Good morning, NUNAverse:
The MIT Solve 2021 Indigenous Communities Fellowship is looking for its next class of Fellows! Six to eight fellows are chosen every year and receive a $10,000 award along MIT Solve support. Join us tomorrow from 4:00 to 4:45 PM EST for the second of four Community Engagement Clinics leading up to the application deadline. Register to learn more about the Fellowship and application process here.
Yesterday, U.S. regulators expanded the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12. The Food and Drug Administration declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. Shots could begin as soon as Thursday, after a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds.
Following five tribal consultations between the U.S. Department of Treasury and 85 tribal leaders held in March and April, the Treasury Department has announced the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Tribal Government Allocation Methodology, authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides $350 billion in emergency relief for tribal, state, and local governments. The rescue plan allocated $20 billion to tribes, with $1 billion being allocated equally among eligible tribal governments and $19 billion divided by the Treasury.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on Wednesday proposed letting Alaska Native Vietnam War veterans exchange promised federal land allotments, which many say are not available in their cultural regions, for state lands. Details would need to be worked out through the legislative process, with lawmakers eyeing adjournment in about two weeks. Dunleavy said he sees this as an opportunity to “right a wrong” the federal government should have addressed long ago. Under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act, Alaska Natives were allowed to apply for up to 160 acres of land. But Dunleavy’s office said that program’s restrictions kept many from applying until the 1960s.
Last week, the U.S. Department of the Interior said that it would not pursue a Trump administration proposal that critics feared would have weakened rules for exploratory oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters. A statement from the department said existing regulations released in 2016 remain in effect and “are critical to ensuring adequate safety and environmental protections for this sensitive ecosystem and Alaska Native subsistence activities.”
Keep reading for a full news update.
COVID Relief Funding:
Treasury Dept.’s Plan To Distribute $20 Billion To Tribes Of American Rescue Plan Funds Met With Gratitude
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, May 10
After five tribal consultation sessions with tribes held this spring, the Treasury Department on Monday released its plan to distribute $20 billion to tribal nations from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act. The Act was allocated by Congress and signed into law by President Biden. The tribal distribution plan was sent in a letter to tribal leaders, who were given an opportunity to participate in a video call on Monday afternoon. According to the letter, the Treasury Department requires all tribal governments to submit a request for funding through an online portal no later than May 24, in order to receive its share of $1 billion that will be allocated equally among the tribes. After a tribe’s submission is received, it will take approximately four to five days for the Treasury Department to review and process. For the remaining $19 billion, 65 percent or $12.35 billion of the Treasury’s allocation will be based on self-certified tribal enrollment numbers that were submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April 2021. The remaining 35 percent, or $6.65 billion, will be distributed to tribes based on tribal employment data.
Relief Money For Tribes
Indian Country Today, Kalle Benallie, May 10
In late March and early April, the U.S. Department of Treasury hosted five tribal consultations with 85 tribal leaders to receive input on how to improve the allocation of funds for pandemic and economic relief. The result was the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Tribal Government Allocation Methodology, authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, which provides $350 billion in emergency relief for state, local and tribal governments.
The rescue plan allocated $20 billion to tribes. Details about the allocation were shared Monday. A total of $1 billion will be allocated equally among eligible tribal governments and $19 billion will be divided by the Treasury. Of that, $12.35 billion will be allocated based on the tribe’s self-certified tribal enrollment from numbers submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April. The rest, $6.65 billion, will be based on self-certified tribal employment data from numbers submitted to the Treasury in May 2020 in connection with the CARES Act.
Pfizer COVID-19 Shot Expanded To US Children As Young As 12
AP News, Lauran Neergaard, May 10
U.S. regulators on Monday expanded the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12, offering a way to protect the nation’s adolescents before they head back to school in the fall and paving the way for them to return to more normal activities. Shots could begin as soon as Thursday, after a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for using the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds. An announcement is expected Wednesday.The Food and Drug Administration declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. The agency noted there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 16 among kids given dummy shots. More intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.
Monday Navajo Nation COVID-19 Update: 30 New Cases & 1 New Deaths
Native News Online, May 10
On Monday, the Navajo Department of Health reported 19 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation on Sunday and 11 new cases on Monday. One more death was also reported for March 9. The total number of deaths is now 1,285. Reports indicate that 29,239 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. 267,503 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 30,620. Daily numbers of new cases and deaths were not reported on Sunday due to the Mother’s Day holiday. Monday’s numbers reflect totals for Sunday and Monday combined.
