Vote 2020

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It’s an exciting week at Standing Rock as we’re in full swing with our Vote 2020 call center! On Wednesday, our media team hit the ground running, and we trained a full room of 25 Standing Rock members to call and activate voters around the U.S.


Watch our new video: Standing Rock members call potential voters in North Carolina.

It’s been said a thousand times: this is the most important election of our lifetime. With so much wrong in the world, we can turn the tide — right now. I’m confident that we’ll successfully combat attempts to disenfranchise Native people and make our voices heard loud and clear on Nov. 3. 

We’re encouraging everyone we speak with to vote — and whenever possible, we’re making sure they can do so early. This election offers us a chance to turn what is usually a particularly hard time of year for us in Native communities into a time of hope. While it’s always a challenge being Indian in America, as we go from October into November, our pain intensifies. Beginning with Columbus Day and continuing through Thanksgiving, the wider culture seems to constantly celebrate calls for erasure of Indigenous personhood.

That history is exactly why we’re calling on each other to speak truth to power, to envision who we want to be in the times to come. This election is a test: Who are we, really, when the going gets tough? As Americans, it’s critical we work together to be our best selves. Yes, this is a hard, trying time — but as Indigenous peoples and nations, this has always been the case. 

Standing Rock Protest Video
Callers celebrate a day of effective outreach.

Let me be clear: we believe in American ideals as much as anyone. We want liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So this November, we’re doing everything humanly possible to make sure the Earth is respected, fascism is rejected, and our democracy is protected.

Wopila — thank you, always, for your generosity and heart.

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Environmental Oversight

EPA gives Oklahoma environmental oversight on Indian lands

In this Aug. 18 photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt answers a question during a news conference at the Central Oklahoma PPE distribution warehouse in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Kolby KickingWoman

Oct 5, 2020

Ramifications stemming from McGirt decision in July seep beyond criminal jurisdiction

Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the state of Oklahoma’s request to administer environmental regulatory programs in Indian Country.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Cherokee, made the initial request to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler near the end of July, 13 days after the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma. 

That decision stated Congress never explicitly disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation and much of eastern Oklahoma remains Indian Country.

While the McGirt case dealt with criminal jurisdiction, it appears tribal and state governments believe the ramifications of the decision extend beyond that single area.

A map submitted as an exhibit in the Supreme Court case about the boundaries of tribal reservations in Oklahoma.
A map submitted as an exhibit in the Supreme Court case about the boundaries of tribal lands in Oklahoma. (Image: The Supreme Court)

The EPA’s letter to Stitt, dated last week, applies to more than two dozen federal environmental programs overseen by Oklahoma agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. It gives the state approval for a hazardous waste program, experimental use permits, Clean Air Act programs and more. The approval does not apply to lands held in trust for tribes or those that qualify as Indian allotments, the letter says.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. called the announcement disappointing.

“Unfortunately, the governor’s decision to invoke a 2005 federal law ignores the longstanding relationships between state agencies and the Cherokee Nation,” Hoskin said in a statement. “All Oklahomans benefit when the Tribes and state work together in the spirit of mutual respect and this knee-jerk reaction to curtail tribal jurisdiction is not productive.”

Pictured: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. gives remarks during the tribe's Economic Impact forum at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. (Photo: Cherokee Nation)

The federal law allowing states to seek environmental oversight in Indian Country was authored in 2005 by Oklahoma’s Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a staunch ally of the oil and gas industry.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation was similarly disappointed and through the tribe’s press secretary said concerns brought forth by the tribe during two consultations seemed to go unheard.

“The underlying law is a one-section provision surreptitiously inserted as a midnight rider in the massive (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act) of 2005 that treats Oklahoma tribes differently than other tribes throughout the United States,” the tribe said in a statement. “Like the SAFETEA Act itself, this was a swift move meant to circumvent the federal government’s trust, duty and obligation to consult with the tribal nations concerned.”

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation said it submitted a request for tribal consultation just two days after the governor submitted his request.

“The MCN was granted two consultations, but it seems the concerns raised did not suffice. The MCN will continue seeking remedies to the situation.”

Stitt said in a statement Monday that he was pleased with the EPA’s decision. He said it would help better protect the state’s public health and environment “by ensuring certainty and one consistent set of regulations” for all citizens of Oklahoma, including tribal citizens.

