Indian Country Headlines for Friday

On Thursday Sept. 17, 2020, members of the Sipekne'katik First Nation, supported by other First Nations, stood on of . Tuesday a peaceful protest in Weymouth N.S. became confrontational between the groups. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

Indian Country Today

News we’re talking about today, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, including protests over First Nations lobster fishing in Nova Scotia; Finland’s return of Pueblo human remains; a court ruling on Oklahoma gaming compacts with two tribes; and more

Protests crop up over First Nation lobster harvest in Nova Scotia

The CBC reports a peaceful protest in Nova Scotia became confrontational Tuesday when yelling and cursing broke out between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen at a Weymouth wharf in southwest Nova Scotia, Canada.

Commercial fishermen were protesting a communal First Nations lobster fishery they said is illegal because the harvested lobsters are sold.

The Sipekne'katik First Nation said a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, known as the Marshall decision, granted the Mi'kmaq the right to catch and sell lobster outside of the regular fishing season.

Earlier, hundreds of commercial fishermen briefly blocked access to a wharf in Saulnierville, N.S. used by First Nations fishermen to harvest lobster. 

Thursday First Nations supporters gathered on the breakwater in Saulnierville, N.S., as non-Indigenous boats protested the launch of the Mi'kmaq self-regulated fishery.

Pueblo remains repatriated over the weekend

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Tribal leaders have reburied the remains of their ancestors taken from what is now Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

In 1891 a Swedish researcher unearthed the remains of about 20 people and more than two dozen funerary objects that eventually became part of a collection at the National Museum of Finland.

The remains and items were returned to the U.S. over the weekend and reburied within the national park. Tribes made the announcement Thursday to respect a traditional four-day grieving period.

"Because of my past military experience, we have that motto that we never leave anyone behind,” Hopi Vice Chairman Clark Tenakhongva said. “In this case, they’ve been gone for over 100 years and we finally brought them home.”

The Hopi Tribe in northeastern Arizona, and Zuni, Acoma and Zia pueblos in New Mexico led the repatriation efforts.

Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo said he’s hopeful others who have similar collections will be motivated to work with tribes to return any remains and items of cultural significance.

Tenakhongva said burial sites across the United States continue to be dug up and looted, with items sometimes sold on the black market. He said the return of the tribe’s ancestors means they will be allowed to rest in peace.

Oklahoma Supreme Court denies hearing on tribal compacts

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court is standing by its July ruling that state gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe are invalid. The compacts were signed in June.

In July, the court determined Gov. Kevin Stitt’s compacts with the two tribes were not valid because the Republican governor overstepped his authority by trying to green-light sports betting and house-banked card and table games. The ruling also concluded that state law prohibits those types of games.

Monday the court rejected the governor’s try for another hearing.

“This denial of a rehearing further underscores that Gov. Stitt’s go-it-alone approach is not legal nor helpful in moving state-tribal relationships forward,” Matthew L. Morgan, chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, said in a statement.

The state Supreme Court ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed against Stitt by the state’s top Republican leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma governor’s office said the state Supreme Court doesn’t have the final say, adding that a Washington, D.C. federal court is handling the case.

Offensive street names in Phoenix to be renamed

Phoenix, Ariz. (AP) — The Phoenix City Council has voted to rename two streets many consider offensive. One is because of its demeaning reference to Native American women and the other because of its glorification of the Confederacy.

The unanimous vote Wednesday will remove Squaw Peak Drive, a slur historically used to describe Native women, and Robert E. Lee Street which is named after the Confederate general who led the uprising against the United States in the Civil War.

Officials have yet to decide on new names.

“The street names don’t match the values in our community,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego told The Arizona Republic earlier this week.

Public comments also indicate wide support for renaming, officials said, but some argue that the name changes are a waste of time and taxpayer dollars, and amount to political pandering.

Navajo Nation to hold a town hall meeting on COVID-19 vaccine trial

The Navajo Nation will hold a virtual town hall meeting Monday to go over its decision to participate in a vaccine trial. Navajo has lost more than 500 citizens to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tribe announced Friday that it is participating in a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine trial on a patient-volunteer basis.

Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, will join Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer in the town hall on Sept. 21 to discuss the COVID-19 response efforts and trial vaccines.

Billy Mills calls for reinstatement of Census deadline for Native American count

Olympic Gold Medalist and Running Strong for American Indian Youth National Spokesperson Billy Mills, Oglala Sioux, has delivered 2,027 signatures to the U.S. Senate, calling for the 2020 Census deadline to be reinstated to its extension date of October 31, 2020.

“Our Native American communities deserve to be counted and heard,” Mills said in a prepared statement.

In early August the U.S. Census Bureau announced it is moving the deadline for the  2020 Census head count up to September 30, 2020 due to pandemic-related costs and logistical difficulties.

However, Native Voices Network warns the new deadline could mean up to $1 billion in lost federal funding for Indian Country annually, as well as even more losses due to non-federal grants and other opportunities that rely on Census data to determine funding levels.

Watch: Discussion of call to rename Bismarck’s Custer Park

Indigenous people in Bismarck, North Dakota are aiming to change the name of Custer Park. Thursday's guest on the Indian Country Today Newscast is community organizer Melanie Moniz of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. She says she has been advocating to rename the park because it's named after a racist. She's questioned the designation since she was young. Moniz has become increasingly vocal although the city has remained reluctant to change the name.

Moniz describes how Indigenous people, and their allies, feel about the park, saying Custer is a man who set out to separate families, raped one Cheyenne woman and refused to lead Black troops in the Civil War. Despite the mounting concerns from the community, Moniz feels like the non-Indigenous community does not want to hear her, and works against them in their efforts to reclaim this part of their history.

Reporter Kolby KickingWoman joins the newscast to discuss Tribal Unity Impact Days, a virtual gathering hosted by the National Congress of American Indians. It featured round-table discussions with Congressional leaders about issues in Indian Country. KickingWoman also addresses a profile he is reporting on Congressional candidate Rudy Soto in Idaho.

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