Save the He Sapa (Black Hills)

Lakota Law

For generations, the He Sapa (Black Hills) have been revered by the Oceti Sakowin as sacred grounds. As Indigenous Peoples, we are the original stewards of this land, and we have never relinquished that right. That’s why it’s so important for us to take a stand against harmful extraction in our homelands — like the mining interests currently tearing up and poisoning the He Sapa. 

Will you help us eliminate these threats to our water, treaty territory, and sacred sites? Right now, please join us in asking U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to suspend all new mining claims in the Black Hills until the Lakota’s treaty rights are properly acknowledged and honored.

Click the pic to read our blog, then please take action to protect the Black Hills!

Over the past weeks, I’ve been working closely with the good people of the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance to understand and help communicate the scope and urgency of the mining problem in the Black Hills. We collaborated to create a blog for you to read, which explains the situation in more detail, and the action you can take to convince Secretary Haaland and the U.S. Department of the Interior to intervene.

At present, 184,000 acres of mining claims litter the Black Hills, covering 15 percent of our sacred grounds, and water system contamination caused by mining represents the greatest threat to the area. And, of course, the mining companies routinely walk away after tearing up the land and contaminating the water, leaving waste behind — forcing taxpayers to cover the clean up costs. 

It’s long past time to return the sacred by honoring treaty rights with Indigenous nations and treating Unci Maka — our grandmother Earth — with utmost respect. So, please read our blog and then take action to protect the He Sapa. You can help make a huge difference for our homelands and our people.

Wopila tanka — thank you for your action and care!
DeCora Hawk
Field Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

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

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

Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL)

Lakota Law

We remain 100 percent focused on our ongoing fight to end the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), despite the turmoil in the world around us. As you’ll see in a new video we co-produced with Standing Rock, a strong coalition among South Dakota’s tribal nations has formed to get it done. 

Watch on Standing Rock’s Vimeo page: Standing Rock Chair Janet Alkire is joined by leaders from across the Oceti Sakowin to coordinate the current #NoDAPL strategy.

In the video, you’ll hear from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairwoman Janet Alkire, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer, and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier. It’s the first in a planned series that will delve more deeply into the complex issues faced by the tribes in their fight to stop DAPL — a pipeline which continues to operate without a permit for its crossing under Lake Oahe just north of the Standing Rock Nation.

Chairwoman Alkire has been actively relaying tribal concerns directly to Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. She recently returned from a meeting with him, in which she discussed the lack of transparency concerning DAPL’s oil spill response plan for the Missouri River and the terrible safety track record of its parent company, Energy Transfer. As detailed in a press release from the tribe, over a recent 8-year period, nine pipelines owned and controlled by Energy Transfer and its affiliated companies experienced nearly 300 spills — including 50 large ones in vulnerable areas like Lake Oahe.

Until this pipeline has a valid Environmental Impact Statement and federal permit, it is operating in violation of the laws designed to safeguard our people, our delicate water systems, and our sacred homelands. We must keep the pressure on U.S. leaders to do the right thing and shut DAPL down. Please watch our video, stay tuned for the next chapters, and be ready when the time comes to take action together.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with Standing Rock and the entire Oceti Sakowin!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

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

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

U.S. Boarding Schools: Investigation

This July 8, 2021 image of a photograph archived at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shows a group of Indigenous students who attended the Ramona Industrial School in Santa Fe. The late 19th century image is among many in the Horatio Oliver Ladd Photograph Collection that are related to the boarding school. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

The U.S. Department of Interior released its investigative report Wednesday on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. It’s being called the first volume of the report and comes nearly a year after the department announced a “comprehensive” review.

Deb Haaland, Interior secretary, Bryan Newland, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, and Deborah Parker, chief executive officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition were scheduled to speak at a news conference in Washington announcing the report’s findings.

“The consequences of federal Indian boarding school policies—including the intergenerational trauma caused by the family separation and cultural eradication inflicted upon generations of children as young as 4 years old — are heartbreaking and undeniable,” Haaland said in a statement. “We continue to see the evidence of this attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous people in the disparities that communities face. It is my priority to not only give voice to the survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies, but also to address the lasting legacies of these policies so Indigenous Peoples can continue to grow and heal.”

Newland led the over 100-page report, which includes historical records of boarding school locations and their names, and the first official list of burial sites.

The findings show from 1819 to 1969, the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal schools across 37 states, some territories at that time, including 21 schools in Alaska and seven schools in Hawai’i. Some of these schools operated across multiple sites. The list includes religious mission schools that received federal support, however, government funding streams were complex therefore, all religious schools receiving federal, Indian trust and treaty funds are likely not included. The final list of Indian boarding schools will surely grow as the investigation continues. For instance, the number of Catholic Indian boarding schools receiving direct funding alone is at least 113 according to records at the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

Approximately 53 different schools had been identified with marked or unmarked burial sites. The department expects the number to increase as the investigation continues.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visits the Grand Junction Air Center Complex on Friday to discuss her agency's response to wildfires and the Bureau of Land Management headquarters move to Grand Junction on Friday, July 23, 2021, in Grand Junction, Colo. (McKenzie Lange/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel via AP)

FILE. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visits the Grand Junction Air Center Complex on Friday to discuss her agency’s response to wildfires and the Bureau of Land Management headquarters move to Grand Junction on Friday, July 23, 2021, in Grand Junction, Colo. (McKenzie Lange/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel via AP)

In June 2021, Haaland announced an Interior investigation in federal Indian boarding schools to make “a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies” from as early as the 19th century.

She said the initiative was created after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous children by Canada’s Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May 2021.

The first volume of the report highlights some of the harsh conditions children endured at the schools. Children’s Indigenous names were changed to English names; children’s hair were cut; the use of their Native languages, religions and cultural practices were discouraged or prevented; and the children were organized into units to perform military drills.

The report cites findings from the 1928 Meriam report in which the Interior acknowledged “frankly and unequivocally that the provisions for the care of Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate.

Examples included descriptions of accommodations at select boarding schools such as the White Earth Boarding school in Minnesota where two children slept in one bed, the Kickapoo Boarding School in Kansas where three children shared a bed and the Rainy Mountain Boarding School in Oklahoma where, “single beds pushed together so closely to preclude passage between them and each bed has two or more occupants.”

(Related: Pope Francis apologizes for churches’ role in Canadian Indian residential schools)

The 1969 Kennedy Report, cited in the Department investigation, noted that rampant physical, sexual and emotional abuse: disease; malnourishment; overcrowding,; and lack of health care at Indian boarding schools are well-documented.

It also found schools focused on “manual labor and vocational skills that left American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian graduates with employment options often irrelevant to the industrial U.S. economy, further disrupting Tribal economies.”

Federal boarding schools first started with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 when the government enacted laws and policies to establish and support Indian boarding schools. For more than 150 years, Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into boarding schools that focused on assimilation. An unknown number of religious Indian boarding schools, funded by private and government funds, predate the Civilization Act by at least 100 years.

(Related: ‘We won’t forget about the children’)

Native land and wealth diminished

In a major finding, the report documents the use of tribal trust and treaty funds for the federal boarding school system as well as mission schools operated by religious institutions and organizations. Although the total amount of these funds used to directly fund schools is unknown, according to an investigation by Indian Country Today, more than $30 million in today’s dollars were siphoned away during a nine year period by Catholic schools alone.

The U.S. also set apart tracts of Native lands for use by religious institutions and organizations. According to an ongoing investigation by Indian Country Today, a large portion of this land may still be held by churches.

Indeed, the relationship between major religious denominations and the federal government regarding Indian mission schools is described as “an unprecedented delegation of power to church bodies that were given the right to nominate new agents, direct educational and other activities on the reservations.

Members of the Sicangu Youth Council help provide a formal burial at the Rosebud Indian Reservation on July 17, 2021, for some of the nine Rosebud students who died at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the 1880s. The children's remains were finally returned to their homelands after 140 years, wrapped in a buffalo robe bundle and placed in a cedar box. Earth collected at the Carlisle graves were added to the children's final resting places. (Photo by Vi Waln for Indian Country Today)

Members of the Sicangu Youth Council help provide a formal burial at the Rosebud Indian Reservation on July 17, 2021, for some of the nine Rosebud students who died at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the 1880s. The children’s remains were finally returned to their homelands after 140 years, wrapped in a buffalo robe bundle and placed in a cedar box. Earth collected at the Carlisle graves were added to the children’s final resting places. (Photo by Vi Waln for Indian Country Today)

Although the report makes little mention of accountability for religious organizations that operated boarding schools, it does indicate that non-federal entities will be given support in releasing their records associated with the schools.

As part of the initiative and in response to recommendations from the report, Haaland announced the launch of “The Road to Healing” year-long tour. It’ll consist of a tour across the country to allow boarding school survivors to share their stories, help connect communities with trauma-informed support and to gather a permanent oral history.

The report also points to the 2019 watershed Running Bear studies, funded by the National Institute of Health. This research contains the first medical studies to systematically and quantitatively show that the Indian boarding school system experience continues to impact the present day health of adult boarding school survivors.

Newland cited the need for more investigation because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting closures of federal facilities that affected obtaining and reviewing documents and the department’s limited funds at that time.

