Important News and Updates for March 3

NCAI Events and Resources in Preparation for Upcoming Federal-Tribal Consultations on Consultation Policy
In response to President Biden’s “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships,” the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is announcing several events and resources to support Tribal Nations in their efforts to shape federal tribal consultation policies to reflect a true government-to-government relationship. Events and resources include (scroll down for details):
Webinar: “Federal Consultation Policies: Working towards Consent,” Wednesday, March 3, 2021 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST. Register here>
Tribal Leader Caucus hosted by NCAI in preparation for the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) upcoming tribal consultation sessions. Thursday, March 4, 2021 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST. Register here>
Tribal Leader Caucuses hosted by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC), the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI), and NCAI in preparation for the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) tribal consultation sessions. Tuesday, March 9, 2021 and Thursday, March 11, 2021 from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST.
Listing of Upcoming Federal Consultations.   Please continue reading to learn more about each of these events and resources.
WEBINAR ANNOUNCEMENT Federal Consultation Policies: Working towards Consent March 3, 2021, 12-1:30 p.m. EST NCAI will hold a webinar on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 from 12-1:30 p.m. EST to discuss President Biden’s recent “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships” and its implications for federal consultation policy with Tribal Nations. Register here >   Panelists will include: Michael Connor, Partner, WilmerHale, and previously served as Deputy Secretary of the Interior under President Barack Obama from 2014-2017 Colette Routel, Professor of Law, Co-Director, Native American Law & Sovereignty Institute, Mitchell Hamline School of Law Fawn Sharp, President, National Congress of American Indians, and President, Quinault Indian Nation Kim Teehee, Director of Government Relations, Cherokee Nation, and previously served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs for President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2012   This webinar will provide an overview of federal consultation policies for tribal consultation, explore ideas regarding the future of the government-to-government relationship between the U.S. and Tribal Nations, and share resources for how Tribal Nations can prepare for the upcoming series of consultations being convened by federal agencies that will focus on how to improve current consultation practices.   NCAI Contact: Ryan Seelau, Senior Researcher, Partnership for Tribal Governance, rseelau@ncai.org
REGISTER
Tribal Leader Caucus to prepare for DOI Consultation March 4, 2021, 12-1:30 p.m. EST
NCAI will host a tribal leader caucus on Thursday, March 4, 2021 from 12-1:30 p.m. EST to give tribal leaders an opportunity to talk with one another and prepare for a series of Department of the Interior (DOI) consultations that will be taking place March 8-12.   Information about the DOI consultations is available here. Registration for NCAI’s Tribal Leader Caucus is available here.   The majority of the time during this event is designed to give tribal leaders and others space to discuss the issues they see concerning tribal consultation, and to discuss strategies on how to improve government-to-government consultations moving forward.   NCAI Contact: Ryan Seelau, Senior Researcher, Partnership for Tribal Governance, rseelau@ncai.org
REGISTER
Federal Government Dates and Deadlines for Upcoming Consultations
On January 26, 2021 President Biden signed a memorandum titled “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships” declaring, “It is a priority of my Administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, commitment to fulfilling Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations cornerstones of Federal Indian policy.” The Presidential Memorandum goes on to convey its commitment to fulfilling the consultation requirements of Executive Order 13175, a directive originally issued by President Clinton on November 6, 2000.   President Biden’s Memorandum also directs “each agency” to submit “a detailed plan of actions the agency will take to implement the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175.” These plans “shall be developed after consultation by the agency with Tribal Nations and Tribal officials”. All plans are to be submitted to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by April 26, 2021.   In March, several federal agencies are holding tribal consultation sessions and/or have deadlines related to their tribal consultation plans, including: March 8, 2021: DOI consultation focusing on Great Plains, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain Regions. March 8: 2021: Department of Defense (DOD) deadline for all written comments regarding tribal consultation. March 9, 2021: USDA consultation on their tribal consultation plan. March 10, 2021: DOI consultation focusing on Eastern, Eastern Oklahoma, and Southern Plains Regions. March 10, 2021: DOI Consultation focusing on Navajo, Southwest, and Western Regions. March 11, 2021: USDA consultation on their tribal consultation plan. March 12, 2021: DOI consultation focusing on Alaska, Northwest, and Pacific Regions. March 19, 2021: DOI deadline for all written comments regarding tribal consultation. March 24, 2021: Department of Transportation (DOT) consultation on their tribal consultation plan. March 26, 2021: DOT deadline for all written comments regarding tribal consultation.   For more detailed information about these dates and deadlines, visit NCAI’s Consultation Support Center.   NCAI Contact: Ryan Seelau, Senior Researcher, Partnership for Tribal Governance, rseelau@ncai.org

A Beautiful Book Project: 50 Year Vision Quest

I was very excited about ordering this book because of John Chao´s section about Standing Rock. Everyone who went to Standing Rock was encouraged to have their names listed in the book. After the many years of struggle, we see there is progress being made in ending the oil pipelines and the stealing of indigenous lands. This book is just a small testament that there are people in the world who care about our collective environment and the indigenous who have never lost their connection to the land, a connection all of us must re-establish.

Please go online and order this beautiful book and never forget that anything worthwhile always requires a great deal of love, struggle, sweat and tears.

We will persevere, we will continue to work to make the world a better place than when we arrived. Peace.

National Congress of American Indians Kicks Off 2021 Executive Council Winter Session

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 22, 2021   CONTACT ncaipress@ncai.org
National Congress of American Indians Kicks Off 2021 Executive Council Winter Session
WASHINGTON, DC, February 22, 2021 | Today, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) begins its 2021 Executive Council Winter Session (ECWS) and delivers its 19th State of Indian Nations (SOIN) address to kick off the week.
NCAI President Fawn Sharp will deliver the SOIN address followed by a Congressional Response from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. A separate briefing event for press will occur directly following the address. The SOIN address will outline the goals of Indian Country, opportunities for success and advancement of Native peoples, and priorities for our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States.
The five-day event features tribal leaders and more than 20 speakers from the White House, government agencies, and Congress including: Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (NY) Senator Brian Schatz (HI), Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK), Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Chairman, House Committee on Natural Resources Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Ranking Member, House Committee on Natural Resources Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Chairman, House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Senator Mark Kelly (AZ) Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-06) Congressman Raul Ruiz (CA-36) Secretary Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden Libby Washburn, Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council PaaWee Rivera, Senior Advisor for Intergovernmental Affairs and Director of Tribal Affairs, White House Heather Dawn Thompson, Director, Office of Tribal Relations, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wahleah Johns, Senior Advisor, Office of Indian Energy, U.S. Department of Energy  ECWS sessions will begin Monday afternoon and will be held in a virtual setting. The 2021 ECWS will highlight key issues facing American Indian and Alaska Native communities and provide an opportunity to develop solutions through legislative and policy planning for the new Administration and 117th Congress. Please click here to review the full agenda and click here to register for Executive Council Winter Session.
Please also click here to register to view the State of Indian Nations Address, which is free to the public.
Contact the NCAI Press Office with any questions at ncaipress@ncai.org.
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About the State of Indian Nations: Each year, the President of the National Congress of American Indians presents the State of Indian Nations address to members of Congress, government officials, tribal leaders and citizens, and the American public. The speech outlines the goals of tribal leaders, opportunities for success and advancement of Native peoples, and priorities to advance our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States. For more information, visit http://www.ncai.org/about-ncai/state-of-indian-nations
About the National Congress of American Indians: Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.

Deb Haaland

Deb Haaland’s Senate hearing set

The Biden administration’s nominee for Secretary of Interior, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington Del. (File photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Joe Biden nominated Haaland for the Interior’s top post in December

Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will consider the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland as U.S. Department of the Interior secretary during a hearing scheduled for Feb. 23.

The news came Tuesday, nearly a month after President Joe Biden was sworn in — and nearly two months since her selection. 

If confirmed by the Senate, the New Mexico Democrat would be the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary.

(Related: ‘I’ll be fierce for all of us’)

The hearing will be live-streamed on the committee’s website beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Rep. Deb Haaland’s Confirmation Hearing: 
Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Time: 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time
Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland said after being nominated by President Joe Biden in December.

If confirmed, Haaland will be sixth in line to the presidency as Interior secretary, according to the White House.

(Related: Deb Haaland: ‘Honored and Ready to Serve’)

Members of the Energy and Natural Resources committee will participate online or in person.

The hearing will happen in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington. According to Senate guidelines for health and safety, the office building will allow only official business visitors and credential press. No in-person visitors can attend the hearing.

This is a developing story.

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. We have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Texas Storms

Tribes survive Texas storms

Snow covered road near Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas (photo courtesy of Herbert Johnson Jr.)

Mary Annette Pember

Polar vortex hits areas unaccustomed to cold weather

Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

Many across the country are battling the aftermath of a Feb. 13 winter storm as nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. are still without electricity or heat. The demand for power overwhelmed power grids unprepared for climate change.

Temperatures hovered in the single digits as snow and ice storms hit parts of Texas where winter temperatures seldom fall below 40 degrees.

The latest storm front was expected to bring more hardship to Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley before moving to the Northeast on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

“Most people here have electric stoves so there’s no way to heat or cook food; they heat their homes with electric heat, so there’s no heat,” said Ashley Fairbanks, White Earth Nation.

Originally from Minnesota, Fairbanks lives in San Antonio, where winter temperatures usually hover around 70-80 degrees. On Wednesday morning the temperature was around 28 degrees, she said.

“It got down to 6 degrees during the storm; the week before it was like 80 degrees,” she said

“The ice on roads finally melted today so we left the house in search of food. It really is like the end times out here.”

Customer lines at fast food establishments snaked around city blocks and half of San Antonio’s restaurants were closed; grocery stores have run out of essential food and many are closed, Fairbanks said.

“There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that area,” said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, referring to Texas.

At least 30 people have died in the extreme weather this week, some while struggling to find warmth inside their homes. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. Another perished as they used a fireplace to keep warm.

APTOPIX_Winter_Weather_Texas_21047602785302
City of Richardson worker Kaleb Love breaks ice on a frozen fountain Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Richardson, Texas. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Record low temperatures were reported in city after city. Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and sticking around longer, and global warming caused by humans is partly responsible.

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity. In Mexico, rolling blackouts Tuesday covered more than one-third of the country after the storms in Texas cut the supply of imported natural gas.

Tribes in Texas are working together and handling the challenges well, according to tribal leaders from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, the Tigua Ysleta Del sur Pueblo and the Lipan Apache Tribe contacted by Indian Country Today.

“Native people are extremely resilient. We’re all kind of tired of the cold weather, but we’re hunkered down and staying warm; at first it was beautiful but now we’re kind of done,” said Christi Sullivan, director of media and communications for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.

About 600 of the 1,375 tribal citizens live on reservation land about 90 minutes north of Houston.

“We urged people to prepare for the weather before it hit; one of our main concerns is our elders. We are calling and checking in on everyone making sure they’re okay,” said Sullivan.

Fortunately, only a portion of the reservation has been hit by the rolling electricity blackouts.

“So far, everyone is safe,” Sullivan said.

The worst U.S. power outages by far have been in Texas, where officials requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and planned to prioritize hospitals and nursing homes.

The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said.

Texas’ power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said electricity had been restored to 600,000 homes and businesses by Tuesday night. Many, however, remain without power.

The weather also caused major disruptions to water systems in the Texas cities of Houston, Fort Worth, Galveston, Corpus Christi and in Memphis, Tennessee, and Shreveport, Louisiana, where city fire trucks delivered water to several hospitals and bottled water was being brought in for patients and staff, KSLA News reported. In Houston, residents were told to boil their water — if they had power to do so — because of a major drop in water pressure linked to the weather.

In Abilene, Texas, firefighters were hampered by low water pressure as they tried to extinguish a house fire this week, the Abilene Reporter News reported.

“They had to watch that house burn,” City Manager Robert Hanna said Tuesday at a news conference.

“Last night we were lying in bed without power and we could hear emergency sirens going all night long,” Fairbanks said.

The Texas power blackouts could be a glimpse of the future as climate change intensifies winter extremes that overwhelm utility infrastructures unable to handle unseasonable demands, according to the New York Times.

“Hey, we’re not built for this,” said Robert Soto, vice chair of the Texas state recognized Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.

The tribe’s headquarters is based in McAllen, just north of Reynosa, Mexico, and near the Gulf of Mexico.

“Homes here aren’t built to handle the cold; for us a cold front is around 60 degrees. With this storm it’s been in the single digits and the 20s,” he said.

Thankfully everyone is safe, according to Soto.

The greatest needs for the tribe now are food and water. “We’re delivering food and water when and where we can; we don’t have a lot of funds but we’re doing the best we can,” Soto said.

Temperatures are expected to rise to the 70s by the weekend.

“We’ll be enjoying life and happy again; in the meantime please keep us in your prayers.”

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Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Abandoned Uranium Mines

50 abandoned uranium mines + a mess = $220M from EPA

Klee Benally of the Navajo Nation at a 2016 protest outside the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, demanding cleanup of abandoned uranium mines. Even though mining stopped decades ago – and was banned by the tribe in 2005 – the fight to clean up the toxic sites has lingered. (File photo by Danika Worthington/Cronkite News)

Cronkite News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced three contract awards for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation

Haleigh Kochanski
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will award contracts worth up to $220 million to three companies for the cleanup of some of the hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

Work could start later this year following the completion of assessments for mining sites coordinated between the EPA and the Navajo Nation’s environmental agency, the federal agency said.

This week’s announcement is just the latest in years of efforts to clean up the mines, the toxic legacy of Cold War mining in the region. More than 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined in the region, according to the EPA, which said more than 500 mines were ultimately abandoned.

“From World War II until the end of the Cold War, millions of tons of uranium were mined on Navajo lands, exposing mine workers and their families to deadly radiation,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Arizona, whose district includes the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation.

“As a result, high rates of cancer, birth defects, and contaminated water sources remain a reality for residents of the Navajo Nation even now,” O’Halleran said in a statement on the contracts.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez released a statement following the announcement. 

“The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children,” Nez said. “We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups.”

The tribe said the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950’s. 

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to contractors that are classified as small businesses, two of which are owned by Native Americans, the EPA said. Contracts were awarded to the Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture, Environmental Quality Management Inc. and Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

Terms of the contracts require the companies to develop training programs “for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth” in areas related to the cleanup work. The companies have also partnered with local businesses on the project, the EPA said.

A 2016 Environmental Protection Agency map showing some of the hundreds of abandoned mines in and around the Navajo Nation. Tribal and federal officials have been working for years on cleanup plans for the mines. (Map courtesy the EPA)
A 2016 Environmental Protection Agency map showing some of the hundreds of abandoned mines in and around the Navajo Nation. Tribal and federal officials have been working for years on cleanup plans for the mines. (Map courtesy the EPA)

The agency said it worked closely with Navajo Nation to develop contracts that would incentivize the creation of employment opportunities for Navajo residents in order to build local economic and institutional capacity.

The majority of funding for the contracts comes from a nearly $1 billion settlement made in 2015 with Kerr McGee Corp. for the cleanup of more than 50 mines in Nevada and on the Navajo Nation that the company and its successor, tronox, were responsible for.

From the late 1940s through the 1960s, Kerr-McGee mined more than 7 million tons of ore on or near the Navajo Nation, leaving behind uranium mine sites that included contaminated waste rock piles. Exposure to uranium in soil, dust, air, and groundwater, as well as through rock piles and structural materials used for building can pose risks to human health, according to the EPA.

Mining stopped for the most part decades ago, and the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining on its lands in 2005. But the cleanup effort has lingered. The EPA launched five-year programs in 2007 and 2014 to study the issue and identify the biggest risks, and the agency last year added abandoned Navajo uranium mines to its list of Superfund sites “targeted for immediate, intense action.”

Representatives of Indigenous environmental groups did not respond to requests for comment and an official with the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club said she was not familiar enough with the contracts to comment – but did express concerns that there is no federal standard for what mine cleanup entails.

A regional EPA official said that the “contract awards mark a significant step in this ongoing work.”

“EPA continues to work with the Navajo Nation EPA and local communities to address the legacy of abandoned uranium mines,” said Deborah Jordan, acting regional administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest office, in Thursday’s statement.

O’Halleran welcomed the announcement.

“I am glad to see my oversight efforts have pushed the EPA to make these critical investments,” he said in a statement Friday.

Cronkite logo bridge

For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org.

Indian Country Today contributed to this report. 

Pipeline Hearing Delayed

Lakota Law

On Tuesday, my colleague Madonna Thunder Hawk reported to you that President Biden had requested a 58-day delay for the hearing on the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), originally scheduled for Feb. 10. According to multiple reports, that hearing has now been moved to Apr. 9. Perhaps more importantly, the president will meet with Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith and three other South Dakota tribal leaders this Friday.

Lakota LawIn 2016 and ‘17, tens of thousands joined our NoDAPL protest camps near Standing Rock. In 2021, we must bring the same energy to get President Biden to shut down this illegal pipeline

From my perspective, this is all good news — but any joy we feel should be tempered with renewed vigor. As you’re likely aware by now, we’ve joined a host of other organizations and influencers in supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s efforts to shut down DAPL through both legal and political means. So, while I am happy that the president appears to be listening and taking the issue seriously, I’m also aware that every day of delay means another 24 hours the pipeline could fail and contaminate Standing Rock’s water.

One thing is clear: we have time to grow our movement and increase the heat on the president. Once again, I ask that you sign (if you have not already done so) and share widely our NoDAPL petition to Biden. 

We’re getting our message through, but we must keep pressing in greater and greater numbers!

Wopila — my thanks to you for standing with Standing Rock!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
Lakota People’s Law Project

DAPL News

Lakota Law

It’s been a busy and inspiring two weeks at Standing Rock. As an ally of the tribe, you’ve helped us serve as a key part of a coalition of nonprofits telling President Biden to use his executive authority to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). The courts have not made a definitive decision to that effect, but the pressure on Biden seems to be working. The Army Corps, under his direction, has now asked for a 58-day delay to get the new administration up to speed on DAPL. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Bottom line, it’s increasingly likely that the timeline for a decision will be extended beyond this week, and victory is now more likely than it was just a few days ago. With your continued support, we’ll keep up our breakneck pace for the long haul. We’re in it to win it, no matter how long it takes. That’s why I urge you to become a Lakota Law member now. Your monthly gift will keep us going strong — and give you access to member benefits such as informative and fun online events with me and our other Lakota Law leaders!

