Schools

Personal Note: I taught for 27 years in elementary education. Overcrowded classrooms, badly ventilated classrooms, and shared water fountains were the norm. No officials cared for the staff and students before, and I do not see how they will be able to address these problems now when the economy is in freefall. If I was not already retired I would be leaving the profession due to this pandemic. Certain politicians were put in high-level positions where they could undermine public education. Well, it occurs to me that I have witnessed the end of public education. It also seems to be following a trend: public postal service, public polling stations, public gatherings…it is almost as if we – the public – are under attack. A virus is being used as a weapon to disrupt and undermine everything we hold valuable. 
There is no talk about what you can do to improve your immune system.
There is no talk about how masks (which, if covered with a deadly virus, should be handled as a biohazard) are to be discarded. Instead, people are throwing them in the regular trash or on the street. Masks are becoming a source of pollution – like we needed another one.
There is no talk about how to take care of the growing amount of homeless as we swelter in the summer heat and head towards fall and winter.
There is no talk about how people will pay for a vaccine – a vaccine that requires two shots so far and will be given to the so-called ¨most neediest groups¨first: remember, it is an experimental vaccine and the pharmaceuticals companies have full immunity if something goes wrong. >The indigenous, the black, the elderly, the poor communities will be first. Something does not sound right to me about this. Since when do the powers-that-be care about what happens to ¨the most neediest groups¨? If they cared they would be discussing establishing Medicare for all – after all – the few who had employee healthcare now are without a job and have joined the large groups of people with no health coverage.

Every educator without a classroom, set up virtual classrooms online. Do not go back unless the proper cleaning and adjustments are made to classrooms. It is a bad idea for educators and a bad idea for students – it has always been that way and now a virus pandemic just shines the light on the bad situation. IMHO

Bureau of Indian Education: Open schools or else

(Photo: S. Hermann & F. Richter, Pixabay)

Mary Annette Pember

School opening during pandemic is a confusing, deadly challenge for reservation residents

Mary Annette Pember

Indian Country Today

The Bureau of Indian Education’s plans to reopen its schools for in-person instruction is irresponsible, according to many Native parents and tribal leaders across Indian Country.

Tara Sweeney, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, sent a letter to tribal leaders this month indicating that Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools will open Sept. 16 with in-person instruction. Sweeney wrote: “To the maximum extent possible, BIE (operated) schools will operate brick and mortar schools.”

According to its website, the Bureau of Indian Education oversees a total of 187 schools. Of those, 132 are tribally controlled, operating under the direction of individual tribes. Fifty-five are operated by the bureau. Although bureau leaders maintain they actively include input from tribal consultation and stakeholder meetings and surveys in crafting policies for both tribally controlled and bureau-operated schools, many tribal leaders disagree.

“These ‘Dear tribal leader’ letters sent out by the BIE don’t acknowledge the authority of tribal nations and our elected officials,” says Daniel Tso, Navajo Nation council delegate and chairman of Navajo Nation Health, Education and Human Services Committee.

Sweeney wrote: “The guidance in this letter specifically pertains to bureau-operated schools. However, BIE recommends tribally controlled schools take the recommendation included as guidance to inform their general operations and to prepare each learning environment for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Nearly half of the Navajo Nation’s 65 Bureau of Indian Education schools are operated directly by the bureau. Only about a third of all bureau-funded schools are operated by the agency. Most are tribally controlled schools.

During a meeting Wednesday, committee members created a resolution recommending all reservation schools provide virtual or online learning options.

“I realize that Mr. Dearman has to toe the line according to the orders of the Trump administration, but the BIE people in Washington, D.C., don’t know the lay of the land out here,” Tso says.

Tony Dearman of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is the director of the Bureau of Indian Education. In an email response to Indian Country Today, he referred questions about school openings to the Bureau of Indian Affairs office of public affairs.

Neither that office nor the Bureau of Indian Education responded to emails seeking comment.

President Donald Trump is pushing for public schools to open with in-person instruction.

Parents on the Navajo reservation are overwhelmingly opposed to sending their children back to in-person school instruction, according to Tso

“Our dear children need to be protected; On a per-capita basis, we are still experiencing high rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths (on the Navajo reservation),” Tso says.

The Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, has been one of the worst hotspots during the pandemic.

The reservation continues to operate under a declared state of emergency and has enacted numerous weekend lockdowns to curb travel on and off the reservation. Navajo Nation government offices remain closed, offering minimal services.

Overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Native Americans have the highest hospitalization rates for COVID-19 of any ethnicity.

