Here is a summary of Native American-related news around the U.S. this week:
Cherokee veteran receives highest military honor
President Joe Biden awarded Cherokee Nation citizen Dwight Birdwell America’s highest military decoration during a White House ceremony Tuesday. Birdwell, 74, was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism during the Tet Offensive, a series of shock and awe attacks by North Vietnamese forces in January 1968.
“I’m grateful for all you have given our country and that at long last your story is being honored as it should have been always,” Biden told Birdwell (see video below), noting that Native Americans serve in U.S. armed forces at a higher percentage rate than “any other cohort.”
More than 42,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives served in the Vietnam War, 90% of them voluntarily. Two-hundred-twenty-six lost their lives.
Nevada county removes barriers to Shoshone vote
Native Americans face a number of obstacles to participating in national elections, including access to polling sites and language access for those who aren’t proficient in English. Nye County, Nevada, this week became the first county in America to provide Shoshone language assistance to Native American voters — in this case, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe of the Duckwater Reservation. The 1975 Voting Rights Act requires certain states and local governments to provide voter registration forms, ballots and other election materials where 5% or more of eligible voters are “minority language speakers.” U.S. Census data from 2021 show the tribe now meets that standard. Nye County first in nation to offer voting in Shoshone language
Blackfeet tribe using dogs to nose out disease
Researchers on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana are running a yearlong study to see whether dogs can be trained to sniff out chronic wasting disease (CWD) and other toxins in wild game and plants that are consumed or used in traditional cultural practices. While CWD hasn’t infected humans yet, scientists worry about the health risk of eating or handling infected wild game such as deer, moose or elk.
Works by ‘father of modern Native art’ on display
New Yorker magazine this week highlights the art of Oscar Howe (Mazuha Hokshina, or Trader Boy), a Yanktonai Dakota artist from the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota (1915-1983), whose work merged traditional tribal art with contemporary abstract styles and earned him regard as the father of the Native American fine art movement. His work is on display until September 11, 2022, at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York; the exhibition will be on view at the Portland Art Museum, October 29, 2022–May 14, 2023, and at the South Dakota Art Museum at South Dakota State University, June 10, 2023–September 17, 2023.
Google honors noted Native comedian
Google Doodle this week marked what would have been the 71st birthday of Charlie Hill, the first Native American comedian to appear on U.S. national television. A citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, Howe used humor to shed light on many of the grim realities of the Native American experience, poking fun at stereotypes about Natives and non-Natives.
Hill’s portrait/Doodle is the work of Alanah Astehtsi Otsistohkwa (Morningstar) Jewell, a French-Haudenosaunee artist from the Oneida Nation of the Thames in Ontario, Canada.