Indian Country headlines for Monday

Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota and CEO of NDN Collective, talks to other treaty defenders on July 3, 2020. (Screenshot, Unicorn Riot)

Indian Country Today

Stories we're talking about: Black Hills treaty defenders, Oklahoma and North Carolina casinos, Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s voting site and more

Black Hills treaty defender appears in court

An Indigenous-led advocacy organization is asking the South Dakota county official in charge of prosecution against the Black Hills treaty defenders jailed in July to drop all charges.

NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, and others hand-delivered petitions to Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo on Friday, not long after Tilsen appeared in court on related charges. One petition is asking for all charges against the Black Hills land defenders to be thrown out, and a second petition is for charges against Tilsen to be dropped.

The petitions were started on Aug. 15, and each had more than 14,000 digital signatures as of Friday.

A third petition, urging the closure of Mount Rushmore and the return of all public lands in the Black Hills to Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota, has 4,400 signatures. The petition is addressed to Interior Secretary David Bernhart and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo. Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat, is the vice chair of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources and chair of the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public lands.

Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton laid to rest 

Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton has died.

Norton, 70, was rushed to the hospital after falling at his home on Aug. 14. He passed on that night, surrounded by family. He was laid to rest on Wednesday.

The Kahnawake Mohawk Territory is a First Nations reserve of the Mohawks of Kahnawá:ke in Quebec, Canada.

Norton was first elected to council in 1978, according to a release from the council. He held the position of grand chief from 1982 until retiring in 2004.

He then returned, being elected grand chief in 2015 and reelected in 2018. He served in that role until his passing.

“His death comes as a shock to his fellow Ratsénhaienhs (Council Chiefs) and the entire community, as he had participated in the weekly Council meeting just five days ago,” Indian Time reported. “While he had suffered some recent health issues, he was expecting to fully recover and had continued to participate in the political matters important to Kahnawà:ke.”

According to his obituary, Norton was an ironworker, lacrosse coach, leader and visionary. “He was a man who fought for his people, and for the rights of all Indigenous persons.”

Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton passed on to the spirit world on Friday, August 14, 2020. Photo credit: Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.
Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton (Photo: Mohawk Council of Kahnawake)

Feds give tacit approval to 2 more gambling deals

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The U.S. Department of Interior has given tacit approval to Gov. Kevin Stitt's recent agreements on tribal gambling with two Oklahoma-based Indian tribes.

The compacts with the Kialegee Tribal Town and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians were "deemed approved" by the federal department after a 45-day review period expired Thursday.

The new compacts would increase the fees the tribes pay on certain electronic games from 6 percent to as high as 13 percent if the tribes build casinos in new locations authorized under the deal.

Stitt said the compacts reflect a "new, modern approach" to tribal gaming, but the agreements were quickly panned by the chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Commission.

"It is confusing to us that the United States Department of the Interior has allowed the clock to run out and not taken action on these unlawful gaming agreements between Gov. Kevin Stitt and two tribes," Matthew Morgan said in a statement. "The inaction is disappointing and will lead to more costly, time-consuming and needless litigation."

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled Stitt overstepped his legal authority when he reached similar deals with two other Native American tribes.

FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2019, file photo, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matt Morgan speaks during a news conference outside the state in Oklahoma City. Morgan is rejecting Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's latest casino gambling offer and accused the governor of trying to take advantage of the tribes during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
In this Dec. 17 photo, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matt Morgan speaks during a news conference outside the state in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

North Carolina county joins Eastern Band of Cherokee in opposing casino

A North Carolina tribe and county oppose a casino being built by the South Carolina Catawba tribe. The Eastern Band of Cherokee has sued to halt the casino’s construction, which began last month. 

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted 6-1 against the $273 million casino project as well, news outlets reported.

(Related: Work begins on casino that’s pitting tribe against tribe)

Commissioners are worried the plans would hurt investment and jobs provided by the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s two casinos in western North Carolina, The Asheville Citizen Times reported last week.

The Catawba tribe’s project is “completely unprecedented and completely politicized,” Cherokee Chief Albert Sneed told commissioners. “There have been unscrupulous developers who will essentially reservation shop to find a tribe that would like to get gaming.”

Richard Sneed
Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (file photo)

Pascua Yaqui Tribe works to restore early voting site

A tribe in southern Arizona has been fighting for two years to restore an early voting site at its radio station.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe lost its voting site 41 days before the August 2018 primary election in Pima County, according to an Arizona Public Media report. The site was established in 2010.

The county closed the site because of low voter turnout, security and for not being a “full-service site,” according to the report.

The tribe has tried at least five times to reinstate the site.

Watch: Reporters' Roundtable: Health, politics and entertainment

Indian Country Today reviews the latest Indigenous news happening, from the Democratic National Convention to the latest on the upcoming film "Killers of the Flower Moon," a story from the Osage people in Oklahoma and Martin Scorsese's latest production.

We talk to art writer Sandra Schulman about the film. Our national correspondent Joaqlin Estus reflects on the DNC this week. Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant discusses some of the possibilities around a COVID-19 vaccine.

It's now Donald Trump and the Republicans' turn

It may lack the traditional fanfare of conventions from years past or a pre-pandemic Trump rally, but the Republican National Convention is set to nominate President Donald Trump for re-election as the Republican candidate Monday night.

In the months leading up to the convention, the Republican National Committee did all it could to maintain some semblance of the usual event. The organization switched convention locations, from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, before nixing that idea due to health and safety precautions.

The originally planned 2,500 delegates who planned to attend in person has been reduced to about 336 who will be in Charlotte.

It wasn’t until last week that it was announced that Trump would be giving his nomination acceptance speech Thursday evening from the South Lawn at the White House, a decision which has drawn criticism.

While the convention kicks off tomorrow, details about the four day event were still emerging late into last week.

The overall theme of the convention is, “Honoring the Great American Story,” with each day also carrying an individual moniker under that umbrella as well. Monday and subsequent days are as follows: “Land of Heroes,” “Land of Promise,” “Land of Opportunity,” and “Land of Greatness.”

Indigenous people were prominently featured last week during the Democrat National Convention with multiple appearances in the nationwide roll call and a primetime speech from New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo.

The GOP will hear from Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer on Tuesday.

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