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Stories we're following on Nov. 20, 2020: Indian Health Service releases vaccination plan, AZ lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19, Phoenix changes street names, and much more

Indian Country Today

Indian Health Service releases its plan for mass vaccinations

The Indian Health Service Thursday released a plan for rolling out a vaccine when one becomes available.

The plan adds details tailored to Indian and tribal health services to elements created with the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Topics include priorities, distribution, administration, data management, communications, and safety and monitoring.

Tribal health leaders are reviewing the plan and had no immediate comments.

Last month, however, Native health boards representing hundreds of tribes said the speed with which the government was developing the plan was causing serious concern.

The health boards cited a five-business-days review period for the draft plan and a similarly short turnaround for a decision for tribes on whether to use Indian Health Service or their respective state’s distribution plans. Data gaps made it impossible to make that and other important determinations, tribal health leaders said.

Tribal health leaders also raised questions about funding to cover costs, calculations for determining population numbers, and training for vaccinators.

Arizona lawmaker announces positive COVID-19 diagnosis

ArlandoTellerwebsite
(Photo courtesy of Arlando Teller campaign)

In a statement Thursday, Arizona Rep. Arlando Teller, Diné, announced a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. He said he is experiencing mild symptoms and currently isolating and recovering at his home in Chinle.

"I have been taking precautions throughout the pandemic – which has had a devastating impact on the communities I serve – but this virus is very contagious, very real, and I am unsure where I contracted it,” Teller said.

Teller urged constituents to take all precautions to keep themselves safe from the virus.

“I urge Arizonans to take all precautions – wear a mask at all times while out, keep physical distance, and stay at home if you can.”

Phoenix renames street after Native soldier

Phoenix officials are set to begin the process of changing the names of two streets, voting to rename Squaw Peak Drive and Robert E. Lee Street, shown here on Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — The city of Phoenix has renamed 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.

Robert E. Lee Street will now become Desert Cactus Street and Squaw Peak Drive will change to Piestewa Peak Drive, in honor of fallen Native American soldier Lori Piestewa. Piestewa was a member of the Hopi tribe and was killed during an ambush in Iraq in 2003.

The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday approved both new names, which are scheduled to go into effect on March 1.

Mayor Kate Gallego and Councilwoman Thelda Williams initiated the process to change the street names in June.

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U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo to serve third 1-year term

Pictured: U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Mvskoke.
(Photo: Library of Congress)

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo will serve a third, one-year term and has launched an online project that celebrates Native American poets around the country.

Her reappointment was announced Thursday by the Library of Congress, and her new term begins in September.

"This has been a challenging year for the country, for our earth. Poetry has provided doorways for joy, grief and understanding in the midst of turmoil and pandemic," Harjo, the first Native American to be named poet laureate, said in a statement. "I welcome the opportunity of a third term to activate my project and visit communities to share Native poetry. The story of America begins with Native presence, thoughts and words. Poetry is made of word threads that weave and connect us."

(Previous: Joy Harjo: Poetry reminds us we're all connected)

Previous laureates include Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Tretheway and Robert Pinsky, the only other laureate in recent years to serve three terms.

Harjo's project is called "Living Nations, Living Words." It features a digital map of 47 contemporary writers, including Harjo, Louise Erdrich and Natalie Diaz. The map links to audio recordings of the writers reading and discussing an original poem.

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First delegate of a tribal nation to Congress outlines goals

The Cherokee Nation nominated Kim Teehee to the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the tribal nation’s treaty.
(Photo by Tomás Karmelo Amaya)

The Cherokee Nation plans to send the first delegate of a tribal nation to Congress.

The Harvard Institute of Politics on Wednesday hosted a conversation between the tribe's nominee, Kimberly Teehee, and Andrew Lee, Seneca, who serves on the board of governors with Harvard’s Honoring Nations Awards, an American Indian economic development program.

Lee noted the significance of the nearly 370 treaties signed between U.S. commissions and tribal leaders from 1777 to 1868. “They represented promises made by the United States to Indian nations, and they obviously carry great moral, legal and historical weight,” he said.

The Cherokee Nation is holding the U.S. to one of those promises by choosing Teehee as its first delegate to Congress.

The House still needs to vote to seat Teehee, who would serve as a non-voting delegate similar to those representing Washington, D.C, and the U.S. territories. Such action typically is taken after a new Congress is seated.

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Watch: Healing from History 

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National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition's CEO Christine Diindiisi McCleave is on the Indian Country Today show to talk about their recent national conference. And national correspondent Mary Annette Pember joins us to tell us more about Oglala President-elect Kevin Killer and the challenges he faces.

Christine Diindiisi McCleave, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe citizen and CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition is talking about some of the outcomes from their recent conference.

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