KTUU of Anchorage reports that one in 1,600 Indigenous people are impacted by COVID-19, compared with about one in 3,200 for non-Natives. Native people also have higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, making them especially vulnerable to the disease.

Many Native people depend on the Indian Health Service, a chronically underfunded federal agency, for their health care needs.

“Our IHS clinics couldn’t handle an outbreak on the reservation. COVID-19 could potentially wipe out half of our nation here on Pine Ridge,” says Dayna Brave Eagle, tribal education agency director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe is still operating under a tribal shelter at home ordinance enacted in March prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people and closing its borders to nonresidents and nonessential travel except for state highway entrances for pass-through vehicles.

“I don’t know of anybody who wants to send their kid to in-person school,” says Davidica Littlespottedhorse, who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Five of the Bureau of Indian Education schools on the reservation are tribally controlled; only one, Pine Ridge School, is a bureau-operated school.

According to tribal council member Valentina Merdanian, the Oglala Sioux Tribe has ordered all reservation schools, including private, public and Bureau of Indian Education tribally controlled and bureau-controlled schools to offer remote instruction to students. Despite the bureau’s insistence that its directly operated schools offer in-person instruction, Pine Ridge School will offer only remote classes, according to Brave Eagle.

“The Oglala Sioux Tribe remains strong in looking after the health and welfare of our people; there are too many unanswered questions surrounding the pandemic for us to risk the health of our children,” Merdanian says.

Several Native leaders expressed concern that the Bureau of Indian Education may force its other bureau-controlled schools to offer in-person instruction regardless of individual tribes’ wishes.

“Yes, it’s totally possible that since the bureau-operated schools are federal, they will offer in-person instruction (regardless of tribal law),” says Carl Slater, Navajo Nation council delegate and a member of the Health, Education and Human Services Committee.

According to both Oglala Sioux and Navajo Nation leaders, communication from the Bureau of Indian Education has always been a problem.

As reported by Rebecca Klein and Neal Morton for the Hechinger Report, the bureau was slow to offer advice and close its schools in March, at the beginning of the pandemic.

According to Tso, the bureau’s Rocky Ridge boarding school on the Navajo reservation didn’t receive the agency-wide March notification to close for several days.

“Somehow they never got the message and remained open for several days. One of their staff died from COVID-19,” says Tso.

Although more students have received devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, limited internet access continues to be a problem.

“Many of our families live on a fixed income and can’t afford internet access fees,” says Brave Eagle.

Both the Navajo Nation and the Oglala Sioux Tribe are using their CAREs Act funds to expand internet access to families, but leaders worry funding is inadequate.

Members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs expressed concerns and asked for details regarding BIE’s distribution of CAREs Act funding to tribes during an oversight hearing in July.

“Several of our parents support using jump drives that can be exchanged weekly with the schools, but the BIE schools have not been receptive to these kinds of suggestions,” says Tso.

But schooling during a pandemic is a challenge for all schools serving reservation youth. According to the National Congress of American Indians, only about 8 percent of Native students attend Bureau of Indian Education schools; the remainder attend tribal, public or private schools both on and off the reservation.

“We’ve heard of some students transferring to schools off the reservation in order to access athletic programs,” says Merdanian.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe has been operating under a shelter at home ordinance since March 2020. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)
The Oglala Sioux Tribe has been operating under a shelter at home ordinance since March 2020. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is pushing for schools to remain open and is discouraging the use of masks. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control support in-person learning with social distancing, masks and cleaning protocols.

Brave Eagle finds the overall lack of clear, coordinated policies among schools disheartening.

She notes that the recent Bureau of Indian Education letter announcing the Pine Ridge School start date of Sept. 16, which is significantly later than some others, added to the confusion.

“All the schools are starting at different times,” she says.

“The BIE should be ashamed of themselves,” Brave Eagle says. “The federal government has failed us for the past 100 years, but now it’s time for tribes to stand up. We are the ones who know what we need.”

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

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Voting Rights >Action Needed!

Voting rights are under attack across America. President Trump’s threat to withhold funding from the U.S. Postal Service is just the latest attempt to limit our power by blocking free and fair elections. Of course, to Native people like me, this is nothing new. That’s why, two weeks ago, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe voted unanimously to team up with the Lakota People’s Law Project, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and U.S. House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) to make sure Congress passes the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA) as soon as possible.

You can help us realize this vision! Please use your voice to inspire lawmakers to prioritize and pass this bill right now. Use our brand new Action Center to send a letter to your congressional reps today, and tell them it’s critical to support NAVRA. All voices must be heard for the health of our democratic institutions to truly be respected.

