As you know, after the past election cycle, American democracy is in trouble. Not because of phantom issues with fraudulent voters, as some people would have you believe, but because far too many voters — especially those of color — continue to be discriminated against and disenfranchised through obscene voter suppression tactics. And that’s why the Lakota People’s Law Project is going to fight back in court.
We’ve joined a lawsuit — as a plaintiff — against the State of South Dakota. Because the state has consistently violated elements of the National Voter Registration Act, tribes like the Oglala and Rosebud Nations, organizations like us, and individuals like McLaughlin city council member Hoksila White Mountain have valid cause to sue.
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) will represent the tribal entities in the suit. We hope the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will also join as a plaintiff and seek monetary compensation from South Dakota for failure to offer voter registration opportunities in a way consistent with federal law.
Lakota Law and Hoksila, among others, will be represented by Demos, a legal organization dedicated to winning voting rights justice. This will be a true team effort, bringing a number of great legal minds and passionate people together to fight for the community and expose the state for its litany of abuses.
As an example, you may recall that we have already shared quite a bit about the troubles in McLaughlin, the Standing Rock Nation’s second largest town. Hoksila was kept from mounting a valid mayoral campaign, and he was only granted a promised vacant city council seat in his own ward after intense pressure you helped us create.
McLaughlin also has suspicious zoning, seemingly designed to prevent its Native residents from voting in local elections. So NARF will provide support as we undertake an effort to improve voting access within the town. As you can see, access for people of color is an issue on our reservations in the Dakotas, just as it’s a national and statewide problem in places like Georgia and Arizona. Bottom line: we must fight, right now and on every level, to protect our democracy from those who want to move it backward. We’re drawing a line in the sand — and I’m so grateful you’re standing with us for fairness.
Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us make good trouble! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director and Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
In case you missed it, CNN commentator and former Pennsylvania GOP Senator Rick Santorum brazenly displayed his staggering ignorance once again last week. Speaking at a conference for conservative youth, he made sure to misinform young people by claiming that European colonizers “birthed a nation from nothing” and “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”
I know ratings are king — and that controversial comments beget ratings — but it’s past time this man was fired by CNN and removed from any position of influence. I urge you to watch Takin’ Out the Trash, a new segment we introduced on the most recent episode of “Cut to the Chase.” I discuss the former senator’s ridiculous statements and some of the many ways in which Native culture informs the larger society.
Because Rick Santorum’s racist rhetoric is obviously a steaming pile of hot garbage, we took him out with the trash on this week’s episode of “Cut to the Chase.”
As a Lakota Law supporter, you’re already aware of the breadth and depth with which Indigenous cultures of the Americas have long made and continue to make deep impacts. From Native cultivation of corn, to the world’s oldest representative democracy (demonstrated by the Iroquois nation), to the movement we birthed against the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, our contributions are legion. It’s no accident that the names of several states and countless cities, towns, and counties pay homage to the Native peoples who first inhabited these lands.
It sure would be great if media outlets like CNN would stop platforming people like Rick Santorum so we can move beyond harmful, whitewashed notions of history. To create a better future — one in which we consistently progress based upon lessons learned from our past — we must be willing to take previously subverted perspectives into account, revise inaccuracies, and understand the deeper implications. Because, while Native cultures have already given much to those who came to our shores, we still have far more to say to the ears that know how to listen.
Wopila — thank you for lending your ear! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director & Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
I’m writing to thank you for supporting us water protectors here in the Dakotas, and to update you about my court case at Cheyenne River Tribal Nation near Standing Rock. Last year, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was in full swing through my homelands. So my allies and I created a protest camp, similar to the one everyone knows about at Standing Rock four years ago (only smaller). Two days before Thanksgiving last year, I chained myself to an oil pump station and got arrested for trespassing. I’m facing up to a year in prison and I will be going to trial soon.
We won our fight against KXL — Biden has shut the pipeline down — but my allies and I are still facing potential prison time for our civil disobedience. Please pray for us, as we continue to face down the Oil Industrial Complex allied with law enforcement, and decipher the best path forward to serve Unci Maka, Grandmother Earth.
Please watch this new video that explains my court case.
