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Women's Equality Day

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Thursday to recognize Women’s Equality Day.

“Today, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, a reminder not only of the progress women have won through the years, but of the important work that remains to be done,” the proclamation read. “One hundred and one years ago, the ratification of the 19th Amendment moved our Nation one essential step closer to fulfilling its foundational promise — establishing at long last that no American’s right to vote could be denied or abridged on the basis of gender."

Organizations across the country celebrated the day, most posting on social media. The National Congress of American Indians honored the late Wilma Mankiller for her leadership.

“To celebrate #WomensEqualityDay, NCAI is honoring the legacy of Wilma Mankiller, the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, who is now one of the first honorees of the 2022 American Women Quarters Program,” a tweet read.

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Oklahoma man at center of tribal sovereignty case sentenced

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) — A citizen of the Seminole Nation in Oklahoma whose case led to a landmark decision on criminal jurisdiction in tribal lands has been sentenced to life in federal prison for sexual abuse of a child.

Federal prosecutors in Muskogee announced late Wednesday that Jimcy McGirt, 72, was sentenced to life in prison for two counts of aggravated sexual abuse in Indian Country.

McGirt was originally convicted in a state court and sentenced to 500 years in prison in 1997 for the assaults that occurred on Muscogee (Creek) Nation land.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the tribe’s reservation had never been disestablished and either federal courts or tribal nations have jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against Native Americans on tribal land, not the state.

He was subsequently charged in federal court in Muskogee, where a federal jury convicted him in November of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old child. The victim, now in her late 20s, testified in his case.

McGirt’s attorney, Richard O’Carroll, said McGirt planned to appeal his conviction.

COVID relief funds highlight complexity of issues

Congress allocated a historic amount of federal funds to tribes through the 2020 CARES Act and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. For some Indigenous communities, those federal funds were beneficial. For others, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted deeper systemic complexities that federal funding cannot fully address.

Indigenous nations across the country have experienced chronic federal underfunding, which has led to disproportionate impacts tied to COVID-19 through housing, employment, public safety, food security, health care and economic outcomes.

“What we learned was, even though money was allocated, we were still running into a lot of issues,” said Eugenia Charles-Newton, a member of the Navajo Nation Council. “There were so many rules from the U.S. Department of Treasury regarding the CARES … that made it really difficult to try to spend that money where it was needed.” READ more.

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Manoomin or wild rice is more than food for Ojibwe; it conveys culture and tradition. 2020. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)

'Rights of nature' cases could bolster treaty guarantees

A lawsuit filed over the rights of wild rice or manoomin in the White Earth Nation’s tribal court could offer new tools for tribes battling to protect treaty rights.

Conversely, aligning treaty rights with the rights of manoomin, water and other natural entities could give added clout to so-called “rights of nature” cases.

“The White Earth case is probably the most exciting thing to come down the road in the last five or 10 years from a rights-of-nature perspective,” said Thomas Lindzey, attorney and executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

The fund is a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to communities and countries advancing rights-of-nature laws and cases.

Lindzey helped pass the first rights-of-nature law in the U.S. In 2006, the borough of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, passed a law giving ecosystems legal rights… READ more.

Line 3 opponents descend on Minnesota Capitol

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Protesters descended upon the Minnesota State Capitol on Wednesday to rally against Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline as the project nears completion.

The rally, part of a series of events called Treaties over Tar Sands organized by Indigenous and environmental activists, called on Gov. Tim Walz and President Joe Biden to pull permits and shut down the Line 3 replacement pipeline project. Construction began in December and oil is expected to start flowing before the end of the year.

More than a dozen tipis stood on the state Capitol mall as rallygoers carrying flags and signs that read “Defend the Sacred” and “Honor our Treaties” gathered before the building.

Opponents of the pipeline, which would carry Canadian tar sands oil and lighter crude, argue the project violates Native American treaty rights and will aggravate climate change and risk spills that would contaminate areas where Indigenous people hunt, fish and gather wild rice… READ more.

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#ICYMI: Minnesota park recognized as historic, sacred cemetery

As far back as Samantha “Sam” Odegard can remember, Indian Mounds Park was an example of how sacred sites have been desecrated, in this case for people’s recreation.

Odegard, a tribal historic preservation officer for the Upper Sioux Community, or Pezihutazizi Oyate, helped the city of St. Paul, Minnesota conduct a cultural landscape study about Indian Mounds Park. She and three others looked at the history of the 82-acre area and interviewed people for information.

“Everything from identifying what was there, what’s proper behavior, what’s improper behavior to helping with the signage that’s going up,” she said.

A recommended new sign will read: "This is a burial place, and our ancestors are still here. You are in a cemetery. It is a sacred burial ground that has been here for thousands of years.” READ more.

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