Native American News Roundup, March 3-9, 2024

WASHINGTON — Some U.S. states restrict Native American access to voting

Congress granted Indigenous Americans citizenship 100 years ago, but some states are passing laws making it hard for them to register to vote or access polling places. Human Rights Watch on Monday urged U.S. states to take active steps to ensure that Native Americans and other voters of color can cast their ballots this election year.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 23 states have enacted 53 voting laws making it easier to vote. That said, at least 14 states in 2023 passed restrictive voter laws, and at least six states enacted election interference laws.

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Chippewa attorney seeks to overturn ICWA

Imprint News this week profiles a Native American attorney who spent years supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, and is now working to see the law overturned.

Congress passed the ICWA in 1978 to stop states from placing Native American children in the welfare system with non-Native American families — a long-term practice Native Americans decried as an extension of historic assimilation policies.

Attorney Mark Fiddler, a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota, was an avid supporter of the law — until, that is, a case he argued back in 1994: After arguing a case against an Indigenous girl’s adoption into a white home, he was troubled to see she was later cycled through dozens of Indigenous foster homes.

“In my heart of hearts, I knew that was probably not the right thing for the child. And it always nagged me,” he said. “My personal opinion is that ICWA has outlived its usefulness and causes more problems than it solves.”

Now, he is arguing a case in the Minnesota appeals court involving a pair of toddler twins who were removed from a white foster family and placed with their mother’s cousin.

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Seminole Nation attorney named to missing and murdered cases team

The U.S. Justice Department has appointed Bree R. Black Horse, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation in Oklahoma, as an assistant United States attorney in the department’s new Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, or MMIP, regional program, assigned to prosecute such cases throughout the Northwest region — Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and California.

Black Horse, a 2013 graduate of the Seattle University School of law, most recently served as an associate on the Native American Affairs team of the multinational law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. Prior to that, she was a public defender for the Yakama Nation in Washington state.

“For far too long Indigenous men, women and children have suffered violence at rates higher than many other demographics,” Black Horse said in a statement. “As I step into this role, I look forward to working with our local, state and tribal partners to identify concrete ways of reducing violence and improving public safety in Indian country and elsewhere.”

In June 2023, the Justice Department announced it would dedicate five MMIP assistant U.S. attorneys and five MMIP coordinators to provide specialized support to U.S. attorneys’ offices addressing and fighting MMIP by investigating unsolved cases and related crimes, boosting communication, coordination and collaboration among federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement and nongovernmental partners.

Black Horse will be attached to the Yakima, Washington, field office.

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Arizona hoop dancer wins top prize

Josiah Enriquez, a 21-year-old hoop dancer from the Pueblo of Pojoaque in New Mexico, has won the Heard Museum’s 2024 Hoop Dance World Championship, held in Phoenix, Arizona, beating out more than 100 other contestants.

Although its exact origin is unclear, Indigenous peoples have practiced the dance for centuries.

Dancers incorporate circular hoops into their movements and are judged for their grace and style.

Enriquez began dancing at the age of 3, and as the video below shows, he has mastered the art.

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