Here are some of the Native American-related news stories that made headlines this week:

Tribes fear pending Supreme Court ruling could upend sovereignty

Native Americans are watching the U.S. Supreme Court for a decision in the case Brackeen v. Haaland, which will decide the fate of the 40-year-old Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Congress passed ICWA in 1978 to stop the large-scale removal of Indian children from their families and their placement in non-Native homes, as this was widely viewed as an attack on tribal sovereignty and a continuation of federal assimilation policies.

Ahead of ICWA’s passage, Calvin Isaac, former chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw who died in 2020, argued before the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs that “many of the individuals who decide the fate of our children are, at best, ignorant of our cultural values and at worst, have contempt for the Indian way and convinced that removal, usually to a non-Indian household or institution, can only benefit an Indian child.”

In 2016, three sets of non-Native foster and prospective adoptive parents, along with the states of Texas, Indiana and Louisiana, took the federal government to court, arguing that the law discriminates based on race and that child welfare should be a matter for states and not the federal government to decide.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case last November and is expected to rule in the coming weeks.

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Remembering fallen Native American service members

May 29 was Memorial Day, a day to remember those Americans who have died serving their country.

Levi Rickert, a citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas and founder/editor of Native News Online, marked the occasion by reflecting on Native Americans’ long and proud tradition of military service.

Among those who have paid the ultimate price is U.S. Army Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa, a citizen of the Hopi Nation, who died when her convoy was ambushed in Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23, 2003. She is remembered as the first female soldier to die in Iraq and the first Native American woman to die serving her country.

Native Americans and/or Alaska Natives have served in every U.S. war and conflict since the American Revolution, and as Rickert notes, have the highest record of military service per capita of any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S.

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U.S. Postal Service commemorates legendary Ponca leader

The U.S. Postal Service has released a postage stamp honoring Ponca Tribe Chief Standing Bear, one of the nation’s most important civil rights figures.

He saw his tribe through their forced removal in 1877 from homelands in Nebraska to Indian Country [present-day Oklahoma]. His daughter Prairie Flower died along the way, and within a year, a third of the tribe died of disease and starvation, including his son Bear Shield, whose dying wish was to be buried back home.

Standing Bear honored that wish but was arrested for leaving Oklahoma. He sued the federal government for his freedom, arguing before the court, “I am a man. The same God made us both.”

In a landmark ruling on May 12, 1879, Judge Elmer S. Dundy declared for the first time that an Indian was a person within the meaning of U.S. law and therefore deserved all legal protections.

Learn more in the video below:

Indian? Native American? What to call America’s first peoples?

Oklahoma TV station KSWO this week posed that question to two tribal leaders.

“There’s a lot of terms that have been bounced around, and you’ll never find any universal acceptance from that from anybody because it’s just too complex,” Kiowa Tribe Chairman Lawrence SpottedBird said.

Comanche Nation Vice Chairman Dr. Cornel Pewewardy said he prefers Nʉmʉnʉʉ “the People,” which is what the Comanche people have always called themselves.

But how to refer to America’s original populations generally?

“Indian” was the name that explorer Christopher Columbus gave the people he encountered, assuming he had landed in India. Many Native Americans continue to use the term, as it was the legal term used in treaties with the federal government.

“Indigenous” is a word with different definitions. For some, it refers to an ethnic culture that has never migrated away from its homeland and is neither a settler nor a colonizer.

The United Nations defines “Indigenous” as the descendants of those who inhabited a country or region at the time of conquest or colonization by another group.

And some tribes find the term offensive, believing it carries negative implications.

Several years ago, VOA asked Chase Iron Eyes, a Hunkpapa Lakota activist from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

“Call me whatever you want, as long as you do it with respect,” he answered.

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