Indigenous People’s Day is being marked as the US continues to experience the coronavirus pandemic, and Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Native Americans.
The Guardian revealed earlier this year via new data that Covid was killing Native Americans at a faster rate than any other community in the United States.
American Indians and Alaskan Natives are dying at almost twice the rate of white Americans, according to analysis by APM Research Lab shared exclusively with the Guardian, our Nina Lakhani reported.
Nationwide one in every 475 Native Americans has died from Covid since the start of the pandemic, compared with one in every 825 white Americans and one in every 645 Black Americans.
The true death toll is undoubtedly significantly higher as multiple states and cities provide patchy or no data on Native Americans lost to Covid. Of those that do, communities in Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas have been the hardest hit.
The findings were part of the Lab’s Color of Coronavirus project, and provide the clearest evidence to date that Indian Country has suffered terribly and disproportionately during the first year of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Native Americans have suffered 211 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 121 white Americans per 100,000.
Indigenous leaders took coronavirus more seriously than many communities from the beginning and certainly more seriously than the White House took the virus. By late Spring 2020 the rate of infection among Navajo Nation communities was worse than New York, then the center of the pandemic in the US.
Even then it emerged that Native Americans were being left out of demographic data on the impact of the coronavirus across the US, raising fears of hidden health emergencies in one of the country’s most vulnerable populations.
A Guardian analysis found that about 80% of state health departments have released some racial demographic data, which has already revealed stark disparities in the impact of Covid-19 in black and Latinx communities. But of those states, almost half did not explicitly include Native Americans in their breakdowns and instead categorized them under the label “other”.
“By including us in the other category it effectively eliminates us in the data,” Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), director, urban Indian health board and chief research officer, Seattle Indian Health Board, told the Guardian at the time.
In recognition of Indigenous People’s Day, several lists have been put together online highlighting art including films and books created by, or featuring, Indigenous peoples.
This list of films was curated by activist Charitie Ropati, a member of the Native Village of Kongiganak, Alaska. She also made a list of films and shows in 2020.
At Bookshop, Elissa Washuta, a Cowlitz tribal member, put together this list of books by Native and Indigenous writers.
“It is neither exhaustive nor exclusive,” Washuta writes. “I’ve compiled this list over the years I’ve been a reader, writer, editor, and teacher, seeking out books by predecessors and peers in Native literatures.”
When Joe Biden took office, Indigenous leaders and environmentalists urged the president to shutdown some of the most controversial fossil fuel pipelines in the US, including the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) as part of his climate action goals.
On Biden’s first day in office in January, he canceled the Keystone XL (KXL) project.
The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani wrote in January: “Donald Trump sanctioned the KXL and DAPL pipelines soon after taking office – which paved the way for scores of executive actions and rollbacks favoring fossil fuel allies while violating indigenous rights and environmental standards.”
In September, Dakota Access asked the supreme court to revisit whether the pipeline requires additional environmental review after a lower court ordered an environmental study of the pipeline and revoked a key environmental permit for it. The pipeline’s operators argued that the additional review was unnecessary and that the pipeline is safe.
That same week, chairmen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe called for a stop to the environmental review process, saying it was “irredeemable” and “fatally flawed.”
They also asked the Biden administration to terminate its contract with the firm conducting the review, the US Army Corps of Engineers, because it “has consistently demonstrated an institutional lack of sensitivity to and understanding of Tribal concerns.”
Biden receives criticism over “empty words” – from grassroots indigenous eco group
The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) — a broad alliance of tribes, Indigenous rights groups, labor organizations, and others, Ecowatch reports — said in a statement that US president Joe Biden “has consistently fallen short of protecting the water that sustains all life on Mother Earth and continuously failed to honor our treaties.”
IEN noted that Biden has so far not moved to block Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, referred to earlier, in Minnesota, where Native Americans have led protests as they’ve done with the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The statement goes on:
“If President Biden was committed to honoring the treaties and strengthening sovereignty, he would implement a policy of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent by executive authority and act swiftly to mitigate the climate chaos that has engulfed our communities by ending the anti-Indigenous U.S. legacy of fossil fuel extractivism.
We have had enough of your empty words. Our communities need clean water, land returned, divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and healing from residential school traumas.”
Proclamations don’t erase the police surveillance of Indigenous peoples standing for our land and water, beatings, and imprisonment for those trying to stop pipelines, fracking, [liquefied natural gas], uranium, and other extractive industries from devastating our ecosystems and our bodies and violating our rights.
No proclamations needed until there is justice for the original stewards of these lands.”
Following the defacing of the statue of the seventh US president Andrew Jackson this morning near the White House, IEN also said:
“Our people are older than the idea of the United States of America. We are the original stewards of this land and will continue to fight for the natural and spiritual knowledge of our Mother who sustains our life-ways.