Chase and I teamed up to have some amazing Zoom discussions with our Lakota Law members over the past year. We hope to see you at the next one!

Over the past two weeks, we haven’t stopped moving. So far, nearly 22,000 of you have signed our NoDAPL petition to the president and, in coordination with allied organizations, we’ll present Biden with a mountain of signatures. And a host of Hollywood celebrities have now also submitted a NoDAPL letter to the president.
 
Your support propelled us forward on the ground at Standing Rock. In the past 10 days, our organizing and media teams quickly produced an effective series of videos and educational content, shared with our sister orgs, that helped us reach tens of thousands via key social media channels.

It’s vitally important that you continue to stand with us over the days and months to come. In addition to confronting DAPL’s threat to our sacred water and lands, we’re improving our Native-run Standing Rock foster home, mounting a legal defense for a KXL water protector, continuing to support health and safety measures in Lakota Country, and so much more. Thank you, as ever, for making this work possible!

Wopila tanka — my deep gratitude for your sustained support.

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

End DAPL Now!

Lakota Law

I urge you to watch our new video, in which three Standing Rock Tribal Council members share their perspectives on why now is the time to end DAPL once and for all.

Growing up on Standing Rock Nation, I witnessed beauty and heartache. We have become accustomed to challenges. These days, of course, the fronts we fight on have only multiplied. In 2016, the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) arrived on our doorstep, then came the pandemic. Fortunately, the NoDAPL movement inspired a worldwide awakening, the beginning of a broader understanding of our struggle. Allies flooded in to join our protest camps, and our NoDAPL movement took root in the global consciousness. Now we find ourselves at another pivotal moment. 

In our new video, Standing Rock Tribal Council members share their perspectives on this moment in the NoDAPL struggle.

The legal system has acknowledged the validity of our arguments against the pipeline’s incursion on our sacred lands and water, and yet, the courts have not stopped the oil. Now, many have come to our side once again to call upon President Biden to take executive action.

I’m proud to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock tribal leaders featured in our video (and the many others) who know that the health of our people and our Grandmother Earth must outweigh the lust for corporate profits and continued operation of a pipeline emblematic of a dying fossil fuel industry.

Our rallying cry, mni wiconi — water is life — continues to embody the most immediate concern for the Standing Rock community. The threat that DAPL eventually spills and contaminates Lake Oahe, our sole source of drinking water, isn’t going away. But it’s also notable that 2020 tied 2016 as the hottest year on record, and we’re experiencing a queasily warm/dry winter here in the Dakotas. It’s a stark reminder that climate change is the existential challenge of our generation. 

Standing Rock — and other Indigenous communities in the trenches fighting oil and gas, such as Line 3 — help to lead the world in creating the courage to protect all that is sacred and life-giving. Your participation in our struggle remains vital. Each and every voice that joins our chorus has the potential to tip the balance in favor of our Earth and future generations. 

Wopila tanka — Thank you, as always, for standing with Standing Rock!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
Lakota People’s Law Project

Shut it Down!

Standing Rock Lakota Youth Call For Biden To Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline

By Last Real Indians. February 6, 2021 | Resist!

Above photo: Youth & Allies planned and carried out a 2,000- mile run from North Dakota to Washington, D.C.

Announce 93-mile Relay Run.

Standing Rock – Today, Lakota youth from the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribal nations announced a plan to run over 93 miles back to the Oceti Sakowin Camp site to call on President Biden to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The youth are asking for everyone who stood with Standing Rock four years ago to participate by uploading their own #NoDAPL

The oil pipeline poses a grave threat to the safety and sanctity of the tribes’ water, hunting and fishing rights, and cultural and religious practices. Federal courts have sided with the tribes on the years-long litigation and have revoked DAPL’s federal easement required by the Mineral Leasing Act. The tribes have demanded that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) stop the continued operation of DAPL given that it has no easement. President Biden has made no comment on the issue since taking office.

“In 2016 a group of us youth from the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Nations had the courage and were brave enough to stand up to the Dakota Access Pipeline that was going to cross our lands, threatening not only our drinking water supply but the land we have called home for generations. People from all walks of life stood with Standing Rock. Mr. President Joe Biden you have the opportunity to be brave and take courage; shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline.” Annalee Rain Yellowhammer, Standing Rock Sioux Youth Council Vice President

On January 7th, 2021 the Westchester Fire Insurance Company, a subsidiary of international insurance corporation Chubb, notified Energy Transfer Partners that it was cancelling a crucial $250,000 bond for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) segment in Iowa. Publication of this bond cancellation comes just days after a federal appeals court largely sided with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe upholding lower court decisions that revoked a key permit for the line and required a federal agency to conduct a lengthy environmental review.

Surety bonds are used to protect the public from having to pay for any damages or pollution created by existing projects.

“We as the four bands of Lakota on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe will always stand up for our relatives to the west, north, east and south. We have stood with the grassroots people of Standing Rock in 2016 against the Dakota Access Pipeline and today we still stand by them today.” said Joseph White Eyes, Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective.” We cannot let Oil Corporations continue to attack our people on our doorstep. We demand that President Biden shut it down!”

The Damage Done

https://www.hcn.org/articles/south-borderlands-after-months-of-border-wall-construction-a-look-at-the-damage-done

Borderlands

After months of border wall construction, a look at the damage done

As President Biden takes the helm, conservation groups take stock of the border wall’s environmental impacts.

This story is the first of three installments in a series by High Country News and Arizona Public Media on the implications for Donald Trump’s border wall, now that his successor, President Joe Biden, has taken the helm.

In the last year and a half, crews have raced to complete the border wall promised by President Donald Trump. By the time his term ended, many of the construction projects across Arizona’s Borderlands were complete. As President Joe Biden takes office, environmental groups are taking stock of the environmental destruction caused by the wall as they make the case for restoration.

Much of Arizona’s international border with Mexico is made up of public lands, places set aside by the federal government for special protection because of their unique ecological value — Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the San Pedro National Riparian Conservation Area, and Cabeza Prieta and San Bernardino national wildlife refuges, among others. So when the Trump administration released its first plans for new border wall construction in Arizona in May 2019, environmentalists were horrified to see that nearly all the proposed wall segments were on those public lands.

“(The administration) really started to push out into remote, rugged terrain on public lands all across the borderline in Arizona, where the ecological value of those places is so much higher that the damage done by this construction is much more egregious,” said Randy Serraglio, Southwest conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.

For months now, construction crews have been dynamiting, drilling, pumping, excavating and clear-cutting public land. In places like Guadalupe Canyon in far eastern Arizona, simply building roads to bring in construction equipment involved blasting mountainsides and sending the rubble down to clog drainages. Previously wide-open landscapes where wildlife and water could move freely have been severed by the huge steel barrier. The Sonoran Desert’s iconic saguaros, protected by law, have been found lying in heaps next to construction sites.

“This is damage that will not ever be remediated or mitigated,” Serraglio said. “This is permanent.”

In Guadalupe Canyon, a lush riparian corridor spanning northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security dynamited cliff sides and carved switchback roads up incredibly steep mountains to build a 30-foot-tall border wall.John Kurc

Under the Trump administration, contractors have replaced barbed wire or waist-high barriers with 30-foot-high steel beams, 6 inches wide, with only a 4-inch gap in-between. “Nothing larger than a cottontail rabbit could pass through there,” said Myles Traphagan, Borderlands program coordinator with the Wildlands Network. “So the common wildlife you see along the border, such as javelina, deer, mountain lion, bobcat, bighorn sheep, those are going to be completely impeded by this border wall.”

Traphagan’s organization works closely with ranches in Mexico that prioritize wildlife protection and cross-border migration corridors. He said their game cameras used to capture images of hundreds of animals per month traveling the drainages near San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge. “But the last few times I’ve been down there, those numbers have just plummeted,” he said.

“This is damage that will not ever be remediated or mitigated.”

Then there’s the impacts of water use: In many places, contractors have pumped water from deep belowground for construction purposes, wetting roads to keep the dust down or to make cement. Because Arizona doesn’t require data on water usage from wells in these areas, there are no hard numbers on how much has been used, but some impacts are already clear.

Quitobaquito is a rare desert spring in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, located on the ancestral homelands of O’odham tribes. Despite promises from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that the builders would respect a five-mile buffer around the spring and its pond, hydrologists and ecologists who monitor the site said last year that the pond dropped to its lowest levels in years after pumping began for the border wall. Since February 2020, CBP has withdrawn 45 million gallons of water around Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. 

Endangered Sonoyta mud turtle tracks dot the drying pond bed in Quitobaquito Springs, Arizona, last June.Ash Ponders

In the southeast corner of Arizona, the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its artesian-fed wetlands and springs support several threatened and endangered species, including the Yaqui topminnow, Yaqui chub, beautiful shiner and Yaqui catfish. 

Last summer, documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity via the Freedom of Information Act revealed that nearby groundwater pumping for the border wall — as much as 700,000 gallons per day — was depleting the refuge’s wetlands. That ultimately forced staff to relocate fish and allow some wetlands to dry up in an effort to protect the species. Traphagan said the wall contractors installed higher-capacity pumps to keep the refuge wells from drying up completely.

“Right now, the refuge is on a ventilator. Because those flows would stop if they didn’t have the pumps installed,” Traphagan said.

“Right now, the refuge is on a ventilator. Because those flows would stop if they didn’t have the pumps installed.”

A year ago, hundreds of protesters gathered along the San Pedro River, one of the Southwest’s last free-flowing rivers and a jewel of southern Arizona, to protest the plan to build a border wall across the riverbed. But despite active opposition by environmentalists, local residents and members of Congress, construction continued.

By November, that wall was complete.

“That river is a lifeline for hundreds and hundreds of species; millions of migratory birds use it as a flyway every year,” Serraglio said. “And yet they have constructed a wall right across the riverbed that will almost certainly act as a dam and completely disrupt the normal ecological functioning of that river.” 

Compounding the environmental impacts is the fact that 2020 was one of the driest and hottest years on record. For parts of the wall that cut across riverbeds and water crossings, Traphagan said, that means that some of the true impacts, such as flooding and erosion, have yet to be seen. The long-term impacts of severing wildlife corridors are also unknown, he said. “We have walled off 75% of the continent from the Rio Grande to (the) Pacific Ocean,” he said. “By doing so, we’re conducting an uncontrolled ecological experiment that is going to potentially alter the evolutionary history of North America for decades to come if these walls remain intact.”

Climate change also means that rare desert water sources are becoming even harder to find, so that animals need more room to roam, not less, said Emily Burns with the Sky Island Alliance, a conservation group. “In 2020, there was an incredible drought. It’s not over yet, and we’ve seen springs in the Borderlands completely dry up,” Burns said. “Animals now have this double insult of not being able to walk as far to find water because they’re cut off by the wall.”

In March, months before construction began in the wider region, her group installed a series of game cameras along part of the U.S.-Mexico border to gather data on cross-border animal migration. The initial results, which detected more than 100 different species, have been very encouraging, she said. That’s because the mountainous region where the cameras are located is an incredibly biodiverse area. Burns hopes her camera data can be used to convey a bit of what wildlife migration was like before the new wall was built.

  • Trail cam images show the many species that migrate across the U.S.-Mexico border in San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona. Myles Traphagen/Wildlands Network

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“Each species is going to respond differently to the border wall. We need to understand how they’re being impacted so we can work on a multi-species conservation strategy to minimize the damage that’s already been done by the wall,” she said.

This is one of the fundamental problems with any recovery or restoration of the Borderlands now that wall construction has ended or been stopped, said Serraglio. In order to speed construction, the Trump administration waived dozens of federal environmental and cultural resource laws that normally apply to such projects — laws that were created to minimize or mitigate their impacts. Stay up to date on the West with our free newsletter  

“We don’t really have the baseline science to be able to determine what all of the impacts are going to be, because all of the environmental laws that would have required that kind of analysis were waived,” he said.

Many environmental groups have begun to make their case to the Biden administration, suggesting ways to mitigate the impacts of the wall or even remove sections of it. But because those baseline studies never happened, many are worried we’ll never know exactly what was lost in the rush to build it.

Read more from Arizona Public Media and High Country News about next steps for the border wall. Read our next story in the series: Border wall scars: ‘It feels like if someone got a knife and dragged it across my heart.’

Ariana Brocious is a reporter and producer covering water and the environment for Arizona Public Media in Tucson. Email High Country News at editor@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor.

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/criticism-of-alaska-article-stirs-broader-discussion-GQce6KumvEmbza2KSt45fw

Criticism of Alaska article stirs broader discussion

*****Let´s go broader than this article.****

Manipulation 101

Why would native people want to be put first in line for an injection of something that is #1 experimental, #2 not fully safety tested, #3 has actually been responsible for reported serious adverse reactions and even some deaths, #4 does not stop infection. Because of the history of discrimination and racism, we are persuaded to think that NOW, during this pandemic, the powers that be are actually giving a care to indigenous people. We need to step back a moment and really look at what is being done and how things are spun into a narrative that puts people of color at the head of the line to being harmed.

I will add that one way to motivate people to do something is to play out the scenario that there is a scarcity – also to create the feeling that one group is getting something that others are not. So, you begin to see that this issue of indigenous getting better treatment actually is only a narrative that plays to the pharmaceutical companies´ agenda to persuade people who are reluctant to get the vaccine to race to get the vaccine.

A nurse administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

Joaqlin Estus

Vera Starbard: ‘Any time Native people are perceived to be ‘doing better’ than the dominant group in Alaska, there will absolutely, without fail be a backlash from individuals or large groups about how it’s not fair’

Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

Alaska Public Media reporter Nathaniel Herz has done numerous stories on the fight against COVID-19 in Alaska in the past year.

His stories described historical pandemics that decimated Alaska Native populations, and the disproportionately high toll that COVID is taking on Indigenous peoples. He has reported on the tribal health system’s success in vaccinating tribal members despite logistical challenges.

Then last weekend Herz wrote and aired a story headlined: “Eligibility differences between state and tribal health systems frustrate some Alaskans waiting for vaccines.” The story said the Anchorage-based Southcentral Foundation was vaccinating people who work with Alaska Natives and for Native organizations. The story featured critics who saying the Native nonprofit should instead be giving shots to more vulnerable groups no matter what their relationship with Natives.

Nathaniel Herz, Alaska Public Media, covers climate change, environment and government and politics for Alaska’s Energy Desk. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Public Media)
Nathaniel Herz, reporter. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Public Media)

The reaction after the story was aired and then posted on Alaska Public Media’s web page was immediate and on social media dozens of angry responses were posted on Twitter and Facebook. In the sometimes hyperbolic and profanity-laden style of social media, people saw the story as horrible, divisive, super-biased, whiney, colonialist, and reckless.

If Southcentral should be sharing its allotment beyond its clientele, will the same demand be made to the Department of Defense to share its allotment beyond the military, asked one commenter. “Or is the criticism reserved only for the most marginalized in our community?”

The story “feeds into ill will against Natives in an already super racist state,” and non-Natives will use the views expressed in the story as a “justification to their racism” that “feeds into their own victimhood,” read other Tweets.

Vera Starbard, Tlingit and Dena’Ina Athabascan, an author and playwright, wrote in her Writing Raven blog that she was surprised to see what she called, “an absolute hit job piece of poor journalism published with a disgraceful slant toward how the system is failing the Anchorage community,” given the tribal health system’s success in getting people vaccinated.

Vera Starbard, Tlingit/Dena'ina, of Writing Raven, Writer. Editor. Wife. Reluctant Cat Owner. Born in Craig, Alaska. Editor for First Alaskans Magazine, Playwright-in-Residence at Perseverance Theatre through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's National Playwright Residency Program. Writer for the PBS KIDS animated children's program "Molly of Denali."
Vera Starbard, Tlingit/Dena’ina writer, of Writing Raven, writer, editor and playwright.  Anchorage, Alaska (Photo courtesy of Vera Starbard).

“Except it’s not surprising. Any time Native people are perceived to be ‘doing better’ than the dominant group in Alaska, there will absolutely, without fail be a backlash from individuals or large groups about how it’s not fair,” Starbard said.

“Never mind that instead of highlighting the state’s failed responsibility to the Pacific Islander community’s risk, and ask why it was not reaching this community more, this media organization chose to place the blame on an organization that is already serving those outside of its founding responsibility – and seeking to do more,” Starbard said.

Efficiency of distribution

The Alaska Public Media story questioned how Southcentral was distributing vaccines.

“Anchorage’s main tribal health provider is vaccinating employees of its affiliated for-profit company and nonprofit organizations, and their household members, without regard to their race, age or vulnerability,” Herz reported. “That’s frustrating some of the teachers, people with underlying conditions and others enduring an excruciating wait for shots from state government.”

“Southcentral Foundation’s vaccination framework has the effect of skipping over groups that face higher risk levels,” the story read, such as grocery store workers, the elderly and South Pacific Islanders, who are disproportionately affected by COVID.

One reason that Southcentral even had such a choice was its efficiency in distributing vaccines.

The number of doses provided to tribal health organizations is based on the same formula the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to determine allotments to federal, state, and local governments. CDC considered 15 factors, including preparedness; critical populations; capacity for handling and managing the vaccine; and the number of providers to administer vaccinations.

While federal, state and tribal health systems are all limited by the number of doses allotted to them, the foundation has been able to get categories of people vaccinated more quickly than the state.

It’s had teams calling tribal members to come in for their shots, which it’s dispensing at the rate of 800 per day. By Feb. 1, it had administered more than 10,000 doses.

The foundation’s first priorities were health care workers and Native elders followed by the American Indian and Alaska Native “customer-owners” it serves. Next it vaccinated other employees and customers’ household members. Then it opened appointments to people who work for or with Native people.

Southcentral Foundation had no comment on the Alaska Public Media story.

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Alaska Public Media’s side of the story

Anchorage-based Alaska Public Media combines news stories of its own with those of reporters at public radio stations across Alaska, many of them located in rural communities that are as much as 75 percent Alaska Native. The resulting news shows regularly have Alaska Native issues in the forefront, and has for decades.

