Indian Country Today newscast and reporter's roundtable honoring Juneteenth

Indian Country Today

With journalists Amanda Peacher and Nick Estes, Washington Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye reports on COVID-19 numbers in Indian Country

Today Amanda Peacher discusses how Native transgender woman Adree Edmo will make history in July, becoming the first transgender woman and inmate in the country to receive gender confirmation surgery based on a court order. The Supreme Court voted 7-2 vote in her favor. Peacher covered the story on Adree Edmo. 

Nick Estes, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, is a journalist, author, and assistant professor of American Studies who has been at the heart of anti-racism and Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The climate of these protests has been a way for activists to rewrite real history and much of this dismantling of history has been literal as statues of confederate soldiers, Columbus, and more have been forcibly taken down by protesters. 

Indian Country Today newscast for June 19, 2020

Here are comments from Peacher and Estes in today's newscast:

Comments from Amanda Peacher

"Adree Edmo sued the state of Idaho to be provided with gender confirmation surgery. She's a transgender woman housed in an all-male facility. And for years she had been asking for treatment for her gender dysphoria. So that's a condition when someone's gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth."

"She had been receiving hormone treatment and counseling but she felt that that wasn't enough. And so starting in 2014, she asked the state to be assessed for gender confirmation surgery. The state of Idaho said that wasn't medically necessary and said she didn't need the surgery."

"So Adree Edmo sued, she won first in district court then she won again when the state appealed before the ninth circuit court of appeals. And then the state of Idaho took the case to the Supreme Court and asked the Supreme Court to put a hold on Adree Edmo surgery."

"Recently, just a couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court denied the state's request on that stay application is what it's called. And so now Adree Edmo surgery is going to move forward and she'll be the first to receive the surgery through a court order."

"Adree Edmo twice attempted to castrate herself while in prison alone with a razor. And so that was part of her case. She was desperate enough to change her physical anatomy that she made those attempts."

"Now I want to say that gender confirmation surgery is not necessary of course for every transgender individual and not even for every individual who is diagnosed with gender dysphoria, but for some, this is considered essential medical treatment. And the court rules agreed with Adree Edmo that for her, it is necessary."

"I did have a chance to speak with her attorneys and they told me that Adree is overjoyed. The case has been a real roller coaster for her, between all the back and forth with the appeals. And so now barring, some crazy move from the Supreme Court, her surgery will move forward in July."

"The Supreme Court has decided not to put a hold on Adree Edmo's surgery. So they have denied the stay. Now they still have to decide whether to take up Adree Edmo's entire case, whether to hear the state of Idaho's appeal. And that's not likely not going to happen until August or later. So by that time, Adree Edmo's surgery will have happened and the state's appeal is going to be essentially moved."

"So based on the timing of the Supreme Court, there's no way that I'm aware of that the surgery can't happen at this point."

"Idaho does not release the exact date or location because of security reasons. Remember she's an inmate and they don't want to have any risk around that medical treatment and her being transported away from a prison. But we do know that the surgery is slated to take place sometime in July."

"We don't know the exact location but I will say that there are more and more doctors providing this treatment as it becomes part of the suite of necessary care for those suffering from gender dysphoria. So there are more and more options for people with this condition across the country."

"The state of Idaho's policy on housing inmates is based on an inmate's physical characteristics. So I have been told that Adree should be, by all state policy designations, she should be transferred to a women's institution after her surgery. So she'll take a little time to recover, presumably, and then she should be going to a women's prison. She is slated to be out of prison in July of next year. So really it's only about a year until she gets out and moves on with her life." 

"This Supreme court decision in favor of Adree Edmo more recently is especially interesting in light of the ruling that employers can no longer discriminate against LGBTQ individuals."

"We are seeing an interesting wave in the courts around transgender rights and around LGBTQ rights. And I think that's particularly interesting for prisoners, prisoners have no options when it comes to medical care. So they're really at the mercy of the state. So when they don't get the care they need, whether that's gender-affirming care or any kind of medical care, their only option is to sue."

"This win for Adree Edmo is important because it sets a precedent in the ninth circuit, but also beyond, it will really have an impact on how prisons treat transgender inmates going forward. And so I think it really sets a standard for gender-affirming care being for some individuals medically necessary and care that prison systems have to provide."
"A lot of people feel that it's not necessary and that it's not, it's not the right way to be spending state dollars. Now that said, the state lost. And there's not really another option for the state at this point, so they will have to provide that care, but it has been a controversial case."

Comments from Nick Estes

"I think it's important to put some historical context around this because today is Juneteenth and the Juneteenth celebration is a celebration that Black people freed themselves, it wasn't a proclamation just by the president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln at the time, who had just by decree had freed the slaves at that point in time. There was a mass, what they call, a general strike. The formerly enslaved, just leaving the plantation and joining the Union army and fighting for their own freedom and turning the tide of the war."

"How that connects with the Southwest, and specifically New Mexico as a territory, there was a civil war kind of. There was people who had sided with the Confederacy but there was also the Union army."

"You also had figures such as Kit Carson, who is operating under the commander in chief Abraham Lincoln at this time, who was waging a war of extermination against the Navajo and Apache people and had imprisoned several thousand Navajos and Apaches at Bosque Redondo, which was a concentration camp and resulted in the decimation of thousands of Navajo people."

"It's now known as the long walk and there is a monument in the Plaza of Santa Fe, which is kind of the heart of the hub of the Indian art market here in New Mexico, that is commemorating the quote-unquote heroes of the civil war both the Confederate soldiers and the union soldiers who quote, 'have fallen in the various battles with the Savage Indians in the territory of New Mexico' and 'Savage' over the years was chiseled out."

"And there's been several attempts in the last decade or so to actually get this statue, they call it the obelisk, removed. It's part of a series of monuments commemorating, not just the Anglo colonization of this particular land, but also the Spanish colonization."

"So the galvanization of the kind of movement to get these statues removed began decades ago and actually began prior to other construction and are kind of grounded within the public and Navajo kind of traditions who are trying to tell an accurate story of this particular land."

"We have to give credit to Black Lives Matter in this particular moment because it really has galvanized attention around not just confederate monuments but monuments that celebrate conquests and specifically colonialism. It has been a catalyst, I think that's an appropriate word. It's actually galvanized the community in ways that I haven't seen."

"Witnessing various movements on the UNM campus to get things renamed or abolished, such as the UNM seal, which has a conquistador and a frontiersman."

"The movements to abolish Columbus Day and to implement Indigenous People's Day, those movements really informed this present moment."

"There were a lot of Black movements that were involved in this but in this particular moment in time we see kind of a coming together of the community and not just to take down the statues but to actually address the systems that are in place."

"The Black Lives Matter movement here in the city is very much in tune with the Defund Police movement and sees the taking down of these statues as part of a continuation of, not just justice for Black lives but also justice for Indigenous lives as well."

"These movements have been really good and very positive...primarily led by young people and in this case, (of the Santa Fe event) they've been led by Indigenous women."

"There's a lot of elation and celebration because we have been successful in getting these statues removed. For example, when the Oñate statue was removed there were elders there who were crying because he himself was a murderer. He was a rapist and he was also a mutilator."

"There was a sense of justice that we can begin this process of truth-telling."
"Murdered, missing Indigenous women [can trace] its origins to the conquest of this particular land. And so that's why there were so many Indigenous women and non-men and LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming people who were the leaders in this particular movement and pointing this out, that this is directly related to MMIW."

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Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.

Today, Vincent Schilling sat in for anchor and executive producer of the newscast, Patty Talahongva.

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