Representative John Lewis, one of the original freedom riders and a giant in the Civil Rights Movement, passed away on Friday night from pancreatic cancer at the age of 80. Native News Online gathered together memories from across Indian Country, documenting the impact and legacy Representative Lewis leaves behind.

Following the announcement from Oklahoma’s Attorney General and five major tribes in Oklahoma last week that they have agreed on proposed federal legislation regarding civil and criminal jurisdiction following the McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court case, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill and Seminole Nation Chief Greg P. Chilcoat both said they are not in agreement with the document released by Oklahoma’s Attorney General.

Meanwhile, the New York Times published an opinion piece from David Heska Wanbli Weiden, a Professor of Native American Studies and Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Weiden covers the jurisdictional implications of McGirt v. Oklahoma, noting that the Major Crimes Act tasks federal authorities with prosecuting tribal citizens for serious felonies committed on reservation lands. This creates its own problems, Weiden writes, as federal authorities have the right to decline these prosecutions – and as recently as 2018, 39 percent of all such crimes referred from state or tribal police were declined.

The Atlantic published an article from Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Professor of Law at Michigan State University, covering the basis in law that allows tribes to enforce strict policies surrounding COVID-19. Fletcher notes the 1981 Supreme Court case Montana v. United States, in which the Court ruled that tribes can regulate the actions of nonmembers under two circumstances: (1) tribes can regulate nonmembers when nonmembers affirmatively consent; and (2) tribes can regulate nonmembers when their conduct “imperils the political integrity of Indian tribes.” Fletcher argues that the current pandemic constitutes a clear threat to “the political integrity of Indian tribes,” and as a result tribes have a legal right to restrict the actions of nonmembers in their sovereign territory.

The Edmonton Football Team in the Canadian Football League has announced plans to change the team’s name after many Inuit people called the team’s name racist. In recent weeks, major sponsors including insurer Belairdirect and Sports Interaction, an online sportsbook owned by Quebec’s Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, have pressured the Edmonton franchise to change its name.

Despite opposition from tribal leaders of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, the Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede rodeo was held in Wolf Point, Montana. Next week, the Fort Peck Tribes plan to partner with the state to host a mass COVID-19 testing event, which may determine the impact of the rodeo on local infection rates.

Members of the four Abenaki tribes recognized by the state of Vermont can now hunt and fish for free after Governor Phil Scott signed a law allowing members of the four tribes to apply for free, permanent hunting and fishing licenses. Members of Vermont’s Abenaki tribes have publicly pushed for hunting and fishing rights since at least the 1970s.

A new bill in California, titled AB-275 Native American cultural preservation, would enable tribes to reclaim human remains and funerary objects, and could potentially serve as a gateway legislation for tribes and tribal members to manage their own ancestors’ legacies. The bill was designed to strengthen the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 2001, in part by revising the “definition of a ‘museum’ to specify if it receives state funds’ and requiring state funded institutions to revise and recast the process of creating the inventories and summaries by, among other things, requiring consultation with California Indian tribes during the creation of the preliminary inventories and summaries.”

Keep reading for a full news update.  

Nationwide Protests:

Kit Carson RV Park In Flagstaff Sparks Petition For New Name

AP News, July 19

A petition to change the name of a Flagstaff RV park named for explorer Kit Carson is gaining momentum in the wake of public conversations on systemic racism and white supremacy. The petition calling for a name change for Kit Carson RV Park has garnered more than 800 signatures since its creation last month, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. Serving in the Union Army, Carson spearheaded a campaign in 1863 to force the Navajo from their land in the Four Corners region to Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico after burning their crops and killing livestock.

Edmonton’s Football Team Ready To Drop Eskimos Name

Native News Online, July 17

One of the winningest teams in Canadian Football League history plans to change its name, which many Inuit people consider offensive, according to media reports. The CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos plan to change the name they’ve used since 1949, and an announcement could come next week, according to a report by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug. The move comes amid pressure from team sponsors and public outcry by Inuit people, who have long called the team’s name racist.

