Good morning, NUNAverse:
Yesterday, President Biden announced his intention to ship surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccines to needy nations abroad, including millions of doses of the U.S.-authorized Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The majority of the planned shipments will be of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which does not yet have authorization for use in the United States. The President said he plans to have some 80 million doses of the vaccine distributed overseas by the end of June, by which point Biden says the United States will have produced enough doses of the vaccine to cover its own citizens.
The Native American Rights Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging two new election laws in Montana as unconstitutional infringements on Native peoples’ right to vote. The lawsuit argues that the measures recently passed in Montana are “part of a broader scheme” to disenfranchise Native voters. It argues that the laws violate the right to vote, freedom of speech, and equal protection under the Montana Constitution.
A new Nielsen survey found that 51 percent of sports fans still feel using Native people as mascots is an honor and 53 percent of fans want more education on why teams like Washington’s Football Team and Cleveland’s Baseball Team are changing their names and mascots. When broken down by sport, roughly two-thirds of MLB and NFL fans and 58 percent of NBA fans thought that the appropriation was harmful.
In Alaska, the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau wants to sell 462 acres of property in the Copper River Valley to its Indigenous inhabitants for more than $4,000 an acre. The Catholic Church originally purchased the land in the 1950s for $1.25 per acre from the United States Government, and if the Native Village of Tazlina – a federally recognized tribe – are not able to raise the $1.86 million asking price, the Catholic Church plans to put the property up for sale on the open market.
Keep reading for a full news update.
U.S. To Ship 20 Million Additional COVID Vaccine Doses Overseas
NPR, Alana Wise, May 17
President Biden on Monday announced his intention to ship surplus doses of the coronavirus vaccine to needy nations abroad, including millions of doses of the U.S.-authorized Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The majority of the planned shipments will be of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which does not yet have authorization for use in the United States.
Virus Testing Strategies, Opinions Vary Widely In US Schools
AP News, Heather Hollingsworth, May 17
Children are having their noses swabbed or saliva sampled at school to test for the coronavirus in cities such as Baltimore, New York and Chicago. In other parts of the U.S., school districts are reluctant to check even students showing signs of illness for COVID-19. Education and health officials around the country have taken different approaches to testing students and staff members — and widely varying positions or whether to test them at all as more children give up virtual classrooms for in-person learning. Some states have rejected their share of the billions of dollars the Biden administration made available for conducting virus tests in schools. Officials in districts that have embraced testing describe it as an important tool for making sure schools reopen safely and infections remain under control. They note that the virus might otherwise elude detection since young people with the virus often are asymptomatic and most teachers have been vaccinated.
Vaccinating Native Youth
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, May 17
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky announced in a written statement Wednesday night: “CDC now recommends that [the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine] be used among this [12-to-15 year old] population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away.” Tribal and Indian Health Service health care providers had been preparing for weeks for the day when they could begin vaccinating younger age groups. Tribes across the country have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases among school children, prompting officials to schedule more vaccination clinics and cancel events.
Montana’s New Voting Laws Violate Native Americans’ Rights, A Lawsuit Argues.
The New York Times, Maggie Astor, May 17
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Native American Rights Fund filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging two new election laws in Montana as unconstitutional infringements on Native Americans’ right to vote. Montana legislators enacted the laws — H.B. 176, which eliminated same-day voter registration, and H.B. 530, which restricted ballot collection — this spring, amid a national Republican push to tighten voting regulations in connection with President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of election fraud. The lawsuit argues that the measures in Montana, where an estimated 6.5 percent of the population is Native American and district courts struck down another ballot collection restriction last year, are “part of a broader scheme” to disenfranchise Native voters. It argues that the laws violate the right to vote, freedom of speech and equal protection under the Montana Constitution.
Suit Targets Laws That Opponents Say Hurt Native Americans
AP News, Amy Beth Hanson, May 17
A lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Native American voting rights organizations and four tribes challenging new laws they say are part of a broader scheme by the Montana Legislature to disenfranchise Native American voters. The Legislature passed a bill to eliminate Election Day voter registration by closing late registration at noon on the Monday before Election Day. It also approved a bill including a provision to prohibit the paid collection of absentee ballots. Plaintiffs Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote participate in get-out-the-vote efforts on reservations, including collecting absentee ballots and driving people to polls to register and vote on Election Day.