Alaska Public Media News Director Lori Townsend, said, “in the 18 years I’ve worked for the [Alaska public radio] network, I can think of no other time that we were accused of racist coverage by the Alaska Native community.”

Herz said the story was meant to prompt a conversation about the foundation’s distribution but erred in its presentation.

“…the story was framed in a way that was inflammatory and hurtful — and particularly to a lot of Native people but to plenty of white and non-Native people [too] — that didn’t allow anyone to engage with its content and with the question that we were trying to raise. It just caused hurt and pain and confusion about why we would do something like this,” Herz said.

Speaking for himself and the two editors who worked with him from concept to completion of the story, Herz said, “we thought we were being sensitive … we didn’t appreciate how sensitive and delicate the conversations around tribal healthcare are, and just sort of how much work and labor and explicating and justifying Indigenous people have to do around their healthcare whenever the subject comes up.

“This was absolutely… a personal and professional and human failure on my part. And I take full responsibility for that,” Herz said.

He said he and the editors “who considered ourselves to be sensitive and connected to the Alaska Native community and compassionate and aware of the sensitivity of these topics… had no sense of how the piece would hurt Alaska Native people, and how it would fail to connect with Alaska Native readers.” Herz said he and his institution are reflecting on the matter and are committed to making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Herz said, “the intensity of the reaction and just all of the different ways that people shared their feelings, I’ve never experienced anything like this in my entire life and it really hurt. But I am really hoping that this whole thing can be in the service of more responsible and complete and sensitive media coverage of Alaska Native people and really important personal lessons for me” and the institution where he works.

He also wrote an open letter of apology.

Townsend said a careful approach, talking through who should be in a story, and taking the time for careful editing is “so incredibly important. And having more diversity in our newsroom is crucial.” Herz said Alaska Public Media had already been taking steps to increase staff diversity.

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Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today, and a long-time Alaska journalist.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Stop the Oil

Lakota Law

Despite multiple court rulings denying its permit on valid environmental grounds, the Dakota Access pipeline continues to pump noxious oil through the heart of my homeland every day. As you know, this injustice has to be corrected. And if the courts won’t take the necessary steps to protect my relatives on the Standing Rock Nation, then once again it’s up to us — the grassroots — to use our voices and find a political solution.

Fortunately, as you can see in our new blog and video, our movement to stop DAPL has gained new traction. I feel echoes of the days when our protest camps filled with tens of thousands. Four Lakota tribal leaders, several organizations, and an online army of folks like you have taken up the call to tell President Biden to use his authority as the chief executive and stop this dangerous pipeline before it spills and kills.

Watch my video with Chase Iron Eyes to get caught up on our NoDAPL movement

We’ve got an organizing and media team on the ground here at Standing Rock — I’m so happy to be working hand-in-hand with my nephew, Chase Iron Eyes, on this — and we’re cooperating with members of our tribal council to help get the word out about the need to act now. We met at length on Tuesday with the full council, and we have been given a room in the tribal building to shoot interviews with tribal leaders and make videos featuring a range of knowledge and perspective.

We’re distributing all our videos to other concerned organizations via a sharing tool created by Earthjustice, the law firm representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its NoDAPL legal resistance effort. It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment, and many organizations — from the Sierra Club to one affiliated with actor Mark Ruffalo — have joined the effort to pressure the president and the Army Corps of Engineers to do right by my people.

I offer my gratitude to you for standing with us. The president has already made several positive decisions on pipelines and the environment, but he has yet to show that he understands the gravity of our plight here at Standing Rock. Our immediate goal is to make sure that he does — ideally before this Wednesday, the pipeline’s next day in court. By working together and by reforging our movement in bigger numbers, with more volume than ever, I believe we can do it.

Wopila tanka — I can’t thank you enough for your activism and your prayers!

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Biden Action News

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/joe-biden-tribal-sovereignty-will-be-a-cornerstone-yH3tHz75-Ee7W3Gii6NaSQ

Joe Biden: ‘Tribal sovereignty will be a cornerstone’

President Joe Biden signed the executive order, “a memorandum for the executive departments and agencies, tribal consultation and nation relationships” on Jan. 26. (Screenshot)

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

The Biden administration has made several actions (and big ones) in the first week concerning tribal nations

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye
Indian Country Today

The third of four executive orders signed by President Joe Biden on Tuesday focuses on strengthening the nation-to-nation relationships with tribes. It’s only one presidential action of many taken by the administration in week one.

Biden signed a presidential memorandum that requires all federal agencies and executive departments to have a “strong process in place for tribal consultation,” said Libby Washburn, Chickasaw and the newly appointed special assistant to the president for Native American Affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council. The position previously was held by Kim Teehee, Cherokee, and Jodi Archambault, Hunkpapa and Oglala Lakota, in the Obama Administration.

The move represents the new president “committing to regular, meaningful robust consultation with tribal leaders” and it requires all federal agencies and executive departments to have a “strong process in place for tribal consultation,” Washburn said.

Biden gave remarks on his racial equity plan, which includes the signed tribal consultation memorandum, from the White House State Dining Room.

“Today I’m directing the federal agency to reinvigorate the consultation process with Indian tribes,” Biden said, noting respect for sovereignty “will be a cornerstone of our engaging with Native American communities.”

Washburn said previous presidents like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have done this.

So what makes this one different?

It enforces a previous tribal consultation executive order signed on Nov. 6, 2000.

This time around the executive order requires the head of each agency to submit, within 90 days, a memorandum with a detailed plan of action on how they will implement policies and directives, Washburn said. Agencies must listen to what tribes want.

These federal agencies and executive departments will have to continuously keep the White House updated, she said.

Tribal consultation is also crucial when it comes to the pandemic.

“This builds on the work we did last week to expand tribes’ access to the Strategic National Stockpile for the first time, to ensure they receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to fight this pandemic,” Biden stated Tuesday.

On Jan. 21, Biden announced that FEMA would make financial assistance available to tribal governments at 100 percent of the federal cost share.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency, it activated eligible tribal, state and local governments to access FEMA emergency funding, Washburn said. The federal cost share was 75 percent, and tribes were responsible for 25 percent of the cost.

“It has been something the tribes have been asking for, for a long time, and there has been legislation pending in the House and Senate on it,” Washburn said.

The funding can be used for safe openings, operations of schools, childcare facilities, health care facilities, shelters, transit systems, and more.

Another ask by the tribes: access to the Strategic National Stockpile. And granted by the administration on Jan. 21.

The public health supply chain executive order states that the “Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consult with Tribal authorities and take steps, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to facilitate access to the Strategic National Stockpile for federally recognized Tribal governments, Indian Health Service healthcare providers, Tribal health authorities, and Urban Indian Organizations.”

Fawn Sharp, Quinault, president of the National Congress of American Indians, said the administration’s first week demonstrated that the needs of tribal nations are a priority. 

“I am both excited and encouraged that the Biden Administration is taking so many meaningful and significant steps towards Tribal Nations’ priority issues — respect for sovereignty, racial equity, urgent action on climate change, protection of sacred sites and ancestral ecosystems, and the commitment to meaningful Tribal consultation,” she said. “There’s immense work still to be done, but we celebrate that the first steps President Biden has taken towards truth and reconciliation with Tribal Nations are so responsive to our needs and aligned with our values and principles.”

Since Day One, the Biden administration has gone full speed on taking presidential actions that affect tribal nations.

Hours after taking his oath, Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, placed a temporary moratorium on all oil and gas activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and signed another executive order on “advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government.”

“I think it’s exciting and it shows that things are going to be front and center for him and his entire administration,” Washburn said, adding that includes hiring more Native people across the board.

In addition to New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination for Interior secretary, Washburn said, “President Biden, he promised during the campaign that tribes would have a seat at the table at the highest levels of federal government and a voice throughout the government, and I think that he’s really showing in the early beginning days of his administration that he is going to make sure that happens.”

And down to what is in the Oval Office. Washburn pointed out that a painting of Andrew Jackson, a strong proponent of Indian removal, was removed from the Oval Office. The “Swift Messenger” sculpture by Allan Houser, Chiricahua Apache, now sits on a bookcase, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

As for land acknowledgements, that’s an ongoing conversation.

“It is something that we are talking about, so I think we will talk about it and really, I’d like to talk to Deb Haaland about it as well, and once she’s confirmed it’s something that I think will become a focus,” Washburn said. 

ICT smartphone logo

This story has been corrected to show Tuesday, Jan. 26 was the day the executive order was signed.

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the deputy managing editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb or email her at jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com. Bennett-Begaye’s Grey’s Anatomy obsession started while attending the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Pipelines Be Gone 2021

Lakota Law

Victory! Several reputable news outlets have announced that president-elect Joe Biden plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) on his first day in office. From all of us here at the Cheyenne River Nation to you, wopila tanka! Thank you so much for staying with us and keeping the pressure on Washington, D.C. to do right by Lakota Country. We only achieve huge wins like this by speaking out together.

Please watch this new film by our friends at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Earthjustice, written and directed by Josué Rivas. Our pipeline fight won’t end until we win justice for Standing Rock, too.

Rescinding KXL’s permit is a promising early signal that the new administration is listening to our concerns and will take issues of climate and Indigenous justice seriously. We have to insist that it not stop there. It’s also high time to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) once and for all.

Nearly 13,000 of you have already signed onto our petition telling the Biden-Harris administration to end KXL and DAPL. Once the KXL decision is official, we’ll adjust the petition to thank our new leadership in D.C. for its action while remaining insistent that DAPL come next. We stand in solidarity with our relatives at Standing Rock and allied organizations like Earthjustice, which represents Standing Rock in its legal battle to stop DAPL. The two co-produced this powerful new video and asked us to share it. Please take a moment to watch.

In this hour, victory is undeniably sweet. I think it’s safe to say we needed some good news! But, as the actions of many over the past days and years have demonstrated, we must not let down our guard. Our mission to end the devastation wrought by pipelines on our Grandmother Earth — and on our Lakota families — won’t be finished until we dig DAPL out of our sacred lands. We will stay ever vigilant, and I thank you for supporting us every step of the way.

Wopila tanka — our enduring gratitude for helping us fight and win!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Stop the Pipelines!

Arrests in Minnesota After Water Protectors Chain Themselves Inside Pipe Section to Halt Line 3 Construction

“Enbridge’s last-ditch effort to build fossil fuel infrastructure is killing people and the planet.” byJessica Corbett, staff writer 5 Comments

Environmental activist Winona LaDuke (C) and water protectors stand in front of the construction site for the Line 3 oil pipeline near Palisade, Minnesota, on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

Environmental activist Winona LaDuke (C) and water protectors stand in front of the construction site for the Line 3 oil pipeline near Palisade, Minnesota, on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

Water protectors were arrested Thursday after halting construction at a Minnesota worksite for Enbridge’s Line 3 project by locking themselves together inside a pipe segment.

“I refuse to be complicit in settler colonialist practices, and feel that I have to put my body on the line to protect Indigenous communities’ sovereignty and all of our futures.”
—Abby Hornberger, water protector

“After moving to Minnesota to attend college and study environmental science, I was excited to be in a place where people valued protecting the Earth and finding a viable future. What I found, however, was a state that had formed ‘ambitious’ climate goals yet endorsed one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, tar sands oil,” water protector Abby Hornberger said in a statement. “I realized that Indigenous ways of knowing and practicing harmony with the environment are continuously ignored.”

KFGO reports that Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said two protesters who were taken into custody on Thursday now face charges of trespassing and obstructing.

Hornberger explained that “the Line 3 pipeline far outweighs all clean energy initiatives and progress being made in renewable energies. Line 3 will destroy Minnesota’s essential clean water resources for future generations and will ultimately drive us into climate doom. Education and spreading awareness is no longer enough to create meaningful change for me.”

“Enbridge’s last-ditch effort to build fossil fuel infrastructure is killing people and the planet. I refuse to be complicit in settler colonialist practices, and feel that I have to put my body on the line to protect Indigenous communities’ sovereignty and all of our futures,” Hornberger added. “This is not just an issue relevant to some, it affects each of us on a deeper level that goes beyond our daily lives. It determines if we will have a livable future.” https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=commondreams&creatorUserId=14296273&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1349769464896745473&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2021%2F01%2F14%2Farrests-minnesota-after-water-protectors-chain-themselves-inside-pipe-section-halt&siteScreenName=commondreams&siteUserId=14296273&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Water Protectors Lock Down Inside Line 3 Pipeline to #StopLine3

(Backus, MN) Thursday morning, water protectors locked to each other inside a Line 3 pipe segment, halting construction at an Enbridge worksite as dozens more held space. pic.twitter.com/flQuiFniV4

— giniw collective (@GiniwCollective) January 14, 2021

Indigenous and environmental activists have long opposed the Canadian company’s efforts to replace an aging oil pipeline with a larger one running from Alberta, through North Dakota and Minnesota, to Wisconsin—noting Enbridge’s track record on spills and that cultural maps indicate “numerous sacred and significant sites lie in the path of the Line 3 project.”

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has come under fire from Indigenous and climate leaders in recent months as the state has approved key permits that Enbridge needs to complete the new Line 3, especially given the Democratic governor said publicly in February of 2019 that projects like this one “don’t just need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit.”

As some water protectors on Thursday protested inside a pipe segment a few miles from a man camp in Backus, “dozens more held space,” according to the Giniw Collective. The group also pointed out that “Enbridge is working 24 hours per day at several worksites, as a pending injunction to halt work while tribally led lawsuits are heard has yet to be decided.”

Water protector Andrew Lee said that he participated in the action againt Line 3 on Thursday “to protect the treaties that my ancestors failed to uphold.”

“I’ve learned over the course of this year that Tim Walz isn’t going to protect us, the government of Minnesota isn’t going to protect us, and the federal government isn’t going to protect us,” Lee continued. “I believe it is my duty, as a colonizer and as a person with the privilege, to do so, to put my body on the line to stop the Enbridge Corporation from building this pipeline.”

“It breaks my heart and enrages me to see how these people are desecrating the Earth and the lengths they will go to leech every last dollar they can from its surface,” they said. “But for as much as I’m here in anger and fear, I’m also here in love.” https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=commondreams&creatorUserId=14296273&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1349030243269562369&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2021%2F01%2F14%2Farrests-minnesota-after-water-protectors-chain-themselves-inside-pipe-section-halt&siteScreenName=commondreams&siteUserId=14296273&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

The good news is, resistance to the pipeline is growing.

On-the-ground action to stop construction is led by Indigenous womxn and Two-Spirit folks at @GiniwCollective, with @nfld_al3, @MN_350, and @SunriseMvmtTC all working together with them to #StopLine3. (10/14)

— Resist Line 3 (@ResistLine3) January 12, 2021

Thursday’s action came after eight people were arrested on Saturday, when scores of water protectors and Anishinaabe jingle dress dancers gathered at the Mississippi River, then walked onto a Line 3 worksite. According to a statement from organizers:

After praying and sharing a healing jingle dance, water protectors went to Haypoint, Minnesota, where Enbridge is actively boring under Highway 169 on its way to the Willow and Mississippi Rivers.

Construction stopped as water protectors held space and documented irregularities in the pipe being put into the ground. Nearly 30 police squad cars from multiple counties and the Department of Natural Resources were onsite.

The statement, which confirmed the eight arrests, also said that “one arresting officer in a Cass County uniform without a badge refused to put on a face mask and grinned at the crowd as he held a zip-tied water protector. Enbridge’s worksites and man camps have quickly become hotspots for Covid-19 in Aitkin County.”

While critics of Line 3 and similar projects have long raised health and safety concerns—including about the well-documented connection between man camps and the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women—the pandemic, which has hit Indigenous communities hard, has further fueled opposition.

“We saw Minnesota’s police officers protecting a Canadian tar sands pipeline being built by mostly out-of-state workers, for sale on foreign market,” said Tara Houska, founder of Giniw Collective. “We need good-paying jobs up north that don’t require us to destroy our environment. Where is the investment in the north land? Where is the upholding of treaty rights? Where is the Walz administration on this pandemic pipeline?” https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=commondreams&creatorUserId=14296273&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1347984613700984833&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2021%2F01%2F14%2Farrests-minnesota-after-water-protectors-chain-themselves-inside-pipe-section-halt&siteScreenName=commondreams&siteUserId=14296273&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

We are here to protect the water. Hundreds of us today at the Rally for the Rivers and more every day. We will #StopLine3.@HonorTheEarth @GiniwCollective @MNIPL pic.twitter.com/RdsOEQAOgX

— MN350 (@MN_350) January 9, 2021

Activists are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to stand up for those “on the frontlines of fossil fuel racism and the climate crisis” by stopping Line 3. On Thursday, more than 75 Indigenous women leaders wrote to the next president, urging him to block Line 3 and two other projects that “pose grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, sacred water and land, the global climate, and the public health crises within our communities, which have been greatly exacerbated by Covid-19.”

As Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and a signatory to the letter, put it: “The Biden administration can uphold their climate justice claims by acting to stop Line 3, stop Keystone XL, and stop Dakota Access Pipeline, now.” Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Message to Biden

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/01/14/over-75-indigenous-women-urge-biden-stop-climate-wrecking-pipelines-and-respect

Over 75 Indigenous Women Urge Biden to Stop Climate-Wrecking Pipelines and Respect Treaty Rights

“Joe Biden, we are asking you to stand on the right side of history and humanity by putting an immediate end to the deadly pipelines destroying our Earth, our communities, and all life.” byJessica Corbett, staff writer 12 Comments

"We have shown we are willing to risk our liberty and freedom and put our bodies on the line to blockade and stop construction of these dirty oil and gas projects, to ensure we have a clean future for our children," said Kanahus Manuel of the Tiny House Warriors. (Photo: Tiny House Warriors/Facebook)

“We have shown we are willing to risk our liberty and freedom and put our bodies on the line to blockade and stop construction of these dirty oil and gas projects, to ensure we have a clean future for our children,” said Kanahus Manuel of the Tiny House Warriors. (Photo: Tiny House Warriors/Facebook)

In a joint letter Thursday, more than 75 Indigenous women called on President-elect Joe Biden to immediately demonstrate his “commitment to fulfilling the U.S. treaty obligations and ending the reign of fossil fuel extraction in our tribal territories.”