Mutual Of Omaha Insurance Firm Removing Longtime Indian Logo

AP News, July 17

Mutual of Omaha plans to replace its longtime corporate logo, which for 70 years has featured a depiction of a Native American chief, the insurance company announced Friday. The move comes as corporations and sports teams around the country face increasing pressure to dump nicknames and depictions that reference American Indians amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice. “We believe the decision to retire our corporate symbol is the right thing to do and is consistent with our values and our desire to help overcome racial bias and stereotypes,” Mutual of Omaha CEO and Chairman James Blackledge said in a news release Friday.

High Schools Are Front Lines In Mascots Fight

Indian Country Today, July 17

While much publicity surrounds professional sports teams with Native American-themed mascots, the front lines of the battle lie in high schools. Ohio, a state with no federally recognized reservations, takes the lead at well over 100 such mascots, according to MascotDB, a database of over 50,000 high school, college and professional sports team names.


Alaska Reports A Record 119 COVID-19 Daily Cases, With Cities Reporting Additional Cases In Seafood Workers 

Anchorage Daily News, Tess Williams, July 19

Alaska reported 119 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the most statewide cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

Why Tribes Should Have The Power To Enforce Strict Coronavirus Policies 

The Atlantic, Matthew L.M. Fletcher, July 18

American Indians face a grave ordeal in the COVID-19 pandemic. With awful poverty, dire rates of preexisting health conditions, and an already-broken rural health-care system, the death rates on reservations are sure to be higher than just about anywhere else in the country. One additional factor is making fighting the pandemic even harder for tribes: the legal complexities that govern American Indian reservations. 

Saturday Navajo Nation COVID-19 Update: 32 New Cases – Death Toll At 415

Native News Online, July 18

On Saturday, the Navajo Department of Health, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reported 32 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and three more deaths. The total number of deaths has reached 415 as of Saturday. Reports indicate that approximately 6,345 individuals have recovered from COVID-19. 72,711 people have been tested for COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation is 8,568.

Rodeo Goes On In Small Montana Town Despite Pandemic

AP News, Katheryn Houghton, July 18

Rodeos are a summertime staple across the West, but the pandemic has presented a dilemma for cities and towns dependent on the economic and cultural boost the events give.

Some decided the risk was too great. In Wyoming, Cheyenne Frontier Days — known as “the Daddy of Them All” — was called off for the first time after 123 years. But organizers of the rodeo in Wolf Point decided to carry on, despite the initial opposition of the tribal leaders of the Fort Peck Reservation, which covers the town of 3,000.

COVID-19 Has Ravaged Indian Country And Financial Relief Is Crucial 

The Hill, Deron Marquez and Ted Gover, July 17

As the Trump administration and Congress negotiate another coronavirus relief package, a constituency requiring urgent support is American Indian tribes. While Washington was right in March to allocate $8 billion of CARES Act money to help Native American tribes fund their government services, the relief package was insufficient to address the myriad of needs brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 


This 19th-Century Law Helps Shape Criminal Justice In Indian Country

New York Times, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, July 19

There was something of a scramble, after the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma that much of Eastern Oklahoma was now officially Indian Country.

Under the doctrine of tribal sovereignty, the state of Oklahoma could no longer prosecute serious felony cases involving Native Americans on reservation land. But there was little clarity about other critical jurisdictional questions.

Members of 4 Vermont tribes can now hunt and fish for free

AP News, July 18 

Members of four groups of Native Americans recognized by the state of Vermont can now hunt and fish for free. On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill passed by the Legislature that grants members of four Abenaki tribes recognized by the state to apply for free, permanent hunting and fishing licenses. Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi’s chief Richard Maynard says about 2,500 members, or about half the state’s total, belonged to the Swanton-headquartered tribe.

New Repatriation Bill To Require State Agencies To Consult With Indian Tribes

Native News Online, Nanette Kelley, July 17

A new bill in California, titled AB-275 Native American cultural preservation (2019-2020), would enable tribes to reclaim human remains and funerary objects, and could potentially serve as a gateway legislation for tribes and tribal members to manage their own ancestors’ legacies. Currently in the senate, AB-275 could help fulfill one of the most primary needs of Indigenous peoples: repatriation. The bill was designed to strengthen the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 2001… 

2 Oklahoma Tribal Leaders Say They Don’t Support Agreement

AP News, Sean Murphy, July 18

One day after announcing an agreement in principle with Oklahoma’s attorney general on proposed federal legislation regarding tribal jurisdiction, the leaders of two of five major Native American tribes indicated Friday that they don’t support the deal. Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill and Seminole Nation Chief Greg P. Chilcoat both said they’re not in agreement with the document released Thursday by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.

