The Cass Lake Indian Health Service, one of three Indian Health Service facilities serving Minnesota’s Bemidji area, became the first IHS facility to receive an initial distribution of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine yesterday, while the Navajo Nation also received their first doses yesterday and plans to administer them to health care workers starting today. In total, IHS expects to receive more than 64,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine this week after newly released data confirmed it is highly protective and prevents severe cases of COVID-19. This comes as the United States passed 300,000 total deaths from COVID-19 yesterday, and on average there are about 2,500 COVID-19 deaths every day.

Electoral College Electors met across the country yesterday to officially cast their ballots in the 2020 Presidential Election, and as expected President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received 306 electoral votes, while President Trump and Vice President Pence received 232, confirming President-elect Biden’s victory. 

At least seven Electoral College votes from three different states were cast by Native people, including one of New Mexico’s five electors, two of Washington State’s 12 electors, and four of Arizona’s 11 electors. The final results of the Electoral College will be sent to Washington, D.C. and tallied on January 6 during a joint session of Congress over which Vice President Pence will preside. 

Following yesterday’s report that Cleveland’s Baseball Team will change their name after 105 years, team owner Paul Dolan has said that the name will remain in place for 2021, and that it is “no longer acceptable in our world.” Dolan said the team will continue to use their current name until a new name is chosen. That “multi-stage” process is in its early stages and the team will play — and be branded — with their current name at least through next season.

Keep reading for a full news update.


Moderna Vaccine Is Highly Protective And Prevents Sever COVID-19, Data Show 

New York Times, Noah Weiland, Denise Grady, Carl Zimmer, December 15 

Newly released data confirmed on Tuesday that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is highly protective, setting the stage for its emergency authorization this week by federal regulators and the start of its distribution across the country.

US Surpasses 300,000 COVID-19 Deaths 

The Hill, Peter Sullivan, December 14 

The United States on Monday passed 300,000 total deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to a New York Times tally, a shocking number that is certain to quickly grow larger before a vaccine is widely available.

First Doses Of COVID-19 Vaccine Arrive In Indian Country

Native News Online, December 14

Health care facilities across Indian Country received their first shipments of the recently approved Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on Monday. The Cass Lake Indian Health Service, one of three Indian Health Service facilities serving Minnesota’s Bemidji area, became the first IHS facility to receive an initial distribution of the vaccine. Hospital staff received vaccinations upon its arrival. The Cherokee Nation also celebrated receiving its first 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with plans to distribute the vaccine this week. 

First COVID-19 Vaccine Hits Indian Country

Indian Country Today, Dalton Walker, December 14

The first Indian health system facility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine was a hospital in northern Minnesota on Ojibwe land.  The Cass Lake Hospital on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation received the distribution on Monday, and health care staff were expected to begin to receive the vaccination immediately, according to Indian Health Service.

CDC Study Says COVID-19 Death Rate Nearly Twice As High In Indian Country

Native News Online, December 14

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Thursday reveals American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/NA) have died from COVID-19 at a rate almost double of their white counterparts. The study was conducted in 14 states that have approximately one-half of the Native population in the United States. Researchers discovered the COVID-19 related mortality rate among the AI/AN people from Jan. 1 to June 30 was 55.8 deaths per 100,000, or 1.8 times higher than the rate of 30.3 deaths per 100,000 among whites.

Navajo Nation Receives 1st Shipment Of COVID-19 Vaccine

AZ Central, Shondiin Silversmith, December 14

As the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the U.S. this week, the Navajo Nation received its first doses Monday and plans to administer them to health care workers starting Tuesday. The pandemic has at times overwhelmed the Navajo Nation, which earlier this year had the highest infection rate per capita. The daily number of COVID-19 positive cases has risen sharply during the latest wave of the virus, according to data from the Navajo Nation Department of Health.

Navajo Nation Reports 183 New COVID-19 Cases On Sunday

Native News Online, December 13

The Navajo Department of Health reported 183 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and two more deaths. The total number of deaths is now 720 as of Sunday. Reports indicate that 10,371 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 182,322 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 19,608, including six delayed reported cases. 

Native Mascots:

Cleveland’s Baseball Team Will Drop Its Indians Team Name

The New York Times, David Waldstein, December 14

After years of protests from fans and Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist, three people familiar with the decision said Sunday. Cleveland could announce its plans as soon as this week, according to the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Some Native Americans Applaud The Cleveland Indians’ Name Change But Say It’s Not Enough

NBC News, Erik Ortiz, December 14

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team announced Monday that it will drop its “Indians” nickname — in place for more than a century — in order to “unify our community,” a decision quickly praised by Native American groups, including some members of a Maine tribe with a historic connection to the team.

Cleveland Indians Changing Name After 105 Years

AP News, Tom Withers, December 14

The Cleveland Indians are changing their name after 105 years. Citing three people familiar with the decision, The New York Times reported Sunday night that the team is moving away from a name considered racist for decades. The Indians have been internally discussing a potential name change for months.

Cleveland Baseball Owner Says Name Won’t Change In 2021

AP News, Tom Withers, December 14

The Cleveland Indians are changing their name — they just don’t know to what or when. Expressing that “it’s time,” owner Paul Dolan said that after months of internal discussions and meetings with groups, including Native Americans who have sought to have the team stop using a moniker many deem racist, the American League franchise is dropping the name it has been known by since 1915.

These Teams Faced Pressure To Change Their Native American Names. Here’s What’s Happened Since

CNN, Eric Levenson, December 14

Spurred by mass protests against racism this summer, sports franchises with Native American-related names, mascots or logos faced pressure to stop using these stereotypes and caricatures. Since then, the NFL’s Washington Redskins and, as of Sunday, MLB’s Cleveland Indians agreed to drop their monikers. Several others, including the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Blackhawks, made adjustments to their traditions but have defended their names and logos.

2020 Elections:

Electoral College Makes It Official: Biden Won, Trump Lost 

AP News, Mark Sherman, December 15 

The Electoral College decisively confirmed Joe Biden on Monday as the nation’s next president, ratifying his November victory in an authoritative state-by-state repudiation of President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede he had lost.

Native Electors Help Seal Biden Win

Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, December 14

The Electoral College formally chose Joe Biden on Monday as the nation’s next president, giving him a solid electoral majority of 306 votes and confirming his victory in last month’s election. At least six Native people across three states cast electoral votes in favor of Biden.

In Arizona, 11 of the state’s electors were Native and included Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr.


Portland Leaders Apologize To Displaced Family

Indian Country Today, Richard Walker, December 14

The mayor and police chief in Portland, Oregon, have apologized to a Black and Indigenous family for tweets the officials posted about protests against the family’s eviction from their longtime home. In a letter sent Sunday, Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell acknowledged that their tweets resulted in threats to the family. In the tweets last week, Wheeler called the protest an “illegal occupation” and authorized police to “use all lawful means” to end it.

‘Big Sky’ Stumbles In Addressing Native American Criticism

AP News, Lynn Elber, December 14

After ABC’s “Big Sky” drew Native American censure for overlooking an epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls, its producers set about making changes. But the first, hurried steps were called “bumpy” and insulting by Native leaders. The reaction illustrates how even well-meaning creators may struggle with growing demands for diversity and authenticity — especially with an ethnic group that Hollywood has at best ignored and at worst stereotyped beyond recognition.