Here’s a summary of Native American-related news around the US this week:
Interior Secretary Haaland begins first Tribal Advisory Committee
Native American tribes have long complained that they are not included in federal policymaking that impacts them. US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced Wednesday the launch of the first Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC) to ensure tribal leaders have direct and consistent contact and communication with current and future Interior Department officials to facilitate robust discussions on intergovernmental responsibilities, exchange views, share information and provide advice and recommendations regarding administrative programs and funding.
Secretary Haaland Announces Members of the First-Ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee
Supreme Court rules in two Native American-related cases
The US Supreme Court this week issued two decisions impacting Native Americans.
In a case that highlights the complexity of criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, the citizen’s justices ruled against Navajo Nation Merle Denezpi, who in 2017 was arrested for committing a violent sexual assault in the Ute Mountain Ute Agency in Colorado. He was later convicted by a Court of Indian Offenses of assault and battery and charged to five months in jail, time he had already served. Because his crime also violated federal law, he faced a second trial by a federal grand jury that convicted him of aggravated sexual abuse and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
Courts of Indian Offenses were established by Congress in 1883 to serve tribes that didn’t have their own courts. Denezpi argued the court, therefore, is a federal agency and that the second trial violated the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment “double jeopardy” clause, which says no one can be prosecuted for the same crime twice. In the final Supreme Court opinion issued on Monday, Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett called his argument “nonsensical.”
Merle Denezpi v. United States
The Supreme Court Wednesday handed a major victory to gaming tribes in Texas, ruling that the Texas state government cannot ban the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe from operating electronic bingo games in its Speaking Rock Entertainment Center. Texas has long tried to shut down casinos run by the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta tribes. The state claims that it has authority under law to regulate tribal gaming on those reservations.
Ysleta del Sur Pueblo et al. v. Texas
Army to disinter more remains at Pennsylvania Indian school
The US Army is undertaking another effort to disinter the remains of Native American students who died more than a century ago at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and return them to their relatives. The Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center at nearby Dickinson College says that at least 189 children were buried in the cemetery. The disinterment process, which began June 11, is the fifth at Carlisle since 2017. So far, the remains of 21 children have been repatriated.
Army Conducts 5th Disinterment of Native Americans at Carlisle Barracks
$7 million grant to help tribes document heritage languages
The Indian Affairs Office of Indian Economic Development on Wednesday awarded $7 million in grants to 45 Tribes and tribal organizations to aid in documenting and revitalizing heritage languages that are in danger of disappearing.
“Native language preservation has for many years been cited by Indigenous leaders as important to their self-preservation, self-determination and sovereignty. Native preservation and language revitalization is a critical priority because languages go to the heart of a Tribe’s unique cultural identities, traditions, spiritual beliefs and self-governance,” Bryan Newland, assistant for Indian Affairs, said.
Indian Affairs Makes Significant Investment to Protect and Preserve Native Languages
Native American life expectancy falls during COVID-19 pandemic, researchers find
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder say that the life expectancy of Native Americans dropped nearly five years during the COVID-19 pandemic — three times the 1.36 drop among white Americans. Life expectancy for Native women dropped from 75 in 2019 to 70.4 in 2021, and from 68.6 to just under 64 for men. Researchers blame pre-pandemic social inequities, systemic racism and health disparities of Native Americans.
US Life Expectancy Still Falling, Native Americans Hardest Hit