Have you heard of a court case called Brackeen v. Haaland? If you’ve followed our communications for any length of time, you likely recognize one of those names. Indeed, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland — the first Native Cabinet secretary in U.S. history — is already under legal attack. And it probably won’t surprise you that the powerful entities behind this threat include the State of Texas and lawyers representing Big Oil.
But it’s not just Secretary Haaland being targeted. The suit, which seeks to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act, directly targets Native children and families. And because of the specific legal argument in play, it could also mean the end of tribal mineral rights, gaming revenues, Indian law as we know it, and ultimately our sovereignty as Indigenous nations. It’s not an overstatement to say our entire future could be at stake with a single decision — and that choice will now be made by a conservative-majority Supreme Court.
Right now — even as I drive from South Dakota to Minnesota in support of my Indigenous relatives fighting the Line 3 pipeline — the high court is deciding whether or not to hear this case. We will keep you updated every step of the way. This may well be the most important decision the Supreme Court has ever made in relation to Native justice. Please help us spread the word and stop this unconscionable attack on our Indigenous communities.
Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us stand up to racist colonial law. Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
The first time Inupiaq elder Bobby Schaeffer was old enough to join the community hunt for ugruk, or bearded seal, his dad taught him a critical lesson: always be observant, and always look at the whole picture.
Schaeffer was only 14 then, but he never forgot this advice. He thought of it every spring when he ventured out on to the glacial waters of Alaska’s northwest coast, navigating ice fields and powerful currents, to reach the resting ugruk.
He also thought of it as he began to notice unusual changes in the sea, ones that threatened to interrupt the thousand-year-old Inupiaq tradition that he looked forward to each year.
Decades after his first hunt, Schaeffer’s observations have become a key part of a recently released research project about climate change’s impact on the regional ugruk. The study revealed an unignorable trend: Kotzebue’s seal hunting season has shrunk about one day per year over the last 17 years, primarily due to a decline in sea ice.
It confirmed what Schaeffer and other Kotzebue elders had already suspected.
“We started noticing drastic changes from the time we normally hunt — changes from each decade, starting in the 60s through the 2000s,” Schaeffer said. His village, Kotzebue, sits on the top northwest of Alaska’s Arctic coastline. With a population of just over 3,000 people, it’s considered a hub for other, smaller villages in the region.
A Kotzebue hunter looks out on the sound.
Photo courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2021.
The findings were part of the Ikaagvik Sikukun project, a collaborative effort between University of Alaska in Fairbanks scientists, Inupiat elders, and Kotzebue hunters. Over the course of one and a half years, the team used state of the art satellite imagery, local observations, and traditional Indigenous knowledge to quantify shifts in the surrounding environment.
The combined data determined that sea ice breaks up approximately 22 days earlier than it did in the first years of the study, leading to a shortened hunting season.
It’s a noteworthy development in a region known for its frozen coasts and wintery climate. Like many systems in the area, ugruk hunting is closely linked to a season’s ice conditions. In spring, ugruk follow the melting Chukchi Sea ice edge north towards the Kotzebue Sound. Once there, they rest on floating ice chunks, known as floes, and feed off the area’s abundant fish, shrimp and clams. This is when those in Kotzebue begin their annual hunt.
“We learned from our Kotzebue research partners that hunting ugruk is actually like hunting the right kind of ice,” said Donna Hauser, a marine mammal biologist at the university’s International Arctic Research Center and co-leader of the research project.
The village has already begun adapting to the new conditions. So far, it has mostly affected the hunting process rather than the harvest’s success. The lack of ice means less intensive journeys, and quicker, more frequent trips. The limited habitat also causes seals to gather closer together, making them easier to track and hunt. But while the shorter season hasn’t wiped out the seal harvest, the rapid shift still leaves troubling questions for the coming years.
“Hunters seem to have compensated for the reductions in the amount of time they can hunt ugruk. However, it’s also possible to imagine a future scenario where ice is farther from shore, hunting requires more searching, possibly in big stretches of more dangerous open water, and could result in reduced success in the future,” Hauser said.
Bearded seals sitting on the ice edge in Kotzebue Sound.
“The Arctic works best when it’s cold. The colder, the better. Because everything’s adapted for that, including the opportunities that people need to have for hunting,” said Alex Whiting, Inupiaq, who is the Director of Kotzebue’s Environmental Program.
The ugruk are only a part of the equation. In the interconnected ecosystem of the Arctic, one small adjustment can throw the whole food chain off balance. Schaeffer has also noticed changes in erosion, shellfish, whales, fish, and birds. With less to feed on, the ugruk are skinnier, and therefore provide for fewer families.
“It’s expected to continue to accelerate and get worse. And so it’s going to impact food security, and our way of life,” Whiting said.
Alaskan villages like Kotzebue can be extremely remote. Many aren’t connected to roads, and are only reachable by plane or boat. Even then, harsh weather conditions make transportation unpredictable. This dynamic can lead to unreliable cargo shipments and high grocery prices, heightening the need for subsistence hunting and fishing.
But the ugruk harvest means more than just food security. The tradition has been a part of Inupiat culture since time immemorial, and plays an important role in community bonding and generational ties.
“It’s a challenge for food security, but it’s also a challenge for having maximum opportunities to perpetuate cultural traditions and knowledge to future generations,” Whiting said. “It’s harder to train the next generation with activities that are becoming more difficult or not even happening anymore.”
Schaeffer believes the environmental problems are worsening an already existing disconnect between generations.
“I think the generational gap is probably the biggest problem. We have very few elders left in the community that can remember what they were taught by the elders of the past,” he said. “And now the new generation doesn’t take their children out to hunt as much as they used to.”
Some years the warning signs are more noticeable than others. In 2018 and 2019, the Kotzebue Sound sat empty, free from the ice chunks that usually crowded the surface. They were only 30 miles from the Arctic circle, but it might as well have been hundreds of miles south.
Whiting has been keeping a journal tracking such changes since 2002. In his initial research as the environmental program’s director, he consistently came across written observations from past explorers, anthropologists, and scientists. The entries dated back to the 1900s, but became less frequent overtime. He decided that it could be useful to revive the old practice with his own written recordings, after a dramatic snow storm swept through the village in the middle of summer.
“In the present, what you write about common places and common knowledge is not all that interesting. But as time passes, the information gets more interesting and also more valuable,” he said.
He didn’t have to wait long for his prediction about the journal’s future importance to come true. His daily observations ended up providing ideal qualitative detail to the study’s satellite imagery.
Inupiaq hunter Bobby Schaeffer.
Photo courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2021
Kotzebue input was an essential element of the entire scientific process. In addition to using local recordings and elders’ insights to augment data, the research team worked with the village to craft relevant questions and determine the most pressing concerns.
“It’s a way to hold researchers accountable, because they’ve been coming to the Arctic for decades and just doing their own thing — not being very responsive to the people here or acknowledging us,” Whiting said.
Schaeffer agreed. He was used to scientists coming to Kotzebue without including Indigenous guidance, or even considering the value of traditional knowledge.
“This is unfortunate because we’re the ones that live it. We’ve seen how the damage is done to date. So it’s important for us to be involved,” he said. “We were lucky to get someone like (University of Alaska Fairbanks) on board this time.”
The benefits of the partnership were evident to everyone involved.
“I hope that our research approach, which centered Indigenous-led research questions and perspectives, can be an example for other scientists to learn from and re-examine their own approaches,” Hauser said. “I also think we did better and more complete science as a result of our collaborative approach.”
Hauser sees the project as a promising example for future studies.
“Our Ikaagvik Sikukun research project is ending, but we have built collaborations that will propel some of these questions and issues forward in Kotzebue and other communities as well,” she said.
Despite the program’s success, Schaeffer can’t help but worry what the future holds for his community and the practice that has sustained them for centuries.
“It’s scary to look at it in a negative way, but how else can you look at it unless something is done about it? What are the ugruk going to do to adapt, and what are we going to do to adapt?” he asked. “I guess time will tell.”
Meghan Fate Sullivan, Koyukon Athabascan, is a former Stanford Rebele Fellow turned special correspondent for Indian Country Today, currently reporting on and producing ICT’s ANCSA 50 project. She grew up in Alaska, and reports on her home state from our Anchorage Bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @mfatesully.
I have good news for you from the Line 3 front! This past weekend in Minnesota, I joined four members of “the Squad” — U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Ilhan Omar — to increase pressure on President Joe Biden to #StopLine3. As a Lakota elder and the former Standing Rock tribal liaison to the Oceti Sakowin camp during the NoDAPL struggle, I deeply understand the heartache my Anishinaabe relatives feel as this toxic pipeline invades their sacred lands and waterways — and I’m extremely grateful to these brave elected leaders for their solidarity.
Our Lakota team at the frontline included our co-director, Chase Iron Eyes, and the Squad was joined by Minn. State Sen. Mary Kunesh (a descendant of Standing Rock). As you know, the Indigenous women leading this fight — like Taysha Martineau of Camp Migizi, Tara Houska of Camp Giniw, and Winona Laduke of Honor the Earth — need all the support we can provide at the frontlines. It’s a meaningful step that the congresswomen, all of whom also signed onto a letter asking the president to intercede at Line 3, gave of their time and energy to visit resistance camps and amplify the struggle.
