A firefighter extinguishes flames to protect grassland.
Gering firefighter Dick Cochrane creating a fire line along the edge of the Hay Creek Fire in Montana in July 2021 to help contain a grassland fire. Photo Courtesy of Nathan Flowers.

10/15: Indigenous Peoples’ Day, panhandle wildfires and Fiji update

Nebraskans celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the first time

Members of Nebraska’s federally recognized tribes – the Omaha, Santee, Winnebago and Ponca – celebrated Nebraska’s first Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 12 with cultural dances and songs. All four of the tribes’ flags will be permanently displayed in the Nebraska Capitol, following an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, the first Native state senator in Nebraska. A new sculpture of America’s first indigenous doctor, Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, was unveiled at Centennial Mall as well. She was born on the Omaha Reservation and earned a medical degree in 1889 at age 26.

Fiji suspended through 2026

A statement from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln announced Oct. 12 that the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity will be suspended until 2026. This comes after a temporary suspension while an investigation into violations of a previous probation was underway. The extension was determined by the University Conduct Board, which determined that there were violations of the Student Code of Conduct. The fraternity is not recognized by the university at this time. The University Police Department is investigating a reported sexual assault. 

Marches in downtown Lincoln protest mask mandate

The Nebraska Freedom Rally returned to downtown Lincoln last Saturday, Oct. 8. The event was organized by Nebraskans Against Government Overreach, and protesters focused on ending the Lancaster County mask mandate but also covered topics such as critical race theory and sex education in schools. They marched outside the State Capitol, Memorial Stadium and the Governor’s Mansion.

Critics of UNL mask policy gather on East Campus

Approximately 200 people attended an event held by UNL’s chapter of Turning Point USA on Oct. 13. Attendees protested Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and UNL directives while calling for broader exemptions to vaccine rules. Read more coverage of the event from the Lincoln Journal Star here

Panhandle wildfires result in damage

More than 8,200 acres of land in Scottsbluff and Gering were burned by two wildfires. The fires damaged crops and infrastructure while resulting in financial loss for ranchers and landowners. Read our coverage here

COVID cases in Nebraska lower than neighboring states

Nebraska recorded 4,534 COVID-19 cases last week, as reported by Omaha World-Herald. The total cases are down 5% from the previous week, which was 4,775 cases. Although the state’s case rate hasn’t changed much since late August, it remains below those of neighboring states, including Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Fights at Fiji lead to multiple arrests

More than ten police cars were dispatched to the Fiji fraternity house at around 10.30 p.m. on Oct. 14 following a report of an altercation. Ahmad Rana and Muhammad Ahmad, both witnesses of the altercation, said they saw “drunk kids” approaching the fraternity house and banging on the door before breaking multiple car windows and one of Fiji’s windows. Individuals then came out of the fraternity house and fought the drunk people who were causing a scene. The Daily Nebraskan reported that at least three individuals were arrested, but many others fled the scene. 

LPS hosts groundbreaking ceremony for new high school

Lincoln Public Schools held a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 6 for Standing Bear High School. The school is named after Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe. He was born in what is now Nebraska and played a major role in Native American civil rights. According to the LPS website, the school will open in the Fall of 2023 and near 70th and Saltillo Road.

 Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Spiller resigns

Elizabeth Spiller, who has been the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s executive vice chancellor since March 2020, announced her resignation Oct. 11. She is leaving due to family matters back home in Boston. 

NSAA Tournaments commence

Softball, girls golf and boys tennis championships are taking place across the state this week. 

Animals at Lincoln Children’s Zoo tested positive for COVID-19

After collecting fecal samples and nasal swabs, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo announced Oct. 13 that its snow leopards and Sumatran tigers have tested positive for COVID-19. The zoo has not found the cause of infection, but the spokesperson for the zoo said the animals are expected to recover. They are currently being treated with steroids and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection.

William Shatner goes to space

Star Trek star William Shatner launched off into space on Oct. 13 in the New Shepard spacecraft created by Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin. According to a tweet from Blue Origin’s official Twitter account, the craft reached 347,539 feet above ground level, with the trip lasting 11 minutes. At age 90, Shatner is now the oldest person to travel to space.

Contributors: Jonathan Grant, Chin Tung Tan, Hanna Christensen, Ramey Vachal, Jasmine Hermosillo-Padilla

Senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying Journalism and Political Science