There is a lot of news this Thursday that you should know about. Our reports start in Alaska to Minnesota and back to Arizona.
FIRST UP: The Washington Post is reporting that the Biden administration will block construction of a controversial gold mine near the world's largest sockeye salmon run in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska.
The post said a court filing "deals a serious blow to a project that has been in the works for more than a decade."
The EPA said it plans to invoke its powers under the Clean Water Act to ensure the region’s waters are not filled in or contaminated by material from the proposed open-pit mining site.
Just last week a coalition of Bristol Bay communities called o the administration to block the mine.
“The people of Bristol Bay are very clear: we want the Environmental Protection Agency to take action to protect our watershed,” said in a news release, United Tribes of Bristol Bay Executive Director Alannah Hurley. “Six years after President Obama stood on our beaches and recognized our region as a national treasure that needed protections, one year after Biden’s campaign promise to finish that work, and almost twenty years of facing this threat, we are still waiting for action. We appreciate the support of so many around the nation who stand with us to call on the Environmental Protection Agency to uphold their responsibility and permanently protect Bristol Bay.”
Previous story: Trump administration denies Pebble mine permits
In other Alaska news, the Interior Department has postponed Secretary Deb Haaland's planned visit to Alaska until later this year, a department spokesperson told The Associated Press.
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."
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Mankato professor named Minnesota's 1st Native poet laureate
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Dakota scholar, author and artist has been named Minnesota's poet laureate, the first time the honor has been bestowed upon a Native American, the governor's office announced Thursday.
Minnesota State University, Mankato English professor Gwen Nell Westerman is a citizen of her father's people, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate in the Dakotas. Her mother's people are from the Flint District of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
Westerman has written about Dakota history and language. She has won two Minnesota Book Awards for her work about Dakota people called "Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota." Her poetry collection, "Follow the Blackbirds," was written in English and Dakota. Her poems and essays have been published in journals and anthologies across the country.
Westerman is also a fiber artist. She has works in the permanent collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, the Great Plains Art Museum, the University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota and the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota.
Westerman's appointment is chance to "reflect on our shared history" and "imagine the future together," said Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Nation of Ojibwe.
"Native people are still here. We have always been here – before Minnesota was Minnesota. And we will continue to be here, long into Minnesota's future," Flanagan said. — The Associated Press
Sports betting starts in Arizona in time for NFL season
PHOENIX — Arizona's first sports betting operations officially opened for business Thursday in time for the start of the NFL season, with live wagers taken on college and professional sports online and at two retail locations in Phoenix.
Taking in-person bets in the morning were the FanDuel Sportsbook at the downtown Phoenix arena where the Phoenix Suns play and temporary betting windows just down the street at the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field run by Caesars Entertainment. Several companies also began accepting online bets.
"Used to go to Vegas to do this," said a pumped up Emil Stefan, 59, after placing a bet at the Caesars window. "This saves us a lot of money, time and fuel to do it here."
At midday, lines were short but a steady stream of customers placed bets at the Chase Field betting windows. Down the street at the Suns arena, about a dozen men watched giant screens playing the U.S. Open tennis tournament, phones in hand. Several dozen others milled around, sipped beer, poured over odds sheets or placed wagers at betting windows or electronic machines.
About 40 people were lined up outside when the sportsbook opened, and crowds were in and out all day, said Jeff Lowich, FanDuel senior director for retail operations.
The betting windows were made possible by a new law enacted by the Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey last spring. Gambling, other than old-school contests like Bingo run for charities, was banned outside of casinos run by tribes before the law was passed. READ MORE. — The Associated Press
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Arizona canvass report draws nonsensical conclusions
A report released this week in Arizona's largest county falsely claims to have uncovered some 173,000 "lost" votes and 96,000 "ghost votes" in a private door-to-door canvassing effort, supposedly rendering the 2020 election in Maricopa County "uncertifiable."
But its conclusions aren't supported by any evidence, according to county election officials and outside election experts, who called the report's methods "quasi-science" and its findings inaccurate.
Still, the 11-page document — which is separate from an ongoing partisan audit in the county — has been shared widely in conservative media and by Republican politicians, including state Rep. Mark Finchem, who is campaigning to be Arizona's secretary of state — the state's top election official.
Report author Liz Harris, an unsuccessful Republican legislative candidate and a real estate agent in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, declined to respond to specific questions but said a more comprehensive version of the report would be released soon.
Here's a closer look at the facts.
CLAIM: An estimated 173,104 "missing or lost" votes and an estimated 96,389 "ghost" votes cast by people who didn't appear to live at their voter registration addresses indicate that the 2020 election in Maricopa County included irregularities and is "uncertifiable."
THE FACTS: The report doesn't provide evidence for these far-fetched claims, and the county's election results have been certified for months.
The "Grassroots Canvass Report" that gained traction on social media on Wednesday weaves a narrative of hundreds of thousands of voting errors in Maricopa County, but it bases those allegations on interactions with a fraction of that number of votes, analyzing data on just 4,570 voters in a handful of voting precincts.
Harris claims in the report that these smaller-scale findings can be extrapolated out to the entire county "at a scientifically correlated confidence level of 95 percent," but Stanford University political science professor Justin Grimmer said that's inaccurate.
"From the description in the report, it is clear that this was not a random sample," Grimmer said. Even if it was random, he said, certain areas were oversampled, and the authors didn't take into account that the people who responded to the canvassers were likely different than those who didn't respond.
"Their sample simply cannot justify their inference to the entire county," Grimmer said. READ MORE. — The Associated Press
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#ICYMI: Food, fun, racism at the Alaska State Fair
PALMER, Alaska — The Alaska State Fair just wrapped up its return after a one-year break due to the pandemic.
Alaskans turned out for it in droves despite occasional rain and temperatures in the 50s. The fairgrounds are in the small town of Palmer, about an hour’s drive northeast of Anchorage, in south central Alaska.
The fair dedicates a 3-acre area to Alaska Natives. The “Gathering Place” has eight small buildings for vendors, a stage, and picnic tables. Entertainment this year included musicians, traditional dancers, athletes, and storytellers as well as a blanket toss with Eskimo Ninja Warrior Nick Hansen, Inupiaq. READ MORE. — Joaqlin Estus, Indian Country Today
From social media:
Other top stories:
- Native youth are stepping up & repping: To make history, leaders like Brian Weeden and Vivian Juan-Saunderes had a passion to make a difference for Native youth.
- Birthing center could reopen at Phoenix Indian Medical Center: New CEO wants to bring back services shuttered more than a year ago.
- 'Climate chaos': Indigenous communities hit by change: Runners see the impact of climate up close in stunted corn, drought, heat, fires, and wind storms.
- WATCH: 9/11: A crime and recovery scene: We'll hear from Native people who were living in New York when the September attacks took place, plus journalists who covered the story.
What we’re reading:
- ʻŌiwi poet-professor lands national award, publishing deal
- Cherokee artist named Sequoyah Fellow by NSU
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