I hope you’re staying safe! Here in South Dakota, it’s getting crazier by the day. Governor Kristi Noem refuses to implement common sense rules to protect the people of her state — and among those most vulnerable are 72,000 Native people representing nine different tribal nations. Right now, Sioux Falls is home to one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation, yet Governor Noem has failed to issue a general stay-at-home order, hasn’t shut down nonessential businesses, and has begun using some of the city’s workers as hydroxychloroquine guinea pigs.
Watch our new video, in which Chase Iron Eyes gives context and Rachel Maddow details the horrific situation in Sioux Falls.
As Standing Rock’s Robert White Mountain recently shared with you, Governor Noem has also failed to issue statewide suspensions of utility shut-offs and evictions, forcing Native families into the streets in sub-freezing temperatures during the pandemic. Her willful ignorance of recommendations by medical professionals puts our tribal nations — where public health infrastructure is already often lacking — in extreme jeopardy. Both Pine Ridge and Standing Rock have positive cases. An uncontrolled spread among our people would be devastating.
Here at Cheyenne River, we’ve taken matters into our own hands by closing off roads into the reservation. So far it is working, but we can’t protect ourselves for long if South Dakota’s chief executive continues taking her queues from Trump.
The White House is largely at fault for inadequate testing and shortages of personal protective equipment. While the president calls to reopen the economy and praises oblivious protesters ignoring social distancing rules, only one percent of the U.S. population has been tested for COVID-19. Experts agree that the pathway to recovery includes testing millions of Americans every day.
Only five states in the country remain without stay-at-home orders, all here in the heartland, all with conservative governors. An extreme outlier and part of a renegade, right-wing movement to ignore science at the expense of (disproportionately Brown and Black) lives, Noem must hear the truth.
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project
‘Congress said ‘any’ small business can get paycheck protection for its people, the SBA has no right to say anything less to small tribal gaming businesses’ * Updated 12 MSTPresident Donald Trump has been clear about the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration announced further details on the Paycheck Protection Program, which was made possible by the 2-trillion-dollar relief bill I signed into law last week,” he said at a White House briefing. “Nearly $350 billion in loans will soon be available through lending partners to help small businesses meet payroll and other expenses for up to two months. These loans will be forgiven as long as businesses keep paying their workers. This includes sole proprietors and independent contractors.”
However there remains uncertainty about whether tribal enterprises — namely casinos that employ less than 500 people — will even qualify for the program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (or CARES act).
John Chao created this beautiful photography book and has a chapter about Standing Rock. Check it out. People who were there have their names listed. I am listed there and am very proud to say that I was there, I was a witness, I contributed, and I tried to help in any way I could by waking up my school community on Sacramento to what was going on in North Dakota.
The struggle continues as we battle through a rogue government and a pandemic.
It will always be the artist, writers, and educators who will document and tell the tale.
It’s more important now than ever to unite and support each other. That’s why, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we’re launching a massive livestream from April 22-24 where you can join activists, celebrities, musicians, and more in an epic moment of community and hope for our future. Together, we’ll:
Drive donations to benefit the COVID-19 relief effort
Call on world leaders to take emergency action to build a more sustainable and just world
Inspire millions to pledge to vote for our future.
For 50 years, we’ve been losing the fight for our planet. But we can make this the century we saved the world — starting on Earth Day. Here’s how you can spread the word and make this as big as possible.
After I wrote to you last week with news that the McLaughlin City Council had shut off the power to my son’s home, you came through in a big way. You flooded the council with nearly 10,000 emails demanding that they stop this harmful practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, and good work! However, though my son’s power is back on, the council still hasn’t stopped shut-offs citywide.
If you have already sent your message to the city council, please share our action on social media using the buttons below. Ask your friends and family to join our call for Standing Rock safety now.
My son, his wife, and my grandchildren.
I am happy to tell you that a conscientious reporter from the Rapid City Journal also followed up on a press release we sent and wrote an article, later picked up by the Bismarck Tribune. We hope that the continued pressure from you and the media will pay off in policy change soon. The council will meet again on Apr. 21. Let’s make sure they know we won’t accept their failure to provide public safety for the people of Bear Soldier District (our Lakota name for McLaughlin).
