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Indian Country changes and adapts

It's time once again for another weekend edition of Indian Country Today.

On today's show we hear from Darryl Tonemah, who is Kiowa, Comanche and Tuscarora. Tonemah has a PH.D. in Counseling Psychology and Cultural Studies and today he's talking to us about how the pandemic and distance learning is affecting tribal peoples.

And also on the show is Trent Shores, who is Chickasaw. Trent will be talking about his work as a former United States attorney, some significant Indian Country court cases, and what the future holds for him.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • In a press release the Securities and Exchange Commission says the division of enforcement will “proactively identify ESG-related misconduct". 
  • The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is passing the Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act. 
  • The head of North Dakota's Indian Affairs Commission is stepping down. 
  • The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day this year. 
  • Virginia Senator Tim Kaine paid a visit recently to the Rappahannock Tribe to see how the tribe is faring amid the pandemic.

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

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Darryl Tonemah

Darryl Tonemah

Tribal College students are struggling. A new study by AIHEC--the American Indian Higher Education Consortium--surveyed 500 returning students. The pandemic and distance learning makes classes more difficult. And 60 percent say that life at home has made studying tough. Joining us today to break this down is Darryl Tonemah. He has a PH.D. in Counseling Psychology and Cultural Studies. 

Darryl Tonemah:

"During COVID season, one of the initial concerns was the duration of it. Because chronic stress can have similar effects as acute stress, acute moments. A car accident and abuse, natural disaster, chronic stress, over time can have some of the very similar physical, psychological effects as those. And for the students that you're referring to, if they're in homes or environments that previously were very stressful, it's not because they got older, it didn't make them immune to those stresses. And then adding the stress of college studies. It's it can create a toxicity for our young people."

"We as humans, we're social beings. We thrive in community and we suffer in silos. So creating senses of community are so important. Particularly I would say for Native people because we are very family-based, we're clan based, we're tribal based, we're rez based. So we have all these levels of community. And then unfortunately with all the deaths that have occurred during COVID, we haven't been able to mourn as communities. So these levels of hurt and stress and anxiety and pain honestly have really stacked up over time. And it's going to show up somewhere. We're just not void of it. So when we first thought about a year ago, one of my initial was what's going to change over time as COVID extends longer, What's going to change in us."

"And how is that gonna be reflected in community? The levels of disparate rates of alcoholism, drugs, suicidality, and we're starting to see higher levels of those now. I'm doing work in several communities that are seeing spikes in suicidal behavior, suicidal ideation. It kind of trickled down to how were we prepared for something like this. And if you look at those numbers from the from the study that you referenced previous to COVID, needs were being met, food needs, fresh water, those kinds of things are being met. But no, mental behavioral health needs were still pretty low even before COVID. So adding COVID into a population that wasn't thriving in that area to begin with only made the results seem stronger or more negative now."

Help is available relatives, visit someone today. Suicide hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

Former U.S. Attorney Trent Shores speaks at a news conference Tulsa, Okla. Federal prosecutors from as far away as New York and Florida are helping the U.S. attorney in Tulsa deal with what he describes as a "tidal wave" of new cases. U.S. Attorney Shores said Tuesday the increase in cases is a result of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. That decision determined that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remains a Muscogee (Creek) Nation Indian reservation. (Matt Barnard/Tulsa World via AP File)

Trent Shores

After 18 years in the Department of Justice, Trent Shores is leaving. He served under four Presidents and seven US Attorneys General. Most recently, appointed by President Donald Trump, Trent led the Northern District of Oklahoma. Hear what case had a significant and substantial impact in Oklahoma.

Trent Shores:

"It was a really interesting time to be United States attorney. Early in my tenure, we experienced the longest ever government shutdown in history. And shortly after that we experienced what would be a global pandemic coupled with civil unrest, misconduct, an excessive use of force by police officers and other cities that impacted what was going on in the community and police conversation nationwide. And then of course we layered on top of all of that the McGirt decision from the Supreme court."

"(McGirt) had just a significant and substantial impact certainly here in Oklahoma. It impacted the resources for federal, state, and tribal law enforcement and justice systems, and really continues to do so today. So it was exciting. There was certainly never a dull moment having walked away from the job when president Biden asked for the resignations of all the United States attorneys, I'll be honest, it was really tough. I loved my 18 years at DOJ. I'm a mission motivated guy and it was tough to have to walk away from the mission of the Justice department."

"I don't like to couch things in politics, but I certainly hate when politics prevent us from seeing the good works that were done during a certain time period. And the work that we did on missing and murdered Indigenous persons I think does and should transcend political parties or ideologies. There were republicans, democrats, independents, conservatives liberals, Indians, non-Indians, career service folks and political appointees coming together to work on  what we all recognized as a crisis. A crisis for Indian Country. And it really began with a focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women recognizing that Native American women and girls are victims of violent crime at rates higher than just about any other demographic in the United States."

Stay safe relatives and we'll see all of you next week!

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

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

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

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