Indian Country

This is the second story in the Mountain West News Bureau series "Elevated Risk," a project powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Cole Stump was a Montanan, through and through. The 29-year-old citizen of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe was raised on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation in the north-central part of the state and had family ties to the Fort Peck Reservation in the northeast corner. He was a loving father of five and a skilled ranch hand.

The office of U.S. House Rep. Deb Haaland


Soon after she was elected as one of America's first Indigenous congresswomen in 2018, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland paid a visit to her constituents at the Pueblo of Sandia, just outside of Albuquerque. 

"She came to the Pueblo for one of our feast days," said Stephine Poston, a tribal citizen and advocate for Native women leadership. "And the young girls, a couple of them were following her around and she stopped to talk to them. It was an amazing thing to see and witness." 

Poston said Haaland may as well have been a celebrity to those girls, but she didn't act like one. 

"She's just that person who will stop and see you," Poston said. 

And she said that's how Pueblo people, and Indigenous people across the country, have been feeling since Haaland was nominated to lead the Department of the Interior: Seen.

Courtesy Silver Little Eagle

Karen Snyder has never been afraid to use her voice. She learned that from the women who raised her on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

"I come from a very long line of strong women. Grandmothers, mothers, a very strong line of women that are very outspoken," Snyder said.

That came in handy in 2016, when she was elected as one of two women on the six-person Eastern Shoshone Business Council.

Amid America’s racial reckoning spurred by the killing of George Floyd, a number of controversial historical monuments were torn down by protesters or removed by authorities this year, including some in the Mountain West.

About a week before Election Day, as the Wind River Reservation was bracing for snow, Wyoming State Rep. Andi Clifford squeezed in some roadside campaigning outside of a community hall in Arapahoe.

"Normally we would've been inside," she said. "But we can't, so we're out here."

The reservation's public health orders prohibit large, indoor gatherings. So as Clifford seeks a second term representing Wind River, she and her team have been spending a lot of time outside in the cold.

Imagine if your state health department put out a press release specifically naming your family, and listing the number of your family members with COVID-19. 

That, says Ken Lucero, is exactly how it felt in April when New Mexico announced a coronavirus hotspot in his community, the Pueblo of Zia. 

The voting process has long disenfranchised Native American communities. With the COVID-19 pandemic and mail-in voting exacerbating the problem, U.S. senators in the Mountain West and across the country are asking the federal government to make sure voters in Indian Country can cast ballots come November.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

As Native American tribes across the country struggle to contain the coronavirus, the White House has pressured the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to remove its COVID-19 checkpoints on highways in South Dakota, according to a recording of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows obtained by the Mountain West News Bureau. 

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

This Friday is Juneteenth, a national holiday in most states celebrating the end of slavery. There are planned protests around the Mountain West to keep attention on racial injustice and police brutality, including one on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. 

The U.S. Census Bureau had just begun field operations when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, as the agency is preparing to restart, it’s focusing on rural and tribal communities.

When you think about Doctors Without Borders you may picture the medical humanitarian NGO working in war-torn countries like Syria or Yemen. But as the COVID-19 crisis lays bare inequalities and vulnerabilities in the U.S., the organization's working here, too, assisting the Navajo Nation in fighting the disease.

News From Native America

Nov 1, 2017
Antonia Gonzalez

Let’s Talk New Mexico 11/2 8a: It's been one year since people from across the United States, including New Mexico, traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation to oppose construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. What was the lasting impact across the country?

Law & Order: Indian Country

Nov 13, 2013

For decades, tribal areas of the United States — Indian Country, for short — have been some of the most violent and dangerous places to live. Some of the biggest problems law enforcement officials face include issues of criminal jurisdiction, bad communication between tribal, state and federal officials, poor court sentencing powers, and of course, minimal funding.