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Native American tribes revive horse heritage with bareback races in Oklahoma

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Native American tribes from the United States and Canada converged on Oklahoma for the Indian Relay Horse Race this weekend, helping to revive horse heritage in the state and symbolizing a return to normal after pandemic restrictions.

The setting in Oklahoma was particularly apt, given the state’s Native American population of nearly 10% and the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling re-affirming that about half the state’s territory falls under American Indian jurisdiction.

Competitors race three different horses bareback around a one-mile track, jumping off one horse and onto another between laps, often in tribal regalia including war bonnets, with the horses painted in traditional style.

Horse relays are one of the most popular pastimes in Native American culture to have survived the U.S. genocide, and horse heritage remains strong with many tribes in the western United States.

But equine traditions have been less durable in Oklahoma, where many Native Americans were resettled in the Trail of Tears of the 1830s, when indigenous people were forced from their lands in the southeast onto specially designated territories further west.

Organizer Jim Stevens called the relay the biggest in the known history of Indian Relay races in terms of tribes, people and vendors signed up to participate. About 40 tribes competed for $140,000 in prize money.

“This was the first big event for the Native Americans since the COVID shutdown and everybody was ready to get off the reservation,” Stevens said.

The individual and team races have separate classes of competition for chiefs, warriors, elders and women. Each rider is paired with a mugger, the name for the person who holds the horse still during the transition. Little kids learn by riding sheep.

The host town of Pawhuska, named after a 19th century Osage chief, is on the Osage reservation. Pawhuska is also hosting the film crew making “Killers of the Flower Moon,” adapted from the book by David Grann about white people who murdered Osage tribal members to get their land rights. The Martin Scorsese movie stars Leonardo di Caprio.

The five-day Indian Relay, held at the Osage County Fairgrounds, ended with a stirring finish to the men’s championship relay, the premier event. The War Chiefs team from Wyoming was leading until the final exchange, when its rider slipped off his horse and into mud during a rainstorm, enabling the Abrahamson team from Washington state to overtake the lead and claim the prize.

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Keith in Pawhuska, Oklahoma; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Israeli military confirms Gaza air strikes

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The Israeli military said its aircraft attacked Hamas armed compounds in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in response to the launching of incendiary ballons from the territory that caused fires in fields in southern Israel.

In a statement, the military said that it was “ready for all scenarios, including renewed fighting in the face of continued terrorist acts emanating from Gaza”.

The attacks, following an Israeli nationalist march in East Jerusalem that angered Palestinians, were the first launched by Israel and Gaza militants since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended 11 days of cross-border fighting last month.

 

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller)

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U.S., Canada set to discuss lifting of border restrictions

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U.S. and Canadian officials are set to meet Tuesday to discuss how to eventually lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries, but no immediate action is expected, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters on Monday.

U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel at land borders because of COVID-19 that was imposed in March 2020 and has been renewed on a monthly basis since. The measures, which also apply to the U.S.-Mexico border, do not affect trade or other essential travel.

The current restrictions are set to expire June 21, but U.S. and industry officials expect they will be extended again.

Reuters reported on June 8 the Biden administration was forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to determine how best to safely restart travel after 15 months of pandemic restrictions.

A meeting is expected to occur with Mexico later this week and meetings with the United Kingdom and EU are currently set for next week, but the timing could still shift, three people briefed on the meetings said.

U.S. restrictions prevent most non-U.S. citizens who have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil within the last 14 days from traveling to the United States.

Reuters reported previously that U.S. and airline officials do not think U.S. restrictions will be lifted until around July 4 at the earliest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift the restrictions, but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.

Two officials said the working groups are each expected to meet twice a month.

Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Outgoing U.N. aid chief slams G7 for failing on vaccine plan

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Outgoing U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock slammed the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Monday for failing to come up with a plan to vaccinate the world against COVID-19, describing the G7 pledge to provide 1 billion doses over the next year as a “small step.”

“These sporadic, small-scale, charitable handouts from rich countries to poor countries is not a serious plan and it will not bring the pandemic to an end,” Lowcock, who steps down on Friday, told Reuters. “The G7, essentially, completely failed to show the necessary urgency.”

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada met in Cornwall, England over the weekend and also agreed to work with the private sector, the Group of 20 industrialized nations and other countries to increase the vaccine contribution over months to come.

“They took a small step – at that very, very nice resort in Cornwall – but they shouldn’t kid themselves it’s more than a small step and they have still have a lot to do,” Lowcock said.

“What the world needed from the G7 was a plan to vaccinate the world. And what we got was a plan to vaccinate about 10% of the population of low and middle income countries, maybe by a year from now or the second half of next year,” he said.

In May, the International Monetary Fund unveiled a $50 billion proposal to end the COVID-19 pandemic by vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and at least 60% by the first half of 2022.

“That is the deal of the century,” said Lowcock, adding that the G7 could also have done a lot more to provide vital supplies – such as oxygen ventilators, testing kits and protective equipment – to countries who are going to have to wait longer for vaccines.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday urged world leaders to act with more urgency, warning that if developing countries were not vaccinated quickly, the virus would continue to mutate and could become immune to inoculation.

 

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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