Key point: There is no doubt the Glock 19 made a big impact when it was first released. But it has been upgraded and modernized several times since then.
The Glock 19 took the firearms world by storm when it was first introduced for law enforcement markets in 1988, revolutionizing the compact 9mm handgun category with its winning blend of concealability, handling, and magazine capacity.
But that was over three decades ago; and yet, the Glock 19 remains one of the most popular handguns in the world despite recurrent attempts to dethrone it. So, what accounts for the Glock 19’s continued success? Here are the factors at play.
The gun that first propelled Austrian firearms manufacturer Glock to international fame was the Glock 17, a striker-fired, polymer frame semi-automatic pistol that fast became a bestseller for its friendly ergonomics and low-recoil handling. Nevertheless, a sizable segment of the commercial and law enforcement market sought a “compact” version of the Glock 17 for easier concealed carry; thus, the Glock 19 was born.
On paper, the differences between the two Glocks are quite subtle; the Glock 19 boasts a slightly smaller frame at a length/height ratio of 7.36/4.99 inches versus the 8.03/5.43 inches of the Glock 17, while being just a hair lighter at a loaded weight of around 1.89 lbs versus the 2 lbs of its predecessor. The Glock 19 comes with a standard 15 round magazine, as compared with the 17-capacity magazine of the Glock 17– to be sure, it’s exceedingly difficult to conjure up a realistic scenario where the two-round difference would be meaningful.
In practice, however, the Glock 19’s dimensions made it a significantly better everyday concealed carry (EDC) choice. That weight difference of around two ounces, insignificant as it seems at first glance, adds up over the course of carrying the Glock 19 on one’s hip for an entire day. Meanwhile, the Glock 19’s slightly reduced length and height can easily make the difference between the gun printing– that is, protruding through your clothing in a way that makes it its presence obvious to those around you– or not.
Notably, the Glock 19 achieved its reduced dimensions without sacrificing the performance and ease of use that made the Glock 17 so popular in the first place. Still, Glock is far from the only game in town when it comes to compact pistols. In explaining how the Glock 19 has managed to stay relevant for 30 years, it’s crucial to note that the pistol has undergone several major revisions to stay competitive in the handgun market. The “Gen4” version of the Glock 19, released in 2010, boasted an updated magazine release mechanism, a new Rough Textured Frame (RTF) grip, modular backstrap system, and larger dual-recoil spring. The Gen5 line, introduced in 2017, boasts nDLC coating, flared mag-well, and Glock’s new Marksman Barrel.
The other, no less important ingredient to Glock 19’s enduring popularity is the glut of aftermarket support; from slides to firing pin springs, there are few Glock 19 components that can’t be customized. Though aftermarket modding is scarcely necessary for the basic EDC role in which the Glock 19 excels, those looking for better performance in low-light situations would do well to swap the stock white dot sights for one of many, more specialized options.
Small enough for EDC but functional enough to be as a full-fledged service and self-defense pistol, the Glock 19 is the quintessential “goldilocks gun”– a versatile, compact, and highly moddable firearm made to appeal to almost any consumer and a wide range of law enforcement customers.
Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This article first appeared earlier this year.
A foggy sunrise in Germany, a fiery protest in Guatemala, a resort in the Andaman Sea, a strongman contest in Crimea, the ongoing pandemic worldwide, mourning in Argentina for Diego Maradona, figure skating in Russia, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and much more.
This column is an opinion by Tomas Hachard, manager of programs and research at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Canadian city governments have been on the front lines delivering essential services while struggling with limited fiscal resources. The pressures of the pandemic have made it clear that there are cracks in Canada’s federal structure, particularly in relation to cities.
Even though city governments are growing in importance and responsibility, they remain “little siblings” in Canadian federalism, often ignored by Ottawa or overruled by the provinces.
This imbalance has repercussions for all Canadians. Canada is one of the most decentralized countries on the planet, and little can be accomplished without ensuring all governments are equipped to make the decisions and sustain the investments Canada requires for its future success.
As I note in research for the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, cities face four particular challenges because of the imbalance in intergovernmental relations.
The first is paternalism. Cities have a semblance of authority in several policy areas, but often little actual power to make changes.
For example, depending on where you live in Canada, changes to speed limits may require provincial approval, local public health decision-making is second-guessed, and municipal planning decisions can be appealed to provincially regulated oversight bodies, as can policing budget decisions.
The second challenge is constrained finances. Cities have inadequate sources of revenue and insufficient fiscal flexibility to meet their responsibilities.
One consequence of this are city plans or actions that, without provincial and federal funding, simply can’t proceed. The biggest effect is on infrastructure, and particularly transit, where many cities can’t afford their repair bills, let alone the cost of new construction or needed expansion.
The third challenge is poor coordination. Unclear and overlapping jurisdiction between orders of government leads to inefficient programs and disputes over responsibility.
In Ontario, this challenge has recently been epitomized by debates over what power cities have to enact public health restrictions on their own.
The final challenge is fragmentation. Many of the most visionary ideas for the future of cities are best implemented at a metropolitan scale. Housing and transit challenges, for example, cross municipal borders and affect entire metropolitan regions. Yet in most of Canada, metropolitan regions are made up of several municipalities, and inadequate governance structures exist to allow for effective coordination.
How can these challenges be addressed?
First, a clarification of the powers and responsibilities of modern cities is needed. Canada currently suffers from conflicted and contradictory answers to the questions of what municipal governments ought to be and what they ought to do.
If city governments are increasingly significant public policymakers, they need to have the resources, autonomy, and institutions appropriate to deliver on that role. A principles-based review of provincial-municipal relations to clarify who does what and how we pay for it would help ensure that city governments are able to meet the expectations we have for them.
Of course, Canadian provinces and territories are also strained by the current balance of intergovernmental relations. Any review of provincial-municipal responsibilities would need to take into account the federal-provincial/territorial context.
Second, relations between the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments n Canada need to be deepened.
Many of Canada’s greatest policy challenges require increased coordination and cooperation among all three orders of government. However, there exists no mechanism for ongoing, formal federal-provincial-municipal relations.
Cities, provinces, and the federal government need formal avenues for collaborative governance. Established committees that include mayors and city managers, and their counterparts at the provincial and federal levels, would create avenues for ongoing cooperation. It is not feasible for every Canadian municipality to be at the intergovernmental table, but that gap could be filled by metropolitan institutions that represent city-regions, or by municipal associations in each province.
