Indian Country headlines for Friday

In this 2016 photo, then-Democratic U.S. House candidate and Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau attends a Democratic election rally in Billings, Montana. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

Indian Country Today

Stories we're following on Oct. 23, 2020: Seattle school superintendent under fire; virus cases spike among Wisconsin Natives; Texas tribe to reclaim ancestors’ remains; and more

Indian Country Today

NAACP calls for firing of Seattle schools superintendent

Seattle students and leaders of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are calling for school Superintendent Denise Juneau, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, to be fired.

At a recent press conference, they said she is not doing enough to address systemic racism in the district. Juneau, whose contract is up for renewal this year, has not faced any formal complaints during her tenure.

However, critics point to the loss of seven African American males in supervisory positions, low student performance, and a disproportionately high rate of disciplinary actions against African American males.

KING 5 reports that it requested an interview with Juneau. In response, the Seattle Public Schools provided a long list of actions to promote racial justice taken during her tenure. It included developing a five-year strategic plan that is “unapologetically centered on supporting students of color who are furthest from educational justice, beginning with focus on African American boys and teens.”

A group of nonprofit and education leaders across the city wrote the district to retain Juneau and renew her contract. The letter was signed by Mia Tuan, University of Washington College of Education dean; Dwane Chappelle, who directs the city’s education department; Estela Ortega, the director of El Centro de la Raza; and others.

Juneau is the first Native American woman to lead the Seattle School District, the largest in the state with more than 53,000 students. It will be up to the school board to decide whether to extend her contract.

In this Sept. 5, 2012, file photo, Denise Juneau, Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
In this 2012 photo, Denise Juneau, then-Montana state superintendent of public instruction, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Coronavirus cases jump among Wisconsin tribes

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Coronavirus cases among Native Americans in Wisconsin have tripled since Sept. 1 as the state continues to grapple with the pandemic.

The state Department of Health Services reported 59 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one new death among Native Americans in Wisconsin on Wednesday. That raised the group's totals to 2,333 confirmed cases and 23 deaths since the pandemic began, a huge jump from the 775 confirmed cases among Wisconsin Native Americans since Sept. 1.

"The numbers are outrageous," Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican tribe, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's scary."

The figures include Native Americans who live on reservations and those who live elsewhere.

The virus has been spreading unchecked in Wisconsin since September. As of Wednesday, the state was fourth in the nation in new cases per capita with 756 cases per 100,000 people. State health officials reported 3,413 new cases and 22 more deaths Thursday. 

The COVID-19 spike in Indian Country occurred even though each of Wisconsin's 11 tribes have enacted orders aimed at stemming the outbreak. The orders included closing casinos, limiting access to some reservations, safer-at-home rules and curfews. Some tribes have also limited or banned visitors to nursing homes and have been delivering food and medical supplies to the elderly. 

US Supreme Court nomination moving forward

FILE - In this May 19, 2018, file photo, Amy Coney Barrett, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit judge, speaks during the University of Notre Dame's Law School commencement ceremony at the university, in South Bend, Ind. Barrett, a front-runner to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has established herself as a reliable conservative on hot-button legal issues from abortion to gun control. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)
In this 2018 photo, Amy Coney Barrett, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit judge, speaks during the University of Notre Dame's Law School commencement ceremony at the university, in South Bend, Ind. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)

Republicans are advancing Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination despite a boycott from Democrats, who protested the Senate Judiciary Committee vote Thursday.

The committee approval sets up Barrett to be sworn into office by the full Senate as soon as Monday.

(Related: Amy Coney Barrett and the fate of Native adoption law)

Barrett's confirmation will guarantee a 6-3 conservative majority in the country's highest court.

Indian Country leaders are concerned about that majority, saying it could have detrimental implications for tribal nations. A conservative majority could impact a wide range of issues important to Indian Country such as voting rights, the environment and healthcare access, to name a few.

If confirmed on Monday, as is expected, Barrett could be sworn in as a justice almost immediately, just a week before the Nov. 3 election. Barrett would be filling the seat last held by the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

University of Texas to turn over remains to tribe

A tribe in central Texas will soon be able to reclaim and rebury the remains of its ancestors.

The Mia con Garza band is a state-recognized tribe. Remains of three of its people are being held at the University of Texas at Austin.

Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, museums and government institutions must create a public inventory of the Native American remains and cultural objects they have in order to return the remains to tribes. University Texas Austin has more than 1,000 Native remains from all over Texas.

The university initially refused the tribe’s request to return the remains. However, after pressure from the Indigenous community and students it recently agreed. University President Jay Hartzellin wrote in a letter the university will take steps “that would enable us to offer the remains promptly for reburial."

The tribe hopes to help other Indigenous people in the state make repatriation requests to University of Texas Austin.

Oklahoma college’s executive team is 85 percent Native

Pictured: Mary Jo Pratt, Bacone College's new Chief Financial Officer (Photo courtesy of Bacone College).
(Photo: Bacone College)

With the appointment of a Native American woman to the position of vice president of finance and chief financial officer, the executive team at Bacone College is now 85 percent Native American, according to a statement from the college. 

Mary Jo Pratt hails from Osage, Blackfeet, Shawnee, Delaware, Peoria, Chippewa-Cree and Cherokee bloodlines. She is believed to be the first female appointed to head financial operations at the college originally founded as “Indian University.”

Bacone College President Dr. Ferlin Clark said Pratt “brings a steady and expert skill set to improve Bacone College’s financial status as we transform into a tribal college.”

“I am honored to join Bacone College during such a pivotal moment in its 140-year history,” Pratt said.

Pratt said she recently learned she is related to one of the founders of Bacone College and feels a strong calling to be there. “My bloodline in a sense has found its way back here with the same purpose of educating our people, and I feel called to help us realize a bright future for Bacone College,” said Pratt.

Five Oklahoma Tribes charter Bacone College. They are the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, Osage Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, and Kiowa Tribe.

On being the ‘Funniest Indian in the Writers’ Room’

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In Thursday’s Indian Country Today’s newscast, comedian Joey Clift, Cowlitz, talks humor and his new Netflix animated series.

Journalist Eddie Chuculate shares the political races he's covering for Indian Country Today, and editor Mark Trahant speaks with Montana state Rep. Shane Morigeau.

Humor is something that has sustained Native people for centuries. So as we find our way through this pandemic, humor is once again sustaining us. Award-winning comedian Joey Clift joins the show to talk all things funny and maybe even drop a hint about a character in his new Netflix series "Spirit Rangers."

Plus, Chuculate has been covering some political races for Indian Country Today. He's on the show and ready to go over a few key races to watch.

And Trahant sits down with Morigeau, a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, who was first elected to the Montana legislature in 2017.

To watch, click here.

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