Climate change has become a dominant topic of conversation in recent weeks because of Biden’s strong pivot away from Trump’s denialism. Even more is needed. As the ice caps melt and coastlines face dangerous flooding, Indigenous people all over the world are leading the fight for eco-sanity. Some are in Minnesota resisting Line 3, while many of us are still pushing the White House to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
Last month, I traveled with other Indigenous young people to D.C. to make our ongoing commitment to Standing Rock top of mind for policymakers. As a 24-year-old Lakota woman, I look forward to many more years of movement building. We cannot let up, not while our waters, lands, and climate are endangered by fossil fuel extraction. Renewables work. There is no excuse.
I will work with my attorneys at Lakota People’s Law Project to keep you updated in the coming months. Thank you for keeping your attention on Lakota country. Your solidarity is appreciated.Wopila, Jasilyn Charger via Lakota Law
Happy Earth Day! It’s appropriate that, on this day of reverence for Unci Maka, we celebrate the imminent return of one of her guardians. After many months in prison for his brave stand against the Dakota Access pipeline, Michael “Rattler” Markus is coming home! I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks to Rattler and to all those on the frontlines to defend sacred lands and water.
Watch: Our water protector matriarch, Phyllis Young, helps welcome Rattler back to freedom, including a brief interview and drum ceremony for him.
Rattler, who served during the NoDAPL protests as an Akicita (defender), positioned between police and water protectors to keep everybody safe, was arrested in February of 2017. He subsequently accepted a plea to a civil disorder charge stemming from his presence on Oct. 27, 2016 — when law enforcement assaulted unarmed water protectors with sound cannons, tasers, bean bags, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.
We have seen these tactics time and again — and we have seen how the colonizers use both the police and new legislation to back up their intrusions into our sacred lands. Following a year in which people all over the world stood together in the streets to promote justice, many lawmakers are now renewing their attacks on our ability to protest.
According to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, 71 laws currently pending at the federal or state level — in 29 different states! — seek to limit our right to protest. It is critical that we retain our right to protect the Earth from corporations who ramrod noxious extraction infrastructure like pipelines through our homelands and other communities of color.
I’m grateful to those who served time for their bold actions on behalf of Unci Maka — people like Red Fawn, who came home after years of incarceration a few weeks ago, and Rattler, who will be released from federal custody tomorrow.
You have my gratitude as well. Thank you for standing with all of us on the frontlines. The powers that be can keep trying to divide, conquer, and subjugate us, but we’ll stay informed and active until we achieve the justice we seek — for ourselves and for the world we inhabit.
Wopila tanka — thank you, always, for your solidarity with our movement. Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
When LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, learned of what she called “the black snake” — a 1,170-mile-long underground pipeline that would stretch from the shale oil fields of northwest North Dakota to Illinois — she volunteered the use of her land to establish a resistance camp.
That camp became the base for a global protest movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which Ms. Allard said would veer too close to sacred burial grounds, including the grave of one of her sons; could contaminate the region’s water supplies if it ever leaked; and violated longstanding treaties between Native Americans and the federal government.
The movement stood not only for stopping the pipeline but also against excavating fossil fuels in general while embracing tribal sovereignty, environmental justice and the protection of water sources everywhere.
Ms. Allard died on April 10 at her home in Fort Yates, N.D. She was 64. Her family announced the death online; local media outlets said the cause was brain cancer.
She established Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers in March 2016. Neighbors starting bringing food, coffee and wood for a small core group. Indigenous youth spread the word across social media.
Within months, the resistance had turned into a cultural movement, with thousands of people — members of other tribes, environmental and civil rights activists, politicians — joining in, tucking into tents, tepees and trailers in similar camps across the prairie.
The movement also drew what Ms. Allard told Teen Vogue in 2017 were “spiritual leaders from every facet of every Indigenous people — Mongolians, the people out of Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand,” as well as South America, Canada and the Midwestern United States, all to be part of one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous peoples in more than a century.
Construction of the pipeline began under President Barack Obama. But with demonstrations growing — and security guards attacking protesters with freezing water from pressure hoses, pepper spray, rubber bullets, dogs and mass arrests — the Obama administration later had a change of heart and blocked construction of part of the pipeline.
The reprieve was only temporary. President Donald J. Trump, who viewed the project as a boon to the economy and a way of weaning the country off foreign oil, ordered the pipeline completed and the protest camps evacuated and razed. Environmental and Indigenous groups responded with legal challenges.