Notably, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who decided to run for Congress while at Standing Rock in 2017, and whom I remember vividly as a friendly young woman in blue jeans) was also scheduled to come to the frontlines, but Hurricane Ida forced her to stay home in New York City. The horrific flooding in her borough further highlights humanity’s need to move climate justice to the very top of our priority list — right now, while we still can.
I’m happy to report that we were able to meet face to face with each of the congresswomen and get to know their staffers. We will remain in touch and ready to team up on key issues going forward. In about a week, my colleague and sister in service, Madonna Thunder Hawk, will lead more Lakota elders on a three-day trip to Line 3 to further support Taysha at Camp Migizi. We won’t stop doing whatever it takes to build key alliances and grow this movement to protect Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with our Anishinaabe relatives! Phyllis Young Standing Rock Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
Last week, we introduced you to Ruby Montoya, a schoolteacher and NoDAPL resistor being prosecuted as a terrorist by the U.S. government. She’s accused of putting four tiny holes into DAPL pipes before it was carrying oil — and for this, she’s facing the prospect of up to 20 years in federal prison. That’s far from acceptable, and it’s why we’re aiding her defense. Last week, Daphne Silverman, Ruby’s new attorney, submitted a motion to change Ruby’s prior guilty plea to not guilty based on crucial new discoveries. Read on for the details.
Ruby (right) and co-defendant Jessica Reznicek prior to their arrest. In our new video, Ruby and I talk about water protectors being labeled and prosecuted as terrorists.
After initial review of the case, our side has identified a number of major issues that should disqualify Ruby’s original plea. For one thing, the prosecutor and the pipeline company allege that millions of damage was done, but an expert hired by Daphne says it’s less than $50,000. In addition, some charges filed by the prosecutor require the pipeline to have been in use at the time it was allegedly damaged. It was not.
Those distinctions make a world of difference. Without damage over $100,000 to an operational pipe, these charges don’t qualify for federal court — and outside of federal court, there can be no terrorism enhancement. As I mention in our new video, this is eerily reminiscent of how I was treated during my own resistance to DAPL in 2016 and 2017. The government and law enforcement are demonstrating a pattern of deception designed to criminalize constitutionally protected protest, elevate charges, and label citizens who dare to care about the future of Planet Earth as terrorists. It’s infuriating.
If the court labels Ruby a terrorist, she’ll be punished like a career criminal — but Ruby has no criminal history at all. We expect a court decision on the plea change in the next couple months. Meanwhile, Daphne will be investigating, researching, and conducting additional review of the discovery. We hope that, with her expert legal assistance and support from folks like you, the justice system will ultimately treat Ruby with far more fairness than water protectors have come to expect. Stay tuned.
Wopila tanka — thank you for your solidarity with water protectors! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director and Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
Yesterday, led by our grandmothers, we took the Line 3 pipeline resistance directly to the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. Emblematic of the deepening solidarity among tribal nations, a caravan of 20 Standing Rock citizens, assisted by the Lakota People’s Law Project, joined us for our “Treaties not Tar Sands” rally.
An impressive lineup of BIPOC speakers and Minnesota state officials, headlined by White Earth Nation’s Winona LaDuke, addressed more than 2,000 people who showed up to call out Enbridge’s toxic tar sands oil pipeline. Toward the end of the day, we at Camp Migizi took our turn at the microphone. Five Lakota People came onstage with us to acknowledge the importance of resisting pipelines together — and they should know, since they were all at Standing Rock in 2016 and ‘17 during the NoDAPL movement.
Among the more heartfelt and timely messages imparted by our Lakota relatives was a call for unity from elder Sonny Wonase. I invite you to watch highlights from both my talk and his.
Police presence was as strong as ever, including a fence meant to wall state officials off from our prayerful ceremony and pleas for justice. As you can probably guess, that didn’t deter water protectors. At the end of the rally, my fellow organizers read a statement of demands criticizing Governor Tim Walz’s support of the pipeline and militarized response. We also continued to call on President Joe Biden to intervene.
Until we’re heard and acknowledged, we will not be silent. We will not stop taking direct action to end this invasion of our sacred lands and protect our water and manoomin (wild rice). We are carrying forward the tradition of Indigenous activism begun by the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and renewed at Standing Rock five years ago. I express my gratitude to Standing Rock for standing with us now — and to you for holding space with us and Mother Earth. If we come together across our traditional boundaries, if we act with a unified voice and spirit, we can win this fight.
Miigwech — thank you for your support! Taysha Martinaeu Camp Migizi Via the Lakota People’s Law Project
At Standing Rock in 2016, water protectors were labeled as domestic terrorists. I created this short video to counter that claim. We are just the common people out here defending our rights and our lives. The government is supposed to work FOR US. The corporations are business entities that are supposed to be producing things FOR US.
Today, water protectors from Standing Rock are still being prosecuted, and — in the troubling cases of Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek — they’re still being labeled as terrorists. Because we cannot allow this dangerous precedent to be used against more people who care for our Grandmother Earth, we’re going to help defend Ruby. Our struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) didn’t end at Standing Rock in 2017, and it won’t be over until every water protector in the crosshairs of the criminal justice system is liberated.
In 2017, Ruby and Jessica engaged in a direct action that damaged an empty section of DAPL’s pipe. Jessica was recently found guilty, given a “terrorism enhancement,” and sentenced to eight years in prison. Ruby’s fate now hangs in the balance as her trial approaches. With litigation support from Lakota Law and the National Lawyers Guild, Ruby is going to fight. Her next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1.
As Ruby says in this new video produced by our team, humanity is going through a reckoning. In the future, no one will fondly remember the names of corporations that represented the status quo; instead, many people will only wish they had fought harder to protect life on this planet. Nobody who takes a stand to stop extractive destruction should ever be charged with a felony, much less be labeled a terrorist.
Ruby told me that Jessica has never even held a weapon in her hands, and at one point she was considering entering a monastery. And Ruby is a Waldorf School teacher, who vividly remembers kids in her classes crying and losing sleep because Australia and the Amazon were on fire. Ruby’s resistance, like my own back in 2017 that earned me a felony charge, has been motivated only by a desire to give the next generations a destiny they can believe in.
Nothing any of us did comes close to a level of governmental coercion necessary to justify a terrorism enhancement. It’s fallacious to suggest we have that type of power. If the government is being coerced by anyone, it’s the fossil fuel barons who buy politicians to protect their profits. Ruby was invited by an Indigenous community to protect water and help safeguard sacred lands. She showed up. Now, we will have her back, just like she had ours. Please stay tuned as we continue to fight to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.
Wopila tanka — thank you for standing for justice! Chase iron Eyes Co-Director and Lead Counsel via the Lakota People’s Law Project
It’s all about strategy and timing in Indian Country, especially in the legal system.
Shortly after a groundbreaking lawsuit was filed in the White Earth Nation’s tribal court defending the rights of wild rice to fight the construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, the United Nations released its 6th Assessment on Climate Change.
The UN report includes an entire chapter dedicated to the powerful role that Indigenous knowledge can play in global development of adaptation and mitigation strategies aimed at addressing climate change.
According to the report, recognition of Indigenous rights, governance systems and laws are central to creating effective adaptation and sustainable development strategies that can save humanity from the impacts of climate change. In this first of three climate change reports, the working group focused primarily on physical science, providing evidence that a climate crisis caused mostly by human activities is upon us.
Boom. The report’s release created the perfect public moment to exert tribal sovereignty and advance the legal theory that nature itself, in this case wild rice, has the right to exist and flourish even in the face of the construction of a massive infrastructure transporting fossil fuel.
The so-called “rights of nature” argument recognizes that nature has rights just as human beings have rights; rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights of nature cases contend that nature, rivers, forests and ecosystems have the right to exist, flourish, maintain and regenerate their life cycles. Further, humans have a legal responsibility to enforce those rights.
According to the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, Indigenous cultures recognize the rights of nature as part of their traditions of living in harmony and recognition that all life is connected.
For Ojibwe, wild rice or manoomin, “good berry” in the Ojibwe language, is like a member of the family, a relative. Manoomin is more than food, it is a conveyor of culture, spirituality and tradition. Therefore, legally designating manoomin as a person in the White Earth Nation’s lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources aligns with the Ojibwe world view.
Manoomin is considered an indicator species; it is sensitive to changes in water levels and flow reflecting changes in the local climate. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that the 2021 wild rice harvest in the state’s waterways should be average this year but that low water levels caused by drought will make access difficult. Rice is harvested from a canoe.
Frank Bibeau, attorney for and citizen of the White Earth Nation, blames the Enbridge pipeline construction for exacerbating the lower water levels in neighboring rivers.
Frank Bibeau, citizen of and attorney for the White Earth Nation discusses his legal strategy at gathering at the Shell City campground in Wadena County, Minnesota, June 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)
“We are seeing rivers along Line 3 that are now essentially dry bottoms with rice growing out of the mud. We can’t get our canoes in to harvest,” he said.
On Aug. 6, manoomin was named as a plaintiff, along with several White Earth tribal citizens and Native and non-Native water protectors who have demonstrated against Line 3, in a complaint filed in White Earth Nation Tribal Court against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
It is only the second “rights of nature” case to be filed in the U.S. and the first to be filed in tribal court. Several tribes, however, have incorporated rights of nature into their laws.
