Steve Sachs

Environmental Developments

       Eoin Higgins, "Like Adding 'Five to Six Hiroshima Bombs of Heat Each Second,' Study Shows Oceans Warming at Record Rate, 'If you want to understand global warming, you have to measure ocean warming,'" Common Dreams, January 14, 2014,, reported, "A new study published Monday shows that the Earth's oceans reached the highest temperatures and warmed the fastest since records began, highlighting the urgent need for global action to address the climate crisis before it's too late.
      The study ( pdf:, 'Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019,' which was published in Advances in Atmospheric Studies, found the oceans have warmed by around 0.075 degrees C above the average of 1981-2010.
       That level of warming, the paper found, is equal to 228,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (228 Sextillion) Joules of heat. Study lead author Lijing Cheng, associate professor with the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences analogized the level of heating to something more manageable for the human mind.
       'The amount of heat we have put in the world's oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions,' said Cheng. 'This measured ocean warming is irrefutable and is further proof of global warming. There are no reasonable alternatives aside from the human emissions of heat trapping gases to explain this heating."
       The warming is speeding up, the scientists found.
       'We are now at five to six Hiroshima bombs of heat each second," study co-author John Abraham, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas, told CNN.
      Abraham said in a statement Monday announcing the study's publication that the public needs to be aware 'how fast things are changing.'
      'The key to answering this question is in the oceans—that's where the vast majority of heat ends up,' said Abraham. 'If you want to understand global warming, you have to measure ocean warming.'
      The ocean warms slowly, said Cheng, but due to its vast size has dire consequences.
'The price we pay is the reduction of ocean-dissolved oxygen, the harmed marine lives, strengthening storms and reduced fisheries and ocean-related economies
,' Cheng said. 'However, the more we reduce greenhouse gasses, the less the ocean will warm.'
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       Jessica Corbett, "'Scale of This Failure Has No Precedent': Scientists Say Hot Ocean 'Blob' Killed One Million Seabirds: The lead author called the mass die-off 'a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem,'" Common Dreams, January 16, 2020, reported,, " On the heels of new research showing that the world's oceans are rapidly warming, scientists revealed Wednesday that a huge patch of hot water in the northeast Pacific Ocean dubbed 'the blob' was to blame for killing about one million seabirds.
      The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by a team of researchers at federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and universities. They tied the mass die-off to 'the blob,' a marine heatwave that began forming in 2013 and grew more intense in 2015 because of the weather phenomenon known as El Niño.
      'About 62,000 dead or dying common murres (Uria aalge), the trophically dominant fish-eating seabird of the North Pacific, washed ashore between summer 2015 and spring 2016 on beaches from California to Alaska,' the study says. 'Most birds were severely emaciated and, so far, no evidence for anything other than starvation was found to explain this mass mortality. Three-quarters of murres were found in the Gulf of Alaska and the remainder along the West Coast.'
      Given that previous studies have shown 'that only a fraction of birds that die at sea typically wash ashore,' the researchers put the death toll closer to a million.
       'The magnitude and scale of this failure has no precedent,' lead author John Piatt, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington, said in a statement. 'It was astonishing and alarming, and a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.'
      Piatt and study co-author and University of Washington professor Julia Parrish explained that the team believes the blob—which spanned hundreds of miles—limited food supply in the region, leading the birds to starve.
      Think of it as a run on the grocery stores at the same time that the delivery trucks to the stores stopped coming so often,' Parrish said. 'We believe that the smoking gun for common murres—beyond the marine heatwave itself—was an ecosystem squeeze: fewer forage fish and smaller prey in general, at the same time that competition from big fish predators like walleye, pollock, and Pacific cod greatly increased.'
      Piatt added that 'food demands of large commercial groundfish like cod, pollock, halibut, and hake were predicted to increase dramatically with the level of warming observed with the blob, and since they eat many of the same prey as murres, this competition likely compounded the food supply problem for murres, leading to mass mortality events from starvation.'
      According to CNN, which reported on the study Thursday:
      The blob devastated the murres' population. With insufficient food, breeding colonies across the entire region had reproductive difficulties for years afterward, the study said. Not only did the population decline dramatically, but the murres couldn't replenish those numbers.
      During the 2015 breeding season, three colonies didn't produce a single chick. That number went up to 12 colonies in the 2016 season—and in reality it could be even higher, since researchers only monitor a quarter of all colonies.
      Thomas Frölicher, a climate scientist at the University of Bern in Switzerland who was not involved in the new study, discussed the blob's connection to the human-caused planetary emergency with InsideClimate News.
"It was the biggest marine heatwave so far on record," said Frölicher, who noted that such events have doubled in frequency over the past few decades. "Usually, we are used to heatwaves over land. They are much smaller in size, and they do not last as long. In the ocean, this heatwave lasted two or three years.'
      Frölicher warned that 'if we follow a high-greenhouse-gas-emissions scenario, these heatwaves will become 50 times more frequent than preindustrial times' by 2100. He said that even if the international community achieves a low-emissions scenario in line with the Paris climate agreement, marine heatwaves would still be 20 times more frequent.
      'What that means is that in some regions, they will become permanent heatwaves," he added. "This gives us some insight into the future.'
      The study—which its authors expect to inform research on other mortality events related to marine heatwaves—was published just weeks after University of Washington scientists found what some have called "the blob 2.0" forming in the Pacific. That discovery came as 'quite a surprise' to those researchers.
      University climatologist Nick Bond told local media that 'the original blob was so unusual, and stood above the usually kind of variations in the climate and ocean temperatures, that we thought 'wow, this is going to be something we won't see for quite a while.'
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       Julia Conley, "'Really, Really Bad': Scientists Raise Alarm Over Warm Ocean Water Beneath 'Doomsday Glacier' in Antarctica: 'Warm waters in this part of the world, as remote as they may seem, should serve as a warning to all of us about the potential dire changes to the planet brought about by climate change,'", reported, " A study by British and American scientists revealed that a massive sheet of ice known as the 'doomsday glacier' is melting faster than experts previously believed—edging the world closer to a possible sea level rise of more than 10 feet.
      Researchers at New York University and the British Antarctic Survey drilled through nearly 2,000 feet of ice in the Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica, to measure temperatures at the 75-mile wide ice sheet's "grounding line," where the ice meets the ocean.
       The water just beneath the ice was found to be 32º Fahrenheit—more than 2º above freezing temperature in the Antarctic region.
      The findings have 'huge implications for global sea level rise,' NYU scientist David Holland said in a statement. co-founder and author Bill McKibben was among the climate action campaigners who expressed alarm over the new study.
      'Oh, damn,' McKibben wrote on social media.
      The researchers expressed concern that the water beneath the glacier could be even warmer in other areas.
       Scientists refer to Thwaites as the 'doomsday glacier' due to the dire implications its rapid melting could have for the planet. Though a 10-foot sea level rise would likely take years, the melting of the glacier could eventually mean the U.S. would lose 28,800 square miles of coastal land —pushing 12.3 million people currently living in those areas out of their homes.
      'Warm waters in this part of the world, as remote as they may seem, should serve as a warning to all of us about the potential dire changes to the planet brought about by climate change
,' Holland said.
      The Thwaites glacier has lost 600 billion tons of ice over the past several decades, accelerating to as many as 50 billion tons per year in recent years.
      'There is very warm water there, and clearly, it could not have been there forever, or the glacier could not be there,' Holland told the Washington Post of the recent findings, suggesting the water has gotten warmer recently.
      Scientists are especially concerned about the Thwaites because its configuration is an example of 'marine ice sheet instability.'
      As Chris Mooney wrote at the Post:
      'Thwaites gets deeper and thicker from its oceanfront region back into its interior in the heart of West Antarctica. This is known to be an unstable configuration for a glacier, because as the ocean continues to eat away at its base, the glacier becomes thicker, so more ice is exposed to the ocean. In turn, that ice flows outward faster.'
      BBC released a short video detailing the scientists' journey to the Thwaites glacier and their findings.
      'The ice rises almost a mile from the sea bed and it's collapsing into the sea at two miles a year,' the narration explains. 'If Thwaites melts, it will increase sea levels worldwide by half a meter. But it sits in the middle of the Antarctic ice sheet and there's three meters more of sea level rise locked up in there.'
      'That is really, really bad," Holland told the Post of the most recent discovery. "That's not a sustainable situation for that glacier.'
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       Andrew Freedman, "The signal of human-caused climate change has emerged in everyday weather, study finds," The Washington Post, January 2, 2020,, " For the first time, scientists have detected the 'fingerprint' of human-induced climate change on daily weather patterns at the global scale. If verified by subsequent work, the findings, published Thursday in Nature Climate Change:, would upend the long-established narrative that daily weather is distinct from long-term climate change.
      The study’s results also imply that research aimed at assessing the human role in contributing to extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods may be underestimating the contribution."

       Henry Fountain, "Billions Could Live in Extreme Heat Zones Within Decades, Study Finds," The New York Times, May 4, 2020,, reported, "As the climate continues to warm over the next half-century, up to one-third of the world’s population is likely to live in areas that are considered unsuitably hot for humans, scientists said Monday.
      Currently fewer than 25 million people live in the world’s hottest areas, which are mostly in the Sahara region in Africa with mean annual temperatures above about 84 degrees Fahrenheit, or 29 Celsius. But the researchers said that by 2070 such extreme heat could encompass a much larger part of Africa, as well as parts of India, the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia and Australia.
      With the global population projected to rise to about 10 billion by 2070, that means as many as 3.5 billion people could inhabit those areas
. Some of them could migrate to cooler areas, but that would bring economic and societal disruption with it."
      The study is reported in, Chi Xu, Timothy A. Kohler, Timothy M. Lenton, Jens-Christian Svenning, and Marten Scheffer, "Future of the human climate niche," PNAS, May 4, 2020

      International Crisis Group (IGC), Robert Malley, President & CEO, "Climate Change Is Shaping the Future of Conflict," Speech / Climate Change And Conflict  5 May 2020,, commented, "Crisis Group’s President & CEO Robert Malley addressed the UN Security Council’s virtual Arria session on climate and security risks on 22 April 2020. Without global action, he said, climate change could prove to be a slow-moving version of the current COVID-19pandemic.
      I am honoured to be joining this Security Council Arria session on climate and security risks. The organisers had the foresight to schedule it to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day; they also had the fortune or misfortune to schedule it to coincide with the outbreak of COVID-19, an apt reminder if one were required of how global challenges necessitate a global response, and of why looming threats necessitate an urgent one. In particular, I want to thank all of today’s co-hosts for calling attention to the growing peace and security implications of climate change.
      I join you on behalf of the International Crisis Group’s team of conflict analysts around the world. Crisis Group is an independent organisation with a mission to save lives by preventing, mitigating and resolving deadly conflict. We do so through field-based research, impartial analysis and pragmatic advocacy to shape the understanding and alter the behaviour of conflict actors and those who influence them.
      So what brings us to this climate conversation? Quite simply, the conviction that climate change is already shaping and will continue to shape the future of conflict, and that we ignore that relationship at our peril. In that sense, and as today’s meeting illustrates, the climate conversation is at an inflection point. That’s not only because of the latest, alarming facts on the ground. It’s also a reflection of who is now and should be at the table. For years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has documented trends that can instigate or exacerbate violence. Given the rate at which global warming is outpacing projections, the increasing rise in sea levels, the growing scarcity of resources, and the frequency of extreme weather events, it would be a dereliction of our duty if peace and security actors failed to join the diplomats, scientists, activists, and others in taking this challenge seriously
      We are relative newcomers to this conversation, and so we approach these issues with humility and have much to learn from you. But I’d like to offer a few thoughts for further discussion.
      First, we should be careful to neither understate nor overstate the nature of the relationship between climate and deadly conflict. Let me be clear, independent of the links to deadly conflict, climate change is an existential challenge that puts vulnerable populations at increasing risk and requires far more robust action than we have seen so far.
       But as regards the link to conflict, understanding the precise relationship matters because only from that understanding can we derive sound policy prescriptions. By not understating the causal link, I mean acknowledging that climate change is undeniably a conflict threat multiplier. We are by now all familiar with the data suggesting a ten to twenty per cent increase in the risk of armed conflict associated with every half-degree increase in local temperatures, and that could be a conservative estimate.  Researchers will of course debate the precise role of climate-related risks in any crisis, but there's wide consensus that climate change can, for example, increase food insecurity, water scarcity and resource competition, disrupt livelihoods, and spur migration or what have been called environmental refugees. And these are all key factors that, as Crisis Group has documented for over two decades, can in turn play a key role in shaping deadly conflicts – for example, by prompting inter or intra state clashes over resources, discrediting central states, or bolstering the appeal of non-state armed groups and facilitating their recruitment drives.
      At the same time, the relationship between climate and conflict is not linear; it is complex and nuanced. In some situations, small variations in climate can contribute to significant increases in violent conflict; in others, large variations in climate will not. That’s because what matters in this instance as in so many others is how authorities deal with the problems induced or exacerbated by climate change: how equitably and effectively they allocate and distribute resources; how inclusive and accountable they are; whether there are good inter-community mediation mechanisms or not. And so on.
      Moreover, climate change does not necessarily trigger resource scarcity. In some instances, it does, in others, it does not: rising temperatures and volatile rainfall mean that many areas have fewer resources, but it also means that some may have more. Greater resources may be a net positive in terms of peace and stability, although as Crisis Group has also documented it can contribute to increased competition and violence if that competition is poorly regulated by the state.
      Finally , the relationship can be inverted, in that deadly conflict and political instability can contribute to climate change – for example, through illegal logging in the Amazon.
      In other words, the impact of climate change on conflict is context-specific, which is why we believe that marrying the kind of granular, field based political analysis our organisation undertakes with climate expertise could produce the most effective conflict prevention outcomes.
       The kinds of conflicts I refer to come in two broad categories. First are tensions within states arising from climate-related resource scarcity; these require domestic political responses that the UN may be able to support. Second are tensions between states over scarce resources – especially in the case of water – which require a diplomatic response that the UN may be able to facilitate. Drawing on recent Crisis Group reporting, I will address an example from each category in turn.
      Across the Sahel and even as far south as Kenya, Crisis Group has analysed how climate-related factors have exacerbated intercommunal conflicts between herders and farmers. Peace will require states restoring their ability to peacefully regulate conflicts in those rural areas, especially in relation to disputes over inhabitable land and other resources that are becoming scarcer due to rising temperatures and variable rainfall.
      To take one specific instance, northern Nigeria has experienced large declines in the length of the rainy season and an increase in desert or semi-desert conditions over recent decades. These changes have dried up many natural water sources, diminishing pastures and farmland. In the northern states most directly impacted, they have exacerbated long-running contests between herders and farmers sharing the same resources. They are also forcing large numbers of herders in search of productive land to migrate south, resulting in increasing conflicts between them and central Nigeria’s growing populations of sedentary crop farmers. This violence has increased Nigeria’s security challenges and stretched the military from a much-needed focus on Boko Haram.
       When states fail to address these intercommunal tensions, then a variety of armed groups – including criminals and jihadists – are able to fill that vacuum and violently exploit the distrust of governments among marginalised rural communities. But while military measures against such groups are necessary, an effective response cannot only be security based: there needs to be a political component, such as the promotion of inclusive dialogues to reduce intercommunal tensions and engage armed groups; an economic dimension, including ways to formalise the grey economy and to reform the livestock sector; and a climate dimension, including prioritising humanitarian assistance to those most affected by environmental changes.
       Moving on to inter-state dynamics, Crisis Group has also looked at the transboundary water conflicts around the Nile river basin, and specifically the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Since 2010, Ethiopia has been building the dam on the Blue Nile River as its highest development priority. Given the Blue Nile is the main tributary of the Nile River, Egypt fears the dam threatens its water supply.
       A tough negotiation has been made even harder as rising temperatures and falling precipitation trends are likely to lead to increased water scarcity across the Nile Basin. Over the last few years, technical experts from both countries and Sudan, which is also impacted, had neared a consensus about how fast Ethiopia could fill the dam’s reservoir to minimise downstream impacts. Those talks have since run into new obstacles, but what is most striking about this example is not only how a resource-scarcity issue around water rights has been intensified by climate change conditions, but also how the resulting diplomatic negotiations could strengthen regional institutions that can address both climate change and conflict issues in the future. So while these negotiations are far from complete, there is at least some reason to be hopeful that climate-induced urgency will prompt action.
       Nile Dam Talks: Unlocking a Dangerous Stalemate
      We have, of course, much more to learn about links between instability, conflict and climate. For now, and beyond the need to devote increasing attention to the politics of climate-related security risks, I’d propose two steps to make our collective policy response more effective: first, we have to shorten the timeline used to assess climate risks; second, we should prioritise geographies where climate risks intersect with fragile politics
      Until recently, the tendency was to discuss climate change on the 10- or 15-year timelines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. But as you all know, the peace and security community operates on a much shorter timeline. O ur goal should be to document closer to real time which areas are experiencing the fastest effects of climate change, when further environmental changes could occur, and what they might look like.
      Second, as I mentioned, just as climate risks vary based on different geographies, so too do conflict risks vary based on different politics. Political decisions matter greatly when it comes to how resources are allocated and who can access them, whether distribution is viewed as equitable and fair or iniquitous, and those issues matter greatly when it comes to conflict risks. So we must ask where among the set of most likely climate crises are existing institutions and state capacity weakest, and recommend appropriate policy steps to strengthen those institutions and the effectiveness of state responses.
      In closing, I wanted to briefly comment on COVID-19, both generally and with respect to climate specifically. The pandemic clearly presents an era-defining challenge to public health and the global economy. Its political consequences, both short- and long-term, will only gradually become clearer. At Crisis Group, we are paying close attention to places where the global health challenge intersects with political conditions that could give rise to new crises or exacerbate existing ones.
      More specifically, it is worth reflecting on how COVID-19 may impact the politics of climate change. True, there has been a recent reduction in carbon emissions, but it could prove short-lived. Two economic factors are likely to complicate efforts: the price of oil has dropped precipitously, which may slow investments in renewable energy, and there is the risk of a global economic recession, which would constrain the already limited time and resources available to policymakers on many other issues, including climate change. As a result, the policy challenges ahead will be significant in addressing both climate change itself and its relationship to conflict.
      But there is one overriding political message we should take from COVID-19, which is that without prompt global, collective action, climate change could prove to be the slow-moving version of the coronavirus outbreak, reshaping economic, political and security conditions around the world
      We have no alternative but to push forward – and for that effort, I thank all of you and look forward to hearing from you."

      Laura Simpson Reeves, "Disappointment as Cop25 Fails to Deliver on Indigenous Rights," Cultural Survival, January 02, 2020,, reported, " Despite the growing urgency of the climate crisis, and Indigenous and climate activist voices calling for change, little was achieved at last month’s UN Climate Change Conference in Spain. Originally to be held in Chile , the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 25th Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP25) ran for the first two weeks of December 2019. The annual conference brings together representatives from all 197 states that are parties to the UNFCCC, with a recent focus on the implementation of the Paris Agreement , a pact to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius made at 2015’s COP and currently ratified by 187 of the states. The COPs are also attended by non-state delegates, including representatives from Indigneous organizations and other non-governmental organizations
       'At COP25, we felt the immense power of our global social movements working toward just climate solutions,' said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) . 'While governments failed to take ambitious action again this year, peoples movements rose-up, heeding the call for action by advocating for community-led solutions, forest protections, keeping fossil fuels in the ground.'
       'There [were] actions all week from Indigenous groups from the Arctic to the Amazon, and COP25 has been an incredibly hostile location for those actions. They have not been listening to us,' Indigenous Climate Action’s Ta’Kaiya Blaney (TIa’Amin Nation) said. 'Yet, as Indigenous people we’re still here because we’re doing it for the children, we’re doing it for our future generations, and the future generations of the planet.'
       December 6 saw more than 500,000 people take to the streets, led by Indigenous Peoples. 'As Indigneous youth we are on the frontlines of climate change, and we are also on the front lines of fighting it,' Blaney said during the march. 'Indigenous rights are imperative to climate justice.”
      In an unprecedented move, activists were forcibly removed from the building on December 11 following a protest, with their access to the event reportedly revoked. 'There was an action where Indigenous women were kicked, they were escorted outside by security, they were prevented from reuniting with their children inside. This is the sort of criminalization that Indigenous communities on the front lines of fossil fuel developments see every day, without visibility, and without the witnesses that there were at that action.
       A number of civil society organizations, including the Indigenous Environment Network, released a joint statement condemning the action. 'Hundreds of us demonstrated inside the halls of COP25 today in Madrid — not to block progress, but to drive it forward,' the statement said. 'Instead of listening to our voices, they attempted to silence us. We were pushed, bullied, and touched without our consent. We were driven out of the negotiating halls, told that we can take our action outside as they raised an enormous metal door and herded us out. We weren’t advised to the intentions of the UN security to take our badges. We stood out in the cold, many without our jackets and coats as we later watched the  enormous metal door lock us out in the cold.'      
       Negotiations went until the afternoon of December 15, two days after the meeting was scheduled to conclude, making it the longest COP in history. However, the parties were unable to reach a consensus , with most decisions being pushed into the latter half of 2020. While some issues may be resolved at June’s intersessional session in Bonn, most will need to wait until the next COP meeting in Glasgow in November 2020. However, this was deemed  preferable by delegates than a deal that threatened Indigenous rights.
       Negotiators were unable to agree on Article 6 at COP25, and many believe that no deal is better than a deal that enables counterproductive carbon markets and does not respect, protect, and fulfill Indigenous, human, gender, environmental rights. “We must say no to false solutions and move toward real climate solutions that call for justice, accountability, and a clean and healthy future for all' Orielle Lake stated.
      While the issues around Article 6 were not resolved this year, there were two small wins for Indigenous Peoples. Firstly, the work plan for the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) was adopted . The LCIPP was established in 2015 to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences and enhance the engagement of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the UNFCCC process. The work plan will detail how the functions of the LCIPP will be implemented over the next two years. Secondly, a new five-year Gender Action Plan (GAP) was adopted. According to the Women and Gender Constituency , one of nine stakeholder groups of the UNFCCC, 'This GAP takes into account human rights, ensuring a just transition, and the challenges Indigenous Peoples face while fighting for climate justice and protecting their communities.'
      Indigenous knowledges and practices, however, need to be front and center of future discussions. 'We [Indigenous Peoples] are the experts on climate. We are the kaitiaki, the stewards of nature. We know the legitimacy of our voices, and it is about time that you recognized it too,' said New Zealand climate activist Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (Māori), during the closing remarks she delivered on behalf of Indigenous delegates. “Stop taking up space with your false solutions, and get out of our way.
       'Indigenous delegates will continue to push for the protection of our lands and our waters and our soils and our mountains and our rivers, on frontlines, within our communities. COP25 is one outlet in which we can try to amplify our voices, but that work is constant.' said Ta’Kaiya Blaney. 'We do it all because we are not defending nature, we are nature defending itself.'”
      Alexandra  Carraher-Kang, "Patriarchal, Capitalist, and Colonialist Systems Lead to No Action at Cop 25," Cultural Survival, December 23, 2019,, reported, " The 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change (UNFCCC) convened from December 2-15, 2019, in Madrid, Spain. Although originally meant to take place in Santiago, Chile, COP25 was moved to Madrid just one month prior to its start, after protests swept over the Chile. The last minute move gravely limited the participation of Indigenous delegates, as Chile would have been the first time the COP took place in the Americas in almost a decade. The year prior, in Katowice Poland, the COP focused on creating a Paris Agreement Work Programme, and adopted a Climate Package.
       One of the most important issues on the docket was that of a global carbon market, a topic under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Although a global carbon market, in which emissions are capped and can be traded between nations, might seem like a solid pathway to overall emission reduction, many Indigenous Peoples argue that a global carbon market could actually make things worse. Cultural Survival spoke to Ta’Kaiya Blaney (Tla A’min Nation), who accompanied Canadian Indigenous climate justice organization Indigenous Climate Action (ICA) to COP25. She explains, 'Indigenous Peoples at COP25 have been pushing for the inclusion of Indigenous human rights language in Article 6 in regards to the regulation of carbon markets, and have been pushing for an emphasis on non-market based solutions, because carbon markets lead to the privatization and dispossession of Indigenous lands. The practice of extracting from Indigenous territories in one place and using Indigenous territories elsewhere to offset those emissions, while there’s no actual development, is a flawed solution. It furthers violence against Indigenous Peoples and delays the transition from fossil fuels.” In the words of executive director of Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) Tom Goldtooth (Dińe), carbon markets 'will only deepen the climate crisis and shift the burden of carbon trading to the Global South. Indigenous people’s territories, rights, and self-determination are all threatened by carbon offsets and the privatization of Mother Earth.' (
       In addition to the debate surrounding a global carbon market, each nation presented their different initiatives, such as Japan’s project to decarbonize isolated islands and Colombia’s project to reduce the vulnerability of communities living in its northern wetlands. No resolution was found on the issue of a global carbon market, though, with most calling COP25 a failure. There was little agreement on the key issues, with major polluters such as the United States and Canada which, to quote ICA executive director Eriel Deranger (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation)   'continues to put profits over Indigenous rights while putting the planet at risk with another carbon bomb.' Everyone left disappointed, despite continuing negotiations two days beyond the anticipated December 13 end date. 'I am disappointed with the results of COP25,' United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, stated. 'The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation, and finance to tackle the climate crisis.'
      Moreover , COP25 did little to include Indigenous voices. According to Blaney, 'actions [took place] all week from Indigenous groups, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and COP25 has been an incredibly hostile location for those actions. They have not been listening to us.' One particular incident stands out, and reflects the behavior Indigenous activists have come to expect from those they protest against: 'there was an action where Indigenous women were kicked, they were escorted outside by security, they were prevented from reuniting with their children inside.' Further, Blaney stated, 'this is the sort of criminalization that Indigenous communities on the frontline of fossil fuel development see every day, without visibility.'
       At the same time as COP25, Minga Indígena ( —a group of organizations and Indigenous communities from across the world working to find solutions to climate change—organized an alternative summit with a theme 'Traditional Knowledge for the Good of All Humanity: Indigenous Solutions to Climate Change.' At this Indigenous Peoples’ Summit, leaders spoke on current climate change-related issues in their communities, with discussions leading to the creation of a series of proposals then presented to the COP. ICA and IEN, among other organizations, were present at COP25 Minga Indígena. The former released this statement to the UN representatives at the conference:  “The patriarchal, capitalist and colonialist system has brought us into this climate crisis. We see many representatives of states considering only mercantile and financial profit, without taking into account the importance of life. For this reason, we understand that they are accomplices of all this destruction. If oil, gas, minerals and coal are in the depths of the earth, it is because Mother Nature left them buried there, to bring them into our environment is to contradict her wisdom.”
       Indigenous communities are but one of the many marginalized groups are most affected by climate change. Although Indigenous land rights play a crucial role in protecting land and combatting the effects of climate change, Indigenous voices are regularly ignored or silenced by the larger international community.
      Blaney and other activists will keep fighting for the climate, though. 'As Indigenous People, we’re still here,' she said, 'because we’re doing it for our future generations, and the future generations of the planet. Indigenous delegates will continue to push for the protection of our lands and our waters and our soils and our mountains and our rivers on our frontlines, in our communities. COP25 is one outlet in which we can try to amplify our voices but that work is constant. We do it all because we are not defending nature, we are nature defending itself. In my home community, as a West Coast Indigenous person within so-called Canada, we face constant threat of invasion from pipeline development, and I will continue to work against that. I will continue to work for wild salmon, for our food sovereignty, for the ability of the next generation to sustain themselves off of the land.' This fight will occur on the ' rallies and marches, and outside of the walls of these gigantic gatherings of governments that aren’t actually taking decisive and urgent action on the planet.'
      Nation to nation discussion on topics such as a global carbon market or other, better solutions will now wait until the next COP meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2020. While, policymakers remain hopeful that COP26 will prove more fruitful, Indigenous activist are pushing for bold action now as many grow impatient as the effects of climate chaos are painfully felt in frontline communities across the globe
      [Note from Steve Sachs: The problems with carbon trading markets are in the way they are implemented, not with them in principle. There are cases where they have worked, but generally their implementation - including by the UN and the EU - has either not worked adequately (e.g. by issuing too many permits for polluting so there is insufficient or no reduction in pollution), or have been implemented in in ways that cause considerable harm, as the above article points out has been the experience of Indigenous people. For this reason, no matter what approaches are taken for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they must be implemented properly and justly, including guaranteeing the rights of Indigenous people, indeed of all people who may be unjustly impacted by an improperly run program].

      Somini Sengupta, "Black environmentalists on climate and anti-racism," The New York Times, June 3, 2020,, reported, " This week, with the country convulsed by protests over the killing of a black man named George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, we decided we’d talk to leading black climate activists about the connections between racism and climate change. A clear theme emerged from those discussions: Racial and economic inequities need to be tackled as this country seeks to recalibrate its economic and social compass in the weeks and months to come. Racism, in short, makes it impossible to live sustainably."
      To see what three prominent environmental defenders had to say in interviews this week about how the climate movement can be anti-racist visit:

       Henry Fountain, "2019 Was Second Hottest Year on Record," The New York Times, January 8, 2020,, reported, "The evidence mounted all year. Temperature records were broken in France, Germany and elsewhere; the Greenland ice sheet experienced exceptional melting; and, as 2019 came to a close, broiling temperatures contributed to devastating wildfires that continue in Australia .
      Now European scientists have confirmed what had been suspected: 2019 was a very hot year, with global average temperatures the second highest on record. Only 2016 was hotter, and not by much — less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit
      The finding, by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an intergovernmental agency supported by the European Union, continues an unrelenting upward trend in temperatures as emissions of greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and change the climate."
       Hiroko Tabuchi, "Oil and Gas May Be a Far Bigger Climate Threat Than We Knew," The New York Times, February 19, 2020,, reported, " Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.
      The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency to efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.
      'We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,' said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. 'If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.'”
      "They found that methane emissions from natural phenomena were far smaller than estimates used to calculate global emissions. That means fossil-fuel emissions from human activity — namely the production and burning of fossil fuels — were underestimated by 25 to 40 percent, the researchers said."

      Reflecting on how COVID-19 is the tip of the iceberg in contemporary societies increasing unbalancing of Nature, which we need to correct, Dr. Gleb Raygorodetsky, "Reimagining The Post-Pandemic “Normal”: Learning from Indigenous Peoples about Reconciling Culture and Nature," Cultural Survival, May 16, 2020,, begins his extensive essay, "The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world have brought into sharp focus the role of unsustainable global financial and economic systems in the emergence and proliferation of zoonotic diseases. The unbridled plunder of Nature in the name of economic growth at any cost—from deforestation, to habitat degradation and fragmentation, to climate change, to species extinction— push more and more people into direct contact and conflict with the animals that carry dangerous pathogens. However devastating, the global COVID-19 pandemic is just the tip of the iceberg of converging global crises—biodiversity loss, droughts, mega-fires, floods, rising temperatures, pollution, ocean acidification—in a world where we value economy over ecology, where greed supplants care, where 'rights' blind us to responsibilities, where we worship a golden idol over Mother Earth."
       Somini Sengupta, "Economic Giants Are Restarting. Here’s What It Means for Climate Change: Want to know whether the world can avert catastrophe? Watch the recovery plans coming out now in Europe, China and the United States," The New York Times, May 29, 2020,, reported, " As countries begin rolling out plans to restart their economies after the brutal shock inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic , the three biggest producers of planet-warming gases — the European Union, the United States and China — are writing scripts that push humanity in very different directions.
      Europe this week laid out a vision of a green future, with a proposed recovery package worth more than $800 billion that would transition away from fossil fuels and put people to work making old buildings energy-efficient.
      In the United States, the White House is steadily
slashing environmental protections and Republicans are using the Green New Deal as a political cudgel against their opponents.
      China has given a green light to build new coal plants but it also declined to set specific economic growth targets for this year, a move that came as a relief to environmentalists because it reduces the pressure to turn up the country’s industrial machine quickly.

       Andrea Germanos, "Human Footprint Threatening Nearly 50 Billion Years of Evolutionary History: Study: 'Our findings indicate that the magnitude of our impact as a species on the natural world is incomprehensibly large, and appears to be overwhelmingly impacting the most irreplaceable areas and species on the planet,'" Common Dreams, May 26, 2020,, reported, " Human activities threaten to saw off branches of the 'tree of life'—putting irreplaceable species at risk of extinction.
      So finds a
study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications which highlights the need for urgent conservation actions.
       Barring such action, the researchers wrote, 'close to 50 billion years' of evolutionary history worldwide is at risk.
      Scientists from Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) began their research by first analyzing the world's reptiles and then terrestrial vertebrates like amphibians, birds, and mammals, looking at how areas with a high human footprint—including factors like deforestation and population density—coincide with areas containing species with unique evolutionary history, or branches on the tree of life.
      The scientists found a troubling overlap, with areas in the Caribbean, the Western Ghats of India, and large parts of Southeast Asia singled out as experiencing both extreme human pressures and unique biodiversity.
       A statement from ZSL further explains:
      'The greatest losses of evolutionary history will be driven by the extinction of entire groups of closely-related species that share long branches of the tree of life
, such as pangolins and tapirs, and also by the loss of highly evolutionarily distinct species that sit alone at the ends of extremely long branches, such as the ancient Chinese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus), the Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), a gigantic bird that stalks the wetlands of Africa, and the Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), a nocturnal lemur with large yellow eyes and long spindly fingers.'
       At risk with the possible extinctions is not just the intrinsic value of the threatened species in and of themselves but their roles in the greater web of life. From BBC News:
       'Many [of the at-risk animals] carry out vital functions in the habitats in which they live. For example, tapirs in the Amazon disperse seeds in their droppings that can help regenerate the rainforest. And pangolins, which are specialist eaters of ants and insects, play an essential role in balancing the food web.'
      Lead author Rikki Gumbs of ZSL's EDGE of Existence program and the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Partnership at Imperial College London put the findings in stark terms.
       'Our analyses reveal the incomprehensible scale of the losses we face if we don't work harder to save global biodiversity,' said Gumbs. 'To put some of the numbers into perspective, reptiles alone stand to lose at least 13 billion years of unique evolutionary history, roughly the same number of years as have passed since the beginning of the entire universe.'
       Among species the study identified as in need of urgent conservation efforts—because of their evolutionary uniqueness and being endemic to regions under intense human pressure—include the Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus), the Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), and the Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus).
      ' Our findings highlight the importance of acting urgently to conserve these extraordinary species and the remaining habitat that they occupy—in the face of intense human pressures,' said co-author James Rosindell of Imperial College London.
      In blog post for ZSL's EDGE of Existence program, Gumbs highlighted the scope of the problem.
       'We are still learning the true extent to which human activities are encroaching on our natural habitats and threatening our most unique and important biodiversity. Our findings indicate that the magnitude of our impact as a species on the natural world is incomprehensibly large, and appears to be overwhelmingly impacting the most irreplaceable areas and species on the planet,' he wrote.
      Despite the grim picture, it's still possible to avert more serious losses, Gumbs added, noting that 'evidence suggests that even small increases in the global protected area network can lead to huge gains in conservation impact.'
      'If we can work together to reduce our impacts on the natural world and conserve our natural habitats and species,' he wrote, 'we have the opportunity to avert the loss of an incredible amount of irreplaceable biodiversity.'
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      Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, "How climate change Is contributing to skyrocketing rates of infectious disease," New Mexico Political Report, May 9, 2020,, Reported, " Over the past few decades, the number of emerging infectious diseases that spread to people — especially coronaviruses and other respiratory illnesses believed to have come from bats and birds — has skyrocketed. A new emerging disease surfaces five times a year. One study estimates that more than 3,200 strains of coronaviruses already exist among bats, awaiting an opportunity to jump to people."
      " Today, climate warming is demolishing those [- the planet’s natural -] defense systems, driving a catastrophic loss in biodiversity that, when coupled with reckless deforestation and aggressive conversion of wildland for economic development, pushes farms and people closer to the wild and opens the gates for the spread of disease."

       Jessica Corbett, "'Because Insects Are Key to Our Own Survival,' 73 Scientists Unveil Global Roadmap to Battle Bugpocalypse: The immediate 'no-regret' measures they propose include aggressively curbing planet-heating emissions and the use of synthetic pesticides," Common Dreams, January 06, 2020,, reported, " Highlighting the 'strong scientific consensus that the decline of insects, other arthropods, and biodiversity as a whole, is a very real and serious threat that society must urgently address,' 73 international scientists on Monday published a roadmap to battle the world's ' bugpocalypse .'
      The roadmap, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, explains that a mounting body of research shows 'a suite of anthropogenic stressors—habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species, climate change, and overharvesting—are seriously reducing insect and other invertebrate abundance, diversity, and biomass.'
      The scientists note that in September 2019 the German government announced a €100 million ($111.9 million USD) 'action plan for insect protection' that includes safeguarding key habitats, restricting pesticides, reducing light pollution, and investing in research.
       'This funding should act as a clarion call to other nations across the world—especially wealthier ones—to follow suit,' the letter says of the German initiative, calling for 'the immediate implementation of several 'no-regret' measures' on a global scale.
       Among the immediate steps that the scientists propose to protect bugs worldwide are:
      Aggressively curbing planet-heating emissions;
      Cutting back on the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers;
      Limiting light, water, and noise pollution;
      Preventing the introduction of invasive and alien species;
      Pursuing conservation efforts for vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species;
      and Funding programs targeted at the public, farmers, land managers, policymakers, and conservation workers.
      The roadmap for insect conservation and recovery also features mid-term and long-term actions as well as a call for large-scale assessments to monitor the status of insects groups.
      Those proposals include establishing an international body, perhaps under the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) or the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 'that is accountable for documenting and monitoring the effects of proposed solutions on insect biodiversity in the longer term.'
      'As scientists, we want to gather all available knowledge and put it to action together with land managers, policymakers, and everyone else involved,' said Jeff Harvey, a professor at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam who initiated the letter.
      'Most importantly,' Harvey added, 'we hope that end-users and land managers now can use this roadmap in, for instance, farming, habitat management, and urban development as a template for true insect recovery.'
      The roadmap's co-authors are experts at academic institutions and advocacy organizations around the world—Australia, Austria, China, Colombia, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Serbia, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
      Among them is British biologist and author Dave Goulson. As Common Dreams reported in November 2019, Goulson produced a report detailing the human-caused insect 'apocalypse' and the 'profound consequences for all life on Earth"' if humanity fails to pursue bold enough action to address the declines.
      Co-author Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist at the U.S.-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), pointed out in a statement Monday that under President Donald Trump, the U.S. government has taken steps that studies show are driving insect declines.
"The United States needs to step up and help save insects by protecting habitat and reducing pesticide use," said Cornelisse. 'Instead the Trump administration has dangerously weakened regulation of pesticides like the neonicotinoid sulfoxaflor and highly toxic pyrethroids.'
      'We're calling for action because insects are key to our own survival, and we ignore their decline at our peril,' she added. 'Study after study confirms that human activities have decimated insects, from butterflies to bees to beetles. We can save these crucial species, but the world has to get moving.'
      Cornell professor John Losey, another co-author and chair of IUCN's Ladybird Specialist Group, explained that 'we depend on insect predators like ladybugs to protect our crops from pests while birds, bats, and fish depend on insects as food.'
      'We can't survive without all these different insects, and they are all going through alarming losses in both numbers and diversity
,' Losey warned. "Ignoring this issue places all our food security at risk.'
      See the infographic included in the scientists' letter below:
Road map to insect conservation and recovery
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       Jessica Corbett, "'Extinction Is a Political Choice,' Scientist Says After Study Warns of Threat to Civilization From Humans Destroying Wildlife: 'This new study shows yet again that the very survival of humanity is at stake if we don't end the heartbreaking wildlife extinction crisis,'" Common Dreams, June 2, 2020,, reported, " After years of warnings from scientists that the world is witnessing Earth's sixth mass extinction, a new study concludes that the current crisis is not only 'human caused and accelerating' but also 'may be the most serious environmental threat to the persistence of civilization, because it is irreversible.'
      The study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that at least 543 land vertebrate species have disappeared since 1900 and around the same number could be lost within just the next few decades due to destructive human pressures such as climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, population growth, and wildlife trade, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions.
      Lead author Gerardo Ceballos González, a professor of ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told CNN that approximately 173 species went extinct between 2001 and 2014, which 'is 25 times more extinct species than you would expect under the normal, background, extinction rate.'
       Compared with previous mass extinctions the Earth has experienced due to catastrophic events including volcanic eruptions or collision with an asteroid , the one that is happening now 'is entirely our fault,' Ceballos González added.
       Extinction has dire consequences not only for the species that are wiped out but also for humanity, including an increased risk of health threats like Covid-19, which has killed over 376,000 people worldwide and infected more than 6.3 million, coauthor and Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich explained in a statement Monday.
       'When humanity exterminates populations and species of other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,' said Ehrlich. 'The conservation of endangered species should be elevated to a national and global emergency for governments and institutions, equal to climate disruption to which it is linked.'
      Ceballos González and coauthor Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, echoed Ehrlich's call for urgent action.
      'What we do to deal with the current extinction crisis in the next two decades will define the fate of millions of species,' warned Ceballos González. 'We are facing our final opportunity to ensure that the many services nature provides us do not get irretrievably sabotaged.'
      Raven said that 'it's up to us to decide what kind of a world we want to leave to coming generations—a sustainable one, or a desolate one in which the civilization we have built disintegrates rather than builds on past successes.'
      The trio found that 515 amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles are on the brink of extinction, or have fewer than 1,000 individuals left; about half are down to fewer than 250. They also found that 84% of land vertebrate species with populations under 5,000 live in the same areas as those on the brink of extinction.
      Given that 'extinction breeds extinctions' and the consequences of such losses, the study recommends that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 'immediately' classify all species with populations under 5,000 as critically endangered.
      'It is... a scientific and moral imperative for scientists to take whatever actions they can to stop extinction,' according to the study. In a statement Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) noted that such comments are unusual for a scientific journal.
       'This new study shows yet again that the very survival of humanity is at stake if we don't end the heartbreaking wildlife extinction crisis,' said CBD senior scientist Tierra Curry. 'We're no longer looking at the loss of obscure species that most people aren't interested in. We're looking at biological annihilation if we don't act to save life on Earth.'
      'Extinction is a political choice,' Curry added. 'We've reached a crossroads where our own future is at stake if we don't move away from fossil fuels and end wildlife exploitation, and at the same time, necessarily, address poverty and injustice. Meanwhile the tone-deaf Trump administration has gutted nearly 100 environmental regulations, including the Endangered Species Act.'
      In January, CBD released Saving Life on Earth: A Plan to Halt the Global Extinction Crisis (pdf), which urges the United States to become a global leader in the fight to protect wildlife with a national emergency declaration, a $100 billion investment, and a campaign to protect 50% of U.S. land by 2050. The proposal also calls for restoring the full power of the Endangered Species Act, cracking down on pollution, and tackling invasive species.
       'The response to the coronavirus outbreak has shown us that rapid change is possible,' said Curry, 'and that funding is available to address the extinction crisis.'
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       Julia Conley,  "Without 'Transformative Change' to Global Economic Systems, Humans Risk Causing More Deadly Pandemics: 'There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic—us... We have a small window of opportunity, in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones," Common Dreams , April 27, 2020,, reported, " Human activity led to the conditions which allowed the new coronavirus to spread from wildlife to people, a group of biodiversity experts wrote Monday, and humans alone can change the world's economic system to prevent even deadlier pandemics from causing further destruction.
      Writing for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz, and Eduardo Brondizio joined with Dr. Peter Daszak to warn that economic and financial systems which 'prize economic growth at any cost' have led to a world in which 70% of emerging human diseases have come from wild and domesticated animals.
       The article comes a month after the U.N. Environmental Program issued a similar warning, calling the coronavirus 'a clear warning shot' from the natural world.
       Humans' drive to use all available land for the production of goods has led to rampant deforestation, the expansion of agriculture, mining, and fossil fuel extraction, the authors explain—all of which harm the habitats of animals around the world and drive humans closer together with other species.
       'There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic—us,' write the authors, who have previously published planetary status reports from IPBES. "As with the climate and biodiversity crises, recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity—particularly our global financial and economic systems, based on a limited paradigm that prizes economic growth at any cost. We have a small window of opportunity, in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones."
      Humans have taken over about 85% of the world's wetlands and more than one-third of all land for their own uses, the authors write. In addition, 'the exploitation of wild species [has] created a 'perfect storm' for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people.'
      The coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is believed to have spread from animals to humans after originating in bats.
       Scientists have linked other coronavirus outbreaks, such as the SARS epidemic of 2003, to live animal markets, but theories that COVID-19 "jumped" from an animal to humans at a market in Wuhan are inconclusive, according to University of Iowa immunologist Stanley Perlman.
      Still, the authors say in their report that 'as many as 1.7 million unidentified viruses of the type known to infect people are believed to still exist in mammals and water birds,' leading to likely future pandemics among the human population unless humans drastically change existing systems which rely on encroaching on wildlife habitats.
       'Future pandemics are likely to happen more frequently, spread more rapidly, have greater economic impact, and kill more people if we are not extremely careful about the possible impacts of the choices we make today,' write the authors.
       The experts offer three key solutions that 'should be central to the multi-trillion-dollar recovery and economic stimulus plans already being implemented"' by policy makers:
      Strengthening and enforcing environmental regulations and including incentives for sustainability within relief packages for businesses.
      'It may be politically expedient at this time to relax environmental standards and to prop up industries such as intensive agriculture, long-distance transportation such as the airlines, and fossil-fuel-dependent energy sectors, but doing so without requiring urgent and fundamental change, essentially subsidizes the emergence of future pandemics,' the authors explain.
Adopting a 'One Health' approach to policy making.
      Humans must recognize the "complex interconnections among the health of people, animals, plants and our shared environment,' the scientists write, recommending that before allowing deforestation to move forward to further the profits of an agricultural and mining company, policy makers must consider the long-term effects the practice could have on human and animal health.
      'The health of people is intimately connected to the health of wildlife, the health of livestock and the health of the environment. It's actually one health,' Daszak told The Guardian.
Properly funding and resourcing healthcare systems around the world.
The scientists add that policy makers must build capacity in emerging disease hotspots to help stop a disease outbreak in its tracks.
      'This is not simple altruism—it is vital investment in the interests of all to prevent future global outbreaks,' they write
      On social media, environmental researcher Lewis Winks added that economic justice for people in developing countries who have come to rely on wealthy companies' and governments' exploitative practices must also be considered as scientists push for policies to halt the destruction of biodiversity.
The "transformative change" needed to protect biodiversity requires "system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values, promoting social and environmental responsibilities across all sectors," the report's authors write.
      'We can build back better and emerge from the current crisis stronger and more resilient than ever," the report reads, "but to do so means choosing policies and actions that protect nature—so that nature can help to protect us.'
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       Jake Johnson, "Landmark Win in 'Fight for Habitable Future' as Jury Refuses to Convict Climate Activists Who Presented Necessity Defense: 'When citizens are told the truth about the climate crisis—which is the first of Extinction Rebellion's demands—they take appropriate and responsible action, as our jury did, and we thank them,'" Common Dreams, February 28, 2020,, Reported, " Environmentalists celebrated a landmark victory in the 'fight for a habitable future" after a Portland, Oregon jury on Thursday refused to convict five Extinction Rebellion activists—including valve turner Ken Ward —who presented the climate necessity defense at their trial for blockading a train track used by Zenith Energy to transport crude oil."

      Alan Buis, "Study Confirms Climate Models are Getting Future Warming Projections Right," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, January 9, 2020,, reported, "An animation of a GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) climate model simulation made for the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, showing five-year averaged surface air temperature anomalies in degrees Celsius from 1880 to 2100. The temperature anomaly is a measure of how much warmer or colder it is at a particular place and time than the long-term mean temperature, defined as the average temperature over the 30-year base period from 1951 to 1980. Blue areas represent cool areas and yellow and red areas represent warmer areas. The number in the upper right corner represents the global mean anomaly. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies
      There’s an old saying that “the proof is in the pudding,” meaning that you can only truly gauge the quality of something once it’s been put to a test. Such is the case with climate models: mathematical computer simulations of the various factors that interact to affect Earth’s climate, such as our atmosphere, ocean, ice, land surface and the Sun.
      For decades, people have legitimately wondered how well climate models perform in predicting future climate conditions. Based on solid physics and the best understanding of the Earth system available, they skillfully reproduce observed data. Nevertheless, they have a wide response to increasing carbon dioxide levels, and many uncertainties remain in the details. The hallmark of good science, however, is the ability to make testable predictions, and climate models have been making predictions since the 1970s. How reliable have they been?
Now a new evaluation of global climate models used to project Earth’s future global average surface temperatures over the past half-century answers that question: most of the models have been quite accurate.
forecast evaluation for models run in 2004       Models that were used in the IPCC 4th Assessment Report can be evaluated by comparing their approximately 20-year predictions with what actually happened. In this figure, the multi-model ensemble and the average of all the models are plotted alongside the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Surface Temperature Index (GISTEMP). Climate drivers were known for the ‘hindcast’ period (before 2000) and forecast for the period beyond.
The temperatures are plotted with respect to a 1980-1999 baseline. In a study accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a research team led by Zeke Hausfather of the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a systematic evaluation of the performance of past climate models. The team compared 17 increasingly sophisticated model projections of global average temperature developed between 1970 and 2007, including some originally developed by NASA, with actual changes in global temperature observed through the end of 2017. The observational temperature data came from multiple sources, including NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) time series, an estimate of global surface temperature change.
      The results: 10 of the model projections closely matched observations. Moreover, after accounting for differences between modeled and actual changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other factors that drive climate, the number increased to 14. The authors found no evidence that the climate models evaluated either systematically overestimated or underestimated warming over the period of their projections.
      'The results of this study of past climate models bolster scientists’ confidence that both they as well as today’s more advanced climate models are skillfully projecting global warming,' said study co-author Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. 'This research could help resolve public confusion around the performance of past climate modeling efforts.'
      Scientists use climate models to better understand how Earth’s climate changed in the past, how it is changing now and to predict future climate trends. Global temperature trends are among the most significant predictions, since global warming has widespread effects, is tied directly to international target agreements for mitigating future climate warming, and have the longest, most accurate observational records. Other climate variables are forecast in the newer, more complex models, and those predictions too will need to be assessed.
      To successfully match new observational data, climate model projections have to encapsulate the physics of the climate and also make accurate predictions about future carbon dioxide emission levels and other factors that affect climate, such as solar variability, volcanoes, other human-produced and natural emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. This study’s accounting for differences between the projected and actual emissions and other factors allowed a more focused evaluation of the models’ representation of Earth’s climate system.
      Schmidt says climate models have come a long way from the simple energy balance and general circulation models of the 1960s and early ‘70s to today’s increasingly high-resolution and comprehensive general circulation models. 'The fact that many of the older climate models we reviewed accurately projected subsequent global temperatures is particularly impressive given the limited observational evidence of warming that scientists had in the 1970s, when Earth had been cooling for a few decades,'       he said.
      The authors say that while the relative simplicity of the models analyzed makes their climate projections functionally obsolete, they can still be useful for verifying methods used to evaluate current state-of-the-art climate models, such as those to be used in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report, to be released in 2022.
      'As climate model projections have matured, more signals have emerged from the noise of natural variability that allow for retrospective evaluation of other aspects of climate models — for instance, in Arctic sea ice and ocean heat content,' Schmidt said. 'But it’s the temperature trends that people still tend to focus on.'
      Other participating institutions included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
      For more information on GISS and GISTEMP, visit: or"

       Andrea Germanos, "Global Rescue Plan to Stop Mass Extinction 'Hopelessly Weak and Inadequate', 'We need an urgent plan to save humanity and this is not it,'" Common Dreams, February 24, 2020,, reported, " As global governments gathered at a conference in Rome Monday to advance a framework for protecting the planet's biodiversity, environmental and human rights advocates warned that the draft text that has emerged from meetings so far is 'hopelessly weak and inadequate.'
      The draft document for 'living in harmony with nature,' first unveiled in January, is being considered at the February 24–29 meeting of the Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. It will form the basis for a 10-year strategy and replace the 'Aichi Targets,' which expire this year.
      The meeting comes amid increased worldwide concern about the ecological crisis, with recent research warning the climate crisis could wipe out 30% of the world's plant and animal species by 2070, disasters like the recent Australian wildfires taking a devastating toll on wildlife and ecosystems, and more evidence that human activity is driving nature towards collapse.
      Agence France-Presse reported Monday:
      'The 12-page document, which focuses on goals to be met by mid-century and envisages a stock-take in 2030, should be adopted at the COP15 summit on biodiversity in October. [...]
      Negotiators in Rome are focusing on ways to reduce threats to biodiversity, including officially protecting at least 30 percent of land and marine areas and a 50 percent cut in pollution from fertilizers. It also calls for stricter regulation on plastic pollution and acknowledges the role that the preservation of nature can play in the battle against climate change.'
       According to Nele Mariën, forests and biodiversity coordinator at Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), the document leaves much to be desired.
      'The current draft plan is hopelessly weak and inadequate. It won't prevent the sixth mass extinction or build a fairer and safer future,' she said.
      Mariën's group sees a number of problems with the plan, including that it calls for even weaker targets than the non-binding targets governments set out in 2010. Specifically, says FOEI, the draft:
      fails to address the root causes of the collapse of nature—the over-consumption of resources by wealthier countries, industrial agriculture, and an economic system that drives further destruction and greater inequality. This requires a just transition everywhere, with obligation for finance from wealthy countries to the global South.
      lacks legally binding mechanisms to enforce an agreed plan. The main failure of the existing plan was that governments mostly ignored it without repercussions.
      introduces weaker targets than the existing plan.
      does not have a plan to halt damaging practices such as mining, commodity crops or pesticide use
      allows for nature to be destroyed as long as it is saved elsewhere—which would lead to corporations putting a price on nature and offsetting their damage by paying to save it in another place. This will inevitably lead to a financial market in saving and destroying biodiversity and ignores the vital role of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in defending ecosystems.
      fails to put communities—and especially Indigenous Peoples—at the heart of nature protection. Likewise, mentions of justice, equity and poverty reduction are missing, as is any obligation for wealthy countries to provide resources to support the Global South
       'Time has almost run out. We need an urgent plan to save humanity and this is not it,' said Friedrich Wulf, international nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
      Human rights organization Forest Peoples Programme also expressed concerns with the document and outlined those issues Monday in a Twitter thread:.
       An improved framework for averting mass extinctions, according FOEI and other groups that form the CBD Alliance, could be forged. Such a plan would have:
      A rights-based approach, full and equal participation for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, global equity and financing.
      Mainstreaming of biodiversity across the 'whole government' at national level.
      Accountability, compliance and enforcement measures
      Promotion of agroecology and community-based solutions, integrated into proper conservation plans
      The advocacy groups' warnings come a week after nearly two dozen former foreign ministers from various countries urged global negotiators urged world leaders to act 'boldly' to avert further loss of nature.
      'The world has a moral imperative to collaborate on strong actions to mitigate and adapt to the current climate change and biodiversity crisis. Ambitious targets for conservation of land and ocean ecosystems are vital components of the solution,' a statement from the diplomats said.
      'Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come,' they wrote. "The world must act boldly, and it must act now."
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       Catrin Einhorn, "Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner: Scientists found a “cliff edge” instead of the slippery slope they expected," The New York Times, April 15, 2020,, reported, " Climate change could result in a more abrupt collapse of many animal species than previously thought, starting in the next decade if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a study published this month in Nature.
      The study predicted that large swaths of ecosystems would falter in waves, creating sudden die-
offs that would be catastrophic not only for wildlife, but for the humans who depend on it."

      Joaqlin Estus, "The trend is clear: Climate change is impacting Alaska now ," ICT, January 29, 2020,, reported, "'People are dying because we haven't been able to adapt'
       The trend is clear. Temperatures are rising. Plant and animal populations are dropping. Scientists in Alaska explain the need for more data that will allow them to make predictions about coming changes."
      "Numbers of seabirds, zooplankton, abalone, salmon, herring, seals, beluga whales, cod, pollock, sea lions, kelp, sea urchin, and polar bears, among others, are plunging. Areas of shoreline covered with intertidal plants are shrinking. Crab and mussel shells are thinning.
      On the other hand, disease rates, acidification, algal toxins, and the number of acres of dead coral reefs, which served as nurseries for juvenile fish and other animals, are shooting up. In the case of seabird corpses found on west coast beaches, numbers are rising by the hundreds of thousands. Air, river, lake, ground, and ocean temperatures rise in ever higher peaks
      Rowenna Gryba, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, is working to create a model for combining traditional knowledge with research to help explain and predict animal habitat and movement.... She says traditional knowledge is 'massively valuable,' and if scientists can find the best way to include it in their research, 'We're just going to do better at what we do.' And that can lead to better decision-making, said Gryba. 'Recognizing that there are Indigenous peoples who have knowledge about a multitude of habitats for a multitude of species, it [the knowledge] should be valued and recognized as something that can be readily incorporated into management decisions.'”
      “ 'People are dying because we haven't been able to adapt to the changing weather patterns and the diminishing sea ice,' [Maija Katak] Lukin[, Inupiaq, superintendent for Western Arctic National Parklands,] said. 'Our natural and cultural resources are being lost, both because of erosion, and then also because of the changing weather patterns that affect animal migrations, caribou breeding grounds and things like that,' Lukin said. 'For thousands of years we've had safe sea ice and pretty stable land ice. Recently, very recently, we haven't had safe sea ice and we've definitely haven't had safe land ice.'”
      "Lukin said. 'So in just one generation, the changes experienced by local hunters has threatened our entire culture.'”
      "Lukin said even if scientists come up with solutions, 'It’s very difficult to come up with the funding needed to mitigate those effects [of weather extremes].'"

       Luciana Tellez-Chavez, This Year’s Forest Fire Season Could Be Even Deadlier: Countries are using the coronavirus crisis to lift environmental regulations, even as COVID-19 leaves populations more vulnerable to health impacts from fires," Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF),  May 20, 2020,, reported, " The world’s forests could soon join the growing list of casualties of the coronavirus pandemic. The fire season is approaching for many. And governments grappling with COVID-19 are rolling back enforcement of environmental protections that are crucial for containing the fires.
       COVID-19 makes the effort to reduce forest fires more urgent, not less. This is especially the case as those who are most affected by smoke from the fires — older people, and people with pre-existing heart and lung diseases — are also at higher risk if they contract the virus.
       Recognizing how air pollution caused by smoke may increase vulnerability to COVID-19, British Columbia’s Environment Ministry recently banned open burning of vegetative debris in areas at high-risk for wildfires. The Canadian province acted on a recommendation from its Center for Disease Control to reduce excess air pollution. In the U.S., the state of Colorado took similar measures to protect residents.
       But they are the exception.
       In Brazil, most fires in the Amazon rainforest are intentionally set, often on illegally cleared land, chiefly between June and October. President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to weaken environmental enforcement have led to a dramatic increase in deforestation, and last year’s fires concentrated along these newly razed areas, scientists from NASA and the Brazilian space agency concluded. Environmental enforcement has continued to drop during the pandemic, with preliminary estimates of forest loss up by 50 percent in 2020 compared with last year, according to government data.
       In Indonesia, rather than relaxing enforcement, the authorities have scrapped regulations that keep illegal logging in check altogether. As of May, exporters will no longer need to obtain licenses verifying that their timber and wood products come from legal sources. The trade minister justified the move as part of a stimulus to boost the timber industry amid the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
      It is understandable that some governments might be tempted to reduce enforcement in the midst of the pandemic. But that would be a mistake for several reasons.
      For one, curbing deforestation is essential to mitigate climate change, which in the long term threatens to have catastrophic consequences for human life and public health. As illegal logging and fires combine to shrink forests, they degrade ecosystems that play a crucial role as 'carbon sinks,' absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions that drive global warming. Moreover, destruction of forests itself releases large quantities of carbon.
      Recent studies indicate that deforestation is driving the Amazon rainforest toward an 'irreversible tipping point' where it will dry out and degrade into shrubland, releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
       In the boreal forests of the northernmost parts of the world, like the Russian taiga, fires are seasonal — but there too, corruption and environmental crime are suspected of amplifying them.
      As with the Amazon,
studies indicate that they might be reaching a tipping point. Absent effective conservation measures, boreal forests could turn into a savannah, and bigger, more frequent fires could cause them to start releasing more carbon than they store, a NASA-funded study found.
      In addition to contributing to climate change, forest fires present a more immediate and very grave threat to public health. Every year, the smoke that rises from burning landscapes causes increased heart and lung diseases — health conditions that increase the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, as well as thousands of premature deaths among people exposed to the haze.
       In Australia, smoke from the bushfires caused more than 400 deaths and 3,000 hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Brazilian scientists affiliated with the Health Ministry found that, in the areas worst-affected by the fires in 2019, the number of hospitalizations of children with respiratory diseases doubled in May and June, at the very beginning of the fire season, totaling 5,000. Previously, Harvard and Columbia University scientists calculated that haze from Indonesia’s fires in 2015 will result in 100,000 premature deaths across Equatorial Asia.
      'There’s evidence that even short term exposure to poor air quality [such as that caused by haze from the fires] could make us vulnerable to respiratory infections,' Dr. Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Human Rights Watch. Air pollution caused by the fires may lead to more severe symptoms or increased deaths among those with COVID-19, Dr. Bernstein said.
       Other governments should follow British Columbia’s and Colorado’s lead and step up their own efforts to contain the coming fire season. Such measures will protect health in the short and long term as we fight COVID-19, future viral respiratory epidemics, and the catastrophic health effects of climate change that are already beginning to be felt.Luciana Tellez-Chavez is an environment researcher at Human Rights Watch."

      There are moves to plant billions of trees to fight climate change, including a proposal President Trump made in his  2020 State of the Union Address. But the warming and drought that is causing wildfires in many places around the world, is also making trees more vulnerable to fire so that the planting of many trees can simply provide fuel for new fires, unless care is taken as to what trees to plant where, and how to manage the forests to protect the trees and lessen the chance of their going up on flames ( Somini Sengupta, "How Europe Turned Into a Perfect Landscape for Wildfires," The New York Times, February 5, 2020,,

      Pakistan Is Giving Tree-Planting Jobs to Workers Unemployed Due to COVID-19: The work is part of an ambitious project in Pakistan to plant 10 billion new trees," Global Citizen,, reported, " Pakistan is helping daily workers who have been laid off as a result of COVID-19 by giving them jobs planting trees, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF).
       The initiative is part of Pakistan’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Programme, an ambitious forest restoration project, and provides a template for the type of ' green recovery ' that countries can embark upon in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic."

       Selam Gebrekidan, "Radical Changes Urged for Huge E.U. Farm Program: A planned overhaul fails to adequately protect the environment and support small farmers, a group of scientists said," The New York Times, March 9, 2020,, reported, " Europe’s $65-billion-a-year farm program needs to change radically if it is to protect the environment and support small farmers, a group of European scientists said in a paper published in the journal People and Nature ( on Monday.
      The 21 authors of the paper said a planned overhaul of Europe’s farm policy is inadequate. They said policymakers must stop paying farmers based on the acres they cultivate and instead reward environmentally friendly practices such as organic farming or agroforestry. The scientists also asked the European Union to cut off subsidies that encourage livestock farming, which is linked to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions."

       Julia Conley, "'Not Just Bad, It's Pathological': While Pushing Big Oil Bailouts, Trump Slaps Wind and Solar Industry With $50 Million in Old Rent Bills: "Robbing from a clean energy future to prop up the dirty energy past,'" Common Dreams, May 18, 2020,, reported, " While giving fossil fuel companies access to relief funds ostensibly meant for small businesses struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration on Monday slapped solar and wind power firms with retroactive rent bills dating back two years.
      The Interior Department is
demanding rent payments from renewable energy companies operating on federal lands, two years after it suspended rent for the operators as it investigated whether the Obama administration had charged too much.
      The administration plans to collect $50 million in rent this year from 96 companies operating on federal property—the same amount of money that a recent report showed is going to fossil fuel companies in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As Common Dreams
reported earlier this month, the oil and gas companies may not have to pay those loans back.
      Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette also admitted last week that the White House pushed the Federal Reserve to open its Main Street Lending Program to the oil and gas industries.
      Susan Hassol of the climate research firm Climate Communication wrote that the Trump administration's charging of 'huge retroactive rents' for wind and solar operations while simultaneously pushing for tax giveaways and bailouts for the oil and gas companies is 'robbing from a clean energy future to prop up a dirty past.'
      The retroactive rent bills come as the solar, wind, and geothermal industries have seen many projects delayed due to the pandemic. The crisis has left many companies unable to access federal subsidies and has cut the industries' projected growth for this year by as much as 10%.
      On Twitter, Doug Parr of Greenpeace UK called the administration's treatment of renewable energy companies versus its insistence on aiding fossil fuels 'not just bad' but 'pathological.'
      Earlier this month, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis called any financial aid given to the fossil fuel sector 'a complete waste of money,' especially after oil prices fell in late April to negative-$37 per barrel and prompted calls for the government to nationalize the industry.
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       Tina Casey, "Rural Electric Co-op Blows Up Energy Storage Race With “Secret” Battery," CleanTechnica, May 8th, 2020,, reported, "The nation’s sprawling network of rural electric cooperatives has become a hotbed of clean tech innovation, and the latest example is a doozy. The Minnesota-based co-op Great River Energy is teaming with the somewhat mysterious Bill Gates-backed energy storage startup Form Energy to build a new battery that can discharge for 150 hours. That beats conventional batteries by a mile and it practically guarantees that wind and solar will dominate the US energy landscape in a few short years."
       Brad Plumer, " In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.: The coronavirus has pushed the coal industry to once-unthinkable lows, and the consequences for climate change are big," The New York Times, May 13, 2020,, reported, "The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change."

      "Amazon's Bezos pledges $10 billion to climate change fight," Reuters, February 17, 2020,, reported, " Amazon ( AMZN.O ) Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will commit $10 billion to fund scientists, activists, nonprofits and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change, he said on Monday.
      Cutting emissions will be challenging for Amazon. The e-commerce company delivers 10 billion items a year, has a massive transportation and data center footprint, and has faced criticism from within its own workforce."

      The Trump administration, in February, upset a 20 year old, carefully worked out,  win-win deal between ranchers and conservationists for land management in the west that reasonably protects important environmental concerns, and sacred sites in ways that work well for ranchers, recreation and the tourism business. The new plan will allow grazing in the Grand Staircase National Monument in Utah (John Leshy, "Hurting Ranchers and the Land," The New York Times, March 4, 2020).

       The European Union introduced legislation, in March 2020, to require makers of electronics and other equipment to offer repairs and upgrades rather than recycling damaged or older equipment  ("Europe Wants to Emphasize Gadget Repair Over Recycling," The New York Times, March 13, 2020).

      Maria Varenikova, "Chernobyl Wildfires Reignite, Stirring Up Radiation: Wildfires are common in the so-called Zone of Alienation around the abandoned Chernobyl plant. A larger-than-typical fire is stirring up radiation, though levels remain normal in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital," The New York Times, April 11, 2020,, reported, " Firefighters have struggled to control wildfires burning through radioactive forest in the abandoned territory around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, where radiation levels are considerably lower than they were immediately after the 1986 accident but still pose risks.
      Radiation readings near the wildfires,
where smoke is swirling about , have been elevated, with the wind blowing toward rural areas of Russia and Belarus for most of the past week. The wind shifted Friday toward Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, but authorities say the radiation level is still normal in the city, whose population is about three million.
      But Saturday’s strong winds could spread the fires to the remnants of the nuclear plant and the equipment that was used to clean up the disaster."

       Somini Sengupta, "What a Week’s Disasters Tell Us About Climate and the Pandemic: Extreme weather presents an even bigger threat when economies are crashing and ordinary people are stretched to their limits," The New York Times, May 23, 2020,, reported, "Climate change makes extreme weather events more frequent and more intense. Now, because of the pandemic, they come at a time when national economies are crashing and ordinary people are stretched to their limits."