“As Administrator Wheeler’s letter correctly points out, the State of Oklahoma did not seek to expand or increase its regulation over new areas of the state, but rather to continue to regulate those areas where the state has consistently implemented these environmental programs under the steady oversight of the U.S. EPA,” Stitt said.

The EPA decision was particularly welcomed by the state’s oil and gas industry, which was concerned that the Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma could ultimately lead to a patchwork of various tribal environmental regulations across the state, said Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, an oil and gas industry trade group.

“This decision grants the state no more or no less authority than it had prior to the McGirt decision,” Simmons said. “Since 1947, the state of Oklahoma has had primacy to regulate oil and gas operations in Indian Country. This does not have any new effect on that precedent.”

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Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A’aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports for the Washington Bureau. For hot sports takes and too many Lakers tweets, follow him on Twitter – @KDKW_406. Email – kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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The Truth and Healing Act

Lakota Law

Hihanni waste,

In the U.S., some of the ugly realities of our history continue to unfold, but there is always hope when we push back. We’re seeing this now in the continued struggle for racial justice, a movement that is playing out not only on the streets but in the halls of Congress. We’re grateful that last week, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives to bring to light the injustices suffered by my people at the hands of the federal government. 

The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act aims to establish a formal commission to expose the atrocities committed by the federal boarding school policy, and give a voice to the descendants dealing with the resulting trauma. It is co-sponsored by a long list of congressional reps, including Rep. Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.), a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Davids and Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) were recently the first two Native women elected to the House.

Between 1879 and 1918, more than 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. 158 graduated.

As you may know, the Indian boarding school era is one of the darkest chapters in the history of American Indian policy. Under a government-approved goal to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” our children were taken and forcibly assimilated into colonized ways of thinking. Their braids cut and the speaking of their languages prohibited, these children were subjected to repeated physical, sexual, and mental abuse — and too many never made it back home. The horrible reality is that hundreds, if not thousands, of these children still lie in boarding school graveyards around the country instead of resting in their homelands with their ancestors. 

This history is not removed from modern day, either. My sister and I were sent to boarding school back in the 1940s, and this awful practice didn’t end until the ‘60s. I witnessed this genocidal policy firsthand. 

Here at LPLP, we’ve long been proponents of Truth and Healing. Back in 2015-’16, about 50 Native nations signed onto our petition for a congressional committee modeled after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation effort. We stand with the many other tribal leaders supporting the creation of this commission under Haaland and Warren’s bill.

In these days of deception and disease — when our rights are once again being violated by officials who seek to limit our power at the polls — a new way forward must be found. Truth and healing is exactly what we need.

Wopila tanka — In solidarity!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

Voting Efforts

Lakota Law

As you know, the Lakota People’s Law Project does all we can to ensure that my fellow Native Americans can cast their ballots each election cycle. In recent weeks, we’ve been writing to you about our effort to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA). Now we’re taking things to the next level. We’ve partnered with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and leading up to the election we’ll run a joint phone bank where tribal members activate their neighbors and Native voters in swing states like North Carolina and Arizona. We’re doing all we can to see that Indian Country makes a big noise in the 2020 election.

Lakota LawOur first team members feel the joy after a day of making a difference in the 2020 election.

We’ll hire and train about 30 tribal residents as get-out-the-vote organizers. Using data-driven targeting and leveraging the latest tech to increase efficiency, we’ll have tens of thousands of conversations with voters. In addition to boosting the number of people casting ballots in important regional elections, this will put Standing Rock’s citizens to work learning valuable skills at a time when earning money is harder than ever on the reservation.

Lakota LawDana Yellow Fat works the phones to Standing Rock the Vote.

Meanwhile, growing support for NAVRA has moved it closer to getting out of committee and into law. Over the past month, partly because of our efforts, the bill gained five new sponsors in the House of Representatives (including some in critical swing states). We’re also engaged with investigative journalists at national press outlets to ensure high-level coverage of the suppression tactics and other difficulties faced by Native voters in 2020.

We’ll maintain our ambitious media and video production calendar to make sure you’ve got a clear window into the work. As always, your support makes all we do possible — and I can’t thank you enough for helping us lead the struggle. Let’s stay committed!

Wopila tanka — my gratitude for continuing to propel this movement forward.

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

October 12th: Indigenous Peoples Day

Visit the Many Nations of America
Participants in Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020 (from left to right): Performing artist Frank Waln; Youth in Action panelists Brook Thompson, Dylan Baca, Lina Krueck, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Michaela Pavlat (moderator), and Alberto Correa III
Visit the Museum in Washington, DC
To reserve your free, timed-entry passes to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, please visit our website. The museum location in New York remains closed at this time.

