American Indian Policy Institute at
Arizona State University | Monthly Newsletter

        October 2020 Newsletter        

Dr. Traci Morris Appointed to AISES Board of Directors

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The Rocky Road of the U.S. Census

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Tribal Inclusion Crucial for Vote-by-Mail Policies 

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Click here to read an update from AIPI Director Traci Morris.
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About AIPI

Dr. Traci Morris Appointed to AISES Board of Directors  

Our very own Dr. Traci Morris was appointed to the Board of Directors for the American Indian Science and Technology Society (AISES) earlier this week. 

Morris (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma) is the Executive Director of the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI) at Arizona State University (ASU). Under her leadership, AIPI has expanded the services it provides to Indian Country and partnered with organizations such as the Thunderbird School of Global Management, the Native American Finance Officers Association, and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. Morris’s research and publications are focused on the digital divide, digital inclusion, and the development of broadband networks in Indian Country. Morris spearheaded the groundbreaking Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands in 2019. Her book, Native American Voices: A Reader, continues to be a primary teaching tool in colleges throughout the country.

The all-volunteer Board of Directors is the governing body of AISES. The board provides strategic direction, sets policy, approves budgets, and monitors the organization’s finances. The Board is composed of corporate, academic, entrepreneurial, and tribally focused leaders who are strong voices for STEM.

“Members of the AISES Board of Directors collectively bring decades of experience from across a variety of sectors providing the organization critical governance and oversight during these difficult times,” said Chair, Gary Burnette. “It is an honor to be working alongside them as each is deeply committed to bringing STEM opportunity to indigenous people and communities across the U.S. and Canada.”

“I have long admired the commitment of AISES to Indian Country. AISES is the perfect vehicle for creating a pipeline program to feed the future of work in technology and telecommunications related STEM fields. I hope to bring my own expertise to the BOD and help with these endeavors.”

Additional members included in or appointed to the AISES Board of Directors are Dr. Wendy F. Smythe, Dr. Grace Bulltail, Kristina J. Halona, and Dr. Adrienne Laverdure.


The Rocky Road of the U.S. Census  

Last month, we published a policy brief on the constantly changing Census enumeration timeline. The brief called on Congress and the Executive Administration to extend the statutory deadlines for data collection and reporting to ensure that the government conducts a complete count—or one that is as close to complete as possible. 

To recap: the Census data collection period was originally scheduled to end July 31. That deadline was later pushed back to October 31 based on a request from the Census Bureau, due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, the Census Bureau revised that timeline up to September 30. The decision was challenged in court and a federal judge ordered that the Census Bureau return to the October 31 end-date. However, the Census Bureau only moved its termination date back by five days to October 5. Finally, last Friday, the same federal judge reasserted the order that the data collection period run through October 31. The Census Bureau acknowledged the order by sending a message to enumerators instructing them that the count will run through October 31. 

It’s been a rocky road to the conclusion of the U.S. Census data collection period. The uncertainty that persisted through August and September left people weary of administrative antics. All the while, Indian Country has opposed efforts to shorten the timeline, which could lead to yet another undercount of Indigenous people in the United States. Many questions remain about how the Census will complete its work on time, but most importantly, many days remain for Native folks to complete the Census. Data show that Census response rates are still low in tribal lands. Make sure everyone fills out a Census form so we can truly say, “Indian Country Counts!” 

Tribal Inclusion Crucial for Vote-by-Mail Policies 

Election day is right around the corner. With the nation living under the shadow of COVID-19, and an expectation that it will continue to be a presence well into autumn, officials are scrambling to ensure the November 2020 general election proceeds as smoothly and safely as possible. How are tribes involved with 2020 election processes? As states eye vote-by-mail solutions, our new policy overview emphasizes the need for tribal voices in creating equitable election systems. Our latest publication encourages elections officials to balance the promise of vote-by-mail (VBM) with prudent, inclusive decision-making. 

Vote-by-Mail: Balancing Promise with Prudence examines the benefits of vote-by-mail efforts and the potential pitfalls of being overly reliant on VBM systems without sufficient and representative tribal input in the creation of equitable elections processes. Mail-in ballots alleviate some of the burdens of in-person voting, says author and AIPI Graduate Policy Assistant Coby Klar, but may present additional obstacles for many tribal residents who have unconventional addresses or difficulty understanding English language ballots.

 Ittifatpoli (a message from our director) 

“This country was founded on genocide and slavery.” W. Kamau Bell got straight to the point when he offered this pointedly accurate assessment of American history during a conversation hosted at ASU to kick off the semester. The event was intended to bring discussions on racism to the forefront of students’ consciousness. It is a harsh statement, but it’s true. And if Americans don’t learn American history—warts and all—we are doomed to repeat it. Already, evidence that we are on an unfortunate trajectory was presented in a staggering story published last month, which showed that two-thirds of Millennials and GenZ are unaware that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Even in our government institutions, a desire to turn away from truth and history threatens social equity. Last month, the President issued an Executive Order denouncing and defunding diversity training and the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT), calling it “un-American.”

CRT studies the pervasiveness of racism in society and is foundational to scholarship regarding Indian Country as Dr. Bryan Brayboy, ASU President’s Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice (and AIPI Advisory Board member) has explained in his body of work. Dr. Brayboy explains “Tribal Critical Race Theory” in his 2006 article, Toward a Tribal Critical Race Theory in Education: “This theoretical framework provides a way to address the complicated relationship between American Indians and the United States federal government and begin to make sense of American Indians’ liminality as both racial and legal/political groups and individuals.” 

The U.S. President’s stance is divisive, and as the election looms, the country is mired in contemptuous rhetoric and disinformation. Due, in part, to his endorsement of dangerous beliefs, Indian Country has been targeted by groups that the Anti-Defamation League has exposed as right-wing extremists, groups intent on sowing seeds of distrust and threatening the foundations of tribal sovereignty. Not only are tribes targeted on social media, but must even endure condescension printed on billboards in their own communities

The divisive state of politics has caused many to seek answers. At AIPI, we are continually guided by the ethos of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, which is best expressed in the hashtag: #BeTheSolution. The work we do is grounded by academic rigor and supported by Indian Country. This month, we will be hiring a new postdoctoral research scholar to advance our initiatives and broaden our perspectives. Additionally, our staff continues to broaden their social embeddedness and involvement in communities—at a safe distance. Our country was founded on genocide and slavery, but we are the ancestors of the future and to be good ancestors, we will not stop working to #BeTheSolution to today’s challenges.


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