Native American

The voting process has long disenfranchised Native American communities. With the COVID-19 pandemic and mail-in voting exacerbating the problem, U.S. senators in the Mountain West and across the country are asking the federal government to make sure voters in Indian Country can cast ballots come November.

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As Native American tribes across the country struggle to contain the coronavirus, the White House has pressured the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to remove its COVID-19 checkpoints on highways in South Dakota, according to a recording of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows obtained by the Mountain West News Bureau. 

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

This Friday is Juneteenth, a national holiday in most states celebrating the end of slavery. There are planned protests around the Mountain West to keep attention on racial injustice and police brutality, including one on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. 

Citizens of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe are eligible for direct COVID-19 relief funds from their tribal government. The money comes from the $10 million fund allocated to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe through the federal government's massive coronavirus stimulus bill known as the CARES Act.

 

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has laid out its plans for spending $19 million in federal coronavirus relief aid that it received through the CARES Act. On behalf of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, Chairman Lee Spoonhunter said more than $5.2 million of the aid will be disbursed directly to tribal citizens who have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic.

At the end of March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, set aside $8 billion for tribes. But the money came with restrictions. It can only be used to cover expenses that are "incurred due to the public health emergency."

Savannah Maher

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Business Councils have extended a strict stay-at-home order and nightly 9 p.m. curfew on the Wind River Reservation, measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. Tribal members will continue to face tribal court fines and potential jail time for violations at least through the month of June.

After months of refining their business plans, the Wind River Startup Challenge's five finalists pitched a panel of judges on Saturday. Each Native-owned businesses was awarded a portion of the challenge's $25,000 seed fund, but the big winners were a hair salon and a fencing company, which received $10,000 each in debt-free capital.

The U.S. Census Bureau had just begun field operations when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, as the agency is preparing to restart, it’s focusing on rural and tribal communities.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a virtual town hall Tuesday that the reservation hit its peak number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and emergency room visits a few weeks early thanks to social distancing and mask-wearing.

 


The extended Wheeler family of the Wind River Reservation has been hit hard by COVID-19. Several family members were infected in early March after visiting a relative at Lander's Showboat Retirement Center, where it was later announced there was an outbreak. Before long, 14 family members had tested positive for COVID-19, and five were hospitalized.

On April 20, the family lost three loved ones to the disease. Larry and Gloria Wheeler, who had been married more than 50 years, passed away hours before their 55-year-old daughter Dawn Wheeler. A dozen of their relatives shared memories of Larry, Gloria and Dawn in this audio remembrance.

 


Savannah Maher

 

Late Saturday night, the state Department of Health announced that a Fremont County woman was the eighth Wyoming resident to die after testing positive for COVID-19. The Northern Arapaho Business Council has confirmed that the woman was a tribal member.

Fort Washakie School

Over the past two years, the Fort Washakie School has revived a tradition called the 5 Buffalo Days, a week-long celebration of the cultural and ecological significance of buffalo for Plains Native people. This year's celebration had to be moved online, but tribal educators say the lessons students learn during the 5 Buffalo Days are more important than ever. Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher spoke with one of those educators.

 


When you think about Doctors Without Borders you may picture the medical humanitarian NGO working in war-torn countries like Syria or Yemen. But as the COVID-19 crisis lays bare inequalities and vulnerabilities in the U.S., the organization's working here, too, assisting the Navajo Nation in fighting the disease.

Courtesy of the Shoshone Rose Casino & Hotel


The largest employer in Fremont County isn't a school district or a hospital—it's the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Between the tribal government and its enterprises, they put more than 1,000 people to work.

Savannah Maher

For more than a month, there has been a strict stay-at-home order on the Wind River Reservation. Tribal members face court fines and potential jail time for violating it. Starting Friday, May 8, they will also be subject to a nightly 9 p.m. curfew.

"The Northern Arapaho Business Council and the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, as advised by authorized Medical Officers, specifically deem this order necessary to protect the public health," the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council wrote in a resolution signed on May 6.