(Related: ‘Our ancestors risked their lives and freedom’)

The second volume will be aided by a $7 million investment from Congress through fiscal year 2022. Newland recommended for it to include a list of marked and unmarked burial sites at federal Indian boarding schools — with names, ages, tribal affiliations of the children at those locations — an approximation of the total amount of federal funding used to support the boarding school system and to further probe the impacts on Indigenous communities.

“This report presents the opportunity for us to reorient federal policies to support the revitalization of Tribal languages and cultural practices to counteract nearly two centuries of federal policies aimed at their destruction,” Newland said in a statement. “Together, we can help begin a healing process for Indian Country, the Native Hawaiian Community and across the United States, from the Alaskan tundra to the Florida everglades, and everywhere in between.”

Opportunity to submit stories

On Thursday, members of Congress are holding a hearing at 1 p.m. ET, for the bill “Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the US.” Rep. Sharice Davids, Ho-Chunk, is the lead sponsor of the bill.

The National Boarding School Healing Coalition is requesting people who attended a boarding school or are a descendent of a boarding school attendee to submit their written testimonies to the House of Natural Resources Committee by May 26. Email submissions to HNRCDocs@mail.house.gov and CC NABS at info@nabshc.org.

The National Boarding School Healing Coalition has an available template to use here.

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ICT’s Mary Annette Pember contributed to this report.

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Kalle Benallie

By

Kalle Benallie

Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today’s Phoenix bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at kbenallie@indiancountrytoday.com. Benallie was once the opening act for a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas. 

No to Extraction

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/indigenous-women-say-no-to-extraction-for-sustainable-future

This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Indian Country Today, and High Country News.

Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

At the world’s largest gathering of Indigenous leaders, women are talking about how to hold financial institutions accountable for fueling climate catastrophe through investments in the extractive industry.

Michelle Cook, Navajo, was among those who offered powerful testimonies focused on the women at the frontlines of extractive projects, the boardrooms of financial institutions, and the halls of governments. Speaking at a side event hosted by Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network at the 21st session of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, Cook described the work as being part of a sacred obligation.

“That’s what we’re doing, fulfilling a prayer for the world – for nature – with love, compassion, and with courage. No other weapon than that, the truth,” Cook, the founder of Divest Invest Protect, said. “For some, that is so terrifying. Indigenous women will not give up … We will not be intimidated, shamed or be afraid just for being who we are.”

The international forum side events offer participants the opportunity to continue thematic dialogues outside of the forum’s schedule, which is more limited than previous years due to the pandemic and is operating on a hybrid format this year. Summer Blaze Aubrey, Cherokee and Blackfeet, is a staff attorney for the International Indian Treaty Council and also spoke on the panel. She noted that racism and genocide are at the center of human rights violations around the world. Atrocities are ongoing and fueled by the extractive industry, she added, even with “green energy” initiatives moving forward. She pointed to the White House’s rhetoric on Russia and the Defense Production Act, which was enacted to jump start new mines or expand existing ones.

“Engaging in the extractive industry isn’t moving forward, it’s not going to help in the long run. It’s part of capitalism,” Aubrey said. “It is not helpful…We see throughout the extractive industry on Turtle Island it’s linked to violence against women. It’s so nuanced and interconnected that you cannot speak on one without speaking on the other.”

Women on the panel maintained that due diligence must occur continuously through development projects, not just during the initial phases. But ultimately, they say, society needs to divest from the extractive industry altogether.

“Indigenous people are providing the answers,” Aubrey said, referencing traditional knowledge and science. “We understand how to live symbiotically with the environment. How to feed people. We already have systems in place that will protect us and the world.”

She added that corporations and financiers need to recognize that and be engaged in those principles and strategies. The panel called out BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, saying the investment company has an insatiable appetite for feeding its bottom line. BlackRock presently does not have an Indigenous rights policy, a shortcoming that Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network founder Osprey Orielle Lake said should change immediately.

Like countless others during the first week of the Permanent Forum, the panel consistently returned to the matter of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). FPIC specifies that developers must engage with impacted Indigenous communities to ensure their participation and consultation. However, despite the international human rights principle being widely adopted by U.N. member states via the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, many experts and leaders have identified that the articles are not being recognized or applied effectively, leaving the land and people vulnerable to exploitation. Among the other solutions highlighted, included investing in climate justice frameworks that center traditional ecological knowledge.

Watch: ICT reporter Carina Dominguez talks UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on ‘ICT Newscast with Aliyah Chavez’ 

For women like Maria Violet Medina Quiscue, from Pueblo Nasa in Colombia, it takes courage to speak out on these issues – especially on a global scale – because land and human rights defenders are being murdered, meaning that publicly criticizing the institutions, corporations and nations behind them places her life on the line. Quiscue described the deeply entrenched racism against Indigenous people in Colombia, which has been on full display as of late.

For the last seven months, roughly 2,000 Indigenous people have been living at an encampment at Bogota National Park after being displaced by extractive industries and paramilitary groups. Anti-Indigenous rhetoric from Colombian politicians has created a hostile environment for Indigenous people, with grocers and store owners refusing to serve Indigenous people. Quiscue says racism in Bogota ramped up after Mayor Claudia Lopez Hernandez unleashed a slew of attacks against Indigenous people at the encampment.

Quiscue says the discrimination they are currently facing is rooted in colonization. Maria and the other panelists made it clear that Indigenous people maintain both the legal right to say “no” to extraction as well as a sacred obligation to stand up against current and future developments. At an event featuring numerous policy solutions and calls to action, this was the line that the women seeking to hold financial institutions accountable consistently returned to: you cannot be a climate leader when you expand extraction.

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Carina Dominguez

By

Carina Dominguez

Carina Dominguez, Pascua Yaqui, is a correspondent and producer for Indian Country Today. Previously she worked for CBS Television Network. Carina’s work has appeared in news outlets like The Arizona Republic, The Billings Gazette, Casper Star-Tribune, The Tucson Sentinel, Navajo-Hopi Observer and CBS News. CarinaDominguez@indiancountrytoday.com, Twitter: @Carinad7, Instagram: @CarinaNicole7

Fighting Big Oil

Lakota Law

I wish you a happy Earth Day! Here’s an anniversary (unlike some others) that I think we can all celebrate. We all care deeply about Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth, and when I joined the Lakota Law staff a couple months back, part of the reason was because this organization is never afraid to take on the biggest environmental issues in Indian Country and beyond. Big Oil — which has been knowingly killing this world and lying about it to the public for decades — must be held accountable. Our methodology to make that happen doesn’t stop at resisting pipelines. We mean to end harmful extraction entirely.

I urge you to follow all the work of the Romero Institute — home to both Lakota Law and Let’s Green CA!, a statewide initiative which aims to make California a model of equitable climate action. You’ll see that we have an effective, multipronged approach to winning environmental justice. 

Lakota LawHere’s that all-too-familiar vista of another oil refinery belching toxic filth into the atmosphere. This is why we’re taking polluters to task and working to pass green legislation.

This week, Let’s Green CA! Is celebrating a big victory with the passage of SB 1230 out of the California Senate’s Committee on Environmental Quality. Romero’s staff — in partnership with legendary activist Dolores Huerta and the Dolores Huerta Foundation — has worked very hard to make this clean transportation legislation a reality, from the ground up. Sponsored by State Senator Monique Limón, the bill would rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce toxic air pollution, and support green jobs by accelerating a just transition to clean cars in the largest state in our country and the fifth largest economy in the world. I applaud our sister program!

Meanwhile, the Romero Institute’s legal team is drafting a 300-page Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) criminal complaint against the six major oil companies presently doing business in California. It’s designed to stimulate filings by state attorneys general and U.S. Attorneys against corporations, their CEOs, management officials, principal shareholders and financiers, and the American Petroleum Institute, which conspired with the oil leaders to lie to the American public about the known dangers of fossil fuel emissions causing climate change. I encourage you to watch this excellent, new documentary by PBS Frontline to learn more.

As you can see, we’re not taking our responsibilities to Unci Maka lightly. Our Lakota way is not to look at what we can do for ourselves, but to ask how we can be of service to our relatives — including this beautiful world that holds us all in her embrace. So, today, let’s celebrate her. Then, every day from here on, let’s make sure we’re doing better by her.

Wopila tanka — thank you for fighting for environmental justice!
DeCora Hawk
Field Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Our Ancestors Risked Their Lives

Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

ODANAH, Wisconsin — It was the blue ceiling that got me.

Although St. Mary’s Catholic Church is tiny, its vaulted ceiling soars to an unexpected height. It’s an impossible robin’s egg blue or the hue of a blue sky that could never exist. Unexpectedly, it drove my heart into my throat, where it stayed for several minutes. That blue color obliterated journalistic objectivity, placing me back into a wordless, needy childhood.

I realized at last that the ceiling was the same color as the little blue Virgin Mary medal that lived between my mother’s breasts, fixed to her brassiere with a safety pin. That medal would gaze back at me when we laid down in bed together for afternoon naps, at bedtime or just to visit. Those were the times she told me the Sister School stories, her life at St. Mary’s Catholic Indian boarding school and her childhood on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation in Wisconsin.

The little church is all that remains now of the mission school buildings. 

Read more the entire article at: https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/our-ancestors-risked-their-lives-and-freedom

Tribal Department of Child Welfare

Lakota Law

Aƞpétu wašté from the Cheyenne River Nation. As you know, the welfare of our children has been a longstanding issue for Native communities. Centuries of colonization means we’re always in the crosshairs. As I discuss with my granddaughter in today’s video, our people are marginalized — especially our young parents and grandparents — by the State of South Dakota and the Department of Social Services, and our children are taken from us at an alarming rate. 

