Native American News Roundup April 28 – May 4, 2024

WASHINGTON — Communities to commemorate Indigenous missing and murdered

Sunday, May 5, is Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day in the U.S., a date set aside to raise awareness about an epidemic of violence and violent crimes in Native and Indigenous communities.

Communities across the U.S. are marking the day with gatherings, marches and workshops.

Native and First Nations communities in the U.S. and Canada say authorities often fail to investigate these cases, and the lack of closure inflicts despair on tribal communities.

Under the Biden administration, federal agencies have been ordered to enhance public safety and criminal justice for Native Americans. This includes the establishment of a Missing & Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services. 

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Thousands of Native American families may lose Internet access 

This month, the U.S. Internet affordability program will run out of funds, and unless Congress provides additional plans, more than 23 million low-income families will be forced to pay for more expensive service plans or do without the internet altogether.  

Native Americans on rural reservations may be hardest hit, CNN reported this week. About 329,500 tribal households are currently enrolled in the program, with the majority of those concentrated in Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska and South Dakota. 

The White House, the Federal Communications Commissions and digital equity advocacy groups are urging Congress to pass the bipartisan ACP Extension Act, which would allocate an additional $7 billion to keep the program running until the end of the year.

In 2021, Congress passed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which allocated more than $14 billion to help low-income families afford high speed Internet. It has offered eligible households a discount of up to $30 per month toward Internet service and up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands. Households also received one-time discounts on the purchasing of laptops, desktop computers or tablets.

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Navajo resolve to ban uranium hauling on reservation  


Navajo President Buu Nygren on April 29 signed a resolution urging President Joe Biden to halt uranium hauling on Navajo lands. 

The legislation, supported by the Navajo Nation Council, underscores the lasting devastation caused by past uranium mining and calls for executive action to prevent further harm to land, water and public health. 

“The transportation of uranium ore across Navajo Nation lands represents a disregard for Navajo Nation law, threatens its territorial integrity and is a threat to the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation,” the resolution reads. “The need to halt plans to transport uranium across Navajo Nation lands is a pressing public need which requires final action by the Navajo Nation Council.”

According to the Navajo Nation’s Radioactive and Related Substances Equipment, Vehicles, Persons and Materials Transportation Act of 2012, the transportation of uranium within the Navajo Nation is prohibited. However, a provision in the law exempts the transportation of uranium along state and federal highways that cross the reservation.

“We are unwavering in our stance against uranium,” Nygren said Monday. “This legislation is a product of the dedication of our legislative and executive bodies of government. Today, united, we are sending a powerful message to Washington, D.C.”

Indigenous students mocked at ND high school prom 

A North Dakota high school has apologized after a group of white high school students were caught on video mocking traditional powwow dancing during their annual prom dance on April 20.

A number of Native American students from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe captured videos of the incident at the Flasher High School dance. The mother of one of the Indigenous students posted some of them on Facebook. 

“At no time was there any intentional intent to disrespect the Native American culture,” Flasher Public School superintendent Jerry Erdahl posted on Facebook. “To the Native American people, we are sincerely apologetic. Now, for us here at Flasher Public School, is the time to educate both students and staff on cultural sensitivity issues that can affect values, morals and beliefs of others.”

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Lakota reaction to SD governor’s upcoming memoir 

South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem continued to face backlash this week in the wake of revelations that she shot and killed a rambunctious 14-month-old puppy because he was “less than worthless … as a hunting dog.” The same day, she also killed a male goat because he smelled “disgusting.”

Oliver Semans, a Sicangu Lakota citizen from the Rosebud Reservation, told VOA that people are upset.

“You know, dogs are sacred to the Lakota people. Súŋka wakan, sacred dog. Before the horse, it was the dogs that used to take and carry our teepee poles and other things. And when we got the horses, the horses were called wakan, sacred.”

The Guardian newspaper broke the story April 26 after getting an advance copy of a forthcoming book in which Noem described the incident as an example of her willingness to do anything “difficult, messy and ugly.” 

Noem has defended her actions, characterizing the dog as a “working dog, not a puppy” and saying she chose to protect her family.

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