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Indian Country Today

Today’s topics: Supreme Court tribal sovereignty case; New Mexico monuments; Southern Ute, Oglala Lakota wildfires; discrimination against Australian Indigenous; and more


Decision pending in landmark tribal sovereignty case

Indian Country Today will be closely watching the SCOTUS blog for an opinion in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which could come as soon as Thursday.

At issue is whether the prosecution of an enrolled member of the Creek Tribe for crimes committed within the historical Creek boundaries is subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction.

Update: The Supreme Court of the United States released only one opinion June 18 regarding the Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of Univ. of Cal. case. Indian Country Today will continue to monitor McGirt v. Oklahoma.

Controversial New Mexico monuments to come down

Albuquerque police detain members of the New Mexico Civil Guard, an armed civilian group, following the shooting of a man during a protest over a statue of Spanish conquerer Juan de Oñate on Monday, June 15, 2020, in Albuquerque, N.M. A confrontation erupted between protesters and a group of armed men who were trying to protect the statue 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. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

The mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has announced that the city will remove two obelisk monuments honoring Kit Carson, as well as a statue of Don Diego De Vargas in front of the Santa Fe courthouse.

Mayor Alan Webber made the announcement Wednesday.

Kit Carson commanded U.S. troops who forced Navajos to a concentration camp in the 1860s, while De Vargas, a Spanish conquistador, murdered hundreds of Pueblo people.

Webber's decision comes after a protester was shot Monday while trying to remove a statue of Juan de Onate in Albuquerque during a rally. 

Indigenous people protecting the Amazon

In January, representatives of 45 Indigenous communities gathered to mobilize against "pro-development" policies of Brazil's far-right president, Jair Bolsonoro, which have led to an unprecedented surge in the number and severity of fires in the Amazon rainforest.

Scientists are warning that the Amazon is fast approaching its "tipping point" - the point when global climate change, combined with increasing deforestation, would cause the Amazon rainforest to turn into a desert-like savannah. University of Sao Paulo professor Carlos Nobre said this could happen within 10-15 years, setting off a global catastrophe.

Fires growing on Southern Ute, Oglala Lakota lands

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A fire on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation grew to 220 acres on June 17. The Six Shooter Fire started out as approximately 75 acres on June 16. The Southern Ute Tribe says it is 15 percent contained as of June 17. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Southern Ute Agency Fire Management, Los Piños Fire Protection District, Durango Fire, Florida Mesa Fire, and agencies from Colorado and Oklahoma are managing the fire.

The BIA Fire Management Team is also working with the Oglala Sioux to manage a fire on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The fire was 5 percent contained as of 9 a.m. Central Time on June 17. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Australian former prime minister denies systemic discrimination 

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said there is “no evidence” Australia's justice system discriminates against Indigenous Australians, pointing instead to a "higher offending rate" for disproportionate rates of incarceration.

The Black Lives Matter movement and protests against the killing of George Floyd in the US have brought renewed attention to Australia's 437 recorded Indigenous deaths in custody, and to a Guardian Australia analysis of New South Wales crime statistics showing police are more likely to prosecute Indigenous alleged offenders for cannabis offenses, offensive language, and failure to pay fines.

Opponents skeptical of revenue sharing from proposed mine in western Alaska

Would-be developers of a copper-gold-and-molybdenum mine in western Alaska have invited area residents to sign up to get dividends when mine construction begins. Pebble Limited Partnership said the revenue sharing would begin at $1,000 per year per adult resident of the Bristol Bay region, then rise as the company earns revenues.

Bristol Bay organizations, tribes, and fishermen called the proposal “a desperate attempt by a dying company to create the illusion of support for their toxic project in a region that has illustrated dedicated opposition to the mine’s development for over fifteen years.”

Native Americans renew calls for change of Washington, D.C., NFL team name

The recent national debate over racism has renewed calls for Washington, D.C.’s professional football team to change its name. Pressure from 31 other team owners and the National Football League could force owner Dan Snyder's hand.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser last week called the name an "obstacle” to the team building a new stadium and headquarters in the District. The lease for the current stadium expires in 2027.

University of Nevada at Las Vegas removes statue of Confederate general

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has removed a statue of its “Hey Reb!” mascot following outcry from student groups, including the Native American Student Association. A petition for removal said the mascot “Beauregard” was originally named after the Confederate general who fired the first shots in the Civil War. Petitioners said the statue “presents a public image that runs counter to our core values and UNLV’s mission to become the leading multicultural university in the United States."

The bronze statue will be returned to the original donors.

NEWSCAST: Tamástslikt Cultural Institute hope to create a pandemic exhibit

As the country navigates its way through this pandemic, some states are starting to reopen non essential businesses such as museums. How have museums fared in this pandemic? Are they getting federal relief aid? Or, are they struggling to stay afloat? According to the National Congress of American Indians, there are around 236 tribal museums in the country. Our guest today is Roberta "Bobbie" Conner. She is the director of the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute in Oregon. It was established in 1988. She also served on the board of the NMAI and will discuss the pandemic and museums and what changes visitors may expect. Watch her interview on the Indian Country Today newscast

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