The fate of the $3.7 billion project now lies with the Biden administration and the courts. But while an environmental review continues, the pipeline remains in operation.
As one of the leaders of the resistance, Ms. Allard appeared on television; wrote opinion pieces for newspapers, including The Guardian in England; and traveled the world as a keynote speaker on Indigenous history and culture. She argued for the protection of sacred Indigenous lands everywhere. She worked on campaigns to encourage divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and she became an annual speaker at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Rather, she said, they were fighting for something much bigger: their rights and for the “liberation” of Mother Earth. “We want every last oil and gas pipe removed from her body,” she wrote. “We want healing. We want clean water. We want to determine our own future.”
LaDonna Carole Brave Bull was born on June 8, 1956, in Fort Yates to Valerie Lovejoy Brave Bull and Frank Brave Bull.
She spent much of her girlhood with her grandmothers and grew up all over, from the Dakotas to California to New England and Florida. She enrolled in Standing Rock Community College, transferred to Black Hills State College and eventually graduated from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks in 1990.
After college, she went to work for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as cultural resource planner. She also served as its historian and genealogist. She later helped the tribe create its office of historic preservation and a tourism office.
She has said she had been struck by the depth of historical trauma when she visited the site of the 1863 massacre at Whitestone Hill, in south-central North Dakota, where the U.S. Army slaughtered hundreds of Sioux. In a 2017 essay in Yes! magazine, she linked that event with the pipeline’s destruction of hundreds of archaeological sites and sacred places.
“The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas,” she wrote. “And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people.”
In 2019 Ms. Allard became an official representative for Indigenous peoples within the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She held positions on numerous boards and taught a class on combining Indigenous knowledge with modern technology.
After two early marriages, she married Miles D. Allard, whom she met at the University of North Dakota, in 1990 and whom a family obituary called the love of her life. Mr. Allard died in 2018.
Her survivors include six sons, William J. Brave Bull, Freedom P. McLaughlin, Eric Grey Cloud, Ian Scotty Halsey, Alex Schien and Shannon Meister; two daughters, Prairie Fawn McLaughlin and Nikola Allard; 21 grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; eight sisters; and eight brothers.
Shortly before Ms. Allard died, Indigenous youth on their way to a rally against the pipeline stopped by her house and placed signs in her yard saying “We love you LaDonna” and “Water is Life,” Kandi White of the Indigenous Environmental Network told Indian Country Today.
“Her son told us that LaDonna heard us chanting and knew we were there,” Ms. White said. “She told us not to be sad for her but to continue the fight.”
Katharine Q. “Kit” Seelye is a Times obituary writer. She was previously the paper’s New England bureau chief, based in Boston. She worked in The Times’s Washington bureau for 12 years, has covered six presidential campaigns and pioneered The Times’s online coverage of politics. @kseelye
Calling it a betrayal of his campaign promise, indigenous leaders and campaigners were outraged with President Biden’s refusal to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline. His refusal came on April 9 when the pipeline was under a court-ordered environmental review.
According to EcoWatch, the hearing took place so the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could provide an update on whether the Biden administration planned to allow the pipeline known as DAPL to continue operating without a federal permit.” An attorney for the government said that the Army Corps of Engineers had no intention to shut down the pipeline and instead, “is essentially in a continuous process of evaluating.” So the pipeline was granted a 10-day continuance.
The judge will decide the fate of the pipeline by April 19.
“In a meeting with members of Biden’s staff earlier this year, we were told that this new administration wanted to ‘get this right,’” Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said. “Unfortunately, today’s update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows it has chosen to ignore our pleas and stick to the wrong path.”
The DAPL, which began operation in 2017 and carries oil from North Dakota to Illinois, was allowed permission to proceed under the Trump administration after the Obama administration halted the project and denied it permission to cross through ancestral tribal lands at Lake Oahe.
Tribal leaders, environmentalists and campaigners have opposed the pipeline from the start saying the DAPL “violates treaty rights and endangers land, water, and communities.” Opponents of the pipeline were relying on President Biden to order a shut down.
“For hundreds of years, our people have faced unwelcome and deadly incursions upon our homelands,” Phyllis Young, Standing Rock organizer for the Lakota People’s Law Project and former tribal liaison to the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, said. “Today’s decision is disappointing and demonstrates a lack of understanding by Washington politicians for Indigenous sovereignty. We will do our very best to see this pipeline removed, our water protected, and our sacred lands healed.”