At the same time, governments should pursue trilateral agreements to address policy challenges that require coordinated action and multi-level funding. Such agreements could be modelled on the urban development agreements in Vancouver and Winnipeg, which brought together government and community partners, and led to funding for economic development and neighbourhood revitalization.
Fundamentally, in a policy area like mental health — which involves every order of government, because it intersects with housing, the opioid crisis, health care, and policing — trilateral agreements could coordinate existing work being done by individual governments, and direct resources to where they are most needed.
Making all this happen is no easy feat, and it requires give-and-take from every level of government, but it’s essential if we truly want to fix the obvious cracks in Canadian federalism.
In combination, these measures would not only put cities on a firmer footing, they would also ensure more effective funding, coordination, and delivery of public services across all orders of government. Canada will be better able to “build back better” from COVID-19, address climate change, reform social policy, and improve health care if the governments best able to deliver on specific aspects of these efforts can afford to take them on.
With better coordination and cooperation between all three orders of government, Canada will be better equipped to handle the challenges ahead.
President Donald Trump pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, taking direct aim in the final days of his administration at a Russia investigation that he has long insisted was motivated by political bias.
“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”
Flynn is the second Trump associate convicted in the Russia probe to be granted clemency by the president. Trump commuted the sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone just days before he was to report to prison. It is part of a broader effort to undo the results of an investigation that for years has shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half dozen associates.
The action voids the criminal case against Flynn just as a federal judge was weighing, skeptically, whether to grant a Justice Department request to dismiss the prosecution despite Flynn’s own guilty plea to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts.
The move, coming as Trump winds down his single term, is likely to energize supporters who have taken up the case as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution. Trump himself has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn, even though special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors once praised him as a model cooperator in their probe into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said the pardon was undeserved and unprincipled.
“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president,” the Democratic congressman said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”
The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns over the last year after the Justice Department abruptly move to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should have never been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan refuse the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government’s position.
In the months since, a three-judge panel’s decision ordering Sullivan to dismiss the case was overturned by the full appeals court, which sent the matter back to Sullivan. At a hearing in September, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell told the judge that she had discussed the Flynn case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.
Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of the Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team ultimately distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.
The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately decided to reject the Justice Department’s dismissal request. That request was made in May after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.
Flynn acknowledged lying during the FBI interview by saying he had not discussed with the then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that had just been imposed on Russia for election interference by the outgoing Obama administration. During that conversation, Flynn urged Kislyak for Russia to be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the two countries after Trump became president.
The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had coordinated to sway the election’s outcome. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions.
But last May, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position in the case. It said the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, and that any statements he may have made were not relevant to the FBI’s broader counterintelligence probe. It cited internal FBI notes showing that agents had planned to close out their investigation into Flynn weeks earlier.
Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that he had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and that former Obama administration officials had warned the White House that he could be vulnerable to blackmail.
Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first of the president’s aides to admit guilt in Mueller’s investigation and cooperated extensively for months. He provided such extensive cooperation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time and suggested that they would be fine with probation.
But on the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behavior from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue cooperating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.
After that, though, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller’s investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government.
The lawyers accused prosecutors of withholding documents and evidence they said was favorable to the case and repeatedly noted that one of the two agents who interviewed Flynn was fired from the FBI for having sent derogatory text messages about Trump during the 2016 campaign.
DANIEL SPENCER was a quiet, 32-year-old film editor who had recently moved to Austin, Texas from Los Angeles. He was also gay. In 2015 his neighbour, James Miller, stabbed him to death. The case was harrowing. But a legal quirk uncovered during the trial made it even worse. Mr Miller introduced the “gay-panic” defence in court, arguing that at some point on the night of the murder, Mr Spencer had tried to kiss him. The victim’s apparent homosexuality had made Mr Miller fearful for his safety and thus diminished his responsibility. Despite a lack of physical evidence (and the fact that Mr Miller defended himself by stabbing the victim twice in the back), he was sentenced to just six months in jail, with ten years on probation.
The case was no anomaly. The “gay- panic” defence remains legally admissible in 39 states according to the Movement Advancement Project, a think-tank. It normally bolsters either insanity or self-defence claims, and its use goes back decades. The brutal ‘candlestick murder’ of Jack Dobbins in Charleston in 1958 resulted in a full acquittal of the man who confessed to the crime, based on the fact that the victim had allegedly made unwanted advances. Although attitudes to homosexuality have changed since then, the law in some places has not.
The defence is “the problem hiding under the sofa”, says Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which lobbies against hate crimes. It occurs in so few cases, scattered across multiple jurisdictions, that it seldom attracts much attention.
The American legal system is no stranger to bizarre lines of defence. In 2013 Ethan Couch killed four people while drunk-driving in Texas. His lawyers successfully argued that the 16-year-old was suffering from “affluenza”, having grown up sheltered by wealthy parents who had failed to teach him the consequences of his own actions (he initially avoided prison and was instead put on probation for ten years). Lawyers for Colin Ferguson, a Jamaican immigrant who killed six people on a train in New York in 1993, pursued a “black-rage” defence, claiming that a lifetime of racial prejudice had driven Mr Ferguson insane (they were unsuccessful).
But the track record of the “gay-panic” defence makes it particularly egregious. The FBI keeps no data on the sexuality of homicide victims, and state-by-state records on hate crimes are spotty, so numbers can be difficult to pin down. But Carsten Andresen, a criminal-justice professor at St Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been busy compiling a database. His research shows that since the 1970s, gay- and trans-panic defences have reduced murder charges to lesser offences in 40% of the roughly 200 cases that he has identified. In just over 5% of cases, the perpetrator was acquitted or the charges dropped.
It took until 2014 for California to introduce the first ban on the defence (the state’s attorney-general at the time, Kamala Harris, led efforts to push the ban through). Since then, ten more states have followed, most recently Colorado in July of this year. Proposed bans are in committee stages in a handful elsewhere, including Texas and Minnesota, but 30 statehouses remain silent on the issue. And the fact that a third of cases since 1970 have occurred in the past ten years suggests that the problem may be worsening, or at least that “every step forward is followed by several steps back”, says Mr Andresen. For now, nearly two-thirds of gay Americans are living in states where their very existence can be claimed to be a reasonable cause for violence against them. Daniel Spencer probably did not know this when he invited his neighbour over for an evening of wine-drinking and guitar-playing.
