Indian Country headlines for Friday

Donald Trump Jr. greets supporters Thursday at a rally at the Williams, Arizona, rodeo grounds. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following on Oct. 16, 2020: Arizona 'Natives for Trump' rally, Alaska Federation of Natives convention, Blackfeet Nation election office, and more

Donald Trump Jr. event launches 'Natives for Trump'

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Donald Trump Jr. spoke Thursday at a rally in Williams, Arizona, that marked the launch of a "Native Americans for Trump" coalition.

More than 200 people gathered at the town's rodeo grounds for the event, which featured a drum group and powwow dancers. Flags lined the stage, and a “Native Americans for Trump” banner decorated the risers.

The president's eldest son noted that Thursday was the last day to register to vote in Arizona, and he urged attendees to register and to tell their friends to do the same.

“Make sure they understand what’s at stake because it's all on the line," he said.

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From left, Navajo siblings Roland Denetso, Shauntay Denetso and Tyler Denetso, members of the Standing Horse Dancers. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)
From left, Navajo siblings Roland Denetso, Shauntay Denetso and Tyler Denetso, members of the Standing Horse Dancers. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

Alaska Federation of Natives

The annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives began Thursday and continues Friday.  

Before the pandemic, the convention had grown from a couple of hundred participants in 1966 to an estimated five or six thousand in recent years. With delegates from tribes, for-profit corporations, and non-profit regional organizations in attendance, it was the largest representative Native American annual gathering in the country. 

This year, the speeches, panel discussions, and occasional entertainment were available on television, Facebook, the Internet, a phone app, and the radio. 

Speakers emphasized the importance of getting counted in the Census before it closed at midnight Hawaii time Thursday night. Panelists focused on government participation, COVID, justice, and missing and murdered Indigenous persons. The 2020 convention theme is "Good Government: Alaskans Decide."

For more on this story, click here.

The theme of the 2020 Alaska Federation of Natives convention is "Good Government: Alaskans Decide." (Screenshot of AFN website graphic)
The theme of the 2020 Alaska Federation of Natives convention is "Good Government: Alaskans Decide." (Screenshot of AFN website graphic)

Alaska Native elders, youth ‘making a good path’

Earlier this week, history cast a shadow over the 37th annual Elders and Youth Conference hosted by the First Alaskans Institute. The event normally draws hundreds of Alaska Native elders and youth aged 13 to 18 from across the state into Anchorage or Fairbanks. This year it also was held virtually.

“Our peoples know the continuing devastation and trauma of colonization, attempted genocide and the diseases and pandemics that have also come to our shores. And no matter what, we survive because we know what matters most,” said an institute news release.

And what matters most now is finding ways to get through the pandemic. This year’s theme was fitting: “Asirqamek apruciluta (in Sugt’stun), asisqamek aprut’liluta (in Alutiiq)” — a phrase that when translated into English means, “We are making a good path.”

The theme “exemplifies our ancestral responsibilities to protect our peoples and communities, including through this time of COVID-19,” the institute said.

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Former Navajo leader and New Mexico lawmaker dies

SHIPROCK, N.M. (AP) — Thomas Atcitty, a former interim Navajo Nation president and longtime New Mexico state representative, has died. He was 86.

Atcitty died Sunday of natural causes, the tribe said. Funeral services were scheduled Wednesday in Shiprock, New Mexico, where he lived most of his life.

Atcitty was remembered for his various leadership roles and compassion for Navajo people.

He served as the tribe's vice president from 1995 to 1998 and was elevated to the top post after then-Navajo President Albert Hale resigned rather than face allegations he abused a tribal credit card.

Atcitty's time as president was short-lived. Within months, the Navajo Nation Council removed him from office for accepting free trips and golf games from companies doing business with the tribe while he was vice president. Atcitty said accepting business gratuities didn't violate rules and argued a golf game isn't tangible.

He called the council's action unfortunate and said he held no grudges.

