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POPLAR, Mont. — When Maria Vega was a senior in high school in 2015, she found the body of one of her closest friends, who had died by suicide. A few days later, devastated by the loss, Vega tried to take her own life.

After the attempt failed, she was arrested and taken to juvenile detention in Poplar, a remote town on the Missouri River a short drive from the North Dakota oil fields. She was put in a cell and kept under observation for several days until a mental health specialist was available to see her. Her only interaction was with the woman who brought food to her cell.

“I remember asking her if I could have a hug and she told me, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that,’” Vega recalled. “That was honestly one of the hardest things I ever went through in my life. I felt like I was being punished for being sad.”

Jailing people because of a mental health issue is illegal in Montana and every other state except New Hampshire. But Vega is a citizen of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, a sovereign nation with its own laws. An 11-year-old tribal policy allows law enforcement to put citizens who threaten or attempt suicide in jail or juvenile detention to prevent another attempt. READ MORE. — Sara Reardon, Kaiser Health News


Leon “Lee” Cook, a lifelong advocate for the betterment of Native people, champion for Indian education and former National Congress of American Indians president, died Oct. 13. He was 82.

Cook, a citizen of the Red Lake Nation in northern Minnesota, was a larger-than-life figure, a groundbreaker who impacted many people in and beyond Indian Country.

Cook's career had an unusual path. He was just in his 20s when he was considered as a potential Democratic vice presidential nominee. Then he went to work for Richard Nixon at the Bureau of Indian Affairs during a time of reform. Then he resigned to run for, and win, president of the National Congress of American Indians. He was just 31 at the time. READ MORE. — Dalton Walker, Indian Country Today

The University of Maryland will begin Native American Heritage Month in November with a ​​ground blessing ceremony and a naming announcement for its new dining hall — the first in more than 50 years — in partnership with Maryland’s Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.

The name will honor the Piscataway people and will be titled in its traditional language. It was developed by University of Maryland students, faculty and staff, the American Indian Student Union, Piscataway elders, tribal members and Rico Newman of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe Choptico Band.

Masks will be required regardless of vaccination status.

WHEN: Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Heritage Community, 4136 Stadium Drive, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742 

HAYS, Mont. — A Fort Belknap tribal police officer shot and killed a suspect who reportedly exhibited a weapon after a weekend pursuit near the town of Hays, the tribe said.

A tribal officer tried to conduct a traffic stop Saturday morning, but the driver did not stop, resulting in a pursuit, the Fort Belknap Indian Community said.

When the pursuit ended, the driver was uncooperative and exhibited a weapon, resulting in the officer fatally shooting the victim, the tribe said. The victim’s name has not been released.

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The FBI is leading the investigation because it happened on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, ABC Fox Montana reported. — The Associated Press

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The superintendent of the Page Unified School District who resigned after allegedly making a racist remark at a school board meeting now intends to stay on the job.

Larry Wallen resigned Sunday but notified the district early Tuesday that he changed his mind, the district posted on its Facebook page.

Phoenix TV station CBS 5 reported that parents in the far northern Arizona school district that borders the Navajo Nation allege Wallen called Indigenous students "brown kids" in a discussion about how to address a shortage of teachers and other faculty members.

The discussion at the Oct. 19 school board meeting included having more virtual teachers in the classroom with the help of a classroom assistant, rather than having the teachers physically at the school. One parent asked how that would affect student performance, and alleged Wallen responded by suggesting "brown kids" in the district will struggle.

Wallen has served as superintendent for less than two years in the district where the majority of students are Native American. Wallen said he's embarrassed following the allegations and apologized for "creating this kind of disharmony."

"What most people don't know is my whole family is Navajo," Wallen told CBS 5. "My wife's Navajo, my grandkids are Navajo, my son's Navajo," Wallen said. "And to think that I would make racist remarks is ... after 35 years on Navajo, is very unforgiving." — The Associated Press

Anthony Reyes Vazquez, 49, pleaded guilty in federal court that he stole more than $300,000 from the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in California while serving as chief of the Manzanita Tribal Police Department.

Vazquez admitted to recruiting people in the Los Angeles area to become members of the police department, known as "VIP Group," charging $5,000 to $100,000, according to the Justice department.

Vazquez served as police chief from 2012 to 2018. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing date is scheduled for January. READ MORE.Indian Country Today


Tribal gaming experts across the nation are monitoring the situation closely with excitement and skepticism.

More than half of the country is currently offering sports betting in some form, with even more states expected to offer it in 2022 and 2023.

Ten states are offering in-person sports wagers only, with an additional 11 offering full mobile betting with multiple options and six others have limited mobile betting options, according to Action Network... READ MORE.Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today

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