Reporters' Roundtable: Health, politics and entertainment

Indian Country Today

We review the latest Indigenous news happening, from the Democratic National Convention to the latest on the upcoming film "Killers of the Flower Moon," a story from the Osage people in Oklahoma and Martin Scorsese's latest production. We talk to art writer Sandra Schulman about the film. Our national correspondent Joaqlin Estus reflects on the DNC this week. Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant discusses some of the possibilities around a COVID-19 vaccine.

Here are a few of their comments:

Sandra Schulman:

"It was kind of a little known story and it's kind of a mystery why. There were several books written by Osage people. One of the most notable ones is by Denny McAuliffe's he's with the Native American Journalists Association. His book is called the Depths of Civil Bolton and it was actually about his grandmother who supposedly died of some unusual causes but she was actually poisoned during this reign of terror that happened with the Osage people in the 1920s. A more contemporary book by David Grann came out several years ago called Killers of the Flower Moon. And it was based on that story but it became a bigger story about how it actually birthed the FBI because the murders became so overwhelming for this small reservation that word got back to the FBI and they sent in some agents and started the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

"There had been several documentaries, you can look up on YouTube and there have been some other books. I think the David Grann book garnered a lot of attention. It was put out by a very large publisher. It won several awards, it got big reviews. And then it was auctioned for $5 million for the film rights by Martin Scorsese. It took several years. The production was supposed to have already started. Actually it was supposed to have started this summer, but due to the pandemic, things have been pushed to February next year."

"Don't get much bigger, we have Robert DeNiro who will be playing, I believe a man named William Hale who is kind of the villain of the story. And then we have Leonardo DiCaprio who is playing a man who marries into an Osage family of four sisters the Burkhart sisters who all start mysteriously dying once they marry these white men and they all have oil rights that are worth a fortune. So those are the known cast members they've been doing castings in Oklahoma. They haven't announced any of those names yet but they have done primarily the cast things of Osage people out of Oklahoma."

"Yes. Chief GeoffreyStanding Bear has had several meetings with Scorsese. They have been working, according to him with local artisans, with the language experts they've been shooting in the Capitol building and a lot of homes that looked exactly like they did back in the 1920s. So really sounds like they're trying to be as absolutely authentic as possible."

"A film this big,this is a $225 million budget. It's probably the largest budget ever allocated to a film based on actual Native history. By contrast like Dances with Wolves, that was a huge hit movie. That's how much it made. The budget of that was only about $20 million. So we've come a long way obviously in funding and things like that. But yes, it was supposed to have started in the summer. The new date that I have is February 21st they will start filming. It will last for 16 weeks. The movie will come out two years from now in 2022, it will be in theaters first and then it will be streaming on Apple TV. So paramount pictures, paramount theaters and Apple TV have joined together to put this big movie out."

Joaqlin Estus:

"I am not somebody who has watched all the conventions every year, I tend to just drop in and listen to the big speeches. So this was a real education for me. I'm so glad this is the one I got to sit through and watch so much of and that's because Native Americans were there in such numbers. They spoke not only in Native American caucus meetings, which you can see on YouTube by the way, but also on the convention floor."

"One of the messages that came through loud and clear was the sense of celebration and pride that people have in getting two women elected to the U.S. Congress and one woman elected to a statewide executive branch office in Minnesota. I'll talk some more about them in a minute but I also wanted to say another big theme was, get out the Native Vote."

"Minnesota's Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, who's White Earth Ojibwe, during her talk she said, 'relatives, this clearly is the most important election of our time.' And as keynote speaker and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez put it, 'Let's get real. There's a lot riding on this election.' Then we had Jodi Archambault, Standing Rock Sioux ,was on a panel on Get Out the Native Vote. And she said, 'We can't let anyone take away our rights. We have to move like we've never moved before.' And she said, 'It's not going to be an easy fight to get candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris elected...Our future is at stake.'"

"Sharice Davids, who's Ho-Chunk from Kansas and one of the two women elected to the U.S. Congress said that having Native Americans at the table changes conversation. And she said, given that she and Deb Haaland, the other U.S. representative -- Haaland is Laguna and Jemez Pueblo from New Mexico --  she said, given that they're both lawyers and have experience on the reservations, gives them a great platform from which to educate their colleagues and influence decision making in the U.S. Congress. And they and several other people brought up several instances of successes and challenges that people have been facing."

"The number of people who are Native Americans who were speaking...Deb Holland spoke on the main convention floor last night. And one of her most powerful statements was, "My people survived centuries of slavery, genocide, and brutal assimilation policies. But throughout our past tribal nations have fought for and helped build this country."

Haaland stated that Native Americans didn't get the universal right to vote until 1962, which may have been a surprise to many people.

"It surprised me," said Estus. "So, yeah. I mean, I thought that it had happened around the 1920s. Something else that she mentioned in a couple of her presentations was, some issues we've endured since colonization began and one of those issues was missing and murdered women and children and she led a panel on that."

"They had a couple of women who are working at the statewide level on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Deb Haaland extended her just heartfelt condolences to one of the speakers who was describing the murder of her niece in Montana. And it is a really sad story."

Sandra Schulman:

"It might not be for two years but yes, it will be on the big screen in theaters because they're going to want to be eligible for Academy Award nominations."

Mark Trahant:

"There are a lot of issues. First of all, is a rush going to work. You have to question of how effective is it going to be? They're going to begin clinical trials. One of the questions with the Russian vaccine that's already been developed is they're putting it out to market without clinical trials. So there's really no way to know whether or not it's effective."

"No. They basically developed the approach and put it to market and are hoping for the best. And that pre creates a problem for a lot of reasons. One, if the vaccine is not effective, you could actually infect more people over time. And also it just could be a way to cause serious injury and death. If it's got other problems within the vaccine."

"IHS says it's going to be prepared and they're going to have access, particularly for high-risk groups, but here's the problem on one hand you have whether or not IHS is going to have access to it, which is a real serious concern, but you kind of alluded to the other side of that in that, are people in Native communities going to be accepting the vaccine? Are they going to want to be in the first wave of folks receiving the vaccine?"

"North Dakota is in a pilot program where they're going to reach out to get some of the first wave of vaccines and folks at Standing Rock. And some of the other communities have said outright they do not want to participate in that early trial, even though it's past the clinical trial, but they don't want to be in the first wave of vaccines thinking that it's another way of being a Guinea pig."

"It boosts your own ability to fight off infection and that's happening also with people who get it. And we don't know yet how much that, how long that immunity will last, but that's basically what they're building off and that's how we get over this."

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