The healing efforts of Indian Country

On this weekend edition of Indian Country Today, we hear from Native leaders who sum up COViD responses, as well as repatriation efforts in California. Plus how creativity heals in a pandemic.
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A slice of our Indigenous world

  • The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma is lending a hand to help with the COVID-19 pandemic in India. 
  • A church in Oregon gives back land to the original tribal owners. 
  • New York city Public schools will celebrate Indigenous Peoples and Christopher Columbus. 
  • Indigenous lawmakers have made a lot happen in the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency.
  • The co-leader of New Zealand's Māori Party is removed from parliament for a second time this year. 
  • Marvel comics is introducing a brand new Native Captain America.

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

Mark Macarro, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians

Mark Macarro, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians

Tribes across the country are nearing complete vaccination against the COVID-19 virus. Joining us on the newscast is Mark Macarro. He’s the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in southern California.  Chairman Macarro will be giving us an overview of how this pandemic has affected his people.

Mark Macarro:

"Well first, our hearts go out to all our fellow Indian people from all over Indian Country. I think every nation appears to have been touched by the pandemic. And so our hearts go out to them for all our lost loved ones during this pandemic period. Just like everywhere else, I think the the pandemic has certainly had its impact in Southern California and even with our tribe. I also want to tie this into something historical because for our people, this is probably the third pandemic that I think we have dealt with since the late 17 hundreds."

"Certainly the first was with father Serra and the onset of the missions. And when he created the mission system in Southern California, and the one that impacted my tribe the most. We didn't have immunity to what they brought and suffered probably a 90 percent population loss at that point in time. I can tell you the thought of a pandemic, bearing it's head over a year ago, such as it did. It was certainly a frightening prospect, but the second time was the influenza of 1918, which also affected our people tremendously and in a very rapid way."

"Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler is visiting sites in the IHS Billings Area this week to highlight #COVID19 vaccination efforts in Montana. Thank you to our Billings Area team and our tribal and urban Indian organization partners for your work towards reaching community immunity." (Photo courtesy of Indian Health Service via Twitter)

Elizabeth Fowler, Comanche

Indian Country has been a leader in vaccination plans. The Indian Health Service is central to that progress. Elizabeth Fowler, a member of the Comanche Nation, is the Indian Health Service acting director which is an agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Fowler joins the newscast to give us an update on where we are in the pandemic and vaccination.

Elizabeth Fowler:

"The COVID pandemic has hit Indian country pretty hard. It's been devastating for Indian Country as a matter of fact, because American Indians and Alaska Natives are disproportionately impacted by COVID. They're more likely to get it. They're more likely to be hospitalized by it, and the more likely to die from it. I just has a response has been aggressive and proactive. And I think it's highlighted are the challenges that we face in Indian Country in terms of the remoteness of our locations."

"The under investment in funding for our Indian health care programs or Indian healthcare system. And it's also though highlighted our strengths with our vaccine effort, meaning that the successes that we've seen have been really a showcase of the work that we do every day, the primary health care that we provide, and the fact that tribes and our local facilities had flexibility in making decisions really because they know their communities best really helped to achieve the effectiveness of that vaccine effort."

James Ramos, Serrano and Cahuilla,

James Ramos, Serrano and Cahuilla,

The process of repatriation, moving ancestors from museums to burial grounds, has been painstakingly slow.
Assemblyman James Ramos, who is Serrano and Cahuilla, is the first California Indian to be elected to the California state legislature. Ramos takes time out to share with us the  current status of the repatriation efforts.

James Ramos:

So the status now is that we continue to advocate for the repatriation of ancestors of California Indian people in the state of California. My bill AB 275, started to pave that way, working with the Native American heritage commission, which we chaired a long time since 2007 to 2018. I sat on that board and as chairman of it. And we see many times that UC systems and museums would come forward with remains of ancestors, of the people of the state of California, the first people, and when the tribes elders and those museum directors disagreed on what should be repatriated back."

"And in some cases, some tribes want it all that was associated with it, which is right it's culture and the museum directors and UC disagreed. And when they disagreed, the UC and the museum directors left with the remains and the tribal elders had nothing. I immediately went to work upon being elected in the state legislature on AB 275, that then paved that way for that repatriation process to happen. And it gives greater way to the tribal elders in those discussions. So now the tribal elders will leave with those remains as this process moves forward."

Brent Michael Davids 

Brent Michael Davids 

Pandemic restrictions and the social justice movement are colliding on stage in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The result is, small scale compositions that are premiering this month all composed by people of color. These solo pieces are made for wind instruments and the concerts are being streamed online by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Brent Michael Davids is one of the composers and he joins us.

Brent Michael Davids:

"I've been, as of this summer, I've been composing written music for 45 years. So that's a lot of scores. So this is another, in the long line of musical scores. This is for solo flute. It's called Top Tona Hannah. And it's a, that means we speak in the Mohican language and it's a sort of a duet for one person. So Scott like if he can imagine a conversation between two Native speakers, but played on one flute, that's what this is for Julia Boger Regard Cogan at the St. Paul chamber orchestra that she's the principal flutist and she's performing it. And on May 22nd at eight o'clock central time."

"Well, I lived in St. Paul for a number of years, too, so I'm familiar with the whole area and and the people, but the the initiative is, you know, it's, it's a good one. St. Paul chamber orchestra has a long history of doing innovative programming going all the way back to Dennis Russell Davies as a conductor. They, in fact, they, they commissioned Louis w Ballers work incident at wounded knee and premiered it back in the seventies, I think that was St Paul chamber orchestra as well under Dennis Russell Davies. So they're engaged in good programming and diverse programming, but, you know, since Black Lives Matter and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women has come to the forefront finally yeah, they're taking the initiative to do a more diverse programming and I'm honored to be a part of it."

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

Shirley Sneve, Sicangu Lakota, is vice president of broadcasting for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter @rosebudshirley She’s based in Nebraska and Minnesota.

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

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