       Mark Sumner, " Under the cover of the coronavirus, billionaire looters are stealing America's air, water, and soil," Daily Kos,  March 31, 2020,, commented, "In most emergencies, networks seem eager to show images of people looting, but with the coronavirus crisis, those images don’t seem to be reaching our screens. Which is surprising, because the level of looting has been severe; it’s not televisions or sneakers, it’s the air, the water, the soil, and the future.
      Under the cover of the coronavirus, Donald Trump has let polluters know that all bets are off. Anything goes. And the usual suspects are welcoming the opportunity.
       Since taking office, Trump has made destroying environmental rules set in place by President Barack Obama both one of his goals and bragging points. But the rule over limiting emissions from vehicles and requiring higher mileage from vehicles has been something of a sticking point, partly because there is the complication that California and other states have the authority to set their own limits, and partly because not even the automakers want Trump’s sky-blackening proposal.
      But , with all eyes turned to the immediate threat of the virus, Trump’s team has been rushing to complete this smash-and-grab that will, as The New York Times reports, throw a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Not only will it generate a cost to the environment, it also represents a threat to public health. And automakers don’t like it, because it places the United States far outside the rules being set for other nations, setting the stage for automakers to have to create U.S.-only models in a race to the bottom for the least efficient, highest polluting vehicles."

       Coral Davenport, "U.S. to Announce Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules, a Key Effort to Fight Climate Change," The New York Times, March 31, 2020,, reported, " The Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to announce its final rule to rollback Obama-era automobile fuel efficiency standards , relaxing efforts to limit climate-warming tailpipe pollution and virtually undoing the government’s biggest effort to combat climate change.
      The new rule, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, would allow cars on American roads to emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the vehicles than they would have under the Obama standards and hundreds of millions of tons more than will be emitted under standards being implemented in Europe and Asia."

      "The Clean Water Case of the Century: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to keep the Clean Water Act intact, dealing a major loss to the Trump administration and its pro-polluter agenda. The fate of the nation’s clean water had hung in the balance in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund," EarthJustice, April 23, 2020,, reported, " The U.S. Supreme Court's decision leaves in place vital protections for the nation’s oceans, rivers, and lakes.
      The court found that point source discharges to navigable waters through groundwater are regulated under the Clean Water Act. In its decision on County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, the court held that the Clean Water Act “require[s] a permit if the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.”
      In other words, the Clean Water Act prohibits unpermitted discharge of pollution 'nto navigable waters, or when the discharge reaches the same result through roughly similar means.'
      In doing so, the Court rejected the Trump administration’s polluter-friendly position [that indirect impacts of water pollution wer not covered by the act] in the clearest of terms: 'We do not see how Congress could have intended to create such a large and obvious loophole in one of the key regulatory innovations of the Clean Water Act

       Jessica Corbett, "Even 'Worst Fossil Fuel Banker' JPMorgan Chase Will No Longer Fund This Way of Destroying the Planet: 'These are small concessions that leave them the largest funder of the climate crisis—but it proves citizen power can work!'" Common Dreams, February 25, 2020,, reported, " Faced with mounting public pressure to take the climate crisis seriously and to end its financing for the fossil fuel industry, the investment bank JPMorgan Chase announced Monday that it will stop backing extraction projects in  the Arctic and phase out loans for coal by 2024 but keep funding oil and gas developments across the globe.
      'Activism works, what do you know,' author and activist Naomi Klein tweeted in response to the news late Monday. 'So much more to do but this is something.'
      JPMorgan is not only the largest bank in the United States, it is also the biggest funder of fossil fuels, according to the latest annual report from Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which revealed last March that the bank poured nearly $196 billion into coal, oil, and gas companies since world leaders adopted the Paris climate agreement in December 2015.
      'In the context of the climate emergency, the biggest fossil bank in the world—by a 29% margin—has a unique responsibility to phase out its climate impact,' RAN climate and energy senior campaigner Jason Opeña Disterhoft said in a statement Monday. 'Today's policy does not meet that responsibility.'
      'That said, the measures that JPMorgan Chase took today are steps forward,' he added. 'For the world's biggest banker of Arctic oil and gas to stop funding new fossil fuel projects in the region adds to the growing signal that the Arctic is a no-go zone for fossil expansion. These measures are a continued credit to the power of the advocacy by the Gwich'in Steering Committee and their allies, who have been organizing for years to defend the Arctic Refuge from fossil fuel development. And Wall Street's biggest coal mining banker setting an aggressive exit date on some major miners will accelerate coal becoming unbankable.'
Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, welcomed JPMorgan's new approach to the Arctic in a statement Monday that criticized ongoing efforts by President Donald Trump and his administration to open up parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to fossil fuel extraction.
      'The Trump administration is pulling out all the stops to sell off our homelands for drilling, so big banks have a critical role to play in either supporting the destruction of this sacred place or keeping it protected,' Demientieff said. 'We're glad to see America's largest bank recognize that the Arctic Refuge is no place for drilling, and we hope that soon other banks and the oil companies they fund will follow along.'
      The Washington Post on Monday described JPMorgan's new policy as a ' baby step.' Author and activist Bill McKibben, who co-founded, told the newspaper that the bank's pledges align with those of Goldman Sachs, which unveiled its updated rules for fossil fuels in December 2019.
      'It seems like weak beer to me, basically just copying Goldman,' said McKibben. 'But it shows that even the biggest bank on Earth feels citizen pressure, so we will keep supplying that!'
      Ben Cushing of the advocacy group Sierra Club suggested in a statement Monday that both banks' policies will put pressure on competitors to follow suit."

       Somini Sengupta and Melissa Eddy, "How Hard Is It to Quit Coal? For Germany, 18 Years and $44 Billion," The New York Times, January 16, 2020,, reported, " Germany announced on Thursday that it would spend $44.5 billion to quit coal — but not for another 18 years, by 2038.
      The move shows how expensive it is to stop burning the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, despite a broad consensus that keeping coal in the ground is vital to averting a climate crisis, and how politically complicated it is."

       Somini Sengupta, "Japan's Climate Plan Sends the Wrong Signal," The New York Times, April 1, 2020,, reported, that Japan, the world's fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter made no improvements from its old plan to reduce greenhouse emissions in announcing a new one, which would reduce warming emissions by 26 percent below 2013 levels. This is insufficient to prevent horrendous climate disaster.
       The corona virus pandemic has caused the critical U.N Climate talks to be delayed for one year (U.N. Climate Talks Postponed to 2021," The New York Times, April 2, 2020).

       Nadja Popovich, "Climate Change Rises as a Public Priority. But It’s More Partisan Than Ever," The New York Times, February 20, 2020,, reported, " For the first time in the survey’s two-decade history, a majority of Americans said dealing with climate change should be a top priority for the president and Congress. That’s a 14 percentage point rise from four years ago,
       Nearly two-thirds of Americans ranked protecting the environment as a leading policy priority, which is almost as many as said economic growth should remain a primary focus.
      But the surge in climate and environmental concern masks a deep partisan divide."

       Christopher Flavelle, "Here’s How Coronavirus Could Raise Cities’ Risk for Climate Disasters," The New York Times, April 24, 2020, " The economic toll of the coronavirus is forcing cities and states to redirect money away from projects that provide climate resilience, in a shift that threatens to tackle one crisis at the expense of another.
      Officials in San Francisco, Miami Beach and New York City have said they are likely to delay climate-related projects like sea walls because of the virus, which has slashed tax revenue and increased demands for emergency services, housing and other immediate needs. Washington State has cut funding for resilience projects, and people who work on climate adaptation in other cities and states said they worried about similar cuts

       Bill McKibben, When it comes to climate hypocrisy, Canada's leaders have reached a new low: A territory that has 0.5% of the Earth’s population plans to use up nearly a third of the planet’s remaining carbon budget," The Guardian, February 5, 2020,, reported, " Canada , on the other hand, elected a government that believes the climate crisis is real and dangerous – and with good reason, since the nation’s Arctic territories give it a front-row seat to the fastest warming on Earth. Yet the country’s leaders seem likely in the next few weeks to approve a vast new tar sands mine which will pour carbon into the atmosphere through the 2060s. They know – yet they can’t bring themselves to act on the knowledge. Now that is cause for despair.
       The Teck mine would be the biggest tar sands mine yet: 113 square miles of petroleum mining, located just 16 miles from the border of Wood Buffalo national park. A federal panel approved the mine despite conceding that it would likely be harmful to the environment and to the land culture of Indigenous people."

       Ivan Penn, "Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing: The renewable-energy business is expected to keep growing, though more slowly, in contrast to fossil fuel companies, which have been hammered by low oil and gas prices.," The New York Times, April 8, 2020,, reported that the COPID-19 drop in oil prices has not undercut renewable energy growth as wind and electric energy are increasingly cheaper than fossil fuels for electric generation, including needing significantly less maintenance once in operation,"  In fact, renewable energy sources are set to account for nearly 21 percent of the electricity the United States uses for the first time this year, up from about 18 percent last year and 10 percent in 2010, according to one forecast published last week. And while work on some solar and wind projects has been delayed by the outbreak, industry executives and analysts expect the renewable business to continue growing in 2020 and next year even as oil, gas and coal companies struggle financially or seek bankruptcy protection."

      Kendra Chamberlain wrote in New Mexico Political Report, May 21, 2020,, " Taos-area solar array is now generating power: Taos electric utility Kit Carson Electric Cooperative said its largest solar array is now online and generating power. The 3 megawatt (MW) array, comprised of 12,000 solar panels, can power up to 1,600 homes in its member base, the coop said. It now has a total of 19.8MW of solar power, and plans to generate 100 percent of its daytime electricity from solar by 2022."

      The growing number of electric cars are now beginning to be joined by electric big rig trucks, in a switch away from diesel (Susan Carpenter, "Big Rigs Begin to Trade Diesel for Electric Motors: Tractor-trailer fleets will take time to electrify, and start-ups and established truck makers are racing to get their models on the road," The New York Times, March 19, 2020,

      Roy Collver via Ted Cloak E-mails reported, "The other Tesla," from the Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2020, reported, " Little-known electric truck maker Nikola Corp. had its IPO last week, and has zoomed since then to a market value exceeding Ford, at $30 billion.  They haven't sold a single truck yet, but they have $10 billion in preorders from the likes of Anheuser Busch."

       Jessica Corbett, "Putin Declares Federal Emergency After Diesel Fuel Spill in Arctic River That Could Take Decades to Recover: Reports indicate melting permafrost caused by global heating may have damaged the industrial facility," Common Dreams, Jun 3m 2020,, reported, " Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a federal emergency Wednesday to help clean up an estimated 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel that poured into Ambarnaya River Friday after an accident at a power station near Norilsk, an industrial city in the eastern Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk."
      "'Russian mining conglomerate Norilsk Nickel, which owns the facility, said [ a diesel fuel] tank was damaged when supporting pillars that had 'held it in place for 30 years without difficulty' began to sink,' Agence France-Presse reported. 'Norilsk is constructed on permafrost and its infrastructure is threatened by melting ice caused by climate change.'"
      " According to Dmitry Klokov, a spokesperson for the Rosrybolovstvo state fishing agency, 'It can already be said now that it will take decades for the restoration of the ecological balance of the affected Norilo-Pyasinsky water system.'
      The crisis led Scottish ecologist and nature photographer Alan Watson Featherstone to call for restrictions on industrial activities in the area. He declared in a tweet Wednesday: 'The Arctic can't cope with disasters like these'"
      The cost of electric cars has been dropping, even as more and more become available, and by March 2020 had reached about to about the cost of gasoline and diesel powered cars. It appears that equivalent electric cars will soon be cheaper then petroleum powered cars, and need far less repairs and are less expensive to run ( Zachary Shahan ,  "The Electric Car Cost Tipping Point," CleanTechnica, March 21st, 2020,
       Jessica Corbett, "Milan's Plan to Limit Cars After COVID-19 Lockdown Lauded as 'Excellent Example of #BuildBackBetter': "Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before," Common Dreams, April 21, 2020,, reported, "Climate activists from across the globe on Tuesday welcomed an ambitious new plan for Milan that will, according to the Guardian , transform 22 miles of street space currently reserved for cars 'with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.'"
      "City of Houston Surprises: 100% Renewable Electricity — $65 Million in Savings in 7 Years," CleanTechnica, May 2nd, 2020,, reported announced today [April 30, 2020] that the City of Houston has committed to purchasing 100% renewable energy through a renewed partnership with NRG Energy as the City’s retail electric provider.
      As part of the contract renewal, the City will power all municipal operations with renewable energy and realize $65 million in savings over the seven-year contract
. Through the NRG Renewable Select plan, the City will receive 1,034,399 MWh of renewable electricity annually from a new, third-party utility-scale solar facility in Texas that is dedicated to City operations."

      "Xcel proposes ambitious plan to electrify transportation in Colorado," Environment America, May 22, 2020,, reported, " Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, filed a new Transportation Electrification Plan with the state Public Utilities Commission last Friday, proposing that the utility invest millions over the next three years to further transportation electrification. The sweeping plan lays out 20 new programs to spur the installation of residential and office vehicle charging infrastructure; transition to electric school buses; and boost access to alternative forms of electric transportation, such as e-bikes and e-scooters.
      If approved, these programs will play an important role in meeting the state’s goal of putting hundreds of thousands more electric vehicles on the road by 2030.
       'Transportation electrification is critical to reducing pollution and saving consumers money,' said Allison Conwell, advocate with COPIRG. 'Utilities can play a big role in electrifying our transportation because they can provide assistance in ways that other entities can't. We are excited to see Xcel has gone big on transportation electrification."

       The New Mexico Land Office signed the final leases for the Western Spirit Wind Farm, to be built in Lincoln and Torrance Counties, NM, June 1, 2020. The wind farm will assist the state from its reliance on fossil fuels, in part, by providing $16 million dollars to the state's public schools, while providing high paying jobs in construction and site management. It is a step toward New Mexico's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045 (

      Ted Cloak sent the following via E-mail, with an important question at the beginning: "I thought this sounds great until I read ‘BayoTech employs traditional 'steam methane reforming,' or SMR, which is a pressurized heating and cooling process that most chemical plants use to separate hydrogen from methane.’ If it uses methane as feedstock instead of water what are the consequences re greenhouse gas emissions? - Ted
      Kevin Robinson-Avila, "Revolutionary mobile hydrogen plants made in NM hit the market," Albuquerque Journal, May 24th, 2020, reported, " New Mexico could soon become a global hub for the world’s rapidly emerging hydrogen economy, thanks to technology developed by Albuquerque startup BayoTech Inc.
      The company, which was launched in 2015, has built the world’s first compact, mobile, hydrogen generators that can produce hydrogen anywhere, and at a fraction of the cost of today’s massive, centralized facilities.
      The company just signed its first commercial contract with Nutrien, which bills itself as the world’s largest supplier of production inputs for agricultural operations. That company will start using BayoTech’s hydrogen generators this year to produce ammonia, and possibly nitrogen fertilizer, which require hydrogen as a base chemical."

      Tristan Suarez, "Victory Against Oil Industry in Peru," Cultural Survival, February 14, 2020,, reported, "A recent decision by the court of Peru ruled that a particular section of the Amazon basin must be entirely exempt from any economic interference. As of January 23, 2020, Sierra del Divisor, a national park in Peru, will now be exempt from any drilling or ecological exploitation that it might have otherwise suffered. The majority of the region is above three large oil deposits and were licenses to be distributed, the entire region would have been systematically extracted and destroyed by oil companies. This event is the culmination of many decades of work and advocacy in the region and an unprecedented victory for Indigenous communities.
       Oil exploitation has been endemic to the Peruvian economy for decades . Throughout the Amazon, countries with deposits of fossil fuels such as Brazil and Argentina have used their economic influence over world markets to buy power. Sweeping decisions on borders, land titles, and property value are ultimately ruled by the needs of the international oil and fossil fuel market. Peru has historically used their fossil fuel industry as a means of political demarcation and profit. In 2010, they became the first Amazonian nation to be an exporter of liquified natural gas . From 2001 to 2011, oil prices surged from twenty-three dollars a barrel to one hundred dollars. The Sierra deL Divisor was created in 2015 by the government of Peru to protect 1.4 million hectares of biodiversity. At the same time, prospectors and industry leaders were constantly seen within the territory using dynamite to search for oil deposits around the park. The bill passed on the 23rd of January shocked the oil industry in Peru, blocking what could have been an ecologically disastrous situation for the biological and social diversity of the area.
       The price of Peruvian industry is Indigenous autonomy, health, and well-being and massive contamination and destruction of the Amazon. Peru has the largest population of Indigenous People in Amazon with some 4.4 million falling into around fifty one ethnicities. These Native groups live between the Andes Mountains and the southern tip of the Amazonian basin. They are organized into various federations using traditional governance structures through which they advocate for their rights and their lands with the Peruvian state. However, economic growth for the urban elite has been considered a federal interest above the rights and well-being of Indigenous citizens and their lands. and while the country has taken steps to liberalize, they also continue to exploit. Native people living in communities which produce oil often receive little or no redistribution of net profits from their labor. Even today as the Amazon burns, oil companies in the Basin continue to deforest and pollute waterways in Indigenous communities. Community members have no other choice than to eat contaminated food and drink, wash, and bathe in contaminated water. In 2016, Apus or Indigenous leaders from throughout Peru traveled to Lima to speak out about the conditions decades of oil mining have created. One Indigenous mother said the following,  “We cannot avoid the contamination, and yet the oil spills continue to happen. The hydrocarbons, lead, and cadmium are in our bodies. I grew up in an era of contamination- I am contaminated. But I don’t want my children or my grandchildren to continue being contaminated. 'We don’t have health services, and our children need adequate care."
      There have been, however, large legal victories secured in the wake of this large-scale ecological destruction. In 2011, Indigenous advocates won a landmark case in which prior and free consultation of Indigenous communities must be provided by corporate and federal agencies. This guarantees that Indigenous people within the country must be included in any dialogue concerning the distribution and exploitation of their territories and communal holdings. Beyond this, it led to many state sponsored programs cataloging ethnicities, documenting community concerns, forming groups to aid in clean ups of polluted territories. However, it has done little to stem the current and previous efforts of the government to propagate its own economic ends. For example, the catalogue of Indigenous ethnicities the state created failed to fully incorporate the Quechua peoples, which led to their exemption from dialogues with the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
      Indigenous activists such as Alberto Pizango have worked to push laws through the Peruvian courts to protect Indigenous lands. He and others from many tribes such as Jose Fachin have been consistently threatened with violence and retribution by Peruvian police. In 2009, activists clashed with police over the construction of an oil drilling and mega development site in Bagua Grande. After fifty-six days of protest the police and protesters clashed killing twenty-four officers and an unknown number of protesters. Alberto Pizango was forced to flee the country as large scale violence began to escalate. In response to this, the Peruvian government produced laws protecting forests and ecological sites in the region. Even in the wake of the state’s protection of Sierra del Divisor, activists continue to be harassed by officers. The UN Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, attended an event for activists on January 31st. There Indigenous leaders and legal advisors talked about the oppression they’ve suffered under the Peruvian state. Jose Fachin, a prominent activist and member of the Quechua people, said the following: 'After 50 years of oil activity, in the case of Loreto, which has done a lot of damage to the Peruvian Amazon, we want to decide what happens in our territory, but also look for ways to prevent and protect the leaders, lawyers and allies that they have suffered discredit, intimidation among other accusations for devoting themselves to defending our brothers and sisters.'
      One of the lawyers responsible for the protection of the Sierra del Divisor, Martiza Quispe, has an extensive record of defending Indigenous land rights. In May of 2019, she and Miguel Barboza Lopez opposed the construction of the Chadin 2 Hydroelectric Power Plant in Cajamarca. They argued successfully that the grounds to build the plant on the Maranon river were unjustifiable. Firstly, no consultation was done with any peasant or local Awajun community by either the state or the companies responsible. Secondly, she argued that the state made no real considerations on the environmental impacts such a plant would pose to the surrounding environment. 'Likewise, it should be noted that said project with or without its execution is within the portfolio of projects of the Peruvian State, so it does not take into account the serious effects that construction can generate, as happened in the countries of Brazil , Colombia and Laos'. Using other countries as a metric for ecological destruction, Martiza opposed the construction of the plant as both an Indigenous and national interest. Similarly in October of 2019, she appeared as a speaker on Indigenous and ecological rights at a talk in the city of Abancay. There she spoke with similar experts on issues pertaining to oil drilling and deforestation. 'There is a need to apply two fundamental principles established in environmental law: prevention and precaution. Otherwise, the history of contamination in mining areas by extractive activities will be repeated. Likewise, it is essential to remind the State that, in accordance with article 7 of ILO Convention 19, indigenous peoples have the right to decide their own development models, insofar as it affects their lives, beliefs and institutions.'”

       Jake Johnson, "Landmark Win in 'Fight for Habitable Future' as Jury Refuses to Convict Climate Activists Who Presented Necessity Defense: 'When citizens are told the truth about the climate crisis—which is the first of Extinction Rebellion's demands—they take appropriate and responsible action, as our jury did, and we thank them,'" Common Dreams, February 28, 2020,, Reported, " Environmentalists celebrated a landmark victory in the 'fight for a habitable future" after a Portland, Oregon jury on Thursday refused to convict five Extinction Rebellion activists—including valve turner Ken Ward —who presented the climate necessity defense at their trial for blockading a train track used by Zenith Energy to transport crude oil."

       Jake Johnson, "'Holy Crap This Is Insane': Citing Coronavirus Pandemic, EPA Indefinitely Suspends Environmental Rules: "The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment. This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for," Common Dreams, March27, 2020,, reported, " The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, announced on Thursday a sweeping and indefinite suspension of environmental rules amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, a move green groups warned gives the fossil fuel industry a ' green light to pollute with impunity .'
      Under the new policy (pdf), which the EPA insisted is temporary while providing no timeframe, big polluters will effectively be trusted to regulate themselves and will not be punished for failing to comply with reporting rules and other requirements. The order—applied retroactively beginning March 13, 2020—requests that companies 'act responsibly' to avoid violations.
      'EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,' Wheeler said in a statement. 'This temporary policy is designed to provide enforcement discretion under the current, extraordinary conditions, while ensuring facility operations continue to protect human health and the environment.'
Critics, such as youth climate leader Greta Thunberg, accused the Trump administration of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to advance its longstanding goal of drastically rolling back environmental protections.
      'The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment," tweeted Thunberg. "This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.'
      Cynthia Giles, former head of the EPA's Office of Enforcement under the Obama administration, told The Hill that the new policy is "essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future."
      'It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic,' said Giles. 'And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was.'
      The EPA's order, for which the oil industry aggressively lobbied, represents the latest effort by the Trump administration to use the coronavirus pandemic to advance right-wing policies that would likely not be permitted—or would at least face greater scrutiny—under normal circumstances.
      As Common Dreams reported last week, the White House is advancing an assault on public-sector unions, xenophobic border policies, and other objectives amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has officially infected more than 85,000 people in the United States as of Friday morning.
      'Outrageous,' tweeted Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in response to the EPA's new policy. "Suspending all environmental regulations indefinitely? This has nothing to do with coronavirus. This has everything to do with protecting Big Business.'
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       Jessica Corbett, "In 'Targeted Strike' Against Environmental and Racial Justice, Trump EPA Curbs State Power to Reject Fossil Fuel Projects: 'This president and this administration are at war with justice and well-being—particularly for the communities that lack these fundamentals the most,'" Common Dreams, June 2, 2020,, reported, " With the nation focused on the coronavirus pandemic and protests against U.S. police brutality that have sprung up across the globe, the Trump administration continues to quietly attack federal policies that protect public health and the environment to limit the legal burdens faced by planet-wrecking fossil fuel companies.
       The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced a final rule (pdf) about the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification process for energy infrastructure projects. The rule, first proposed in August 2019, sets a one-year deadline for permitting decisions and restricts the scope of what state and tribal officials can consider.
      'Donald Trump and his administration are nothing if not vindictive, spiteful, and capricious,' Food & Water Action executive director Wenonah Hauter
said in a statement Tuesday. 'This new rule from the EPA, which seeks to undermine a bedrock environmental law and hamstring the rights of states to protect communities from water contamination and climate change, is just the latest example.'
      The Trump administration has completed 66 rollbacks of climate and environmental policies and is pursuing 34 more, which brings the first term total so far to 100
, according to a New York Times analysis updated on May 20. The greatest number of completed and in progress rollbacks relate to air pollution and emissions; 11 are about water.
       Critics slammed the president and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist , for curbing states' power to protect residents and the planet by rejecting dirty energy projects—and for making yet another assault on national environmental safeguards in the midst of multiple global crises.
      The administration's new rule, Hauter declared, 'is a direct response to repeated actions by concerned local communities and responsible state officials in New York and elsewhere to reject dangerous fossil fuel projects that have no business being built where they're not wanted.'
      'Like so much of what Trump is pursuing now, this is a targeted strike against environmental justice and racial justice,' she said. 'It's a fact that people of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by the air pollution, water contamination, and climate chaos produced by fossil fuel projects."
       'As we're seeing so clearly now across society,' Hauter added, 'this president and this administration are at war with justice and well-being—particularly for the communities that lack these fundamentals the most.'
      Wheeler said in a statement Monday that new rule comes in response to an April 2019 executive order from Trump, and is intended to 'curb abuses of the Clean Water Act that have held our nation's energy infrastructure projects hostage, and to put in place clear guidelines that finally give these projects a path forward.'
      Wheeler also reportedly took aim at New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, calling the governor's rejection of the Constitution Pipeline 'probably the worst environmental decision by an elected official last year.' The canceled pipeline would have brought fracked gas from Pennsylvania to the New York's Southern Tier.
      In a series of major wins for climate campaigners, New York regulators and Cuomo have also repeatedly blocked construction of the $1 billion Williams Pipeline. Citing a longtime EPA employee, HuffPost explained how the new rule could impact state deliberations over projects including that one:
like the Williams Pipeline, which aimed to carry gas from the fracking fields of western Pennsylvania to homes in New York City and beyond― "might cross 20, 30, 40 streams, and each stream requires permits," said Mark Ryan, who specialized in Clean Water Act enforcement and permitting during his 24 years as the former EPA regional counsel for the Seattle area.
      'With these very, very complex permits like with pipelines, the states will say, 'OK, we want more information... but we don't want to deny certification, but you have to withdraw the permit application,'' he said. 'This new rule says states can't do that.'
      That means states must either grant or deny permits within 12 months or the EPA will deem the state permit waived. This incentivizes pipeline companies to withhold information states would need to fully assess a projects' impacts on water 'to try to force the state to certify the permit
,' Ryan said. [While it often will not happen, it is also possible that a state agency or governor might say, "We consider the permit denied unless and until we approve it. If we do not have all the information necessary and cannot approve the process in that time, we regret that the permit is denied. To change this situation please ask the E.P.A. to change the time limit].
      Ryan told the Times the rule is 'a pretty significant retreat from what they were doing the last 40 years' and could be 'very vulnerable' to a legal challenge considering past rulings, including a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision. As he put it: 'The EPA will have a very hard time convincing the Supreme Court that its current interpretation of the Clean Water Act is correct.'
      Hauter vowed that Food & Water Action 'will be pursuing all avenues available—legal, electoral, and otherwise—to ensure that states have the right to reject fossil fuels as they see fit, and support vulnerable communities everywhere seeking to protect themselves from this malicious administration

       Jake Johnson, 'This Is Why We Continue to Fight': Indigenous Leaders Outraged as Trans Mountain Pipeline Spills 50,000 Gallons of Crude Oil: 'We cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills,'" Common Dreams, June 15, 2020,, reported,  " Indigenous leaders are demanding that the Canadian government immediately halt the ongoing expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline after the leakage of an estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil at a pump station in British Columbia on Saturday—a spill that once again confirmed warnings of the fossil fuel project's grave threat to the environment.
      Chief Dalton Silver of Sumas First Nation said in a statement ( Sunday that 'we cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills.'
      'The proposed Trans Mountain expansion route would see an additional pipeline crossing one of our sacred sites, Lightning Rock, at two spots,' said Silver. 'We will do absolutely everything we can to prevent this from happening—an oil spill at Lighting Rock would be horrific for our people.'
      Leah George-Wilson, chief of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said spills from the Trans Mountain pipeline—which the Canadian government purchased from Kinder Morgan in 2018 despite widespread opposition—are 'inevitable, can't be fully cleaned up, and have devastating effects.'
       'This most recent spill is another reminder that the risk is too great to accept," said George-Wilson. 'The Trans Mountain pipeline has already spilled more than 80 times since it began operating. This is why we continue to fight the Trans Mountain Expansion in the courts.'"
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       Charlie Smith, "Petroleum lobby group calls on Ottawa to back off climate agenda and cancel implementation of UNDRIP,", April 17, 2020 at 6:08 AM,, reported, " The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has asked the Trudeau government to delay a long list of environmental measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and crashing oil and gas prices."
      "The March 27 letter, which was released this morning by Environmental Defence, calls for postponing the development and consideration of any additional measures related to the climate, including the strategic assessment of climate change

      "The Trump administration, In February 2020, finalized plans allowing gas and oil drilling and mining in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah (Utah Lands Officially Open to Oil and Gas Exploration," The New York Times, February 7, 2020).

       Lisa Friedman, "A War Against Climate Science, Waged by Washington’s Rank and File: Efforts to block research on climate change don’t just come from the Trump political appointees on top. Lower managers in government are taking their cues, and running with them," The New York Times, June 15, 2020, reported, "Efforts to undermine climate change science in the federal government, once orchestrated largely by President Trump’s political appointees, are now increasingly driven by midlevel managers trying to protect their jobs and budgets and wary of the scrutiny of senior officials, according to interviews and newly revealed reports and surveys."

       Benjamin Mueller and Mark Landler, "U.K. Court Blocks Heathrow Airport Expansion on Environmental Grounds: The Court of Appeal said the government failed to take its climate change commitments into account, a decision that carries global implications," The New York Times, February 27, 2020,, reported, " Britain’s Court of Appeal issued a landmark ruling on Thursday that stymied plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport in London, declaring that the government illegally neglected its commitments to reduce carbon emissions and protect the planet from dangerously high temperatures.
       The ruling, among the first in the world to measure a state’s infrastructure plans specifically against its promises under the Paris Agreement on climate change , threw the expansion of Heathrow into doubt and opened up a new frontier for legal challenges to major projects in Britain and around the world."

       Jessica Corbett, "Climate Watchdog Warns US Fracking Boom Leading to 30% Rise in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2025: 'This analysis shows that we're heading in the wrong direction and really need to slow emissions growth from the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries,'" Common Dreams, January 8, 2020,, reported, " Planet-heating pollution from the U.S. oil, gas, and petrochemical industries could rise about 30% by 2025 compared with 2018 because of additional drilling and 157 new or expanded projects 'fueled by the fracking boom,' an environmental watchdog group warned Wednesday.
      That estimated emissions increase is equal to 'as much greenhouse gas pollution as 50 new coal-fired power plants,' the U.S.-based Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) explained in a statement announcing the new analysis.
      The EIP report—titled, ' Greenhouse Gases from Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Production' (pdf:—details recent and potential future emissions from U.S. petroleum and natural gas systems, chemical manufacturing, and oil refineries based on data reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, fossil fuel production projections from the Department of Energy, and permits that companies are seeking or have acquired."

      But the COPID-19 economic slowdown greatly reducing fossil fuel use and dropping oil prices to very low levels changed the situation, at least temporarily. Kendra Chamberlain, "Oil and gas, environmentalists in rare agreement over [the New Mexico] State Land Office’s emergency rule on shut down wells," New Mexico Political Report, April 19, 2020,, reported, " Representatives from both oil and gas producers and environmental groups found themselves agreeing on the State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard’s emergency rulemaking for oil and gas production on state land during an online tele-hearing.
      The State Land Office announced earlier in April that it would begin an emergency rulemaking process to allow oil lessees to temporarily stop oil production without penalty for at least thirty days, in hopes of restarting production when the price of oil has recovered some

      As West Texas Crude oil prices dipped below $0 a barrel, to -$37, April 20, 2020, Adam Kolton, Executive Director, Alaska Wilderness League reported by E-mail, "Today, Citigroup released an updated energy policy that rules out financing for oil and gas exploration, development and production projects in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

      Julia Conley, "'Exceptionally Troubling': Researchers Show Hack-for-Hire Operation Targeted Groups Fighting for Climate Action and Net Neutrality: 'If the investigation demonstrates that Exxon is behind these attacks, it only shows how far the fossil fuel industry will go to silence critics,'" Common Dreams, June 10, 2020,, reported, " The Canadian digital watchdog group Citizen Lab reported Tuesday that a hack-for-hire group targeted thousands of organizations around the world, including climate advocacy groups involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign.
      Groups that have asserted ExxonMobil knew about and hid data linking fossil fuel extraction to the climate crisis for years were among those that faced phishing attempts by a group dubbed 'Dark Basin' by Citizen Lab. According to the research, numerous progressive groups—including Public Citizen, Greenpeace,, and Oil Change International—were among those targeted.
      After an extensive multi-year investigation, Citizen Lab reported that it has linked Dark Basin 'with high confidence' to BellTroX InfoTech Services, a technology company based in India which has publicly stated its hacking capabilities.
      In 2017 when Citizen Lab began its investigation, the group believed Dark Basin could be state-sponsored, but soon determined it was likely a hack-for-hire operation. Its targets—which also included journalists, elected officials, and digital rights groups that have lobbied for net neutrality—'were often on only one side of a contested legal proceeding, advocacy issue, or business deal.'
      The watchdog has not been able to definitively link Dark Basin's phishing efforts to particular entities which would have an interest in threatening the #ExxonKnew campaign and net neutrality advocates.
      'That said, the extensive targeting of American nonprofits exercising their First Amendment rights is exceptionally troubling,' wrote Citizen Lab in its report.
       A global hack-for-hire scheme, Citizen Lab wrote, 'is a serious problem for all sectors of society, from politics, advocacy, and government to global commerce,' particularly because the targets have little recourse without a robust investigation by law enforcement.
      'Many of Dark Basin's targets have a strong but unconfirmed sense that the targeting is linked to a dispute or conflict with a particular party whom they know,' the report reads. 'However, absent a systematic investigation, it is difficult for most individuals to determine with certainty who undertakes these phishing campaigns and/or who may be contracting for such services, especially given that Dark Basin's employees or executives are unlikely to be within the jurisdiction of their local law enforcement.' responded to the report, noting that Citizen Lab's ongoing investigation could eventually uncover the fossil fuel industry's involvement. While acknowledging the evidence does not exist to directly implicate Exxon or any specific corporate actor behind the effort, the group said it would be deeply troubled to find out the company would behave in such a manner.
      'If the investigation demonstrates that Exxon is behind these attacks, it only shows how far the fossil fuel industry will go to silence critics and avoid accountability for fueling climate change,' said
      Net neutrality advocates are accustomed to seeing 'an uptick in breach attempts whenever we're engaged in heated and high-profile public policy debates,' Tim Karr of Free Press told CBC Tuesday.  Free Press was targeted by Dark Basin in 2017 as President Donald Trump's FCC was working to repeal net neutrality rules.
      'When corporations and politicians can hire digital mercenaries to target civil society advocates, it undermines our democratic process,' Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, told CBC.
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       Kendra Chamberlain, "Hidden exposures: Studies point to unsafe levels of formaldehyde exposure in oil and gas communities in NM," New Mexico Political Report, May 20, 2020,, reported that studies around fracking sites in New Mexico found periodic high levels of formaldehyde - which "will cause irritation of the respiratory tract, it can lead to throat and nose cancer, chronic respiratory inflammation and bronchitis" - as well as other pollutants. “Formaldehyde was detected at all sites at unhealthy levels.”
      "Residents living among oil and gas development areas across the United States, including New Mexico’s two energy-producing areas of the state, have complained for years about symptoms that they say are caused by nearby oil and gas activity. Those symptoms include nosebleeds, headaches, upper respiratory issues, asthma, migraines, and throat and nose cancer. 
The HIA report findings point to a likely culprit: short-term, intense bursts of elevated levels of chemicals like formaldehyde, chloromethane, methylene chloride and chloroethylene that exceed state and federal standards, along with high levels of particulate matter." reported by E-mail, May 15, 2020, "Moments ago, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released its long awaited decision on a key permit for the Williams fracked gas pipeline in NYC.
      Not only did they deny the permit, but the company cannot reapply again – which means the project is stopped for good

       New Mexico Political Report, May 7, 2020,, reported, " The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided last week to move forward with a public engagement process for plans to expand drilling in the Greater Chaco region, even as the communities in northwestern New Mexico, who are currently struggling with a surge in COVID-19 cases, have repeatedly requested an extension to the process."
      "NM could be left on the hook for oil and gas clean up: New Mexico could be faced with billions in environmental cleanup costs if oil and gas companies go bankrupt as a result of low prices and the COVID-19 pandemic."

       Climate change is radically changing conditions and life in the Himalayas. Some areas have more water coming to them from increased glacier melt, while others have become dry, particularly in Nepal, making farming and grazing from very difficult to impossible, forcing an increasing migration from many villages (Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz, As Himalayas Warm, Nepal’s Climate Migrants Struggle to Survive: Pushed out of their village by a drought and lack of food, a group of Nepalis are fighting to amplify the voices of those forced to relocate by the planet’s warming," The New York Times, April 5, 2020,

       Somini Sengupta and Shola Lawal, "The Original Long Islanders Fight to Save Their Land From a Rising Sea: Shinnecock Indians are using nature-based solutions to calm the waves and restore the beaches that protect their lands," The New York Times, March 5, 2020,, reported, "A maritime people who once spanned a large swath of the eastern Long Island shore, the Shinnecock Indians have been hemmed into a 1.5-square-mile patch of land on the edge of a brackish bay. Now, because of climate change, they’re battling to hold on to what they have left.
      Rising seas are threatening to eat away at the Shinnecock lands. But the tribe is using everything at its disposal to calm the waves and restore a long, slim beach at the edge of Shinnecock Bay: dredged sand, sea grasses, beach grasses, boulders, oyster shells.
      It’s a forever battle
. Climate change is swelling and heating the world’s oceans at an accelerating pace. Inevitably, the Shinnecock will have to bring more sand to replenish what the rising tide keeps washing away. More grass will have to be planted. This spring, Shavonne Smith, director of the tribe’s environmental department, wants to expand the oyster reef designed to dissipate the energy of the waves."

      Green America,, reported, April 21, 2020, "During these difficult times, we could all use some positive news. In celebration of Earth Week, we wanted to spread inspiration by highlighting two major achievements for people and the planet of Crofter’s Organic. Crofters is a certified member of our Green Business Network – businesses that are leaders in building the green economy!
       Crofters has greened the making of jam, from field to jar.
      By creating their own closed-loop water system, Crofters has reduced its water consumption by over 85%
      Even though the company is located in an area abundant in fresh water in Northern Ontario, Canada, the company recognized the importance of this resource globally. To reduce the amount of water which is wasted due to the nearly constant use of water to clean equipment (jam is messy!) and the need for substantial amounts of water for its cooling tunnel, Crofters built two of its very own wastewater treatment plants right within its facility. These treatment plants take water contaminated with debris and dissolved sugars and return them to a reusable state. (See film on Crofters water work at:
      Crofters seeks out and maintains long standing relationships with suppliers that share a mutual interest in a sustainable and equitable food systems. One of the company’s longest standing suppliers, The Green Cane Project in Brazil, has completely upended the norms of sugar cane farming and exemplifies that shared vision for environmental protection and social justice.
       Together, they are combatting deforestation, restoring biodiversity and soil health, and providing social benefits for employees and families. (A film on the sustainable sugar production work is at:
      Crofters Organic is a pioneer in the sustainable food movement, adopting organic practices since 1989! Sustainability and social justice have always been at the core of its business."

       Henry Fountain, "‘It Could Happen Anytime’: Scientists Warn of Alaska Tsunami Threat: A retreating glacier is increasing the risk of a catastrophic landslide and tsunami within a few decades, researchers say," The New York Times, May 15, 2020,, reported, "Climate change has increased the risk of a huge landslide in an Alaskan fjord that could cause a catastrophic tsunami, scientists said Thursday.
      Warming temperatures have caused the retreat of a glacier that helps support a steep, mile-long slope along one flank of a fjord in Prince William Sound, about 60 miles east of Anchorage. With only a third of the slope now supported by ice, the scientists said, a landslide could be triggered by an earthquake, prolonged heavy rain or even a heat wave that could cause extensive melting of surface snow."
       The landslide/tsunami could occur within a year, and is extremely likely within 20 years.

       Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow, "The strongest, most dangerous hurricanes are now far more likely because of climate change, study shows: Researchers find, for the first time, a statistically significant global trend, especially in the Atlantic, The Washington Post, May 18, 2020,, reported, " A new study provides observational evidence that the odds of major hurricanes around the world — Category 3, 4 and 5 storms — are increasing because of human-caused global warming. The implications of this finding, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (, are far-reaching for coastal residents, insurers and policymakers, as the most intense hurricanes cause the most damage.
      The study, by a group of researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, builds on previous research that found a trend, though not a statistically robust one, toward stronger tropical cyclones."

      With global warming increasing hurricane season has been arriving earlier. Derrick Bryson Taylor , "Arthur, the First Named Storm of the Hurricane Season, Forms: A tropical storm warning was issued for the North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the National Hurricane Center said," The New York Times,Published May 17, 2020Updated May 18, 2020,, reported, "The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season formed off the coast of Florida over the weekend and approached North Carolina, making this the sixth consecutive year that a system formed before the official June 1 start of the season, the National Hurricane Center said."

       Following a period in the U.S. eastern Midwest and Northeast of unusually mild weather for winter, on some days with record high temperatures in some locations, in early May 2020, harsh winter weather with snow and in some places record cold swept in (Maria Cramer and Henry Fountain, "Middle of Winter in May? Freeze to Sweep Northeast," The New York Times, May 8, 2020).

       Rick Rojas, "As Mississippi Flood Crests, Full Damage Is Yet to Be Seen: Heavy rains swamped a reservoir and pushed the Pearl River over its banks, forcing evacuations," The New York Times, February 17, 2020,, reported, " Officials estimated that more than 2,400 structures would be affected by the flooding, but the exact extent of the physical damage remains unclear.
       February’s torrent of rain, which also produced flooding in Tennessee, has led to fears of another spring of raging waters in the nation’s South and Midwest. A spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority told The Associated Press that February’s rains have been “400 percent of normal,” and more is expected this week.
      As the river in Mississippi reached levels on Sunday that had not been seen in more than 35 years
, Gov. Tate Reeves repeated a pleathat he and other officials started making as soon as the gravity of the flooding became clear: Get moving. 'Protect yourself,' he said, “and protect your family.”

       The very heavy spring rains that hit the central U.S. in 2020 have washed a large amount of chemical fertilizer and other farm chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico, causing what used to be larger than usual algae blooms. When the algae dies and sinks, decomposing, it depletes the water of oxygen causing a dead zone killing some sea life and driving others away. Thus, this year the dead zone will be larger than what used to be usual (perhaps no longer so with changing weather patterns that for two years in a row have brought increased rain and flooding), killing sea life and reducing the take and economy of gulf fishermen ("Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ Will Be Large This Summer, Scientists Predict: The low-oxygen zone can cause harm not just to marine life, but also to those who catch shrimp and fish for their livelihood," The New York Times, June 3, 2020,

      Arlo Iron Cloud, "Storms cause massive damage," Lakota Times, June 11, 2020,, reported,  " It is late spring here on the plains and already we’ve had a series of storms destroy at least one mobile home – thankfully no one was seriously injured.
      Golf ball size hail damaged windows, vehicles and homes. The hail was only part of the damage. Winds hit an overwhelming 90 mph knocking over trees, large vehicles and causing a windy mess. The National Weather Service called this an ongoing severe derecho, meaning that the storm was a wave stretching over 500 miles – from New Mexico all the way to Montana. Images of sand storms, high winds, heavy rain, hail and a lot of lightning has flooded social media.
       According to the National Weather Service, this is the only the second time this has ever happened."

       Richard Fausset and Steve Cavendish, "A Tornado Decimated North Nashville. The Rebuilding May Destroy Its Soul: A devastating tornado in 1998 transformed East Nashville and forced many African-American residents to relocate. Now, North Nashville residents fear the same will happen to them," The New York Times, March 4, 2020,, reported on a huge set of extremely powerful tornadoes that cut what used to be an extremely long path across Tennessee, including in the city of Nashville, "As this city cleans up from nightmare storms that cut a swath across the central part of the state on Tuesday, killing at least two dozen people across four counties, some residents of North Nashville also worried that the tornado’s destruction would exacerbate the forces that have been diluting their neighborhood’s character and culture."

      Ellen Ann Fentress and Richard Fausset, "Dozens Are Killed as Tornadoes and Severe Weather Strike Southern States: The storm carved a destructive path across six states on Sunday and Monday, causing widespread damage and cutting power to tens of thousands of customers," The New York Times, April 13, 2020,, reported on a particularly destructive set of tornadoes, "The devastating weather system started Sunday and barreled across the region into Monday, leaving destruction, blackouts and heartbreak in its path. More than 30 people died — including at least 11 in Mississippi, nine in South Carolina and eight in Georgia — making it one of the most significant natural disasters in the country since government officials began ordering people to stay home and away from one another in an effort to stop the spread of the virus."

       Wildfire season again began early in once two wet for much burning Florida, with wildfires having burned more than 2000 acres and forced hundreds of people to evacuate in the Florida Panhandle, May 8, 2020, with the fires only 35 percent contained (Christine Hauser, "Wildfires in Florida Force Hundreds to Flee Homes," The New York Times, May 8, 2020).

      Chris Field and Eric A. Appel, "Will the Pandemic Make the West More Vulnerable to Wildfires?: The fight against Covid-19 has disrupted preparations for the fire season," The New York Times, May 14, 2020,, reported, "The last thing we need right now is another risk to worry about. But across much of the American West, wildfires should be a big concern as summer approaches. This is especially true in Northern California, where the winter of 2019-20 was exceptionally dry and has set the stage for a potentially frightening wildfire season.
      To make matters worse, many of the preparations needed to manage the risk have been disrupted by the pandemic. Which is why, for the 25 million people in the American West who live in homes and communities that abut or blend into wild landscapes, now is the time to make these places safer."

       Christine Hauser, "Heavy Rains Flood Parts of Ohio, Stranding Residents: In central and southern Ohio, hundreds of people have been evacuated from homes and vehicles after a period of intense rain," The New York Times, March 20, 2020,, reported, " Heavy rains swamped communities in central and southern Ohio, leading to road closures and rescues of residents by boats and at least one military vehicle, officials said on Friday.
      At least three inches of rain fell
in the region overnight and early on Friday, flooding roadways and overwhelming waterways when the ground — already saturated from previous rains — could not hold it all, according to Kathleen Fuller, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
       For the central United States, the spring of 2020 has been predicted again to be stricken by floods and soggy grounds, but not to the same extent a in 2019."

      Extremely heavy rains overwhelmed two dams in Michigan causing serious flooding  May19, 2020. Henry Fountain , "‘Expect More’: Climate Change Raises Risk of Dam Failures: Engineers say most dams in the United States, designed decades ago, are unsuited to a warmer world and stronger storms," The New York Times, May 22, 2020,, reported, "The dam that failed in Central Michigan on Tuesday gave way for the same reason most do: It was overwhelmed by water. Almost five inches of rain fell in the area in the previous two days, after earlier storms had saturated the ground and swollen the Tittabawassee River, which the dam held back.
      No one can say yet whether the intense rainfall that preceded this disaster was made worse by climate change. But global warming is already causing some regions to become wetter, and increasing the frequency of extreme storms, according to the latest National Climate Assessment . The trends are expected to continue as the world gets even warmer.
       That puts more of the nation’s 91,500 dams at risk of failing, engineers and dam safety experts said."
       Hiroko Tabuchi, "Dam Failure Threatens a Dow Chemical Complex and Superfund Cleanup," The New York Times, May 20, 2020,, reported, " Floodwaters from two breached dams in Michigan on Wednesday flowed into a sprawling Dow chemical complex and threatened a vast Superfund toxic-cleanup site downriver, raising concerns of wider environmental fallout from the dam disaster and historic flooding."

       Michael Levenson, Neil Vigdor and Christine Hauser, "Tornadoes Tear Through Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas, Killing at Least 7: Homes were destroyed, two factories were damaged and thousands were left without power," The New York Times, April 22, 2020,, reported, " A series of powerful tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas on Wednesday evening, destroying homes, flipping cars and killing at least seven people, according to the authorities. Dozens more were injured."

       Andrea Germanos, "Emerging Climate-Fueled Megadrought in Western US Rivals Any Over Past 1,200 Years: Study: 'We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we're on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts," Common Dreams, April 17, 2020,, reported, " The western United States is likely being gripped by an 'emerging' megadrought partly fueled by the climate crisis, says a study published Friday.
      Researchers claim the region's 19-year drought, from 2000–2018, already rivals that of any over the past 1,200 years.
      'We're no longer looking at projections, but at where we are now, 'said lead author Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in a statement. 'We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we're on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts.'
      For the study, published in the journal Science, Williams and the other researchers looked at nine U.S. states, stretching from Oregon and Montana at the northern and southward through California and New Mexico. The researchers also included a portion of northern Mexico in the study.
      Using tree ring data to infer yearly soil moisture and plot out the pre-modern data, the researchers documented four megadroughts—multi-decade droughts—beginning in 800 AD.
       The southwest's current drought was worse compared to the ones that took place in the late 800s, mid-1100s, and the 1200s. The most severe megadrought on record began in 1575, though researchers said the difference between that Medieval one and the current was slight.
      And while natural variability played a role in the current drought, the scientists estimate about half the blame—47%—lies with the Earth's heating, as warmer air is able to suck up more ground moisture.
      According to coauthor Benjamin Cook of Lamont and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 'It doesn't matter if this is exactly the worst drought ever' but that 'it has been made much worse than it would have been because of climate change.'
      Natural variability that can drive drought will likely continue, as will global warming, threatening further upheaval for a region already facing groundwater depletion
"Because the background is getting warmer, the dice are increasingly loaded toward longer and more severe droughts," added Williams.
      'We may get lucky, and natural variability will bring more precipitation for a while,' he said. 'But going forward, we'll need more and more good luck to break out of drought, and less and less bad luck to go back into drought.'
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       Kendra Pierre-Louis and Nadja Popovich, "California Had Its Driest February on Record. Here’s How Bad It Was," The New York Times, March 3, 2020,, reported, " Not a drop of rain fell in downtown San Francisco this February. Or in Big Sur State Park. Or in Paso Robles. February in California was so dry that it is raising concerns that the state, which, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, only fully emerged from drought last March, may be headed for another one.
      'It was the driest February on record,' said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles.
       Ordinarily, 90 percent of California’s rain falls during the seven-month period between Oct. 1 and April 30, with half of the state’s total precipitation falling during December, January and February. The rains that come in February are part of a seasonal pattern that nourishes plants, replenishes reservoirs and, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, restores the snowpack that provides up to 30 percent of the state’s drinking water."

       Raphael Minder, "Sandstorm Wreaks Havoc in Canary Islands: Red sands carried by winds from the Sahara have forced airports to close, leaving thousands stranded," The New York Times, February 24, 2020, reported, " Winds from the Sahara continued to send streams of sand drifting over the Canary Islands on Monday, creating chaos as the swirling sands forced planes to be grounded, disrupted traffic and exacerbated wildfires.
      Ángel Víctor Torres, the regional president of the islands, a Spanish archipelago, told Spanish national television that it was the worst such storm to hit the islands in 40 years. He described its arrival as 'a nightmare weekend.'”

       Hari Kumar and Sameer Yasir, "India Cold Wave Breaks Records, Shuts Schools and Makes Bad Air Worse: Across the north, including New Delhi, plunging temperatures have caused a run on shelters in a region more used to extreme heat," The New York Times, January 1, 2020,, reported, "A brutal cold wave has swept northern India, blanketing streets in freezing fog, intensifying pollution, disrupting hundreds of flights and prompting school closures.
      India’s capital, New Delhi, experienced its coldest day in December in 119 years on Monday, with the maximum temperature dipping below 49 degrees Fahrenheit (9.4 Celsius), about 20 degrees below the average for December. Last week, the city broke its longest cold spell in more than two decades, with 10 consecutive days of extreme weather.
       Northern India, with its expanses of farmland and desert, is more accustomed to heat waves than dangerous cold fronts, both of which have been linked to climate change ."
      Slowing winds combined with increasing burning of fossil fuels for heating have greatly increased air pollution, causing increased health problems in the region."

       Jeffrey Gettleman and Sameer Yasir, "Cyclone Amphan’s Death Toll Rises to 80 in India and Bangladesh: The worst damage was reported in the Indian state of West Bengal, home to the metropolis Kolkata and many small, coastal villages," The New York Times, May 21, 2020,, reported, "More than 80 people were killed by the powerful cyclone that slammed into India and Bangladesh on Wednesday, wiping out thousands of homes and drenching low-lying areas in torrential rain, officials said on Thursday."
      The death toll from the giant storm would have been worse had not the storm lost strength and it approached land and large scale evacuations been undertaken.

       Andrea Germanos, "Warnings of 'Catastrophic Consequences' as Locust Swarms Hit India and Pakistan in Midst of Coronavirus Crisis: For India, the invasion comes alongside 'eviscerating heat,'" Common Dreams, May 28, 2020,, " Farmers in India and Pakistan fear potentially catastrophic crop damage as another wave of locust swarms wreaks havoc on the two nations as they continue to battle coronavirus pandemic.
      Locusts, as CBS News
reported , are "considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world, with a small swarm of about 40 million locusts capable of gobbling up enough food for 35,000 people."
       For India, the current invasion marks the 'worst plague in nearly three decades,'Agence France-Presse reported.
       'Usually they arrive from Pakistan between July and October and remain focused in Rajasthan,' added CBS. 'This time, however, weather conditions have helped the swarms spread into neighboring states.'
       The grasshopper-like creatures 'have engulfed around 35,000 hectares in India's seven heartland states, threatening some vegetable and pulse crops,' Reuters reported, Tuesday, citing information from government officials and farm experts.
      The swarms began entering the country last month through neighboring Pakistan's Sindh province, and farmers fear another June wave of locusts could decimate crops.
The Associated Press reported that India is facing three disasters at once—locusts, Covid-19, and 'eviscerating heat.' From the AP:
       Temperatures soared to 118 degrees Fahrenheit (47.6 degrees Celsius) in the capital New Delhi this week, marking the warmest May day in 18 years, and 122 F (50 C) in the desert state of Rajasthan, after the world’s hottest April on record.
       India suffers from severe water shortages and tens of millions lack running water and air conditioning, leaving many to seek relief under shady trees in public parks and stepwells, the ancient structures used to harvest rainwater.
      Though many people continued wearing masks properly, others pushed them onto chins, or had foregone them altogether.
      K.L. Gurjar, deputy director of India's Locust Warning Organization, said Pakistan may have been overwhelmed by the huge number of locusts.
      Pakistan's farmers have borne the brunt of the damage from the swarms.
      Mir Gul Muhammad, who farms in the province of Balochistan, told the Guardian that the invasions have been the worst he's seen in this lifetime. 'As a farmer, it will take years to recover from this loss," he said.
      From the Guardian:
      'Ismail Rahoo, state minister of agriculture for Sindh, described the plague as a. 'dangerous and catastrophic threat to the economy, agriculture, and food security in Pakistan '
       'This year it will be ten times worse than last year. They are attacking from three sides,' he said. 'The locusts and their eggs have now covered 50,000 square kilometres of farmland. We are expecting them to infest more than 5m hectares. And they are not just attacking Sindh province, but also the agricultural areas of Punjab and Balochistan.'
       The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned back in January that the swarms then hitting the Horn of Africa represented 'an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods.' The agency issued another warning in April as a second wave was spotted that the numbers could surge.
      In a statement last week on the locusts affecting the Sahel, Southwest Asia, the Horn of Africa, and Yemen, th e FAO expressed concern about the likelihood of new swarms forming in June, saying that 'the battle is long and is spreading to new areas.'
      'The locusts, combined with the impacts of Covid-19, could have catastrophic consequences on livelihoods and food security,' said FAO Director-Genera Qu Dongyu.
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      Moreover, the current locust swarms in India and Pakistan are younger locusts than usual, so that they spread more quickly, making it more difficult to contain them.

      Unusually heavy snows, in early February 2020, brought two consecutive deadly avalanches to mountainous areas of Turkey, the second killing rescuers trying to find survivors of the first (" Avalanche in Turkey Kills Dozens of Rescuers Responding to Earlier Slide: Soldiers, village guards, firefighters and civilians were among those looking for survivors of one avalanche when they were buried by a second," The New York Times, February 5, 2020,

       Jessica Corbett, "Trapped in a Nightmare Situation': Philippines Typhoon Offers Glimpse of Climate Disaster Amid Pandemic: 'A global pandemic does not mean the climate crisis has stopped,' says 'If anything, it has only exacerbated the problem,'" Common Dreams, ay 14, 2020,, reported, " The worldwide outbreak of a deadly virus is now dovetailing with another grave global threat: increasingly hazardous extreme weather due to the climate crisis.
       Typhoon Vongfong slammed into the eastern Philippines on Thursday, making the first of numerous landfalls expected in the coming days and causing tens of thousands of people to contend with evacuations complicated by health risks of crowded emergency shelters due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
      The first typhoon of the 2020 Western Pacific season, known locally as Ambo, made landfall over San Policarpo in the Eastern Samar province of the Philippines at 12:15 pm local time, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration ( PAGASA).
      The Southeast Asian country, a cluster of over 7,000 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean, is home to about 106.7 million people. The Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tracker on Thursday showed that the Philippines had over 11,800 confirmed Covid-19 cases and at least 790 related deaths, though those figures may be too low due to limited testing.
       'Provincial and city governments, many of which are already strapped for resources due to the outbreak, are grappling with logistical and space issues, with an estimated 200,000 people needed to be moved from their homes in coastal and mountainous areas because of fears of flooding and landslides,' Reuters reported. 'With an average of 20 typhoons every year hitting the Philippines... challenges faced by stretched-thin local governments offer a grim preview of disaster response in the time of Covd-19.'
      On the Island of Samar, the powerful typhoon 'sheared roofs from houses, uprooted coconut trees, and dumped heavy rain as it made landfall,' according to Agence France-Presse. The news agency detailed how even though the Eastern Samar province doesn't yet have any confirmed Covid-19 cases, public health concerns still made efforts to shelter impacted residents more difficult:
       Because of the twin threat of the storm and the virus, evacuation centers in the central Philippines said they will only accept half their capacity and evacuees will have to wear face masks.
      Hundreds of thousands live in coastal areas and flimsy homes near where the storm blasted ashore, and tens of millions more on the storm's forecast path that runs near the capital Manila.
      'We are trapped in a nightmare situation where we face the threat of the storm as well as Covid,' evacuee Mary Ann Encinares said at a shelter, where she and her children had fashioned masks out of handkerchiefs and rubber bands.
      As the region was battered Thursday by intense wind and rain, Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone explained in an interview with CNN Philippines how the provincial government was struggling to safely shelter residents, especially considering that evacuation centers were recently converted to quarantine facilities.
      'It's a complicated situation right now in the province. We prepared our evacuation centers for Covid-19, but we have to deal with the evacuees of Typhoon Ambo. This is a nightmare for us here,' he said. 'Our problem right now is how we are going to place our people inside and how we are going to practice social distancing inside the evacuation centers.'
      Further complicating the government response, Evardone said, some municipalities were experiencing communication disruptions because of power outages. He added that because 'we have been dealing with this Covid crisis in the past two months, and most of the resources of the [local government units] are depleted right now.'
      'Right now, the case with the typhoon is urgent,' said the governor. 'But we will not scale down our Covid-19 monitoring, because this will cause more danger and it's for the long term.'
      There were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries from the storm, but the Associated Press noted that 'the impoverished eastern region initially hit by Vongfong was devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland, and displaced more than five million'—an example of the kind of disaster that could strike the country as both the tropical cyclone season and pandemic continue in the months ahead.
       The New York Times reported on Typhoon Vongfong's expected path for the weekend:
Forecasters predicted that it could dump torrential rains by Saturday across a wide area of the Philippines, including possibly Luzon, the country's largest island, which has a population of 60 million and includes the capital, Manila.
       Much of Luzon remains on lockdown because of the coronavirus epidemic, which could complicate emergency efforts should the storm strike the island with particular force.
      'Definitely this is going to add to our emergency situation,' said Harry Roque, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte. 'While the areas expected to be hit by the typhoon are not heavily ravaged by Covid-19, we have set some guidelines.'
      Roque conceded that based on previous evacuations prompted by typhoons, enforcing the government's strict social distancing guidelines 'would be a challenge.'
       The environmental advocacy group has spearheaded the international demand for a      'just recovery' from the pandemic that pairs economic relief with climate action. On Twitter Thursday, the group connected the typhoon in the Philippines to the simultaneous public health and climate crises:
      Some research has shown that landfalling typhoons over the northwest Pacific have intensified since the late 1970s.
      A 2016 study found the destructive power of typhoons striking East Asia had intensified by 50% over the preceding four decades because of warming coastal waters. Lead author and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Wei Mei said at the time that 'we want to give the message that typhoon intensity has increased and will increase in the future because of the warming climate.'
      As Typhoon Vongfong made international headlines Thursday, the Weather Channel also reported on a development halfway around the world: 'The first depression or storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to form near the Bahamas this weekend, but will only bring a glancing blow of rain to parts of Florida, and high surf to parts of the Southeast coast.'
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       Muktita Suhartono and Russell Goldman, " Flash Floods in Indonesia Leave Hundreds of Thousands Homeless: At least 43 people have been killed in the most intense rains to strike Jakarta, the country’s capital, since record keeping began.
January 2, 2020,, reported, " Flash floods killed at least 43 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, the authorities said on Friday, after the city’s most intense period of rainfall since record keeping began more than 20 years ago."

      Tabita Diela and Stanley Widianto, "After Indonesia’s Deadly Floods, Few Hear Climate ‘Wake Up Call’: At least 60 people in Indonesia’s capital have been killed in floods after the biggest rainfall since records began, HuffPost, January 6, 2020,, reported, " Floods that killed 60 people in Indonesia’s capital after the biggest rainfall since records began should be a wake-up call to climate change in one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters, environmental groups said.
      But, despite the catastrophe in Southeast Asia’s biggest city, authorities see no greater impetus for more cuts to planned carbon dioxide emission reductions or other measures to address climate change

      Manuela Andreoni and Letícia Casado, "Powerful Storm Kills 47 in Brazil: Rain is still pouring over the affected region, overwhelming rescue workers and worsening conditions for the 18,000 people who have been forced from their homes. At least 4 people are missing," The New York Times, January 27, 2020,,reported, " Heavy rains have swept over southeastern Brazil, leaving at least 47 people dead and four missing and forcing over 18,000 people from their homes.
      Several cities and towns suffered landslides and floods as rainwater washed over the state of Minas Gerais, overflowing rivers, threatening to burst mining dams and leaving rescue workers scrambling to respond to several emergencies at once.
      Rain poured over the region on Monday and is expected to continue for at least two days, rescue workers said, raising the threat to mining dams in the region."

       In the Comoros, off the cost of East Africa, a combination of global warming induced climate change and massive deforestation in an area that receives more rain than Europe has caused many rivers to dry up in the dry season, bringing a water crisis (Tommy Trenchard, " ‘There’s No More Water’: Climate Change on a Drying Island: A delicate ecosystem was disrupted in the Comoros, off East Africa, when forests were cleared to make way for farmland. The consequences offer lessons for other parts of the developing world the Comoros, off East Africa," The New York Times, April 16, 2020,

      In mid-December, Australia reached its highest temperature ever, only to have the next day even warmer. On December 17, the average high temperature across the country was 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as the heatwave continued to spread, and the long drought and the related fires continued. It was so hot in places, that birds stopped flying and took refuge in the shade of trees ( Jamie Tarabay, " Australia Records Its Hottest Day. At Least for Now: A national heat wave pushed high temperatures across the country on Tuesday to an average of 105.6 degrees. Even more heat is in the forecast," The New York Times, December 18, 2019,

      Denise Chow, "Australia is on fire, literally — and so are its climate politics: Australia faces bushfires and record heat, a double whammy of extremes that has amplified scrutiny of its climate politics," NBC News, December 18, 2019,, reported, " More than 100 bushfires are raging in Australia as the continent swelters under record heat , a double whammy of extremes that has amplified scrutiny of what experts say is stark inaction from the government on climate change.
      Blazes across New South Wales and Queensland have scorched almost 7 million acres, and Australia experienced its hottest day on record Wednesday, when the average temperature across the country hit 105 degrees

      As of January 3, 2020, the fires in Australia had continued to become even worse, in southeast New South Wales and Victoria a state of emergency was declared and thousands of people were warned to evacuate, as even worse fire days were predicted. In one area a large number of people fled to the beach, with nowhere else to go. But were trapped there as smoke and flame made rescue impossible. Livia Albeck-Ripka, Jamie Tarabay and Richard Pérez-Peña, "‘It’s Going to Be a Blast Furnace’: Australia Fires Intensify: Calling for evacuations along the southeastern coast, officials said the next few days would be among the worst yet in an already catastrophic fire season," The New York Times, January 3, 2020,, reported, " In just the past week, at least nine people have died, and many more are unaccounted for. In all, at least 18 people have died in this fire season.
      The blazes have consumed more than 1,000 houses, killed countless animals and ravaged a Pacific coast region of farms, bush, eucalyptus forests, mountains, lakes and vacation spots. About 15 million acres have been blackened over the past four months, and more than 100 wildfires are still burning.
      With the Southern Hemisphere summer barely underway and the country already reeling from record-breaking heat , no one expects relief any time soon. No rain is in the forecast."

       Joëlle Gergis, "We are seeing the very worst of our scientific predictions come to pass in these bushfires: As a climate scientist I am wondering if the Earth system has now breached a tipping point," The Guardian, January 3, 2020,, commented, " Once again, catastrophic bushfire conditions are bearing down on communities during increasingly horrific summers in Australia. It has been an unprecedented continuation of the horrendous bushfires that started as early as spring in south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales .
      As I write this, the Australian navy is evacuating over 800 people from the bushfire ravaged town of Mallacoota in eastern Victoria. Holiday makers are being forced to abandon their cars, complete with kids’ bikes strapped to the roof racks, ice melting in Eskies. People hoping for a carefree break over the new year are instead faced with the extraordinary position of having to flee for their lives.
      Currently, there are tens of thousands of people in coastal NSW and Victoria stranded in towns where the highways are closed, supermarkets are running out of food, and queues for petrol snake down the streets of devastated towns. The scenes experienced by those caught up in the ordeal are being described as apocalyptic – rightly so
      " As a climate scientist, the thing that really terrifies me is that weather conditions considered extreme by today’s standards will seem sedate in the future. What’s unfolding right now is really just a taste of the new normal."
      "As I’ve watched the events of this summer unfolding, I’ve found myself wondering whether the Earth system has now breached a tipping point, an irreversible shift in the stability of the planetary system.
      There may now be so much heat trapped in the system that we may have already triggered a domino effect that could unleash a cascade of abrupt changes that will continue to play out in the years and decades to come.
       Rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it."
      "To prepare our nation for the very challenging times ahead, we need political leaders – at every level – prepared to face this harsh reality."
      " Failing to adequately plan for the known threat of climate change in a country like Australia should now be considered to be an act of treason."
      " This summer has been a brutal reminder that no matter how much we want to avoid addressing the problem of climate change, it simply can no longer be ignored. As this summer has shown, it is now part of every Australian’s lived experience."
      Now is the time for our political leaders to make a choice about which side of history they want to be on. There is much work to be done, and we are fast running out of time.
      "Everyone’s patience has worn thin. The Australian people are justifiably angry and are now demanding true leadership in the face of this climate emergency.
      We have already squandered over a decade debating climate policy in Australia. All the while, the clear reality of a rapidly destabilising planet accelerates all around us.
       There genuinely is no more time to waste. We must act as though our home is on fire – because it is."

       Jake Johnson, "More Than One Billion Animals Killed in Australia Wildfires Called a 'Very Conservative' Estimate: Chris Dickman of the University of Sydney said "without any doubt at all" the animal death toll has exceeded one billion," Common Dreams, January 7, 2020,, reported, "As Australia's catastrophic wildfires rage on with no end in sight, University of Sydney ecologist Chris Dickman said the number of animals killed in the blazes has topped one billion—a horrifying figure that the scientist described as a "very conservative" estimate."
      Australia is home to extremely diverse flora and fauna, with many species found no where else on Earth. Biologists fear that a number of species of small animals may be totally wiped out by the current fires (Helen Sullivan, "Some of Australia’s Smallest Species Could Be Lost to Wildfires: Velvet worms, trapdoor spiders: Scientists worry about the fate of the nation’s many remarkable, overlooked endemic creatures," The New York Times, January 9, 2020,
       The very extensive fires are sending up huge clouds of smoke blowing all the way to Argentina, and perhaps soon beyond. The smoke is causing very serious air pollution, with related health and pother problems, in Australia, particularly in the east of the country, and in New Zealand. Whale the dark smoke may have some cooling effect, the tremendous burning is sending large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing global warming.