The women leaders focus on the Line 3, Keystone XL (KXL), and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipeline projects. Long opposed by local tribes, environmentalists, and landowners, “these three pipelines pose grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, sacred water and land, the global climate, and the public health crises within our communities, which have been greatly exacerbated by Covid-19,” says the letter (pdf).

Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation and the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) is among the dozens of women who signed on to the letter. The message to the next president, who will be sworn in next week, comes just a day after the historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump for inciting a siege of the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying Biden’s electoral victory.

“After witnessing the violent attempted insurrection on January 6th, 2021, and seeing ‘white privilege’ on full display,” Camp-Horinek said of how the pro-Trump mob was treated by law enforcement, “I am acutely reminded of the drastic contrast of response that Indigenous peoples experienced at Standing Rock where we were attacked by dogs, maced, shot at with rubber bullets, strip searched, put in dog kennels when arrested, and our bodies marked with numbers for peacefully protecting our water and lands.”

“I feel it necessary to call on the incoming Biden/Harris administration to stop the overall assault on Indigenous peoples and to stand by the promise to ‘Build Back Better’ in our Indigenous territories by taking executive action to halt the KXL, DAPL, and Line 3 pipeline projects, and acknowledge the racist policies that have allowed the continuing destruction of our homelands,” she added. “We women are coming together to say that we must make the correct choices for our collective future. Now.” https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=commondreams&creatorUserId=14296273&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1349778386604929028&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.commondreams.org%2Fnews%2F2021%2F01%2F14%2Fover-75-indigenous-women-urge-biden-stop-climate-wrecking-pipelines-and-respect&siteScreenName=commondreams&siteUserId=14296273&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

75+ Indigenous women from Tribes & Nations across the country are demanding @JoeBiden take executive actions to halt the #KXL #DAPL #Line3 pipeline projects, all of which pose threats to Indigenous Rights, local environments, & our global climate. https://t.co/wLafvb4FHm pic.twitter.com/jQPOCh5h3D

— WECAN, International (@WECAN_INTL) January 14, 2021

The letter notes the record-breaking heat, wildfires, and hurricanes of the past year; that the Biden administration must take seriously the climate emergency, including by exceeding the goals of the Paris agreement; and Indigenous knowledge and scientific warnings that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is a necessity.

“Massive pipeline projects such as Keystone XL, Line 3, and DAPL,” the letter declares, “are not in alignment with the natural laws or with meeting these commitments.”

Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of Giniw Collective, is on the frontlines of the fight against Line 3. “One of Trump’s first actions in office was reauthorizing oil pipelines through Native lands,” she said. “The Biden administration can uphold their climate justice claims by acting to stop Line 3, stop Keystone XL, and stop Dakota Access Pipeline, now.”

The three pipelines would not only “emit catastrophic amounts of carbon dioxide annually,” worsening both the health of surrounding communities and the climate crisis, but also specifically endanger Indigenous women and girls.

“Already, our communities are dealing with the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and our families are impacted without the support of federal or state agencies,” the letter explains. “We still have daughters, aunties, mothers, cousins, and two-spirit relatives who have never been found and whose perpetrators have never been brought to justice. There is clear evidence that the epidemic of MMIW is directly linked to fossil fuel production.”

The letter points to studies and reporting that have shown the so-called “man camps” of temporary laborers drawn to a particular area to work on fossil fuel projects “lead to increased rates of sexual violence and sexual trafficking of Indigenous women and girls, as well as an influx of drug trafficking.”

“These pipelines are the outward manifestation of the rape of not only Mother Earth, but the very real rape of our people.”
—Joye Braun, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and IEN

The raging coronavirus pandemic raises additional health and safety concerns. “Indigenous Peoples across the U.S. are experiencing the devastating impact of the virus’s spread ​due to colonial policies and practices that have led to historically underfunded healthcare programs and significant health disparities,​” the letter says. “Moving forward with pipeline construction of Line 3 or KXL will only exacerbate the issues Indigenous communities already endure.”

“These pipelines are the outward manifestation of the rape of not only Mother Earth, but the very real rape of our people,” said Joye Braun of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). “From our bodies to the land and water we all need to survive, they must be stopped to prove this new president, indeed the new administration and electors, are serious about real climate change.”

All three pipelines “are also in clear violation of our treaty rights and all are moving forward without the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous tribes and nations,” the letter notes, referring to a right defined by a United Nations resolution allowing Indigenous Peoples to weigh in on actions impacting their communities.

Indigenous women “are the first to be impacted and have voiced a collective no consent for these pipelines to invade our tribal lands,” said Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc and Ktunaxa Nations, Secwepemc Women Warriors, and Tiny House Warriors. “We have shown we are willing to risk our liberty and freedom and put our bodies on the line to blockade and stop construction of these dirty oil and gas projects, to ensure we have a clean future for our children.”

The letter informs Biden that there are five actions he can take to uphold Indigenous sovereignty, align his administration with the goals of the Paris agreement and exceed its agenda, and keep fossil fuels in the ground:

  • Fulfill your promise and rescind all permits for Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Order a review of the Section 404 and 408 permits for the Line 3 pipeline.
  • Shut down all DAPL operations and order the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a thorough Environment Impact Statement for DAPL.
  • Issue a presidential memoranda to halt construction and operations of the Keystone XL, Line 3, and DAPL fossil fuel pipeline projects, including the construction of temporary housing for workers, also known as “man camps.”
  • Take executive action requiring federal agencies to engage in a process of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of American Indian and Alaska Native Indigenous Nations, as laid out by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“We have been conquered, colonized, killed, dehumanized, and yet we continue forward,” said signatory Christina Valdivia-Alcalá, who is Mexican Indigenous/Chicana, founder and director of Tonantzin Society, and a city councilwoman in Topeka, Kansas. “President Biden, help make right the injustice set upon our Indigenous Peoples.”

As Ashley (McCray) Engle of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma/Oglala Lakota Nation put it: “Joe Biden, we are asking you to stand on the right side of history and humanity by putting an immediate end to the deadly pipelines destroying our Earth, our communities, and all life.”

“We are asking you to honor the treaties, tribal sovereignty, and our shared commitment to being good future ancestors,” said Engle, also an IEN Green New Deal organizer and Stop the Plains All American Pipeline founder. “We are counting on you to be the climate president we all need. Future generations are depending on each of us to do what’s right. The time is now to do your part.”

This post has been updated with comment from Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of Giniw Collective. Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Boycott Nestlé

Lakota Law

You may recall the #NestlePledge we launched a couple years back — asking you to denounce the company’s practices by refusing to buy Nestlé products. As water protectors, we follow generations of our fellow organizers in this opposition, from child rights activists in the ‘70s to rainforest defenders. I’ve personally been boycotting Nestlé for seven years now, and we hear from folks who’ve done so for 40-plus. Maybe it can offer some comfort that, even amid the mayhem in D.C. and all the other things we can’t control, we can still support the right companies to help make things better for future generations.

To keep you up to date, we have a new dispatch from LPLP’s blog with the latest happenings at everyone’s least favorite transnational food conglomerate. 

Water protectors in 2019 at a “Protect Ginnie Springs” action. Photo by Sum of Us.

Recently, Nestlé made headlines in a court case brought forth by former child slaves who allege that Nestlé, along with Cargill, knowingly allowed and enabled slavery in cocoa supply chains. A brief from Nestlé’s defense hideously argues it should not be held liable for the use of forced labor in chocolate manufacturing — just like the companies that made gas for concentration camps weren’t punished at the Nuremberg trials.

Meanwhile, down in Florida, environmentalists have mounted a separate fight against Nestlé after it requested a permit to pump more than one million gallons of fresh water per day out of the state’s sensitive and already overexploited Ginnie Springs. In true water protector fashion, “kayaktivists” have taken the protest straight to the spring for floating sit-ins, paraphrasing our Lakota saying by chanting, “Water for life! No to Nestlé!” 

We know here on Standing Rock that extractive billion-dollar corporations are not friends to the people or the planet. Our many struggles against Nestlé’s deplorable behavior exemplify how interrelated we are and demonstrate how we can build power across generations, distance, and demographics to resist assaults on our common home. It is our hope that the courts and the regulators will hold Nestlé accountable, and that you’ll feel empowered to join us on the Boycott Nestle bus.

Mni Wiconi — water is life! 

Honorata Defender
Standing Rock Organizer
Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. Spread the word and help your friends vote with their dollar. Inspire others to #BoycottNestle by sharing our blog with your networks!

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Color of Justice

Lakota Law https://action.lakotalaw.org/action/biden-pipelines?ms=ea&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=jcoh&utm_content=piclink&sourceid=1044940&emci=2b998145-1652-eb11-a607-00155d43c992&emdi=70418022-9c52-eb11-a607-00155d43c992&ceid=2659296

I hope you’re staying safe as we begin this new year. It’s been a wild election season, culminating with Tuesday’s Senate races in Georgia and Wednesday’s insurrection at the Capitol. Sadly, it’s inevitable that many of Trump’s (mostly white) followers will get away with their seditious actions in D.C. — meanwhile, a pair of young, Native activists here at the Cheyenne River Nation face charges after nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.

In November, 24 year-old Jasilyn Charger locked herself to an oil pump station, and the cops arrested her for a class 1 trespassing misdemeanor. Lakota Law rallied to her side, and we’ve secured legal representation for her that will mount a strong defense. Her predicament provides yet another opportunity to stand up in South Dakota’s courts of law and defend dissent against dangerous, unnecessary pipelines. She was arraigned Wednesday, and there will be more to share soon.
https://click.everyaction.com/k/23598115/268081614/1717253684?ms=ea&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=jcoh&utm_content=piclink&sourceid=1044940&rac=,lpnl&nvep=ew0KICAiVGVuYW50VXJpIjogIm5ncHZhbjovL3Zhbi9FQS9FQTAwMS8xLzU4MDcwIiwNCiAgIkRpc3RyaWJ1dGlvblVuaXF1ZUlkIjogIjcwNDE4MDIyLTljNTItZWIxMS1hNjA3LTAwMTU1ZDQzYzk5MiIsDQogICJFbWFpbEFkZHJlc3MiOiAiYXp0ZWM4ODg4QGFvbC5jb20iDQp9&hmac=muX1eoLIYxgAwgw5UCRlBIdfs80NW9XCaXi-0Mh6JK0=&emci=2b998145-1652-eb11-a607-00155d43c992&emdi=70418022-9c52-eb11-a607-00155d43c992&ceid=2659296

Also on Wednesday, police arrested Cheyenne River tribal member Oscar High Elk (30 years old) and charged him on 12 counts, including felony aggravated assault, though he committed no acts of violence. Now, he faces a maximum of 23 years in prison. How wrong it would be should either one of these young water protectors serve time for standing against a Canadian pipeline which would provide little economic value to Americans and threaten Unci Maka.

This glaring disparity in our country between how law enforcement treats us Natives and other people of color as opposed to whites underlines the urgency of our struggle. We must take every opportunity to secure justice for Black and brown communities as the Trump era comes to an ignominious end. If you have not already done so, please sign our petition to the Biden transition team telling the president-elect: It’s time to end KXL and DAPL once and for all. We hope you’ll stay with us — and with our young activists — in the fight for environmental justice.

You can also share our call to action via social media by clicking the buttons below:

Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our struggle! Mni wiconi.

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Two Systems of Justice: ¨Use of Force vs. Standing Rock¨

Trump supporters climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Dalton Walker

Critics across social media point out the juxtaposition between the violent mob at the U.S. Capitol and peaceful Standing Rock water defenders

Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

As a violent mob backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday with what appeared to be relative ease, many in Indian Country took to social media to point out drastic differences of past treatment by law enforcement of water protectors and other peaceful protestors.

In a chaotic scene in Washington, D.C., that lasted for hours, dozens of Trump supporters rushed the famous building, causing lawmakers to scramble for safety and the building to be locked down.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier Wednesday at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Videos posted on social media show a violent mob, many wearing Trump gear, knocking down police barriers and damaging building property. The mob even reached the Senate floor and posed for photos, while one video showed police taking a selfie photo with members of the mob.

One person was shot and killed at the Capitol, The Associated Press reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. Police eventually used tear gas and percussion grenades to clear people from the grounds ahead of a curfew in Washington.

The district’s police chief said at least 13 people were arrested, and five firearms had been recovered during the pro-Trump protests. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, of Oklahoma, told ABC News that he was inside and spoke with some of the Trump supporters. A photo posted on social media shows Mullin behind civilian-dressed law enforcement with guns drawn and aimed at the door. “It’s fortunate that a lot more civilians didn’t get shot because (Capitol) police showed a great restraint by not doing so. A great restraint.”

(Related: Pro-Trump mob storms US Capitol)

Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, of Oklahoma, said he was outraged by the “lawless protests,” and it’s not the “American way.”

“While Americans have the right to passionately voice their views & peacefully dissent in protest, I strongly condemn the perpetrators of this destructive & violent activity,” Cole said in a tweet.

Critics, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, say at least some of the scene was a stark contrast to what water protectors and treaty defenders have faced over the years, specifically at Standing Rock in 2016, where law enforcement repeatedly used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

In this Dec. 4, 2016 file photo, protesters march at Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. It has been called the largest gathering of Native American tribes in a century. Tribal members and others have joined in an ongoing, tense protest against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux believes threatens sacred sites and a river that provides drinking water for millions of people. The protest is included in the AP top news stories in North Dakota this year. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
In this Dec. 4, 2016, photo, protesters march at Oceti Sakowin camp, where people gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

More than 760 arrests were made in southern North Dakota during the height of protests in 2016 and 2017. At times, thousands of pipeline opponents gathered in the region to protest the $3.8 billion project to move North Dakota oil to Illinois, but the effort didn’t stop the project.

NDN Collective CEO and President Nick Tilsen, who was arrested during a rally against Trump’s visit to the Black Hills in July, didn’t hold back on Twitter.

“If these were Black, Brown and Indigenous people they would of killed us already; read between the lines people,” Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, said in a tweet.

(Related: Indigenous Congress members condemn violence)

Everett Baxter, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska chairman, said Natives speaking their mind get arrested, while the Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., “will probably get pardons.”

Baxter also questioned Nebraska state leaders in their involvement at Standing Rock.

“The Nebraska State Patrol sent officers to aid North Dakota’s law enforcement against the water protectors during (the) Standing Rock standoff,” Baxter posted on Facebook. “Will Nebraska do the same to aid the law enforcement of the Washington D.C. riots? Not likely.”

On Twitter, writer, actor and producer Azie Mira Dungey, Pamunkey, called out law enforcement’s response at the Capitol.

“Police literally worked harder to make sure a private company could build an oil pipeline on Native land, and to stop black people from walking through their own neighborhood asking politely not to be murdered, than to stop a few hundred white men from taking over the US Capitol,” Dungey said in a tweet.

Nick Estes, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, is a college professor and host of “The Red Nation” podcast. He responded to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s tweet criticizing the violence. Her post included the comment, “We are all entitled to peacefully protest.”

“What? You pushed laws to criminalize protest in SD and pushed conspiracy theories about stolen election,” Estes said.

Comedian Lucas Brown Eyes, Oglala Lakota, tweeted photos of water protectors being attacked by law enforcement at Standing Rock.

“As we watch Trumpers storm the capital with guns. Just a reminder, this is what America did to Native protesting for clean water,” Brown Eyes said.

Happy New Year -2021

2020 was a very difficult year personally and world-wide. There was some very excellent progress as we kept up the effort to end fracking and oil pipelines. Let 2021 be an even better year. Even in the face of great adversity, we will keep fighting for peace, health, and WATER.

December 29th, Wounded Knee Massacre

I would like to share that tomorrow Dec. 29th is the anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre, please visit the memorial at Kitely: grid.kitely.com:8002:Seaside Dreams

When you enter the world at the dock you will now find a teleporter to Wounded Knee, South Dakota. This is a memorial of the massacre that occurred December 29th, 1890 and the information that I gather connects with the current news about the struggles of the First Nation. From Uranium mining poisoning the water on Navajo land to the leaking oil pipelines in Standing Rock to climate change literally melting the permafrost in Alaska. What we are witnessing are human rights violations and environmental racism. We cannot change what we do not know, so the memorial will bring this knowledge to the virtual world.

Special discussion and interview: taped on Saturday, February, 10, 2018 1:30 pm PST See it here: https://virtualoutworlding.blogspot.com/2018/02/2018-edu-massacre-at-wounded-knee.html

Please sign petition to Biden

Lakota Law

¡

From my family on Cheyenne River Nation to yours, I hope you’re having a joyous and safe holiday season! Of course, it’s a different kind of year in 2020, when we have to bring up safety in reference to the holidays. With all that’s happened, it’s critical that we do everything we can to ensure that 2021 and the years to come see meaningful change for a healthier world.

That’s why I ask you to sign our new petition to the president-elect. Let’s tell Joe Biden to stop the Dakota Access pipeline and keep his campaign promise to cancel Keystone XL (KXL). We must protect our climate, lands, and water. He has the power to do it, and he should be reminded of his obligation to protect the Earth.

Lakota Law

We need president-elect Biden to enforce a robust environmental agenda from day one. The climate clock is ticking, and ending both KXL and DAPL should be one of his first steps as our chief executive. He has expressed his intent to take an anti-pipeline stance, and now we need to keep the pressure on. As FDR once said to a civil rights leader, “I agree with you, now make me do it.” 

Courts have blocked both pipelines, but that hasn’t slowed their advance. In July, the Supreme Court even weighed in, upholding a decision to prohibit KXL crossing domestic waterways under the Endangered Species Act. Still, TC Energy has moved forward to create man camps which threaten Native women very close to my reservation. On DAPL, Trump reversed Obama’s decision to require further environmental review; but courts have kept its oil flowing, at least for now. The bottom line is that Biden ought to enforce the standards spelled out by the National Environmental Policy Act.

New leadership means new possibilities. It’s up to you, me, and all who hold our oldest relative, Unci Maka — our Grandmother Earth — dear to make sure we realize them. 

Wopila tanka — Thanks for your action, and may our New Year bring big change!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. Please sign our petition to president-elect Joe Biden: End DAPL and Cancel KXL for our health, our safety, and our future. Pending her confirmation, our friend Rep. Deb Haaland will soon head up the Department of the Interior. She’ll have the ability to strongly influence our national environmental policy, and we hope she’ll help Biden hear our call.

