Ensuring economic, social and cultural vitality

Nathan McCowan tells his side of an on-going Supreme court case. Plus John Tahsuda talks about policies taking shape in our nation’s capital.
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Nathan McCowan, who is Tlingit & Haida, is Chair of the Alaska Native Village Corporations Association. Nathan is discussing a U.S. Supreme Court case heard back in January that was on who gets a share of a $8 billion dollars in federal coronavirus relief called the CARES Act.

John Tahsuda, who is Kiowa, is a regular contributor to Indian Country Today. He has an extensive political background.  John joins us today to talk about infrastructure, policy and the impact on Indian Country. Plus the divide in Indian Country is over wages and Davis–Bacon Act.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • As we enter the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, tribes are getting help from a university to continue protecting people from COVID. 
  • The country’s oldest marathon is being asked to change its date, by a group of Native Americans. 
  • After 83 years of production a play in North Carolina will no longer use white actors painted in “redface” for Native American roles. 
  • Indian Health Services along with the Gila River Indian Community are suspending the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show

Nathan McCowan:

"Alaska is the exception in many, many ways and the Alaska Native paradigm that exists up here is no less exceptional. Alaska Natives have two sets of institutions that are paramount in our lives. We have tribes sovereign entities and we also have Alaska Native corporations. The Alaska Native corporations are a unique set of institutions. And they arise from the Alaska Natives unique experience and unique history of contact with the United States of America.

"The role of the United States Indian policy treaty making self-determination era, et cetera. And so the Alaska Native corporations and the tribes both play key roles in helping Alaska Natives to prosper to provide services and to ensure their economic, social and cultural vitality. I think that the fairest formula has to take into account the totality of the Alaska Natives institutional footprints ignoring one cuts off a large chunk of the other."

"There's been some that have made the claim that Alaska Natives, somehow double dip because we have corporations and tribes which is an appealing argument. It strikes that basic sense of fairness. The challenge with that argument is that it relies on the assumption that the size of the scoops are exactly the same Alaska Native scoops are half the size and in some cases, less than half the size of comparable tribes in the United States. So we have to have two scoops in order to even begin to reach a fair and equitable allocation of resources."

John Tahsuda III:

"Infrastructure is not just a hot topic now, but it's been something that's chronically underfunded in our country in general, and in Indian Country specific. As you kind of alluded to though the question of what qualifies as infrastructure is always a debate. And really sort of top of the discussion right now and highlights the differences in views. So I would say first thing, when we have a large package in in DC parlance they call it a train."

"Everybody, they talk about people trying to hitch a ride on a train. So this infrastructure legislation that they're debating that the president's proposed is viewed as something that will very likely pass in some form. And so the usual sort of smaller politics that play around these things is going on now is members have what they consider pet projects that might fit within shoehorn into a quote infrastructure and trying to get them on this train. But when you step back and you look at the larger picture, there is probably vast agreement on what most of us think is infrastructure."

"So roads, bridges in Indian Country, schools, hospitals. All of those things have been underfunded for years and desperately need and could really move us years ahead if we got a big shot of resources into fixing and updating that infrastructure. What happens as folks look at something that is a large piece of legislation moving forward, this is going to have a lot of funding with it. They try to shoehorn other things in."

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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

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