Here’s a rundown of some of the top Native American-related stories in 2022.
Native Americans scored big wins in midterm vote
2022 saw a record number of Native American/Alaska Native political candidates running for federal, state and local offices in the November 8 midterm elections. Of 150 candidates, more than 85 won at the polls, including:
- Republican Markwayne Mullin, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, won a US Senate seat.
- Democrat Mary Peltola, a Yup’ik from western Alaska, was elected to the US House of Representatives.
- Democrat Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk of Kansas, won a third term in the US House of Representatives.
Republican Tom Cole, a Chickasaw from Oklahoma, won an 11th term in the US House of Representatives.
In June, President Joe Biden appointed Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (“Many Hearts”) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, Chief for Life of the Mohegan Indian Tribe in Connecticut, to serve as US Treasurer. She now oversees the House of US Currency, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and Fort Knox, home of the US gold reserves, and is a key liaison with the Federal Reserve, America’s central bank.
In December, Malerba and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen became the first female couple to sign a newly minted five-dollar bill.
Supreme Court cases seen as threats to tribal sovereignty
President Joe Biden this year reiterated his commitment to the sovereignty of Native American tribes, nations and communities. He also injected historic levels of funding into the Indian Country and gave tribes a greater say in policy and decision-making.
Still, in 2022, the tribes expressed fear that their sovereignty was threatened after the US Supreme Court’s June ruling in Castro v. Huerta, which expanded state authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against Indians on tribal lands. Previously, only federal and tribal courts had legal jurisdiction in such cases.
In November, Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in Brackeen v. Haaland, a lawsuit challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 43-year-old federal law that sought to curb the once widespread practice of removing Native American children from their homes. families and place them in non-native homes and institutions.
ICWA directs welfare agencies to give preference to the placement of Indian children with relatives or with other members of the tribe.
Opponents of ICWA argue that the law is unconstitutional because it discriminates against non-native foster or adoptive parents. They also argue that Congress has exceeded its authority by legislating matters that should be the “exclusive province of the States.”
Native American rights groups fear that an ICWA defeat could change other areas of tribal law. ICWA has a severability clause, which means that some parts of the law could be struck down and the remaining parts of the law could remain intact.
The judges are expected to issue a decision in June or July 2023.
Feds Recognize and Investigate Abuses at Indian Boarding Schools
In May, the US Department of the Interior published the first volume of a federal investigation into the Indian boarding program.
Ordered by Secretary Deb Haaland, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, the investigation found that between 1819 and 1969, the federal government “operated or supported” 408 boarding schools in 37 states or former territories, including 21 in Alaska and seven in Hawaii. The report counted 500 student deaths and discovered graves in 53 schools; those numbers are expected to rise as the investigation continues.
The report recommended more research into abuses at federal boarding schools, investigations into tribal health disparities, and support for Indian language revitalization programs.
In July, Haaland and Under Secretary of the Treasury Bryan Newland launched a year-long “Road to Healing Tour,” traveling to Oklahoma, Michigan and South Dakota to give boarding school survivors and their families the chance to tell their stories, to help connect communities with trauma support. and begin work on the collection of a permanent oral history. Haaland held listening sessions in Anadarko, Oklahoma; Pellston, Mich.; and Mission, South Dakota, and plans visits to other states in 2023.
While serving in Congress, Haaland introduced legislation to establish a truth and healing commission to investigate and document abuses at indigenous boarding schools and their impact on tribes and families. It was reintroduced in 2022 by Representative Sharice Davids. Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a similar bill in the Senate.
The House bill had its first hearing on May 12.
While there appears to be broad support for a commission, lawmakers are divided on whether and how much authority it should have to subpoena witnesses, records and documents, how the commission would be funded, and whether members would be compensated for their time.
Haaland wipes insults off the US map
In November, Secretary Haaland signed Secretarial Order 3404, declaring “sq—,” a historical term for Native American women, derogatory, and established a task force to remove the word from 650 geographic features in the US. USA
Throughout the year, the department consulted with nearly 70 tribes and announced an agreement on new names in September.
Check out the new names here:
See a map of locations here:
Native Talent Changing the Narrative in Film and Television
2022 was a decisive year for indigenous representation in film and television.
This year saw season 2 of “Reservation Dogs,” a comedy-drama about teens living on an Oklahoma reservation. The first television series to feature entirely indigenous writers and directors and an almost entirely indigenous North American cast, it won an impressive number of awards.
“Dark Winds,” a crime drama set on the Navajo Nation and starring veteran Lakota actor Zahn McClarnon, was filmed at the first Indian-owned movie studio in New Mexico.
The hit summer movie “Prey,” a prequel to Disney’s “Predator” series, starred a mostly Native American cast and was released in English and Comanche versions.