       Thomas Fuller, "Reducing Fire, and Cutting Carbon Emissions, the Aboriginal Way: As blazes rage in southern Australia, Indigenous fire-prevention techniques that have sharply cut destructive bushfires in the north are drawing new attention," The New York Times, January 16, 2020,, reported, "In the woodlands surrounding her home in the far north of the country, she lights hundreds of small fires a year — literally fighting fire with fire. These traditional Aboriginal practices, which reduce the undergrowth that can fuel bigger blazes, are attracting new attention as Australia endures disaster and confronts a fiery future.
       Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. While the efforts draw on ancient ways, they also have a thoroughly modern benefit: Organizations that practice defensive burning have earned $80 million under the country’s cap-and-trade system as they have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent."

      While drought and fire continued in some areas of Australia, Jamie Tarabay, "Australia’s Wild Weather: First Fires, Now Baseball-Size Hail: Severe heat and dry skies have given way to strong thunderstorms in the country’s southeast, where giant hailstones destroyed cars," The New York Times,  January 20, 2020,, reported, " Large hailstones have rained down on Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra over the past two days, destroying vehicles, punching holes in roofs and blanketing the lawn in front of Parliament.
      "Hailstones were as large as baseballs. Wind gusts topped 70 miles per hour. In some areas, an inch of rain fell in just 30 minutes. A few places experienced flash flooding
. Thousands of people were left without power."

      The effects of climate change are long lasting. Jamie Tarabay and Michelle Elias, "‘Like Licking an Ashtray’: Fires’ Invisible Threat to Australia’s Wines: The smoke produced by the blazes that ravaged the country may ruin entire vintages, but detecting contamination is a guessing game,'” The New York Times,  March 6, 2020, , reported, "The bush fires that raged for eight months in southeastern Australia inflicted widespread damage on the vineyards of the Hunter Valley, not directly from flames, but through the invisible taint of smoke.
      Winemakers like Mr. Riggs have abandoned hopes for some 2020 vintages. Grapes that were closest to the fires are being left on the vine. Those farther away are being tested for smoke contamination, though it is an inexact science, and in some cases producers won’t know whether a wine can be sold until it has fermented in tanks."

      Constant Méheut "In Paris, Cafe Terraces Are an Environmental Battleground: Heat lamps over outdoor tables have become an integral part of Parisian street life. But they are meeting resistance in the face of climate change," The New York Times, March 11, 2020, reported that Parisians have long enjoyed sitting outside in cafes even in cool weather, thanks to gas burning heat lamps, but the once very popular custom is increasingly coming under attack for increasing global warming in the burning of the natural gas.

       Eoin Higgins, "New Report Takes Aim at Five Banking Institutions Backing Amazon Rainforest Exploitation: 'Five of the world's most powerful financial institutions are actively contributing to climate change by providing debt and equity financing for crude oil extraction projects in the Amazon,'" Common Dreams, March 12, 2020,, reported, "A new report from the group Amazon Watch shows how five of the world's largest financial institutions are funding the exploitation of the Amazon Rainforest for oil—even as those firms claim to be on the side of mitigating the climate crisis.
      'Five of the world's most powerful financial institutions are actively contributing to climate change by providing debt and equity financing for crude oil extraction projects in the Amazon
,' reads the report.
      The five banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and BlackRock—'have made available tens of billions of dollars for oil companies operating in the Amazon, including GeoPark, Amerisur, Frontera, and Andes Petroleum,' according to the report.
      The five firms have enjoyed good press recently for their stated commitment to curbing the climate crisis and making investment choices around saving the planet.
      But, Amazon Watch said in an accompanying multimedia toolkit, the firms are instead 'pouring money into crude oil extraction in the western Amazon, despite explicit opposition from indigenous groups on the ground and the worsening of the climate crisis that such activity promotes.'
Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License."

       Lisa Friedman, "New Research Links Air Pollution to Higher Coronavirus Death Rates," The New York Times, April 7, 2020,, reported, "Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country, according to a new nationwide study that offers the first clear link between long-term exposure to pollution and Covid-19 death rates."

      Tatiana Schlossberg, "Mountains of medical waste," The New York Times, June 4, 2020,, reported, " Hospitals and clinics in United States have a huge and growing environmental footprint, and a big part of that is waste. The American health care system generates roughly 30 pounds of waste per hospital bed every day and accounts for about 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions .
      One of the reasons: In the past decade or so, hospitals have increasingly shifted toward equipment intended for single use that could possibly be reusable.
      Single use items do not necessarily lower costs or increase staff and patient safety. The issue has become clearer during the corona virus pandemic, and many hospital workers are thinking about finding approaches that are more sustainable, healthful and cost effective.

       Winnie Lau , "To Solve the Ocean Plastics Problem, the World Needs a Plan: Pew and partners launch initiative to reduce costly, destructive pollution, PEW, February 25, 2020,, reported, "Beaches littered with soda bottles and single-use takeout containers; rivers choked with plastic bags and cups; microplastics found in the deepest part of the ocean. These distressing and all-too-common reports aren’t isolated: About one truckload of plastic waste is dumped into our ocean every minute, according to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum. And if things don’t change, that number could increase to four truckloads per minute by 2050.
       All of this plastic is having harmful impacts on marine life. A recent report from the Convention on Biological Diversity found that between 2012 and 2016 , the number of species documented to have been affected by marine debris, of which plastic is the predominant source, has risento 817; the primary impacts are from ingestion, entanglement, and habitat damage or destruction.
       Plastic pollution is also taking a toll on people and society. According to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme , the estimated cost of ocean plastic pollution on fishing, tourism, and shipping is at least $13 billion annually. And experts do not yet fully understand how all of this pollution is affecting—or will affect—human health.
      Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever produced, approximately only
9 percent has been recycled and an estimated 60 percent has been discarded, with some ending up polluting our rivers and the ocean. The amount of plastic entering the ocean is projected to double in the next five years.
      The enormity of this problem has led The Pew Charitable Trusts to undertake a two-year initiative to identify the most effective strategies to address the marine plastic problem. Working with the global consulting firm SYSTEMIQ , we are conducting a global analysis that will quantify the ocean plastic pollution between 2016 and 2040 under different scenarios. We are also engaging with Duke University on a global plastics policy analysis that considers the responses to this issue by a range of governments around the world.
      Separately, Pew is working with a broad range of stakeholders to develop an evidence-based global roadmap for reducing marine plastic pollution
. We expect to release that roadmap in mid-2020."

       John Schwartz, "Where’s Airborne Plastic? Everywhere, Scientists Find: There’s “no nook or cranny” on the planet where it doesn’t end up, the lead researcher on a new study said," The New York Times, June 11, 2020,, reported, " Plastic pollution isn’t just fouling the world’s oceans . It is also in the air we breathe, traveling on the wind and drifting down from the skies, according to a new study. More than 1,000 tons of tiny fragments rain down each year on national parks and wilderness areas in the American West alone, equivalent to between 123 million and 300 million plastic bottles worth."
      "While the troublesome presence of plastics
in landfills , in the oceans and in freshwater environments like the Great Lakes is well known, research into airborne particles is more recent. Previous papers have described finding airborne microplastics in, among other places, Europe , China and in the Arctic .
      The new paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, reports finding plastic in remote parts of the United States; the researchers collected samples from 11 national parks and wilderness areas."

       The New York Times, May 6, 2020,, Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka And Kendra Pierre-Louis, " The Trump Administration Is Reversing Nearly 100environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List," provided a complete detailed listing.

      "FERC rules clean energy sources must bid higher market price," Reuters, about 12/21/19,, reported,  "The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday directed the largest U.S. power grid operator to force state-subsidized solar and wind electricity providers to raise market bids, a move that renewable energy companies and environmental groups blasted as a partisan attempt to protect fossil fuels."
       Lisa Friedman, "Trump Rule Would Exclude Climate Change in Infrastructure Planning," The New York Times, January 3, 2020,, " Federal agencies would no longer have to take climate change into account when they assess the environmental impacts of highways, pipelines and other major infrastructure projects, according to a Trump administration plan that would weaken the nation’s benchmark environmental law.
      The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act could sharply reduce obstacles to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other fossil fuel projects that have been stymied when courts ruled that the Trump administration did not properly consider climate change when analyzing the environmental effects of the projects

       Coral Davenport, " Trump Opens National Monument Land to Energy Exploration," The New York Times, February 6, 2020,, reported, "The Trump administration on Thursday finalized plans to allow mining and energy drilling on nearly a million acres of land in southern Utah that had once been protected as part of a major national monument."

       Lisa Friedman, " E.P.A. Opts Against Limits on Water Contaminant Tied to Fetal Damage: A new E.P.A. policy on perchlorate, which is used in rocket fuel, would revoke a 2011 finding that the chemical should be regulated," The New York Times, May 14, 2020,, reported, "The Trump administration will not impose any limits on perchlorate, a toxic chemical compound that contaminates water and has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage, according to two Environmental Protection Agency staff members familiar with the decision.
      The decision by Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the E.P.A., appears to defy a court order that required the agency to establish a safe drinking-water standard for the chemical by the end of June. The policy, which acknowledges that exposure to high levels of perchlorate can cause I.Q. damage but opts nevertheless not to limit it, could also set a precedent for the regulation of other chemicals, people familiar with the matter said."

       Christopher Flavelle, "E.P.A. Is Letting Cities Dump More Raw Sewage Into Rivers for Years to Come," The New York Times, January 24, 2020,, reported, " The Environmental Protection Agency has made it easier for cities to keep dumping raw sewage into rivers by letting them delay or otherwise change federally imposed fixes to their sewer systems, according to interviews with local officials, water utilities and their lobbyists.
      Cities have long complained about the cost of meeting federal requirements to upgrade aging sewer systems, many of which release untreated waste directly into waterways during heavy rains — a problem that climate change worsens as rainstorms intensify. These complaints have gained new traction with the Trump administration, which has been more willing to renegotiate the agreements that dictate how, and how quickly, cities must overhaul their sewers."

       Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, "E.P.A. Weakens Controls on Mercury: The agency is changing the way it calculates the benefits of mercury controls, a move that would effectively loosen the rules on other toxic pollutants," The New York Times, April 16, 2020,, reported, " The Trump administration on Thursday weakened regulations on the release of mercury and other toxic metals from oil and coal-fired power plants, another step toward rolling back health protections in the middle of a pandemic.
      The new Environmental Protection Agency rule does not eliminate restrictions on the release of mercury, a heavy metal linked to brain damage. Instead, it creates a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution that environmental lawyers said would fundamentally undermine the legal underpinnings of controls on mercury and many other pollutants."

       Lisa Friedman, "Trump Administration Revives Banned Hunting Techniques in Alaska
The move reverses an Obama-era ban on hunting methods like baiting bears with doughnuts and shooting swimming caribou," The New York Times, June 9, 2020,, reported, " Baiting grizzly bears with doughnuts soaked in bacon grease. Using spotlights to blind and shoot hibernating black bear mothers and their cubs in their dens. Gunning down swimming caribou from motorboats.
      Hunting methods that for years were decried by wildlife protectors and finally banned as barbaric by the Obama administration will be legal again on millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness in time for the warm July weather

      The city council of Bellingham Washington, in early January 2020, was considering a controversial proposal to require all new construction to be heated by electricity, or other than carbon fuel, and by 2040 all homes and businesses to convert to heating that way. Natural gas could still be used for cooking. There is opposition to the measure, and it may not pass or may be modified. A number of U.S. municipalities have required all new construction to heat without directly using fossil fuels ( Mike Baker, "To Fight Climate Change, One City May Ban Heating Homes With Natural Gas: Seeking to do their part to avert climate change, dozens of cities are exploring ways to limit natural gas heating in new homes. One city may also require existing homeowners to make a switch," The New York Times, January 6, 2020,

       John Schwartz, "Marine Labs on the Water’s Edge Are Threatened by Climate Change ," The New York Times, January 7, 2020,, reported, "But the water is coming. Around the country, from New Jersey to Massachusetts, Virginia to Oregon, education centers and marine laboratories like this one  [the W.J. DeFelice Marine Center, in Loisiana] are bracing against rising seas and a changing climate. The assault from climate change is slower but more relentless than any storm, and will ultimately do more damage. It threatens researchers’ ability to study marine environments up close at a time when it’s more vital than ever to understand them."

      "If the Calendar Says January, Why Does the Thermometer Say May? A wave of warm weather across the Northeast broke temperature records and left many people wondering about a 'January thaw ,'” The New York Times, January12, 2020,, reported, "It sure didn’t feel like January in the Northeast over the past few days. At the time of year when the days are near their shortest and the weather should be near its coldest, temperatures across the region warmed to the high 60s and low 70s — 30 to 35 degrees above average. Records for daily highs were broken from Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh to New York City and Bangor, Maine. Many residents took the warm spell as a belated holiday gift and went outside to cycle or jog or picnic with friends and family as if it were spring.
      Some of the readings were especially eye-popping: Highs of 70 were seen in Boston on consecutive January days for the first time since record-keeping began in 1872. Buffalo, where the temperature on the same date last year never went above 20, reached 67 on Saturday. Charleston, W.Va., hit 80 degrees. It couldn’t last, of course: A cold front moving in late Sunday was expected to reset the region’s weather much closer to the seasonal range."
      At the same time, a widespread destructive storm swept across parts of the western Midwest and South, including spawning a number of deadly tornadoes ( Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, 10 Die in Storm as Tornadoes and Squalls Pummel U.S.: Officials warned of floods, hail and snow as the vast storm moved east ,'” The New York Times, January 11, 2020,

       Iliana Magra, "Storm Ciara, or Sabine, Leaves 5 Dead in Europe: A powerful winter storm battered Europe on Sunday, leaving power outages, transportation chaos and at least five deaths in its wake," The New York Times, February 10, 2020,, reported, " Streets were flooded, flights were canceled, traffic was jammed, power was cut and wind-blown trees blocked roads and rails on Monday as a deadly winter storm raged through western and northern Europe.
      Storm Ciara — or Sabine, as the storm is called in German-speaking countries — tore through Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, and Poland, unleashing chaos and killing at least five people, according to reports from news agencies and social media.
      Steven Keates, a senior meteorologist in Britain’s Met Office, the country’s national meteorological service, said on Monday that though storms are common in winter, Storm Ciara is 'notable' because of the very strong and widespread winds."

      Jalaluddin Mughal, Maria Abi-Habib and Salman Masood, "Avalanches Sweep Through Kashmir, Killing Dozens: Whole families were buried in the Pakistani-controlled portion of the disputed territory, and rescuers are risking their own lives," The New York Times, January 14, 2020,, reported, " At least 55 people have been killed and dozens injured as avalanches swept away homes in the mountainous region of the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir.
      The powerful avalanches have also affected Indian-controlled areas of the disputed region, with at least 10 people killed on Tuesday, officials said."
      " Heavy rain and snowfall on Saturday triggered the avalanches, which rolled over villages perched on the steep mountains, burying roads out of the valley." A dozen deaths as a result of the heavy rains were reported in other provinces of Pakistan as well.

      Shola Lawal, " Africa, a Thunder and Lightning Hot Spot, May See Even More Storms," The New York Times, February 10, 2020,, reported, "Africa is experiencing bigger and more frequent thunderstorms as global temperatures rise, according to researchers at Tel Aviv University."

      Shola Lawal, " Hurricane Dorian Ravaged Bahamas’ Reefs, Researchers Find," The New York Times, February 14, 2020,, reported, "When Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Bahamas in September, it not only leveled entire communities and killed dozens of people, it also destroyed about 30 percent of the coral reefs around the islands, according to a report issued Friday by the Perry Institute for Marine Science."

       Damien Cave, "Fires Are Out, but Australia’s Climate Disasters Aren’t Over: Devastating floods came soon after the bush fires. Scientists call it “compound extremes,” as one catastrophe intensifies the next," The New York Times, February 23, 2020,, reported, " Australia’s hellish fire season has eased , but its people are facing more than a single crisis. With floods destroying homes not far from where infernos recently raged, they are confronting a cycle of what scientists call 'compound extremes': one climate disaster intensifying the next."
      Serious flooding from unprecedented rains occurred in the aftermath of the fires, in what seems to be a new, and likely worsening cycle. Many Australians do not know whether or not to rebuild, or even if their property survived the fires, to move

       Derrick Bryson Taylor, "Antarctica Sets Record High Temperature: 64.9 Degrees: 'This is the foreshadowing of what is to come,' a researcher said. 'It’s exactly in line of what we’ve been seeing for decades,'” The New York Times, February 8, 2020,, reported, " Antarctica, the coldest, windiest and driest continent on Earth, set a record high temperature on Thursday, underscoring the global warming trend, researchers said.
      Esperanza, Argentina’s research station on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, reached 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18.2 degrees Celsius, breaking the previous record of 63.5 degrees set on March 24, 2015, according to Argentina’s National Meteorological Service. The station has been recording temperatures since 1961."

       Cattle produce significantly large amounts extremely atmospheric heating methane in their digestive process, which has led a number of  scientist and companies to attempt to find dietary modifications that would reduce cattle methane production. One Swiss firm has come up with a cattle feed supplement that appears to have that effect ( Adam Satariano, " The Business of Burps: Scientists Smell Profit in Cow Emissions: Cattle produce more methane than many large countries. A solution could be an ecological and financial breakthrough — and a Swiss biotech company may be on the cusp," The New York Times, May 1, 2020,

       Nina Lakhani, "Dakota access pipeline: court strikes down permits in victory for Standing Rock Sioux: Army corps of engineers ordered to conduct full environmental review, which could take years," The Guardian, March 25, 2020,, reported, " The future of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline has been thrown into question after a federal court on Wednesday struck down its permits and ordered a comprehensive environmental review." This may take several years to complete.
      "The US army corps of engineers was ordered to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS), after the Washington DC court ruled that existing permits violated the National Environmental Policy Act (Nepa)."

      Chase Iron Eyes,  The Lakota People's Law Project," stated in an E-mail, May 27, 2020, "You may recall that, in late March , the Standing Rock, Oglala, Yankton, and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes won a key round in their legal battle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). In a reversal of his prior decision, D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled that the pipeline hadn’t undergone proper environmental review. Though logic would dictate a subsequent cease to DAPL’s operations, Boasberg hasn’t taken that step. That’s why, last week, the Lakota Law team joined an Earthjustice-led effort and submitted an amicus curiae(friend of the court) brief to the judge, a strong legal argument that the oil flow must stop immediately.
      It’s not complicated. Because Boasberg’s latest decision voids the easement granted for DAPL, it should no longer be permitted to carry oil, at least until we’ve seen an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act. We’ve been arguing for a proper EIS since the beginning, recognizing that — given the oil company’s horrendous safety track record — it may be impossible to produce.
      As you know, the Obama administration agreed that a comprehensive review was needed in late 2016, shutting down construction as thousands cheered at Standing Rock during the #NoDAPL protests. Sadly, everything changed when Trump took office. One of his first executive orders fast-tracked the pipeline without the EIS. Then, when Standing Rock took legal action, Judge Boasberg cited an exception in the law allowing construction despite known, potential hazards.
      Boasberg’s latest ruling has changed the game again, this time in our favor. In our brief, LPLP Chief counsel Daniel Sheehan argues that if the oil flow doesn’t stop now, the Court will send a perilous message that litigation against the government is 'meaningless and tantamount to a bait and switch designed to fool those naïve enough to believe that the rule of law still has efficacy .'
      We’re not alone. Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee have also joined U.S. senators including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren to submit a powerful amicus brief. Their legal argument was prepared by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez
, both of whom met face-to-face with our team in recent months.
      We are aligned with powerful people, and the support you have shown to the Lakota means we can keep fighting nonstop to cancel pipelines and forward justice. The tide may be turning. I hope that if you stay with us, we can bring additional legal victories — and safety — back to our homelands." reported by E-mail, May 15, 2020, "Moments ago, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released its long awaited decision on a key permit for the Williams fracked gas pipeline in NYC.
      Not only did they deny the permit, but the company cannot reapply again – which means the project is stopped for good

       Justin Nobel,  "America’s Radioactive Secret : Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America," Rolling Stone, January 21, 2020,, reported that dangerously radioactive brine is a waste product produced by oil and gas wells at a faster rate than oil or gas. It is a serious health hazard to oil and gas workers, truckers who move the waste water and surrounding communities. But it is not regulated and gas and oil companies neither mention it or take steps to protect worker and others from it.

       Nick Visser, "‘Tremendous Victory’ For Wildlife: Federal Judge Invalidates Keystone XL Pipeline Permit: 'There’s just no getting around the fact that Keystone XL would devastate communities, wildlife, and clean drinking water,' one group said," Huffington Post, April 16, 2020,, reported, " A federal judge in Montana on Wednesday overturned a key water crossing permit needed to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline , handing a major victory to environmental groups who said the oil network could imperil endangered species and threaten drinking water."

      Jon Queally, "In Latest Legal Blow to Trump and Dirty Energy, Federal Appeals Court Upholds Block on Keystone XL Permit: Contrary to what the Trump administration has argued, the law is clear. We won't sacrifice imperiled species so giant corporations can profit from the dirty fossil fuels that pollute our waters and climate.'" Common Dreams, May 28, 2020, reported,
" 'The Trump administration has repeatedly violated the law in its relentless pursuit of seeing Keystone XL built, and it would have been unconscionable to allow this pipeline to be built through rivers, streams and wetlands while it remains tied up in court,' said Doug Hayes, a senior attorney with Sierra Club , following the ruling by the Ninth Circuit. (Photo: Tar Sands Blockade)
       In another legal victory for opponents of Keystone XL and similar pipelines, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that suspended a federal fast-track permit for the controversial tar sands project that campaigners for nearly a decade have opposed as a climate-destroying effort of the first order.
      Siding with the previous ruling and against the Trump administration, the court's ruling said the government and fossil fuel companies behind the project 'have not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits and probability of irreparable harm to warrant a stay pending appeal.'
      Last month, as Common Dreams reported at the time, the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled that the Trump administration's Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued what became 'Nationwide Permit 12.' The ruling by that court vacated the Trump-backed permit for Keystone XL and also prohibited the Corps from replicating use of the fast-tracked approval process for other similar projects.
      While Bloomberg reported the ruling as 'a major blow to the energy industry,' climate campaigners celebrated it as confirmation that Keystone XL is rightly recognized as a hazard and that President Donald Trump acted unlawfully by trying to ram through its construction.
      'The Trump administration has repeatedly violated the law in its relentless pursuit of seeing Keystone XL built, and it would have been unconscionable to allow this pipeline to be built through rivers, streams and wetlands while it remains tied up in court,' said Doug Hayes, a senior attorney with Sierra Club. 'We're glad to see the court recognize the threat this dirty, dangerous pipeline poses to communities, wildlife, and clean drinking water along its route, and we’ll continue to fight to ensure it is blocked for good.'
      Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, 'Contrary to what the Trump administration has argued, the law is clear. We won't sacrifice imperiled species so giant corporations can profit from the dirty fossil fuels that pollute our waters and climate.'
      Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth, also welcomed the ruling but urged caution as the legal fight is certain to continue. 'The court's decision today buys some time for our environment, but its future remains in jeopardy,' Keever said. '"We will continue to fight against this administration’s stubborn insistence to build the toxic, climate destroying Keystone XL pipeline.'
      Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License."

      Elizabeth Forsyth, "Rural Landowners, Farmers, and Conservation Groups Celebrate Court Victory Halting Risky Oil and Gas Giveaway of 150,000 Acres of Montana Public Lands: Victory: Federal judge rules BLM failed to consider risks to Montana’s environment and water supply before issuing 287 oil and gas leases," Earthjustice,  May 1, 2020,, reported, " Today, Montana landowners, farmers, and conservation groups won an important victory to protect local groundwater and the climate when a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to consider risks to Montana’s environment and water supply before issuing 287 oil and gas leases covering 145,063 acres in December 2017 and March 2018 lease sales. The court’s decision will protect Montanans, their livelihoods, clean water, public lands, and our climate by reversing the Bureau of Land Management’s recent approval of oil and gas leases across staggering swaths of Montana’s public lands."
      Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said in his decision that the Army Corps of Engineers had failed to consider how a 2017 permit allowing the pipeline to cross waterways could harm some species, including the endangered pallid sturgeon

       Clifford Krauss, "Canada Oil-Sands Plan Collapses Over Politics and Economics: A developer has abandoned a nine-year effort to extend mining, sparing Justin Trudeau a choice between energy interests and environmental concerns," The New York Times, February 24, 2020,, reported on the scrapping of the Frontier mine project in Alberta, " A major effort to expand development of Canada’s oil sands has collapsed shortly before a deadline for government approval, undone by investor concerns over oil’s future and the political fault lines between economic and environmental priorities.
      Nine years in the planning , the project would have increased Canada’s oil production by roughly 5 percent. But it would have also slashed through 24,000 acres of boreal forest and released millions of tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide every year."

       The long inactive uranium mine of the Grants Mining District, on Mount Taylor, in New Mexico, sacred to at least 30 Nations, was set to be officially closed as of January 10, 2020. The peoples concerned include the Navajo Nation, the Hopi and Zuni peoples, and the Acoma and Laguna Pueblos,  ( Kendra Chamberlain, "An inactive uranium mine located on a sacred mountain will finally close," New Mexico Political Report, January 10, 2010,
       Henry Fountain, "Calculating Air Pollution’s Death Toll, Across State Lines," The New York Times, February 12, 2020,, reported, "Here’s further proof that air pollution ignores borders: In most states, about half of the premature deaths caused by poor air quality are linked to pollutants that blow in from other states, a new study found.
      The study investigated the sources and effects of two major pollutants that harm humans, ozone and fine airborne particles, in the lower 48 states from 2005 to 2018. It found that in New York, nearly two-thirds of premature deaths are attributable to pollution from sources in other states. That makes the state the largest “net importer” of early deaths, to use the researchers’ term.
      Ozone and fine particles are a result of fuel burning, so the analysis, published Wednesday in Nature, could have implications for policymakers looking for ways to reduce air pollution, and premature mortality, by regulating so-called cross-state emissions. So far only emissions from electric power generation are regulated in this way, but the study looked at six other sources of pollutants, including other industries, road transportation, aviation and commercial and residential sources like heating for homes and buildings."

       Somini Sengupta, "A Crisis Right Now: San Francisco and Manila Face Rising Seas," The New York Times, February 13, 2020,, " An estimated 600 million people live directly on the world’s coastlines, among the most hazardous places to be in the era of climate change. According to scientific projections, the oceans stand to rise by one to four feet by the end of the century , with projections of more ferocious storms and higher tides that could upend the lives of entire communities.
      Many people face the risks right now. Two sprawling metropolitan areas offer a glimpse of the future. One rich, one poor, they sit on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean: the San Francisco Bay Area (population 7 million) and metropolitan Manila (almost 14 million
      Their history, their wealth, and the political and personal choices they make today will shape how they fare as the water inevitably comes to their doorsteps."

       Hannah Beech, "Philippines Dispatch: Adapting to Rising Seas, Schools Move to the Rafters and Cats Swim: On an island in the Philippines, waterlogged for one-third of every year, residents adjust to their sodden existence instead of fleeing," The New York Times, February 22, 2020,, reported,
" In 2013, Batasan was convulsed by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. Thousands of aftershocks followed, and the local topography was thrown off-kilter. Batasan and three neighboring islands collapsed downward, making them more vulnerable to the surrounding water.
      Now climate change, with its rising sea levels, appears to be dooming a place that has no elevation to spare. The highest point on the islands is less than 6.5 feet above sea level

       Hannah Beech, "Damming the Lower Mekong, Devastating the Ways and Means of Life: Thailand funded the first dam on the river in Laos, and it is Thai towns, farms and fisheries that are suffering," The New York Times, February 15, 2020,, reported that the building of the first of 11 planned dams on the Mekong river has devistated fishing and farming below it, " The lower Mekong, which makes its way through five countries, was one of the world’s few remaining free rivers. But a hydropower boom, coupled with extreme weather patterns attributed to climate change, is radically remaking the waterway .
      In October, the turbines of the first lower Mekong dam, the Xayaburi, began churning upstream from Nong Khai in Laos, after a series of test runs last summer. The effect of the Thai-funded dam was almost immediate, residents said.
       The Mekong ran clear and depleted, appearing an eerie, luminescent blue on sunny days. Algae bloomed, choking nets. Now, a monthslong drought has pushed the water level even lower so that parts of the river are no longer a waterway at all but a desert of dead plants and dried-out crustaceans.
      With about 10 more dams planned for the mainstream Mekong’s lower reaches and hundreds more on its tributaries, a lifeline for 60 million people is being choked. Tens of millions more will be affected as farms and fisheries are compromised, even as the rich and powerful across the region profit from the hydropower business

       China's construction and operation of dams on the Mekong river within China have been shown to have caused record lows on the river in Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, artificially causing the worst drought in the river valley's history, seriously impacting fisherman, farmers and those who rely upon them ( Hannah Beech, " China Limited the Mekong’s Flow. Other Countries Suffered a Drought: New research show that Beijing’s engineers appear to have directly caused the record low levels of water in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam," The New York Times, April 13, 2020 , ).

       Declan Walsh, "As Egypt’s Population Hits 100 Million, Celebration Is Muted: With little habitable land, deepening poverty and dwindling supplies of water, the future looks bleak. And there is no sign of a slowdown," The New York Times, February 11, 2020,, reported, "Somewhere in Egypt, around lunchtime Tuesday, the country reached a major milestone: its 100 millionth citizen was born."
      "Hitting 100,000,000 marked human plenty, certainly, but also an uneasy moment in a country gripped by worries that its exploding population will exacerbate poverty and unemployment, and contribute to the scarcity of basic resources like land and water."

      The Oceanic Rescue Center and Awareness (ORCA),, in early April 2020 reported that in Cambodia the "... Lower Mekong river to remain free flowing as Sambor dam plans abandoned." Cambodia is the last country the Mekong flows through, so if upstream dams are built there will still be a great deal of damage.

      The Center for Biological Diversity, " A Win for Right Whales Hurt by Lobster Fishing," Endangered Earth, No. 1032, April 16, 2020,, reported, " Right whales — so called because they were once thought the 'right whales' to kill — are the rarest whales in the world. Only about 400 North Atlantic right whales remain.
      The Center for Biological Diversity and allies just won an important victory for this rapidly declining population. A court said the National Marine Fisheries Service acted illegally by not taking steps to protect the whales from entanglement in commercial lobster lines, which cause injuries and death.
      'Right whales have been getting tangled up and killed in lobster gear for far too long," said Kristen Monsell, the Center's oceans legal director. "This decision sends a clear signal that federal officials must protect these desperately endangered animals

      WildEarth Guardians, "Settlement Grants Reprieve for Wolves in Idaho: Win for wolves and other wildlife!", reported by E-mail, March 12, 2020, "On Wednesday, WildEarth Guardians reached a momentous settlement agreement with rogue wildlife-killing agency, Wildlife Services, related to its killing of wolves in Idaho. In 2018 alone, Wildlife Services killed nearly 100 wolves in Idaho, through various cruel methods including gunning them down by helicopter and fixed wing planes, strangling them with wire snares, and capturing them in foothold traps. Notably, most of this brutal slaughter was done at the behest of the livestock industry—punishment for wolves daring to be too near sheep or cattle.
      Guardians and our allies have been tenacious in our pursuit of Wildlife Services, questioning and pushing the agency to reform its cruel practices and follow the most up-to-date science in developing wildlife “management” plans. Our settlement agreement with Wildlife Services—the end result of a 5-year legal battle—will give wolves a reprieve from indiscriminate killing.
       Pursuant to our settlement agreement, Wildlife Services must abide by the following conditions related to wolf management in Idaho:
      No wolves will be killed in federally-designated wilderness areas or multiple federal recreation areas;
      No wolves will be killed for ungulate protection;
      No killing on private lands without documented and confirmed evidence of livestock take or wolf attack; and
      No snares may be used in the state.
      Notably, our win for wolves is also a win for other wildlife in Idaho as the settlement agreement provides that sodium cyanide devices (M44s) cannot be used in the state and all traps must be checked at least every 72 hours.
      Wildlife Services must abide by these restrictions until it completes a full environmental review of its predator management plans

      "Grizzly bears, wolves, and other native wildlife protected in Montana: WildEarth Guardians forces Wildlife Services to curtail its killing actions," Wild Earth Guardians, May 19, 2020,  reported via E-mail, "One victory, one action at a time, WildEarth Guardians is reining in the worst of the depraved killing methods and liberties taken by Wildlife Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rogue wildlife killing program. Guardians’ goal is to end the social license and false “legal” authority that this program has used to wantonly kill and slaughter wildlife across the American West, for decades.
      And we are succeeding. On May 14 , Guardians finalized a settlement agreement in our lawsuit against Wildlife Services, severely curtailing Wildlife Services’ reckless slaughter of native wildlife and use of cruel tools like snares, traps, and poisons across MILLIONS of acres of public lands. The settlement requires a new environmental analysis of the effects and risks of its wildlife-killing program in Montana and, meanwhile, requires the following protections:
      No killing in Montana’s specially protected areas such as Wilderness, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and Wild & Scenic River corridors;
      No killing of cougars and black bears on any federal lands;
      No more M-44s (sodium cyanide bombs) on any public lands, or private lands in 41 of 56 counties;
      No more lethal gas cartridges can be used to destroy denning wildlife like coyotes, fox, or prairie dogs on public lands;
      Increased public transparency
And more.
      Over the last five years, Guardians’ litigation against Wildlife Services has resulted in settlement agreements in Idaho, Wyoming, and California, and legal victories in Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, all curbing the program’s slaughter of native wildlife and making the program accountable for its activities. And we are not stopping now. Guardians has active litigation against Wildlife Services in Colorado and Idaho, and we are continuing to monitor Wildlife Services’ activities across the West, ready to take on the program to protect vulnerable wildlife wherever action is needed."

      The Alaska Wilderness League reported via E-mail, June 4, 2020, " For the second time, a U.S. District Court judge in Alaska has thrown out the Trump administration’s attempt to allow an expensive and environmentally devastating road through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge."

       Henry Fountain, ‘Going in the Wrong Direction’: More Tropical Forest Loss in 2019: Brazil was responsible for more than a third of the total global loss in 2019," The New York Times, June 2, 2020,, reported, " Destruction of tropical forests worldwide increased last year, led again by Brazil, which was responsible for more than a third of the total, and where deforestation of the Amazon through clear-cutting appears to be on the rise under the pro-development policies of the country’s president.
      The worldwide total loss of old-growth, or primary, tropical forest — 9.3 million acres, an area nearly the size of Switzerland — was about 3 percent higher than 2018 and the third largest since 2002. Only 2016 and 2017 were worse, when heat and drought led to record fires and deforestation, especially in Brazil

       Hans Nicholas Jong ,"PepsiCo renews sustainable palm oil policy to close supplier loophole," March 11, 2020, Mongabay,, reported, " Environmental activists have welcomed food and beverage giant PepsiCo’s move to update its palm oil sustainability policy, following years of pressure over a supply chain tainted by deforestation, peatland conversion, and labor rights violations.
      PepsiCo’s new policy of “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation,” or NDPE, addresses a previous loophole by applying to a wider network of suppliers and business partners. “It applies to all palm and palm kernel oil that we use globally and covers our entire supply chain, from direct suppliers to production sources at the group level, meaning NDPE should be applied across their entire operations and third-party supply chain and not limited solely to the palm oil sold to PepsiCo
,” the company says"
       "Murdering hornets", a very large species of Asian hornet that kills and eats parts of bees, has been sighted in northwest Washington State. It is feared that if these hornets cannot be eliminated there before they spread, they could decimate an already battered bee population in North America ( Mike Baker, "‘Murder Hornets’ in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet: Sightings of the Asian giant hornet have prompted fears that the vicious insect could establish itself in the United States and devastate bee populations," The New York Times, May 3, 2020,
       Mike Baker, "The Asian Giant Hornet Resurfaces in the Pacific Northwest: The large invasive insect, sometimes known as the 'murder hornet,' appears to have resurfaced in both British Columbia and Washington State," The New York Times, May 27, 2020, reported, "The Asian giant hornet has resurfaced in the Pacific Northwest, with two reported discoveries that indicate the invasive insect has already been circulating in a broader territory than previously known."

      COPID-19 has led to an increase of poaching of endangered animals in Africa, as the hiatus in crowds of tourists in preserves has meant that understaffed game wardens must now patrol many more miles empty of potential witnesses in which poachers feel free to operate (Annie Roth, "Poachers Kill More Rhinos as Coronavirus Halts Tourism to Africa: Threatened and endangered animals may become additional casualties of the pandemic," The New York Times, April 8, 2020,
      However, pandemic restrictions temporarily have blocked a considerable amount of trade in poached and other wild animals, parts and products (Rachel Newer, "Illegal Poachers Are Foiled for Now," The New York Times, May 5, 2020).

       Abdi Latif Dahir, "‘Like an Umbrella Had Covered the Sky’: Locust Swarms Despoil Kenya: At first, villagers thought the dark, dense blot in the sky was a harmless cloud. Then came the terrifying realization that the locusts had arrived," The New York Times, February 21, 2020,, reported, " Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, and the infestation has spread through much of the eastern part of the continent and the Horn of Africa, razing pasture and croplands in Somalia and Ethiopia and sweeping into South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania."

       Richard Pérez-Peña, " Australia’s Record Heat Means Another Blow to Great Barrier Reef: For the third time in five years, abnormally warm water has caused a 'mass bleaching' of coral, and some of it will not survive. Scientists say global warming is killing reefs worldwide. ," The New York Times, March 26, 2020,, reported, "Record-breaking warm waters have bleached large parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef this year, as they did in 2016 and 2017, scientists reported on Thursday — the latest sign that global warming threatens the health of one of the world’s most important marine ecosystems."

       Andrea Germanos, "Save the Insects, Save the Farmers, Save Ourselves: New Global Report Calls for End of Industrial Agriculture: 'The evidence is clear: pesticide use is wiping out insect populations and ecosystems around the world, and threatening food production," Common Dreams, June 9, 2020,, reported, " A new report released Tuesday draws attention to the worldwide decline in insects and calls for global policies to boost the conservation of both agriculture and the six-footed creatures.
      The publication, entitled Insect Atlas (, comes from two progressive networks: Brussels-based Friends of the Earth and Berlin-based Heinrich Böll Foundation.
       'The global loss of insects is dramatic,' Heinrich Böll Foundation president Barbara Unmüßig said in a statement.
       The report points to various studies documenting that loss, including 2018 research finding 41% of insect species are in decline and that one-third of all insect species are threatened by extinction. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) estimated that 10 percent of insect species are endangered, and another study cited in the new analysis found that at least one in 10 bee and butterfly species in Europe is threatened with extinction.
      While there's no definitive count of the global loss of insects, Insect Atlas says the trend is unmistakable.
Image from Insect Atlas. (Bartz/Stockmar, CC BY 4.0)Image from Insect Atlas. (Bartz/Stockmar, CC BY 4.0)
       That decline has major impacts on food.
       'Three-quarters of the world's most important crops exhibit a yield benefit from pollinators: they contribute directly to around one-third of global food production,' says the report.
       The methods used for that production have a huge impact on insects.
      'Alongside climate change and light pollution, the spread and intensification of farming is by far the most important cause of the global decline in insect numbers
," the report adds.
       This type of farming is dependent upon expanding pasture—often at the expense of destroying Indigenous land and wild animal habitat—and prioritizes monocultures and therefore insect-killing pesticides, the use of which has steadily increased for the past nine decades, the economic profits of which are predominantly flowing towards just four entities:  BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, and Corteva. From the publication:
      'What is more, the number of chemical products in use around the world continues to increase. And, their negative effects on the insect world are also becoming more and more evident. This is not just because a growing number of chemicals are being applied; the formulations are also increasingly effective and can be used more selectively
            Even when some nations ban certain pesticides over concerns, the chemicals' adverse impacts don't disappear; they just change locations
      The developed world is waking up to the risks associated with the use of pesticides. The situation is different in the developing world: chemicals that are banned in Europe and North America are still used routinely to control pests. Stricter controls are needed, along with better information for farmers.
Image from Insect Atlas. (Bartz/Stockmar, CC BY 4.0)
       Dismantling industrial agriculture, says the report, is essential. "There is no alternative: to protect insects, farming must become part of the solution. Not just for the sake of society, but  also for the sake of farming itself—because it, too, needs insects."
       'The evidence is clear: pesticide use is wiping out insect populations and ecosystems around the world, and threatening food production,' Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said in a statement.
       'A handful of corporations control the bulk of pesticide supply, and if left unchecked will continue to use their immense political influence to lock in a system of industrial farming which will continue to wipe out nature and destroy rural communities,' she continued.
       One area of reform that would address deforestation and the resulting insect habitat losses is curbing meat consumption and therefore the huge swathes of land on which genetically modified animal feed is grown. 'If the developed world were to consume less meat and if agricultural products were no longer used as fuel,' says the report, 'the pressure on the land areas could be reduced considerably.'
       Insect Atlas lays out a number of solutions for global policymakers to pursue. They include:
      Gradually reducing the use of synthetic pesticides by 80 percent in EU agriculture by 2030, starting from 2020 and phase out exports of pesticides banned in the EU;
      Radically reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), including the phasing out of harmful untargeted direct payments, setting aside at least 50% of the CAP budget for environmental, nature, and climate objectives and support farmers in the transition to agroecology;
      Phasing out harmful farming methods like growing genetically modified plants or introducing a new generation of genetically modified insects;
Taking urgent actions to achieve the targets suggested in the European Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies to increase organic farming;
Reducing the production and consumption of industrial meat and other animal products and supporting plant-based options; and
      Cutting the overall EU demand for agrocommodities in order to reduce global deforestation
      Schimpf spoke about those solutions and the report on Euronews Tuesday:
      Schimpf also drew renewed attention to the Save Bees and Farmers ( ) European Citizens Initiative. It's centered on three key demands: a phase-out of the use of synthetic pesticides; measures to increase biodiversity; and support for farmers.
      As of press time, the petition has over 355,000 signatures.
      Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License."

       Steven Lee Myers, "China Vowed to Keep Wildlife Off the Menu, a Tough Promise to Keep: The government has moved slowly to permanently stop the sale and consumption of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, raising fears the practice may continue," The New York Times, June 7, 2020,, "China has been lauded for suspending the wildlife trade, but the move has left millions of workers like Mr. Mao in the lurch. Their economic fate, along with major loopholes in the government’s restrictions, are threatening to undermine China’s pledge to impose a permanent ban."

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U.S. Developments

      Many of the reports in this issue of U.S. government legislation, agency action, and court decisions are informed by electronic flyers from Hobbs, Straus, Dean and Walker, LLP, 2120 L Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037, Reports from Indian Country Today Media Network, from the web, are listed as from ICTMN.

U.S. Government Developments

Presidential Actions

      Kolby KickingWoman, "A direct line at the White House, ICT,  April 30, 2020,,  reported, " The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs announced Tuesday the reestablishment of the White House Council on Native American Affairs to be headed by Tyler Fish, Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
      Since last July, Fish has served as the White House senior policy advisor & tribal liaison and will make the transition to executive director of the White House council on May 4.
      The White House Council on Native American Affairs was originally established by the Obama administration by executive order in June 2013. The council established by President Obama met at least three times a year and was mostly made up by members of his cabinet.
       As was the case in 2013, the reestablished council will be chaired by the Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt but with Fish serving as executive director, Indian Country may have a direct line to the White House."

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Congressional Developments

      Kerri Colfer, "Native American Legislative Update," Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), March 2020,, (Welcome to FCNL's Native American Legislative Update! NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL's Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage members of Congress.), reported, " Savanna’s Act ( and Not Invisible Act ( Pass the Senate and Advance in the House. Savanna’s Act ( H.R. 2733/ S. 227) and the Not Invisible Act of 2019 ( H.R. 2438/ S. 982) were passed in the Senate on March 11 by unanimous consent.  The bills also passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on the same day, and currently await full House approval.
       Savanna’s Act would improve recording and reporting practices for law enforcement in cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and help to develop guidelines for responses to such cases. The Not Invisible Act would create an advisory commission to recommend ways to reduce violence against Native people.
       FCNL Endorses Bill to Give Tribes Access to Emergency Medical Supplies
      Earlier this month, FCNL endorsed the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act ( S. 3514 , The bill would give the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Indian health organizations direct access to the Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies and drugs set aside for public health emergencies. States currently have guaranteed access to the stockpile, but IHS, tribes, and urban Indian health organizations do not. Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Tom Udall (NM) introduced the bill on March 17.
      On March 19, I spoke on the Native America Calling radio program about the federal response to Indian Country’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the importance of the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act. Listen to the recording at:
       Impact of the Coronavirus on Tribes
      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who are most at risk of getting sick from the coronavirus are older adults and people with serious medical conditions.   Because Native Americans have the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the country and continue to die of chronic lower respiratory and heart diseases at higher rates than other Americans, many fall into the higher risk category for COVID-19. That’s why it is crucial for tribes to have access to emergency funding and medical supplies.
       Tribes, IHS, and Indian health organizations received a $40 million set-aside in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074 ) and $64 million in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ( H.R. 6201 , ), passed on March 6 and 18, respectively. But most tribes have yet to receive any of the emergency funding because there is currently no mechanism for the funds to be distributed from the CDC to IHS.  
       IHS also received an additional $1 billion to address critical response needs in Indian Country through the CARES Act ( H.R. 748 , ), which passed into law on March 27.
       In an attempt to improve information flow and ensure access to resources, 27 senators wrote a letter ( to Vice President Mike Pence urging him to include an IHS representative on the administration’s COVID-19 task force. We thank the senators for their leadership in making sure the needs of Indian Country are met during this crisis.
       Bill Tracker
       Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019:
Passed in the House (H.R. 1585), two versions introduced in the Senate (S. 2920 and S. 2843).
Savanna’s Act (H.R. 2733/S. 227) and Not Invisible Act (H.R. 2438/S. 982):
Passed in Senate."

       Congress passed legislation, in December 2019 , recognizing the Little Shell Tribe, a band of Chippewa Indians now in Montana, as a federally recognized Tribe ("Little Shell Tribe Receives Recognition," Navajo Times, December 26, 2020).

      "House Ways and Means Committee to Hold Hearing on Tribal Tax Matters; Joint Committee on Taxation Issues Analysis on Tax Issues Affecting Indian Country," Hobbs-Straus GM 20-005, March 2, 2020,, reported, "On March 4, 2020, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing entitled 'Examining the Impact of the Tax Code on Native American Tribes.'  In anticipation of the coming hearing, the Joint Committee on Taxation has released a new overview of federal tax provisions and analysis regarding taxation issues affecting Indian tribal governments and their members.  That report is available at:
      Part I of the 65-page report provides an overview of the legal framework governing federal and state taxation of Indian tribes and their members.  That part of the report also discusses the taxing powers of Indian tribes, including a summary of the problem of conflicting state and tribal tax authority (dual taxation).
      Part II of the report discusses the federal tax code provision, 26 U.S.C. § 7871, which affords Indian tribes comparable treatment to that of U.S. States for certain purposes.  A number of those purposes, however, impose additional limitations and conditions on tribes.  Tribes and tribal advocates have sought legislative amendments to eliminate these limitations, which often operate to impede economic development in Indian Country.
      The upcoming March 4 hearing will be an opportunity for tribes and their representatives to engage directly with the House Committee on changes necessary to ensure that the tax code treats tribal governments consistently with other sovereigns in the federal system and to promote tax code changes that can stimulate investment and create jobs in Indian Country.  Please let us know if we can provide you with more information on the March 4 hearing, taxation issues in Indian Country, or assistance preparing a written statement for the hearing record, which we understand will be open through March 17, 2020."

      Jessica Myers, "Blasting sacred sites for border wall 'forever damaged tribes,'" ICT, February 27, 2020,, reported, " An emotional Tohono O’odham Nation chairman told lawmakers Wednesday that blasting on sacred sites in national monuments to build a border wall near his reservation has 'forever damaged our people.'”
      "His testimony came hours after the government carried out a new round of explosions near the southern border as a group of invited journalists watched. Construction crews this month began blasting and bulldozing through hills to build a 30-foot (9-meter) steel wall 60 feet wide (18 meters wide) in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
       Environmental groups also are decrying the work at the national parks system site that's named for its cactuses resembling organ pipes and is a largely untouched example of Sonoran Desert habitat."
      " Norris was one of six witnesses testifying at a House Natural Resources subcommittee looking into damage caused by contractors as they build a stretch of border wall through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which stretches along the border and abuts the Tohono O’odham Nation."
      Chairman Norris' testimony is available at:

       Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Havasupai Council Member Carletta Tilousi testified, June 2, at a hearing or The House Natural Resources Committee, saying that the Department of the Interior is moving too quickly to reopen national parks, failing to set up adequate health and safety procedures to protect tribal members or park visitors during the corona virus pandemic. This is especially important in areas where rapid reopening of activity has been accompanied by an increase of COVID 19 cases  (Ellie Borst,  "Tribal health concerns about re-opening national parks 'have fallen on deaf ears,'" ICT, June 4, 2020,

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Federal Agency Developments

      Ace Agoyo, "Arbitrary and capricious’: Study casts doubt on COVID-19 payments to tribes," Lakota Times (Republished from IndinZ), May 21, 2020,, reported, " As tribes continue to fight for the $8 billion in coronavirus relief, they were promised more than seven weeks ago, new research is casting doubt on the accuracy and fairness of the Trump administration’s handling of the fund.
       According to a team of experts in Indian law and policy, the payments distributed so far have been 'arbitrary and capricious' despite claims of transparency from the Department of the Treasury. Tribes have received COVID-19 relief monies that don’t adequately reflect their citizenship base, the researchers said on Monday.
      'The case is strong that an appropriate allocation rule would employ the current tribal enrollment figures sub-mitted by tribes to the Treasury Department in mid-April,' researchers from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona said.
      Under threat of federal prosecution, tribes submitted enrollment figures and other data to the U.S. government in anticipation of receiving shares of the $8 billion coronavirus relief fund. Amid intense scrutiny in the media, Congress and the courts, Treasury changed course on May 5 and said it was going to base the first round of payments on Indian housing data maintained by an entirely different federal agency.
      Yet some of the leading scholars in Indian Country economic development and governance found that using such data produced 'widely and wildly differing allocation results,' the new report shows. Their work indicates that some tribes received payments below what they should have gotten — but it’s not possible to tell because it’s not clear how Treasury arrived at the amounts that have already been sent out under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act."      

      "Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Reservation Disestablished By Trump Administration: Urgent Action Needed," Cultural Survival, March 30, 2020,, reported, "On March 27, 2020, in the midst of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell was informed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the Tribe’s reservation will be 'disestablished' as ordered by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, David Bernhardt.
      The Mashpee Wampanoag, the People of the First Light, have occupied the same region for over 12,000 years and have faced diminishment of their homelands since colonization. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts, the very tribe that welcomed the Pilgrims exactly 400 years ago in 1620, is at risk of losing what is left of their homelands due to a determination made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The latest decision is a blow to Tribal sovereignty and undermines the future and sustainability of the Tribal Nation.
      Cromwell said he believed that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had wanted to contact him to see if there was anything that the Tribe needed during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the Bureau offered him news of the Tribe’s disestablishment without providing any justification or additional information.
      'At 4:00 pm today — on the very day that the United States has reached a record 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and our Tribe is desperately struggling with responding to this devastating pandemic — the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed me that the Secretary of the Interior has ordered that our reservation be disestablished and that our land be taken out of trust. Not since the termination era of the mid-twentieth century has a Secretary taken action to disestablish a reservation,' Cromwell wrote in a statement.
      The land in question, which includes 150 acres in the town of Mashpee, Massachusetts and another 170 acres in the neighboring city of Taunton, had been established into trust as of September 2015 by the Obama administration, after years of advocacy work by the Mashpee Tribe. The Obama decision was threatened by the Trump administration in September 2018. The recent Bureau of Indian Affairs order removes the entirety of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s 320 acres of reservation land.
      This will mark the first time Native land has been taken out of trust since the “termination era” of the 1940s-1960s in which the US government intentionally attempted to assimilate Native Americans into the broader culture.
       The Tribe currently has two lawsuits pending in the courts that could help to counter this decision. On February 27, the First Circuit Court in Boston handed the Tribe an initial set back towards affirming Tribal land permanently into trust. Another case in Washington, D.C. federal court is still pending.
       'The Secretary is under no court order to take our land out of trust. He is fully aware that litigation to uphold our status as a Tribe eligible for the benefits of the Indian Reorganization Act is ongoing,' Cromwell said in his statement.
      David Bernhardt was confirmed to replace Ryan Zinke as the Secretary of the Interior in April 2019.  According to the NRDC, Bernhardt is a longtime Washington insider who previously worked to open up Yellowstone National Park to recreational snowmobilers and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. Bernhardt is a former lobbyist whose clients include major oil and gas companies as well as Rosemont Copper, a proposed copper mine near Tucson, AZ,  that’s been the subject of an 11-year legal battle with the Tohono O’odham and the Hopi Tribes.
      Cultural Survival stands in solidarity with the Mashpee Wampanoag in demanding respect for Tribal land rights and denouncing the continual attacks against their sovereignty.
      The Tribe is asking Congress to protect its reservation lands and has put forth the "Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (HR.312)” which would permanently confirm the Tribe’s homeland. The bill has bipartisan support, but it is currently stuck in the Senate.  President Trump tweeted his opposition in May 2018, which could slow its passage.
      To take action in support of the Mashpee, Sign the petition here (
      For more information on how to support the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, visit #StandwithMashpee — Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe ("

      "Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives to Resume Remote Listening Sessions," National Congress of American Indians (NCIA), May22, 2020,, "The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives announced four listening sessions to be conducted by teleconference in May and June.  In response to the COVID-19 health emergency, previously scheduled in-person sessions have been postponed and will be rescheduled as soon as it is safe to do so.
      American Indians and Alaska Natives experience disproportionately high rates of violence.  President Trump has called the crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans 'sobering and heartbreaking.'   The task force, designated Operation Lady Justice, has been empowered to review Indian Country cold cases, to strengthen law enforcement protocols, and work with tribes to improve investigations, information sharing and a more seamless response to missing persons investigations.
      Tribal Listening Session Webinars are open to Tribal Leaders and others.  Sessions will include a short presentation about the current activities of the task force, followed by a listening session
            Registration information for the following listening sessions is available at
May 27, 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. EDT
      Tribes in Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)’s Eastern Region (Tribal land located in Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and all states to the east coast)
      May 29, 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. EDT
      Tribes in BIA’s Southern Plains, Southwest, Western and Rocky Mountain Regions (Tribal land located in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming)
      June 2, 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. EDT
      Tribes in BIA’s Midwest and Great Plains Regions (Tribal land located in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska)
      June 3, 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. EDT
      Tribes in BIA’s Pacific, Northwestern and Alaska Regions (Tribal land located in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska)
       The members of the task force are:
      Katharine (Katie) Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, designee for the Attorney General;
      Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, designee for the Secretary of the Interior;
      Terry Wade, Executive Assistant Director, Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, Federal Bureau of Investigation;
      Laura Rogers, Acting Director, Office on Violence Against Women;
      Charles (Charlie) Addington, Deputy Bureau Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services;
      Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and Chair of the Native American Issues Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee; and
      Jean (Jeannie) Hovland, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs and Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans, Department of Health and Human Services.
      Marcia Good, of the Department of Justice, serves as the Executive Director of the Task Force.  The Task Force will present a progress report to the President by Nov. 26, 2020, and a final report detailing its activities and accomplishments by Nov. 26, 2021.
      The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of the Department of Justice at  2020 also marks 171st anniversary of the Department of the Interior.  Learn more about the history of DOI at"

      "BIA Self-Governance Application Deadline of March 1," Hobbs-Straus GM 20-003, January 27, 2020,, reported, "The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published a notice in the January 24, 2020, FEDERAL REGISTER that the deadline for Indian tribes/consortia to submit completed applications to begin participation in the Self-Governance program in fiscal year 2021 or calendar year 2021 is March 1, 2020. The notice is attached and available at:   GM_20-003_BIA_Self_Governance_Applications_due_March_1.pdf.
      Agreements for fiscal year 2021 need to be signed and submitted to the tribes who are party to the agreement and to Congress by July 1. Agreements for calendar year 2021 need to be signed and submitted by October 1.
      Tribes/consortia that are currently involved in self-governance negotiations with the BIA or already have a signed agreement do not need to respond to the notice."

      "CEQ Requests Comments on Proposed Rule to Amend NEPA Regulations," Hobbs-Straus GM 20-004, March 2, 2020,, " The Council on Environmental Quality (“CEQ”) on January 10, 2020, published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would update regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).  NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of proposed major federal actions prior to making decisions.  CEQ’s proposed changes would restrict NEPA review in significant ways but would also increase opportunities for tribes’ participation in some ways.  Written comments are due March 10, 2020.
      For example, the proposed rule would reduce the decisions to which NEPA review applies and provide federal agencies significant discretion in determining its applicability.  It would limit the definition of 'major federal action' to exclude 'non-Federal projects with minimal Federal funding or minimal Federal involvement where the agency cannot control the outcome of the project.'  It would also add a NEPA threshold applicability analysis that includes examining whether compliance with NEPA would 'clearly and fundamentally conflict with the requirements of another statute' or 'be inconsistent with Congressional intent due to the requirements of another statute.'  These proposed changes are likely to exempt currently-covered federal actions from NEPA review, such as the issuance of permits for otherwise privately funded projects, and give federal agencies significant discretion to implement vague threshold tests.
      The proposed rule would also prevent the federal government from considering more removed effects of major federal actions.  The proposed rule would remove from the definition of 'effect' both indirect and cumulative effects, and it would state that, 'effects should not be considered significant if they are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy causal chain.'  These restrictions are likely to allow agencies to avoid examining area or national impacts as well as downstream impacts and climate change.
      In its proposed rule, CEQ also made some changes designed to increase tribes’ participation in NEPA review, including increasing consultation with tribes and removing provisions that refer only to tribal involvement for effects felt on reservation land."

      Kalle Benallie, "New Indian Health Service director confirmed," ICT, April 23, 2020,, reported that following Senate confirmation, " The Indian Health Service has a new director: Rear Adm. Michael Weahkee, Zuni Pueblo."

      "Census Bureau Statement on 2020 Operations on Tribal Lands," Lakota Times,  May 28, 2020,, reported the U.S Census Bureau's May statement on the 2020 census on tribal lands, " The U.S Census Bureau is committed to a complete and accurate count of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population, wherever they live. The AIAN population is diverse and geographically dispersed across the country. While most do not live on designated tribal lands or reservations, those who do are among groups historically undercounted in the census. For years, the Census Bureau has been working closely with tribal governments to change this – and make sure everyone counts in the 2020 Census.
       As part of this effort, census takers are set to go household to household and drop off census materials at front doors in tribal communities. This operation, dubbed Update Leave, promises to up the count by allowing us to confirm each household’s physical location and provide a special Census ID number in materials tied to that location.
      Due to COVID-19, we delayed Update Leave to protect the health and safety of our staff and tribal communities. We made the move knowing we could still achieve a complete and accurate count – and are working closely with tribal leaders to determine the right time to resume this important operation. Currently, we are doing a phased re-opening in areas where it is safe to do so
      We understand there are many questions about how to participate in the 2020 Census. The Update Leave operation generally affects rural households that use post office boxes to receive regular mail or lack traditional mailing addresses. Most urban households use physical street addresses for mail delivery, so we mailed invitations and reminders with instructions on how to respond to the census. As a result, many AIAN people who live outside designated tribal lands have already received census invitations with a Census ID linked to their specific address. Using a Census ID when completing the census helps us get an accurate count and avoids the need for follow-up by a census worker to confirm household information.
      We continue to encourage any household to respond online at, by phone or by mail and look forward to being back in tribal com."
      "Rural areas, tribal lands hit hardest by census interruption," Lakota Times,  May 28, 2020,, reported, "While the U.S. Census Bureau is restarting that work, leaders in rural America worry it will be difficult to catch up in communities that are already among the toughest to count. Ultimately, it could cost them congressional seats and federal funding for highways, schools and health care that the once-a-decade count divvies up."
      "Census Bureau Resumes Update/ Leave Operation in Some States," National Congress of American Indians, May 19, 2020. ", The Census Bureau will restart operations in 11 additional states (AZ*, CO, IN, IA, LA, NE, NV, NM*, NY*, RI, and WY) and Puerto Rico, including dropping census invitation packets at the front doors of rural households and households that don't normally receive mail at home (known as the Update/Leave operation). As a reminder, on May 6, 2020, the Census Bureau resumed the hand delivery of census packets in AK, AL, AR, ID, ME, MS, MT, ND, OK, TN, UT, VT, and WV. On May 13, the Census Bureau resumed operations in an additional 54 Area Census Offices across FL, GA, KS, KY, MO, NC, OR, PA, and WA."
      "Task Force on Missing and Murdered to Resume Remote Listening Sessions," Lakota Times,  May 28, 2020,, reported, " The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives announced four listening sessions to be conducted by teleconference in May and June. In response to the COVID-19 health emergency, previously scheduled in-person sessions have been postponed and will be rescheduled as soon as it is safe to do so."
      Tribal Listening Session Webinars are open to Tribal Leaders and others. Sessions will include a short presentation about the current activities of the task force, followed by a listening session.
      Registration information for the following listening sessions is available at operationladyjustice.usdoj. gov/ May 27, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EDT: Tribes in Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)’ s Eastern Region (Tribal land located in Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and all states to the east coast).
      May 29, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EDT: Tribes in BIA’s Southern Plains, Southwest, Western and Rocky Mountain Regions (Tribal land located in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming).
      June 2, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EDT: Tribes in BIA’s Midwest and Great Plains Regions (Tribal land located in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska).
      June 3, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EDT: Tribes in BIA’s Pacific, Northwestern and Alaska Regions (Tribal land located in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska)."

      Homeland Security/Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS): Terri Hansen and Joe Yracheta,  "Indigenous Migrant Children at Higher Risk for Flu-Related Deaths, Yet Denied Basic Flu Shot," Cultural Survival, December 30, 2019,, reported, "This is turning out to be a particularly nasty flu season and is especially concerning for Indigenous children and adults migrating from Latin, Central, and South America detained in holding pens at the U.S. southern border, and then denied flu vaccination.
Some genetics experts say Indigenous Peoples run a greater risk of dying from flu-related illness than other or ethnic groups, especially from the still-circulating H1N1 influenza A strain
      According to Freedom for Immigrants, most migrant detainees are from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala and have more Indigenous ancestry than other Hispanic groups, according to the American Journal of Human Genetics, as reported by journalist James Giago Davies.
       Research dating from the 2009 H1N1 influenza A pandemic found Indigenous Peoples suffered flu-related deaths at rates up to eight times greater than other races or ethnicities.
The scientific journal,
Clinical Infectious Diseases , stated the death rates in Mexico from reported 2009 H1N1 influenza cases were the highest of any other country for which estimates were available. In that country, individuals aged 5–19 and 20–59 years were at disproportionate risk of death.
       In the United States, those who identify as "Hispanic/Latinos" comprised 15 percent of the population yet represented 30 percent of all reported cases during the early spring 2009 wave of the epidemic. H1N1 infection in 2009 put 89 out of every 100,000 " Hispanic/Latino" children under the age of five in the hospital for flu-related illness, compared to 29.1 out of every 100,000 of non-Hispanic white children of the same age.
       A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention study ( of American Indians in 12 states including Arizona and New Mexico found their death rate from H1N1-related illness was four times greater than other races or ethnicities.
      John Redd MD, an epidemiologist with the Indian Health Service in 2009 and a report co-author, told this reporter that year they had been worried at the outset of the H1N1 outbreak. 'We knew from previous outbreaks that there was severe disease happening in American Indian and Alaska Native and other Indigenous populations.'
      And a 2014 study published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases ( found that influenza-related hospitalization rates suggest that American Indians and Alaska Natives might suffer disproportionately from influenza illness compared with the general U.S. population.
       The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months and older get a yearly seasonal flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible, to ensure the best available protection against the flu. But children in migrant detention will not be vaccinated.
      'In general, due to the short term nature of Customs and Border Protection [CBP] holding, the time the vaccine takes to begin working, and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccines to those in our custody,' CBP told CNBC  on August 20.
      But the denial of flu vaccine to migrant children upon arrival to this country is especially concerning due to the lack of continuous care and barriers these children face in obtaining adequate, ongoing treatment once they are released into the U.S., health care providers in the U.S. say.
       President Trump's new policy of returning migrants to be held in Mexico means thousands of unvaccinated people will be crowded together in unhealthy border camps.
       Three migrant children have died of flu-related infections in the past year while in CBP detention, including a 2 year-old, a 6 year-old, and 16-year-old Guatemalan Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, who died in a concrete cell block after writhing and vomiting on the floor alone overnight last May, according to video obtained by ProPublica.
       A team of Harvard and Johns Hopkins medical experts say these tragic deaths reflect a rate of influenza death substantially higher than that in the general population. They called for an investigation into these deaths in a letter to Congress . The letter also argued that CBP should vaccinate the children to prevent more deaths.
      'Data from several countries indicate Indigenous populations suffer from more severe influenza,' Andrew Pekosz, Professor of Microbiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told Cultural Survival in an email. 'The reasons for this aren’t clear, but it does make these populations high priority for influenza vaccination.'
       Historical evidence indicates Indigenous populations have been disproportionately affected by influenza pandemics than other population groups since record keeping began. These numbers are significant.
       Studies in 2009 ( found that deaths related to the H1N1 flu in Indigenous populations in Canada, New Zealand and Australia were three to eight times higher than other races and ethnicities.
       Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ( get influenza more often, and get more severe forms of influenza, than non-Indigenous people.
      And studies of Indigenous populations in Alaska and Australia by researchers at Australia’s University of Melbourne in 2013 found ( that genetic differences put Indigenous Peoples at higher risk of severe complications and death from a strain of Avian influenza or bird flu called H7N9 that had emerged in China and Taiwan.
      To protect Indigenous Australians, the Australian researchers studied 31 populations from different continents based on 1919 data from the influenza pandemic that had decimated Indigenous Peoples worldwide, study co-author Katherine Kedzierska, associate professor at the University of Melbourne’s department of microbiology and immunology told this journalist in 2014.
       The researchers tested pre-existing immunity and found the prevalence of T-cell immunity depends on ethnicity and that Indigenous Peoples, owing to their historical isolation, lacked a key protein necessary to fight the virus.
      The researchers found that just 16 percent of the Indigenous populations in Alaska and Australia had a robust T-cell response, compared to 57 percent of non-Native populations

      "U.S. Departments of Treasury and Interior Release Update on Distribution of Coronavirus Relief Fund Funding and Formula," National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), May 5, 2020,, reported, "Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of the Interior issued a statement regarding the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars with updates on set-aside funding for tribal governments as follows:
       'The Secretaries will:
      Distribute 60 percent of the $8 billion to Tribes based on population data used in the distribution of the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG), subject to a floor of $100,000. This data is based on U.S. Census figures and is already familiar to Tribal governments.
      Distribute the remaining 40 percent of the $8 billion based on the total number of persons employed by the Indian Tribe and any tribally-owned entity, and further data to be collected related to the amount of higher expenses faced by the tribe in the fight against COVID-19.
      Payment to Tribes will begin today based on the population allocation, and will take place over several banking days. Amounts calculated for Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regional and village corporations will be held back until pending litigation relating to their eligibility is resolved.
      Payments to Tribes based on employment and expenditure data will be made at a later date. Treasury will work with Tribes to confirm employment numbers and seek additional information regarding higher expenses due to the public health emergency.'
      'Treasury notes that the pending litigation has introduced additional uncertainty into the process of implementing the allocation and making payments to the Tribes
, but Treasury is endeavoring to make payments of the remaining amounts as promptly as possible consistent with the Department’s obligation to ensure that allocations are made in a fair and appropriate manner.
      Also today, the Treasury Department posted a document regarding its Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) methodology titled 'Allocations to Tribal Governments.' The document can be found here:
      Further, on May 4, 2020, the Treasury Department updated its Frequently Asked Questions on use of CRF funds here: Treasury’s CRF website is available here (No longer available).
      If you have questions about the CRF, please contact Fatima Abbas, NCAI Director of Policy and Legislative Counsel, at"

      "Final Rule for Community Reinvestment Act Features Landmark Provisions to Increase Access to Capital and Credit for Indian Country, The National Congress of American Indians, (NCAI), May 21, 2020,, reported, "Yesterday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) released the much-anticipated Final Rule ( modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a regulatory framework that features landmark provisions designed to incentivize increased access to capital and credit for tribal governments, communities, and citizens.
      Leading up to the release of the Final Rule, NCAI, the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA), and our partners had closely engaged the OCC and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for more than two years about how best to modernize the CRA so that it serves the unique challenges and needs of Indian Country. The CRA Final Rule – which the OCC explains 'makes capital more accessible in Indian Country and rural and distressed areas” – addresses several major priorities outlined in NCAI’s April 2020 comments on the OCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, notably:
       specific measures aimed at spurring investments in tribal public safety, housing, education, healthcare, and communications infrastructure, as well as other community and economic development projects on tribal lands;
      providing banks with CRA credit for serving tribal communities even when Indian Country falls outside their CRA assessment areas; and
      creating CRA scoring incentives for banks that choose to do business in Indian Country.
      'We are both relieved and excited to see that the final rule governing the Community Reinvestment Act retains the landmark provisions for Indian Country that NCAI, NAFOA, and its partners fought so hard to get included,' said Kevin J. Allis, Chief Executive Officer of the National Congress of American Indians. 'As we turn to implementing this new rule, NCAI plans to work closely with our Indian Country and federal partners to ensure that the CRA fully achieves its intended benefits for tribal nations and communities.'
      For more information about the Final Rule, check out OCC’s Fact Sheet (
      About the Community Reinvestment Act
      The CRA was signed into law in 1977 to encourage depository institutions to help serve the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, in particular low- and moderate-income areas and populations. The Act also sought to deter discriminatory credit and lending practices against those populations, a practice commonly known as “redlining.” With many Indian reservations located in the poorest regions of the country, and with a significant portion of the Native population considered to have low or moderate incomes, on paper the CRA should have discernably enhanced the ability of Native people to access capital and credit through CRA-qualifying financial institutions. However, as the CDFI Fund’s landmark 2016 “ Access to Capital and Credit in Native Communities” report noted, while the CRA “was not intended to exclude Native Communities living on tribal practice it often does,” and banks under the Act’s current regulations can easily satisfy CRA requirements “without working with a Native Community located on Native lands (communities which otherwise meet CRA criteria)” if they so choose. The modernized regulations feature several measures to address these issues."

