June 28, 2019
Could This New Approach Unlock Gigawatts Of Native American Solar Energy Potential?
Native American lands across the lower 48 states are home to an estimated17.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar energy potential – a staggering amount considering total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation in 2018 was 4.2 TWh.
Funding for solar projects on tribal lands has largely come from government sources, but rarely covers full project costs, and poor management has hindered development. As of 2000, 14.2% of all Native American households have no access to electricity – more than ten times the national average.
While federal funding has helped tribal communities start accessing clean energy, a new approach combining public and philanthropic funds with nonprofit management and industry expertise could catalyze solar energy’s potential to create a brighter future for tribal communities facing energy insecurity and high unemployment.
Suicide rate for Native American women is up 139%
The US suicide rate is up 33% since 1999, but for Native American women and men, the increase is even greater: 139% and 71%, respectively, according to an analysis out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.
Suicide disproportionately affects non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Natives, according to the CDC. A 2018 CDC report found their suicide rate was more than 3.5 times higher than those among racial and ethnic groups with the lowest rates.
Experts who study Native American suicide blame higher rates of poverty, substance abuse and unemployment as well as geographical isolation, which can make it difficult for people to access mental health care.
Also, American Indian and Alaska Native women experience higher levels of violence than other US women. Nearly 84% experience violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 report from the National Institute of Justice. This includes 56% who have experienced sexual violence and roughly the same percentage who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. Research shows more than a third of women who have been raped have contemplated suicide, and 13% have attempted, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Supreme Court set to issue most high-profile decisions of term
Observers are also awaiting a ruling in a death penalty case that could have implications for Native American territory in Oklahoma.
Patrick Dwayne Murphy, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was convicted in 2000 for the murder of fellow tribe member George Jacobs.
Murphy challenged the conviction on whether the state court had jurisdiction to charge him in the first place because of his Native American heritage and because the murder took place on tribal territory.
A state court said it could not determine that the land in question still belonged to the Creek tribe, and a federal court also ruled against Murphy. But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Murphy’s favor, saying that the land was on a reservation that Congress had never formally dismantled.
If the Supreme Court rules in Murphy’s favor, it could mark a victory for Native American territory rights.
But others argue that ruling for Murphy would also invalidate other crimes committed by Native Americans on tribal land in Oklahoma.
After hearing oral arguments in the case in December, the justices requested briefings on whether there are any federal laws that gives Oklahoma state courts the power to prosecute crimes on the reservation, and if the court could rule that the reservation is still in place but doesn’t qualify as “Indian country.”
Federal law goes into effect for “Indian country,” indicating that the justices wanted to see if Murphy and others charged with similar crimes in state court could still be prosecuted under federal law if they do rule for Murphy in the case.
Meet Sovereign Bill, the voice behind Molly of Denali
Next month, audiences across America will be introduced to Molly of Denali, the first nationally-broadcast children’s program to feature an Indigenous lead character. WGBH, the public TV station that produces the show, held a world premiere event at the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday, where locals got to see 10-year-old Molly Mabray and the rest of the inhabitants of the fictional Interior village of Qyah for the first time.
Molly is voiced by 14-year-old Indigenous actress Sovereign Bill of Auburn, Washington. Bill is of Tlingit and Muckleshoot descent. Alaska Public Media’s Wesley Early spoke with Bill after the premiere, who says that even thousands of miles away in Washington state, she still regularly expresses her Alaska Native roots.
This Week’s History Lesson…
The last Confederate troops to surrender in the Civil War were Native American — here’s how they ended up fighting for the South
Even after Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, one Confederate army refused to acknowledge defeat and for months stubbornly fought on.
It was led not by one of the wealthy white southerners who made up much of the Confederacy's officer class — but by a Native American chief called Stand Watie.
Three members of Congress, including one of the first Native Americans to serve on Capitol Hill, have introduced legislation that seeks to rescind 20 Medals of Honor awarded for the Wounded Knee massacre.
If passed, the "Remove the Stain Act" would remove the names of the 20 cavalrymen that are currently on the Medal of Honor Roll. It wouldn't require any surviving medals to be returned, nor the denial of any benefits. All 20 men that received the medal are dead.