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The Week That Was: The Big Stories in Indian Country, July 23, 2017

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Devastating wildfires, health care on the edge, and a music icon walks on. All this and more during the Week That Was in Indian country before July 23, 2017.

BURNING B.C.: Central British Columbia is on fire, and at least 20 First Nations are reeling as they battle to save their homes and reserves. One of them staved off the flames just as they reached the community’s doorstep.

HANGING BY A THREAD: A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities detailed just how bad the proposed Senate bill to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) would be for American Indian and Alaska Native people. Meanwhile, Mark Trahant outlined ways that the Senate could both fix health care and govern in the Trump era by looking toward Alaska, while the defeat of the repeal put the health care debate back at square one.

UNTENABLE VIOLENCE: Oglala Sioux tribal authorities on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and law enforcement leaders in Pennington County and Rapid City are working on a law enforcement agreement with the Oglala Sioux tribe that could set a historic precedent for Indian country in law enforcement relations between sovereign tribal and non-Native communities.

POVERTY PORN VS. POTENTIAL ALLY: Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg has been making waves in Indian country with some controversial moves. First he sued several hundred Native Hawaiians for rights to their ancestral land so that he could build himself a private estate. He dropped the suit but is still building the manse. Chelsey Luger asked, is this the face of neocolonialism, or is Zuckerberg a potential ally? Gyasi Ross spoke of intent versus impact in addressing the so-called poverty porn aspect of Zuckerberg’s attention to Indian country after the mogul visited Native communities.

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EDUCATION AND DISCRIMINATION: The Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana has filed in a complaint with the federal government demanding the feds investigate discrimination against Native youths within the Wolf Point School District in the northeast corner of the state. Among the allegations are profane attacks by teachers and staff, limited access to school activities and bias against Native students.

PULLING BACK: The first recipient of the Sherman Alexie Scholarship for the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts was named. At around the same time, Alexie pulled back from the book tour promoting his memoir, as he grieved his mother’s death.

ROUGHING IT: An American reality television show might not have launched without help from a Vancouver Island First Nation. In the hit show Alone, now in its fourth season, contestants are left alone in the wilderness with almost nothing as they attempt to live off the land. It might not have come to pass without indigenous knowledge from Quatsino First Nation.

FEAR THIS: This season of Fear the Walking Dead contains a massive post-apocalyptic storyline involving the Native members of the Black Hat Reservation. The tribal nation leader Qelataqa Walker is portrayed by Michael Greyeyes.

OH NO, NOT AGAIN: Another day, another celebrity cultural appropriation. This time it was Snoop Dogg, who donned a Native-style headdress, complete with Knocanew reference, for a painting. Needless to say, the move was roundly denounced in Indian country.

GONE MUCH TOO SOON: The Northern Cheyenne and GRAMMY™ award–winning artist Joseph FireCrow walked on at age 58 in Winsted, Connecticut, with his wife Joann by his side after battling idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which affects the lungs. He was known as a cultural ambassador, and his smile, warmth and generosity were his trademarks.