The lawsuit accuses the department of failing to protect the state’s fresh water by allowing Enbridge to pump up to 5 billion gallons of groundwater from construction trenches during a drought that itself is tied to climate change, which increases the pace of extreme weather swings and contributes to lags in the jet stream that keep heat waves, cold snaps and rain in an area for longer periods.
The suit also claims that the department has violated not only the rights of manoomin but also treaty rights for those who hunt, fish and gather wild rice off-reservations in ceded lands. The lawsuit seeks to establish the rights of manoomin, stop the extreme water pumping by Enbridge and stop arrests of water protectors opposing the pipeline at construction sites.
Juli Kellner, communications specialist for Enbridge, wrote an email responding to Indian Country Today’s request for the company’s reaction to the lawsuit.
“Line 3 construction permits include conditions that specifically protect wild rice waters. As a matter of fact, Enbridge pipelines have coexisted with Minnesota’s most sacred and productive wild rice stands for over seven decades,” she said.
“The current drought conditions in Minnesota are concerning to everyone. In response, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has suspended the use of some water sources due to low flow in specific watersheds. We are focused on protecting, conserving and reusing water on the Line 3 project. More than 50 percent of pipeline sections being tested on Line 3 by reusing water. We continue to work with agencies on next steps during these drought conditions.
“Enbridge has demonstrated ongoing respect for tribal sovereignty,” she wrote.
Department of Nature Resources spokesperson Gail Nosek said the agency is reviewing the lawsuit and had no comment.
Exerting tribal sovereignty by filing the lawsuit in tribal court rather than in state or federal court and advancing the legal theory of the rights of nature are unique, according to legal scholars.
“The rights of nature is quickly gaining traction in American legal law,” said Elizabeth Kronk Warner, dean of S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. Warner is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
“It’s already established in some other countries; the rights of nature is definitely a burgeoning area of law and I think we’ll continue to see it develop,” Warner said.
Courts in Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, India and New Zealand have litigated cases based on rights of nature.
The first “rights of nature” case filed in the U.S. came in April in Orange County, Florida, when the state’s waterways filed suit against a housing developer and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The suit says that a proposed residential development will destroy acres of wetlands.
But tribal courts have no authority to order the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to rescind its water permit to Enbridge, according to Matthew Fletcher, a citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and a law professor who is director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center.
Fletcher agrees, however, that establishing the rights of manoomin as a legal entity in tribal court is a sound strategy.
“Those rights likely would not be recognized on their own in state or federal court; this suit may be a valuable exercise,” Fletcher said.
Attorneys chose to file the suit in White Earth’s tribal court as a means to quickly get the case heard in federal court. Tribal court civil cases involving non-Natives are permitted by consent of the defendant.
Legal scholars say that in this case, the state government would typically seek to have the case removed to the federal courts.
Bibeau said that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has already asked to file a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction in the case. Although states and their agencies have their own sovereign immunity from lawsuits, Bibeau thinks that the department won’t be able to dodge the suit even if federal courts return the case to tribal court. The key is asking for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief rather than monetary damages.
“I don’t think the state has immunity from declaratory judgment,” Bibeau said.
A declaratory judgment declares the rights of the plaintiff without any specific action or award for damages. Injunctive relief restrains a party from engaging in certain actions or requires them to do the actions in a certain way.
“I think that declaratory relief is within the boundaries of tribal court,” Bibeau said.
After the tribal court issues its order, regardless of the state’s participation, it will have created case law to which the federal court can refer when deciding to hear the case or return it to tribal court.
Manoomin or wild rice is more than food for Ojibwe; it conveys culture and tradition. 2020. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember)
“I don’t think anybody has tried to sue a state from a tribal court but I don’t think there’s any federal statute against it,” Bibeau said.
“They (the DNR) won’t be able to stop the tribal court order. When we go to federal court based on the simplicity of water and wild rice, we can go a long way because we already have those rights as a sovereign nation,” he said.
Either scenario, according to Bibeau, is a win for plaintiffs.
Bibeau’s legal strategy, however, is not without pitfalls.
Treaties signed between the Ojibwe and the federal government in 1837 and 1854 guaranteed tribes the right to hunt, fish and gather on ceded lands. The 1855 treaty or Treaty of Washington, however, conspicuously lacks language spelling out this right. The bulk of the Line 3 pipeline runs through 1855 treaty lands.
In 2019, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state regarding 1855 treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on ceded lands. Two Ojibwe men were cited by the state for illegally taking fish from Gull Lake located on off-reservation lands in the 1855 Treaty area. One judge, however, offered a dissenting opinion in the case saying that rights apply to treaties as the Indians at the time would have understood them.
Bibeau represented one of the defendants in this case. “There is nothing in the 1855 Treaty that relinquished rights to hunt, fish and gather on ceded lands,” Bibeau said.
This is known as the reserved rights doctrine; treaties describe the specific rights tribes gave up, not those they retain. In many cases, the federal court has interpreted treaties using the reserved rights doctrine.
The elements of White Earth’s lawsuit that depend on rights to hunt, fish and gather on ceded lands within the 1855 Treaty area are contingent on these rights being affirmed. For instance, plaintiffs claim that the state deprived them of their civil rights by charging them with trespass and other crimes as they protested Line 3 construction; they argue that they were lawfully engaged in exercising their treaty rights.
Minnesota treaty map. Courtesy Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Establishing that the 1855 treaty should be interpreted to include hunting, fishing and gathering rights on ceded lands could be a challenge, according to treaty scholars. At least one scholar, who preferred to be quoted anonymously, cautioned that each treaty is different.
Although Warner agreed that establishing treaty rights in this case might not be an easy argument, it would be consistent with existing Indian treaty law.
“Tribes have been having a lot of success in the current Supreme Court; all of the cases relying on treaty rights have been successful,” Warner said.
She pointed to the McGirt case in Oklahoma and the Boldt decision in Washington.
Most of these decisions have been led by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Although considered a conservative, Gorsuch has demonstrated a keen understanding and appreciation of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights expressing respect for the reserved rights doctrine. During his tenure, Gorsuch has ruled in favor of important treaty rights cases such as Herrera v. Wyoming, rejecting past theories of state sovereignty and Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den affirming the state’s obligations to tribes. Gorsuch served as federal judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where he gained extensive experience in Indian law.
“The interesting thing would be if White Earth’s right to nature claim could be incorporated into or run parallel to a treaty right,” Warner said.
The release of the UN’s climate report alongside White Earth’s lawsuit could be auspicious for both treaty rights claims and the rights of nature, according to Warner.
“The urgency of the UN findings make this litigation and advocacy work so much more important now because we literally have a window of time in which to make changes,” Warner said.
Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 contribution today to help Indian Country Today carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter.
Sending you best wishes from the Line 3 frontline in Minnesota. I’m encouraged to report that nearly 30 high-profile national lawmakers have responded to grassroots pressure and sent a joint letter to President Biden. It urges the White House to ensure a full environmental assessment of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, which is damaging sensitive wetlands in the midst of the ever-worsening climate emergency. We on the frontlines are grateful we’re being heard. Our team is doing all we can to protect our sacred homelands — and your support is essential.
Please give to lift up our #StopLine3 resistance. We need food, fuel, equipment, and supplies to remain effective. We now have just a matter of weeks to convince the Biden administration to end the desecration of our lands and waterways. We won’t go away — but this pipeline must. Help us stay in its path every single day.
Lakota Law reached out to lawmakers it has relationships with to sign onto the Biden letter, and the progress in D.C. is partly a result of all the direct action occurring here in Minnesota. Just today, we at Camp Migizi led a march on the Army Corps of Engineers building in Duluth, Minnesota. Lakota Law co-director and lead counsel Chase Iron Eyes and more than 300 water protectors joined us in delivering a strong message of resistance.
Today’s direct action exemplifies the growing partnership between my Anishinaabe People and the Lakota who have come to stand with us. As expected, the police reacted aggressively, even detaining one Indigenous woman so forcefully that we felt it necessary to shut down a nearby bridge in response.
Next, on Saturday, we’re helping organize and publicize a direct action in D.C. In tandem with allied groups and influencers, Camp Migizi and Lakota Law will deliver more than 127,000 #StopLine3 petitions to Biden, hold a sacred ceremony, and engage with our fellow activists at the National Museum of the American Indian.
I want you to know that, even as we — and so many in the world — grapple with one existential crisis after another, there is much reason for hope. We must stay active and vigilant!
Miigwech — thank you for your solidarity with our Indigenous nations. Taysha Martineau Via the Lakota People’s Law Project
REGINA, Saskatchewan (AP) — A First Nation in southern Saskatchewan said Wednesday that it has discovered hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of another former residential school for Indigenous children.
A statement from the Cowessess First Nation and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations, which represents Saskatchewan’s First Nations, said that “the number of unmarked graves will be the most significantly substantial to date in Canada.”
Last month the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, were found buried on the site of what was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school near Kamloops, British Columbia.
Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme and Chief Bobby Cameron of the federation planned to hold a news conference Thursday to provide more details about the new find at the Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 where Cowessess is now located, about 87 miles east of Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.
