Native American Voting Rights Act

I write to you from Standing Rock with encouraging news: despite losing a tough mayoral campaign in McLaughlin, South Dakota, I’ve been promised appointment to the city council. Given the profound hardships it took to get here, I’m pleased with this outcome.

Three months ago, my uncle Robert White Mountain shared my story with you — I was unjustly removed from the ballot as a mayoral candidate by McLaughlin’s majority white city council. Robert’s message triggered an article in our local paper, The Teton Times, which put City Hall on alert: the Lakota People’s Law Project — and supporters like you — would not tolerate violation of my right to run for elected office. The pressure worked, and I gained a last minute chance to re-enter the race.
Lakota Law
In Lakota Law’s new video, I talk about our mayoral race in McLaughlin and my plans, as a future City Council member, to provide for our youth.

While I couldn’t win with just days to campaign, an appointment to the council will still let me accomplish many good things for this town. Thank you for being part of the watchdog community who supported my right to run. More and more, we Indigenous people are seeking elected office throughout the United States, and we are casting more votes, too. But the trend of keeping us off ballots — or of not counting our ballots at all — remains a huge problem.

That’s why, just last week, the Lakota People’s Law Project forged a compact with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to support a nationwide campaign encouraging Congress to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act. Very soon, Lakota Law will give you an opportunity — via its about-to-be-launched Action Center — to make your voice heard on this critical topic.

As I prepare to join the city council here in McLaughlin, I plan to collaborate with the Lakota People’s Law Project to start a youth center where, as director, I will ensure that the children of our tribal nation have access to culturally enriching experiences, like sweat lodge, ceremony, and prayer songs. Because of the imposed poverty here at Standing Rock, far too many of our youth fall into substance use, gang activity, or suicide. As someone with a degree in social work, I intend to help solve this crisis.

Thank you for supporting our work here on tribal nations in the Dakotas. Please stay with us. We have much to accomplish together to protect Native voting rights and assist our youth.

Wopila tanka — my enduring gratitude for your care and attention!

Hoksila White Mountain
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project

Water

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/group-helps-fill-gaps-in-navajo-nation-water-access-wPob9SSX30Ck3o8wAgmtLw

 

Cronkite News

‘We have to be able to lift each other up; that’s the only way we’re going to make it out of this together’
McKenzie Allen-Charmley
Luce Foundation: Southwest Stories Fellowship

PHOENIX – By now, you’ve probably heard it more times than you can count: One of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection is to wash your hands.

But for the nearly one in three Navajo Nation households without indoor plumbing, that’s easier said than done.

“People (here) call it a luxury to be able to have running water,” said Yolanda Tso, a Navajo Nation member and community advocate. “I don’t really believe that should be considered a luxury in this day and age, especially in this country.”

Tso founded WATERED – Water Acquisition Team for Every Resident & Every Diné – to help fill gaps in water access on the reservation, which this summer eclipsed New York in per-capita coronavirus infection rates, according to CNN. She started raising funds to purchase hand-washing stations for families in need in April and began deliveries in June.

Yolanda Tso, founder of the WATERED, demonstrates how to use the hand-washing stations that the organization has provided to more than 110 households in the Navajo Nation by early this summer. (Photo courtesy of Yolanda Tso)
Yolanda Tso, founder of the WATERED, demonstrates how to use the hand-washing stations that the organization had provided to more than 110 households on the Navajo reservation by early this summer. (Photo courtesy of Yolanda Tso)

Tso said she knows her small-scale, donation-dependent operation can’t fix the broader infrastructure problems on Navajo land. In 2018, the Indian Health Service told Congress the tribe had more than $450 million in unfunded water needs.

But she hopes it can help even the playing field for a population infectious disease specialists say has a higher-than-average risk of contracting COVID-19.

“At this moment, it’s going to help people be able to accomplish those goals of protecting themselves,” Tso said.

