Indian Country headlines for Wednesday

Indian Country Today

Stories we're following for Wednesday, Nov. 18,2020: Native leaders watching Affordable Care Act case closely, groups sue over drilling in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, historic Steward Indian School museum wins grants, and much more.

Indian Country Today

‘Disruptive and cruel’: Native Americans worry as Supreme Court weighs repeal of health care act

Images of people who've been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) occupy the seats of Democratic senators boycotting a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Hannah McKay/Pool via AP)
Images of people who've been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on empty seats at a Senate business meeting, Oct. 22, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Hannah McKay/Pool via AP)

PHOENIX – Native American leaders are keeping close watch on the Supreme Court battle over whether to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act, a move many say could devastate health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, expanded the number of Americans covered by private or public health insurance.

But the law also includes a number of provisions specific to Indian Country. It includes permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides ongoing funding for Native health programs, primarily through the Indian Health Service. It further bolsters the health care system for Indian Country by expanding Medicaid coverage for Native Americans.

Sarah Somers, an attorney with the National Health Law Program, said the Affordable Care Act has several different parts to it, “and if you repeal it, then all of the codified statutes go away.

“It’s not to say it (the ACA) is without flaws, but just sweeping it off the table is ridiculous – and disruptive and cruel to a lot of people,” Somers said.

Stacy Bohlen, chief executive officer of the National Indian Health Board, said, “In the context of what we’re all facing … this is not the time to add this extra burden and an additional crisis onto the Indian health system and onto Indian people.”

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Legal challenge filed against oil and gas project in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

Six groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday in US District Court over the authorization of the Willow oil and gas project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The suit charged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Interior Department with illegally and prematurely authorizing the project. It said BLM approved the project even though it harms Arctic communities, public health, and wildlife, and lacks a plan to effectively mitigate those harms.

Tuesday’s lawsuit charges BLM with violating the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service with violating the Endangered Species Act by allowing the Willow project to proceed despite projections that it would seriously injure or kill polar bear cubs.

The public interest non-profit law firm Trustees for Alaska filed the suit in Anchorage, Alaska, on behalf of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.

Nevada boarding school museum wins arts resilience grant

Pictured: Information boards at the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum explain how students at Stewart Indian School spent their time and helped each other cope while separated from their families. Joining clubs such as band and participating in sports were two such ways.
Pictured: Information boards at the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum explain how students at Stewart Indian School spent their time and helped each other cope while separated from their families. (Photo: Guy Clifton/TravelNevada)

The Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum in Nevada has been awarded $74,000 by the Western Arts States Federation and Mellon Foundation Regional Arts Resilience Fund.

“This was a highly competitive process, during a very challenging time,” the funders said in their award letter. They highlighted “the crucial role your organization plays in your community and for the larger field — regionally and nationally.”

“We are thrilled to be chosen to receive this award,” said Stewart Museum Director Bobbi Rahder. He said it will help the museum share its collections and historical information “from the perspective of our Stewart alumni in unique and virtual ways.”

The Indian School opened in 1890 with 37 students from local Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone tribes and operated for 90 years. Set on 240 acres, it grew to 63 Victorian-style buildings and student-built masonry buildings. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Stewart Indian School was one of hundreds modeled after the Carlisle Institute, which was founded by General Richard H. Pratt, a champion of assimilation who came up with the saying, “Kill the Indian, and save the man.” The Stewart school focused on vocational training into the 1960s and closed in 1980. The campus now hosts the Nevada Indian Commission, and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California established the Stewart Indian Colony on the grounds.

Champion of education remembered

Native American Education for All aims to deliver free digital lesson plans and activities for distance learning.
(IllumiNative)

William Stanley “Stan” Juneau, champion of Indian education, proud family man, staunch Democrat and former vice-chairman of Blackfeet council, died November 3 from complications related to COVID-19.

Remembered as a pioneer in Indian education, Juneau, 76, was born in Browning, Montana where he served as superintendent of Heart Butte Schools and Browning schools. President Jimmy Carter appointed Juneau to the National Advisory on Indian Education; he also attended three Democratic National Conventions.

His wife, Carol, served as president of Blackfeet Community College; his daughter Denise Juneau served as superintendent of public instruction in Montana and now works as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.

A memorial service date has not yet been set according to Denise. The family will wait for people to gather safely before choosing a date to celebrate his life.

Vermont to issue free hunting licenses to Native Americans

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The state of Vermont is set to begin issuing free hunting licenses to Native Americans. Members of state-recognized Native American tribes still have to buy hunting and fishing licenses if they want to hunt or fish in 2020. But free tribal citizen hunting and fishing licenses will become available in January.

To qualify, a member of a Native American tribe must present an Abenaki Hunting and Fishing License Tribal Certification form certified by the appropriate tribal official.

In addition, the applicant must provide a copy of current and valid tribal identification card, a Vermont license application, proof of having held a previous hunting license in the United States or Canada or a hunter safety card.

Grant for Indigenous-owned food or beverage businesses available

Image 11-17-20 at 7.10 PM
Unidentified man cooking (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

The James Beard Foundation is offering a grant to help food or beverage businesses that are majority owned by Indigenous or Black citizens.

The campaign aims to rebuild an independent restaurant industry.

“The new fund is part of the foundation’s ongoing commitment to continually lift up the Black and Indigenous business owners in its industry, not just in light of the pandemic, but for good,” James Beard Foundation Vice President of Community Colleen Vincent said in a statement.

An application period is expected to open later this year. For details about the campaign and for application criteria, click here.

Native musician, activist Richie Plass dies after battle with cancer

The shadow of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is cast on the backdrop during the Oneida Indian Nation's Change the Mascot symposium, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Washington, calling for the Washington Redskins NFL football team to change its name. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A shadow is cast against the backdrop during the Oneida Indian Nation's Change the Mascot symposium on Oct. 7, 2013, in Washington, calling for the Washington Redskins NFL football team to change its name. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

At the request of his basketball coach and the athletic director, Richie Plass, 16, reluctantly agreed to play the Indian mascot at his school, Shawano Community High.

Plass, who was Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee, and had grown up on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, asked community members about this. They approved of his request. He was a hit with the crowd.

Though he told the coach and athletic director it was a one-time thing, he was asked to perform again. At a school away game he was ridiculed and faced racially-based insults. He vowed never to do it again.

Years later, Plass traveled across the country as the curator and organizer of his highly regarded exhibit, "Bittersweet Winds," a collection of Native symbolism, caricatures, and stereotypical representations of Native people in modern culture.

Plass died on Nov. 7. He was 60.

Watch: A Champion of Indigenous Filmmaking

N. Bird Runningwater
N. Bird Runningwater

For nearly 20 years, N. Bird Runningwater has worked with the Sundance Institute as the director of the Institute's Indigenous program. On Monday, he joined Indian Country Today to talk about his work.

“I have such a great privilege of being able to travel to so many different countries around the world and to visit Indigenous communities around the world and to be welcomed by them and to be fed by them,” Runningwater said.

Plus national correspondent Dalton Walker joined us to talk about the closure of a New Mexico Indian Health Service emergency facility.

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