Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced they will submit a request on Friday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine. If accepted, the submission would enable the use of the drug in high-risk populations in the United States by the middle to end of December. 

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink Monday said Alaska’s infection rate has been rising for six weeks, and the state is now on red alert, the highest level. The hardest-hit area is the predominantly Yup’ik and Athabascan Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, a region about the size of Oregon, and tribal health organizations across the state are struggling to prepare for the increase in cases – a rise of 18% of cases just in the last week.

Josiah Patkotak (Inupiaq) appears to be the winner of Alaska’s House District 40 after the Alaska Division of Elections announced he won his race with 52% of the vote, defeating another Inupiaq candidate Elizabeth Ferguson for the position.

120 tribal leaders sent a letter last week to President-elect Joe Biden calling for the incoming administration to select Congresswoman Deb Haaland as the next Secretary of the Interior. Fellow Congresswoman Sharice Davids voiced her support for Representative Haaland, stating that “Representative Deb Haaland has been a warrior for Native peoples for decades and profoundly understands the consequences of federal administration on tribal communities.”

A group of about a dozen people gathered outside of the Phoenix Indian Medical Center to voice their discontent with the Indian Health Service closing the hospital’s birthing center on August 26. The Indian Health Service said it was temporary and due to facility infrastructure, equipment and staffing challenges but it remains unclear when it will reopen, if at all.

Keep reading for a full news update.


Pfizer, BioNTech To Submit Emergency Authorization Request To FDA Friday For COVID-19 Vaccine 

ABC News, Morgan Winsor, November 20 

Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced they will submit a request on Friday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Alaska Tribal Health Groups Brace For COVID-19 Surge

Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, November 19

Tribal health organizations that serve dozens of remote Alaska Native villages are struggling to prepare for a crush of coronavirus cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Alaska’s infection rate is 3,152 cases per 100,000 people. Alaska has fewer doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists than a lot of states. But the spread of the disease is picking up speed. 

Native Americans Are In A Scary Place, Hard-Hit As COVID-19 Spikes In The Great Plains

HuffPost, Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, November 19

The COVID-19 is devastating Native American communities as infections are on the rise nationwide. The top two worst states by confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita this week are North Dakota and South Dakota, respectively home to five and nine Native American tribes. Since the start of the pandemic, Native Americans — like Black and Latinx residents — have been disproportionately hard hit by the virus.

2020 Elections:

Josiah Patkotak Narrowly Wins State House Seat In Alaska

Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, November 19

Josiah Patkotak, Inupiaq, appears to be the winner of Alaska’s House District 40 after nearly two weeks of counting votes. According to Alaska Division of Elections on Wednesday afternoon, Patkotak won his race with 52 percent of the vote, receiving a little more than 200 votes more than his opponent.

Native American Votes Helped Secure Biden’s Win In Arizona

AP New, Felicia Fonseca, November 19

Voting rights advocates had long argued that if Native Americans and other minority groups were mobilized, they could be decisive in a tight race. This year proved that.  Voter turnout on swaths of tribal land in Arizona surged compared with the 2016 presidential election, helping Joe Biden to victory in a state that hadn’t supported a Democratic in a White House contest since 1996. Native Americans were among the difference-makers who swung the race to Biden in Arizona.


Sharice Davids Supports Deb Haaland For Interior Secretary

Native News Online, November 19

Since the 2020 presidential election was declared for Joe Biden, support has grown for the president-elect to nominate Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to become secretary of the Department of the Interior. Haaland is a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico. Last week, 120 tribal leaders sent a letter to the president-elect calling for the incoming administration to select Haaland for the position. According to The Hill, Haaland is being vetted for the post.


Protesters To Indian Health Service: ‘Be Better’

Indian Country Today, Dalton Walker, November 19

About a dozen concerned people spoke out against the recent closing of the Indian Health Service and Phoenix Indian Medical Center’s birthing center. It’s unclear when it will reopen, if at all. The group protested on the sidewalk in front of the hospital near downtown Phoenix and plan to do it again soon.

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo To Serve Rare Third Term

Native News Online, November 19

Joy Harjo, the first Native American to serve as the U.S. Poet Laureate, will serve a third, one-year term and has launched an online project that features some of the most-celebrated Native poets in Indian Country. Harjo’s reappointment was announced by the Library of Congress on Thursday.

Phoenix Changes Robert E. Lee, Derogatory Native Street Names

AP News, November 19

The city of Phoenix has renamed two streets many consider offensive. One is because of its demeaning reference to Native American women and the other because of its glorification of the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee Street will now become Desert Cactus Street and the derogatory Native street name will change to Piestewa Peak Drive, in honor of fallen Native American soldier Lori Piestewa. Piestewa was a member of the Hopi tribe and was killed during an ambush in Iraq in 2003.