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Stories we’re following on Oct. 20, 2020: NM tribes concerns about expanding gambling, Catholic exorcism of site of toppled Serra statue, Native law program changes name, and much more

New Mexico tribes concerned about pitch to expand gambling

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Native American leaders in New Mexico are raising concerns about a proposal by non-tribal racetracks and casinos to overhaul the industry and open the state to Las Vegas-style gambling.

They testified during a legislative meeting Monday that allowing unlimited slot machines, table games, online gambling and sports wagering at the horse tracks and casinos would shift the market and violate exclusivity provisions outlined in existing revenue-sharing compacts that tribes have with the state. That would compromise the ability to bring in money for their communities, the tribal leaders said.

“This proposed legislation presents not only a renewed challenge to our economic security but a reckless attempt to expand private wealth at the expense of our ability to provide essential government services,” Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano said.

At least a dozen tribes have voiced their reservations about overhauling the state’s gambling rules. Santa Clara Pueblo Gov. J. Michael Chavarria said Monday his tribe is among those that have outlined their concerns to state Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state legislative leaders.

Monday's meeting marked the first time tribal leaders have spoken publicly about the proposal to expand gambling.

Archbishop performs exorcism at spot where protesters toppled Serra statue

San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone conducts an exorcism Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, outside of Saint Raphael Catholic Church in San Rafael, Calif., on the spot where a statue of St. Junipero Serra was toppled during a protest on Oct. 12. (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)
San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone conducts an exorcism Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, at site of toppled St. Junipero Serra statue. (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — The archbishop of San Francisco performed a short exorcism Saturday outside a Catholic church where protesters had earlier toppled a statue of Father Junipero Serra, saying the ceremony was intended to drive out evil and defend the image of Serra.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone performed the ritual in front of some 150 supporters before saying a special Mass inside St. Raphael Catholic Church and marching to a Planned Parenthood clinic, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Serra was an 18th century Spanish missionary and the father of the California mission system. The Franciscan priest has long been praised by the church for bringing Roman Catholicism to what is now the western United States, but critics highlight a darker side to his legacy. In converting to Catholicism, many Native Americans were forced to abandon their culture and faced brutal punishment.

Depictions of Serra have been protested and vandalized over the years, and Pope Francis’ decision in 2015 to elevate him to sainthood reopened old wounds. More recently, protests focusing on the rights and historical struggle of Black and Indigenous people led activists to topple statues of Serra in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

San Rafael police say they arrested five people on suspicion of vandalism for knocking over the statue Monday. The statue is being repaired and will be returned.

Native law program changes name

The Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, has officially changed the name of its Indian law program. Moving forward the program will be known as the Native American Law & Sovereignty Institute.

According to a news release of the announcement on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, there are fewer than 20 Indian law programs across the country. Co-Director Angelique EagleWoman says the change underscores the importance of sovereignty within Native American law.

“Tribal nations have governed in this region and across the country since time immemorial. Our institute focuses on the sovereign-to-sovereign relationships of tribal governments in alliances and with the U.S. federal government,” EagleWoman said.

Four new Indigenous films by and about Native women

Women Make Movies
Courtesy 'Women Make Movies'

For the past 45 years, the nonprofit Women Make Movies has been one of the leading industry organizations working to help female filmmakers, directors and producers create films with a message of female empowerment and resilience.

Among its latest efforts are four Indigenous-themed films, each employing a female Native producer and/or director. The group’s website states, “As the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women, we amplify historically ignored voices and challenge the mainstream media.”

The four films will be available to interested viewers at an upcoming live event as well as to educators and institutions of learning on a case-by-case basis. The films will also be available to the public after their initial viewings.

The films are:

“Without a Whisper: Konnon:kwe, by Katsitsionni Fox, Mohawk

“Paulette," director/producer Heather Rae, Cherokee

“Sisters Rising,” directors Willow O’Feral & Brad Heck, executive producer Tantoo Cardinal, Cree/Metis, producer Jaida Grey Eagle, Oglala Lakota

“Conscience Point,” director Treva Wurmfeld, producer Julianna Brannum, Comanche

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7.5 earthquake in Alaska prompts tsunami advisory

A reported 7.5 magnitude earthquake off the Alaska Peninsula on Monday prompted tsunami warnings for a swath of communities, leading some schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to evacuate and send students to higher ground.

The warnings have since been cancelled or reduced to advisories. A tsunami advisory means that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water is expected or already occurring. However, areas in the advisory should not expect widespread inundation.

The size of the quake was originally reported to have been a magnitude of 7.4, but has been revised to a 7.5, said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Public safety officials in King Cove sent out an alert urging residents in the coastal area to move inland to higher ground. Some schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were evacuating to higher ground, the district said on Twitter.

The tsunami warning was issued by the National Tsunami Warning Center, following an earthquake off Sand Point, Alaska. The Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the tsunami warning was in effect for roughly 950 miles, from 40 miles southeast of Homer to Unimak Pass, about 80 miles northeast of Unalaska.

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Watch: Alaska Elders and Youth report on Newscast

Indigenous Leadership Continuum director Karla Booth joined Indian Country Today’s newscast Monday to talk about the 37th annual First Alaskans Institute’s statewide Elders and Youth conference. The event usually draws hundreds of people from across the state to Anchorage or Fairbanks. This year, the event went completely digital.

Plus national correspondent Mary Annette Pember has been following several candidates. Today, she'll talk about one that's proven to be controversial.

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