Indian Country headlines for Friday

In this Sept. 12, 2019, photo, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Indian Country Today

Headlines for July 17, 2020

A look at some of the stories we’re talking about

Indian Country Today

Navajo weekend lockdown: 'Think of your parents and grandparents'

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Officials on the Navajo Nation are urging residents to refrain from traveling off the reservation ahead of a weekend lockdown meant to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"Think of your parents and grandparents, chances are they are more susceptible to getting the virus, so let's keep our guard up," tribal President Jonathan Nez said Thursday.

The tribe reported 79 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, the highest daily total in more than two weeks. Nez attributed it to the July 4 weekend and said it's concerning. 

The total number of people who have been infected is 8,486, the tribe said. More than 6,200 recovered. An additional two deaths reported Thursday brought the toll to 407. 

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. 

The lockdown on the Navajo Nation is scheduled to begin around sundown Friday and end early Monday. The tribe also has daily, nighttime curfews. Residents on the reservation that stretches into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah are required to wear masks. 

Oklahoma reaches jurisdiction agreement with five tribes

Oklahoma's attorney general and five major tribes in Oklahoma announced an agreement on proposed federal legislation regarding civil and criminal jurisdiction following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Republican Attorney General Mike Hunter announced the deal with tribal leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole nations after the high court ruled last week that much of eastern Oklahoma remains an Indian reservation.

Both sides agree any proposed legislation should recognize tribal sovereignty and the respective tribal boundaries outlined in their treaties with the federal government.

Under the agreement, the state would have criminal jurisdiction over non-Native American offenders throughout the treaty territories, with some exceptions, while the tribes would have overlapping jurisdiction over most offenders who are tribal citizens. Federal prosecutors would still have jurisdiction under the Major Crimes Act over certain serious crimes committed by Native Americans.

Cocopah vice chairman was a ‘great fighter’

The Cocopah Indian Tribe is mourning the loss of one of its leaders.

Cocopah Tribal Vice Chairman Johnson Deal Begay Jr. died from COVID-19 on June 21 at the Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Arizona. He is believed to be one of the first tribal leaders in the U.S. to die from the disease.

Cocopah Chairwoman Sherry Cordova said in a statement: “We are shocked and devastated with this unexpected news. The Cocopah Tribe has lost a great fighter for the Cocopah people.”

Begay served three terms as the tribe’s vice chairman, starting in 2014.

Many tribal governments and officials offered their condolences to the Cocopah Nation and Begay’s family online. He is survived by a wife and two sons.

Johnson Deal Begay Jr. (Cocopah Indian Tribe via Facebook)
Johnson Deal Begay Jr. (Cocopah Indian Tribe via Facebook)

Groups rally for Massachusetts mascot ban, state seal change

BOSTON (AP) — Indigenous groups and supporters are calling for legislation in Massachusetts that would ban the use of Indian mascots and review the state seal, which depicts a Native American.

Demonstrators rallied in front of the Statehouse on Thursday, holding signs saying "Humans are not mascots" and chanting "Cities and towns, we're going to take these mascots down." At times, though, they were drowned out by an equally vocal group of protesters opposed to a police accountability bill making its way through the legislature.

The North American Indian Center of Boston, the United American Indians of New England and other groups organized the rally to call for passage of three bills as the July 31 end to the legislative session approaches.

One proposal would create a special commission to review the state seal and motto. Another would ban public schools in the state from using Native American mascots. A third would strengthen the state's law protecting Indian burial sites and sacred objects.

In this Monday, May 2, 2016 file photo, the Massachusetts state flag flies in front of Boston City Hall. Native American groups in the state are rallying in front of the State House in Boston on Thursday, July 16, 2020, to urge passage of legislation banning the use of Indian mascots and creating a commission to review the state's seal and motto. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
In this May 2, 2016, photo, the Massachusetts state flag flies in front of Boston City Hall. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Report: Canadian Football League team to change controversial mascot

The Canadian Football League team in Alberta known for its controversial mascot appears to be shifting directions on a name change.

The Edmonton football franchise has made an “internal decision” to change its nickname, according to a TSN report. Earlier this month, the franchise announced it was keeping the name following an "extensive yearlong formal research and engagement program with Inuit leaders and community members across Canada,” according to The Associated Press.

The change could come as soon as next week, and the shift is related to league sponsors wanting a name change, according to TSN.

The news comes the same week the Washington NFL franchise announced it was retiring its racist name and logo and as other professional sports franchises consider similar changes.

(Related: Washington Post reports 15 female former Washington NFL team employees say they were sexually harassed)

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Trevor Harris (7) throws the ball toward wide receiver Greg Ellingson (82) during first-half CFL East Final football game action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Hamilton, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
In this Nov. 17 photo, Edmonton quarterback Trevor Harris (7) throws the ball toward wide receiver Greg Ellingson (82) during first-half CFL East Final football game action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Hamilton, Ontario. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

WATCH: Amanda Blackhorse: 'Holding my breath'

The newscast looks at the Washington NFL dispute from several angles. We start with a conversation with Amanda Blackhorse. She was the lead plaintiff in the trademark litigation against the Washington team.

Board votes to remove Hiawatha statue from Wisconsin park

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — After decades of debate, a Hiawatha statue will be removed from a park in La Crosse.

The La Crosse Board of Park Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to remove the statue from Riverside Park. Mayor Tim Kabat had pushed for the western Wisconsin city to follow the lead of other cities in addressing racism and cultural appropriation.

For decades Indigenous people and their allies had called for the statue's removal, saying it represents exaggerated racial stereotypes and inaccurately depicts Native American tribes of the area.

"It is not an honor to us. It does not teach anything. People don't learn about the Ho-Chunk people because they see a statue. It was a tourist attraction not meant to teach anything," Tracy Littlejohn said during the board meeting. Littlejohn has long advocated for the statue's removal.

The statue will be stored at the city's Municipal Service Center for at least one year until the artist's family finds a new home for it, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

Some Friday morning medicine

Listen and watch Yup’ik artist Byron Nicholai in Toksook Bay, Alaska, sing and dance to a song about “getting sleepy while being out geese hunting.” His older brother-cousin Moses Charles composed the song.

“When I first started drumming for Nelson Island High School, I fell in love with this song immediately. I used to watch the dancers express themselves to this song and it reminded me of the times I went geese hunting,” he wrote. “Before the pamyua (the tail end of the song), you'll see that even after shooting three times at the geese, the hunter still misses! I remember a situation where the same thing happened to me and I know I'm not the only one😂.”

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