Native Students Finally Win The Right To Wear Tribal Regalia At Graduation Ceremonies
AZ Central, Shondiin Silversmith, May 17
In 2019, LaRissa Waln, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, was standing outside State Farm Stadium in Glendale wearing a purple graduation gown, holding her graduation cap as her senior class from Valley Vista High School in Surprise graduated inside. She couldn’t join the festivities because her cap was adorned with beadwork and an eagle feather, a traditional practice the Dysart Unified School District did not allow. Waln’s experience was one of many that led to the introduction of House Bill 2705 in the state Legislature, which would allow a citizen of a federally recognized tribe to wear traditional regalia”or objects of cultural significance” during graduation in Arizona. A school district governing board could not say otherwise. The idea behind HB2705 came in 2019 and was introduced by former Rep. Arlando Teller, D-Chinle. His successor, Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, moved it through the Arizona House and Senate this year. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey on April 20.
After A ‘Racial Reckoning,’ More Than Half Of Sports Fans Don’t Think Native American Mascots Are Offensive
The Hill, Anagha Srikanth, May 17
Since the Black Lives Matter movement reignited a national discussion on racism last summer during the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately harmed Indigenous people in the United States, the Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Baseball Team have caved in to long standing demands to change their racist mascots. While many fans agree with the change, 51 percent of fans still feel using Native Americans as mascots is an honor and 53 percent of fans want more education on why these changes are happening, according to a new Nielsen survey. Native American communities and activists have been outspoken in their criticism of Indigenous people and culture being objectified as mascots.
Grassroots Cross-Border Coalition Takes On MMIWG Crisis With House Of The Moon’s Holistic Empowerment And Self-Defense Training
Native News Online, May 17
On May 5th, the newly designated National Day of Awareness for MMIWG, Native News Online held a forum, “Crisis in Indian Country: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” One of the panelists was Chairwoman Shelly Fyant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) from the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. She spoke about a holistic empowerment and self-defense facilitator training program for Indigenous women of which she is one of the founding council members. The organizing body is called House of the Moon (HOTM) and although the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the delivery of the program, it went forward virtually for the pilot run. On April 27, seven Indigenous women from both sides of the Medicine Line (U.S./Canada border) graduated with a certificate of completion to become the program’s first holistic empowerment and self- defense facilitators.
Alaska Village Eyes Return Of Ancestral Lands
Indian Country Today, Stewart Huntington, May 17
Catholic missionaries first started venturing into Alaskan territory in the late 19th century, not long after Russia sold the land to the United States for two cents per acre. The Catholic Church built missions and churches, and in the 1950s, bought land in the Copper River Valley from the U.S. government for a mission school largely serving Native students. Even at a modest $1.25 per acre, the sale netted the U.S. government a tidy return on investment. Now, 50 years after the once-thriving school was shuttered, the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau wants to sell the 462-acre property back to its Indigenous inhabitants for more than $4,000 an acre — or put it up for sale on the open market. And that has the citizens of the tiny Native Village of Tazlina — a federally recognized tribe — scrambling to raise the $1.86 million asking price so they can regain stewardship of their ancestral lands.
New Mexico Education Department Mandates Diversity Course
AP News, Cedar Attanasio, May 17
Employees at the New Mexico Public Education Department are completing a three-hour diversity course as part of a plan to address a court order to improve services for students of different cultural, linguistic, and income backgrounds. The virtual training was mandated for all 234 agency employees including Education Secretary Ryan Stewart, a spokeswoman said. Repeat sessions on Thursday and Friday were open to hundreds of teachers and school leaders outside the agency who signed up voluntarily. New Mexico is trying to improve the way the education system serves Indigenous, low-income, and English language-learning students in part because of an ongoing court order to provide them with an adequate education.
Turtle Mountain Descendant Commits Suicide After Guilty Verdict In Federal Court
Native News Online, Darren Thompson, May 17
Minutes after a jury returned a partial guilty plea verdict for an incident that happened two years ago on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in north central North Dakota, the convicted man committed suicide on Monday, May 17. The jury had just been escorted out of the courtroom. Jeffrey Sahl Ferris, 54, of Belcourt, N.D., was not identified initially, but his case was the only one scheduled in the U.S. District Courthouse in Fargo. The incident that led to Ferris being charged began with him chasing several youths near an abandoned house in the proximity of his home. He chased them away with his vehicle and a 9mm handgun.