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A great day to be Indigenous!

We’ll give you more than a few reasons why it's a great day to be Indigenous on the weekend edition of Indian Country Today

What does the American Rescue Plan mean for Native Americans? We asked three Native leaders their thoughts on the 31 billion dollar Tribal investment included in Biden’s new stimulus plan and what the new funding means for individual tribal citizens.  Plus we meet the nation's Poet Laureate and one of her famous students. And a student journalist profiles a Kiowa elder.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • Bills that sought to recognize Indigenous People's Day are tabled in committee in Montana. 
  • Tribes struggling with the mining industry in Arizona are welcoming two bills in front of congress.
  • With COVID-19 still disrupting classes, one tribe is offering a unique solution. 
  • In Canada, a couple is adding their Mi’kmaw language to a popular television show.

You'll find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

carla fredericks

Carla Fredericks is executive director of the Christensen Fund. From the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, she is an attorney and knows tribal governance issues. 

Carla Fredericks:

"Some of that will be individual resources, but I think, you know, there's a broader point here about the individual impacts of this money. So it's not as though their tribes are just going to get $31 billion and split it up somehow amongst themselves and have that trickle down to the tribal membership. There's a lot of really thoughtful pieces in this legislation about thinking about the day-to-day impacts on Native people." 

"The significant amount of health resources is awesome. Money directly to IHS, including not only COVID money, but money to deal with mental health issues, tele-health urban Indian health,  just issues that have not been well-funded for some time and monies for Native Hawaiians and people who sometimes get left out of these larger legislative processes." 

Wayne Ducheneaux

Wayne Ducheneaux directs the Native Governance Center. He joins us from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

Wayne Ducheneaux:

"The one thing, again, with a lot of our tribal nations, doing everything they can to slow down access and entrance and egress to reservations, there's been a lot more local spending, right. And so when you don't, probably is the proper word. When you infuse an economy with this extra amount of resources, it's going to help have a trickle effect. I don't use trickle either because then it gets to trickle down economics, but you'll have an amplifying effect that can really help move."

"I think never before seen growth in tribal economies, I know through our works, our organization's investment portfolio and learning more about consumer confidence and consumer spending and how it's been a huge dip. I think you're right. I think with these increased opportunities for spending power for Indian Country, hopefully it'll generate and be put through the tribal economy so it can have maximum benefit."

Pictured: NDN Collective President and CEO after his release from jail on July 6, 2020.

Nick Tilsen from NDN Collective weighs in on this investment. He joins us from the Oglala Lakota Nation.

I think the number one thing that we have to do is we have to think about short-term and long-term goals in any kind of situation like this. And we have to think about making sure that in the short term goals, we're making decisions about asset generation. I think that's one of the main things. A lot of times we look at the shiniest easiest thing to do."

"Things like for example, the investment into grocery stores, right? The food that does exist all across Indian Country. One way that you end up creating a more resilient community is investing into the food infrastructure, into food sovereignty, into food hubs. Those types of things, because one, it helps build up the local economy. It also reduces travel times for people to travel to go to get food."

Joy Harjo Album Cover small

Joy Harjo has a new album. I Pray for My Enemies. She’s our nation’s twenty-third Poet Laureate, and the second poet to be appointed a third term to this poetic post. A member of the Mvskoke Nation, she joins us today. 

Joy Harjo:

"That's why I could do it is because my schedule, I was to be traveling every week. And during the pandemic, I've completed three projects, the album, a memoir that will be out in the fall called Poet Warrior: A Call for Love and Justice and second Norton anthology and a year of contemporary Native poets called Living Nations, Living Words: A Collection of First Peoples Poetry, which is part of my poet laureate project at the Library of Congress."

Oh, man. In all of that, there's that 'Rabbit Invents the Saxophone' when I say fun or there's 'Allay Na Lee No' which my cousin taught me and then I included at the end of it is maybe we should play that one because he taught me that song. I said you know I go out to all these places and I want a song that I can sing to people. And he's like the song encyclopedia for at least our ceremonial ground, our people. And so he taught me this song and of course I did my own thing with it, but it's a good one to start this off with, because it's to say here we are, and it's a good day and welcome and let's dance.

And now, if you missed it, let’s hear from one of her students, Secretary of the Department of the Interior Deb Haaland. Here’s her farewell speech to the House of Representatives.

And to end the broadcast we leave you with a video project from the Gaylord College of Journalism at Oklahoma University. Nancy Marie Spears is a Cherokee Junior in the J-School’s reporting project. She interviews Kiowa elder Dorothy WhiteHorse about her role in the film NEWS OF THE WORLD.

Kiowa elder bonds with young actress

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

Shirley Sneve, Sicangu Lakota, is a producer/writer for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter @rosebudshirley She’s based in Nebraska and Minnesota.

Carina Dominguez, Pascua Yaqui, is a correspondent for the Indian Country Today Newscast. She covers news, politics and environmental issues. She’s most familiar with southwest tribes and splits her time between Phoenix, Arizona and New York, New York., Twitter: @Carinad7, Instagram: @CarinaNicole7