Headlines for Wednesday

Prescribed burn in eastern Oregon (File: screenshot of video by Justin Robinson, BLM, courtesy of Creative Commons)

Indian Country Today

News we’re talking about today Sept. 9, 2020: Wildfires threaten reservations; Has the Navajo Nation beat COVID-19? Congress investigating Fort Hood deaths of two Navajo, 26 others; Sturgis Rally linked to 250k COVID-19 cases; and more

By Indian Country Today

Wildfires forcing evacuations 

Some 87 files burning in the western United States have consumed 2.7 million acres of land. California alone has 1.7 million acres ablaze in 23 large fires. In Washington, 318,000 acres have burned. In Colorado 282,000 acres, in Montana 110,000 acres and in Oregon 55,000 acres have burned. 

Cooling weather and rain helped firefighters get control of 48,000 acres on fire on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow reservations in Montana

Several towns near the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs reservation in north-central Oregon were evacuated or put on notice to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Area highways, U.S. Forest Service recreational facilities, and 40 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail are closed. Area fires have burned 130,000 acres.

One fire came within 14 miles of Warm Springs. With a population of 3,300, it’s the largest town on the Warm Springs reservation.

Meanwhile in Washington state, five fires are burning on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation. Those fires have consumed nearly 20,000 acres.

Colville tribes' Centralized Services Director Patrick Tonasket posted on Facebook, “The current fire situation is still extreme. We understand many families are displaced and may have lost their homes. I can hardly imagine the stress and anxiety our people are feeling. We are working diligently to assemble resources to combat the fires and provide assistance to our people.” 

Navajo Nation reports no new COVID-19 cases

After months of having the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 infections in the United States, Navajo Nation health officials on Tuesday reported no new confirmed cases of coronavirus but four additional deaths.

The latest figures put the total number of Navajo people infected at 9,903 with 527 known deaths.

Tribal health officials said the case total includes two previously unreported positive cases from July.

They said 97,644 people have been tested for COVID-19 and 7,157 have recovered.

Tribe: Navajo citizen was 2nd based at Fort Hood to die this year

Congress will launch an investigation into sexual assault, disappearances, deaths and the military leadership’s response at Fort Hood after 28 soldiers, including two Navajo men, stationed at the U.S. Army base in Texas died this year.

Navajo citizen Army Specialist Miguel D. Yazzie is among the Fort Hood soldiers who have died, the nation said in a statement Tuesday. The nation provided the first details that a second Navajo man had died at the troubled installation.

Private Corlton L. Chee, 25, died Sept. 2 after collapsing following physical training exercises on Aug. 28. Army officials announced his death Friday.

Neither Fort Hood officials nor the Texas Department of Safety could be reached Tuesday for comment.

Two panels from the Committee on Oversight and Reform and Committee of Armed Services will jointly investigate to determine if recent deaths "may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.”

Sturgis Rally linked to a quarter million COVID-19 cases

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is linked to more than 260,000 COVID-19 cases across the country, according to attwo studies. Researchers said the super-spreader event created over $12 billion in public health costs. A Minnesota man who attended the event died last week.

Studies by the Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics and by San Diego State University came up with the same numbers for cases and associated costs.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem last week told USA Today the San Diego study was "fiction," and criticized journalists who reported on it.

Pascua Yaqui to build planned community

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe will soon break ground on reservation land southwest of Tucson for its first master-planned community.

The tribe’s housing department has been granted $19.5 million by the Arizona Department of Housing to develop phase one of the project. The first 50 single-family homes will be built on 40 vacant acres on the southern end of the reservation.

Itom Pohco’oria Kari’m (Our Desert Homes) will have two-, three- and four-bedroom models, and residents will be a mix of low and moderate income.

“In traditional public housing, everybody is the same ... low-income families without many two-parent households,” said Keith Gregory, director of housing for the tribe. “When children grow up among other people, they get to see the family where the father is a teacher at the University of Arizona and it shows kids all the other things that are possible.

“Kids don’t learn what they don’t see.”

Native organizations benefit from Cleveland Spiders merch

Nostalgia and a new logo may pull the Cleveland professional baseball team to take up a name from the city’s past. The Spiders were the city’s National League baseball franchise from 1889 until 1899. The new logo shows a spider curled around the blocky “C” associated with the current team.

Michael McFarland, a designer and musician, came up with the spider image in 2016. The design has picked up steam in social media since the team announced in July it plans to change its name. McFarland said half the revenue from sales of Spider merchandise will go to the Lake Erie Native American Council and First Nations Development Institute.

“I’m not doing this for the money,” McFarland told Cleveland.com. “We’re just normalizing the idea of changing the name to something that’s not harmful to Indigenous people and at the same time raising money for the people that are affected by this.”

McFarland this is his way of showing his lifelong support for the team while following his conscience. “...let’s be honest, we’re all living on land that was stolen from [Native Americans].”

'Larger Than Memory' is larger than life at Phoenix museum

A huge Native American art exhibit marks the reopening of the Heard Museum of Phoenix after months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Larger Than Memory: Contemporary Art From Indigenous North America" is the Heard’s largest such exhibition in the museum’s history. It encompasses nearly 13,000 square feet and spans four ground floor gallery spaces. 

Organized by Fine Arts Curator Erin Joyce and Chief Curator Diana Pardue, the exhibit brings together many of the biggest Native artists working today for a show that spans the past two decades.

It opened Friday and runs through Jan. 3.

Newscast: Overcoming the virus

Shannon Shaw Duty, editor of the Osage News, chronicled her COVID-19 journey for Indian Country Today in a recent interview with our newscast team.

"The biggest lesson I have learned is: never take your family for granted and don't take your community for granted and your tribe because..." their understanding and compassion for us made me cry, Shaw Duty said.

Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today, looks back at the old Bureau of Indian Affairs Census and asks what we are losing without a detailed record of this decade.

Story: Lessons from a census past

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