      "Federal Communications Commission to Provide Rural Tribal Priority Window to License Spectrum," Hobbs-Straus GM 20-001, January 6, 2020,, reported, "The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced that it will provide Tribes with an opportunity to license unclaimed 2.5GHz spectrum on their rural tribal lands from February 3, 2020 to August 3, 2020. After this 'Rural Tribal Priority Window,' the FCC will auction off whatever spectrum Tribes have not claimed, licensing it to private companies. The Rural Tribal Priority Window presents an important opportunity for Tribes to claim spectrum, which is an increasingly valuable resource. The FCC is holding a workshop on the Rural Tribal Priority Window on January 14, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
      The 2.5GHz band of spectrum can be used for either fixed or mobile wireless broadband deployment. With this spectrum, tribes can promote educational and business activities, support telehealth systems, or use the spectrum for a variety of other purposes.
      The spectrum that is available during the Rural Tribal Priority Window is 2.5GHz spectrum that was previously set aside for Educational Broadband Services (EBS). Much of this spectrum was not utilized, and in July 2019 the FCC voted to remove the educational restrictions on this spectrum as part of its larger effort to speed the deployment of 5G technology. This band of spectrum is in high demand. However, before private companies interested in deploying 5G will have the opportunity to bid on this spectrum, tribes can claim unused spectrum that is on rural tribal lands at no cost.
      The spectrum that is available must be on “tribal lands,” as defined in FCC regulations. Spectrum must also be rural, which the FCC has defined for this particular tribal process as being “not part of an urbanized area or urban cluster area with a population equal to or greater than 50,000.” Finally, spectrum must also be currently unclaimed. The FCC has provided maps that show what tribal lands are eligible and whether unclaimed 2.5GHz spectrum is available on those lands.
      Once Tribes claim spectrum licenses, they are free to lease them to third parties, including private companies. The FCC has removed previous restrictions on the leasing of this spectrum.
      Tribes will have buildout requirements for the 2.5GHz spectrum that they license. Within two years, Tribes must demonstrate that they are providing within their service area either: (1) 50 percent coverage for mobile or point-to-multipoint service; (2) one link per 50,000 people for fixed point-to-point service; or (3) 50 percent population coverage for broadcast service. Tribes must then meet final buildout requirements within five years, and they can demonstrate compliance by showing: (1) 80% population coverage for mobile or point-to-multipoint service; (2) one link per 25,000 people for fixed point-to-point service; or (3) 80% population coverage for broadcast service.
      In setting buildout requirements, the FCC noted that the equipment necessary to provide service on the 2.5GHz band has decreased significantly in cost and difficulty of deployment over time. The FCC, therefore, believes that the buildout requirements should not be onerous. After Tribes meet buildout requirements, they can assign or transfer control of their licenses to others. This means that Tribes, once buildout requirements are met, will have authority to lease or sell spectrum rights to others should they choose."

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Federal Indian Budgets

COPID-19 Funding

      Kerri Colfer, "Native American Legislative Update," Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), March 2020,, (Welcome to FCNL's Native American Legislative Update! NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL's Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage members of Congress.), reported, " Tribes, IHS, and Indian health organizations received a $40 million set-aside in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074 ) and $64 million in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ( H.R. 6201 , ), passed on March 6 and 18, respectively. But most tribes have yet to receive any of the emergency funding because there is currently no mechanism for the funds to be distributed from the CDC to IHS.  
       IHS also received an additional $1 billion to address critical response needs in Indian Country through the CARES Act ( H.R. 748 ,, which passed into law on March 27."

       A key issue concerning distribution of funds under the CARED act is whether or not Alaska Native corporations are eligible to receive them. Joaqlin Estus, "Probe launched into Interior leaks, handling of $8 billion for tribes," ICT, May 11, 2020,, reported, "The relief law defined tribes by referencing a definition in the Indian Self Determination Act that includes Native corporations as Indian tribes. Corporations say there is no ambiguity: Alaska Native regional and village corporations are “tribes” under the law. The corporations note they are specifically included in the definition of tribes in the Self Determination Act, and were created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 to support Alaska Native communities and shareholders economically, culturally and socially. Thus, they contend, they qualify for the relief act funds.
      But the Interior Department does not include the Native for-profit corporations on its list of federally recognized tribes. Under treaties and extensive case law, federally recognized tribes are sovereign governments with a government-to-government relationship with the federal government. The tribes argue the relief funding was intended for tribal governments carrying out essential COVID response activities, not Alaska Native businesses
. They say other parts of the relief law address business losses such as any the corporations experienced. Some 20 tribes have joined the suit."

      "FY 2020 Enacted Indian Health Service Appropriations; SDPI Extended through May 22, 2020," Hobbs-Straus GM-20-002, January 21, 2020,, reported, "In this Memorandum w e report on highlights of the final FY 2020 enacted appropriations for the Indian Health Service (IHS). The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (Act) was signed on December 20, 2019, two hours before a government shutdown would have gone into effect. The Act, Public Law 116-94, includes eight appropriations bills and the Indian Health Service is in Division D of the Act. The Act is effective until the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2020).
      Attached at GM_20-002_FY_2020_IHS_Enacted.pdf is a chart from the Manager’s Explanatory Statement (essentially a Conference report) which shows the IHS account amounts for FY 2019 enacted, FY 2020 Administration’s request, and FY 2020 enacted. The Explanatory Statement can be found in the December 17, 2019, Congressional Record. The Explanatory Statement provides that directives contained in House Report 116-100 and Senate Report 116-123 stand unless changed in the Statement. The reports can be found here:
       House Report 116-100:
       Senate Report 116-123:
      Special Diabetes Program for Indians. The Act also includes short-term authorizations of several mandatory-funded health programs including the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) and the Community Health Centers through May 22, 2020. Funding for SDPI is at the current annual level of $150 million. It is likely that bills extending these health programs beyond May 22 will attract proposals to add other health-related proposals to it.
      Overview . The Act provides $6.04 billion for the IHS, a 4 percent increase above the FY 2019 enacted level. A significant part of the increase is for the 105(l) lease requirements (see below). Also of note is that the Act provides, as Congress did in FY 2019, the authority that the funds can be used within two fiscal years instead of one year. Thus the FY 2020 funds will remain available until September 30, 2021.
      Other increases include $6.4 million for the Urban Indian Health program for a total of $57.7 million and a $7.9 million increase for Indian Health Professions for a total of $65.3 million. Among the programs whose funding remained the same as in FY 2019 are the Indian Health Care Improvement Fund ($72 million); Purchased/Referred Care ($964.8 million); Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program ($245.6 million – maintains the $10 million for the opioid program); and under Hospitals and Clinics the Act maintains level funding for accreditation emergencies ($58 million).
      Congress rejected the Administration’s proposed cuts to the Community Health Representatives, Indian Health Professions, supplemental funding for Village Clinics, and Facilities Construction and for the elimination of funds for Health Education and Tribal Management programs.
      In some cases, Congress partially funded the Administration’s requested increases. Congress provided $8 million toward the modernization of electronic health records which is one third of the requested amount. The Act prohibits IHS from obligating these funds or implementing a new Information Technology system unless they have consulted with House and Senate Appropriations Committees 90 days in advance. Congress also provided $5 million toward development of a lower-48 Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) which is one quarter of the requested amount. Senate Report language notes that these funds are not to diminish the funds for the currently established CHAP program in Alaska.
      Congress did not fund the requested increase of $25 million for the Administration’s wide-ranging HIV/Hepatitis C Initiative.
      105(l) Leasing. A significant part of the IHS increase is for the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act Section 105(l) lease provision which requires IHS to enter into and fully fund leases for facilities controlled by tribal providers and used to carry out ISDEAA agreements. The Act provides $125 million for the leases – an $89 million increase over FY 2019 enacted.
House Report language directs the IHS to consider whether the 105(l) leases should be considered a separate line item in the budget and funded in the same manner as Contract Support Costs (“such sums as may be necessary”), a solution that has been recommended by tribes.
      The Senate Report reflects the concerns expressed by Senate Interior Appropriations Chairman Murkowski regarding future required funding of clinic leases in light of the Maniilaq v. Burwell decisions. The Senate Report directs the IHS to communicate regularly with the Committee on estimates of the costs of the 105(l) leases. It also asks the IHS to report on challenges to budgeting for the costs and on the rationale behind its decision to have 12-month lease agreements instead of leases on a prospective basis. In addition, the Committee directs IHS, the Departments of Interior and Justice, and the Office of Management and Budget to work with congressional committees to formulate budget strategies and to discuss whether 'in light of the Maniilaq decisions, these funds should be reclassified as an appropriated entitlement.' Finally, the Senate Report expresses the view that the 105(l) lease requests should be accounted for separately from the Village Built Clinics in the FY 2021 budget request.
      The Explanatory Statement likewise expresses concern that the increasing costs of the 105(l) leases (IHS and BIA) have the potential to increase, causing 'a high level of unpredictability into the budget process' and impacting core tribal programs whose funding is discretionary. It directs the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services to consult with tribes and work with the Office of Management and Budget and congressional committees of jurisdiction 'to formulate long-term accounting, budget and legislative strategies to address the situation, including discussions about whether, in light of the Maniilaq decisions, these funds should be reclassified as an appropriated entitlement.'
       Contract Support Costs (CSC). CSC would continue to be funded at “such sums as may be necessary” which is estimated at $820 million. Continued in the General Provisions of the Act are provisions that prohibit BIA and IHS from using FY 2020 CSC funds to pay past-year CSC claims or to repay the Judgment Fund for judgements of settlements related to past-year CSC claims. They do not preclude tribes from recovering such judgments or settlements from the Judgment Fund.
       Housing Allowances. The Act continues language from FY 2019 that the IHS may provide to civilian medical personnel serving in hospitals operated by the IHS housing allowances equivalent to those that would be provided to Commissioned Corps members serving in similar positions at such hospitals. The Administration proposed to continue this provision.
       Indian Health Facilities. The Facilities account received a 3.8 percent increase. Of the $911 million for health care facilities construction, $5 million is for Green Infrastructure and $25 million for Small Ambulatory Clinics (a $10 million increase). The Explanatory Statement echoes the House and Senate Committee Reports’ support for the Joint Venture program while directing them to establish “a more consistent application cycle of between three to five years. At each competitive cycle, IHS should select a specific number of awards and non-selected applications should be eligible to reapply during the next competitive cycle.”
       Alaska Moratorium Provision. The Act extends through September 30, 2020, the Alaska moratorium provision that, with some exceptions, prohibits IHS from contracting directly under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act with any tribe that is a member of a regional tribal health organization."
      "The Administration will release its FY 2021 proposed budget on Monday, February 10, although that does not necessarily mean that the individual federal agency budget books will be available on that date."

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In the Courts

Lower Federal Courts

      "Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Native Organizations Encouraged by Recent Decision in Mashpee v. Bernhardt and Now Call on DOI for Recommitment to Tribal Sovereignty," National Congress of American Indians, June 6, 2020, E-mail, reported and commented, "Yesterday, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rendered a decision in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in the case of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Bernhardt . In its opinion , Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled:
      ' The Court will grant the Mashpee Tribe’s motion for summary judgment and deny the federal defendants’ and defendant-intervenors’ motions for summary judgment. Furthermore, because the Secretary of the Interior’s September 7, 2018 Record of Decision is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law, the Court remands the matter to the Secretary of the Interior for a thorough reconsideration and re-evaluation of the evidence before him consistent with this Opinion, the 2014 M-Opinion, M-37209 – its standard and the evidence permitted therein – and the Department’s prior decisions applying the M-Opinion’s two-part test.'
      For the first time since the termination era, the Department of the Interior (DOI) attempted to disestablish a Tribal reservation, ordering the homelands of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to be taken out of trust. The order from DOI Secretary David Bernhardt came on March 27, 2020, as the Tribal Nation worked to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, during active litigation on the status of the land, and following the rescission of the 2014 Carcieri M-Opinion and the issuance of a new 4-part test to qualify under the first definition of 'Indian' in the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). On March 30, 2020, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe asked the Court to issue an emergency restraining order to prevent DOI from taking immediate action to disestablish its reservation.
       ' The DC District Court righted what would have been a terrible and historic injustice by finding that the Department of the Interior broke the law in attempting to take our land out of trust,' said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman, Cedric Cromwell. /We will continue to work with the Department of the Interior — and fight them if necessary — to ensure our land remains in trust.'
       The Court ruled DOI’s 2018 decision that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe did not prove it was 'under federal jurisdiction' in 1934, and therefore did not meet the first definition of “Indian” under the IRA—making the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe ineligible to acquire land in trust—was arbitrary and capricious. It remanded the decision to DOI with clear direction to issue a decision consistent with the 2014 M-Opinion’s standard and the evidence permitted therein, as well as DOI’s prior decisions applying the 2014 M-Opinion test. The Court further directed DOI to properly address each piece of evidence, give a reasoned analysis as to whether it is probative, explain any departure from past DOI precedent, and view all probative evidence in concert rather than in isolation. And importantly, the Court’s decision also mandates that DOI maintain the land in trust pending DOI’s new determination and prevents DOI from applying its new 4-part test in this case.
      ' USET SPF is pleased that the Court acted swiftly and justly to provide necessary certainty to the Mashpee Wampanoag in these uncertain times,' said USET SPF President, Kirk Francis. 'The Department of the Interior was under no order to take the land out of trust, and so to attempt to rob the Mashpee of their homelands is nothing short of shameful. The Department should be assisting Tribal Nations as we work to reestablish our homelands after centuries of federal action designed to assimilate and terminate. Instead, actions by this Administration are aimed at perpetuating antiquated and regressive federal policies, resulting in the destabilization of our governments. While we celebrate this victory with Mashpee and all of Indian Country today, the centuries-long fight to protect and restore Tribal homelands is ongoing and we must remain steadfast in our vigilance. We continue to stand with Mashpee as the Department reexamines its evidence on remand.'
      'On behalf of the National Congress of American Indians, we congratulate the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on their historic victory. We consider this a win for all of Indian Country,' said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. 'The Mashpee Wampanoag relationship with the United States is one of political equality, derived from their inherent sovereignty, powers, and authority that long predates the United States. No federal agency or civil servant has the authority to diminish or in any way undermine that unique political relationship and standing. We will remain vigilant and stand united with Mashpee who have shaped and supported this country from the arrival of the first European settlers and will coexist as sovereign equals for generations to come.'
      USET SPF and NCAI share a profound commitment to Tribal sovereignty and the restoration of Tribal homelands. In light of this commitment, we have been advocating for a fix to the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar since it was handed down in 2009. Carcieri has created a deeply inequitable 2-class system, in which some Tribal Nations have the ability to restore their homelands and others do not. This 2-class system serves to deny these Tribal Nations a critical component of the trust relationship, vital aspects of the exercise of inherent sovereignty, and the opportunity to qualify for several government programs.
      We continue to call for the immediate passage of a fix that contains the two features necessary to restore parity to the land-into-trust process:
      (1) A reaffirmation of the status of current trust lands; and
      (2) Confirmation that the Secretary has authority to take land into trust for all federally recognized Tribal Nations.
      While this decision is an important step toward righting centuries of wrong against the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, our collective work is not finished. We urge and await a positive determination from DOI on Mashpee’s homelands once and for all. Our organizations will continue to fight for the restoration of Tribal homelands and the full delivery of trust and treaty obligations. We call upon DOI to recommit itself to the restoration of homelands, the trust obligation, and Tribal sovereignty."

       Maggie Astor, "North Dakota Tribes Score Key Voting Rights Victory: In a win for voting rights advocates, North Dakota agreed to a binding consent decree to ensure that Native Americans can vote without an ID that shows a residential addresses," The New York Times, February 13, 2020,, reported, " North Dakota officials have reached a settlement with two Native American tribes[, Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes,]  over the state’s restrictive voter identification law.
      The settlement, announced on Thursday, includes a legally binding consent decree to ensure that Native American voters are not disenfranchised. It is a major victory for the tribes and — pending formal approval by tribal councils — will resolve two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law, which requires voters to show an ID with a residential address.
      Many Native American reservations do not use traditional addresses, and the law — which the Republican-controlled North Dakota Legislature passed shortly after a Democrat, Heidi Heitkamp, won a close Senate race in 2012 with strong support from Native Americans — meant they could not vote with an ID that listed a post office box as an address
. Ms. Heitkamp was defeated by Kevin Cramer, a Republican, in 2018.
      Under the new consent decree, the North Dakota secretary of state will be required to ensure that Native Americans can vote even if they don’t have a residential address, or if they have one but don’t know what it is. (In many cases, buildings have an official address in county records but no signage, and tribal members have never used the address.)"

      The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, in in March 2020, that the BNSF Railway could not run 100 car oil trains across the Swinomish land, in Washington State, as doing so violated the 1948 Indian Right of Way Act, which limited the number of cars in trains running across reservations ("United States Federal Court Upholds Ruling that Railway Companies Cannot Run Trains through Swinomish Land," Cultural Survival Quarterly, June 2020).

      Ben Pryor, "Oklahoma governor raises the stakes in fight with tribes," ICT, January 23, 2020,, reported, " Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt asked a federal judge late Wednesday to declare tribal casinos Class III electronic games illegal. The request by the governor includes ordering tribal casinos across the state of Oklahoma to stop offering the majority of electronic and table games.
      The filing by Stitt was an escalation of the conflict and a direct response to a lawsuit filed by tribes in the state, namely the Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw Nations."
      The governor claims that the existing 15-year compacts that authorize gambling exclusively at tribal casinos expired on January 1, 2020. Indian Nations assert that the governor's claims are wrong. The governor wishes to renegotiate the compacts, raising the fees the 30 Oklahoma tribes pay to the state to 25% of income from the present 4% to 10%.
       A great deal is at stake. Currently Indian nations gaming fees bring the state over $140 million each year. Research by Kyle D. Dean, PhD, Director, Center for Native American and Urban Studies Meinders School of Business Oklahoma City University, The Economic Impact of Tribal Nations in Oklahoma Fiscal Year 2017 ( found that in 2017, " Oklahoma tribes employed 51,674 Oklahoma workers in 2017, paying out wages and benefits of $2.7 billion to Oklahomans. If Oklahoma tribes were an industry, they would rank as the 11th largest by employment."
      "When combining business revenues, government expenditures, and capital expenditures, Oklahoma tribes accounted for $7.7 billion in direct Oklahoma production. If Oklahoma tribes were an industry, they would rank as the 9th largest by production."
      "In cooperation with the federal government, Oklahoma tribes spent significant dollars on health care, education, and transportation which benefitted all Oklahomans.
       Health Care for tribal citizens resulted in a savings of $88 million through the reduction of Medicaid match payments that would otherwise be borne by the state.
      Oklahoma tribes invested heavily in tribal education and primary, secondary, and higher education benefitting all Oklahomans. In total, tribes invested $198 million for human capital development in the state.
       Oklahoma Tribes have provided more than $1.5 billion in exclusivity fees to the state since 2006, of which $1.3 billion have been transferred to the HB 1017 Education Fund to support statewide education programs.
       Oklahoma tribes brought $42.6 million into the state for construction and maintenance of Oklahoma roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure used by all Oklahomans."
      "When analyzed in the context of the Oklahoma economy and accounting for spillover (multiplier) impacts, we estimate that tribal activities supported:
      –  96,177 jobs in the state
      –  $4.6 billion in wages and benefits to Oklahoma workers
      –  $12.9 billion in state production of goods and services. This is the total economic impact

      "DOI Agrees to Temporarily Refrain from Removing Mashpee Land from Trust," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 20-008, April 10, 2020,, reported, "On April 6, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia temporarily set aside the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s (Mashpee) emergency motion for a temporary restraining order after the Department of Interior (DOI) agreed to refrain from taking Mashpee’s land out of trust until May 15, 2020. An oral argument is set for May 7, 2020.
      Mashpee filed its motion for a temporary restraining order in response to a memorandum issued by the DOI Secretary on March 27, 2020, directing the Bureau of Indian Affairs Director and Eastern Regional Director to rescind Mashpee’s trust acquisition decision and revoke its reservation proclamation, also annulling the gaming eligibility determination. Should the Secretary’s directive ultimately take effect, Mashpee would hold the land in fee title. The Secretary’s decision to take Mashpee’s land out of trust is remarkable, as it was issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. This type of executive action has not regularly occurred since the Termination Era, and DOI’s authority to acquire land into trust for Mashpee is still at issue in ongoing litigation.
      In 2015, DOI issued a decision that it would acquire land into trust under the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”) for Mashpee on the basis that it qualified under the IRA’s second definition of Indian: “all persons who are descendants of such members who were, on June 1, 1934, residing within the present boundaries of any Indian reservation.” DOI concluded land qualified as a reservation for purposes of the IRA’s second definition of Indian when it was set aside for Indian use and occupation and the set aside carried legal effect. For Mashpee, it determined that land set aside by a colonial government over which Mashpee exercised ownership and control and which the federal government acknowledged qualified as a reservation.
      Although Mashpee cooperated with Massachusetts and its localities during the trust acquisition process, local residents brought an action challenging DOI’s decision. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts struck down DOI’s decision on the basis that the IRA’s second definition of Indian incorporates the first definition’s 'under federal jurisdiction' requirement at issue in the Supreme Court’s Carcieri decision. During this litigation, DOI voluntarily dismissed its appeal to the First Circuit, leaving Mashpee alone to defend DOI’s decision. On March 19, 2020, the First Circuit issued a mandate carrying out its final judgment regarding interpretation of the IRA’s second definition of Indian. Asserting the mandate required DOI to rescind its earlier trust acquisition decision, the Secretary issued the March 27, 2020, memorandum directing Mashpee’s land be taken out of trust.
      However , arguments regarding Mashpee’s eligibility to acquire land into trust have not been exhausted. After issuing its decision on the IRA’s second definition of Indian, the District Court remanded the decision to DOI, noting that DOI still had authority to determine whether Mashpee satisfied the IRA’s first definition of Indian. DOI thereafter issued a decision that Mashpee did not qualify under the IRA’s first definition of Indian, which Mashpee challenged in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Motions for summary judgement are fully briefed, but no decision has been rendered in this case.
      Mashpee filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and a motion for a preliminary injunction on March 30, 2020, in its case before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to prevent DOI from taking its land out of trust until the litigation is decided. Thereafter, DOI agreed to refrain from completing the 'ministerial tasks' necessary to transfer the land out of trust, revoke the reservation proclamation, and annul the gaming eligibility determination until May 15, 2020. Mashpee agreed to the District Court holding its motion for a temporary restraining order in abeyance. The District Court set a briefing schedule for Mashpee’s motion for a preliminary injunction, with an oral argument scheduled for May 7, 2020. It may consolidate consideration of the motion for a preliminary injunction with the parties’ motions for summary judgment.
      Related to Mashpee’s efforts to acquire land into trust and associated litigation, in a recently-released M-Opinion dated March 9, 2020, and numbered M-37054, DOI set forth the legal standard it will use when determining whether a tribe is eligible to acquire land into trust under the IRA’s second definition of Indian. The M-Opinion follows the First Circuit’s decision in Mashpee that the IRA’s second definition of Indian incorporates the first definition’s “under federal jurisdiction” requirement. However , it goes beyond the First Circuit’s decision— requiring a 1934 resident of the reservation to be alive today and requiring the 1934 reservation to have been a federal reservation through a federal set aside or federal superintendence.
       As a result of DOI’s recent decisions, there is renewed interest in advancing congressional 'Carcieri fix' legislation and legislation that would directly reaffirm Mashpee’s eligibility to acquire land into trust under the IRA and protect its current trust land."

      Joaqlin Estus, "Lawsuit says City of Nome ignored sexual assaults against Alaska Native," ICT, February 24, 2020,, reported,
"The ACLU Alaska filed suit against the city of Nome on Thursday for looking the other way for years as Alaska Native women were raped and sexually assaulted. Police did not follow up on about a quarter of the reports of sexual assault between 2005 and 2018. They didn’t interview the victims or alleged assailants much less collect evidence. That’s according to an investigation by a then new police chief, Bob Estes, who in 2018 brought in officers he’d worked with before to go through 460 files dating back to 2005. "

State and Local Courts

      "Arizona Supreme Court Creates New Tribal Sovereign Immunity Test for Tribal Corporations," Hobbs Straus GM 20-006, March 12, 2020,, reportd, "On February 25, 2020, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the sovereign immunity of the Hualapai Tribe does not extend to one of its tribal corporations.  In doing so, the court set forth a six-part test for determining when a tribal corporation is protected by tribal sovereign immunity.
      In Hwal’Bay Ba: J Enterprises Inc. v. Jantzen et al., No. 19-0123 (Ariz. Feb. 25, 2020), the plaintiff was severely injured in 2016 while whitewater rafting on the Colorado River.   She and her husband filed a negligence suit against the Hualapai Tribe and the rafting operator, Hualapai River Runners, which is owned by the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, a tribal company incorporated under the laws of the Tribe.  The plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages.  The lower court dismissed the claim against the Tribe on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity but held that the case against the tribal corporation could go forward because the corporation was not protected by the Tribe’s sovereign immunity.  An appellate court later agreed.  The Arizona Supreme Court agreed to determine whether the tribal corporation was a 'subordinate economic organization' which would make it an arm of the tribe and thus protected by sovereign immunity.
      The court first noted that, '[w]e have not established a test to identify subordinate economic organizations, and no nationwide consensus exists on the appropriate inquiry.'  The court then went on to create its own test for the Arizona courts to follow that involves six factors:
The entity’s creation and business form. The court said that it is important to consider who created the entity, under what authority, and whether the entity is an unincorporated enterprise, a partnership with a non-Indian enterprise, or a corporation.  The court said that if it is a corporation, it 'weighs heavily' against it being a subordinate economic organization.  The court said particular attention should be paid to whether the entity was created by a governmental organization of the tribe formed under section 16 of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) or by a corporation formed under section 17 of IRA.  The court said the former favors sovereign immunity while the latter does not.
      The entity’s purpose. The court said that, '[i]f the entity’s purpose is solely to engage in commercial activity, this factor weighs against immunity. … But if the purpose is to further goals of tribal self-governance, even if the entity also has a commercial purpose, this factor weighs in favor of immunity.'
      The business relationship between the tribe and the entity. The court said, 'this inquiry should illuminate the tribe’s ownership interest and the amount of control exercised by it over the entity’s affairs.'  The court said a factor weighing against the entity being an arm of the tribe is shared or indirect ownership of the entity.  On the other hand, 'a tribe’s ownership of property used by the entity for its business pursuits weighs in favor of finding that the entity is a subordinate economic organization.'  Another consideration is 'whether the entity represents the tribe in any capacity.  The more the entity represents the tribe’s interests, the more likely the entity serves as an arm of the tribe.'
      The tribe’s intent to share immunity with the entity. The court said that lower courts should pay attention to the actions of the tribe in determining intent.  The courts said, for instance, an entity’s indemnification of the tribe for tort liability or purchasing of liability insurance that protects the tribe from the entity’s negligence is evidence that the tribe expects the entity to be responsible for its torts.
      The financial relationship between the entity and the tribe. The court said that lower courts should determine 'whether the tribe’s assets are protected from judgments entered against the entity.'  The court said that even if tribal assets are not directly at risk, the courts must consider whether a judgment against the entity would 'effectively strike a blow against the tribal treasury' if the tribe depends upon the entity’s revenues to fund governmental functions.
      Whether immunizing the entity furthers federal policies underlying sovereign immunity. The court said courts should separately consider whether recognizing sovereign immunity for the tribal entity would further the federal policies behind the immunity doctrine.
      In ruling against tribal sovereign immunity for the tribal corporation, the court made several key findings that it said outweighed other factors in favor of sovereign immunity.  For instance, the court noted that (1) the tribal corporation’s assets did not belong to the Tribe; (2) the board of directors, and not the Tribe, handles its control and operation; (3) that the corporation can “merge, consolidate, reorganize [and] recapitalize” without tribal council approval; and (4) that the Tribe does not oversee its day-to-day operations.
      The court acknowledged there were facts weighing in favor of sovereign immunity that included: (1) the Tribe’s constitution authorizing the tribal council to 'manage all tribal economic affairs and enterprises' and 'establish and regulate subordinate organizations for economic and other purposes'; (2) a tribal council resolution adopting a plan of organization and bylaws for the tribal corporation; (3) a plan of organization stating that the tribal corporation has sovereign immunity that cannot be waived without the tribal council’s permission; (4) the Tribe’s capitalization of the tribal corporation and authorization to make additional capital investments or loans; (5) the Tribe’s role as the sole corporate shareholder with a prohibition on the transfer or pledging of its stock; (6) the tribal council’s ability to appoint, suspend or remove the board of directors; (7) the tribal corporation’s monthly reports to the tribal council; and (8) a requirement that the board must get tribal council approval for key business decisions, including borrowing or making expenditures of more than $50,000 and selling all or substantially all of its assets.
      Despite these important findings, the court ruled that the tribal corporation did not meet its burden of proof to establish that it was a subordinate economic organization.  The court, however, said the tribal corporation could still ask to be dismissed as a defendant by presenting more evidence in the lower court.  For instance, new evidence might illuminate whether the tribal corporation’s revenues fund any governmental functions of the Tribe and the extent to which the Tribe depends on those revenues for those functions

      Susan Montoya Bryan, "ACLU sues school district over 'bloody Indian' comment: The incident occurred in November 2018 when a New Mexico teacher cut one Native student's hair and said an racially-insensitive comment to another Native student ," ICT,  January 9, 2020,, reported, " The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico on Wednesday sued the state's largest school district and a former teacher over a 2018 incident where the teacher allegedly cut a Native student's hair during class on Halloween and asked another student if she was dressed as a “bloody Indian.”
      The ACLU's complaint against Albuquerque Public Schools and the former teacher, Mary Jane Eastin, contends she created a hostile learning environment and discriminated against McKenzie Johnson, Navajo. The group also claims the school district failed to properly train teachers and provide for student safety."
      Previously, Johnson had filed discrimination charges against the school district, in May 2019, with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, on which the Bureau did not reach a determination. The school district had denied Johnson's allegations, but its  superintendent issued a public apology and announced to parents that Eastin would not continue to teach English at Cibola High School.

       State of Oklahoma Republican legislative leaders asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to determine whether Governor Keven Stitt acted beyond his authority in making 15 year compacts between the state and the Red Rock, Oklahoma based Otoe-Missouri Tribe and the Lawton-based Comanche Nation, in April 2020, allowing the tribal casinos to offer sports betting, while the state received an increased share of the gaming revenue. The other tribal gaming establishments in Oklahoma remained closed, in early June, in a dispute with the governor over the power of the governor to force the nations to provide a higher percentage of their earnings to the state while existing compacts remained in place. The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has suspended the membership of the two tribes that settled with the governor ("Oklahoma justices asked to settle compact tiff with governor," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020).

      "Student Sues: Turned Away for Beaded Graduation Cap," Lakota Times, April 30, 2020,, reported, "On Friday, April 24, 2020, Larissa Waln (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) and her father Bryan Waln (Rosebud Sioux Tribe), re­presented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and Rothstein Donatelli, brought suit against the Dysart (AZ) School District, and the Valley Vista High School. In May 2019, Larissa Waln was a graduating senior at Valley Vista High School. However, the school district chose to turn her away from her graduation ceremony because she was wearing religious attire, namely a beaded graduation cap including a sacred medicine wheel and eagle plume that had been blessed for the occasion."
      By suing the plaintiffs hope to prevent happening to other Native American students in the future.
      For more about wearing eagle feathers at graduation visit cases/graduation/.

      The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit in the New Mexico Second District Court against the Albuquerque Public Schools and a teacher, concerning an incident on Halloween, 2018, when it was reported a teacher, after cutting an Indian student's braids, said to another student whose costume included a simulated wound, "What are you supposed to be, a bloody Indian?" (Pauly Denetclaw, "ACLU files lawsuit in APS Halloween incident," Navajo Times, January 16, 2020).

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Tribal Government and State and Local Government Developments

      Tristan Suarez, "Urgent Action Needed on Five Bills Advancing Indigenous Peoples Rights in Massachusetts," Cultural Survival, January 29, 2020, urgent-action-needed-five-bills-advancing-indigenous-peoples-rights-massachusetts, reported, " Native American and human rights organizations around the Commonwealth are currently working to pass five bills before the current legislative session in Massachusetts. All five of these bills are working to address long-standing problems within Massachusetts and American society towards Native communities. On February 5, 2020, the state will decide the fate of key issues such as the removal of racist iconography in school mascots and state symbolism, changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, the protection of Native artifacts and heritage, and the creation of a permanent commission on Indigenous education within the state.
       Massachusetts, being one of the oldest settlements in North America, has a long and brutal history in regard to its treatment of Native communities. The state itself is represented by the image of a Native man beneath a lofted sword , symbolizing how Native Peoples were perceived by colonial authorities. Massachusetts history is one rife with brutalities, insensitivity, and general disregard for all Native Peoples. Across the state, monikers of colonial dominance can be seen in churlish representations of Native American team mascots and school symbols. Public schools continue to diminutize centuries of violence and cultural genocide by celebrating racial caricatures. In Massachusetts, there are still close to 40 schools which use imagery and names that depict Native Americans. Bills S.247/H.443 and S.1877/H.2776 would work to remove racist imagery from state symbols and schools respectively.
      North Quincy High School in Massachusetts is one example of a school that has adamantly held on to its cartoonish Native American mascot. As a former student, I can attest to the prevalence and general acceptance the community has had for the mascot, ‘Yakoo’. Teachers, students, and alumni of the school have defended the mascot’s continued existence for years. In 1991, the school was brought before the federal civil rights office in Boston. After an initial investigation, the city concluded that the mascot was only ‘situationally offensive’. Quincy parents continue to voice their support. Thomas Koch, the city’s mayor said in 2017, 'This is a very innocent mascot...I just think we’re making a mountain out of a molehill here.'Jordan Alexander, a former student at the school, recently reflected on his time wearing the mascot outfit, 'I’m actually guilty of wearing the get up they had for it once. But once I educated myself about it, I realized how incredibly racist it is.'
      The image of the ' leathered and feathered' Native has been the facilitator of many decades of exclusion, violence, and exploitation against Native people for centuries. Quincy, and thirty-seven other schools with 'redskin' mascots engage with racist imagery that dates as far back as an era in which it was common belief among white men that Native Americans should not be allowed to exist in this country.
      Christopher Columbus has been recognized as the Father of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the progenitor of Indigenous genocide, and is continually celebrated in Massachusetts every October. Indigenous People in Massachusetts are forgotten by the state every year by its refusal to change the context of the holiday. In 1989, South Dakota became the first state to alter the holiday to reflect and celebrate Native perseverance and culture. Cities like Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline have all agreed it is time to stop aggrandizing Columbus and to start recognizing the resilience of Indigenous Peoples. Cultural Survival shared at the time of the name change in Cambridge, 'This is part of a growing movement across the country to change the narrative of history towards a recognition of the survival, resilience, diversity, and strength of Indigenous Peoples, who are among us as residents in Massachusetts and indeed across New England, the United States, and the world.' The bill on the table for the 2020 session, H.3665, would ensure that Massachusetts as a state would be obliged to honor the experiences and contemporary realities of Native Peoples.
      Massachusetts, long lauded for its academic tradition and respect for history, also continues to disrespect Native archaeology and heritage. In 1990, the Federal Government passed the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), requiring all states to protect and return all grave goods, remains, and signifiers of cultural autonomy to Native hands. While this should have ensured the protection of sacred objects, as recently as 2018 , Medford city council was forced to cancel an auction of Native artifacts after concern were voiced that the city may have violated the terms of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act. Bill H. 2948/S. 1811 would ensure the state’s total commitment to Federal agreements over Native sovereignty over cultural items and ensure continued efforts to safeguard artifacts, history, and culture for generations to come.
      While many of the issues on the table for the 2020 legislature have their roots in the deep seeded content of the past, Native youth in contemporary Massachusetts are also being considered. One of the five bills, H. 444,  is a move to create a permanent board of Indigenous education in Massachusetts. If passed, this group would indefinitely work to allocate funds and labor to enhancement of education throughout the reservations and public schools of the state. Raising graduation rates, improving proficiency in Math and Sciences, and advocating for greater representation and awareness from state resources are all goals this board would work to achieve. In Massachusetts, only 3.1 percent of Native students are included in the state aggregate with no differentiation between Native Hawaiian or Alaskan and Massachusetts Native students. A board like this could help ensure that the necessary consideration be taken for students of different identities and address the specific needs of those communities.
      To support these bills, here’s what you can do. Visit the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda at their website ."

      Madonna Thunder Hawk, Cheyenne River Organizer, Lakota People's Law Project, reported in an E-mail, May 12, 2020,, stated, "We have a potentially explosive situation at the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Reservations. If you’ve been looking at the news, you may have seen that South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has threatened our tribes with legal action because we have taken the rational step of setting up COVID-19 checkpoints on roads entering our homelands.
       Native communities have the right to protect ourselves from the spread of disease, and the law is on our side. You can help. Email Kristi Noem right now and tell her to walk back her threat to Lakota tribes before lives are lost!
      Governor Noem has failed to mandate common sense protections for tribes and all the people of her state during the COVD-19 pandemic, so the Oglala and Cheyenne River Nations have taken matters into our own hands by setting up these checkpoints on reservation roads to limit the pandemic’s spread.
      They are not roadblocks, and there is no truth to Governor Noem’s repeated assertions that essential or emergency traffic is being detained or turned back. Here at Cheyenne River, we are requiring visitors to fill out a health questionnaire or travel through the reservation without stopping. And just yesterday, two more positive cases at Pine Ridge forced a 72-hour lockdown to enable contact tracing and keep folks safe
      Although Governor Noem asserts that the tribes have not engaged in adequate consultation with state officials, both the Oglala and Cheyenne River Nations have interacted with a swath of state agencies on this issue. 17 state senators have now published an open letter declaring that she has no legal authority to regulate activity on reservation roads without tribal consent.
      Governor Noem in no position to issue threats. She’s failing to protect her own constituents within our jurisdiction, so we will. This is a life or death situation, and we have a right to live."
      In a new video, "Chase Iron Eyes — who serves as public relations director for Oglala president Julian Bear Runner — discusses the urgency of protecting our citizens - available at:"

      Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Stand Their Ground in South Dakota to Protect Communities from COVID," Cultural Survival, May 12, 2020,, reported, "On May 10, 2020, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux  Tribe in South Dakota were told by Governor Kristi Noem they had to remove coronavirus checkpoints within 48 hours. However, given that the Cheyenne River Sioux only have an eight-bed facility for the 12,000 people living on the reservation, the checkpoints are an essential tool for regulating and limiting the spread of COVID-19 on the reservation. Chairman Harold Frazier told CNN, 'with the lack of resources we have medically, this is our best tool we have right now to try to prevent (the spread of COVID-19).' The Tribes are exercising their rights to self-determination.
      The Oglala Sioux Tribe released a statement on May 11 stating, 'The Oglala Sioux Tribe's president has a message for South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem: since she won't protect Tribal health and safety, Tribes have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.'
      Although Governor Noem stated on May 10 that “the checkpoints on state and U.S. highways are not legal, and if they don’t come down, the state will take the matter to Federal court,” Chairman Frazier has pointed out that the governor never actually contacted his office before requesting that the checkpoints be removed.  A bipartisan letter to the governor, signed by 17 South Dakota legislators, including three recently elected Native American women, states “the State of South Dakota [does not] have the authority to enforce State law within boundaries of a Reservation,” referencing the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaties and the 1990 8th Circuit Court of Appeals which held that the State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction over the highways running through Indian lands in the state without Tribal consent.
      'We could have helped facilitate conversations and given your office unique insight as to the history, culture, protocols, and vernacular of how to work together with Tribal governments,” the letter explains. “You elected, however, not to contact us and sent an ultimatum to both Tribes.'
      Democratic Senator Red Fawn Foster, (Oglala Lakota) Democratic Representative Peri Pourier (Oglala Lakota) and Republican Representative Tamara St. John (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) were all newly elected in 2019, and it is the first time this many Native women hold seats in the South Dakota legislature at one time.
      In addition to violating Fort Laramie Treaties and state laws, the governor's decision is counter to recommendations made by the United Nations in respecting Indigenous sovereignty during the time of COVID, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Chairperson Anne Nuorgam (Sami) urged States to “take immediate steps to ensure that Indigenous Peoples are informed, protected and prioritized during the COVID-19 global health pandemic... States must prevent outsiders from entering into [Indigenous] territories. Any plan or protective measures to address indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation...should be multidisciplinary and follow agreed protocols and international recommendations such as the recommendations of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.” She continued, “Indigenous Peoples can contribute to seeking solutions. Their good practices of traditional healing and knowledge, such as sealing off communities to prevent the spread of diseases and of voluntary isolation, are being followed throughout the world today.”
      Cultural Survival Executive Director Galina Angarova (Buryat) stated, "We support Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes in their self-determined efforts to respond to the crisis and protect their communities. The Federal and the State governments need to respect their decisions and adhere to the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."
      Cultural Survival stands in solidarity with the Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota and urges South Dakota to respect Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty at all times, but especially during a crisis such as the global COVID pandemic which threatens the lives of Indigenous Peoples already at risk due to centuries of marginalization and colonization."
      "South Dakota congressmen seek federal guidance on checkpoints," ICT,  May 28, 2020,, reported, " South Dakota’s three Republican congressional delegates are calling on the federal government for guidance regarding highway checkpoints the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
      U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Attorney General William Barr, citing South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s May 20 plea to President Donald Trump for federal intervention."
      Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD), told reporters, May 19,  'We recognize the need to protect the health and safety of tribal members while also allowing for the flow of traffic on state and U.S. highways. As is noted in the letter, there remains disagreement about legal authorities in this matter. We would appreciate it if the Department of the Interior and Department of Justice would look into this matter promptly to provide additional guidance to both the state and the tribe.'”

      "SD Agencies Notified of Serious Voter Registration Violations," Lakota Times, May 28, 2020,, reported, "On May 20, 2020, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Four Directions, a non-profit group that works to encourage civic participation in Indian Country, notified South Dakota officials of serious and ongoing violations of federal requirements for providing voter registration opportunities through public assistance agencies and departments of motor vehicles. The notice letter, directed to the Secretary of State as the state’s chief elections official, asks state officials to respond within 20 days to avoid the need for federal court litigation. In this matter, the Tribes are represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and Four Directions is represented by Demos.
       Under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), state public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices are required to provide voter registration services when people are applying for services, renewing their eligibility, and providing change-of-address information. The notice letter documents a steep drop in voter registration applications from public assistance agencies in recent years, and other clear evidence of non-compliance with the NVRA."

       Simon Romero and Graham Lee Brewer, "Oklahoma’s Tribes Unite Against a Common Foe: Their Cherokee Governor: Kevin Stitt’s demands for more money from Native American casinos have sparked a bitter feud with economically powerful tribes — including his own," The tribes paid $148 million in fees from casino operations to the state last year, 88 percent of which was earmarked for Oklahoma’s public schools," The New York Times, February 20, 2020,, reported, " When Kevin Stitt campaigned for governor of Oklahoma, he said his identity as a citizen of Cherokee Nation gave him 'firsthand' knowledge of the clout Native American tribes wield in the state. But since his victory in November 2018, the tribal nations have been teaching Mr. Stitt lessons in the politics of Indian Country.
       In a rare act of coalescence, nearly all of Oklahoma’s 39 tribal nations are united against the governor. Soon after taking office, Mr. Stitt proposed a sharp hike in the fees that the tribes pay to operate their 130 lucrative casinos, unleashing fierce discussions across the state about identity, economic power and tribal sovereignty."

      At the December  2019 meeting of the Colorado Indian Commission, among the topics discussed were the collaborative effort of the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Tribes and the Colorado Department of Health in carrying out listening sessions around southwest Colorado on mental health issues. The data from the sessions was being analyzed for a report to be used in developing mental health programing.
      Also at the meeting, the Navajo Nation's Speaker's Office made a presentation about its plans for economic and educational development in collaboration with the Ute Mountain and Southern Ute Tribes on two pieces of property the Navajo Nation owns in Colorado. The nation seeks favorable polices from the state of Colorado relating to the project (McKayla Lee, "Commission addresses health, solar energy and partnerships," Southern Ute Drum, December 20, 2020).

      Robert Nott and Dillon Mullan, Santa Fe New Mexican, "Hundreds of millions for education, but will it satisfy court’s order?" New Mexico Political Report, February23, 2020,, reported, " State Rep. Derrick Lente spent much of the last year crisscrossing New Mexico to speak with Native American leaders about the needs of kids in their communities. To address them, he sponsored a handful of legislation endorsed by all 23 of the state’s tribes."
      "Among Lente’s proposals were $650,000 for a Native college readiness program; $19.8 million for at-risk college students; and $16.2 million for tribal libraries, internet infrastructure and early childhood education. They were among some 40 bills addressing Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico, a landmark education lawsuit in which a state district judge ruled New Mexico has denied several groups of students, including Native Americans, their constitutional right to an education.
       Just four of those 40 bills made it to the finish line before the legislative session ended Thursday.
      That frustrates not only Lente — who said many tribal leaders showed up at the state Capitol to voice support for his bills — but many other lawmakers, attorneys and advocates for plaintiffs in the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit who argue the state’s response to the judge’s 2018 ruling has been insufficient.
       While some say state funding for education is still inadequate, many cite larger concerns: Too little of the money targets students who need it most, and communities and schools have too little control over the specific types of programs and services funded."
      State funding of education was increased by 25 percent over 2018-19, with some money for programs benefitting underserved students, including $5.5 million for programs for indigenous, multicultural and special-education students. But teacher's salaries, after adjusting for inflation, were set at 2008 levels, that critics said was most inadequate. The biggest complaint by critics was that the attempt to improve education, especially for Native and Hispanic students, was solely by increased funding, with no attempts to develop better substantive programs.

      " New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham visited Navajo Nation, in December 2019, during which she stated her commitment to listening to the Navajo people and their leaders concerning their needs. In discussions at the Navajo Nation's department of Health, which included concerns about the Department's shortage of behavioral and mental health professionals, the need for more substance abuse detox and treatment programing and a high suicide rate, the Governor stated her appreciation of the need for cultural appropriate health services and Dine life teachings in improving wellness, as her administration focused more on health issues. Grisham also stated that she intended that her administration do more to foster economic development, including for its Indian populations (Rima Krisst, "'New Mexico will step up': New Mexico governor committed to investing in Navajo," Navajo Times, December 19, 2019).

      In January 2020, the Navajo Nation Council approved an arrangement worked out with the New Mexico Human Services Department for the Nation to be the first in the United States to take control of Medicaid in its jurisdiction through its Naat'aanii Development Corp. (Rima Krisst, "Naabi approves Navajo control of Medicaid," Navajo Times, January 30, 2020).

      The Mayor of Hawai'i County, HI gave assurances to Native Hawai'ian and allied protestors, on December 16, 2019, that construction of the 30-meter telescope planned to be built on Mauna Kea, a mountain traditionally deemed sacred, would be delayed, during which time law enforcement would stand down. Some members of the telescope's consortium said they are considering moving the astronomical project to another location ("Hawai'i Law Enforcement Stands Down on 30-Meter Telescope Construction on Mauna Kea," Cultural Survival Quarterly, March 2020).

      The  Killingly Connecticut town school board voted to change what it deemed a racist school mascot, 'redmen.' However, the newly elected Republican majority on the board rescinded the decision (Aaron Randle, "A Town Deemed 'Redmen' to Be a Racist Mascot. Then Republicans Took Over the School Board," The New York Times, January 11, 2020,
      Robert White Mountain, via the Lakota People's Law Project, stated by E-mail, May 20, 2020, "Greetings again from Bear Soldier District on Standing Rock Nation. I thank you for your dedicated action on behalf of the people here. You’ve sent almost 13,000 emails to the nearly all-white McLaughlin City Council and the town's mayor telling them to suspend utility shut-offs during the COVID-19 pandemic. And more than one of you made anonymous donations to my son’s family, making it possible for him, his wife, and my grandchildren to return to their home. That’s huge. We know the city is feeling the pressure.
      Unfortunately, their reaction has been to circle the wagons. Knowing that increased Native representation at City Hall could make all the difference in fair treatment of the town’s tribal people, they are resorting to what we believe are brazenly illegal means to make sure that doesn’t happen.
      Here’s what I mean: a mayoral election is coming up on June 9, and my nephew, Hoksila White Mountain, is a promising candidate. A recent graduate of Sitting Bull College with a BA in social work, Hoksila has life experience and growing support from our Native community. He has already been working hard to remedy the utility shut-off problem.
      But now, City Hall has struck him from the ballot. They say they heard through the grapevine he didn’t follow a provincial law requiring him to collect petition signatures himself to enter the race. In fact, he did two separate rounds of signature gathering specifically to meet the standard. Our research tells us he followed all the rules, and yet he was still removed.
      Thankfully, our partnership with the Lakota People’s Law project — and with you — could make all the difference. If necessary, the Lakota Law team will take legal action to get Hoksila back into the election.
      Please stay tuned, because we’re also investigating which state and/or federal agencies can provide oversight — and we will share an opportunity soon to contact those agencies directly. Together, we are on the verge of creating significant change here in Bear Soldier. With your continued pressure, we’ll ensure that Native people can run for elected office anywhere at Standing Rock."
       However, Chase Iron Eyes, Lead Counsel for the Lakota People's Law Project, wrote via E-mail, May 30, 2020, "This week, we had the privilege of informing Hoksila White Mountain that his mayoral candidacy in the Standing Rock town of McLaughlin has been reinstated! A big shout-out to all of you for supporting our efforts, and to the Teton Times, which ran this article last week — based on our newsletter — about our threat of legal action."

      "Native American Residents of Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Get Tested," Americans for Indian Opportunity via E-mail, May 6, 2020, announced (from First Nations Community Healthsource), "Drive Thru COVID-19 Testing for Albuquerque's Urban Indian Community and Our Patients," " In partnership with the New Mexico Department of Health and the City of Albuquerque, First Nations Community Healthsource will offer drive thru COVID-19 testing to the Albuquerque Urban Indian Community and our patients. You do not need symptoms to be tested Testing will be available for the first 400 people [a fraction of the urban area's native population]. Testing is available at no cost.
      Date: Saturday May 9, 2020. Time 9:00 am-1:00 pm."

       McKinley County, NM whose center is Gallup, bordering the Navajo reservation, banned the sale of beverages with more than 15% alcohol, in early April, as a step to limit spread of COVID-19 - which has had a serious outbreak. A few days later they reversed the decision on hearing that the ban led to a flood of people suffering from serious to potentially deadly alcohol withdrawal going to already overloaded hospitals (Donovan WQuintero, "McKinley County resumes alcohol sales," Navajo Times, April 23, 2020).
       Meanwhile, finding a significant number of people had been leaving their homes to buy alcohol in violation of the Curfew on Navajo Nation set up to slow the COVID-19 pandemic, and that led to increases in alcohol withdrawal cases coming to overloaded health facilities, the Navajo Nation Council asked the states that surround it to ban liquor sales, (Donovan Quintero, "Council asks states to ban liquor sales," Navajo Times, April 23, 2020).
       The issues of police bias and over-use of force against people of color in the U.S. continues be one for Native Americans. Richard Walker, "Chippewa Cree man's shooting by police raises questions, calls for dialogue," ICT, May 14, 2020,, reported, " The death last summer exposed racial tensions in a community near Washington state's Suquamish Reservation, and some residents are seeking change.
       Residents of a community near Seattle where a Native American man was shot and killed by a police officer say they will continue to push for dialogue on issues related to race, as well as additional police training in cultural competency, de-escalation and mental health.
Stonechild Chiefstick, 39, a Chippewa Cree man with ties to the Suquamish Tribe, was fatally shot July 3 in a crowded waterfront park in Poulsbo, west of the Suquamish Reservation, before a community fireworks show.
      Officer Craig Keller attempted to detain Chiefstick on suspicion of assault; police and witnesses say Chiefstick resisted arrest and threatened Keller with a screwdriver.
       Leaders of the Suquamish Tribe say evidence shows Chiefstick may have been having problems related to mental health or substance abuse and that police could have de-escalated the situation and removed him from the park during one of two earlier encounters that day."

       In two locations in New Mexico Statues of harsh Spanish Conquistador, Juan de Oñate, were removed, June 15, 2020, in the face of protests by American Indians and allies of many backgrounds. In Albuquerque, the statue was removed by order of Mayor Tim Keller, until "the appropriate civic institutions” could decide what to do with it. The removal followed a peaceful protest countered by armed right wing protestors. One of the counter protestors began pulling at women protestors from behind. When a group of protestors chased him away, he shot and seriously wounded one of those chasing him, after which he was arrested.
      Earlier in the day, the town of Alcalde in Northern New Mexico, removed its statue of Oñate with the protest pending ( Simon Romero, "Man Is Shot at Protest Over Statue of New Mexico’s Conquistador: Two statues of Juan de Oñate are being removed after long-simmering tension between Native Americans and Hispanics over Spain’s conquest of New Mexico," T he New York Times, June 15, 2020,
       Meanwhile a number of statues of Columbus in various places in the U.S. have been removed, while in England some statues of colonial leaders involved in the slave trade have been taken down. In France, U.S. events have triggered an examination of France's involvement in the slave trade, and a hard look at monuments to those who took a leading role in it.   In many places in the world the reaction against police violence in the United States has set off demonstrations and questioning of police operations in their own countries. A world-wide movement has been sparked for more equal treatment of people. How it will develop will vary from place to place.

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Tribal Developments

On COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Indian County, see also Maria Givens, "The coronavirus is exacerbating vulnerabilities Native communities already face," in Research Notes, Kerri Colfer, "Native American Legislative Update," in Congressional Developments and Federal Indian Budgets, and some reports and discussions of it in other sections.

      "A uthorities and Considerations in Addressing the Global COVID-19 Outbreak in Indian Country," Hobbs-Straus GM 20-007, March 13, 2020,, stated, "We are aware that Tribes have been following the development of Coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) closely, and are concerned about addressing the issue in your communities.  We know that this issue has already touched Indian Country with employees testing positive, Indian organizations cancelling national conferences, and Tribes declaring emergencies and restricting travel.
      This memorandum discusses issues for tribal consideration, including how Tribes can act in their governmental authority to respond to public health emergencies like the current Coronavirus pandemic, options for Tribes in their role as employers and business operators, and information for Tribes who are also providing health care to their communities.
       Tribal Governmental Authority in Public Health Emergencies
Tribes have inherent authority to take certain actions like making emergency declarations and creating entities needed to execute and enforce emergency preparedness and response laws.  Specific mechanisms or legal authorities by which Tribes choose to delegate and exercise this authority will differ.  However, all Tribes may consider declaring states of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and engage with state and federal officials in order to leverage resources.
       Federal Assistance
      Under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (“Stafford Act”), the U.S. President may declare a major disaster or emergency in response to an event or threat that overwhelms state, tribal, local, or territorial governments.  This triggers access to federal technical, financial, logistical, and other assistance to state, tribal, local, and territorial governments.  Tribes may receive benefits under a Stafford Act declaration through two means.  First, the Tribe’s highest ranking executive officer may request a Stafford declaration from the President directly by declaring a tribal emergency and making a formal request through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Second, when a Tribe’s land falls within a requesting state’s borders, that state’s governor may request a Stafford declaration.  It is also important to note that a federal emergency declaration does not preempt a Tribe’s authority to declare emergencies within its territory.  Some Tribes have already issued emergency declarations for this pandemic. [President Trump has declared a national emergency.]
      Separately, section 319 of the Public Health Services Act authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency and use the Public Health Emergency Fund for various purposes, including to allow Tribes to use federal supply schedules to respond to public health emergencies.  A Tribe may also request the Secretary to issue a “temporary reassignment of federally funded health department personnel” to come to that Tribe’s aid.  HHS Secretary Azar declared a public health emergency for Coronavirus on January 31, 2020.  We are not aware that HHS has made any specific resources available to Tribes under this declaration, but Tribes should consider making such requests from the Department, as needed.  There is a $40 million set aside in the recently enacted Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (PL 116-123, signed March 6, 2020) for Tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, and health providers to Tribes for “surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities.”  These entities are also eligible to apply for Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) grants and for preparedness costs incurred between January 20, 2020, and March 6, 2020.
      On March 11, 2020, the House introduced a second relief proposal, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill would provide funding for emergency nutrition assistance through SNAP, food banks, school and adult care center meal assistance programs, and the Senior Nutrition Program; the administration of emergency paid sick leave; and emergency unemployment insurance, among other things.  Section 108 of the bill, entitled Coverage of Testing for COVID-19 At No Cost Sharing for Indians Receiving Contract Health Services, provides that “American Indians and Alaskan Natives [will] not experience cost sharing for COVID-19 testing, including those referred for care away from an Indian Health Service or tribal health care facility.”  Congress is considering this legislation; the House expects to pass the bill on Friday, March 13, but the Senate has not promised immediate passage.
       Coordination with States
       Intergovernmental agreements (IGA) may help Tribes and states coordinate their respective responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.  IGAs “negotiated between a Tribe and a neighboring government to clarify . . . their legal relationship” in certain circumstances. [1]  Thus, they may be especially helpful in public health emergencies where there is little time to resolve legal uncertainties regarding jurisdictional gaps or sovereignty.  Of particular importance may be the Tribe’s authority to regulate or exclude individuals from Indian country or hold nonmembers who violate tribal public health and emergency response laws.  There are several considerations about risk and balances of governmental power in these agreements, and we urge Tribes to obtain full legal review of any intergovernmental document.
       Additional Considerations
      Information sharing is critical to fighting the spread of COVID-19.  To that end, Tribes should consider the best means of communicating scientifically accurate and up-to-date information on the disease, travel bans and advisories, and executive decisions and actions
.  While every Tribe’s resources vary, Tribes may consider several outlets to share information with tribal citizens, particularly for tribal elders who are at high risk from the disease.
       Potential Strategies as Employers and Business Operators
There are several resources at the federal government to prepare for and respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.  The Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services have issued joint guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 (  The CDC also has guidance for businesses and suggested strategies for employees (
      Tribes and tribal businesses should consider creating planning and response teams that include personnel needed for effective response (e.g., executive leadership, IT support for telecommuting, human resources staff, facilities staff for cleaning and sanitation needs, and police or security).  Tribal casinos should take special care to manage the expectations of customers and employees as state governments have begun banning large groups, or recommending telework.  Gaming facilities with unionized workforces should be in close communication with union representatives, as necessary.
      Tribes should also communicate to employees their efforts to contain and fight the spread of COVID-19 and also emphasize expectations that sick or potentially exposed workers stay home.  Businesses across the private sector are reducing the risk of COVID-19 by providing increased opportunities for telecommuting, and tribally-owned and operated businesses should consider doing so as well to the degree that is workable.
      Tribal businesses have authority to enact temporary personnel policies or practices to handle not only the disease, but economic or business conditions that are a fallout of public reaction.  For example, Tribes or tribal entities can provide temporary paid-time-off (PTO) for sick hourly employees, PTO to all employees in the event of a shutdown, grants of annual or administrative leave (whether paid or unpaid), or pay/stipends in the event that there is a closure—some employers have been terming this “catastrophe pay.”  Tribes and tribal entities should be careful about how these policies are rolled out to employees, and should consult counsel to ensure a solution does not contravene any applicable wage or labor laws.  Please note that each of these actions may be associated with tax consequences for both employer and employee.
      When assessing whether to implement any affirmative policies, Tribes and tribal business will need to weigh the potential economic burdens with any intangible effects (such as employee morale or public relations), and the level of tribal resources. To the extent possible, tribal businesses may allow flexible work schedules and telecommuting as able, particularly for households with children when schools are closed.
      Tribal businesses and employers may wish to take affirmative steps to enhance cleaning and disinfecting practices, particularly in high traffic or high risk areas, and employ strict food handling practices in any restaurants.
      In the event of an exposure to Coronavirus, Tribes should be prepared to communicate to tribal members, the press, and public health officials about any protective measures or response.  You may wish to engage state and county public health officials now, before any confirmed exposure has occurred.
      The reality of this pandemic is that it may result in a shutdown of tribal government offices or even shutdowns of tribal businesses or gaming facilities.  A shutdown may also be necessary simply for economic reasons.  If a shutdown is warranted and necessitates layoffs or termination, Tribes should immediately work with their legal counsel regarding any needed action under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which “requires employers to provide written notice at least 60 calendar days in advance of covered plant closings and mass layoffs.”  This notice may come later under emergency situations or when there are unforeseen business reasons (such as an immediate shutdown for medical concerns).  This Act has thresholds of applicability, but may be triggered if a Tribe or tribal entity is forced to lay off a large part of or the whole workforce following a shutdown; counsel will be able to advise you regarding applicability of this law.
       Tribes as Health Care Providers
      When communicating information about COVID-19 to their citizens and employees, tribal HIPAA covered entities and their business associates must remain in compliance with HIPAA’s Privacy Rule.  The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a bulletin on the HIPAA Privacy Rule and COVID-19 ( The bulletin states that HIPAA covered entities may disclose protected health information without a patient’s consent to public health authorities, at the direction of a public health authority, to a foreign health authority so long as they are working in collaboration, and to people at risk of contracting or spreading the disease.  Additionally, if the situation constitutes a serious and imminent threat, “[h]ealth care providers may share patient information with anyone as necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of a person or the public” so long as the health care provider remains compliant with the law.  Typically, disclosing any identifiable information about the patient to a media outlet or others not involved in the patient’s care or notification is prohibited, unless the patient authorizes it.
      We will continue to monitor and report various aspects of  COVID-19.  Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding this rapidly developing situation.
[1] Justin B. Barnard, Responding to Public Health Emergencies on Tribal Lands: Jurisdictional Challenges and Practical Solutions, 15 Yale J. Health Pol’y L. & Ethics 279 (2015)."

       Indian Country Today reported the following impacts on tribes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
       The first two illness reports were: An Indian Health Service patient from Charles Mix County, South Dakota, was presumed positive for COVID-19 and was being tested on March 11 (ICT E-mail, March 11, 2020), and a non-tribal member employee of the Casino of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla in Oregon was similarly presumed positive, while off the reservation, leading the Tribe to go into emergency mode (Joaqlin Estus,  "Oregon tribal casino employee 'presumptive' positive for COVID-19," Navajo Nation, which began inter-tribal agency planning in preparation of the pandemic, February 27, 2020 (Arlyssa Besenti, "Dikos Ntsssigii doodaa!: Nation musters defense against COVID-19," Navajo Times, Mach 20, 2020) reported its first confirmed  COVID-19 case in Mid-March, 2020 with the Nation under a "stay home order" (Donovan Quintero, "McKinley County confirms first coronavirus case," Navajo Times, March 20, 2020). By March 23, 2020, the number of confirmed Navajo cases had reached 29 (IndianZ,
       The Northern Arapaho Tribe announced its first confirmed case March 21 ("Northern Arapaho member tests positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19)"). As of March 24, with the infections spreading there were 74 cases confirmed in the Indian health system with 2 Total deaths in the Indian health system ("COVID-19 Tracker in the United States," ICT, March 24, 2020, By March 26, 89 cases were confirmed in the Indian health system with 3 Total deaths in the Indian health system ("COVID-19 Tracker in the United States," ICT, March 26, 2020,   On May 29, IHS reported 9223 confirmed cases and 365 deaths ( ICT, "COVID-19 Tracker"). On June 10, IHS reported 7085 confirmed cases and 229 deaths ( ICT, June 11, 2020,
      As of April 8 (Simon Romero, "Navajos Race to Shield Reservation After a Sharp Rise in Deaths," The New York Times, April 10, 2020), the death toll on the Navajo Nation (the reservation is in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah) had reached 20, as compared with 16 in all of New Mexico, which has a population 13 times larger. By April 30,  1637 tribal members had tested positive for the virus, and 59 had died. This does not include case and deaths of tribal members in the border towns just off the reservation. By May 20, the Navajo Nation COVID-19 deaths had reached 102 ("Navajo Nation" This Week, May 22, 2020). On May 29, Navajo Nation at the Navajo Epidemiology Center Coronavirus Response Hub ( was reporting (subject to possible error), 5114 confirmed infections on the reservation, with 31 cases pending locations, with Navajo Health ( reporting 24,819 negative tests (of more than 32,000 tested, over 15% of Dine living on the reservation), with the total confirmed deaths 167. While the number of cases and deaths was still increasing, at that time, IHS reported that the number of new cases had peaked, around April 24 or 25, and from that time to May 28, the curve was flattening (Arlyssa Becenti. "Peak hit in late April," Navajo Times, May 28, 2020). As of June 4, Navajo Nation had suffered 5533 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 252 deaths (Jalpan Nanavati, "Navajo Nation cancels July 4 celebrations, ends weekend curfew," ICT, June 4, 2020, At  that time the Nation cancelled its 57 hour weekend curfew, while putting back the opening of on reservation businesses from June 8 to July 5, but cancelled the July 4 celebration.