The Canadian government apologized in Parliament in 2008 and admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages; they also lost touch with their parents and customs.
Indigenous leaders have cited that legacy of abuse and isolation as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.
As we enter the dog days of August, I think it’s fair to say that 2021 has become a year for recognition and reckoning. Of course, Native People grow up with a heightened understanding of the genocide on which the U.S. was founded. Today, I want to share a little more of that perspective with you.
As an ally integral to our movement for justice, your willingness to engage with hard truths is appreciated. You can help us spread the word and find a better way forward. Today, as part of this process, I ask you — if you can stomach it — to watch this special report about the Hiawatha Indian Insane Asylum from prominent South Dakota news organization KELO.
Hiawatha was a horrific place, located right here in South Dakota — something that should surprise nobody. Its reputation among Native People was so bad that the threat of being sent there was used as a deterrent for children who misbehaved at boarding schools. As some of the keepers of this story mention in their interviews with KELO, it housed people from many tribal nations, and once you went in, you were very unlikely to come out.
It’s hard to find an “insane asylum” with a good reputation. But of course, the conditions at the one that impounded Native folks were far worse than most. Most of those sent to Hiawatha were anything but “crazy.” As my colleague, Chase Iron Eyes, put it earlier today, many of these relatives were spiritually gifted. Others probably just had too much fighting spirit for their own good.
I know this is a heavy topic, and I thank you for reading. We are living in troubled times, and it’s only with your attention that we can avoid making the same mistakes again and leave a more equitable world to our future generations.
Wopila tanka — my gratitude for being on this difficult journey with us. You’re making things better! Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
On July 1, 2021, the Supreme Court released its decision in a prominent voting rights case that Indigenous activists and attorneys say will make it harder for people of color — especially Indigenous populations — to vote.
In the case, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the court looked at whether a pair of voting policies in Arizona violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a provision that prohibits voting laws or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color or language. In a 6-3 vote split between its conservative and liberal judges, the court upheld Arizona’s policy disqualifying any ballot cast in the wrong precinct as well as a 2016 law that made it a felony for anyone but a family member, household member or caregiver to return another person’s mail ballot — a method known as ballot harvesting or collecting, often used by get-out-the-vote groups to increase turnout.
The latest case is one of the most potentially perilous decisions for Indigenous voters since Shelby County vs. Holder eight years ago, voting rights attorneys say. Shelby overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act, allowing state legislatures to pass voter laws without federal oversight. That paved the way for more restrictive voter legislation, including the Arizona laws at the heart of Brnovich. The Supreme Court’s decision could not only make voting harder for rural Indigenous voters, Indigenous voting advocates and attorneys say, it will also make it harder to challenge new voting rules that disproportionately affect Indigenous populations and people of color.
“The (court) set goalposts that are really hard to meet and said that sometimes discriminatory effects can be small enough that they don’t matter,” Native American Rights Fund staff attorney Jacqueline De León (Isleta Pueblo) said. “And that is particularly disturbing to Native Americans, because in this instance they were saying some Native communities don’t matter.”
In Arizona, where 27 percent of the state land is tribal land and about 6 percent of the population is Indigenous, the nearest ballot box might be from 45 minutes to more than two hours away. “Because of that distance, it was common practice for neighbors, clan, relatives or extended family and otherwise people who are considered kin in terms of tribal relations to pick up your ballot and return it because they were making that two-hour drive,” Torey Dolan, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Native Vote fellow at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, said.
Unmoved by this reality, the court ruled that Arizona’s ballot-collection law did not violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, saying that having to identify one’s polling place and then travel there to vote does not exceed the “usual burdens of voting.”
FILE – In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Indigenous people first gained the right to vote in 1924 through the Indian Citizenship Act. But tribal communities’ ability to vote has long been hindered by intentional discrimination. Obstacles include a lack of polling stations on reservations, cumbersome traveling requirements and ballots that fail to adhere to the minority language requirement of the Voting Rights Act. Meanwhile, gerrymandered districts are deliberately designed to dilute the impact of tribal votes.
After the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, civil rights attorneys and tribes were able to challenge these discriminatory voting practices in court — and win. One of the main weapons in their arsenal was Section 2 of the law. But in Brnovich v. DNC, the Supreme Court changed what Section 2 can do to protect voters.
Tribal members on the Navajo Nation and in other rural areas often possess non-standard addresses that make it difficult for counties to place them in the correct precinct. In addition, unreliable internet access makes it hard to find precinct information online. Until 2020, even tribal members with internet access lacked a publicly available tool online to verify precincts with non-standard addresses, Dolan said. As a result, the ballots of Indigenous voters were discarded at a rate higher than those of non-Native, particularly white, voters, in the 2016 election.
While the court acknowledged that Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy can burden Indigenous, Black and Latino communities more than non-minority voters, it dismissed the racial disparity as being “small in absolute terms.” “A policy that appears to work for 98 percent or more of voters to whom it applies — minority and non-minority alike — is unlikely to render a system unequally open,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote.
This particular ruling is very alarming, Dolan said. “When you consider the court’s emphasis on statistics and number of voters impacted, the Supreme Court (might say) 2,000 Native Americans are impacted, and out of this really sizable Native American population — that’s not enough to make a difference,” Dolan said. “But that number could be an entire tribe.”
The Democratic National Committee argued that both Arizona laws disproportionately affected Black, Latino and Indigenous voters and were enacted with “discriminatory intent.” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich welcomed the ruling as a means to prevent voter fraud, despite the fact that there has never been a case of voter fraud associated with ballot collection in Arizona.
“One of the really disturbing things that this case did was it allowed this idea of fake voter fraud to serve as a justification for discrimination,” De León said. “It didn’t require states to prove that there was actually a risk or even a result of voter fraud in their states. They just allowed the lie to be accepted as a justification. And that really just unburdened states in a lot of ways from having to prove their justifications for laws and instead put that burden on litigants.”
Midterm elections are still more than a year away, but Indigenous voting rights and activists, such as OJ Semans, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, co-executive of the Indigenous voting rights advocacy nonprofit Four Directions, are already hard at work. “We’re already warning tribes, ‘This is coming now, we’re going to need to prepare,’” Semans said. Meanwhile, De León believes that Congress needs to act by reforming the Voting Rights Act or passing the Native American Voting Rights Act.
“At the end of the day, the margins on the most consequential elections are exceedingly small, and Native communities are the missing votes in a lot of those communities,” De León said. “That’s why all of this effort is going into stopping the Native vote. … They know that it would change the status quo, and that’s worth fighting for.”
CALGARY, Alberta — The remains of as many as 751 people, mainly Indigenous children, were discovered at the site of a former school in the province of Saskatchewan, a Canadian Indigenous group said Thursday, jolting a nation grappling with generations of widespread and systematic abuse of Indigenous people.
The discovery, the largest one to date, came weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of another former boarding school in British Columbia.
Both schools were part of a system that took Indigenous children in the country from their families over a period of about 113 years, sometimes by force, and housed them in church-run boarding schools, where they were prohibited from speaking their languages.
A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 2008 to investigate, expose and document the history and consequences of the residential schools, called the practice “cultural genocide.” Many children never returned home and their families were given only vague explanations of their fates, or none at all. Canada had about 150 residential schools and an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children passed through the schools between their opening, around 1883, and their closing in 1996.
“This was a crime against humanity, an assault on a First Nation people,” Chief Bobby Cameron, of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the provincial federation of Indigenous groups, said during a news conference Thursday. “The only crime we ever committed as children was being born Indigenous.”
It is unclear how the children died at the church-run schools, which were buffeted by disease outbreaks a century ago, and where children faced sexual, physical and emotional abuse and violence. Some former students of the schools have described the bodies of infants born to girls impregnated by priests and monks being incinerated.
The commission estimated that about 4,100 children went missing nationwide from the schools. But an Indigenous former judge who led the commission, Murray Sinclair, said in an email this month that he now believed the number was “well beyond 10,000.”
The discovery in Saskatchewan was made by the Cowessess First Nation at the Marieval Indian Residential School, about 87 miles from the provincial capital, Regina.
Local Indigenous leaders on Thursday demanded an inquiry into what they called a “genocide,” and called for the church and the government to turn over all records related to the administration of the schools.
Chief Cadmus Delorme, of the Cowessess First Nation, also called for Pope Francis to apologize, saying that the Roman Catholic Church needed to address its actions. Delorme said that his Indigenous community, spurred by the discovery at Kamloops and in conjunction with technical teams from Saskatchewan Polytechnic, began combing the area using ground penetrating radar on June 2, hitting as many as 751 unmarked graves. He said he expected more bodies would be discovered.
For Canada’s 1.7 million Indigenous citizens, who make up about 4.9% of the population, the discovery of yet another mass burial site is a visceral reminder of centuries of discrimination and abuse, which has led to intergenerational trauma among survivors of residential schools and their families.
It is also a powerful vindication of their testimonies. While the recent findings have intensified attention to the issue, Indigenous people had been suggesting for decades through their oral histories that thousands of children had disappeared from the schools, but had often been met with skepticism.
“There’s no denying this: All of the stories told by our survivors are true,” Cameron said.
