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Stories we're following on Oct. 7, 2020: MacArthur “genius” award goes to Lakota playwright, VP debate set for tonight, tell us your Indigenous Peoples Day plans, and more

Indian Country Today

Sicangu Lakota playwright wins MacArthur genius award 

Playwright Larissa FastHorse, Sicangu Lakota, has been named a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. It comes with a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 disbursed over five years.

The award recognizes individuals who show “exceptional creativity in their artistic, intellectual and professional pursuits which help resolve historical issues, refine knowledge and improve the world for everyone,” said the foundation. 

FastHorse said her Lakota heritage inspires and saturates every aspect of her work. She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her husband, sculptor Edd Hogan. 

“From the beginning of my career, it’s been important to find ways to include Indigenous people and populations into my work, creating works that not only tell Indigenous stories and use Indigenous ways of thinking, but they also provide greater access to them to have agency over the way that they’re portrayed,” she said in a video by the MacArthur Foundation.

Her plays employ comedy and satire to explore topics such as racism, genocide and violent colonial expansion, foster care, youth activism and federal recognition.

According to her website, FastHorse’s 2018 satirical comedy “The Thanksgiving Play” (Playwrights Horizons/Geffen Playhouse) was one of the country’s top 10 most produced plays. “She is the first Native American playwright in the history of American theater on that list,” the site said. 

VP debate set for Wednesday night

Kamala Harris and Mike Pence will be separated by a see-through barrier to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission at Wednesday’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City.

The Democratic campaign requested the plexiglass shield between the candidates, according to a campaign aide who was unauthorized to discuss the details publicly and who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The debate will come less than a week after President Donald Trump tested positive for the virus. It is the only planned debate between the two vice presidential contenders and will take on heightened attention following the president’s diagnosis.

The two will be seated more than 12 feet apart from each other during the match, according to a person familiar with the debate setup who was also unauthorized to publicly discuss the details. Trump and Joe Biden debated last Tuesday while standing at podiums.

Indigenous Peoples Day is Monday

Indian Country Today is creating a list of 2020 Indigenous Peoples Day events. To add your related event to the list, email general@indiancountrytoday.com.

Speaking of Indigenous Peoples Day, comedian Joey Clift, Cowlitz, said he’s taking over Comedy Central's Instagram Stories on Monday, with the help of IllumiNative.

Clift's takeover is called "Things you didn't learn about Native Americans in high school."

"On Twitter, Clift said he'll promote IllumiNative's list of Native American comedians to follow. 

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Oklahoma's secretary of state, Native American affairs resigns

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Secretary of State and Secretary o Native American Affairs Michael Rogers is resigning from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet, the governor’s office announced on Monday.

Rogers, a former state legislator, also has been serving as secretary of Native American affairs after former state Rep. Lisa Billy resigned last year following a disagreement with Stitt over tribal gambling compacts.

According to a press release from Stitt’s office, Rogers will continue working in Stitt’s administration as a special adviser to the governor.

Federal judge delays Arizona voter registration deadline

"Vote here" sign outside of a polling location in Apache Junction, Arizona on August 4, 2020. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez)
"Vote here" sign outside of a polling location in Apache Junction, Arizona on August 4, 2020. (Photo by Aliyah Chavez)

PHOENIX (AP) — Republican organizations are appealing a federal judge's ruling that pushes back Arizona's voter registration deadline by nearly three weeks because of the pandemic. 

U.S. District Judge Steven Logan in Phoenix sided late Monday with organizing groups Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Coalition for Change. He ruled hours before the original deadline arrived at midnight Monday that voter registration forms received by 5 p.m. Oct. 23 should be considered valid. 

While extending the deadline could cause some confusion that could undermine the integrity of the election process, the pandemic means "a portion of the population is prevented from registering to vote, and thus the integrity of the election is undermined in a different way; that portion is going unrepresented," Logan wrote in his ruling. "Extending the deadline would give more time for those voters to register and let their voters be heard through the democratic process.

"Mi Familia Vota and the Arizona Coalition for Change filed suit last week arguing that they've faced higher costs and lower success rates in their voter registration efforts because of the pandemic." 

Watch: The smoke-free casino movement

As tribal leaders cautiously reopened the casinos during the COVID-19 pandemic, some chose to do it smoke-free. 

Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa citizen Clinton Isham and American Non-Smokers Rights Foundation Director of Advocacy Bronson Frick share an update on how tribal casinos are leading the smoke-free movement. 

“One thing that I wanted to mention is that because of this tribal initiative of casinos going smoke-free, a lot of nontribal gaming casinos are now following this tribal movement,” Isham said.

When the New York Times reported on Donald Trump's tax returns, it prompted the question that many Native Americans still endure: Do Natives pay taxes? Indian Country Today's national correspondent Dalton Walker helps answer that and more.

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