Indian Country headlines for Monday

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following: Oklahoma tribes speak out about effects of McGirt ruling; Cherokee Nation receives rapid-response tests; and ancestral lands are returned to the Penobscot Nation. Also, join us for live coverage on election night.

Tuesday races feature dozens of Native candidates

Indian Country Today is following more than 100 Native candidates seeking local, state and federal office. 

Natives in congressional races are once again poised to make history, while other notable candidates are looking to achieve milestones in legislatures, courts and county and city boards across the U.S.

Read up on races here, and watch our live election-night newscast, where we will bring you up-to-the-minute details on races.

The newscast starts at 8 p.m. MST Tuesday. Watch it at IndianCountryToday.com and on FNX/First Nations Experience, Arizona PBS and 360 North. 

Check your local PBS listings. 

Oklahoma tribes voice opposition to congressional action

Three Oklahoma tribes have affirmed their support for reservations in their home state, and announced their opposition to calls for congressional legislative action.

This comes after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the McGirt case, a decision that reaffirmed the existence of reservation land in the state.

They said their focus now will be to:

  • Maximize sovereignty and self-governance
  • Ensure public safety for all in their communities,
  • Capitalize on economic development opportunities

“Tribal leaders around the country have uniformly signaled this moment as one that will resonate long after we’re gone," said Principal Chief David Hill, Muskogee. "We owe it to the future and the coming generations to meet this opportunity with our greatest efforts, together.

Chief Gary Batton, Choctaw, said by working together as good neighbors and partners, tribes and the state “can make the McGirt ruling a positive to attract businesses and to provide jobs to everyone while growing our economy.”

Chief Gary Batton is the 47th Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the third largest Indian tribe in the United States. (Choctaw Nation photo)
Chief Gary Batton (Choctaw Nation photo)

Cherokee Nation receives COVID-19 rapid response test kits

The Cherokee Nation received 6,000 rapid test kits from the Indian Health Service for tribal testing for COVID-19 within its school system and among its most vulnerable citizens. The new testing kits are expected to have positive and negative test results in as little as 15 minutes.

“With positive COVID-19 cases still on the rise here in the Cherokee Nation, this rapid testing capability will make a big difference in our efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow in a prepared statement. “The tests can quickly and easily identify if someone has the virus, which will help prevent outbreaks, especially among our elderly and disabled citizens as well as in our school system.”

The Indian Health Service received 300,000 Abbott Binax NOW diagnostic tests from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support COVID-19 testing in rural and tribal communities.

Use of the rapid tests began in Sequoyah Schools as part of the tribe’s plan to safely allow students to participate in limited, in-person classroom instruction.

Lawmakers condemn ‘censorship’ of COVID report

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigated COVID-19 in Indian Country then failed to approve the resulting report. The research revealed what Commission Chair Catherine Lhamon called “staggering” needs.

The document would have been an update to a report detailing years of underfunding, substandard data collection and inefficiency. "Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans” came out in 2018.

A common move to issue statements in lieu of a report also failed on a 4-4 vote Friday.

The commission voted unanimously in May to examine COVID-19’s impact in Indian Country. The resulting investigation found tribal citizens experienced the highest hospitalizations rate of any racial or ethnic group, and were second only to Black people in death rates from the disease.

New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, Jemez and Laguna Pueblo, and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren issued a joint statement condemning the decision.

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Pictured: Representative Deb Haaland and Senator Elizabeth Warren at a February 2019 lunch in Washington, D.C. honoring Native women leaders.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, left, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren attend a 2019 lunch in Washington, D.C., honoring Native women leaders. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

Ancestral land returned to Penobscot 

More than 700 acres of Wabanaki Territory have been returned to the Penobscot Nation through a land stewardship agreement.

The 735-acre parcel comes from the Elliotsville Foundation, which owns 125,000 acres of timberland in northern and central Maine, the Piscataquis Observer reported.

The land, west of the Pleasant River and the town of Brownville, Maine, is home to native brook trout, Atlantic salmon, deer and moose. Its role in providing sustenance for many tribal families makes it sacred ground, Penobscot Natural Resources Director John Banks said in a statement.

“For the Penobscot people, this return expands our existing land base and also actually extends between, and connects, two of our existing Penobscot Indian Territory tracts, making both more accessible,” he said.

The Elliotsville Foundation was established by Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, Maine Public reported. The foundation, along with the Quimby Family and 50 land trusts, have joined in an effort to expand the Wabanaki tribes' presence in their ancestral territory.

The Penobscot and other Wabanaki tribes have access to less than 1 percent of the land that once supported their cultures, Maine Public reported.

WATCH: An 'unprecedented' election

Angel Ellis, a reporter for Mvskoke Media, and Dana Hedgpeth, a reporter with the Washington Post, join the Indian Country Today newscast to talk about the election.

They discuss not only the race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, but races that feature Native candidates running for various offices. 

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Catch the #election2020 coverage with Indian Country Today! We will be following more than 100 Native candidates running for public office and the presidential election! #NativeElectionNight #NativeVote20


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