The latest findings are likely to deepen the nation’s debate over its history of exploiting Indigenous people and refocus attention on the horrors of the schools, a stain in the history of Canada, a country which has often been perceived, fairly or not, as a bastion of progressivism and multiculturalism.
Florence Sparvier, 80, an elder of the Cowessess First Nation, said she attended two residential schools, including Marieval, the school where the unmarked remains were found.
“They were very condemning about our people,” she said of the nuns at the schools. “They told us our people, our parents, our grandparents didn’t have a way to be spiritual because we were all heathens.”
In September 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the nation’s past “humiliation, neglect and abuse” of Indigenous people, and vowed in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly to improve the lives of the country’s Indigenous people. The latest discoveries will add pressure for him to accelerate those efforts, which many Indigenous people complain have fallen short.
When Trudeau took office in 2015, he made the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 recommendations a top priority. But progress has been slow, in part because some of them are beyond the federal government’s control. The Indian Act, a collection of laws dating to the 19th century that govern the lives of Indigenous people, also remains in place despite Trudeau’s promises to move it into a new system under their control. Cameron and several other Indigenous leaders say that they hope the discovery of the children’s remains will accelerate the process.
“We are tired of being told what to do and how to do it,” Delorme said.
The remains of the 215 children were discovered at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia last month through the use of ground-penetrating radar. Much like an MRI scan of the body, the technology produces images of anomalies in the soil.
The search at the Kamloops school is continuing and the First Nation leaders said that they expected the count to rise further.
When the commission tried to look into the question of missing Indigenous children, the Conservative government at the time turned down its request for money to finance searches. Since the Kamloops discovery at the end of May, several Canadian governments have offered to pay for searches.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced that it would provide just under 4.9 million Canadian dollars (about $3.9 million) to Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to search for graves. The provincial government previously committed 2 million Canadian dollars ($1.6 million).
Like Kamloops, the Marieval school, which opened in 1899, was operated for most of its history by the Roman Catholic Church for the government of Canada. A marked cemetery still exists on the grounds of the school, which closed in 1997 and was subsequently demolished.
The commission called for a papal apology for the role of the church, which operated about 70% of the schools. (The rest were run by Protestant denominations.) But despite a personal appeal from Trudeau to the Vatican, Francis has still not taken that step. By contrast, the leadership of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, apologized in 1986 for its role in running the schools.
Since the Kamloops announcement, Cameron said, he has been traveling around the province, where farming and mining are major industries, looking at former school sites.
“You can see with your plain eye the indent of the ground where these bodies are to be found,” he said in an interview Wednesday night. “These children are sitting there, waiting to be found.”
The U.S. Department of Interior will formally investigate the impact of federal Indian boarding schools, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced before tribal leaders on Tuesday.
The new “Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative” will result in a detailed report compiled by the Interior and will include historical records of boarding school locations, burial sites and enrollment logs of children’s names and tribal affiliations. Haaland made the announcement virtually at the 2021 National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference, a four-day gathering for tribal leaders, policymakers, and partners to discuss issues currently facing Indian Country.
It was meant to be an express line from North America’s largest proven oil reserve to its biggest refining center and to deepen the bond between Canada and the United States as petroleum partners.
And it would have stood—or rather, lain—four feet underground, as a 1,700-mile steel monument to humanity’s triumph over the forces that at the time seemed to threaten the future of an oil-driven economy. Conventional oil reservoirs might be running out and alarms might be sounding over the damage that carbon dioxide pollution was doing to the atmosphere, but the Keystone XL pipeline would show America’s determination to carve out ever new oil corridors.
At least, that’s how it looked in 2008, when TransCanada and its partners announced plans to forge a $7 billion link between Alberta’s tar sands and the Texas Gulf Coast. By the time the company now known as TC Energy announced earlier this month that it was giving up the effort to build the pipeline, it was clear that oil could not so easily conquer the realities of the 21st century.
The 13-year fight over Keystone XL transformed the U.S. environmental movement, and dramatically shifted the political center of the American debate over energy and climate change. Instead of trying to get people to care about the future impact of a gas—carbon dioxide—that they couldn’t smell or see, environmentalists began focusing on the connection between climate change and the here-and-now effects of fossil fuel dependence: the takeover of land; the risk to air and water; and the injustice to those in the path of the fossil fuel industry’s plans. President Barack Obama’s presidency was a barometer of this change. Early on, his administration seemed poised to approve Keystone XL. Near the end of his second term, Obama became the first world leader to block a major U.S. oil infrastructure project over climate change.
But as Keystone XL’s brief revival under President Donald Trump demonstrated, the battle over oil’s future is far from over. Climate activists are pushing for President Joe Biden to stop Line 3, another Canadian tar sands pipeline now under construction in Minnesota. But the larger issue for the climate action movement is whether the United States can enact a comprehensive policy that truly reshapes energy use, as Biden has pledged to do, phasing out dependence on oil and its imprint on the American landscape.
‘Drill, Baby, Drill’
TransCanada announced its plan to build the Keystone XL in July 2008. In the oil and gas industry’s view it seemed impeccable timing, coinciding with a surging oil market. The price of crude soared past $140 a barrel that month; no one knew at the time that the record price was a peak the market would never hit again. It seemed like the world was entering an era of sustained high oil prices that would pump nothing but profit out of the energy-intensive production of thick, sticky bitumen from the sandy soil of remote Alberta.
Politically, a proposal to double the amount of Canadian oil coming into the United States also seemed well-timed. Even though both candidates for the 2008 presidential election said they favored action on climate change, there was no talk of it on the campaign trail or in debates. A bill to cut U.S. carbon emissions died in the Senate that summer, with neither Republican John McCain nor Democrat Barack Obama showing up to vote. People were worried about high gasoline prices. The chant that shook the rafters at the Republican convention was “Drill, Baby, Drill.”
But the timing of TransCanada’s project also made the pipeline a perfect target for a ferocious backlash against both the fossil fuel industry and government inaction on climate change.
After Obama won the election and Democrats gained control of Congress, there was at first little sign that Keystone XL was in trouble, certainly not over its climate impact. International climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to yield an agreement. And with Obama’s House-passed climate bill foundering in the Senate, the president sought to win support from moderate Democrats by making concessions on oil. In early April 2010, he announced a plan to reverse a long-standing ban on offshore drilling on the Atlantic coast. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s department then released a draft environmental impact statement that seemed to clear the way for Keystone XL, concluding that its environmental impact would be “limited.”
Five days later, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. And over the next 87 days, more than 200 million gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening ecosystems and the fishing and coastal economies, in what is regarded as the worst accidental marine oil spill in the history of the oil and gas industry. An orange sheen on the water, tar balls washing up on beaches and oiled pelicans provided vivid evidence that despite its claims to safety, the oil industry made mistakes and took shortcuts. And its plans for controlling a catastrophe were inadequate.
While the Deepwater Horizon well was still gushing, another historic U.S. oil disaster began to unfold that got less attention, but had even more relevance to Keystone XL. More than 1 million gallons of diluted Canadian bitumen spilled into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River from a ruptured pipeline in Marshall, Michigan. The heavy oil didn’t float, as conventional oil would; it sank to the river bottom, fouling 36 miles of the river and forcing 150 families permanently from their homes. The pipeline company, Enbridge, never informed federal officials of the complexity of handling heavy oil. It became the costliest inland oil spill in U.S. history, with a clean-up price tag of more than $1 billion.
The Kalamazoo spill was a turning point for ranchers and other landowners in the path of the Keystone XL, as Sue Kelso of Oklahoma told Inside Climate News in 2012. “I live in fear that this pipeline will go through and ruin all the water,” she said at the time. Kelso took TransCanada to court to fight its effort to obtain a pipeline easement on her family farm using eminent domain. Scores of ranchers and other landowners followed suit.
The fear and anger of landowners on the Keystone XL corridor was mounting at the precise moment that climate activists were confronting the strength of the forces lined up against them in Washington, D.C. Obama failed to push the Democratic-controlled Congress to act on climate, and the window of opportunity shut when Republicans regained control over the House in the 2010 midterms. “The environmental movement was in a dismal place following years of failed inside-the-beltway strategy,” Bob Wilson, a Syracuse University geographer who studies the environmental movement, recalled several years ago.
Climate activists needed a new game plan, and they looked to the indigenous tribes and conservative ranching communities of the Great Plains who were fighting Keystone XL.
Building a Sense of Trust
No one did more to build common cause between local communities and environmental groups than Jane Kleeb, a professional organizer who had moved to Nebraska to raise a family. She founded a group, Bold Nebraska, that did more than lobby, litigate and protest. It planned creative events to connect citizens from diverse cultural and political backgrounds—a renewable energy barn-raising, a large crop art project and a Harvest of Hope concert, held on a family farm and featuring Willie Nelson and Neil Young. Defying the historic tension between ranchers and Native American tribes in northern Nebraska, Bold Nebraska helped forge a Cowboy Indian Alliance (CIA) to fight a common foe—Keystone XL.
“We had this responsibility and sense of trust with one another, so that the tactics of divide and conquer that they normally would use never worked on this fight,” said Kleeb. “We helped change the face of what an environmentalist or climate activist looks like. You had people who were directly impacted by the pain, or potential consequences of these projects coming forward, being the ones to speak out, rather than kind of highly educated, you know, more coastal environmentalists.”
