Indian Country headlines for Wednesday

(Photo: Sharice Davids, Twitter)(Photo: Sharice Davids, Twitter, File)

Indian Country Today

Stories we’re following: Native congressional candidates make history, while results pour in for other races; Mississippi retires its state flag; and Wyoming's governor tests negative for COVID after a meeting with tribal officials.

Indian Country Today

The fate of the United States presidency hung in the balance Wednesday morning, as President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden battled for three familiar battleground states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that could prove crucial in determining who wins the White House.

It was unclear when or how quickly a winner could be determined. A late burst of votes in Wisconsin gave Biden a small lead in the state, but it was still too early to call the race. Hundreds of thousands of votes were also outstanding in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The high stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs. Both candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation’s future and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of Election Day.

Record number of Natives headed to US House

Native congressional candidates made history this Election Day.

Thirteen Natives from eight states were vying for 11 U.S. House seats. Six won, meaning the next U.S. House will feature a record number of Native members.

Among the familiar faces who will be returning to office: Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, and Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, the first two Native women elected to Congress. Reps. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, also won their reelection bids Tuesday.

Pictured: Representative Tom Cole (R-OK-04). Cole is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and is the Ranking Member of House Rules Committee.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (Photo: cole.house.gov)

In addition, Republican Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, won a closely watched House race in New Mexico, defeating the incumbent, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small.

Also, Native Hawaiian Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele, a Democrat, won his race in Hawaii, becoming just the second Native Hawaiian in Congress since statehood.

Meanwhile, Democrat Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, lost her bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Idaho.

Native people make up roughly 2 percent of the U.S. population, and equal representation in Congress would be 11 members.

In other races, first-time candidate Christina Haswood, Diné, will become Kansas' youngest sitting legislator after no one filed to run against her in the general election. The 26-year-old Democrat won her state House primary with 70 percent of the vote.

In Wyoming, Navajo candidate Affie Ellis, Wyoming's first Native state senator, won reelection, while Andi Clifford, Northern Arapaho, prevailed in a race for state House.

A number of other Native candidates won their races across the U.S. See the latest results here:

U.S. House

U.S. Senate

State, local races

Also, watch the replay of our election night special here and on Facebook:

A beautiful day to vote in Indian Country

Native voting advocates working to get out the vote in Indian Country reported high turnout Tuesday.

Indian Country Today spoke with people from the Pyramid Lake Reservation in Nevada, home to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, home to the Ojibwe tribe; Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin; and the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico.

Nearly everyone reported positive atmospheres in their polling places with above-average turnout and little or no voter interference.

“It’s just been a beautiful day so far, with temperature in the mid-70s,” said Dee Sweet, First Nations coordinator for Wisconsin Native Vote. “Overall, just a beautiful day to vote.”

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Jeanine and Quentin Blue Horse and their daughters Valerie and Janae with poll workers at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe polling location. Quentin, Valeri and Janae voted for the first time. (Photo courtesy of Janet Davis)
Jeanine and Quentin Blue Horse and their daughters Valerie and Janae with poll workers at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe polling location. Quentin, Valeri and Janae voted for the first time. (Photo courtesy of Janet Davis)

Wyoming governor COVID-19 negative after tribe meeting

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming's governor tested negative for the coronavirus for a second time but remained in isolation after being exposed at a meeting that included tribal officials and the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force.

A White House spokesperson didn't immediately return a message Tuesday asking whether the coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, had been tested since the meeting at the Wind River Casino in Riverton on Oct. 28.

Birx visited Wyoming on a multi-state trip to discuss the pandemic with state, tribal and local officials.

Gov. Mark Gordon will work from the Governor's Residence in Cheyenne in isolation for the rest of this week out of an "abundance of caution," spokesman Michael Pearlman said Tuesday.

Gordon might get a third test after the negative rapid and conventional test results, Pearlman added.

The top Northern Arapaho tribal official, Lee Spoonhunter, tested positive for the coronavirus and had mild COVID-19 symptoms after sitting next to Gordon at the meeting.

Spoonhunter chairs the Northern Arapaho Business Council. Spoonhunter and other tribal officials were isolating themselves, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Participants wore masks and took other precautions against the virus throughout the meeting, state officials said.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon addresses a joint session of Wyoming Legislature for the State of the State address Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Cheyenne, Wyo. (Cayla Nimmo/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP)
Gov. Mark Gordon addresses a joint session of Wyoming Legislature for the State of the State address Feb. 10 in Cheyenne. (Cayla Nimmo/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP, File)

Mississippi retires state flag with Confederate emblem

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi will fly a new state flag with a magnolia and the phrase "In God We Trust," with voters approving the design Tuesday. It replaces a Confederate-themed flag state lawmakers retired months ago as part of the national reckoning over racial injustice. 

The magnolia flag was the only design on the general election ballot, and voters were asked to say yes or no. A majority said yes.

Legislators will have to put the design into law, but they are expected to do that with little fuss because they already did the hard work of retiring a flag that some people wanted to keep.

Mississippi has been without a flag since late June, when legislators surrendered the last state banner in the U.S. that included the Confederate battle emblem — a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The rebel flag has been used by Ku Klux Klan groups and is widely condemned as racist.

The new Mississippi flag has the state flower on a dark blue background with red bars on either end. The magnolia is encircled by stars representing Mississippi as the 20th state. 

The flag also has a single star made of diamond shapes representing the Native American people who lived on the land before others arrived.

Reuben Anderson, seated left, and Mary Graham, and other members of a commission that will recommend a new Mississippi state flag, discuss flag choices on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. The screen above Anderson and Graham shows people participating remotely in the commission meeting and images of nine flags chosen as finalists, although a graphic artist was set to make small changes to some of the designs. Mississippi recently retired the last state flag in the U.S. that included the Confederate battle emblem. (Photo by Emily Wagster Pettus, AP)
Reuben Anderson, seated left, and Mary Graham, and other members of a commission recommending a new Mississippi state flag, discuss choices on Aug. 14. (Photo by Emily Wagster Pettus, AP, File)

WATCH: Governance expert: 'Change doesn't happen overnight'

As the ballots are being counted and the winners are being named, some might say the easy part is over. Now, those newly elected leaders need to do just that: lead. How can they do that effectively?

The Native Governance Center based in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers classes for newly elected tribal leaders on tribal governance, leadership development and community engagement. Wayne Ducheneaux is the center's executive director, and he is enrolled in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and worked for his tribe overseeing some enterprises. He also served a two-year term as its vice chairman.

He joins our newscast to talk about what newly elected leaders can expect when they take office.

Plus, freelance journalist Stewart Huntington shares the latest information on Rapid City, South Dakota, boarding school land.

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