Watch our video to learn more about our work for the children.

We have worked to solve this problem for decades, and we have specifically confronted issues surrounding the Indian Child Welfare Act. In my work with Lakota Law, I’ve seen a lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren. This ultimately spurred me and others to create the Wasagiya Najin (Standing Strong) Grandmother’s Group at Cheyenne River. Wasagiya Najin focuses on what’s happening to our grandchildren, and we dedicate our time to improving our communities’ health and wellbeing from a Lakota perspective.

Our vision encompasses both a Children’s Village on Cheyenne River and a plan to create a Tribal Department of Child Welfare. I’m happy to share with you that we’re well on our way with the village — a place where siblings can stay together and children won’t be lost to the system or worry about aging out. We already have three homes and kinship parents (we don’t use the term “foster parents”). We’re doing all this with support from the tribe, but it is a community-based and operated children’s village, not run by our tribal government.

A tribally-run Department of Child Welfare will be the next big step for us. A centrally-located, multi-service center, it would offer needed support for our parents and grandparents. Right now, it’s far too complicated for parents to access services and resources from the State of South Dakota, which is the only entity handling foster care and adoption on the rez. Our vision will make things easier, give tribal members more autonomy, and also hold us accountable. It’s not our way to terminate parental rights. Instead, we promote family restoration. Children want to be with their families and their people. If we approach it from a Lakota perspective, we can make that happen for many young ones.

We take the pandemic seriously out here, and that has slowed things down. But right now, we’re organizing on the ground and distributing a one-page, anonymous survey identifying family circumstances and gathering feedback about the potential for a tribally-run Child Welfare Office. This data will help us request a reservation-wide hearing and present effectively to our tribal government, which is willing to work with organizers and hear testimony. We’re not looking for approval or permission. We grandmothers have heart for our people and our children, and that’s all we need to get it done!

It’s an exciting time, with positive change happening now and more on the horizon. We’ll have much more to tell you as we move ahead, so please stay with us.

Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our children!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

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

Water

The key to life and liberty is access to water, Water is Life. The clue to what is happening across the world as a certain class seeks to totally control is what is being done in Standing Rock. There, in 2016, the government was able to try out their new military-grade weapons to control the peaceful protest. There in Standing Rock, we witnessed a rehearsal for complete control and domination. Now, the water is being confiscated.

This is environmental warfare.

Lakota Law

The Dakota Access pipeline’s threat level is at an all time high for the people of the Standing Rock Nation. In a new video we made in partnership with Standing Rock, you’ll see the distressingly low water levels in the Mni Sose, our sacred Missouri River. You’ll also hear Chairwoman Janet Alkire address the oil company’s lack of adequate emergency response planning for the pipeline’s inevitable spill. It’s critical you stay with us and be ready to assist as soon as the Army Corps of Engineers releases DAPL’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Standing Rock Chairwoman Janet Alkire addresses DAPL’s inadequate emergency plan, the Missouri River’s low water levels, and the elevated threat to her people.

As you heard a few weeks back, an Army representative came to Standing Rock to meet with tribal leaders from across the Oceti Sakowin. He listened to presidents and chairpersons, elders and community members, and he told us he heard our concerns. We hope that’s true. But since that day, it’s been a game of wait and see, with no movement from the Army and no release of the EIS — which, of course, was prepared by a pro-oil firm. It’s almost as if they know we’re not going to be happy unless the pipeline is shut down, and that we have a legion of supporters ready to engage in favor of an honest process.

In my dual capacities as Lakota Law’s co-director and a special consultant to the chairwoman’s office, I’m here to amplify your voices and those of my people. Lakota Law’s communications and technical teams have been hard at work for months helping the Alkire administration upgrade the tribe’s digital infrastructure and outreach capabilities. As part of that, we also collaborated with the tribe’s Game and Fish Department to access remote areas of the reservation and film 30 miles of the river, capturing first-of-its-kind, comprehensive drone footage near DAPL’s crossing. As you’ll see, the footage shows clearly that water levels are dangerously low, and that any spill would pose a special threat right now.

We will continue to do whatever we can to support Standing Rock and all those within the Great Sioux Nation to push back against Big Extraction. And, of course, we’ll keep you updated on developments. Please stay tuned and ready to take action!

Wopila tanka — thank you for always standing with Standing Rock.
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Protect the Indian Child Welfare Act

Lakota Law

As we’ve been reporting to you for some time, Big Oil’s most powerful attorneys are attacking the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) at the Supreme Court level. The legal effort is being led by Gibson Dunn, a firm notorious for helping fossil fuel goliaths evade environmental protections. With the Brackeen v. Haaland lawsuit, Gibson Dunn is attempting to eliminate tribes’ rights to keep Native kids in Native care. As you know, Lakota Law is fighting back against this frightening attack on Indigenous sovereignty.

We’re preparing an amicus curiae brief — more details on that below — for the Supreme Court’s consideration during its next session. We also recently had a strategy meeting in New York City with attorney Steven Donziger, another of Gibson Dunn’s targets. On behalf of Indigenous People in the Amazon, Donziger won a landmark judgment against Chevron for dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest. Gibson Dunn then used every dirty trick in the book to turn the tables on him, and now he’s been under house arrest for years. We’ll work to connect Steven to resources that can help him find solutions to his legal problems.

Lakota Law

In South America and North America alike, as Indigenous people, we’ve seen a blatant disregard for our lives played out for hundreds of years. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to ensure ICWA is protected, right now. We know this law inside and out. Former South Dakota Senator James Abourezk, who chairs Lakota Law’s Board of Advisors, was the principal author of ICWA, and a decade ago we were contacted by the Justice Department to propose implementation guidelines.

Our amicus brief will make three arguments designed to counter flawed positions taken by Gibson Dunn and the rest of the opposition’s legal team. First, our lawyers will explain that granting tribes the sovereign right to determine what happens to their children is not reverse racism. Second, we will say there is no violation of the U.S. Constitution or the Tenth Amendment when states are required to enforce federal law. And finally, federal, executive branch agencies — in this case, the Bureau of Indian Affairs — must be able to publish and enforce rules and regulations under their purview.

ICWA is a well-intentioned, well-written law with enforcement guidelines we know to be solid. Since going into effect more than 40 years ago, it has helped countless children remain with family, live healthy lives, and maintain a deep understanding of who they are and where they’re from. We can’t go back to the days of government-mandated mass cultural erasure. We must continue to stand together for the Earth and our future generations against the fossil fuel industry and its high-powered attorneys, whatever the costs. It’s up to all of us, and your friendship and care mean we can keep fighting for justice, every day.

Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our legal work!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Alert System

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/state-approves-1st-alert-system-for-missing-indigenous-people

Chris Aadland
Underscore.newsand Indian Country Today

Beginning soon, when Indigenous people go missing in Washington, social media, radio airwaves and highways will be blanketed with their information to hopefully lead to them being found — the first state in the U.S. where that will be guaranteed.

That’s because Gov. Jay Inslee on March 31 signed House Bill 1725, creating the nation’s first statewide alert system for missing Indigenous people during a ceremony on the Tulalip Reservation in front of tribal leaders and community members, state officials and lawmakers. The bill was proposed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and sponsored by Rep. Debra Lekanoff, Tlingit and Aleut.

When operational, the system — similar to the state’s “silver alert” for missing vulnerable adults — will help identify and locate missing Indigenous people, who, especially women, go missing at disproportionately high rates and face higher rates of violence and murder compared to other ethnic groups in the U.S.

Advocates like Lekanoff say the measure is just one step in addressing the complex crisis, but it’s another signal to “Native Americans who have said no one is doing anything to stop the crisis of our missing and murdered Indigenous people” that policymakers are acknowledging the problem and working to address it.

“There’s no one solution to help us in our Native American community address the crisis that’s happened to our women and our people,” Lekanoff, a Democrat and the only tribal citizen in the state Legislature, said in a March 30 interview before the signing ceremony. “This is one of many tools in the toolbox.”

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When activated, the first-of-its-kind alert will broadcast information about missing Indigenous people on electronic highway signs, through radio messages and across social media. An activation will also include the state alerting local and regional media through press releases. The bill is also meant to lead to better communication and coordination among law enforcement departments and other agencies in investigating cases, Lekanoff said.

The state Legislature unanimously approved the legislation earlier in March, reflecting a trend of Washington, other states, tribal governments and organizations, and the federal government increasingly working to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that creates a first-in-the-nation statewide alert system for missing Indigenous people on March 31, 2022.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that creates a first-in-the-nation statewide alert system for missing Indigenous people on March 31, 2022.

In Washington, those efforts include a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force created by the state Legislature last year to come up with recommendations of how to address the crisis in the state. The group began meeting late last year.

The 23-member group includes tribal nation leaders and community members, tribal advocacy organization representatives, state lawmakers, law enforcement officials and others. The task force is meant to build on the previous work of tribal nations and advocates in identifying the problem and potential solutions in Washington — where, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), Indigenous women are more than four times more likely to go missing than white women — and elsewhere.

