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Yá’át’ééh, my name is Pauly Denetclaw and I’m the political correspondent for ICT, a position I didn’t come to lightly or by accident. I’ve spent a lifetime preparing to help lead this coverage.

I was raised in a family that voted in every single election. State, national and tribal politics were topics discussed over a dinner of tortillas, pork chops and potatoes. During election nights, my family would turn on the news and we would watch the votes roll in.

The first election I ever followed was in 2000. I was seven years old and I remember asking my parents what a hanging chad was. That year I voted online through the Nickelodeon website for “Kids Pick the President.” I eagerly awaited the results that would go live, as a preview, before the election that was just days away. I remember telling my mother that Al Gore was going to win, the kids had voted.

He didn’t win and George Bush became the 43rd president of the United States.

As I got older, my mother instilled in me the importance of voting. She would always tell me about my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, and how she voted in every county, state and tribal election. My mother would say, it didn’t matter if it was just a bond election, my grandmother was there to say yes or no.

This was ever more sweet when my mother took me to vote with her in 2008. Once again telling me the story of my grandmother and why it was so important that our voice, our vote be heard. We drove to her polling location, just down the street from our home at a county fire station. She grabbed me a sample ballot and explained what everything was to me. I never knew how much we voted for, from county positions to bonds to state officials.

I wasn’t eligible to vote but my mother asked me who I wanted to be my president. An adult had never asked me that before and it was the first time I felt like I was heard, where my opinion mattered in something that was much bigger than me. I walked around all day at my junior high school with my “I Voted” sticker that the polling workers gave to me. I was beaming all day, telling all my friends and teachers about how I went with my mother on election day to cast her ballot.

Pauly Denetclaw, ICT

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Deb Haaland celebrates decades of Indigenous education during school visit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Indian Education Director Tony Dearman visited the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute on Tuesday to commemorate the school’s 50th anniversary.

The school opened in 1971. During its decades of operation, over 36,000 Indigenous students have attended SIPI and over 2,700 degrees have been awarded, representing 260 tribes.

The school offers a variety of post-secondary training programs from vision care technology to early childhood education to accounting.

“SIPI impacts Indian Country by educating Native Americans from across the United States who then can return to their communities and fulfill the education and workforce needs of their tribal nations,” Dearman, Cherokee, said.

The Southwestern Indian of Polytechnic Institute is one of two postsecondary institutions operated by the Bureau of Indian Education. The Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas is the other.

Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, said she has visited SIPI many times. One of which is when she helped her cousin move in the year the school opened.

“As a leader in Indian education SIPI has become an integral place for Indigenous students to receive culturally competent education,” she said. “It’s an institution that represents the fight and resistance to the long standing assimilation efforts our people have faced in this country since the dawn of colonization.”

-Kalle Benallie, ICT

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Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation citizen Lisa Finley Deville could win the first seat ever created for a new state legislative voting district on the Fort Berthold Reservation. That marker matches yet another milestone. Early voting for North Dakota’s Nov. 8 general election begins in September clearing a path to the polls for voters.

“It's very exciting because we also open that path for other Native Americans who run in the future,” DeVille, 48, told Buffalo’s Fire.

In 2020, when DeVille ran for North Dakota’s District 4 Senate seat, she doubted she would win even though she had a track record in politics and broad support from fellow reservation residents. The shape of the legislative district that included the Fort Berthold Reservation, however, pitted Native voters against an off-reservation majority.

She lost that race, but later led North Dakota Native Vote to convince lawmakers to recognize the district boundary inequity. Lawmakers were in the throes of redrawing voter district boundaries after the 2020 U.S. Census as mandated by the state Constitution. Time was on DeVille’s side. New census numbers showed Fort Berthold Reservation population growth in District 4 justified the creation of a new legislative district.

The redistricting committee kept at-large voting for the district’s only Senate seat. But committee members did agree to make one historic change. They split District 4 into two separate single-member contests for the House. Voters in the area can now elect a representative in the new Native-majority Subdistrict 4A. At the same time, the committee created a new Subdistrict 4B, which comprises a non-Native majority.

Gov. Doug Burgum signed the Legislature’s unprecedented districting maps into law on Nov. 12, 2021, in time for DeVille to throw her hat into the Democratic primary election ring. The redistricting “gives us hope because now Fort Berthold is guaranteed the chance for the spot in the House,” DeVille said. “We finally get this voice at the table when decisions about our lives are being made.”

As the democratic nominee for Subdistrict 4A, DeVille will square off against Republican incumbent Terry B. Jones. Under the previous district boundaries, Jones would have run at-large as one of two candidates in the predominantly off-reservation former District 4 race. Unhappy with the changes, Republican Party leaders sued over the new voter map boundaries.

District 4 Republican Chair Charles Walen of New Town, located on the Fort Berthold Reservation, charged Gov. Burgum and Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger with violating the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit asked a federal court to bar the subdistrict election. The plaintiffs cited the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause prohibiting “gerrymandering for which race was the predominant factor.” 

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- Talli Nauman, Buffalo's Fire

Is the pandemic over?

On the Wednesday edition of the ICT Newscast, Visit Native California is a statewide tourism campaign that will showcase tribal nations. A pandemic update, and ICT regular contributor John Tahsuda is back to talk politics

Watch:

WASHINGTON – A congressional subcommittee investigating the impact of a Supreme Court ruling that overturned decades of Native American law was told Tuesday that the court ignored tribal sovereignty to reach its decision.

The ruling, which came in June, saw the court assert that both federal and state agencies held concurrent jurisdiction when it came to prosecuting non-natives for crimes on native land. In Oklahoma, the 5-4 ruling modified the impact of the court’s landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma which has led to the affirmation of Indian Country reservations covering much of eastern part of the state while setting new precedents in terms of criminal jurisdiction.

Five tribal leaders from across the country testifying before the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the U.S. uniformly denounced the decision that impacts more than 500 tribes across the country.

“Castro-Huerta undermines tribal jurisdiction and sovereignty by creating a false narrative that native victims are best protected by the state, they are not,” said Jonodev Chaudhuri, ambassador for the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma.

Chaudhuri denied that the Castro-Huerta decision was needed to address the public safety crisis created by McGirt.

“Any actual crisis was entirely manufactured by the individual county sheriffs, prosecutors, and others, who have not only refused to collaborate (with tribes), but actively used criminal cases, and most disgustingly, victims, as political proxies to create the illusion of a crisis,” he said.

But District Attorney Matthew J. Ballard of Oklahoma’s 12th district celebrated the Castro-Huerta ruling, comparing it to a “beacon of hope” for the native American victims that he represents.

He insisted the McGirt decision created chaos in Oklahoma with hundreds of criminal cases in his three-county district in northeast Oklahoma being dismissed or thrown out.

”Native American victims were bearing the brunt of the McGirt decision,” he said.

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- Beck Connelley, Gaylord News

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