Because South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem stubbornly refuses to call for even the most basic precautions to slow the viral spread, the pandemic has now exploded in my state. (We will share more with you about this very soon.) Sioux Falls is home to the single worst hot spot in the nation, and there are also multiple cases in Bear Soldier. This just makes it all the more important that local officials — like those on the McLaughlin City Council — behave responsibly.
Our goal in this campaign is not to increase racial division or get free electricity for anyone. Rather, we’re hoping to encourage compassion and concern for public health on the part of our elected officials — and reconciliation between Native and non-Native residents of Standing Rock. But our goal of unity can only be furthered if justice is secured.
Wopila — I thank you on behalf of all the families of Bear Soldier!
Robert White Mountain
via the Lakota People’s Law Project
Two pueblos in New Mexico have some of the highest infection rates in the United States. The numbers are stark. Zia Pueblo has 31 confirmed positive cases with a population of 900 people. And San Felipe has 52 cases with a population of 2,200.
Ravn Air carried passengers, food, freight and mail to more than 120 communities announced it’s ending service to all but 11 villages. Ravn Air sent the message at 6 a.m. telling employees to stop operations that day.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said there are “’incredible spikes” of coronavirus cases in the Navajo Nation and that the virus could “wipe out” some tribal nations, according to a recording of a call between Trump and the nation’s governors obtained by ABC News.
“We’re seeing incredible spikes in the Navajo Nation, and this is going to be an issue where we’re going to have to figure that out and think about maybe testing and surveillance opportunities,” Grisham said.
Indian Country Today Reporters’ Roundtable, March 30
Another Monday. Another tranche of global COVID-19 cases on National Doctors Day. There are now more than 122,000 cases in the United States, resulting in 2,112 deaths. And in Indian Country there are 190 cases with at least 10 deaths confirmed.
The Lummi Nation in Washington state reported the sharpest increase so far this week. There are now 16 positive cases, 12 of them being Lummi citizens, and nine people who live on the Lummi Reservation. Two of the cases include members of the Lummi Business Council. The identified cases are likely to go up — there are 22 more cases pending, according to the tribe’s public health department.
Meskwaki Nation among others in Indian Country with confirmed cases
Weekends are usually days when people take time off. Not these days as the number of positive coronavirus cases continue to grow in Indian Country. Over the weekend, tribal nations reported new numbers, instituted new curfews and organizations asked for more donations to send to both students and community members. Others used this time to connect on social media. In Iowa, a 31-year-old Meskwaki woman was confirmed positive for the virus, the Times Republican reported. She has been identified as Lindsey Johnson.
‘Three weeks ago we were doing great! And now we’re done.’
It’s a sparse lunch crowd at the Bee Line Cafe in Payson, Arizona. Only four tables have guests seated and eating. Business has slowed considerably in the past week says owner Kassie Sexton.“People are not wanting to come in because they’re afraid they’re going to get cooties.” She laughs nervously as she looks around her nearly empty cafe.
The sweeping bill that President Donald Trump signed will help better equip health care systems that serve Native Americans, improve the emergency response time on tribal lands, provide economic relief for tribal members, and help with food deliveries to low-income families and the elderly.
Tribes have been lobbying Congress to help address shortfalls in an already underfunded health care system and to ensure the federal government fulfills its obligation to them under treaties and other acts. While the $10 billion for tribes in the $2.2 trillion package is less than they requested, tribes say it represents progress.
The number of coronavirus cases is growing globally.
On Saturday, 103,321 cases were reported in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making the U.S. the country with the highest number of confirmed cases and 1,668 people have died from coronavirus-related complications.
Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is the highest in the world, with over 10,000 fatalities.
Updated: New coronavirus cases on the Navajo Nation have increased by 20 on Wednesday, from 49 to 69
Tribes in Minnesota are the latest across Indian Country to fall under a statewide stay-at-home order in the fight to prevent the coronavirus spread.Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order on Wednesday ordering Minnesota residents in nonessential jobs to stay at home. The order begins midnight Friday and is scheduled to run through April 10.
