Indian Country headlines for Monday

At an event Monday in Rapid City, S.D., people hold signs showing the names of children who died while attending the Rapid City Indian Boarding School, which closed in 1933. (Photo by Randi Oyan)

Indian Country Today

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Stories we're following on Oct. 12, 2020: How and where to celebrate; Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett; potential major changes for Indigenous TV network; Oglala primaries; and more

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day — virtually

The pandemic didn’t stop powwows or community events, and it certainly won’t stop people from celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day 2020.

A full slate of virtual gatherings is scheduled to mark the occasion. Other events Monday include a groundbreaking ceremony for a memorial honoring children who died while attending a Rapid City, South Dakota, Indian boarding school that closed in the 1930s.

NDN Collective also is holding events in Rapid City to mark the launch of its LANDBACK campaign, a multi-pronged effort to achieve justice for Indigenous people.

“We are on the verge of what could be a revolutionary moment,” said Krystal Two Bulls, LANDBACK campaign director. “As systems of colonization, oppression and White supremacy start to become dismantled, getting Indigenous lands back into Indigenous hands is necessary.”

And of course, what is Indigenous Peoples' Day without laughter?

Comedian Joey Clift, Cowlitz, said he’s taking over Comedy Central's Instagram Stories on Monday, with the help of IllumiNative. Clift's takeover is called "Things you didn't learn about Native Americans in high School." On his Twitter, Clift said he'll promote IllumiNative's list of Native American comedians to follow.

For a list of Indigenous Peoples’ Day events taking place across the U.S., click here.

This Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, photo shows people taking part in a memorial walk honoring children who died while attending the Rapid City Indian Boarding School, which operated from 1898 to 1933. (Photo by Randi Oyan)
People take part in a memorial walk Monday honoring children who died while attending the Rapid City Indian Boarding School, which operated from 1898 to 1933. (Photo by Randi Oyan)
This Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, photo shows people standing at the proposed site of a memorial for children who died while attending the Rapid City, South Dakota, Indian Boarding School. (Photo by Randi Oyan)
People stand at the proposed site of a memorial for children who died while attending the Rapid City Indian Boarding School in , South Dakota. (Photo by Randi Oyan)

Confirmation of Supreme Court justice could affect Native adoption law

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, is raising red flags for supporters of a federal law designed to preserve Native American families and culture. Her Senate confirmation hearings are set to begin Monday.

The Indian Child Welfare Act is not currently before the nation’s top court, but it could definitely end up there.

The constitutionality of the 1978 law is being considered by the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals, which last fall made the unusual decision to vacate one of its rulings that upheld the act. If the appeals court strikes down the law, the case will undoubtedly head to the Supreme Court.

Supporters of the Indian Child Welfare Act say they have good reason to scrutinize those who will potentially decide its fate.

“If we were to walk back the act, we would be walking back into a world where we had tremendous numbers of children separated from their families unnecessarily and placed in homes that don’t reflect them or their culture,” said David Simmons, government affairs and advocacy director for the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Barrett serves on the 7th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court in Chicago and has limited experience with Indian law. 

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., meets with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Washington. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)
Sen. Thom Tillis meets with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 30 at the U.S. Capitol. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

She belongs to a religious group that has been accused by ex-members of subjugating women, and has adopted two children from Haiti, which has led to some fiery debates online. She also is a member of the ultra-conservative and influential Federalist Society.

Trump signs law addressing missing, murdered Native Americans

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Saturday signed a bill named for a Spirit Lake Nation murder victim to address cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

Savanna’s Act, which is named for Savanna Greywind, passed the House last month after passing the Senate earlier this year. The bill was introduced by former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota, last Congress and was reintroduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, in the current Congress. Sen. Cortez Mosta sponsored the Not Invisible Act.

The two laws direct the departments of Interior and Justice to develop guidelines and a strategy to prevent violent crimes against American Indians and Alaska Natives, to provide training and grants, and to consult with tribes on strategies and ways to improve data collection.

The 22-year-old pregnant Greywind was murdered in 2017 and her unborn baby was cut from her body. Her remains were found in the Red River north of Fargo. Two people are in prison for her death. Her infant survived.

“These laws commemorate decades of advocacy to address the victimization of Native women in our country. Improving data collection and collaboration is a significant step forward to ensure victims receive justice. I know personally several Alaskan tribes that are seeking justice for their murdered members and this provides new hope as our communities grapple with the impacts of violence,” said Chief Victor Joseph, Tanana, of the Tanana Chiefs Conference of Interior Alaska.

Oglala Sioux to hold primary elections

The Oglala Sioux Tribe is holding its primary election for tribal council Tuesday.

