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Native veterans memorial unveiled

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., commemorated Veterans Day 2020 by unveiling the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

The museum originally planned to host a veterans’ procession and dedication ceremony but is looking to reschedule those events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The installation sits on the museum's grounds and is a short walk from the U.S. Capitol.

It is the first national landmark in the nation’s capital solely focused on “contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military,” the museum said in a release. It will be open to the public 24 hours a day.

The memorial features an elevated, stainless steel circle resting on a carved stone drum. "It also incorporates water for sacred ceremonies, benches for gatherings and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders and others can tie cloths for prayers and healing," the release said.

Museum director Kevin Gover said the memorial will long stand as a tribute to Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian veterans.

“Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country,” Gover said.

National Native American Veterans Memorial pictured from above near the U.S. Capitol (Photo by Alan Karchmer for NMAI)

Indian Child Welfare Act bill planned in New Mexico

Advocates and child welfare experts are collaborating to introduce a bill in the 2021 New Mexico legislative session to codify the Indian Child Welfare Act into state law.

The New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium, New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, and the nonprofit advocacy organization Bold Futures have formed a working group to draft legislation, according to a joint release.

The federal law was passed in 1978 to address high numbers of Native American children being removed from their families and communities.

“New Mexico has the opportunity to codify the protections of ICWA into state law,” the release said. “The State ICWA workgroup is collaborating and consulting with tribes and tribal ICWA workers to make sure this legislation is centered on the most impacted families.”

The groups noted Indian children and families are disproportionately represented in child welfare systems in New Mexico and nationwide. “The drafting and passage of a ICWA legislation in New Mexico is critical to changing those disparities,” they said.


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CARES funding on Navajo divided among faiths

The well site shortly after a prayer was performed by medicine man Emery Begay (left). Kevin Felix (center), NTEC intern, stands with Sam Woods (right), NTEC business development manager at the hot springs well east of Tohatchi, N.M.

The well site shortly after a prayer was performed by medicine man Emery Begay (left). Kevin Felix (center), NTEC intern, stands with Sam Woods (right), NTEC business development manager at the hot springs well east of Tohatchi, N.M.

PHOENIX – Navajo medicine men are feeling somewhat slighted after their initial request for CARES funding was denied.

Navajo medicine men for centuries have used songs, herbs and sacred ceremonies to treat physical or emotional ailments of the Navajo people.

Today these traditional healers, hataalii, are dwindling in number and influence, experts and community leaders say. Yet, as COVID-19 case counts rise, many turn to their traditional healers.

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After the CARES Act was approved in March, the Navajo Nation received more than $700 million in COVID-19 relief funding. In July, Navajo President Jonathan Nez vetoed more than $70 million in council-approved funding, including $1 million for the Diné Hataalii Association of traditional healers.

In a statement, the association called the veto “an act of disrespect and exclusion for our treasured and rare Diné Hataalii.”

Nez said the funding unfairly singled out leaders of a certain spiritual belief when all faith organizations should be able to get some relief.

A counterproposal later approved provides $2 million to be divided among the Diné Hataałi Association, Diné Medicine Men Association and the Native American Church. The hitaali association’s share was $600,000.

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Indigenous House wins bring hope for change

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Internet access, health care and basic necessities like running water and electricity within Indigenous communities have long been at the center of congressional debates. But until recently, Congress didn't have many Indigenous members who were pushing for solutions and funding for those issues.

Hope is growing after the Native delegation in the U.S. House expanded by two on Election Day: Yvette Herrell, who is Cherokee and prevailed in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District, and Kai Kahele, a Native Hawaiian who won that state's 2nd District.

They will join four Native Americans who won reelection: Reps. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, who's Laguna; Sharice Davids of Kansas, who's Ho-Chunk; Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who's Cherokee; and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who's Chickasaw.

(Previous: US House candidates make history)

Of the six who prevailed, half are Democrats and half Republican — a divide Cole said would "absolutely be indispensable in passing anything the next two years."

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WATCH: Honoring our relatives who served

Wednesday was Veterans Day, a holiday established after World War I by President Woodrow Wilson.

Natives have served in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War, and serve at the highest rate per capita of any ethnicity.

On a special Veterans Day newscast, we were joined by Indigenous veterans Lavetta "Sissy" Fox, Pacer Renia and Harvey Pratt.

They talked about their own service and why they joined the military, along with family members who have served.

“We have generations and generations of military service in my family,” Fox said. “Grandfather was in World War II. My uncle was in Vietnam, my father was in Vietnam, and I have a sister that was in Kuwait, and then of course, me. I was in Iraq. And then it goes on, you know, generations and generations, plenty of warriors. We were all Army, except we had one that was kind of the odd duck and he joined the Marine Corps."

The guests also discussed what it meant to them to hear from family while they were serving away home

"I have three brothers and three sisters and my mother,” Pratt said. “So I got quite a bit of mail from my family. I appreciate it, I wrote all the time. I was constantly writing. In 1963, when I was in Vietnam before combat troops were supposed to be there, things were shipped to us like Christmas and things like that. And cakes — we'd finally get it, and it'd be hard as a rock. Pastries would just be like a stone. And we used to laugh about that, you know, about sending this to get to us."

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