Good morning/afternoon, NUNAverse:
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the United States needs to address the generations of abuse suffered by “tens of thousands of Indigenous children” at Indian boarding schools. Secretary Haaland referenced the recent discovery of an unmarked mass grave in Canada containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children. Secretary Haaland tells the story of her maternal grandparents who were “stolen” from their families at only 8-years-old and put in Indian boarding schools. In the piece, Secretary Haaland writes that the “obligation to correct and heal those unspeakable wrongs extends to today and starts with investments such as those President Biden has made to strengthen tribal sovereignty through the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan and the budget for fiscal 2022.”
Earlier this morning, Novavax, a small American pharmaceutical company, announced the results of a clinical trial for its COVID-19 vaccine. The trial took place in the U.S. and Mexico, finding that the company’s two-shot inoculation provides strong protection against COVID-19. In the 29,960-person trial, the vaccine demonstrated an overall efficacy of 90.4 percent, on par with the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and higher than the one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. The Novavax vaccine showed an efficacy of 100 percent at preventing moderate or severe disease. Given the abundant supply of three other authorized vaccines, Novavax might not apply for an emergency use authorization through the FDA, instead choosing to apply for a full license – a process that could take several months.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkoswki announced last week that Kristi Nuna’q Williams is joining her team as Staff Director and General Counsel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, of which Murkowski is Vice Chairman. Williams is of Gwich’in and Koyukon Athabascan descent and an enrolled Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in tribal citizen. She will be the first Native Alaskan to hold this position. She previously served as Senator Murkowski’s lead staff member on the Senator’s work on the Committee, before working at the Department of the Interior, a national law firm specializing in tribal rights advocacy, and most recently, Calista Corporation.
Two Native writers have won Pulitzer Prizes in the categories of fiction and poetry, with a third named a finalist in editorial cartooning. Louise Erdirch (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) is the Pulitzer winner in fiction for her novel, “The Night Watchman.” The novel is a New York Times best seller and is based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman. Natalie Diaz (Mohave and Gila River Indian Community) is the winner in poetry for her collection of poems, “Postcolonial Love Poem.” The book is Diaz’s second collection and is described as “an anthem of desire against erasure.” Marty Two Bulls Sr. (Oglala Lakota) was named a finalist in the editorial cartooning category. No award was given in this category this year by the Pulitzer board because none of the finalists received a majority vote.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Novavac Offers U.S. A Fourth Strong COVID-19 Vaccine
New York Times, Carl Zimmer, June 14
Novavax, a small American company buoyed by lavish support from the U.S. government, announced on Monday the results of a clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine in the United States and Mexico, finding that its two-shot inoculation provides potent protection against the coronavirus.
Non-Native Minnesota Man Sentenced To Prison For Killing And Beheading 700-pound Black Bear On Red Lake Indian Reservation
Native News Online, June 11
A non-Native Minnesota man will have a lot of time on his hands to think about trespassing onto the Red Lake Indian Reservation and then removing the head of a 700-pound black bear after a federal judge in St. Paul, Minn. Wednesday sentenced him to a 15-month prison term. In addition to his prison term, Brett James Stimac, 41, of Brainerd, Minn., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson to a one-year supervised release and a $9,500 fine. Stimac pleaded guilty in September 2020 to knowingly and without authorization or permission, entered the Red Lake Indian Reservation for the purposes of hunting a bear on Sept. 1, 2019. According to U.S District Court (Minnesota District) documents, Stimac, using a compound bow, shot and killed a large American black bear near the Reservation’s garbage dump.
Vice Chairman Murkowski Announces Alaskan To Lead Indian Affairs Committee
United States Senate Committee On Indian Affairs, Kristi Nuna’q Williams, June 11
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced that Kristi Nuna’q Williams is joining her team as Staff Director and General Counsel of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, of which Murkowski is Vice Chairman. Kristi Williams will be the first Alaskan to hold this position. Kristi previously served as Senator Murkowski’s lead staff member on the Senator’s work on the Committee, before working at the Department of the Interior, a national law firm specializing in tribal rights advocacy, and most recently, Calista Corporation. Kristi will begin her new position on July 6. Kristi Williams was born in Fairbanks. She is of Gwich’in and Koyukon Athabascan descent and an enrolled Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in tribal citize
Interior Secretary Haaland On Indian Boarding Schools: “First Step To Justice Is Acknowledging These Painful Truths”
Native News Online, June 13
In an op-ed published in The Washington Post, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), the nation’s first Native American presidential cabinet secretary, said the United States needs to address the abuse in Indian boarding schools. Haaland referenced the recent discovery of an unmarked mass grave in Canada containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of a closed-down residential school in Canada. Haaland tells the story of her maternal grandparents who “stolen” from their families when only 8-years-olds and put in Indian boarding schools. She also recounts her great-grandfather attended Carlisle Indian School. In the op-ed, Haaland cites the Biden administration’s commitment to strengthen tribal sovereignty.