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Panic attacks”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent the Senate home for recess without passing a new coronavirus relief bill. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will pull the plug on several of the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities. What are these men thinking?
Yes, the recent news on the vaccine front is wonderful. We are all indebted to the scientists who have worked so long, hard and successfully on the various vaccine projects. Thanks to them, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is dimly visible. But only dimly. Widespread vaccination is many months away. As Yogi Berra might have said, this horror show “ain’t over.”
When Congress passed the Cares Act in March, the pandemic looked absolutely frightening. The act was a sloppy piece of legislation with many flaws. But it had two huge virtues: It was big, and it came fast, both of which helped pull the economy back from the abyss. The pandemic is now worse than it was then. Yet Mr. McConnell is a roadblock to more relief funds.
Remember, it was Cares, plus a few other laws, plus rapid actions by the Fed, that enabled the economy to make what looks like a V-shaped recovery—so far. The expected tsunami of bankruptcies hasn’t materialized—so far. It even looks possible—so far—that the feared scarring of both workers and businesses may be limited.
Senators and the public need to understand that it was Cares and the rest that propped up the economy “artificially” as the virus was pulling it down. But now, with Covid-19 raging uncontrolled, most of the Cares money has been spent and more will expire in late December; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on evictions will end Dec. 31; and Treasury intends to end its lending facilities by the end of the year as well.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has tested positive for COVID-19, the latest governor to test positive for the disease this year.
“Governor Mark Gordon received results today of a COVID-19 test that showed he is positive for the virus,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “He only has minor symptoms at this time and plans to continue working on behalf of Wyoming remotely.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also announced this year that they had been infected with the virus.
TRUMP SAYS CORONAVIRUS VACCINE DELIVERIES WILL START NEXT WEEK
The announcement comes after new restrictions in the state limiting public gatherings as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have surged in recent weeks. However, no statewide mask mandate has been approved, despite calls from health officers in the state.
The Republican governor and state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said Thursday that public gatherings will be limited to 25 people or fewer without restrictions. Indoor gatherings will be limited to 25% capacity with social distancing, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 50% capacity with social distancing.
“These measures are intended to assist our healthcare system in meeting unprecedented demands for services, assure that in-classroom education can continue, and importantly keep Wyoming’s people working and her businesses open,” Gordon said.
The new order went into effect Nov. 24, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
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Overall, the state has confirmed 26,677 COVID-19 cases and documented 4,084 probable cases, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Wyoming’s death toll has reached 215 fatalities and there are currently 226 people hospitalized.
Air traffic controllers are being warned that layoffs are coming as Nav Canada pursues a “full restructuring” in response to a revenue slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News has learned.
CBC News has obtained a confidential memo sent internally to air traffic controllers on Thursday. In it, Ben Girard, Nav Canada’s vice-president and chief of operations, told staff that the company has seen a $518 million drop in revenue compared to its budget.
He said he’s been pushing the federal government for help, but — unlike some other countries — Canada has not released an industry-specific bailout package yet.
“We anticipate that until air traffic returns to higher levels, which will not occur until the end of this fiscal year, we will continue to operate in a daily cash negative position and this will be made worse as funding from the [Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy] program is ratcheted back,” Girard wrote.
Girard did not say in the memo how many air traffic controllers will lose their jobs or which locations will be affected. The memo said it’s looking to reduce the number of “IFR controllers.” These controllers are higher on the pay scale and work at area control centres in Gander, N.L., Moncton, N.B., Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.
The workers are responsible for controlling large amounts of airspace between airports using radar. Their job is to make sure planes keep proper distance from one another.
“I know this is very difficult news to hear. It is also very difficult news to deliver,” Girard wrote. “This is a decision that has been made at my level based on what needs to be done to ensure Nav Canada’s financial sustainability.”
Nav Canada manages millions of kilometres of airspace over Canada and used to provide air navigation services for more than three million flights a year. It’s funded through service fees paid by air carriers.
The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association said it is very concerned with the memo.
“It is the opinion of this union that safety is not being taken into consideration in making sound decisions,” president Doug Best and executive vice-president Scott Loder wrote in a letter to members.
“Safety is the number one priority for Nav Canada and it has somehow taken a backseat to cost containment as the number one and only priority.”
‘We’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic’
In November, Canadian air traffic was down 54 per cent compared with the same time period in 2019, according to the memo.
“Over the summer and fall months, the outlook for the aviation industry has deteriorated significantly and it has become increasingly clear that we’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic that is much larger and broader in scope than we all initially believed, and will be much deeper and longer than any downturn in the history of the industry,” Girard wrote.
Nav Canada says it is conducting studies of air traffic control towers in Whitehorse, Regina, Fort McMurray in Alberta, Prince George in B.C., and Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor in Ontario that “will result in workforce adjustments.” The company is also looking into closing a control tower in St. Jean, Que.
Government ‘pressed’ for help
The company has been focused on securing liquidity and tapped into the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to pay up to 75 per cent of employees’ wages, he wrote. Girard added that these payments are being reduced and will run through December, but Nav Canada isn’t sure if it can continue receiving that wage support.
“While an extension for the CEWS program through June 2021 was recently announced, NAV CANADA’s eligibility is uncertain,” he wrote.
Girard said the federal government has so far failed to come up with a bailout package for the airline sector, despite “significant lobbying.”
Last month, the Globe and Mail reported that the federal cabinet is working on a package for the airline sector that would include low-interest loans.
Since Sept. 22, Girard wrote, the company has cut more than 700 managers and employees — 14 per cent of its workforce. It also let go of 159 students earlier in the pandemic, he added, and in November cut even more, “leaving just a few in the system.”
Along with the cuts, seven air traffic control towers are being considered for a downgraded level of service, and another 25 sites that are already Flight Service Stations — which provide only advisory services — could face more cuts.
Nav Canada’s board of directors has cut its fees by 20 per cent, and executives and managers have dropped their salaries by up to 10 per cent, Girard wrote.
These cost reductions, as well as access to government support through the wage subsidy program, have saved the company $200 million since March 1, he added.
“However, that number still pales in comparison to the $518 million reduction in revenues as compared to budget,” Girard wrote.
“Despite these cost-containment efforts, we find ourselves in a situation where we expect our revenues to continue falling far short of our costs for several years, and we continue to require further cost-containment measures and indeed, a full restructuring of our business.
“In an environment where 30 per cent of costs are associated with ‘things’ and 70 per cent of costs are associated with ‘people,’ when all possible cuts with ‘things’ have been done, any further cuts will directly affect people.”