      In late April, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was setting up temporary hospitals in Gallup and Shiprock, New Mexico, as well as Chinle, Arizona to care for COVID-19 patients ( "Navajo Nation now has 1,637 coronavirus cases and 59 deaths ," Lakota Times, April 30, 2020 , The huge COVID-19 infection rate on the nation stems from a March 7 rally held by an evangelical Church which drew Dine from all over the reservation. The two cases reported on the nearby Southern Ute Reservation (S. Sachs phone conversation with Southern Utes) at the beginning of April were traced to contacts with Navajos who became infected. The high rate of infection and deaths on the Navajo reservation were influenced by factors common to many other reservations: large numbers of people living in small houses, small quantities of water making regular hand washing impossible, and many tribal members suffering from medical conditions and diseases making them more vulnerable, including respiratory conditions often related to indoor air pollution from burning wood and coal for heat. Large pockets of COVID-19 infection were reported, the week of April 9, on San Felipe and Zia Pueblos, in New Mexico, not far from Navajo Nation.
      By April 8, Navajo Nation had taken strong actions to limit the spread of the virus, including closing the nation to entry (which other Indian nations have also done), closing tribal facilities and businesses except for essential workers, and imposing a curfew from 8:00 pm Friday, April 10 to 5:00 am Monday, April 13 enforced by check points and fines and jail time for violations.
      Navajo Nation
, in early April, decried the small amount and slowness of federal help under the Trump Administration. An important aspect was that, unlike many other federal programs that treat tribes as states, the stimulus funding which has gone fairly quickly and directly to states and manipulates, must be applied for by Indian Nations resulting in long delays in receiving desperately need funds during the time it takes to write and file applications and have them processed and approved The Navajo Nation received $600 million in COVID-19 relief from the federal government, under the CARES Act, in early May. Some Navajo officials said this helped, but considering the costs to the Nation, was too little, too late (Arlyssa Becenti, "First Round $600 million," Navajo Times, May 7, 2020; and Rima Krisst, ""too little, too late," Navajo Times, May 7, 2020).
       To meet the exigencies of the pandemic, Navajo Nation established the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Health Command Operations Center to coordinate dealing with the drastic health situation, which was far worse than anyone had imagined it would become . Operations of the centers were hindered by insufficient staffing, which slowed responses. Because the Trump Administration had not adequately prepared for the pandemic, there was a shortage of test kits, and the Command Operations Center was in competition with the rest of the U.S. for enough protective gear - as elsewhere in the U.S. After a time, the Command Operation Center entered into a Unified Coordination Group among the Navajo Department of Health, the BIA, Navajo Area Indian Health Service, and tribal health facilities. The Command Operations Center requested and received support from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Alternative Care Sites (ACS) were established in Shiprock, Gallup and Chinle, where people could quarantine, but were under used because of staffing shortages stemming from insufficient of funding.
      A coalition of Domestic violence shelters on the Navajo Reservation, in April, reported receiving reports of a sharp rise in domestic violence during the pandemic, consistent with reports elsewhere ("Shelters say domestic violence rising during pandemic," Navajo Times, May 7, 2020).
      Significant aid was being received on the reservation from the state of Arizona and some private people and entities, including the Arizona National Guard flying in protective and medical equipment to Kayenta and setting up field hospitals at Tuba City and Chinle.
      While the Navajo Nation was waiting for federal funding
, by April 9, Navajo Nation business contributed $2.75 million to the pandemic relief effort, in addition to funds and supplies, including food, form outside agencies. A number of corporations donated money. This included $250.000 from PNM, The Salt River Project. Tucson Electric Power and employees at the Four Corners Generating Station. Coca Cola provided large quantities of water. NETEC increased its donation of coal by 69.6%, to 8368 tons for winter heating. The University of Arizona donated 250 test kits, while Dine Development Corporation donated $500,000, and Navajo Nation Gaming and others, including Labatt Food Services provided large quantity of food. A number of nonprofits also donated significantly. The New Mexico National Guard assisted Navajo President Nez and his team distribute food, water and other supplies to those in need around the reservation. All of this was in addition to considerable money and aid from the Nation (Arlyssa Becenti, "As tribe waits for funds, enterprises pitch in," Navajo Times, April 9, 2020; Dine Dev. Corp. Domnates $500 K for coronovirus," Navajo Times, April 9, 2020; "Helping Hand," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020;  and Arlyssa Becenti, "Nonprofit spearheads effort to help eastern chapters," Navajo Times, April 9, 2020).
       A list of organizations who have been receiving donations and providing relief to Navajo Nation is in "Relief for coronavirus," Navajo Times, April 30, 2020,
       University of California, San Francisco health workers volunteered to provide support to COVID-19 patients a facilities on Navajo Nation (Help from West Coast," Navajo Times, April 30, 2020).

      "We Have to Act Now and Organize Ourselves Against COVID, We Cannot Wait for Government Responses," Cultural Survival, May 11, 2020,, reported, " Navajo Nation is one of the hardest-hit areas in the entire United States, with COVID-19 infection rates higher than everywhere but New York and New Jersey. Janene Yazzie (Diné), who works with International Indian Treaty Council as the Sustainable Development Coordinator, is the co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development. Today, she is the New Mexico lead for Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief , a grassroots organization that is working to combat the spread of the virus throughout both communities. Cultural Survival interviewed her recently about the impacts of the virus on Navajo Nation, as well as how the community has responded.
       'This is the time when we really need to rise up and show solidarity,' she told Cultural Survival. 'But we've been preparing for COVID-19 to hit our communities because we knew it would be bad, both because of the lack of access to healthcare, the lack of critical community infrastructure such as paved roads, water, utilities, electricity, and even just facilities that provide community services across our region. We knew that because of the digital divide that there would be, it would be hard to get accurate and timely information to people about how to deal with this. And we also knew that the federal response or the lack thereof prior to COVID coming down to the Southwest was also going to cause a lot of confusion because it was misleading people about the severity of the threat that we were facing. And so we started organizing before the first COVID case was detected on our nation.
      To respond to the crisis, Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief formed a network of collaboration between all kinds of actors
. 'We were trying to work early on with county, with Tribal government and with state government,' she said, 'but what's really worked for us is not a formal partnership with those government agencies, but rather a really informal collaboration' between elected leaders, philanthropists, and other professionals. 'We were able to bring a lot of the expertise that was necessary to the table to then address and look at and evaluate what were the gaps that an NGO could best fulfill knowing that on the government side.' This was made even more useful given that working with the government, and particularly the federal  government, comes with 'a lot of bureaucratic red tape' and 'unnecessary barriers.' Moreover, organizing outside the government allows for greater flexibility—Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief can change their programs to meet the circumstances.
      However, despite the advanced preparation done by Yazzie and her team, the disease was unavoidable. It 'immediately created a hot spot because it was brought in by a non-Native pastor who was holding church services that brought members from different communities together...because that pastor was sick, he infected the majority of the churchgoers and those churchgoers then went back to their families, their households, their communities, and the way that our households are, they're multigenerational households...there can be up to 10 to 15 people living under one roof. Our families, we live with our elders, we take care of the grandkids. And so just that one event is what allowed this to really spark and start spreading like wildfire.'
      This spread was only made worse by Navajo Nation’s rural nature. 'Our reservation is the size of Connecticut, Wisconsin and New Hampshire combined,' she said, but 'we only have eight health care facilities serving that entire area.” For example, when cases broke out in rural Chilchinbito, a symptomatic family had to travel hours by car to get to the Tuba City Regional Health Care Center, which didn’t even have tests; then, the family was transported six hours away to get tested. “All along that path, you also saw cases start to sprout up...all of the issues that existed prior to COVID getting here have just allowed it to spread like wildfire.'
      However, Yazzie and her team knew that what she calls Navajo Nation’s 'underdeveloped status' was exactly why organizing before the virus arrived was of the utmost importance' not only did we understand that there were going to be particular vulnerabilities...that made our people more at risk, but also the impact that it was having on the economy was also going to disproportionately impact our people who are mostly wage laborers, or laborers that work in seasonal or contractual jobs, workers in the service industry, maids for hotels.” In addition to the high proportion of wage laborers on Navajo Nation, many are also involved in what is known as a “gray economy.” Yazzie describes it as an economy “where people make a lot of their money selling food on the roadside, or making crafts, or making things and selling them at big flea markets.” Both kinds of work, though, have been drastically shifted due to the coronavirus, putting most wage laborers and members of the gray economy out of work until the virus is controlled.
      Because of the rapid rise in unemployment due to the pandemic, Yazzie told Cultural Survival how ' food was the primary concern.' 'We only have 13 grocery stores,' she said, 'and so we are already dealing with some issues regarding lack of access to food ...People were not going to be prepared or have the ability, either financially or in access to a grocery store to stock up on two weeks, three weeks worth of food in order to comply with the social distancing and self isolation rules that were going to protect them.' As such, the organizing work by Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief aimed 'to stop working through the grocery stores and go directly to large suppliers and distributors to order food in bulk and have it delivered to different parts of our reservation, where our volunteers were trained in health and safety protocols, and we're outfitted in full PPE to then sort that into food boxes that we could provide to households.”
       In addition to buying and distributing food, Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief is also supplying the community with things like feminine hygiene products, soap, and even diapers. “These are all things that would cause a person to go travel hours, to go to the nearest city in order to buy these things, because they’re not available anywhere to them locally.'
       Now that Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief has designed a system to feed the community, they are working on reinvigorating the economy. “We’re...looking at how do we then compensate and invest in local farmers and ranchers and livestock owners through the donations that we're receiving so that we're buying directly from these small producers, therefore replacing the income that they lost from other revenue streams and open markets...We're going to be shifting our model more and more as this progresses to really look at not only providing the aid that will keep the household safe, but starting to support the beginnings of an economy that promotes local resiliency, that promotes local production, and self sustainability within each region, especially now that we are in planting season.'
       What does Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief need in order to keep supporting the community? Simply put, money. 'It takes a lot more work and energy to sort through' various types of food, books, and clothing, Yazzie told Cultural Survival. 'It just takes up space or ends up taking more effort to get rid of the things that aren't needed...we really encourage people to just send cash,' because 'if you really want to help communities that are impacted, you have to give them cash, because they know on the ground how best to use those resources.' For example, Yazzie recounted, 'all of these cash donations is what allows us right now to have this conversation about buying directly from impacted farmers to then provide the food that goes out to these families, or investing and growing gardens as a long term strategy for how to deal with the food scarcity issues. If we didn't have donations of cash, we wouldn't be able to do that.
      Although Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief has stepped up in a major way to fill in the gaps created by the collapse of the economy and the failures of the federal government, the solution lies not in relief efforts but in rethinking the system within which the pandemic spread.  “We need to build something better,” Yazzie concluded. “If there’s anything we’re learning from this, it’s that we deserve more, and we’ve got to build better, resilient economies and communities.”
      To learn more about Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief, visit:"
       Navajo & Hopi Families COVID Relief reported that they regretted that there was a lack of coordination, and some conflict, with Navajo Nation on delivering aid, missing an opportunity for cooperation (Rima Krisst, "Dueling relief groups at odds," Navajo Times, June 4, 2020).

      As in many places in the U.S., the Navajo Nation schools were open daily for all persons under 18 to come for meals, as they kept all of their full time employees working. Kayenta schools had their school busses delivering meals to students living out of town. The Gallup McKinley County Schools also had their school busses delivering meals.
      As of Late March, unemployment on the Navajo Nation stood at 42%, with 49% of families living below the poverty line (Pauly Denetclaw, "With schools closed, food for students is key," Navajo Times, March 26, 2020; and Paula Denetclaw, "You see the kids smile," Navajo Times, May 14, 2020).

      Cassandra Begay, "Irish Solidarity for Indigenous COVID-19 Relief Continues as U2 Drummer Donates $100,000, Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, May27, 2020,,, reported, " Larry Mullen, Jr., Irish musician and co-founder of the rock group U2, has joined the wave of solidarity from Ireland for Indigenous Peoples disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 by donating $100,000 to the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund (Relief Fund).
      In early May donations to the Relief Fund’s GoFundMe campaign spiked with contributions from Ireland. After reading news coverage of the crisis on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, many Irish felt compelled to reciprocate support from Indigenous Nations that dates back more than 170 years.
      During Ireland's Potato Famine of 1847, the Choctaw Nation raised $170 dollars (about $5,000 now) for starving Irish families.  Today, with Mr. Mullen’s contribution, over 25,500 Irish donors have contributed over $870,000 to the Relief Fund
and the Navajo and Hopi elders, immunocompromised, COVID-positive, and vulnerable families it serves. 
      Relief Fund founder Ethel Branch stated, 'We feel real kinship with the Irish, who have a shared legacy of colonization, and we are truly grateful for Mr. Mullen’s donation and all donations that have come from our Irish brethren.  Go raibh maith agat and ahéhee’!  Someday we hope to repay you for these beautiful and meaningful acts of solidarity made during our time of great need.'
       Mr. Mullen’s generous contribution will fund a week’s worth of deliveries of food and water to about 1000 Navajo and Hopi households with high risk, vulnerable, or COVID-positive family members. The Relief Fund seeks to provide each family with 2 weeks’ worth of food so they are able to stay home and avoid exposure for a meaningful period of time in an effort to flatten the curve for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe.  The Navajo Nation is the U.S. jurisdiction with the most COVID-19 cases per capita, now exceeding New York and New Jersey.
       The Relief Fund has mobilized a massive volunteer emergency effort to provide food and water distribution throughout the Navajo and Hopi Nations. The GoFundMe for the effort has now surpassed $4 million dollars and the Relief Fund volunteers have served over half of the Navajo Nation chapters including 6,400 households in almost 70 communities on the Navajo Nation and in 5 of the 12 Hopi Villages
      Please visit our website for more information, to donate, and for additional resources including volunteer & support request forms:
      Diné and Hopi residents can also call toll-free to request support: 1-833-956-1554."

      Indigenous Rising, late March 2020, launched the first in a series of webinars on dealing with COVID-19, featuring Native leaders and health experts (Rima Krisst, " Indigenous Rising COVID-19 webinar brings Indian Country together," Navajo Times, March 26, 2020).

      On the borders of Navajo Nation, and near other reservations, tribal leaders have reported an increase racist rhetoric, with some people blaming Indians for the spread of the virus. In Page, AZ, near the Navajo Reservation , a man was arrested on suspicion inciting terrorism for a face book posting urging "lethal force" against Navajos.
       Many Indian nations, in late March 2020, were closing casinos and tribal offices - while continuing operations via electronic communications, so far as possible. However, many tribal members of numerous nations do not have phone or internet capability. Some Native tribes were keeping some facilities open with stringent cleaning and precautions ("COVID-19 In Indian Country" on IndianZ,, was carrying a regularly updated report - accessed here on March 23, 2020).
       For example, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (Michigan) ,  "Tribe’s emergency plan in line with Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order," March 23, 2020,  "Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order directing all Michigan businesses and operations to suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.
      The governor’s order is effective March 24 for at least the next three weeks, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians lauds Governor Whitmer’s actions, which will strengthen efforts to assure the health and safety of tribal members and the community. The tribe has already put in place a plan that fits into the state’s executive order. The tribal Board of Directors declared a state of emergency March 17 and gave the tribe’s Executive Director, Casino CEO and EDC Director temporary powers to 'modify policies or procedures, order closures, cancel or schedule events, implement programs, and take all other appropriate steps that are deemed essential to the protection of the public.'
      On behalf of the Sault Tribe Board of Directors, Chairperson Aaron Payment said, 'Tribal lands are not subject to state executive orders. However, where it makes sense, we support voluntary compliance to keep our tribal members safe.'
       Sault Tribe governmental offices and casinos closed to the public March 23, retaining only essential core personnel and paying all employees for their regularly scheduled hours. The tribe’s health clinics put restrictions in place limiting access to protect patients and staff. Tribal EDC closed property management to the public and put safety precautions in place for retail businesses. All Housing Authority offices are closed to the public but will continue to provide all essential and emergency services.
       Sault Tribe advises members and employees to stay in their homes unless required to work in the office as essential personnel, as directed by the governor’s executive order, unless, “engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family, like going to the hospital or grocery store.” Whitmer’s order also calls for social distancing measures, including remaining at least 6 feet from people from outside the individual’s household."
      A list of American Indian and Alaska Native related canceled and postponed events, and closed businesses and facilities is in: "What's open and closed in Indian Country," in "Indian Country's COVID-19 syllabus," ICT, updated: Wednesday, March 25 at 6 p.m. EDT, i; Thursday March 26 at 4:45 pm, Indian Country Today ( ICT) was posting daily CVID-19 related reports (

       With tribal casinos and many other businesses shut down many Indian Nations have been suffering economic hardship, as have a high percent of the urban Indian population who are poor and currently unemployed, and in some cases homeless. Numerous organizations and people have been providing financial assistance. In Albuquerque, NM, this has included Americans for Indian Opportunity and the Native Leadership Collective of Albuquerque raising funds to help Native families in Albuquerque/Bernalillo County that have been used to  purchase groceries and other essentials for families in need and to pay for internet access and laptops for Native students (E-mails from Laura Harris, Executive Director, Americans for Indian Opportunity, Chair, Native Leadership Collective or Albuquerque: In April, Running Strong for Native American Youth delivered 30,600 pounds of frozen food to the Eagle Butte Food Pantry on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, providing COVID-19 relief for 1,700 families ("Cheyenne River Receives 30,600 Pounds of Food ," Lakota Times, April 30, 2020, These are among the huge number of acts of assistance provided by numerous groups and individuals. Simon Romero and Jack Healy,  
      On May 12, 2020, The New York Times reported, Simon Romero and Jack Healy, "Tribal Nations Face Most Severe Crisis in Decades as the Coronavirus Closes Casinos: Nearly 500 tribal casinos remain shut down during the pandemic, causing job losses to spike. The economic damage is spreading quickly, wreaking havoc on fragile tribal finances,", " Tribal nations around the United States are facing their most severe crisis in decades as they grapple simultaneously with some of the deadliest coronavirus outbreaks in rural America and the economic devastation caused by the protracted shutdown of nearly 500 tribally owned casinos." Some 700,000 jobs have been lost from casino closings alone. About 30% of those jobs were held by tribal members. About 40% of federally recognized tribes operate casinos.
      The Navajo Nation, had a higher death rate than any U.S. state except New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and more than 3000 residents of the reservation had tested positive
(reported by NPR News, May 12, 2020) . In all of Indian Country, more than 5,200 cases had been confirmed.
       A major factor in making it difficult for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to respond well to the COVID-19 pandemic is that IHS has long been underfunded, leaving it understaffed and under equipped (Paula Denetclaw, "Chronic underfunding complicates tribal response to COVID-19," Navajo Times, March 26, 2020). Moreover, the funds dispersed by the federal government do not reflect the number of COVID-19 cases it has, the infrastructure situation of the tribe  or its financial condition relative to other nations. What has been supplied to tribes had been grossly insufficient. For example, the entire Midwest region received only 792 test kits. Moreover, at least as of late April 2020, the various federal agencies that provide services or resources to tribes, related to the pandemic, have not consulted with the tribes on how to proceed with them (Rima Krisst, "Tribal leaders: Response exposes disparities in Indian Country," Navajo Times, April 9, 2020).

       Tribal and some Congressional leaders, in April 2020, were urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to wave the 25% costs for accessing its funds to deal with COVID-19 ("FEMA urged to wave tribes' cost-share for virus funds," Navajo Times, April 9, 2020).

      Bryant Furlow, "A hospital’s secret coronavirus policy separated Native American mothers from their newborns," New Mexico Political Report (first published in
ProPublica), June 14, 2020,, reported, " A prominent women’s hospital here [in Albuquerque], NM has separated some Native American women from their newly born babies, the result of a practice designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 that clinicians and health care ethicists described as racial profiling.
      Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque implemented a secretive policy in recent months to conduct special coronavirus screenings for pregnant women, based on whether they appeared to be Native American, even if they had no symptoms or were otherwise at low risk for the disease
, according to clinicians."

      Eddie Chuculate, "Minnesota advocates: The worst is yet to come," ICT,  May 21, 2020,, reported, " Although Native Americans have so far escaped the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota, a dire forecast for June has housing, health care and homeless advocates preparing for the worst."
      By May 15, American Indians and Alaska Natives accounted for only 0.0073 percent: 100 of 14,240,  positive cases statewide.
      "But an increase is expected. One model tracked by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows coronavirus deaths in Minnesota reaching 117 per day during the last week of June, then tapering to 60 a day by the first week of August. By comparison, 20 died on May 15.
Minnesota’s stay-at-home order ends May 18, and small retailers can resume business. On June 1, restaurants and bars may reopen.
       This easing of restrictions will result in more cases and more fatalities, experts say. A near doubling of deaths from the current 683 statewide on May 15 is predicted by the end of June."

      Ellen Berkovitch, "As COVID highlights health inequities, pueblos prioritize local agriculture," New Mexico Political Report, June 13, 2020,, reported, "On May 5, Jemez Pueblo Gov. David Toledo was preparing for the arrival of a mobile testing unit to administer as many as 3500 COVID-19 swab tests to Jemez tribal members in the traditional village and nearby towns over the next two days.
Toledo, along with his tribal peers on the All Pueblo Council of Governors, had just signed a letter to the US Treasury Department inquiring about the release of CARES Act funding and federal Department of Health and Human Services’ relief funds to tribes. (To extend its testing capacity, Jemez Pueblo received just shy of $150,000 of HHS funding.)"
      " A prodigious farming effort has been under way on Jemez since the governor ordered the pueblo to lock down on April 7. Jemez farmers, including the governor, have planted more than 100 agricultural acres of corn, chile and melons in anticipation of needing to feed the community into next year.
      'We understand there might be a second (coronavirus) wave coming so we’re trying to prepare our food and our health for when that second epidemic might occur in the wintertime
,' Toledo said."

      Eddie Chuculate,  "Cafe serves Indigenous ‘comfort food’ to elders," ICT, April 30, 2020,, reported, The Indigenous-themed and staffed Gatherings Café, at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, has been delivering meals, word puzzles and sanitizing spray to seniors in two Native housing complexes in the city since Gov. Tim Walz issued a stay-at-home order in March."

      While the state of Montana, with relatively few COVID-19 cases, was beginning to open up, cautiously, in mid-June, its 7 Indian reservations remained closed, which the state's governor said should be respected. For the most part the Montana reservations had escaped the virus, but not at Crow. Kathleen McLaughlin, "As Montana opens for tourism ... tribes take a different course based on the value of elders," ICT, June 7, 2020,, reported, "But already a handful of new positive cases have emerged in recent days on the Crow reservation with the wide availability of testing. Big Horn County, which includes the Crow and part of the Northern Cheyenne reservations, has ticked up to more than 30 positive cases."

       The Southern Ute Tribe, of Colorado as of very early June, had recorded seven diagnosed COVID-19 cases among employees, but none among tribal members, as the nation continued on lockdown (Jeremy Wade Shockley. the Southern Ute Drum, June 5, 2020,
       Different Indian nations have been applying their share of $8 billion funding to tribes under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)  differently, according to how they perceive the needs of their members. Dalton Walker, ICT, May 22, 2020,, reported that " The Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma was one of the first in Indian Country to say it was helping citizens directly with money." Others have The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Nevada and the White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona. "White Mountain Apache Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood said council approved the direct payment for a variety of reasons, including a high unemployment rate and its rural location. She also noted 'many' citizens didn’t receive the $1,200 stimulus check from the federal government because 'most don’t file taxes.' The nation also has applied some of its CARES funding to make certain that first responders and frontline personnel have personal protective equipment, and to expanding broadband capacity to help first responders, schools and essential services. While helpful, White Mountain found that the CARES Act did not provide all the funding it needed to meet the exigencies of the pandemic. The nation issued stay at home orders and a curfew while delaying  or cancelling traditional ceremonies. The 17,000 member community had suffered  538 confirmed coronavirus cases, leading to six deaths, as of May 22.
       The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe of Wisconsin gave its stimulus funding to its citizens, as it would not be able to make  per capita payment in June (Video on the nation's approach to dealing with the COVID-19 situation:
       The Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma received $282 million in funding, and in late May was discussing how it might best use the funding to provide services, including possible payments to its 90,000 citizens (video on he process:
      The Little Shell Chippewa Tribe was applying the largest portion of the $25 million it received to construct a health care facility, announcing, “This funding offers a unique one-time opportunity to jump start the tribe’s vision of providing quality healthcare services to our tribal citizens (”

      Joaqlin Estus, "Lawmakers: Clinics serving Native people are teetering: Bipartisan group warns U.S. Senate leadership that financial losses tied to the pandemic are taking a major toll on Native communities' medical facilities," ICT, May 5, 2020,, reported, " Some of the medical facilities serving Native people may be on the verge of closing their doors. One in Alaska is already laying off hundreds of people. That’s the alert 55 bipartisan members of Congress sent to Senate leadership Tuesday," May 5, 2020.
       The problem is that those facilities receive 20% of their income from third party revenues, including   Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and health insurance. With the corona virus delaying non-essential procedures, those revenues have been greatly reduced. Congress was asked to provide funding to tribal health facilities to make up for those loses.

      Joaqlin Estus, "Urgent calls to close the massive Bristol Bay fishery, ICT, April 9, 2020,, reported, " An Alaska tribe and town near America’s largest salmon fishery are urging Gov. Mike Dunleavy to shut down the fishery this year to prevent a “potential mass disease situation.” The Bristol Bay fishery, which typically opens in June, brings some 14,000 people to the region to work for fish processing plant companies. It also draws some 1,800 fishermen, who have been named “essential workers” by the state.
      "Our community does not have the capability to control the movement of this group,” the Curyung Tribal Council and the city of Dillingham said in a Tuesday letter to Dunleavy. 'This is unacceptable and places us in an impossible situation.'
      The Curyung Tribal Council and the city of Dillingham were pleased that the fish processors included locals in their planning on how to meet the corona virus while staying open. However, they wrote, 'it is appalling that our community must rely on their corporate conscience to be a part of the planning process.'”
      Bristol Bay is the world's largest Sockeye Salmon fishery, ranked as the second largest fishing place in the United States, economically, generating 14,000 jobs and adding $306 million to the economy.

      Joaqlin Estus, "Pandemic broadens use of telemedicine in Indian Country and beyond" ICT,  May 14, 2020,, reported, " The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted countless changes. One that’s likely to stick is the more common use of telecommunications in the health field.
      Both telemedicine, or the delivery of clinical care by telephone or the internet; and telehealth, which includes training, education and other communications; already play a bigger role than before the pandemic

       Many Indian nations, groups and organizations have been innovative in finding ways to continue traditional activities including ceremonies. Numerous virtual powwows have been widely reported. Two examples of finding ways to continue ceremonies occurred on the Southern Ute Reservation (Stephen Sachs phone and E-mail conversations with Southern Utes, and reports in the Southern Ute Drum, which moved from print to on the web with the arrival of the pandemic:
      The Southern Ute Bear Dance, after a delay in the hope of a reopening, was held as a closed single morning ceremony on June 12, instead of being publicly open for participation for four days. Traditionally it was first a spiritual occasion with an important social side for bringing back together the Ute bands after winter separation. In recent times it has been first social, with many non-Utes joining the dance, and secondarily spiritual. This year the spiritual aspect was returned to primacy with only one woman and one man dancing, while tribal members - keeping social distancing amidst the reservation COVID-19 lockdown - listened to the Bear Dance songs from their cars. The set up for the ceremony, usually carried out by quite a number of people with assistance from the Tribe, was undertaken solely by the Bear Dance Chief and one of his sons.
      As of mid-June, Southern Ute Sun Dance was scheduled to take place in July with limitations consistent with COVID-19 health regulations. Where usually outside supporters were welcome, with the Tribe helping prepare the grounds and assisting  the building of the ceremonial lodge and providing brush for family shade houses; this year only dancers, singers, and Ute supporters were to attend, with supporters wearing masks and keeping social distance - and only allowed onto the grounds after a health check at the entrance. As of old, the dancers were to build the Dance lodge entirely by themselves, while families were to obtain their own brush for shade houses, at locations designated by the tribe.
      Stephen Sachs received reports in May of two other Sun Dances being canceled, but at least for one of them, a special ceremony would be performed by the Sun Dance Chief, to whom the dancers and supporters, who wished to do so, would send the prayer ties and prayer flags that they would usually tie onto the ceremony's Tree of Life themselves. What would occur with the other ceremonies traditionally held over the summer months, remained to unfold.

       Center for Native American Youth, Urban Indian Health Institute, and National Indian Families Coalition, among others - including local Native groups - have partnered to  bring awareness of the census - and the importance of being counted - to urban Native people ("Native organizations to bring awareness to census in urban Indian communities," Navajo Times, January 30, 2020).

      "New Scientific Study Reaffirms that Native Peoples Are Deeply Insulted by The Washington Football Team's Name," February 12, 2020,, reported, "A United Coalition of Native American Leaders, Activists, Scientists and Organizations Release the Following Joint Statement.[1]
      'This week in Washington, DC, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Fawn Sharp delivered a State of Indian Nations speech to Members of Congress, Tribal Leaders and citizens, and the American public. In brief, President Sharp's speech outlined the goals of tribal leaders; the successes and challenges experienced over the last year; and NCAI's vision for the advancement of Native peoples moving forward, covering a range of issues from lack of federal funding for tribal programs to concerns about voter suppression and climate change. Additionally , her speech touched upon the ways in which racist mascots degrade and offend Native American Nations and citizens.
      Today, we stand united to end the use of offensive and racist Native mascots, behaviors and caricatures in sports.
       Leaders, activists and organizations from Indian Country have gathered together to once again declare that the name of the Washington football team must change. They reaffirm their commitment to this goal based on a new, in-depth and profound scientific study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan.
       For too long, Native leaders have been silenced by the use of opinion polls conducted by organizations and individuals who do not understand Native communities. Moreover, these polls have refused to release methodological details and data files, which leaves open the question, who are the Native people in these studies? Despite these questionable practices, the public opinion polls have been used to legitimize the Washington football team name and cast doubt on the Native American community's efforts to change it.
      This new study debunks previous "polls" and gives us the scientific, evidence-based data to apply increased pressure: we will not be silenced by unsympathetic media or anyone else. Race-based sports mascots, derision of our cultural symbols and vulgar behavior by sports fans must stop
      'The continued use of degrading mascots and the perpetuation of a single opinion poll intended to speak on behalf of Native Americans demonstrates a deep lack of respect for Native peoples and nations. Our tribe has a long history in the fight for equity for Native people, both nationally and at home in Minnesota. Last October, we came together with other tribes and partner organizations to protest the Washington NFL football team name and mascot. We support IllumiNative and the groundbreaking scientific research that shines an important light on how many Native Americans feel. It is our hope that this will move us forward in correcting the narrative.'
      -  Keith Anderson, Chairman, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
      'This new research is critical to understanding what actual Native peoples think about sports mascoting and how we are harmed when our identities and cultures are exploited by the NFL and other profiteers. Momentum is turning in our direction, as evidenced by this study, by Maine and other states that have ended their sports slurs, by art and literature on the subject, including our new play, Reclaiming One Star, at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. We and myriad allies have eliminated 2,000+ school mascots and one pro baseball symbol since 1970, when the University of Oklahoma was first to retire its objectionable mascot, Little Red.  Over two-thirds of 'Native' mascots have been consigned to history books because educators, journalists, politicians and social justice leaders listened and learned about how mascots hurt our children. The time has come for the NFL to stop mocking, start listening and end this public bigotry.'
      –Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee) has been in the no-mascots movement since 1962.  A writer, curator and policy advocate, she is a 2014 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor. 
       'Almost every single poll that has been gathered by non-Natives has been deemed unreliable and recklessly gathered. From the 2004 Annenberg Poll to the 2016 Washington Post Poll, the results have been extremely detrimental in how the mascot issue has been handled by the larger society and how Native people have been treated thereafter. The new scientific study clearly shows that although our opinions may differ, Native people continue to be adversely affected by Native mascots. This finding supports the larger movement to dispel Native mascots, supported by solid academic research. Native people must protect the health and well-being of those who are impacted by Native mascots. This is a health issue, not a sports issue.'
      -  Amanda Blackhorse (Diné from the Navajo Nation) Social Worker and Indigenous Identity Advocate
      'The data simply does not add up. The psychological evidence reveals that mascots are harmful to Native people and children, that they lead non-Natives to stereotype and discriminate against Natives, and, as our recent research reveals, offend Native people who engage in Native cultural practices and are highly identified with being Native. Yet, widely cited opinion polls would have Americans believe that Native people cannot see the negative psychological effects or recognize the discriminatory nature of these mascots. And, worse yet, that Natives People are not offended by being called a racial slur. This does not make sense. If you look beyond simple opinion polls, the evidence is clear: There is no acceptable reason or excuse for continuing to use Native people as mascots.'
      -  Dr. Stephanie Fryberg (Tulalip Tribes), Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan.
      'Given the psychological literature and the strong stand that tribal leaders take, it is time to stop using Native Americans as mascots. Our study demonstrates that people who identify most with being Native American, such as tribal leaders and their constituents, are the ones most likely to be offended by the clearly denigrating and stereotypical team mascots and by the behaviors that accompany the use of Native mascots. These are also the people most likely to experience negative impacts of the us of Native mascots. Regardless of what sports fans claim, the outcomes are clear, Native mascots harm and offend Native people, especially highly identified Native people.'
      -  Dr. Arianne Eason, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley.
"      'llumiNative was founded on research that revealed how invisibility, false narratives and toxic stereotypes fuel bias, discrimination and racism against Native Americans. The systemic erasure of Native Peoples from modern society has led to the fact that 78% of Americans know little to nothing about Native Americans, 72% rarely encounter information about Native Peoples and 66% of Americans don't think Native Peoples face discrimination. The limited exposure Americans have to Native peoples is rife with harmful stereotypes and representations that includes those perpetuated by Native American sports mascots, team names and racist fan traditions that are still celebrated within the NFL, MLB as well as college and K-12 sports.'
      -  Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), Executive Director, IllumiNative
      Call to Action:
      We humbly ask the American public to stand with us in advocating for the change of the Washington football team name to help make it clear to all people, everywhere that the use of racist Native mascot names – including the Washington football team name – must end.
       Background on the Scientific Study
            On Tuesday, Feb. 4th , a new groundbreaking, peer-reviewed scientific study was released; it surveyed more than 1,000 Native Americans about their feelings towards mascots, fan behavior and the Washington Football team. The first of its kind, this study adds a significant measurable factor as it looks deeply at the complexity of identity and shows the impact of mascots to those deeply tied to their identity and community. Called Unpacking the Mascot Debate: Native American Identification Predicts Opposition to Native Mascots, the study was conducted by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg (Tulalip Tribes), from the University of Michigan, and Dr. Arianne Eason of the University of California, Berkeley, along with their research team. The study builds on a body of research created by Unpacking the Mascot Debate lead researcher Dr. Stephanie Fryberg whose work in-part helped to inform the 2005 American Psychological Association Resolution recommending the retirement of American Indian Mascots.
      IllumiNative, is a Native-led nonprofit, launched to increase the visibility of Native peoples in American society by changing the national narrative. IllumiNative challenges negative narratives, stories, and stereotypes about Native peoples. We provide tools for Native advocates and allies including youth, community and tribal leaders, activists, and professionals across critical sectors — to develop and advocate for accurate and contemporary representations and voices of Native peoples.
Available for Press Interviews:
Crystal Echo Hawk, Executive Director, IllumiNative
Suzan Shown Harjo, Recipient, 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom
Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, University of Michigan
Dr. Arianne Eason, University of California Berkeley
Press Contacts:
1 Coalition members include Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Chairman Keith Anderson; Suzan Shown Harjo, Recipient, 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom; Amanda Blackhorse, (Diné from the Navajo Nation) Social Worker and Indigenous Identity Advocate; IllumiNative; and Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, Univ. of Michigan."

      Dalton, Walker, "Clear data: Native people are 'deeply insulted' by NFL team name," ICT,  
February 6, 2020,, reported, "'The data from previous opinion polls is often used to silence Native people'
       A new academic study debunks previous surveys saying Native people support offensive mascot imagery, including the NFL’s Washington franchise.
      Fifty-seven percent who identify as Native American surveyed took offense at the Washington team and 67 percent of those who frequently engage in tribal cultural practices said they were 'deeply insulted by caricatures of Native American culture,' according to a University of California, Berkeley news release
. Young people, participants 'engaged in their Native or tribal cultures' and federally-recognized tribal citizens tended to agree more that the team is offensive."      

       The U.S. Department of Justice has added 30 more tribes to the 75 already given access to the Tribal Access  Program for National Crime Information, which authorizes approved tribal organizations to access and exchange information with national databases for justice purposes ("30 tribe selected for access to national crime databases," Navajo Times, December 19, 2019).

       8 New Mexico Indian nations were awarded Housing and Urban Department (HUD) grants totaling more than $31.4 million, in December, to improve member access to housing. The grants, established to streamline housing funding to tribes, help finance tribally administered affordable housing development, operation and maintenance ("More than $31.4 million awarded to 8 tribes," Navajo Times, December 19, 2019).

      Joseph Martin, "Overdoses rattle Eastern Cherokee during shutdown," ICT, May 21, 2020,, reported " While the COVID-19 checkpoints and shutdown may have been successful in keeping numbers of the potentially deadly virus low among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ citizens and residents, it’s had little, if any, impact on the trafficking of heroin and other illegal drugs to the tribe’s land in North Carolina.
       Opioid addiction still continues to be a problem for the tribe, and it continued to ravage the reservation during a time people were isolating trying to reduce spreading the virus.
      According to statistics released by the Cherokee Indian Police Department May 3, officers have worked 19 overdoses since April 10, and they’ve reported six overdose deaths since February."
       The nation was moving, in late May 2020, to shift the emphasis of police work from emphasizing enforcing COVID-19 safety measures to combatting drug trafficking and abuse.

      Joseph Martin, "Eastern Cherokee extend office closures after COVID-19 spike," ICT, June 11, 2020,, reported, " The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has experienced a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases since it began its phased reopening May 8.
      At that time, the tribe had nine confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of Monday morning, it had 43

       The Black Lives Matter movement - now broadened - is as much a "Red Lives Matter" concern. While much fewer in numbers, Native Americans have long suffered from police discrimination and overuse of force, suffering the largest number of deaths atthe hands of police per capita of any U.S. measured group. Kevin Abourezk, " They’re killing us’: Urban Indian community caught at center of police brutality firestorm," Lakota Times (republished from,  June 04, 2020,, reported of the many Native people who went to cities following the passage of the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, "They went in search of jobs, education and hope. Many found racism and violence, often at the hands of police.
      Frank Paro [a leader in the American Indian movement (AIM)] was there [in Minneapolis]. If you were lucky, police would beat you and then take you to jail, where you might receive medical attention, he said. If you weren’t, they left you by the rive
      But times have changed, he said.
       'They’re not beating us no more,' he said. 'They’re killing us. That has to stop.'"
       Many American Indians joined in the peaceful protests in Minneapolis, and community leaders, including those of the AIM, pressed for protestors to cease destroying local offices and business. In addition, “'The Indian business owners on Franklin Avenue have asked the American Indian Movement to provide security this evening,' he [Paro]  said. 'The last few months a lot of community members asked when we would start the AIM patrol again. Tonight, we’re the starting the American Indian Movement patrol again on Franklin Avenue.'”

      In Gallup, NM, just outside the Navajo Nation, in early June 2020, some 150 protestors, including Dine citizens, demonstrated over the death of George Floyd, calling for action to arrest police brutality and excessive use of force (Paula Denetclaw, "'Everyone should take a stand:' Fallup sees protest over murder of George Floyd," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020).

      Etanhan Wotanin, CAIRNS,* "We Can’t Breathe," Lakota Times, June 04, 2020, reported, " In Bennett County, South Dakota, the 2010 Census reported that the percentage of White Americans (33.7 percent) was less than the percentage of American Indians (59.9%). Nevertheless, the 5-member Bennett County Commission is 100 percent White Americans, and the county’s 3 police officers are all White Americans."
      " When the county was organized in 1911, it had voting districts, and American Indians were elected continually until 2000. Beginning in 2000 and continuing to today, not a single American Indian has been elected to the county commission under the at-large system. There were two American Indian commissioners whose terms continued into the 2000s. One chose not to run for re-election when his term expired. When the last American Indian commissioner died in office, the other four White American commissioners appointed a White American to fill his seat until the next election, when the fifth White American was elected to that seat."
      " This choking down of American Indians is not happening only in Bennett County. It is evident across South Dakota. It is achieved by White Americans systematically working to abolish proportional representation in election rules, in university faculties, in government offices, in business boardrooms, in institution employees, in advisory boards, and yes, in police forces.
      We can’t breathe.
      *Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center founded in 2004 and located in the Lacreek District of Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota."

      "Justice Department reaches agreement with Chamberlain School District," Lakota Times, June 4, 2020,, reported on a case involving American Indian voters' rights, " The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into an agreement to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the Chamberlain School District in South Dakota."
      "Under the agreement, the District will discontinue use of its current at-large method of electing its School Board. Starting in the 2021 election cycle, the seven members of the School Board will be elected from three two-member districts with one at-large position

      MIGIZI  "board of Directors, "MIGIZI Statement on Loss of Home," May 29, 2020,, stated, " We at migizi are devastated by the loss of our home. The building is just a block and a half away from the Minneapolis police precinct building that burned last night. although our home was not specifically targeted, flames from another fire spread to us.
      It is painful to lose a home. the youth we proudly serve deserve our best. we refer to children as wakanyeja, sacred ones. our youth are wakan, sacred. this home is sacred .
       Our sacred youth primarily need two things – a positive identity based on their talents, dreams and American Indian cultural ways. they also need a sense of belonging - connections to others in a circle of support .
       MIGIZI is that circle, an extended family of relatives who are trying to help youth be successful , contributing members of the American Indian and broader community – as students, storytellers, workers earning a living wage or better, and as fiercely proud indigenous people.
      We are very, very sad today. it hurts to see hard work, dreams and spirit – yes, spirit – go up in flames. but the MIGIZI circle is still strong and we will rebuild . we will rebuild! we are grateful and moved for the outpouring of concern, love and financial support that we have seen in just a few hours .
      We are working through many emotions, including disbelief and anger. we moved into this new home only last year, after raising more than $1.6 million to buy it and renovate it. but despite our sadness , we also have deep understanding about why Minneapolis has resorted to destructive protests, in the face of such overwhelming oppression faced by African-Americans, American Indian people and others .
       This is a struggle that is about much more than police brutality. sure, that’s a huge problem . To understand this pain, you must read the statement by leaders of other Minneapolis American Indian organizations about the long history of abuse by police in our community. Our own youth face this kind of racism and discrimination nearly every day. as Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond said today, “we’re all tired of being tired .”
       This is about more than the police. it’s about nearly every system in Minnesota – institutional racism. Minnesota has among the worst disparities in education, health, housing and incarceration of any other state in the nation. these problems go deep, as far back as the minnesota state leaders who legalized taking the best Dakota farmland and Ojibwe timber .
but the struggle we all face today is a collective struggle, no matter your skin color. our tribal culture is about collective well-being .
      We are not an individualistic culture. we define our success in the context of the circle, how we can use our talents and resources to make the circle stronger. we lift up everyone in the circle, we share, we help, we support, we love. we are all related. your well-being impacts my well-being.
       If Minnesota would just follow these indigenous principles, then there would be no need for destructive protests . There would be no inequity, no poverty, no domination - in the collective circle .
      In our Indian way, this home should feel like your home. you would see the destruction of MIGIZI’s home as you would the destruction of your own home. that’s how we see the world. we are all related. And that’s how we will rebuild."
      MIGIZI is at: PO Box 17125 Minneapolis, MN 55417,, 612-721-6631,

      Dalton Walker, "Red Lake Nation approves medical cannabis," ICT, May 28, 2020, , reported that the citizens of the Re Lake Nation of Minnesota voted solidly to approve having
a medical cannabis program
. "The new law goes beyond Minnesota’s state medical marijuana program and includes cannabis in flower form.
      Minnesota allows medical cannabis in liquid, pill or vaporized forms and recent legislation on expansion was voted down. Red Lake will also have a longer list of approved diagnoses to be eligible for a medical cannabis prescription." Red Lake is one of the first Minnesota nations to launch a medical cannabis program.

      LaDonna Thunder Hawk of Lakota People's Law Project reported in an E-mail,, February 17, 2020, " As the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) invades our homelands at the Cheyenne River Reservation, we women are preparing for the struggle.
      In December, my daughter, Marcy, helped to organize a talk about human trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children (MMIWC) happening on our reservation. At this important Women Gathering, community members and representatives of many concerned organizations initiated the Nazo Campaign — providing whistles to alert relatives to unfolding crime and violence on Cheyenne River — and a resolution asking our Tribal Council to declare a state of emergency. They then presented to the council, where our tribal nation made that declaration.
      Our matriarchy must and will lead this fight. We even have two generations of grandmothers working together here! The Was'agiya Najin — 'Grandmothers Standing Strong' — includes both older grandmothers (OGs) like me and younger grandmothers (YGs) like Marcy.
      In addition to Was'agiya Najin, our Women Gatherings also include representation from Warrior Women Project, Women of All Red Nations, Simply Smiles, Indigenous Environmental Network, the Lakota People’s Law Project, veterans, water protectors, and more. These are powerful, alliance-building meetups, and now the tribe has heeded our warning.
      That’s critical , because Big Oil is building two KXL man camps — temporary housing for pipeline workers — on either side of Cheyenne River. These dens of machismo inevitably bring with them increases in sex and drug trafficking, worsening our MMIWC epidemic locally.
       Here’s how bad it is: by 2014, our state’s federal courts had handed out more life sentences for commercial sex trafficking than all other states’ combined. Because 40 percent of South Dakota’s victims are Native women, we pay the highest price.
      As a girl, I was shipped off to boarding school. I experienced what it is like to have my culture stripped from me, so as a young woman I became a leader in the American Indian Movement and created the 'We Will Remember' Survival School. There, I taught Marcy and other children about treaty rights, to prioritize Native sovereignty, and to preserve our traditions.
       Now, together, we are helping to pass on lessons of leadership and direct action to the next generations. That starts with making sure they don’t fall prey to man camps, and it means demanding action from our tribe. As Indigenous women, we have always been on the front lines, and we know how to stay ready."

      Jack Healy, "Rural Montana Had Already Lost Too Many Native Women. Then Selena Disappeared: For decades, with little public notice, Native women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered. The disappearance of Selena Not Afraid is showing how much things are changing," The New York Times, January 20, 2020,, reported, " A national outcry over the killings and disappearances of Indigenous women has reached a boiling point here in Big Horn County, a rural stretch of rolling mountains and ranch lands that contains the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations and has the highest rate of missing and murdered Native Americans in Montana, and among the highest nationwide." In Bighorn County alone 28 women have gone missing, a number of whom are known to have been murdered.
      " Last year, 5,590 Indigenous women were reported missing to the F.B.I.’s National Crime Information Center, but advocates say the staggeringly high rates of violence suffered by Indigenous people is still not fully reflected in official accounting. Some of the victims are misclassified as Asian or Hispanic, or are overlooked if they live in urban areas instead of reservations, or their cases are lost in a jurisdictional maze over which state, federal or tribal law enforcement agency bears responsibility for investigating.
       Law enforcement officials said these can be extremely difficult cases to investigate, sometimes ranging over vast expanses of territory, but that they are committed to solving them. The families say the problem is more a matter of will and resources than of difficulty."
      "In recent months, a flurry of federal and state agencies across the country and here in Montana have raced to respond with task forces and law-enforcement resources, including
a new Justice Department effort to coordinate federal and local responses to disappearances and murders in Indian Country."
      "Jay Harris, the county prosecutor, who is a member of the Crow tribe, said the proliferation of meth use and a scarcity of federal law enforcement had exacerbated the problem. Last November, the Crow chairman declared a state of emergency over what he called ineffective investigations and unanswered police calls on the 2.3 million-acre reservation, and said the tribe would move to form its own police force."

      Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, "Pandemic shows tribes the census is an 'absolute necessity,’" ICT,  May 28, 2020,, reported, " Researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles took a look at the census response rates for tribal reservations as of May 13 and compared them to the 2010 self-response rate. They excluded Oklahoma tribes, Alaska Natives and reservations where there was no information or a zero recorded response rate.
      They found tha t seven reservations had a greater response rate than the current national average of 60 percent. Those seven are Washoe Ranches, Kootenai, Puyallup, Isabella, Pokagon, Port Gamble and Oneida in Wisconsin. In 2010, 23 tribal reservations were above the national response rate of 67 percent.
      Two other findings in the analysis : 50 reservations have a higher response rate for the 2020 census than their 2010 final response; and 118 reservations have a lower response rate during this census when compared to the 2010 census."
      This analysis does not include the majority of Native people living off reservation. The researcher's notes, 'The low self-response rate during the first phase of the 2020 Census will create major challenges for the second phase, the non-response follow- up in-person interviews,” especially as the pandemic may make these interviews more difficult to make.
      Lakota Peoples Law Project reported by E-mail, March 12, 2020, "In times of trouble, here’s some great news! Since I last wrote to you about our Standing Rock foster home, your support has facilitated something truly remarkable. Since January, our Native-run home has already hosted a dozen different foster children, ranging in age from one to 17 years old. Your generosity and a great working relationship with tribal Child Protective Services has created a comfortable environment that emphasizes education and traditional culture."
       Jim Robbins, " A Canal That Opened the Montana Prairie May Soon Dry Up: An early 20th-century federal water project irrigated the prairie to create farms and towns in eastern Montana. But it needs a $200 million overhaul," The New York Times, June 15, 2020,, reported, "A century ago, one of the first of the ambitious federal water projects that helped build the West was constructed to carry water from the mountains of Glacier National Park hundreds of miles east, irrigating an area twice the size of Maryland.
      The well-traveled water allows alfalfa, wheat and cattle farms to flourish in what would otherwise be an arid landscape of prairie grass and sagebrush
      Last month, however, a crumbling concrete portion of the antiquated ditch system known as the St. Mary Canal collapsed, cutting off the flow of mountain water to farms and towns in a portion of Canada and much of eastern Montana. As the heat of summer looms, water users are worried."
       Among others greatly impacted by the collapse on canal which feeds the otherwise feeble Milk River, are the city of Havre, the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and other small towns, as well as to several hundred irrigators for which the St Mary Canal and the Milk River are the only source of water. It may be that other Eastern Montana reservations are also affected.
      Under the original contract under which the U.S. government built the project, the water users are responsible for the maintenance of the 29 mile canal. The water users do not have the funds to pay for the repair.

      Eoin Higgins, "Praising Indigenous 'Understanding About Sustainability,' Bernie Sanders Tells Native Community in Iowa 'They Will be Part of Discussion': 'Young people all over the world are looking to the Native American community for leadership,'" Common Dreams, January 3, 2020,, reported, " Senator Bernie Sanders in Iowa Thursday told members of the Meskwaki Nation that Native Americans are being looked to for influence in addressing the climate crisis by activists around the world and pledged to work with Indigenous communities to deal with the threats and concerns they face."

      Dalton Walker, "Cherokee’s seeds of life," ICT,  February 27, 2020,, reported, "As 'many tribes across Indian Country are preparing for spring planting season, Cherokee Nation is taking a dramatic step further, beyond planting and its annual seed distribution to its citizens. The tribe is the first in North America to deposit traditional heirloom seeds at Norway’s Svaldbard Global Seed Vault. Cherokee Nation is only the second Indigenous community to store seeds at the vault after South America’s Indigenous Andean communities in 2015."

       A number of Southern Ute Tribal Members complained early in 2020 that several businesses in the town of Ignacio, which is inside the boundaries of the southern Colorado reservation, charged them state sales tax on purchases of food, products or services, which is in violation of federal and state law. The Southern Ute Tribal Council sent letters to the concerned businesses to correct their understanding and have them cease the practice (Ignacio businesses improperly charging tribal members state tax," Southern Ute Drum, February 28, 2020).

      Russell Contreras, "New Mexico back to 49th in nation in child poverty," ICT, January 16, 2020,, reported, "In the state, 41 percent of Native American children live in poverty, according to the 2019 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book.
      New Mexico's child poverty rate rose slightly and continues to rank near the bottom nationally despite improvements in the state's economy, a child-advocacy group said Wednesday.
The 2019 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book, released by New Mexico Voices for Children, found 26 percent of the state's children in 2018 remained at or below the federal poverty line. That places the state back to 49th nationally in child poverty, where it ranked in previous studies."
      The Native Leaders Collective (NLC) of Albuquerque, NM, composed of the executive directors of 18 Native nonprofits in the metropolitan area, was organized to reinvigorate American Indians in Albuquerque. This includes working with the Mayor's office and City of Albuquerque Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. Among other issues, NLC has been working to have all Native people in the metropolitan area included in the Census. About 7 percent of the Albuquerque population is Native. Among the NLC members is Laura Harris, Executive Director of Americans for Indian Opportunity,
       With the completion of a Navajo Nation authorized survey of the internet connectivity of its 110 chapters, the data began being used, in early 2020, by Magellan Advisors - under a contract with the Nation - to develop a comprehensive plan for providing the entire reservation with broadband service (Cindy Yurth, "Partnership aims for broadband strategy for rez," Navajo Times, February16, 2020). 

      In the face of increasing internet security threats, the Navajo Nation Department of Information Technology has set up firewalls to protect the nation's data bases and computer systems (Steps taken to set up firewalls," Navajo Times, Decembe 19, 2019).

       The Bureau of Land Reclamation and the Navajo Nation signed a new agreement for the Bureau to assist the Nation with planning for bringing water to areas of the reservation that remain without water service ("Nation, BOR sign agreement," Navajo Times, December 19, 2019). 

       24 sites contaminated with by uranium from mining on the Navajo Nation were about to begin cleanup, in February 2020. However, an additional 520 will still remain that the Navajo EPA says will cost $4 billion to cleanup (Arlyssa Becenti, Navajo EPA: 524 sites require $4 billion," Navajo Times, February 27, 2020). 

       The Navajo Nation Budget and Finance Committee began developing a nation budget for fiscal year 2021, in December 2019. At that time, even before the huge fiscal impact of the corona virus epidemic was foreseeable, the nation was projecting $50 million less than in the past in income, because of the closing of the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine which supplied it with coal (Arlyssa Besenti, "Branch chiefs prepare for lean years," Navajo Times, December 29, 2019). 

       The Navajo Nation Council heard testimony, in late April 2020, to the effect that the Division of Social Services can take up to 8 months, or even over a year, to provide funding or to respond to requests and other paperwork from the domestic violence shelters in its programs, resulting in serious problems for the shelters and the program. Some Council delegates wondered what they could do to solve the problem, since the funding comes from the executive branch. Some however suggested that they could improve the situation with a change in policy (Cindy Yurth, DV shelters wait up to 8 month for pass-through grants," Navajo Times, April 30, 2020). 

       The Navajo Division of Community Development (DCD) reported  in June 2020, that 80 of the nation's 110 chapters suffer from some kind of conflict within their administration, seriously limiting community participation and greatly reducing local government effectiveness. The DVD director stated that it is necessary to move to a more performance based work environment. that will require training of managers on supervisory responsibilities, and of staff as well. personnel management and conflict resolution training are also necessary. Though the main problem has been lack of training, a shift to at-will employment might also be needed so that employees can be fired more easily (Tima Krisst, "DC director addresses chapter conflict," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020). 

      The Navajo Nation Office of the Auditor General reported, at the beginning of March 2020, that there continue to be mixed results in getting Chapters to handle finances and the related paperwork properly. Of six chapters then recently audited, two did very well: Kaibeto and Dilkon . Four others had problems that still needed correction: Standing Rock, Round Rock, Nahata Dziil, and Sanostee. Kaibeto Chapter is an example of the learning that a number of chapters have achieved since the Nation decentralized some functions and their financing to the 110 chapters, most of whose personnel were not used to standard bookkeeping and handling of finances. That chapter improved steadily over three audits to obtain full compliance (Bill Donovan, "Auditors find mixed result at 6 chapters," Navajo Times, March 5, 2020).
      Some 20 ranchers in the Eastern Navajo Agency complained in March that the three party agreement to regulate grazing had broken down with the demise of the local land board, leading the BIA filling the vacuum, making decisions without consulting ranchers, who say they suffer from unfair decisions without due process. The ranchers say the problem stems from the board representing Navajos and responsible for facilitating resolution of disputes steadily losing power and compensation of its  members, so that so few were coming to meetings that there was not the needed quorum for the board to act (Cindy Yurth, "Eastern ranchers say BIA mishandling grazing permits," Navajo Times, April 23, 2020).

       The president of Navajo Nation, Jonathan Nez, noting that in the midst of dealing with the corona virus, the tribal council passed a number of measures without the usual five day public comment period, undertook his own public consultation on those measures, leading him to veto several bills that he found unnecessary (Arlyssa Besenti, "Nez issues vetoes with public input," Navajo Times, May, 2020). 

      The clothing retailer Madhappy apologized to Navajo Nation, in January 2020, on receiving a complaint that its Aspen, CO store had appropriated the seal of the Navajo Nation on its clothing. The company said it would have the Aspen store stop using the similar symbol and offered to donate all proceeds from the sale of items with the Navajo Nation seal like design to the Navajo Nation (Donovan Quintero, "Clothing retailer apologizes for design resembling Navajo seal," Navajo Times, April 23, 2020).

      The Navajo Nation Tribal Utility Authority received authorization from the nation's Council for $1 million for Phase II of "Light Up Navajo," to bring electricity to 300 reservation homes in the next year, exceeding Phase I's 233 homes (Arlyssa Becenti, "Committees approve $ million for 'Ligjht Up Navajo'," Navajo Times, January 6, 2020).

       Simon Romero, "Tribal Nation Condemns ‘Desecration’ to Build Border Wall: Construction of a wall on the Arizona border is endangering sacred Indigenous sites — including an oasis that has supported human beings for the last 16,000 years," The New York Times, February 26, 2020,, reported, "Cut down a saguaro cactus in Arizona and you can face years in prison. But over the past several weeks, work crews have been destroying dozens of the protected cactuses, which can live for 200 years, to build a new wall on the southwestern border."
      "Work along the border, according to tribal leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation who live on both sides of the border, is blasting ancient burial sites and siphoning an aquifer that feeds a desert oasis where human beings have slaked their thirst for 16,000 years.
       The wall, which even knowledgeable supporters of tight immigration and border security policy see as an ineffective waste of money, needlessly violates Indigenous rights and wellbeing, and long established environmental policy and concerns, while doing economic harm to local economies. This section of the wall is inside the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an area designated by UNESCO as an internationally protected biosphere reserve. The construction related work destroys an endangered species and Native American burial sites, while the large amounts water for mixing great quantities of concrete is being pumped from the fragile aquifer supporting life in an around the monument.

      Octaviana Trujillo, Laurie Smith Monti, and Gary Paul Nabhan, "Indigenous Religious Freedom Violations Abound at the U.S.-Mexico Border Barriers," Cultural Survival, March 19, 2020,, reported, " This last year, we have palpably felt a heightened level of traumatic stress pervasive in the Indigenous communities where all three of us have worked on both sides of the international boundary. Throughout our adult lives, we have provided educational opportunities, technical assistance, and land rights advocacy strategies within the many Indigenous communities that live within 100 miles or so from the U.S.-Mexico border. But now, we see the bridges that we have worked to build across the border threatened. Within the last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began to build Trump’s 30 foot wall through many sacred sites and across many traditional pilgrimage routes that have served transborder Tribes for centuries.
       Some of these routes once led to rare sacred springs, salt-gathering flats, ceremonial grounds and cemeteries. A few of those sites literally occur right on the border, on the very right of way that Homeland Security has begun to bulldoze to stage its construction of a thirty foot tall steel wall with 24/7 flood lighting on top. We are among the many activists who are bearing witness to the damage U.S. federal agencies do to culturally-important desert gathering grounds, mountain retreats, and oases, as they leave the smell of dead and rotting plants in their wake.
      No wonder we sense so much stress, remorse and grief being expressed by our compadres and neighbors with deep cultural ties to these sacred sites. In December 2019, we joined in as speakers at a multicultural rally not far from wall construction sites  in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Theis 'Wilderness Area' lies just west of the Tohono O’odham Reservation, but has been part of O’odham homelands for millennia. We arrived within a few days of when Homeland Security began toppling hundreds of tall saguaro cacti that would be otherwise protected by Arizona State Native Plant Laws. Since 1937, the National Park Service has respected the O’odham community’s rights to gather cactus fruit at these sites, rights guaranteed by a Presidential Proclamation and the monument’s own enabling legislation passed by Congress.
      We watched tearfully as two middle-aged O’odham women walked among the carnage of dozens of the sacred cactus plants whose fruits are required to ferment the sacramental wine used in their summer rain-making ceremonies. One of the women was weeping inconsolably. The other simply mourned a loud, 'Why would anyone do this? What would make them do such a thing? Don’t they know that these plants are our ancestors?'
      This is not the first or only episode of racism, resource usurpment, and violence against Indigenous border-dwellers and their traditions that has occurred since 1918, when a Yaqui youth became the first border-crosser to be shot and killed by U.S. law enforcers stationed on the border. The killing occurred at Nogales, Arizona, not far from where the three of us live today. The only error made by that Indigenous victim was trying to cross the border to see relatives that had settled on the other side. He apparently did not understand enough Spanish or English to comprehend an infantryman’s warning not to cross the open border at International Street in Nogales.
      Today , Yaqui elders from the sacred Yoemem Pueblos to the south of the border are faced with a new wave of difficulties getting into the U.S., to guide their sister communities north of the border in their Lenten observances. These observances keep alive centuries-old folk Catholic traditions of the Yoemem, but also include millennia-old sacred Deer Dance and Pascola traditions. Without the spiritual leadership of these maestros from the Rio Yaqui communities in Sonora to guide the ceremonies held today in Yaqui barrios within Tucson and Phoenix, these ancient traditions can be disrupted or diminished.
       We have also engaged in dialogues with O’odham communities on both sides of the border, for we have historically documented their spiritual traditions that are being directly violated and disrupted by Trump’s border wall construction. There are both Tohono O’odham and Hia c-ed O’odham families who live immediately adjacent to the international boundary, in villages on both sides of the border barriers. They are subjects of frequent harassment by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. Many of the families’ transborder cultural practices are now difficult to maintain due to changing policies and unprecedented barriers. Tohono O’odham and Hia c-ed O’odham have lived and maintained ancient spiritual practices for centuries at Quitobaquito, a spring-fed water hole on the border roughly 100 miles west of Nogales and 50 miles northeast of one of their places of origin. As Verlon Jose, governor and spokesperson for the traditional O’odham leaders of Mexico has stated, “The new border wall would cut off the route of ceremonial salt pilgrimage and interfere with this sacred ritual,” by blocking access to the sea shores edging the revered Sierra del Pinacate in Mexico.  Quitobaquito is the closed sacred site and stopover with water on the way to this sacred mountain and its salt flats near the shores of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
      While the O’odham still have strong ties to these sacred sites, they lost their property rights to their lands at Quitobaquito in the 1950’s, through a scandalous set of maneuvers by unscrupulous Park Service officials. Their eviction from Quitobaquito was ironic, for several decades before, the federal government itself had drawn up a map circumscribing a 200 acre area for an O’odham Reservation on the half of their village area north of the border. Later, the Park Service wanted to build a resort hotel there at one time, and so began humiliating the Native residents remaining in the area by posting roadside signs on the way to the springs that said, 'Watch Out for Cattle, Deer and Indians.'
      Although the O’odham never lived year-round at Quitobaquito after the 1950s, one of us witnessed tribal elders there in the 1970’s and 1980’s who regularly arrived for seasonal spiritual observances, including Day of the Dead ceremonies. By that time, many O’odham blended Catholic traditions with their own Indigenous spiritual traditions. Quitobaquito’s spring waters were used for baptisms as late as the 1980’s. Curiously, the first recorded Palm Sunday Mass in what is now Arizona occurred at the springs in 1698. That’s when the O’odham share palm fronds with Jesuit missionary Padre Eusebio Kino for a celebration at that sacred site. Such religious expressions have been practiced there ever since. Despite the fact that Quitobaquito Springs lies off reservation, all Park Service superintendents at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument have reaffirmed and even facilitated the O’odham Peoples’ right to continue to practice their spiritual traditions there.
       It is only Homeland Security that insists that it has the authority to disrupt or diminish these time-tried traditions on the basis of a Presidential Proclamation of a 'border crisis' in the summer of 2018. That so-called emergency has allowed Homeland Security to waive 41 different federal and state laws protecting antiquities, religious freedom, and endangered species protection in order to fast-track the building of the wall. In late January 2020, CBP Chief of the Tucson Sector, Ray Villareal, used those waivers as his excuse for allowing bulldozers to cut into burial sites, displace human bones, blow up a mountainside and topple cacti near Quitobaquito. In doing so, Villareal and his D.C. boss Paul Enriquez flagrantly violated another Presidential Proclamation, the 1937 declaration by Franklin Roosevelt guaranteeing the Tohono O’odham rights to resources in that landscape.
      Nevertheless, Homeland Security did not and cannot waive the constitutionally-guaranteed expression of religious freedom that applies to native spirituality as well as to formal western and eastern religions. Although few cases advanced by Indigenous Peoples have been recognized by the high courts, we are among the many who believe that the O’odham practice of their place-based spiritual traditions fully meets protection criteria under the constitution.
      When the three of us spearheaded 'listening sessions' with over a dozen western tribes in order to develop a Sacred Lands and Gathering Grounds Tool Kit over a decade ago, we could not have realized that some of the legal principles elucidated in the Tool Kit would be needed to help protect Indigenous religious freedom in our own backyard. We urge all Tribes and their legal experts to join with the Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras to challenge Homeland Security on its unnecessary, arrogant and illegal destruction of sacred sites, their associated waters and plants, and its disruption of cross-border exchanges among Indigenous spiritual leaders."

      Joaqlin Estus,  "Air Force General explores century- late apology for US bombing of Tlingit villages," ICT,  February 20, 2020,, reported, "'We're in the weeds of intergenerational trauma'
       A top military leader in Alaska told Tlingit clan leaders earlier this month that the military is open to the idea of apologizing for the bombardment of three Tlingit villages in 1869 and 1882.
      Lt. Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander of the US Air Force’s North American Aerospace Defense Command Pacific Region, met with Tlingit clan leaders
on Feb. 5 from three Southeast Alaska villages. Bussiere said he first heard about the Angoon bombardment in a talk given by Institute president Rosita Worl, Tlingit, at a military event."

      " Obstacles At Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced By Native American Voters, An Investigation by the Native American Rights Fund," May 2020,, reported, "In 2017 and 2018, the Native American Voting Rights Coalition—founded by the Native American Rights Fund—held nine public hearings to better understand how Native Americans are systemically and culturally kept from fully exercising their franchise. More than 120 witnesses testified from dozens of tribes across the country.
       The final report, Obstacles At Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced By Native American Voters, provides detailed evidence that Native people face obstacles at every turn in the electoral process: from registering to vote, to casting votes, to having votes counted.
      Some of these findings affect non-Natives as well. Many are particular to the Indian Country experience in 2020. Some were put in place specifically to suppress turnout.
1. Geographic isolation
2. Physical and natural barriers
3. Poor or non-existent roads
4. Distance, travel time, and limited hours of non-tribal government offices
5. Technological barriers and the digital divide
6. Low levels of educational attainment
7. Depressed socio-economic conditions
8. Homelessness and housing insecurity
9. Lack of addresses and non-traditional mailing addresses
10. Lack of resources and funding
11. Discrimination against Native Americans
1. Lack of traditional mailing addresses
2. Homelessness and housing instability
3. Hard to obtain voter ID requirements
4. Unequal access to online voter registration
5. Unequal access to in-person voter registration
6. Restrictions on access to voter registration forms
7. Denial of voter registration opportunities due to previous convictions
8. Rejection of voter registration applications
9. Voter purges
10. Failure to offer registration opportunities at polling places on Election Day
1. Unequal funding for voting activities in Native American communities
2. Lack of pre-election information and outreach
3. Cultural and political isolation
4. Unequal access to in-person voting
5. Unequal access to early voting
6. Barriers caused by vote-by-mail
7. Arbitrary population thresholds in order to establish polling places
8. Use of the ADA to deny polling places on reservation lands
9. Lack of Native American election workers.
1. Lack of ballot canvassing opportunities
2. Failure to count ballots cast out-of- precinct
3. Ballot collection bans
4. Lack of information on ballot status and the inability to correct errors.
1. Native Americans do not have mail delivery at their homes
2. Distant rural post offices, slow mail routes, too few PO boxes
3. Homelessness, over-crowding, moving homes
4. In-person registration on paper registration forms
5. Some elder Native American voters are not fluent or literate in English
       Difficulties in voting—the very foundation of democracy—are not new for Native Americans. It is part of the legacy of genocide and racism the continent’s first peoples have fought for more than 500 years. American Indians have only been recognized as citizens for less than a century.
       But just as it is not new, this problem is also not unsolvable. Politicians would do well to note the impact of their Native American constituents. The Native vote regularly decides elections in the Dakotas, Alaska, and parts of the Southwest. Their votes are determinative in numerous Congressional districts.
       And this is about more than political fortunes. This is about the well-being of United States citizens. Eradicating barriers to political participation for Native Americans would improve:
      Socio-economic status
      Land rights
      Water rights
      Simply put: the first people on the land should not be the last to vote.
      In the United States, power is available through participatory democracy. If Native Americans can engage fully in the political system—free from the barriers that currently obstruct them—they can reclaim power and participate in America in a way that is fair and just.
       The first critical step: Congress must pass the Native American Voting Rights Act, or its component pieces in other legislation. This bill will ensure that Native Americans have access to political participation by starting to address the obstacles outlined in this report. For example, mandating polling places on reservations will cut down travel time and allow Native American voters to cast a ballot in a familiar place free from discrimination.
       States and state officials should make sure election activities for Native Americans are equitably funded and establish Native American task forces to ensure Native American citizens are provided equal access to registration and voting opportunities within their states. States should not require a physical address, or proof of a physical address, to register or cast a ballot.
       Local election officials should reach out directly to tribes to consult about placement of vote centers with registration opportunities and polling places within Native communities and recruit Native American community members to work as poll workers and local election officials. For vote by mail specifically, election officials should ensure safe curbside voting and ballot drop boxes, and deploy mobile registration and voting stations. Election day postmarks should be accepted as the norm, as should postage-paid ballots. Third parties should be allowed to collect ballots and drop off completed ballots, and there must be a process for rectifying signature match issues.
       Tribes should encourage their members to participate in state and federal elections as a way to increase political power, reach out to and work with county officials to increase voter access for their members, and issue voter guides to de-mystify voting processes and ballot initiatives that affect the tribal community. Tribes should make voter registration for state and federal elections available in all tribal buildings and encourage registration at every point of contact with tribal members.
       Tribal citizens should register and vote, and encourage their families and friends to register to vote. They should arrange voter registration drives and reach out to their tribal governments expressing enthusiasm for get out the vote efforts.
       Concerned citizens and activists should reach out to their elected officials, including their Secretary of State, to insist upon equitable access for Native Americans by inquiring whether the state has a Native American task force, insist upon voting opportunities on Native American lands, and demand funding for Native American voting and registration opportunities. "
       Read the full report at:, where more information is available.

