COVID-19, racism and change for tribes

Indian Country Today

Public parks, national parks, beaches, lake shores ... have been spaces that have been policed and maintained by and for white people for a very long time

Indian Country Today

On Fridays we have our Reporters' Roundtable, and today our guests include Nick Martin. Martin is Sappony and is a staff writer for The New Republic. Also joining us is Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, and she's our national correspondent based in Anchorage. 

Martin's most recent article covers the nationwide protests and the tearing down of statues. He talks about the racist behavior and believes of some of histories most cherished political leaders. 

Here are a few of his comments:  

“It's like the idea that this man (Abraham Lincoln) was wholly good because of his actions during the Civil War, during this time of great unrest over the institution of slavery in this country.”

“I think that what I'm just trying to express is that as much as we hold up some people as heroes and 'we' being general Americans, it's also worthwhile to look at ... their actions of colonialism and genocide against Native peoples.”

“Lincoln just stood out to me because I've written a couple of pieces about him, specifically, just because I think it's important if, as a society, we're going to progress in any sort of meaningful way.”

“It's really easy to kind of focus on Columbus and Andrew Jackson, the people that are now starting to collectively be understood as overtly negative and violent forces as it relates to Indigenous history.”

“I think that the true measure of progress will come when we're able to look at somebody like Abraham Lincoln and acknowledge and feature that portion of his legacy, just as much as we feature the good portion.”

“He was the president during the Sand Creek massacre. He was the president during Navajo and Hopi and Apache forced removal. I mean, he oversaw, as chief executive of this nation ... are pretty comparable to anything Martin Van Buren or Andrew Jackson did.”

“Many of these public parks, national parks, beaches, lake shores and lakefronts, have been spaces that have been policed and maintained by and for white people for a very long time now.”

“I wanted to just kind of put out a reminder about the fact that a lot of these national parks that we hold dear, their formation was grounded in Indigenous lands and acknowledging that, and is step one to moving towards a larger sense of justice and then eventually repatriation.”

“I think in order to overturn it, you have to understand the full history of how it came, how we came to arrive at this moment.”

Estus talked about the recent changes to allow hunting in national parks for food. 

“I think half the National Park Service lands are in Alaska, and then in 1980, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which put 150 million acres of land under federal ownership in Alaska.”

“The preserves were created with rules that were unique to Alaska and they included hunting and fishing.”

“Typically, hunting and fishing on federal lands is managed by the state. In Alaska, what happened was ANILCA set down some rules about how hunting and fishing would be managed on federal lands in Alaska.”

“Under the Obama administration, a rule was issued that said, in part, wolves could not be hunted in their dens with cubs and bears couldn't be hunted in their dens using a light.”

“What happened a couple of weeks ago is that the National Park Service under the Trump Administration issued a new rule, overturning the ban on those practices. It applies to national preserves, but I understand that the rule change is going to be extended to fish and wildlife refuges.

“This is a really hot topic.”

“The idea of going into a bear den with a light and killing a bear that's hibernating is very troubling to a lot of people.”

“I happened to interview a couple of people who are Athabaskan and they are in support of being able to use a light to hunt bears in their dens as a public safety measure.”

“The man who testified on this, Darrell Vent Sr., talked about the importance of the bear to the Athabaskan culture and diet.”

“This is really different from sport hunting.”

“So they don't hunt grizzly bears. They do hunt black bears and they typically do it only in the fall because in the summertime they're eating a lot of salmon and then their diet affects the taste of the meat and it's kind of fishy."

Vent said "they wait until they've been living off a lot of berries and the meat loses that fishy taste and it's better food. And it's also before the cubs are born, because cubs are born in the late winter, early spring.”

Estus also gives an update on the fishing season in Alaska in this global pandemic. 

“Well, asking for the fishing season to be called off and the concern was that for one thing, when this discussion first started, we hadn't even had a single COVID case in Alaska.”

“So you can imagine 14,000 people descending on these villages and some of them are just a couple of hundred people.”

“Everybody anticipated that people would come up here, fishing, captains, crews, and fishing, fish plant processing workers would come up here and they would be infected.”

“People were thinking that there was no way to create a good barrier between the incoming workers and locals.”

“Foremost in people's minds are the health of elders who are valued so much in Alaska Native cultures for their knowledge and experience and especially one thing that's really important is their knowledge of the language.”

Also in the newscast, Aliyah Chavez has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.

The anchor and executive producer of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.

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