The annual State of Indian Nations address was delivered Tuesday in Washington.
Matt Laslo reports from Washington on the address by Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians.
Native Americans and Alaska Natives have made massive strides in Washington in recent decades, but the past year was especially fruitful.
Tribal leaders secured dedicated funding for the Indian Health Services and President Joe Biden signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that enables tribes to prosecute non-Natives who abuse women in Indian Country.
President Sharp says there’s a lot to be proud of.
“Today, the state of Indian nation’s is strong, because our ancestors worked hard to make it so. If we continue to work together we can make their legacy, our tribal nations, everlasting and eternal.”
Native leaders also secured long overdue investments in high-speed internet, climate change, and clean water resources.
After close to 80 years with a presence in Washington, the National Congress of American Indians is now a force in the nation’s capital.
President Sharp says the historic number of Native leaders in Congress and in the federal government is having an impact.
“We don’t just have a seat at the table, we have influence and we have representation all across the federal government, all across the United States, and around the World.”
Still, inequities abound.
There continues to be a housing crisis across Indian Country, many states continue trying to disenfranchise Native voters, and tribal sovereignty is under assault at the Supreme Court.
President Sharp says now is a time for tribes to unite.
“When any tribe, any single person in Indian Country, faces a challenge, we need all of Indian Country to just show up.”
This is President Sharp’s last year as president of NCAI, but she’s not sitting on the sidelines.
She urged attendees to continue fighting for Indian Country especially when Congress takes up the nation’s sweeping farm bill, which funds many anti-hunger programs among other items vital to Indian Country.
Actress Irene Bedard (Inupiaq, Yup’ik, and Métis-Cree) is helping tell a story about the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the new narrative feature film “On Sacred Ground.”
Jill Fratis from our flagship station KNBA has more.
Producers of “On Sacred Ground” say it’s based on true events that happened in 2016 during construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the opposition camps near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
The film follows a non-Native writer and military veteran, and an oil company executive.
They find themselves on opposite sides.
Irene Bedard plays Mary Singing Crow in the film.
She says her character helps non-Native people understand Indigenous perspectives and way of life, and why it was so important they were fighting for the protection of land and water against the oil pipeline.
“My character was that woman that brought them in and stand that cultural aspect and why this was a prayerful peaceful protest of being water protectors and what that meant. And also, that provider of those extra understandings of how we all work together in unity and how we are all greater than something in ourselves especially as tribal peoples.”
Bedard has been in the film and television business since the 1990s.
She says there were times she was the only Indigenous person in these spaces.
But says today there’s more Indigenous representation in the industry pointing to television shows like “Reservation Dogs” and “Alaska Daily”, where Indigenous people are writers, producers, actors, and more.
Bedard says there’s still a long way to go, but she’s glad to be part of it.
“How we are now flowering and growing, With everything to reservation dogs. There’s just so much content coming out right now, and people, as I’ve been saying for decades are hungry for our stories. And it’s showing. Now that people are understanding that, and we’re having those opportunities to express ourselves and for our voices to be heard.”
Bedard is well-known for many roles in “Smoke Signals” and Disney’s “Pocahontas.”
Watch out for her in the upcoming mini-series “The Green Veil” about Indian boarding schools.
“On Sacred Ground” was recently released in select theaters.
Watch Irene Bedard talk about the importance of Indigenous representation in the film and television industry:
Watch the “On Sacred Ground” Trailer:
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