Good morning, NUNAverse:
On Friday the U.S. Department of Treasury reversed the distribution methodology for the $8 billion in the CARES Act for tribal governments. The initial methodology used the Indian Housing Blog Grant program to determine population of tribes – and therefore allocation of funding – and the reversal could settle a lawsuit filed by the Shawnee Tribe in June of 2020. While the announcement did not specifically name the Shawnee Tribe in its reversal, it did mention the lawsuit that is still pending. Two other tribes are part of the same legal action, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Miccosukee Tribe, with the Shawnee Tribe.
On the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s Dachau Concentration Camp, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights center based in Los Angeles, is celebrating a Native soldier of Chikasaw and Choctaw descent for his assistance. Twin brothers Bennett Freeny and Benjamin Freeny—born in 1922 in Caddo, Oklahoma—enrolled in the U.S. Army as 18-year-olds, both serving as combat medics. Bennett Feeny was part of one of the first units to enter Dachau Concentration Camp on April 29, 1945, where they helped liberate tens of thousands of prisoners. His brother, Benjamin Freeny, was killed in combat in Italy two years earlier, according to the Center’s archivist.
The Interior Department announced Friday that Larry Roberts, a citizen of the Oneida Nation and a professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, will serve as its first ever Native chief of staff. Roberts served as Acting Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs during the Obama administration. Prior to that, he served as General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has sued the U.S. Department of the Interior in an effort to have fireworks shot over Mount Rushmore National Monument ton Independence Day. The Republican Governor successfully pushed last year for a return of the pyrotechnic display after a decadelong hiatus. The event drew national attention when former President Donald Trump joined Noem on July 3, but the state’s application to hold fireworks this year was denied by the National Park Service, which cited safety concerns and objections from local tribes.
In collaboration with Oklahoma State University, the Cherokee Nation is one of three Oklahoma tribes chosen by NASA to create a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum that includes Native culture. As part of a $3.3 million program called Native Earth|Native Sky, the program will “build culturally-relevant earth-sky STEM programming” to help increase students’ understanding and interest in STEM. According to an OSU press release, the funding is a cooperative agreement with OSU College of Education and Human Sciences.
Keep reading for a full news update.
CARES Act Funding:
Biden Administration Reverses Trump’s Flawed CARES Act Funds Distribution Methodology
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, May 1
The U.S. Department of Treasury on Friday reversed the distribution methodology for $8 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that was put in place during the Trump administration. Friday’s announcement could lead to settling a lawsuit filed by the Shawnee Tribe in June 2020 that disputed the Treasury Department’s methodology of using the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) program to determine population. After President Biden assumed the presidency and a new Treasury secretary was sworn in, the Treasury Dept. began consulting with tribal nations to determine the funding methodologies for funds designated to tribes from funds available from the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law in March 2021. However, during the tribal consultation process, several tribes voiced their concerns about moving forward without addressing the lingering issue presented in several lawsuits still pending in the federal court system.
Biden’s First 100 Days: Impact On Indian Country
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, April 30
Much attention was paid Thursday on the Biden administration’s first 100 days in office. When President Joe Biden took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2021, he inherited several crises—the covid-19 crisis, an economic crisis, a racial crisis, and a climate crisis. There is no doubt the new Biden administration has been successful getting the covid-19 vaccine shots to 220,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives. When Biden took over, there was no logistical plan in place to get the shots into the arms of Americans.
Interior Department Appoints First Native American Chief Of Staff
The Hill, Zack Budryk, April 30
The Interior Department announced Friday that Lawrence Roberts will serve as its first ever Indigenous chief of staff. Roberts, a citizen of the Oneida Nation, previously served as former President Obama’s acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and principal deputy secretary for Indian Affairs. Roberts has also worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The department announced Roberts’s new role along with several other new appointments, including Heidi Todacheene, a citizen of the Navajo Nation who previously served as Secretary Deb Haaland’s legislative council in Congress.
Shooting At Oneida Casino In Green Bay Results In 3 Deaths, Including Shooter
Native News Online, Darren Thompson, May 2
A shooting at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, that is connected to the Oneida Casino, Saturday evening resulted in the killing of three people including the gunman and one person injured according to the Brown County Sheriff’s Office. The Brown County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement officials killed the shooter, but it’s unclear to what law enforcement official. The Radisson Hotel and Conference Center and Oneida Casino are owned and operated by the Oneida Nation.