2020 Accomplishments from Lakota People´s Law Project

Lakota Law header

Our team here in Lakota Country hopes you are enjoying a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for standing with the Lakota people this year!

2020 brought challenges and changes, showing us all the importance of joining together to stand strong in support of equality and justice. We believe that, now more than ever, Native voices must be heard. You can ensure that Indigenous people continue to rise. Will you contribute a year-end donation in 2020? One, final tax-deductible gift can go a long way toward accomplishing our shared mission to protect sacred lands, safeguard human rights, promote sustainability, reunite Indigenous families, and much more.

I encourage you to watch our new video, in which I detail our many, impressive shared accomplishments in 2020 — and our vision for progress together in the year to come.

Thanks to you, the Lakota People’s Law Project made life better for so many this year. You helped us support Standing Rock’s legal fight against DAPL and partner with the tribe to activate Native and swing state voters. You kept tribal health and safety checkpoints operational, protecting Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge during the COVID-19 pandemic. You sent nearly 10,000 petitions urging president-elect Joe Biden to appoint the first Indigenous Cabinet member — a fight we won when he picked Rep. Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior! 
 
We have so much more to accomplish together in 2021. Please continue to stay with us so we can permanently end DAPL and KXL, get the vote out for the Georgia Senate run-off elections, and expand our kinship care program at Standing Rock, ensuring that the next generation of Lakota youth is cared for and given every opportunity to succeed.

This is your last chance to give a tax-deductible gift in 2020. Please give a year-end gift from the heart to help accomplish all this and more. 2020 showed us that life can bring unexpected challenges at any time. We plan to be there to meet them in 2021. Please continue to support our mission for justice. We can’t do any of this without you!

Wopila Tanka — we’re so grateful for your friendship.

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
Lakota People’s Law Project

Enbridge #5

People protest against the Enbridge Energy Line 3 oil pipeline project outside the Governor's Mansion on November 14, 2020, in St Paul, Minnesota.

People protest against the Enbridge Energy Line 3 pipeline project outside the governor’s mansion on November 14, 2020, in St. Paul, Minnesota.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

Mike Ludwig talks to Whitney Gravelle, an attorney for the Bay Mills Indian Community, about the fight against Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.

TRANSCRIPT

Cover for Climate Front Lines
Play

Climate Front Lines

To Protect Great Lakes, Michigan Tribes Oppose Enbridge Line 5 Pipelines

Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity. Copy may not be in its final form.

Mike Ludwig: Welcome to Climate Front Lines, the podcast exploring the people and places on the front lines of the climate crisis. My name is Mike Ludwig. I’m a reporter for Truthout.org. President-elect Joe Biden announced this week that former environmental protection agency administrator Gina McCarthy will serve as his top climate advisor.

The actions from environmentalists have been mixed to say the least on one hand McCarthy was the EPA administrator during the Obama administration. When regulators attempted to put caps on the energy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions for the first time, of course, the Trump administration crushed all these efforts and then some, and on the other hand, McCarthy was EPA administrator during the Obama administration.

When the word fracking became a household term for years, fracking opponents accused the EPA under Obama and McCarthy of suppressing research. Showing that fracking for oil and gas is a threat to drinking water. Still fracking caused an explosion of fossil fuel production across the U.S., and Canada was pushing to export more oil and gas at the same time.

All of these fossil fuels needed places to go in ways to get there and suddenly fights against new oil and gas pipelines erupted across the nation. The Keystone XL pipeline, for example, became a political hot potato under president Obama as tribal governments and environmental activists launched fierce campaigns against the project.

During the last days of the Obama administration. Law enforcement moved to crush the uprising at standing rock where the standing rock, Sioux tribe and other indigenous led activists resisted the Dakota access pipeline for months and drew international attention to the legacy of colonialism in the Americas.

Activists continue to take direct action to stop oil and gas pipelines under President Trump, who made it clear that the fossil fuel industry had a friend in the White House. Those days are coming to an end, the campaigns to prevent the industry from establishing new infrastructure and locking in decades of fossil fuel production will continue under president Biden.

Like other struggles on the front lines of climate change, many of these campaigns are led by indigenous activists. One such campaign can be found in Northern Michigan where the Canadian firm Enbridge wants to extend the life of line five to underwater oil and gas pipelines that have operated for decades in the straits of Mackinac, the narrow body of water between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsula. In 2018, a ship’s anchor struck line five causing damage and alarming the public lion five runs under what it’s essentially headwaters for much of the great lakes and oil spill in this region could spell disaster for ecosystems and fresh water supplies. Enbridge wants to build a quote unquote tunnel over line five so the pipelines can continue operating for years to come. But the company is facing opposition from a coalition of tribal governments, along with Michigan’s democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer. To learn more, I spoke with Whitney Gravelle, an attorney for the Bay Mills Indian community, a Northern Michigan tribe that has fished the waters flowing above Line 5 for generations.

Whitney Gravelle: So Bay Mills Indian community is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in the upper peninsula of Michigan. So we’re in the Northern most part of the state. Um, and as I mentioned earlier, uh, closer to Canada than the rest of the state, but we have been here since time immemorial.

So this is where the Aboriginal people of the Bay Mills Indian community, Ojibwe Anishinaabe, have always resided and lived and been a part of the environment and culture here within the state of Michigan.

ML: Can you give us a little bit of background on the Enbridge line five? Um, how much construction has been completed, maybe where you all are at, in the permitting process?

WG: Yeah. So Enbridge line five, the dual pipelines that run beneath the straits of Mackinac have actually been in existence since 1953. That is when Enbridge first saw an easement from the state of Michigan and actually placed the pipelines into the water. Since then in early 2018, there was actually an anchor strike that struck the pipelines in caused some severe damage.

And that was the first time that the tribes or the public in the state of Michigan were actually made aware of the pipelines. So they had been around, you know, for almost 60 years and all of a sudden, everyone was made aware of what was actually going on beneath the water. Uh, Which was really surprising, not only to the tribe, but to the public.

And then it started raising all of these concerns of why did we have an oil and natural gas pipeline running through the straits of Mackinac, running through the Great Lakes, which is the largest freshwater body in the world. And a critical part of not only the environment of the state of Michigan, but also our economy up here.

ML: Right, and I was watching the video you sent me, that fishing is a big part of the economy where, where you live or for your community.

WG: Yes, that is correct. So Bay mills is actually a signatory of the 1836 treaty of Washington. And in that treaty, there were five different tribes. Females included that seeded 14 million acres to the United States government for the creation of the state of Michigan.

If we had not signed that treaty back in 1836, uh, the state of Michigan would not have. Um, become part of the union, essentially during that time, what we did when we signed the treaty of Washington, however, is we reserved rights on reservation and offers a ration to fish hunt and gather throughout the seed and territory, which is essentially that 14 million acres, that 14 million acres also includes the waters of the great lakes.

And in reserving the. The right to fish in the great lakes, what our ancestors were doing was actually preserving a way of life for our people. That is something that we have always done commercially as well as subsistently in order to provide and feed our community.

ML: And you mentioned earlier, other pipelines, have you drawn inspiration or, uh, maybe some tactical knowledge just from seeing other indigenous led fights against pipelines in the U S.

WG: Absolutely. Um, you know, the most. The largest example that comes to mind was the No DAPL that took place in the Dakotas against that pipeline. That was the first time that the, the indigenous community had come together and rallied around one another in order to stop a pipeline. And there were a lot of atrocities that occurred in the no dapple protest, but they ultimately succeeded.

Now that pipeline is still in litigation. Uh, over there in the Dakotas, they’re still figuring out what those issues, but the strength that those indigenous communities found amongst each other. We also had citizens from the mills Indian community that went out to the Dakotas to support them. We had donations coming from our own tribal community.

It made us realize that if we could draw upon the same strength that we might be able to then get line five, the dual pipelines out of the straits of Mackinac.

ML: And they’re there. Enbridge is trying to extend these lines, right? That is what you’re fighting right now.

WG: Yeah. So originally this has actually been a really rapid and moving process here in the state of Michigan, but originally in 2018, when those anchor strikes had occurred, that.
As I mentioned brought awareness to the general public and the state of Michigan of the dangers of these pipelines. Uh, what Enbridge started doing then was coming up with other alternatives in a way to keep the pipeline going underneath the streets of Mackinaw and what the mills Indian community is actively fighting right now is a proposed tunnel project.

So essentially Enbridge wants to build a tunnel beneath the straits of Mackinac that would then house these dual pipelines, still keeping them. You know, underneath the water, underneath the soil, but endangering our Great Lakes.

ML: Right. And as, um, and as a community, I imagine there, isn’t just the sense of you.
You want to preserve and protect the water for fishing and, uh, for the area that you live, but you’re also fighting to protect the entire great lakes system, really that, that flows from that area. And also the climate.

WG: Absolutely. You know, you hear the term often that tribal communities are often the first stewards of the environment, the first stewards of the land, and that is an obligation and a duty that our communities and the different indigenous populations take very seriously.

We actually have a teaching amongst our people. It’s called the seven generations teaching. But what it asks you to do is to look seven generations into the future for every action that you take. So whether it be a pipeline or driving a car, you know, or constructing something or polluting or recycling, you are supposed to examine that decision that you do and determine how.

Are the actions that I am taking today, having an impact on my children’s children and their children, seven generations into the future. And that teaching is so ingrained into our society. That what it really. Has us do and requires of us is to reflect upon the impacts that we are doing towards the future, which is a direct correlation to climate change, you know, to global warming, uh, to being a steward for the environment.

What are we doing today that will provide the most sustainable future for our children?

ML: And where are we with the fight? I know that. Enbridge filed a lawsuit recently. I think it was against governor. Whitmer correct for, um, attempting to block the pipeline. And then there’s also some permits that are in the air.

WG: Yeah. So most recently, just a few weeks ago, Governor Whitmer actually revoked the easement for the dual pipelines in the streets and Makena first, the governor and the attorney general filed litigation on the easements. In state court, state of Michigan court, and then Enbridge responded by filing an action in federal court, essentially stating that the governor has no right to revoke the easement and that federal regulations over pipelines actually preempt any state law that may apply in terms of easement or regulation of water and lands.

Uh, dual and running along that there’s actually a litigation taking place before the Michigan public service commission, which females is directly involved in. And the Michigan public service commission is the governing body that will decide whether or not Enbridge can move the duel. Pipelines in the streets of Mackinaw into the tunnel.

Also running adjacent to that is there are two permits that are going before Eagle, which is a state regulatory agency in Michigan and also the United States army Corps of engineers to actually build and construct the tunnel. So first and bridge must receive permission from the Michigan public service commission to place the pipelines into the tunnel.
And then they also need two permits approved by both the army Corps and Eagle in order to build the tunnel.

ML: And so, and those permits are, um, the decisions on those are going to be made next month I read. Is that correct? So you’re kind of like, this is a crucial time for your campaign.

WG: Yes, um, Eagle the environment, great lakes and energy division actually extended the deadline until January, 2021.

And then the army Corps is also evaluating that permit. Their process is a little bit longer, but they typically run very parallel to one another. So once we just see a decision from the Eagle state side, we will also see a decision come from the army Corps as well.

ML: One thing we’ve seen internationally. In the past few years is climate negotiators of the United nations and other intergovernmental organizations that are working on climate have come to recognize the leadership that indigenous people have in, in the movement for climate justice. And also in the effort to just preserve the planet, um, that indigenous knowledge, not just the United States, but across the world can be a guiding.
For us in determining how to preserve land, to manage forests, to create carbon sinks, um, to do these things that can help us mitigate at least some of the impacts of climate change. Do you feel like when you’re, when you’re opposing this pipeline, that that does have climate implications, that you are part of a bigger movement and international recognition of, the, I guess, indigenous knowledge about land and about the areas that need to be preserved.

WG: Not at this moment in time. And I think that it is because our focus is so narrowed and lasered-in on the issues that we’re confronting here on the ground, in the state of Michigan. Um, but definitely the inspiration that we have seen from other indigenous communities, not only within the United States, but around the globe.

Have lent us strength in the, in the battles that we are engaging here on the front lines, we learn from their mistakes. We learn from their achievements. We learn from them as communities and how they engage their state or federal regulatory agencies. And we try to apply that here because I think as a people and looking at the teachings from indigenous communities, we’re all aligned that we’re here.

Uh, again, you know, reflecting upon that seven generation principle to continue to provide for our communities who have bet on this land since the beginning of time.

ML: Thanks for listening to Climate Front Lines. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, give us a like, and a share. You can also sign up for our free daily email newsletter@truthout.org. Stay safe out there, friends.

Music by Dan Mason.

Great News! New Secretary of the Interior

Lakota Law

We have incredible news! Today, for the first time in U.S. history, a Native American person was nominated to fill a Cabinet position when Joe Biden tapped Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to serve as his Secretary of the Interior. We all share in this victory for Indigenous rights, and I can’t thank Lakota Law supporters like you enough for lending your voices. Nearly 9,500 of you signed our petition to Biden’s transition team in support of Congresswoman Haaland! Today, they made the right call.

Lakota Law

Once she’s confirmed, Rep. Haaland will bring valuable experience to the executive branch as both a legislator and an Indigenous woman. A 35th-generation New Mexican and member of the Pueblo of Laguna Tribe, she’s already served in Congress on a committee overseeing the Department of the Interior. As a Native person, she’ll bring a new perspective to the position, which is responsible for the federal government’s relationship with tribal nations and has a large role in determining domestic environmental and land use policy. 

We could not have hoped for a better person to fill this role at this time. We have so much work to do to heal our nation — from COVID-19, the disastrous environmental rollbacks of the outgoing administration, and the historical disregard of Indigenous people. So, today, we celebrate a new day and a better direction for America. We heartily congratulate our friend, Congresswoman Haaland, and we look forward to working even more closely with her to win justice for the Lakota and tribal nations across the land.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for helping us make history!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Action Needed

Lakota Law

You’re likely aware of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s partnership with the Lakota People’s Law Project to reach and activate voters in Georgia between now and Jan. 5. Today, I have some great news for those of you who’d like to be even more involved. We’re excited to offer you an opportunity to join the calling team! 

If you can volunteer to help ensure that underrepresented voices are heard in Georgia’s Senate run-off elections, please join our Standing Rock members in calling Native American voters and others in Georgia who care about the issues so important to us.

To become a phone bank volunteer:

1) Complete this brief volunteer intake form;

2) Be available for training via Zoom this Friday Dec. 18th at 5 p.m EST.

You can help Standing Rock make a difference in the Georgia run-offs!

You’ll need a laptop, computer, or tablet, a good internet connection, a phone, and preferably a headset. We’ll provide you everything else, including the names and contact info for the voters and a script that you can follow!

Once you’ve completed the training, you’ll be free to make calls any day of the week (except Friday) between 1 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. EST. We’ll also exclude some holidays, which we’ll clarify at the training. We do ask, if you sign up and go through the training, that you commit to completing at least one four-hour volunteer calling shift.

Now that early voting has begun in Georgia, we’re calling potential voters and asking them to make a solid plan to vote. This is extremely important, because turnout in special elections is always lower than in presidential elections, and studies show that many people who intend to vote may fail to follow through due to lack of planning.

We must help each voter determine whether they’ll vote by mail, vote early, or vote on Election Day. Can you join Standing Rock and help Georgia voters make their plans? There’s so much at stake in this election — including whether we’ll be able to effectively protect our rights to clean air and water in the years to come. Mni wiconi — water is life.

Wopila tanka — your attention, and your participation, are very much appreciated!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Good News from Standing Rock

We won! Due in part to your support, Hoksila White Mountain is now sitting in his rightful place on the McLaughlin City Council. On Monday night, equipped with 80 signatures my team gathered from townsfolk and more than 4,500 from Lakota Law supporters like you, we showed out in force. We demanded that promises made be promises kept — and we shifted the balance of power in Standing Rock’s second largest town

Lakota LawHoksila White Mountain will now represent his people at McLaughlin City Hall

After Hoksila was unjustly removed from the mayoral race in McLaughlin, the mayor agreed to appoint him to city council — but then reneged on his promise. That’s why Lakota Law’s Phyllis Young and Chase Iron Eyes joined a host of my town’s Native residents in pressuring our leadership to do the right thing. The Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. also provided us valuable research into the Voting Rights Act so we could articulate a credible threat of litigation.

Faced with this overwhelming pressure, the majority of the council passed an emergency resolution to appoint Hoksila, on the spot, to fill the empty seat in his ward. He then joined the deliberations as a member of city government. This momentous event means that we Native people, who make up well over half McLaughlin’s population, will now have badly needed representation from one of our own.

Hoksila is the definition of a good man. He honors our ways, he goes to ceremony, and he gives back to the community. He will use his training as a social worker to serve those in need, especially our youth. 

While racial tensions persist in McLaughlin — a town named after the man who killed Sitting Bull, and a place we prefer to call “Bear Soldier” — Hoksila’s appointment and presence can help bridge the divide. It is my sincere hope that we will eventually stop looking at the color of people’s skin and start looking at the temerity of their consciences. Until that day, it’s comforting to have Hoksila in position to give voice to our concerns. 

Thank you for your action on behalf of my people. Only by laying strong foundations within our local communities can we be effective advocates globally for climate action, fair governance, and other issues of broader concern. 

Wopila tanka — thank you for making a difference at Standing Rock!

Honorata Defender
Standing Rock Organizer
Lakota People’s Law Project

Regarding Covid-19

Native Americans mostly on their own in COVID fight

IHS Pine Ridge Hospital in South Dakota. (Indian Health Service via Twitter)

Mary Annette Pember

In states without mask mandates or other policies, tribes suffer most

Davidica Littlespottedhorse didn’t really feel terribly sick; at first she thought she had the flu or a sinus infection.

Soon, however, she developed a frighteningly painful headache. Almost immediately, her entire family of 10 living together in a three-bedroom home fell ill; nearly everyone complained of similar distinctive headaches.

Littlespottedhorse’s son-in-law Carl tested positive for COVID-19 a week earlier. Despite their best efforts at sanitizing the house and ensuring Carl quarantined in his room, the virus quickly spread through the household, affecting members who range in age from 7 months to 47 years old.

The family quickly went to the Indian Health Service hospital in the town of Pine Ridge to get tested; the nurse, however, told Littlespottedhorse that since she’d been tested a week ago, she’d have to wait another month to get retested.