Impact of federal relief funding unclear

As of Aug. 4, the Navajo Health Department had reported 9,156 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a population of about 175,000 – more infections per 100,000 residents than any state in the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The reservation also had a death toll higher than that of 16 U.S. states, with 463 residents lost to the disease by that date.

Navajo officials have proposed spending about $300 million of the $714 million they’ve received in federal CARES Act funding on water infrastructure to help slow the spread of COVID-19, according to a release from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez’s office.

But restrictions require officials to spend CARES Act funds by the end of the calendar year, and Navajo officials say it likely would take at least two years to get a substantial water infrastructure project off the ground.

Even if the federal government grants the spending extension Navajo leaders have requested, the extra time would not address the immediate needs of families without running water.

That’s where Tso and other Navajo volunteers come in.

WATERED’s team has delivered hand-washing stations to more than 110 households on the 27,000-square-mile reservation as a stopgap measure, Tso said.

Yolanda Tso (left, in blue) and volunteers unload hand-washing stations for Navajo Nation residents from a delivery truck donated by the moving company State 48. (Photo courtesy of Yolanda Tso)
Yolanda Tso (left, in blue) and volunteers unload hand-washing stations for Navajo Nation residents from a delivery truck donated by the moving company State 48. (Photo courtesy of Yolanda Tso)

The stations include reusable 5-gallon jugs and 5-gallon buckets for catching used water, and WATERED provides liquid hand soap, toilet paper, paper towels and disinfectant.

The group relies on donations to cover supply and travel costs, Tso said, and some local companies have made in-kind contributions to increase WATERED’s efficiency and reach. The Glendale moving company State 48, for instance, provided a delivery truck to transport of the stations.

These families “don’t have the ability to get a main source of stopping the spread of COVID as easily as most other communities,” State 48 owner Amanda Lindsey said.

Pandemic prompts ‘important’ access conversation

Annie Lascoe of DigDeep, a nonprofit that works to address water needs on the reservation and elsewhere, described water access as a “deeply entrenched racial justice issue.”

White households are 19 times as likely as Native households to have running water, according to a 2019 report from DigDeep and the Water Alliance that argued rural and tribal community members “understand the historical barriers to access better than outsiders.”

“When we’re looking at Indigenous peoples’ rights, Indigenous communities around the world are the ones that are preserving all of our natural resources,” Lascoe said, citing the Navajo philosophy of “tó éí ííná” – “water is life.”

Yet Native populations are “the No. 1 communities that are also deeply impacted by entrenched systems that have robbed them of access to those resources,” she said.

Indeed, the U.S. government has repeatedly left tribal officials out of key water-policy negotiations, despite the 1908 Winters Doctrine promising federally reserved water rights to Indigenous communities.

Navajo leaders in recent years have pursued water settlements at the state level in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, but the Navajo Department of Water Resources continues to point to a “lack of adequate domestic and municipal water” as one of the nation’s biggest challenges.

Tso said she would “would never choose a pandemic to have these conversations,” but “it’s so important for people to understand that even though we live in 2020 and we think of America as this superpower, we still have people who are living in conditions that are subpar.”

“We have to be able to lift each other up,” she said. “That’s the only way we’re going to make it out of this together.”

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This story is made possible through a partnership between the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University, with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation.

DAPL News

In case you haven’t yet heard, yesterday an appellate court dropped a big decision in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit to stop the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). Unfortunately, the court’s ruling did not support immediately shutting down oil flow as we hoped. However, the court also failed to reverse the lower court’s decision to vacate DAPL’s permit to pass under Lake Oahe, Standing Rock’s primary source of drinking water. DAPL’s continued operation is now officially as illegal as it is dangerous.

Lakota Law
Press play to watch my video breakdown of the court’s decision.

You likely recall that, a month ago, D.C. Circuit Court Judge James Boasberg set a 30-day deadline for Energy Transfer to stop pumping oil through DAPL. Yesterday’s appellate court decision is complex, but it essentially delays that deadline while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decides whether to stop the oil given the absence of a permit. The Corps can demand Energy Transfer comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, shut down the oil, and perform a full Environmental Impact Study.