Related:
Legal system fuels missing relative crisis
‘Bring Her Home’: New film features MMIW activists
Violence against Indigenous women is a crisis, report finds

In Washington, the problem is among the worst in the country. According to a 2018 report from UIHI, the group found that more than 5,700 Indigenous women or girls were reported as missing or murdered in 2016. The organization, which is a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, also examined more than 500 cases from 71 U.S. cities, finding that Washington had the second most cases as a state, with Seattle having the most among the cities studied. Tacoma had the seventh most cases.

During the ceremony, Ferguson, the state attorney general, said the legislation was one of the first accomplishments the task force could point to and said other states could look to Washington’s alert system as a model to tackle the problem.

He also pledged that the alert system wouldn’t be the last reform “to ensure that we bring everybody back home” and that cases involving missing Indigenous people should include “accountability and justice.”

The Washington State Patrol will be responsible for operating the system, but Lekanoff said the missing and murdered Indigenous person task force, as well as broadcasters and the state Office of the Attorney General, will work together to develop and implement the plan. She said she hoped the system would be designed and implemented soon.

“Missing and murdered Indigenous women and peoples is not just an Indian issue; it’s not just an Indian responsibility,” Lekanoff said during the March 31 ceremony, adding that the bill “brings together all of our governing bodies to collaborate, to take care (of) those who have been taken, those who have been lost and those yet to come.”

The ceremony also included Gov. Inslee signing several other bills affecting tribal nations and Indigenous people, like one strengthening tribal consultation guidelines in spending money for climate protection actions and another allowing Indigenous people serving sentences in tribal jails to be transferred to a state prison, where inmates have better access to rehabilitative programs, services and training.

In legislative hearings earlier this year before the bill was passed, and during the signing ceremony, supporters said the cases of missing Indigenous people often don’t receive the same level of attention or urgency as cases involving people of other groups. That means the burden of raising awareness about a missing person frequently falls on family members and friends.

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin said at the signing event that the lack of awareness contributed to perpetuating a feeling among Indigenous people that they “didn’t matter.”

“We’re finally getting to that place where we’re righting some of those wrongs,” she said.

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This story is co-published by Underscore.news and Indian Country Today, a news partnership that covers Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest. Funding is provided in part by Meyer Memorial Trust.

Underscore is a nonprofit collaborative reporting team in Portland focused on investigative reporting and Indian Country coverage. We are supported by foundations, corporate sponsors and donor contributions. Follow Underscore on Facebook and Twitter.

Missing And MurderedMissing And Murdered IndigenousMissing Relatives

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Chris Aadland

Chris Aadland, Red Lake and Leech Lake Ojibwe, is a reporter for Indian Country Today and Underscore.news. Follow him on Twitter: @cjaadland

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SB 181

Lakota Law

In 2016 and ‘17, when tens of thousands of people showed up at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, our rallying cry was “mni wiconi” — water is life. Many of us hail from river tribes, and this saying isn’t just some trite slogan for us; it is our reality as Lakota People. We’re all connected by our ties as human beings, just as water systems are connected above and underground. That’s why, in February — in the same spirit as NoDAPL — representatives from many Great Plains tribes gathered together to bring one voice to the halls of power in South Dakota in support of SB 181. 

This legislation, proposed by Lakota State Senator Red Dawn Foster, would require our Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources to assemble a task force to study the adoption of a comprehensive and sustainable watershed ecosystems management approach. Please watch our new video, a co-production by Lakota Law and Uniting Resilience, the nonprofit I run with my partner, Felipa De Leon. It depicts highlights from our presentations and the real impression we made on the senators.

Watch: Lakota Law’s Chase Iron Eyes joined a host of Lakota leaders in addressing the SD State Senate about the importance of SB 181. 

The day was a victory, though the legislation didn’t pass this go-round. The senators listened closely and showed real appreciation for our dedication to achieving environmental justice through legislative channels. Tamar Stands And Looks Back made a presentation in Lakota; Chief John Spotted Tail impressed with his words and ceremonial headdress; Lakota Law’s Madonna Thunder Hawk and Chase Iron Eyes made key points that shook the room; and we also heard from the new Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairwoman, Janet Alkire, and many others. In the end, senators from both parties spoke in favor of Red Dawn’s legislation and encouraged us to come back with the bill next session.

That’s exactly what we’ll do. We’re ready to show the power of tribal unity until the bill passes. This legislation is important, because the groundwater and aquifers that connect Lakota Country must be protected. As a study I did in cooperation with Lakota Law shows, the long history of uranium mining throughout South Dakota means our people often rely on toxic water. That’s not acceptable, and we will change it. I invite you to stay connected with us. Only by working and showing up together can we make the right impressions, overcome historical barriers, and improve the health and safety of our communities.

Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us protect our homelands and water!
Monique “Muffie” Mousseau
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

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

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

DAPL Shut it Down

Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

NDN Collective released a damning climate justice report Tuesday on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, the same day as World Water Day.

In a detailed analysis, the Climate Justice Campaign calls on the Biden administration to drain and shut down the pipeline, which the roughly 200-page report argues would protect the nation’s longest river, the Missouri River, and its basin. The report is drawn from court documents, treaties, government documents, news stories, congressional hearings and more.

The purpose of the “Faulty Infrastructure and the Impacts of the North Dakota Access Pipeline” report is to inform and engage industry decision makers, policy makers and the public on the facts and nuances around three major areas:

  1. Tribal treaty rights;
  2. Engineering and construction flaws of DAPL that threaten tribal sovereignty; and
  3. Six continuous years of failed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers processes.

“The vision of this report is to hold accountable these agencies to their own regulations, to their own laws, to their own climate agendas, but also to support our communities in understanding the regulatory processes and the laws so that we can push against them, or hold these agency accountable to their own laws,” said NDN Collective’s Climate Justice Campaign Director Jade Begay, Diné. Begay also sits on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

Begay noted how the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opted out as a cooperating agency in the environmental review process. This happened after the tribe was repeatedly denied access to information, which the report details.

The tribal nation didn’t immediately respond to Indian Country Today’s attempts for a comment.

Related stories:
Judge refuses to delay release of DAPL documents
Enbridge Line 3 divides Indigenous lands, people
A spiritual perspective on climate changeIndigenous youth rally against pipelines in DC

NDN Collective Climate Justice Organizer Kailea Frederick, Tahltan and Kaska, said draining and shutting down the pipeline would send a clear message to its operator, Energy Transfer, and other companies like it: It’s not okay to violate treaties or environmental protection laws. People, water and the land must be respected, Frederick said.

“The current routing of the Dakota Access Pipeline is a blatant suppression of treaty rights and free, prior and informed consent,” Frederick said.

A recent U.N. report states climate change is already “causing widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world” and calls for urgent action to adapt to climate change and to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

(Related: UN report: Climate change is already major disruption)

“It is actually a conversation on life and death,” Frederick said. “The other voices in the room that continue to try to dominate the conversation are trying to give an illusion that we have more options and more time than we do. And the reality of climate change is that we actually have very few options and we have very limited time to get it right.”

There’s been years of community resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline and recently the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe claimed a legal victory in the case.

Indigenous water protectors and allies blocked the pipeline for months starting in 2016 and were met with violence.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued Energy Transfer over National Environmental Policy Act violations. A district court judge ruled a new Environmental Impact Statement would be required by the company. The Supreme Court denied Energy Transfer’s bid to thwart environmental oversight.

The new environmental impact statement is due in September and a public comment period will open up after that.

NDN Collective will issue a call to action at that time and help the public navigate the public comment requirements because comments must meet strict guidelines that specifically deal with the underwater pipeline crossing on Lake Oahe.

But the possibility of shutting down the pipeline entirely is left up to the executive branch and the Biden administration has so far refused to do so.

Begay questions if the policies and proposals in the Build Back Better Plan and the Green New Deal will be enough to help with a needed paradigm shift.

“The paradigm shift of not consuming as much, staying home more, being more localized, valuing getting around and living our lives without fossil fuels – and plastics,” Begay said.

Frederick said “we don’t have a choice at this moment in time other than to think about how we’re going to live our lives differently and how we’re going to descale.”

NDN Collective releases Dakota Access Pipeline report on World Water Day. The organization worked on the report for over a year. It offers the most thorough, and critical, analysis of the DAPL project yet. (Courtesy of NDN Collective)

NDN Collective releases Dakota Access Pipeline report on World Water Day. The organization worked on the report for over a year. It offers the most thorough, and critical, analysis of the DAPL project yet. (Courtesy of NDN Collective)

“Indigenous peoples need to see the government acting in good faith and so one action towards that is taking action around DAPL and reducing the flow and eventually abandoning the pipeline. That’s our demand,” Begay said.

The NDN Collective report took more than a year to develop in “consultation with an array of skilled and respected industry Indigenous and non-Indigenous specialists who also possess intimate knowledge of the DAPL.”

“It feels like a very big responsibility to get it right, on many different levels,” Frederick said.

The environmental impact statement requires the public’s participation to determine its contents but the report found that didn’t happen with the DAPL project.

“Previously, through the EIS process, there was a time that they would sit down with tribes and strategize together and this process was called scoping. And with the DAPL process, this did not happen,” Frederick said.

The report is critical of how the Army Corps of Engineers has carried out “flawed” processes.

“The way that the entirety of the DAPL process has gone even just now that this pipeline is operating illegally without the right permitting, it really sets the precedent for the other future types of projects,” Frederick said. “If this specific issue around DAPL is not corrected and if this pipeline is not drained and shut down, that it lets other agencies know or companies know that it’s okay to operate in this way with our people on our lands. And the truth is that it’s not okay. And that it is a true violation of treaties.”

