After the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in June, Minnesota’s Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Ojibwe Tribe, wrote on social media, “In Minnesota, your reproductive rights will stay protected. …Abortion is health care. Period.” She wasn’t just expressing the health care policy of Minnesota; she was also expressing the long-standing viewpoint of many Indigenous peoples. For thousands of years, reproductive health care has been an important part of Indigenous peoples’ cultural practices, which include religious rituals, sacred rites, and the right to abortion.
With the recent ruling by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a question emerges: To what extent will Indigenous religious and cultural practices related to reproductive health, including the right to an abortion, be impacted by this decision?
Indigenous Knowledge and Ceremony
Indigenous peoples have utilized the knowledge of medicinal plants throughout every stage of reproductive health care, from the start of menstruation, contraception, abortion,
The jailed Native American activist Leonard Peltier has tested positive for COVID, less than a week after describing his prison as a “torture chamber.” Peltier, who suffers from multiple health conditions, says he and others held at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida have yet to receive their COVID booster shots and describes worsening neglect and uncertainty. In a statement, Leonard Peltier writes, “Left alone and without attention is like a torture chamber for the sick and old.”
The 77-year-old Leonard Peltier is a Lakota and Chippewa Native American from the state of North Dakota. He’s been jailed for 46 years. In 1977, he was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. At the time, Peltier was a member of AIM, the American Indian Movement. He has always maintained his innocence. Amnesty International considers him a political prisoner who was not granted a fair trial.
The 1975 shootout occurred two years after AIM occupied the village of Wounded Knee for 71 days. The occupation of Wounded Knee is considered the beginning of what Oglala people
Josefina Tunki, the first woman to preside over the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA), an Indigenous association in Ecuador, faces death threats due to her opposition to mining on Indigenous lands. The Ecuadoran government has granted 165 concessions to mining companies — for copper, gold and molybdenum — that covers 56% of PSHA territory in the Condor mountain range in southeastern Ecuador. According to the NGO Amazon Watch, the Ecuadoran government has granted 165 mining concessions that occupy 56% of the 230,000 hectares (about 568,000 acres) of PSHA territory. Since the 1990s, these concessions have been granted to Solaris Resources of Canada, SolGold (Australia), ExplorCobres S.A. (EXSA, a Chinese-Canadian joint venture), and Aurania Resources (Canada) to extract copper, gold, and molybdenum. several waterways originate in these mountains, and if they’re contaminated by mining activity, they could set off a chain reaction of environmental damage.
Today marks the first time the United States as a nation will recognize the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This follows a growing movement to debunk the myth of Christopher Columbus as beneficent discoverer and replace it with recognition that the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Bahamas unleashed a brutal genocide that massacred tens of millions of Native peoples across the hemisphere. President Biden Friday issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor, quote, “our diverse history and the Indigenous peoples who contribute to shaping this Nation.”
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is now a paid state holiday in Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon — which celebrates both Columbus Day and Native American Day — and South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. More than a hundred U.S. cities have also replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Even Columbus, Ohio, the largest city named after the Italian invader, stopped celebrating Columbus Day in 2018. Last year, it declared October 12th Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with the Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin saying, quote, “It’s impossible to think about a more just future without recognizing these original sins of our past,” she said.
As the COVID-19 death toll continues to rise in the U.S., fear is mounting that the spread of the virus could devastate tribal communities. We look at how the coronavirus is impacting Indian Country with Dean Seneca, a citizen of the Seneca Nation and epidemiologist who spent nearly 20 years as a senior health scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Navajo activist and artist Emma Robbins, director of the Navajo Water Project, a community-managed utility alternative that brings hot and cold running water to homes without access to water or sewer lines. “One of the hardest things right now is being able to wash your hands in the Navajo Nation,” says Robbins. The Navajo Nation is the largest tribal nation in the United States and the hardest hit by the outbreak, with nearly 30 deaths and more than 830 confirmed cases.
The pandemic, it’s hit pretty hard in certain areas throughout Indian Country. Like you said, the Navajo Nation is definitely hit the hardest. And some areas where we have high populations or cities where people can come together, we have a sparsity of cases, you know, for example, in Portland, Oklahoma and some other areas. But overall, given the situation that Native people are in regarding health disparities and preexisting conditions, except for Navajo Nation, I think we’re not doing that bad, as far as the pandemic hitting Indian Country. You know, with just 12,000 tests only and over 1,100 confirmed, like you pointed out, many at Navajo Nation, the rest of the country is faring pretty well, in my opinion, given what the outbreak has done throughout the rest of the country.
Now, having said that, my fear is that the virus hasn’t really hit rural America yet. And as you know, many of our tribal nations throughout the country are in rural America. So,
The remains of nine Indigenous children were buried by the Rosebud Sioux in South Dakota after being transferred back from the former Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where the children were forcibly sent over 140 years ago. Carlisle was the first government boarding school off reservation land, and it set the standard for other schools with its motto, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The schools were known for their brutal assimilation practices that forced students to change their clothing, language and culture. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe negotiated the return of the children’s remains buried at the school, and a caravan of Rosebud Sioux youth returned them to their tribe this week. Dozens of other Native American and Alaskan Native families have asked Carlisle to return their relatives’ bodies. Knowledge of the boarding schools is still being recovered as many survivors are reluctant to revisit the trauma, says Christopher Eagle Bear, a member of the Sicangu Youth Council. “These schools, they played a key part in trying to sever that connection to who we are as Lakota,” he says. “They took away our language, and they made it impossible for us to be who we really are.”
Yes, so, when we first started, we were a youth council that was primarily just kids, you know? This is six years ago. A lot of us were still in high school or still in middle school. And so, when we started, we went over there. And for us, it was the first time — for a lot of us, actually, it was the first time we were getting a good understanding of what a boarding school was, because boarding schools aren’t really talked about, growing up, where I come from, you know? There’s a traumatic event — something traumatic happened that made you not want to talk about it, made you not want to recreate the pain, or whatever it was, and your parents just wanted you to be protected from all of that horrificness. And so, when we went to Carlisle, it was very — it was an eye-opener to who we are today as the Lakota people, you know? Everything that makes us who we are was kind of detached from us from these boarding schools.
In 1908 the U.S. government seized some 18,000 acres of land from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to create the National Bison Range in the heart of their reservation in the mountain-ringed Mission Valley of western Montana.
While the goal of protecting the remnants of America’s once-plentiful bison was worthy, for the last century the federal facility has been a symbol to the tribes here of the injustices forced upon them by the government, and they have long fought to get the bison range returned.
Last December their patience paid off: President Donald Trump signed legislation that began the process of returning the range to the Salish and Kootenai.
Now the tribes are managing the range’s bison and are also helping, through co-management, to manage bison that leave Yellowstone National Park to graze on U.S. Forest Service land. Their Native American management approach is steeped in the close, almost familial, relationship with the animal that once provided food,