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This Week at First Nations: July 23, 2021

COVID-19 in Indian Country: New First Nations Report

While Indigenous communities continue to experience disproportionate economic and data marginalization, the pandemic has highlighted the resiliency of Tribal communities, especially in regard to Native food systems. This new report celebrates Tribal responses to COVID-19, and highlights opportunities and recommendations to build a more resilient philanthropic and federal response in Indian Country going forward. Download the publication here.


Native Student Business Plan Competition Engages, Inspires

This year’s Native Student Business Plan Competition drew crowds this past Monday at RES 2021. We were honored to sponsor the event with the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development and American Indigenous Business Leaders, and to see the amazing presentations of the 11 finalist teams. The first-place winners in each category were:

High School: Sovereign Schools (Fresh Fix Restaurant)
College: Navajo Technical University (Early Dawn Coffee)
University: University of New Mexico (Maize the Experience)

Congrats to all who participated and tune in for more information about these students and their experiences.


Peter Williams, Alaska

Meet Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow Peter Williams

In the May 21 This Week at First Nations, we introduced readers to 2020 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Peter Williams. Now we’re happy to share more about this hunter, artist, and designer based in Sheet’ká (Sitka, Alaska.) Williams solely owns and operates a fashion label called Shaman Furs, and is an advocate for Alaska Native hunting and fishing rights.

“Most people outside of Alaska, especially non-Natives, don’t know that marine mammal harvest is legal, sustainable, and practiced by various Alaska Native cultures today,” says Williams. “The lack of awareness outside Alaska’s borders has bred an alarming degree of misinformation, which has negative ramifications for both the legislative and commercial future of traditional Alaska Native craftwork.”

“Why Did I Cry Making This Symbol?” by Peter Williams is a fur painting made from sea otter that was on display at the Bunnell Street’s Art Center in Homer, Alaska. Photo credit: Alyssa Russell

For more than a decade, Williams has taught Native and non-Native people about the traditional Alaska Native practices of hunting and utilizing marine mammals. He is an interdisciplinary artist and activist who shares his knowledge via fashion, film, and guest lectures. As an artist and activist, Williams’s goal is to challenge misconceptions by advocating for his people’s “inherent subsistence rights.” Pictured here is “Why Did I Cry Making This Symbol?” — a fur painting made from sea otter that was on display at the Bunnell Streets Arts Center in June 2020. Read the full spotlight story here


More Updates from the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellows

The 2021 cohort of the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship has begun and we’re excited to start sharing news of their work and successes. In this podcast featured through the University of Minnesota Extension, 2021 Fellow Dustin Burnette talks about his leadership journey and efforts to create an Indigenous Immersion Network, providing curricula, training, resources, and essential support to tribes in the Great Lakes region.


What We’re Reading: What Stories Does the Land Hold?

In this series presented by the Center for Human and Nature in Chicago, Indigenous voices show “the stories of the land that we carry with us and that guide us through our lives. These stories connect us to land, to each other, and to all of our relations.” The series is curated and edited by Indigenous educator/activist Christine Luckasavitch (Omàmìwininì Madaoueskarini Anishinaabekwe) and features an amazing group of Indigenous writers, artists, and poets who each share their experience and ancestral stories of how the land has guided them and connected them to all of their relations.


How Indigenous Leaders are Pushing to Vaccinate their Hard-Hit Communities

National Geographic reports how Indigenous communities are surviving the pandemic through community efforts, transparency, access to the vaccine, and historic resilience. The article details how Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; Iñupiat Eskimo Village of Kivalina, Alaska; Northern Ute Reservation; and Seneca Nation have responded to keep their communities safe.

Photo credit Sarah Stacke, National Geographic


Sicangu Bring 9 Children Home from Carlisle Boarding School

This past week, nine ancestors taken from the Sicangu Lakota to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania were brought home with prayer and ceremony, reports Indian Country Today. The article describes how the children were forcibly removed from their families more than 140 years, and then were stripped of their language, culture and traditions to attend the government-run boarding school under new European names.

Photo credit Vi Waln for Indian Country Today


Return Sparked by Young Tribal Members

In a related story, Native News Online tells how the return of the nine ancestors was accomplished through a tribe-backed resolution initiated by the Rosebud Sioux Youth Council after the group visited the former Carlisle Indian Industrial School six years ago and began the effort to exhume and repatriate their relatives. “I hope it’s an eye opener for everyone in the world,” said Christopher Eagle Bear from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “Kids had to do this to make it done.”

Photo credit Jenna Kunze, Native News Online


What is Indigenous Land-Based Education?

Indigenous land-based education brings together “layered concepts like the importance of language and the geography of stories, cosmologies and world views, land protections and rights, relationality and accountability, a connection to reconciliation, and much more.” Further, it has “implications for science, culture, politics, language, environmental stewardship, land rights, reconciliation—and the future of the planet.” The Canadian Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization explores this multi-faceted approach to teaching and learning.

 Photo credit Spruce Creative, Canadian Commission for UNESCO