“I told her I’m symptomatic and need to be tested again. Finally I contacted the CEO of the hospital, and he intervened,” she said.

The adults in the home all tested positive. Hospital staff told Littlespottedhorse the babies, all under 2 years, didn’t need to be tested; the family should just assume they are positive and treat their symptoms as needed.

“If I hadn’t insisted on getting us tested, we might have thought we just had the flu and gone on as usual; we could be out there infecting people,” she said.

Davidica Little Spotted Horse of Pine Ridge. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)
Davidica Little Spotted Horse of Pine Ridge. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)

Littlespottedhorse, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, wondered if that might be the case with others in the community.

“It seems like we have a bad flu. We’re not completely debilitated, although my daughter who is 7 months pregnant is feeling really bad,” she said.

In response to an email regarding testing protocols at the Pine Ridge hospital and other facilities, Indian Health Service public affairs staff wrote, “Patients who have had a previous negative COVID-19 may be retested if they start to have symptoms of COVID-19.”

According to the FAQ pages for both the Indian Health Service and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however, “IHS facilities generally have access to testing for individuals who may have COVID-19; however, there are nationwide shortages of supplies that may temporarily affect the availability of COVID-19 testing at a particular location.”

(Previous story: ‘Level of suffering is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before’)

The Indian Health Service has received over $2.4 billion in new funding to provide resources that will support a wide range of COVID-19 activities, according to an agency news release.

The agency has also expanded to deliver 470 rapid point of care analyzers to 342 federal, tribal and urban sites, according to releases from the Indian Health Service and Health and Human Services. But for an agency that is so chronically underfunded and staffed, a one-time infusion of cash may not be enough to shore up an inadequate infrastructure.

Littlespottedhorse and her family are now quarantined in their home in Oglala, on the vast Pine Ridge reservation, where grocery stores are few; Walmart and other large shopping centers are located hours away, in Rapid City and Nebraska.

Littlespottedhorse’s household is dependent on deliveries of food and cleaning supplies from family members and the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Covid Task Force. Her situation is not unique to Pine Ridge.

Mercedese Littlespottedhorse, daughter of Davidica Littlespottedhorse, stays hydrated while fighting the COVID-19 virus. (Photo courtesy of Davidica Littlespottedhorse)
Mercedese Littlespottedhorse, daughter of Davidica Littlespottedhorse, stays hydrated while fighting the COVID-19 virus. (Photo courtesy of Davidica Littlespottedhorse)

Housing is scarce on most reservations, and poverty rates are high so more than one family often occupies a single home, making Native people here especially vulnerable. Underlying poverty-related health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, asthma and high blood pressure add to the risk of developing serious complications, noted South Dakota Rep. Peri Pourier during an interview with MSNBC.

Pourier and Sen. Red Dawn Foster, both Lakota, recently sent a letter to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem asking her to impose a mask requirement.

“This letter is written with grave urgency to appeal to your rational sensibilities as a person, looking above and beyond political party lines and political obstructions,” they wrote.

“We write to implore you to try and think of those who are vulnerable and need our protection, not to get bogged down in petty politics.”

Maggie Seidel, senior advisor and policy director for Noem wrote in an email response to the legislators’ letter, “I think our answer has been well covered.”

“Mask mandates don’t work — they haven’t worked anywhere in the world. We respectfully request the news media cover the facts,” Seidel wrote to Forum News Service regarding Pourier and Foster’s letter.

To date, Noem has declined to enact any COVID-related restrictions and continues to downplay the seriousness of the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Dakota is among the worst states in the country for measures of per capita deaths and hospitalizations.

Both South and North Dakota are near capacity at all hospitals. In general, rural hospitals in the U.S. are not equipped to handle critically ill patients, according to the Wall Street Journal. The pandemic has laid bare these shortcomings for the entire population.

Native Americans on remote reservations in the Dakotas are effectively on their own.

As they have for generations, however, Native people are organizing to provide care for themselves and their families.

No time off since June

“It’s unreal how busy we’ve been,” said Patrick Swallow, public health investigator for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Swallow works with two other investigators and eight contact tracers who notify tribal members who have tested positive for the virus and determine how many others with whom they may have been in contact.

“We first try to contact positive cases by phone, but many times their phone numbers have been disconnected; we’re finding a lot of people have prepaid phones and can’t afford to pay the bill,” Swallow said.

Investigators must then drive to peoples’ homes, don protective gear and notify them in person.

“I’ve been putting on over 300 miles a day driving around; we haven’t had a day off since June,” he said.

“We get anywhere between 30 and 50 cases per day; it’s been hard on us, but everybody on our team is so dedicated. Thankfully, none of our staff has gotten sick so far.”

Predicting the virus’ spread and progression has been almost impossible, according to Swallow.

“In some homes, one person gets sick and then everyone gets infected. In others, only one person gets sick,” Swallow said. “As soon as we think we have this thing figured out, it just changes.”

Swallow speculates that there are likely far more cases of the virus that have gone untested because some patients have no symptoms.

“You can be running around and not even know you have it and still be contagious,” he said.

Unfortunately, the many funerals now taking place for those who have died from the virus are contributing to its spread, according to Swallow.

“It’s a real touchy subject; how do you tell people they can’t have a funeral or wake if their loved one passes away?”

Littlespottedhorse and her family are recovering. Although she has a number of underlying health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, she is beginning to feel better.

Eschewing over-the-counter medications, Littlespottedhorse relies instead on traditional herbal remedies. She credits her teas and supplements with her family’s recovery.

“Thankfully the fevers have passed for everyone. We’re staying true to only herbal remedies, being gentle with ourselves, eating healthy and staying hydrated. We smudge and pray every day,” she said.

“This healing is definitely a process. Luckily our family and the tribe have been stepping up to help us; I’m humbled and eternally grateful to have such compassionate, generous people in our lives. Pilamiya Tunkasila for courage and patience.”

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Mary Annette Pember, citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is national correspondent for Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @mapember. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pember loves film, books and jingle dress dancing.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Support Indigenous Artists

40+ holiday gift ideas that are Indigenius

This formline design is by Crystal Worl, Athabascan and Tlingit, of Juneau, Alaska, who said it symbolizes the importance of balance, which underpins Tlingit kinship and society. (Photo courtesy of Wells Fargo)

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An online guide to shopping Indigenous this holiday season

Looking to shop from Indigenous artists and small businesses this holiday season? Here is a list of sites where you can find these products online.

(Side note: Also consider buying something from local artists, your auntie’s food stand or small businesses on social media)

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FILMS/ BOOKS/ MEDIA:

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Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. We have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Under Representation: Action

Lakota Law

If you’ve been following our work on Standing Rock for the past year, you won’t be surprised to hear that the white-dominated city council in my hometown of McLaughlin, South Dakota is displaying its usual biased treatment of Native residents. First they cut power to homes during the early, cold months of COVID-19. Then they blocked my friend, Hoksila White Mountain, from running for mayor of the Standing Rock’s reservation’s second largest town. Now, they’ve reneged on the mayor’s promise to appoint Hoksila to city council. Unacceptable!

Please help us reverse this ugly, local pattern of Native subjugation. Sign our petition to the McLaughlin City Council today and let them know you stand behind our refusal to accept this broken promise.

Our friend, Hoksila White Mountain, should be on the McLaughlin City Council.

On Monday, we’ll attend the council meeting and, in a show of force by the Native people of this community, deliver our message directly to our local lawmakers. I’m also leading a team of five people going door to door collecting signatures around town, and I’m happy to report that our lead counsel, Chase Iron Eyes, will be there on Monday to represent Hoksila.

As an additional pressure point, we’re in dialogue with the Campaign Legal Center in D.C. (the law firm that successfully joined the Native American Rights Fund in suing North Dakota in 2018 over its voter suppression law) about this matter. I’m confident the power of our combined voices can achieve the change we need. 

We have leverage. McLaughlin’s mayor is on record, multiple times, saying Hoksila will fill the vacant seat in his own ward. The mayor has no valid reason to back off from this public promise — only fear and/or racism. Hoksila would be just the second Native person on the city council in Standing Rock’s second largest town, which was once a KKK stronghold. (My friends and I call it the “Deep North”.)

But I grew up on this land, and I know the power it — and its original inhabitants — have. This November, we at Standing Rock helped generate the largest electoral turnout in U.S. history, and the Native vote had an undeniable impact. So we refuse to stand down and accept election irregularities like this at Standing Rock. Petition the City of McLaughlin, and let them know you stand with us in demanding Hoksila’s appointment to council. It’s past time for Native representation and justice in our homelands. 

Wopila tanka — your action empowers our people!

Honorata Defender
Standing Rock Organizer
Lakota People’s Law Project

Minnesota Tar Sands Direct Action

‘Strong hearts to the front!’: Indigenous water protectors take direct action against Minnesota tar sands pipeline

‘Strong hearts to the front!’: Indigenous water protectors take direct action against Minnesota tar sands pipeline

“Clean water and unpolluted land capable of providing sustenance is essential to our survival… [and] Line 3 poses an existential threat to our well-being.” By Brett Wilkins – December 7, 2020 46 SOURCECommon DreamsShare on FacebookTweet on Twitter

Indigenous-led water protectors on Friday engaged in multiple direct actions against Enbridge’s highly controversial Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota, on the same day that state regulators denied a request from two tribes to stop the Canadian company from proceeding with the project.

Water protectors blocked pipeline traffic and climbed and occupied trees as part of Friday’s actions. Urging other Indigenous peoples and allies to “take a stand,” the Anishinaabe activists at one of the protests told other Native Americans that “your ancestors are here too.”

“Take a moment to speak to her, our Mother Earth is crying out for the warriors to rise again,” they said. “Strong hearts to the front!”

In a statement, Line 3 Media Collective said that the pipeline “violates the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples by endangering critical natural resources in the 1854, 1855, and 1867 treaty areas, where the Ojibwe have the right to hunt, fish, gather medicinal plants, harvest wild rice, and preserve sacred sites.” https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NationofChange&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1334951555070562313&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationofchange.org%2F2020%2F12%2F07%2Fstrong-hearts-to-the-front-indigenous-water-protectors-take-direct-action-against-minnesota-tar-sands-pipeline%2F&siteScreenName=NationofChange&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NationofChange&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-3&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1334944778069356552&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationofchange.org%2F2020%2F12%2F07%2Fstrong-hearts-to-the-front-indigenous-water-protectors-take-direct-action-against-minnesota-tar-sands-pipeline%2F&siteScreenName=NationofChange&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NationofChange&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-4&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1334878831476428806&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationofchange.org%2F2020%2F12%2F07%2Fstrong-hearts-to-the-front-indigenous-water-protectors-take-direct-action-against-minnesota-tar-sands-pipeline%2F&siteScreenName=NationofChange&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

“The state of Minnesota does not have the consent of many tribes that will be impacted by construction and spills,” the group added. “Last week, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the White Earth Band petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to pause its approval of Line 3 construction while challenges to the permits are considered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.”

On Friday, the MPUC voted 4-1 to reject the tribes’ request. According to the Washington Post, the commissioners said that further delays would hurt workers who had traveled to northern Minnesota. They also cited Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s designation of the project as “critical” during the coronavirus pandemic.  https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NationofChange&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-5&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1334869896757469194&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationofchange.org%2F2020%2F12%2F07%2Fstrong-hearts-to-the-front-indigenous-water-protectors-take-direct-action-against-minnesota-tar-sands-pipeline%2F&siteScreenName=NationofChange&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

On Thursday, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) appealed directly to Walz:

Indian people have lived along the lakes, rivers, and streams of northern Minnesota since time immemorial. The people of the MCT have flourished in the area for centuries due to the careful conservation of our resources. Clean water and unpolluted land capable of providing sustenance is essential to our survival… [and] Line 3 poses an existential threat to our well-being. 

The vote and the water protectors’ latest act of resistance come just two days after construction began on the $2.9 billion, 1,100-mile extension. 

According to Indigenous-led environmental group Honor the Earth, the pipeline will have the daily capacity to transport 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil—known as the world’s dirtiest fuel—from Alberta, Canada to a port in Superior, Wisconsin. Stop Line 3 says the pipeline will run “through untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples.”

“We have the right to practice our treaty rights,” stressed Gitchigumi Scout member Taysha Martineau, one of the Indigenous leaders at the Friday action. “We ask you to bear witness and protect our right to do so.”

Will Rogers

‘Will Rogers was always a Cherokee’

Vincent Schilling

Nov 21, 2020

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is buying the family ranch where young Will Rogers grew up

Vincent Schilling

Indian Country Today

The Cherokee Nation has agreed to purchase Will Rogers’ historic home and family ranch in northeastern Oklahoma, promising restoration and repairs to the birthplace of the renowned actor and humorist.

A signing ceremony formalizing the purchase from the Oklahoma Historical Society was held on Nov. 4, Rogers’ birthday.

(L-R): Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., District 12 Tribal Councilor Dora Patzkowski, District 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, District 15 Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor and Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. (Courtesy Cherokee Nation)
(L-R): Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., District 12 Tribal Councilor Dora Patzkowski, District 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, District 15 Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor and Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. (Courtesy Cherokee Nation)

“Will Rogers’ humor and his unique ability to make complicated political and economic issues easy to understand made him a powerful social critic and commentator,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., in a written statement released by the tribe. “He captivated audiences around the nation because his humor never insulted or belittled anyone – he was simply telling the truth about people in positions of power.

“He was called ‘The Cherokee Kid’ in his early entertainment career and always embraced his culture and his tribe. No matter how popular he was, Will Rogers was always a Cherokee, and he talked about it. He reminded people every day that there are Native people of this land still alive and who remain a vibrant part of America’s tapestry. It is quite fitting that the Cherokee Nation will now have an opportunity to continue telling this story from such a unique perspective,” Hoskin said.

“Will Rogers’ humor and his unique ability to make complicated political and economic issues easy to understand made him a powerful social critic and commentator,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., in a written statement released by the tribe. (Courtesy photo)
“Will Rogers’ humor and his unique ability to make complicated political and economic issues easy to understand made him a powerful social critic and commentator,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., in a written statement released by the tribe. (Courtesy photo)

The sales price was not disclosed.

Dr. Bob Blackburn, the executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, a state agency that owns the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in nearby Claremore, said the investment by the Cherokee nation will help secure the legacy of the Rogers family ranch.

“The Oklahoma Historical Society and the Cherokee Nation have a long history of mutual respect, cooperation and shared resources,” Blackburn in a statement. “Every penny earned from this transfer will be invested in the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, located in the Cherokee Nation. Together, we will make sure the world will always remember the life and legacy of this famous Cherokee cowboy.”

The Cherokee Nation, which oversees seven other museums, two welcome centers and other retail operations, will manage the property through the tribe’s cultural tourism department.

(See related story: Google Doodle celebrates Cherokee actor Will Rogers)

‘Oklahoma’s Favorite Son’

will-rogers-feat

William Penn Adair Rogers was born Nov. 4, 1879, on the family ranch in Oologah, Oklahoma, northeast of Tulsa, the youngest of eight children of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher.

The ranch started as a 20-acre site but grew to about 60,000 acres at its peak. In the late 1890s, however, the ranch was reduced through allotments created by the Curtis and Dawes acts. The family worked to purchase back land and was able to reclaim approximately 2,000 acres. Today, the property, which includes the ranch-style home and three buildings, is approximately 162 acres.

In his early 20s, Rogers sought to join the entertainment industry, where his skills with a rope and horse drew attention. He worked in vaudeville then joined the Ziegfeld Follies, which led to movie contracts. He would go on to star in more than 70 movies, write a syndicated newspaper column and author seven books. He was also a radio commentator.https://www.youtube.com/embed/W9V9l5eJCVs?autoplay=0&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com&widgetid=1

He became known throughout Hollywood and the film industry as “The Cherokee Kid” and “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son.”

Perhaps his most famous line was, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” He also poked fun at political conventions, declaring, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Rogers died at age 56 in a plane crash with well-known Oklahoma aviator Wiley Post on Aug. 15, 1935, in Point Barrow, Alaska. He is buried at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, along with other members of his family.

His legacy has endured. On his birthday in 2019, Google honored him with a Google Doodle on the Google home page.

Will Roger's Google Doodle

Preserving his legacy

At the signing ceremony in early November, Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner emphasized the importance of Rogers’ legacy as a citizen of the tribe.

“Today is a good day to celebrate this historic site and all that has been accomplished here by those who acted as caretakers of the land for many decades, including the Oklahoma Historical Society,” said Warner. “The story of Will Rogers is such an integral part of Oklahoma history and Cherokee Nation history. I want to thank the Oklahoma Historical Society for preserving this site and allowing folks from all across the world to get a glimpse of the famed Cherokee humorist who left a lasting impression on so many of us.”

Keith Austin, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor, said he grew up just a few miles from the family’s ranch.

“This is a proud moment for [the] Cherokee Nation and the beginning of what I know will be a promising future for this treasured site,” Austin said. “The Will Rogers birthplace was an important part of my childhood. I spent a lot of time here, and it is a true honor to have the opportunity to share the Cherokee story of Will Rogers and the Rogers family ranch.

“Today, we celebrate part of our Cherokee roots being returned to the Cherokee people, and I’m proud and humbled to be part of it,” he said.

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Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor at Indian Country Today. He enjoys creating media, technology, computers, comics, and movies. He is a film critic and writes the #NativeNerd column. Twitter @VinceSchilling. TikTok @VinceSchilling. Email: vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com.

¨Thankstaking¨

Lakota Law header

Season’s greetings to you and yours! I suspect that this year, you may be feeling a bit muted in your celebrations. With the pandemic still raging around the world, many of us won’t have the opportunity to get together with loved ones in the way we’re accustomed. Of course, some of us in Native communities already have issues with Thanksgiving — which I call Thankstaking — because it’s a holiday that unfortunately reminds us of all we have lost.

It seems somehow appropriate then that Giving Tuesday follows closely on the heels of this holiday. It gives us all an opportunity to consider the true spirit of giving differently. By giving to support Native justice now, you have a way to honor Native communities on a painful day. And because a group of our generous patrons has offered to match all gifts we receive between now and the end of next week, your contribution will make twice the impact.