We are the grandchildren of the strong spirits who have survived your residential schools, your pipelines and mines, your reservations and relocation and your forced assimilation and genocide.”
We carry the prayers and intentions of our ancestors and are unafraid. Another world is possible, may all colonizers fall.”
The dichotomy of themes this holiday is surely summed up by this headline from Chicago: “69th Annual Columbus Day Parade Kicks Off Downtown; Indigenous Peoples Day Rally In Rogers Park”.
Dueling events today.
Meanwhile, CBS in Chicago reports:
The 69th annual Columbus Day parade will march down State Street Monday afternoon.
There, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans will talk about status of the holiday, and Columbus statues that have been removed from around Chicago.
Those statues were taken down as a push to rename the holiday, Indigenous Peoples Day grows.
Supporters of the name change point to Columbus’s history of murder, genocide and other violent crimes committed against the Native American people he encountered.
The Cook County board has delayed a vote to rename the holiday. A protest rally was planned for Monday afternoon at 10 a.m. in Pottawattomie Park located in Rogers Park.
President Andrew Jackson statue defaced ahead of IPD protests
“Expect us” reads the bright red graffiti on the side of a large statue of Andrew Jackson, within sight of the White House, in the run-up to the indigenous-led climate justice protests in Washington, DC, today.
Jackson, the seventh president of the US (1829 – 1837), is infamous for, among other things, leading the violent and lethal repression of Native American peoples, especially in 1830 signing the Indian Removal Act that dispossessed tribes in the US south-east and forced them west of the Mississippi in a displacement known as the Trail of Tears.
Donald Trump infamously placed a portrait of Jackson prominently in the Oval Office during his short, turbulent presidency.
Here are the protests kicking off today:
There appear to be no plans for Congress to rename Columbus Day, officially, Indigenous People’s Day, so they sit in uncomfortable juxtaposition. Some states have renamed the holiday.
As the AP explains: “Making landfall in what is now the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, Columbus, an Italian, was the first of a wave of European explorers who decimated Native populations in the Americas in quests for gold and other wealth, including people to enslave.”
Talking of long range acoustic devices, these sound-weapons have also been used against Native American and other environmental protesters who have joined together to try to block efforts to expand and repair a controversial pipeline called Line 3, designed to carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil through tribal lands and fragile watersheds in northern Minnesota.
The protesters are there as water and land protectors, fighting Enbridge, a Canadian-owned company, and the $9bn upgrade of the pipeline designed to carry oil from Alberta in Canada to the tip of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. The actions have sparked confrontations with law enforcement officers and raised the prospects of a high-profile fight set to highlight the use of fossil fuels at a time of growing climate crisis.
Police in the summer made mass arrests of people who had chained themselves to construction equipment and barricaded a road to a construction site off Highway 71 north of Park Rapids with an old fishing boat and other obstacles. Police also used a sonic device known as a long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, on the protesters, Guardian US reported at the time.
We further reported that Enbridge has reimbursed US police $2.4m for arresting and surveilling hundreds of demonstrators in Minnesota who oppose construction of its Line 3 pipeline, according to documents the Guardian obtained through a public records request.
Protests have delayed work on the pipeline and police have arrested more than 900 demonstrators opposing the infrastructure and its impact on climate and Indigenous rights, according to the Pipeline Legal Action Network.
Native American-led protests in Washington, DC, today – the start of five days of demonstrations demanding greater action on the climate crisis and climate injustice – appear to have been subjected already to government use of the long range acoustic device (LRAD).
This despite the protests being non-violent, though inevitably loud and passionate, with drumming, chanting, whooping and cheering.
An LRAD emits a piercing sound. Here’s a clip from a tweet by the Indigenous Environmental Network, the grassroots climate and conservative activism coalition.
And here’s the Climate Justice Alliance:
Indigenous Peoples’ Day events
There are numerous events taking place across the US today to celebrate or debate the holiday.
One of these is a free Smithsonian webinar taking place at 1pm Eastern Time, which the Indian Country Today news website describes will: highlight youth of blended Black and Native heritage who use art, activism, and policy to advance Black and Indigenous solidarity and affect positive change in their communities.
The event website asks: How are Black-Indigenous youth working to advance social justice? This Indigenous Peoples’ Day program highlights youth of blended Black and Native heritage who use art, activism, and policy to advance Black and Indigenous solidarity and affect positive change in their communities.
Moderated by Amber Starks (African American and Muscogee [Creek]) she/her. Panelists include Joy SpearChief-Morris (African American and Kainai Blood Tribe), Kyle T. Mays (Black and Saginaw Chippewa) he/him/his, and Autumn Rose Williams (Black and Shinnecock). Learn more about the panelists here.