California Native Americans Won Health Care Settlement. Federal Government Hasn’t Delivered
Fresno Bee, Yesenia Amaro, May 2
Finally, California’s Native American population — the nation’s largest — would receive its rightful share of federal health care funding. Triumphant, leaders in the California Native community journeyed to Washington to negotiate the process of opening the funding pipeline. That was more than four decades ago. Today, despite a 1979 federal court-ordered settlement that would have pumped millions of dollars into California for Native American health care, the state’s share remains stunningly underfunded by the Indian Health Service, Native leaders say. Their claim has been corroborated by government records and, most recently, a 2019 letter to IHS co-signed by then-senator Kamala Harris and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, urging the agency to repair “this longstanding inequity.” The consequences for the health of the state’s largely poor and low-income Native population are incalculable.
Minnesota Supreme Court Blocks Mine In Northern Minnesota; Seen As A Victory For Tribes
Native News Online, Darren Thompson, April 30
On Wednesday, April 28, the Minnesota Supreme Court blocked a critical permit for the controversial Polymet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. The denial affirms a lower court’s decision on January 13, 2020 that required the company to gather more information on the potential environmental impacts of the mine and to impose a fixed term on the permit to mine. According to the Polymet’s website, the mine aims to extract copper, nickel and other metals from the NorthMet ore body, located near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., using modern, responsible and sustainable practices. The NorthMet ore body is a deposit of minerals located in northeastern Minnesota contained within the geological region known as the Duluth Complex, near to the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
South Dakota Governor Sues For Fireworks At Mount Rushmore
AP News, Stephen Groves, April 30
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sued the U.S. Department of Interior on Friday in an effort to see fireworks shot over Mount Rushmore National Monument on Independence Day. The Republican governor successfully pushed last year for a return of the pyrotechnic display after a decades-long hiatus. The event drew national attention when former President Donald Trump joined Noem on July 3 to give a fiery speech. But the state’s application to hold fireworks this year was denied by the National Park Service, which cited safety concerns and objections from local Native American tribes.
Sens. Introduce Bill To Support Native American Languages
Law 360, Joyce Hanson, April 30
Two U.S. senators have introduced a bipartisan bill that proposes to reauthorize the three-decades-old Native American Languages Act and help preserve vanishing native languages by seeking input from tribal members on how to coordinate federal programs designed to protect indigenous identities. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the committee’s vice chairman, said Thursday that the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act of 2021 is named in honor of Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran Durbin Feeling, who died on Aug. 19. The 2021 act seeks to protect the rights of Native Americans to use their languages, continuing the federal government’s support efforts that began when it enacted the Native American Languages Act of 1990, according to the lawmakers.
A Little Help: Northwestern University Adds A Special “Helper” Version Of National News And Healthcare Survey For Natives Who Need A Hand
Native News Online, May 2
A comprehensive survey of Indigenous people in North America is now more accessible to Native elders and others who lack the internet or may need help taking the online poll. The survey of American Indians, Alaska Natives and First Nations people is focused on understanding how Indigenous people are getting their news and health care during the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic. The survey is being conducted by the Northwestern University Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) and the university’s Medill School of Journalism in collaboration with Native News Online.
Gerald R. Ford International Airport Unveils Majestic Sculpture By Native Artist Jason Quigno
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, May 2
Travelers in and out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, West Michigan’s largest airport, now have an opportunity to understand the rich connection the region has to its Native population, which has its roots in Michigan for thousands of years. On Wednesday, airport officials unveiled the 9-ft. tall “Aankobiisinging Eshki-kakamigak,” or “Connection to Creation,” carved sculpture that was formed from black granite and Indiana limestone and features important elements in Anishinaabe teachings. The sculpture was carved by award-winning Anishinaabe sculptor Jason Quigno.
Native American Liberator Of Nazi Germany Recognized By Jewish Human Rights Group
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, May 2
On the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s Dachau Concentration Camp, a Jewish human rights center based in Los Angeles is celebrating a Native American soldier of Chikasaw and Choctaw descent for his assistance. Twin brothers Bennett Freeny and Benjamin Freeny—born in 1922 in Caddo, Okla.—enrolled in the U.S. Army as 18-year-olds, both serving as combat medics, according to information provided by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Are Alaska Wildlife Better Protected Than People?