Girard added that he hopes the company can bring back some of the laid-off staff once the pandemic passes.
The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association said it will continue to challenge Nav Canada. The union hopes there will be “enough interest” in departure incentives for older controllers to offer them a package to retire.
“The views of Nav Canada at this point are violating the vision, mission and overarching objectives of this company,” Best and Loder said in their letter to members.
Americans were celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday with the pandemic at perhaps its most precarious point yet.
Coronavirus cases in the United States have reached record highs, with an average of more than 176,000 a day over the past week. Deaths are soaring, with more than 2,200 announced on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the highest daily totals since early May. Even as reports of new infections begin to level off in parts of the Midwest, that progress is being offset by fresh outbreaks on both coasts and in the Southwest, where officials are scrambling to impose new restrictions to slow the spread.
The national uptick includes weekly case records in places as diffuse as Delaware, Ohio, Maine and Arizona, where more than 27,000 cases were announced over seven days, exceeding the state’s summer peak. Pennsylvania and Arkansas on Thursday reported daily records for the number of new cases.
In New Mexico, grocery stores are being ordered to close if four employees test positive. In Los Angeles County, Calif., restaurants can no longer offer in-person dining. And in Pima County, Ariz., which includes Tucson, cases have reached record levels and officials have imposed a voluntary curfew.
“What we’re trying to do is decrease social mobility,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Pima County health director.
Deaths are also surging, especially in the Midwest, the region that drove much of the case growth this fall. More than 900 deaths have been announced over the past week in Illinois, along with more than 400 each in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Health officials have worried aloud for weeks that large Thanksgiving gatherings could seed another wave of infections at a time when the country can scarcely afford it. In many places, hospitals are already full, contact tracers have been overwhelmed and health care workers are exhausted.
“Wisconsin is in a bad place right now with no sign of things getting better without action,” said an open letter signed by hundreds of employees of UW Health, the state university’s medical center and health system. “We are, quite simply, out of time. Without immediate change, our hospitals will be too full to treat all of those with the virus and those with other illnesses or injuries.”
More than 260,000 people have died of coronavirus in the United States. In a speech on the eve of Thanksgiving, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke of his family’s losses, and urged Americans to “hang on” and called for unity.
“I remember that first Thanksgiving, the empty chair, the silence,” said Mr. Biden, whose son Beau died in 2015. “It takes your breath away. It’s really hard to care. It’s hard to give thanks. It’s hard to even think of looking forward. It’s so hard to hope. I understand.”
There was also grim economic news this week: Layoffs are rising again and Americans’ incomes are falling, the latest signs that the one-two punch of a resurgent pandemic and waning government aid are undermining the U.S. economic recovery.
Leaders at food banks across the country reported greater demand of their Thanksgiving services. In Texas, about 9 million people are struggling with food insecurity, said Celia Cole, the chief executive of Feeding Texas.
And in California, Leslie Bacho, the chief executive of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley, said workers had been serving 500,000 people a month, so many that the food bank needed the help of the California National Guard.
“We don’t see the need going down anytime soon,” Ms. Bacho said. “In the beginning, we were in a sprint mode, and now we’re adjusting to a marathon.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York accused the U.S. Supreme Court of political partisanship on Thursday after the high court rejected his statewide coronavirus-based restrictions on religious services, playing down the impact of its ruling and suggesting it was representative of its new conservative majority.
Regardless of the governor’s interpretation, the decision by the Supreme Court late on Wednesday to suspend the 10- and 25-person capacity limitations on churches and other houses of worship in New York would seem to be a sharp rebuke to Mr. Cuomo, who had previously won a series of legal battles over his emergency powers.
“You have a different court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making,” the governor said, noting worries in some quarters after President Trump nominated three conservative justices on the Supreme Court in the past four years. “We know who he appointed to the court. We know their ideology.”
Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, insisted that the decision “doesn’t have any practical effect” because the restrictions on religious services in Brooklyn, as well as similar ones in Queens and the city’s northern suburbs, had since been eased after the positive test rates in those areas had declined.
But less stringent capacity restrictions, also rejected by the Supreme Court’s decision, are still in place in six other counties, including in Staten Island.
Legal experts said that despite the governor’s assertion that the decision was limited to parishes and other houses of worship in Brooklyn, the court’s ruling could be used to challenge and overturn other restrictions elsewhere. “The decision is applicable to people in similar situations,” said Norman Siegel, a constitutional lawyer and former leader of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It’s applicable to any synagogue, any church, to any mosque, to any religious setting.”
As Americans celebrated Thanksgiving against a backdrop of record-breaking coronavirus numbers, many political leaders took the opportunity to focus attention on essential workers while others found themselves under scrutiny for their own actions.
Mayor Michael B. Hancock of Denver, a Democrat, publicly apologized after telling residents to stay home and celebrate with family virtually and then ignoring his own advice by flying to be with his family in Mississippi.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday evening, Mr. Hancock said that he and his family had canceled their usual celebration with multiple households, but that he had traveled to be with his wife and daughter for Thanksgiving.
“As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver,” he wrote.
Mr. Hancock added, “I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.”
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming tested positive for the coronavirus. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported that Mr. Gordon, a Republican, was experiencing minor symptoms and planned to quarantine and work remotely. And Gov. Jared Polis, the Democratic leader of Colorado, announced on Wednesday night that he was quarantining after being exposed to the virus.
Many other governors gave thanks to essential workers during a holiday season that is being subsumed by the pandemic.
In a video message, Gov. Lary Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, said he was thankful for the sacrifices that Maryland residents had made and for the health care workers and scientists working to keep the virus at bay.
“While the way we celebrate Thanksgiving this year may be different, we still have so much to be thankful for,” he said.
In his Thanksgiving message, Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut, a Democrat, said that he was grateful for essential workers, public health employees, medical professionals, volunteers and teachers, despite the aching loss of those who have died from the coronavirus.
“There’s no way to put on a cheerful face and pretend that everything is whole when we’ve lost so much,” he wrote.
“And yet there’s hope and plenty to be grateful for,” he added.
It’s a yearly Thanksgiving Day tradition: Millions of spectators crammed onto long city blocks, hanging over barricades and balconies or pressed against the windows of towering office buildings to watch giant balloons, depicting cartoon characters like Pikachu, hovering just a few feet above the street.
But this year, as with everything in 2020, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a ritual marker of the holiday, was drastically different.