Environmentalists changed their methods, too. This August will mark the 10th anniversary of the first of a series of sit-ins against Keystone XL at the White House, organized by environmental author-turned-activist Bill McKibben and the organization he co-founded, 350.org. More than 1,250 people were arrested, including McKibben, climate scientist James Hansen and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, who ended the group’s 120-year prohibition against acts of civil disobedience.
“This particular project—Keystone XL pipeline—is so horrendous, it’s so wrong, and it’s being proposed at such an important time that we don’t want to leave any tool on the table,” Brune said at the time.
Little by little, the Obama administration changed course. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency calculated that the energy required to process tar sands oil and transport it through Keystone XL would generate 1.3 billion more tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the pipeline’s 50-year lifespan than if it were carrying conventional crude. In November 2015, on the eve of Paris climate talks where Obama hoped to seal his legacy with a landmark global deal to cut carbon emissions, he rejected the Keystone XL as counter to the role of the United States as a global climate leader.
“Once the grass-roots movement on the Keystone pipeline mobilized, it changed what it meant to the president,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told The New York Times. “It went from a routine infrastructure project to the symbol of an era.”
Beyond the Keystone XL
The Keystone XL battle spawned other pipeline showdowns, altering the U.S. political landscape, with results that are still unfolding. Young activists visited the protest site in North Dakota where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe faced off against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016. Among them was a former Bernie Sanders campaigner, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was inspired by the experience to run for office herself under the banner of environmental justice and climate action.
Dakota Access was completed, one of the few accomplishments of Trump’s drive to accelerate oil and gas infrastructure. But a judge ruled that Trump illegally sidestepped environmental review of the project, which is now in the Biden administration’s hands. In the face of unrelenting local opposition and low energy prices, Williams Company, an energy firm, canceled a planned natural gas pipeline in New York State, and Dominion Energy withdrew its plan for a pipeline cutting across the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.
As for Keystone XL, it was stalled by litigation throughout the Trump administration, and the economics also went south. With oil prices half of what they were in 2008, and banks and investors pulling out of Canadian tar sands projects, TC Energy was relying on the Alberta government for financing and loan guarantees. The pipeline was only 8 percent built when Biden canceled its border-crossing permit on his first day in office.
But even as pipelines were blocked, frackers were tapping new stores of oil in the shale rock beneath West Texas, North Dakota and New Mexico. Over the 13-year battle over Keystone XL, the United States regained its spot as the leading oil producer, in a world that is on track to consume a record 101 million barrels of crude per day by next year.
Keep Environmental Journalism Alive
ICN provides award-winning, localized climate coverage free of charge and advertising. We rely on donations from readers like you to keep going.Donate Now
You will be redirected to ICN’s donation partner.
Beyond the Keystone XL, Biden has sought to avoid getting pulled into pipeline battles. Instead, he has pursued what one analyst described as a “demand-side” policy: seeking to lay the groundwork for a clean energy future that would dry up demand for oil. To meet Biden’s Paris climate agreement pledge of cutting U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030, an estimated half of new cars sold would by then have to be electric.
But Biden’s climate plan, including the funding of an electric vehicle charging network and other infrastructure essential for a clean energy future, is facing roadblocks in an evenly and deeply divided Congress. And while that inside-the-beltway fight continues, hundreds of climate activists are chaining themselves to construction equipment in Minnesota, seeking to stop Enbridge from replacing an aging Canadian tar sands pipeline. They are calling on Biden to withdraw Enbridge’s permits for Line 3, just as he did for Keystone XL, without waiting for policy that one day, in theory, will eliminate the need for oil pipelines.
“Biden has to make an aggressive step in saying if we’re going to hit these climate change goals that we’ve set out, that means we cannot continue to build fossil fuel projects,” said Kleeb.
But, she said, she worries about division. With her voice breaking, she recalled a confrontation at a bar in Minnesota between her group of climate and tribal activists and a huddle of local residents. Her group began to leave the bar, but Kleeb turned around and went back. “Knowing what I just spent a decade doing in Nebraska, I can’t leave with them thinking that we’re these out-of-touch liberal elites, and not know why we’re fighting this pipeline,” she said. The evening ended with laughter and high-fives, she said, after some discussion of eminent domain, and foreign tar sands oil crossing their state to head for export markets.
Kleeb said she feels that not enough time has been spent building bridges between the activist and rural communities. And she thinks that’s a lesson for Biden and the larger drive for a clean energy transition, which would require the build-out of renewable energy in red states.
“A lot of people are very skeptical of corporations pushing wind and solar because they haven’t been treated well, and they haven’t really been engaged in the conversations around climate,” Kleeb said. “So there’s a lot of work to do.”
Marianne Lavelle is a reporter for Inside Climate News. She has covered environment, science, law, and business in Washington, D.C. for more than two decades. She has won the Polk Award, the Investigative Editors and Reporters Award, and numerous other honors. Lavelle spent four years as online energy news editor and writer at National Geographic. She spearheaded a project on climate lobbying for the nonprofit journalism organization, the Center for Public Integrity. She also has worked at U.S. News and World Report magazine and The National Law Journal. While there, she led the award-winning 1992 investigation, “Unequal Protection,” on the disparity in environmental law enforcement against polluters in minority and white communities. Lavelle received her master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is a graduate of Villanova University.
I have two pieces of wonderful news to share with you! As of yesterday, TC Energy at last canceled all remaining plans for the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL). The Zombie Pipeline is finally completely dead! At the same time, I was able to negotiate a deal with the South Dakota state’s attorney and avoid jail time for my KXL protest last year.
It was a good day not just for me, personally, but for all water protectors. This shows that — even as many states around the country continue to pass laws criminalizing protest — the people still have power. Our activism can make a real difference. As my fellow Cheyenne River protester, Oscar High Elk, said yesterday, “Respect our existence, or expect our resistance.”
Of course, as you know, our resistance still has much left to accomplish. I’m grateful that KXL’s immediate threats to our land and water are gone, along with the dangers its mancamps presented to Indigenous women and girls in Lakota Country. But Dakota Access still operates — without a legal permit — and Line 3 presents the same peril to the homelands of our Anishinaabe sisters and brothers in Minnesota.
Now, it’s time to #StopLine3 and continue our #NoDAPL fight. The cards are always stacked against us, but we have shown time and time again our resilience, the power of our movement, and our ability to triumph against the greatest odds.
Just this week, hundreds gathered at a pump station near the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, led by my sisters in arms, for the largest Line 3 protest yet. Reports tell us that a Department of Homeland Security helicopter harassed them, kicking up dust and gravel in an attempt to deter my relatives. It didn’t work. More than 100 were arrested, and we aren’t done yet. Like Lakota Law’s team, I’m considering ways I can best support this movement going forward. Because — take it from me — we can win!
Wopila — I’m very grateful for your solidarity with our resistance. Jasilyn Charger via the Lakota People’s Law Project
The Keystone XL pipeline project is officially terminated, the sponsor company announced Wednesday.
Calgary-based TC Energy is pulling the plug on the project after Canadian officials failed to persuade President Joe Biden to reverse his cancellation of its permit on the day he took office.
The company said it would work with government agencies “to ensure a safe termination of and exit from” the partially built line, which was to transport crude from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.
“Through the process, we developed meaningful Indigenous equity opportunities and a first-of-its-kind, industry leading plan to operate the pipeline with net-zero emissions throughout its lifecycle,” said François Poirier, TC Energy’s president and chief executive officer in a statement.
The pipeline has been front and center of the fight against climate change, especially in Indigenous communities. Native people have been speaking out, organizing, and in opposition of the project for several years.
“OMG! It’s official,” Dallas Goldtooth, Mdewakanton Dakota and Diné, wrote on Twitter regarding Keystone XL’s termination. “We took on a multi-billion dollar corporation and we won!!”
Goldtooth is part of the Indigenous Environmental Network. The network said it has been organizing for more than 10 years against the pipeline.
“We are dancing in our hearts because of this victory!” wrote the network in a statement. “From Dene territories in Northern Alberta to Indigenous lands along the Gulf of Mexico, we stood hand-in-hand to protect the next seven generations of life, the water and our communities from this dirty tar sands pipeline. And that struggle is vindicated. This is not the end – but merely the beginning of further victories.”
The network noted that water protector Oscar High Elk still faces charges for standing against Keystone.
Construction on the 1,200-mile pipeline began last year when former President Donald Trump revived the long-delayed project after it had stalled under the Obama administration.
It would have moved up to 830,000 barrels of crude daily, connecting in Nebraska to other pipelines that feed oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Biden canceled it in January over long standing concerns that burning oil sands crude would make climate change worse.
In this Feb. 18, 2020, photo, a protester plays a drum and sings while joined by others opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline at the South Dakota Capitol. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves, File)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had objected to the move, although officials in Alberta, where the line originated, expressed disappointment in recent weeks that Trudeau didn’t push Biden harder to reinstate the pipeline’s permit.
Alberta invested more than $1 billion in the project last year, kick-starting construction that had stalled amid determined opposition to the line from environmentalists and Native American tribes along its route.
Alberta officials said Wednesday they reached an agreement with TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, to exit their partnership. The company and province plan to try to recoup the government’s investment, although neither offered any immediate details on how that would happen.