In this week’s members-only event for monthly contributors, Chase and I discussed Thanksgiving and our accomplishments together.

And what an impact we’ve been making together! We’re still joyful about the success we had getting out the national Native vote in partnership with Standing Rock — and now we’ve got our sights set on how we can build on that success. I’ve got one word for you: Georgia.

This week, our staff spent time in Atlanta solidifying partnerships with the NAACP and the Indigenous Peoples Movement so we can effectively work together to get out the vote for the upcoming U.S. Senate run-off elections in the Peach State.

There are almost 40,000 Indigenous people in Georgia. There are also many environmental, Hispanic, and Black voters who share some political values with Native people. The state has the ninth youngest population in America and the third largest Black population. But the historical pattern in Georgia has been that, during runoffs, people of color and younger folks tend to vote in smaller numbers than during presidential elections. We aim to change that. Our focus will be making sure that everyone who voted in November votes again by Jan. 5. 

We aren’t ready to rest. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be back at Standing Rock replicating our successful outreach from tribal members to all voters who will listen to them. And we plan to offer you all a chance to join our phonebank effort as well — please stay tuned! Thank you for being there for us every step of the way! With your support, we can keep the historic wins coming.

Wopila Tanka — thank you, and I wish you well this holiday season!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

Something Done Right…but

*We should re-evaluate the sport franchises we support. ~Michel

Dalton Walker

3 hours ago

Updated: The team says it’s reviewing its philanthropic strategy and will no longer contribute to the Original Americans Foundation

Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

The Washington NFL team dumped its controversial mascot earlier this year and now, it appears it has dumped its foundation created to help Native people.

The team will no longer make contributions to the Original Americans Foundation and will instead focus its charitable efforts on the Washington Football Charitable Foundation, USA Today reported this week. The Washington Football Charitable Foundation will continue to assist Native communities, according to the newspaper, but it’s unclear how.

“As part of our evolution into a franchise of the future, the Washington Football Team’s new leadership is reviewing our philanthropic strategy,” read a team statement to USA Today.

A spokeswoman for the foundation confirmed the shift away from the Original Americans Foundation and a new philanthropic strategy to Indian Country Today.

Julie Jenson said part of the strategy is working with advisors and leadership within the Native American community that is long term and sustainable. Strategy specifics haven’t been built out yet, she said.

In July, the team said it was retiring its logo and nickname, a dictionary-defined racial slur, after mounting pressure from activists and sponsors. It hasn’t made a public decision on a new name and is competing in this NFL season as the Washington Football Team.

(Related: Washington NFL team kicks out R-word)

The team launched the Original Americans Foundation in 2014. An announcement on its website from that time outlined its goals and cited its ability to “provide resources that offer genuine opportunities for tribal communities.”

According to the post, Synder and his staff traveled to 26 reservations in 20 states and met with 400 tribal leaders.

“The fact is, too many Native American communities face much harsher, much more alarming realities,” Snyder said in the announcement. “I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, it’s heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.”

It also noted the foundation had given a new backhoe to the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, among 40-plus projects being processed that year.

USA Today reported that the foundation donated $3.7 million in its first year, $1.6 million in the second, $650,000 in the 2017 fiscal year, $303,000 in the 2018 fiscal year, and $0 in 2019. It’s unclear where the money was spent or which tribes benefited.

The NFL franchise is facing sexual harassment claims that were recently exposed by the Washington Post. The report names Original Americans Foundation Executive Director Gary Edwards as one of the franchise employees accused of sexual harassment.

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Story has been updated to include comment from Washington Football Charitable Foundation

Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Dam Demolition

Deal revives plan for largest US dam demolition

“At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people,” Yurok Tribe chairman Joseph James said. “We have never wavered from this obligation, and we are pleased to see dam removal come closer to reality through this agreement.”

In this March 3, 2020, file photo, is the Iron Gate Dam, powerhouse and spillway are on the lower Klamath River near Hornbrook, Calif. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File)

The Associated Press

Nov 17, 2020

Tribes hope the dam removal will allow the salmon to come back

Gillian Flaccus
Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — An agreement announced Tuesday paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history, a project that promises to reopen hundreds of miles of waterway along the Oregon-California border to salmon that are critical to tribes but have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years.

If it goes forward, the deal would revive plans to remove four massive hydroelectric dams on the lower Klamath River, emptying giant reservoirs and reopening potential fish habitat that’s been blocked for more than a century. The massive project would be at the vanguard of a trend toward dam demolitions in the U.S. as the structures age and become less economically viable amid growing environmental concerns about the health of native fish.

Previous efforts to address problems in the Klamath Basin have fallen apart amid years of legal sparring that generated distrust among tribes, fishing groups, farmers and environmentalists. Opponents of dam removal worry about their property values and the loss of a water source for fighting wildfires.

“It is bleak, but I want to have hope that with dam removal and with all the prayers that we’ve been sending up all these years, salmon could come back. If we just give them a chance, they will,” said Chook Chook Hillman, a Karuk tribal member who’s been fighting for the dam removal for years. “If you provide a good place for salmon, they’ll always come home.”

A half-dozen tribes spread across Oregon and California, fishing groups and environmentalists had hoped to see demolition work begin as soon as 2022. But in July, U.S. regulators stalled those plans when they questioned whether the nonprofit entity formed to oversee the project could adequately respond if there were cost overruns or accidents.

The new plan makes Oregon and California equal partners in the demolition with the nonprofit entity, called the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, and adds $45 million to the project’s $450 million budget to ease those concerns. Oregon, California and the utility PacifiCorp, which operates the hydroelectric dams and is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway, will each provide one-third of the additional funds.

Parties to the new agreement shared details with The Associated Press in documents and interviews ahead of a news conference scheduled Tuesday.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must approve the deal. If accepted, it would allow PacifiCorp and Berkshire Hathaway to walk away from aging dams that are more of an albatross than a profit-generator, while addressing regulators’ concerns. Oregon, California and the nonprofit would jointly take over the hydroelectric license from PacifiCorp until the dams are decommissioned, while the nonprofit will oversee the work.

Buffett called the reworked deal a solution to a “very complex challenge.”

“I recognize the importance of Klamath dam removal and river restoration for tribal people in the Klamath Basin,” Buffett said in a statement. “We appreciate and respect our tribal partners for their collaboration in forging an agreement that delivers an exceptional outcome for the river, as well as future generations.” 

Removed would be the four southernmost dams in a string of six constructed in southern Oregon and far Northern California beginning in 1918. 

They were built solely for power generation. They are not used for irrigation, not managed for flood control and have no “fish ladders,” or concrete chutes that fish can pass through. 

They have blocked hundreds of miles of potential fish habitat and spawning grounds, and fish populations have dropped precipitously in recent years. Salmon are at the heart of the culture, beliefs and diet of a half-dozen regional tribes, including the Yurok and Karuk — both parties to the agreement — and they have suffered deeply from that loss.

Coho salmon from the Klamath River are listed as threatened under federal and California law, and their population in the river has fallen anywhere from 52 percent to 95 percent. Spring chinook salmon, once the Klamath Basin’s largest run, has dwindled by 98 percent.

Fall chinook, the last to persist in any significant numbers, have been so meager in the past few years that the Yurok canceled fishing for the first time in the tribe’s memory. In 2017, they bought fish at a grocery store for their annual salmon festival.

“At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people,” Yurok Tribe chairman Joseph James said. “We have never wavered from this obligation, and we are pleased to see dam removal come closer to reality through this agreement.” 

PacifiCorp has been operating the dams under an extension of its expired hydroelectric license for years. The license was originally granted before modern environmental laws and renewing it would mean costly renovations to install fish ladders. The utility has said energy generated by the dams no longer makes up a significant part of its portfolio.

In the original deal, PacifiCorp was to transfer its license and contribute $200 million to bow out of the removal project and avoid further costs and liability. An additional $250 million comes from a voter-approved California water bond.

U.S. regulators, however, agreed only on the condition that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee along with the Klamath River Renewal Corporation — a nonstarter for the utility.

Residents have been caught in the middle. As tribes watched salmon dwindle, some homeowners around a huge reservoir created by Copco Dam, one of those slated for removal, have sued to stop the demolition. 

They say their waterfront property values are already declining because of news coverage associated with demolition and they worry about losing a water source for fighting wildfires in an increasingly fire-prone landscape. Many also oppose the use of ratepayer funds for the project.

On Tuesday, some Oregon lawmakers issued statements saying Gov. Kate Brown had violated her authority by authorizing the deal without legislative approval.

Further upstream, farmers who rely on two other dams are watching carefully. The removal of the lower four dams won’t affect them directly, but they worry it could set a precedent for dam removal on the Klamath.

More than 1,720 dams have been dismantled around the U.S. since 2012, according to American Rivers, and 26 states undertook dam removal projects in 2019 alone. The Klamath River project would be the largest such project by far if it proceeds.

New Veterans Memorial

Kolby KickingWoman

Nov 11, 2020

‘This memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country’

Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., is commemorating Veterans Day 2020 by unveiling the National Native American Veterans Memorial.

The museum originally planned to host a veterans’ procession and dedication ceremony but is looking to reschedule those events for later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The installation sits on the museum’s grounds and is a short walk from the U.S. Capitol. 

The Arts in the Time of Covid

I have used the virtual world for education long before the lock-down restrictions of Covid-19. I invite everyone to visit the educational site – the Wounded Knee Memorial at:

Seaside Dreams in Kitley: grid.kitely.com:8002:Seaside Dreams

First, go to: https://www.kitely.com/ sign up for free and then go to the world, Seaside Dreams. Upon arriving you will see a teleporter to the memorial.

¨Please visit my other world: Seaside Dreams for the interactive Wounded Knee Memorial. This memorial commemorates the massacre December 29th, 1890 in which 300+ Lakota died in a unjust and horrific way by the U,S, Calvary. Please come explore and learn how these past events connect to current events. You will find the teleporter to the memorial upon arriving at Seaside Dreams. hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seaside%20Dreams/218/121/22

There was a special discussion and interview: See it here: https://virtualoutworlding.blogspot.com/2018/02/2018-edu-massacre-at-wounded-knee.html¨

Because of Covid-19 we are restricted in attending large gatherings. You will also find at Kitely the world Gallery No. 8 and Town Center.

grid.kitely.com:8002:Gallery No.8 and Town Center

There we host an annual Native American Film festival. Upon arrival you will find information about the festival and where you can find the latest film streaming.

This year´s festival must be virtual and I encourage everyone to support the arts and film makers everywhere you can. The arts are severely affected. Red Nation Film Festival | 2020 Films

November 2020: The Vote

Native vote plays powerful role, especially in swing states

President Donald Trump, left, points towards Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, right, during the second and final presidential debate Thursday at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Election 2020

Oct 29, 2020

Voting advocates predict Native voters will come out in force despite challenges #NativeVote20

Mary Annette Pember 
Indian Country Today

Native American and Alaska Native voters have the power to determine the next president.

“Had Native voters turned out in 2016, we would likely have had a very different outcome in the presidential election,” said OJ Semans, executive director of Four Directions Inc., a Native American voting rights advocacy organization. Semans is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe.

Native voters stand to play a crucial role in the 2020 election, especially in swing states where they make up significant portions of eligible voters. States in which two major parties have similar levels of support and high numbers of electoral votes are also home to large Native populations.

The approximately 3.7 million Natives and Alaska Natives of voting age are represented in this election’s crucial swing states.

Swing states and percentage of eligible Native voters:

  • Arizona — 5.6 percent
  • Colorado — 2.5 percent
  • Michigan — 1.4 percent
  • Minnesota — 1.8 percent
  • Nevada — 2.5 percent
  • North Carolina — 2.1 percent
  • Wisconsin — 1.5 percent
OJ Semans is executive director of Four Directions Inc, a Native American voting rights advocacy group. (Photo courtesy Four Directions)
OJ Semans is executive director of Four Directions Inc, a Native American voting rights advocacy group. (Photo courtesy of Four Directions)

At first glance, it might appear that the numbers are insignificant; however, if President Donald Trump’s narrow margin of victory in several states during the 2016 presidential election is any indication, the Native vote stands to play an important role in this election.

“Trump won the state during the 2016 election by 0.7 percent. We could have very well have swung that election,” said Guy Reiter of Menikanaehken Inc., a grassroots organization based on the Menominee reservation in northeast Wisconsin. In addition to working to revitalize its community, Menikanaehken Inc. is working to increase voter engagement and registration.

In the 2016 presidential election, however, only 1.8 million Native voters turned out, about half of the eligible voters.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, the voter rate among Native Americans is five to 14 percentage points lower than that of other racial groups.

These low rates have been attributed to a number of issues, including barriers to voting such as lack of polling places near or on reservations, voter registration requirements that call for physical mailing addresses (many Native folks on remote reservations maintain post office boxes rather than receive mail at home) and a general history of disenfranchisement and distrust of the federal government that goes back generations.

COVID-19 is creating further barriers for Indian Country as many turn to mail in voting as a means to mitigate exposure to the virus that has hit Native communities such as the Navajo Nation and Wisconsin tribes hard. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a lower court decision rejecting a lawsuit brought by six Navajo voters seeking to allow an extra 10 days for ballots mailed from the Navajo Nation to be counted. Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin voting laws rejecting efforts to allow absentee ballots to be counted sent back to election officials on or just before election day.

Despite these challenges, Native leaders and voting advocates are confident that this election will be a game changer.

According to the newly released Indigenous Futures Survey — directed by IllumiNative, the Native Organizers Alliance and the Center for Native American Youth — Native Americans, especially youth, are highly engaged in the political process. About 5 percent of youth respondents were not old enough to vote in the 2016 election.

A high level of engagement in the political process such as signing petitions, sharing political content online, participating in a community action group, attending a protest both before and after the death of George Floyd, are predictors of greater voter turnout, according to survey authors.

The survey was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley from June 23 to Aug. 15, with responses from 6,460 Native people of voting age across the U.S. representing 401 tribes.

The survey was conducted online due to restrictions of the pandemic.

According to its findings, Native people living in battleground or swing states report higher voting rates than those in other locations.

Fifty-one percent of respondents identified as Democrats, 26 percent as independent, 9 percent as Democratic Socialist and 7 percent as Republican. The remainder identified as Libertarian, Green Party or Socialist.

The large number of Native candidates in local and state elections will also influence greater voter turnout, according to the survey’s authors.

Native voting rights advocates such as Reiter and Semans agree that more Native people will vote during this election, especially youth.

“There’s greater interest in this election cycle, especially among young people. They are really excited about voting; they are seeing the opportunity for us to make sure that Wisconsin goes in a way that represents Indigenous people,” Reiter said.

Maria Dadger is executive director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona. (Photo by Patty Talahongva)
Maria Dadger is executive director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona. (Photo by Patty Talahongva)

According to Maria Dadger, executive director of the Intertribal Council of Arizona based in Phoenix, Native youth have been especially responsive to the council’s social media voting outreach.

“The response from Native voters between 18-24 has been phenomenal,” she said.

Environmental quality, health and education are huge issues of concern for tribes, according to Dadger.

Indeed, researchers with the Indigenous Futures Survey found that health care, especially mental health, and the environment were among respondents’ top concerns.

Candidates take notice

Notably both the Biden and Trump campaigns are courting the Native vote; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris met with tribal leaders last month in Phoenix and later released their 15 page “Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations.”

Joe Biden met with tribal leaders at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. (Photo by Carina Dominguez)
Joe Biden met with tribal leaders at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

According to their plan, a Biden administration will fully fund the Indian Health Service and potentially make funding mandatory rather than discretionary. The Biden-Harris plan also commits to aim to achieve net-zero emissions and ensure that investments in clean energy reach Native communities. Biden has also promised to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Later in October, Trump released his three-page policy vision for Indian Country, shortly after his son Donald Trump Jr. launched the Native Americans for Trump coalition in Williams, Arizona.

In his “Putting America’s First Peoples First: Forgotten More!” plan, Trump promised to respect tribal sovereignty and self-determination, promote safe communities, build a thriving economy with improved infrastructure, honor Native American heritage, improve education and deliver health care.

The Trump campaign launched its Native American Coalition in Williams, Arizona. (Photo by Carina Dominguez)
The Trump campaign launched its Native American Coalition in Williams, Arizona. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, Indian Country Today)

In a follow-up email to Indian Country Today’s request for details about Trump’s plans to deliver health care, Jennifer Kelly, advisor for regional communications and Hispanic median engagement wrote: “The Federal government remains committed to meeting existing federal trust and treaty obligations. Unfortunately, politicians of both parties, including some who have been in Washington, DC for several decades have fallen short. Thankfully, President Trump is not afraid to tackle long-overlooked challenges, just as he has done with the issue of Missing and Murdered Native Americans. A few examples of elevating the commitment to the trust relationship in the plan surround the provisions to improve education and healthcare in Indian Country. President Trump’s FY 2021 budget, for example, proposed a $185 million (3 percent) increase for Indian Health Service (IHS) funding totaling $6.2 billion. The President also launched the IHS Task (Force) to tackle long overlooked abuses in the IHS.”

Trump also promised to empower tribes to pursue responsible energy development on their lands.

Trump’s record on the environment and support for fossil fuel development, mining and pipelines that frequently impact Native lands and communities, however, has not gone unnoticed in Indian Country.

Trump famously approved the Dakota Access Pipeline, the subject of months-long opposition, near the Standing Rock Reservation within a month of taking office. The president has been an enthusiastic supporter of oil and gas pipeline development, the coal industry, mining in areas such as the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. During his administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has streamlined the environmental review process and timeline for pipelines and mining projects.

According to Dadger, access to clean, safe water is paramount to Native people in Arizona; the fallout from coal and uranium mines continue to pollute drinking water on the Navajo reservation.

“In Arizona, water is gold,” Dadger said.

The state of Wisconsin repealed its mining moratorium during the Trump administration while the president has sought to fast-track mining projects, offering grants and loans to help companies pay for equipment.

Environmental health is a big concern for Native voters in Wisconsin, according to Reiter.

“I don’t think there’s a tribe here in Wisconsin that isn’t fighting some sort of environmental threat from mining or pipelines. As Indigenous people, we don’t have the luxury of relocating. This is our land,” Reiter said.

“If you still need an excuse to vote, I don’t know what world you’re living in,” he said.