Because of the threat of the coronavirus, much of the parade in Manhattan was scaled down and pretaped for the television airing. The route was reduced from two miles to a single block down 34th Street, near the flagship department store.
There were no high school bands. Instead of the usual 2,000 balloon handlers there were only about 130.
Warnings from officials to stay home because of the pandemic kept millions indoors this year, and police barricades were put in place to ensure nobody got too close.
Still, some spectators were curious and showed up anyway.
On 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, Karin Schlosser, 52, stood behind one of the barricades taking photos of the floats and balloons.
“I think people still really need some sense of normalcy,” said Ms. Schlosser, who is from California but is living in New York City for a month while working from home.
Dozens gathered at the same corner shortly after 9 a.m. taking photos with their cellphones. A man with a woman snapped a selfie with Christmas floats in the background. Absent in the photograph was the usual crowd of thousands.
Kaitlin Lawrence, 31, and Zeev Kirsh, 40, tried to inject the event with a little levity when they decided to attend the parade in turkey costumes. Ms. Lawrence, merged her two favorite holidays: Thanksgiving and Christmas. She dressed as a turkey-Santa.
“We are die-hard New Yorkers and we want to keep the magic alive,” Ms. Lawrence said.
The announcement this week that a cheap, easy-to-make coronavirus vaccine appeared to be up to 90 percent effective was greeted with jubilation. “Get yourself a vaccaccino,” a British tabloid celebrated, noting that a shot of the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, costs less than a cup of coffee.
But since unveiling the preliminary results, AstraZeneca has acknowledged a key mistake in the vaccine dosage received by some study participants, adding to questions about whether the vaccine’s apparently spectacular efficacy will hold up under additional testing.
Scientists and industry experts said the error and a series of other irregularities and omissions in the way AstraZeneca initially disclosed the data have eroded their confidence in the reliability of the results.
Officials in the United States have also said that the results were not clear. It was the head of the U.S. federal vaccine initiative — not the company — who first disclosed that the vaccine’s most promising results did not reflect data from older people.
The upshot, the experts said, is that the odds of regulators in the United States and elsewhere quickly authorizing the emergency use of the AstraZeneca vaccine are declining, a setback in the global campaign to corral the devastating pandemic.
Michele Meixell, a spokeswoman for AstraZeneca, said the trials “were conducted to the highest standards.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Menelas Pangalos, the AstraZeneca executive in charge of much of the company’s research and development, defended the company’s handling of the testing and its public disclosures. He said the error in the dosage was made by a contractor, and that, once it was discovered, regulators were immediately notified and signed off on the plan to continue testing the vaccine in different doses.
Asked why AstraZeneca shared some information with Wall Street analysts and some other officials and experts but not with the public, he responded, “I think the best way of reflecting the results is in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, not in a newspaper.”
Almost all of England must adhere to the two most severe sets of coronavirus restrictions when a national lockdown ends next week, the government said on Thursday, in an announcement likely to stoke tensions with lawmakers.
London and Liverpool have escaped the most stringent curbs and have been put into the second of three tiers, each based on an assessment of the threat from the virus.
Restaurants and pubs will reopen for indoor dining, but they will only be allowed to serve alcohol indoors to those eating a substantial meal.
In Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester, Newcastle and Hull, cities that must follow the toughest restrictions, pubs and restaurants will stay closed except for takeout service.
Just a handful of areas in the south of England will be in the tier with the lightest rules.
The fact that much of Northern England faces the tightest curbs is likely to revive claims that the region is not being treated the same way as London and the southern parts of the country.
Across the country, some normality will return when the lockdown lifts on Wednesday in England, and stores, gyms and hairdressers can reopen. Religious services, weddings and outdoor sporting events can also take place.
But in dividing the country into three tiers of restrictions, based on regional data, the government is hoping that the system works better than it did earlier this year, when it failed to stem a surge in cases.
This time the rules have been tightened and Thursday’s announcement, made by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, underscores the government’s desire to keep controls on the hospitality trade in the run up to Christmas.
“It is vital that we safeguard the gains we have made,” he told lawmakers on Thursday.
Some critics, however, want regions split into smaller units to reflect local circumstances, and 70 lawmakers from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party have expressed concerns about the economic damage of restrictions designed to prevent the spread of the virus.
In other developments around the world:
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and state governors agreed to tighten virus restrictions and extend the country’s lockdown through December. “Without a doubt we have difficult months ahead of us,” Ms. Merkel told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Amid a growing caseload, Greece is also extending a lockdown that had been set to end on Monday, until Dec. 7.
Prince Carl Philip and his wife, Princess Sofia, of Sweden tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a statement from the Royal Court of Sweden. Carl Philip is fourth in the line of succession to the Swedish throne.
South Korea reported 583 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, the biggest daily caseload since early March, as health officials struggled to contain a third wave that began earlier this month. In the past week, officials have banned gatherings of more than 100 people, shuttered nightclubs and allowed only takeout services in coffee shop chains.
It was 10 months ago that officials identified the first U.S. coronavirus case, in Snohomish County, Wash. That area north of Seattle is now reporting its highest coronavirus case numbers of the pandemic.
Snohomish County has recorded an average of about 230 cases per day over the past week, about three times higher than a month ago. Dr. Chris Spitters, the Snohomish County health officer, said hospitalizations in the region have risen about 400 percent in just six weeks.
“Hospitals are rapidly approaching where we were back in March,” Dr. Spitters said this week.
On Jan. 21, federal and local officials announced that a person who had recently traveled from Wuhan, China, had tested positive in Snohomish County, setting off an extensive effort to isolate and treat the patient. Weeks later, the Seattle region emerged as an early epicenter of the virus, although it remains uncertain whether the outbreak was linked to that first person.
Washington State recorded many of the first coronavirus deaths in the nation in March but managed to contain its outbreak in the spring and has kept its numbers low when compared to other states around the country. But in recent days, case numbers have been jumping and setting records. Gov. Jay Inslee has restored coronavirus restrictions, closing fitness facilities and prohibiting indoor dining at bars and restaurants.
Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer, said Wednesday the situation was “extraordinarily urgent” and urged all residents to take action to stop the spread of the virus before hospitals become overwhelmed.
“We must all recommit to flatten the curve now,” Dr. Lofy said.
When President Trump talks about efforts to deliver the coronavirus vaccine to millions of Americans eager to return to their normal lives, he often says he is “counting on the military” to get it done.