WIU Revives Student Teaching At Wisconsin Tribal Schools
AP News, June 13
Western Illinois University is reviving a program that was shuttered decades ago that allows students to gain teaching experience at Native American tribal schools in Wisconsin. In a news release, the school said its College of Education and Human Services and the Office of Study Abroad and Outreach will beginning in the fall allow students to complete their student teaching in three tribal schools. The first student chosen for what is called the Tribal School Teaching Program is English education graduate student Adrienne Tinsley of South Holland. The school says that elementary and secondary education students at WIU are welcome to apply for the program and that scholarships to pay for room and board are available.
NCAI Statement On The Termination Of The Keystone Xl Pipeline Project
Native News Online, June 12
The National Congress of Americans (NCAI) on Friday weighed in on TC Energy’s decision to terminate the Keystone XL pipeline project that has faced opposition from many tribes across Indian County for over a decade.
The National Congress of American Indians joined Indian Country this week in celebrating the termination of the Keystone XL Pipeline project. TC Energy, the Canadian company behind the project, confirmed news of the pipeline’s closure on June 9, 2021, about five months after the Biden Administration revoked the Keystone XL Pipeline permit in January. NCAI has long opposed the construction of pipelines that could endanger the lands, waters, communities, and sacred sites of sovereign Tribal Nations.
Donating A Native American Burial Ground — It’s Complicated
AP News, Frank Kummer, June 12
Carol McCloskey, owner of a knoll where Lenape people are buried, wants to donate the property, preferably to Native Americans, to ensure its preservation. But finding a good steward for the land has been more complicated than she thought. So far she’s found no takers for her half-acre lot, the only officially recognized Native American burial site in Chester County. “I thought it should go to the rightful owners,” McCloskey said, referring to the Lenape people. Previously, she had no luck trying to donate the land to a federally recognized tribe, and now is restarting the process and willing to expand the pool of potential recipients.
Deb Haaland: My Grandparents Were Stolen From Their Families As Children. We Must Learn About This History.
The Washington Post, Deb Haaland, June 11
As I read stories about an unmarked grave in Canada where the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found last month, I was sick to my stomach. But the deaths of Indigenous children at the hands of government were not limited to that side of the border. Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as a people. It is a history that we must learn from if our country is to heal from this tragic era. I am a product of these horrific assimilation policies. My maternal grandparents were stolen from their families when they were only 8 years old and were forced to live away from their parents, culture and communities until they were 13. Many children like them never made it back home.
Will ‘Biden Standard’ Shut Down Other Pipelines?
Indian Country Today, Kolby Kickingwoman, June 11
Indian Country and its allies are looking to parlay the momentum from the Keystone XL pipeline shutdown into stopping more pipelines around the country. During a press call Friday, the Stop Trump Pipelines campaign said the Biden administration created a new standard, the “Biden standard,” in his decision to pull the Keystone XL permit. The campaign is a joint project of the Bold Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network, along with other frontline groups. These water protectors see the Keystone XL pipeline as being the first pipeline domino in a series of pipeline dominos to fall. They hope the “Biden standard” is applied to others like Enbridge Line 3, Byhalia, Mountain Valley Gas pipeline and more.
Two Native Writers Win Pulitzers
Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, June 11
Writers Louise Erdrich and Natalie Diaz were named winners of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in the categories of fiction and poetry — also included was Marty Two Bulls Sr. who was named a finalist in editorial cartooning on Friday. Erdrich, Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, is the Pulitzer winner in fiction for her novel, “The Night Watchman.” The book is based in the 1950s and captures a community’s efforts to halt the proposed displacement and elimination of several Native tribes. Diaz, Mohave and Gila River Indian Community, is the winner in poetry for her collection of poems, “Postcolonial Love Poem.” Many of the poems discuss the wounds inflicted by America onto Indigenous people.
