Indian Country headlines for Thursday

Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota on Sept. 3, 2016. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, File)

Indian Country Today

News we're watching: DAPL oil to flow, Native candidates prevail in primaries, mental health presents challenges during COVID-19, protecting Lakota elders to preserve language, and more

Court reversal of shutdown OKs flow of oil through Dakota Access pipeline

A federal appeals court on Wednesday reversed a judge's order that shut down the Dakota Access pipeline pending a full environmental review.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with pipeline owner Energy Transfer to keep the oil flowing, saying a lower-court judge "did not make the findings necessary for injunctive relief."

But the appellate court declined to grant Energy Transfer's motion to block the review, saying the company had "failed to make a strong showing of likely success."

The appeals court said it expects the parties to "clarify their positions" in the lower court.

Jan Hasselman, the EarthJustice attorney representing Standing Rock and other tribes who have signed onto the lawsuit, said the ruling Thursday was not a setback.

"There is more to like than dislike in this ruling," he said. "There will be a review and a new permit during the next administration."

Standing Rock Tribe Chairman Mike Faith said the tribe was committed to continuing its fight.

Primary election results for Arizona, Kansas, Michigan and Washington 

The big story of the night came from 26-year-old Christina Haswood of the Navajo Nation, said Indian Country Today reporter Aliyah Chavez in Wednesday’s newscast.

Haswood went into election night facing two opponents and hoping to win her Democratic primary election, which she did. But the exciting part is that no Republican filed to run against her. So she is the presumptive winner of an open state house seat in Kansas.

Christina Haswood, Navajo, beat out two other Democrats and faces no Republican candidate to represent District 10 in Kansas' House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy of Haswood campaign)
Christina Haswood, Navajo (Photo courtesy of Haswood campaign)

After being elected in November, Haswood will become Kansas' youngest sitting legislator. She won her race with 70 percent of the vote in her first-ever run for office.

Another highlight came from Kansas. The candidates there were all women, and they were four for four on Tuesday night. All of them won their primary elections and will be advancing to November's general election.

In Arizona, seven candidates won their primaries. Most of those are running for re-election. The winners included Jennifer Jermaine in the state House and Jamecita Peshlakai in the state Senate.

Four other races there are still being decided, including a contest that features Gabriela Casarez-Kelly, Tohono O'Odham, who is running for Pima County recorder. 

North Dakota tribe to decide on same-sex marriage

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa will vote Thursday on whether to adopt a tribal code amendment that would legalize same-sex marriage for enrolled members, according to Inforum.

If the measure passes, the tribe would be the first in North Dakota to recognize civil unions.

Activists say tribal recognition of gay marriage is long overdue, especially after a Supreme Court ruling more than five years ago legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

"The two-spirited community has always been a part of Native American culture," said Jorden Laducer, an executive co-director with the local LGBTQ+ nonprofit Magic City Equality and a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. 

A wealthy tribe that refused to pay taxes is now suing for more COVID relief money

For years, members of the Miccosukee Tribe in South Florida didn’t pay federal taxes on their earnings from the tribe’s lucrative casino, then fought in court for years to avoid paying a $1 billion IRS bill.

Now, the wealthy tribe is suing the United States, saying it deserves a bigger share of $8 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that were distributed among 574 tribal governments.

In a lawsuit filed July 31 in U.S. District Court in Miami, the tribe claimed it was allocated the minimum $100,000 after a formula used by the Treasury Department incorrectly determined its population was zero.

The tribe should have received $2 million because its actual population was 605 — a fact the department was informed about in numerous contacts with federal officials, the suit states.

The suit does not connect the Treasury Department’s decision to its years-long court battle over tribal members’ failure to pay taxes on millions of dollars earned over the years from its western Miami-Dade County casino.

Native people use traditions, resilience against increasing mental health challenges

As the U.S. struggles with health and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, an epidemic of mental illness looms. 

As Indian Country Today National Correspondent Mary Annette Pember reports, Native Americans, already in crisis mode due to limited access to health care and disparities in physical and mental health, are especially vulnerable.

Health care professionals and grassroots leaders in Indian Country, however, are reporting surprising bright spots in Native peoples’ responses.

Theresa Henry, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, a cultural keeper for South Dakota Urban Indian Health in Rapid City, said connection is key. 

She and others described a range of formal and informal virtual gatherings, phone trees and other socially distanced activities. Expanded Medicare and Medicaid coverage for telehealth services helps people stay in touch with their care providers. Traditional, cultural activities, and families staying home and spending more time together are beneficial.

“People need to talk about their fears and be reassured it’s okay to feel that way,” Henry says. “Supporting and checking up on each other; that seems to be the most important part of surviving the pandemic.”.

On Pine Ridge, protecting elders preserves language

As the pandemic affects the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, one local community organization is doing everything it can to help people stay home.

The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation has feared the pandemic could take a disproportionate toll on the elderly, who maintain the tribe’s language and culture. With only 3 percent of the community fluent speakers, the corporation has worked to teach the Lakota language to children.

In an April survey, leaders discovered vulnerabilities. More than half of residents had asthma, forty-six percent reported they had diabetes, and most homes had multiple generations living in them.

The organization began delivering cleaning supplies and care packages to help the elderly avoid having to go to the store.

Thunder Valley Deputy Director Lynn Cuny said in the process they found that tribal members could still come together as did past generations during smallpox and flu epidemics. "As Lakota people, we've been here," she said. "We've endured many pandemics."

Thunder Valley is fundraising with a goal of reaching $100,000 for a wide-ranging response.

Santa Fe Indian Market goes virtual
For nearly 100 years, the Santa Fe Indian Market has taken over not just downtown and the plaza, but the entire city. Except this year.

First-time Santa Fe Indian Market artist Donald Johnston (Qagan Tayagungin - Aleut from Alaska) won the 2018 Best of Class XI: Basketry for his traditional Baleen basket.

This year the pandemic prevents people from gathering in large crowds. The three-day weekend event typically brings in approximately 100,000 people each year and hundreds of artists.

Organizers are taking the market to the virtual world where more than 400 artists will show and sell their art.

(Related: Inaugural Virtual Indian Market kicks off)

Kim Peone, executive director of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, and Tim Blueflint Ramel, a designer, flute maker and artist, talked with Indian Country Today host and producer Patty Telehongva.

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Respectful

Jubilant at Native political wins! At the same time, angry and frustrated by news that filthy DAPL oil will continue to flow while an honest (?) environmental review occurs. The undaunted resilience of 1st Peoples is humbling and inspiring.


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