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Tribes welcome changes in Washington

Leaders across the country share their concerns of the Biden-Harris administration and reflect on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Maureen Lomaheptewa and Drew Landry share their work on human trafficking awareness and missing and murdered Indigenous people.
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Here are the headlines from Indian Country Today:

President Joe Biden’s administration is making appointments that include Native attorneys.

Robert Anderson and Ann Marie Bledsoe Downs will be two of the top attorneys for the Interior Department in the Office of the Solicitor.

Anderson is from the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. He will be the principal deputy solicitor.

Bledsoe Downes is from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. She will serve as deputy solicitor for Indian Affairs.

The solicitor’s office has more than 430 attorneys and support staff who provide advice and legal services to the department’s leadership, including the Interior secretary.

That position is expected to go to New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, nominee for Interior Secretary. Her confirmation hearings are expected to start next month.

(READ: 2 of Interior's top attorneys will be Native)


From soldiers to dancers, Native Americans were a part of the virtual, “Parade across America,” to celebrate the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Every state and territory was represented in the video including the nation’s first all-female Native American color guard, the Native American Women Warriors Association.

Representing Wyoming the Wind River Dancers sang a song and in Hawaii a traditional chant was given by Native Hawaiians with a message of unity and new beginnings.

Towards the end of the parade there was a segment called “Dancing in the Streets" where the Phoenix-based group, Indigenous Enterprise, could be seen dancing.

(READ: 'Parade Across America' has Indigenous touch)


A Cheyenne River Sioux woman is out of prison, thanks to a pardon by former President Donald Trump. She was one of 73 inmates who were pardoned by the outgoing president.

Lavonne Roach was one of the last inmates to receive a pardon. She had served 23 years out of a 30-year sentence for a non-violent drug related offense.

Her mother had pleaded for her release before she died.

Roach had three children when she went to prison. Now she’s coming home to 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

In granting her clemency, the White House statement noted she had a clean prison record and was helpful in tutoring and mentoring other inmates.

Last year he pardoned Crystal Munoz, Navajo, who served time for marijuana charges. She had spent 12 years in prison.

(READ: Lakota woman among Trump's clemency action)


The Aleut Community of St. Paul in Alaska is trying to put themselves on the map.

St. Paul is an island off the west coast of Alaska.

The Aleut community there just received an Economic Development Administration STEM Grant. This is a highly competitive award, with only seven awards given out nationwide.

The training is designed to prepare community members for jobs. Some of those jobs are drone pilots, private commercial small aircraft, fuel handler and hazmat training and tribal management degrees.

Training is set to start next Fall 2021. 


A future U.S. Navy ship will be named U.S.-N.S. Muscogee (Creek) Nation to honor the tribe located in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

They recently announced the name selection during a ceremony at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City.

The Muscogee people are descendants of not just one tribe, but a union of several. Muscogee (Creek) Nation is the largest of the federally recognized Muscogee tribes, which is the fourth largest tribe in the U.S. with more than 86,000 citizens - some of which have or continue to serve across the U.S. Armed Forces.

The ship that will be named is used to tow, salvage, and rescue on the high seas.

This will be the first Navy vessel to carry the name of the Muscogee Creek Nation.


Here are a few quotes from our guests on our newscast today:

Maureen Lomaheptewa

Blackfeet Community College has created a databased to help Montana tribes track missing and murdered indigenous people. Drew Landry shares a story on their website that sheds light on these issues.

This is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, an issue that severely impacts Indian Country. Maureen Lomaheptewa, is a certified peer victim specialist at Lifelink. She is dedicated to helping others who are coming out of human trafficking

“The high rate of Native Americans missing in Native lands is, I definitely do believe that it is more likely to happen due to the isolation due to of how vulnerable it is out there, and how easy at least to try to get a victim off the reservation. It's not an easy place to live. A lot of people, a lot of young kids teenagers, young adults are looking for a way out," Lomaheptewa said. 

Fawn Sharp

Fawn Sharp is the 23rd president of the National Congress of American Indians. She's only the third woman to hold this position in its nearly 80 year history. In addition to serving as the president of NCAI, she's also president of the Quinault Indian Nation in Tahola, Washington. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day gave her hope for the future earlier this week.

“That gives me a great deal of hope, because I know the youth are trained honor our ancestors and those who have come before us, but they're our connection to the future. And so when I look at our young people, I would look at them as very sacred They're going to be here to implement and execute much of the work that we might not live to see, but it's our duty and responsibility to raise them and provide opportunities. And just to honor them."

Terry Rambler

Terry Rambler, Chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Timothy Nuvangyaoma, Chairman of the Hopi Tribe talk about Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination for Interior Department Secretary.

“One thing I've learned as a tribal leader is that you're sitting across a desk or some, or whatever, talking to other leaders that represent the federal government in managing our resources, such as water, land, and air and other natural resources, is that a lot of times there's a lack of understanding on the other part," Rambler said.

Timothy Nuvangyaoma

“It's important that we have somebody at that level who understands native tribes and some of the issues that we deal with. I think there's a huge lack of education at the national level on native tribes. Although we've been here for time immemorial, I just don't think any administration has taken the time to truly understand and educate themselves on how unique tribal lands and tribal tribes are," Nuvangyaoma said. 

Kim Teehee

In 2019 Kim Teehee was named the first tribal delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. It fulfills a promise made in the 1835 treaty of New Echota with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

“It does not require an act of Congress. It doesn't require Senate approval either because as, the treaty was already ratified by the Senate and signed by the president and is still the Supreme law of the land," Teehee said.

(RELATED: Reflecting on a historic day)

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

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