Mr. Trump has given the impression that troops would be packing up vials, transporting them from factories to pharmacies and perhaps even administering shots. And, at times, military officers working on the sprawling interagency program to move those vaccine doses from drug companies into doctors’ offices have indicated the same thing.
In reality, the role of the military has been less public and more pervasive than this characterization suggests.
When companies have lacked the physical spaces needed to conduct their drug trials, the Defense Department has acquired trailers and permits to create pop-up medical sites in parking lots. When a required piece of plastic or glass was in short supply, the military leveraged a law passed during the Korean War to force manufacturers to move them to the front of the line. Should a hurricane hit somewhere, blocking trucks, the military has transportation ready.
But the distribution of vaccines will be left largely to their producers and commercial transportation companies. Black Hawk helicopters will not be landing next to neighborhood drugstore to drop off doses.
Scores of Defense Department employees are laced through the government offices involved in the effort, making up a large portion of the federal personnel devoted to the effort. Those numbers have led some current and former officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to privately grumble that the military’s role in Operation Warp Speed was too large for a task that is, at its core, a public health campaign.
“Frankly, it has been breathtaking to watch,” said Paul Ostrowski, a retired Army lieutenant general and the director of supply, production and distribution for Operation Warp Speed.
The Thanksgiving menu behind bars in the United States this year featured extra helpings of loneliness and tension along with the processed turkey.
Most American prisons suspended in-person visits months ago — some as early as March — to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus, leaving many inmates able to communicate with loved ones only through mail that can take several weeks to arrive or costly phone and video calls.
This year, the threat of the virus and the long separations from families have added an extra layer of anxiety to one of the most anticipated days of the year, inmates and their relatives say.
Kelly Connolly, whose brother Rory Connolly is serving time in a federal prison in Ohio, said her family felt helpless to relieve her brother’s isolation and fear of getting sick.
The ban on visits “does seem extra punitive, on top of the sentence — the daily tension and terror, in addition to all the other aspects of prison,” she said. “This is by far the longest stretch my brother has gone without seeing family members or friends.”
Prisons, jails and detention facilities have often become coronavirus hot spots. More than 327,000 inmates and guards in have been infected by the virus, and more than 1,650 have died, according to a New York Times database.
The steep recent rise in infections around the nation has meant that a number of prisons and jails that were planning to allow family visits for Thanksgiving have canceled those plans.
Measures put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19 in maternity labor and delivery units may sometimes interfere with efforts to support breastfeeding, according to a study released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is little evidence so far to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through breast milk to infants, according to several studies.
Th agency’s biannual survey of 1,344 hospitals on the types of breastfeeding support offered was conducted from July 15 to Aug. 20. It found that 18 percent of hospitals had reported reduced in-person lactation support, and nearly three-quarters reported discharging mothers and their newborns less than 48 hours after birth, which is not typically recommended.
Dr. Cria Perrine, the study’s lead author, said in-person lactation services, when mothers receive hands-on support to make sure their infant is feeding properly, is likely being reduced as hospitals try to minimize staff movement in and out of patient rooms during the pandemic.
She said hospitals have shown marked improvement in support for breastfeeding since the C.D.C. first started surveying them in 2007. “We have to make sure we haven’t started to backslide because of the pandemic,” she said.
The C.D.C. study found that among mothers with suspected or confirmed coronavirus, 14 percent of hospitals discouraged and 6.5 percent prohibited skin-to-skin contact, and 20 percent discouraged direct breastfeeding. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said it was not known whether the coronavirus could be transmitted through breastfeeding, but the majority of studies have not detected the virus in breast milk.
Some experts say that breastfeeding is still appropriate for mothers with suspected or confirmed cases, given the health benefits and the low likelihood of transmission through breast milk. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness in infants, and skin-to-skin contact has been shown to decrease the likelihood of postpartum depression for mothers.
For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic swept across Europe and the United States, a pilot program will allow a limited number of passengers to travel across the Atlantic from Atlanta to Italy without having to quarantine upon arrival, according to a Delta Air Lines news release on Thursday.
The airline said it had worked with officials in both Georgia and Italy and that the program would rely on a strict testing protocol to ensure the flights could be conducted safely and “coronavirus free.”
Starting Dec. 19, all U.S. citizens permitted to travel to Italy for “essential reasons, such as for work, health and education,” as well as all European Union and Italian citizens, would have to test negative for Covid-19 three times:
Once with a polymerase chain reaction (P.C.R.) test taken up to 72 hours before departure.
Once with a rapid test at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
And once again with a rapid test upon arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
Passengers departing Rome would again have to pass a rapid test at the airport.
Travelers will also be asked to provide information upon entry into the United States to support contact-tracing protocols set up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Airlines, battered by the pandemic, have been working to establish travel corridors that are both safe and reliable.
The International Air Transport Association forecast this week that the sector will lose $157 billion by the end of next year.
“This crisis is devastating and unrelenting,” the organization’s director, Alexandre de Juniac, said in a statement.
Delta, in partnership with Alitalia, said the airlines worked with the Mayo Clinic to devise the protocols and hoped they could serve as a model going forward.
After more than two months of unrelenting growth, the United States is poised to see a steep drop-off in new cases on Thursday.
It will be a mirage, not progress.
At least 14 states have said they do not plan to update their data on Thursday as Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Other states will likely do the same. And many county and regional health departments will also take the day off.
“Out of respect for our O.S.D.H. personnel who have worked tirelessly since March in response to the Covid pandemic, we will not be reporting data on Thanksgiving,” the Oklahoma State Department of Health said in a statement on Wednesday.
The New York Times reports new cases and deaths on the date they are announced by officials in hundreds of state and local health departments. In a typical week, daily fluctuations are smoothed out by using a rolling average that accounts for spikes on Fridays, when many states report their highest numbers of the week, and drops on the weekends, when some places don’t report any data.
That analysis will become harder after Thanksgiving, which is almost assured to have far fewer cases than the 187,000 announced last Thursday, when 49 states reported fresh data. The country’s seven-day case average, now above 175,000, could fall sharply, at least for a day.
Harder still is knowing what to expect in the days after Thanksgiving. Some states are likely to report artificial spikes when they resume reporting on Friday, which could push the country past 200,000 cases in a single day for the first time.
But the blurry data could persist longer. Health officials in Vermont have said they will forego reporting both Thursday and Friday. And access to testing is likely to decrease for a few days, meaning more infections could go uncounted. In Louisiana, testing sites run by the National Guard will be closed both Thursday and Friday. In Wisconsin, some National Guard testing sites are closed all week.