      Aliyah Chavez, "12 Native candidates for Congress: If elected ... 'It will be a great day'," ICT, February 18, 2020,, reported on 12, who become 15, Native Americans running for the  U.S. House and Senate:
       Karen Bedonie , Navajo, U.S. House of Representatives, New Mexico, District 3, Republican.
       Dineh Benally , Navajo, U.S. House of Representatives, New Mexico, District 3, Democrat.
       Gavin Clarkson , Choctaw, U.S. Senate, New Mexico, Republican.
       Tom Cole , Chickasaw, U.S. House of Representatives, Oklahoma, District 4 incumbent, Republican.
       Sharice Davids , Ho-Chunk, U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas, District 3 incumbent, Democrat.
       Deb Haaland , Laguna Pueblo, U.S. House of Representatives, New Mexico, District 1 incumbent, Democrat.
       Yvette Herrell, Cherokee Nation, U.S. House of Representatives, New Mexico, District 2, Republican (running against incumbent Xochitl Torres Small, of Aztec heritage, Democrat).
       Paulette Jordan , Coeur d'Alene, U.S. Senate, Idaho, Democrat.
       Kai Kahele, Native Hawaiian, U.S. House of Representatives, Hawaii, District 2, Democrat.
       Elisa Martinez , Navajo, U.S. Senate, New Mexico, Republican.
       Markwayne Mullin , Cherokee, U.S. House of Representatives, Oklahoma, District, 2, Republican.
       Darren Parry, Shoshone-Bannock, U.S. House of Representatives, Utah, District 1, Democrat.
       Rudy Soto , Shoshone-Bannock, U.S. House of Representatives, Idaho, District 1, Democrat.
       Tricia Zunker , Ho-Chunk, U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin, District 3, Democrat.
       Danyell Lanier (Cherokee) is uncontested in running for Congress as a democrat in Oklahoma's 2nd congressional district (Aliyah Chavez, "The campaigns: ‘A call to service,’" ICT,  February 27, 2020,
       Hoksila White Mountain (Standing Rock Lakota) is running for mayor in the Standing Rock town of McLaughlin, SD (Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People's Law Project via E-mail).
       Tricia Zunker, a Democrat from Wausau, WI and a justice on the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court, failed in her effort to win the special election for Congress in Wisconsin's Seventh Congressional District  ("Wisconsin Special Election Results: Seventh Congressional District." The New York Times, May 12, 2020,

       Following the primary elections, ending in early June, at least 4 Native Americans were on the ballot for Congress in the November elections: in Idaho   Paulette Jordan, Coeur d’Alene, running the Senate and Rudy Soto, Shoshone-Bannock running for the House; In New Mexico incumbent , Democrat, Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, is running in the First Congressional District, and in the Second, Republican Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, is seeking a rematch against incumbent Xochitl Torres Small, of Aztec heritage. In the New Mexico Republican primary for Senate,  Gavin Clarkson, Choctaw, and Elisa Martinez, Navajo, failed to win. Failing to win in the Republican primary for New Mexico's Third District was Karen Bedonie, Navajo.
       Six additional Native Candidates are running in August primaries. Among them are three House of Representatives incumbents,  Sharice Davids, Democrat, Ho-Chunk, of Kansas, and Republican representatives are from Oklahoma, Tom Cole, Chickasaw, and Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee.
      I n Montana, Shane Morigeau, Salish and Kootenai, won the democratic primary for state auditor. Over-all, Indian Country Today was aware of 40 Native candidates running in June 3 primaries including for Congress and state legislature seats, in New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and Iowa.
      The  candidates in other state races were:
In Iowa, one candidate ran for state Legislature:
WON: Christina Blackcloud, Meskwaki, IA House 72
Montana had 21 candidates running for state Legislature:
WON: Jade Bahr, Northern Cheyenne, MT House 50.
WON: Barbara Bessette, Chippewa Cree, MT House 24
LOST: Jestin Dupree, Assiniboine, MT Senate 16
LOST: Kristofer Fourstar, Assiniboine and Cree, MT Senate 16
WON: Mike Fox, A’aniih, MT Senate 16
LOST: Alex Gray, Little Shell, MT Senate 46
WON: Donavon Hawk, Crow, MT House 76
LOST: Dakota Hileman, Assiniboine, MT House 96
WON: Rhonda Knudsen, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, MT House 34
WON: Bruce Meyers, Chippewa Cree, MT House 32
WON: Rae Peppers, Northern Cheyenne, MT Senate 21
WON: Tyson Running Wolf , Blackfeet, MT House 16
LOST: August Scalpcane, Northern Cheyenne, MT House 41
WON: Jason Small, Northern Cheyenne, MT Senate 21
WON: Frank Smith, Assiniboine, MT House 31
WON: Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, Crow, MT House 42
DISQUALIFIED: Kaden Walksnice, Northern Cheyenne, MT House 41
WON: Marvin Weatherwax, Blackfeet, MT House 15
LOST: Nick White, CSKT, MT House 15
WON: Rynalea Whiteman-Pena, Northern Cheyenne, MT House 41
WON: Jonathan Windy Boy, Chippewa Cree, MT House 32
New Mexico had nine candidates running for state Legislature :
WON: Anthony Allison, Navajo, NM House 4
WON: Doreen Johnson, Navajo, NM House 5
WON: Derrick Lente , Sandia and Isleta Pueblos, NM House 65
WON: Georgene Louis, Acoma Pueblo, NM House 26
LOST: James R. Madalena , Jemez Pueblo, NM House 65
WON: Shannon Pinto, Navajo, NM Senate 3
WON: Patricia Roybal Caballero, Piro Manso Tiwa, NM House 13
WON: Benny Shendo Jr., Jemez Pueblo, NM Senate 22
WON: Brenda McKenna, Pueblo of Nambe, Senate 9
South Dakota had two candidates running for state Legislature:
WON: Shawn Bordeaux, Rosebud Sioux, SD House 26A
LOST: Alexandria Frederick, Oglala Lakota, SD House 2
      (Aliyah Chavez, "4 Native candidates for Congress advance to November," ICT, June 2, 2020,

      Aliyah Chavez, "North Dakota primary: 3 Native women ‘using their voices to bring change’," ICT,  June 11, 2020,, reported, " Three Native women running for the North Dakota state Legislature will advance to the November election.
      All three are Democrats: Thomasina Mandan, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, and Tracey Wilkie, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, are running for state House seats
. For state Senate, Lisa Finley- DeVille, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, ran unopposed in Tuesday’s primary election."

       Doreen Garlid became the first Navajo elected to the Tempe, AZ city council, in March 2020 ("First Dine elected to the Tempe City Council," Navajo Times, March 19, 2020).

       Gertrude Lee, Navajo and member of the Navajo Bar Association, was running for the New Mexico Court of Appeals, in Mat 2020 ("A New Voice for Justice," Navajo Times, May 28, 2020).

       Edwin J. Begay, former president of the Navajo Tohatchi Chapter, was running for McKinley County, NM Clerk (Former chapter president running for McKinley County Clerk," Navajo Times, June March 26, 2020).

      Aliyah Chavez ,"Montana Democrats seek more Natives in local elections," ICT, May 28, 2020,, reported, " Montana’s Democratic Party is hoping to grow its ranks by encouraging more Democrats to run for local offices. The party will establish three permanent leadership positions for Native people dedicated to this mission, it announced at a news conference Wednesday.
      The three Native leaders will serve on a steering committee along with seven other individuals whose task will be to guide the party’s Blue Bench Project," whose goal is to recruit local leaders who may want to run for a local office but may not have campaigning experience.

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Economic Developments

      Mark Trahant, "The COVID-19 hit to Indian Country is nearly $50 billion: Developing story. Harvard study looks at loss of payroll, income," ICT, April 13, 2020,, reported, " Indian Country stands to lose nearly $50 billion in economic activity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a team of Harvard researchers.
      The Harvard research team estimates that directly and through spillover effects into surrounding communities, tribal gaming and non
gaming enterprises and tribal governments together support more than 1.1 million jobs and more than $49.5 billion in annual wages and benefits for American workers."
      Most of the employees are non-Indian, and much of the spillover effect is in the surrounding communities - including some Indians, so the potential almost $49 billion dollar loss is for tribes, Indians and others impacted.

      "Native American Bank bolsters Indian Country in COVID-19 crisis: Providing millions of dollars in small business loans," April 24th, 2020,, reported, " Denver-based Native American Bank, N.A. has supported applications for nearly $16 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding to alleviate the COVID-19 health and economic crisis in Indian Country, bank officials announced this week."
       Tina Casey, "Why One Solar Power Project In South Dakota Will Rule Them All," Clean Technica, February 5th, 2020,, reported, "South Dakota is finally on track to dip its toe in the utility-scale solar power waters for the very first time, with a 110-megawatt plant slated for construction on federal trust land in Oglala Lakota County, in the southwestern corner of the state." The huge solar plant on land leased by the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation will not only add greatly to the amount of large scale solar energy being produced in the U.S. It is already encouraging other tribal nations to build or contract for the building of other large scale solar arrays. The low cost power is likely to draw new businesses to this very poor area.
      Joaqlin Estus, "Tribes' billion dollar oil industry ... and now? 'This pandemic has made it worse, five times worse' ICT, April 22, 2020,," reported, " The future price for a barrel of crude oil dropped below zero on Monday. A new record. A minus sign for a future contract. And a day later the price was not much better.  A barrel of crude was trading as low as $6.50 a barrel Tuesday, more than 80 percent lower than the start of the year.
      For the tribes and Alaska Native corporations that produce oil or support the oil industry the collapse of the industry means less money across the board
      The oil industry had long been in a boom. Indian country oil production, valued in 2019 as a billion dollar business, had doubled its production in a year . The oil industry world wide's rush to drill and pump had already caused a huge oversupply, that would plunge prices. Then COVID-19 brought a huge reduction in industrial production and transportation, tremendously dropping demand for oil. That caused an unprecedented drop in the price of oil. That was made worse for a time, when Russia refused to curt back oil production, to which Saudi Arabia reacted by increasing its production. Eventually, an international agreement was reached among major petroleum producers cutting back production, and the price of oil has gone up to some extent. But a huge world oil glut remains, and with COVID-19 continuing, it is uncertain when, and to what extent, demand for oil will rise to anything near previous levels. Indeed, unless it rises above $40 a barrel, the cost of drilling and pumping oil in many locations will exceed the market price. Meanwhile, the ongoing development of green energy is reducing the oil market continually. Environmentally - and for the health and welfare of the world, overall, these developments are extremely positive. But for those, including tribes and Native people, involved with the oil industry it is an economic disaster.
       30% of nonrenewable energy reserves in the U.S. are held by tribes. Those with sizable oil and gas reserves are the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes in North Dakota, Southern Ute tribe in Colorado, Wind River Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes in Wyoming, Jicarilla Apache tribe in New Mexico, Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah and the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. At least some of them, including the Southern Utes, have diversified their economies, but even for those who have been able to do so significantly the loses are, and will continue to be, tremendous. A leader of the Mandan has stated that 90% of his nation's revenue stems from oil. The situation is bleak also for several for-profit Alaska Native corporations. They own subsurface mineral rights and provide oil support services. The Alaska Natives  and their villages who receive dividends will also drop considerably. For Nations that rely heavily on oil to provide their citizens jobs and services, and to develop and support tribal infrastructure, the collapse of oil already is, and for some time will be, a severe difficulty.
      For the long term, the main hope appears to be in wind and solar energy, which is already being developed in Indian country. But that will take time to fully realize, and in the meantime the losses in tribal and tribal member non-energy businesses because of COVID-19 are already a quite substantial burden.

      "The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development published a report, in April 2020, on the impact of the closing of the some 500 Indian gaming facilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report indicated that the effect was quite serious for a large number of Indian Nations, for which casino income is a, and in quite a few cases, the, main source of funding for tribal services and other member benefits. This is not universally the case, as for example, at Navajo Nation the primary source for providing services, and funding chapter projects, are sales taxes on sales the reservation. There, the Nation has received far more in interest on capital loans to its casinos, than on gaming profit sharing.
       Another economic loss is the laying off, or putting on administrative leave, of the 1.1 million casino employees, the vast majority of whom are not tribal members. Where tribes have continued to pay nonworking casinos, that has been an additional strain on the finances of the casinos and/or the nations. Where the employees have not been paid while off work, that is a hardship on them - including on those who are tribal members - with multiplying negative impacts on the area economy. In addition, the loss of state and federal tax revenues is huge, at a rate of about $17.7 billion a year (Bill Donovan, "Casino closings could have long term effect on tribes," Navajo Times, April 16, 2020).

       Thomas Fuller, " Asserting Sovereignty, Indian Casinos Defy California’s Governor and Reopen: Some casinos swung open their doors last week despite health concerns. 'This virus does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries,' Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote to tribal leaders," The New York Times, May 29, 2020,, reported, " More than a dozen Indian casinos across California reopened last week, with Viejas vowing “a hospital-clean environment” and strict limits on the number of people gambling at one time. A majority of Indian casinos in the state have chosen to stay closed and are coordinating their reopening with the governor’s office, which has proposed an opening date in early June."

       Navajo Nation casinos, closed March 17, 2020 because of COVID-19, whose serious impact on the Nation caused a postponement from a mid-June reopening, to a newly planed reopening on July 6. Employees have been on administrative leave at full pay. A dozen Arizona tribal casinos, some in the Phoenix area, reopened at the end of May with no apparent new cases of COVID-19 as a result, as of June 4 (Bill Donovin, "Casinos aim for mid-June opening," Navajo Times, June 4, 2020; and "Casinos delay reopening," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020).

      In the third quarter of 2019, Arizona tribal casinos paid $18.4 million into the state's Arizona Benefits Fund, an increase of 10% over the third quarter of 2018 (Bill Donovan, "Tribal casinos see uptick in state contributions," Navajo Times, March 26, 2020).
      "Sky Ute Casino Resort to launch a mobile sports betting app ,"  Southern Ute Drum, June 19, 2020,, reported, " Sky Ute Casino Resort has scheduled a 'soft' launch of its new mobile sports betting app, called the Sky Ute SportBook. The app went live June 2, at 12 p.m. (Noon) MST and will allow anyone over the age of 21 in the state of Colorado to place legal bets on sporting events. Public advertisement of the sports betting app went live on Tuesday, June 9."
       Navajo Nation is recovering some of its loss from the November 2019 closing of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) through a 2017 lease extension contract with the U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation and the owners of NGS, under which the nation rents the transmission lines related to the now closed station for $1.7 million annually for 35 years, and then sells transmission rights on the 500 MW line on the open market. An outside firm is being payed to manage the project for Navajo Nation. Under the contract, the NGS owners agreed to cover maintenance costs for 10 years, which then fall to Navajo Nation, while the Nation covers the $2.9 million annual capital costs (Rima Krisst, "Whers's the Juice: 500 MW line open for business," Navajo Times, January 9, 2020).

      " The Navajo Nation agreed, in January 2020, to join with the Salt River Project in building a solar farm to produce up to 200 megawatts of electricity on the Navajo Nation (Arlyssa Besenti, "Nation to partner with SRP to develop solar project," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020).

       A significant number of Navajos have been making money in the underground tourist market by renting sheep camps and hogans through Airbnb, Rental By Owner, and similar web sites to tourists interested in experiencing Dine life (Cindy Yurth, "Dine are turning their hogans into cash on Airbnb," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020). The closing of the reservation has most likely cut off these rentings for the duration.

       The Rhino Health LLC glove factory on the Navajo Nation has seen its business explode with the corona virus epidemic and has had to struggle to keep up with the huge increase in glove orders (Donovan Quintero, "It's like a tsunami hit us: glove factory struggles to keep up with demand," Navajo Times, June 11, 2020).

       The Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge, SD has had its hemp production plan  approved by the US Department of Agriculture and has appointed a director of its hemp program soon to be developed (Tom Crash. "New Hemp Director and Hemp Plan Approved," Lakota Times, April 02, 2020,

      "Koef Grant Partner Spotlight: Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective," Cultural Survival, April 28, 2020, reported, " The Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective sustains “the spiritual foundation of traditional livelihoods through sustainable food and agroecological systems” in the New England area. The Collective’s projects are rooted in the reclamation of traditional food, wild medicines, and ecological knowledge through exchange, mutual aid, and apprenticeship within Tribal territories of the northeast. These projects focus on local infrastructure needs of their various food cultivation spaces with the goal of building capacity through trust and care to others. Now more than ever, centering Indigenous food systems and restoring kinship is necessary to save our planet and the most vulnerable communities from the devastating effects of climate change.
      Led entirely by Indigenous women and Two-spirits, the Collective aims to be “non-exploitative” and “regenerative.” Rematriation, Collective members explain, “supports the expression of our power from within; this expression is reciprocal and in the service of our relatives.” Why is this necessary, particularly regarding the role of women and Two-spirits? “This balanced way of life,” Members of the Collective say, “has been violently tested, limited and stripped away from our womxn, Two-spirits, and youth. The traumas of surviving over 400 years of colonization and genocide has manifested through lateral violence, partner abuse, and high rates of substance abuse and suicide in many of our communities. What we desperately need as women and Two-spirits are spaces to heal, organize, and strategize on ways to escape the colonial systems that are designed to keep us oppressed, unhealthy, and disconnected from the earth and our way of life. In a matriarchal framework power becomes transformative. The process of rematriation re-powers our people and allows us to remember that we have what it takes to live healthy balanced lives. By centering Indigenous women and Two-spirits as medicine people, midwives, and food producers, we are rematriating our food and economic systems in a way that’s more resilient and just.”
      The projects the Collective carries out take place throughout New England. In the north, they work with the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamquoddy and Penobscot peoples and families; in the south, they work with Nipmuc, Wampanoag, Massachusett, Narragansett, Mohegan Peoples and families as well as urban, mobile, and displaced Native people.
      One of the primary projects carried out by the Collective is the Wabanaki Herbalism Apprenticeship Program, which aimed to foster exchange, dialogue, and sharing of knowledge of Indigenous health practices with the long-term goal of developing a Tribal community apothecary and trained traditional birth and death practitioners who can serve local communities. The Collective states that 'by training and convening healers in our communities we are building and reclaiming ancestral knowledge and making non-pharmaceutical health more accessible while reducing our reliance on pharmaceuticals...The apothecary is a space where we can deliberately assure the continuance of traditional healers.'
      Given that the apothecary plays such an essential role in the community, expanding the number of trained individuals who understand Indigenous medicine through the aforementioned Apprenticeship Program was the logical next step for the Collective. In it, participants learned about plant identification and harvest, cultural relationships with plants, making medicines and clinical application, home first aid, maternal health, prevention, recovery, and more.
      Since receiving the Keepers of the Earth Fund grant, the Collective has trained 12 apprentices through its Wabanaki Herbalism Apprenticeship Program. Its one-year apprenticeship will be finished at the beginning of May. The Collective told Cultural Survival, 'Apprentices continue studying and gathering medicines to begin by first building their home apothecary and second, a community apothecary to share among kin networks.'
      In addition, the Collective held multiple intensive sessions about food and land access all grounded in spirituality and values of rematriation. This included medicinal gatherings and teachings at our homes, reservation, and sites of special cultural significance, the building of a home and community apothecary, and a Roots and Barks Medicinal Session, which had participation from prospective apprentices from Southern New England.
      Finally, the Collective was able to create an inter-Tribal herbal medicine donation list to address the needs of the communities it works with, which include “maternal health, anxiety/depression, culturally significant medicines, and addiction.” In the same vein, the Collective shared medicines for tea and salves with women of Southern New England.
      'What is most beautiful about how far we have come in this grant period is the interaction we are witnessing among women and Two-spirits from different Tribal communities in the northeast and the ways members are building with each other and offering their own unique gifts and power for the betterment of the collective and all of our respective families, kin and homelands,” says co-founder Kristen Wyman (Natick Nipmuc). 'Many Tribes are conditioned to be siloed, to focus only on their community or in the case of many fed Tribes, to focus only on other federally recognized Tribes. Oftentimes, this leaves out families and individuals who have relocated for various reasons and aren't directly being serviced by their Tribal governments, are living in urban areas, and/or state recognized Tribes who hold important knowledge and continue defending land, but are often left out of decision making and social political spaces. To see this level of grassroots organizing and exercise of self-determination among Indigenous womxn and Two-spirits is really inspiring.'
       'Unfortunately with COVID-19,' it's more and more clear 'how the system we’re in...does not acknowledge our humanity,' said co-founder Nia Holley (Nipmuc). 'Given how COVID-19 has amplified the struggles Indigenous communities already face, the Collective has developed programs to adapt to the current crisis. Since mid-March we have been hosting weekly community care sessions, offered to our member families and Indigenous kin networks,” Wyman said. 'Each week is either focused on food as medicine, or as a space for participants to speak about their experiences and find community.'
      The Collective is also strengthening its mutual aid response for Tribal families by surveying members and identifying their needs, as well as distributing seeds, remedies, and produce from Maine to Massachusetts, as well as in parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. This involvement on a regional level is critical; and to quote co-founder Alivia Moore (Penobscot), 'Our local struggles are also connected to regional struggles across our Tribal communities
      The Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective plans to continue its Apprenticeship Program after a successful past year. 'We are offering apprentice opportunities to members in Southern New England who will formerly be offered an apprentice spot for the year two apprenticeship,” Wyman said. The Collective will also be 'creating opportunities for youth to engage in apothecary development and herbalism as part of a substance abuse prevention program.'
      Over the past year, the Collective has succeeded in promoting a balanced approach toward medicine, healing, and food and economic systems. Despite the challenges COVID-19 poses toward vulnerable communities, which includes Indigenous Peoples, the Collective is working hard to meet many urgent needs of its members, and continues to plan for its future work and progress toward enriching individuals, their kin networks, and our planet
       The White Sturgeon Project of the Yakama Nation of Washington State has worked many years preserving the Columbia River while raising Sturgeon. After having put more than 91,000 Sturgeon into the river, the Yakama are reaping a healthy eco system and a considerable profit from the sturgeons' caviar (Amilia Nierenberg, "Think Like a Sturgeon," The New York Times, March 20, 2020).

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Education and Culture

       First Nations Development Institute has been exploring how Indian nations might recover their intellectual property, including creative assets such as oral stories, print literature and art. Out of that, First Nations has developed an Indigenous reading campaign called #NativeReads: Great Books from Indigenous Communities. For 2020, they recommend a set of 10 booksorganized on a time line, Stories of the Oceti Sakowin: the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota people. For more information visit: (First Nations Development Institute, "#NativeReads:Great Books from Indigenous Communities"

      Eddie Chuculate, "Native colleges navigate virus challenges," ICT, May 24, 2020,, reported, "Across the country, Native American higher-education institutions are dealing with financial loss, delayed graduations, distance learning and varying degrees of uncertainty with the upcoming fall semester in the face of the coronavirus pandemic."
      Tribal institutions of higher learning completed the spring semester with virtual classes, and cancelled or postponed graduation ceremonies.
      As of late May, the various schools were making plans for fall. The Institute of Indian Arts (IAIA) scheduled classes for the first eight weeks of fall semester to be virtual, except for students in studio arts programs, who would return to campus.
      IAIA reported that during spring semester, while some students were not able to connect with virtual classes because they lacked of computers or internet connections, and had to take incompletes, attendance for classes was better than normal. "The school refunded over $300,000 in housing and food costs to students and disbursed at least $51,000 in emergency aid covering food, travel and housing expenses, including internet upgrades and hotspots in students’ homes and for personal laptops, Martin said, and will do so again this fall." During spring break, 11 students had no place to go, and were allowed to join 20 others on campus in family housing. IAIA lost $150,000 because renting of some of its facilities for events over the summer had to be cancelled.
       Bacone College, in Muscogee, OK, completed its spring semester for 243 students on-line, after an extended spring break, and delayed graduation for 40 students to December, along with waving housing deposits for fall semester and reducing tuition by 70% for summer, and 10% for the fall semester. during late spring lockdown, the Bacone School of Indian Art mailed out or personally delivered art materials to its students. For the fall semester, the school will facilitate social distancing by staggering the return of students over several weeks.
       Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, Kansas, after an extended spring break, moved classes online with the remote Blackboard system, beginning March 23. Graduation ceremonies have been tentatively postponed until fall, while, as the end of May, planning for fall semester was awaiting updated projections on the COVID-19 developing situation. With students from across the U.S., Haskell bought gasoline cards or provided airline tickets to help students return home after spring lockdown. 70 students who could not go home remained on campus, with a brunch served daily in safe distanced spaced dining room and meals delivered to students' dormitory rooms.
       Fort Lewis College, in Durango, CO shifted to virtual classes after spring break, holding a virtual graduation on the web, and offering an on-cite ceremony, August 29-30. Tuition free for Native students, the College refunded rooming fees on a prorated basis to students who had to leave campus after the spring lockdown. Students were encouraged to leave, but permitted to remain in dorms.
       United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota, shifted to online classes and closed its residence halls, March 31. Summer courses will be virtual, but tentative plans are for an in person fall semester with social distancing plans to be set prior to the start of classes.

      "American Indian College Fund Publishes Report on Ways for Tribal Colleges and Education Institutions to Increase Graduates in Health Fields: Results Gleaned from Roundtable with Tribal Colleges, Education Organization Leaders, April 7, 2020,, reported, " American Indians and Alaska Natives have significantly higher rates of chronic diseases and resulting effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is more important than ever that tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) create greater opportunities in the health sciences fields to better serve Native people. Today the American Indian College Fund published  Native Health Workforce Recommendations 2019, a report resulting from its September 2019 roundtable in Bismarck, North Dakota, where the College Fund convened TCU and education organization leaders to envision successful partnerships and TCU programs to graduate larger numbers of Native people in the health sciences fields to serve their communities.
      The Native Health Workforce Recommendations 2019 report details the needs of TCUs, existing relationships with education organizations, and opportunities to expand engagement to increase health care graduates in Indian Country.
       The following recommendations are detailed in the Native Health Workforce Recommendations 2019 report:
Creating a health care careers guide for middle and high school students;
Developing programs to share faculty and professional development;
Establishing an advocacy initiative that removes barriers to health program accreditation;
Creating opportunities through strategic engagement, consultation, and shared program development for partnerships among TCUs, reservation-based high schools, state/private colleges and universities, and health care professionals; Facilitating articulation agreements between tribal colleges and higher education institutions to create pathways into healthcare professions;
Encourage relationships among middle and high schools, TCUs, and other higher education institutions to support recruitment and retention of Native students in healthcare fields;
Investing in infrastructure such as wellness centers and food sovereignty programs to improve health indicators in tribal communities; and
Assessing and report upon local, statewide, or regional initiatives practices that successfully support AIAN students in health professions.
      Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, 'The global pandemic that has captured our resources affirms the timely recommendations of this report. We need health care workers throughout the country but particularly among American Indian and Alaska Native populations where culturally competent and place-based providers are critical to combatting COVID-19. We must get ready now and for the future.'
      The report is available for free download on the American Indian College Fund web site at"
      For more information contact: Dina Horwedel,, 303-430-5350.

       Fort Lewis College Native American center, in Durango Colorado, since classes were shifted to virtual, has been reaching out to its students to ensure their success ( The college offers Peek Experiences for new students and the Skyways Success Program to support students. Emergency funding has also been available for students (Lee Bitsoi, "Fort Lewis works to ensure student success," Navajo Times, May 14, 2020).

       Dine College at Shiprock, in spring 2020, began offering a multi-cultural bachelor’s degree program. Students who enroll in the program become eligible to obtain New Mexico teacher's certificates and teach in McKinley and San Juan Counties (Dine College to offer multi-cultural bachelor's program," Navajo Times, December 19, 2020).

      "Mellon Foundation Announces $4 Million Emergency Relief Grant to the American Indian College Fund in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic," American Indian College Fund, April 22, 2020, via E-mail, reported, " The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced a $4 million grant to the American Indian College Fund to support college students whose educational progress has been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
      While Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are engines of opportunity—propelled by a cadre of dedicated educators and administrators—many lack the resources needed to deploy information technology tools, student services, and other solutions at the scale needed by their students during the COVID-19 pandemic. TCUs have been disproportionately and devastatingly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to historical inequities, structural and enrollment-related challenges, and overly burdened institutional financial aid budgets. The Mellon Foundation is dedicated to supporting efforts to allocate resources and ensure that aid is delivered to students most in need.
      'Tribal Colleges and Universities are central to our nation’s fabric and critical to its future. The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding the societal and structural challenges that many of these institutions have long confronted, and we are committed to doing all that we can to support them and the students they serve,' said Mellon Foundation President Elizabeth Alexander.
      Even in better times, many students at these institutions face impediments to their individual well-being and academic progress. As campuses have closed in efforts to contain the virus’s spread, undergraduate and graduate students struggle to navigate these unprecedented times.
       According to the Tribal Colleges and Universities #RealCollege Survey report published this March, 29 percent of TCU student survey respondents were homeless at some point in the prior 12 months, almost 62 percent were food insecure in the prior 30 days, and 69 percent faced housing insecurity in the prior 12 months
      'The College Fund appreciates the ways that the Mellon Foundation has demonstrated leadership in its support of tribal colleges and has shown care for the well-being of our students and their families during this crisis,' said American Indian College Fund President Cheryl Crazy Bull. 'Our students are not only the backbone of their families, they are our hope for the future— through their perseverance and creativity, our tribal communities will survive this pandemic and bring prosperity to our society.'
      The American Indian College Fund will distribute the emergency funds to its network of tribal colleges so that they can address immediate and pressing needs related to the pandemic and provide persistence resources to support new and returning students in the summer and fall of 2020 and beyond as determined necessary. Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund is the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education. In addition to providing thousands of scholarships to Native American students, the College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations. 
      Members of the public may add their support by making individual contributions on the American Indian College Fund’s website,

      "United Health Foundation Grants $430K to American Indian College Fund to Expand Tribal Scholars Program: Three-Year Program to Increase Native Student Health Scholarships to Address Health Care Disparities in Indian Country, Including Dental Health," American Indian College Fund, June 11, 2020,, reported, " The United Health Foundation (UHF) is increasing its support of the American Indian College Fund’s United Health Foundation Tribal Scholars Program to ensure Native American communities have access to urgently needed health care with a $430,000 grant to provide 13 scholarships for American Indian and Alaska Natives studying in the health and dental fields. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the opportunity to address disparities in access to health care for underserved populations by increasing the number of minority health care providers to serve their communities.
      Studies show that American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) people lag behind other Americans with regard to health status. As a result, AIAN people born today have a life expectancy that is 5.5 years less than the U.S. population in all other races (73.0 years to 78.5 years, respectively), and AIAN people continue to die at higher rates than other Americans from diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and chronic lower respiratory diseases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. And today’s COVID-19 pandemic means Native people with chronic, underlying health conditions are at even greater risk.
      Lack of access to a dentist is also related to health problems. Periodontal disease (gum infection) is associated with increased risks for cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies also show that people with poor oral health and bad teeth are often stigmatized socially and when individuals are seeking employment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
      One major reason for health disparities in Native communities includes an insufficient supply of providers of health care services.
      'The American Indian College Fund is a longstanding partner we are honored to support – together, we are working to improve the capacity of the health care system to ensure Native communities receive the best quality care,” said Tracy Malone, president of the United Health Foundation. “Through this ongoing partnership, we are living our mission of building healthier communities by developing a modern health workforce that is culturally competent and can provide the right care at the right time.”
      Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, 'The College Fund appreciates that during this pandemic United Health Foundation is continuing its commitment to our scholars. Tribal people use our traditional ways of knowing and good relationships to support public health and the guidelines that will get us through this crisis. Together we are paving a healthy path for individuals and their families.'
      The goal of the American Indian College Fund’s United Health Foundation Tribal Scholars Program is to develop the next generation of Native health care providers to serve their communities with personalized, culturally competent care. The United Health Foundation has increased its support for the program by $70,000 this year to provide support to additional students.
      Rising sophomores who are studying to be a primary care physician, nurse, physician’s assistant, mental and behavioral health worker, dentist, or pharmacist are eligible for the scholarships, which total over $7,700 per year per student and are renewable for up to three years if students maintain their studies and a 3.0 grade point average. To apply for scholarships, please visit"

      Chris Kopacz, "Act of kindness kindles Choctaw-Ireland bond," ICT,  May 7, 2020,, reported, " A donation by the tribe 173 years ago remains a powerful memory in Ireland and lives on in a unique scholarship experience for Choctaw grads seeking advanced degrees.      
      The $170 donated by Choctaw leaders in 1847 — or “Black ’47,” as the Irish who survived the rampant starvation, disease and exposure remembered it — would today have amounted to over $5,000, historians estimate."
      " The Choctaw-Ireland Scholarship Programme, announced by Taoiseach (pronounced “TEE-shock”) Leo Varadkar during a 2018 St. Patrick’s Day visit, offers Choctaw scholars full tuition and more than $10,000 in living expenses for a graduate degree at University College Cork."

      Dalton Walker, "Indigenous studies requirement is a ‘no brainer’," ICT, May 7, 2020,, reported, " A land full of rich Ojibwe culture and Dakota history that stretches back hundreds of years can go unnoticed to college students attending a northern Minnesota university in the thick of Indian Country.
      A small steering committee of faculty and students at Bemidji State University has a solution on how to lift that history and culture to the front of the classroom: make an Indigenous studies course a requirement for all students.
      It’s a step, supporters say, that would benefit the roughly 5,000-student body and the university’s commitment to serve the people of the state and region. It could happen, perhaps as soon as fall of 2021. And a goal for it to happen is to not increase student workload or require additional funding for more staff, said Erica Bailey- Johnson, Red Lake Nation. She is a leader of the committee working to implement the three-credit course requirement and Bemidji State’s Sustainability Director since 2008."

       The American Indian College Fund Reported by E-mail, April 27, " Scholarship Organizations Organize a Virtual Commencement for Native American College Students Friday, May 1 ," For more information contact: Melvin Monette-Barajas, /, reported, "One of the many fallouts of COVID19 has been the cancellation of graduation ceremonies, a rite of passage in education. While it may not be physically possible to celebrate together, Indigenous communities are proud of their graduates and their hard work. To celebrate, several national organizations serving Alaska Native and American Indian students are hosting Virtual Indigenous Commencement on Facebook this Friday, May 1 at noon MDT to allow scholars to celebrate their achievement with family and friends. Virtual Indigenous Commencement (VIC) is a digital platform created to celebrate Indigenous students around the world who graduate from high school, college, vocational programs, graduate programs, and more.
      Graduates, families, and friends can share comments, statements, photos, or videos of graduates in the Virtual Indigenous Commencement public group on Facebook. College and education leaders will be able to share their video messages on VIC throughout the summer of 2020. Supporters can share their congratulations and gratitude with Native graduates of the Class of 2020 across social media by using the hashtags #2020NativeGrad and #dearNativeGraduates .
      Melvin E. Monette-Barajas (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), President and CEO of Indigenous Education, Inc., said, 'In Indian Country, we have always celebrated transitions in life and the partners in this effort have found a way to do so while continuing to honor social and physical distancing efforts. We know that grandparents, aunties and uncles, tribal communities and all families want to share a connection with the graduates – this is our effort to provide a venue for celebrations.'
       About Virtual Indigenous Commencement (VIC)—VIC is coordinated by: Indigenous Education, Inc. (IEI) – Home of the Cobell Scholarship, and in collaborative spirit with the American Indian College Fund, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, American Indian Graduate Center, College Horizons, Harvard University Native American Program, Arizona State University, Yale University, Indian University of North America, National Education Association, National Indian Education Association, Urban Native Era, Dream Warriors, and Indigenous Educators United."

      Gwyneth Doland, "For some Native college students, online classes could be a deal breaker," New Mexico Political Report," May 7, 2020,, reported, "When the University of New Mexico announced March 19 that all spring semester classes would move online and all students should move out of the dorms, 21-year-old communications major Hannah John went home. But she couldn’t stay long."
      Internet service was too slow for her, as it was for much of rural New Mexico and on Indian Reservations which do not have broadband - and some places on some reservations do not yet have internet or even cell or landline phone service.
      In addition, Native cultures are relational on a face to face basis. Some Indigenous students did not sign up for internet classes because they could not relate to education without direct human interaction.
      " UNM is trying to respond to the challenges with short- and long-term strategies.
      'We just gave out a round of emergency scholarships to students having challenges because of COVID, and right now we’re advertising summer scholarships because we know students might need to take summer classes to maintain their scholarships
,'[Pamala] Agoyo [director of American Indian Student Services at UNM] said.
       The scholarship money can be used in part to travel from home to places where students can access high-speed internet. In addition, Navajo students at UNM were exempted from the eviction of student from campus housing that came in the face of COVID-19.

      " Champions For Change," Center for Native American Youth - The Aspen Institute," 2019,, stated, " The Champions for Change (CFC) program is a Native youth leadership initiative designed to highlight positive stories of impact from Indian Country. The program, inspired by a 2011 White House initiative, develops young Native leaders through experience-based learning and tailored advocacy training.
       About the Program
      Each year, CNAY selects five inspirational Native youth, ages 14-24 and from across the United States to be Champions for Change. All applicants, regardless of acceptance, are named Gen-I Ambassadors and stay engaged with CNAY and the Gen-I Network. Champions are young leaders who have a desire to better their communities. This can be done in schools or programs, on reservations or urban environments, anywhere there is opportunity to create positive impact.
       What is the role of a Champion?
       Champions enter a close working relationship with CNAY that begins with a series of recognition events in Washington DC in the spring, lasting an entire year. This national recognition provides an initial platform for Champions to amplify their leadership stories and benefit from a variety of resources that enhance their advocacy skills. Throughout their term as a Champion they will receive support, resources, and opportunities to represent themselves and CNAY at various events.
       What happens after the event in DC?
       Beyond national recognition events, Champions remain engaged with CNAY through a one-year term on CNAY’s Youth Advisory Board , and take advantage of ongoing opportunities to contribute to the national dialogue on critical issues affecting youth in Indian Country.
       CNAY Youth Advisory Board Members:
       Participate in bi-monthly meetings to stay engaged in CNAY’s work and build leadership skills; Serve as young community experts and are invited to provide their perspectives at and participate in conferences, webinars, meetings, and other speaking engagements; Lead by example by serving as positive role models for their peers; and Act as community liaisons to share information about resources and youth opportunities with their communities and peers."
      Kolby KickingWoman, "Champions for Change ‘will be heard,’" ICT, January 9, 2020,, reported, "Each individual brings their own dynamic to this year’s class, with all of them working on issues ranging from missing and murdered Indigenous women to language and cultural revitalization to Native storytelling and more."
       The participant  engage in practical projects. For example, in the 2020 class, Warren Davis, Dine, while working for Title VI Northern Utah Native Connections as a paraprofessional, he serves and mentors Native youth on a daily and weekly basis at major high schools in and near Logan, Utah. He was engaged in creating Navajo language resources for young kids that is understandable and easy to grasp, as part of a project to motivate his students and Native youth to find the leader within themselves. Jazmine Wildcat, Northern Arapaho, as a high school junior was coaching basketball and softball and working to ensure inclusion. She has started a Unified Club at her school to encourage others to choose to include. She also  has started the Nii’ííniProject, assisting those with depression and anxiety become involved in activism as a coping mechanism and to help guide them with a passion to make change onto the next step."

      Dina Horwedel, (303-430-5350), "Lumina Foundation Grants the American Indian College Fund $650K to Inform College Affordability, Tribal College Credentialing and Sustainability: Thirty-five accredited tribal colleges and universities serve 15,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students on or near Indian reservations," January 16, 2020,, stated, " To better understand the factors limiting Native Americans’ access and success in higher education, Lumina Foundation has granted the American Indian College Fund $650,000 for a two-part, 30-month  project. The first part will determine how affordability of higher education factors into college degree attainment for Native students and how affordability practices impact the long-term sustainability of tribal colleges and universities. The second part will frame how tribal colleges and universities determine high quality credentials and implement teaching and learning practices that contribute to attainment. Currently research identifies affordability as a central cause of college student attrition, however, no research to date has demonstrated the impact of college affordability on the low rates of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) student college completion. Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), tribally chartered higher education institutions located on or near Indian reservations, enroll 11% of AIAN students (approximately 15,000) seeking a college degree.
       The American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) will research whether and how access, affordability, and the rising cost of attending college, coupled with institutional structural challenges and high rates of poverty in American Indian and Alaska Native communities (26.8% compared to 14.6% of the overall population), influence the completion rates of AIAN students.
The College Fund will also research how TCUs’ absorption of the cost of education to ensure AIAN student access impacts their sustainability
      The research will be conducted in collaboration with the National Native Scholarship Providers Working Group (NNSPWG), comprised of the College Fund and three national Native scholarship-providing organizations: the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC), the Indigenous Education Incorporated (IEI), and the College Fund. The collaboration will provide the College Fund access to a large, representative sample of AIAN college students attending both tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) and predominantly white two- and four-year institutions to examine college affordability for AIAN of both TCU and mainstream AIAN college students, graduates, and students who did not complete college.
      To understand better how TCUs develop credentialed programs and how these credentials impact student success while influencing their sustainability as higher education institutions, the College Fund will also survey a sample of TCUs while engaging in detailed implementation with five TCUs to examine how they create credential programs and determine program success and outcomes. Specifically, this aspect of the project will explore how TCUs utilize state longitudinal data systems to determine the value of their programs; whether TCUs engage state economic forecasting studies to inform credential offerings; how TCUs are involved in their tribal governments’ economic development processes to ensure correct credentials for future tribal employment; and how TCUs measure if their credential offerings are meeting the needs of students (future, current and former), local/state employers, tribal and state policies, and their own institutions.
      This research is meant to further Lumina’s goal of 60% of Americans holding degrees, certificates, or other high-quality post-secondary credentials by the year 2025 by raising the college completion rates of AIAN students. In addition, this research will assist Lumina’s efforts in achieving the goal by providing necessary evidence of the barriers that hinder AIAN completion so that they may be removed, while ensuring AIAN students are on a guided academic pathway leading to a high-quality credential; robust institutional data tracks the progress of AIAN students along their education path in real time and identifies problems they face in meeting learning goals; and targeted academic, social, and financial supports get students back and track and keep them on a path to academic completion.
      The College Fund will produce and publish resulting reports from the work.
       About the American Indian College Fund—Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 30 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer" and provided $7.72 million in scholarships to 3,900 American Indian students in 2018-19, with nearly 137,000 scholarships and community support totaling over $221 million since its inception. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit
       About Lumina FoundationLumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. The foundation’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

      Dina Horwedel, "Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation Grants $300K to American Indian College Fund to Increase Number of Native Women Studying and Working in STEM Fields: Program Includes Support to Promote Academic and Career Success," American Indian College Fund, January 30, 2020, stated via E-mail,  " Increasing access to women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields is vital for America to respond to today’s economic, infrastructure, and environmental challenges. The American Indian College Fund, with the support of a four-year, $300,000 grant from the Clare Boothe Luce Program at the Henry Luce Foundation, will continue to help grow the number of Native American women—a group with the lowest representation in the STEM fields—by earning a college degree to forge their careers."
      " The College Fund and Clare Boothe Luce Program will continue its success in increasing Native women studying and working in the STEM fields through a new, four-year, $300,000 scholarship program. The College Fund will award $75,000 to four outstanding AIAN women seeking a bachelor’s degree in the hard sciences at four-year granting tribal colleges and university (TCU). Students will receive $18,750 disbursed per year, based on the average cost of attendance at a four-year TCU.
      Eligible students must be enrolled during the 2020-21, 2022-23, and 2023-24 academic years and studying in qualifying hard science majors at a four-year degree-granting TCU (areas of study include but are not limited to computer science, industrial engineering, electrical engineering, and hydrology). Preference will be given to students studying in fields in which AIAN are most underrepresented.
      In addition to the scholarship award, the program will also provide AIAN women scholars with programs to support their retention, graduation, and career readiness. These programs include internships, mentorships, career readiness programs, leadership development, career readiness, professional development, financial literacy training, coaching, and more."
      "Students can apply online for the scholarship at Deadline to apply is May 31, 2020."

      A teacher at a Navajo Language immersion school in Window Rock, AZ, has found that having young students sing songs in Navajo language, as for example Christmas Carols, made learning Navajo easier and more enjoyable for students (Pauly Denetclaw, "Singing helps learn Dine bizaad," Navajo Times, December 26, 2019).

       In Anchorage, AK, a group of Native women of several peoples has been running Alaska Native Birthworkers Community for three years, bringing back traditional birthing practices and maternal care (Alexandra Carraher-Kang, "Indigenous Rebirth: A Return to Traditional Birthing Practices and Maternal Care," Cultural Survival Quarterly, June 2020).
      Aliyah Chavez, "‘Molly of Denali’ is like my siblings: First-of-its-kind cartoon series premiered in July. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, ICT, January 21, 2020,, “ Molly of Denali is the first cartoon series to feature an Alaska Native character as the lead. It premiered nationwide on PBS Kids in July. For many, it is more than a cartoon. It serves as an icon, an example of positive Native representation on national television ... and it has Indigenous input at all levels of production."
      Austin Fast, "Reading Native family stories 'like mine'," ICT, January 9, 2020,, reported, " HarperCollins launches Heartdrum to better portray Native characters and stories," with assistance from Muscogee children's book author Cynthia Leitich Smith.
      "HarperCollins Children’s Books recently tapped Smith to lead Heartdrum, a new imprint set to launch in early 2021 emphasizing contemporary Native characters and genre fiction. She’ll work with editor Rosemary Brosnan to publish a variety of picture books, chapter books and young adult titles from Native authors."

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International Developments

      Cultural Survival has created and posted an on-line map of communities world-wide impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, at:

      Danielle DeLuca, "Covid-19’s Growing Impact on Indigenous Communities Globally," Cultural Survival, April 9, 2020,, reported, "Although many have argued that “coronavirus doesn’t discriminate,” as a human rights organization, we know that societies do. While the whole world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous communities are especially at risk due to the inequalities they experience in the home countries. There are over 476 million Indigenous people living in 90 countries and account for 6.2 percent of the global population. However, Indigenous Peoples are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty and are more likely to suffer negative outcomes from infectious diseases. Many Indigenous communities are already impacted by malnutrition, pre-existing conditions, and lack access to quality healthcare.
      In a recent statement, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Chairperson Anne Nuorgam (Sami) urged States to 'take immediate steps to ensure that Indigenous Peoples are informed, protected and prioritized during the COVID-19 global health pandemic. In this respect, information in Indigenous languages is important to ensure it is accessible and followed. Of special concern are the vulnerable chronically ill, those in medical fragility, as well as the Indigenous elders. The Indigenous elders are a priority for our communities as our keepers of history and traditions and cultures. We also ask Member States to ensure that Indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact exercise their right to self-determination and their decision to be isolated be respected.'
      Several of Cultural Survival's grant partners in Indigenous communities have informed us of the unique situations on the ground in their communities, how they are coping, and what is needed:
       Obstacles to Accessing to Food and Water
       In many Indigenous communities, the price of basic items like corn, beans, and seeds have surged. As corn is the major staple of the diet particularly in Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador, this is already a threat to food security for many communities. Increased scarcity and higher cost of seeds for planting is also a threat. As the rainy season (planting time) begins in Central America, if people cannot  access seeds, it will affect incomes and food security for many and will lead to deeper repercussions down the line. There is an immediate need for provision of grains, corn, beans, rice, and nonperishables.
      Food insecurity exacerbates existing inequalities and is particularly grave for families who already lack access to well-paying jobs or workable land. Those who rely on work to bring home food are now unable to purchase food to feed their families. Almost all of the Indigenous communities we spoke to expressed this concern. There is a need for food banks, delivery of basic food and water supplies for those who cannot afford it now that they have no work. When choosing between self-isolating and starvation, or continued work and access to food, it is obvious that communities must choose to continue working. 'The need to pay for basic food and services for their families motivate people in communities to break the quarantine since they do not have a stable salary, and need to go out and sell their products,' shared our partner in Guatemala.
       Several communities in Mexico are returning to work the land themselves and there is a need expressed for support and education on food sovereignty and agricultural production.  However, in other areas, government lockdowns are preventing even rural farmers from attending to their fields. Guatemala is criminalizing being outside the home after 4pm and domestic travel. India has used extreme force in implementing lock downs. In Nepal, our partners reported, 'Due to lock down even the people of villages and rural areas are not going to the field at this peak time of the harvesting due to the strong lock down.'
       Access to clean, drinkable, and running water is also a major challenge.  Many Indigenous communities, including in the US, still lack access to running water. In Central America, climate change has brought an extreme drought going into its sixth year.  What running water exists is increasingly contaminated and unsafe for human, animal consumption and often even unsafe for washing. In Guatemala, 90 percent of rural communities do not have regular access to  clean water. This is the case for Maya Mam communities in rural areas like San Idelfonso Ixtahuacán, as well as in urban areas, like the crowded, informal neighborhoods in cities like Guatemala City where Indigenous families have migrated after being pushed out of their home communities due to development projects, forest destruction, land-grabbing, and poverty.
       Governments have exacerbated these problems by making ill-informed policies that do not coincide with global or even national patterns, and are not differentiated to reflect the needs and realities of communities. A bill in Guatemala to suspend monthly bills for electricity and water was shot down in congress. Indigenous communities lack confidence that the government will make good on the few promises they made to provide these basic provisions. International cooperation and support is extremely important for the survival of people.  There is a special need to support initiatives managed by Indigenous governments, communities, organizations, women, youth and volunteers.
       Lack of Access to Medical Supplies and Healthcare
      Indigenous communities already lack access to medical supplies and healthcare. Even the most basic supplies were already scarce in many Indigenous community health clinics, and now rural clinics are completely unprepared to deal with a crisis, both in terms of preventative measures, diagnosis, and treatment. With the closure of public transportation in several countries, communities expressed a need for emergency cash on hand to pay for private transportation to hospitals located in capital cities in the event of more critical cases of COVID
. 'The Indigenous Peoples of the region have always suffered from multiple obstacles in matters of health, which today means that the pandemic places them in a state of greater vulnerability by not having the basic supplies to even attend to prevention and diagnosis,' stated one partner in Guatemala.
       Communities have warned the general population to avoid visiting rural communities, in order to prevent the spread of the virus from reaching them. However, we also hear that many Indigenous people living in cities are choosing to return to their communities to ride out the quarantine, possibly bringing infections with them.
       Ongoing Human Rights and Environmental Violations
      Existing competing threats to Indigenous communities' survival threatens their ability to address the COVID-19 crisis with the seriousness it deserves.  As one community put it, 'There are no nearby hospitals and the doctors do not treat us with dignity. [We are dealing with] other viruses such as the forced eviction, disappearances, and femicide
. It is important not to panic. We have had very difficult times before. We cannot isolate ourselves, because we have to go out to work to prepare the land for planting corn. We have to be aware of any violation of our human rights, we must keep our eyes wide open and not be afraid to report,' stated another partner in Guatemala.
       We have received reports of communities who are forced to continue patrolling their forests for illegal logging, to protect borders from entry, and some have had to choose between maintaining a blockade on roads leading to mining construction sites or staying at home to prevent transmission of the virus. In Colombia, Indigenous leaders have been shot and killed with impunity while self-isolating inside their homes. The ongoing operation of mining, land-grabbing, logging, and pipelines, forces Indigenous communities to continue defending their lands.
       In the United States, the federal government has taken the opportunity of crisis to revoke a local Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe ’s right to their land. Removal from their land is an existential threat to their culture and community but more immediately, threatens the Tribe’s response to the crisis by forcing them to channel resources into responding to this crisis rather than providing essential prevention services, and only increases local panic.
       Access to Culturally and Linguistically Relevant Fact-based Information
Information for Indigenous Peoples in their own languages is highly lacking. Rural Indigenous communities often cannot access the internet or may lack fluency in mainstream languages and are not receiving reliable information from health experts. Additionally, some governments are not releasing accurate data on the real number of cases and a lack of independent media obfuscates the intensity of the crisis. This factor, combined with low levels of formal education in rural or impoverished communities, means misinformation is spreading rapidly. Lack of information and misinformation has also led to the disbelief about the pandemic and thus can contribute to a higher exposure of Indigenous communities to the virus
      There is a major need expressed by Indigenous communities for reliable, regular communication in Indigenous languages, via community radio. A representative of the Tharu people in Nepal shared the following: 'Radio stations are not working full time. There is a lack of communication between government and people. More information about every activity by the government is needed. There is still a lack of knowledge of COVID-19 among people and people are afraid. Awareness is needed. There is superstition circulating and people are doing superstitious activities. The information regarding every service is needed and news updates needed. Tharu communities have their own system of communication and leading our village so the government should incorporate those systems in their response.'
      A community in Oaxaca, Mexico, who has a strong community radio program supported by Cultural Survival, shared, 'As a reaction of COVID-19 people are returning to work on their fields to produce their own food to provide them security of what they are eating. Radio programs are helping to reduce panic. We are broadcasting programs about our cultural knowledge. Agriculture knowledge will help us get through this crisis. Food is the first necessity needed to be healthy and strong, and to cure us from diseases. Spirituality is also an essential way to deal with what the world is facing right now.'
      Meanwhile, in Veracruz, Mexico, in an area where no local radio stations exist, our partner expressed the following:  'We are a region with insufficient information compared to the national level. This makes it difficult to be aware of the new provisions established by local, state, and federal institutions to attend to the health emergency. Due to previous experiences, people tend to be carried away by information that is false. Similarly, authorities often make decisions based on misinformation, panic, or despair.
      Another grant partner in South Africa, the Khoekhoe people, shared that they are being linguistically and financially excluded by their government response: 'We find our community mostly unable to cope with the anxiety and stress associated with the prospect of becoming infected. We also remember that in 1713 hundreds of thousands of our First Nation Khoekhoe people perished from smallpox. We are not being acknowledged by our government, our history of trauma is not recognized. No resources or support is provided by our government during this time of extreme distress.' 
      The case of Guayaquil, Ecuador is another example of intensified impact when governments are not preparing the population with accurate information in a timely manner.
      Indigenous Peoples have solutions and need to be active participants in actions being taken by governments. 'Their good practices of traditional healing and knowledge, such as sealing off communities to prevent the spread of diseases and of voluntary isolation, are being followed throughout the world today,' stated Nuorgam in her statement. As an international community, we need to ensure Indigenous rights are respected and adequate resources are allocated to Indigenous communities."

       Minnie Degawan, "Kasiyanna: Particular Challenges of Indigenous Peoples in Facing Covid19," Cultural Survival, April 08, 2020,, reported, " Now, four months into the worldwide crisis brought about by COVID 19, the situation of Indigenous Peoples is slowly coming to light with the dissemination of reports from different Indigenous organizations. Indigenous Peoples are facing particularly challenging times due to some basic facts including the susceptibility of Indigenous communities to infectious diseases due to their lower immunity and, their lack of, or limited access to information, among others.
       Some of these realities are consequences of poor planning by national governments, and others are the result of discrimination and disregard for Indigenous Peoples. The impacts of the many exploitative projects in Indigenous territories, such as mining and mono-crop plantations are an added threat and challenge. All of these contribute to the further marginalization and greater risk Indigenous Peoples face, especially in times of crises.
      Coping Mechanisms
      Indigenous Peoples are no strangers to disease and disaster. Through generations, Indigenous Peoples have established responses and coping mechanisms – grounded in traditional knowledge, customs and practices – to different circumstances affecting their communities. These are all founded on one fundamental principle: to ensure that the community survives.
       A common response across Indigenous communities is that of closing-off the community to all – this means no one can enter the community until deemed safe. Such community closures are done for different reasons.  In the Cordillera, Philippines such practice is regularly observed during the agricultural cycle. Before or after the fields are ready for planting and harvesting, the community declares ubaya/tengaw which basically means everyone stays at home, no hard labor is to be done by anyone. This is a time for the community and the earth to rest and typically lasts a day or two.
      The ubaya/tengaw is also declared in times of epidemics or other disasters. Rituals to shut off the community from outsiders, including bad spirits, are performed by elders all directed at expelling whatever harm is in the community. The ubaya/tengaw is not meant just to protect the community but also outsiders who might want to visit. The signs that a community is in ubaya is very simple – a knotted piece of branch/leaf is placed at the entrance of the community – yet a powerful deterrent.
       During extended community lockdowns, traditional community practices come into effect, such as the binnadang/ub-ubbo which can be loosely translated as exchange labor where community members look out for those in need and extend help. Food is shared by those who have more with those who have less. In addition, the basic principle of ayyew , meaning to not waste anything from food to water is constantly practiced and enforced. Food, such as dried sweet potatoes, that have been preserved for the rainy period are brought out and portioned to last for the period of ubaya.
      It is during the period of ubaya that one often hears the term kasiyanna meaning “all will be well”.  It is an affirmation that balance will soon be achieved. To the community, problems are reflections of imbalance in the world – whether it be between neighbors or with the natural or spiritual world, and to resolve it is to restore balance.
      So, when this global pandemic came about, the Indigenous communities did not find the idea of quarantine a strange one. For example, when the Philippine national government imposed the quarantine measures across the country, several Indigenous communities further strengthened this by declaring ubaya/tungaw in their respective communities. The declaration of ubaya/tengaw meant that these communities were closing their borders to everyone, including members who were in the cities at that time. It was a difficult decision but one that had to be made to avoid proliferation of the virus. Such mechanisms are also practiced by the Karen and other groups in Thailand, as well as by Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia.
      While on lockdown, the communities took stock of the situation to assess who from the community was still outside, where they were, if they were planning to come back, and if so, what could be done for them? Are there people who are sick in the community, what is needed? is there enough food for all and for how long? These questions and subsequently answers, were then used by the community to plan better for the days, weeks or months ahead. Some communities decided to forego the food packs distributed by the government, in favor of those in urban areas, specifically those in poverty, as they could be facing greater challenges in obtaining food.
      In different parts of Asia, such as Malaysia, the Orang Asli, have decided to return to the forest as their defense against the pandemic. The forest has always been their home and their source for medicines, so it is a logical response for them to return to it during times of danger. This is also true for other Indigenous Peoples, such as those living in the Amazon.
      Particular Challenges
      Unfortunately, these traditional practices of coping with pandemics and other disasters is proving to be particularly challenging for Indigenous Peoples given the current threats they face from the extractive industry and climate change, among others. The conversion of forests to mono-crop plantations or to logging and mining concessions means less agricultural lands for communities. In addition, the introduction of fast-growing, input dependent, genetically modified species has compromised the productivity of the community lands. Climate change, too, has impacted the agricultural cycle and yield. The result of these occurrences is that communities now have less food stocked, making them vulnerable to hunger if the quarantine period results to be longer than anticipated.
      The destruction of their surroundings brought about by the extractive industry also add to these challenges. Mining and logging have caused water sources to dry up and contamination of traditional water sources to increase. Even the designation of forests as protected areas is a cause of concern. In the instance of the Orang Asli, for example, their return to the forests has caused some wildlife protection groups to demand stronger protection for endangered animal species as hunting could increase.
      But the Orang Asli, and other Indigenous Peoples, follow very strict rules governing hunting for food, among which is the caution of never taking more than what one needs; as well as looking out for animals that are very young or pregnant. There are also calls from some groups for stronger implementation of protected area rules, including keeping people out of the forests. This is ironic given that extractive industries are being allowed to continue their operations despite community lockdowns – such as in Ecuador where oil companies still traverse Indigenous communities to arrive at their operations.
       In countries where the national government has taken on a more militaristic response, Indigenous Peoples are especially more vulnerable.  For one, some of the national policies are unclear and not readily communicated to communities. Secondly, if/when the policy is disobeyed a drastic measure of either arrest or death (in the case of violations of curfew times) is taken. For Indigenous Peoples, orders to stay home and wait for the relief promised by governments is just not an option, as they are accustomed to fending for and relying on themselves.
      In the case of the COVID19 pandemic, it might be hard to get a full picture of its impacts on Indigenous communities because they might not be prioritized in terms of testing. However, what is clear is that their ways of life are being tested.
      What lies ahead
       This global health crisis has proven and reinforced the need to respect and promote Indigenous Peoples’ rights, placing them at the center of the discussion. If only Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their lands and resources were respected, they would be better able to fend for themselves in times of crisis and would not have to look to outside for help. If only traditional resource use and management practices were respected and strengthened, there would be less destruction of nature, and perhaps less possibility for diseases to develop. These are among the greatest lessons from this global health pandemic and it is our hope that the policy makers will do what is needed to ensure that these rights are not forgotten.
      When and if this crisis is over, there will be a rush to 'help' Indigenous communities. It would be prudent to learn from this and to ensure that any intervention must have Indigenous Peoples at the center in terms of their agency and rights. It will be timely to look at policies and adjust these to reflect the situation and needs of the communities. It will also be useful to harness the knowledge and skills of the youth, who have access to information to communicate the community’s needs to the outside world.
      The communities know best what they will need and how such support should be delivered.  It will be as the elders say, kasiyanna."

      "Support Indigenous-led responses to COVID-19," Cultural Survival, May 21, 2020,, stated, " One part of our [ Cultural Survival] organization’s response to COVID-19 is making emergency grants to our partners. Each day we receive urgent requests from Indigenous communities coping with the COVID-19 pandemic across the world. So far, we’ve committed to 18 grants to our partners on the ground through our Keepers of the Earth Fund.
       Many national governments are not supporting or allocating resources to help Indigenous communities amidst this pandemic. For several of our partners, our resources are the only resources being shared with them at this time. With your help, we hope to award more grants to Indigenous communities in need of support during this time. Some examples of the grants we’ve committed to include:
       Aldeia Vanuire - Krenak (Brazil)
      The Krenak community is affected mainly economically due to the pandemic. Since their community members cannot work in the nearby communities and cities as usual, in addition to following the health care protocols, they are using funds to provide food and health kits to families which include medicine, food, cleaning supplements and locally made masks.
       Ka Kuxtal Much Meyaj - Maya (Mexico)
      Ka Kuxtal Much Meyaj is developing a community protocol for COVID-19. They are establishing a communication network in the region through community delegates to inform the communities about the situation, creating a manual of medicinal plants, and making masks to protect residents.
       Organization of Indigenous Women United for the Biodiversity of Panama (OMIUBP) - Guna, Embera (Panama)
OMIUBP is implementing a print, radio, and television communications campaign in Guna, Embera, and Spanish with urgent preventative information for communities facing the pandemic.
       Tosepan Pajti - Nahua (Mexico)
      Tosepan Pajti is carrying out a comprehensive emergency project on COVID-19 that includes food sovereignty and exchange of seeds, food and medicinal plants produced in orchards; a communication campaign through their community radio station; and are aiming to strengthen community health of Nahua families in Puebla.
Council of Elders Iriria Bribri Sá Ká (Cabagra) - Bribri (Costa Rica) The Bribri community is purchasing and distributing sanitation materials, buying and sowing seeds for local food production, and installing a water system for community use."

       Julie Turkewitz, " Indigenous Groups Isolated by Coronavirus Face Another Threat: Hunger: Indigenous people across the Americas are trying to defend their communities from the pandemic. But for many, isolation can quickly turn into deprivation," The New York Times, April 9, 2020,, reported, " The Wayuu are the largest indigenous group in Colombia. Many fear that the isolation required to protect themselves from the virus will leave them hungry instead." The quarantine has shuttered accessible businesses where tribal members could obtain food stuffs. With the pandemic striking in the dry season the Wayuu cannot rely on farming for food. In addition, they have been joined by numerous Wayuu who have been among the 1.5 million people fleeing into their area from across the border in Venezuela.
       Several government programs that provide food are being continued in Colombia, but the logistics of reaching the Wayuu and others in isolated areas are impeding those efforts. A number of aid groups have moved to redesign their operations. After having to close 9 of its 13 commuity kitchens as a virus protective measure, the World Food Programme office in La Guajira shifted to providing food packages. Mercy Corps, in April, move dup its monthly cash support to about 1,600 families in the department by about three weeks, while moving to providing hygiene kits, which are essential in an area where thousands do not have regular access to soap and clean water.
      " In Colombia, which has about 2,000 of the more than 30,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Latin America, Indigenous leaders in the mountainous department of Cauca were threatened by drug trafficking groups after they closed their borders by setting up 69 control points protected by 1,200 guards." Dissident members of the revolutionary group the FARC stated on social media that the Indigenous patrols were “impeding our mobility” and that they had “no choice but to act with our arms.” The Peace Deal between the government of Colombia and the FARC has not been fully carried out. Among other things, it has failed to stop dissident members of the FARC, crime syndicates and paramilitary organizations from operating, particularly around Indigenous territory. Indigenous people who are seen to attempt to restrict the activities of there groups, increasingly, have been killed.
      " Already, more than a dozen Indigenous groups have reported cases of Covid-19, including the Yukpa in northern Colombia, the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in southeastern Canada and the Navajo in the southwestern United States."      
       In Brazil numerous tribal communities have taken their own actions as preventatives of the pandemic. They have put hand-washing stations in place while sealing of their lands and patrolling its boundaries. These methods are sometimes effective, but have been overwhelmed by outsiders in others.
       In Brazil and Ecuador, as well as elsewhere in the region, Indigenous leaders and organizations have had limited success in petitions to mineral extracting firms to suspend operations in their areas, to prevent their workers from bringing in COVID-19. The same is true in the United States, where TC Energy said it would continue construction of the Keystone XL pipeline adjacent to Fort Belknap Indian Community in north central Montana. [A recent order by a federal court stopping work on a section of the pipeline elsewhere for not having adequate environmental impact statements, may also stop the construction in Montana].

