Indian Country Headlines for June 26

Joaqlin Estus

Water lawsuits, toppling of a Civil War statue,‘bogus genocide story,’ Haskell online, and more news to have with your morning coffee or tea

Tribes in water lawsuits

The Navajo Nation, Tohono O’odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui tribe and environmental groups are waging a legal challenge to a revised federal rule that lifts protections for many streams, creeks and wetlands across the United States.

The rule, which took effect Monday, narrows the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the half-century-old Clean Water Act. As a result, critics say the number of waterways across the Navajo Nation and other arid states in the West that were previously protected under the act have been drastically reduced.

The suits are just the latest efforts to block the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, after a federal district judge in the Northern District of California on Friday rejected a push by 17 states to block implementation of the rule.

Read more: Two Arizona tribes, advocacy group join suits over EPA’s clean-water rule rollback

Read more: Navajo, environmentalists fight rollback of US water rule

Colorado Civil War statue toppled

Denver police are investigating the toppling Thursday of a statue outside the state Capitol that recognized a Union cavalry regiment that fought Confederate forces but also acknowledged soldiers’ role in an 1864 massacre of Native Americans.

Erected in 1909, the Denver statute depicted a 1st Colorado cavalryman and honored soldiers who died for the Union in the Civil War.

Cavalry members also participated in the Sand Creek Massacre, in which volunteer soldiers led by Col. John Chivington ambushed and murdered more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians, mainly women and children, in southeast Colorado.

IHS and HHS at Oneida Nation in Wisconsin

Indian Health Service Director Rear Admiral Michael Weahkee, Zuni, and Secretary Alex Azar of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stopped by the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. They met with tribal leadership to learn about their COVID-19 efforts.

Tweet embed: https://twitter.com/OneidaNationWI/status/1275874772224786433

Speech writer for Canadian Premier called Indian residential schools a “bogus genocide story”

Paul Bunner, speechwriter for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, dismissed the story of Canada’s residential school system as a “bogus genocide story” and warned that Indigenous youth could be “ripe recruits” for violent insurgencies.

Bunner wrote that the residential school story has been unchallenged and fuels Indigenous activists hunger for “never-ending demands for money.”

Speechwriter for Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2009, Bunner was hired last spring by Kenney.

Bunner challenged Canada’s residential school history in the online magazine C2C Journal in 2013.

He told APTN News that he stood by the column and was unhappy with Harper’s speech apologizing for Canada’s role in the residential school system.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission created a database of up to five million documents relating to the Indian residential school system and heard from over 6,500 witnesses.

Online classes only at Haskell fall 2020

Haskell Indian Nations University students will not be returning to Lawrence, Kansas for the fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Classes will be offered exclusively online for the semester starting in August as a safety measure against the coronavirus.

“Haskell has strategically used CARES ACT funds to create the physical and personal infrastructure to build a high-quality user experience and online learning system for just this situation,” read a Thursday news release.

In March, the school closed and students were asked to not come back from spring break.

UNITY hosts first virtual conference

A screen shot of the 2020 UNITY virtual national conference on June 25. The conference lasted about 90 minutes and included messages from youth leaders, U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids and actor Tatanka Means.
A screen shot of the 2020 UNITY virtual national conference on June 25. The conference lasted about 90 minutes and included messages from youth leaders, U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids and actor Tatanka Means.

The United National Indian Youth, Inc. kicked off its first ever virtual national conference on Thursday.

Earlier this year, UNITY canceled its annual conference, set for Washington, D.C., for the first time in more than 40 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday was the beginning of a free virtual, three-day conference spread out over a month. July 9 and July 23 are additional conference dates.

Thursday’s roughly 90-minute webinar included recorded messages by youth members; Native actor Tatanka Means, Oglala Lakota, Omaha, and Diné; and U.S. Reps. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, (D-NM); and Sharice Davids, Hochunk, (D-KS).

“Where I’m from on the Navajo Nation, I was very inspired to see all the young people come together for our people,” Means said. “That’s what UNITY is all about, coming together for one another.”

Bianca Hernandez, Gila River, and Caleb Dash, Salt River Pima Maricopa, were Thursday’s emcees. Both were among the youth to be highlighted as this year’s UNITY 25 Under 25 honorees. Attendees were encouraged to post photos of them engaging with the virtual conference on social media with #UNITY2020.

To register for the two July dates, visit www.unityinc.org.

Tweet embed: https://twitter.com/UNITYInc76/status/1276262601928798209?s=20

WATCH: Higher education and the legacy of land theft

American universities such as Iowa State University, Ohio State University, the University of Florida, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Arizona are all land grant institutions. What does this mean? How did they get funding to start or expand their schools? The answer is they all benefited from the violent taking of Indian lands which was prompted by several acts signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.

After a two year investigation by High Country News, the story Land Grab Universities was published at the end of March of this year. It shows how the U.S. government took away lands from tribal nations and helped states create endowments for these universities. Those endowments and the money trail remain on the books today.

Tristan Ahtone was the associate editor at High Country News and he worked on this investigation. He joins us to tell us how they collected the data and now how some students at these universities are starting to hold the administrations accountable. 

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