Tlingit Author Honored With ‘Distinguished’ Award
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, June 11
Last month the Rasmuson Foundation honored former Alaska Writer Laureate Ernestine Hayes, Tlingit, with its 2021 Distinguished Artist Award. Hayes is the author of two Alaska Native memoirs, “Blonde Indian,” and “The Tao of Raven.” Telling the story of her life, she intermingles pride, love, poverty, shame, beautiful vistas, the perspectives of wildlife and the Earth, and Tlingit tales. She writes about growing up with her Tlingit grandparents in a Native enclave in Juneau called the Indian Village, a remnant of Tlingit homelands, while her mother spent years recovering from Tuberculosis in a sanitarium.
Oglala Sioux Veteran Walks 22 Miles To Powwow To Bring Awareness To 22 Veterans Who Die Daily By Suicide
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, June 11
Marcus Palmier, 36, a tribal citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, walked 22 miles from his home in Batesland, S.D. to the Veterans Powwow at Pine Ridge Village on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Friday. His 22-mile walk, under 90-degree temperatures along U.S. 18, was done to bring attention to the 22 veterans who in America on a daily average commit suicide. Palmier served in his country in the U.S. Army from 2004 to 2011. He was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, serving in each country one year each. While deployed, he saw frontline battle and also served on humanitarian missions. Palmier, who spoke with Native News Online on Friday evening, says he walked for the Til Valhalla Project, an organization committed to reducing veteran suicide.
The Bureau Of Indian Education Hasn’t Told The Public How Its Schools Are Performing. So We Did It Instead.
ProPublica, Aldon Woods, June 11
For years, federal law has required all school systems to publicly report how well they help children learn. But the federal government’s own Bureau of Indian Education has failed to do so, despite repeated warnings about the quality of education Native American children receive in its schools. Now, a comprehensive analysis of school performance data by Stanford University’s Educational Opportunity Project, The Arizona Republic and ProPublica reveals for the first time bright spots and problem areas facing an agency that oversees more than 180 schools and dormitories across Indian Country. The analysis of nearly 200,000 standardized test scores taken over a nine-year period shows BIE schools have produced mixed results. On the one hand, while the BIE has drawn criticism for providing a substandard education, the analysis found above-average learning rates for students in the BIE’s classrooms. Compared to Native students who attended nearby public schools, BIE students advanced at slightly faster rates each year. And BIE students’ average test scores improved by almost half a grade level between 2009 and 2018, a period in which the agency launched a vast reform effort aimed at shifting more control over schools to tribes.
Navajo Police Need 775 New Officers, Report Says
Navajo Times, Arlyssa Becenti, June 11
The Navajo Nation Police needs 775 officers to meet community demands across the Navajo Nation, according to an assessment done by Strategy Matter and Navajo public safety leadership. With less than 200 officers who are currently on the force, getting to this large amount is a lofty goal, especially when it comes to the budget. For this, the Strategy Matters and public safety leadership consulting team suggested that NPD set an initial target of 500 personnel, with 300 serving as patrol officers, and 200 serving as command and support personnel. These numbers are based on a budget-driven authorized-level approach the Nation has been using and the workload-based approach.
Lakota Spiritual Leader, Activist Leonard Crow Dog Dies
AP News, June 11
Chief Leonard Crow Dog, a renowned spiritual leader and Native American rights activist who fought for sovereignty, language preservation and religious freedom, has died at age 78. Crow Dog, Sicangu Lakota Oyate, passed away June 6 at Crow Dog’s Paradise on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota after a battle with cancer, Indian Country Today reported. As a youth, Crow Dog learned about cultural traditions and ceremonies from his father and Lakota elders. He later became a spiritual leader for the American Indian Movement. Crow Dog attended and spoke at countless rallies, marches and protests over the years. He also co-authored a book, “Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men,” which tells the story of his ancestors and his life.
How A Landless Native American Tribe In California Is Housing Its Homeless Members
KQED, Molly Solomon, June 11
Small apartment buildings have been purchased and remodeled by the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians using funding from Homekey, a statewide effort to quickly convert existing properties into temporary or permanent housing. Since launching in June 2020, the program has created nearly 6,000 new units statewide for people experiencing homelessness. The Lake County project is one of three awarded to Northern California tribes during Homekey’s first year of funding. In Sonoma County, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians are converting a Santa Rosa motel into 19 apartments for people who are chronically homeless. And in Humboldt County, the Yurok Tribe was awarded $2.2 million to purchase a Eureka motel and turn it into 18 units of permanent supportive housing.