Indian Country headlines for Thursday

In this 2007 photo, a worker with the Pebble Mine project digs in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)

Indian Country Today

Stories we're following: Resignation follows release of recorded comments on proposed Alaska mine, Indigenous leaders among Time’s 100 most influential, Washington court rules on Indian Child Welfare Act, and more

Alaska Pebble Mine CEO resigns after recorded comments released

The head of a proposed copper and gold mine near a prime Alaska salmon fishery has resigned after covertly filmed videos showed him talking about elected and regulatory officials and unreleased plans for the huge project.

Northern Dynasty, owner of Pebble Limited Partnership, announced the resignation of Pebble Limited CEO Tom Collier in a statement Wednesday.

The Environmental Investigation Agency, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group, this week released secretly recorded Zoom conversations between Collier, Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen and activists posing as investors. The conversations occurred in August and September.

In the videos, the mine developers describe their plans for a much bigger and longer-lasting mine than they’ve presented in the permitting process. They also claim their political ties are working to their benefit.

Mining opponents called the video evidence that company officials lied and said the project should be thrown out or at least significantly delayed for further review.

(Screenshot from Environmental Investigation Agency video)
(Screenshot from Environmental Investigation Agency video)

Washington courts to broadly interpret when to apply Indian Child Welfare Act

KNBA reports a Washington Supreme Court recently ruled that state courts must use a broad interpretation when determining whether children who face removal from their parents have Native American heritage. That heritage could trigger the application of protections afforded by the Indian Child Welfare Act. The decision also says tribes have the exclusive right to determine their membership, not states.

Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis wrote the unanimous decision, which overturned a lower court’s ruling.

“We hold that a trial court has ‘reason to know’ that a child is an Indian child when a participant in the proceeding indicates that the child has tribal heritage,” wrote Montoya-Lewis. “We respect that tribes determine membership exclusively, and state courts cannot establish who is or is not eligible for tribal membership on their own.”

The court pointed to the history of trauma to individuals and tribes due to the removal of Native American children from their parents, and the undermining of Indian Child protections by state courts.

Montoya-Lewis, Isleta and Laguna Pueblo, is the first Native American on the Washington State Supreme Court, and possibly the second judge in the U.S. on a state's highest court.

Two Indigenous leaders among Time’s list of 100 most influential

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill. (Photo courtesy of Muskogee (Creek) Nation)
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill. (Photo courtesy of Muskogee (Creek) Nation)

Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief David Hill and Waorani of Pastaza President Nemonte Nenquimo are among Time’s list of 100 most influential people.

The list was published this week.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, wrote a short article on Hill and his tribe’s triumph in the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision this summer.

“Principal Chief Hill has led his people through a truly landmark victory and has continued to protect his nation’s sovereignty from state encroachment after the decision,” Davids wrote. “When you know you have to do what is right for your people, you just keep pushing forward.”

Nequimo’s article was written by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

It highlights a landmark ruling as the result of a lawsuit by Nenquimo to protect her ancestral home in Ecuador.

“She has kept her word, and continues to be a voice and advocate for her community. Nemonte’s cause is all our cause,” DiCaprio wrote. “She inspires those she speaks with to shoulder the nearest boulder and walk alongside her as her movement continues to grow. I am lucky to have met her, and I am luckier still to have learned from her.”

Arizona declares Oct. 12 Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Arizona flag - by Gage Skidmore - creative commons
(Photo by Gage Skidmore | Creative Commons)

Oct. 12 will be Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Arizona after Gov. Doug Ducey signed Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai’s proclamation to recognize Indigenous People in the state.

Peshlakai, Navajo, launched an effort to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Arizona to honor the contributions of all Indigenous peoples.

Peshlakai has also partnered with the nonprofit Indigenous Peoples' Initiative and U.S. Rep. Norma Torres of California to sponsor a bill on the federal level.

To celebrate the proclamation, Peshlakai, Indigenous Peoples’ Initiative President Dylan Baca and community members will hold an event at the Heard Museum in Phoenix on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. local time.

CDC offers Halloween guidelines

Halloween is still more than 30 days away, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have already issued new guidelines on how to celebrate safely.

Basically, for safety, the traditional Halloween, as most know it, is canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDC says participating in trick-or-treating by going door to door is a high-risk activity. So is having a trunk-or-treat, where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots.

For a full list of high-risk activities and a list of lower risk activities, click here.

Election Day news: Rudy Soto's 'bad' beginning led to politics

Rudy Soto, Shoshone-Bannock, is running for one of Idaho’s U.S. House seats.

The 34-year-old Democrat is competing against Republican incumbent Ross Fulcher in the state’s 1st Congressional District.

“I'm running for every day Idahoans, Americans and Indigenous peoples from all walks of life who struggle to make ends meet and simply seek a fair shot at the American dream.”

Watch: Feeding Minneapolis elders Indigenous foods

Back in March, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to many businesses in the U.S. Among those particularly affected were chefs, who found their restaurants closing and all catering businesses going away.

That's when Brian Yazzie stepped up. He and others are feeding elders and those who are unsheltered during this pandemic.

Wednesday’s Indian Country Today newscast wraps up with an elder who is making sure everyone is counted in the Census, all across the country.

Tribal leaders are busy trying to get members to fill out their census form. The deadline is a week away. Patricia Whitefoot is a retired educator who volunteers her time as an advocate. She's a supporter of the group Yakima Yakima, El Census, 2020 Coalition.

To watch the newscast, click here.

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