TWH – News relating to the election results and the recent rapid rise of COVID-19 cases have largely eclipsed the fact that November is Native American Heritage Month.
While there are many events celebrating Native Americans, the potentially most impactful and far-reaching was an NPR report this morning stating “that dozens of House Democrats sent a letter to Biden’s transition team endorsing New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland for interior secretary.”
Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and Jemez Tribes and won re-election along with Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk Tribe, Reps. Tom Cole, Chickasaw Tribe, and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee of the Western Band. Two of the six tribal members to serve in the U.S. Congress. Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, in New Mexico, and Native Hawaiian Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele, also won their bids bringing the total of Indigenous people serving in the U.S. Congress to six.
To have Haaland named as Secretary of the Interior could allow for Indigenous peoples to have a larger voice within the federal government than ever before. The Indigenous Environmental Network sent a letter to the Biden transition team endorsing Haaland that was undersigned by over two dozen organizations.
Haaland and Sharice Davids were first elected in 2018, becoming the first Native American women to serve in the U.S. Congress.
“We are here for the people and all of the heartache and all of the horrible federal eras of federal Indian policy that happened through the centuries,” Haaland said. “We’re here to try to make a little dent in making those things right and moving us into a new era in our country where we say everyone’s voice matters.”
Another notable event was the announcement by the Library of Congress last week that they had appointed Joy Harjo of Muscokee (Creek) Nation to serve a third term as U.S. Poet Laureate. Harjo is only the second laureate to see her term extended since the position was established in 1943, and will allow her to complete works whose timeline has been impacted by the pandemic.
In a statement released by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, “Throughout the pandemic, Joy Harjo has shown how poetry can help steady us and nurture us. I am thankful she is willing to continue this work on behalf of the country. A third term will give Joy the opportunity to develop and extend her signature project.”
Harjo’s work which focuses on her signature project, “Living Nations, Living Words,” which was launched as part of the Native American Heritage Month celebration in November, and “features an interactive ArcGIS story map, which maps 47 contemporary Native American poets across the country — including Harjo, Louise Erdrich, Natalie Diaz, Ray Young Bear, Craig Santos Perez, Sherwin Bitsui and Layli Long Soldier.”
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TWH – The impact of SARS-CoV2, the virus causing COVID-19, on Indigenous populations has been dramatic and tragic and according to the CDC their risk of complications from the virus requiring hospitalization is over five times higher than white populations. The Navajo Nation alone has had over 15,000 cases with 631 death attributed to COVID-19.
As we reported last week, the Navajo Nation re-issued a “Stay at Home” order for three weeks due to what it characterized as “uncontrolled spread” of the virus in more than 50 Native communities.
Globally, the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to increase and the total number of cases worldwide is closing in on 60 million with 1.4 million deaths as of today.
The U.S. which has the highest number of cases and deaths in the world is nearing 13 million recorded cases and over 260,000 deaths.
Last week news of two vaccines, one developed by Pfizer and another by Moderna, were reported as awaiting approval by the FDA for use within the U.S., as well as in other countries. This morning AstraZeneca announced its vaccine drug developed by Oxford University has completed its late-stage trials and released data that shows its efficacy at about 90%.
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a slightly higher efficacy rate of 95%, they require storage in temperatures as low as -94° Fahrenheit (-70° Celsius). The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine merely requires refrigeration of temperatures between 36° to 46° degrees F (2 to 8° C). All of the vaccines will require two inoculations which must be spaced a month apart.
The challenge of distributing the vaccines once they are approved is considerable. There has been much concern over geographical regions where simple refrigeration is sparse, let alone freezer access that can meet the requirements for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Approximately 3 billion of the 7.8 billion world population do not have the ability to adequately store even the AstraZeneca vaccine.
As a result, poorer segments of the world’s population who have often been the hardest hit from COVID-19 are likely to be the last to recover from the pandemic.
Within the U.S. there is also concern that the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday will result in an even larger spike in new cases if people engage in large family gatherings. The CDC is strongly urging people to stay home and only celebrate the holiday with those who reside within their household.
For those who plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, the CDC has a list of guidelines that stress the three Ws: Wear a mask; Wait six feet apart; Wash your hands.