      Bia’ni Madsa' Juárez López, Keepers of the Earth Fund Manager, "Indigenous Communities Adjust to the New Normal During the Covid-19 Pandemic," Cultural Survival, April 06, 2020,, reported, " The world is in a moment of crisis in facing the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of April 3, 2020, has infected at least 1,066,706 people in 181 countries and caused 56,767 deaths. This crisis has had major implications that are not just medical: an increase in unemployment, a drop in production, shortages and an increase in the prices of basic products like food.
       Large cities are the first to be affected, while dispersion in rural areas, where the largest number of Indigenous people in the world lives, remains slow still. Indigenous people have not yet been greatly affected in terms of confirmed cases of contagion, but the virus is beginning to reach even the most remote: cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among Indigenous people in the U.S., Colombia, Malaysia, and even isolated tribes in Brazil. There are many factors that make us vulnerable and can lead to catastrophic situations.
      In addition to the diseases that are often present at high levels in our communities, such as diabetes and hypertension, as Indigenous Peoples we may have particular vulnerability to COVID-19 as a result of our ways of life, in many communities our ceremonies and our food preparation involve the use of smoke which can have a negative effect on respiratory health, and contributes to vulnerability to COVID-19. Access to running water and sanitation is a significant factor that also makes some communities vulnerable. One of the main challenges is that our community life is put in check. We live in multigenerational homes. The spaces where decisions are made, work occurs, and celebrations happen, are collective spaces. The need to keep physical distances implies an exercise for which we are not prepared or used to. Access to public health services is scarce and insufficient in most communities. There is a great need for concise, current information in Indigenous languages and relevant to Indigenous contexts, as public service announcements are made in majority languages.
      The Indigenous communities and organizations with whom Cultural Survival works through our Keepers of the Earth Fund face drastic changes in the implementation of their projects as they pivot to responding to the immediate needs of their communities. Most of the projects in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, and Suriname have canceled their collective activities such as meetings, workshops, assemblies, and community trips. We reached out to each of our grant partners to learn how they are responding in the face of the current situation.
      In Guatemala, one of our partners has dedicated itself to the dissemination of information through video and infographics in Indigenous languages on COVID19, traditional medicine to strengthen the immune and respiratory system. These are distributed on the internet by telephone to the local population. This organization is working in a difficult context as the local economy has been hard hit by strict government regulations, which include curfew, severe limits to public transportation, border closures, and militarization of the country. Another partner in Guatemala has purchased and delivered over a hundred baskets with basic food items to ensure access for those at risk in their community. These at risk families especially included those who have been recently deported from the United States, noting that deportations from the United States continue to occur despite the borders are closed. But we also hear words of encouragement: 'This new situation has also inspired us as an organization to strengthen support strategies and platforms for communities. We hope in the coming months to share new forms of work that contribute more and more to the good living of our peoples,' they shared.
      In Mexico, our grant partners have identified a great lack of information for their communities, and the economic impact is causing uncertainty among the community. Mayan communities are at risk due to the high level of tourism, which still has not been limited in nearby areas on the Mayan Riviera. In Chiapas, there are concerns about the rise in food prices in rural areas due to the limited supplies in the cities. Yet they recognize that Indigenous people are in a better situation than some in the city, they have land and those who were able to harvest corn and beans this season may have food. Yet, climate change has made harvests inconsistent, and degraded soil conditions mean that the resource of the land is not fully available for communities to rely on. Lack of access to clean and running water is also a problem, especially in several communities where authorities have limited entry of bottled water to their territories. Yet our partners remind us that we must not be afraid, because fear decreases our immune systems. In the center of the country, as many other communities, the Wixárika Regional Council issued a public statement asking the general population to refrain from visiting their communities to prevent the virus from spreading inland and thereby safeguard everyone's health. Our partners in Veracruz noted that their region has always suffered from multiple health challenges, which is why today the pandemic places them in a state of even greater vulnerability as they cannot count on the basic supplies for preventive or diagnostic actions. They say that people are falling into despair, there is a lot of misinformation, and this is causing panic which has resulted in measures that are inconsistent with state and federal regulations.
      Some Indigenous communities, like our grant partners in Ecuador, have been forced to pause their land monitoring system against illegal invaders and loggers. Instead, the guard is now caring for the community and working to prevent contagion from reaching the community. However, there is concern that operations will move forward while their guard is down.
      Our partners in Brazil, the Xavante Wará Association, expressed the concern that even as they face shortages of food and supplies, they are also having to organize to prevent the ongoing construction of a highway across their territory that is bringing in workers and infection to their otherwise remote communities. Many rural communities are trying to prepare for arrival of COVID-19 through prevention strategies. The communities are very isolated from each other so it is necessary to improve forms of communication for the dissemination of essential information.
      In North India, we heard from our grant partners that all trains, bus services, and flights have been canceled. Many Adivasi people who migrated to metro cities have been forced to walk hundreds of kilometers back to their home communities putting their lives at great risk. Although the lockdown may have effectively reduced the spread of the virus, the impacts on low-income families will be harsh. The government deployed police to brutally enforce a curfew. Meanwhile, in parts of Eastern India, Adivasi workers continue operating in mines as this is considered 'essential.' Our grant partners are working to provide emergency food packages to families in need.
      Despite difficulties across the globe, we also appreciate our partners in Colombia, who are performing ceremonial rituals and prayers, 'paying tribute to the Stbatsanamama [Mother Earth] so that she continues to welcome us in her womb, so we may not be victims of capitalist powers that only think about money, and not the spiritual world.'”

       Jan Hoffman and Ruth Maclean, "Slowing the Coronavirus Is Speeding the Spread of Other Diseases: Many mass immunization efforts worldwide were halted this spring to prevent spread of the virus at crowded inoculation sites. The consequences have been alarming," The New York Times,  June 14, 2020,, " As poor countries around the world struggle to beat back the coronavirus, they are unintentionally contributing to fresh explosions of illness and death from other diseases — ones that are readily prevented by vaccines.
      This spring, after the World Health Organization and UNICEF warned that the pandemic could spread swiftly when children gathered for shots, many countries suspended their inoculation programs. Even in countries that tried to keep them going, cargo flights with vaccine supplies were halted by the pandemic and health workers diverted to fight it."

International Organization Developments

      "UNPFII Nineteenth Session: 13–24 April 2020 [POSTPONED]," UN Department of Cultural and Social Affairs, accessed June 15, 2020,, announced, " The 2020 Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has been postponed, until a later date to be determined. The Informal Interactive Hearing of the President of the General Assembly on Enhanced Participation of Indigenous Peoples at the UN has also been postponed."

      The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution, December 19, 2020, declaring 2022-32 the Decade of Indigenous Languages ("Global: International Decade of Indigenous Languages Declared," Cultural Survival Quarterly, March 2020).

      "United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Calls for Input on Covid-19 Impacts on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), May 17, 2020,, reported, "Today, May 13th, 2020, Francisco Cali Tzay, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples launched his first formal study focused on the human rights impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
      A questionnaire for Indigenous Peoples, States, NGOs, UN bodies, and relevant agencies is posted in English, Spanish, and French on the web page of the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights
. The Special Rapporteur is calling for responses by June 15th, 2020 due to the urgency of the situation. The outcomes of this study will be presented to the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, which will begin on September 15, 2020.
      The questionnaire covers a wide range of issues and impacts on Indigenous Peoples’ rights to health and medical care, food, livelihoods, cultural practices, mobility, access to vital services and infrastructure, self-determination and participation in decision-making regarding the development and implementation of their own as well as the State's responses to the pandemic. It also requests information about human rights violations occurring and, in some cases, increasing, during this crisis, including development projects lacking the free prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples impacted and reprisals against Indigenous human and environmental rights defenders. It also calls for the submission of good practices and identification of gaps by states, Indigenous Peoples, and other relevant parties.
      Francisco Cali began his mandate as Special Rapporteur on May 1, 2020, with the pandemic already underway. He explains why, given his other priorities addressing the rights of Indigenous Peoples, that he selected this study to be the first of his three-year term: 'Prior to assuming my mandate I had already designated a list of priority issues for the first year of my term. This includes land and resource rights, Indigenous human rights defenders, rights of Indigenous elders, women and children, Indigenous persons with disabilities, cultural rights, and militarization. Based on the urgent information I have already received from Indigenous Peoples from all regions, I can confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic, in both its impacts and the responses undertaken by some States, directly impacts all of these rights and concerns, and must be addressed in the most urgent manner by my mandate. I look forward to hearing from other Indigenous Peoples as well as the States and other relevant actors on this urgent situation, although much of the information I am receiving is heartbreaking and creates profound concerns for me”.
      The questionnaire can be downloaded using the following links:
      En: Sp:
      The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be contacted directly via email at For additional information contact IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen, at
      For additional information contact IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen, at"

      "Un Expert Mechanism on The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples Releases Statement on Covid-19," Cultural Survival, April 14, 2020,, reported, "On April 6, 2020, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples released the following statement:
      COVID-19 yet another challenge for Indigenous Peoples
       The global reach of the COVID-19 virus affects us all, but some groups will suffer disproportionately and in different ways. Indigenous peoples are such a group.
       Many indigenous peoples live in remote regions difficult to access and often inaccessible. Even prior to this crisis, they experienced higher rates of health risks, poorer health and greater unmet needs in respect of health care than their non-indigenous counterparts. Indigenous peoples were already disadvantaged in terms of access to quality health care and were more vulnerable to numerous health problems, in particular pandemics. The social determinants of health, such as safe drinking water and a sufficient, balanced diet, and sanitation were not fulfilled before this crisis. Moreover, the expropriation of indigenous lands and natural resources and the increase in conflicts on their territories were already placing indigenous peoples in a particularly precarious situation. [1]
       The spread of COVID -19 has and will continue to exacerbate an already critical situation for many indigenous peoples: a situation where inequalities and discrimination already abound. The rise in national recessions and the real possibility of a world depression are set to aggravate the situation further, bringing fear that many indigenous peoples will die, not only from the virus itself but also from conflicts and violence, linked to the scarcity of resources, especially drinking water and food.
       Yet there is still time to limit this health crisis and its disastrous effects. Urgent action has demonstrated that appropriate measures taken early on in the crisis can drastically reduce and control the transmission of this disease.
       We call on all States to fulfill their human rights obligations, guided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to protect the health and lives of indigenous peoples. In following WHO advice, we urge you to ensure that indigenous peoples become your partners in this endeavour, and that you provide culturally acceptable healthcare, as well as food or other humanitarian relief, when necessary, and without discrimination. States should acknowledge and accommodate the cultural, spiritual, and religious rights and responsibilities of indigenous peoples when considering measures to respond to the virus. As with the adoption of any measures that may affect indigenous peoples, their free, prior and informed consent, grounded in the right to self-determination, should be sought.
      Many indigenous peoples are invisible in our societies but they should not be forgotten, they may even warrant special attention. Indigenous peoples in refugee or internally displaced camps, detention centres or institutions, migrants in administrative settings, have a higher risk of contracting the disease. For older indigenous persons this virus may be fatal, and indigenous migrants and individuals in urban areas, are often already living in precarious environments. Probably the most vulnerable of indigenous peoples are those living in voluntary isolation or initial contact given their particular vulnerability to disease. It is imperative that sanitary cordons preventing outsiders from entering their territories are strictly controlled to avoid any contact. In order to limit the spread of Covid-19, several communities of indigenous peoples have taken the initiative to put in place containment measures and controls at the entrance to their territories. We welcome these initiatives and call on States to respect and support them.
      All indigenous peoples will require timely and accurate information on all aspects of the pandemic, in their indigenous languages, and in culturally sensitive formats. The requirement to remain in quarantine will also require measures taken by the State, in partnership with indigenous peoples, to control entry by non-indigenous peoples or non-essential health care workers onto indigenous land. Such measures should also mitigate against encroachment upon indigenous land by opportunists, or invaders such as illegal loggers and miners. We also urge States to make a firm commitment to avoid: removal of indigenous peoples from their lands; diminishing indigenous lands; and using indigenous lands for military activity, especially for the duration of this pandemic. In short, territorial protection will be a vital component of States’ efforts to protect indigenous peoples from the spread of the disease and contribute to their recovery after this crisis.
      We advise all States and UN agencies to take on board our advice herein, guided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as guidance provided by the OHCHR (, and FAO (
      The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) is a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council mandated to provide the Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and assist Member States, upon request, in achieving the ends of the Declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples. For further information see the following
[1] See the Expert Mechanism’s Report on Right to health and indigenous peoples with a focus on children and youth, A/HRC/33/57, the Special Rapporteur’s Report on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2018, A/HRC/39/17, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, general comment No. 14.
      Learn more:
      I UNDRIP:
      I UNPFII:
      I EMRIP:"

      Alexandra Carraher-Kang, "New ILO Report Focuses on Situation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples," February 07, 2020,, reported, "On February 3, 2020 , the International Labor Organization released its report, Implementing the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention No. 169: Towards an inclusive, sustainable and just future . Analyzing the labor status and wages of Indigenous women and men across the globe thirty years after the convention’s adoption, the report sheds light on the inferior working conditions of Indigenous populations, demonstrating just how much more needs to be done in order to meet the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In particular, Indigenous women remain the most disadvantaged group: addressing all Indigenous communities, and particularly their women, 'cannot be overstated for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).'
       As of 2020, only 23 countries have ratified the convention, including most of Latin America, but not the United States, Canada, nor any of the Pacific. To quote the report, 'it continues to the the only legally binding treaty on the [Indigenous rights] issue open for ratification. It has played a significant role in shaping laws and policies, instituting change and empowering many Indigenous women and men.'
      The report provides a much needed updated statistic on Indigenous Peoples globally, stating there are over 475 million Indigenous people, making up 6.2% of the world population. This is not a small number—it 'far exceeds the population of the United States and Canada combined. ' Although Indigenous Peoples are so numerous, only 15% live in countries that have ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, ILO 169. Indigenous people live in every region of the world, but about 70% of them live in Asia and the Pacific, followed by 16.3% in Africa, 11.5% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 1.6% in Northern America, and 0.1% in Europe and Central Asia. Almost three-quarters of these 475 million people live in rural areas (with majorities in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia, respectively). Just under half of Indigenous Peoples live in middle-income countries, but 16% live in low-income countries. In these low-income countries 'there is the highest proportion of Indigenous Peoples in the total population at 10.1 %.'
       Regarding employment, the report highlights the disadvantage of Indigenous communities, and especially women. Although the global employment rate of Indigenous Peoples is 6.3% (almost 5% above that of non-Indigenous people), in “in upper middle-income countries, the gap between the employment participation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women is 12.9 percentage points,” demonstrating that “Indigenous women are less likely to be employed as national income levels rise.” This employment—and therefore economic—gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women is in part due to motherhood, with Indigenous mothers finding themselves far less likely (just over 40%) to be employed than Indigenous fathers. Just over half of Indigenous Peoples continue to work in the agricultural sector, and of the remaining 45%, 17.3%  work in market services, 9.8% in non-market services, 9% in construction, and 7.5% in manufacturing.
      The employment that Indigenous people do find, though, should not mask the reality of their economic situations. The report states, 'A higher rate of participation in employment for Indigenous Peoples at the global level can hide substantial differences in the quality of work, which is marked by poor working conditions, low pay and discrimination. At the same time, higher employment rates may reflect the need by Indigenous women and men, who tend to be poorer than their non-Indigenous counterparts, to any form of income generation, even low paid ones. Without access to decent work, higher employment rates for Indigenous women and men are not necessarily resulting in their improved socio-economic situation.'
       Part of this is likely due to the fact that Indigenous Peoples are 20% more likely to take part in the informal economy, which lacks worker protections such as labor laws and unions. Moreover, Indigenous Peoples are over 20% less likely to be in wage and salaried work, 'globally and across all regions and income groups, with the exception of North America.' Unsurprisingly, 'Indigenous women are nearly half as likely to be in wage and salaried work, and twice as likely to be contributing family workers when compared to non-Indigenous women.' In other words, Indigenous Peoples are far more likely to experience poor working conditions and less secure employment than their non-Indigenous counterparts, with Indigenous women experiencing significantly worse odds than Indigenous men.
       This disparity is even clearer when looking at numbers regarding poverty: 'based on data available for 23 countries representing 83% of the global Indigenous population, Indigenous Peoples constitute 9.3 % of the population but almost 19 % of the extreme poor.' Thus, the article states, they 'continue to be the poorest among the poor,' with the aforementioned almost 19% living on less than $1.90 a day (as compared to 6.8% of non-Indigenous people). Poverty is worse in rural areas, with Indigenous Peoples 'more than twice as likely to be in extreme poverty compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.'
      Unsurprisingly, Indigenous voices are critical to creating effective policy and programs to tackle these issues. The few countries that did establish agencies for Indigenous affairs 'have made the greatest progress in developing and implementing both mechanisms for participation and consultation,' but the institutions are often weak.
      The report concludes by emphasizing the pronounced inequalities experienced by Indigenous women: 'Indigenous women are consistently at the bottom of all social and economic indicators. They are almost three times more likely to work as contributing family workers compared to Indigenous men, have the lowest chance of having achieved basic education and, at the same time, are the most likely to be in extreme poverty. Discrimination, violence and harassment,stemming from their being both Indigenous and women, are among the barriers impeding their full participation in economic and social life.'
       The report recommends that, in addition to workers’ organizations and private sector collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, governments undergo four critical initiatives. First, to promote, ratify, and implement Convention No. 169. Second, to provide 'decent work for Indigenous women and men.' Third, to promote 'Indigenous women’s participation and economic empowerment,' and finally, to improve 'data collection, analysis and dissemination.' All of these should be undertaken with participation from and in tandem with Indigenous Peoples.
      'The realization of the SDGs is under threat unless urgent course correction, through public policies, is undertaken, which not only addresses gaps, but also empowers Indigenous women and men as development and climate actors,' the report states. 'Empowering Indigenous women and men as economic, social, and climate actors will be critical for the shaping of an exclusive, sustainable and just future
for all.'
       Read the full report here:"

      "Going Beyond the International Year of Indigenous Languages," Cultural Survival, December 16, 2019,, reported, "December 17, 2019, was the official close of the United Nations’ International Year of Indigenous Languages, which aims to draw attention to language loss and the need to strengthen and revitalize them.
       Although Indigenous Peoples make up more than 6 percent of the world's population, they speak more than 4,000 of the world's 7,000 languages. UNESCO predicts that between 50-90 percent of Indigenous languages (~3,000 languages) will disappear by the end of this century if action is not taken. Language loss also carries with it the loss of environmental, technological, social, economic and cultural knowledge. Investment in language programs is needed now to create new language speakers in younger generations!
       On December 18, 2019, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution entitled "Rights of Indigenous Peoples." The resolution, among other issues, includes the proclamation of 2022-2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
      We wanted to share s ome of the initiatives Cultural Survival has supported over the past year focusing on language revitalization.
      1. Supporting Indigenous Language Projects through Keepers of the Earth Fund.
In 2019, the Keepers of the Earth Fund awarded 20 projects in 10 countries  supporting the right to development and self-determination. In light of the IYIL, we gave special priority to projects focused on community development through Indigenous language revitalization. 6 projects in 2019 worked towards revitalizing Indigenous languages:
       Instituto Superior Pedagógico “Quilloac” Bilingüe Intercultural - Kichwa ( Ecuador:
      Strengthening the ancestral language Kichwa Kañari through technology
      In the province of Cañar, the Kichwa Kañari Peoples are working to stop the decline of the Kichwa language. Members of Instituto Bilingüe Quilloac developed a mobile phone app to stimulate interest and teach Kichwa Kañari to three hundred children.
       Association for the Survival of the Nyindu Indigenous People’s Cultural Heritage (ASHPAN: - Banyindu ( Democratic Republic of Congo)
      Developing Kinyindu phrasal and idioms dictionary 
      The Batwa Nyindu of the Mwenga territory in South Kivu fear that dominant languages are steadily phasing out Kinyindu, and with it the Nyindu identity. ASHPAN created a pioneer phrasal and idioms dictionary in Kinyindu, as well as a calendar to demonstrate the Kinyindu system of time telling. Use of the dictionary has sparked interest in Nyindu culture, promoting cultural revitalization and inclusion. They are partnering with local radio to promote ASHPAN’s mission and Nyindu culture throughout the region.
       United Youths Organization (UYO) - Wimbum ( Cameroon:
      Limbum language literacy among hearing and speech impaired persons in Ndu municipality
      The Wimbum Peoples in Ndu municipality seek to transcribe their Limbum language into sign language to provide hearing and speech impaired persons with an accessible form of communication and a manner to express Wimbum cultural values. UYO transcribes Limbum grammar, folktales, proverbs and other language components into sign language and trained ten teachers in Limbum signing.
       South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) - Wapichan (Guyana)
Documenting Wapichan stories and traditional knowledge 
      The Youth Arm of SRDC launched a Wapichan Story Collection Project to bridge the generational gap between elders and youth in the 21 Wapichan villages of the South Rupununi. The SRDC produced books that showcase traditional Wapichan stories, traditional knowledge of their environment, and document Wapichan language and culture. The books are being used in community schools, and serve as evidence of the history of land use by the Wapichan people in a land titling process between the Wapichan Peoples and the Guyana government.
       Resguardo Inga San Miguel de la Castellana - Inga (Colombia)
      Strengthening the Inga language among the children and youth of Resguardo San Miguel de la Castellana
      The parents, grandparents, and elders of the Inga community fear that their ancestral language, which is integral to Inga cultural and spiritual identity, faces gradual decline within the younger generation. The Inga held a series of community gatherings which taught seventy Inga children and youth the maternal Inga language, its linguistic and cultural components. They are also producing didactic materials for future language instruction with the support of an Inga linguist.
       Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project  - Assonet Band, Aquinnah, Herring Pond, and Mashpee (United States: )
      Constructing Wôpanâôt8âôk Weety8 (The Wampanoag Language House)
      The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project constructed a yurt that houses the Wôpanâôt8âôk Weety8 (The Wampanoag Language House) so that Wampanoag children can learn in an environment that immerses them in the Wôpanâak language. The Language House educates students in grades 1- 4 and has allowed them to expand their student population to 35. It serves as a center for community meetings, ceremonial gatherings, language immersion camps, after school programming, and adult classes.
       2. Supporting Indigenous Language Radio Programming at Community Radio Stations
      In 2019 , our Community Media Grants Project funded 35 Indigenous media projects in 9 countries , totaling $210,000, strengthening Indigenous languages and promoting freedom of expression.
      We also supported 6 groups of Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellows who worked to strengthen their Miskitu, Wayuu, Kichwa, Maya Mam, Ixíl, and Kankuamo languages.
       3. Raising Awareness about Indigenous Languages and International Year of Indigenous Languages through Indigenous Rights Radio
       Cultural Survival's Indigenous radio producers bring you the latest information on Indigenous Peoples' rights and how they are being implemented around the world.
      Listen to our series on Indigenous languages in English and Spanish.
      Check out our series on the Sustainable Development Goals in Ayuuk (, K´iche´ (, Afrikaans (, and Sunuwar (
       4. Highlighting Indigenous Language Revitalization Efforts in the Cultural Survival Quarterly
      The March 2019 issue of the Cultural Survival Quarterly magazine ( was dedicated to Indigenous Languages.  Throughout the world, Indigenous Peoples are working vigorously to reclaim and revitalize their languages, which are essential in maintaining their cultures. Indigenous languages intrinsically carry unique systems of knowledge and ways of knowing and understanding our relationships, responsibilities, and place in the world; languages are sacred living expressions of creative thought and power. In this issue of the CSQ, we highlight the incredible work of a few of the many Indigenous language activists who have dedicated their lives to revitalizing their mother tongues."

Regional and Country Developments

      Amber Bracken and Megan Specia, "Giving Birth Where the Family Is: Canada’s government once pressured Inuit women to travel south to give birth. Now, they can have their babies at a hometown maternity clinic led by Inuit midwives, The New York Times, January 5, 2020,, reported      " As Canada tries to make amends for its brutal history of relations with its Indigenous population, midwives and other members of the community in Inukjuak, a town of around 1,800 people in a remote region of Quebec, point to the clinic as an example of a way forward. Today around three out of four pregnant women in the town give birth in its clinic, attended to by Inuit midwives." Previously, Inuit women were pressured to travel far to the south to hospitals to have their babies, far from home and family.
      " Reconciling with Indigenous populations is one of the most pressing issues facing Canada these days. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called it a priority of his government. History curriculums have been revamped in schools; public meetings routinely begin with a recognition of the Indigenous lands they are held on; and buildings have been renamed."
       AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, " Indigenous Peoples Confronting the Pandemic: Nīsōhkamātowin wāhiyaw itōhtēmakan," AFN, May 25, 2020,, reported, " When they heard the first reports of the coronavirus outbreak, leaders in the Pasqua First Nation in western Canada became worried about what would happen if the disease spread to their community. In early January they began to prepare for the worst. Pasqua Chief Todd Peigan recently told me how, thanks to these early preparations, his First Nation was able to set up its own emergency distribution system that now delivers food baskets to Elders and others so that they can stay safely at home."
      " AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says Additional Funding for Urban Indigenous Organizations for COVID-19 Support is Critical," AFN,  May 22, 2020,, reported,  Assembly,  of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of $75 million in additional funding to support efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis for urban Indigenous organizations is essential to ensure the safety and security of all First Nations living in urban and rural regions across Canada.
'      This additional funding for Indigenous organizations is essential to ensure the safety and well-being of all First Nations living in urban centers and off-reserve,' said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. 'We know our First Nation brothers and sisters living off-reserve are equally as vulnerable during this pandemic. Sustainable funding is imperative in addressing critical needs during this crisis. We must continually ensure Indigenous organizations have the appropriate resources to provide the services needed to maintain the health and safety of urban First Nations peoples. First Nations have unique health needs that require unique culturally appropriate responses.'”
       This is in addition to the $15 million announced on March 18, 2020. This additional funding of $75 million will support more community-based projects that address the critical needs of Indigenous populations during this crisis, including food security, mental health support services, and sanitation and protective equipment. Funding for Indigenous organizations to implement projects will begin in the coming weeks."

      "AFN National Chief Bellegarde welcomes new funding to support First Nations economic development and tourism," AFN, June 11, 2020,, stated, "National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) said he welcomes the newly announced funding to help First Nations’ economic development initiatives and tourism industry get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller announced that an additional $133 million is earmarked to help First Nations businesses and tourism enterprises that have been greatly impacted by the federal, provincial and territorial governments’ calls for the public to stay at home.
      'This is much needed funding that will go to our businesses, economic development projects, and our tourism industry which has been devastated, across the country. I want to thank Minister Miller for responding to the AFN’s and First Nations’ calls for resources to help our entrepreneurs and employers get through these difficult times,' said the National Chief. 'First Nations are some of the most vulnerable in the country, not only when it comes to the pandemic and our health, but also when it comes to restarting the economy once the pandemic has passed. First Nations must not be forgotten! We must build back better and build back in a good way. Today’s funding confirms that when Canada listens to First Nations for guidance in responding to crisis the results are better for all. I look forward to seeing these investments deployed immediately to support our entrepreneurs and employers in this difficult time.'
      Responding to the economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government announced it will deliver $133 million in new funding for First Nations economic development initiatives ($117 million), including First Nations tourism enterprises ($16 million). The AFN will be watching for details on how the funding will be rolled out by the federal government.
      The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
      For more information please contact:
Michael Hutchinson
Senior Communications Advisor
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 244
613-859-6831 (cell)
Monica Poirier
Bilingual Communications Officer
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext. 382
613-292-0857 (mobile)"

       Catherine Porter and Dan Bilefsky, "Video of Arrest of Indigenous Leader Shocks Canada: The dash cam video shows a police officer beating Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northern Alberta," The New York Times, June 13, 2020,, reported, " The police dash cam video shows the Indigenous chief being held by one police officer and tackled to the ground by another, punched in the head and put in a chokehold."
video , submitted to the courts on Thursday and broadcast by many news channels, horrified many Canadians, and added fuel to the already raging debate over systemic racism in police forces across Canada."
      Joaqlin Estus, "Inuit cling to culture in trying times," ICT, April 30, 2020,, reported on the Canadian region of Nunavut and its 38,000 residents, 80 percent of them Inuit, have benefited in the face of the corona virus by being  quite isolated, reachable only by plane at four airports, or by snow machine or dog sled.
      "When the novel coronavirus started making its way west from Toronto, where Canada’s first case emerged, the Inuit in the Nunavut Territory took strong steps to keep it out.
       Togetherness, family, community and sharing are at the heart of Inuit culture. So some restrictions such as social distancing were hard for people to take, but their efforts evidently paid off. So far [at the end of April 2020] there hasn’t been a single positive diagnosis of the disease in
      "Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaqand and other top officials held a news conference last week on COVID-19. They credited Canadian leadership for some of Nunavut’s success in the fight against the disease.
      The Canadian federal government created a COVID-19 task force in January, and put in place a range of public health measures. Early on, it allocated a billion dollars for everything from handling travelers and support for the national microbiology lab, to setting up emergency operations. Of that, $200 million is going toward food for Nunavut elders and youth
. Now spending is projected to be as much as $145 billion."
       "No criminal charges for people arrested during injunction enforcement on Wet'suwet'en territory," CBC News,  June 5, 2020, "In announcing that Crown was not moving forward with criminal contempt charges, Coastal GasLink lawyer Carrie Kaukinen told the court her client would follow the Crown's lead end its civil contempt proceedings."
      Russel Diabo sent in a June 9, 2020 E-mail, "Russian Television (RT) International - Native Lives Matter:"
      In Canada, the highest reported suicide rates are among First Nations people. Indeed, Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading cause of death among First Nations Youth and adults up to 44 years old, according to the Canadian Center for Suicide Prevention. For males ages 15-24 the Indigenous rate is 126 per 1000 people, compared to the non-Indigenous rate of 24 per 1000. For women in that age group the First Nations' rate is 24 per 1000 vs. 5 per 1000 for non-First Nation women. For Inuit youth in Canada the suicide rate is one of the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average ("Combating Suicide Among Indigenous Peoples: an Interview with Pat Dudgeon," Cultural Survival Quarterly, June 2020).

      Catherine Couturier "Researchers examine the growing phenomenon of 'self-Indigenization:' The trend seems to be particularly prevalent in Eastern Canada and among those claiming Métis ancestry," UA AU University Affairs Affaires univeritaires, April 7, 2020,, reported, "Just as a number of media outlets in Quebec were reporting on people who were apparently appropriating Indigenous identities for themselves, Darryl Leroux published a book in which he analyzes this phenomenon of “self-Indigenization.” In Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity, published last September, the Saint Mary’s University associate professor explores multiple genealogy forums to describe this process of self-Indigenization, i.e., the decision to suddenly identify as Indigenous without official recognition. He also analyzes hundreds of documents from two lawsuits initiated by self-styled Métis organizations that claim hunting, fishing and land rights, even to the detriment of other Aboriginal groups living in the areas in question."

      Russell Diabo reported by E-mail, " The Road Forward, a musical documentary by Marie Clements, connects a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history—the beginnings of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s—with the powerful momentum of First Nations activism today. The Road Forward’s stunningly shot musical sequences, performed by an ensemble of some of Canada’s finest vocalists and musicians, seamlessly connect past and present with soaring vocals, blues, rock, and traditional beats. A rousing tribute to the fighters for First Nations rights, a soul-resounding historical experience, and a visceral call to action:

      Kiara Maher, "Historic Court Ruling Upholds Sami Rights in Sweden," Cultural Survival,
February 14, 2020,, reported, "In January 2020,   Indigenous Sami in Sweden won a major victory by overturning an almost three decades long policy that restricted their hunting and fishing rights.
      There are approximately 100,000 Sami living across the Scandanavian Peninsula and 36,000—over one third of the entire community—live in Sweden alone. In 1993, their rights to hunt and fish on the land that they lived on for so long in Girjas Sameby were abolished by the Swedish government’s decision to grant hunting and fishing access to non-Sami individuals. The decision impacted the 19-mile (30km) stretch of land reaching from Norway to the Baltic Sea on which Sami herders graze their reindeer.
      On January 23, 2020, the people of the Girjas Sami district succeeded in getting Sweden to overturn its policy of 27 years, winning back their exclusive hunting and fishing rights as Indigenous Peoples in Sweden’s Arctic. All five judges of Sweden’s Supreme Court unanimously made the decision based on the Sami’s long history on the land. The Sami have occupied this region for at least 1500 years, and their exclusive hunting and fishing rights have existed since the 1700s. The court’s decision proclaimed, 'Our investigation shows that the Swedish crown, when it began to encourage the colonisation of Lapland, was careful to safeguard the Samis’ opportunities for hunting and fishing...the hunting and fishing rights that the Sami in the area had at the time of the 1886 law and the following reindeer grazing laws have been transferred to members of the Sami district today.'
      The court case had gone on for 10 years, but the history of Sami oppression has been going on for hundreds. In 1922, Sweden established the Institute for Race Biology, where Sami people were examined the purpose of studying eugenics. In the 1930s, Sami children were taken from their homes and sent to boarding schools. From 2016 on, the Sami shared hunting and fishing rights in Girjas with the Swedish government. The case reflected this history of human rights abuses; governmental lawyers sometimes used the offensive term “Lapp” to refer to the Sami in court. As the case moved through the courts, the state appealed it each time. Stakes were high; had the Sami lost, they would owe 30 million kronor, approximately 3 million U.S. dollars, to the Swedish government.
      The Girjas case, in addition to setting precedent for Sami victory regarding land use rights, has also brought more support for ratification of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
      ' This is a historic victory that strengthens our rights over our traditional lands,' Girjas Sameby chairman Matti Blind-Berg stated. The decision is echoing worldwide as a show of how effective Indigenous resistance to rights violations can be, and will set precedent both in Sweden and internationally.
      Although the court ruling only applies to the Sami people in Girjas, Áslat Holmberg, vice president of the Sami Council, stated, 'I think the Girjás ruling has a great impact for Sámi rights in general. I believe the more immediate impacts will be seen on the Swedish side of Sápmi, but it is very relevant also for Sámi in Finland. Finland was part of Sweden in the times when the legal foundations between the Sámi and the state were made. Finland adopted those foundations when it became independent. The autonomy of Sámi siida (villages) - our traditional governance structures - was recognized by the state for a long time. Siida as a governance structure has much longer history than the current municipalities, and their autonomy was much greater. This autonomy has never been ceded. The Girjás court ruling is a major step in recognizing the unceded rights of Sámi communities to their respective resources and restoring them.
      Unfortunately, Sami members of the Girjas community have reported receiving several threats of violence both online and in person after the court ruling was announced and have faced backlash."

       The Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Siberia in Russia and Mongolia and organizations that support them have been suffering in the last two decades from a shift from democratic freedom to increased repression and exploitation of their lands by massive extraction and a flood of tourists, along with a lack of protective land policy and insufficient health care (Daniel Plumley, "Requiem, Repression or Recovery for the South Siberian Border Peoples?" Cultural Survival Quarterly, March 2020).

      "Freedom of Expression of Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala Case to Be Decided in the Inter-American Court Of Human Rights," Cultural Survival, April 21, 2020,, For information Contact: Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager // 617.441.5400 //, stated, "On April 3, 2020 , Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) referred a case dealing with Indigenous Peoples’ right to freedom of expression via community radio in Guatemala to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case, brought by US-based Cultural Survival, Guatemala- based organization Association Sobrevivencia Cultural, and submitted with support from the Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic at Suffolk University Law School, originally filed in 2012, is now being referred on to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
       Currently in Guatemala, Indigenous community radio stations are not legalized, and operate in a legal gray zone that has led to frequent persecution, disparagement, and criminalization by mainstream media conglomerates, the national police, and politicians.
      On September 28, 2012, Cultural Survival and Guatemalan organization Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural submitted a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arguing that the country’s telecommunications law excludes Indigenous Peoples from accessing their own forms of media via community radio. This came after Sobrevivencia Cultural submitted, in October 2011, an action of unconstitutionality to Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, declaring economic and ethnic discrimination in the State’s mechanism for distribution of radio frequencies.  The action argued that by auctioning off frequency licensees to the highest bidder, Indigenous communities, who historically and currently are among the most economically marginalized in the country, lack fair access to state-owned media.
      In March 2012, Guatemala’s highest court ruled against our favor, upholding the telecommunications law as is.  However, the court exhorted the congress to legislate in favor of Indigenous People’s access to radio.  Eight years later, the congress has still not implemented the court’s recommendation and has shelved a pending bill that would do so.  However, the right of Indigenous communities to their own forms of media is firmly established in Guatemala’s 1996 Peace Accords, as well as international agreements endorsed by Guatemala such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the American Convention on Human Rights.
      'Every day, communities in Guatemala choose to exercise their rights at great personal risk. Our hope is that the court case will convince the government of Guatemala to finally honor their obligations,' says Mark Camp, Cultural Survival's Deputy Executive Director.
       The announcement from the Inter-American Commission about referring the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for a ruling is a positive development in the case. Decisions of the Inter-American Court are binding, meaning that the state of Guatemala would be required to change the law if the court were to rule in favor of the victims and petitioners.
      The State assumed the responsibility of democratizing the airwaves at the signing of the Accord of Identity and Cultural Rights in 1995, which established among other things, that media monopolies should be eliminated through reforms to the telecommunications law and the adoption of a more egalitarian process for the delegation of radio frequencies.  Later, the Peace Accords were signed in 1996, which called for the promotion of local radio stations that would allow for grassroots development of Indigenous communities.
       A positive ruling from the Court would help to improve the situation of freedom of expression and access to information, both in Guatemala and across the Americas. 'The Commission's decision to refer the case to the Court is a significant step towards achieving the goal, started decades ago, of securing community radio for each indigenous community in Guatemala that seeks it out. With the Court’s review of this case, the hope is that a favorable decision will compel Guatemala to reform its telecommunications law and ensure that Indigenous communities are able to fully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and culture. A favorable judgment from the Inter-American Court would also reach beyond Guatemala to other States, especially those struggling to provide for community radio, by contributing to the jurisprudence in the fields of freedom of expression and culture, particularly, as it relates to community radio, Indigenous Peoples, pluralism and media. Finally, beyond the feeling of promise that comes with the news of this case's referral to the Court, the petitioners and victims should also feel a sense of victory as the Commission agreed with them regarding the need for legal reform in Guatemala,' stated Nicole Friederichs, lead counsel on the case and practitioner-in-residence at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA."

      Laura Hobson Herlihy and Brett Spencer, "As Covid-19 Starts in Nicaragua, Settler Violence Continues," Cultural Survival, April 17, 2020,, reported, " The year 2020 has not begun favorably for the Indigenous Peoples on the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast. Amidst the impending coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, settler colonists (called colonos) violently attack Indigenous people and invade their rainforest lands. Ten Miskitu and Mayangna leaders and land defenders have been killed since early January.
       The Miskitu and Mayangna communities facing settler violence accuse the Sandinista state (2007-present) of being complicit, if not backing the colonists. The Center for Justice and Human Rights of Indigenous People (CEJUDHCAN) director Lottie Cunningham claimed that many colonos are army veterans.
       For Indigenous communities on the Caribbean coast, the increasing violence is due to an ongoing internal colonization process with roots in the latter years of the Somoza dictatorship, and which increased significantly in post-revolutionary Nicaragua. Caribbean coast Indigenous factions today, have astonishingly turned on each other, divided by political party and favoritism. Mayangna leaders this month have blamed both Mayangna and Miskitu members of the Sandinista party for deaths in their communities, further frustrating relations between Indigenous and settler groups.
2020 Violence
      Just four days into the new year, on January 4th, Miskitu Youth leader Mark Rivas died by a gunshot wound to his head in his home in Bilwi (population 85,000), the capital of North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN). Rivas was positioned to replace the highest Miskitu leader, Brooklyn Rivera, who in 1987 founded the Indigenous organization Yatama (Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Asla Takanka/Children of Mother Earth), the only opposition political party to the FSLN (the National Sandinista Liberation Front) on the Caribbean coast.
       Carlos Rivas Thomas, the president of the Miskitu American Organization (MAO) and Mark Rivas’s father, stated 'my son received death threats by phone just days before they killed him, but that there has been no further police investigation.' The state police ruled Mark’s death as a suicide.
      Dozens of armed land colonists on
January 29th attacked the Mayangna community of Alal within the Bosawas protected nature reserve. The colonists killed four, kidnapped six others, and burned 16 homes and buildings to the ground. The state police later arrested one person associated with settler colonists.
      On February 16th, a young Miskitu girl was shot in the jawbone in Santa Clara, within the Wangki Twi-Tasba Raya territory. The state initially denied the shooting had happened, but pictures surfaced on Miskitu social media challenging them
       On March 26th and 27th, colonists committed two attacks in Las Minas or the mining region of RAAN. Five Tuahka Mayangna leaders and land defenders were killed and five more were injured in the communities of Wasakin and Ibu. Investigations into the attacks are underway. Yet, Edison Jony Montiel, the cousin of one of the Tuahka Mayangna men injured in Ibu, believes the ongoing pattern of violent repression and impunity guaranteed by the Sandinista state will prevail. Montiel reports, 'I am in hiding from people who want to kill me.'
Historic Context
      The Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast was at the center of resistance to the revolutionary Sandinista party, who came to power in 1979 and began attempts to integrate the Atlantic region into its revolutionary platform. Indigenous Contra fighters, who originally backed Sandinista education and literacy programs in the region, quickly realized the party would expand into their rainforests, savannah, and critical waterways.
      The ensuing US backed Contra War lasted from 1981 to 1987, concluding with the passing of Autonomy Law 28, which established two large autonomous regions on the Caribbean Coast, the RAAN (North Atlantic Autonomous Region) and the RAAS (South Atlantic Autonomous Region ).
      Much of the fighting occurring today is in part due to the Nicaraguan Communal Property Law (445), which addresses land titling and demarcation. Following its passage in 2003, today, twenty-one of the twenty-three territories in the RAAN and RAAS have gained legal ownership of their lands
       A later stage of law 445 calls for the cleansing or saneamiento of their traditional lands, referring to the extremely problematic removal of the colonists from the territory. The state cannot afford to relocate settler colonists and has nowhere to put them. The drought on the Pacific side and interior of the country was the primary reason that the landless campesinos migrated to the Caribbean coast in the first place.
       As Indigenous leaders request saneamiento, the settler colonists militarize to protect their homes, land, and economic livelihoods. Colonists have killed fifty Indigenous leaders and land defenders since 2014, and many more have been kidnapped, injured, and displaced from their lands. The Nicaraguan state, once a model throughout the world for recognizing Indigenous rights and territories, now fails to protect the lives and land of the Miskitu and Mayangna Peoples.
      Although illegal in the autonomous regions, settlers accuse Miskitu and Mayangna community members of selling their own lands. Settlers in possession of illegal land titles cut down rainforest and torch lands to raise cattle. Cattle ranching increases the value of the land for neoliberal markets but contributes significantly to global climate change. Rivers have dried up and Indigenous Peoples are losing access to their fields, creating food insecurity and entangling the processes of settler colonialism and climate change.
On Three Conflict Zones
      There are three critical areas where the Miskitu and Mayangna are facing endemic violence: the upper Rio Coco forests, Las Minas, and Bosawas. In these three areas traditional methods of settler colonization are a driving force behind the attacks. Cattle ranchers armed with automatic weapons attack Miskitu and Mayangna villagers, who mainly have access to old shotguns and machetes
       Cattle ranching has long been one of the primary weapons of settler colonization. In Wangki Twi-Tasba Raya, settler colonists have torched Indigenous homes. Thousands fled to the riverine and coastal capitals of Waspam and Bilwi and to nearby villages along the Rio Coco/Wangki, the border between Nicaragua and Honduras. This migration route is all too familiar to the Miskitu Peoples who suffered through the war-torn years of the 1980s.
      In 2020, former Contra combatants and their descendants the Upper Coco-River communities of Wangki Li Auhbra and Li Lamni Tasbaihka Kum are defending many of the same communities they did in the 1980s. Some of these territories have been awarded cautionary measures, along with CEJUDHCAN human rights defenders.
       Conflicts have led to numerous deaths relating to mining operations and land titling in communities surrounding Las Minas, including Wasakin and Sahsa. In the 1980s the Sandinistas forcedly relocated several Rio Coco communities during the war, in an area referred to as Tasba Pri, or ‘Free Land’ in Miskitu. Today that population is expanding, and newer communities are forming in the eastern section of Las Minas. Settlers are organizing themselves and have formed legal and community organizations, including the ironically named Tasba Pri Farmers and Ranchers Association.
       Settler violence toward Mayangna Peoples has also spread to the Bosawas protected nature reserve, located northeast of the RAAN in Jinotega and extending to the Rio Coco or Wangki river. While Las Minas is known for colonization and the illegal trafficking of Indigenous lands, Bosawas is referred to as the lungs of the Central America rainforest system. The Mayangna Bosawas region was named a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve in 1997. Yet settlers here, especially in the department of Jinotega, burn down protected rainforest in order to pursue cattle-ranching activities. Jinotega, known across Central America for its cattle industry, further illustrates the linkages between neoliberalism and climate change.
      Settler colonialism is a process that seeks to dislodge previous social and environmental constructs in order to establish itself to strong, homogeneous networks. The Miskitu and Mayangna are long familiar with such viral infections such as settler colonialism, yet 2020 seems to be a pivotal year for their struggle, now that they will have two deal with the imminent repercussions of another inflection: COVID-19.
       The Miskitu and Mayangna of the RAAN are fighting two forms of viral infection. While the hinterland faces processes of settler dispossession, the cities of Waspam and Bilwi in particular, are ill equipped to deal with COVID-19. As the most marginalized and at-risk population in Nicaragua, they live in fear for their lives, as the state has not called for border closings, canceled schools, or cuarentena (self-quarantine), departing from government mandates in all other Central American states.

       In defiance of the science on COVID-19 that calls for social distancing to mitigate the spreading of the virus, the Nicaraguan state government bizarrely allowed a cruise ship to land in a Pacific port and called for a parade in Managua on March 14, called 'Love in the Time of COVID-19.' State employees were required to gather and march. FSLN (National Sandinista Liberation Front) health brigades then went house to house, to inform residents about sanitary measures needed to fight the impending virus; and to encourage them to continue their normal activities, including Holy Week festivities planned around the country.
       Nicaragua’s authoritarian Ortega-Murillo regime has done little to acknowledge the spread of the virus are accused of under reporting. The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) reports only one death and 9 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The government said they will call for a quarantine when 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported.
       Human Rights Watch claims the Nicaraguan public health system has been severely compromised, as 400 doctors, nurses, and medical workers were let go due to state repression following the protests that erupted throughout the country in 2018. Those who helped heal injured protestors, in defiance of government orders, lost their professions.
      The WHO (World Health Organization) recommendation of social distancing and rest in place is a privilege not afforded by most Nicaraguans living in poverty, let alone the Indigenous Miskitu and Mayangna people.
      The barrios of Bilwi, like many cities in Nicaragua, force people to be in constant proximity and many Miskitu homes here have several generations of family per household. Recurring outbreaks of Malaria, Chikinguna and Dengue in the last few years have exploded in crowded urban barrios of Bilwi.
      The Caribbean coast is the poorest region in Nicaragua, the second poorest nation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Much of the country does not have access to running water. Nevertheless, Indigenous people like their fellow Nicaraguans, are self-organizing to fight coronavirus, creating resources in their language, despite the lack of leadership and information from the state.
      Yatama Leader Brooklyn Rivera stated that no adequate coronavirus testing was available in the autonomous regions because of a lack of technology; and that seven suspicious cases were being treated in coastal hospitals, six in the RAAS capital of Bluefields (population 50,000) and one in Bilwi. The patients’ tests for the coronavirus had been sent to Managua and were waiting on results.
      When Rivera  was asked if coronavirus had spread to the southern region, he said, 'Well, we don’t really know,' emphasizing they were still waiting for results from Managua.
      The United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the Pan-American Health Organization denounced the Nicaraguan state for not providing information to its people on coronavirus. Additionally, Yatama denounced the state’s violation of their nationally and internationally recognized Indigenous rights.
       Indigenous people face a disproportionate threat to infectious disease—they are small populations living in impoverished regions with poor access to public health systems. They are also guardians of the world’s remaining rainforests.
       The Bilwi hospital has no security to keep visitors from visiting family members, four beds per room, and only two respirators for the RAAN region with over 160,000 residents. Former Bilwi mayor and Yatama leader Reynaldo Francis said, 'If the virus took hold here, we would be dying in the streets.'”

      Alexander Villegas and Frances Robles, "Conflicts Over Indigenous Land Grow More Violent in Central America: Faced with government inaction, some activists try to reclaim ancestral lands on their own. Often, they pay a high price," The New York Times, March 9, 2020,, reported that often deadly conflicts over land have been increasing in Central America. That included two confrontations in southern Costa Rica, in early 2020, in which two members of the Brörán tribe were killed.
      "Over the past five years, conflicts over land and natural resources in the region have led to about 200 confrontations and the deaths of 60 Indigenous people, according to the
Business & Human Rights Resource Center , a London organization.
      Four Indigenous people were killed in an attack in Nicaragua in January, and at least a dozen more died in Colombia in just the first two weeks of this year, according to the United Nations."
      In some of the cases, farmers did not know that the land they purchased or were given by the government was taken illegally from Indigenous people

      " K’iche Human Rights Defender Daniel Pascual Facing Criminal Charges in Guatemala, January 17, 2020,, reported, " Indigenous and campesino organizations across Guatemala are on high alert as a case which has the potential to alter the course of freedom of expression in Guatemala begin hearings at Guatemala’s highest appellate court.
      The case revolves around Indigenous human rights defender Daniel Pascual Hernandez, Maya K’iche coordinator of the grassroots organization United Campesino Committee, (CUC by its Spanish acronym), who is accused of libel, defamation and slander by right-wing columnist and ex-military Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, founder of the 'Foundation against Terrorism' in Guatemala.
       The original charges date back to  2013, when Pascual Hernández was organizing with flower farmers in the community of San Juan Sacatepequez to defend their land from the imposition of a cement manufacturing plant by company Cementos Progresos. At the time, Pascual publicly supported community leaders who had received death threats for their actions protesting the company’s installations. This was used by Méndez Ruiz to bring a case against Pasual, which has reflected a number of irregularities of due process over the 7 years of its course thus far
       In an earlier proceeding, Pascual was denied the opportunity to make use of a tribunal established within Article 35 of Guatemala's constitution for disputes related to freedom of expression.
      Rather, Judge Carmen Toaspern chose to send the case to criminal court arguing that Guatemala’s Constitutional Law on the Expression of Thought should only apply to journalists; an argument that was later denounced by the Guatemalan Human Rights Ombudsman.
      In fact, the processing of libel charges as criminal charges has been discouraged by the  United Nations Human Rights Committee, which has recommended the decriminalization of libel in order to fully respect the rights to freedom of speech as recognized by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified by Guatemala since 1992.
      The jurisprudence on this decision noted that Pascual cannot be identified as a communicator unless he is a trained journalist- a decision that allows for a major gap in protections for human rights defenders, community radio volunteers, and others who work as the voice of a community but may lack formal education as journalists.
      In light of this , community organizations such as  Asamblea Social y Popular ASP, La Coordinación y Convergencia Maya Waqib Kej, La vía Campesina Centroamérica and  Alba movimiento, have made a call for the respect of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and in support of Daniel Pascual.
      These grassroots organizations recognize the pattern of criminalization of human rights defenders and social movement leaders; of which the goal is not necessarily to win a case, but to tie the accused to a penal process that is dragged out over a number of years, removing them from their activism, and ultimately, to intimidate other activists and discredit the organization and the issues they fight for. 'The criminalization and prosecution of free expression is something that is worrisome to the rest of the members of the CUC,' explained Rafael González, coordinator of the legal office for the CUC.
      Cultural Survival joins grassroots Guatemalan organizations in calling on authorities to carry out a fair and transparent trial, respecting the principles of democracy, freedom of expression, and human rights, and quality before the law, particularly for Indigenous human rights defenders who have been historically criminalized, and discriminated against within Guatemala’s justice system.
      Daniel Pascual began his work for in defense of Indigenous and non-Indigenous rural communities at the young age of 13. He has worked toward the fulfillment of the Peace Accords; supporting land rights for rural farmers, defending against criminalization of other social leaders, food security and food sovereignty programs, and was an integral organizer in the successful push to reject the passage of the so-called Monsanto Law allowing the privatization of seeds in Guatemala, and supported the movement to legalize community radio in Guatemala. He has participated in various activities with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations and has organized a number of peaceful marches garnering national and international attention.  He was featured as a main character profiled in the documentary film '500 years' by Pamela Yates, about the Indigenous rights movement in Guatemala.
      Pascual stated during his hearing, 'I consider myself a defender of human rights, and we are all aware that there are constant violations of economic, cultural, social, and environmental issues in our country. In this sense I am firmly convinced that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations recognizes the freedom of expression as a universal right of every person, likewise this is recognized by Article 35 of the Republic of Guatemala. Therefore I’ve done nothing more than exercise this right over the past 20 years..”

      "Indigenous Leaders in Nicaragua Denounce Massacre in Mayangna Territory," Cultural Survival, January 31, 2020,, reported, " According to early reports, an armed group of approximately 80 people who identify as 'the Kukalón Armed Group' recently disturbed the peace of an Indigenous Mayangna village of Alal, Bonanza, 400 kilometers northeast of Managua, Nicaragua. On January 28, 2020, the group massacred 6 Indigenous Mayangnas, another 10 are reported missing, and several houses were burned. Five of the victims have been identified: Tránsito Mesa, Víctor Díaz, Juan Emilio Devis, Carlos Martín, and Miguel Dixon.
      Gustavo Sebastián Lino, president of the Mayagna Sauni As territory, along with other members of local Indigenous rights organizations have denounced this violent attack. Alal is a remote community in the Mayangna Sauni As territory, within the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in the department of Jinotega, shared by the Autonomous Region of the North Caribbean Coast (RACCN) and bordering Honduras.   Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997, it is the largest forest reserve in Central America and the third largest in the world.  Although it has been known as one of the most intact tropical rainforest and cloud forests in the region,  invasion by non-Indigenous settlers, loggers, and ranchers has caused ceaseless conflict, leaving the biosphere and its communities threatened.
      In 2001 the Mayagna won a landmark case against the government of Nicaragua in which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that they had a right as Indigenous people to their collective land, in what was known as the Awas-Tingi ruling, after the community that brought the case. In December 2008, the government completed a process of demarcating and titling the land, securing their title to a total of 73,394 hectares.
      Since then, community leaders have repeatedly denounced violence at the hands of non-Indigenous people known as 'colonos', or settlers who entered their territory looking to exploit and take control of natural resources. On numerous occasions Indigenous authorities have sued the government for their territorial integrity, asserting their rights and expelling the invaders who disturb their lifeways.
      The Communal Property Law (law 445) requires the Nicaraguan state to complete saneamiento, a ‘healing’ of the land, meaning the removal of colonists and industries from Indigenous and Afro-descendant territories, but the Nicaraguan government has
failed to fulfil this obligation.
      “Our communities have been threatened, massacred and exploited. The government has made decrees and actions that only remain in paper. One of them is the creation of the ecological battalion that was thought to give security to our communities but we have not seen results. Faced with this situation, we need the government to immediately attend to the matter and carry out justice as soon as possible,“ Lino told Comunicación Digital Nicaragua Actual.
      On January 30, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the attack on Twitter in Alal stating, 'the State will be in violation of international obligations to protect the integrity, life and Indigenous territories, if it does not prevent, investigate, and punish these events.' The IACHR also emphasized that 'this pattern of attacks has been repeated in Nicaragua for years. The State must urgently adopt comprehensive policies to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples to life, integrity, and territory. '
      The Nicaraguan National Police issued a press release ( describing two victims of gunshot wounds, but did not corroborate any information regarding the 10 disappearances. Cases of violence within the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve are under the jurisdiction of the Nicaraguan Army, along with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Although these institutions have yet to make a public statement, locals have reported that a group of 30 people is in Bonanza conducting an investigation.
      Cultural Survival repudiates acts of violence against Indigenous communities and joins the Mayangna leaders in calling on Nicaraguan government to comply with domestic and international law by defending the integrity of the Indigenous lands, as well as Indigenous Peoples; most essential human right, the right to life and security of person. We encourage Nicaraguan authorities to investigate and bring swift justice for the victims of this massacre."

      "One Year Later: The Murder Of Sergio Rojas Remains Unresolved Amidst Ongoing Crisis," Cultural Survival, March 19, 2020,, reported, "Costa Rican Authorities Fail to Respond to Ongoing Violence.
      March 18, 2020, marked one year since the death of Costa Rican Indigenous land defender Sergio Rojas, who was murdered in his home in Saltire de Buenos Aires in 2019. Despite creating a specialized investigative unit in order to pursue the crime and releasing a sketch of two suspects, no successful measures to bring justice for this crime have taken place, leaving the criminals in impunity and effectively giving the green light to perpetrators to continue acts of violence against Indigenous people who are peacefully recuperating their titled lands.
      On February 24, 2020, Jerhy Rivera Rivera, an Indigenous human rights defender, was assassinated at night in the community of Mano de Tigre, San Antonio, in the Indigenous territory of Térraba, Puntarenas, one day after initiations of new actions aimed at recovering land in the Bröran Terraba Territory .  Rivera’s death came just two weeks after the attempted murder of Mainor Ortiz Delgado, a Bribri leader who survived a bullet wound in his thigh after a shooting in his community in Río Azul de Térraba.
      Over the weekend of March 7 and 8, 2020, the Costa Rican Ombudsman, Catalina Crespo, issued an alert to the Ministry of Public Security warning of new threats to Indigenous leaders and human rights defenders. Crespo announced that threats of death, harassment and defamation were made against two human rights defenders in the Buenos Aires area of Puntarenas, Gustavo Oreamuno Vignet and Jeffrey López Castro, members of the grassroots organization Asociación de Iniciativas Populares Ditsö. 
      Cultural Survival followed up on March 16, 2020, with a letter to Costa Rican officials, denouncing violence against members of Ditsö as well as threats against  Pablo Sibas, Broran leader from the Térraba Indigenous territory, and coordinator of FRENAPI, and Clarita Quiel, Bribri leader from the Cabagra territory.  According to the information received, the threats intensified as a result of the human rights work and the public denouncing the murder of the human rights defender Jerhy Rivera Rivera.
      In response to these incidents , the Minister of Security, Michael Soto, announced that a police presence has been established in the Buenos Aires area in the face of the latest violence. The Deputy Minister of Security, Eduardo Solano, responded to the Ombudsman's Office through a statement in which he assured that a “strong operation is currently being carried out with 100 police officers present in the area at this time.”
       Despite the recent short term responses to the threats from last week, these ongoing acts and threats of violence against Indigenous defenders in Costa Rica are a result of the Costa Rican government’s failure to implement Indigenous land rights or to bring sanctions on non-Indigenous settlers on Indigenous land. Costa Rica’s response failed to address recommendations to prevent violence by addressing its root cause; the decades-long inaction of the state to implement Indigenous land rights and remove non-Indigenous ranchers from Indigenous titled lands.
      'The structural discrimination [against Indigenous Peoples] is reinforced by the inaction of the state,” said Jeffery López, one of the Indigenous defenders who received death threats, and president of Ditsö. “The conflict is not only for land, but for the advancement of Indigenous Peoples who fight for their rights.'
      In a press release on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Inter-American Commission on Human (IACHR) rights expressed its concern:
      'The IACHR highlights the importance of territory for the cultural and physical survival of Indigenous People, and reiterates what has been established by the Inter American Court of Human Rights, which is that the failure of the State to effectively identify, delimit, and demarcate Indigenous territories can cause a climate of permanent uncertainty, affecting as a consequence the social peace of the greater society.
      The IACHR observes that March 18 [2020] marks the one year anniversary of the assasination of Sergio Rojas, Indigenous Bribri leader, who was the beneficiary of Precautionary Measures granted by the IACHR on April 2015. In this regard, the Commission issues a warning regarding the failure to make substantive advances in the investigation towards bringing justice against those responsible. The IACHR reiteres that this crime must be seriously investigated, in a way that is immediate, exhaustive, independent, and impartial, with sancion for those who carried out the murder as well as the intellectual authors of the crime.'
      The IACHR reminds that, according to the Precautionary Measure 321-12, the State must adopt necessary measures to guarantee the life and personal integrity of the members of the Indigenous Peoples of Teribe and Bribri, in the province of Punta Arenas. The CIDH calls on the State of Costa Rica to reinforce the precautionary measures adopted in favor of Indigenous leaders and human rights defenders in the territories of Salitre and Térraba, and reinforce investigations into attacks and threats that take place in a way that is immediate and diligent. In its investigations, the State should include an analysis of the hypothesis that these acts of violence are reactions to the activity of human rights defenders.'
      In our letter to Costa Rican officials, Cultural Survival denounced Costa Rica’s failure to implement precautionary measures regarding the ongoing violence against Indigenous Peoples and offered a series of recommended measures that the government should adopt. These measures include increased action and transparency regarding investigations into those responsible for the deaths of Sergio Rojas and Jerhy Rivera Rivera, improving the implementation of precautionary measures for Indigenous defenders in accordance with protocols established by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and establishing a plan for the recovery of Indigenous territory that will address the root problems of the conflict over land in Costa Rica."

      John McPhaul, "Second Murder of Indigenous Land Defender In Costa Rica Proves State Inaction," Cultural Survival, February 26, 2020,, reported, " Costa Rican Indigenous leader, Jerhy Rivera Rivera (Brörán) was killed on the night of February 24, 2020, in the community of Mano de Tigre, San Antonio, in the titled Indigenous Territory of Térraba, Puntarenas province, marking the second death of Indigenous land defenders in the country in less than one year.  This murder also occurs two weeks after Bribri leader Mainor Ortiz Delgado survived a shot in the right thigh; in the Rio Azul Community of Térraba.
       According to preliminary reports, attackers had organized nearby and waited for nightfall to target the local Indigenous community members who have been peacefully reclaiming ancestral lands legally titled to them over four decades ago but which remain in the hands of illegal settlers according to Costa Rica’s own laws.
       The president of Costa Rica issued a statement that they have provided increased police presence in the region after recent attack on Mainor Ortiz, but community members in Térraba say there has been no increased presence in their communities Video footage shows a moment in which the police are present at the scene of the conflict, but witnesses claim they did nothing to de-escalate the violence or protect Rivera's body on the side of the road from the mob.  We are told the murder suspect turned himself into the authorities but charges are still pending.
       Since 2010, in the face of government inaction, Indigenous communities in Costa Rica have been re-occupying lands within 24 territories belonging to them under the 1977 Indigenous Law. A Bribri leader, Sergio Rojas, led efforts to recover the lands in his indigenous territory of Salitre, until he was murdered last March 18, 2019. His death remains in impunity despite numerous calls for investigations by local Indigenous and human rights organizations, Costa Rica’s human rights Ombudsman, the UN, and international organizations such as Cultural Survival.
      The recent attack against Jerhy Rivera did not come without warning.  FRENAPI, the National Front of Indigenous Peoples, reported that two nights before the attack on Rivera, they sent out an Early Warning communication to Government authorities and  the Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, regarding a recent mobilization of non-Indigenous people who entered the areas of Indigenous territory of Térraba, Crun D'bonn and Cabagra in Palmira.  “Early warnings about the growing tensions in Térraba were once again met with an ineffective response by the state,” Vanessa Jiménez, of Forest Peoples Programme, told the Guardian. “The government either can’t or won’t protect the Bribri and Brörán from violence.”
      Jehry Rivera was the subject of an attempted murder previously, but his attacker was never jailed.  Rivera was brutally assaulted in September 2013 while searching for a cell signal to report to authorities that non-Indigenous people were conducting illegal logging on Indigenous territories.
      Both Sergio Rojas and Mainor Ortiz had also been victims of earlier attacks or homicide attempts.  For this reason, since 2015, the Bribri and Brörán communities were subject to precautionary protection measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued since 2015.  This distinction means that the state of Costa Rica is responsible for ensuring the physical security of the individuals within these communities.
      In a press release, the traditional Indigenous governance council the Consejo Ditsó Iriria Ajkonuk Wakpa exclaimed, “We denounce the State for its complicity in this assassination, for not abiding by the Precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Court for Human Rights which are guaranteed to the Brörán community of Terraba and the Bribri of Salitre.  We also denounce the President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada who aims to delay the process of land and territory recuperation, while failing to carry out evictions necessary to bring peace and territorial integrity to Indigenous lands. We will not be deterred in the defense of our land rights.'
      Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada released a
video statement condemning Rivera's murder. 'I deeply regret the acts of violence that occurred today in that community,' he expressed. Yet, rather than call for the illegal settlers and their allies to stand down and exit Indigenous lands, the president called on Indigenous communities to refrain from efforts to recuperate their legally-titled, ancestral lands.  He went on to claim that the State has provided ample security to Indigenous communities in line with the recommendations from the Inter-American Commission, which Indigenous communities strongly rejected: 'The president should have mentioned that, to date, the State of Costa Rica has not jailed a single person responsible for attacks against us…The inaction of the State makes possible and legitimizes this violence,' they responded in a press release.
      They also denied the President’s claim that the State has carried out 6 evictions in Salitre. 'This is categorically false. “Over 5 years, the Bribri have asked the Government to [carry out these evictions] In June of 2019, the government authorized the possession of two land parcels, but these had already been recuperated previously by Indigenous persons. Which means, they did not physically remove anyone. The other orders for eviction have not been executed, and those occupying the land continue to instigate violence against the Bribri.'
      Cultural Survival echoes the call of the Bribri and Brörán in urging the Costa Rican government to fulfill their obligation to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Costa Rica. We reiterate our calls to Costa Rica to fully investigate and bring justice to all acts of violence against Indigenous land defenders, in accordance with the domestic and international law, and to take immediate steps to remove non-Indigenous settlers on Indigenous titled land."

      John McPhaul, "Another Bribri Land Defender Shot in Costa Rica," Cultural Survival, February 17, 2020,, reported, " Mainor Ortiz Delgado, a member of the Indigenous Bribri Tubolwak clan, was shot in the leg by a trespasser on February 9, 2020, on his farm in Rio Azul de Salitre in southwestern Costa Rica. This act of is part of an ongoing wave of violence spurring from the Costa Rican government’s failure to implement Indigenous land rights and bring sanctions on non-Indigenous settlers on Indigenous land. It  comes almost one year after the murder of another Indigenous rights defender, Sergio Rojas, in March 2019, whose murder has not been resolved.
      ' What did Mainor do to provoke this attack? Nothing. He was only working on his farm with his brother, his wife and their three children,' said Indigenous organization Ditso Iriria Ajkonuk Wakpa. 'While he was working, without provocation, a non-Indigenous person passed by on a motorcycle and fired at him.'
      Ditso identified the assailant as Eliodoro Figueroa Uva, who is not Bribri, who has trespassed on the land of Silvia Rojas Delgado located in Rio Azul de Salitre.' Figueroa Uva  was initially arrested by authorities, but was later released within 24 hours, and ordered not to intimidate Ortiz or his family and to stay at least 100 meters away from him, according to Vanessa Jimenez, an attorney from the Forest Peoples Programme which advocates for Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica. 
       Indigenous organizations reject the decision to free Figueroa Uva, considering it insufficient and negligent since Mainor Ortiz and his family have to pass the land allegedly usurped by Figueroa Uva, and since this incident is not the first time Ortiz Delgado and his family have been victimized by non-Indigenous settlers.
      'This attack comes as the Bribri strive to defend their territories. Over 50% of their ancestral land is now illegally occupied by non-indigenous people who are regularly hostile to the Bribri. There have been dozens of documented cases of violence and threats against the Bribri and their indigenous neighbors the Brörán people of Térraba, all of which continue with impunity,' said the Forest People’s Programme in press release. 'Despite the decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to issue Precautionary Measures in 2015 calling on the Costa Rican government to protect the lives and physical integrity of the Bribri and Brörán, the Government has failed to implement sufficient measures to do so.'
      Even though a 1977 law set aside lands for Indigenous Peoples, much of the lands are occupied by non-Indigenous settlers, some of whom have not been compensated by the state, while others have squatted on the land with nothing more than a bill of sale to back their claims.
      According to Ditso, the assailant in the recent shooting belongs to a family who has laid claim to land and carries a certificate identifying him as Indigenous from an organization that a Costa Rican court has already ruled illegitimate.
            In 2013, 10 settlers attacked Ortiz Delgado with a machete in his left ear, leaving deep lacerations, and tortured him with a branding iron and shooting him in the left thigh. A Costa Rican court found that not enough evidence existed to 'individualize the guilty party' though Ortiz Delgado was able to identify them.
      In 2016, unknown assailants shot at Ortiz Delgado’s house. Delgado Ortiz received threatening telephone calls saying that 'I know who you are, at any moment we are going to take you out with bullets. Stop acting like a man.' Ortiz Delgado gave the callers’ telephone numbers to authorities, who took no action.
      'They want to kill my son and the government knows of the precarious situation, but they don’t do anything significant or effective to protect him. I’m afraid he’s going to end up like Sergio,' said Ortiz Delgado’s mother, Mariana Delgado Morales, referring to the murder of Bribri land defender Sergio Rojas Ortiz, killed on March 19, 2019.
      In 2010, Rojas Ortiz began a campaign to recover ancestral land belonging to the Bribri in the southwest region of Telire. The murder of Rojas took place despite the fact that the Intern-American Commission on Human Rights had ordered the Costa Rican State to take precautionary measures to protect his Indigenous community.
      'The life led by Mainor Delgado is a story that is symbolic of the tragic situation of the Bribri people, and other peoples in Costa Rica as a result of action from the government,' said Ditso.  'The Government has to do at least four things: (i) punish those that attack us and end the impunity, (ii) protect our human rights defenders in an effective way, (iii) not abandon us to the courts but rather implement their duties and obligations without delay, and (iv) evict with priority the illegal occupants –now and not years from now,' says Lesner Figuero Lázaro, Bribri of the Tuadiwak clan and Coordinator of the Concejo.
      Cultural Survival echoes the call of the Consejo Ditsö Iriria Ajkönuk Wakpa of the Bribri territory in urging the Costa Rican government to fulfill their obligation to protect Indigenous Peoples rights in Costa Rica. We reiterate our calls to Costa Ricato fully investigate and bring justice to all acts of violence against Indigenous land defenders, in accordance with the domestic and international law, and to take immediate steps to remove non-Indigenous settlers on Indigenous titled land.'

