The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Indian Country, with 12,597 confirmed positive cases and 527 total deaths as of July 7. This summer, Vision Maker Media is still working to bring Indian Country together with its first online Indigenous film festival. For five weeks this summer you can watch movies made by American Indians, Alaska Native and other Indigenous filmmakers.

Meanwhile, N. Bird Runningwater, Director of the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program, penned a piece in Indian Country Today detailing the how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how they continue working to “fulfill the Indigenous Program’s commitment to supporting Indigenous filmmakers and giving them several platforms to tell their own stories, including the annual Sundance Film Festival to filmmaking labs, fellowships and workshops.”

District Judge Amit Mehta granted a request from tribes to halt funding from the CARES Act going to Alaska Native Corporations while the tribes appeal an earlier decision. Mehta ruled against the tribes in June, saying the ANC’s can be treated as tribal governments for limited purposes and therefore can receive CARES Act funding. If the tribes don’t challenge by July 14 and seek a quick review from the appeals court, the stay will expire, Mehta said. Read the full ruling here.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe has received $3 million in federal aid to fight COVID-19. The sum was allocated from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week, and will go towards constructing more housing to help families isolate if infected. According to a press release issued by HUD, $15 million in federal funding was distributed across 16 tribes for pandemic support and the White Mountain Apache received the largest chunk of the funding.

In Montana, District Judge Jessica Fehr issued a ruling that blocks the state from enforcing a law that limits one person to turning in a maximum of six absentee ballots. Fehr wrote that the law would “significantly suppress vote turnout by disproportionately harming rural communities,” and that Native Americans in rural tribes across seven reservations located in Montana would be particularly harmed.

With Washington’s Football Team announcing they will undergo a “thorough review” of the team name, The Washington Post reports that multiple Native tribes and groups are hopeful they will be included in the discussions but “haven’t heard from the team.”

Meanwhile, Chicago’s Hockey Team issued a statement stating that they will continue to use their team name because the name and logo “symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public.”

Keep reading for a full news update.

Nationwide Protests:

Cleveland Indigenous Groups Demand Seat At The Table For Indians Rebrand Efforts 

Sports Illustrated, Alex Hooper, July 8

As the Cleveland Indians consider changing the team’s nickname, Indigenous activists in the Northeast Ohio community are asking for the same thing as many marginalized people across the nation.

As Redskins Conduct Name Review, Native American Groups Say They Haven’t Heard From Team 

The Washington Post, Roman Stubbs, July 7

He had waited his entire life for this moment, yet as David Glass read through the Washington Redskins’ announcement of a review of the team’s nickname Friday, elation was met with pause. He had spent more than three decades fighting this issue as a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in northwest Minnesota, and he knew not to let his emotions get the best of him

Trump Tweets About Washington NFL Team And Cleveland MLB Team Name Changes

Native News Online, July 7

President Donald Trump on Monday weighed in on Twitter about two professional sports teams that are reviewing their names in wake of increased racial justice momentum across America after the death of George Floyd. The president tweeted: “They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redsk!ns & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!” 

NDN Collective’s Nick Tilsen, Mount Rushmore Protest Organizer, Charged With Two Felonies

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, July 7

One of the organizers of last Friday’s protest prior to President Donald Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore was charged with multiple offenses at an arraignment hearing on Monday in Rapid City. Nick Tilsen (Oglala Sioux Tribe), the 38-year old president and chief executive officer of NDN Collective, was one of more than 15 people arrested at the protest, which drew as many as 300 people.

Blackhawks Say Team Name Honors Namesake Who Inspired

AP News, July 7

The Chicago Blackhawks say they will continue to use their team name because it honors a Native American leader who has been an inspiration to generations. “The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public,” the NHL team said in a statement Tuesday.

Blackhawks Release Team Statement, Stand By Name And American Logo 

NBC Sports Chicago, Charlie Roumeliotis, July 7

In light of the news that MLB’s Cleveland Indians and the NFL’s Washington Redskins are considering name changes, the Blackhawks released a team statement on Tuesday standing by their name and Native American logo.

Letter To NFL From Native American Leaders Calls For Immediate Ban On Name 

Sports Illustrated, Chris Russell, July 7

Several leaders of the fight against the DMV area’s NFL team have wrote a strongly worded letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell demanding immediate action and change.

Norma Dunning: As Other Leagues Rethink Racist Team Names, It’s Time To Rename The Edmonton Eskimos, Norma Dunning, July 6

In the space of a few hours on July 3, three North American sports teams announced they were going to reassess their racist names.

Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, the Washington Redskins of the National Football League and the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League have for years resisted calls to drop their team nicknames. But recent worldwide protests about systemic racism have forced the sports franchises to address the issue once again.


COVID-19 Cases Near 8,000 On Navajo Nation

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, July 7

On Tuesday, the Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reported 27 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and one more death. The total number of deaths has reached 379 as of Tuesday. Reports from all 12 health care facilities on and near the Navajo Nation indicate that approximately 5,650 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. 60,323 people have been tested for COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation is 7,941.