Eighty-one candidates are running for 20 council seats plus the offices of president and vice president even though the Pine Ridge reservation is under curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. due to COVID-19. The general election takes place Nov. 3

According to the tribe’s constitution, the treasurer and secretary positions are appointed from within the elected council.

The incumbent was the subject of an impeachment hearing in September over accusations of sexual assault. The 11-5 vote failed to meet the two-thirds council majority so Julian Bear Runner remains in office. He’s one of 11 candidates running for the office of president. 

Another candidate, Darla Black, was impeached successfully during her term as council vice president, and was removed from office last November, over allegations of creating a hostile work environment.

Tribal council elections are held every two years. Candidates represent nine districts on the reservation. Seven districts have two representatives each, and the remaining two districts each have three representatives.

According to the tribe’s Facebook page, official primary results will be released Oct. 15. General election results will be released Nov. 13.

Pictured: Oglala Sioux Tribe "Entering Pine Ridge Indian Reservation" sign.
(Photo by Mary Annette Pember)

Alaska Native Elders and Youth conference kicks off Monday

Dozens of speakers and workshops will be featured at the 2020 First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth conference being held virtually Monday-Thursday.

The Elder keynote will be Dr. Rev. Traditional Chief Trimble Gilbert, Gwitch’in Athabascan, speaking on Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, October 12 at 2 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. AKST.

The Youth Keynote by Kiley Kanats Burton (Eyak/Aleut/Iñupiaq/Koyukon) will be on Tuesday, October 13 at 1:25 p.m. EDT/9:25 a.m. AKST.

There will be presentations, community engagement and Living & Loving Our Cultures Workshops, with a special emphasis on languages on Indigenous Peoples Day, throughout the conference.

More surprises for Nathan Apodaca of TikTok fame 

The surprises just keep coming for TikTok star Nathan Apodaca, Northern Arapaho. 

It all started when Apodaca videotaped himself long-boarding to Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 hit song “Dreams.” Within an hour, it got 100,000 views. 

People sent money. Oceanspray gave him stacks of the juice he sipped during the video, Cran-Raspberry. The company delivered the juice in a new truck, his to keep too. 

Then, Friday the band’s drummer Mick Fleetwood surprised him by calling him during a BBC interview.

Nathan Apodaca, Northern Arapaho, of Idaho, as of Oct. 11, 2020, had garnered more than 35 million views of his Tik-Tok video of him long-boarding to the tune of Fleetwood Mac's 1977 hit "Dreams," while sipping Cran-raspberry juice. (Screenshot)
Nathan Apodaca, Northern Arapaho, of Idaho, as of Oct. 11, 2020, had garnered more than 35 million views of his Tik-Tok video of him long-boarding to the tune of Fleetwood Mac's 1977 hit "Dreams," while sipping Cran-raspberry juice. (Screenshot)

Check out the story behind the video at 22:20 in the Indian Country Today newscast: Larissa FastHorse, a bona fide 'genius'

Eastern Cherokee virus cases spike

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, based in Cherokee, North Carolina, is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases.

Over a two-week period ending Friday, reported cases spiked from 185 to 279 for the tribe’s lands, where about 8,200 of its nearly 16,000 enrolled members reside.

Since Sept. 25, reports released every two days have shown at least seven new cases each, with 27 new cases reported Friday. Tribal health officials also identified a COVID-19 cluster associated with services at a church between Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

Vickie Bradley, the tribe’s secretary of public health and human services, said the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is doing what’s being done across the country to try to get the numbers down, which includes contact tracing, case investigations, encouraging social distancing and taking personal responsibility, along with ensuring quarantines.

“We don't want people out at all if they’re in quarantine,” she said.

Bradley also encouraged testing.

Health care workers prepare to administer COVID-19 nasal swabs at a drive-through testing site in Cherokee, North Carolina, in May. (Photo by Joseph Martin)
Health care workers prepare to administer COVID-19 nasal swabs at a drive-through testing site in Cherokee, North Carolina, in May. (Photo by Joseph Martin)

Reporters' Roundtable: Biden campaign meets with tribal leaders

At the end of each week, Indian Country Today is joined by reporters covering Indian Country to understand what's happening in their area and how tribes are doing in the COVID-19 pandemic during this election and census year.

Indian Country Today Correspondent Carina Dominguez was in Phoenix as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris met with Arizona tribal leaders. She explained what was covered in the meeting and in the newly released plan for tribal nations.

Plus, Green Bay Press Gazette reporter Frank Vaisvilas, Yaqui, said there’s an upswing in coronavirus statistics in Wisconsin tribes. He explained the impact. 

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cindy McCain visit the American Indian Veterans National Memorial with tribal leaders and veterans at Heard Museum in Phoenix, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris and Cindy McCain meet with tribal leaders at the American Indian Veterans National Memorial at the Heard Museum. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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