Indian Country headlines for Tuesday

Children with placards bearing the names of students who died at the old Rapid City Indian Boarding School sit in front of a hillside that researchers determined holds unmarked graves of some of the deceased children. A memorial is planned to honor the children at the site. (Photo by Stewart Huntington)

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following on Oct. 13, 2020: March honors fallen boarding school children; court hearing in Navajo mail-in ballot case; activists take action on Indigenous Peoples Day; missing and murdered laws hailed as ‘huge victory’; and more

March honors children who died at Indian boarding school

RAPID CITY, S.D. — This western South Dakota city marked Indigenous People’s Day with a march to remember the students who died decades ago at the Rapid City Indian Boarding School, and a groundbreaking ceremony for a $2 million memorial to the children.

“It’s a very important day to acknowledge the accomplishments of our people,” said John Old Horse, a pastor, veteran and citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation who led the march with song and prayer. “And also to remember the things that aren’t so great in our past and heal our community.”

About 200 marchers gathered in the morning at the city’s Sioux Park, and organizers handed out placards with the names of 50 children who perished at the boarding school before family members could be notified.

Family of the fallen children carried some of the placards on the march, and many more were carried by children.

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This Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, photo shows people standing at the proposed site of a memorial for children who died while attending the Rapid City, South Dakota, Indian Boarding School. (Photo by Randi Oyan)
People stand at the proposed site of a memorial for children who died while attending the Rapid City Indian Boarding School in South Dakota. (Photo by Randi Oyan)

New Mexico, Arizona activists take action on Indigenous Peoples Day

Activists in New Mexico's capital city used a rope and chain to topple a monument, while others in Arizona faced off with authorities along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of demonstrations marking Indigenous Peoples Day.

Officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety responded Monday morning after demonstrators blocked traffic near an immigration checkpoint to voice concerns about border wall construction and activity on O'odham ancestral land in southern Arizona. Authorities reported that a dozen people were taken into custody after a brief confrontation.

"Everyday is Indigenous People's Day, and we are here to remind the world that this is, was and always will be Indigenous O'odham land, and we will do what is necessary to protect it," read a statement from the O'odham Anti Border Collective and Defend O'odham Jewed, which means "homelands" in the O'odham language.

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Demonstrators celebrate on the base of a stone obelisk torn down Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In July, activists called for the monument to be removed during peaceful protests. On Monday, a group of around 50 protesters pulled down segments of the stone structure using a rope and a chain. It commemorates federal soldiers who fought against Indigenous people in the 19th Century. A reference to "savage" Indians was chiseled from the monument decades ago. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
Demonstrators celebrate on the base of a stone obelisk torn down Monday in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

New missing, murdered laws hailed as ‘huge victory’

Two new laws addressing the issue of missing and murdered Native Americans are drawing widespread praise as a step toward addressing needs identified by tribes and experts in law enforcement and justice, including better data collection, coordination and increased resources.

President Donald Trump signed Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act on Saturday.

Julie Kitka, Chugach Eskimo and president of the statewide advocacy organization Alaska Federation of Natives, called the legislation a “huge victory for Native families seeking justice.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer in a statement thanked the bills’ sponsors, grassroots advocates and others who “fought long and hard to push these important measures over the finish line to help bring an end to the ongoing losses of life, trauma and devastation caused by the missing persons crisis across our country.”

Other supporters noted the laws bring hope to communities grappling with the effects of violence.

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In a Monday, Aug. 28, 2017 file photo, a makeshift memorial to Savanna Greywind featuring a painting, flowers, candle and a stuffed animal is seen on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Fargo, N.D., outside the apartment where Greywind lived with her parents. Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska is taking up the cause for a bill aimed at helping law enforcement with cases of murdered and missing indigenous women. Former North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp introduced and helped pass Savanna's Act in the Senate before she lost election, but it was blocked in the House by a retiring Republican. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack, File)
In this 2017 photo, a makeshift memorial to Savanna Greywind is seen in Fargo, N.D., outside the apartment where Greywind lived with her parents. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack, File)

Court to hear appeal in Navajo mail-in ballot case

A request for extra time to have mail-in ballots from the Navajo Nation count this November continues this week in the form of an appeal hearing.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hear arguments Tuesday, three weeks before Election Day, in a case involving six Navajo citizens in Arizona who want mail-in ballots from residents on the vast reservation to be counted past Nov. 3.

The lawsuit, filed in August, argues Arizona’s requirement that ballots be turned in to authorities by 7 p.m. on election night would disenfranchise tribal citizens because mail service on the reservation is slower and less accessible than other parts of the state.

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Arizona mail-in ballot for general election, Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)
Arizona mail-in ballot for general election, Nov. 3, 2020. (Photo by Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today)

Pope asked to apologize for oppression of Indigenous people

Mexico’s president has written to Pope Francis to ask for an apology for the Catholic church’s role in the oppression of Indigenous people in the Spanish conquest 500 years ago.

The request was made in a two-page letter that also asked the Vatican to temporarily return several ancient Indigenous manuscripts held in its library, ahead of next year’s 500-year anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

The letter, dated Oct. 2 but posted on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Twitter page on Saturday, the same day Mexico City authorities decided to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus that protesters had threatened to knock down.

López Obrador said the Spanish crown, Spain’s government and the Vatican should apologise to Native people for the “most reprehensible atrocities” committed after Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico in 1521.

López Obrador made a similar request last year in a letter to Spain’s King Felipe and the pope, but the Spanish government rejected the petition outright.

Coming up: Webinar Criminal Law Practice & McGirt

A panel of three Indian law experts will discuss the McGirt decision on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET and its implications regarding criminal law and the shifting priorities between Native nations, the State of Oklahoma and the federal government.

The panel includes University of Kansas professor Sarah Deer, Cherokee Nation Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo and Mike McBride III, Indian Law and Gaming at Crowe and Dunlevy shareholder and chair.

The free event will be available on Zoom. For details and to watch, click here.

New Indigenous books available

There are a few new books that literary lovers can now add to their Native collections.

Among them are a beautiful young reader book titled “The Range Eternal” written by Louise Erdrich, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa;an immersive encyclopedia of American Indian history and culture by National Geographic; and a series of children’s books in three languages: Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimpshian.

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College district weighs future of Indigenous network

A California community college district is weighing changes that could have major implications for the only national network that televises exclusively Native American and Indigenous content.

The San Bernardino Community College District’s board of trustees met this week to discuss a recommendation to transition its broadcast facilities and equipment to San Bernardino Valley College.

Those facilities are home to FNX/First Nations Experience – which reaches more than 46 million people across the nation, showing programs on history, language and culture in 22 states – and KVCR, a public media organization that broadcasts in the surrounding area as both an FM radio station and TV channel.

The proposal throws FNX’s future into question, opponents say, and jeopardizes access to PBS and NPR content the surrounding Native American population relies on.

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Watch: What to expect from Supreme Court nominee

Indian Country is closely watching the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme court. Cherokee citizen Joel West Williams of the Native American Rights Fund shares a memo his organization put together outlining judge Barrett's background and experience with federal Indian law.


Plus, Indian Country Today's editor Mark Trahant explores the idea of Congress considering the Navajo Nation for statehood. It's a deep dive into the complex relationship between tribes and the U.S. government that you won't want to miss.

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