Indian Country Today headlines for Tuesday

Indian Country Today

News we’re talking about today, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020: ‘Molly of Denali’ wins TV Critics award; Oglala Lakota president suspended; It’s time to put a Native American on the Supreme Court; Mount Rushmore treaty defender pleads not guilty to multiple charges; and more

Indian Country Today

‘Molly of Denali’ wins Television Critics Association award
“Molly of Denali,” a PBS cartoon featuring an Alaska Native leading character, has won another award for excellence. The series premiered in 2019 and follows 10-year-old Alaskan Molly Mabray, Athabascan.

The show is this year’s winner of the Television Critics Association’s Outstanding Achievement in Youth Programming. In June, the creators took home a Peabody award. “Molly of Denali” was one of the winners announced Monday for the Critics Association’s 36th annual awards.

Creators say the show is designed to correct the misperception that Indigenous people no longer exist, and to help remedy the scant attention given to Native Americans after the year 1900 in state history standards.

Oglala Lakota Nation president suspended over sexual misconduct allegations
The head of the Oglala Lakota Nation has been suspended over allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with a 17-year-old boy. It’s unclear whether and when he will be reinstated.

The decision on President Julian Bear Runner’s tenure came in a special impeachment hearing held Monday. The vote to impeach failed.

The alleged victim, now 18, testified via Zoom during the emotionally charged 5-hour hearing held at the tribally owned Prairie Wind Casino in Oglala, South Dakota.

Bear Runner testified the allegations were false and damaging. 

His tenure as president has been controversial. After casting the deciding vote in favor of recognizing same sex marriage under tribal codes, Bear Runner “came out of the closet” on his public Facebook page.

He was charged with drunken driving and threatening a man in May. In July he was suspended by the tribal council for 30 days for failing to communicate with them after issuing a COVID-19 lockdown. He was reinstated on August 6.

According to the tribe’s constitution, a council member can be impeached for ethics violations including crimes, gross incompetence, corruption or malfeasance. Impeachment requires a ‘yes’ vote by two-thirds of the 21-member council.

The most important thing a president can do
After 230-plus years the time may be right for a Native American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Donald Trump released a batch of 20 names last week that he says are under consideration for a Supreme Court appointment, should he serve a second term.

Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond in a July op-ed in The Hill, said the president has fulfilled his pledge to appoint conservatives to the bench, but at numerous costs. “Republicans have also decreased ideological, experiential, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation diversity on the federal courts,” Tobias said.

Both Republicans and Democrats are telegraphing potential court appointments as a way to excite voters. Because two of the current justices are in their 80s, it is likely the next president will appoint two replacements.

Tilsen pleads not guilty to Mount Rushmore protest charges

Pictured: NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen talks to media outside of the NDN Collective headquarters in the hour leading up to his preliminary hearing on Friday morning.
NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen talks to media outside of NDN Collective headquarters on August 21, 2020. (Photo: Willi White, courtesy NDN Collective)

One of the 20 treaty defenders who protested Donald Trump’s July 3 visit to Mount Rushmore has pleaded not guilty on three felonies and four misdemeanors.

Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota and NDN Collective president and CEO, faces up to 16 years in prison on charges related to robbery, grand theft, simple assault, impeding a highway, unlawful assembly, and disorderly conduct, according to a report in the Rapid City Journal.

Tilsen is facing the most severe charges of those arrested. In August, supporters presented a petition to Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo asking for all charges to be dropped. The petition has nearly 18,000 signatures as of Sept. 14.

Tilsen’s next court appearance is set for Nov. 6.

Kansas City football team wins Native American praise but stops short of name change
The National Congress of American Indians is giving a thumbs up to the Kansas City professional football team for being open to changing one offensive behavior linked to the team. The team is named after a mayor nicknamed “The Chief.”

The nonprofit national congress is made up of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and their citizens.

Team president Mark Donovan recently told 247 Sports the team has no plans to change its name, but “other changes could be in store." He said it could be time to stop the use of the  ‘tomahawk chop’ fans have used at Arrowhead Stadium for years.

On its website, the congress said, “NCAI views the Kansas City Chiefs' announced modifications as positive yet modest initial steps in a long and ongoing educational process that ultimately will lead to comprehensive change, change that respects the humanity, diversity, resiliency, and vibrancy of tribal nations, cultures, and peoples.”

However another organization, Not in Our Honor, have said the Kansas City's changes do not go far enough. 

New tribal liaison at National Park Service
The National Park Service has named a Rosebud Sioux woman as the agency’s new Native American Affairs Liaison. Beginning October 11, Dorothy FireCloud will work to strengthen relationships between the National Park Service and Indigenous communities.

FireCloud said the pandemic has deeply affected tribal nations. She added: “I am honored to serve in this role, supporting government-to-government communication during these dynamic times.”

FireCloud is superintendent at the Montezuma and Tuzigoot national monuments in Arizona. Her background includes experience working on water rights with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and several positions with the U.S. Forest Service. She developed a tribal consultation curriculum to support consultation skills development among park service employees. In addition, she is a member of the New Mexico Bar.

Interior Department hosts free virtual tribal broadband summit this month
A free five-day tribal broadband summit starts Monday. The all-virtual 2020 National Tribal Broadband Summit is hosted by the Interior Department, featuring various speakers and presentations.

Tara Sweeney, Indian Affairs assistant secretary, is scheduled to share opening remarks.

For more information and how to register, click here.

NCAI hosts virtual Tribal Unity Impact Days
The National Congress of American Indians is hosting a two-day virtual event that features roundtable conversations from members of Congress. To register or to view the draft agenda of Tribal Unity Impact Days, click here.

The event starts Wednesday.

Watch: Serving a real need for an educated community
As the nation works to restructure education and learning spaces, it’s a good time to reflect on the educational needs of tribal communities.

On Monday’s Indian Country Today newscast we take a look back at the innovative higher education college created by urban Natives in Chicago. Then, we discuss the Bureau of Indian Education plans for reopening schools later this week.

Dr. Dorene Wiese is the president of the Native American Educational Services College, which transitioned into a non-profit after losing its accreditation in 2005. She explains how NAES merged traditional knowledge with western academia to give Natives in Chicago access to a four-year degree program.

Later in the newscast national correspondent Mary Annette Pember discusses the Bureau of Indian Education. She has been covering the bureau’s changing reopening plans during the pandemic.

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