I taught for 27 years before retiring in 2017. I had purchased several of these maps to support my social studies lessons. One day during parent conferences I saw a parent sitting very quietly in front of one of the maps. He had tears in his eyes. I inquired if he was ok. He stated that he had never seen such maps and he was so happy to finally see a map with all of the North American tribes listed by their real names.
Maps are important and a critical part of learning about our history. If you do not purchase one for yourself, consider purchasing some for your local school! Also, check out the large selection of books!
50% off most Tribal Nations maps today ! Just use code 50off at checkout, and remember that the more maps you purchase, you also get a better deal on shipping. Thank you for supporting our Native American-owned business! ——————————————————————————————————————- CONTEST : Announcing 2 giveaway opportunities ! 1) If you have already purchased any of our Tribal maps, please reply with a picture showing how you have yours displayed. The person with the most unique or amazing display will win a free 24×36 mounted and framed art canvas (value $289-choose from ANY of our maps that size). Winner will be chosen and contacted this Wednesday !2)If you purchase any Tribal maps today, please email a picture of it/them displayed by April 30th and you will have a chance to win a free 24×36 mounted and framed art canvas (value $289-choose from ANY of our maps that size)MAPS, BOOKS, PUZZLES, POSTCARDS, FLAGS AND FILMS (and more) :www.tribalnationsmaps.com
Breaking news: This morning, in a federal district court proceeding in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers balked at stopping the oil flow through the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). The Corps officially refrained from taking a position by saying they need more time, which will allow the pipeline to continue operating illegally, without a valid permit.
For the past two months, we’ve been working overtime — with you and many allied organizations, in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — to pressure President Biden to use his executive authority and shut down the flow of oil through DAPL. Though he failed to take his first opportunity to do so, we must keep the pressure on him as the legal battle continues.
Today’s decision temporarily kicks the decision back to Judge James Boasberg, who says he intends to make a ruling by April 19 on the matter. We now have at least another 10 days to let the White House know we don’t accept DAPL’s continued operation. So please don’t slow down. Please continue sharing our call to action. Tell Biden: #NODAPL.
Whether Judge Boasberg will pass an injunction against the pipeline is anyone’s guess. There is reason to be at least moderately hopeful: he has already ruled in Standing Rock’s favor once. Last year, after vitiating DAPL’s permit because many of the tribe’s legitimate concerns were never met by the Army Corps or the pipeline’s operators, Boasberg ordered it emptied within 30 days. But he was temporarily overruled by a higher court, which asked him to consider a more stringent test.
Now, we expect Boasberg will make his final decision on April 19 — unless Biden decides to act first. We can’t take anything for granted with the courts, so let’s keep pushing hard for the political solution. Know that your support is critical to aiding us as we remain vigilant here in Lakota Country. Please continue to spread our petition to President Biden far and wide. It’s now or never!
Wopila tanka — thank you for fighting to end DAPL’s threat to our sacred lands and water! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director & Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
My name is Red Fawn Janis. I was born on the Oglala Nation and raised in Denver by my mother — a pipe carrier — and my grandmother. It was a spiritual home. But in 2016, everything changed. After losing both of these powerful women, my guiding lights, I went to Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). As you may know, I was subsequently arrested and imprisoned for four and a half years. But today, I am finally home again. And despite the hardships, I would do it all over again.
Because there’s nothing more important than standing up for Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth. She produces food, shelter, and life. And, at Standing Rock, she produced healing for so many of us. So I ask you today to stand with her, with me, with all our ancestors and relatives. If you have not yet done so, please tell President Biden: end DAPL now. I ask you, humbly, to help stop this pipeline and restore my homelands.
Watch my new video: I give one of my first interviews since my release from prison. I’m headed home!
Going to Standing Rock was a life-changing journey for me and for so many other people. Something deep within us called us there. I remember sitting with Standing Rock members and hippie kids and Black people — so many young ones — all of us together, in the first days, before construction began. We had no idea what was about to happen.
I showed up with about $300 and a couple changes of clothes, planning to be there for a few weeks at most. But I wound up staying, and even If I took a short trip home, I felt called back immediately. We formed not just a movement, but a real community. But, of course, not everyone can be trusted.