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In this Feb. 19, 1998, file photo, then newly sworn-in Navajo Nation President Thomas Atcitty, second from left at podium, speaks to the Navajo Nation for the first time as their new leader, as former President Albert Hale, left, looks on in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock, Ariz. Atcitty, a former interim Navajo Nation president and longtime New Mexico state representative has died. The tribe says Thomas Atcitty died Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, of natural causes. He was 86. Funeral services are scheduled Wednesday ,Oct. 14, in Shiprock, New Mexico, where Atcitty lived most of his life. (Donovan Quintero/Gallup Independent via AP, File)
In this 1998 photo, then-newly sworn-in Navajo Nation President Thomas Atcitty, at podium, speaks to the Navajo Nation for the first time as their new leader, as former President Albert Hale, left, looks on in front of the Navajo Nation Council Chambers in Window Rock, Ariz. (Donovan Quintero/Gallup Independent via AP, File)

Ancient stone patterns add new wrinkle to pipeline debate

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) — Images from an underwater vehicle seem to reveal stone patterns on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan, possible evidence of Native American artifacts from thousands of years ago, a newspaper reported.

A group of amateur explorers raised money to look at Enbridge Inc.'s oil pipeline on the lake bottom. The four women hired a boat equipped with an underwater vehicle and side-scan sonar. It can map the sea floor based on sound.

The sonar showed what appears to be stones in a half-circle, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"It was really just amazing," said Andrea Pierce, 56, of Ypsilanti, a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

The Great Lakes weren't always around. Glaciers cut deep gorges into the earth, which then filled with water over thousands of years.

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Blackfeet Nation to get satellite office for election

A Montana county encompassing portions of the southern boundary of the Blackfeet Nation Reservation has agreed to make voting more accessible for citizens of the tribe. 

The announcement came three days after the Native American Rights Fund and American Civil Liberties Union of Montana represented the tribe in a federal lawsuit against the county.

Jacqueline De León, Isleta Pueblo, is a staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund and said the county discriminated against the tribal citizens because they would have fewer opportunities to vote than their White counterparts.

“Pondera County’s refusal to establish a satellite office was in clear violation of the rights that Blackfeet tribal members have to participate in the political process and exercise their political power,” De León said. “While it's shameful that it took a lawsuit for Pondera County to do the right thing, we are glad that tribal members will now have a way to register and vote.”

Heart Butte, where the satellite office will be established, is 93.7 percent Native, whereas the county seat of Conrad is 95.1 percent White and more than 100 miles roundtrip.

The satellite office will provide in-person voter registration, in-person early voting, and Election Day voting.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma collaborates to correct history books

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has provided accurate information that corrects teachings of more than 100 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court case McGirt v. Oklahoma provided an opportunity for tribes in eastern Oklahoma to reaffirm their long-standing claims of sovereignty and to rewrite the history books, according to a news release.

The tribe is working with all three state history textbook publishers.

“An important part of sovereignty is making sure our story is told and told correctly,” Chief Gary Batton said.

The educational material developed by the Choctaw Nation Education Department will be posted by the Oklahoma Department of Education and is available for schools until textbook publishers make corrections for future editions.

Chief Gary Batton is the 47th Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the third largest Indian tribe in the United States. (Choctaw Nation photo)
Chief Gary Batton (Choctaw Nation photo)

Watch: The evolving politics of Ben Nighthorse Campbell

Ben Nighthorse Campbell served two terms as a U.S. Senator, representing Colorado from 1993 to 2005. Indian Country Today national correspondent Mary Annette Pember explains the Northern Cheyenne Senator's career.

“His switch to the Republican party and this sort of ensuing conservative views were a little bit surprising,” Pember said. “In some ways he reflected, kind of, what we think of as a traditional kind of old style Republican conservative versus what we're seeing more today.”

Plus, national correspondent Dalton Walker explains what he's uncovered in the Navajo ballot lawsuit.

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