictive way possible. Supporters have said such laws have been used to defend a Native American charged with illegally possessing eagle feathers, when they had them for religious purposes, and to uphold a student’s right to mention their faith in God during a graduation speech.
Tribes Say Alaska Natives OK If ANCs Denied Covid Funds
Law 360, Andrew Westney, April 22
Sixteen Native American tribes have told the U.S. Supreme Court that preserving a D.C. Circuit decision blocking Alaska Native corporations from receiving certain COVID-19 relief funding would not leave Alaska Natives short of health care and other services, after some justices showed concern on that score during oral arguments this week. The federally recognized tribes, including the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, the Navajo Nation and several Alaska tribes, told the high court in a letter Tuesday that there would be “no gap in services” for Alaska Natives if the justices upheld the D.C. Circuit’s September decision that ANCs don’t qualify as “Indian tribes” for a share of $8 billion for tribal governments under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
CDC Vaccine Advisers To Hear About New Blood Clot Cases Linked With J&J Coronavirus Vaccine
CNN, Maggie Fox, April 23
Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss how to move forward with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen coronavirus vaccine.
COVID-19 Hospitalizations Tumble Among US Senior Citizens
AP News, Matthew Perrone, April 22
COVID-19 hospitalizations among older Americans have plunged more than 70% since the start of the year, and deaths among them appear to have tumbled as well, dramatic evidence the vaccination campaign is working. Now the trick is to get more of the nation’s younger people to roll up their sleeves. The drop-off in severe cases among Americans 65 and older is especially encouraging because senior citizens have accounted for about 8 out of 10 deaths from the virus since it hit the U.S., where the toll stands at about 570,000. COVID-19 deaths among people of all ages in the U.S. have plummeted to about 700 per day on average, compared with a peak of over 3,400 in mid-January.
Montana Extends Programs To Address Tribes’ Missing Persons
AP News, Iris Samuels, April 22
Gov. Greg Gianforte signed this week several bills meant to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people in Montana, extending programs established in 2019. Native Americans make up only around 7% of Montana’s population but a quarter of reported missing person cases. And Native Americans are over four times more likely to be victims of homicide than white people in Montana, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two bills will extend a legislative task force and grant program with the goal of helping tribes identify and report missing people. Another measure will create a review commission under the state Department of Justice to recommend policies and improve collaboration between law enforcement agencies to address unsolved missing person cases.
Tribal Officials Outline Infrastructure Gap ‘Big As The Grand Canyon’
Cronkite News, Sarah Oven, April 22
Tribes face a digital divide “as big as the Grand Canyon” and a “not even quantifiable” lack of utility access, just two of the problems outlined at a House hearing Wednesday on infrastructure needs in Indian Country. Witnesses at the House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing cited statistics that depict a bleak picture of infrastructure on reservations, including water and electricity, and said that even those numbers were likely overly optimistic. They urged the largely sympathetic subcommittee members to ensure that Native Americans are not left behind again in funding under the American Jobs Plan, the Biden administration’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
‘Pandemic Powwows’ Try To Get Back To Normal
Indian Country Today, Natasha Brennan, April 22
The coronavirus pandemic brought powwow season largely to a screeching halt last year.
Some powwows canceled their annual events; others went online only. Some held virtual competitions and cultural events from afar, but left most of the food and art vendors and daily workers sitting on the sidelines. And powwow season this year will not return to normal, either, even with vaccines rolling out and restrictions being lifted in some states. Several powwows have been canceled for a second year, or are still up in the air.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Indian Country Today, Kalle Benallie, April 22
Indigenous nations can combat climate change by noticing environmental changes, having leadership acting on it and, maybe, by just listening to grandma. Since 2002, Begay-Campbell, Navajo, has offered technical assistance for tribes with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through her work as a researcher at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. She measures “greenest” by who is energy efficient, followed by solar energy use. The researcher dubs the Blue Lake Rancheria tribe in northwest California as doing the best environmental work. She and her former student interns have visited the tribe to learn about their projects. The three tribal nations leading in clean energy include: the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska and the Moapa River Indian Reservation in Nevada.