The report states the Army Corps lacks “transparency by continuing to withhold critical technical information requested repeatedly by the Tribes while hiding under the guise of “national security”.

One of the major concerns listed in the report is an “independent third-party.” A contractor that is meant to be neutral in the environmental review process has blatant financial ties to the oil and gas industry through membership in the American Petroleum Institute, according to the report.

The report calls for transparency and diligent assessments on the impact of the DAPL project.

Five key elements are:

1. Challenge the legitimacy of the DAPL on Indian land – Treaty Rights
2. Approval of DAPL continues as modern-day dispossession of Indigenous people
3. Army Corps and the Trump era NEPA
4. Major DAPL routing, engineering, spill risk, and safety issues
5. Failure to adequately address environmental justice

“We feel really grateful that our campaign has been able to steward this report coming out into the world,” Frederick said.

She’s looking forward to seeing how tribes and other organizations utilize the material compiled in the report.

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Protect Thacker Pass

Lakota Law

In January, a fellow LGBTQ2S person who had taken a trip to California contacted me and my partner, Felipa. On her way back to the Dakotas, she’d stopped at Winnemucca in Nevada, where she realized the battle over the lithium mine at Thacker Pass was making life extremely hard for Native populations. She asked us, “Can you and Felipa help these tribes? Everything is in despair.”

If you’ve been receiving Lakota Law newsletters for some time, you know that Felipa and I take our responsibilities as Native Two-Spirit and environmental advocates seriously. When our friend asked us to help at Thacker Pass, we knew we had to take action. We contacted Lakota Law and other friends and planned a roadtrip to deepen our understanding and see what we could do to bring attention to the plight of the Winnemucca and other relatives on Paiute and Shoshone homelands in Nevada.

Today, I urge you to act with us. Tell U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to revoke the permits for the Thacker Pass lithium mine, and ask House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva to investigate the crimes being committed at Thacker Pass against Native American tribes.

Above: a protest camp set up to protect Thacker Pass. Please watch our interview with our new friend, Daranda, who told us about the Native-led resistance to safeguard this beautiful place, then take action to protect Thacker Pass!

Like so many other Native communities on the frontlines of environmental racism, our relatives near Thacker Pass have been ignored and railroaded in the name of Big Extraction. Because the area is home to the largest lithium deposit in the U.S., mining companies are coming for it fast. And despite resistance led by local tribes, the government has given the go-ahead to rip this beautiful place apart.

In February, the Winnemucca Colony joined a lawsuit against federal agencies — including the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the land. Of course, at no point did these agencies properly consult Native communities before moving ahead with the mine, which will almost certainly contaminate groundwater essential for the survival of both the region’s people and its diversity of animal life. 
 
As a key component of batteries that power solar arrays and electric vehicles, lithium may be essential to the transition to a clean energy economy. Still, we must make that transition responsibly — with input from all affected populations. A recent study found that, just like fossil fuel extraction, mining lithium and other metals has an outsized negative impact on Native communities. It should come as no surprise that in the U.S., 97% of nickel, 89% of copper, 79% percent of lithium and 68% of cobalt mines are located within just 35 miles of Indian reservations.

The situation at Winnemucca is particularly scary. Many of its people were afraid to talk to us, or they didn’t want their names revealed. One elder woman told us, “We cannot go on like this.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is leveling their territory, ejecting more than 500 people, and making room for a mancamp to house construction workers. We all know where that will lead: to a new frontier for the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Native Women and People.

It’s also bad in surrounding communities. At the Fort McDermitt tribal nation — whose people are closely related to Winnemucca’s — they have the second highest violent crime rate out of all 576 tribes in the U.S. The BIA is in charge of law enforcement, but the people are suffering at the hands of a constant stream of new, rookie officers. Community elders are subject to routine violence, and most people carry loaded weapons. Many Fort McDermitt youth have been killed by BIA cops. From what I saw, I believe it’s possible that neither Winnemucca nor Fort McDermitt will even exist as communities a year from now.

There is so much more to report from our trip, but for the moment, I believe it’s most important that you know what’s happening at Thacker Pass. Standing Rock’s NoDAPL resistance may have been an inflection point that brought many of us together — but it was not unique. We still have a ton of work to do to hold the government and extractive industry accountable for their many sins against our communities all across Turtle Island. Please start by helping to protect Thacker Pass today!

Wopila tanka — thank you for your friendship. We’re all in this together!
Monique “Muffie” Mousseau
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project

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

End DAPL

Lakota Law

When you heard from me last week, Standing Rock was about to host tribal representatives and the Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works (Michael Connor) for a meeting about the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). Today, I’m happy to report that things went about as well as could be expected. I attended the meeting in my capacity as an advisor to Standing Rock Chairwoman Janet Alkire, and I can report that Connor paid close attention as leaders from nine nations of the Oceti Sakowin expressed a unity of purpose in our fight to end DAPL once and for all.

Yankton Sioux Tribal Councilman Kip Spotted Eagle addresses the Army, flanked (left to right) by Spirit Lake Chairman Doug Yankton, Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier, and Standing Rock Chairwoman Janet Alkire.

As you know, this toxic pipeline, which crosses the Mni Sose — the Missouri River — on Standing Rock’s doorstep, is an existential threat to our homelands and our water. I almost went to prison for peacefully protesting against it in 2017. As Connor sits atop the Army Corps of Engineers — tasked by the courts with creating DAPL’s Environmental Impact Statement — this meeting was critical. Connor listened for many hours, eventually postponing a subsequent meeting with North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum so all our people could speak.

The fact that Chairwoman Alkire was joined by representatives from the Oglala, Cheyenne River, Flandreau, Rosebud, Crow Creek, Yankton, Lower Brule, and Spirit Lake Sioux Nations was an important show of tribal solidarity. And while getting federal officials to take action on our behalf will be an uphill climb at a time when gas prices are rising on account of the Ukraine invasion, this was an important step. 

Left: Standing Rock Chairwoman Janet Alkire with Michael Connor. Center: The color guard presents the flags. Right: Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier, Connor, and Spirit Lake Chairman Doug Yankton.

Renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuel throughout the nation, so regardless of what’s happening to oil markets, there is no excuse for failing to go green immediately. And tribal communities should never be forced to bear the risk of noxious infrastructure.

This resistance united us in 2016, and it’s still uniting us today. Now we are being heard by the U.S. Army instead of being shot with water cannons and rubber bullets by TigerSwan, a contracted private army. The fight goes on in a new way — but we still have a long way to go before we can say the Black Snake is defeated. So please stay with us. We’re in this together, and your spirit is always valued in this struggle.

Wopila tanka — thank you for your solidarity!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Brackeen v. Haaland

Lakota Law

The moment has come to rally together for our children. The United States Supreme Court has announced that, this autumn, it will hear the case of Brackeen v. Haaland — which could redefine the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and threaten tribal sovereignty. Because legal arguments will soon be due, we’re already in high gear. Our attorneys are now preparing an amicus brief for the justices, and it’s up to all of us to raise awareness about the importance of protecting this law and keeping Native kids in Native care. I ask you today, with all my heart, please stand with us in this fight.

Please give what you can today to help us protect ICWA and our rights to self-determination. With Russia’s recent attack on Ukraine — and all the other challenges we face together as a society — it is more critical than ever that we do everything we can to protect future generations and uphold the sovereignty of oppressed communities. 

The Supreme Court could strike down the Indian Child Welfare Act this year, which could also jeopardize Native sovereignty as we know it. We must not 👏 let 👏 that 👏 happen! 👏

Protecting our youth and keeping them in Native care — or kinship care, as we call it — is a huge deal for all of us in Indian Country, especially with the ongoing discovery of mass graves at boarding schools. In fact, safeguarding our children is what motivated me to co-found the Lakota People’s Law Project. 

Over the years, with help from friends like you and conscientious reporters like Laura Sullivan at NPR (who won a Peabody Award for her coverage of South Dakota’s foster care crisis), we have made massive inroads. Today, Lakota Law has a Native-run kinship care home at Standing Rock, and I’m helping to oversee the creation of similar facilities and lobby for a tribally-run Child Welfare Department here at the Cheyenne River Nation.

Importantly, too, this Supreme Court case isn’t just about our young ones. As we detailed in our blog a few months back (if you haven’t yet, please read that!), it’s also potentially an attack on tribal mineral rights and, ultimately, our sovereignty. It’s no coincidence that the white family who initiated the case in Texas after adopting Native children is backed, pro bono, by Big Oil lawyers — including a hideous firm called Gibson-Dunn — who normally have no interest in these matters.

If ICWA falls, it could become the first domino in a series of Native rights rollbacks. The colonists want our children because our youth are our future. The chair of our board of advisors, Senator James Abourezk, was the principal author of ICWA back in the late 1970s, and our president and chief counsel, Danny Sheehan, consulted with the Department of Justice to draft the enforcement guidelines that are the subject of this Supreme Court case.

That’s why we’ll work night and day to stop this legal attack. In the coming weeks, we’ll help the Supreme Court justices understand the legal arguments behind this critical law. We’ll also continue to ensure the case gets maximum media coverage. This must be a full team effort. So, stay with us over the year to come, and please do everything you can to help us amplify this issue.

Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us protect our children and our culture.
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. With ICWA headed to the Supreme Court, it’s an all-hands-on-deck moment. Please donate today to ensure our skilled legal and media teams can protect Native children, kinship care, and sovereignty. The forces of modern colonialism, capitalism, and racism are aligned against us. Let’s unite, stand strong, and show them what we’re made of.

Lakota People's Law Project

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

#NODAPL

Lakota Law

I hope you’re safe and remaining hopeful despite the horrific world events taking place. The Russian invasion of Ukraine highlights once again how important it is for people everywhere to remain sovereign and free of tyranny. My heart goes out to all who are now suffering through another needless, bloody war.

Perhaps it will lend you some comfort to know that there is good news this week from Standing Rock. This Wednesday, tribal leaders from across the Great Sioux Nation will have an opportunity to sit down with the U.S. Army Civil Works and relay our concerns about the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). After years of our #NoDAPL resistance falling on deaf ears — as highlighted by Standing Rock Chairwoman Janet Alkire in our new video, co-produced with the tribe — the Army finally reached out to Standing Rock. This is a potential turning point, though we are keeping our expectations modest. 

Watch: In our new video, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairwoman Janet Alkire discusses the importance of tribal input and gaining our consent for projects like DAPL.

We originally expected the Army Corps of Engineers to release its DAPL Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) earlier this month. But that’s now on hold, pending our coming conversation about this dangerous pipeline. This opportunity to have the appropriate government officials really listen to our concerns is long overdue.

Of course, given the long history of broken promises by the U.S. government to Native People, I take everything with a grain of salt and won’t celebrate prematurely. We must continue to stand ready to protest the EIS, should it eventually be released in any form that doesn’t fully address our concerns. 

Right now, I’m happy to say we have some additional leverage. The meeting with Civil Works will happen against the backdrop of a huge win for Standing Rock in the Supreme Court this past week. Justices shut down DAPL’s attempt to make an end-run around the environmental oversight process. 

Solidarity remains paramount if we are to achieve our goal of ending DAPL once and for all. As people from many nations gathered for our original NoDAPL stand in 2016 and ‘17, Wednesday’s meeting will bring together leaders from throughout the Oceti Sakowin — our Great Sioux Nation. We will, of course, report on the results of that conversation to you. So, please continue to stay with us. We must remain vigilant, united, and ready to act.

Wopila tanka — my deep gratitude to you for your friendship!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project
 

Lakota People's Law Project

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

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

Regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act

FILE – In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Texas v. Haaland, a case seeking to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The high court said Monday morning it would take the case reviewing the 1978 federal law. Many call the Indian Child Welfare Act a gold standard for child welfare policy.

A federal appeals court in April upheld the law and Congress’ authority to enact it. But the judges also found some of the law’s provisions unconstitutional, including preferences for placing Native American children with Native adoptive families and in Native foster homes.

“The far-reaching consequences of this case will be felt for generations,” stated the National Indian Child Welfare Association in a statement. “In a coordinated, well-financed, direct attack, Texas and other opponents aim to simultaneously exploit Native children and undermine tribal rights.”

ICWA has long been championed by tribal leaders to preserve Native families and cultures involving Native children, and it places reporting and other requirements on states.

“In keeping (Native children) connected to their extended family and cultural identity, the positive outcomes are far-reaching and include higher self-esteem and academic achievement. Further, they recognize that collaboration between sovereign Tribal Nations and state child welfare systems is effective and just governance,” the national organization stated.

RELATED:
Tribes, states seek review of ICWA
Child welfare law is battered by court. Still standing
Court strikes key provision of Indian child welfare law

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The case will be argued during the court’s new term that begins in October.

Texas, Louisiana, Indiana and seven individuals had sued over provisions in the law, and a federal district court initially sided with the group and struck down much of the law. But in 2019, a three-judge federal appeals court panel voted 2-1 to reverse the district court and uphold the law. The full court then agreed to hear the case and struck some provisions.

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The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to review the case, arguing that the provisions should not have been struck.

Before the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed, between 25 percent and 35 percent of Native American children were being taken from their homes and placed with adoptive families, in foster care or in institutions. Most were placed with white families or in boarding schools in attempts to assimilate them.

This is a developing story. Watch “ICT’s Newscast with Aliyah Chavez” on Tuesday, March 1 at 5 p.m. EST for more.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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

International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC)

Lakota Law

As the co-director of the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC), I have spent many years working to see justice for Leonard. A political prisoner wrongly convicted — on demonstrably false evidence — of killing FBI agents in 1975 at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Leonard is now 77 years old, and he’s still stuck in a Florida federal prison. In January, to add to his plight, he contracted COVID-19. 

As you may know, for many years, we’ve been asking U.S. presidents to do the only responsible and human thing: Free Leonard Peltier. I urge you to watch Lakota Law’s new video, as their media team was on hand to film our recent rally in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Watch: We rallied to free Leonard earlier this month.

President Joe Biden has the power to pardon Leonard, right now. In addition, Leonard is eligible for release under COVID-19 guidelines or compassionate release under Bureau of Prisons rules — but he has been denied multiple times. Unfortunately, Leonard can’t appeal these denials, because he was convicted prior to November, 1987.

Due to constitutional violations and prosecutorial misconduct surrounding his case, Leonard should have been freed long ago. For instance, the government originally withheld exculpatory evidence — including a ballistics report showing the shell casings collected from the scene didn’t come from Leonard’s weapon. In addition, the prosecution relied on testimony from so-called witnesses who later recanted their statements, saying that FBI agents threatened and coerced them into lying.

Leonard’s conviction was wrong from the start, and he has now suffered behind bars for decades. The many people who have called for his clemency include Nobel Peace Prize winners Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Rigoberta Menchú; Judge Kevin Sharp, former Chief Judge of Tennessee’s U.S. District Court; Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT); and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Also, in a move we believe to be unprecedented, James Reynolds, the chief prosecutor who helped convict Leonard, has called his conviction an injustice and written on Leonard’s behalf to Presidents Obama and Biden. 

Will you join us in our fight for Leonard’s freedom? To learn more about our struggle, please visit our ILPDC website.

Wopila tanka — I thank you for your care and solidarity!
Carol Gokee
Co-Director, Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project

“OYATE”

Lakota Law

My greetings to you from the Standing Rock Nation. Today, I invite you to experience something wonderful: Next week, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is hosting the online world premiere of “OYATE” — a brand new feature documentary film produced by Films with a Purpose and Irrelevant Media, in association with the Lakota People’s Law Project. Big Sky has graciously also made the movie available for viewing online at the same time, and you can purchase your ticket to watch today.

Look, it’s me and Phyllis Young in “OYATE!” Please click here to watch the trailer for this heartfelt and skillfully done documentary, and purchase your tickets for the premiere on the same page.

We wanted to make sure you have the opportunity to watch this special premiere with us! Please note that the film will be available through Big Sky for a limited time. I urge you to purchase your ticket right now, then mark your calendar to remind yourself the streaming window opens on Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. PST. After that, you’ll have about three days to start watching and another 24 hours to finish.
 
Now that you’ve got all those important details, let me tell you a little more about our involvement and what you’ll see. In the wake of the protests at Standing Rock in 2016 and ‘17, our Lakota Law team worked closely with producers Brandon Jackson, Emil Benjamin, Sandra Evers-Manly, and Jennifer Martel of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes, to tell this powerful story of resistance. You’ll spend time with Phyllis Young, me and my daughter Tokata, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo People, and many more powerful Native voices.

Lakota LawHere’s a promotional still of Secretary Haaland and other sisters in the fight for Indigenous justice. This film is really beautifully shot.

As you know, our #NoDAPL struggle at Standing Rock became an inflection point for human rights and environmental justice, a rallying cry for Indigenous people everywhere to take a stand against centuries of land theft, imposed poverty, and cultural erasure. “OYATE” successfully communicates our thoughts, as Indigenous activists, organizers, and politicians, on that complicated history.

Lakota Law

Lakota Law aided the filmmakers by providing exclusive interviews, archival footage, and perspective. The directors did a fantastic job of using a blend of storytelling tools to weave all elements harmoniously and to fully immerse you in our worldviews. The end result is a thing of beauty, ambitious in scope and, at the same time, personal and intimate. I think you’ll very much enjoy watching, and I hope you’ll find it illuminating. You may gain new understanding of our struggles for sovereignty and justice — and you’ll even meet some rez dogs! So, please watch the trailer, and then join us for this exciting premiere. I can’t wait to hear your feedback.

Wopila tanka — thank you, and happy watching.
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director & Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Climate Accountability

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/the-economics-of-climate-accountability

Mark Trahant
Indian Country Today

Last weekend some 400 Karankawa Kadla and their supporters organized protests across Texas to call attention to the expansion plans for an Enbridge oil terminal. It’s already the largest crude export terminal in North America potentially transporting as much as 1.5 million barrels of oil per day.

“The Enbridge terminal expansion is planned to be constructed in the ancestral settlement and land of the Karankawa Kadla, where thousands of sacred Karankawa artifacts remain and ceremony and prayer have continued for the past 2,000 years,” said a news release from the Indigenous Environmental Network. “If the expansion of the Enbridge terminal on Karankawa land continues, the Karankawa Kadla will lose direct access to their land and ancestral artifacts in addition to the pollution of sacred natural waters.”

The release also included a simple line asking for “accountability from Enbridge and Bank of America, one of the major funders of the expansion, for developing on Indigeneous land without consent and the environmental destruction of the Gulf Coast.”