The program is free, but advance registration is required…and will be available on demand after it premieres.
This program is part of the Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future series, which features young Native activists and change-makers from across the Western Hemisphere who are working towards equity and social justice for Indigenous peoples.
Meanwhile, from Anchorage and Arizona to Washington State and Washington, DC: Alaska Pacific University is holding an event this afternoon (eastern time), there are a number of events streaming from Tucson, things are happening in Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, California (Indigenous Pride LA 2021 and more) and in many more places.
At 5.30pm ET, Kansas congresswoman Sharice Davids will talk in Washington, DC. More details on all this from Indian Country Today.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States today is occurring as the United Nations holds one event and prepares for another with huge relevance to Native Americans, First Nation and indigenous people everywhere.
The noise is already building around the COP26 crucial global climate crisis talks to be held in Glasgow, in the UK, next month. US climate envoy John Kerry warned in an interview with the Guardian today that: “There is not a wall that comes down after Glasgow. It is the starting line for the rest of the decade.”
Meanwhile, beginning virtually today and ending next year in person in Kunming, China, is UN COP15, of which agency Reuters notes: about 195 countries are expected to finalise a new pact to safeguard the planet’s plants, animals and ecosystems at the two-part COP15 U.N. summit.
The accord will build on the 1992 UN Convention on Biological Diversity, designed to protect the planet’s rich catalogue of plant and animal species, ensure sustainable use of natural resources and enshrine the “biocultural rights” of indigenous communities.
Such rights are interpreted differently by each indigenous group but often include intellectual property, such as ancestral knowledge and practices handed down between generations.
Those range from farming methods, crops and plant-based medicine used in an area to traditional arts and crafts. Ancient plant remedies often form the basis of modern treatments…..
…..Indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest have a clear message for decision-makers ahead of two global environment conferences: respect our land and human rights to slow climate change and protect biodiversity.
“People who exploit and take out resources don’t live (in the Amazon) – but we do. The forest is our home,” said Nemonte Nenquimo, a native leader of Ecuador’s Waorani people.
“If we don’t protect the forest, climate change will get worse and unknown illnesses will come,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a video call from her Amazon community.
Last Friday, Haaland joined Joe Biden and national climate adviser to the White House, Gina McCarthy, in Washington when it was announced that the south-west’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments would have their federal protections and boundaries restored after Donald Trump decided to shrink them.
On the day, Haaland fought back tears as she applauded the administration’s actions for “bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice” and adding of Bears Ears, in particular, that: “This is a place that must be protected in perpetuity for every American and every child of the world.” She was an important factor in driving the Biden White House towards its actions.
As the Guardian noted on the day, it is a place of worship and an important space for ceremonial activities, according to Hopi Tribe vice-chairman, Clark Tenakhongva.
“It’s on the same level as any kind of church or foundation or facility,” said Tenakhongva, who is also co-chair for the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. “It’s very important to the lifeline of all nations and all people.”
The Associated Press reported that:
Biden on Friday issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, lending the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native peoples.
The day will be observed October 11, along with Columbus Day, which is established by Congress. While Native Americans have campaigned for years for local and national days in recognition of the country’s indigenous peoples, Biden’s announcement appeared to catch many by surprise.
“This was completely unexpected. Even though we’ve been talking about it and wanting it for so long,” said Hillary Kempenich, an artist and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In 2019, she and other tribal members successfully campaigned for her town of Grand Forks, N.D., to replace Columbus Day with a day recognizing Native peoples.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed with joy,” said Kempenich. She was waiting Friday afternoon for her eighth-grade daughter, who grew up challenging teachers’ depictions of Columbus, to come home from school so Kempenich could share the news.
“For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures,” Biden wrote in the Indigenous Peoples’ Day proclamation. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”
Here’s Arizona State Senator and Democrat, Jamescita Peshlakai.
Interior secretary Deb Haaland celebrates ancestral legacy as she runs in Boston Marathon
The Boston Marathon is underway and US interior secretary Deb Haaland is running in the event.
In an op-ed today in the Boston Globe, she said: “My feet will pound the ancestral homelands of the Massachusett, the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Pawtucket people and will follow in the footsteps of Indigenous runners who have participated in this race over its 125-year history.
Haaland also points out that:
In fact, there have been several Indigenous winners. Tom Longboat of the First Nations Onondaga won the Boston Marathon in 1907. Ellison “Tarzan” Brown of the Narragansett won the marathon in 1936 and again in 1939. Patti Dillon of the Mi’Kmaw people helped to pave the way for women runners who placed second in the Boston Marathon in 1979, 1980, and 1981. I am honored to have met her during my visit here. These runners have a place in history. They are inspirations to all runners, but particularly to Indigenous runners.
