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Congrats, Aaron!

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover collected its first two rock samples successfully!

The samples will help scientists know more of the red planet’s past.

Aaron Yazzie, Diné, is a mechanical engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was the lead engineer for the rover’s drill bits that will use it to search for microbial life on Mars. In short, his work picked up the rock samples.

(Related: NASA rover lands on Mars to look for signs of ancient life)

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Bay Area open space to become state park in $31M deal

LIVERMORE, Calif. — About 3,100 acres of open space in the San Francisco Bay Area could soon be preserved as a state park under a $31 million deal struck by Bay Area lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom. The deal would to keep the area from becoming part of a neighboring off-road vehicle park.

The agreement, which could be approved by the lawmakers this week, has been cast as a way to safeguard the ecological and cultural significance of the land east of Livermore, Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, who has advocated for the land's preservation since 2018, said in a statement Monday.

If the agreement is approved, the land known as the Tesla parcel would be closed to motorized recreation. The parcel borders the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area, which had planned to expand into the land, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Scientists say the land is a "biologically unique habitat," and Native Americans consider it a "sensitive historical site," Glazer's office said in a statement Monday.

Under the agreement, the state would reimburse the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund for the price of the land and other related costs and pay for the development of a new off-roading park in a different location.

"This is a win-win for all involved," Glazer said. "Our community and region gets to preserve this natural and cultural treasure while the off-road enthusiasts will keep their current park and receive funding to develop another park on land that's more suitable to that kind of recreation."

The land is home to several threatened and endangered wildlife species. It is designated a California Native Plant Society Botanical Priority Protection Area and has been deemed an Audubon Important Bird Area.

It is named after the historic town and Tesla coal mine that were established on the site in the 19th century. Today, there are Native American archaeological and ceremonial sites on the land, Glazer's office said. — The Associated Press

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Interior postpones Deb Haaland's Alaska trip

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Interior Department has postponed Secretary Deb Haaland's planned visit to Alaska until later this year, a department spokesperson said.

Melissa Schwartz, in a statement Wednesday, said the decision was made out of "an abundance of caution given rising COVID rates and in consultation with Alaska Native, local and federal leaders."

The Alaska health department shows most of the state is under high alert status, which is based on reported COVID-19 cases in the past seven days.

Schwartz previously said Haaland had planned to travel to Alaska, including the community of King Cove, in mid-September to meet with local officials, Alaska Native leaders and others.

King Cove is at the center of a dispute over a proposed land exchange aimed at building a road through a national wildlife refuge in Alaska. King Cove residents have long sought a land connection through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to Cold Bay, which has an all-weather airport. Supporters of the effort see it as a life and safety issue.

In 2013, Interior Department officials declined a land exchange. Under the Trump administration, efforts to move forward with a land exchange faced legal challenges, including an ongoing case.

A Justice Department attorney last month told a federal appeals court panel that Haaland planned to review the record and visit King Cove before making a decision on what position she would take.

Schwartz, in her statement, called the Alaska visit "critically important to the Secretary and to the mission of the Department, and the kind of robust community engagement desired would not be possible given health and safety concerns throughout the regions." — Becky Bohrer, Associated Press

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Air Force minorities, Natives face harassment and bias

WASHINGTON — About a third of the female service members in the Air Force and Space Force say they've experienced sexual harassment and many can describe accounts of sexism and a stigma associated with pregnancy and maternity leave, a study released Thursday has found.

The review, done by the Air Force inspector general, also concluded that minorities and women are underrepresented in leadership and officer positions, particularly at the senior levels, and get promoted less frequently. It echoed many of the findings of an initial review, released last December, which found that Black service members in the Air Force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct.

The two reviews into racial, ethnic and gender disparities across the Air Force and Space Force broadly confirm that biases exist, but the data does not fully explain why. The studies also reflect broader campaigns within the Defense Department and the Biden administration to root out extremism and racism.

In addition, the report found that Native Americans were 113 percent more likely to face a court-martial than their White peers, and that they and Hispanic/Latino Air Force members were 33 percent more likely to face criminal investigations. READ MORE. — The Associated Press

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