Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland traveled to Oklahoma over the weekend for the first stop on her road to healing tour to hear from former Indian boarding school students and descendants.
The tour is part of Sec. Haaland’s federal investigation into U.S. Indian boarding schools and their impacts on tribal communities.
The investigation was launched last year and includes gathering testimony and finding trauma-informed support for healing.
Sec. Haaland was joined by Interior Department staff and tribal officials at a gym packed with people at the Riverside Indian School in Anadarko.
The first hour of Saturday’s event was open to the press to hear remarks from officials. The rest of the day was closed to provide space for participants to share their stories.
Native News Online reports some boarding school survivors did speak publicly during the first hour recounting painful memories of the trauma they endured at boarding school including physical, mental, and sexual abuse.
Sec. Haaland has expressed the need to gather testimony, acknowledging it won’t be easy, but saying it is a necessary part of the investigation.
The year-long tour will include stops in Hawaii, Michigan, Arizona, and South Dakota.
More than 400 federal Indian boarding schools were operated across the country from the 1800s to 1969.
A federal judge last week denied a motion by the state of North Dakota to dismiss a voting rights lawsuit by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Spirit Lake Nation, KFYR-TV reports.
The lawsuit is challenging North Dakota’s legislative redistricting, claiming it violates the Voting Rights Act.
It claims the state’s new redistricting law dilutes the voting strength of Native American voters from the reservations by packing Turtle Mountain reservation in one district and cracking out Spirit Lake, reducing from two to one the number of state house seats Native voters have an opportunity to elect their candidate of choice.
The tribes want a redistricting plan that combines both reservations in a single legislative district.
The case is now expected to proceed.
Chronic wasting disease is fatal for wildlife and it might be dangerous for hunters who depend on those animals for food and traditional practices.
That’s why researchers are training dogs to sniff out the disease on the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, as Aaron Bolton reports.
At the Working Dogs for Conservation training facility near Missoula, trainer Michelle Vasquez releases a rambunctious black lab named Charlie. He begins looking for black-footed ferret scent hidden in one of a handful containers on the floor.
“So yea, the other ones have bedding in them, maybe rocks, grass, prairie dog scent, whatever we think they might encounter in the wild just to give them a good picture.”
Charlie quickly finds the right scent and is rewarded with a stuffed pink dragon to play with.
Later this summer, Vasquez will train dogs like Charlie to sniff out chronic wasting disease in deer and elk scat on the Blackfeet Nation.
Blackfeet water researcher Souta Calling Last’s nonprofit Indigenous Vision is leading the project.
“Right now it feels a little scary because we don’t know where it’s at and we don’t know what it’s going to look like 20 years from now.”
CWD hasn’t been shown to infect humans, but federal health officials and researchers haven’t ruled it out completely.
Calling Last says CWD could threaten food security for Blackfeet tribal members and says it’s already pushed some people away from cultural practices like “brain tanning”, because it’s considered high-risk.
Currently, the only way to know where the disease is present is to test animals shot by hunters or killed on highways, which takes a lot of time and resource tribes don’t always have.
Calling Last hopes the dogs will be a new way for wildlife managers to detect the disease early and protect herds that serve as food and cultural resources for tribal members.
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