This Week in Native American News (3/29/19): Testing, Flooding, and Hoop Dancing

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March 29, 2019


Southwest Alaska village gets running water for the first time

ANTHC crews prepare to bury water lines in Eek on February 20, 2019. (Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK)

ANTHC crews prepare to bury water lines in Eek on February 20, 2019. (Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK)

What’s it like to go from hauling all your water and sewer to one day being able to turn on the faucet and flush a toilet? KYUK traveled to Eek to find out, where a multi-year project is wrapping up bringing running water to the community for the first time.

“I don’t need to heat water,” Xenia Black says, turning the faucet. “I just turn that on and there it is.” She laughs as clean, running water flows into a bucket. “It’s easier for me to do my chores, like doing more laundry and doing more dishes."

Black is 72 years old and has had running water for about a year, but she got sick before that. Pneumonia is more common in communities without running water. Lots of illnesses are, particularly respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal infections.

In Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskowkim Delta, 40 percent of the homes outside of Bethel, or 1,699 residences, do not have running water.

The community of Eek, population 474, is working with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to install their new system using a combination of federal and state money. When running water and sewer is introduced to a community, infection rates drop. In one study of rural Alaskan communities, clinic visits for respiratory infections declined by 16 percent, skin infections by 20 percent, and gastrointestinal infections by 38 percent.

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Overcoming Stigma: The treatment and prevention of HIV in Indian Country

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Half of all new HIV cases occurred in only 48 counties in 2016 and 2017, Washington, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico. A lot of those counties have higher populations of Native communities like Maricopa County, Arizona.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “In the 50 states and the District of Columbia, an estimated 3,600 American Indian/Alaska Natives had HIV in 2016 and 82% of them had received a diagnosis. Of those American Indian/Alaska Natives with HIV in 2015, 60% received HIV care, 43% were retained in care, and 48% had achieved viral suppression.”

As he stated in his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump stated that ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. is one of the nation’s top priorities. In his recently released 2020 budget, he included $25 million in appropriations for Indian Health Services to expand HIV and Hepatitis C screening and care.

Since Congress appropriates funding, not the president, the IHS is now hoping Congress will appropriate this $25 million to helping fight the HIV epidemic with increased screening, community outreach and expansion of the use of PrEP, a medication that prevents HIV infection, to those who are “high risk.”

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‘A State of Emergency’: Native Americans Stranded for Days by Flooding

The rising floodwaters stopped just sort of the home where Henry Red Cloud and his family rode out the storm, but other buildings on their property including their solar power business were inundated. Credit: Kristina Barker for The New York Times

The rising floodwaters stopped just sort of the home where Henry Red Cloud and his family rode out the storm, but other buildings on their property including their solar power business were inundated. Credit: Kristina Barker for The New York Times

Ella Red Cloud-Yellow Horse, marooned for days by a blizzard and then a flood, needed to get out. Supplies at her house were running low. She had come down with pneumonia. She had a chemotherapy appointment to keep.

But her long driveway was blocked by mountains of mud — impassable even for an ambulance or a tractor.

So Ms. Red Cloud-Yellow Horse, 59, set off toward the road on foot. She fell repeatedly, almost got swept away in the current of a creek, and became stuck in the mud. Finally, more than an hour later, she made it the half-mile to the highway where she was picked up.

“I couldn’t breathe,” she said, “but I knew I needed to get to the hospital.”

Such stories are startlingly common these days on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota — a stunning stretch of land larger than Delaware — as an overwhelming bout of snow and flooding has set off a humanitarian disaster that seems unlikely to abate soon.

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Meet the Minneapolis Brothers Rejuvenating Native Hoop Dance with Hip-Hop

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In hoop dance lore, every time dancers pass through their hoops, they get younger and younger. “So you've got to be careful,” Lumhe “Micco” Sampson jokes. “When you do that too much you'll end up back in first grade and with really tiny limbs.”

Micco and his older brother Samsoche (Seneca and Muscogee Creek), who perform together as the Sampson Brothers are well known on powwow grounds and beyond for their impressive hoop dance routines. They've performed at dance and music festivals in more than half a dozen countries, and made appearances at hundreds of schools and universities.

“To have an opportunity to exercise it, to me, is an act of sovereignty, of resistance,” says Micco. “I’m still here. I’m still dancing.”

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It's hard to fit so much news in such a small space.
To read all of this week's news, visit the LIM Magazine.

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