I will share more details with you soon, but what you should know for now is that I met a man who seemed genuine, who helped the elders, who was within a trusted circle. So I couldn’t believe what was happening when it turned out a gun had been planted on me. I’d been set up by the feds. And, after a confrontation with police, I was taken as a political prisoner.
Fortunately, I understand that things happen the way the Creator wants them to. This pivotal time in my life has led to growth and healing, and it’s positioned me to share my perspective with you. For that, I’m grateful. I really believe that I’ve been given my life back. It was the betrayal that blessed me.
Now, I look forward to telling my story in full and finding ways we can work together to protect our Grandmother, her waters, her creatures — all of our sacred relatives. Much will depend upon listening to our elders and supporting our youth. So many of those who came to Standing Rock have found new avenues in life, but others continue to struggle. I ask that you stand with them. Let’s start by defeating DAPL, but let us not stop there. There’s so much we can accomplish by praying together, by listening to one another, by taking united action. In this way, we will properly respect both those who came before us and the generations to come.
Wopila tanka — thank you, always, for standing in solidarity with me and all water protectors! Red Fawn Janis In partnership with the Lakota People’s Law Project
Charges against Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, President and CEO of NDN Collective, and all other treaty defenders arrested at a Black Hills protest on July 3 will be dropped, announced NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led advocacy organization.
The initial charges came after Tilsen and more than 200 treaty defenders protested former President Donald Trump’s visit to the Black Hills last summer, as he traveled to speak at Mount Rushmore for an Independence Day celebration.
The Lakota have long attempted to have the Black Hill region returned to tribal authority, as specified under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
The treaty defenders gathered on a highway leading to the monument, using cars and vans to block the road for nearly three hours. In response, law enforcement officers and members of the South Dakota Air and Army National Guard were called in, leading to a skirmish between protestors and law enforcement.
Twenty-one treaty defenders ended up being arrested and charged with misdemeanors, with Tilsen receiving a combination of misdemeanors and felonies — a sentence that could have resulted in up to 17 years in prison. He told the Associated Press that he will participate in a prison diversion program in exchange for all but one charge against him being dropped. The final charge will be dropped once he completes the program.
In the aftermath, thousands of supporters came to the group’s defense through petitions, social media campaigns, and national media coverage of the cases. In December, the United Nations weighed in with a statement in support of the treaty defenders.
“This victory and the dropped charges are a direct result of the Movement showing up and standing up for all the Land Defenders who took a stand in the Ȟesápa (Black Hills) on July 3,” Tilsen said in a statement. “Tens of thousands organized, called, donated to our legal and bail fund and signed the petitions to drop these charges, and we acknowledge their invaluable support.”
Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota and CEO of NDN Collective, talks with park rangers on July 3, 2020. (Screenshot)
“I have so much gratitude for the thousands of supporters who prayed, donated, called, emailed, signed petitions and reached out over the past nine months. This is a wake up call for our communities,” said Krystal Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, director of the LANDBACK Campaign at NDN Collective. “We will continue to organize forward and fight for all our targeted and incarcerated Relatives!”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1374138541639401474&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com%2Fnews%2Fcharges-against-treaty-defenders-dropped&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px
Nataani Means, Oglala Lakota, Navajo, and Omaha, will join Tilsen and Two Bills in a discussion about the news on NDN Collective’s livestream show “NDN Live” on Tuesday at 6 p.m. MST.
“This is a day of victory for our Movement and our People,” said Tilsen. “We will utilize it to catalyze our cause forward.”
The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request by The Associated Press to confirm the charges were dropped.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Meghan Fate Sullivan, Koyukon Athabascan, is a writer for Indian Country Today. She grew up in Alaska, and is currently reporting on her home state from Anchorage.
In a wonderful first for America’s first people, Pueblo Laguna superhero Deb Haaland will serve in the presidential Cabinet after the Senate voted by a narrow margin to confirm her nomination today. From the bottom of my full heart, I thank those of you who told President Biden to nominate Haaland as his Secretary of the Interior. Deep thanks as well to all who told your senators to confirm her appointment. Together, we helped Deb Haaland make history!
It can’t be overstated what this means for Native people like me, and for environmentalists the world over. Recently, my vlog, “Cut to the Chase,” focused on Haaland’s confirmation process. I did interviews with Lakota Law chief counsel Daniel Sheehan and Carl Artman, attorney for the Oneida Nation. I invite you to watch some outtakes about what this big step forward means for Lakota Country.
