Indian Country headlines for Wednesday

U.S. Army PFC Corlton Lane Chee, Diné, was laid to rest on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 at the National Veterans Cemetery in Gallup, New Mexico. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer attended the service and presented a Navajo Nation flag and a proclamation in honor and remembrance of Chee. (Photo courtesy of Navajo Nation)

Indian Country Today

News we’re talking about today, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020: Navajo Nation honors two fallen soldiers; Crow leader endorses Trump; Mayan slave ship discovered; and more.

Diné soldier laid to rest
U.S. Army PFC Corlton Lane Chee, Diné, was laid to rest on Tuesday in Gallup, New Mexico.

Chee, a father of two sons, died on Sept. 2 after collapsing a week earlier on his 25th birthday during a training exercise at Fort Hood Army Base in Texas. Chee was buried at the National Veterans Cemetery.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer attended the graveside service Tuesday and presented a Navajo Nation flag and a proclamation in honor and remembrance of Chee.

(Related article: Soldier’s death leaves family asking ‘why, why, why?’)

On Monday, Nez and Lizer issued a proclamation calling for all flags on the Navajo Nation to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, to pay tribute to PFC Chee and U.S. Army Spc. Miguel D. Yazzie, who also passed away in July while stationed at Fort Hood Army Base.

“Today, we pay tribute to the life of PFC Chee and we offer our thoughts and prayers for his fiancé, children, parents, and siblings. We pray to our Creator and ask for strength and comfort for all of the families that have lost loved ones while stationed at Fort Hood Army Base. By all accounts, PFC Chee was a strong warrior and a good family man who wanted the best for his family and his Navajo people. We will always be thankful for his service to the Navajo Nation and the United States,” President Nez said in a statement.

Nez and Lizer have called on Congress and other officials to investigate the deaths of Chee and Yazzie.

Crow Tribal Chairman endorses Trump campaign
Crow Tribal Chairman Alvin Not Afraid, Jr. was met with praise and applause while speaking at a GOP rally held Monday in Montana. In attendance was Vice President Mike Pence, who headlined the event.

“Today I stand before you to endorse, as well as support, President Trump, Vice President Pence,” Not Afraid, Jr. said before also endorsing other Republican candidates in Montana.

Those endorsements included U.S. Senator Steven Daines who faces a November challenge from Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock; current Montana U.S. House Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Republican running for governor; and state auditor Matt Rosendale, a candidate for the U.S. House.

Not Afraid, Jr. began his roughly four-minute remarks with an honor song sung with two others who joined him on stage.

Mexico identifies submerged wreck of Mayan slave ship
Archaeologists in Mexico said they have identified a ship that carried Mayan people into virtual slavery in the 1850s, the first time such a ship has been found, according to the Associated Press.

The wreck of the Cuban-based paddle-wheel steamboat was found in 2017, but wasn’t identified until researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History checked contemporary documents and found it was the ship “La Unión.”

The ship had been used to take Mayas captured during a 1847-1901 rebellion known as “The War of the Castes” to work in sugarcane fields in Cuba.

Slavery was illegal in Mexico at the time, but operators of similar ships had reportedly deceived Mayans left landless by the conflict to “sign on” as contract workers, often in Cuba, though they were treated like slaves.

Native American Caucus formed in North Dakota
Three Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation citizens formed a Native American Caucus in North Dakota.

The state Democratic-NPL [Non-Partisan League] Party unanimously approved the caucus application this week.

State Rep. Ruth Buffalo, Prairie Rose Seminole and Twyla Baker organized the caucus to build long term political engagement within Indigenous communities and with the state Democratic party.

The group has more than 40 members with representation from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Spirit Lake Nation and the Three Affiliated Tribes.

“This has been a long time coming,” Buffalo said in a statement. “Diversity will only strengthen relationships across the state to address the issues that not only face our tribal communities, but our rural and urban populations. More Native voices in the political landscape of North Dakota only deepens our understanding of one another, and there is value in knowing who our neighbors are and what impact public policy may have.”

Native Americans for Biden to host virtual Two Spirit Roundtable on Thursday
Biden-Harris Tribal Engagements Director Clara Pratte, Diné, and others will be part of a Two Spirit/Indigenous LGBTQ+ roundtable on Thursday. The roundtable will discuss Biden’s commitment to Native communities and LGBTQ+ communities.

The event is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET and is hosted by Native Americans for Biden. For details and to register, click here.

Violence Against Women Act at 26: 'Fact that it hasn’t been passed by now is deeply troubling'
The Biden-Harris presidential campaign held a national event Monday comprised of female supporters who rallied behind reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark piece of legislation that aims to protect women from domestic and other kinds of violence.

The act, first written by then-Senator Joe Biden, was enacted 26 years ago on Sunday.

Former second lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave brief remarks at the nearly one-hour event held on Facebook Live, where more than 127,000 viewers tuned in.

The event was headlined by a panel called, “VAWA at 26: Women Unite in Progress,” which included North Dakota state Rep. Ruth Buffalo, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

Panelists explored the many communities who experience sexual assault and violence, including Indigenous and Black women, college students, and women in the military. They collectively called for VAWA to be reauthorized under a Biden-Harris administration.

Watch: Alaska Natives and Arctic Indigenous people fight for rights
Indigenous people have been fighting for human rights since first contact.

On Tuesday's newscast guest Dalee Sambo Dorough explains how one non-governmental organization has been representing the rights of Arctic Indigenous people.

Dorough is the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, a multinational organization that represents Inuit people on the international stage. This past Sunday was the 13th anniversary of the U.N. declaration on the rights of Indigenous People. Dorough called the declaration instrumental in affirming the rights of all Indigenous people across the globe.

The newscast wraps up with a report on an Alaska Native woman who is speaking out as a victim of verbal sexual advances in part to protect her daughter, who was misidentified two years ago as the victim. Jody Potts, Han Gwitch’in Athabascan, also wants to combat violence against women, and urge Native leaders to join the fight. Rates of violence against women in Alaska are four times the national average, and disproportionately affect Native women.

As Indian Country Today's national correspondent Joaqlin Estus explains, Potts’ daughter is still being harassed for the political fallout from misconduct by the late Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Tlingit.

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