Indian Country Headlines for Thursday

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has taken a wide range of approaches to protect people on its sprawling reservation in north-central South Dakota from the COVID-19 illness. (Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch)

Indian Country Today

News we’re talking about today, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020: FBI offers reward for info about SD slaying; Allegations surface of sterilization of women in migrant detention center; Indigenous controlled burns could help Californians; and more

By Indian Country Today

FBI offers reward in 2016 South Dakota reservation slaying

EAGLE BUTTE, S.D. (AP) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for leads in an unsolved South Dakota homicide from 2016.

The Minneapolis Field Office of the FBI is offering the reward for information about the murder of Jessie Wallace Cook, a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal citizen, in Eagle Butte. The FBI hopes new tips will lead to a suspect or suspects in the case.

The 32-year-old Cook was found on Oct. 29, 2016 unresponsive on the ground near the Eagle Butte water tower on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. He was found with severe facial injuries. An autopsy determined blunt force trauma caused his death.

Migrant detention center allegedly sterilizing migrant women

Allegations have surfaced of unnecessary or unwanted sterilization and inadequate precautions against COVID 19 for women at a U.S. detention center for migrants.

The BBC reports advocacy groups filed a complaint on Monday based on the allegations of whistleblower and licensed practical nurse Dawn Wooten. She works at the private Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, which houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) migrant detainees.

Wooten raised red flags about the high number of hysterectomies, an operation to remove all or part of the uterus, performed on Spanish-speaking women at the center, and the lack of testing and seclusion of people symptomatic for COVID 19.

Wooten said employees have been reprimanded for complaining about conditions. She said she had been demoted from a full-time position to as-needed.

"I became a whistleblower, now I'm a target," Wooten said at a press conference on Tuesday. But, "I'll be a target anytime,” she said, rather than staying a part of what she called an "inhumane" system.

Forced sterilizations by a federal agency have occurred in the past. As Time reports, under the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, physicians sterilized a quarter or perhaps more of Native women of childbearing age. “Some of these procedures were performed under pressure or duress, or without the women’s knowledge or understanding,” the Time article said.

Candidate proposes expanded Indigenous controlled burns

SF Weekly reports an Indigenous candidate for state office wants California tribes to play a much larger role in wildfire prevention. The idea is that burning off fuel in controlled fires would reduce the likelihood and intensity of catastrophic wildfires.

Jackie Fielder, Hidatsa and Two Kettle Lakota, is proposing Indigenous cultural practices as a solution. Fielder is a San Francisco state senate candidate and lecturer at SF State University.

For thousands of years California tribes practiced controlled burns that provided better habitat for animals and more of the plants the tribes value for food, medicine and basket-making.

At a press conference Tuesday, Fielder outlined the creation of an Indigenous Wildland Fire Task Force to put tribes in a more central role and to foster collaboration among researchers, governmental regulators, and Indigenous communities. The goal would be to expand cultural burns beyond existing tribal land, and provide new leadership and job opportunities for Indigenous people and others.

National boxing champion fighting against murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls

The Green Bay Press Gazette recently featured a Menominee and Oneida girl who wants her name to never appear on lists of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and is working to help others stay safe.

“I use boxing as my platform to bring awareness about MMIWG [missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls] through social media and fundraising,” 12-year-old Ayanna O’Kimosh told the Gazette. She trains at the Menominee Indian Boxing Club in Keshena, Wisconsin.

Experts say Indigenous women and girls are at much higher risk of being murdered or reported missing than those of other ethnic backgrounds.

O’Kimosh is related to 22-year-old Katelyn Kelly, who went missing from the Menominee reservation in June.

Ayannaha’s wins include a Silver Gloves National Championship, two state Silver Gloves Championships, two regional Silver Gloves Championships and a Junior Olympic Regional Championship.

Cheyenne and Arapaho citizen to retire as leader of Los Angeles art museum

President and Chief Executive W. Richard West Jr., Cheyenne and Arapaho, is retiring from the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.

West plans to leave in June 2021. He was appointed in 2012. West is credited with expanding the museum’s staff with nationally recognized hires and leading a campaign that raised more than $70 million.

He was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. and an attorney before being recruited by Autry.

Director of the CDC’s Institute for Allergy and Infectious disease Dr. Anthony Fauci will join Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer in a virtual town hall on Sept. 21 to discuss the COVID-19 response efforts and trial vaccines.

Watch: Western Paiute Band of Shoshone still hoping for the best

Western Paiute Band of Shoshone Chairman Arlan Melendez said the tribe is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. He describes how being a tax-based tribe helped them fare better than they initially thought and the challenges ahead.

“We've been challenged since COVID first started in about March when we issued our declarations of emergency status for the tribe,” Melendez said. “And we have held those in place. We've had roadblocks on some of our roads. And so we monitor monthly and last meeting, we decided to keep them in place through the month of September … We're still hoping for the best, but it is getting better."

Indian Country Today national correspondent Dalton Walker shares information on the voluntary vaccine trial being offered on the Navajo Nation and the community's response. He also talks sports with Kansas City football and Tour de France news and tells us about two upcoming elections he's covering.

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