Longtime Cherokee linguist dies

Durbin Feeling, a longtime Cherokee linguist, has died. He was 74.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., said Feeling was a beloved national treasure, and the “single-largest contributor to Cherokee language since Sequoyah.”

“Because of his tireless dedication to this end, our Cherokee Nation language programs have been at the forefront of language innovation not only in Indian Country but around the world,” Hoskin said in a statement.

Feeling had worked for the tribe since 1976, most recently in the language translation and technology department, according to the Cherokee Phoenix.

DNC’s Native American Caucus to meet Thursday

The DNC’s Native American Caucus will host its second and final meeting of the 2020 Democratic National Convention on Thursday afternoon. The meeting will include a panel discussion about two topics including missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and “Getting out the Native vote.”

Remarks will also be made by allies of Indian Country including actor Mark Ruffalo, former second lady Jill Biden, DNC Chairman Tom Perez, Senator Bernie Sanders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. ET Thursday and can be livestreamed here.

To read about Tuesday’s caucus meeting, click here.

Comanche man named Office of Indian Education director

Oklahoma’s Julian Guerrero Jr., Comanche Nation, will be taking on the role of director of the Office of Indian Education in Washington DC, according to The Lawton Constitution.

Guerrero is leaving his post as head of American Indian Education at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Last week he also resigned as a Gaming Commissioner with the Comanche Nation Gaming Commission. 

Guerrero has gained a reputation as a leader in the field of Oklahoma Pre-K-12 Indian Education. He’s participated on several boards, including the National Indian Education Association Board.

Guerrero is expected to start by the end of August.

Slade Gorton dies at 92; relentless critic of Indian Country

Slade Gorton, one of Indian Country’s most profound critics, died Wednesday. He was 92 years old.

Gorton was the attorney general for Washington and argued against and lost United States v. Washington, the case known as the Boldt Decision. The Supreme Court affirmed the treaty rights of tribes to fish for salmon in usual and accustomed places.

As a senator, Gorton has been a consistent critic of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights. On the Appropriations Committee, he tried to use the appropriations process to strip tribes of governmental authority, shift federal dollars away from wealthier tribes and rewrite the historical government-to-government relationship. 

He supported the idea that tribes should determine the affairs of their members, but disagreed with the idea of tribes as governments especially balking at the use of authority over non-Indians.

“Gorton was our toughest opponent,” Ron Allen, former president of the National Congress of American Indians, said in a tribute. “He made us better, smarter and more savvy... He cared about the salmon and the environment and said the tribes should play a role. But when it came to sovereignty issues we collided time and again.”

“Over time, Gorton settled into the style of the Senate, where tone trumps content most days of the week,” wrote Indian Country Today columnist Suzan Harjo. “He began using the scalpel more than the machete, but was ever-focused on his task: undercutting federal Indian law. He was gaining surgical precision, along with seniority and clout on key committees for energy and natural resources, budget and commerce, science and transportation.”

Another Indian Country Today columnist, John Mohawk, wrote that Gorton was “an anti-Indian activist all his political life.”

In the 2000 election, Joe DeLaCruz, then president of the Quinault Nation, announced that tribes would do whatever was necessary to defeat Senator Gorton. Indeed, tribes raised money, worked with coalitions, and made a public case against Gorton, who narrowly lost re-election.

Gorton died Wednesday in Seattle, said J. Vander Stoep, his former chief of staff.

Utah boy named student finalist in Google Doodle contest

Noah Begay, Navajo, aged 12, is one of 54 student finalists in the nationwide Google Doodle contest, according to the San Juan Record.

Begay’s Doodle is in the grade 6-7 group and features a cold and hot temperature theme as Utah’s representative for the category. To see Begay’s design, or to vote for it, click here. Voting ends Friday night.

“In the doodle, I wanted to show that no matter what temperature it is, you can always help someone,” Noah told the newspaper. “I also wanted to make the picture show more than one act of kindness to make it more interesting. I realized I could flip it, so the receiver is now the giver.”

The top five move on to the national finalist category.

Watch: Proposed Medicaid changes a 'slippery slope,' and COVID reveals weaknesses

Wednesday’s Indian Country Today Newscast featured long-time health advocate Jim Roberts, Hopi, talking about Medicaid during a pandemic. Roberts is senior executive liaison for intergovernmental affairs for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. 

Roberts explained that a 100 percent Federal Medical Assistance Percentage provided to American Indians and Alaska Natives is meant to support the Indian Health Service and tribal health facilities. A proposal in the Senate Finance Committee could have a detrimental affect on tribal health facilities that rely on funding from Medicaid, warns Roberts.

"It's not consistent with congressional intent. It redirects resources away from the federal trust relationship that allows the states to claim and balance their budgets on the back of resources that were intended for their trust relationship," Roberts said. 

 The danger he said is, "It's healthcare today. Tomorrow it could be vouchers for education or housing. The precedence here is health but I think it starts to slippery slope that this could begin the course of eroding the federal trust relationship."

"COVID has revealed our weaknesses in the system, our need for resources to provide care testing and treatment, and making substantive or draconian policy changes in the wake of a pandemic is not always the best thing to do and it's certainly not good when it disadvantages a system that's underfunded by about 50 to 60 percent of its level of need."

Indian Country Today reporter and producer Aliyah Chavez also shares an update on #NativeVote20 and the latest happenings at the DNC convention.

See Video here.