TGIF! Here’s a look at what’s happening today:

A decision on Bears Ears coming?

We could learn in the coming days or weeks what President Joe Biden will do with Bears Ears and Grand Escalante Staircase, two national monuments in Utah.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland sent her recommendation to Biden on whether to reverse the downsizing of the two monuments in Utah. President Trump in 2017 cut the Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent and the Grand Escalante Staircase National Monument by half. Details on Haaland’s recommendation were not released.

Bears Ears, which is named after two distinctive buttes, is the first national monument created at the request of tribes.

It holds an estimated 100,000 sites and objects -- archeological remains that shed light on how Indigenous peoples have lived in the area for some 12,500 to 13,000 years. Sites and objects include cliff dwellings, rock paintings, and sacred artifacts.

Tribes still use the area for ceremonies and to gather plants for basket-making, medicine and food.

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Former tribal council member sentenced in wire fraud case

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A former member of the Tribal Council for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has been sentenced to two years in prison for wire fraud, federal prosecutors said.

Randy Lamar Anderson, 46, of Conehatta, admitted to forging hotel bills and receipts and submitting those documents to the tribal government in claims for reimbursement for official business travel, Acting U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca of the Southern District of Mississippi said in a news release Thursday.

The total loss to the tribe was calculated at more than $12,500, LaMarca's office said.

Anderson pleaded guilty in the case on Dec. 7. Chief Judge Daniel P. Jordan III sentenced him Thursday and ordered him to pay restitution of $12,501. He's also ordered to serve three years of supervised release.

Alaska stands by decision on Donlin Gold mine

The state of Alaska is sticking with its 2018 decision to issue a clean water certificate for a proposed gold mine in western Alaska. The May 27 decision comes with the support of some of the Yup’ik people in the area and over the objections of others.

Developer Donlin Gold estimates the ground near Crooked Creek holds 34 million ounces of gold, one of the world’s largest known undeveloped gold deposits. Once the gold is out of the ground, potentially 1.3 million ounces of gold could be produced annually.

The mine would be located about 280 miles northwest of Anchorage and near Crooked Creek, which drains 15 miles (or 33 miles following the stream’s course) into one of Alaska’s major rivers, the Kuskokwim River. The regional hub community Bethel is situated on the banks of the Kuskokwim River.

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Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?

No, you can skip routine testing, with some exceptions, according to the Associated Press.

The latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you don’t need to be tested or to quarantine if you’re fully vaccinated, even if you’ve been exposed to someone who was sick. An exception is if you develop COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue.

The updated guidance reflects recent studies showing vaccinated people face very little risk of serious disease. Even if you get an infection, you’ll be less likely to spread it to others and any symptoms will likely be milder.

As a result, the CDC says vaccinated people can also be excluded from routine workplace screening, though many companies aren’t tracking employees’ vaccination status. Screening is still recommended for people working or living in homeless shelters or prisons, due to the higher risk of outbreaks.

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Calling Ivy Leagues, other colleges to do more

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — When Samantha Maltais steps onto Harvard's campus this fall, she'll become the first member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe to attend its prestigious law school. It's a "full-circle moment" for the university and the Martha's Vineyard tribe, she says.

More than 350 years ago, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, became the first Native person to graduate from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university — the product of its 1650 charter calling for the education of "English and Indian youth of this country."

"Coming from a tribal community in its backyard, I'm hyper aware of Harvard's impact," said Maltais, the 24-year-old daughter of her tribe's chairwoman. "It's a symbol of New England's colonial past, this tool of assimilation that pushed Native Americans into the background in their own homelands."

Maltais will arrive on campus at a time when tribal nations, students and faculty are pushing the Ivy League institution and other colleges to do more for Indigenous communities to atone for past wrongs, much in the way states, municipalities and universities are weighing and, in some cases, already providing reparations for slavery and discrimination against Black people.

To read more, click here.

ICT sports report

Like many things, sports are slowly coming back to Indian Country. And since there’s so much happening in the world of Indian Country sports, we are creating a monthly segment to get updates on Native athletes. We have invited Brent Cahwee to give us this monthly update. Brent is the co-founder of the popular website ndnsports.com which covers Native athletes in high school, college, and even pro sports.

Watch Brent’s report here:

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We want your tips, but we also want your feedback. What should we be covering that we’re not? What are we getting wrong? Please let us know. Email dwalker@indiancountrytoday.com.

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