Interior Drops Trump Proposal For Arctic Offshore Drilling
AP News, May 10
The U.S. Interior Department said Friday that it would not pursue a Trump administration proposal that critics feared would have weakened rules for exploratory oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters. A statement from the department said existing regulations released in 2016 remain in effect and “are critical to ensuring adequate safety and environmental protections for this sensitive ecosystem and Alaska Native subsistence activities.” The changes proposed under the Trump administration were not finalized and sought to remove what federal agencies at that time characterized as “unnecessary, burdensome provisions.” The proposal would have eliminated a requirement that companies submit an operations plan that addresses all aspects of their expected drilling activities before filing an exploration plan, saying companies know they must prepare for risks and challenges through their exploration plan. It also would have changed some rules around containment equipment, among other things, according to a fact sheet from the agencies.
Federal Legislation Forthcoming Stemming From McGirt
Indian Country Today, May 10
The Cherokee and Chickasaw nations both have come out in support of “narrow federal legislation” that will authorize compacting between the two tribes and the state on jurisdiction issues stemming from last year’s McGirt decision. The legislation is expected to be filed by U.S Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw Nation, as early as Tuesday. The Congress member from Oklahoma plans to release a statement after its introduction, according to the Associated Press. In a press call Monday afternoon, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. called today one of the most significant days since the McGirt ruling came down and said the legislation will unshackle the tribe by allowing it to compact in a meaningful way with the state.
Haskell Indian Nations University President Ronald Graham Fired; Tamarah Pfeiffer (Dinế) Named Acting President
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, May 10
Dr. Ronald Graham, president of Haskell Indian Nations University, was fired by the Haskell National Board of Regents last Friday after an internal investigation was revealed he was stifling the free speech rights of students and faculty. The investigation prompted by Haskell Faculty Senate’s vote of no-confidence last month in now-former University President Ronald Graham, Dr. Tamarah Pfeiffer (Diné) will immediately assume the role of acting president of Haskell Indian Nations University, according to The Indian Leader, Haskell’s student newspaper. Graham came under fire last fall after he forbade The Indian Leader’s editor from engaging in routine news reporting. Under Graham’s leadership, the university refused to acknowledge the newspaper, the oldest Native American student newspaper, as a student organization and subsequently reduced the newspaper’s budget by over $10,000 in funding after Graham deemed the newspaper as being too critical of the university.
Governor Proposes Land Exchange For Alaska Native Veterans
AP News, Becky Bohrer, May 10
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Wednesday proposed letting Alaska Native Vietnam War veterans exchange promised federal land allotments that many say are not available in their cultural regions for state lands. Details would need to be worked out through the legislative process, with lawmakers eyeing adjournment in about two weeks. Dunleavy said he sees this as an opportunity to “right a wrong” the federal government should have addressed long ago. Under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act, Alaska Natives were allowed to apply for up to 160 acres of land. But Dunleavy’s office said that program’s restrictions kept many from applying until the 1960s.
Native Americans Expand Efforts To Preserve Voting Rights In Georgia
Native News Online, May 10
Native American voter advocacy organizations and a Georgia tribe are launching a voter education campaign in Georgia in support of federal legislation that will prevent anti-democracy partisans in states from imposing voter suppression laws intended to block members of tribes, nations, and other minority communities from casting ballots in local, state and federal elections. Four Directions Native Vote, the leading Native American voter mobilization group in the United States; The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, based in Whigham, Ga.; and the Global Indigenous Council, an advocacy organization that seeks to unite Indigenous communities on common issues, are leading the voter education effort campaign in Georgia, where one of the most destructive voter suppression laws was recently passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.
Indian Chief’s Descendant Wants Harvard To Return Tomahawk
AP News, May 10
A Native American lawyer wants Harvard University to return a tomahawk once owned by his pioneering ancestor, Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Tribe. Brett Chapman, of Oklahoma, told GBH last week that he’s reached out to the Cambridge, Massachusetts university’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology to return the heirloom. Standing Bear gave the tomahawk to one of his lawyers after winning the 1879 Nebraska federal court case that made him one of the first Native Americans granted civil rights under U.S. law, Chapman said. Standing Bear’s lawyer wrongfully gave away the artifact and that others, including the Ponca tribe of Nebraska, are now also seeking its return, he said.
Maine Senator Looks To Expand Tribal Broadband Access
AP News, May 9
Maine’s independent senator has co-sponsored a proposal to give Native American tribes more time to meet requirements to expand broadband on their lands. Sen. Angus King said the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2021 would give the tribal nations and native Hawaii organizations more time to apply for spectrum licenses for unassigned spectrum over their lands. King said that is a pivotal step to growing broadband. The Federal Communication Commission gave the tribes the opportunity to apply for the licenses in 2019. The application window closed in September 2020. King said his proposal would require the FCC to open another window that would last for at least 180 days. He said that would give the tribal nations, which are contending with difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, adequate time. The connection rate to fixed broadband services for Americans who live on trial lands is 65%, compared to 92% for Americans who don’t live on tribal lands, King said.