If that doesn’t happen, we’ll see more arguments before Judge Boasberg. Bottom line, this fight now looks likely to stretch into 2021, when a new administration could revoke DAPL’s permits for good. I urge you to watch my video breakdown, stay tuned for more updates, and keep a positive outlook.

The struggle continues, but hope is on the horizon. We remain optimistic, and we must keep fighting with all our collective strength. We won’t stop until this pipeline is emptied and dug out of our sacred ground. I look forward to the day we can gather together at Standing Rock again — this time to celebrate the end of DAPL, once and for all.
Wopila tanka — my eternal appreciation for standing with Standing Rock!

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

Important Census 2020 Information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2020
CONTACT:
National Native Organizations Issue Joint Statement on U.S. Census Bureau Change to 2020 Census Operations
This week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it is ending its Census 2020 field operations on September 30, 2020, despite severely low response rates in historically undercounted areas, including in many tribal areas across the country.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National Urban Indian Family Coalition (NUIFC) are deeply alarmed and concerned with this unwarranted and irresponsible decision. An accurate Census count is essential to ensure fair and accurate representation of all Americans, including this country’s First Americans, because Census data is used for reapportionment of congressional seats and in redistricting to elect representatives at every level of government. Ending the 2020 Census count early during a global pandemic is not only bad policy, it puts at risk the ability of our communities to access social safety net and other benefits that a complete Census count affords Americans wherever they are.
Our tribal nations and tribal communities have been ravaged by COVID-19, and an extension of the Census enumeration period was a humane lifeline during an unprecedented global health catastrophe that provided critically needed additional time to tribal nations to ensure that all of everyone in their communities are counted. For millions of American Indians and Alaska Natives, whether they live on rural reservations or in America’s large cities, an inaccurate Census count will decimate our ability to advocate for necessary services for our most vulnerable communities. An incomplete count also undermines our representative system of government in violation of the United States Constitution and in derogation of the federal government’s trust responsibilities to tribal nations.
NCAI, NARF, and NUIFC strongly support a complete Census count and call on the United States Congress to take urgent legislative action to include an extension of the Census field operation timelines in the next COVID-19 package.
###
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.
About the Native American Rights Fund:
Founded in 1970, NARF is the oldest and largest non-profit dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and individual Indians nationwide. For the past 48 years, NARF has represented over 275 Tribes in 31 states in such areas as tribal jurisdiction, federal recognition, land claims, hunting and fishing rights, religious liberties, and voting rights. For more information, visit www.narf.org.
About the National Urban Indian Family Coalition
Created in 2003, he NUIFC advocates for American Indian families living in urban areas by creating partnerships with tribes, as well as other American Indian organizations, and by conducting research to better understand the barriers, issues, and opportunities facing urban American Indian families. The NUIFC works to ensure access to traditionally excluded organizations and families, and to focus attention on the needs of urban Indians. Learn more by visiting www.nuifc.org.

“sovereignty hobbyists¨? Racist Comment

Oklahoma attorney general dismisses legislation critics as ‘sovereignty hobbyists’

In this Sept. 12 photo, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Mary Annette Pember

Republican Mike Hunter insists Oklahoma wants to preserve tribal sovereignty; Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations disagree

Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

The Supreme Court’s McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling affirmed tribal sovereignty, but the state’s attorney general, Republican Mike Hunter, is disputing its importance in negotiating jurisdictional responsibility with tribes and the state.

Hunter described some of those concerned about the impact of proposed federal legislation related to the case as “sovereignty hobbyists,” during an interview with reporter Scott Mitchell on News 9 in Tulsa.

According to Hunter, hobbyists are worried about “theoretical” problems and have misplaced criticism of the proposed legislation.

“They’ve accused us of eroding the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); we’ve actually increased the ability to utilize VAWA in protecting women by using concurrent state and tribal jurisdiction rather than limiting it to tribal jurisdiction,” Hunt said.

