Indian Country headlines for Thursday

Allie Young, a Diné woman on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, is among a group of Native Americans as they ride on horseback to the polls on Election Day in Kayenta, Arizona, on Tuesday. (Larry Price via AP)

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following on Nov. 5, 2020: Native voters described as called "Something Else"; hardship requests pour in on Navajo Nation; Tlingit man leaves legacy of revitalized culture; and more

Indian Country Today

Asterisk no more?

There are often complaints about polls that skip American Indians and Alaska Natives. So much so that the National Congress of American Indians described the population as “the ‘Asterisk Nation’ because an asterisk, instead of a data point, is often used in data displays when reporting racial and ethnic data.” 

There are a lot of reasons for that missing data point, usually the mismatch between a tribal community’s size and the pool of those surveyed by the pool.

Still, CNN on Election Day found a new low  wrapping Native Americans in Arizona into a category called “Something Else.”

Something Else, indeed. Native Americans make up 4.5 percent of the state’s population and 5.6 percent of eligible voters in Arizona (the poll said 6 percent Something Else), but even that misses the significance of the Native vote across the state.

The winning Arizona politicians might tell pollsters all about that.

New political era for Native Americans

The record number of Native American candidates headed to Congress is the result of a new role Natives have carved out for themselves, said Holly Cook Macarro, Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, a partner in the lobbying firm Spirit Rock Consulting.

Six Native congressional candidates won their races, meaning the next U.S. House will have more voting Native members than ever.

“In the ’90s, Indian gaming brought tribes to the table and the campaign finance arena. That was really a new space for tribal governments,” Cook Macarro said. The first Native American super PAC distributed funds strategically to help in several races.

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Lynette Greybull, Northern Arapaho/ Hunkpapa Lakota, came up short in a race against Republican Liz Cheney for a seat representing Wyoming in Congress. 

Even when facing a powerhouse such as Cheney, however, Greybill said, “it's important that we still have the guts and courage to put ourselves out there and make our voices be heard.”

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Holly Cook Macarro, Red Lake Nation, a partner in the lobbying firm Rock Spirit Consulting says Native Americans are changing their role in politics. (Photo courtesy of Holly Cook Macarro)

Navajo assistance portal processing applications

The Navajo Nation says it received and processed more than 6,000 applications for COVID-19 response relief on the first day of the application period. 

More than 50,000 people per second attempted to access the portal. Pearline Kirk, Controller of the Navajo Nation said Monday there have been some online application hiccups, which are being addressed.

The Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program provides direct emergency financial support to enrolled Navajo tribal members of the Navajo Nation who have experienced hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tribe has $49,000,000 in Coronavirus relief funds to distribute. The Hardship Assistance Program is not first come, first serve, said the tribe. 

Every application will be provided equal consideration of receiving up to $1,500 per adult and up to $500 per minor. The application period is open from Nov. 2 to Nov. 30 and payments will begin in December.

More information is available on the Navajo Nation’s website.

Kingeisti David Katzeek leaves legacy of revitalized culture

Tlingit elder David Katzeek, dancing at Celebration, 2016, was passionate about preserving the Tlingit language and traditions. He died Oct. 28, 2020 at the age of 77. (Photo by Mark Kelly, courtesy of Sealaska)
Tlingit elder David Katzeek, dancing at Celebration, 2016, was passionate about preserving the Tlingit language and traditions. He died Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo by Mark Kelly, courtesy of Sealaska)

Kingeisti David G. Katzeek, Tlingit, died suddenly last week, leaving a gaping hole in the ceremonial, educational and community life of his people. He was 77.

His vision and lifelong mission was for a renaissance of Tlingit language and culture. Katzeek was passionate about increasing his understanding of the Tlingit language and culture and teaching it to others, building on what he’d learned as a child from his parents and grandparents in the village of Klukwan, in Southeast Alaska.

He was one of the founders of Celebration, an event that has grown to 2,000 when Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimpshian people gather in Juneau, in Southeast Alaska, for dance performances, and workshops on arts and crafts.

One of Katzeek’s closest friends was Khinkaduneek Paul Marks, Tlingit. For almost 40 years, together they taught classes, gave presentations and attended countless koo’.eex’ (potlatches), totem pole raisings, naming and clan adoption ceremonies, and memorials.

“He was more or less like my mentor,” Marks said. “I respected him as a man. I respected him as a clan leader and I respected him as a fellow human being. I respected him as an elder.”

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United States sets record for COVID-19 cases

Legislation making its way through Congress aims to reaffirm that tribal epidemiology centers should have access to state and federal health data. Tribal leaders have had trouble accessing information to help fight COVID-19 and other diseases in places like the Navajo Nation, where this sign stands. (Photo by Daja E. Henry/Cronkite News)
Sign on the Navajo Nation reservation (Photo by Daja E. Henry/Cronkite News)

(AP) On Wednesday new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. reached a one-day high of 100,000. The weekly average is more than 86,000 per day, giving a glimpse of the worsening crisis that lies ahead for the winner of the presidential election.

Cases and hospitalizations are setting records all around the country, demonstrating the challenge that either President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden will face in the coming months.

Daily new confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. have surged 45% over the past two weeks, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Deaths are also on the rise, up 15 percent to an average of 846 deaths every day.

The total U.S. death toll is already more than 232,000, and total confirmed U.S. cases have surpassed 9 million. Those are the highest totals in the world, and new infections are increasing in nearly every state.

“Where we are is in an extremely dire place as a country. Every metric that we have is trending in the wrong direction. This is a virus that will continue to escalate at an accelerated speed and that is not going to stop on its own,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert at George Washington University.

See: One Justice's big picture

Pictured: Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta Tribe of New Mexico, is running to retain her seat on the Washington Supreme Court.
(Photo: Retain Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis State Supreme Court)

Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis joined Indian Country Today on Wednesday's show to talk about re-election to the state Supreme court. Also on the show, Julian Brave NoiseCat talked about the U.S. and the Paris climate accord.

Washington state Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis is back for another term on the state Supreme Court. The Isleta Pueblo judge talked about winning her retention election.

Plus, Policy & Strategy with Data for Progress Vice President Julian Brave NoiseCat was on the show to talk about how the election ties into climate change.

Montoya-Lewis said "The job that I have been doing since January is completely different from being a trial judge. I was a tribal judge for 15 years and a trial judge on the state court for four or five.

“So the last 10 months has really taught me how to think about the big picture and not just think about the individual stories of the people in front of me. And that's been really interesting and really challenging to focus on what the direction of the law should be," said Montaya-Lewis.

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