Yurok Tribe Asserts Sovereignty In Keeping COVID-19 Off The Reservation

Native News Online, Nanette Kelley, July 7

There’s a reason the Yurok Reservation has zero cases of COVID-19, according to its leaders: tribal sovereignty. Despite more than 200 positive cases of COVID-19 in two neighboring counties, the Yurok Tribe has managed to keep the virus at bay on its reservation. In doing so, the tribe has asserted its sovereignty and pushed back against non-Natives who failed to respect the tribe’s right to self-govern.


Study:  Non-Gaming Tribal Businesses In Michigan Generate $288.8m Economic Impact

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, July 7

About three dozen non-gaming business entities owned and managed by Michigan tribes generated more than a quarter-billion dollars in economic impact across the state last year, according to a new study. The Michigan Non-Gaming Tribal Economic Impact Study found that 38 non-gaming business entities owned by nine federally recognized Michigan tribes created nearly $288.8 million in economic impact in 2019.


White Mountain Apache Tribe Receives $3 Million In Coronavirus Aid 

The Hill, Alexandra Kelley, July 7

As the country continues battling new coronavirus infections and rising hospitalization rates, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, based in Arizona, have received $3 million in federal aid to fight COVID-19 within their tribal community, The Arizona Republic reports.

Judge Halts Virus Relief Funding For Alaska Native Firms

AP News, July 6

A federal judge has put the brakes on federal coronavirus relief funding for Alaska Native corporations while tribal nations appeal a ruling that deemed the corporations eligible. The decision Tuesday stems from lawsuits that several tribes filed against the Treasury Department seeking to keep the corporations from getting a share of $8 billion that was set aside for tribes in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.


Judge Blocks Montana From Enforcing Absentee Ballot Law

AP News, July 6

A Montana judge issued a ruling Tuesday that blocks the state from enforcing a voter-approved law that restricts the collection of absentee ballots during elections. Tuesday’s ruling from District Judge Jessica Fehr came after the Billings-based judge temporarily halted the Ballot Interference Protection Act two weeks before the June primary election. The law passed by voter referendum in 2018 limits one person to turning in a maximum of six absentee ballots.


Oregon’s Native American Youth & Family Center Nets Federal Designation 

Portland Tribune, Gina Scalpone, July 7

The Native American Youth & Family Center, known as NAYA, will become Oregon’s first EnVision Center, the nonprofit announced at a Tuesday morning virtual press conference.

Native News Online Hires Award-winning Journalist Kyle Edwards As Managing Editor

Native News Online, July 7

Native News Online announced today that Kyle Edwards has joined the staff as its first-ever managing editor. The hire is part of the publication’s broader initiative to expand its coverage of Indian Country and build its audience of Native and non-Native readers. Edwards (Anishinaabe) comes to Native News Online from ProPublica, where he was the Lorana Sullivan Senior Business Reporting Fellow.

Dakota Access Pipeline: Timeline

Indian Country Today, Kolby KickingWoman, July 7 

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe this week landed what supporters are calling an unprecedented win in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, with a judge ordering the pipeline shut down for additional environmental review. Over the years, the #NoDAPL movement has captivated all of Indian Country, with Indigenous people and allies the world over joining together to support the “Oceti Sakowin” camp on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. 

Risky Dakota Access Pipeline

Indian Country Today, Mark Trahant, July 7

The owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline argued that shutting down the project created too much risk. Even though the National Environmental Policy Act lays out a process, a shutdown now would “have greater disruptive consequences than in the typical NEPA case’ because the pipeline has already been completed.” And, now, “it has been reasonable for Dakota Access, the state of North Dakota, and all the other interested third parties to assume that the ‘risk’ of a shutdown would decrease significantly over time.”

commUnity Film Festival Features History, Activism And Stories About Native Women

Indian Country Today, July 7

After months of hyped up promotion summertime is usually when movie fans eagerly await the release of blockbusters. This summer COVID-19 is keeping most of the movie theaters closed. Still, there is a way to watch some films, both new releases and old favorites and Vision Maker Media is hosting its first on-line Indigenous film festival. For five weeks this summer you can watch movies made by American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous filmmakers.

Enduring Indigenous Values And Finding New Ways To Tell Our Stories During This Time Of Pandemic

Indian Country Today, N. Bird Runningwater, July 7 

This year the world changed in a way that many of us would never have dreamed possible. The COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the planet and has left none of us untouched. Our Indigenous nations, communities and families have been impacted — some more than others — by this new and devastating illness. It has left many people around the world frightened, consumed by sadness, and filled with deep uncertainty for the future, as seen in Finding Hope in Lockdown, directed by Indigenous Program alumna Erin Lau, Native Hawaiian.

Figures Show Alaska State Troopers Remain Nearly 90% White

AP News, July 6

A vast majority of Alaska State Troopers are white, making the primary statewide law enforcement agency substantially less diverse than Alaska’s population.

Alaska Public Media reported Monday that about 87% of the state’s 355 troopers are white, compared to 65% of Alaska’s population. The figures released by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration in response to a public records request showed Alaska Natives and Native Americans have the next largest representation among troopers at 5%, while those groups represent about 20% of the overall population.