“We remain disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the Keystone XL project, including the cancellation of the presidential permit for the pipeline’s border crossing,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement.
The province had hoped the pipeline would spur increased development in the oil sands and bring tens of billions of dollars in royalties over decades.
Attorneys general from 21 states had sued to overturn Biden’s cancellation of the pipeline, which would have created thousands of construction jobs. Republicans in Congress have made the cancellation a frequent talking point in their criticism of the administration, and even some moderate Senate Democrats including Montana’s Jon Tester and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin had urged Biden to reconsider.
Tester said in a statement Wednesday that he was disappointed in the project’s demise, but made no mention of Biden.
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, was more direct: “President Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline and with it, thousands of good-paying American jobs.”
A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on TC Energy’s announcement.
In case you missed it, a recent decision in the legal saga of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) will keep the oil flowing while an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is done over the next nine months — and the courts have essentially stepped away from responsibility to shut operations down. Sadly, in his latest opinion, D.C. Judge James Boasberg has basically stated that his hands are tied by a higher court ruling.
Watch: Lakota Law chief counsel Danny Sheehan joined me to discuss the developments on Cut to the Chase.
As a reminder to you about what got us here, Boasberg (an Obama appointee) ruled last July to vacate federal permits for Dakota Access. He reasoned then that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct a full EIS, as demanded in a lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes. Then, in August, an appeals court affirmed Boasberg’s decision to invalidate the permit, while simultaneously overturning his decision to empty the pipeline. DAPL has been operating unpermitted ever since — a completely unheard-of scenario, and a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Boasberg has since been essentially asking the Corps to make a political decision on whether it’s acceptable for this pipeline to operate without a valid permit on federal land. So far, the Corps (an executive branch agency now under president Biden’s leadership) has shown no desire to do the right thing. Rather than issuing an order to halt operations until proper environmental review is complete, Biden and the Corps are ducking responsibility.
Our legal analysis is that there’s still a potential path forward in the courts. At this stage, the tribes could go directly after the Army Corps under the Administrative Procedures Act. This could lead to a court-order forcing Biden and the Corps to make a decision on whether to continue allowing DAPL’s operation in violation of NEPA.
Lakota Law, its supporters, and a host of like-minded organizations and allies continue to ask Biden to step up and shut DAPL down. We’ll continue to closely examine all the legal and political angles, assessing potential leverage points to push the Corps. Stay tuned.
Wopila tanka — thank you, always, for standing with Standing Rock! Chase Iron Eyes Co-Director & Lead Counsel The Lakota People’s Law Project
In northern Minnesota, over 100 water protectors were arrested Monday in the largest act of civil disobedience to date aimed at halting the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. If completed, Line 3 would carry more than 750,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil a day through Indigenous land and fragile ecosystems, endangering lakes, rivers and wild rice beds. The day of action began when over 1,000 water protectors blockaded a pipeline pump station north of the town of Park Rapids. Many of the activists locked themselves together or to heavy machinery, including bulldozers and diggers.
Kerry Labrador: “I’m a mother of three children. I trooped out here from Boston. I’m a Mi’kmaq woman. And I’m here because they need backup. They need voices. There’s strength in numbers. You know? All these kids out here — I’m going to say it over and over and over again: All the kids out here deserve the future that we, as parents, promised our kids. And if this is how I have to fulfill that promise, then this is how I’m going to fulfill that promise, and not just for my kids, but for every kid sitting out here in this world.”
Protesters are calling on President Biden to shut down the pipeline.
With a heavy heart but with clear eyes, I write to you today as Lakota Law’s newest team member. Global Indigenous communities are mourning over the recent discovery of a mass grave containing the human remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential school in Canada. This discovery is not the first and will not be the last. Residential and boarding schools occupy a long and bloody, but recent, chapter in the story of Turtle Island’s colonization. The last school didn’t close until 1978.
Watch, then take action: Chase provides real talk about the tragedy of 215.
Since our inception, the Lakota Peoples’ Law Project has focused on protecting the health and safety of Lakota children. In partnership with the tribes and Native communities in the Dakotas, we have years of experience fighting to keep Native kids in Native care and for the proper implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Most recently, your support has helped us establish a Native-run foster home on the Standing Rock Nation, as another means of dismantling this practice of forced assimilation.
We did not stumble upon this undertaking. Our work grew from the same sense of urgency — shown to us by Lakota grandmothers as their grandkids were being stolen by the state — that you are now experiencing as you read about the children found in a mass grave at The Indian Residential School at Kamloops. This “breaking news” is an all-too-familiar reality for Indigenous children and families. Generations of Native communities have suffered from the deadly and traumatizing boarding school experience.
We should not be surprised that countries founded on the ideals of the Doctrine of Discovery — an ideology that supports the dehumanization of those living on the land and their dispossession, murder, and forced assimilation — would have so much to answer for.
I have written an article to attempt to explain this history and its present-day implications for allies. This is not an easy read. It was not an easy write. I wrote it to eliminate the need for any other Native person within our network to suffer by having to explain this senselessness.
Wado — thank you for reckoning with the harsh realities we Indigneous People continue to endure. Sarah Rose Social Media Coordinator The Lakota People’s Law Project
The description of ¨heartbreaking¨ and ¨painful reminder¨ to this news is not enough. Apologies are not enough. I want the names of the people responsible. I want the government to actually perform some act of repayment for what was done. I am tired of the governments in the world sadly shaking their heads – and then continuing with the rape, pillage, killing, and the stealing of indigenous resources. These things continue because there has never been a full accounting or payback. Until they are forced to actually pay for what they have done – it will continue. I also want names of the people responsible. I want those names remembered for their atrocious deeds. What we have are un-named victims and un-named perpetrators. The killers hide in anonymity and that has to end. IMHO
Anna Mehler PapernyFri, May 28, 2021, 3:19 PM
By Anna Mehler Paperny
TORONTO (Reuters) – The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found at the site of a former residential school for indigenous children, a discovery Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as heartbreaking on Friday.
The children were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978, according to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation, which said the remains were found with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist.
“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify,” Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir said in a statement. “At this time, we have more questions than answers.”
Canada’s residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, constituted “cultural genocide,” a six-year investigation into the now-defunct system found in 2015.
The report documented horrific physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities suffered by many of the 150,000 children who attended the schools, typically run by Christian churches on behalf of Ottawa from the 1840s to the 1990s.
It found more than 4,100 children died while attending residential school.The deaths of the 215 children buried in the grounds of what was once Canada’s largest residential school are believed to not have been included in that figure and appear to have been undocumented until the discovery.
Trudeau wrote in a tweet that the news “breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.”
In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologized for the system.
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation said it was engaging with the coroner and reaching out to the home communities whose children attended the school. They expect to have preliminary findings by mid-June.
In a statement, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee called finding such grave sites “urgent work” that “refreshes the grief and loss for all First Nations in British Columbia.”
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
Winter has turned to spring here in the Dakotas, and the yearly promise of new life and fresh growth has arrived. In that spirit, I write to you today with an update on the progress of our new Standing Rock teen center project, which I’m happy to say your generous support is making into a reality. As can happen with projects of this magnitude, we’re working through a small snag. But we won’t let anything get in the way of its completion!
Please watch this original music video produced by our co-director, Daniel Paul Nelson, about violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act by South Dakota.
As of a few weeks ago, we’d identified a wonderful building for sale on Main St. in the city of McLaughlin, Standing Rock’s second largest town. It’s just a couple blocks from our foster home, and we were excited about the location. Importantly, our vision for putting the teen center on Main St. includes helping revitalize the primary artery in a community struggling to keep businesses open and buildings from decaying.
Sadly, though, the non-Native property owner of the building — once he realized our goals — took the building off the market “due to family issues.” So it’s disappointing, to say the least, that his for-sale sign came down for just two weeks before it was back up in the window. Surprise, surprise, blatant racism is alive and well in South Dakota, even at Standing Rock. So we’re now talking to lawyers about the Fair Housing Act and considering a threat to sue, as we also look at other properties in town.
It has been more than five years since Standing Rock had a safe, fun place for teenagers to go after school. Even as Standing Rock captured the attention of the world during NoDAPL in 2016, the children of this community had no place to enjoy themselves in the afternoons. As managers of McLaughlin’s Lakota-run foster home, we’ve seen youth drift into substance abuse and other bad behavior because of neglect. Making kids feel supported is so important; that’s why, in partnership with you, we’re continuing to do our part.
We’ve been protecting Lakota children now for 15 years; our work began with a focus on fixing the foster care crisis in Lakota Country, and we still prioritize efforts to enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act. In solidarity with the children, Lakota Law co-director Daniel Paul Nelson produced this original music video highlighting the urgent need to make South Dakota stop taking Native kids from Native communities. We hope you’ll accept a gift from us and download the tune for free here.
Wopila — thank you for standing with our children! Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
Small museums and private institutions that accept federal CARES Act money or other stimulus funds could be forced to relinquish thousands of Indigenous items and ancestral remains now in their collections.
Under the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, museums or other institutions that accept federal funding must compile an inventory of Indigenous cultural items and initiate repatriation of the collections and remains to tribes or family members.
