Indian Country headlines for Thursday
Indian Country Today
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.(AP) — The only Native American on federal death row has been put to death, despite objections from many Navajo leaders who had urged President Donald Trump to halt the execution on the grounds it would violate tribal culture and sovereignty.
Lezmond Mitchell, Navajo, was executed Wednesday for the grisly slayings of a 9-year-old and her grandmother. The federal government, under a pro-death penalty president, has now carried out more executions in 2020 than it had in the previous 56 years combined.
Asked by a prison official if he had any last words for victims' family members and other witnesses behind glass at the death chamber, Mitchell casually responded, "No, I'm good."
Mitchell was pronounced dead at 6:29 p.m. EDT after receiving a lethal injection, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel closes as hurricane Laura approaches
The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana’s Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel suspended operations Wednesday. The hotel plans to re-open Friday at 10 a.m.
In its announcement, the hotel said, “please be safe and aware of weather notifications. Stay strong and resilient as always! We pray that you, your family, and your property are safe from the storm.”
Louisiana is in the path of Hurricane Laura, which has strengthened to a Category 4. It was expected to bring damaging winds and catastrophic storm surge potentially to Louisiana and north and east to Arkansas and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys.
Yakama Nation Chairman Delano Saluskin was featured on Wednesday’s Indian Country Today Newscast.
In the pacific northwest, the Yakama Nation is working hard to keep COVID-19 at bay. Saluskin shares what his tribe is doing during the pandemic.
Indian Country Today reporter Kolby KickingWoman is also featured and reflects on the Republican National Convention this week.
Small study shows Native Americans more susceptible to serious effects from COVID-10
Charts for 90 patients at the University of New Mexico hospital between February first and the end of April showed Native Americans seem more likely to experience serious neurological effects from COVID-19. That’s according to the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease. It published an article that concluded that of the patients whose charts were examined, the seven COVID-19 patients with serious central nervous complications such as strokes and seizures were all Native American. Outcomes such as permanent damage and death were more likely among those who had strokes compared to those who had seizures.
Presidential candidate Mark Charles announces VP pick
Diné citizen and U.S. presidential candidate Mark Charles has announced his running mate. He’s selected Adrian Wallace as his vice presidential candidate.
Wallace is Charles’ campaign manager and joined the team in June. He’s from Lexington, Kentucky and serves as the Lexington NAACP vice president, and as chairman of the Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP Political Action Committee.
Wallace “was tasked with leading the search committee for the vice presidential candidate. While he did not submit his own name for the search, we are pleased that he accepted the Committee's invitation to be considered,” according to a news release.
Charles has been working for ballot access and will be on ballots in at least two states come November.
Native Americans in California set controlled fires to reduce risk of wildfires
In California, tribes are once again taking up their traditional relationship to the land and controlled burns. For at least hundreds of years, tribes set fire to the brush, both to get rid of volatile fuels that could lead to hot-burning wildfires, and to encourage new growth.
As National Public Radio reports, when settlers arrived, they worked to exterminate Indians and remove them from their lands. The settlers also banned controlled burns. That led to the build-up of fuels in the form of dry, dead brush and trees. Put a bolt of lightning to those fuels, add gusty winds, and you’ve got a truly wild — as in unstoppable — fire.
Federal and state agencies have called on the North Fork Mono, Karuk and Yurok tribes, among others to manage land for traditional values and wildfire management. Studies have shown that the two goals work hand in hand.
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The Cowlitz Tribe announced Monday that Bill Iyall has stepped down from his role as general council chairman and chief operating officer, effective Aug. 17.
In a letter posted on the tribe’s website, Iyall wrote that his departure would allow him to focus on his health and his family at home for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic. Iyall had initially announced his retirement plans in early August, citing the pandemic as a major factor in his decision.
“At the age of 73, after working for nearly 60 years, it is time for me to begin a new chapter in my life,” he wrote in the Monday letter. “I have worked ceaselessly six to seven days a week as your chairman for more than 12 years.”
Iyall began serving as a Cowlitz Tribal Council member in 1993. He was elected to the position of Cowlitz General Council vice chair in 2006 and then chairman in 2008, a position to which he was re-elected four times. He was also appointed vice chair of the Cowlitz Tribal Gaming Authority when it was created in 2006.
Iyall played an instrumental role in the creation of ilani, the flagship casino resort that opened in 2017 on tribal land near Ridgefield, putting the Cowlitz Tribe on the map in the Pacific Northwest tribal casino industry.