Indian Country headlines for Wednesday

(File Photo by Vandana Ravikumar/Cronkite News)

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020: Supreme Court to hear tribal police case, Navajo council seeks answers on child sex abuse, Ioway tribe creates tribal national park on the Kansas and Nebraska border

Indian Country Today

Supreme Court accepts case on tribal police authority over non-Indians

Friday the US Supreme Court determined it will hear a case on tribal police authority over non-Indians on reservations. It granted a U.S. Department of Justice petition to hear an appeal of a 9th Circuit Court ruling in USA v. Joshua James Cooley.

At issue is whether tribal police can temporarily detain and search non-Indians on public roads within reservation boundaries due to potential violation of state or federal laws.

Lower courts had tossed out evidence gathered by a Crow tribal police officer during a 2016 traffic stop, saying he lacked the authority to search the detainee. The traffic stop involved a man who was later indicted on drug trafficking and firearms charges.

The Crow and other tribes, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center joined the justice department in the case.

They said taking away the authority of tribal police to search non-Indians removes a crucial policing tool, undercuts decades of precedent, and “hamstrings the ability of tribal police to maintain law and order in areas that, in many cases, already suffer from understaffed law enforcement and high crime rates.”

The brief filed by the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center and others noted that in the 2013 Violence Against Women Act, Congress authorized tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence cases regardless of whether the perpetrator is Indian or non-Indian.

Navajo ask child abuse specialist for data, recommendations

24th Navajo Nation Council - banner logo 2020
(Image: 24th Navajo Nation Council)

The Navajo Nation is seeking new ideas to stop child sexual abuse. A committee heard the report of a child abuse pediatrics specialist on Nov. 17, according to a statement from the tribe.

Dr. Renee Ornellas of the Family Advocacy Center at the Tséhootsooí Medical Center in Fort Defiance, Arizona, reported observations from five years as a provider of child sexual abuse evaluations. She works with local advocates, social workers and area police. She’s the only person handling child sexual abuse cases on the Navajo Nation.

Ornellas said in many cases, perpetrators are trusted family members or relatives that parents leave children with to look after, not strangers. “We leave them with people we trust,” she said. “The problem is that there’s perpetrators who have never had to answer or who have never been held accountable for the harm that they’ve caused.”

She said in 98 cases from 2017 to 2019 she was asked to testify in court only three times.

Ornellas said she would consult widely with agencies and collaborators to develop recommendations for legislative action as requested by the committee.

Tribe creates tribal national park on Nebraska-Kansas border

The Ioway people are creating the nation’s largest tribal national park.

The Nature Conservancy of Nebraska recently transferred 284 acres of unique bluff property to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

The tribe plans to use that land, plus an adjacent tract of 160 acres the Conservancy donated two years ago, to establish just a “tribal national park” in the country, located just southeast of Rulo on the Nebraska-Kansas border, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Lance Foster, the vice chairman of the tribe, said the 444-acre park will allow the tribe to tell the story of the Ioway people and provide a rustic getaway for people to hike, primitive camp and birdwatch.

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Tribal leaders back bill on teaching Native American history

Native American History Is American History, #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth
(Image: NDN Collective)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Leaders of American Indian tribes in Connecticut voiced their support Monday for proposed state legislation that would require the teaching of Native American history in public schools.

The tribal leaders issued a statement with state Sen. Cathy Osten, a Democrat, in support of the bill she plans to introduce within the next several weeks. The legislation would require all public schools to include Native American studies in their social studies curricula, with a focus on the tribes that lived in what is now Connecticut.

"We fully support this bill, which will assist in public re-education that includes an accurate portrayal of the First Nations People in Connecticut," said Katherine Sebastian Dring, chairwoman of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation. "The Pequots were not destroyed, we survived. Truth may lead to positive change if we work together for a good life for all nations."

Joining Dring in the statement were leaders of the other four state-recognized tribes: Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation; Beth Regan, vice chair of the Mohegan Tribal Nation's council of elders; Leon Brown of the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation; and Richard Velky, chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

Osten and other lawmakers introduced a similar bill earlier this year that drew concerns from state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, teachers' unions and municipal leaders. The bill died as the coronavirus shut down much of the legislative session.

Cardona said in March that while it is important to teach about Native Americans, the bill would be an unfunded mandate for school districts that are still working to implement other courses lawmakers and the governor have required them to teach.

New state laws passed in the past two years require schools to teach African American and Latino studies, as well as courses on the Holocaust and other genocides. Many schools have had curriculum on these subjects already in place, but the laws solidify their teachings.

Waylon Young Bird wrote 17 letters pleading for compassionate release. COVID-19 silenced him.

In this July 17, 2020, file photo the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., is shown. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
This July 17 photo shows the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

Waylon Young Bird, 52, of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, died in early November after contracting COVID-19 while incarcerated in a federal prison medical center in Springfield, Missouri, NBC reports.

Young Bird was on dialysis for kidney disease and had other serious health problems including congestive heart failure, diabetes and asthma. He wrote 17 letters to the prison center’s warden and U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange, the judge who sentenced him, pleading for compassionate release because of rising cases of COVID-19 in the facility.

Young Bird was serving 11 years for distributing methamphetamine.

The institution houses about 840 inmates with severe medical conditions.

In October, Young Bird wrote that dozens of inmates in his unit had tested positive for the virus. In early November, he and 3 other inmates died from the disease.

The Bureau of Prisons is supposed to prioritize inmates who have served half of their sentences or those with 18 months or less left.

Since the start of the pandemic, the agency has released 17,530 inmates to home confinement.

According to data compiled by the Marshall Project, federal prison wardens denied or ignored more than 98 percent of compassionate release requests.

In January, Young Bird sent a letter to the West River Eagle apologizing to those he’d hurt through his drug and alcohol use.

“It’s very hard to comprehend,” said one of his daughters, Casina Brewer, 26. “I just feel like he was ignored.”

Watch: Continuing to recover from COVID-19

arvina martin
Arvina Martin, Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge Munsee.

As the country goes through this surge of COVID-19 cases, many in Indian Country are sharing their stories on social media, like Arvina Martin who joins the show today to talk about her novel coronavirus diagnosis and recovery.

Plus Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, our deputy managing editor, joins the newscast. She's overseeing our coverage of the Biden-Harris team as they officially transition into the White House and has more on Biden's transition back into the White House has more on Biden's transition back into the White House.

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