Oklahoma Tribal Leaders Clarify Stance On Jurisdiction Deal

Indian Country Today, Kolby KickingWoman, July 17

The leaders of two Oklahoma tribes are clarifying their positions on proposed federal legislation governing civil and criminal jurisdiction following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found much of the eastern part of the state remains reservation land. Republican Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the “agreement-in-principle” Thursday with tribal leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole nations. 

Washington Football Team 

‘It Was Just Elation’: Tribes In Washington Celebrate Name Change In Other Washington

The Seattle Times, Larry Stone, July 18 

Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians and also president of the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic peninsula, awoke at 3:08 on a recent morning. These words came into her head: “Today is the day.” Sharp composed a social-media post with that sentiment. And sure enough, a few hours later, the Washington football team, already under heavy pressure from sponsors led by FedEx, announced it would be conducting a review of its name. 


Rep. John Lewis, A Giant Of The Civil Rights Movement, Remembered Fondly By American Indians

Native News Online, Levi Rickert, July 19

Indian Country is mourning the death of U.S. Representative John Lewis, one of the giants of the Civil Rights Movement.  Lewis passed away on Friday night from pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. After making a name in the Civil Rights Movement as a teen, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 terms to represent a congressional district in Atlanta, Ga.

Native Musical ‘Distant Thunder’ To Premiere In Spring

Indian Country Today, Sandra Schulman, July 18

After years of planning and delays with financing and now the pandemic stalling all theatrical shows, the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma has announced it will present the world premiere of the Native American Musical “Distant Thunder” in spring 2021. The show has staged readings over the years but never a full production. With the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision reaffirming that eastern Oklahoma is tribal land, this takes on added significance.

The Catholic Church Siphoned Away $30m Paid To Native People For Stolen Land

Indian Country Today, Mary Pember, July 18

Indian boarding and day schools attempted, for decades, to forcibly assimilate Native children. The schools have a long, documented history of abuse and cultural debasement. Former students have recounted sexual abuse, corporal punishment and neglect at the hands of teachers and administrators. Students were prohibited from speaking Native languages and practicing Native traditions, often with the threat of violence. Abuse was reported at both government-run and religious institutions.

Now That Half Of Oklahoma Is Officially Indian Land, Oil Industry Could Face New Costs And Environmental Hurdles

The Washington Post, Dino Grandoni, July 17

On top of all the turmoil Oklahoma oil producers have had to deal with since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court has added another item to that list: a landmark decision declaring nearly half of eastern Oklahoma to be Native American land. With the high court’s ruling, oil and gas drillers in the nation’s fourth largest oil-producing state suddenly find themselves operating within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and four other tribal reservations.

Bowing to Pressure from Navajo Nation, Family Dollar Withdraws Liquor License Application

Native News Online, July 17

After the Navajo Nation showed its opposition late last month to Family Dollar’s application for a liquor license to sell liquor at its store on the Navajo Indian Reservation, the national discount chain withdrew its application with the Arizona Liquor Board. The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission announced on Thursday that Family Dollar withdrew its application.

Human Skull Found In Mississippi Sound Identified

AP News, July 17

Part of a skull found trapped in a dredging machine last month in Mississippi has been identified. Hancock County Coroner Jim Faulk said there was no way to tell who the skull belonged to without performing DNA tests. The skull was sent to Jackson, and Faulk hoped to identify the person to provide family members with answers. Forensic analysis done by anthropologists verified Thursday it was the skull of a native American who likely lived in the region hundreds of years ago, WLOX-TV reported.

Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Announces Virtual Consultations, July 17 

The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives announced 12 Tribal consultations to occur virtually across the United States in the coming months. American Indians and Alaska Natives experience disproportionately high rates of violence. President Trump has called the crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans “sobering and heartbreaking.”