Lakota LawWe Standing Rocked the Vote in 2018, and now, with your help, we’ll pass NAVRA and ensure fair elections are held throughout all of Indian Country.

You likely recall that, in 2018, North Dakota passed a voter ID law specifically aimed at disenfranchising Native citizens without street addresses. I remain grateful that you leapt into action at that time, helping us Standing Rock the Vote. Together, we put 100 tribal volunteers on the street, printed 800 new IDs, and doubled turnout over the prior midterm.

But other Indigenous communities around the U.S. aren’t so fortunate. Many face significant hurdles, such as remote or difficult-to-reach polling locations, language barriers, and no vote-by-mail option. NAVRA will address these concerns and more.

I also want you to know that we’re just getting started. We intend to engage the members of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association — the leaders of 16 tribes throughout North and South Dakota and Nebraska. We’ll also organize with tribal nations around the country to gain bipartisan support, and we’ll train a group of ambassadors from Standing Rock to phonebank and turn out the national Native vote, come election time. The tribe has also requested a congressional hearing.

Voter suppression within communities of color must end, right now. We have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference — not just for folks on reservations, but for the future of our nation. Please join us in what could be the most important action we’ve ever undertaken together.

Wopila tanka — my thanks for standing with Native voters!

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

P.S. No less than the fate of our democracy could be on the line if we don’t stand together to protect elections and the right of communities of color to cast our votes. Email your senator and congressperson and tell them to support — and pass — the Native American Voting Rights Act.

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.

Covid-19 Stats in Indian Country

Dear Reader,

How many? It’s a question that journalists often ask. How many people across Indian Country have been infected with COVID-19? And, sadly, how many have died?

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye did not like the answers she was getting. The Indian Health Service’s data collection is limited. Some tribes release information. Others don’t.

So Bennett-Begaye set out to create her own which turned into Indian Country Today’s COVID-19 Tracker with an interactive map and a way to anonymously submit cases to track. It’s not perfect. But it’s a start and even today is the only national database that collects mortality data on Natives and COVID-19. The research published has already been cited in academic studies and several universities have asked to contribute and make the information even more useful.

This is the kind of independent journalism that you can help support. Can we count on you to make a one-time contribution today? Or how about a monthly recurring donation? Your dollars support the reporting that goes into journalism you won’t find anywhere else.

Thank you for your support,

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock
Editor, Indian Country Today
Twitter: @TrahantReports
 

A Pipeline Denied

Mountain Valley Pipeline Water Permit Denied

By Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch.

| Resist!

https://popularresistance.org/mountain-valley-pipeline-water-permit-denied/

Division of Water Resources cites doubts about MVP Mainline project, says construction in NC could cause “unnecessary water quality impacts.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Another natural gas pipeline in North Carolina has been derailed, at least temporarily, as the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has denied a water quality permit for the MVP Southgate project that would route through Rockingham and Alamance counties.

In a letter released this afternoon, Division of Water Resources Director Danny Smith wrote, “Due to uncertainty surrounding the completion of the MVP Mainline project,” it has determined that “work on the Southgate extension could lead to unnecessary water quality impacts and disturbance of the environment in North Carolina.”

Owned by Pittsburgh-based EQM Midstream Partners, MVP Southgate is an extension of the main MVP natural gas pipeline, which starts at a fracked gas operation in northern West Virginia and ends in Chatham, Va.

MVP Southgate would run from Chatham, Va., and enter North Carolina near Eden, in Rockingham County. From there, it would route nearly 50 miles southeast, cutting through Alamance County and ending in Graham. Construction costs are roughly $470 million.

In total, the southern portion would cross 207 streams, three ponds and  temporarily affect 17,726 linear feet of streams, 6,538 square feet of open waters, and 14 acres of wetlands; another 0.02 of an acre of wetlands would be permanently damaged. Nearly 14 acres of riparian buffers would also be affected. MVP Southgate would cross the Dan River, home to endangered and threatened species, and Stony Creek Reservoir, the main drinking water supply for the City of Burlington.

The division also denied a Jordan Lake Riparian Buffer Authorization. Such an authorization would be required because the route is within the sensitive Jordan Lake watershed, which includes the Haw River.

MVP Southgate is an extension of the controversial main Mountain Valley Pipeline project, which runs for 303 miles from a fracked gas operation in northern West Virginia to southern Virginia. The mainline has racked up hundreds of environmental violations and prompted state and federal regulators to issue dozens of stop-work orders. Construction on the main line is currently halted, per a FERC stop-work order. That project’s costs have ballooned to $6.2 billion.