That word “accountability” shifts the protest to another kind of action, one based on ESG standards; a metric that includes Environment, Social and Governance as well as the planning for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Both Bank of America and Enbridge say they have ESG plans and are on track to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Further reading:
What the heck is Indigenous economics?
Are carbon markets the new gaming for tribes?
Climate change, Indigenous community and ESG

At a conference last year, Al Monaco, Enbridge’s president and chief executive officer, called ESG and sustainability the key to an energy transition. “Essentially, this is society’s dual challenge,” he said. “One the one hand, it’s clear that population growth, urbanization and a growing middle class will drive energy demand higher. On the other hand . . . energy supplies need to be developed sustainably, and aligned with climate goals.”

This dual challenge, he said, will lead to “responsible” growth over the next three decades including achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, reducing emissions from operations by 35 percent in eight years and increasing the diversity of its workforce in the next couple of years. That’s a lot of ambition. Enbridge says that existing infrastructure, such as pipelines, is a part of that plan.

So why expand an oil terminal now? How does it move the company forward on its promises of sustainability? And what about Bank of America?

The big picture

Let’s zoom out and look at the big picture.

A new report by the global management and accounting company, McKinsey, outlines the economic challenges of getting to a net-zero economy.

“The net-zero equation remains unsolved: greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated and are not counterbalanced by removals, nor is the world prepared to complete the net-zero transition,” the report warns. “Indeed, even if all net-zero commitments and national climate pledges were fulfilled, research suggests that warming would not be held to 1.5°C above pre industrial levels, increasing the odds of initiating the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, including the risk of biotic feedback loops.”

McKinsey said getting to net zero requires significant changes. Significant is an understatement because the numbers are huge. McKinsey estimates that an investment need of $9.2 trillion per year on average, an annual increase of as much as $3.5 trillion from today. To put this increase in comparative terms, the $3.5 trillion is approximately equivalent, in 2020, to half of global corporate profits, one-quarter of total tax revenue, and 7 percent of household spending. An additional $1 trillion of today’s annual spend would, moreover, need to be reallocated from high-emissions to low-emissions assets.”

Hence the urgency of reducing existing energy investments that do not meet climate change goals.

And there is a difference of opinion here. Some companies, even those claiming an ESG or net-zero plan, say that reductions are necessary but will come down the road.

“Some pathways to net-zero emissions assume that the decline in emissions begins immediately and progresses gradually to 2050, with appropriate measures in place to manage disruptions and limit costs. Others assume that reduction of emissions begins later and progresses more quickly to achieve the same amount of cumulative emissions,” McKinsey reports. “The latter could involve significant and abrupt changes in policy, high carbon prices, and sudden changes to investment practices—along with greater socioeconomic effects and a larger-scale response. Making job transitions would be more challenging, and there could be greater risk of stranded assets.”

The energy companies that are betting on “later” for dramatic emission reductions could be putting at risk significant assets, stranded assets. Enbridge, for example, spent $3 billion on its acquisition of the Moda Midstream Terminal, nearly $10 billion on the line 3 project, and millions more on smaller projects, including a seaport near Houston.

169 indigenous economics

What about Bank of America?

A report last year by the Rainforest Action Network said that “until the banks prove otherwise, the ‘net’ in ‘net zero’ leaves room for emissions targets that fall short of what the science demands, based on copious offsetting or absurd assumptions about future carbon-capture schemes, as well as the rights violations and fraud that often come hand in hand with offsetting and carbon markets.”

That reported Bank of America’s at number four for the “dirty dozen” banks that finance fossil fuel development.

“These ‘Dirty Dozen’ banks have very different policies regarding restriction and phase-out of coal, oil, and gas, but none are sufficient. Among the world’s largest banks, strong coal policies are rare, and even the strongest oil and gas policies are sorely lacking,” the Rainforest Action Network said.

Bank of America says it’s goal is “to rebalance our portfolios away from more carbon emission intensive fossil fuel extraction, power generation, transportation and other consumption … toward low-carbon business models.”

The bank says it’s committed to “industry-leading disclosures” on its environmental progress, including a metric called “emission intensity.” That metric is different from overall carbon emission reduction because it’s based on a connection with the larger economy. So if the economy grows, so can total emissions.

Of course all of this economic and investment framework misses another leverage point, consent from Indigenous communities.

The company outlines its Indigenous People’s Policy that includes a commitment “to pursuing sustainable relationships with Indigenous Nations and groups in proximity to where Enbridge conducts business.”

Yet there has been no communication with Indigenous groups in Texas.

The Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend, the Karankawa Kadla Tribe of the Texas Gulf Coast, and Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association filed a lawsuit in August against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its approval of permits for the Texas project.

“Members of the Indigenous Peoples and of the Karankawa Kadla tribe travel regularly to Ingleside on the Bay in San Patricio County, Texas to enjoy the natural beauty of the land and the ocean, to observe wildlife in the area, and to find spiritual joy and fulfillment through their connections to the land, water, wildlife, and their ancestors who lived in the area,” according to the lawsuit. “This undeveloped space between the Moda facility and Ingleside on the Bay is the only remaining undeveloped area in this part of the Bay. This undeveloped space represents the last remaining vestige of the landscape and ecosystems that once occupied the area.”

The dredging of the bay “will destroy the McGloin’s Bluff site and the surrounding area. The increase in ship traffic and the associated increase in noise, industrial activity, and pollution will destroy their ability to pray and find spiritual joy and fulfillment in observing their ancestral lands and waters.”

This leads to even more questions about ESG, and especially its connection to Indigenous communities. Enbridge and other companies’ Indigenous Peoples Policies support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Yet that protocol explicitly calls for Free, Prior and Informed Consent on projects.

This is why many critics dismiss ESG as “greenwashing,” giving companies cover to continue business as usual. On the other hand, companies see the growing value of being favored as ESG-compliant. Last year more than $120 billion flowed from investors into sustainable projects (more than double from 2020) and a regulatory structure is being added. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is nearing completion of guidelines for companies to disclose climate-related risks.

There are three climate tests ahead: Transparent. Sustainable. And accountable.

Indian Country Today - bridge logo

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor-at-large for Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. The Indigenous Economics Project is funded with a major grant from the Bay and Paul Foundations.

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

Coastal GasLink Pipeline – Action Needed

Lakota Law
Lakota Law

Toward the end of last year, I told you about Gidimt’en Checkpoint — which has rapidly become something akin to a Canadian Standing Rock. Right now, the Wet’suwet’en People are standing strong to protect their yintah, or homelands, and the planet we all share from the Coastal GasLink pipeline. But, just as happened with our own movement against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016-’17, the fossil fuel industry — backed by big banks, the colonial government, and militarized law enforcement — is ignoring their sovereign rights and violently attempting to stamp out Indigenous-led resistance.

That’s why it’s absolutely critical that we do all we can to support the Wet’suwet’en People right now, before this pipeline can further desecrate their yintah. Please email the United Nations: tell them to end human rights abuses on Wet’suwet’en land, and demand that First Nations’ hereditary right to that land be respected. Let the UN know the world is watching. 

Read more about the Wet’suwet’en struggle and take action here.

After setting up their Gidimt’en Checkpoint blockade, the Wet’suwet’en People have been subject to violent raids by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including the use of sniper rifles and police dogs. 30 people have been arrested, including two elders. In one incident, a chainsaw and axes were used to break into homes and arrest movement leaders, journalists, and legal observers. One CBC TV journalist was jailed for three days, and the home he was removed from was subsequently burned to the ground.

I’ve also authored a blog detailing some of the history of the Wet’suwet’en struggle for justice. Notably, this pipeline crosses unceded lands under the care of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs for time immemorial. Their free and prior and informed consent should be the first requirement before any project threatening their sacred headwaters, Wedzin Kwa, can move forward. Their consent has not been given, and their title to the land has been upheld by Canada’s Supreme Court.

The violence against Wet’suwet’en land protectors must end and their yintah protected. It’s long past time to stop treating Indigenous People protecting their homelands and Unci Maka — our Grandmother Earth — like terrorists and start listening to our calls for environmental justice.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing strong with the Wet’suwet’en!
Chase Iron Eyes
Co-Director and Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Clyde Bellecourt

Lakota Law

Two days ago, we lost a good man. I write to you today from the road, as I make my way northeast to celebrate the life of Clyde Bellecourt. I knew Clyde for decades. An Anishinaabe activist from the White Earth Nation, he was a co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in Minneapolis and, for years, focused on ending police brutality against Native People. He remained active throughout his long life, eventually becoming a strong advocate for eliminating offensive sports mascots.

Clyde Bellecourt leaves a legacy of activism and progress for our People. His was a life well lived.

I met Clyde in the late 1960s when AIM was young. My sister and I went to the twin cities and met up with Dennis Banks, who invited us to a protest action against the movie “Little Big Man” — and its Hollywood-style depiction of Native people and our Sun Dance.

We were all a bunch of young people fired up to get something done. Afterwards, we got invited to Red Power gatherings, which included some of the first AIM meetings. At that time, just a couple dozen of us attended. I met Clyde’s wife, Peggy, and the local women of the movement. Then I met Clyde. That’s where it all started.

AIM’s actions moved into South Dakota as a result of Dennis Banks and Clyde recruiting my first cousin, Russell Means, to be part of AIM in 1968. When Russ got involved, we expanded. Our first action was at Mount Rushmore. From a starting place of working on police brutality issues, we were able to help grow the movement until we had national awareness.

