Indian Country headlines for Tuesday

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following: Lawmakers seek answers in birthing center closure; Alaska Native corporations take funding fight to high court; Native candidates use TV ads to share stories; and more

Lawmakers demand answers in birthing center closure

A bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers is demanding answers from the leader of the Indian Health Service after one of its largest hospitals stopped offering birthing services.

The Phoenix Indian Medical Center, which operates under the federal agency, shut down its inpatient obstetrics services Aug. 26. The closure was sudden and without public notice, leaving dozens of moms scrambling to find birthing services elsewhere.

On Friday, after Indian Country Today reported on the shutdown, the hospital posted on its Facebook page that its delivery services were put on hold. It also updated its website to say obstetrical services are being diverted to alternate care facilities.

In an Oct. 21 letter to Indian Health Service Director Michael Weahkee, eight of Arizona’s 11 congressional delegates asked for additional information about the closure and what the Indian Health Service is doing to assist affected patients.

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Pictured: Rear Admiral (RADM) Michael Weahkee, Zuni.
Michael Weahkee, Zuni (Photo: Association of American Indian Physicians)

Amy Coney Barrett confirmed as Supreme Court justice

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court late Monday by a deeply divided Senate, Republicans overpowering Democrats to install President Donald Trump's nominee days before the election and secure a likely conservative court majority for years to come.

Trump's choice to fill the vacancy of the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg potentially opens a new era of rulings on abortion, the Affordable Care Act and even his own election. Democrats were unable to stop the outcome, Trump's third justice on the court, as Republicans race to reshape the judiciary.

The nation’s top court hears two to three Indian law cases on average per term, according to Joel West Williams, Cherokee Nation, a senior attorney with the Native American Rights Fund.

(Previous: Supreme Court pick has ‘significant impacts’ for tribes)

No Native person has ever been nominated to the Supreme Court, though three Native judges serve on the federal bench.

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Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Her family looks on at left. White House counsel Pat Cipollone sits right. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Amy Coney Barrett speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 13. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool, File)

Alaska Native corporations take funding fight to high court

Alaska Native corporations are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to find them eligible for some of the $8 billion in federal aid set aside for tribes in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The Alaska Native Village Corporation Association Inc., the Association of ANCSA Regional Corporations Presidents/CEOs and several individual Alaska Native corporations filed a petition last week challenging a ruling by a federal appeals court panel that barred them from sharing in the funding, Law360 reported.

They say the decision deprives Alaska Natives of assistance while conflicting with the 9th Circuit and longstanding agency treatment of Alaska Native corporations.

(Previous story: Alaska Native corporations ineligible for coronavirus funds) 

In September, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit determined Alaska Native Corporations were not tribal governments and therefore did not qualify.

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Supreme Court of the United States. (Photo by Mark Trahant, Indian Country Today)

Native TV commercials: The good shot

There was a time when TV commercials defined politics. And that’s still true in many states. Turn on any commercial television station in a competitive race, and the ads are pretty much nonstop.

Do commercials work? Historically, yes. A national conservative group spent millions in 1982 to defeat Montana Democrat John Melcher. The ads packed this punch: Melcher was “too liberal for Montana.”

Melcher, a veterinarian, countered with a commercial that featured suspicious types carrying briefcases stuffed with dollars coming into Montana and cows talking about how these city-slickers were bad-mouthing Doc Melcher. “Montanans aren’t buying it, especially those who know bull when they hear it,” said an announcer, adding that the culprits “had been stepping in what they’re trying to sell.”

Melcher won by 13 points.

These days the idea of a “commercial” is quite different. On television they are still the 30-second spots that define a candidate (or their opponent). But nearly all national candidates can produce video spots that are longer, a couple of minutes or more, and tell a lot more of their story. These are stories shared for free on social media.

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Paulette Jordan's TV spot "Good Shot." Screenshot from campaign video.

Netflix announces an all-Native fantasy-adventure series

Chumash tribal citizen Karissa Valencia and executive producer Chris Nee have joined efforts to create, “Spirit Rangers,” an animated preschool series for youth.

Nee, creator of the popular animated series “Doc McStuffins,” is a Peabody, Emmy, and Humanitas Prize-winning children’s television screenwriter and producer who announced the upcoming Netflix series created by Valencia.

Valencia expressed her excitement in the announcement.

“I am so proud that ‘Spirit Rangers’ has found its home at ‘Laughing Wild.’ I’ve had the opportunity to learn from Chris Nee since I was a coordinator on ‘Vampirina.’ Looking back, I now realize I was in an unofficial showrunner boot camp the whole time,” she said. “From coordinator to staff writer, to showrunner, she's been my mentor from day one. I was able to witness firsthand the groundbreaking preschool shows she would lead and now I strive to do the same.” Laughing Wild is Nee’s production company.

Besides the storyline being about Indigenous stories, it is also led by Indigenous minds.

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Watch: Meet our election night team

We are one week away from Election Day. 

Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant, Deputy Managing Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, reporter Aliyah Chavez and executive producer Patty Talahongva talk about election night 2020.

This election, Indian Country Today will bring up-to-the-minute information on more than 100 Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians running for both national and state offices on election night.

"This is predicted to be one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime,” Bennett-Begaye said. “And also you have probably a historic number of young Native voters.”

Indian Country Today's live election night broadcast starts at 8 p.m. Mountain Standard. Check it out on IndianCountryToday.com.

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