Although voters in Indian Country continue to experience barriers, Semans is hopeful for this election.

“In a matter of a week, we registered 1,600 people in Minnesota, 1,700 in Arizona and 1,800 in South Dakota. I’m really excited for Indian Country,” he said.

Professor Arianne Eason of the University of California-Berkeley, a researcher with the Indigenous Futures Survey, agrees.

“We saw really high rates of civic and political engagement among respondents. That being said, there were still a lot of barriers that Indigenous people were facing, and some of it is really access to polling places. At the same time, we see that people really are taking very seriously what’s going on. And so when we look at what motivates people to vote, what people are really reporting, is caring about candidates’ platforms and their track record on Native and tribal issues.”

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Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today.

5 Alaska tribes protest groundwork for Tongass logging

Joaqlin Estus

Oct 20, 2020

‘We refuse to endow legitimacy upon a process that has disregarded our input at every turn’

Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

Five tribal nations of southeast Alaska are objecting to a federal agency decision that leaves the U.S. Forest Service poised to open 9 million acres in the Tongass National Forest to logging.

The federal agency recently recommended lifting a 2001 rule that bans new road construction and commercial logging in the Tongass, the country’s largest national forest at nearly 17 million acres.

The five Tlingit and Haida tribes say they’re deeply disappointed with the agency’s choice.

Last week, they sent a strongly worded letter to the U.S. secretary of agriculture and chief of the Forest Service opting out of “cooperating agency status,” which had allowed them to enter the planning process at the earliest stage and contribute to environmental analyses.

“After two years of consultations, meetings, providing input and commenting on drafts, the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement shows that our participation in this process has not actually led to the incorporation of any of our concerns in the final decision,” the letter said. “We refuse to endow legitimacy upon a process that has disregarded our input at every turn.”

The tribes said they had differences among them on details of the alternatives laid out in the environmental impact statement, but they were unanimous on one point. “We were united in our opposition to a full exemption” of the Tongass from the so-called roadless rule.

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Tongass National Forest (Mark C. Brennan, Courtesy of Creative Commons)
Tongass National Forest (Mark C. Brennan, Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Proponents of Tongass logging say the rule change is needed to boost the Alaska economy. They say it would result in logging of only about 1 percent of the most valuable old growth forest, while still allowing other uses, including mining, renewable energy and recreation projects.

But the tribes said the agency’s selection reflects political expediency rather than the public or environmental best interests. It “closes the door to any further collaboration in the Alaska Roadless Rule process, as the agency has shown that they have no interest in addressing the concerns of our Tribes, and the public at large.”

The tribes said they are opting out of cooperative agency status because “we do not wish to confuse the American people into believing that the listing of our Tribes as cooperating agencies on the first page of the impact statement means that the final recommendation made by the document is in any way reflective of the input that we gave during the rulemaking process.”

They said they will not be party to a decision that will lead to the “degradation of our homelands and our way of life.”

The tribes added full exemption from the roadless rule does not provide solutions or contribute to prosperity.

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The Organized Village of Kasaan, Hydaburg Cooperative Association, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Hoonah Indian Association, and Angoon Community Association asked that an updated version of the environmental impact statement be released to reflect their withdrawal as cooperating agencies.

Under the Trump administration, a handful of large resource development proposals in Alaska have already received or appear to be on the verge of getting federal approval. All have been embroiled in controversy for years, most for decades. The proposed projects include the opening of 1.5 million acres for oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, development of the nation’s largest copper mine in the fisheries-rich Bristol Bay region, and construction of a road through wilderness to the Ambler mining district.

The Forest Service will issue a final decision on the roadless rule in the Tongass sometime after Oct. 25.

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Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today, and a long-time Alaska journalist.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.

Voting Information

Lakota Law

In this final week before the election, as we dive into the homestretch at Standing Rock to get out the vote here and in battleground states, we’re working harder than ever to make sure America hears our voices and counts our ballots. Lakota Law’s new video provides you with an inside look at our phone bank, as our Standing Rock members call into two states where the Native vote has the most potential to make a difference for Grandmother Earth: Arizona and North Carolina.

Phone bank leader Melanie Thompson demonstrates to Chase Iron Eyes exactly what a successful call to a 2020 voter looks like.

As part of this massive effort, we’ve dialed more than 55,000 numbers and had 3,000 meaningful conversations with voters in North Carolina. For example, we’ve spoken to almost 1,000 voters in Lumbee tribal territory — the counties of Cumberland, Hoke, Scotland and Robeson — who have already voted or committed to voting.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, following in the footsteps of former Vice President Biden, President Trump visited Robeson County and pledged to federally recognize the Lumbee — North Carolina’s largest tribe. It’s all part of a pattern of candidates increasingly courting the Native vote, after so many election cycles where the opposite was true. 

Of course, Native Americans still face many barriers to voting, and thankfully the press is helping to shine a light on our plight. Lakota Law’s Phyllis Young, phone bank leader Melanie Thompson, and I did interviews with the Associated Press last week, and the story dropped today. I urge you to give it a read

The bottom line is that we insist on Native voices being heard this election cycle — and it seems that the world has begun to listen in a new way, thanks in large part to the support you give to our Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and to the Lakota People’s Law Project. I cannot thank you enough.

Wopila tanka — it means the world that you stand with Standing Rock!

Terry Yellow Fat
Tribal Elder
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project
 

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

Vote 2020

Lakota Law header

It’s an exciting week at Standing Rock as we’re in full swing with our Vote 2020 call center! On Wednesday, our media team hit the ground running, and we trained a full room of 25 Standing Rock members to call and activate voters around the U.S.


Watch our new video: Standing Rock members call potential voters in North Carolina.

It’s been said a thousand times: this is the most important election of our lifetime. With so much wrong in the world, we can turn the tide — right now. I’m confident that we’ll successfully combat attempts to disenfranchise Native people and make our voices heard loud and clear on Nov. 3. 

We’re encouraging everyone we speak with to vote — and whenever possible, we’re making sure they can do so early. This election offers us a chance to turn what is usually a particularly hard time of year for us in Native communities into a time of hope. While it’s always a challenge being Indian in America, as we go from October into November, our pain intensifies. Beginning with Columbus Day and continuing through Thanksgiving, the wider culture seems to constantly celebrate calls for erasure of Indigenous personhood.

That history is exactly why we’re calling on each other to speak truth to power, to envision who we want to be in the times to come. This election is a test: Who are we, really, when the going gets tough? As Americans, it’s critical we work together to be our best selves. Yes, this is a hard, trying time — but as Indigenous peoples and nations, this has always been the case. 

Standing Rock Protest Video
Callers celebrate a day of effective outreach.

Let me be clear: we believe in American ideals as much as anyone. We want liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So this November, we’re doing everything humanly possible to make sure the Earth is respected, fascism is rejected, and our democracy is protected.

Wopila — thank you, always, for your generosity and heart.

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Environmental Oversight

EPA gives Oklahoma environmental oversight on Indian lands

In this Aug. 18 photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt answers a question during a news conference at the Central Oklahoma PPE distribution warehouse in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Kolby KickingWoman

Oct 5, 2020

Ramifications stemming from McGirt decision in July seep beyond criminal jurisdiction

Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the state of Oklahoma’s request to administer environmental regulatory programs in Indian Country.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Cherokee, made the initial request to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler near the end of July, 13 days after the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma. 

That decision stated Congress never explicitly disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation and much of eastern Oklahoma remains Indian Country.

While the McGirt case dealt with criminal jurisdiction, it appears tribal and state governments believe the ramifications of the decision extend beyond that single area.

A map submitted as an exhibit in the Supreme Court case about the boundaries of tribal reservations in Oklahoma.
A map submitted as an exhibit in the Supreme Court case about the boundaries of tribal lands in Oklahoma. (Image: The Supreme Court)

The EPA’s letter to Stitt, dated last week, applies to more than two dozen federal environmental programs overseen by Oklahoma agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Water Resources Board and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. It gives the state approval for a hazardous waste program, experimental use permits, Clean Air Act programs and more. The approval does not apply to lands held in trust for tribes or those that qualify as Indian allotments, the letter says.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. called the announcement disappointing.

“Unfortunately, the governor’s decision to invoke a 2005 federal law ignores the longstanding relationships between state agencies and the Cherokee Nation,” Hoskin said in a statement. “All Oklahomans benefit when the Tribes and state work together in the spirit of mutual respect and this knee-jerk reaction to curtail tribal jurisdiction is not productive.”

Pictured: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. gives remarks during the tribe's Economic Impact forum at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. (Photo: Cherokee Nation)

The federal law allowing states to seek environmental oversight in Indian Country was authored in 2005 by Oklahoma’s Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a staunch ally of the oil and gas industry.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation was similarly disappointed and through the tribe’s press secretary said concerns brought forth by the tribe during two consultations seemed to go unheard.

“The underlying law is a one-section provision surreptitiously inserted as a midnight rider in the massive (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act) of 2005 that treats Oklahoma tribes differently than other tribes throughout the United States,” the tribe said in a statement. “Like the SAFETEA Act itself, this was a swift move meant to circumvent the federal government’s trust, duty and obligation to consult with the tribal nations concerned.”

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation said it submitted a request for tribal consultation just two days after the governor submitted his request.

“The MCN was granted two consultations, but it seems the concerns raised did not suffice. The MCN will continue seeking remedies to the situation.”

Stitt said in a statement Monday that he was pleased with the EPA’s decision. He said it would help better protect the state’s public health and environment “by ensuring certainty and one consistent set of regulations” for all citizens of Oklahoma, including tribal citizens.

“As Administrator Wheeler’s letter correctly points out, the State of Oklahoma did not seek to expand or increase its regulation over new areas of the state, but rather to continue to regulate those areas where the state has consistently implemented these environmental programs under the steady oversight of the U.S. EPA,” Stitt said.

The EPA decision was particularly welcomed by the state’s oil and gas industry, which was concerned that the Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma could ultimately lead to a patchwork of various tribal environmental regulations across the state, said Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, an oil and gas industry trade group.

“This decision grants the state no more or no less authority than it had prior to the McGirt decision,” Simmons said. “Since 1947, the state of Oklahoma has had primacy to regulate oil and gas operations in Indian Country. This does not have any new effect on that precedent.”

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Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A’aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports for the Washington Bureau. For hot sports takes and too many Lakers tweets, follow him on Twitter – @KDKW_406. Email – kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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The Truth and Healing Act

Lakota Law

Hihanni waste,

In the U.S., some of the ugly realities of our history continue to unfold, but there is always hope when we push back. We’re seeing this now in the continued struggle for racial justice, a movement that is playing out not only on the streets but in the halls of Congress. We’re grateful that last week, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a new bill in the House of Representatives to bring to light the injustices suffered by my people at the hands of the federal government. 

The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act aims to establish a formal commission to expose the atrocities committed by the federal boarding school policy, and give a voice to the descendants dealing with the resulting trauma. It is co-sponsored by a long list of congressional reps, including Rep. Sharice L. Davids (D-Kan.), a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Davids and Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) were recently the first two Native women elected to the House.

Between 1879 and 1918, more than 10,000 Native American children from 140 tribes attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. 158 graduated.

As you may know, the Indian boarding school era is one of the darkest chapters in the history of American Indian policy. Under a government-approved goal to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” our children were taken and forcibly assimilated into colonized ways of thinking. Their braids cut and the speaking of their languages prohibited, these children were subjected to repeated physical, sexual, and mental abuse — and too many never made it back home. The horrible reality is that hundreds, if not thousands, of these children still lie in boarding school graveyards around the country instead of resting in their homelands with their ancestors. 

This history is not removed from modern day, either. My sister and I were sent to boarding school back in the 1940s, and this awful practice didn’t end until the ‘60s. I witnessed this genocidal policy firsthand. 

Here at LPLP, we’ve long been proponents of Truth and Healing. Back in 2015-’16, about 50 Native nations signed onto our petition for a congressional committee modeled after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation effort. We stand with the many other tribal leaders supporting the creation of this commission under Haaland and Warren’s bill.

In these days of deception and disease — when our rights are once again being violated by officials who seek to limit our power at the polls — a new way forward must be found. Truth and healing is exactly what we need.

Wopila tanka — In solidarity!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

Voting Efforts

Lakota Law

As you know, the Lakota People’s Law Project does all we can to ensure that my fellow Native Americans can cast their ballots each election cycle. In recent weeks, we’ve been writing to you about our effort to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA). Now we’re taking things to the next level. We’ve partnered with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and leading up to the election we’ll run a joint phone bank where tribal members activate their neighbors and Native voters in swing states like North Carolina and Arizona. We’re doing all we can to see that Indian Country makes a big noise in the 2020 election.

Lakota LawOur first team members feel the joy after a day of making a difference in the 2020 election.

We’ll hire and train about 30 tribal residents as get-out-the-vote organizers. Using data-driven targeting and leveraging the latest tech to increase efficiency, we’ll have tens of thousands of conversations with voters. In addition to boosting the number of people casting ballots in important regional elections, this will put Standing Rock’s citizens to work learning valuable skills at a time when earning money is harder than ever on the reservation.

Lakota LawDana Yellow Fat works the phones to Standing Rock the Vote.

Meanwhile, growing support for NAVRA has moved it closer to getting out of committee and into law. Over the past month, partly because of our efforts, the bill gained five new sponsors in the House of Representatives (including some in critical swing states). We’re also engaged with investigative journalists at national press outlets to ensure high-level coverage of the suppression tactics and other difficulties faced by Native voters in 2020.

We’ll maintain our ambitious media and video production calendar to make sure you’ve got a clear window into the work. As always, your support makes all we do possible — and I can’t thank you enough for helping us lead the struggle. Let’s stay committed!

Wopila tanka — my gratitude for continuing to propel this movement forward.

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

October 12th: Indigenous Peoples Day

Visit the Many Nations of America
Participants in Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020 (from left to right): Performing artist Frank Waln; Youth in Action panelists Brook Thompson, Dylan Baca, Lina Krueck, Julian Brave NoiseCat, Michaela Pavlat (moderator), and Alberto Correa III
Visit the Museum in Washington, DC
To reserve your free, timed-entry passes to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, please visit our website. The museum location in New York remains closed at this time.

Can’t make it to our museum on the National Mall? Visit our wide range of resources online, including exhibition websites.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Mascots, Monuments, and Memorialization Monday, Oct. 12, 1 PM ET
Streaming online at americanindian.si.edu/online-programs
How do people’s memories of the past inform and influence the current racial and social landscape? As part of the museum’s new series Youth in Action: Conversations about Our Future, participants can hear from young Native activists who are propelling this conversation forward and addressing the tension between history, memory, and the current movements happening across America. Featured panelists include Brook Thompson (Yurok and Karuk), Julian Brave NoiseCat (Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and Lil’Wat Nation), Lina Krueck (Oglala Lakota), Dylan Baca (White Mountain Apache), and Alberto Correa III (Taíno).

This event will feature an introduction by Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian, and a musical performance by hip-hop artist Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota). The panel will be moderated by museum cultural interpreter Michaela Pavlat (Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians).

You can find more ideas for celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day from home on Smithsonian Voices.

WNYC’s The Greene Space Presents First Peoples Week
Through Saturday, October 12
Full schedule available at https://thegreenespace.org/series/first-peoples-week/
Celebrated Native creators, artists, podcasters, poets, photographers, and others take center stage during First Peoples Week at The Greene Space. This free, online program series features conversations that touch on COVID-19, land treaties, mascots, storytelling, and more, led by This Land host Rebecca Nagle, director and producer Madeline Sayet, community leaders from the Lenape Center, and Iakowi:hi’ne’ Oakes, director of the American Indian Community House.

Native New York in your classroom
October 8 and 15, 4 PM ET
Register online
These free, hour-long webinars are designed for education professionals who teach about the Native Nations of New York State. Educators whose primary teaching focus is social studies, English language arts, or library sciences, and who work with students in grades 4–12 are encouraged to register. We also invite homeschoolers, parents, and others looking for digital educational resources about Native Americans.

The Great Inka Road | El Gran Camino Inka
Learn about the ingenuity of the Inka who built an empire, through our bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibition website. The site includes sections on ancestors of the Inka, the Inka universe, the invasion of the empire, and the Inka Road today.

New in our Smithsonian Store online: face masks!

The museum’s online store now carries adult face masks designed by Native artists in several patterns: Eagle Vision, Orca Family, Sasquatch, and Tradition. For these and other gifts and accessories, visit the museum’s shop on the Smithsonian’s website.

Stay Connected with the Museum

Follow the museum at AmericanIndian.si.edu, or via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The National Museum of the American Indian is able to reach people everywhere thanks to generous support from individuals like you. Thank you.



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Standing Rock

Thu, Oct 1, 2020 6:36 pm Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

Lakota Law

Warm greetings! As we look to escape the shadow of the most embarrassing presidential debate in the history of our still-young nation, our team here at Standing Rock has begun assembling tribal phone bankers. Our mission? We must remind Native voters in battleground states that their voice matters and help them cast their ballots. Much more news to come soon on that front. 

Meanwhile, I share with you a powerful new video about our NoDAPL stand, produced by VICE News in conjunction with the Lakota People’s Law Project. As we’ve continued to work with students at Loyola University to compile our archive of NoDAPL resources, we’ve also been releasing videos to tell you the full story of our stand to protect Standing Rock’s water. Another key reason for compiling these materials is to allow journalists, like our friends at VICE News, to help tell that story effectively. 

About a month ago, VICE News sent their “I Was There” production team to meet me in South Dakota so we could talk about what really happened at Standing Rock. We also provided their team with access to our archival resources. Using all of that plus other sourced footage, they produced “I was There: DAPL Protests.” I urge you to watch it to gain a fuller picture of the timeline and meaning of our movement, and how it fits into the present cultural moment. I hope that you will find it informative.

Please know that, as we ramp up our Vote 2020 campaign to protect the future of our right to be heard in this democracy, we won’t stop our continued efforts to defeat DAPL — and Keystone XL — once and for all. This year has shown us so clearly that we must take our vigilance to new levels to protect one another. We have to fight on multiple fronts and make sure that the truth always comes to light. We’re so grateful for responsible journalists like the team from VICE News who help us do that. And, of course, we couldn’t be more appreciative of you for helping us stay in the fight every single day.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with us and with Standing Rock!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.