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SALT LAKE CITY — Mahala Sutherland was still wearing her feather headband when the pageant judge placed the gold crown on her head.

From under the bright lights of the stage, she couldn't help but smile at the combination: the eagle plumes collected from her tribal homeland and the shimmering red jewels.

Mahala Sutherland performs a traditional Navajo jingle dress dance at Southern Utah University on Nov. 28, 2021. Sutherland became the first indigenous student to ever be named homecoming royalty at SUU. (McKayla Olsen/Southern Utah University via AP)

It made her proud as the crowd chanted her name. "You deserve this, Molly," one person cheered. "That's our girl," said another, as everyone began to stand in ovation.

Sutherland, 22, never expected to win this year's homecoming royalty contest at Southern Utah University. But she's honored that she did — and that she became the first Indigenous student to claim the title in the school's history, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. READ MORE. — Courtney Tanner, Salt Lake Tribune

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ICT will begin 2022 with a new editor: Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné. She will be the first woman to be the chief news executive for the 40-year-old newspaper and website.

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné. (Photo by Fin Gómez)

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is taking on a new role with ICT. He will be the lead correspondent for an Indigenous economics project and will work on special projects with IndiJ Public Media President Karen Michel, Ho-Chunk. Trahant will carry the title of editor-at -large.

IndiJ Public Media is the nonprofit organization that owns ICT and its daily TV newscast program.

“This is a rez kid’s dream come true,” Bennett-Begaye said. “Mark has built an extraordinary news organization from its ashes, and his mentorship has been invaluable. I’m incredibly grateful for him, Karen, and the rest of our leadership to have confidence in me to lead a newsroom that is so rich with talent, innovation, and immeasurable compassion. READ MORE.Indian Country Today

CHILCHINBETO, Ariz. — Work crews from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power are partnering with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to extend powerlines to homes in several tribal communities, including Chilchinbeto, Kayenta, Chinle, Kaibeto and Coppermine.

At a project site in Chilchinbeto, crews are working to extend a nine-mile stretch of powerlines.

As of Thursday, the partnership had connected 29 homes since the crews arrived from Los Angeles in late November.

Tribal officials said the goal is to connect as many homes as possible to the electric grid within six weeks.

The partnership allows Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to conduct rural field training for its work crews to help them gain experience with extending power lines in remote communities under adverse weather and rugged terrain conditions while covering the costs of labor, equipment and travel expenses.

The tribal utility authority provides the materials for the projects, labor and meals for the visiting work crews. — The Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. House has passed legislation to extend a year-end deadline for Alaska Native corporations and tribes to use federal coronavirus relief funds. But it isn’t the same bill that earlier passed the Senate.

The House bill was introduced by Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, a Democrat, and Alaska Rep. Don Young, a Republican.

Kaitlin Hooker, a O’Halleran spokesperson, said the bill now goes to the Senate. Hooker noted the House has not considered the bill the Senate passed in October.

Young, in a statement, called for urgent Senate action.

“Indigenous people were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and pulling the rug out from under them by letting an arbitrary deadline take away these needed resources is a flagrant violation of our federal trust responsibility,” he said. READ MORE.The Associated Press

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Inside 'Reservation Dogs,' a Sámi screendance festival, decolonizing wealth and building Indigenous health equity.

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ASOTIN, Wash. — Work has been halted at a residential construction site near the Asotin County Fairgrounds in eastern Washington where ancestral human remains were discovered.

Kayeloni Scott, spokeswoman for the Nez Perce Tribe, said the tribe was notified last week when crews inadvertently found a Native American gravesite on a hillside overlooking the city.

“We are grateful for the individuals who ceased work immediately and contacted us,” Scott told the Lewiston Morning Tribune. “We also appreciate the property owners for doing the right thing by working with us so we can properly handle our ancestors’ remains to ensure there is no further disturbance.” READ MORE.The Associated Press

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Aimee Velasquez, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is an IFBB Bikini Professional Bodybuilder. (Photo courtesy of Aimee Velasquez)

Leanne “Aimee” Velasquez, a 27-year-old Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member, was working as a registered nurse when she decided to change up her routine of going to the gym in February 2020. Feeling intimidated and lost, she hired a fitness coach to help her get a new routine down. Her coach turned out to be a bikini prep coach on the bodybuilding competition circuit. Now Velasquez competes as an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness bikini bodybuilder.

“He just was talking me up, telling me how I have amazing genetics and my body loves the muscle and all these things,” said Velasquez about how she was convinced to start training for fitness competitions. “He threw me into my first show at the Legends Classic in February 2020 in Las Vegas.” READ MORE. Tasha Silverhorn, O'odham Action News

We want your tips, but we also want your feedback. What should we be covering that we’re not? What are we getting wrong? Please let us know. Email dwalker@indiancountrytoday.com.

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