Numbers aside, public health officials are worried about what the holiday may bring. For weeks, governors and hospital executives have been begging people to skip turkey dinners with people not in their households. The country’s case average is as high as it’s ever been, cases are rising in 40 states and deaths are reaching levels unseen since May, with more than 2,200 announced nationwide both Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Unless we unite behind the belief that each of us has a responsibility to protect others, we will face a devastating holiday season,” said Barbara Ferrer, the public health director in Los Angeles County, Calif., where cases have soared to record levels this week.
Does Canada’s Thanksgiving, which passed well over a month ago, offer a preview of what the United States now faces in terms of the pandemic?
The differences between public health systems in Canada’s provinces and their pandemic rules make it difficult to generalize about the entire country’s holiday aftereffects.
Daniel Coombs, a professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia and an infectious disease modeling expert, said that several “provinces have seen rises that are hard to directly link to Thanksgiving purely from case counts.”
But Professor Coombs said many provinces did find through contact tracing that some new cases were linked to Thanksgiving events.
Over the past six weeks, he said, outbreaks that started at Thanksgiving have continued to grow. “It is not really possible to say what fraction of current cases were specifically seeded by Thanksgiving gatherings but I think it is indisputable that the effect is there,” Professor Coombs said.
Since Thanksgiving, new restrictions have been imposed in many parts of Canada. This week an agreement between the four provinces along the Atlantic coast that allowed quarantine-free travel between them was suspended after a growth of cases in two of them. Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario all imposed new measures in all or some areas this month.
But Colin D. Furness, an assistant professor at Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation of the University of Toronto, cautioned that Canada’s version of Thanksgiving is not an ideal proxy for the American version. It is not even a statutory holiday in some provinces, and Canadians generally wait until Christmas to travel for family get-togethers.
“So for the U.S., where Thanksgiving is the biggest travel weekend of the year, and where Covid is currently raging in many places, the threat posed by this holiday is enormous,” he said. “If we looked at the Canadian experience, we might underestimate the U.S. risk.”
Pope Francis, writing for the New York Times Opinion section, says that to come out of this pandemic better than we went in, “we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.”
In this past year of change, my mind and heart have overflowed with people. People I think of and pray for, and sometimes cry with, people with names and faces, people who died without saying goodbye to those they loved, families in difficulty, even going hungry, because there’s no work.
Sometimes, when you think globally, you can be paralyzed: There are so many places of apparently ceaseless conflict; there’s so much suffering and need. I find it helps to focus on concrete situations: You see faces looking for life and love in the reality of each person, of each people. You see hope written in the story of every nation, glorious because it’s a story of daily struggle, of lives broken in self-sacrifice. So rather than overwhelm you, it invites you to ponder and to respond with hope.
To come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination. The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone. What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation we can build a better, different, human future.
HENNING, Tennessee — Like his Choctaw ancestors before him, Cubert Bell couldn’t be convinced to cut ties with his ancestral home.
The year was 1994. The house where Bell lives with his wife, children and grandchildren didn’t yet exist. Neither did his street, filled with multigenerational Choctaw families, nor the community center around the bend.
It all sits now on 88 acres of the only autonomous land in Tennessee, where Bell’s family and other Choctaw sharecroppers formed a community that’s since become sovereign, operating their own public safety, health and other services while keeping their cultural traditions alive.
“For those long years of struggle that we had here, we were all able to work together for one goal and purpose… to see the accomplishment of this,” Bell said.
But back when he and others from Henning first put pressure on then-Chief Philip Martin to “do something” for the community 50 miles northeast of Memphis, the creation of a reservation in Tennessee was only a dream.
It was a dream already 230 years deferred.
In one of the earliest of treaties broken with Native tribes, the land that would become Tennessee, in its entirety, was designated part of a mass “Indian preserve,” in a 1763 proclamation forbidding white settlements west of the American colonies.
In subsequent years, the majority of Choctaw people were coerced into leaving their Mississippi homelands, by the administration of President Andrew Jackson.
A minority of the Choctaw people exercised their right to refuse removal. They were meant to receive allotments of land. Those families were instead subject to what historian Ronald N. Satz calls “one of the most flagrant cases of fraud, intimidation and speculation in American history.”
Dispossessed, the Mississippi Choctaw people were further devastated by the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 25% of the tribe’s population in the state, according to Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Kenneth Carleton. And, though the federal government began granting the Mississippi Choctaw people some resources, poverty persisted for decades.
When a sharecropper in Golddust, Tenn., started searching for tenants to chop cotton near the banks of the Mississippi River, Bell’s family was ready to heed the call.
He was among the first to come, as a boy in the 1950s. Bell grew up helping his Grandma in the fields — work he calls “the most horrible thing.”
When he entered school, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes were decades from existence. Aside from a few English words, Bell spoke only Choctaw and had to repeat first grade three times.
Understanding English came with comprehending racist slurs. That translated to long walks, rather than a 5-mile school bus ride, home. Not because Bell avoided the antagonism. He took it head on.
“I started early as far as my intention of not having to put up with that junk,” he said. “Because enough is enough. I just tell the young man, ‘If you say any more, a fight is on, if that’s what you want.’ I’d wind up getting kicked off the bus and walk the rest of the way home. So be it,” he said.
The explicit racism eventually subsided in Henning, Tenn. Bell said. And he began to realize the gravity of what his elders had gone through in Mississippi — from police brutality to the trauma of removal that haunted his grandma.
After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Bell’s involvement in community organizing began. A GED program was launched that ushered Choctaw women into factory jobs, making Tupperware and pants. And the pitch to the Mississippi tribe, to build a reservation in Henning, began to unfold.
Chief Martin’s first offer was a bus, providing the Choctaw people of Henning a means to move back to Mississippi. “Nobody took him up on it,” Bell said.
Instead, Henning became the first, and thus far the only, federally recognized tribal land in Tennessee. Today, it is home to around 200 of Tennessee’s total Choctaw population of approximately 2,000, according to 2018 U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
After the tribe bought the land and the Bureau of Indian Affairs built the houses, Bell arranged for each of them to be stocked with three books: A Choctaw bible, a Choctaw hymn book and a Choctaw dictionary.
Since then, Choctaw language and culture; food and fellowship has not only survived colonization. In Henning, it thrives.
