Indian Country headlines for Wednesday

Indian Country Today

Stories we're following: Navajo man set to be executed; Navajo vice president speaks at Republican convention; Oklahoma runoff results; what medicine should be all about; and more

Navajo man’s execution set for Wednesday

Lawyers for the only Native American on federal death row are still seeking a last-minute court or presidential intervention to halt his execution. However the U.S. Supreme Court late Tuesday declined to step in. His execution by lethal injection is  scheduled for today [Wednesday]. 

Navajo Lezmond Mitchell was convicted of the 2001 murder of a 63-year-old Navajo woman and her 9-year-old granddaughter on the Navajo Nation.

On Tuesday, Mitchell’s lawyers filed papers in federal court in Washington to delay his execution, which is set to take place at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Mitchell is the first Native American sentenced to death since the resumption of the federal death penalty in 1994. The Navajo Nation opposes the death penalty but Mitchell was convicted of carjacking resulting in death — a crime that carries the possibility of capital punishment regardless of where it occurred.

The National Congress of American Indians and more than a dozen tribal nations asked President Donald Trump to block the Navajo citizen’s execution. NCAI President Fawn Sharp wrote to Trump asking him to grant clemency to Mitchell and commute his death sentence to life without the possibility of release.

Photo
Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer during the filming of his speech for the Republican National Convention in Shiprock, N.M. on Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo from Navajo Nation's Office of the President and Vice President)

Navajo VP praises Donald Trump on funding, public safety

Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer opened Night Two of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday. As the lone Native voice thus far at the convention, Lizer endorsed Trump for the 2020 election.

Speaking in pre-recorded remarks from Shiprock, New Mexico, Lizer listed presidential accomplishments, among them a "true seat at the table" for Indian Country.

Lizer said Trump has made it a priority to repair the federal government’s relationship with the Navajo Nation. He credited the president with delivering the “largest financial funding package ever to Indian Country” with the CARES Act. The Trump administration sided with Alaska Native corporations in a dispute over how those coronavirus relief funds would be allocated.

Lizer praised the president for setting up “Operation Lady Justice,” a White House task force addressing missing and slain American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as funding to improve public safety and support crime victims in Native communities.

Lizer also applauded Trump for reactivating the White House Council on Native American Affairs and for the appointment of conservative judges to the federal bench and to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cherokee candidate for Oklahoma Senate wins runoff

Shane Jett is one step closer to being back in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Jett, Cherokee, beat incumbent and two-term state senator Ron Sharp in Tuesday’s Oklahoma primary runoff to represent the Republican Party in November’s general election District 17 race.

Jett last served as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives 10 years ago. He served from 2004 to 2010 before two unsuccessful runs for the 5th Congressional District’s Republican Party nomination in 2010 and 2014.

Jett received 4,611 votes, or 59 percent, to Sharp’s 3,153 votes, or 41 percent, according to the state Election Board. Jett next faces Libertarian candidate Greg Sadler in the race for a four-year Senate term in a district that includes eastern Oklahoma and northern Pottawatomie counties, in the central part of the state.

Jett joins two other Native candidates vying for state Senate seats in Oklahoma and nine Native candidates seeking a state House seat in the general election. He was the lone Native candidate in Tuesday’s runoff.

Shane Jett, a candidate for Oklahoma state senate. (Photo courtesy of Jett's campaign website)
Shane Jett, a candidate for Oklahoma state senate. (Photo courtesy of Jett's campaign website)

Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara citizen to head North Dakota historic site

Alisha Deegan, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, has been named the new superintendent of Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site in Stanton, North Dakota. She has served as the site’s acting superintendent since June and will begin her new assignment on Sept. 27, according to a Facebook post.

The site is northwest of Bismarck near the Missouri River and Fort Berthold Reservation.

National Park Service Regional Director Bert Frost made the announcement on Monday. For details, click here.

Vancouver school board backs retiring Chieftain mascot

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — Vancouver Public Schools in Washington appears ready to retire Columbia River High School’s mascot after hearing feedback that decried its Native American imagery as offensive and racist.

In a workshop Tuesday, the board of directors indicated their support for shelving the mascot image of a Plains Indian chief, The Columbian reported.

Members heard from leaders of local Native American tribes who urged the school district to eliminate the mascot. “It’s too often a slur,” said Mike Iyall, former vice chairman and current tribal council member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

The board could formally vote to OK its removal at its next meeting. Wendy Smith, school board president, said Tuesday there’s “no cause to keep it in place.”

The mascot has been challenged several times, with students voting in 1994 and again in 2019 to keep the imagery. This summer a petition to remove the chieftain garnered more than 1,700 signatures.

Watch: What medicine should be all about

“Rez 2 Med” was created to increase the representation of Native Americans in the medical field. The founders were med students Jasmine Curry, Diné; Tomoko Wilson, Diné; and Maliyan Bennette, Penobscot.

They created social media accounts to share their medical school experience and to let people know what they can do to stay healthy. Curry and Wilson joined Indian Country Today’s newscast on Tuesday.

Freelance reporter Sandra Hale Schulman was also featured. She talks about her latest article, which features community arts activist Marcie Rendon, White Earth Anishinaabe Nation.

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