Indian Country headlines for Friday

Indian Country Today

News we’re talking about: Checkpoints closed to Sturgis rally visitors, Trump to 'listen to both sides' on Pebble Mine, Turtle Mountain Chippewa redefines marriage, Quileute Tribe uses humor to announce closure and more

Sturgis rally visitors not allowed through Cheyenne River checkpoints

Tourists heading to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will not be allowed through checkpoints on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. 

The regulation is part of the tribe’s COVID-19 prevention policies, which may change as the pandemic improves or worsens, spokesman Remi Bald Eagle told the Rapid City Journal. The checkpoints were created, he said, because Native Americans have a higher risk of contracting and dying from the coronavirus.

Commercial and emergency vehicles will be let through. Nonresidents in noncommercial South Dakota vehicles are allowed through as long as they aren’t coming from a hot spot. Nonresidents driving noncommercial out-of-state vehicles are not allowed through the reservation. 

The tribe is suing the federal government to keep its checkpoints open after federal agencies and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said they are illegal.

Trump says he'll hear both sides on Pebble Mine

JUNEAU, Alaska — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he would “listen to both sides” after his eldest son and a campaign adviser urged him to intervene to block a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday agreed with a tweet from Nick Ayers, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence and a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, expressing hope the president would direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block the proposed Pebble Mine.

Trump Jr., in response, wrote: "As a sportsman who has spent plenty of time in the area I agree 100%. The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to take any chances with.”

The EPA has said the Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world and contains significant mineral resources. An environmental review released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month — and assailed by critics as deficient — stated that under normal operations, the alternatives it looked at “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”

The corps has yet to make a permitting decision. 

Tribe broadens definition of marriage

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribal council voted Thursday to amend the tribe’s code to effectively broaden the definition of marriage.

The vote changes the tribe’s definition of marriage from husband and wife to spouse, according to KFYR-TV in Bismarck, North Dakota. 

Thursday morning, LGBTQ2+ advocacy groups marched in Belcourt ahead of the vote, in support of expanding the language to be inclusive of same-sex couples.

The vote will also allow unmarried tribal members to adopt.

Food is 'a living, breathing being'

According to the Center for American Indian Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, food and water insecurity affect 25 to 40 percent of rural tribal community residents, and more than 80 percent of children rely on getting breakfast and lunch at now-closed schools.

Organizations such as Project Grow, the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, Utah Diné Bikéyah, and Native Seed Network encourage food growing to build community and promote wellness.

On July 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced additional food for families via its Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, which provides monthly food packages as an alternative to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (once known as food stamps). 

The CARES relief act provided $50 million to help increase program participation and for bonus packages.

The Native Farm Bill Coalition is a project of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s Seeds of Native Health campaign, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the National Congress of American Indians and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. It would provide increased flexibility of supplemental assistance.

Pearl River Resort to reopen Mississippi casino Friday

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is planning a phased reopening of its Pearl River Resort after a four-month closure amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The tribe said its Bok Homa Casino in Sandersville is opening its doors Friday. Golden Moon Hotel & Casino in Neshoba County will open a week later. Reopening has not been set for Silver Star Casino.

Pearl River Resort President and CEO William Johnson said the reopening plan includes social distancing, taking of temperatures, and face coverings as well as machine cleaning of chips. During designated times, sections of each casino will be closed for cleaning.

The Choctaw-owned Geyser Falls Water Theme Park in Neshoba County will remain closed the rest of this summer. People who bought 2020 season passes can use those in 2021, according to a Pearl River Resort news release.

What’s the pandemic without some Native humor?

The Quileute Tribe in Washington state decided to have a little fun with its Instagram announcement that it's closing its reservation to all visitors.

“The Quileute Reservation at La Push, WA is closed to all visitors. Once it is deemed safe to reopen again, we welcome all visitors back to our lands. Except the Cullens.”

One person commented, “Best pandemic closure public notice!!”

The Twilight reference garnered more than 2,000 likes for the post Thursday evening. It could be Native humor during a pandemic or celebrating Stephanie Meyers’ latest book, “Midnight Sun,” released Aug. 4. It’s the companion book to the first Twilight book and is told from Edward Cullen’s point of view.

Protecting Oak Flat, Mount Graham

In the Indian Country Today newscast, find out what the San Carlos Apache in Arizona is doing to protect its sacred places from development.

For decades, the tribe has fought the University of Arizona and Resolution Copper to protect both Mount Graham and Oak Flat from desecration. Wendsler Nosie Sr., Chiricahua Apache, is a former council member, compares the proposed destruction to the murder of a living being. He is from the San Carlos Apache Nation and that's where he and his granddaughter, Báásé Pike, started the 29th Annual Mount Graham Sacred Run.

This year they were the only two to complete the 130-mile journey. The run allows younger generations to understand how the spaces are corridors to a Holy place, Nosie said. The two talk with Indian Country Today’s newscast host and producer Patty Telehongva to discuss the meaningfulness of the land and the struggles they've faced protecting it.

Also on the program is Meghan Sullivan, an Indian Country Today intern and Stanford University Rebele Fellow. She talks about the impacts a proposed mine would have on Bristol Bay and on subsistence fishing.

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