Haaland is the first Native American cabinet secretary in US history, a member of the Laguna Pueblo.
In the days of my ancestors, runners ran from house to house and village to village to spread news. In the high desert, runners kept watch for spring floods, alerting villagers and sprinting to the fields to capture water for that year’s crops. Native American runners saved lives during the tragedies of colonization. Now, traditional foot races in our Pueblo villages honor those who were strong and fast. I run because my ancestors gave me this ability.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is also a day when we remember the sacrifices of our ancestors and their survival during the dark eras of colonization and assimilation — eras in which Native Americans suffered atrocities that manifest themselves in health disparities, lack of basic infrastructure, the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples’ crisis, and so much more.
On this special day, I will run for missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and their families, the victims of Indian boarding schools, and the promise that our voices are being heard and will have a part in an equitable and just future in this new era.
You can read more of her article here.
In an interview with Guardian US climate justice reporter Nina Lakhani, Haaland said upon her selection as interior secretary that she would “move climate change priorities, tribal consultation and a green economic recovery forward”. You can go back and read the full interview and see the Guardian portrait picture of Haaland and pix of her on Capitol Hill and with AOC, HERE.
Protests are underway in Washington, DC, as we mentioned earlier, led by American indigenous activists demanding greater climate justice and action on the climate emergency facing homelands and the planet.
Marchers advanced on the White House. Joe Biden is currently in Delaware but the US president will be back in the capital later today and can expect ongoing protests by Native American leaders all week.
As the Washington Post laid out in its article today:
This week of action is being led by Indigenous leaders, who say they’ve been ignored for too long. They argue that they have been effective stewards and protectors of the land — preserving biodiversity and leading the front-line fights against pipelines and drilling around their reservations — but they are still forced to experience the devastating effects of the Earth’s warming up close.
Environmental justice activists are frustrated by what they say is a lack of action from the Biden administration to deliver on climate-related campaign promises. They bring up the recent landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as proof of the urgency of implementing sweeping measures to slow the pace of emissions. The planet is on track to warm more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, which could trigger irreversible damage and more deadly climate crises like fires, heat waves and floods.
Earlier in the article, Tasina Sapa Win of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation in what is now officially termed South Dakota, went into this detail:
Tasina Sapa Win’s grandmother used to tell her stories of the land the family lived on for generations.
Her grandmother shared how the plains on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota were a vibrant green, full of trees and berries. But she also saw the river slowly dry up, and she blamed the federal government for authorizing dams.
Now, when Sapa Win, a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation, looks out the window of her kitchen, the green fields and sunflowers are replaced by brown, dried grass. She gets caught in swarms of grasshoppers, something she didn’t experience as often as a child, and struggles to find turnips used for a traditional Lakota soup.
“It’s because our land is becoming a food desert now,” said Sapa Win, 29, who traveled to Washington to join protesters in front of the White House this week calling for President Biden to end all new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. “We’ve been so unheard for centuries. We’ve been swept under the rug with our issues and our struggles. We’ve been pretty much ignored, and now we’re realizing that.”
Activists protest as US marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Good morning, US live blog readers. It’s a federal holiday in the US today so conventional politics on Capitol Hill and at the White House is slow-moving. But it is Indigenous Peoples’ Day and there is a lot going on and being said in relation to this across the country, so we’ll be looking into that.
If readers have any interesting items to flag or comment on, please feel free to tweet me today @JoannaWalters13.
One of the main news developments is that protests are kicking off, led by US indigenous activists, demanding more action on the climate crisis as it affects the whole country and planet but also specifically Native American lands. Here’s what’s going on:
- Native American leaders and tribal members from across the country are in Washington for five days of protests beginning today, the Washington Post reports. The demonstrations are “part of People v Fossil Fuels protests by a coalition of groups, known as Build Back Fossil Free, who are demanding that the Biden administration take more extreme actions to curb carbon-producing fossil-fuel projects at a time when scientists say the world needs to sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
- The federal holiday is traditionally, officially dedicated to Christopher Columbus, a situation which highlights the sharp divide between what the Associated Press reports are “those who view the explorer as a representative of Italian American history and others horrified by an annual tribute that ignores native people whose lives and culture were forever changed by colonialism. Spurred by national calls for racial equity, communities across the US took a deeper look at Columbus’ legacy in recent years – pairing or replacing it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
- Interior secretary Deb Haaland is running the Boston Marathon today (the first time the event is being held since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic) and tweeted that: “As I run today’s Boston Marathon on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I will carry with me my ancestors who gave me the ability to run.” Haaland marked on Friday the government’s order to restore National Monument protections to, among other places, Bears Ears in Utah, which is steeped in Native history and which Donald Trump tried to shrink in area. Haaland spoke alongside Joe Biden, who issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.