In my recent vlog, I break down this historic day and what it means for us as Native people.
I expect that, as Secretary of the Interior, Deb will protect sacred lands and water, prioritizing and improving the consultation process with tribal nations and asking our consent on matters that deeply affect Indian Country. It is no small matter that, for the first time in America’s long and painful history, the executive branch’s nation-to-nation relationships with tribes will be overseen by one of us.
Deb’s work is only just beginning, and we will do our best to stay close to her. Immediately after she was first elected to Congress two years ago, we interviewed her about her support for robust climate action. It’s no surprise that Deb has faced fierce opposition from oil state senators, and she’s going to have a fine balance to strike moving ahead. But we’re optimistic that we’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to foster a new kind of relationship with Washington.
Please continue to stay with us, and let’s make change now, while we have our best shot. Your voice will help us continue to make history for tribal sovereignty, the health of our sacred lands, and the generations to come.
Wopila tanka — my enduring gratitude for empowering real progress, in the Dakotas and in Washington, too! Chase Iron Eyes Lead Counsel Lakota People’s Law Project
The fierce attack on American democracy didn’t end with Donald Trump’s eviction from the White House. It didn’t end when Biden moved in or after the Georgia runoffs. And it won’t end as long as conservative state legislatures are allowed to make laws limiting the vote for people of color. The good news is, you have the opportunity to fight back.
Right now, Congress is considering the most comprehensive suite of civil rights and voter protection legislation since the 1960s. Please tell your congressional reps to push for House Resolution 1 (H.R. 1) until it becomes law. It’s critical for the wellbeing of future generations that we seize this moment. If we fail to protect voting rights now, we may not get another chance.
Watch: My colleague, Chase Iron Eyes, talked about the importance of voting rights on yesterday’s Cut to the Chase webcast.
Over the next year and a half, you can help us register Native voters throughout South Dakota and partner again with tribal nations — like we did at Standing Rock in 2020 — to turn out the Indigenous vote come election time. We’re also joining a lawsuit with Native American Rights Fund and Demos over South Dakota’s violations of the National Voting Registration Act.
There’s so much we can do together in the months to come. But, right now, I hope you’ll flood your reps with messages in support of H.R. 1. Because even with all the incredible progress we have recently made — Deb Haaland, everybody! — the potential rollbacks in voting rights for minority communities mean we are still in a very scary moment. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and move things in the right direction.
Wopila tanka — thank you for protecting the vote for Native people and all Americans. Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
With Deb Haaland Leading the Interior Department, Perhaps the United States Has Begun to Grow up Ecologically
It’s definitely time for an enormous shift in the consciousness of those who see themselves as exceptional and believe they’re in charge of the planet.byRobert C. Koehler
Is it possible that the country is truly rebuilding itself . . . from the soul up?
Deb Haaland has been confirmed as head of the Department of the Interior. A Native American congresswoman and, as she describes herself, 35th-generation New Mexican, has been given the reins of the department that has essentially been at war, not simply with her people but with the planet itself and, therefore, all of us, pretty much since its inception. That is to say, the department’s values are those the European colonialists brought with them to the new continent: steal the land from those who live there, then proceed to exploit it.
Over the past few days, instead of confirming Native New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, some senators are focused on obstruction. A full Senate hearing is now scheduled for Monday, but two oil-bought senators, Steve Daines (R-MT) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), have placed a “hold” on her confirmation. Ultimately, we believe Deb’s chances of victory are strong, but nothing is guaranteed. We’re grateful that your support has helped Lakota Law become one of her most vocal champions, and we definitely can’t slow down now. The finish line is in sight.
You’ve already helped us be very effective on Deb’s behalf. Lakota Law’s efforts were recognized by the New York Times as playing an important role in motivating President Biden to nominate her to begin with, and we haven’t let up. Supporters like you have sent nearly 13,000 letters telling senators to confirm her for the job she was born to do.
It’s critical that we punch hard until this fight is won. Deb’s confirmation will be one of the biggest leaps forward for Indian Country in the history of this nation. With more debate now scheduled for early next week, we must ensure that critical swing votes remain in our column.
