Native Americans

The Osage Nation has voted to change the definition of marriage in an election that drew an overwhelming number of absentee ballots.

The tribe will now define marriage as a union between "two persons" rather than "a man and a woman."

More than 1,100 people sent in absentee ballots but only 347 people showed up for onsite balloting during a two-day early voting period and on Monday, the actual election day.

Flickr / NHS Employers

A Republican plan to overhaul the nation's health care system shows health care could become unaffordable for many poor Oklahomans and the state could be forced to subsidize health care costs for Native Americans, according to an early analysis of the plan prepared for Gov. Mary Fallin.

A document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press shows state health officials also project the proposed new law would result in the state immediately losing $9.3 million in public health funding for programs such as immunizations and chronic disease funding.

Members of American Indian tribes, indigenous communities and their supporters are demonstrating today in Washington, D.C., calling on the Trump administration to meet with tribal leaders and protesting the construction of the nearly complete Dakota Access Pipeline.

The protest is partly led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been battling the federal government for more than a year over an oil pipeline that members say endangers their drinking water and has destroyed sacred sites in North Dakota.

The proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico would run right through Native lands, and tribal leaders in the region say it would desecrate sacred sites.

"Over my dead body will we build a wall," says Verlon Jose, vice chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation. "It's like me going into your home and saying 'You know what? I believe in order to protect your house we need some adjusting.' And you're going to say, 'Wait a minute, who are you to come into my house and tell me how to protect my home?' " he says.

Since its founding in the 1950s, the Indian Health Service has provided medical care for many Native Americans. But the service has been chronically underfunded, so often pays for care only if someone is in immediate danger of losing life or limb.

A severe lack of housing on the nation's reservations means many Native Americans are forced to find rentals in nearby communities. That's the case for the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming. But tribal members there still struggle to find places to live because of what they say is racial discrimination.

Ever since last summer, Ken Hebah has been unable to find a place to live. The Eastern Shoshone Tribe member says he doesn't need much.

"Well, like a, maybe a one bedroom just for me," Hebah says.

Joe Brusky / Flickr

There are over 330,000 Native Americans in the state of Oklahoma, with 38 federally recognized tribes - the second largest Native American population in the country second to California.

As history has shown, those numbers have not always translated to political power in the state, where fights for oil and water rights have often been dominated by U.S. government interests, at the expense of tribes.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Before the Cherokee people were forced from their lands in the eastern U.S. along the Trail of Tears, the tribe grew varieties of crops now nearly lost. But at the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank in Tahlequah, Okla., a vital part of the tribe’s history is kept frozen.

Deep underground on a Norwegian island in the remote arctic, the Global Seed Vault shelters seeds from around the globe, protecting them from natural disaster, nuclear catastrophe or any apocalypse that might bring humans to the brink.

When Donald Trump won the presidential election, he made a pledge to every citizen: that he would be president for all Americans. In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, we're going to hear about some of the communities that make up this nation, from the people who know them best, in our series Finding America.

Holdenville, Okla., is home to about 5,800 people. It has a small downtown with banks, restaurants and a few shops, though some are closed down.

Copyright 2017 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Pages