Indian Country headlines for Thursday

A nurse administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following on Dec. 10: Navajo Nation talks Pfizer vaccine trial; Indian gaming sets record pre-pandemic; Biden picks HHS head; mining in Indian Country; Sen. Udall signs off; and more

Navajo Nation shares update on Pfizer vaccine trials

About 150 Navajo Nation citizens have volunteers for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said on Wednesday.

In a news release that updates COVID-19 cases on the reservation, Nez said he hasn’t received any reports of “any major side effects or concerns” from the trial he announced in September.

Last week, the United Kingdom became the first country to authorize the Pfizer vaccine. Canada approved the vaccine Wednesday and the U.S. could possibly follow within days, according to the Associated Press.

An officer with the Navajo Nation Police talks to a driver at a roadblock in Tuba City, Ariz., on the Navajo reservation on April 22, 2020. The roadblock was to inform residents of evening and weekend curfews, hand washing, and wearing a face mask to help control the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
An officer with the Navajo Nation Police talks to a driver at a roadblock in Tuba City, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation on April 22. The roadblock was to inform residents of evening and weekend curfews to help control the spread of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Indian gaming revenue in 2019 set industry record of $34.6 billion

National Indian Gaming chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer and vice chair Katheryn Isom-Clause announced that revenue from 2019 showed an increase of 2.5 percent over 2018.

Future reports, however, will reflect the impact of the pandemic on the tribal casino industry and how it has adapted to changing circumstances.

Read more.

Water futures set to join likes of gold and oil, trading on Wall Street for first time

The CME Group plans to launch futures contracts tied to the price of water.

Contracts will allow investors as well as farmers to bet on the future price of water. The contracts are tied to the $1.1 billion California spot water market.

Michael Burry of “The Big Short,” emphasizes water as one of his top investment ideas following the 2008 financial crisis Burry sees demand for water to continue to climb as supply falls due to population growth and climate change.

Read more

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President-elect Joe Biden, right, and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, left, listen as a video of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been nominated by Biden to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, is displayed during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Biden picks Xavier Becerra to head HHS

President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead Health and Human Services. If confirmed, Becerra would be the first Latino to head the department.

Indian Health Service falls under HHS.

Biden also announced that he plans to nominate Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge as secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to serve again.

Fudge is former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and was recently elected to serve her 7th term representing a majority Black district in Cleveland and Akron.

Vilsack served as leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 8 years during the Obama administration and served two terms as governor of Iowa.

Read more.

Trump administration accused of rushing to approve mining deal on Oak Flat, land held sacred by Native Americans

The Trump administration is moving forward with approving a land swap this month of a sacred Native American site to Rio Tinto Ltd. and partners to build a copper mine in Arizona.

Members of the San Carlos Tribe as well as environmentalists and Democrats are accusing the administration of fast-tracking the environmental review process. The land in question is located in the Tonto National Forest, known as Oak Flat and is considered a sacred site to many tribal nations in the region.

Read more

American Dental Association urges lawmakers to ensure Native Americans have access to care

The American Dental Association sent a letter to Congress to support the House’s request of $222 million for the Indian Service Dental Program in the 2021 final Interior appropriations bill.

Association president Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D and executive director Kathleen T. O”Loughlin D.M.D. noted that more than 80 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native children ages 6-9 and 13-15 years old suffer from dental decay. Less than 50 percent of the U.S. population in the same age groups suffer from cavities.

Read more.

In this Sept. 24, 2020 file photo, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Udall is retiring from the Senate, but has emerged as a leading contender to be Interior secretary under President-elect Joe Biden. If chosen, the Democrat would follow in the footsteps of his father, Stewart Udall, a former congressman who led Interior under two Democratic presidents in the 1960s. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
Udall (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool, File)

Sen. Tom Udall signs off, but ‘not retiring’

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall delivered his farewell speech this week on the Senate floor after serving the state and its 23 federally recognized tribes for nearly 30 years.

Throughout his years of service in federal politics, Udall’s efforts have focused largely on the environment and climate reforms and fulfilling promises to Indian Country as well as supported legislation and fostered efforts in Indian Country to include his support in addressing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Read more.

Watch: Acting early, swiftly against COVID-19

Joining Indian Country Today in Wednesday's newscast is Chairwoman Shelly Fyant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana and reporter Kolby KickingWoman.

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