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A court decision favors the opposing party in the dispute between Native American groups and a lithium mine in Nevada.
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A court decision favors the opposing party in the dispute between Native American groups and a lithium mine in Nevada.

Some of the top news stories this week focused on Native American topics.

A state legislator from Oklahoma and a labor leader nearly get into a physical altercation during a Senate committee meeting.

Senator Markwayne Mullin, a Republican from Oklahoma, who used to be a mixed martial arts competitor and is a member of the Cherokee Nation, stands by his decision to challenge Teamster president Sean O’Brien to a physical altercation during a Senate committee meeting on Tuesday.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is an independent and also the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was compelled to step in.

This was not the first confrontation between the two. In March, O’Brien and Mullin had a heated exchange during a committee hearing. This led to a series of confrontational interactions on social media platform X. In June, O’Brien publicly challenged Mullin to a physical altercation.

O’Brien stated, “You can locate me anywhere, at any time, cowboy.”

Mullin replied on X.

The altercation never occurred.

Mullin stated on FOX News that individuals are questioning if this behavior is appropriate for a U.S. senator. In Oklahoma, it is not acceptable to speak in such a manner and if one does, they should anticipate being held accountable for their words.

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FILE - The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Aug. 8, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii.

On August 8, 2023, a fire broke out on Wainee Street in Lahaina, Hawaii, causing damage to both the Waiola Church and the nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission, both of which hold historical significance.

The federal government will provide funding for a climate resilience program led by Native Hawaiians.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat and the leader of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, declared that the Kapapahuliau Climate Resilience Program will receive $20 million in financial support this week. This program aims to assist the Native Hawaiian community in dealing with the effects of climate change.

According to Schatz, the federal government is providing direct funding for climate solutions led by Native Hawaiians for the first time. This investment of $20 million, as part of the Inflation Reduction Act’s efforts to address climate change, acknowledges the important role of the Native Hawaiian Community in creating a sustainable and resilient future for Hawaii and beyond.

The recently published Fifth U.S. National Climate Assessment states that the resilience of Hawaiian and Pacific Island communities in adapting to climate change will heavily rely on the knowledge and contributions of Indigenous peoples.

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Oak trees in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Oak trees in Hillsboro, Oregon.

The USDA will provide financial support for traditional forestry practices within Native American communities in Oregon.

The Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) and its partners have been granted $9.23 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. These funds will be used for projects that aim to revive Oregon’s oak habitat through the implementation of traditional Native American land management practices.

Centuries before Europeans arrived in North America, Native American societies utilized controlled burning to prepare land for farming or pathways, revitalize vegetation, eliminate pests, and prevent destructive wildfires.

Starting in the year 2000, there has been an increase in both the size and frequency of wildfires in the United States. As a result, more and more areas are adopting the practice of “cultural burns” as a way to address this issue.

According to Ka-Voka Jackson, program manager for the EcoStudies Institute, utilizing cultural or traditional methods of fire management on the land typically involves individuals who are trained or certified in wildfire management. This often includes the use of fire trucks, water resources, drip torches, and other manual tools.

The initiative aims to collaborate with native communities in order to safeguard the iconic oak trees of Oregon. It will also provide Native Americans with opportunities to utilize oak forests for traditional purposes and promote ecological preservation.

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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers his State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023, in Oklahoma City.

On February 6, 2023, Governor Kevin Stitt will give his State of the State speech in Oklahoma City.

There is currently a lot of uncertainty in Oklahoma regarding a law pertaining to vehicles that involves both the state and tribal governments.

Tribal leaders in Oklahoma are outraged after a state police officer stopped an Otoe-Missouria tribal citizen for speeding and gave her two tickets: one for speeding and a another for failing to pay state motor vehicle taxes because she did not live on tribal land.

In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision stating that Native Americans living in Oklahoma can register their vehicles through their tribe if they live within reservation borders. The ruling also states that the state does not have the power to impose taxes on tribal members residing on reservations.

The state of Oklahoma has agreements with three out of the 39 tribes, namely the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw. These compacts permit members of these tribes to use tribal car tags for driving regardless of their place of residence.

Individuals belonging to the remaining 36 tribes without compacts, such as the Otoe-Missouria tribe, must comply with state vehicle registration requirements.

The primary concern of Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma is that certain tribal governments do not share vehicle registration data with the Department of Public Safety, which poses a potential threat to public safety and puts law enforcement and others in danger.

The Chairman of the Otoe-Missouria tribe, John Shotton, proposes that the state has neglected to uphold the law until this point.

“After two decades of collaboration between the State and Tribal governments on vehicle tag registration, it seems that the State has changed its stance on tribal tags,” stated Shotton. “This sudden change occurred without prior notice or discussion with all Tribal nations involved in vehicle tag registration.”

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