News: AIM has new leadership; U.S. tries to force Indian schools to reopen during coronavirus, and more

In this blog:

  • American Indian Movement (AIM) has new leadership
  • U.S. Bureau of Indian Education tries to force Indian schools to reopen, despite coronavirus concerns
  • Indian Country’s take on Kamala Harris
  • California Tribe sues Trump administration, saying border wall would desecrate traditional burial site

American Indian Movement has new leadership

File: Long-time AIM leader Clyde Bellecourt is stepping down.

Indian Country Today reports that Frank Paro (Grand Portage Chippewa) and Lisa Bellanger (Ojibwe/Dakota) took the helm at AIM this spring, becoming the first nonfounders to lead the organization. They replace Clyde Bellecourt.

They both grew up in the movement. Bellanger also recently became AIM’s executive director. According to the story:

Paro and Bellanger were tapped as co-chairs of the movement’s Grand Governing Council in late May on the night before George Floyd died in the hands of Minneapolis police officers, prompting local, national and international uprisings against racial imbalances in law enforcement.

“We got thrown into the fire,” said the 68-year-old Paro … In nine days, I had 24 hours of sleep.”

As protests turned violent in and around Minneapolis’ Franklin Avenue Urban Indian District, Paro and Bellanger reactivated the AIM Patrols that began in 1968 in response to police practices. They helped orchestrate 312 volunteers who largely protected Native businesses and organizations in the district from the looting and burning that hit hundreds of businesses in the city.

In related news, The Circle reports on an expression of gratitude to the AIM patrols for protecting the neighborhood.

The Native American Community Clinic (NACC), University of Minnesota Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC) and Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) hosted a gratitude lunch for members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who watched over the Philips and Seward Neighborhoods during the George Floyd protests, and protected the critical health centers and other businesses and non-profits in the community.

U.S. Bureau of Indian Education tries to force Indian schools to reopen, despite coronavirus concerns

The Bureau of Indian Education plans to reopen schools for in-person instruction, a move that many native people think is irresponsible, according to a report Indian Country Today. Parents on the Navajo reservation, where the coronavirus has been devastating, “are overwhelmingly opposed to sending their children back to in-person school instruction.”

Tara Sweeney, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, sent a letter to tribal leaders this month indicating that Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools will open Sept. 16 with in-person instruction. Sweeney wrote: “To the maximum extent possible, BIE (operated) schools will operate brick and mortar schools.”

According to its website, the Bureau of Indian Education oversees a total of 187 schools. Of those, 132 are tribally controlled, operating under the direction of individual tribes. Fifty-five are operated by the bureau. Although bureau leaders maintain they actively include input from tribal consultation and stakeholder meetings and surveys in crafting policies for both tribally controlled and bureau-operated schools, many tribal leaders disagree.

Indian Country divided on Kamala Harris

Lt. Gov. Flanagan supports Harris pick.

Indian Country Today has published a few stories on Kamala Harris’ selection to be Joe Biden’s running mate.

Harris gained both support and criticism during her stint as California’s Attorney General, one story said. California has 109 federally recognized tribes.

In her bids for election as attorney general in 2010 and 2014, Harris received support from 11 California tribes, resulting in donations of upwards of $100,000, the Los Angeles Times reported.

She garnered criticism from California tribes following her decision to deny fee-to-trust applications, which asked for tribal lands to be put into trust.

Harris said the Governor made the call. As AG, she had to file the papers. It didn’t reflect her personal views, she said.

A second story on the Harris offers social media reactions, including these two opinions from leading Lt. Gov. Minnesotans.

Colette Routel, co-director and professor of the Indian law program at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said:

“Her track record opposing fee to trust acquisitions for tribes in CA amd seeking the death penalty against Native people in criminal cases is something she will have to answer for.” …

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanangan, White Earth Nation, Democrat, said:

“I know a little something about being second in command. Congratulations to @JoeBiden for picking a great VP! @KamalaHarris is a fantastic partner! #WeHaveHerBack

California Tribe sues Trump administration, saying border wall would desecrate traditional burial site

An AP story in Indian Country Today offers an update on Trump’s controversial border wall:

San Diego — A California tribe whose ancestral lands span across the U.S.-Mexico border is suing the Trump administration to block construction of a section of border wall that the Kumeyaay people say is desecrating sacred burial sites.

The La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians filed the lawsuit in federal court in San Diego on Tuesday asking for an injunction to temporarily halt the installation of a towering metal wall until the tribe can protect its religious and cultural heritage. La Posta is one of 12 bands of the Kumeyaay people.

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