Indian Country headlines for Monday

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following on Nov. 16, 2020: Indian Health Service shuts down key services at New Mexico hospital, National Congress of American Indians outlines policy goals, Mashpee Wampanoag chairman faces charge, and more

Pueblos' hospital loses services

The Indian Health Service has shut down key services at a New Mexico hospital, tribal officials said.

The Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Service Unit in Acoma, about 60 miles west of Albuquerque, no longer offers emergency room and in-patient services for non-COVID-19 patients, the Pueblo of Acoma Office of the Governor said in a release.

“It is a complete abandonment by the Indian Health Service of its legal responsibilities to the People of Acoma during this global pandemic,” Acoma Gov. Brain Vallo said in a statement on Friday. “Why the IHS made this decision at this time and under these conditions is baffling.”

The hospital serves around 9,100 tribal citizens from Acoma and Laguna pueblos, according to the Indian Health Service website. It has 126,000 patient visits each year.

A request for comment from the Indian Health Service wasn’t immediately returned.

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Tribal leaders call for truth, healing

Fawn Sharp during the NCAI presidential debate
NCAI President Fawn Sharp (Indian Country Today photo)

Truth and reconciliation.

This was not only the theme of the National Congress of American Indians’ 77th Annual Convention & Marketplace, but in the words of organization president Fawn Sharp, Quinault, it's a call for “a new era, a new chapter” of Indian Country’s advancement and growth.

“There has never been a truth in this country. A truth about our experience as Native American people,” Sharp said in her opening address last week.

“We tribal nations know that once we demand that the truth be told, and we demand a reconciliation back to those basic foundational principles upon which this country was built — principles like justice, like equality, like liberty, like the freedom to just live as our ancestors have lived from when time began — only then can we begin a healing process as a country and as a nation.”

The annual convention, NCAI's biggest event of the year, was held online this year.

In a town hall Thursday moderated by Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Chairman Keith Anderson, Sharp outlined the policy goals for 2021. She stated the need to deal with COVID-19 and its economic impacts, infrastructure, racial justice and equality, sacred sites, natural resource protection and climate change.

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Mashpee Wampanoag chairman charged with bribery

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Cedric Cromwell, Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman, speaks at a news conference at Taunton City Hall in 2015 in Taunton, Mass. (Mike Gay/The Daily Gazette via AP, File)

AP BOSTON — The longtime chairman of a Massachusetts tribe and an architecture firm owner have pleaded not guilty in a bribery scheme involving the tribe’s plans to build a resort casino, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Cedric Cromwell is accused of using his position as chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to extort tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from 54-year-old David DeQuattro, an architecture-and-design company.

Cromwell, 55, also pleaded not guilty to extortion charges. A Boston federal court judge released them on $25,000 in unsecured bond until their next court date in December.

Between 2014 and 2017, prosecutors said DeQuattro provided Cromwell with payments and other benefits valued at nearly $60,000 in exchange for nearly $5 million in construction contracts with the tribe.

(Related: US appeals ruling in Mashpee Wampanoag land case)

They said Cromwell spent all of the money on personal expenses, including payments to his mistress. DeQuattro also provided Cromwell a home gym system and paid for a weekend stay at a Boston hotel for Cromwell's birthday, according to prosecutors.

The tribe said in a statement it is “deeply concerned" about the charges against Cromwell, who has been the prominent face of the approximately 3,000-member tribe since becoming its chairman in 2009. 

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Native-owned gallery opening in New York

A new Native American-owned contemporary art gallery is launching soon in Buffalo, New York, WGRZ reported.

K-Art is set to open Dec. 11 with works by 10 Native artists from the United States and Canada.

Owner Dave Kimelberg says the gallery is unlike any other in the country.

"There are a few museums, national museums that are dedicated to Native American art, but there's no real commercial art gallery that focuses on that type of work," he told the station. "So this is designed to bring this type of art, which is frankly overlooked in the general art market, to the art market and potentially to a collector."

Watch: The other in our own homelands

In Friday’s Indian Country Today newscast, host Patty Talahongva talked with Crystal Echo Hawk, Pawnee, executive director of IllumiNative. 

The nonprofit is conducting a survey on reactions to American Indians being put into the "something else" category. In reporting on election results last week, CNN used a graphic listing race in Arizona as White, Black, Latinx, Asian, and “something else.” Arizona is home to 21 tribes, including the nation’s largest, the Navajo Nation.

Echo Hawk called it an outrage, a step down, and a slap in the face. She said ever-resilient Indian Country turned it into “some wicked classic Native humor” with memes. But “it's 2020, and we need to demand that the media do a better job in its reporting and how it’s reporting on people of color.”

Echo Hawk said the mistake was particularly frustrating given the historic turnout of Native people at the polls.

She said watching returns in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, “we are understanding the impact and power of the Native vote."

"So to see us reduced to a 'something else' category when we really made a big difference in the election, I think that was the extra rub for Indian Country."

Friday's newscast also features a Reporters Roundtable to check in with reporters who are covering Indian Country. 

Guest journalists include Lori Edmo, who has worked as the Sho-Ban News editor for more than 25 years, and Wesley Early, news director for KOTZ AM radio in Kotzebue, Alaska.

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