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, May 2
In Southeast Alaska, Tlingit villagers say it seems like the state places more value on the life of a moose than the safety of human beings. In early April the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida held a forum on House Bill 123, which would provide state recognition to federally recognized tribes. The subject of public safety response times compared to wildlife protection came up. “In our villages, we often don’t have law enforcement, right? When something happens to our people, [when] something horrible happens, we don’t have the law enforcement that other communities have,” said First Alaskans Institute CEO and President La Quen Náay Liz Medicine Crow, who is Haida and Tlingit.
NASA Taps Cherokee Nation To Create Curriculum
Indian Country Today, Lindsey Bark, May 1
In collaboration with Oklahoma State University, the Cherokee Nation is one of three Oklahoma tribes chosen by NASA to create a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum that includes Native American culture. As part of a $3.3 million program called Native Earth|Native Sky, the program will “build culturally-relevant earth-sky STEM programming” to help increase students’ understanding and interest in STEM. According to an OSU press release, the funding is a cooperative agreement with OSU College of Education and Human Sciences.
How The Pandemic Exposed The Water Issues For Southwestern Tribes
The Salt Lake Tribune, Judy Fahys, April 30
While the world watched in horror as refrigerator trailers collected the bodies of covid-19 victims in New York City, the suffering of Native American people was almost invisible. The Navajo Nation was enduring an infection rate 21 percent higher than New York during the same time period. And the White Mountain Apache tribe on the New Mexico-Arizona border was grappling with infection rates almost twice as high as the national average. A key factor driving these staggering infection numbers, according to a new report, was the limited access to water that as many as half of the Native Americans on reservations face. As hard as people across the country found it to practice rigorous hand-washing and social distancing, it was even tougher for many members of the 30 tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Many lacked the clean water essential for sanitizing their homes and bodies to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Green Jobs’ Path To Middle Class, Sustainability Largely Blocked To Native Americans
USA Today, Alia Wong, April 30
The green economic boom that promises many Americans a new entry to the middle class hasn’t lifted everyone equally. The fields are so new that connecting workers with training opportunities is difficult. Plus, what training exists often fails to resonate with Native people, focusing more on technical skills than on environmental knowledge and cultural practices. The disconnect is especially striking in Indigenous communities, where a sustainable lifestyle is often seen not only as a cultural and moral imperative, but an existential one, too.
Native American Tribes Have Long Struggled With High Rates Of Diabetes, And covid-19 Made The Problem Even More Urgent
USA Today, Nada Hassanein, April 30
Diabetes disproportionately affects Native American people. They are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic whites and are less likely to have treatment. In 2018, American Indian and Alaska Natives were 2.3 times more likely to die from the disease, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the year before, only 1% of Indigenous people with diabetes had foot or eye examinations, compared with 70% and 61% of white people respectively. The population also is twice as likely to reach end-stage renal disease from diabetes, data shows. Tribes, researchers and medical communities have long been tackling such health problems rooted in systemic inequities. As the pandemic hit Native American people hardest, the urgency has only grown.
Leonard Peltier’s Spiritual Advisor, Lenny Foster, Submits Statement To UN Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues
Native News Online, April 30
During the two-week-long the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), Indigenous citizens from around the globe are afforded opportunities to address the forum in-person or through written submissions on issues that impact the lives of Indigenous peoples. Lenny Foster (Navajo), who has served as Leonard Peltier’s spiritual advisor for several decades, submitted a written statement.
‘We Are Past The Point Of Crisis’
Indian Country Today, Stewart Huntington, April 30
Alaska is home to a rich tapestry of more than 20 Native languages, but some are fading and others are threatened. Now a group of Native scholars is urging the University of Alaska System to adopt a major overhaul of its Indigenous language programs in a fight against time to preserve living cultural treasures. Set against the backdrop of stubbornly low graduation rates for Alaska Native students and diminishing faculty representation, the group – the Alaska Native Studies Council – has petitioned university leaders to act, and act fast. University officials say they are listening.