Indian Country headlines for Thursday

Indian Country Today

Stories we're following on Oct. 22, 2020: Presidential candidates to debate; U.S. Sen. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, seeks 10th term; Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions, and much more

Indian Country Today

It’s debate night. Trump and Biden prepare for final match-up

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden meet on the debate stage for the second and final time Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee.

The 90-minute primetime meeting comes just 12 days before Election Day. It starts at 9 p.m. ET and will be moderated by NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker. The debate will air on all major networks and be streamed online.

US Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, eyes 10th term

Pictured: Representative Tom Cole (R-OK-04). Cole is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and is the Ranking Member of House Rules Committee.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (Photo: cole.house.gov)

For nine straight general elections since 2002, Republican and Chickasaw Nation citizen Tom Cole has been the face of Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, which is in south central Oklahoma and includes the Chickasaw Nation.

Come Nov. 3, he is a favorite to win yet another term as a U.S. representative.

Cole is the senior Native member of Congress, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and the top Republican on the key House Rules Committee.

“I position myself to be effective on a variety of issues, and I have a reputation of working in a bipartisan manner, which I think makes a difference,” Cole told Indian Country Today. He said most Native issues aren’t really Republican vs. Democrat. “It really gets down to whether you understand the trust obligation of the federal government and the importance of tribal sovereignty.”

Oklahom’s second Native in the House of Representatives, Republican Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, serves the second District and is also seeking reelection. Mullin is up against another Cherokee citizen, Democrat Danyell Lanier.

Democrat Mary Brannon and Libertarian Bob White are also on the general election ballot for the 4th District.

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Francis becomes 1st pope to endorse same-sex civil unions

Pope Francis's first international visit, marred by felling of centuries-old trees in Brazil.
Pope Francis's first international visit, marred by felling of centuries-old trees in Brazil.

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions, sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives, given the Vatican’s official teaching on the issue. His comments appeared in a film that premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival.

The papal thumbs-up came midway through the feature-length documentary “Francesco.” It features fresh interviews with the pope, delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

Candidate: Tribal citizens' voice 'vital' in energy regulation

Remi Bald Eagle (Courtesy of the Remi Bald Eagle for South Dakota PUC Facebook page)
Remi Bald Eagle (Courtesy of the Remi Bald Eagle for South Dakota PUC Facebook page)

Serving 22 years in the U.S. Army has had a profound impact on the life of Remi Bald Eagle, Mnicoujou Lakota of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

As a combat engineer and paratrooper, he served in Iraq and South Korea. But it was during the Afghanistan war that he had an epiphany of sorts.

“During leader engagements we’d go to their villages and talk to tribal elders,” Bald Eagle said by phone from his office at the Cheyenne River Sioux tribal headquarters in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

“We would explain why we were there and how we could be beneficial to them.

“I felt the irony of talking to tribal elders who were speaking up and defending their families and land, and I felt like we needed that at home. Why am I doing that for the U.S. when I need to be at home talking with the United States?”

Bald Eagle, 46, is following through on those emotions by running for a six-year seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission as a Democrat.

National award goes to Native-focused affordable housing development in Oregon

The Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing has named Nesika Illahee, a 59-unit affordable housing development in Portland, as the winner of its Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Awards 2020 Chairman's Award.

Nesika Illahee, which means “our place” in the Chinook language, opened in 2020. It is owned and developed by Community Development Partners and Native American Youth and Family Center.

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The facility focuses on the acute needs of the Native Community by including units reserved for Native Americans along with culturally specific services and medical, dental, and behavioral health care for all residents.

Urban Land Institute, a respected, global voice in urban planning and affordable housing, established the prestigious, national award to honor exemplary developments that represent outstanding achievements in several areas, including affordability, innovative financing and building technologies, proximity to employment centers and transportation hubs, quality of design, and involvement of public/private partnerships.

Midwest university launches project examining ties to boarding school

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has launched an effort that will tell the stories of Native children who attended the Genoa Indian School, a boarding school that operated for 50 years in the small Nebraska town.

The Genoa Indian School Digital Reconciliation Project is a collaboration between the university, the Genoa U.S. Indian School Foundation, descendants of those who attended the boarding school and an advisory board of community members from tribes in the surrounding area.

One of the co-chairs of the advisory committee is Judi Gaiashkibos, Ponca, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. She said the project offers the public access to documents and photographs previously unpublished.

(Related: ‘They are not forgotten’)

“Through the power of documentation, the project tells the story of thousands of lives impacted over a 50-year period,” Gaiashkibos said in a press release.“The documents that have been compiled tell the truth about a failed experiment in human cultural reprogramming. They speak for the children who were silenced, restoring their voices and those of their resilient descendants who carry on.”

So far, about 4,000 documents have been digitized from the National Archives in Denver and Kansas City and community members will soon be able to contribute content to be digitized for record keeping.

The project hopes to bring greater awareness to boarding schools and the impacts they had on tribal communities.

Watch: California tribes weather pandemic storm

Navajo Nation citizen Vanesscia Cresci (Screenshot)

As COVID-19 infection rates in California slow, tribal nations are seeing an increase. Vanesscia Cresci, director for the research and public health department for the California Rural Indian Health Board joins us to talk about how tribes in her state are weathering this pandemic storm.

Plus Indian Country Today national correspondent Dalton Walker tells us about one U.S. representative who is seeking a 10th term in office.

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