Indian Country headlines for Friday

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News we’re talking about today, Friday Sept. 10, 2020: Tribe, states sue to halt Arctic oil, gas development; NM Native vote suppressed; Truth about verbal sexual misconduct by Alaska Native leader revealed; and more

Tribes, states sue to halt oil, gas development in Arctic

The Anchorage Daily News is reporting three Alaska tribal entities and 15 states have filed suit to stop the first-ever federal oil and gas lease sale in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Neets’aii Gwich’in tribes of Venetie and Arctic Village named Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and several federal agencies in the suit, filed Wednesday in federal district court in Alaska.

Bernhardt last month signed a plan that puts all available land, 1.6 million acres, on the table for possible leasing.

The Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, the Arctic Village Council and the Venetie Village Council, represented by the Native American Rights Fund, filed the lawsuit to protect important traditional resources there, such as the caribou that are sought after by subsistence hunters.

The tribes assert a full analysis of the impacts of drilling on nearby villages was not done, and federal agencies erred in determining oil and gas development in the coastal plain would have no significant impacts on the villages.

COVID-19, election glitches suppress Native vote in New Mexico

Compared to elections in 2012 and 2016, voter turnout in tribal communities in New Mexico dropped in the June 2020 primary while other parts of the state saw increases.

A report by Common Cause New Mexico shows voter turnout in the state overall was up by 8 percent while the count of Native American voters dropped by 1 percent.

Turnout among Zia Pueblo was down by 29 percent, and turnout on the Navajo reservation dropped by 17 percent compared to 2016.

The Sante Fe New Mexican reports tribal communities with the lowest turnout were in some of the areas of the state hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common Cause came up with a series of recommendations to ensure Native Americans are not disenfranchised in the general election on Nov. 3, including:

  • Place a ballot drop box in every tribal administration building
  • Allow the U.S. Postal Service to deliver ballots to “non-conforming addresses”
  • Provide recorded translations and ballot information in Native languages
  • Provide prepaid postage on ballots

Truth revealed about former Alaska Native leader verbal sexual misconduct

To remove a blot on her daughter’s reputation, a Han Gwitch’in Athabascan woman is stepping forward to talk about an inappropriate verbal advance aimed at her in 2018 by former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Tlingit, who passed away this May. 

Potts told the full story of the encounter with Mallott to the Anchorage Daily News, which won a Pulitzer Prize in May for its reporting on rural justice and sexual assault, a project led by reporter Kyle Hopkins in partnership with the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

Jody Potts told Indian Country Today a “partisan blogger” had came up with a story that Mallott two years ago made inappropriate advances toward a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of a woman he was having consensual sex with. Bloggers' articles described Potts in enough detail many people assumed her then 16-year-old daughter was implicated.

Not true on two counts, said Potts. There was no consensual sex. And the verbal advance was aimed at her not her daughter. Yet Potts said her daughter is still being harassed by people who believe the misinformation.

Mallott did not dispute the main facts of the actual incident. 

Potts hopes that by telling her story, she will clear her daughter's name, and help in the fight to reduce sexual violence against Alaska Native women. Alaska has the nation's highest rates of sexual assault and rape, four times the national average. Alaska Natives make up 20 percent of Alaska's population but more than half the victims of sexual violence are Native women.

New data source tracks violence, political unrest in the United States

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI) at Princeton University have created a site providing comprehensive real-time data and analysis on political violence and demonstrations. Organizers say the United States is at heightened risk of violence and instability going into the 2020 election. They point to a “rising tide of political polarization, hate crimes, and widespread social mobilization.” Adding to that are economic woes linked to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal of the comprehensive data collection is to aid “data-driven efforts to build community resilience, and to assess potential threats. The information will help communities in times of crisis to identify risks, hotspots, and available resources.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project has released data about political unrest and demonstrations in the United States in 2020. It has recorded nearly 11,000 demonstrations, acts of political violence, and strategic development events across the United States since the end of May.

North Carolina tribe fears development destroyed artifacts

A tribe seeking federal recognition fears evidence that could have strengthened its case has been destroyed in a construction project. The tribe is concerned crews building a liquefied natural gas facility on North Carolina Highway 71 may have ruined historical evidence and artifacts.

“We will never know what was destroyed. We will never be able to access and verify the things that the ancestors left behind that prove that we have been here and that we are still here,” Wendy Moore-Graham chairperson of the Tribal Council’s Agriculture/Natural Resources Committee told The Robesonian.

The Lumbee tribe is recognized by the state of North Carolina but not by the federal government. ABC affiliate WPDE said the 55,000-member Lumbee Tribe “is the largest tribe in North Carolina, the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River and the ninth largest in the nation.”

The tribal council last week adopted a resolution opposing construction of the facility being built by Piedmont Natural Gas.

High court ruling settles Wisconsin boundary dispute

The McGirt v. Oklahoma decision helps the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin win a longstanding land boundary issue with the neighboring Village of Hobart.

For many years, the Village of Hobart’s leadership has described the Oneida Reservation as a set of historical boundaries only, challenging the legitimacy of their sovereign neighbor.

For decades, non-Oneidas owned nearly all of the land within the boundaries of the reservation, and the Village argued that changes in land ownership resulted in permanent changes to the reservation’s boundaries.

In April 2019, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach in Green Bay held that the reservation boundaries had been diminished, implicitly by fulfilling Congress’ intent for the 1888 General Allotment Act to eliminate reservations. That meant that until the lands are held in federal trust for the Oneida Nation, their status is as if they were not within the reservation at all. The Village pointed to a 1933 federal court decision that described the Oneida Reservation as having been discontinued through allotment.

A recent decision by the 7th Circuit overturned that interpretation and held that the nation is not bound by the 1933 case.

Cheyenne and Arapaho citizen to retire as leader of Los Angeles art museum

President and Chief Executive W. Richard West Jr., Cheyenne and Arapaho, is retiring from the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.

West plans to leave in June 2021. He was appointed in 2012. West is credited with expanding the museum’s staff with nationally recognized hires and leading a campaign that raised more than $70 million.

West was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. and an attorney before being recruited by Autry.

Oglala Lakota code talker honored with South Dakota town banner

A banner honoring Garfield Brown, Oglala Lakota, a World War II code taker, was raised recently in Rapid City, South Dakota.

The banner is part of the Veteran’s Honor Banner Project that highlights World War II veterans on light poles in Rapid City.

Brown served in the 18th Regiment of the First infantry. Family sang a Lakota veterans honor song when the banner was raised, according to the Rapid City Journal.

Watch: Native Nerd: It's been 'tough' for critics

Movie theaters are beginning to open up throughout the country after months of closure and actors are going back on set with precautions.

Vincent Schilling is our associate editor and he joined the Indian Country Today newscast to talk about movies, production, and the pandemic. Also on our show is Mary Annette Pember, National Correspondent, covering the Ojibwe wild rice harvest.

“I'm one of these people who is a little hesitant to go to a theater yet, you know, as you guys know, I do Native Nerd movie reviews pretty much weekly,” Schilling said. “And it's really tough for reviewers these days, honestly, because a lot of things are not always video on demand. 

For example, the New Mutants couldn't get me a screener to review it because the company had signed agreements that they would only show in theaters. So I think that hurt them a little bit, although they did make $7 million in the first weekend, but some of the reviews have been kind of tough.”

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