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The Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed minority communities chronically neglected by the healthcare system. The incalculable impact on Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) communities exemplifies all too well the consequences of Indigenous erasure on pandemic resiliency and recovery.   

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Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help undo the damage of the pandemic and build a strong foundation for recovery. I am proud that Cherokee Nation successfully led the effort to ensure tribes receive a fair share of ARPA funding. The act allocates funding directly to Indian Country. Cherokee Nation has so far received more than $1.8 billion in recovery funding.

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This past Wednesday, we lost one of the best advocates for Native Americans with disabilities in Indian Country. Cinda Hughes (Kiowa), well-known among circles in Washington, D.C., passed away from cancer on Wednesday. She was 59.

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The Cherokee language has always been the heart and soul of our tribe. Our language contains knowledge and ways of thinking that can never be fully captured in translation. All of our accomplishments in health care, education and economic development could never make up for the loss if we allow our language to perish.

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On May 4, Native News Online reported news about the positive DNA identification of Melissa “Missy” Ann Poitra, a Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribal citizen who had been missing for 15 years. Her remains were discovered in a self-storage unit five years ago in Durham, North Carolina, some 1,600 miles from home. 

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When the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that tribal reservations in eastern Oklahoma have never been disestablished in the McGirt case, it was a great victory for tribal sovereignty and self-determination. We celebrated that victory at Cherokee Nation, knowing we were ready for the opportunities and challenges that it brings.

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I suppose most people think their mother is or was the best mother on Earth. And rightfully so. I know I do. 

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Centuries of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples

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Late last October, the night before her 18th birthday, Mashpee Wampanoag tribal citizen Jalajhia Finklea went missing. The family remained in turmoil for the next five weeks as they waited and wondered what happened to Jalajhia.

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When Rick Santorum, a former GOP U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, and a senior political commentator with CNN, asserted that the founders of the United States “birthed a nation from nothing,” he added to our nation’s false and shameful legacy of erasure of Native people.