The Senate and White House reached an agreement on the bailout funds for America, the largest in history. The $2 trillion relief package includes $8 billion for tribal governments and $2 billion for emergency supplemental funding for federal Indian programs.
The Senate vote on the agreement is set to happen this afternoon. Even if passed by the Senate, they would need House approval.
Two Arizona tribes in the Phoenix valley see their first COVID-19 cases while the Navajo Nation adds 20 more reports. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community reported its first case and the Gila River Indian Community has two positive cases.
Generations and generations … have had to deal with these pandemics and these viruses, and they’ve also had to get up in the morning and feed themselves, and make things run for society’
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people arriving from out of state to slow the spread of COVID-19. On Sunday Hawaii Governor David Ing took the action for travelers headed there.
Surgeon General: ‘America … It’s going to get bad’
This morning U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said on national television, “I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad.” As if he needed proof, the number of positive cases for COVID-19 listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doubled over the weekend. There are now 33,404 cases and 400 people across the country have died.
Zibaaska’iganagooday is the exploding sound in the Ojibwe language and it has a long history of healing
Community song and dance have always been a part of healing and prayer for Native people. In this time of social distancing, however, people are putting a digital spin on these healing traditions. People all over Indian Country are organizing virtual powwows and other social dances via social media as a means to offer hope and spiritual support during the Covid19 pandemic
Swords, rez dogs, Indian Country adventures and more
Bored at home? Nonsense. Practicing safe social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic can also mean opportunity. We can finally catch up on all the streaming shows, Native YouTubers, read all the books we never have time for and listen to all the saved podcast episodes tucked away on our devices.
American Indians and Alaska Natives clustered in camps or on the streets; ‘It’s been a crazy time’
Every major city has a virtual suburb for the homeless. Homes consisting of tents, scrap wood, shopping baskets and cardboard boxes. In shelters, a family dwelling might have a common kitchen and bedrooms with bunk beds. Others may have a large room filled with dozens of bunk beds or canvas cots. Some have dozens of rubber-coated thick pads placed a foot apart in rows laid across a concrete floor.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Navajo Nation has grown to 14, a dramatic increase from the three confirmed cases reported only a day ago.
The announcement came hours after a 55-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen was the first coronavirus related death in Oklahoma. Before the Navajo Nation announcement late Thursday, March 19, there were nine cases confirmed in the Indian health system.
The Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma have confirmed the first COVID-19 related death, according to the Cherokee Phoenix. A 55-year-old Cherokee man died on March 18 after fighting a cold and then contracted the coronavirus disease.
The death of a tribal citizen that has been confirmed is one of the nine cases reported in the Indian health system as of March 19. On Wednesday, the Navajo Nation confirmed its third case, a 62-year-old Navajo man.
The Lummi Nation in Washington state has confirmed three positive COVID-19 cases, according to Tony Hillaire, chief of staff of the Lummi Indian Business Council. This adds to the total of seven within the Indian health system; one in the Portland Area of the Indian Health Service, one in the Great Plains area and two in the Navajo region.
Of the three Lummi cases, one is a Lummi citizen who resides on the reservation. The other two cases are residents of King and Whatcom counties.
Aƞpétu wašté (Good day)! I hope you are staying well, and I want you to know that we’re praying for all our relations impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. One benefit of sheltering in place is that we’re able to keep our eyes peeled for important news. In case you missed it, I wanted to highlight a recent attack on Indigenous sovereignty and ask for your solidarity for our Mashpee relatives.
At the end of last month, the Department of Interior announced that 321 acres of land will be taken out of trust, effectively revoking the reservation status of the Mashpee Wampanoag people of Massachusetts. For those who learned the Thanksgiving story in elementary school, the Wampanoag people broke bread with the Pilgrims in Plymouth colony, and it was Wampanoag land that the Pilgrims took. And now, in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic, President Trump’s cabinet is moving to rescind the sovereign status of these people.