Savannah Maher

This story is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

For the past 140 years, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have both called the Wind River Valley home.

They didn't choose to share this reservation - and it's no secret that the two tribal governments don't always agree. But since the start of the pandemic, they've been on the same page about one thing.

Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

The $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package called the CARES Act sets aside $8 billion in a tribal stabilization fund. But with the April 26 disbursement deadline looming, tribal leaders fear that nearly half of that aid could be diverted away from tribal governments and toward Alaska Native Corporations.

 


Savannah Maher

 

The CARES Act, which sets aside nearly $150 billion for state and local governments, also includes $8 billion to keep tribes afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tribal governments could start to see that aid beginning this week.

Four members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who had tested positive for COVID-19 died from complications of the illness on Monday. Chairman Lee Spoonhunter of the Northern Arapaho Business Council shared the news with the tribal community during a live web address on Tuesday morning.

Wind River Family and Community Healthcare


While the state of Wyoming hasn't issued a stay-at-home order, tribal members on the Wind River Reservation face fines and even jail time for violating one there. The reservation is also one of the only places in the state where mass COVID-19 testing is being conducted. Wind River Family and Community Healthcare, which is operated by the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is offering testing to any tribal member who wants it and quarantine housing to those who test positive.

Dr. Paul Ebbert, Chief Medical Officer of Wind River Family and Community Healthcare, spoke with Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher about the clinic and the tribe's strategy for flattening the curve.

Savannah Maher

Members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes now face fines of up to $150 and even jail time for violating a stay-at-home order on the Wind River Reservation.

Jared King (Navajo Nation Washington Office) / Flickr Creative Commons

The massive federal relief package called the CARES Act includes an $8 billion tribal stabilization fund, meant to keep tribal governments afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But the fine print of the law entitles Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) to a slice of that fund as well.

Arapahoe School District

This story is part of a two-part series on how schools across the state are handling the switch to adapted learning.

This week, all 48 Wyoming school districts launched their adapted learning plans. For some, that means leaning more heavily on online tools that had already been incorporated into the curriculum. But other districts, including many on the Wind River Reservation, are starting from scratch.

U.S. Census Bureau

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes have both mounted outreach efforts to ensure their members have the tools to complete the 2020 census. But the COVID-19 pandemic could get in the way of a complete count on the Wind River Reservation.

Old Main, University of Wyoming. Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

If you've spent time on a college campus lately, you may have encountered a land acknowledgment - recognition of the tribes whose ancestral land the institution is built on. But land-grant universities, originally created to educate America's working class, also owe their founding to the seizure and sale of Indigenous land. The 1862 Morrill Act granted over 17 million acres for states to sell and raise endowment principal for the institutions.

courtesy of Christie Wildcat

Every year at Gathering of Nations Powwow in New Mexico, Dozens of young Indigenous women compete for the title of Miss Indian World. This year, Northern Arapaho citizen and University of Wyoming senior Christie Wildcat was among the contestants. But the powwow and the pageant were cancelled to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

As Wildcat told Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher, her preparation won't go to waste, as she plans to compete again next year.

Savannah Maher

With six cases of COVID-19 now confirmed on the Wind River Reservation, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes have enacted some of the strictest measures in Wyoming to slow the spread. The tribes have jointly directed their citizens to remain in their homes except for emergencies, stay far away from elders and avoid gathering in groups of more than 10.

But for many tribal households, those directives contradict one another.

Charlize Branch

Ethel Branch is the former attorney general of the Navajo Nation. A few weeks ago, when she went grocery shopping in Flagstaff, Arizona, she noticed that the shelves were already pretty bare. That worried her. For shoppers from the nearby Navajo Nation, a grocery store can be hours away.

Wind River Family and Community Healthcare/Lisa Yawakia

With the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on the Wind River Reservation, tribal members are being asked not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. There are currently 14 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Fremont County.

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