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Washburn chosen to lead Interior review

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team has tapped Kevin Washburn, Chickasaw, to head a group reviewing the U.S. Interior Department.

Washburn served as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs under President Barack Obama, and currently is dean of the University of Iowa College of Law.

He will lead a team of 11 volunteers in evaluating the Interior’s operations.

They include Janie Hipp, Chickasaw, who served during the Obama administration as the director of the Agriculture Department’s Office of Tribal Relations, according to Native News Online. She is now president and CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund.

Washburn was named dean of the Iowa College of Law in 2018.

Alaska representative among members of Congress with COVID

In this Aug. 26, 2020, photo, U.S. Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, speaks during a ceremony in Anchorage, Alaska, celebrating the opening of a Lady Justice Task Force cold case office which will specialize in cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous women. Young announced Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, on Twitter that he has tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska has tested positive for COVID-19.

He’s among more than two dozen members of Congress — 17 Republicans and nine Democrats - who have tested positive or are presumed to have had COVID-19, Reuters reported.

“I am feeling strong, following proper protocols, working from home in Alaska, and ask for privacy at this time,” the 87-year-old Young tweeted Thursday. "May God Bless Alaska.”

New bill would create new Alaska Native for-profit corporations

Clan leaders in Chilkat and Ravenstail robes stand on the beach to welcome people arriving by canoe in Wrangell boat harbor in southeast Alaska. About a thousand people turned out for the May 2013 rededication of Chief Shakes House, a replica of a traditional Tlingit tribal house. (Photo courtesy of Sealaska)

Alaska’s congressional delegation has introduced a bill to create corporations for five communities left out of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Bill sponsors U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, all Alaska Republicans, say if enacted, the law would create five corporations and grant one township of land (23,040 acres) and $2.5 million to each. The land would be carved out of the Tongass National Forest.

Cecilia Tavoliero, Tlingit, of Petersburg, is president of the Southeast Alaska Landless Corporation, a nonprofit coalition of the five southeast Alaska landless communities. It’s funded with a $50,000 grant from the regional for-profit Native corporation Sealaska.

In a statement, she said, “Alaska Natives Without Land is fighting for Indigenous land rights for the descendants of the ancient villages of the southeast Alaskan communities known today as Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee Springs and Wrangell.”

It’s unclear why the five communities were left out of the 1971 law. However, all historically were all-Native homelands but Native people moved away or have become a minority in predominantly non-Native communities. Tlingit, Haida and Tsimpshian people make up from 0 to 20 percent of their populations.

Alaska Native corporations created under the 1971 law make up 18 of Alaska’s top 20 businesses, and generate billions of dollars in revenue. 


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Navajo Nation sees ‘uncontrolled spread’ of COVID-19

Legislation making its way through Congress aims to reaffirm that tribal epidemiology centers should have access to state and federal health data. Tribal leaders have had trouble accessing information to help fight COVID-19 and other diseases in places like the Navajo Nation, where this sign stands. (Photo by Daja E. Henry/Cronkite News)
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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation health officials this week warned residents of the “uncontrolled spread” of COVID-19 in 34 communities on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

“We are dealing with an invisible monster and the only way we are going to beat this virus is by doing it together and listening to our public health experts,” tribal President Jonathan Nez, Navajo, said in a statement. “Our health care system will be overwhelmed and in a crisis situation if we keep seeing increases in new cases.”

The Navajo Nation will have a 56-hour weekend curfew beginning Friday night. Tribal officials already have urged residents to wear face masks, practice social distancing and limit gatherings to less than five people.

Navajo Nation health officials on Wednesday night reported 98 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one additional death, bringing the total number of known cases to 12,818 with 596 known deaths.

Mutual of Omaha replaces Native American mascot

Mutual of Omaha lion logo, courtesy of Mutual of Omaha

As part of its campaign to address issues of racial equity and social justice, Mutual of Omaha has removed its Native American image from its corporate logo. The new logo features the image of an African lion.

In July, Mutual of Omaha Chairman and CEO James Blackledge, said, “We believe the decision to retire our corporate symbol is the right thing to do and is consistent with our values and our desire to help overcome racial bias and stereotypes,” Blackledge said. “We feel strongly our logo should reflect who we are as a company and our commitment to positive change.”

The company set aside $1 million for community-based initiatives and non-profit organizations committed to “racial equity, inclusivity, economic equality and social justice.” In 2019, the company and its Foundation contributed more than $2 million to nearly 60 charitable organizations working on these issues. It also offered staff time to be involved in such initiatives.

Along with those changes, Mutual is providing management with training on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias, and taking steps to build a more diverse workforce.

Natives help Natives in online marketplace

Sophie Hill, Anishinaabe, sells beadwork like this on From The People, an Indigenous-led online marketplace. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Hill)

The weaver who sells their work at flea markets. The beader who markets their work on social media. The jeweler who vends at a local fair.

Many Indigenous artists were negatively affected by canceled powwows and markets this summer. They weren’t allowed to sell their products in person, which has had many looking to the internet.

A new Indigenous-owned marketplace, From The People, allows artists to post and sell their products online — and allows buyers from all backgrounds to purchase authentically made and ethically produced crafts from the artist themselves.

The company believes in “Natives helping Natives” and was started in February by co-owners Chase McNiel, Diné, and Isabella Johnson, Coquille Tribe.

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Watch: Outwriting the pandemic with comedian Joey Clift

Humor is something that has sustained Native people for centuries. So Thursday, as we find our way through this pandemic, humor is once again sustaining us. In an encore interview, we have guest Joey Clift, Cowlitz citizen and award-winning comedian, who shares all things funny with his most recent animated short, "Telling People You’re Native American When You’re Not Native Is A Lot Like Telling A Bear You’re A Bear When You’re Not A Bear" and his new Netflix series "Spirit Rangers."

Clift describes how the pandemic has changed his writing process, as well as storytelling in the US. He said something he cherishes about the project is that "this production is different from other Netflix series is that for the first time ever in the history of animated TV in the United States, it's an all-Native writers room."

The interview originally aired on Oct. 22.

Also on the show, Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant has been watching the back and forth between the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration and tells us what that means for intertribal issues.

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