11 Native Tribes Sue Trump Over Coronavirus Response

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The Navajo Nation covers 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. It has 1,200 coronavirus cases and 50 deaths. The nation issued a shelter-in-place-office Tuesday lasting until the middle of May.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez released this tweeted statement:

‘Navajo Nation files lawsuit against United States for fair share of federal COVID-19 funding’

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Tribal officials have requested federal aid in the form of health care people, personal protective equipment (PPE), testing equipment, and ventilators. Congress allocated eight-billion dollars to help tribal governments. Unfortunately, Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin is funding for-profit corporations with non-Indian shareholders.

The Navajo Nation and 10 other tribes have brought a lawsuit against Mnuchin to get his attention and hopefully gain them access to their “fair share” of the COVID-19 funding, according to a statement they released Wednesday.

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The tribe said that while Congress allocated $8 billion to help tribal governments combat the coronavirus outbreak under the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the Secretary of the Treasury intended to fund more than 230 Alaska Native Corporations.

The Navajo Nation said the Alaska Native Corporations are for-profit corporations organized under state law and are owned by shareholders, including non-Indian shareholders, and generate billions of dollars in revenue. Tribal officials said they previously opposed the CARES Act because of funding for Alaska Native Corporations.

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The Navajo Nation noted that the Alaska Native Corporations are for-profit organizations and generate “billions…in revenue.” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez’s statement read:

‘Allocating funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to the Alaska Native Corporations will severely impact the Navajo Nation’s ability to fight COVID-19, and will impact every other tribe as well. While the Secretary has not yet announced a formula to disburse the funds, including the Alaska Native Corporations in the calculation will reduce the funds available for tribal governments. The impact on the Navajo Nation will be significant because of the Nation’s size, population, and the already disparate impact of COVID-19 on the Nation.’

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) told KTOZ that the Alaska Native Corporations in the CARES Act said Native corporations are just as entitled to funding as any other corporation. He added that they “provide socially and economically for their shareholders,” and they would be joining the lawsuit:

‘The tribal governments have sovereignty, and we certainly respect that and want to help all tribes. But the Alaska Native Corporations also have an important and very unique role and in many ways are delivering help to all parts of our state on behalf of Alaska Native people.  It’s a little bit, I would say, rich to have some of these Lower 48 tribes that have huge billion-dollar casino operations, that are clearly for profit, somehow attacking Alaska Native regional and village corporations.’

Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul released a statement that read:

‘The Navajo Nation has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Nation’s government is in dire need of support for the critical medical and community needs of our people. We are literally fighting for dollars to save lives.’

Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.

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