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‘We have to be true to the people around us’
Dorian Thompson, 36, works as a behavioral health specialist in Henning. She and her sister Andrea Thompson, 33, “team up” to pass on the dancing and beadwork traditions taught to them.
At a time when many communities are in search of hope, training “the little ones” is about much more than in technique, Dorian Thompson said.
“We don’t know what the future holds for each of us. But we have to be true to the people that around us. That’s why it’s important for us to continue to strive with our culture. It helps our younger generation understand: Who their identity is, where did they come from,” she said.
“We have to remember: We all come from different walks of life. Some may have it easier, some don’t. But we always have to remain positive. And to keep pushing forward. No matter what comes at stake,” Dorian Thompson said.
Embracing Choctaw culture brings a sense of belonging that is inclusive, she said. The tribe includes members who are of mixed-race Choctaw descent and spouses from other cultures.
The mixed kids sometimes struggle with their identity, Thompson said. But the tribe doesn’t struggle with who the children are to them.
“They’re always welcome. They’re always family. That’s why we do want to make sure they do have hope. To know they are loved for who they are. To know that they do have a place here. If they’re lost or they need someone to talk to.”
Patsy Roach, 63, is the public health coordinator for the tribe in Henning, where she was raised by her grandmother. Roach’s smile sparkles remembering the time that the floor of her grandmother’s house fell out during a spirited session of Choctaw social dances.
When she remembered the death of her husband, who was white, Roach’s smile grew softer, but remained.
“What really really touched me is that we did it the Choctaw way… I didn’t expect that. They came to me and asked me if they could build a traditional fire for him,” Roach said. “Boy, that just really touched me a lot.”
The notion of living on after death is part of Andrea Thompson’s motivation.
Transfixed with beadwork as a girl, she desperately wanted a full set of Choctaw jewelry. Her grandmother’s response: If you want it, you’re gonna make it, so that you can learn.
She can now transform an hour’s time into a pair of earrings in the shape of a Choctaw basket. And the sunburst medallions she designs, made of seed beads and subtle rhinestones for extra sparkle, are worn in pow wows, pageants and fairs, as necklaces and belts.
“If it stops with you, the tradition dies,” said Andrea Thompson, who’s taught her sister, fiancé and 11-year-old daughter the ropes. “We want it to continue on with the grandkids. Even non-Natives. I don’t want to see beadwork die and all our other traditions die. I feel like it’s important to go out and teach everyone who’s willing to learn.”
Lacie Bell, Cubert’s wife, helped her son with his regalia when he began dancing in high school. He now makes his own and organizes pow wows around the south.
The Bell’s 4-year-old grand-daughter, Imani, is already a big fan. Her favorite part about pow wows: “Choctaw! Dancing. My brother always dances. He be showing out in school.”
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Beadwork and dance classes have been paused by the pandemic — along with another foundation of Choctaw culture, said Misty Brescia, a spokesperson for The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, based in Bogue Chitto, Miss.
Given the historic lack of recognition by U.S. government, the community is particularly attuned to everyday togetherness.
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“You’re talking about a group of people who are used to having to take care of each other and that continues on to today. We see our grandparents do it and parents do it and so then we do it,” she said of checking in on family, elders and one another in an ongoing way.
“All of a sudden we had to say: ‘You can’t do that. You could unknowingly be bringing the virus to somebody,'” Brescia said.
In Mississippi, more than 10% of the Choctaw population of approximately 12,000 have contracted COVID-19. As of Nov. 17 data posted by the Choctaw Health Center, there have been more than 1,300 Mississippi cases in the tribe, including 85 members who did not survive.
Henning is located in Lauderdale, Co., Tenn., where the running average of cases over 14 days is on a steep rise.
Since the State of Tennessee began providing COVID-19 figures by race on April 4, there have been 393 cases and 4 deaths as Nov. 17 among the Native American population, which numbers around 65,000 statewide, according to U.S. Census data.
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But some aspects of Choctaw culture persist, even in COVID times.
Misty Frazier’s family is known for their open-air cooking, a long-running method for preparing special Choctaw meals. Her husband Tim serves as firekeeper as Frazier cooks shukha nipi, a dish of boiled hog meat, along with hominy, fry bread and banaha, a corn husk filled with corn meal and beans that dates back to ancient times.
Nearby, their daughter Maranda Frazier, a 20-year-old nursing student and Choctaw ambassador with the Native American Indian Association, said she’s never known what it’s like to not be enveloped by her own culture, recalling sunrise Easter meals cooked open air and her Grandma’s favorite hymn, “I’m pressing on.”
Frazier still sings it, she said, pulling out her phone to scroll through an app of Choctaw language hymns.
Sovereignty as safe space
It doesn’t get much better than speaking with a grandchild in Choctaw, said Cubert Bell, noting that tribes in the northeastern part of the country have no language left.
“They may not be as fluent as us or as understanding of how we use our language. But if you can converse to your grandchildren in Choctaw, it’s one of the most blessing things that you can ever hear. You know that the Choctaw language is never going to die,” he said.
The reservation has allowed for formalized Choctaw language schooling. And beyond that, a respite from the outside world, said Brescia.
Sovereignty means the power to self-govern. But it shouldn’t be translated as an escape, she said.
“It’s definitely a safe place. But that’s not to say that there’s not racism,” Brescia said.
“There’s police brutality — we’re not being killed at that rate,” she said of police violence towards Black people. “But we do have an epidemic going on within our culture. In that we have Native women being stolen and murdered and raped — unsolved murders.”
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“You still have racism. You still have to face it,” she said. “But at the end of the day, you still come home, you still have those values, those traditions, you have Grandma,” Brescia said of the refuge a reservation provides.
The creation of one in Henning also seems to have catalyzed generational healing. “A lot of us survived long enough to see the fruition of all the work we had done in the past,” Bell said.
He considers it one of the “biggest gratitude” of his lifetime — and recalls the degree to which his Grandma’s lifetime was stamped by the horrors of removal.
Her experiences informed the key piece of advice she gave him, Bell said: “Whatever the white man says is correct.”
He doesn’t have to think long on what his grandkids might recall that he taught them. “Racism is real. It’s never going away,” he said.
That sentiment has less to do with cynicism and more to do with owning one’s blind spots, said Bell, who remembers hearing jokes about certain immigrant groups growing up.
“Understand the sensitivity of any conversation you have when you talk about folks,” he said, he hopes his grandchildren recall.