I have spoken multiple times personally with Deb Haaland, and I have heard her knowledgeable perspective on climate issues and other topics of utmost importance to Native populations. She deeply understands the twin priorities of protecting both tribal sovereignty and the health of our planet by transitioning to a clean energy economy. She will be a friend to us if she gets the job. Let’s be the best friends we can to her and make sure that happens.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with Deb for Native and environmental justice! Chase Iron Eyes Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
Mother Tongue Film Festival Women Directors Panel Friday, March 5, 2 PM (ET) Watch online Women are often entrusted with cultural and language transmission, and Mother Tongue highlights this responsibility by bringing together women directors on a roundtable each year. Join us for a conversation with Becs Arahanga (Hinekura), Valeriya Golovina (Our Love), Sophia Pinheiro (Being Imperfect), and Patricia Ferreira (Being Imperfect), moderated by Smithsonian digital curator Amalia Córdova and curator and filmmaker Cass Gardiner.
ACCESSIBILITY Live real-time captioning and American Sign Language interpretation will be provided for this program while it is live.
The Mother Tongue Film Festival is presented by Recovering Voices, a collaboration among the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Additional Smithsonian partners include the Asian Pacific American Center and the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.
This program received support from Bicentenario Perú 2021, Columbia School of the Arts, Documentary Educational Resources, Embassy of Canada to the United States, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, Taiwan Academy, Taiwan Ministry of Culture, the Embassy of New Zealand, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, The WEM Foundation & Betty and Whitney MacMillan, and more.
Youth In Action: Native Women Making Change March 18 Watch on Demand What roles do Indigenous women uphold in society today that serve both their communities and our society at large?
Traditionally, Native women have held significant influence in the social, spiritual, and political lives of Indigenous societies. Though their roles and responsibilities have changed since colonization, they continue to be some of the most influential leaders in tribal governance. Today we also see Native women serving in state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, and in global leadership roles that work to increase representation and amplify Indigenous voices and causes.
Watch on demand a conversation with Aidan Graybill (Wyandot) and Christina Haswood (Diné), two young Native women who are currently working at local and state levels to make change.
Virtual Educator Professional Development Teach-In: Traditional Foods Sustain Our Bodies and Spirits Webinar Saturday, March 20, 1–3 PM (ET) Register Traditional foods and the knowledge related to growing, harvesting, storing, and preparing them has been practiced for millennia by Indigenous peoples. Interact with Native food and sustainability experts to learn about traditional foodways revitalization and how Indigenous foods can sustain our bodies and spirits.
This teach-in is recommended for all K–12 teachers in the subjects of environmental science, history, social studies, and STEAM. Register here.
Earlier this week Schumer, a New York Democrat, filed a motion of cloture on Haaland’s nomination.
“Despite Republican obstruction, Representative Haaland will be confirmed by the Senate to be Secretary Haaland,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.
More on clotures
Schumer filed cloture on Haaland’s nomination after Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming put holds on Haaland’s nomination. The hold means that Haaland’s nomination would force a debate of up to 30 hours.
Daines defended his decision to put a hold on the nomination, tweeting that Haaland “opposes pipelines & fossil fuels, ignores science when it comes to wildlife management & wants to ban trapping on public lands.”
Seven men arrested during a sex-trafficking sting in northern Minnesota have been charged with solicitation, including two workers for an Enbridge pipeline contractor.
The arrests brought renewed calls for fighting sex trafficking along the Canadian company’s Line 3 project, which stretches through northern Minnesota on its route from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin.
“Those arrests aren’t surprising but it’s very sad when what you’ve been warning about for years actually comes to light,” said Sheila Lamb of the Minnesota Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force.
The two pipeline workers – one from Texas and one from Missouri – were employed at the time of their arrests by Precision Pipeline, an Enbridge contractor based in Wisconsin.
In a statement sent to Indian Country Today, Precision wrote, “The two workers were terminated immediately when the company learned they had violated our zero tolerance for illegal behavior.”
Enbridge also confirmed that two workers were among those arrested.
“Enbridge has zero tolerance for illegal and exploitive behavior,” the company said in a statement emailed to Indian Country Today. “Such behaviors from anyone associated with this project will not be tolerated and are immediate grounds for dismissal.”
The water protector educational event in Palisade, MN featured a puppet show. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)
The sting was conducted Feb. 17-19 in Itasca County by a Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force led by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehensions in coordination with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force, known as TRUST, and the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office.