      International Crisis Group (ICG), Bram Ebus, Consultant, 'Under a Merciless Sun: Venezuelans Stranded Across the Colombian Border," Commentary / Latin America & Caribbean  25 February 2020,, commented, ' As Venezuela’s economy plumbs the depths of collapse, a new cohort of refugees is trekking across parched landscapes to Colombia. It consists of the most vulnerable, including poor expectant mothers, unaccompanied children and the sick, people with no defence against the predations of armed bands.
      It is a measure of life’s hardships in Zulia state, the oil production hub in north-western Venezuela, that its people must brave lawless borders just to get to the hospital. Across the frontier, in Colombia, the San José de Maicao hospital is full of pregnant Venezuelan women, some of them sitting on the floor. One new mother I met there had arrived in the morning after traversing a trocha, an illegal crossing between the two countries, which have no diplomatic ties. She borrowed money to pay a shadowy armed band for safe passage, and once in the maternal ward, gave birth to a healthy daughter. She lay in bed, the baby in her arms, a bit bewildered at her good fortune. Infant mortality is high among refugee mothers, most of whom, like this young woman, receive no prenatal care. She got to San José de Maicao just in time for a safe, orderly delivery.
      Such harrowing tales of flight have become common in Zulia. Hunger, power cuts and collapsing public services have turned this region – once accustomed to easy wealth and ice-cold air conditioning – into one of the areas of Venezuela suffering the greatest humanitarian need, according to the UN. The human rights NGO Codhez, based in Zulia, calculates that seven in ten households have daily incomes of $1.09 or less, meaning that families often cannot eat three meals a day. Its hospitals are at once rundown and prohibitively expensive for most Zulia residents because they now demand payment in dollars for basic services that were once free. The nearest escape valve is the Colombian border. More than 160,000 Venezuelans now live across it, in the Colombian state of La Guajira, after escaping their home country’s tumult.
But La Guajira, in Colombia’s far north east, is no sanctuary. More than half the population of this semi-arid desert state lives in poverty. With Venezuela to the east and the mountains of Perijá – a hotbed of guerrilla activity – to the south, La Guajira is in a double bind. It faces not only the humanitarian needs of migrants and refugees, who now make up roughly 19 per cent of the population, but also the violence of guerrillas, narcosand other men with guns who prey upon its very desperation.
       The Border Crossing Boom
      The only official crossing from Zulia into La Guajira brings new arrivals to the small village of Paraguachón. Movable metal barriers featuring the logo of Colombia’s migration office stand along the main road. Scrawny, malnourished Venezuelans, exhausted after their long trip, mingle with locals hawking basic medicines and food items. As in other Latin American border towns, the informal economy hums with activity, as porters trot by pushing handcarts piled with luggage, moneychangers offer stacks of bolívars to the few Venezuelans returning home and penniless migrants sell their hair to wig makers for a fistful of dollars.
      But a lot more is going on in this particular border town. A nervous resident points out that various armed groups – narcos, guerrillas and others – rule Paraguachón. They have tightened their stranglehold on La Guajira’s border since 2015, when the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro closed the entire frontier in response to attacks on the Venezuelan army by unknown parties. Following the closure, the trochas became regular transit points and a gold mine for criminal gangs collecting informal tolls. The border reopened in 2016, but the illegal crossings retained their appeal to smugglers, traffickers, and the many migrants and refugees without identity papers.
      Just a short distance from the official crossing in Paraguachón are two major trochas: la ochenta (the eighty) and la cortica (the short one). In plain view of Colombian police, motorbikes bearing jerrycans bump alongside old white Toyota pickups crammed with passengers and goods over the sandy roads to and from Venezuela.
       A total of 90 trochas are located in Maicao, the municipality that includes Paraguachón. According to Colombia’s Ombudsman, an independent state agency charged with protecting civil and human rights, the number along the border between La Guajira and Zulia runs close to 200. At each of these points, criminals charge fees for passage, turning the trochas into big business and a trigger for competition with each other, as well as with state security forces. Aida Merlano, a fugitive Colombian parliamentarian wanted for electoral fraud, found refuge in Venezuela via a trocha in the La Guajira badlands. Three alleged al-Qaeda operatives arrested in January in the U.S. sneaked from Venezuela into Colombia using a similar route.
       Contraband fuel is the economic mainstay on the Colombian side of the border. With their faces covered in cloths or towels, adults and children, some no older than ten, wave funnels at passing cars while their skin burns under La Guajira’s merciless sun. They are engaged in pimpineo, the sale of dirt-cheap Venezuelan gasoline that is smuggled across the border in jerrycans (pimpinas in Spanish) and then poured straight into fuel tanks or retailed in soft drink bottles. In 2019 up to mid-November, Colombia’s Fiscal and Customs Police seized over 230,000 gallons of contraband fuel and confiscated about 300 vehicles along the La Guajira border. Still, trafficking continues unabated.
      Two indigenous Wayuu women agreed to meet to talk about smuggling fuel. They chose a discreet location, fearing violent reprisal from local gangs should they be seen conversing with a stranger. The smugglers, or pimpineros, use three courtyards on the Venezuelan side, to fill the jerrycans with gasoline, the women said. The fuelling station is located next to the local command building of the Venezuelan National Guard. 'They [the National Guard] eat off us. They live from this', one woman explains, adding that plainclothes Guard officers charge a fee on the contraband fuel, which costs about $1.50 per punto (5 litres), and $15 per pipa (60 litres).
       A Surfeit of Crime
      The stakes are high around the trochas. The smugglers recruit poor Wayuu children as moscas (flies) to look out for soldiers or police, giving them cellphones to sound the alarm. The children also carry guns, sometimes assault rifles, so that they, too, can collect the fees for safe passage.
For ordinary civilians, the crossings have become more bane than boon. Recent arrivals in Colombia report that Venezuelan security forces and armed groups confronted them at several checkpoints in a single trip. One social worker based in Riohacha said women using the trochas risk sexual abuse, sometimes reaching their destination with their clothes ripped off. In a refugee shelter in Maicao, a distraught Venezuelan man told me that all his money was stolen when walking across. He had come to Colombia with his daughter, who has Down syndrome, in search of essential health care.
       Internecine violence makes matters worse. Criminal organisations and Wayuu clans collect fees from the traffic through various trochas, and often clash with each other in disputes over who is in control. Also joining the fray is the guerrilla National Liberation Army (ELN), whose Luciano Ariza faction, part of the Northern War Front, engages in extortion and livestock smuggling further south along the border, toward the Perijá mountains.
       The sheer variety of illicit business makes the rivalries even more pointed. Weapons, minerals and human beings are trafficked into Colombia, while drugs move in the opposite direction. 'This is a continuous time bomb', said one resident in Paraguachón. 'The narcos and the guerrillas want control over the border, and the Wayuu, the owners of the territory, are involved in a war that only benefits the people who do not belong here'. Meanwhile, the breakdown in communication between the security forces on either side of the border makes it easy for criminals to dodge arrest or to hide out on whichever side is more hospitable to them. Locals say the police are paid off not to interfere.
      A short distance from Paraguachón, on the Colombian side of the border, lies a rancheria, a Wayuu settlement, filled with victims of these border skirmishes. Around 35 huts built of logs and plastic sheeting house up to six families each. Some of the children are blond, a symptom of the malnutrition common in La Guajira. According to the World Food Programme, the basic needs of 90 per cent of the state’s rural population are unsatisfied.
      All the Wayuu in the hamlet recently decided to leave their homes on the Venezuelan side of the border after teachers in the local schools walked out over low wages and never came back. To continue their education, the Wayuu children had to attend classes on the Colombian side. At first, they crossed the trochas every day. But then, the local Wayuu leader explained, the children began getting trapped in shoot-outs between armed factions and security forces. So all the families relocated.
       'The Zone'
      The most notorious armed outfit to have operated in the area was a relative upstart. La Zona (The Zone) undertook a swift and brutal expansion before its equally rapid demise. Along Zulia’s borders, and especially in the Venezuelan town of Guarero, the gang is accused of distributing lists of names and pictures of young people associated with other gangs or with no known affiliation. They were all marked for death, and according to a woman from Guarero, most of them were in fact killed. In an October 2019 report, the Colombian Ombudsman pointed to mass displacement from the town, with entire Wayuu families running away lest La Zona attack them or target their children for recruitment.
      'The neighbours left', said a Wayuu woman from the town who fled to Colombia. “Guarero is abandoned. Many people have gone far away to protect their lives”. She agreed to meet me in the dusty backyard of the Maicao family that employs her as a maid. It was the evening, and the oven-like daytime heat had finally subsided. Sitting on a plastic chair, she shooed the insects attracted by the flickering light bulb away from her face. Starting in early 2018, she stated, La Zona killed more than 100 people from the town, including her nephew, who was shot execution-style in broad daylight. The killers drove away afterward without impediment, she said; in fact, the Venezuelan National Guard stopped traffic to clear their way. “This happened in front of many people”, she declared in disbelief.
      From mid-2019, however, La Zona met with a far more ruthless response from both Venezuelan security forces and other armed groups, both of which resented the criminal outfit’s rise and coveted its border revenues. 'All [the Venezuelan] security forces started to look for the leaders of La Zona in their houses, and they have been carrying out extrajudicial killings', said a human rights defender based in Zulia. 'They ran away over the savannahs, and now they are stealing to survive',added a Guarero local.
       The Colombian ELN guerrillas have taken the opportunity to increase their presence in Zulia. A refugee in Maicao indicated that the insurgents move only at night and hand out pamphlets in the villages they visit. The guerrillas have sought to hold meetings in Wayuu rancherias, and sworn to combat La Zona and its predatory offshoots. In the eyes of the Wayuu woman from Guarero, they could be a solution to the region’s problems, since they claim to want to protect the people.
      Violence, poverty, hunger and the need for basic public services are driving people out of Zulia
. Aid institutions in La Guajira regard the incoming migrants and refugees as fundamentally different from those of previous years. The first migrant wave comprised wealthy people with passports, headed for Florida, Panama, Spain and other international destinations. By 2016-2017, many middle-income families were joining the well-off in exile, travelling to South American nations such as Colombia, Chile and Peru. In the third phase, around 2018, people lacking passports and the money to travel began trekking across the border to their destinations. They became known as los caminantes (the walkers).
       But in La Guajira, arguably, a fourth phase has begun: the exodus of the sick and unwell. Each day people arrive with worse health conditions, including chronic diseases and mental disorders, a local social worker explained to me. Many of these extremely vulnerable people are stuck after criminals or corrupt Venezuelan officials stole their belongings, money and identity papers – or they simply had no money to begin with. In a refugee shelter in Maicao, the courtyard filled up with refugees drowning out each other’s voices to tell me their stories. A woman from Maracaibo complained with evident distress that she cannot reach her family in Barranquilla, Colombia – less than 300km away – after she was robbed of all her possessions in a trocha.
      For those who get stuck, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has set up a reception centre with space for 600 people, but the waiting list is long – over 4,000 at present. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans end up in informal settlements on the outskirts of towns such as Riohacha, Maicao and Uribia, where naked children with scabies play in the dirt and men walk for kilometres to haul back jerrycans of water for household needs. There is no electricity or sewage disposal. Most of the time, the inhabitants tell me, they have too little food to eat three meals a day.
      For lack of a better alternative, many Venezuelans stay in these camps for some time. According to Miguel Romo, director of the Colombian migration authority’s local branch, La Guajira is unprepared for the influx. The state government has little money, and it is dogged by corruption charges: there have been thirteen governors in the last eight years, many of whom have faced serious allegations of graft. Nevertheless, he acknowledged, the Venezuelans are unlikely to leave La Guajira, and thus humanitarian aid risks becoming “a bottomless barrel”.
      Many Venezuelans that cross from Zulia state into La Guajira get stuck in informal settlements in the arid region. The lack of possibilities to pay for further transport makes La Guajira a bottleneck in which many migrants and refugees are stuck. CRISISGROUP/Bram Ebus
The informal economy – including organised crime – absorbs Venezuelans without the means to move further inland or abroad. Exploitation and death are commonplace. Maicao is one of the most dangerous towns in La Guajira, with a murder rate over twice the national average. 'We are in an environment where there are no mourners', said a woman in Maicao who runs a foundation working with vulnerable children and women. There are so many deaths, she explains, that the living have no time to grieve. In October 2019, the Colombian police broke up a criminal network run by Venezuelans and Colombians that forced underage boys and girls into sexual slavery. Many Venezuelans, including unaccompanied minors, sleep on thin squares of cardboard in shop or office doorways. Rapes occur nightly, according to the foundation manager. 'Everything has broken down here', she said.
      Local hospitals, meanwhile, are thronged with Venezuelans, who according to a doctor in Maicao make up around 70 to 80 per cent of incoming patients, some of them with conditions such as tuberculosis and HIV in terminal stages. The hospitals in La Guajira are not prepared to give the complex care that people with such illnesses require, and there is no money to transport the Venezuelan patients to better-equipped facilities elsewhere. In theory, emergency rooms should take in Venezuelans without documentation, but an aid worker admitted that many do not receive treatment. Since 2014, a Colombian migration official said, more than 100 corpses have been left unclaimed in the Riohacha morgue by families who cannot afford to pay for repatriation.
      Along with the ill and the dying come the newborn. Beside the new mother I met in the San José de Maicao hospital were numerous other pregnant Venezuelan women who were unable to give birth in Zulia’s hospitals, which often cannot perform a caesarean-style delivery, and which are now charging patients in dollars for surgical gloves, gauze pads, anaesthetic and other medical gear. The government is supposed to provide such items – indeed, all health care – for free in Venezuela. An obstetrician explains that pregnant 13- or 14-year-olds are a common sight.
      'We are working blind', says the doctor. About 80 per cent of Venezuelan women have no passport, and the poorer young women coming here are even less likely to have one. The lack of affordable prenatal care in Venezuela means that most reach the hospital in La Guajira without the vital information such checkups provide about the general health of mother and baby.
       Responding to the Flight
      La Guajira cannot cope with all the stranded Venezuelans’ demands. Until it is able to offer adequate employment, the black market will continue to flourish – and the attendant violence to rise – in trochas such as those around Paraguachón.
       At the same time, the scale of the economic calamity in Venezuela – where dollarisation and the scrapping of import and price controls have benefited only a tiny minority in Caracas – means that Venezuelans will continue to arrive in La Guajira without the money to travel any farther. Until Venezuela’s government and opposition make progress toward a negotiated settlement that allows the economy to stabilise, foreign donors should step up their investment in health care and social services for migrants and refugees. Colombian government figures indicate that outsiders have given $397 million to tackle the Venezuelan migration crisis over the past two years, even though the UN emergency call for 2019 alone asked for nearly twice that sum. Of the total, the EU and European countries have contributed 44 per cent, of which 11 per cent comes from EU donations.
      Life is harsh in La Guajira, and that affects everyone – not just the Venezuelan newcomers. Donors should help make the above services available to Colombian residents as well. If international aid serves the Venezuelans alone, the Colombians could react with xenophobic outrage, feeling that they are being treated as second-class citizens in their own country.
      Until conditions improve for migrants, refugees and residents, violent crime will continue to afflict the border area. An uncontrolled frontier with no cooperation between security forces is a bonanza for organised crime and an ordeal for the defenceless. The two countries could doubtless contain the criminality far more effectively if they could find a way to mend the bilateral relations that they severed early last year. No amount of diplomatic point scoring can justify the pain that all these people are suffering

       In Colombia, where large numbers of Indigenous leaders and environmental activists have been killed in the last few years, Two Embara Leaders were killed in their homes, and two other Embara were wounded, during a quarantine, Some days after Indigenous organizations had called a ceasefire (Colombia: Embara Leaders Murdered During Quarantine," Cultural Survival Quarterly, June 2020).

       Eoin Higgins, "'It Was—Then as Now—Clearly a Coup': NYT Finally Gets Around to Reporting OAS Fraud Election Claims in Bolivia Were Bogus: "For those paying close attention to the 2019 election, there was never any doubt that the OAS' claims of fraud were bogus,'" Common Dreams, June 8, 2020,, reported, " More than seven months after claims of fraudulent elections sparked an undemocratic coup that led to the ouster of Bolivian President Evo Morales, the New York Times late Sunday reported on new research showing the U.S.-led Organization of American States used flawed data and analysis to support its widely cited contention the voting was rigged."

      Edson Krenak Naknanuk, "How Covid-19 Is Impacting Indigenous Peoples in Brazil," Cultural Survival, May 01, 2020,, Reported, Brazil is home to 63 percent of the Amazon rainforest peoples and is the country most affected by the new coronavirus in Latin America. Many Indigenous Peoples in Brazil live in remote communities. They are at a higher risk of serious infection from COVID-19 because most of them live in distant areas with limited transport, lack of access to healthcare, food supply, and with obstacles to communication such as poor internet and unreliable electricity. The healthcare structure also is a struggle and intensifies the pandemic threat for Indigenous communities.
Some Indigenous people live close enough to cities and are visited by outsiders. Living in proximity or not, they all have to travel to small towns for education, healthcare, food, and other necessities . The number of those infected with COVID-19 is increasing.  This article focuses on Amazonia and highlights some good work done by Indigenous healthcare officers, leaders, and supporters.
Amazonia: An alarming situation
      The situation is alarming. Forty-five percent of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil live in the north of the country, where the most populated state, Amazonas,  and its capital, Manaus, the largest Northern city,  is home to 15,000-20,000 Indigenous people and more than 53 Indigenous languages are spoken. Manaus is now one of the most affected by the novel Coronavirus COVID-19. The health system has collapsed with an increase of 36 percent of cases per day and the deaths of more than one hundred daily as of April 20. The first deaths of Indigenous people from the virus also occurred in Amazonas. A 15-year-old Yanomami boy, and a writer and health agent Aldevan Baniwa, 45, of the Baniwa Peoples. The ones who study (it is the beginning of the school year in Brazil) and work in the cities, like Aldevan Baniwa, are oriented not to go back to their villages, creating a new situation in need for assistance and support.
      The SESAI, the State health agency for Indigenous Peoples, employs many Indigenous nurses and a few Indigenous doctors to assist and offer more than healthcare, but also food, and news from the city and hygiene products when available. Some Indigenous health agents gave first-hand accounts of the situation of Indigenous Peoples who have been successful in protecting their communities. Zuleica Tiago Terena is an Indigenous nurse who coordinates the work for the SESAI  in 15 villages in Mato Grosso do Sul. When asked how they are fighting the coronavirus, she stated:
       'In our villages, we are protecting our people by erecting physical barriers and sanitation barriers to prevent strangers, tourists, missionaries, anthropologies, and other people from visiting us. We have regular educational talks and activities with the community. The local leaders responsible for those actions have the support from SESAI staff. The families or workers that had to go out and came back from travel, are isolated in quarantine. There is a healthcare technician who usually lives in the village and is responsible for monitoring those families. I’m responsible for 15 villages, and not all of them have a local healthcare technician. It would be great if we had at least one per village. The larger villages really need healthcare workers. We do our best here. We are proud of our work for our people. What I see in the State of Amazonas is chaos, a collapse at all levels, in the city, State, Federal, and Indigenous healthcare systems. There is a complex problem because the Indigenous villages in Amazonia are near to each other, and the Indigenous workers work with different tribes in the city then go back home. I don’t think that the isolation policy is clear or has been taken seriously in Amazonas. Now, they are hardest hit by the Coronavirus in the north and northeast of Brazil. We need leaders, and stronger leadership among, and for Indigenous Peoples.'
      In the north of the country, in Roraima, Indigenous physician, Onaldo Sena from Kaxinawa Peoples, works for DSEI - Special Indigenous Health Agency, which is a decentralized management unit of the Indigenous Health Care Subsystem (SasiSUS). DSEI is a model service oriented towards a well-defined dynamic, geographic, population, and administrative ethnocultural space, however in the entire country they count only with 34 offices to attend almost 980,000 Indigenous from 416 ethnicities, in more than 6,238 villages.
      Sena spoke of the situation of Indigenous people in his area:
      'I work in a healthcare unit responsible for more than 50,000 Indigenous people from 7 different ethnic groups. Our patients are from isolated, urban, and suburban areas. The communities that live in the hills are aware of the situation and they are blocking visitors as much as they can, but the problem is they are so afraid that even the healthcare professionals cannot visit them and offer assistance. Scared, some groups are completely closed, in a real lockdown. Indigenous Peoples are part of those at high risk. We are facing an increasing problem of illegal mining and land invaders in our lands in general. The media is reporting all the time about this horrible situation. There is no global and unified message to Indigenous Peoples. But there is a technical note to orient us, health care staff. Because of the lack of personal protection equipment and other basic materials, we cannot do much. Before attending any emergency or request, we have to stay in quarantine, and other problems arise. The State must do more, especially, with information, education, and orientation. A coordinated action between agencies and organizations is necessary. Our communities are blocking visitors and staying safe.'
       The Amazonia state is very often discussed, but the other Indigenous regions feel abandoned.  Radio Yandê and other Indigenous media gathered Indigenous leaders and listeners to discuss the problem, raising awareness, and orienting. But This is not enough. The media every day informs while the problem increases in the country, it is also escalating among Indigenous Peoples . The Jornal do Brasil, a national newspaper reported on April 24, that  leaders of Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon asked for international humanitarian aid in the face of abandonment and the risk they face in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic.
       'There are no doctors in our communities, there are no protective materials for this pandemic (...) There is no support in the food issue,' said José Gregorio Díaz from the coordination of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon Basin (COICA) in the Jornal do Brasil. COICA brings together the nine countries that share the largest tropical forest in the world. Other sources are reporting that COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people have grown more than 700 percent in the last five days. On April 25, the ISA monitoring system reported  85 confirmed cases and 7 deaths. A study, ' Demographic and Infrastructure Vulnerability Analysis of Covid-19 Indigenous Lands' published on April 24,  by researchers from four universities - Unicamp, USP, UFF e UFRJ, affirms that out  of the 34 DSEIs there are six that have the highest degree of vulnerability, all in the Amazon region. High-risk Indigenous populations  include:Alto Rio Negro (AM) - 19,099 people; Yanomami (RR) - 25,972; Xavante (MT) - 19,213; Xingu (MT) - 6,704; Kaiapó do Pará (PA) - 4,559; Tapajós River (PA) - 6,074. The study also released a map to track and visualize those problems.
      The researchers also point out the importance of the participation of Indigenous organizations in the planning and implementing preventive actions against the COVID-19. “They are the main actors, not just subjects of prevention programs. It is people who do all kinds of prevention that they consider appropriate after obtaining all the information about COVID-19. So, any action to improve and mitigate the vulnerability of Indigenous lands to the disease has to be done and acted out together with Indigenous organizations,” the study concludes.
Increasing the danger: invisibility and deprivation
       Because of structural problems and lack of resources the SESAI decided to not offer medical care to Indigenous people with COVID-19 symptoms in urban areas, only if they are in the Indigenous territory putting communities at risk. More than 300,000 Indigenous peoples live, work or study in the cities. Infected Indigenous individuals in the cities are not counted in the numbers of epidemiological monitoring organisms. This fact increases substantially the invisibility of Indigenous Peoples during this pandemic time.
       Indigenous Peoples are the crucial keepers of biodiversity, a role recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN group of experts on climate change. Amazonia is an area that contains an estimated 200 billion tons of carbon. Indigenous ways of natural resource management are successful. The rate of deforestation on Indigenous lands is less than half that recorded in other areas, but these communities are threatened by illegal activities and large agricultural projects promoted by governments.
      Indigenous Peoples have faced threats like this before with devastating consequences for many relatives. The impacts of COVID-19 are unprecedented and terrifying because due lands and resources depletion, Indigenous people cannot now flee and escape into their territories. Some depend on the State, and many communities live in poverty and near the cities.
      To lessen the emotional suffering, I end this article with a poem. Imagination has a clear path to save us in these times, moving us towards actions.
There is a valley of bones, old white bones, sighing bits of life...
And the birds  dare to work out there... yearning over the valley
chasing a dirty urubu who scares the humans
everybody looks when a cricked rustled
through the bones reminding them that
is breaking through laughing"

      "Davi Yanomami warns uncontacted Yanomami in Brazil 'could soon be exterminated,'” Survival International, March 24, 2020,, reported, " Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami leader and shaman has made an urgent statement warning that a group of uncontacted Yanomami 'could soon be exterminated' if the Brazilian authorities do not act now to remove goldminers working illegally on the tribe’s land.
      He says the group, known as the Moxihatatea, are in grave danger: 'They have fled many times. But now, they can no longer run away and are surrounded by violent miners who wanted to take revenge by shooting at them with shotguns.
      'I am very concerned. Perhaps they will soon be exterminated… The miners will undoubtedly destroy them all by killing them with their shotguns and their illnesses, their malaria, their pneumonia.'
       The statement was delivered before the coronavirus pandemic hit the headlines; the virus hugely adds to the danger posed by thousands of outsiders inside the Yanomami territory.
      Davi highlights the risks posed to other uncontacted Yanomami communities who are also at great risk from the miners: 'We are very worried about what might happen to them. They are the ones who truly care for the forest. It is the Moxihatetea and all the other uncontacted peoples of the Amazon who still look after the last forest.'
       He made the appeal during the recent UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva. Asking the UN to put pressure on the Brazilian government, he declared: 'My people must be able to live in peace and in good health, because they live in their own home. We are in our home in the forest! The outsiders cannot destroy our home, otherwise it will not end well for the world. We take care of the forest for everyone, not just for the Yanomami and uncontacted peoples. We work with our shamans, who know these things well and have wisdom that comes from contact with the Earth. The UN needs to speak to the authorities in Brazil so that they remove – immediately – the prospectors from our forest who are encircling the uncontacted peoples and everyone else.'
      The Yanomami territory, the largest indigenous reserve in Brazil, was recognised by the Brazilian government in 1992. However it has been frequently targeted by goldminers since the 1980s. They have introduced diseases such as flu, measles, pneumonia and malaria against which the tribe has little or no immunity. Many Indians have died as a result.
      Hutukara, the Yanomami association estimates there are some 20,000 goldminers working illegally in the territory today, despite recent efforts by the authorities to destroy mining camps and close off the rivers to dredges and river traffic.
       The miners continue to spread fatal diseases and destroy the forest, streams and river beds. They use mercury to separate gold which leaches into the aquatic system poisoning the fish and rivers on which the Yanomami rely.
      This catastrophic situation was highlighted in two recent scientific studies which showed that in some communities located near the mining camps up to 90% of Yanomami have dangerously high levels of mercury in their bodies. The effects of mercury poisoning will have devastating consequences for their survival and quality of life
       Health care in the territory is at best precarious and in some regions almost non-existent since the Bolsonaro government terminated the agreement with Cuban doctors who were delivering vital health care to remote regions in Brazil.
       In 2017 FUNAI, the government’s indigenous affairs agency, closed down five of its 17 protection posts which monitored and protected uncontacted tribes’ land, including the base near the Moxihatatea.
This act of criminal irresponsibility exposes these highly vulnerable peoples to even more violence and disease. FUNAI is reportedly rebuilding its base near the Moxihatatea, but there are fears this will take a long time
      If the authorities do not act now to expel all goldminers and protect the Yanomami territory the consequences will be disastrous for all the Yanomami, and especially the Moxihatatea and other uncontacted communities.
      The Right Livelihood Foundation, Survival International and 36 Right Livelihood laureates recently
sent a letter to Brazil’s minister of justice urging him take urgent measure to protect the Yanomami people and their land.
      Davi delivered his statement at a side event on the serious situation of uncontacted tribes in Brazil with the Arns Commission and the Socio-environmental Institute – ISA on 3 March in Geneva: Read the full statement at:"

      Edson Krenak Naknanuk, "After a Recent Victory, Indigenous Peoples Face Many Legal Battles in Brazil, Cultural Survival, May 26, 2020,, reported, " Since the 1988 adoption of Brazil’s Constitution, Indigenous Peoples have fought many battles for their rights. Their victories include the subsequent demarcation of nearly half of their lands; enactment of Law 11,645 of 2008 which mandates inclusion of Indigenous culture and history in the national educational curriculum (; acknowledgment of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to primary education in their native languages; and the growing awareness of Indigenous rights (from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ILO 169, etc.). These achievements are the result of intense social and political mobilization both within and beyond Indigenous communities.
      However, the progress Indigenous Peoples have made is now severely threatened. During his electoral campaign, Jair Bolsonaro promised that he would not demarcate 'an inch more of Indigenous land.' He fulfilled this promise on his first day in office by suspending all demarcations in-process.  Since then, President Bolsonaro has implemented a series of public policies that roll back Indigenous rights. He changed environmental laws, created administrative norms and bills that undermine Indigenous rights and  threaten their territories, thereby undermining Indigenous Peoples’  exemplary practices that protect forests and other biomes, such as the Amazon and cerrado. Bolsonaro’s ideas and discourse encourage illegal actions against Indigenous lands and peoples, inciting land grabbing and invasions into Indigenous territories and  increasing violence. Bolsonaro erroneously claims that non-Indigenous farmers, mining companies, and other groups have applied for permits to allow them to exploit areas they see as 'unused', however  nearly 94% of these so-called 'unused' areas are located within legally demarcated Indigenous territories. Granting access to these lands (, if permits are approved, violates Indigenous Peoples constitutionally guaranteed rights.
      Among Bolsonaro's most alarming decisions was, in February 2020 an appointment of a missionary, Ricardo Dias Lopes, as the head of the division within FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) that is responsible for protecting and monitoring isolated and recently contacted Indigenous Tribes (CGIIRC).
       A Big Victory
      Following strong pressure from Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous associations, including Indigenous Christians, NGOs, anthropologists, and Brazil’s Federal Public Prosecutor (MPF), the Federal Appellate Court (TRF1) not only reviewed Bolsonaro's decision to appoint Dias Lopes but voided it.
      Judge Antonio Souza Prudente, who ordered the annulment, stated that, because the missionary nominee has already adopted positions  that violate the rights of isolated Indigenous Peoples, it is essential to prohibit  'the adoption of measures that may clash with fundamental guarantees, especially those  that ensure Indigenous Peoples the right to self-determination under the terms of the Federal Constitution and ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.'
      Indigenous organizations, the Brazilian Anthropological Association, as well as lawyers from the Federal Public Prosecutor’s office argued that reversing Brazil’s policy of refraining from forcing contact upon Peoples in voluntary isolation, as well as recently contacted Peoples, poses a serious risk of genocide.
       The Fiercest Battle Ahead      
      The next morning after the annulment of the FUNAI appointment, a tougher battle broke out. Bolsonaro is pulling out all the stops to pass bill 910/2020, which he has been pushing since December 2019. If passed, this law would open more than 40,000 square miles of Indigenous Territory to mining operations, land grabbing, illegal lodgers, large monoculture agribusiness, and cattle farms. This law would allow for massive deforestation of the Amazon.
      On May 21, 2020, the Supreme Court released a shocking video recording of a ministerial meeting that took place in April. In the video, the Minister of the Environment reveals his plan to, with the president's approval, relax the nation’s environmental laws. He states, 'Let's enjoy the pandemic and open the gate for oxen and approve our laws for using the Amazon.' Reuters journalist Jake Spring, wrote a story about the revelation with this headline: 'Brazil minister calls for environmental deregulation while public distracted by COVID ('
       As a presidential initiative, Bolsonaro’s bill 910/2020 would be temporary, effective only for three months. Congressional representatives who support the bill, however, have renamed it. It is now Proposed Bill 2633/2020. Rather than lapsing, after three months, if passed as a Congressional bill, it would become permanent law. The Brazilian Congress is expected to vote on it in the coming days.
      It is disturbing that, in the face of Brazil’s worsening COVID-19 pandemic and the nation’s  systematic abandonment of Indigenous Peoples, Congress and the President are rushing ahead on projects of immense impact without listening to all of the sectors that have a stake in this legislation and without seeking to understand the bill’s socio-environmental consequences and impacts on Indigenous rights. Congress is acting  this without public oversight and in the absence of public debate, exploiting the fact all Brazilians  are fighting the coronavirus pandemic. International pressure is needed to stop these actions on the part of the president and the national congress."

      " The Ashaninka People in Brazil, whose territory was demarcated two decades earlier, won a $3 million reparation, April 1, 2020.  from a lumber company that had committed depredations on their land decades ago (Brazil: Ashaninka Win Reparations from Extractive Industry," Cultural Survival Quarterly, June 2020).

      "'The doors are now open': indigenous people denounce missionaries targeting uncontacted tribes," Survival International, March 11, 2020, " Missionaries targeting uncontacted tribes in Brazil have announced that they will shortly start using a helicopter to convert previously unreachable tribes.
      Key indigenous organizations and leaders in Brazil have angrily denounced the move, as well as the appointment of a fundamentalist missionary, Ricardo Lopes Dias, to head the government department that protects uncontacted tribes’ territories
      Mr. Lopes Dias worked for years for one of the world’s largest evangelical missionary groups, the New Tribes Mission (NTM), in Brazil’s Javari Valley, home to the greatest concentration of uncontacted tribes anywhere in the world.
       The NTM (now re-branded as Ethnos360 in the US) has openly fundraised to buy a helicopter to target tribes in the region. They have said: 'This new helicopter flight program will enable Ethnos360 Aviation to serve all our current missionaries in the region and open the door to reach ten additional people groups living in extreme isolation.'
       The NTM is notorious for openly advocating the forced contact of uncontacted tribes. It helped organize “manhunts” in Paraguay in the 1970s and 80s in which uncontacted Ayoreo people were captured and brought out of the forest: several people were killed in these encounters, and many others died of disease afterwards.
      The head of the Brazilian branch of the NTM has said that, 'There has to be a policy of approaching these peoples [uncontacted tribes].'
Indigenous leaders in the Javari Valley have denounced the NTM’s plans as “a genocidal onslaught.” They describe the joint intention of the missionaries and government as being to “open the doors” of indigenous territories.
      Survival International’s Uncontacted Tribes campaign coordinator, Sarah Shenker, said today:
       'It’s now clear that there’s been a conscious decision by the Brazilian government to open up indigenous territories to evangelical missionaries, as a key step in the takeover of their lands and the exploitation of their gold, minerals, timber and other resources. If it’s not stopped, many tribes will be wiped out.'
      Beto Marubo, an indigenous leader from the Javari Valley, said: “The NTM in Brazil destroyed our social organization, our peaceful coexistence. Differences arose, and the world which we’d known for millennia was dismantle. … Missionary activities will mean the total loss of the last uncontacted peoples in the Javari Valley.”
Matsés people from the Javari said: “Mr. Ricardo never had permission to come to our village. He manipulated part of the Matsés population in order to build a new village…. The leaders tried to go to this new village to open up a dialogue but they were violently expelled. Mr. Ricardo took advantage of the Matsés, and appropriated our culture. We do not want new abuses, so we will not allow Mr. Ricardo to enter our land."
      Dozens of Right Livelihood Award laureates recently signed a joint letter denouncing Mr. Lopes Dias’s appointment: “His evangelical past raises grave concerns about the security of isolated tribes from external interference and that he may overturn Brazil’s landmark policy of not forcing contact with uncontacted tribes.”
       Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said today: 'The NTM has a record of manhunts and contacts leading to death and disease, sex abuse in its schools, and bringing in deadly epidemics. It enforces a narrow view of religion which wouldn’t be recognized by many Christians. These are the last people who should be anywhere near uncontacted tribes, and putting one in ‘charge’ of them is grotesque and criminal. The intention is clearly to remove the Indians once and for all.'”

      "Survival: Removal of top missionary official in Brazil is major blow for Bolsonaro," Survival International, May 22, 2020,, reported, "A judge’s ruling today that has removed a controversial missionary from a top government position is a major blow to President Bolsonaro, according to a statement from Survival International.
       Ricardo Lopes Dias, an evangelical missionary and former member of the New Tribes Mission/Ethnos 360 , was appointed head of the Uncontacted Indians’ Unit of the Indigenous Affairs Agency (FUNAI) in February.
      The appointment was hugely controversial, and was described at the time by Survival’s Sarah Shenker as “ like putting the fox in charge of the hen house . ” Evangelical missionaries have re-doubled their efforts to contact uncontacted tribes under President Bolsonaro, who is pushing legislation to open up their lands to commercial exploitation, and has strong evangelical support.
      Now a judge has ruled that Lopes Dias’s appointment was unlawful, and he has been removed from office with immediate effect. Judge Antonio Souza Prudente said in his ruling: 'The appointment was 'a clear conflict of interest' and a 'great risk to the policy of no forced contact with [uncontacted indigenous] peoples… and the principle of self-determination.'
      Beto Marubo of the indigenous organization UNIVAJA said today: 'The indigenous peoples of the Javari Valley knew that putting a missionary in charge of the Uncontacted Indians’ unit was harmful, and hope this decision won’t be appealed.'
      The public prosecutors’ office who brought the case said today: 'We had access to documents signed by international missionary organizations to which Ricardo Lopes Dias is connected that prove the involvement of the New Tribes Mission of Brazil, to which he belonged for ten years, in a plan to make forced contacts and evangelize uncontacted tribes.'
      Sarah Shenker, head of Survival’s Uncontacted Tribes campaign, said this evening: 'This is a huge victory for the campaign to defend uncontacted tribes’ land. Lopes Dias’s appointment was effectively a declaration of war against their right to the protection of their territories, and the right to remain uncontacted if that is what they want.
      'It was a key part of Bolsonaro’s explicit policy to destroy the country’s indigenous peoples – to dismantle the teams that protect their territories, and sell off their lands to loggers, miners and ranchers.
      'Uncontacted tribes currently protect vast areas of resource-rich, highly biodiverse forest. Under Lopes Dias, all of it was in danger of being opened up, first to evangelical missionaries, then to big business. That would very likely have led to whole tribes being wiped out. Now there’s a glimmer of hope that that won’t happen.
      'It’s a massive victory for the campaign to get Lopes Dias removed. Indigenous organizations in Brazil have led the charge, Survival has broadcast their campaign around the world and lobbied the authorities for months, and supporters have sent 10,000 emails. Hopefully Bolsonaro will get the message that if he carries on with his genocidal agenda, he can expect resistance at every step'.”

      "Land-grabbers, loggers, and miners don't self-isolate," Amazon Watch, May 6, 2020,, reported, " Arbildo Meléndez Grandes is the latest indigenous leader of the Peruvian Amazon to be murdered for defending his indigenous territory.
      He was a defender of his community – demanding that the government provide a land title – and had received death threats from land-grabbers and narco-traffickers who wanted to control the same territory.
      Arbildo's killing is just the most recent of at least nine indigenous leaders who have been murdered in the Peruvian Amazon since 2013. The responsible parties are often land invaders, miners, illegal loggers, and other mafias."

      "Indigenous Communities in The Amazon Fight Battle on Two Fronts With COVID, Extractive Industry," Cultural Survival, April 15, 2020,ú%20-39/language/es, reported, " Quechua, Achuar, Kukuma, and Kichwa communities of Peru’s Loreto region in the Amazon rainforest have been fighting against oil contamination in their territories for nearly 50 years. Argentine oil company Pluspetrol began extracting oil in 2000, and although it committed to cleaning up the oil spills caused by the companies that preceded it, it both ignored that promise and proceeded to further devastate the land, plants, waters, animals, and human communities of the region.
      Now, the communities are filing a complaint with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Apu Aurelio Chino, traditionally elected leader of tens of thousands in the Peruvian Amazon, and president of the Indigenous federation
FEDIQUEP , traveled to the Netherlands in March 2020 to “[ accuse] Pluspetrol of contravening OECD guidelines by using ‘artificial tax avoidance structures and strategies’, impacting the 'human rights of the local Indigenous population[.]' The OECD has clear guidelines for corporations, and the complaint serves as a request for the entity to “ examine Pluspetrol’s social policy and to mediate between the communities and the company so that the company takes its responsibility and cleans up the pollution in the rainforest.”
      As Apu Aurelio returned home to Peru, the extent of the international spread of Coronavirus was just making itself clear. Upon arrival to Peru, the he was tested by the Ministry of Health for COVID-19 and tested positive, despite displaying no symptoms.  'On my return from Holland, they gave me a test in Lima. I went on to Tarapoto, and two days later they communicated that I had covid-19 but was asymptomatic. Following the recommendations from the health officials, I passed through a period of quarantine with no issues, following which the result was negative,' shared Apu Aurelio Chino in an email to Cultural Survival.  He has since been waiting in Tarapoto for the green light to return home to his community in the Peruvian Amazon. Still, the leader has been met with racist remarks across social media.
       Indigenous communities across the world are facing unique challenges to COVID prevention, as many struggle with under-resourced community health clinics, high levels of pre-existing conditions, poverty and malnutrition, and difficult access to urgent care. Despite closures and calls for isolation, many communities are still forced to deal with ongoing extractive industry on their lands. Deemed “essential business” this has included ongoing construction of the KXL pipeline in the United States, highway expansion in the Brazilian Amazon, and ongoing oil extraction and contamination in Apu Aurelio’s home communities.
      The effort by Indigenous federations in Peru to involve the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development follows decades of political, social, legal, and environmental actions to invoke their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent related to extractive projects and demands that oil companies be held accountable for the contamination they have wrought. These actions include advocating at the United Nations, peaceful protest on site at the oil wells, and many domestic legal battles.
      Since 2005, Pluspetrol contaminated close to 2000 sites with both oil spills and intentional disposal of 'production waters' contaminated with toxins. The production waters are estimated to amount to three billion barrels. Pluspetrol, whose concession to extract oil in these sites ended in 2015, was only one of many companies who have contributed to the environmental and cultural destruction since 1971, when oil extraction began. A 2018 study found that out of 1,138 community members tested, 57% had blood lead levels that surpassed the international standard, while nearly a third had excessive arsenic and lead levels.
      In 2014, Cultural Survival visited Nuevo Andoas, a community on the Pastaza River in the Peruvian Amazon, as part of a cultural exchange between the Quechua communities there and Maya Q’eqchi communities in Guatemala. Our full-length radio documentary in Spanish includes interviews with Indigenous environmental monitors, an environmental engineer, and oil company representatives. More Spanish-language radio content on their struggle for land and rights at:ú%20-39/language/es.
      Cultural Survival joins the call by Indigenous Peoples for an immediate moratorium on any activity that includes the entering of foreign persons into Indigenous territories. Further exposure of Indigenous people to COVID-19 must be prevented to avoid extremely detrimental impact."

      Amazon Watch reported by E-mail, May 20, 2020,, "Recently, "Oxygen for Ucayali" has been the rallying cry on social media by a group of Shipibo and Ashaninka indigenous leaders and activists. Disaster capitalists across Peru are taking advantage of the crisis to vastly increase the price of a cylinder of oxygen, pushing an already inaccessible resource fully out of reach for indigenous peoples with the virus.
       Indigenous leaders of the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon are demanding that the Peruvian government undertake a more effective and rapid response to the Amazonian communities dealing with high rates of COVID-19. Like many health systems around the world, the Peruvian system is collapsing and unprepared to address the health of its people, but above all the health of indigenous peoples.
      On May 12th, due to a lack of oxygen supply in the clinic, Silvio Vallés, the Shipibo-Conibo Mayor of Masisea in Ucayali, died from complications of COVID-19. The government authorities' lack of response and the outrageous increase in the cost of oxygen has led to the deaths of at least 45 Shipibo-Conibo people.
      Our Amazon Defenders Fund was founded on the principle that philanthropy needs to be responsive to needs on the ground. Our fund is often the last line of defense and support, stepping in to fill a funding need like in Ucayali."

      A court in Loreto, Peru ordered the suspension of extractive activities in the protective zone Peru is establishing around 98 percent of the territory of the Yavarai Tapiche and Sierra del Divisor Occidental in the northern portion of Peruvian Amazon along the Border with Brazil ("Peru: Historic Legal Victory for Indigenous Communities," Cultural Survival Quarterly, March 2020).

      "Indigenous Organizations in Ecuador Step Up in Face of Oil Spills, COVID, And Government Inaction," Cultural Survival, May 21, 2020,, reported, " It has become clear that Indigenous Peoples across the world are suffering disproportionately during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and one example of this can be seen in Ecuador. As of May 13, the small equatorial nation has reported 30,486 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the first case was recorded at the end of February. Ecuador has not handled the situation well, with the virus reaching even the Secoya, or Siekopai, a small Indigenous community of about 700 living in the Sucumbíos province. While COVID-19 cases in Ecuador continue to rise, this is not always demonstrated in the numbers, as many individuals and especially those living remotely are not tested at all, and therefore not recorded as COVID-19 cases or deaths. On April 17, 2020, the Alliance for Human Rights Ecuador released a statement warning of the spread of the virus on Indigenous lands, citing the death of two adults, but the government did not pay much attention; by the time the community was tested, one-third of the 42 tests conducted came back positive .
      However, at the same time, Indigenous communities within Ecuador have been faced with a severe environmental disaster. On April 7, 2020, there was an oil spill from the Trans-Ecuadorian pipeline system, flooding approximately 15,800 barrels of oil into Ecuador’s waterways and affecting around 2500 Indigenous families living near the river. Now, there is no water access for drinking, cooking, or washing hands. Hólger Gallo (Panduyaku), who lives on the Coca River, told El Comerciothat it is still contaminated, telling of how “many of my friends removed dead fish” from the water. Marcia Andi, president of the Kichwa Mushuk Llacta community, shared a similar sentiment: “families, grandparents, women on the banks are short on food, they have nowhere to bathe, they have nowhere to get water to drink.” Although Ecuador and the oil companies are providing some potable water to the affected communities, it is nowhere near enough.
      The spill complicates the already massive threats to health experienced by Indigenous communities in Ecuador due to COVID-19. On May 4, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, (CONAIE) lodged a public complaint regarding the Ministry of Public Health’s lack of containment plan for COVID-19 in the Siekopai community, and has submitted a request to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights for interim measures to be taken during the pandemic. CONAIE is Ecuador’s largest Indigenous organization which represents the country’s 14 Indigenous Peoples: the Tsáchila, Chachi, Epera, Awa, Quichua, Shuar, Achuar, Shiwiar, Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Zápara, Andoa y Waorani, Afro-Ecuadorians.
      On the ground , CONAIE has been providing food and mask kits to affected communities, created visual materials on coronavirus prevention in multiple languages, including Spanish, Ashuar, A’Ingae, Paikoka, and Kichwa and is organizing with partners to carry out medical brigades to communities. 'We will continue to make our best effort to get to the most remote areas, where the government is simply not present and does not provide solutions.  As organizations we have had to practice self-reliance to confront this most  grave situation that afflicts us as Amazonians,' shared CONAIE.
      Indigenous communities in Ecuador are facing not only one, but two disasters. As such, the work of organizations like CONAIE is needed more than ever. Cultural Survival reaffirms our support and collaboration with the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, and all the work CONAIE is doing. We urge the Ecuadorian government to invest in supporting Indigenous communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic with strategies relevant to their needs and cultural diversity.
      Cultural Survival supported CONAIE with a grant from our Keepers of the Earth Fund in 2020 after State response to protests and social movements in Ecuador led to the detention of several Indigenous leaders in October 2019. Our grant enabled CONAIE to organize a series of meetings between Indigenous leaders across Ecuador on strategizing for Indigenous rights and will help mobilize legal support for the release of Indigenous leaders arrested during the protests. In April, a portion of the funds from this grant were repurposed to enable COVID-19 response."

      ICG, "A Major Step Toward Ending South Sudan’s Civil War," Statement / Africa  25 February 2020,, commented, " After months of delays and deadlock, bitter rivals Salva Kiir and Riek Machar finally clinched an agreement to form a unity government in South Sudan. Regional leaders must now maintain pressure on both men and other conflict parties to keep the fragile deal on track.
      On 22 February, Riek Machar and other opposition leaders were sworn in as vice presidents in a new South Sudan unity government. This step came as part of a deal aimed at ending six years of conflict. President Salva Kiir declared the war officially over and asked for forgiveness from his long-time archrival, Machar, who in turn pledged to work in partnership with Kiir. The unity government’s formation, delayed twice over the last nine months amid political deadlock, is a major advance that gives the country’s leaders a chance to build upon a ceasefire between Kiir’s forces and Machar’s that has largely held for over a year. While the news is encouraging, South Sudan is hardly out of the woods. Kiir and Machar – whose past attempts to share power have foundered – will now need to work in concert to unify the national army, resolve disputes over control of key cities and make peace with holdout rebel groups. Continued pressure from regional leaders who played a key role in pushing the two leaders to strike a bargain will almost certainly be critical to the new arrangement’s success.
       The deal came not a moment too soon. The fragile ceasefire dating back to the September 2018 accord that lays out a peace framework might well have started to unwind had the parties not reached a deal by the 22 February deadline they set for themselves. A return to fighting would have been devastating for a population that is exhausted by war and a country that lies shattered. Even a year after the two main belligerents stopped fighting, major towns are in ruins, emptied of most of their inhabitants. Ghost neighbourhoods stretch on and on in settlements across the country, the homes stripped of roofs and walls caved in. Up to 400,000 may have died in the conflict that started in December 2013, a staggering number in any country, but especially in one of only twelve million. Millions more were displaced. Bringing the South Sudanese people together will require the work of generations, but the first task is to preserve the new government’s unity.
       That will be no small task. Kiir and Machar have for years been, and may always remain, bitter political rivals. Each is under pressure from hardliners in his camp to extract as much benefit as he can from the new government. The resulting wrangling could throw their respective forces back into conflict. Yet there are also reasons to believe that progress is possible. Both have shown more commitment to the peace process than in the past. That the ceasefire held as long as it did is encouraging, as are the compromises the two rivals reached to enable the 22 February swearing-in ceremony.
       One major sticking point that required compromise concerned the number and demarcation of states within South Sudan, which has major consequences for the distribution of power across the country. During the war, largely in an attempt to appease demands from within his Dinka ethnic group, the country’s largest, Kiir had redrawn the boundaries to create first 28 and then 32 states. In order to reach a deal, he agreed to revert largely to the country’s pre-war internal boundaries, demarcating ten states and creating three “administrative areas”, one of them new. Kiir’s change of mind required him to fire 32 governors and reverse some of his most hotly contested gerrymandering.
       To be sure, Kiir made this concession only under high-level pressure from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional bloc mediating the peace deal, and, the man who by some accounts is his strongest ally, President Yoweri Museveni of neighbouring Uganda. But that does not diminish the magnitude of the concession or its significance to the peace process. It succeeded in breaking the deadlock, giving Machar the political space to return to the capital Juba without losing grip of his factious coalition, some of whose members had threatened to keep fighting if Kiir’s wartime state boundaries stayed unchanged.
       A second hurdle was finding a responsible answer to the sticky question of Machar’s personal security in Juba. Crisis Group had previously warned that Machar should not bring his own forces into the capital, as he did in 2016, when the two men last tried to form a unity government under the terms of an earlier peace agreement. On that occasion, his forces clashed with Kiir’s amid political disagreements, scuttling the peace deal and reigniting the war. In the present context, Machar asked Kiir to allow UN peacekeepers to provide security in Juba. Kiir refused, but regional and international pressure on Machar to compromise following Kiir’s concession on state demarcation was successful. Machar returned to Juba without his own security force, relying on Kiir’s personal guarantee for his safety, at least for the time being. It was a bold move for Machar given that twice, in 2013 and again in 2016, Kiir’s forces have chased him out of the capital.
      With those two contentious issues out of the way, the parties were able to close the deal by 22 February even though they left other major sticking points – including how to speed up the lagging unification of troops loyal to Kiir or to Machar in a single army – to be addressed as the new government moves into action to cement the peace. Although the two leaders will no doubt be focused for days, weeks or even longer on horse trading over who should occupy government positions and influential governorships under the peace deal’s power-sharing formula, they cannot afford to put aside these substantive matters for long.
       Managing the many armed groups across the country is a particularly pressing concern. The promised army reform is a huge challenge, the first phase alone meant to bring together 83,000 troops. While the process of melding the erstwhile antagonists into a single force will likely last for years, fighters will be watching closely in the short term for signs of progress. Thousands of Machar’s troops have already amassed at designated training sites near Juba and elsewhere in anticipation of unification, but they are also a reminder of how quickly peace could unravel if Kiir and Machar do not keep their competition in check. Also sobering is that rival rebel commanders have refused to assemble together and that both sides have embarked on new recruitment drives to inflate their respective ranks. In order to create needed momentum for unification, the forces already at joint training sites should proceed to graduation and unified deployment so that sceptics, particularly in the opposition forces, do not lose faith in the process.
       The unity government will also need to work with the new governors being installed to address long-simmering conflicts that predate this civil war, particularly over control and inclusive governance of two major cities, Wau and Malakal. The government will also need to reach peace deals with insurgencies that did not sign the 2018 agreement, particularly Equatorian rebels led by Thomas Cirillo, and maintain the ceasefire reached with Cirillo and other holdout parties in January. Encouragingly, the government has committed to proceeding with political negotiations with these groups in the Rome peace track, mediated by the Sant’Egidio community.
       The regional powers that pushed Kiir and Machar to make the compromises enabling the 22 February deal likewise cannot rest. History has shown that only pressure from South Sudan’s neighbours can compel its two top leaders to make major concessions. Certainly, that was the case in the run-up to 22 February. Two weeks earlier, IGAD met in Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit, as the two warring leaders remained locked in their positions. Museveni, along with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, reportedly pushed Kiir to return to the pre-war state demarcation of ten states. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the AU’s C5 countries mandated to support the South Sudanese peace process, also conducted his own shuttle diplomacy in Addis Ababa following the months of mediation efforts by his deputy, David Mabuza, on the dispute over states. The Kenyan special envoy, Kalonzo Musyoka, reinforced these efforts. It worked. Now, their collective attention and effort will be needed to help the unity government get on its feet and prevent any future fallout between Kiir and Machar from derailing South Sudan’s journey back from war.
       Donors also have a role to play. Top donor countries, including the Troika of the U.S., UK and Norway, as well as the EU and others, applied important diplomatic pressure in the run-up to last week’s compromises. Escalating U.S. sanctions on Kiir’s government and threats to levy more on both sides added to the pressure. Continued unity of purpose among donors, in both the carrots they offer and the sticks they wield, will be key to pushing Kiir and Machar to keep their commitments to peace.
       Meanwhile, church leaders, global and local, should lobby South Sudanese and regional leaders publicly and privately to keep the peace accord on track, as they did before the unity government was formed. Vatican City could have a particularly important part to play. Kiir continues to refer to his April 2019 visit to the Vatican, where in a striking gesture, Pope Francis knelt on the ground and kissed his and his rival’s feet. The president now hopes for a papal visit to South Sudan to commemorate the country’s move toward peace.
      Many South Sudanese reasonably doubt that Kiir and Machar can ever work together. With elections looming in three years, and Machar planning to challenge Kiir for the presidency, the relationship will remain fraught. Still, there are grounds for some cautious optimism. Fatigued by the long war, many South Sudanese fervently wish to put the years of bloody conflict behind them once and for all. The parties have thus far avoided repeating some of the mistakes of the past – such as dividing Juba between duelling security forces. Moreover, although it took substantial external pressure to arrive at this point, the magnitude of the compromises they have made suggest that both Kiir and Machar are more willing participants in this unity government than in the last failed one. The two long-time belligerents will now have to make a habit of the kinds of concessions that made last weekend’s deal possible, striking the bargains that are necessary to keep the fragile unification process on track and to allow their young country to end the brutal war that has already gone on far too long

      ICG, "Violence in Nigeria’s North West: Rolling Back the Mayhem," Report  288 / Africa  18 May 2020,, commented, " Insecurity is plaguing north-western Nigeria, due to persistent herder-farmer tensions, rising crime and infiltration by Islamist militants. Federal and state authorities should focus on resolving conflict between agrarian and pastoralist communities, through dialogue and resource-sharing agreements, while also stepping up law enforcement.
       What’s new? Nigeria’s North West is suffering deadly conflict involving many armed organisations, including herder-allied groups, vigilantes, criminal gangs and jihadists. The violence has killed over 8,000 people since 2011, and displaced over 200,000, some into neighbouring Niger. Despite several security operations and dialogue efforts, a durable peace remains elusive.
      Why does it matter? Violence is rooted in competition over resources between predominantly Fulani herders and mostly Hausa farmers. It has escalated amid a boom in organised crime, including cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom and village raids. Jihadist groups are now stepping in to take advantage of the security crisis.
      What should be done? Nigeria’s federal and state governments should facilitate settlements between farmers and herders – easing friction by reforming livestock production. They should cooperate with Niger to stem cross-border flows of weapons and jihadists, as well as to better police lawless forests and gold mining areas. International partners should help address humanitarian needs.
      Executive Summary

      Nigeria’s arid North West is beset by violence between herders and farmers, which has been compounded by an explosion in criminal activity and infiltration by jihadist groups into the region. The last decade has seen thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, with many fleeing into Niger Republic next door. State-level peace efforts with several armed factions have had some success, but these will not prove durable unless more actors lay down their weapons. To roll back the mayhem, federal and state authorities should focus on reducing tensions between herders and farmers, including by expediting implementation of the national livestock plan. They should also support dialogue between the Hausa and Fulani, the region’s two communities most closely tied to farming and herding, respectively. In addition, Abuja needs to improve security and law enforcement in the region in order to curb criminality and bolster its ability to protect citizens, as well as to step up efforts to address environmental and economic issues underlying the violence.
      The causes of violence in the North West are complex and inter-related. At its root, the region’s security crisis derives from long-running competition over land and water resources between predominantly Fulani herders and mainly Hausa farmers, both of whom have over time mobilised armed groups (referred to by the authorities as “bandits” and “vigilantes”, respectively) for protection. Climate change-related environmental degradation and high population growth have intensified this struggle. Amid a boom in the trade of small arms and light weapons in the region, organised gangs operating from ungoverned forests have proliferated, engaging in cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery, including of miners and traders in the largely unregulated gold mining sector, as well as pillage of communities. Having originated in Zamfara state, gang violence has since spread to five other nearby states, namely Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger, the last of which is in North Central Nigeria.
      As security has deteriorated, the region has steadily come under the renewed influence of jihadist groups, which have sometimes attacked security forces. The spike in jihadist activity in the North West has raised fears that the region could soon become a land bridge connecting Islamic insurgencies in the central Sahel with the decade-old insurgency in the Lake Chad region of north-eastern Nigeria. Security sources point to a resurgence of the long-dormant Boko Haram splinter group, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (Group of Partisans for Muslims in Black Africa), better known as Ansaru, which was active in north-western Nigeria between 2011 and 2014. Elements of other Boko Haram offshoots, notably the Islamic State in West Africa Province, are arriving in the area. A poorly secured international boundary, meanwhile, enables the influx of arms and facilitates the movement of jihadists to and from the Sahel, where the Islamic State has been expanding its influence.
       Violence has had a far-reaching humanitarian and economic impact on the region and created a domino effect of security problems. Over the last decade, more than 8,000 people have been killed – mainly in Zamfara state – with over 200,000 internally displaced and about 60,000 fleeing into Niger Republic. Livestock and crops have been decimated, further depressing human livelihood indices that were already the country’s lowest. The violence is aggravating other security challenges: it has forced more herders southward into the country’s Middle Belt, thus increasing herder-farmer tension in that region and beyond.
      Nigeria’s federal and state governments initially responded to the violence primarily through military and police operations, and by prescribing harsher punishments for armed attacks, but results were disappointing. President Muhammadu Buhari repeatedly charged troops with eliminating armed elements destabilising the North West, deploying soldiers and police along with air assets to the region over the course of several consecutive operations. But the state security presence on the ground remains too thin and poorly resourced to subdue the armed groups or protect communities across the vast territory. At the same time, military operations against armed groups in the region have dispersed some of them to other regions, deepening insecurity countrywide.
      Some state governments have more recently engaged in peace talks with herder-allied armed groups, partly because these groups are perceived as the major actors in the violence. They are offering amnesties to those willing to disarm, while pledging to address herders’ grievances and needs. These concessions produced peace agreements that curbed the violence in late 2019, but with deadly incidents continuing and the region awash in arms, the sustainability of these deals is highly questionable.
      Durably ending the violence in Nigeria’s North West requires a multi-pronged approach, some of which must necessarily focus on the long term. The foremost priority is to encourage negotiated settlements between herders and farmers, as well as to disarm, rehabilitate and reintegrate members of their allied armed groups. In support of this effort, the federal and state governments should prioritise reforming livestock production systems in a manner that addresses the needs of both herders and farmers, and thereby minimises friction between them. Abuja should work with Niamey to improve border security to stem the flow of jihadists and weapons into the North West and strengthen its forestry departments to regulate the woods where armed groups make camp. It should also better regulate the region’s potentially lucrative gold sector, while working with international partners to address dire humanitarian needs and doing what it can to mitigate the effects of climate change in the region.
      This mix of short-and long-term measures is hardly guaranteed to succeed. But if vigorously pursued and well supported by international partners, it represents the best chance for staunching the spread of violence and achieving a measure of stability in a region that has already seen more than its fair share of conflict, crisis and humanitarian need

      ICG, "Keeping Ethiopia’s Transition on the Rails," Report 283 / Africa 16 December 2019,, "commented, " Ethiopia’s political opening under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won well-deserved accolades but also uncorked dangerous centrifugal forces, among them ethnic strife. With international partners’ diplomatic and financial support, the government should proceed more cautiously – and consultatively – with reforms that could exacerbate tensions.
       What’s new ? Clashes in October 2019 in Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous region, left scores of people dead. They mark the latest explosion of ethnic strife that has killed hundreds and displaced millions across the country over the past year and half.
Why did it happen? Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has taken important steps to move the country toward more open politics. But his efforts to dismantle the old order have weakened the Ethiopian state and given new energy to ethno-nationalism. Hostility among the leaders of Ethiopia’s most powerful regions has soared.
       Why does it matter? Such tensions could derail Ethiopia’s transition. Meanwhile, reforms Abiy is making to the country’s powerful but factious ruling coalition anger opponents, who believe that they aim to undo Ethiopia’s ethnic federalist system, and could push the political temperature still higher. Elections in May 2020 could be divisive and violent.
       What should be done? Abiy should step up efforts to mend divisions within and among Ethiopia’s regions and push all parties to avoid stoking tensions around the elections. International partners should press Ethiopian leaders to curb incendiary rhetoric and offer increased aid to protect the country from economic shocks that could aggravate political problems.
      Executive Summary
      Ethiopia’s transition has stirred hope at home and abroad but also unleashed dangerous and divisive forces. As Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has opened up the country’s politics, it has struggled to curb ethnic strife. Mass protests in late October in Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous region, spiralled into bloodshed. Clashes over the past eighteen months have killed hundreds, displaced millions and fuelled tensions among leaders of Ethiopia’s most potent regions. Abiy’s remake of the ruling coalition, which has monopolised power for almost three decades, risks further deepening the divides ahead of the elections scheduled for May 2020. The premier and his allies should move cautiously with those reforms, step up efforts to cool tensions among Oromo factions and between Amhara and Tigray regional leaders, who are embroiled in an especially acrimonious dispute, and, if conditions deteriorate further, consider delaying next year’s vote. External actors should call on all Ethiopian leaders to temper incendiary rhetoric and offer increased financial aid for a multi-year transition.
       Since becoming premier in early 2018, after more than three years of deadly anti-government protests, Prime Minister Abiy has taken a series of steps worthy of acclaim. He has embarked on an historic rapprochement with Eritrea. He has extended his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn’s policies of releasing political prisoners and inviting home exiled dissidents and insurgents. He has appointed former activists to strengthen institutions like the electoral board and accelerated the reform of an indebted state-led economy. His actions have won him both domestic and foreign praise, culminating in the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. But Abiy’s moves to dismantle the old order have weakened the Ethiopian state. They have given new energy to the ethno-nationalism that was already resurgent during the mass unrest that brought him to power. Elections scheduled for May 2020 could turn violent, as candidates compete for votes from within their ethnic groups.
       Four fault lines are especially perilous. The first cuts across Oromia, Abiy’s home state, where his rivals – and even some former allies – believe the premier should do more to advance the region’s interests. The second pits Oromo leaders against those of Amhara, Ethiopia’s second most populous state: they are at loggerheads over Oromia’s bid for greater influence, including over the capital Addis Ababa, which is multi-ethnic but surrounded by Oromia. The third relates to a bitter dispute between Amhara politicians and the formerly dominant Tigray minority that centres on two territories that the Amhara claim Tigray annexed in the early 1990s. The fourth involves Tigray leaders and Abiy’s government, with the former resenting the prime minister for what they perceive as his dismantling of a political system they constructed, and then dominated, and what they see as his lopsided targeting of Tigrayan leaders for past abuses. An uptick of attacks on churches and mosques across parts of the country suggests that rising interfaith tensions could add another layer of complexity.
      Adding to tensions is an increasingly salient debate between supporters and opponents of the country’s ethnic federalist system, arguably Ethiopia’s main political battleground. The system, which was introduced in 1991 after the Tigray-led revolutionary government seized power, devolves authority to ethno-linguistically defined regions, while divvying up central power among those regions’ ruling parties. While support and opposition to the system is partly defined by who stands to win or lose from its dismantling, both sides marshal strong arguments. Proponents point to the bloody pre-1991 history of coercive central rule and argue that the system protects group rights in a diverse country formed through conquest and assimilation. Detractors – a significant, cross-ethnic constituency – argue that because the system structures the state along ethnic lines it undercuts national unity, fuels ethnic conflict and leaves minorities in regions dominated by major ethnic groups vulnerable. It is past time, they say, to turn the page on the ethnic politics that for too long have defined and divided the nation.
       Prime Minister Abiy’s recent changes to the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the coalition that has ruled for some three decades, play into this debate. Until late November, the EPRDF comprised ruling parties from Oromia, Amhara and Tigray regions, as well as a fourth, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region. Already it was fraying, its dysfunction both reflecting and fuelling ethnic animosity. Abiy’s plan entails dissolving the four blocs and merging them, plus five parties that rule Ethiopia’s other regions, into a new party, the Prosperity Party. The premier aims to shore up national unity, strengthen his leadership and shift Ethiopia away from what many citizens see as a discredited system. His approach enjoys much support, including from Ethiopians who see it as a move away from ethnic politics. But it also risks further stressing a fragile state whose bureaucracy is entwined with the EPRDF from top to bottom. Tigray’s ruling party and Abiy’s Oromo rivals oppose the move, seeing it as a step toward ending ethnic federalism. Tigray leaders refuse to join the new party.
      The prime minister has made laudable efforts to tread a middle ground and unite the country but faces acute dilemmas. Placating nationalists among his own Oromo, for example, would alienate other ethnic groups. Allowing Tigray to retain a say in national decision-making well above the region’s population share would frustrate other groups that resent its long rule at their expense. Moreover, while thus far Abiy has tried to keep on board both proponents and critics of ethnic federalism, his EPRDF merger and other centralising reforms move him more squarely into the camp of those opposing that system, meaning that he now needs to manage the fallout from those who fear its dismantling and the dilution of regions’ autonomy. At the same time, he cannot leave behind the strong constituency that wants to move away from ethnic politics and thus far has tended to give Abiy the benefit of the doubt. But the prime minister, his government and international partners can take some steps to lower the temperature:
Abiy should press Tigray and Amhara leaders to intensify talks aimed at mending their relations.
      He should continue discussions with dissenting Oromo ruling party colleagues and the Oromo opposition, aiming to ensure that they litigate differences at the ballot box rather than through violence. He should continue to facilitate talks between Oromo and Amhara leaders and thus ease tensions that are increasingly shaded by ethnicity and religion and feed a sense of ferment in mixed urban areas across the country, including in the capital.
      The government might also make conciliatory gestures toward the Tigray, maybe even rethinking its prosecutions of Tigrayan former officials in favour of a broader transitional justice process. For their part, Tigray leaders should reconsider their rejection of the Administrative Boundaries and Identity Issues Commission, which was set up to resolve boundary disputes like that pitting Tigray against Amhara.
      Abiy and his allies should move carefully wit