Other Native American Heritage Month news:
- The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is offering free online access to its Native Cinema Showcase to celebrate its 20th anniversary, which runs from November 18 – 27 and offers various programming available for online viewing. The program highlights and celebrates the works of “Native filmmakers and stories from Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and the Arctic.”
- The contributions of local Native American artists in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is being celebrated with the mixed media fine art exhibit titled “Circle of Unity” on display in the New River Inn building of History Fort Lauderdale. The exhibit is described as being “intergenerational, and multi-disciplinary” that “presents a contemporary perspective of Seminole artists on the cycles of solidarity and patterns of resilience that have always existed within the histories of the Seminole and Miccosukee People of Florida.” In a statement released by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, executive director Patricia Zeiler said, “It is an honor and a privilege to host ‘Circle of Unity’ in the very spot that the original people of the land we now know as Fort Lauderdale helped build and cultivate. We are grateful to the Native American artists for sharing their tradition, culture and vision with the community and to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. for its unwavering support of History Fort Lauderdale during Native American Heritage Month.”
- Documentary filmmaker Tsanavi Spoonhunter of the Northern Arapaho Tribe is using her skills to shift the way Native peoples are portrayed, and also highlight some of the modern issues that Native tribal members face. “What I would want people to understand is that the issues that we face are modern issues that are real and that are happening in the backyard of America,” Spoonhunter said in an interview with Nevada Today. Her documentary film, “Crow Country: Our Right to Food Sovereignty” focuses on the Crow tribal members and their struggles to be food secure despite high levels of unemployment and the closure of the only grocery store on reservation land. Spoonhunter first became interested in the Crow through the Supreme Court case of Herrera v. Wyoming while working on her master’s degree at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. That case centered on the rights of Crow tribal members of Montana to hunt on unoccupied land in Wyoming from a prior treaty which the Supreme Court upheld. “Crow Country” won Best Documentary Short at the American Indian Film Institute’s 45th annual American Indian Film Festival this fall. “The imagery that you’re used to seeing and consuming in media and film is inaccurate,” Spoonhunter said. “A lot of people don’t realize Native people are modern people with modern issues, but we still have that connection to our historic culture.”
- The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association named American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association as the recipient of its ‘Best Cultural Heritage Experience’ award in September for the Arizona Indian Festival which offers traditional dancing and performances, opportunities to observe native artisans working their crafts like weaving and pottery, as well as arts & crafts for sale, and native foods. The annual event is free and family friendly.
In other news:
- Statuettes of the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone were uncovered during excavation for the construction of a swimming pool at a sanatorium in Anape, Russia. The intact figures are made of terracotta and show Demeter and Persephone from the waist up. They are believe to be more than 2,000 years old. The site of the excavation was on what was originally the Greek city of Gorgippia which existed from roughly 400 to 200 B.C.E. Other objects found were much more recent and included Russian coins ranging in date from 1818 to 1913, Turkish smoking pipes, and coffee cups. The statuettes will be donated to the Anape Museum.
- Students at the Rochester Institute of Technology made an interesting discovery using an ultraviolet-fluorescence imaging system they had begun developing as freshman last fall. Pages of a manuscript borrowed from the Cary Graphic Arts Collection were revealed to be a palimpsest, where one set of writings exist beneath the one visible. Due to parchment being expensive and not readily available, it was common in the past for parchments to reused after they had been scraped, removing the previous writing and ink. While the leaves of the manuscript the students found the palimpsest in are similar to other leaves that have been studied and examined by other researchers, these leaves had not been tested using UV light or fully imaged. The curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, Steven Galbraith was excited by the find. “The students have supplied incredibly important information about at least two of our manuscript leaves here in the collection and in a sense have discovered two texts that we didn’t know were in the collection,” said Galbraith. “Now we have to figure out what those texts are and that’s the power of spectral imaging in cultural institutions. To fully understand our own collections, we need to know the depth of our collections, and imaging science helps reveal all of that to us.”
Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte
Deck: Tarot of the Cat People, by Karen Kuykendall, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: Major arcana, XXI (21), The World
The week ahead may offer a favorable conclusion or the successful completion of a project that offers the full rewards and jubilation of a job well done. Conversely, a lack of commitment and vision can result in failure and disappointment.
Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.