Native News Briefs: Pascua Yaqui settle lawsuit against removal of early voting site
On Monday the Pascua Yaqui Tribe announced a settlement of its lawsuit against Pima County for removing an early voting location on its reservation in 2020.
The settlement is a victory for the reservation’s 4,000 residents, ending the dispute with former Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, who had decided to remove the early voting location.
The tribe was represented by the Campaign Legal Center, Osborn Maledon, and the Indian Legal Clinic at Arizona State University. They sued Rodriguez on Oct. 11, 2020, in federal court in Tucson.
The parties signed the agreement Friday that will establish an early voting site on the Pascua Yaqui reservation before the 2024 midterm election for every statewide primary and general election.
The agreement sets a deadline of February 2022 for the tribe and Pima County recorder to identify an acceptable early voting location.
It also establishes that the county will fully staff a drop-box location during the early voting period.
Peter Yacupicio, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, said, “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and it is just as important in Arizona Indian Country and the Pascua Yaqui Reservation as it is in the rest of Pima County.
“We thank the Pima County Recorder for agreeing to settle this matter,” he said, “with the aim to work cooperatively with the tribe and ensure that tribal members have an equal opportunity to vote.”
Before filing suit, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe won support for an early voting site from the mayor of Tucson, the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, as well as voting rights advocates.
Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, Pima County’s recorder, said, “The closure of the Pascua Yaqui early voting site is a clear, modern-day example of how Native American voting rights continue to remain under threat.
“It reminds us that we do not all start from the same starting line and some communities have to work harder to exercise our most basic and fundamental right,” she said. “It is an honor to reinstate the early voting site to provide equitable access for tribal community.
Arizona’s history with discrimination against Native Americans is well-documented. The Arizona Constitution barred Native Americans from voting in state elections until 1948 – and literacy tests and other barriers existed for decades afterwards.
San Carlos Apace call for vaccinations of all employees
SAN CARLOS, Ariz. – On Aug. 12, the San Carlos Council, the governing body of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, passed a resolution that mandates COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees.
Employees of the tribe’s government and enterprises have until Sept. 25 to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment and must submit proof of vaccination to the Human Resources Department.
The tribe has recorded a 187% increase in cases since June. There are currently 26 active cases on the reservation with nine individuals hospitalized.
The resolution comes as tribal epidemiologists identify an R-naught value of 2.5 on the reservation, threatening the health and safety of the more than 1,000 tribal members still unvaccinated, including children.
To Aug. 12, more than 4,000 tribal members were infected with COVID-19 and 5,794 have been vaccinated.
The resolution requires all employees who refuse to be vaccinated or who fail to show proof of vaccination to be subjected to bi-weekly testing for COVID-19.
In addition, employees who opt out of receiving the vaccination for religious beliefs or for a disability will receive a reasonable accommodation.
New bill aims to fix obstacles to Native voting
BOULDER, Colo. – Last week, in a bipartisan effort to fix the unique obstacles faced by Native American voters, Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., and Tom Cole, R-Okla., introduced the Frank Harrison, Elizabeth Peratrovich, and Miguel Trujillo Native American Voting Rights Act of 2021.
The Native American Rights Fund, of which attorneys have fought for Native American rights—including voting rights—for more than 50 years, gives its full support to this long-needed legislation.
Urgent action is needed to protect the right to vote on Indian lands and no bill goes further to protect Native voting rights, NARF stated in a news release.
Native American voters continue to face unique challenges when voting, NARF said, this includes—but is not limited to—geographically distant, off-reservation polling and registration sites that states and counties refuse to move on-reservation; difficulties registering and remaining on voter rolls due to the lack of addressed homes on reservations; inability to vote by mail because mail is not delivered to homes; as well as the adverse effects of documented voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, disparate treatment, and discriminatory tactics. “The Native American Voting Rights Act is urgently needed to address these specific, targeted, and discriminatory policies,”
NARF Staff Attorney Jacqueline De León explains, “We have to address ongoing discriminatory policies at the state and local levels. We need a federal policy that sets a baseline of access and prevents continuing abuses.”
NARF joins multiple tribal organizations and civil rights organizations in its strong endorsement of the Frank Harrison, Elizabeth Peratrovich, and Miguel Trujillo Native American Voting Rights Act of 2021.
Shanker named Tohono O’odham attorney general
SELLS, Ariz. – The Tohono O’odham Nation executive office on Tuesday announced the appointment of Howard Shanker as attorney general. Shanker assumed office Wednesday.
A graduate of Georgetown University Law School, Shanker has been practicing law in Arizona since 1993.
He is a recognized expert in Native and environmental/natural resources law and has represented tribes and tribal organizations in tribal, state, and federal courts in Arizona, Wisconsin, Nebraska and other jurisdictions.
He also previously served as a tribal court judge and was an adjunct professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at ASU.
In addition to tribes and tribal interests, Shanker has represented environmental and civil rights organizations including the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and NAACP.
Shanker was appointed by President Clinton to serve a three-year term on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, Enforcement Subcommittee, where he worked to on the negative impacts of environmental/natural resource policy and regulation on minority, Native, and low-income communities.
Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said, “His insights and expertise will be of great assistance in upholding the sovereignty of the Nation, protecting our sacred lands and waters, and ensuring the rights of our tribal citizens.”