Good morning, NUNAverse:
Yesterday, President Biden signed legislation that addresses hate crimes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with particular emphasis on the increase in violence against Asian Americans. The legislation aims to make the reporting of hate crimes more accessible at the local and state levels by boosting public outreach and ensuring reporting resources are available online in multiple languages. It also directs the Department of Justice to designate a point person to expedite the review of hate crimes related to COVID-19 and authorizes grants to state and local governments to conduct crime-reduction programs to prevent and respond to hate crimes.
Connecticut’s State House of Representatives approved a long-awaited gambling agreement Thursday that Governor Ned Lamont reached in March with the state’s two federally recognized tribes, moving the state closer to legalizing sports and online gambling. The legislation, which passed on a 122 to 21 vote and now awaits action in the Senate, directs the governor to amend the state’s compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that govern gambling, allowing both to offer sports betting, online gambling, and online fantasy contests in return for providing the state a share of the revenue generated.
The Navajo Nation Council removed the Navajo Nation Controller Pearline Kirk this week due to irregularities concerning contracts between the Office of the Controller (OOC) and Agile Technologies regarding unlawful COVID-19 testing on the Navajo Nation. The action comes following an investigation by the Navajo Nation Department of Justice of a CARES Act contract between the Navajo Nation Office of the Controller and Agile Technologies that revealed Agile was paid over $3 million in advance to provide COVID-19 testing using methods not approved for use on the Navajo Nation. Additionally, Agile did not report their test results to tribal health authorities, did not provide contact tracing, and failed to protect personal health information with their test samples.
The first Indigenous hip hop awards show will take place in Canada this weekend, highlighting Native artists from the United States, First Nations of Canada, Jamaica, Australia, India, and more. The awards show is a virtual event hosted by hip hop duo Mike Bone and will include virtual booths, mentoring, and networking opportunities. The event will also feature online workshops, a virtual trade show where fans can purchase merchandise and interact, and a virtual red carpet event.
Keep reading for a full news update.
CARES Act Funding:
Navajo Nation Controller Removed Due To Irregularities Involving CARES Act Funds
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, May 20
The Navajo Nation Controller Pearline Kirk was removed on Wednesday, May 19, by the Navajo Nation Council due to irregularities concerning contracts between the Office of the Controller (OOC) and Agile Technologies found regarding unlawful Covid-19 testing on the Navajo Nation. The action comes following an investigation by the Navajo Nation Department of Justice of a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act Funds contract between the Navajo Nation Office of the Controller and Agile Technologies that revealed Agile was paid over $3 million in advance to provide Covid-19 testing using methods not approved for use on the Navajo Nation. Additionally, Agile did not report their test results to tribal health authorities, did not provide contact tracing, and failed to protect personal health information with their test samples.
Former Auditor General Elizabeth Begay To Serve As Acting Controller
Native News Online, May 20
Reacting to Wednesday’s removal of Pearline Kirk as controller by the Navajo Nation Council, President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer appointed Elizabeth Begay to serve as acting controller. From 2007 until she retired in 2018, Begay served as the auditor general for the Navajo Nation. She began her service with the Navajo Nation in 1989 with the Division of Economic Development, and later served as a minerals auditor for the Minerals Audit Department before joining the Office of the Auditor General in 1991. Begay starts her new role on Friday, May 21. Once a new controller is appointed, the appointment will be subject to confirmation by the Navajo Nation Council.
Here’s What The New Hate Crimes Law Aims To Do As Attacks On Asian Americans Rise
NPR, Barbara Sprunt, May 20
Following overwhelming support from both chambers of Congress, President Biden signed legislation Thursday that addresses hate crimes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with particular emphasis on the increase in violence against Asian Americans.
Connecticut House Approves Sports Betting Deal With Tribes
AP News, Susan Haigh, May 20
The state House of Representatives approved a long-awaited gambling agreement Thursday that Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont reached in March with the state’s two federally recognized Native American tribes, moving the state closer to legalizing sports and online gambling.
The legislation, which passed on a 122 to 21 vote and now awaits action in the Senate, directs the governor to amend the state’s compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes that govern gambling, allowing both to offer sports betting, online gambling and online fantasy contests in return for providing the state a share of the revenue generated. If the legislation passes in the Senate, as expected, the amended compacts will ultimately need federal approval. The agreement allows the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to also offer online sports wagering and retail sports betting at 15 locations, including ones specifically located in Hartford and Bridgeport.
White Man Who Said He Was An American Indian ‘Medicine Man’ Convicted Of Sexual And Cultural Crimes
Native News Online, Darren Thompson, May 20
A man who is known as a Native American spiritual counselor was convicted on Tuesday, May 18 by a federal jury for sexual abuse against a minor who is Native American. Carl Gene Ortner Jr., 57, was found guilty of several sex crimes including transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, sexual abuse of a child an Indian Country, and abusive sexual contact in Indian Country. Because Ortner was not a tribal citizen of a federally recognized tribe and possessed cultural materials protected by federal law, he was also found guilty of possession of parts of a bald eagle, and possession of parts of a golden eagle. Federal prosecutors argued that Ortner portrayed himself as both an Indian and an American Indian “medicine man” to prey on his victim. Part of their argument was that Ortner had no tribal affiliation and no tribe could claim him on their tribal enrollment records. Ortner claimed he was a member of the Quapaw Nation in Oklahoma.