Pipeline opponents have long warned that the Line 3 project would increase incidents of sex trafficking, citing reports that show correlations between extractive industries such as mining and pipeline construction and sex trafficking.
“We testified in 2016 during the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearings that the Line 3 project would absolutely increase sex trafficking,” Lamb told Indian Country Today.
The men were arrested during the three-day sting after talking with undercover agents on what law enforcement officials described as “sex advertisement websites.” The men were arrested when they arrived at an arranged meeting place for sex, according to officials.
Six men were charged with solicitation of a person believed to be a minor. Another was charged with solicitation to engage in prostitution and with carrying a pistol without a permit, officials said.
They were booked into the Itasca or Pennington county jails.
The Duluth News Tribune reviewed the criminal complaints and identified two men as workers for Precision Pipeline: Matthew Ty Hall, 32, of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Michael Kelly West, 53, of Rolla, Missouri
Hall was charged with solicitation of a person believed to be a minor. West was charged with solicitation to engage in prostitution and with carrying a pistol without a permit, according to law enforcement officials.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, West said in a statement given at the Itasca County Jail that he worked for Precision Pipeline and had arranged to buy sex because he was 1,000 miles from home.
The complaint said that West told officers he learned about the website from rumors at work and began texting an undercover officer posing as an underage girl named “Jasmine.” When he said he did not want to have sex with a minor, the undercover officer arranged for a fictitious older sister to meet him for sex for $100, the newspaper reported.
He was arrested when he arrived for the meet-up. Officers found a loaded handgun in his vehicle for which he did not have a permit, the paper reported.
Hall also responded to an advertisement, and expressed concerns that Jasmine was reportedly 16 years old, the Duluth News Tribune reported, citing the complaint. He told the undercover officer that he was worried the advertisement was part of a sting, but agreed to meet up anyway.
He was arrested after driving several times by the meeting house.
Awareness training falls short, critics say
When Lamb and other advocates again raised concerns about sex trafficking and Line 3 earlier this year, Enbridge spokespersons rejected their concerns.
“Enbridge absolutely rejects the allegation that human trafficking will increase in Minnesota as a result of the Line 3 replacement project; Enbridge will not tolerate this exploitation by anyone associated with our company or its projects,” the company wrote in a statement to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
While seeking permits for the pipeline route, Enbridge developed and implemented a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan in cooperation with several tribal and state entities. In addition to requiring that all workers receive human trafficking awareness training prior to beginning work on the project, the plan also included development of an awareness campaign called Your Call Minnesota (yourcallmn.org).”
Jason Goward, of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe and a former employee of Precision working on Line 3, told Indian Country Today that his sex-trafficking awareness training consisted mainly of watching a 20-minute film, “Our State. Their Lives. Your Call,” and a short presentation presented by Truckers Against Trafficking, a nonprofit organization that provides sex trafficking awareness training for the trucking, bus and energy industries.
“Our State. Their Lives. Your Call,” was created through a collaboration with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force and Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST).
Lamb said that Minnesota’s proactive work on sex-trafficking work and legislation, such as the creation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force, contributed to the success of sting.
Lamb lauded the work of law enforcement in the sting, but she questioned Enbridge’s commitment to combatting sex trafficking.
“These trainings are great but you’re not going to change the perpetrator’s behavior by having them watch a video,” she said.
“Enbridge needs to overcome their disconnect and denial over sex trafficking.”
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 ANNOUNCEMENTFederal 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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Government Dates and Deadlinesfor 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 consultationon 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, email@example.com
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 Off2021 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. ### 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, visitwww.ncai.org.
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.
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at email@example.com.
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.
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.”
Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today.
50 abandoned uranium mines + a mess = $220M from EPA
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.
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.
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.
In 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
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
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
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!”
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.”
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.
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
“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.
Criticism of Alaska article stirs broader discussion
*****Let´s go broader than this article.****
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.
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’
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today, and a long-time Alaska journalist.
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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
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.
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.
“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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Bennett-Begaye’s Grey’s Anatomy obsession started while attending the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
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
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.”
KFGOreports 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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)
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. Stay safe out there, friends.
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.
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
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.
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
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
Hoksila 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
Native Americans mostly on their own in COVID fight
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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”.)
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!”
“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 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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.