The Lakota People’s Law Project stands with the Mashpee Wampanoag in the struggle to defend their birthright to live on the land of their ancestors, and we ask that you take a few moments to watch my video and #StandWithMashpee too.
President Obama placed the land in question into trust in 2015, but that decision has been reversed under Trump. A reinterpretation by our executive branch of a 2009 Supreme Court decision now only grants trust status to tribes recognized before 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was signed. Because the Mashpee weren’t federally recognized until 2007, they’ve now lost their status. As Jessie Little Doe Baird, vice chair of the tribe, said “they came for our children and took them to Carlisle because we were ‘too Indian.’ Today, they tell us we are not Indian enough.”
The Mashpee, who have lived in the Massachusetts area for over 12,000 years, are being denied their right to autonomy. With federal trust status comes the right to manage, develop, and tax a parcel of land. This “disestablishment” of the Mashpee reservation will likely force the closure of the tribal court and police department; it will cost Native people their livelihoods in an already barren economic landscape.
This blatant land-grab isn’t even court-ordered — the directive came from Trump’s Department of the Interior. Now, the Mashpee have asked a D.C. court to issue an emergency restraining order to prevent the dissolution of trust status, and Massachusetts senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have vowed to combat this assault on the tribe’s self-determination, saying “We will not allow the Mashpee Wampanoag to lose their homeland.”
We Native people have struggled to retain less than 2.5 percent of our lands since European contact. The Indian Wars, in essence, have never truly ended. The United States’ long history of systemically suppressing Native rights continues, and in 2020, land trust removal is the latest iteration of that same legacy of colonialism. We are disheartened, but as Indigenous people and allies, we have each others’ backs in the face of adversity. You can stand for sovereignty by standing with the Mashpee people in their time of need.
Wopila — thank you. Solidarity forever,
Chase Iron Eyes
The Lakota People’s Law Project
First of all, from my home in Cheyenne River to yours wherever you may be, I hope you are staying safe and well. Over my years, I’d come to think maybe I’d seen it all — but not so! One thing I know is that we’ll only get through this period of separation and hardship by sticking together. So I write to you today with an opportunity to help make a real difference that could save lives.
Please join us in telling Montana stop KXL construction now, before it spreads COVID-19 on tribal nations.
As I have shared with you previously, we Native women have been hard at work organizing our communities to prepare for the dangers KXL poses. The man camps that house oil workers were already scary before we knew they could become petri dishes for the virus. Allowing two of them near our reservation just increases our peril.
But allow them, Trump will. He’s cynically using the pandemic to take full advantage of our inability to engage in grassroots organizing on the ground. On March 31, TC Energy announced a final decision to complete KXL, explicitly thanking the president for giving the go-ahead. Three days later, Trump tweeted his happiness.
Though TC Energy has claimed it will follow procedures to limit the spread of the virus, Republican Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has said that he won’t expect workers traveling from out of state to be quarantined. Meanwhile, here in South Dakota, Republican governor Kristi Noem has steadfastly refused to institute shelter-in-place mandates or close businesses, despite 447 documented positive tests and six deaths in our state.
We must lean on the Democrat, Bullock, to do the right thing. He has, at least, waffled on KXL. On the one hand, he said, “Look — if it’s done right, we can’t take it off the table.” On the other hand, he’s commented that the Department of State failed to adequately consider the pipeline’s environmental impacts, and he’s expressed concern about the threat to Montana’s water from a leak or spill. Bullock has also criticized the Trump administration’s failure to adequately consult with Native American tribes affected by the pipeline — a major reason to hope he’ll listen to us now.
It’s worth noting that KXL has many of the same weaknesses in its design and approval process as the Dakota Access pipeline, which — partially due to safety concerns including an inadequate leak detection system — just had its federal permits revoked by a court ruling. Let’s protect public safety and stop KXL construction.
Wopila tanka — I thank you, sincerely, for your life-saving activism!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project
Indian Country Today started a weekday newscast to help inform tribal nations about the pandemic and to see how the novel coronavirus is impacting Native people.
We will also cover other stories that arise during this crisis.