Can’t make it to our museum on the National Mall? Visit our wide range of resources online, including exhibition websites.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Mascots, Monuments, and Memorialization Monday, Oct. 12, 1 PM ET
Streaming online at americanindian.si.edu/online-programs
How do people’s memories of the past inform and influence the current racial and social landscape? As part of the museum’s new series Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future, participants can hear from young Native activists who are propelling this conversation forward and addressing the tension between history, memory, and the current movements happening across America. Featured panelists include Brook Thompson (Yurok and Karuk), Julian Brave NoiseCat (Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and Lil’Wat Nation), Lina Krueck (Oglala Lakota), Dylan Baca (White Mountain Apache), and Alberto Correa III (Taíno).

This event will feature an introduction by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a musical performance by hip-hop artist Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota). The panel will be moderated by museum cultural interpreter Michaela Pavlat (Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians).

You can find more ideas for celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day from home on Smithsonian Voices.

WNYC’s The Greene Space Presents First Peoples Week
Through Saturday, October 12
Full schedule available at https://thegreenespace.org/series/first-peoples-week/
Celebrated Native creators, artists, podcasters, poets, photographers, and others take center stage during First Peoples Week at The Greene Space. This free, online program series features conversations that touch on COVID-19, land treaties, mascots, storytelling, and more, led by This Land host Rebecca Nagle, director and producer Madeline Sayet, community leaders from the Lenape Center, and Iakowi:hi’ne’ Oakes, director of the American Indian Community House.

Native New York in your classroom
October 8 and 15, 4 PM ET
Register online
These free, hour-long webinars are designed for education professionals who teach about the Native Nations of New York State. Educators whose primary teaching focus is social studies, English language arts, or library sciences, and who work with students in grades 4–12 are encouraged to register. We also invite homeschoolers, parents, and others looking for digital educational resources about Native Americans.

The Great Inka Road | El Gran Camino Inka
Learn about the ingenuity of the Inka who built an empire, through our bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibition website. The site includes sections on ancestors of the Inka, the Inka universe, the invasion of the empire, and the Inka Road today.

New in our Smithsonian Store online: face masks!

The museum’s online store now carries adult face masks designed by Native artists in several patterns: Eagle Vision, Orca Family, Sasquatch, and Tradition. For these and other gifts and accessories, visit the museum’s shop on the Smithsonian’s website.

Stay Connected with the Museum

Follow the museum at AmericanIndian.si.edu, or via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The National Museum of the American Indian is able to reach people everywhere thanks to generous support from individuals like you. Thank you.



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Standing Rock

Thu, Oct 1, 2020 6:36 pm Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

Lakota Law

Warm greetings! As we look to escape the shadow of the most embarrassing presidential debate in the history of our still-young nation, our team here at Standing Rock has begun assembling tribal phone bankers. Our mission? We must remind Native voters in battleground states that their voice matters and help them cast their ballots. Much more news to come soon on that front. 

Meanwhile, I share with you a powerful new video about our NoDAPL stand, produced by VICE News in conjunction with the Lakota People’s Law Project. As we’ve continued to work with students at Loyola University to compile our archive of NoDAPL resources, we’ve also been releasing videos to tell you the full story of our stand to protect Standing Rock’s water. Another key reason for compiling these materials is to allow journalists, like our friends at VICE News, to help tell that story effectively. 

About a month ago, VICE News sent their “I Was There” production team to meet me in South Dakota so we could talk about what really happened at Standing Rock. We also provided their team with access to our archival resources. Using all of that plus other sourced footage, they produced “I was There: DAPL Protests.” I urge you to watch it to gain a fuller picture of the timeline and meaning of our movement, and how it fits into the present cultural moment. I hope that you will find it informative.

Please know that, as we ramp up our Vote 2020 campaign to protect the future of our right to be heard in this democracy, we won’t stop our continued efforts to defeat DAPL — and Keystone XL — once and for all. This year has shown us so clearly that we must take our vigilance to new levels to protect one another. We have to fight on multiple fronts and make sure that the truth always comes to light. We’re so grateful for responsible journalists like the team from VICE News who help us do that. And, of course, we couldn’t be more appreciative of you for helping us stay in the fight every single day.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with us and with Standing Rock!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.