At least two museums are now facing possible scrutiny – the nonprofit Favell Museum of Native American Artifacts and Contemporary Western Art in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and the End of the Trail Museum, which is connected to the Trees of Mystery gift shop in the redwood forest in Klamath, California.
Hundreds of other small museums and institutions could also face scrutiny of their Indigenous collections if they have accepted federal funds.
“This will likely have an impact on private collections that previously did not have NAGPRA obligations,” Melanie O’Brien, manager for the national NAGPRA program, wrote in an email to Indian Country Today.
Museum representatives did not respond to requests for comment from Indian Country Today.
California Assembly member James C. Ramos, a citizen of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the first Native American elected to the state’s legislature, said institutions should step up and comply with NAGPRA.
“If these museums across the state and nation received federal funding in the form of the CARES Act, maybe now is the opportunity for those items to be given back to Indian peoples,” Ramos said.
California Assembly member James C. Ramos is a member of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and the first Native American elected to the state’s legislature. (Vince Bucci / AP Images for San Manuel)
The CARES Act – the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act – was signed into law in March 2020, providing $2.2 trillion in stimulus funds to families, expansion of unemployment benefits and loans to small businesses, corporations and state and local governments.
A subsequent law, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, invested $200 million in pandemic funding for libraries and museums, including nearly $24 million in California, $19 million in Texas and $14 million in Florida, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Data provided by the NAGPRA office in Washington, D.C., indicate the Favell Museum received two loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to “aid small businesses in maintaining a work force during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The museum received a loan for $24,200 on May 6, 2020, and one for $24,273 on Jan. 23, 2021, according to data collected at USAspending.gov.
As of May 11, the museum’s website stated that it “receives no government funds and little money from grants.”
Founded by Klamath Falls businessman Eugene “Gene” Favell and his wife, Winifred, the museum opened in 1972 with the family’s private collection of artifacts, including Indigenous baskets collected by Favell’s mother, Ruth.
Today, the museum is home to more than 100,000 Native artifacts, including a fire opal arrowhead from Nevada’s Black Rock Desert along with other arrowheads, obsidian knives, Native clothing, stone tools, beadwork, baskets and pottery, according to the museum website. It also houses a collection of contemporary Western artists, including an original painting by Charles M. Russell, and century-old photos of Native people from Edward Curtis.
It is not known to have any human remains, as are found in holdings of other museums. But information presented on the Favell website implies cultures represented at the museum from throughout the Americas are now extinct.
According to the museum’s collections page, “The collections on display give the visitor a suggestion of the richness and variety of societies no longer here and they illustrate how creative and adaptive the native people were.” Some of the living tribes and cultures referred to in the past tense are the Chumash, Klamath, Modoc, Apache, Washoe, Pomo and Tlingit people.
Favell purchased the fire opal arrowhead and some other artifacts from California dentist H.H. Stuart, another collector, according to the museum website. Scholar and author Tony Platt said in his book, “Grave Matters: Excavating California’s Buried Past,” that Stuart collected items from hundreds of burial sites.
In a recent interview with Indian Country Today, Platt said that during his last visit to the Favell Museum, he noticed that labels on Stuart’s items indicated that the bulk of the collection came from Yurok and Wiyot graves.
Three years before he died in 1976, Stuart sold many of the items to Favell for $13,500, Platt reported in his book.
Favell died in 2001 at age 75 but the museum has continued on without him.
A Favell representative responded to a request for comment from Indian Country Today by saying via email that the museum manager was on vacation and that the person who had overseen the collections had retired. A subsequent request has not been answered.
Ted Hernandez, chair of the Wiyot Tribal Council, said the tribe has not received a list of Favell holdings.
“All of our art, they have a spirit and a life and they (the Favell) are not taking care of our ancestors as they should be,” he said. “Each basket is a living being. They are too close together in those cases, so they can’t breathe.”
End of the Trail
About 200 miles southwest of the Favell Museum, the End of the Trail museum operates as part of the Trees of Mystery roadside attraction in northern California.
Trees of Mystery has received three federal Small Business Administration loans totaling $650,000 related to the pandemic, according to USAspending.gov.
On April 28, 2020, and again on Feb. 25, 2021, Trees of Mystery received two SBA loans, each for $250,000, to provide help in maintaining a work force during the pandemic. The business also received a $150,000 loan from the SBA on June 11, 2020, to help restore the company to pre-disaster conditions, according to government records.
According to the Trees of Mystery website, the End of the Trail Museum is attached to the gift shop, which provides the only access into the free museum.
The Trees of Mystery attraction on storied Highway 101 has operated in some form in Klamath, California, since the 1930s. It first opened as a fishing camp and evolved into the Wonderland Redwood Park, the Kingdom of Trees and then the Trees of Mystery. In 1946, Marylee and Ray Thompson purchased the site and began operating the attraction, according to RoadsideAmerica.com.
The attraction features walkways through the redwood trees, a crude carving of “The End of the Trail” statue and a large statue of Paul Bunyon, according to RoadsideAmerica.com.
A newly constructed Redwood Canopy Trail includes a suspended walkway 50 to 100 feet off the ground that winds through the trees. The new canopy trail opened just as the pandemic was forcing shutdowns but has since reopened, according to the website.
The museum opened on March 10, 1968, largely to display items collected by Marylee Thompson.
It is described on the museum’s website as “one of the largest privately owned world class museums,” and cites “artifacts and history of the First Americans.” Photos on the website show display cases filled with basketry, cradle boards, drums, masks, carvings, Native clothing and other items.
A Trees of Mystery representative responded to a request for comment from Indian Country Today by asking that questions be emailed to a museum owner identified only as Debbie. That person has not yet responded to the questions.
The Better Business Bureau lists Trees of Mystery as a sole proprietorship with four employees, though far more workers can be seen there on a typical day. The owner is listed as John Thompson, who has been identified as the son of Marylee and Ray Thompson.
The California State Auditor’s office conducted an analysis in 2019 of the university system’s compliance with the federal NAGPRA law and a state counterpart, known as CalNAGPRA, and found that the university had fallen short of requirements for repatriation of ancestral remains and artifacts.
Berkeley had nearly 500,000 Native American remains and artifacts as of 2019, and had returned only about 20 percent, the auditor’s office concluded.
The remains and objects are stored at the Hearst Museum and are not on display. Research on them has stopped, and they are not accessible to the public, students or faculty, university officials told Indian Country Today.
The auditor’s office found that the three universities reviewed – the Berkeley, Los Angeles and Davis campuses – needed to do more to comply with NAGPRA.
The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, meanwhile, issued an apology in March over its handling of ancestral remains and funerary objects and pledged to work with tribes to facilitate the returns. The Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History is also working to repatriate some of its collections.
Several hundred ancestral remains and artifacts are being repatriated to the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma by the state of Mississippi. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
The state of Mississippi recently returned items to the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. The remains had largely been found during excavations over the past 50 or more years, and more than 1,000 still must be identified and returned to tribes.
And Indiana University also returned more than 700 ancestral remains excavated from the Angel Mounds State Historic Site. The remains had been in the university’s Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology since 1971.
For California assembly member Ramos, repatriation is personal.
Baskets woven by Ramos’ great-grandmother and great-great-aunt were recently returned to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians by a local county museum. During a celebration of Yaamava’ – which means Spring in the Serrano language – they honored the baskets with a ceremony that included Serrano Bighorn sheep and Cahuilla bird songs.
Ramos said the songs that welcomed his elders’ baskets home now live inside him and aid in his continuing efforts to bring cultural artifacts home.
“Regaining those baskets opens up advocacy that those items are tied spiritually to a people,” he said.
Ramos said some museums don’t understand the importance of non-funerary items and do not recognize them as part of the Indigenous cultural identity. Many tribes recognize baskets as relations, he said.
“Different cultures throughout the state of California that weave baskets breathe life into those baskets,” he said.
What happens next is unclear.
When asked about possible investigations of museums or institutions that received pandemic funds, O’Brien said her office was unable to comment on the status of any investigations regarding failure to comply with NAGPRA.
Officials with the Wiyot and Hoopa Valley tribes, however, said they had not received any notifications from the Favell or the End of the Trail museums about cultural items contained within the collections.
Hernandez said the Wiyot Tribe is ready to send out a cultural liaison to validate any inventory of items they might receive.
“The museums that have our items and are not taking care of them,” he said, “it’s a high disrespect to the Native community.”
Nanette Kelley, Osage/Cherokee, is the 2021 California Arts Council Administrators of Color Fellow for the Greater Northern Region.
Tens of millions of stories disappeared from Instagram last week.
While the stories were from different parts of the world, they shared a common theme: protests against injustice, including posts about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, protests in Colombia, and unrest in East Jerusalem.
Because of the common theme, people said the social posts removal was a deliberate action by Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. Instagram says that’s not so.
I do not believe the excuse. It is too convenient to blame it on a technical issue. If your platform is that bad that it erases content on such a massive scale, then maybe you are in the wrong industry. To truly be free, we need to build our own networks and platforms. Screw Facebook, Google, and Instagram. We need to make and support our own and stop propping up these elite platforms that do not give one iota for the people. WE DON¨T NEED THEM; WE DO NOT NEED ANYTHING FROM THEM: MAKE FOR OURSELVES.
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!”