Today’s guest is Dean Seneca, chief executive officer of Seneca Scientific Solutions Plus. Seneca has had on-the-ground experience working on infectious disease and pandemics. In 2014 he went to the West Africa country of Sierra Leone and helped lead the fight against the Ebola pandemic. He has an undergraduate degree in planning and design and two masters, one in public health and another in urban and regional planning. He is also veteran, serving in the U.S. Army Reserves as a major for 14 years. He is a citizen of the Seneca Nation.
Oklahoma tops COVID-19-related news for Monday April 6, 2020Facebook is where the news often breaks. Families tell their stories, as do tribes.
Monday the Cherokee Nation reported the death of its self-governance director, the first COVID-19-related death within the tribe’s health system.
Karen Ketcher, Cherokee, died Monday at age 70, according to the tribe. She previously worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The nation said Ketcher died of COVID-19 complications.
“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of our dear friend, Karen,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said on Facebook. “This is a shock, both to the many loved ones Karen leaves behind, and to the Cherokee Nation as a whole. As Cherokees, we all feel the weight of her loss, which is tragic and too soon.”
This is the tribe’s second death: A 55-year-old man died in mid-March outside of the Cherokee Nation’s health system.
The tribe announced an increase of 13 cases today Monday, bringing the total to 24 cases and two deaths. The tribe’s health system also has 11 ventilators.
The Choctaw Nation also has seen cases increases, with Chief Gary Batton announcing three new ones Monday. That brings the tribe’s total to 18 cases and 1 death.
The tribal nation had its first case March 26. The Choctaw Nation Health Service Authority is waiting for 49 test results, while 49 tests have come back negative.
Meanwhile, the Muckleshoot Tribe in Washington state had two cases as of April 2. Both will be in isolation for 14 days, and contact tracing has been done on both people, says the tribe.
In New Mexico, San Felipe Pueblo last week became one of the latest pueblos to issue a strict stay-at-home order for its community.
Thirty-two miles away is Zia Pueblo. Its leadership adopted similar guidelines in a weekend memo.
Zia Pueblo leadership confirmed Sunday that their pueblo had 11 confirmed cases.
In addition to a stay-at-home order, the pueblo has enacted a curfew that will remain in effect until further notice, according to its memo. Only essential works and those with medical appointments or emergencies can leave the pueblo, it says.
Zia Pueblo also says only two people per household can be designated to go shopping, and they cannot be elders or children. Tribal members can shop only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“We are a small, close-knit community with strong family connections. If the “Stay at Home” Order is not taken seriously or ignored, even by one person, more harm will be inflicted upon Zia Members,” the memo reads. “Please, our Zia People, abide by the ‘Stay at Home’ Order. Practice all social distancing guidelines and frequently follow through with personal hygiene recommendations set forth by Public Health experts.”
Joining other pueblos, Zia Pueblo has cancelled all Easter activities, including church services, dances and Easter egg hunts.
This weekend will look drastically different for residents of the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo Department of Health has issued an emergency order implementing a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. Friday and ending at 5 a.m. Monday. Those who do not comply will be given a citation and fined, officials say.
“We are seeing way too many people contract the virus, and we need to step up measures to begin to reduce the numbers,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a press release. “Our health care system cannot manage the growing numbers of patients and those who need to be admitted. We continue to receive reports of people on the road and traveling with families to nearby border towns.”
The weekend curfew does not apply to essential employees. These employees, however, are required to show proof of identification from their employer on an official letterhead to be exempt from being penalized.
Tribe says to keep medical equipment in the region
Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. issued the following statement in opposition to the executive order outlined by Governor Andrew Cuomo for taking vital resources and medical equipment away from Upstate New York hospitals for use downstate. A press release said:
“The Governor’s order flies in the face of the life-saving work our hospitals, doctors, nurses and first responders are risking their own health to perform every day. By preparing to send the National Guard to the region to demand our healthcare community relinquish ventilators and equipment, the Governor is signaling his willingness to sacrifice the lives and safety of our family and neighbors. He is creating a dangerous ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dynamic, and he is making his choice crystal clear.”
Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Dalton Walker and Aliyah Chavez contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.