July 19, 2019
As we celebrate 50 years since the moon landing, the First Native American in space reflects on the journey
John Herrington has seen the world in ways many only dream they could.
He’s traveled across the country on his bike, starting on the Pacific coast in Cape Flattery, Washington, and peddling all the way to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
He took part in a mission that had him spend 10 days underwater, with the idea of working and living in an environment not hospitable to life.
And, oh yeah, Herrington spent nearly two weeks aboard the International Space Station, performing three spacewalks 220,000 miles above Earth hanging by a thumb and a forefinger.
“I’ve had a 3D view of life on this planet,” Herrington said, “it makes me appreciate it even more.”
HOW YOUNG NATIVE AMERICANS ARE USING THE CENSUS TO MAKE THEIR COMMUNITIES HEARD
For Austin Weahkee, a member of the Cochiti and Zuni tribes and Navajo Nation, his activism began “basically from the day I was born.” When he was a child, his family was part of a campaign to prevent the construction of a road through Petroglyph National Monument, a sacred Native American site in New Mexico, where he grew up. They ended up losing that particular battle in 2004, but the experience far from discouraged Weahkee, who comes from a long line of activists involved in protecting sacred sites.
“It inspired us to get into politics, to move away from more traditional activism to getting people registered to vote, to make sure that we actually had good policymakers and good decision-makers,” he tells MTV News. So in the lead-up to 2020 — both the presidential election and the United States census — Weahkee, now 22, is following through on that early inspiration. He is one of a handful of young Native Americans stepping up to tackle some of the challenges that these events have long brought to their communities by raising awareness, advocating for more accessibility, and convincing their peers to fight with them.
The undercounting of Native Americans in the census is a persistent, chronic ailment that most people acknowledge just once a decade even though it impacts its victims every day of every year — and has for decades. In the 1990 census, Native Americans on reservations were undercounted by 12.2 percent. That dropped to just 0.7 percent in 2000 before jumping back up to about 5 percent in 2010. That same year, the Black population was undercounted by 2.1 percent and the Latinx population by 1.5 percent; the non-white Latinx population was overcounted by 0.8 percent. (The census groups Latinx people under the “Hispanic” category.) Around a quarter of all Native Americans live in what are considered hard-to-count census tracts: issues like poverty, education level, housing insecurity, and a low-median age all come together to increase their risk of undercounting.
The consequences of this are manifold: Census data determines how funding and resources are distributed. “It affects everything in everyday life, especially for our more federally funded tribal groups because a lot of their money doesn't come from the state. It does come from federal programs,” says Weahkee, an organizer with the Native American Voters Alliance and a 2018 Movement Builders Fellow with the Center for Native American Youth. “It affects roads, schools, Internet, healthcare... It's really a lot of resources that we’re missing out on by not making sure that everyone's counted.”\
How these Native American women found the strength to heal through running: 'We're protecting each other'
At 29, Sarah Agaton Howes weighed over 200 pounds and was told by doctors that she could be at risk for diabetes if she didn't adopt a healthier lifestyle.
She had also just lost her daughter.
"Part of you dies when you lose a child," Agaton Howes told "Good Morning America."
"I grew up watching sickness around me all the time, and that was where I was headed," she said.
But she found a way to save herself -- and others: running.
"I remember being at a 5K [run] at the [Fond du Lac] reservation [nine years ago] and, for me, it was probably the first 5K I ever ran," Howes told "GMA." "I walked up to the starting line and there was a woman standing there, a Native woman, and she had running clothes on, and I [had] never seen a Native woman with running clothes."
The woman, Chally Topping, said Howes should run the upcoming half marathon with her. Howes didn’t believe she could do it, until she saw her son and Topping at the finish line cheering for her when she completed the race.
"To me, that’s the seed ... of imagining what we can be doing as Native women," Howes said.
Bost introduces legislation to elevate Cahokia Mounds to national park status
Cahokia Mounds took a step closer this week to possibly becoming a national park.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, a longtime supporter of lifting the Native American landmark to national park status, introduced the bill Thursday in Congress to establish the park’s federal status.
“Cahokia Mounds is a significant archaeological treasure,” said Bost, D-Murphysboro. “Southern Illinois was once home to one of the largest civilizations in what is now the United States, and Cahokia was the center of this ancient civilization.”
Highlighting Native Creativity in Art, Stories, and Film:
Native POP: People of the Plains, the annual Native American art show and cultural celebration, is July 19-20 in Rapid City. It is free to attend.
“Native Lights Podcast,” a production of Minnesota Native News and the radio network Ampers, spotlights personal stories from Native American guests. Some are notable names in their community; others are everyday people with something to share.
Through freestyle spoken word, lush Pacific Northwest scenes and ceremony, we enter into a journey of remembrance and reflection on the lessons of the old ones.