The Navajo Nation has lifted a longstanding COVID-19 mask mandate.
As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, early in the pandemic the reservation was one of the most heavily impacted areas in the country.
Under the order, masks will no longer be required in public indoor spaces throughout all of the reservation’s 110 chapters.
It makes face coverings optional except for in schools, nursing homes, and healthcare facilities – and for those who may have COVID or who’ve been exposed.
The mask mandate has been in effect for almost three years and the Navajo Nation is among the last areas in the country to lift its requirement.
Navajo President Buu Nygren says lifting the mandate would help the tribe return to normal business and help boost the economy on the reservation that struggles with unemployment.
Former Navajo President Jonathan Nez, who lost reelection to Nygren in November, has questioned the decision to lift the restrictions.
He says the relatively low rate of recent infections on the reservation was mostly due to the mask mandate. He’s also calling on the administration to be more transparent with COVID data.
At one point in 2020, the Navajo Nation had the highest per capita rate of COVID infections in the country.
History was made on Monday in the Navajo Nation Council, the tribe’s legislative branch, as Crystalyne Curley was elected speaker.
This is the first time a Navajo woman will lead the council as speaker.
Speaker Curley is a former Miss Navajo who advocated for elders.
She says she has higher education degrees, but also understands many of the challenges Navajo people face. Speaker Curley grew up with no electricity and no running water.
After being sworn in, she thanked her fellow delegates.
“It’s an honor to be serving you as your new speaker (Navajo language) and thank you for mentoring me and giving me advice throughout these years. I know I’ve known many of you for many years.”
This is also the first time that there are nine Navajo women serving on the 24-member council.
Additionally, Richelle Montoya made history this month taking office as the first woman to serve as vice president of the Navajo Nation.
California tribal leaders and state lawmakers will gather at the Capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday night to celebrate State Rep. James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla/D-CA) being appointed chair of the Assembly Rules Committee.
The recent appointment marks the first time a California Native American will serve as chair of the committee.
Rep. Ramos became the first California Native American elected to the state legislature in 2018 and was named chair of the Rules Committee last month.
He’s been a strong advocate for Native American issues, including work to address missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Rep. Ramos was instrumental in championing a bill, which created the Feather Alert.
A public notification tool, which was rolled out in January, to help law enforcement quickly notify the public about missing Native people.
The Rules Committee has primary jurisdiction over matters relating to business of the Assembly.
The Rules chair also serves as chair of the Joint Committee on projects covering both houses.
Rep. Ramos held the first meeting as Rules Chair last week.
Wednesday’s celebration will be livestreamed from the Capitol Rotunda.
Former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Cedric Cromwell has been ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to the tribe along with an owner of an architecture firm, the Cape Cod Times reports.
This follows bribery convictions last year in connection to the Massachusetts tribe’s plan to build a resort-casino.
According to court records, the two men are responsible for legal expenses incurred by the tribe and were ordered to repay jointly.
In May, Cromwell and firm owner David DeQuattro were convicted by a federal jury.
In November, they were both sentenced: Cromwell to three years in prison and one year of supervised release – and DeQuattro to one year in home confinement.
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