News: Navajo Nation hit hard by COVID-19; Smithsonian won’t repatriate Seminole ancestors’ remains, and more

In this blog:

  • Navajo Nation hit hard by coronavirus, NM Gov. warns it could be ‘wiped out’
  • Smithsonian won’t repatriate Seminole ancestors’ remains; Seminole Museum withdraws as Smithsonian affiliate
  • The big emergency: A critique of media coverage of Standing Rock and DAPL
  • Mining and Petroleum Workers: ‘Essential’ or ‘an Enormous Risk’?

Navajo Nation hit hard by COVID-19

Indian Country Today reports there has been 276 corona virus cases and 14 deaths confirmed in the Indian Health System. The Navajo Nation has been hit particularly hard, with 214 cases and seven confirmed deaths.

In a phone call between New Mexico’s Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and President Trump, Grisham reported on ‘incredible spikes” of coronavirus cases on the Navajo Nation and warned that the virus could “wipe out” some tribal nations, ABC News reports.

“… we’re seeing a much higher hospital rate, a much younger hospital rate, a much quicker go-right-to-the-vent rate for this population. And we’re seeing doubling in every day-and-a-half,” she told Trump.

The Navajo Nation spans three states and has a population of more than 250,000.

Smithsonian won’t repatriate Seminole ancestors’ remains; Seminole Museum withdraws as Smithsonian affiliate

The Seminole Nation’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum has withdrawn from being a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, the result of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s refusal to repatriate “remains of about 1,500 individuals and tens of thousands of artifacts,” Indian Country Today reports. The repatriation request has gone unanswered for more than eight years.

“It’s a shocking situation,” said Paul Backhouse, Tribal Historic Preservation officer and director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. “They don’t want to give them back; they want to tell the Tribe’s story.”

The big emergency: A critique of media coverage of Standing Rock and DAPL

There’s no shortage of people criticizing “the media,” from both sides of our current political divide. Less well known is the criticism coming from people like Sonia Pulido, who are journalists themselves. Pulido, a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, recently wrote a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review The Biggest Emergency, laying out needed correctives in how journalists cover issues such as climate change and Standing Rock.

An interesting aspect of her critique is a focus on the complicity of Native Nations in destructive land practices, and the complexity of these issues in Indian Country:

According to the Government Accountability Office, today’s tribal nations and their citizens collectively represent the third-largest owner of extractive resources such as oil, gas, and coal. For sovereign tribal economies faced with limited opportunities for revenue, these deposits are an attractive draw. This means Indigenous peoples must contend not only with encroachment from multinational corporations, but also with their own leadership’s exploitation of the land. We need clear-eyed reporting on the complexities of these actors—or we risk distorting the public understanding of communities affected by climate change, and of those responsible for it.

Mining and Petroleum Workers: ‘Essential’ or ‘an Enormous Risk’?

The Canadian website Tyee is reporting on the fear of First Nations peoples that mining employees are exempt from travel restrictions in the Northwest Territories, which could speed the spread of the coronavirus.

Across Canada, Indigenous leaders, health-care workers, and local residents are worried that mining activities — compounded by the industry’s fly-in, fly-out culture — could give rise to the swift spread of the highly contagious virus, particularly in remote Indigenous villages where access to health care is limited.

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