“Division staff have determined the Southgate project’s sole utility and purpose is tied to and wholly relies on the completion of the entire Mainline project,” today’s letter reads. “The uncertainty of the MVP Mainline Project’s completion presents a critical risk to the achievability of the fundamental purpose of MVP Southgate,” it continued.

Most of the environmental harm would occur during construction, the division wrote, adding that it “finds it is inappropriate to unnecessarily risk impacting high-quality waters and drinking water supplies of North Carolinians.”

Examples of this harm can be seen in the wake of construction of the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which destroyed miles of private farmland and forests in several North Carolina counties, Policy Watch reported on July 30. It’s yet unclear how those environmental harms will be remedied.

An EQT spokesperson could not be reached this afternoon for comment about the decision and whether the company would appeal.

Crystal Cavalier, a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, is an indigenous activist. MVP Southgate would run through indigenous family lands, she said. There were also questions of whether Indian burial mounds were located near waterways; several were found along the route of the main line.

“This is huge,” Cavalier said. “I’m so excited that North Carolina is taking a stand for indigenous people. Because once you dig up this land, you can’t renew it.”

Haw Riverkeeper Emily Sutton has co-organized opposition to the MVP Southgate project for more than two years. “We’re so thrilled to hear that DEQ has made the right decision to deny this unnecessary pipeline,” Sutton told Policy Watch. “This pipeline would have destroyed streams and critical habitat throughout the Haw River watershed. This is a win for all of North Carolinians and a step forward in our state’s commitment to limiting our dependence on fossil fuels.”

This is the second time DEQ has denied what’s known as a “401 permit” under the terms of the Clean Water ActLast year the agency rejected the project application because, after repeatedly asking for information for more than six months, DEQ had not received from MVP Southgate a full accounting of stream crossings and other impacts on waterways. Without the additional information, DEQ couldn’t evaluate the application before a federal deadline,

In previous comments to federal regulators, DEQ doubted the necessity of the project. The western and central Piedmont already has access to existing natural gas pipelines; Dominion Energy would be MVP Southgate’s primary customer.

In addition to hundreds of public comments opposing the project, 40 state lawmakers also petitioned DEQ to disapprove it.

DEQ’s decision counters those issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC approved the project in February and issued it a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity in June. However, even FERC, which rarely reins in natural gas projects, issued the certificate on the condition that the main Mountain Valley Project obtain all necessary permits.

In a separate statement, DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said, “Today’s decision to deny the MVP Southgate certification protects North Carolina’s water quality, our natural resources and our communities. DEQ has questioned the need for the MVP Southgate project since our initial comments to FERC. This has always been an unnecessary project that poses unnecessary risks to our environment and given the uncertain future of the MVP Mainline, North Carolinians should not be exposed to the risk of another incomplete pipeline project.

“North Carolina’s clean energy future is not dependent on adding more natural gas infrastructure,” Regan continued. “Projects like this slow down the state’s goal to reduce greenhouse gases under North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan and our efforts to address climate change under Executive Order 80. We should invest in clean, renewable energy sources and the economic benefits of energy innovation.”

This recent setback for MVP Southgate, coupled with the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline last month, have occurred despite actions by the Trump administration to roll back environmental regulations to ease the way for natural gas projects.

On June 1, President Trump signed an executive order to fast-track energy projects like natural gas pipelines, undoing key components of longstanding environmental law. States can no longer consider any factors except water quality in acting on a 401 permit. For example, if DEQ found that the MVP Southgate project would draw down aquifers or reservoirs serving as a drinking water supply — such as Stony Creek Reservoir — that’s a water quantity issue, and could not be considered.

Nor can states cite climate change as a reason to deny a 401 permit.

Natural gas pipelines leak methane, a greenhouse gas and major driver of climate change. The EPA is expected to issue a new rule on methane later this week that weakens environmental protections. Although the exact text of the rule has not been publicly released, The New York Times reported that the EPA will eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies must install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage sites.

Despite the Trump administration’s deregulation, in some cases, court rulings have foiled the EPA. On April 15, the federal District Court for Montana vacated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ nationwide permit; although that permit related to the Keystone XL pipeline, the court’s decision had implications for pipeline projects throughout the U.S., including the ACP and the MVP mainline and Southgate pipelines.

In cancelling the ACP, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy cited the court ruling as one reason it was no longer economically or logistically feasible to continue the project.

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.”

Cronkite logo bridge

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.”

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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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