Good morning, NUNAverse:

The MIT Solve 2021 Indigenous Communities Fellowship is looking for its next class of Fellows! Applications are due on June 1. Six-eight fellows are chosen every year and receive a $10,000 award along MIT Solve support. Join us this tomorrow, May 7 from 4:00 to 4:45 PM EST for the first of four Community Engagement Clinics leading up to the application deadline. Register to learn more about the Fellowship and application process here. 

Yesterday, President Biden threw his support behind a World Trade Organization proposal to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, clearing a hurdle for vaccine-strapped countries to manufacture their own vaccines even though the patents are privately held. The WTO is considering a proposal to address that inequity, as India, South Africa and over 100 other nations advocate to waive IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines and medications. Previous to Wednesday’s announcement, the U.S. was among several other wealthy nations — including the U.K., Canada and Japan — that resisted WTO negotiations about the proposal.

Two new studies published yesterday found that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is extraordinarily effective at protecting against severe disease caused by two dangerous variants. The studies, which are based on the real-world use of the vaccine in Qatar and Israel, suggest that the vaccine can prevent the worst outcomes — including severe pneumonia and death — caused by B.1.1.7, the variant first identified in the U.K., and B.1.351, the variant first identified in South Africa.

Across the United States yesterday,  family members, advocates, and government leaders commemorated a day of awareness for the crises of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children. In Washington, a gathering hosted by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and other federal officials started with a prayer asking for guidance and grace for the Indigenous families who have lost relatives and those who have been victims of violence. Haaland said she believes the nation has reached an inflection point, and said it’s time to solve the crisis.

After a school calendar for New York City’s public school system was posted earlier this week with October 11 – Columbus Day, a state holiday – labeled as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the city Department of Education backtracked and instead designated the date as Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day. Asked about the matter at a virtual news briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the process of changing the name wasn’t right, “but the end result, it’s going to be a day to honor Italian American heritage, a day to honor Indigenous peoples, I think that’s a good way forward.” The Democratic mayor, who speaks frequently of his own Italian heritage, said that neither he nor Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter were consulted about the initial switch to just Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Keep reading for a full news update.


Biden Backs Waiving International Patent Protections For COVID-19 Vaccines

NPR, Emma Bowman, Ashish Valentine, May 5 

President Biden threw his support behind a World Trade Organization proposal on Wednesday to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, clearing a hurdle for vaccine-strapped countries to manufacture their own vaccines even though the patents are privately held.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Is Highly Effective Against Variants, Studies Find

New York Times, Emily Anthes, May 5 

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is extraordinarily effective at protecting against severe disease caused by two dangerous variants, according to two studies published Wednesday.

Blackfeet Shares Vaccine With Relatives, Neighbors In Canada

AP News, Iris Samuels, May 5

On a cloudy spring day, hundreds lined up in their cars on the Canadian side of the border crossing that separates Alberta and Montana. They had driven for hours and camped out in their vehicles in hopes of receiving the season’s hottest commodity — a Covid-19 vaccine — from a Native American tribe that was giving out its excess doses. The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana provided about 1,000 surplus vaccines last month to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border, in an illustration of the disparity in speed at which the United States and Canada are distributing doses. While more than 30% of adults in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, in Canada that figure is about 3%.


Vigils, Rallies Mark Day Of Awarreness For Indigenous Victims 

AP News, Susan Montoya Bryan, Felicia Fonseca, May 6 

Some shared agonizing stories of frustration and loss. Others prayed and performed ceremonies. All called for action.

Across the U.S. on Wednesday, family members, advocates and government leaders commemorated a day of awareness for the crises of violence against Indigenous women and children. They met at virtual events, vigils and rallies at state capitols and raised their voices on social media.

Statement Of President Fawn Sharp On Presidential Proclamation On Missing And Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day

NCAI, Fawn Sharp, May 5

I am heartened by yesterday’s Presidential Proclamation of May 5, 2021 as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day. For tribal communities, this all-too-real epidemic has devastated families across our nations. Victims’ families and Native advocates have marked this day to remember those we have lost but have never forgotten, and my prayers are with all of the families in Indian Country who are awaiting answers or grieving their missing relatives.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Will Provide MMIW Message To Native News Online Live Stream

Native News Online, May 5

Among the special guests on tonight’s Native News Online’s “Crisis in Indian Country: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” Facebook live stream will be Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who sent a video to discuss the epidemic spread.


Session Yields Mixed Results For Native Lawmakers

Montana Free Press, Amanda Eggert, May 4

Democratic lawmakers from Montana’s American Indian Caucus entered the 2021 legislative session with the numbers stacked against them. Minorities within a minority party, Native American lawmakers often found themselves trying to snuff measures seeking to restrict voting access, limit the presence of wild bison on Montana lands, and rework public assistance programming. But there were successes, too. Native American lawmakers passed legislation to support Indigenous language education, and funding to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people was again approved by the Legislature and the governor. The caucus also found success working together on issues and presenting a unified message on social and natural resource issues.


NYC Schools Try Compromise On Columbus Day, Displeasing Some

ABC News, Karen Matthews, May 5

In a possibly futile effort to please both Italian Americans who celebrate Christopher Columbus and racial justice advocates who accuse him of genocide, the New York City public school system has designated Oct. 11 as Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day. The double-naming of the school holiday happened Tuesday after a calendar for the 2021-2022 school year was initially posted with Oct. 11, which is Columbus Day, a state holiday, labeled simply Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The change, which was made without the knowledge of the city’s mayor, drew swift condemnation from elected officials, including Democratic state senators Diane Savino and Joe Addabbo, who called the renaming of Columbus Day “block-headed” and said it did “terrible disservice to a difficult and complex conversation.” The city Department of Education then backtracked and changed the name again.

Fire Destroys Up Church Named For Native American Saint

AP News, May 5

Fire in the early hours Wednesday destroyed a Roman Catholic church in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church was built in 1967 in Bay Mills Township in Chippewa County. It was declared a total loss, according to the police at Bay Mills Indian Community. The church was named for the first Native American to be declared a saint in 2012.

Deb Haaland: ‘Unfortunate’ That Rick Santorum Doesn’t Know Native American History 

Huffington Post, Jennifery Bendery, May 5 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Tuesday that it is “unfortunate” former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) recently claimed that “nothing” was in America before white colonizers arrived and that Native Americans haven’t done much for American culture anyway.

The Map Of Native American Tribes You’ve Never Seen Before 

OPB, Hansi Lo Wang, May 5 

Finding an address on a map can be taken for granted in the age of GPS and smartphones. But centuries of forced relocation, disease and genocide have made it difficult to find where many Native American tribes once lived.