During the CNN-Sesame Street town hall on Saturday, 6-year-old Paxton from Geneva, Illinois asked Dr. Fauci if Santa Claus was still able to visit houses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Fauci eased the concerns of parents and children across the country, insisting that it is perfectly safe for Santa Claus to make his annual visits:
“I took care of that for you, because I was worried that you’d all be upset,” Dr. Fauci said. “So what I did a little while ago: I took a trip up there to the North Pole, I went there and I vaccinated Santa Claus myself. I measured his level of immunity, and he is good to go. He can come down the chimney, he can leave the presents, he can leave, and you have nothing to worry about.”
Late last night, Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package that will send $600 payments to most Americans for COVID-19 relief. The relief package was part of a $2.3 trillion catchall package that included $1.4 trillion to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on September 30. It included the extension of routine tax provisions, a tax deduction for corporate meals, the establishment of two Smithsonian museums, a ban on surprise medical bills, and a restoration of Pell grants for incarcerated students, among hundreds of other measures.
Native leaders across the country say that skepticism about the newly authorized COVID-19 vaccines pervades their communities, and that reservations that have been hardest hit by the pandemic my also be some of the areas most resistant to the vaccines. When the Indian Health Service surveyed 8,197 of its field workers about vaccines, 35% said they would “definitely” or “probably” take one, while 50% said they would definitely or probably not. The rest were undecided.
TIME reports that mental health experts fear the pandemic could make rates of youth suicide worse, particularly for kids who live on rural Native reservations. In a typical year, Native youth die by suicide at nearly twice the rate of their white peers in the U.S. Among those most at risk are vulnerable children on remote reservations who are cut off from their larger families and communities by COVID-19-caused restrictions.
A group of high school students outside Atlanta are calling on city officials to remove a cannon near a county courthouse that memorializes the Creek War of 1836, which saw the removal of Native people from the South. Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett said in a statement that a resolution supporting the removal of the cannon near the old DeKalb County courthouse will be considered at a city commission meeting Monday.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Congress Passes Huge Coronavirus Relief Bill
New York Times, Emily Cochrane, December 21
Congress on Monday night overwhelmingly approved a $900 billion stimulus package that would send billions of dollars to American households and businesses grappling with the economic and health toll of the pandemic.
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Administers First COVID-19 Vaccine
Native News Online, December 21
Tribes across Indian Country received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last week. In the case of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, the shipment was picked up at the Indian Health Service (IHS) located in Oklahoma City, Okla. and transported over 300 miles to deliver 75 doses on the reservation located in northern Kansas. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Health Center administered their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last Thursday.
Navajo Officials Urge Vigilance Over COVID During Holidays
AP News, December 21
The Navajo Nation reported 158 new coronavirus cases on Monday and two more deaths from COVID-19. The latest figures from the Navajo Department of Health bring the total number of cases on the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 21,177. The Navajo Nation has reported 748 deaths since the pandemic hit. Tribal officials are urging residents of the vast reservation to stay vigilant to help stop the spread of COVID-19 amid the holiday season when families usually gather to celebrate.
Navajo Nation Reports 157 COVID-19 Cases On Sunday; Surpasses 21,000 Cases
Native News Online, December 21
The Navajo Department of Health reported 157 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and one more death. The total number of deaths is now 746 as of Sunday. Reports indicate that 11,039 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 191,564 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 21,019 including 52 delayed reported cases.
Health Officials Fear COVID-19 Pandemic-Related Suicide Spike Among Indigenous Youth
TIME, Sara Reardon, December 21
Youth suicide rates have been increasing in the U.S. over the past decade. Between 2007 and 2017, the rate nearly tripled for children aged 10 to 14, and rose 76% among 15- to 19-year-olds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health experts fear the pandemic could make things worse, particularly for kids who live on rural native American reservations. In a typical year, Native American youth die by suicide at nearly twice the rate of their white peers in the U.S. Among those are vulnerable children on remote reservations who are cut off from their larger families and communities by COVID-19-caused restrictions.
COVID-19 Is Crushing Native American Reservations. But Distrust Of The Government Makes Vaccines A Hard Sell
Los Angeles Times, Richard Read, December 20
Native American leaders say such skepticism about the newly authorized coronavirus vaccines pervades their communities even as the death toll mounts. Among the areas hardest hit by the pandemic, reservations may also be among the places most resistant to the clearest way out. When the Indian Health Service surveyed 8,197 of its field workers about vaccines, 35% said they would “definitely” or “probably” take one, while 50% said they would definitely or probably not. The rest were undecided.
‘I Vaccinated Santa Claus,’ Fauci Tells Kids
NPR, Matthew S. Schwartz, December 19
Kids want to know: Is it safe for Santa to stop by this year?
Alaska Natives: Crucial Traditions At Risk
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, December 21
Countless Alaska Natives observe subsistence gathering and sharing practices, essential and deeply significant traditions that date back thousands of years. Now, a coalition of tribes says laws that were meant to protect these aboriginal rights have failed. On the anniversary of a landmark law, several tribes say Congress has fallen short in protecting subsistence, a right that is preserved for many U.S. tribes through treaties and decades of case law. If Deb Haaland is sworn in as Interior secretary, one of the issues Alaska Natives will want to bring up is subsistence.
Students Urge Georgia City Officials To Remove War Monument
AP News, December 21
A group of high school students outside Atlanta are calling on city officials to remove a cannon near a county courthouse that honors the Creek War of 1836, which saw the removal of Native Americans from the South. Decatur High School students asked for the removal of the monument, which was placed at the property by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1906.
NBA Star Kyrie Irving Will Smudge the Court Before Games This Season
Native News Online, December 21
Kyrie Irving (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe), star point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, plans to smudge NBA courts he plays on this season. The NBA champion and six-time all-star smudged the basketball court at TD Garden in Boston ahead of a game against the Celtics last Friday. Irving, 28, said he would like to burn sage before every game in Brooklyn and on the road, “if the opposing team will allow me to.”
Christian Prayer Group And Native Americans Face Off At Ohio’s Serpent Mound
Cincinnati Enquirer, Cameron Knight, December 21
Deputies were called Sunday when a Christian prayer group and Native Americans faced off Sunday at the Great Serpent Mound, the Native American national historic site in southern Ohio. The Native American leader who was there says they were trying to protect a sacred site that belonged to their ancestors. The leader of the prayer group says the mound is a place where dark energy is released into the world.