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Extreme fires across the West

The Interagency Fire Center Wednesday reported 96 large fires have burned more than 3.4 million acres in 13 Western states including almost two million acres in California. Officials say the number and ferocity of the large fires is unprecedented. 

About half of the large fires are in three states. California has 24 fires; Oregon has 14; and Washington has 12 fires. Dozens of the fires have zero containment. 

The Associated Press reports at least six people in California, four in Oregon, and one in Washington are confirmed to have died. Officials say the there are certain to be more deaths reported once firefighters and first responders are able to get into burnt areas.

Hundreds of homes, businesses and other structures have burned to the ground, and one firefighter was critically injured. At least 150 people have been rescued by military helicopters. 

In Oregon, evacuations were ordered for the northern half of the town of Lincoln, population 10,000; for rural areas South of Portland, population 16,000; and for about half of Medfra, population 80,000.

In Southern California, fires burned in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said, “This could be the greatest loss of human life and property due to wildfire in our state’s history." And Washington's Gov. Jay Inslee called a fire south of Seattle, an "example of probably the most catastrophic fires we’ve had..."

Thick smoke completely blocked sunlight in some large areas, and distant flames turned the sky orange in others.

Many of the blazes started on Monday and Tuesday amid record high temperatures worsening drought conditions, and sometimes high winds

Black Freedman say ruling guarantees tribal citizenship

Oklahoma. Supreme Court. McGirt v. Oklahoma. Carpenter v. Murphy. Sharp v. Murphy.

Descendants of slaves owned by Native American tribes say a recent Supreme Court decision guarantees them citizenship in the Creek Nation. 

Black Freedmen are fighting to be counted as tribal members. They say the Supreme Court’s July decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma ensures tribal citizenship to African Americans formerly enslaved by the Creek Nation and other Oklahoma tribes.

The Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma said reservation boundaries can be set, and undone, only by Congress. The court’s ruling gave the Creek Nation jurisdiction over its original reservation lands in eastern Oklahoma. The decision was based on terms of an 1866 treaty that among other things, guaranteed freed slaves would “have and enjoy all the rights and privileges of native citizens.”

U.S. Army: No foul play in Navajo soldier's death

Army officials say foul play is not suspected in the case of one of two Diné soldiers to die this year while based at Fort Hood in Texas.

On Aug. 28, Pvt. Corlton L. Chee, age 25, collapsed near the end of an early morning two-mile run with 11 other platoon members. He died two days later. Officials say they are working with the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences to conduct an autopsy and it’s too early to draw any conclusions.

Congress announced this week it will launch an investigation into sexual assault, disappearances, deaths and the military leadership’s response at Fort Hood after 28 soldiers stationed at the base died this year.

Also among the fatalities was Navajo citizen Spc. Miguel D. Yazzie, 33, who died at the base July 3, according to the Navajo Nation. His cause of death has not been released.

According to data from Fort Hood officials, the 28 deaths include five homicides, as well as accidents, suicides, deaths related to illness, cases still under investigation and one combat-related death.

Red Fawn Fallis released from federal custody

An Oglala Lakota woman serving federal prison time in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance at Standing Rock has been released.

Red Fawn Fallis was released Wednesday after serving 57 months in prison.

Fallis pleaded guilty in January 2018 to civil disorder and illegal possession of a gun by a convicted felon. She was accused of firing a handgun three times while resisting arrest during protests in North Dakota against the oil pipeline in October 2016, according to the Associated Press.

She was sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison. Fallis was 39 at the time of the sentencing. 

She had been incarcerated since Oct. 26, 2016 and received credit for time served when sentenced in 2018.

Subcommittee looks at BIE schools reopening

The Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States is hosting an oversight hearing on Thursday that looks at the Bureau of Indian Education’s plan to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hearing titled “Examining the Bureau of Indian Educations’ School Reopening Guidance During the COVID-19 Pandemic” starts at 3 p.m. EDT and can be watched here.

The witness list includes Joe Garcia, co-chair of the National Congress of American Indians education subcommittee, Lower Brule (South Dakota) Schools Superintendent and Principal Lance Witter, Federation of Indian Service Employees President Sue Parton and Native American Disability Law center Executive Director Therese Yanan.

Purépecha woman named the MET’s first full-time Native curator

Patricia Marroquin Norby, Purépecha, was named the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s associate curator of Native American Art, the museum’s first full-time Native curator.

“I am deeply honored to join with American Indian and Indigenous artists and communities in advancing our diverse experiences and voices in The Met’s exhibitions, collections, and programs,” Norby said in a statement. “This is a time of significant evolution for the Museum.”

Norby comes from the National Museum of American Indian in New York where she was a senior executive and assistant director.

The Met is located in New York City

Watch: 'We can move forward together'

Indian Country Today newscast for Wednesday: Chairman Bryan Polite of the Shinnecock Nation and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman discuss efforts to protect sacred burial grounds.

The Hamptons on Long Island are known for their luxury homes and beautiful beaches, but before the first high-end houses were built there, the Shinnecock called the area home. When their loved ones died, they reserved the best and most scenic spots as their final resting place.

Today, the Shinnecock have a small portion of their Indigenous homelands, and they’ve been fighting for decades to protect the graves of their ancestors.

Also featured on the newscast is Indian Country Today reporter Joaqlin Estus who explains the importance of getting your vote by mail ballot properly filled out and sent in early.

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