Two Years After Oregon’s MMIWG Legislation, Next Steps Unclear
Indian Country Today, Brian Bull, May 20
In 2019, Oregon lawmakers declared Missing and Murdered Women a statewide emergency. HB 2625, signed by the governor in May of that year, directed Oregon State Police to study how to combat the unsolved killings and disappearances of Native Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the state’s efforts. Last year, a series of statewide listening sessions with lawmakers, state agencies, law enforcement, and tribal communities in both rural and city environments was cut short, due to the state’s pandemic limitations on gatherings. Officials had planned 13 sessions, but only held five. While the state police released their report in September, the agency says it’s waiting on lawmakers to take additional action. Wednesday is a national day of awareness for MMIWG, now sometimes referred to as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons to include boys and men, and activists say there’s much work left to be done.
Red Jacket Peace Medal Welcomed Back Home To Seneca Nation
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, May 20
The Seneca Nation of Indians on Monday repatriated a Red Jacket Peace Medal gifted to Seneca Chief Red Jacket by President George Washington in 1792, after more than 50 years of it sitting in the Buffalo History Museum. According to the Nation, the returned medal is “an object of cultural patrimony under federal law and a symbol of peace, friendship, and enduring relationships among the United States and the Six Nations.” It was gifted to Chief Red Jacket to commemorate discussions that led to the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794, which was one of the earliest treaties between a Native Nation and the United States that confirmed peace with the Six Nations who occupied the border between the United States and British Canada, according to Smithsonian documents. Among the signatories of the treaty were Chief Red Jacket and Goerge Washington. After Chief Red Jacket’s death in 1833, the medal was passed through several different hands, including President Abraham Lincoln, before ending up at the Buffalo History Museum in 1895, according to the Nation.
Indiana University Repatriates 700+ Native American Remains To Angel Mounds
Indiana Public Media, Holden Abshier, May 20
Indiana University has returned the remains of more than 700 Native Americans to Angel Mounds, in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. The move on a single day in March followed years of coordination between IU’s Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology, various tribal nations, and Angel Mounds. Angel Mounds is a state historic site located on the Vanderburgh-Warrick county line near Evansville. The 600-acre property was a regional trading hub along the Ohio River until 1450.
Shrinking Child Poverty
AP News, Ashraf Khalil, May 20
Incoming Child Tax Credit payments from the Democrats’ COVID-19 aid bill passed in March are more than just an attempt to help families recover from the pandemic. The monthly checks of up to $300 per child for millions of families are part of an ambitious attempt to shrink child poverty and rethink the American social safety net in the process. With an emphasis on direct, no-strings cash support, the payments are a deliberate departure from a system that for decades has tried to control how Americans spend their government assistance by funneling it to food, housing or child care. Peters is as free to use the cash on her car as she is to spend it on diapers. Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates the cash infusions could lift 45% of children living in poverty above the poverty line — cutting Black child poverty by 52%, Hispanic child poverty by 45% and Native American child poverty by 62%
US, Russia At Odds Over Military Activity In The Arctic
AP News, Matthew Lee, May 20
The Biden administration is leading a campaign against Russian attempts to assert authority over Arctic shipping and reintroduce a military dimension to discussions over international activity in the area. At a meeting of Arctic Council foreign ministers in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the group should maintain its focus on peaceful cooperation on environmental issues, maritime safety and the well-being of indigenous people in the region.
Klamath Tribes Rally Amid Water Crisis
Indian Country Today, Alex Schwartz, May 20
A group of protesters gathered at Sugarman’s Corner in downtown Klamath Falls last Saturday, preparing to welcome a 25-car caravan of mostly Klamath Tribal members calling for solutions to the Klamath Basin’s water crisis. in recent years, as extended droughts have heated up local conflicts over water — both figuratively and literally — Klamath Tribal members have tried to stay out of the debate as much as they could. Beyond tribal council issuing an occasional press release and entering into litigation to protect endangered C’waam and Koptu (Lost River and shortnose suckers) in Upper Klamath Lake, they felt the environment in the Basin was unwelcoming to Native people and their voices. For Joey Gentry, a member of the Klamath Tribes who helped organized Saturday’s “Caravan for the Klamath,” the demonstration was about the area’s original people breaking that silence.
Cherokee Nation Breaks Ground On Historic Durbin Feeling Language Center
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, May 20
In the largest language investment in Cherokee Nation history, the Council of the Cherokee Nation approved legislation introduced by Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner to provide a $16 million investment in 2019 to construct the Durbin Feeling Language Center. On Wednesday, ground was broken for the new 50,000-square-foot facility that will house all of the tribe’s language programs under one roof for the first time. The Durbin Feeling Language Center will house the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, and the Cherokee Nation translation team, along with other programs and services offered through the tribe’s language efforts. Along with the new Durbin Feeling Language Center, the Cherokee Nation is also building five new efficiency style homes for Cherokee speakers, helping to connect them to younger Cherokee language learners at the nearby language center.
The First Indigenous Hip Hop Awards
Indian Country Today, Vincent Schilling, May 20
The first Indigenous hip hop awards show is taking place this weekend in Canada for those interested in Indigenous hip hop artists from the United States, First Nations Canada and Indigenous artists from such places as Jamaica, Australia and India. Chris Sharp, marketing director for the International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards Show & Trade-show, told Indian Country Today that the music genre is a perfect way to bring people together — albeit virtually — that are interested in both diversity and hip hop.