Under the proposed legislation, announced in an “agreement in principle,” the state would have criminal jurisdiction over non-Native and overlapping jurisdiction over most Native offenders.

Five Oklahoma tribes — Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole and Choctaw — initially signed on to the agreement. Later, however, after many tribal citizens complained that it undermined sovereignty, the Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribes announced they were not in agreement with the proposal.

Muskogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill said previously that although he believes in collaboration between federal, state and tribal governments, “that collaboration doesn’t require congressional legislation.”

Seminole Nation Chief Greg Chilcoat agreed and complained that since his tribe was not involved with discussions regarding the agreement, it would not consent to join.

Rosemary McCombs Maxey of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation described Hunter’s words as paternalistic.

“He is trivializing sovereignty. When I hear someone talking like that, I’m reminded of my childhood when the White men got to do all the talking,” she said.

Maxey, 75, lives on her grandmother’s allotted lands on the Muscogee (Creek) reservation. A native Mvscokee language speaker, Maxey has taught the language at the college level. Now retired, she holds Mvskokee language immersion events at her farm.

“Why would Congress be the arbiter of any agreement between the tribe and state? Our sovereignty is intact. We have the ability to negotiate directly with the state,” she said.

Jay Fife of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation agreed. “Hunter’s comments represent how Oklahoma views Indigenous peoples and our fight. Defending sovereignty is not something we do for fun; this is our life,” he said.

Fife, 20, is a rising sophomore at Yale University majoring in American Studies and Linguistics.

Chief David Hill wrote in an editorial Wednesday in Tulsaworld.com that Hunter’s agreement in principle would reverse the Supreme Court decision and disestablish the Muscogee (Creek) reservation.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill. (Photo courtesy of Muskogee (Creek) Nation)
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill. (Photo courtesy of Muskogee (Creek) Nation)

Hill also issued a statement Wednesday announcing an executive order creating the Mvskoke Reservation Protection Commission.

According to the statement, the commission will be made up of Muscogee (Creek) citizens and will conduct an in-depth analysis of major subject areas that will include, but are not limited to: law enforcement and public safety, Indian child welfare and social services, government-to-government relationships and policy, judicial affairs, legal and regulatory matters, business and commerce, and violence against Native women and murdered and missing Indigenous women.

The commission will also collaborate with federal, state, tribal, county and municipal authorities to create mutual understanding and cooperation across jurisdictions.

The commission is expected to continue its work for one year and will issue an initial report in six months.

Critics of Oklahoma’s agreement in principle speculate that state Republican leaders forwarded the agreement as a means to protect powerful oil and gas businesses in the state.

Ostensibly the McGirt decision affects criminal jurisdiction, but its impact on businesses including oil and gas development is unclear.

In his dissenting opinion Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the McGirt decision, “The decision today creates significant uncertainty for the state’s continuing authority over any area that touches Indian affairs, ranging from zoning and taxation to family and environmental law.”

ICT Phone Logo

Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today.

 

 

 

 

Comments (3)
No. 1-3
Warmother
Warmother

They are hobbiests. They will blame the tribal jurisdiction problems for high rates of murder and sexual assault on reservations, yet rejoice to importing those problems into Oklahoma. Natives in Oklahoma deserve the same protection and justice as non-Natives. The tribes need to serve their members within their scope, not subject their members to a degraded and incapable tribal criminal and civil justice system that plagues reservations all across America. It isn’t about our “lives” it is about POWER and MONEY. And they know it.

synnove1
synnove1

It was good that the court ruled in favor of the tribe’s rights and then we hear that it should be in talks again. Like you say you want to first deal with the state not the Congress. It is right to have a protocol. In the news right now it is argued when violence starts in a rightful protest first the local authorities handle it then if needed they have help from the state before the federal authorities are asked to help. this I’m sure is what you want to handle it and if you need help it will be there.

macblackwolf
macblackwolf

Treaties, Supreme Court decision government promises are useless to all native tribes. Not worth the words spoken.


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