Indian Country headlines for June 16

Indian Country Today

SCOTUS: State jurisdiction on reservations; UN to discuss police brutality, racism; Mascot names; NBA restart location; Culturally relevant COVID-19 messaging; Canadian Indigenous rights advocate dies; Virtual intertribal food summit

Indian Country Today

Decisions come down as U.S. Supreme Court nears end of term

As the nation’s highest court nears the end of the current term at the end of the month, a flurry of decisions are set to be handed down. Indian Country waits on pins and needles for the decision in McGirt v Oklahoma, which will decide whether states have jurisdiction over cases under the Indian Major Crimes Act that occur on reservation lands.

A landmark decision regarding federal law and the protections of LGBT workers from discrimination was handed down Monday.

In the 6-3 final vote, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion stating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act “outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Gorsuch wrote that those protections must be extended to individuals who are gay or transgender.

“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear, ” the opinion reads. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Stay tuned to indiancountrytoday.com for Supreme Court coverage.

Man shot during protest over Spanish conqueror's statue

A man was shot Monday night as protesters in New Mexico’s largest city tried to tear down a bronze statue of a Spanish conquistador outside the Albuquerque Museum, prompting the city to announce that the statue would be removed until officials determine the next steps.

The man was taken to a hospital and was listed in critical but stable condition late Monday, said Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.

A confrontation erupted between protesters and a group of armed men who were trying to protect the statue of Juan de Oñate before protesters wrapped a chain around it and began tugging on it while chanting: “Tear it down.” One protester repeatedly swung a pickax at the base of the statue.

Moments later, a few gunshots could be heard down the street and people started yelling that someone had been shot.

Gallegos said police used tear gas and flash bangs to protect the officers who intervened and detained those involved in the shooting. He said they were disarmed and taken into custody for questioning as police worked to secure the scene. He said detectives were investigating with the help of the FBI but he did not immediately release any other information.

UN to discuss police brutality, racism

The United Nations Human Rights Council has voted to hold an “urgent discussion” on police brutality and racism on Wednesday. 

On Friday, a group of more than 20 senior senior leaders in the UN who are African or of African descent published a statement expressing their outrage at pervasive and systemic racism, highlighting the need to go beyond and do more than just offer condemnation. 

The group called on the United Nations to step up and act decisively to help and systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups.

NCAI commends D.C. mayor’s call for Washington NFL Team to change name

The National Congress of American Indians supports Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s public statement on change needed for the Washington NFL team’s mascot.

On Friday, Bowser said “it’s past time for the team to deal with what offends so many,” when asked about the team's controversial mascot.

“Mayor Bowser’s statement represents a watershed development in Indian Country’s decades-long struggle to remove this and the many other offensive and degrading Native ‘themed’ mascots from sports and popular culture,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said in a Monday statement.

Earlier this year, an academic study debunked previous surveys saying Native people support offensive mascot imagery.

Kyrie Irving speaks out against NBA restart

NBA star Kyrie Irving, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said he does not support the NBA’s plan to restart the season in Florida amid social justice and COVID-19 concerns, according to multiple reports.

Irving, guard for the Brooklyn Nets, was injured earlier in the season and isn’t expected to play if the NBA resumes in late July.

NBC Sports reported on Friday that Irving led a video call with more than 80 NBA players, some vocally hesitant to restart the season.

“I don’t support going to Orlando,” Irving reportedly said. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bulls***. Something smells a little fishy.”

The NBA stopped its season in early March after a player tested positive for the coronavirus. The league recently announced its restart plan set for July 30, with players reporting to Orlando weeks before to practice.

On June 2, Irving posted a lengthy message on Instagram, calling for change amid the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

New Mexico hires Native artist to create culturally appropriate COVID-19 messaging

Ricardo Caté, Kewa Pueblo, has been hired by the state of New Mexico to create culturally appropriate cartoon messages addressing the coronavirus pandemic in tribal communities. The state’s data shows that Native communities make up more than 54 percent of positive COVID-19 cases.

The goal of the new campaign is to use culturally relevant messaging to encourage tribal communities to protect their family and communities.

“Laughter has always been a part of being Indian, and Native humor is culturally unique and at the heart of our resilience and survivability,” Caté said in a statement. He is author of a daily cartoon column in The Santa Fe New Mexican called “Without Reservations.”

Siksika First Nation politician, Indigenous rights advocate dies

Former Siksika First Nation Roy Little Chief, an advocate for Indigenous rights in Canada, has died. He was 81.

Little Chief was an activist for more than 60 years and was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, according to the CBC.

He passed away on June 11 in Calgary after months of failing health, according to the report.

Virtual Intertribal Food Summit Saturday June 20

The Intertribal Agricultural Council, Native American Food Sovereignty Council, University of Arkansas Food and Agriculture Initiative, Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council and Michigan State University Extension Food Summit are hosting a virtual summit on Saturday June 20 via Zoom. 

The event is free for tribal community members, producers, staff and partners. 

Speakers include Zach Ducheneaux, Linda Black Elk, Rowen White, Loretta Barrett Oden, Sean Sherman, Isaac Murdoch, Biskakone Greg Johnson and others. The full schedule will be coming soon, according to organizers. 

Past summits have included Indigenous plant walks, traditional food preparation, planting stick, elm bark basket, and cooking paddle making tutorials. Register here. 

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