Indian Country headlines for Tuesday

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe pushed for fish bypass changes being made to a Nevada dam to allow threatened trout to return to their native spawning grounds. The Truckee River water flows through Derby Dam 20 miles east of Reno in this photo taken near Wadsworth, Nevada, on Sept. 30. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

Indian Country Today

Stories we're following on Oct. 6, 2020: Tribe celebrates new fish bypass system at Nevada dam; vice-presidential debate coming up; EPA OKs Oklahoma oversight of environmental programs in Indian Country; and more

Tribe's 'relentlessness' praised in fish recovery effort

WADSWORTH, Nev. — U.S. and tribal officials are celebrating completion of a $34 million fish bypass system at a Nevada dam that will allow a threatened trout species to return to some of its native spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century.

A side channel will enable Lahontan cutthroat trout to travel 100 miles upstream from a desert lake on tribal land northeast of Reno to Lake Tahoe atop the Sierra, The Associated Press reported. That’s the same course the fish followed before the Derby Dam was built in 1905 on the Truckee River.

The project was a joint effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Farmers Conservation Alliance, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

Brenda Burman, head of the reclamation bureau, said the tribe pushed for the project, “we had the relentlessness of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to recover the fish that they hold sacred.”

This 2019 file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a Lahontan cutthroat trout recently caught at Pyramid Lake, 30 miles northeast of Reno, Nev. Federal and tribal officials are celebrating the completion of a $34 million fish bypass system at a Nevada dam that will allow the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout to return to some of its native spawning grounds for the first time in more than a century. (Greg Ritland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP,File)
This 2019 file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a Lahontan cutthroat trout caught at Pyramid Lake, 30 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada.(Greg Ritland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP, File)

The forgotten history of the ‘undercard’ debate

This week Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will debate in Salt Lake City.

The debate will have new rules following the outbreak of COVID-19 that has impacted President Donald Trump, Sens. Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, Thom Tillis, and other top GOP officials as well as White House media correspondents. The two debaters will be at least 12 feet apart.

Pew Research calls the vice presidential debate “an undercard,” or the less important bout. And since the first debate in 1976 there have been far fewer viewers for that second card. “The lone exception to this rule came in 2008, when more people (69.9 million) tuned in to the vice presidential debate between then-Sen. Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin than watched any of the three debates between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain,” Pew Research reported.

There is another lens to consider: the vice presidency and Native American history.

EPA gives Oklahoma environmental oversight

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the state of Oklahoma’s request to administer environmental regulatory programs in Indian Country.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Cherokee, made the initial request to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler near the end of July, 13 days after the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

That decision stated Congress never explicitly disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation and much of eastern Oklahoma remains Indian Country.

While the McGirt case dealt with criminal jurisdiction, it appears tribal and state governments believe the ramifications of the decision extend beyond that single area.

Alaska judge rules witness signatures on absentee ballots ‘impermissibly’ burden voting rights

An Alaska state court judge on Monday ruled enforcement of witness requirements for absentee ballots in Alaska during a pandemic “impermissibly burdens the right to vote” but did not immediately put into effect an order eliminating the requirement for the general election.

Superior Court Judge Dani Crosby gave the parties until late Tuesday to propose how the Division of Elections should communicate the message and said she would later issue an order “specifying how to implement elimination” of the requirement for the Nov. 3 election.

Natalie Landreth, Chickasaw, is an attorney for the plaintiffs. She said what Crosby ordered “and what we have argued is the most practical, common sense way to make sure that everybody can vote in the pandemic, The Associated Press reported. The case is really that simple.”

The case was brought by Arctic Village Council, a tribal government; the League of Women Voters of Alaska; and two individuals who have cited health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Their attorneys argued the witness requirement is unconstitutional during the pandemic and a bar to voting for those who don’t live with someone who can be a witness.

The state might appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Tribal citizens settle education claims in lawsuit

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Members of a small Arizona tribe have reached an agreement with the federal government to partly resolve a lawsuit that sought widespread reform at the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education.

Attorneys for Havasupai parents and students say the agreement reached in late September will help thousands of Native Americans who attend bureau schools across the country.

A federal court had already determined that the bureau violated its duty to ensure access to special education, therapists and mental health services, including for trauma and childhood adversity. The agreement means a trial that was set to begin in November to consider the remedy for the violations won't happen.

"They weren't providing services for my kids, and they kind of dismissed them," the mother of three students who are identified in the lawsuit by only their first names told the AP. "I thought all of the kids could be struggling with the same thing, and I wanted to make sure that BIE was held accountable."

In a Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018 file photo, a fence surrounds Havasupai Elementary School in Havasupai, Ariz. A lawsuit that accuses the federal government of failing to adequately provide for students on a small, isolated reservation in Arizona is set to go to trial in November. The lawsuit filed in 2017 seeks systematic reforms of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education, an agency that oversees more than 180 schools in nearly two dozen states but directly operates less than one-third of them.(Alden Woods/The Arizona Republic via AP,File)
In this Feb. 17, 2018, photo, a fence surrounds Havasupai Elementary School in Havasupai, Arizona. (Alden Woods/The Arizona Republic via AP, File)

Adams remembered as 'visionary for his people'

In the evening of Sept. 24, Utqiaġvik residents lost Jacob "Jake" Anaġi Adams Sr., Inuupiaq, 73, a key player in the formation of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the North Slope Borough and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.

Adams passed in his home of end-stage Parkinson's, his sister said. He is remembered as a thoughtful leader, activist and a "visionary for his people," Arctic Slope corporation Chair Crawford Patkotak said in a documentary produced last year on Adams' legacy by Alaska Humanities Forum, in partnership with Rasmuson Foundation.

"When he speaks, we listen," Patkotak said, according to The Arctic Sounder. This sentiment was chorused by Adams' younger sister, Marie Carroll, and even U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.

"Our family looked up to him," Carroll said Friday. "He was a very thoughtful brother, and became active in the community at a young age."

Jacob Adams, Sr., Inupiaq, was a key player in the formation of the Arctic Slope Regional Cooperation, the North Slope Borough and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. He has died at the age of 73. (Photo courtesy of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation).
Jacob Adams Sr., Inupiaq, was a key player in the formation of the Arctic Slope Regional Cooperation, the North Slope Borough and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. He has died at the age of 73. (Photo courtesy of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation).

‘Deer Woman’ play to be streamed for free in October

A one-woman theater play of “Deer Woman” translated into a film will be streamed online through to Oct. 18 with daily streams at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. MST.

Blackfoot actor and activist Cherish Violet Blood plays the lead role of Lila, an ex-military woman and sister of a slain girl. Lila wants to avenge her sister’s death using skills taught her by the Canadian Armed Forces.

The film is restricted to ages 16 and older because of violence.

Streaming the film is free but virtual tickets must be reserved. For more information and to reserve tickets, click here.

Watch: Indigenous leadership in National Parks

There are more than 400 national parks in the country. And before any of them became national parks, they were the homelands of Indigenous people.

New superintendent of the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site Alisha Deegan is featured on Monday's newscast. She is a Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation citizen. Deegan is joined by Anna Deschampe, the new chief of interpretation for Grand Portage National Monument. They describe their work in the National Park Service.

Last week, Cherokee Nation leaders met with the U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Days after their meeting, the President Donald Trump tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Barr was in attendance at one of the president’s recent events. Indian Country Today's reporter-producer Kolby KickingWoman talks about the concerns and the tribes' meeting with Barr. 

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