In our neighborhood and in our corner of the movement, our direction came from the reservations, the people. Unfortunately, in Minnesota, the reservations didn’t stand with AIM or back their actions. But I’m happy to say that trend changed when AIM came to South Dakota, where we found support on tribal nations such as Pine Ridge. For us as Lakotas and Dakotas, our focus was on our territory, and our actions became a family thing. 

This movement has always been larger than any one individual, but there is no doubt that Clyde was a leader of his time. No matter the issues the organization confronted — in Minnesota and even internationally — he was involved. I had respect for him, and it took a lot of organizing and a lot of guts to do what he and others did in those early days. And, as the years went by, he showed up in solidarity. That set a strong example for our younger generations.

Clyde lived a long and good life. I’m in my 80s now, and for those of us who were there during the original AIM era, our ranks are getting thin. But I don’t look on death with sadness, not when we have lived this long and well. This is part of the cycle. It’s going to happen to all of us, and we should be ready. We are individuals, yes, but what we do together is a group effort. Clyde was an icon of our time for our People, and for that, I am grateful. Now it’s up to you and me to carry on his legacy of justice with whatever time we have left.

Wopila  — Thank you for standing with our People, always.
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

History

A Grim, Long-Hidden Truth Emerges in Art: Native American Enslavement

Patricia Leigh BrownSun, December 19, 2021, 10:58 AM

An installation by Chip Thomas' second exhibition, "Unsilenced," at the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center in Fort Garland, Colo., Sept. 30, 2021. (Kalen Goodluck/The New York Times)
An installation by Chip Thomas’ second exhibition, “Unsilenced,” at the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center in Fort Garland, Colo., Sept. 30, 2021. (Kalen Goodluck/The New York Times)

https://www.historycolorado.org/press-release/2021/06/24/fort-garland-museum-cultural-center-opens-groundbreaking-exhibition

FORT GARLAND, Colo. — On a bitter, windy day, a long-overdue reckoning took place in the commandant’s quarters at Fort Garland, a former military outpost turned museum and cultural center. For most of its history, the museum has celebrated frontiersman Christopher Carson, known as Kit, who briefly commanded this far-flung garrison built during the American westward expansion to protect settlers from raids by tribes.

But now the museum was telling a far different story in an exhibition titled “Unsilenced: Indigenous Enslavement in Southern Colorado” — one of the first dedicated to highlighting the little-known and centuries-old system of Indigenous bondage that historian Andrés Reséndez called “the other slavery” in his landmark 2016 book.

On this October afternoon, the quarters were redolent with smoke from a healing ceremony performed by a Navajo spiritual leader for the descendants from many tribes who had gathered this day to honor the grim history of kidnapping, enslavement and forced assimilation of their ancestors. Though glorified for decades, Carson led a devastating 1864 U.S. military campaign to defeat Navajo resistance and remove Indigenous people from their homelands.

“We knew that historically our lives were distorted due to colonization,” said Shawn Price, a Navajo teacher or “wisdom keeper,” who offered to perform a traditional healing ceremony at its opening, with Dineh’ Tah Navajo dancers. “What they’re telling us is a long-hidden and suppressed truth.”

Some scholars now argue that the brutal trafficking in Indigenous people began with Christopher Columbus’ first voyage in 1492 and flourished in the Southwest. Many women and children were taken and traded, sometimes in retaliatory tribal raids or in attacks by Spanish colonists; and much later, they were obtained and exchanged by American settlers. While Indigenous enslavement was never legal, slaveholders resisted federal and state efforts to stop it.

Until relatively recently, it was an untold part of the southern Colorado story, an area of intricate political geography made more complex by deeply rooted histories. The region was once New Spain, then Mexico and then the northern frontier of the U.S. territory of New Mexico until 1861, when the territory of Colorado was created.

Fort Garland sits at the base of Mount Blanca, or Sisnaajini, a sacred mountain on the eastern boundary of Dinétah, the Navajo homelands. Inside, the creaky old floors of the commandant’s quarters lead to a hushed historical realm filled with images and documents of enslaved Native children who were stripped of their birth names and cultural identities. At the entrance is a photograph of Gabriel Woodson, a 12-year-old Navajo boy who was forcibly taken and then sold by Utes in 1860 to James Bernard Woodson, a businessman, and was gussied up in western attire for his portrait.

The creator of “Unsilenced,” as well as a second installation at a nearby slave site, is Chip Thomas, a 64-year-old Black physician who has spent 34 years working at a primary care clinic on the Navajo Nation. He is also an artist, known for deploying his black-and-white photographs of corn, sheep, elders, activists and others on abandoned water tanks, grain silos, Quonset huts and other structures. The intention of his work here is to “reflect the beautiful and strong parts of the culture back to the community,” he said.

In “Unsilenced” his installations draw on a detailed and chillingly dispassionate survey from 1865, rendered in impeccable penmanship, of 149 Indigenous people who were taken from their communities into servitude. The youngest is a 3-year-old.

The list was compiled in the San Luis Valley by Maj. Lafayette Head, a federal agent who became the first lieutenant governor of Colorado. Head recorded the names and tribes of the enslaved, their “owners,” the date and source of purchase and their willingness (or not) to return to their tribes. The list, in the National Archives in Washington, was digitized by Estevan Rael-Galvez, a former New Mexico state historian and consultant to the museum who is assembling a database of enslaved Indigenous people.

In “Unsilenced,” fragments of what Thomas calls the “beautifully written document of horrible acts” are digitally printed on diaphanous fabric, with an image of an unknown Navajo captive boy looming behind it.

The presence of the lists in Carson’s quarters is grimly apt. The majority of “Indian Captives Acquired by Purchase” were Navajo, forcibly removed by Carson from their homelands. It was an act that Col. James H. Carleton, who gave Carson his orders, compared to a chase for wild game.

The disastrous 250- to 450-mile “Long Walk” to wretched internment in Bosque Redondo, New Mexico — what Navajo people have called “the Fearing time” — was a golden moment for slavers. Historians estimate that 1,000 to 3,000 Navajo, mostly women and children, were captured by Ute and Hispanic raiders and then traded, often for a horse or a gun.

For 70 years, the museum glorified Carson in period rooms stuffed with hunting trophies. “Unsilenced” introduces Juan Carson, his enslaved Navajo “son,” and one of three captive Indigenous servants in the household. Juan was 3 years old when Carson’s wife, Josefa Jaramillo, offered a horse for the child after the Utes threatened to kill him, or so the story goes. (Kit Carson Jr., the couple’s son by birth, indicated that his father had adopted Juan).

Forced assimilation was the modus operandi of Anglo and Hispano colonizers. Stolen children like Juan were baptized and given a Christian name. The justification was redemption, to transform them into “a white and delightsome people,” as Brigham Young, the Mormon church leader and first governor of Utah, put it.

“We are at a moment in which we’re looking at the hard history of our nation and these atrocities of the human experience,” said Mary Elliott, curator of American slavery at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. “The history is there in the records. We’re illuminating that history and telling these more nuanced and complex stories.”

The stories reverberate across generations in what Galvez-Rael, the Fort Garland consultant, calls “a heritage of converging streams.” It is seen in the blanket that hangs above his dining table, woven by his mother’s ancestor, a Navajo captive who was abducted and taken to a household in Abiquiu, New Mexico, where “Genizaros,” or Indigenous people, were taken into Hispanic households as indentured servants.

Today, the resulting culture in the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico is “a strange blend born of violence,” said James F. Brooks, a historian and the author of “Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands.”

Sitting at Fort Garland in a bright pink sweater, Theresa Valdez Maestas, 76, who came to take part in the healing ceremony, told of her 20-year search to untangle the history of her great-great-grandmother, Maria Rita Gallegos Chacon, known as Mama Rita. Rita, born Navajo, was found hiding behind a fallen tree after her mother was shot in the back with an arrow. The man who discovered Rita, Manuel Antonio Gallegos, and his wife, Bibiana, treated her as a daughter, Valdez Maestas said. “But she was always given to understand that she was a servant, a criada,” she added.

When the couple’s daughter Maria married, they sent Rita to be the newlywed’s maid. Maria died in childbirth and shortly thereafter, Rita became pregnant by Maria’s husband, Jose Prudencia Chacon. Chacon married Rita a week before the first of their six children was born. In “Unsilenced,” Mama Rita’s photograph sits above a fireplace, her hands folded neatly on her lap. “I kept looking and looking and looking for her,” Valdez Maestas said.

Laura Bertha Tolmich sewed a traditional ribbon dress for the healing ceremonies at the museum. Her great-great-great grandmother, Maria Guadalupe Benevidez Tolmich, was born Apache and kidnapped by another tribe. She was sold to and raised by a Spanish family and eventually married a Hungarian-born Union soldier in New Mexico territory. “She’s still in me,” said Tolmich, who tends her ancestors’ graves. “She brought me here so she could be cleansed.”

The Fort Garland exhibition, which Brooks calls “a courageous act of public history,” was developed by the museum in collaboration with community members. For several years, the institution had been grappling with “the generational trauma in the stories that have been passed down,” said Eric J. Carpio, its director. The museum became aware of Thomas through a 2018 installation he had done at a historical schoolhouse nearby.

A devotee of New York street art and a member of Justseeds, an international printmaking cooperative, Thomas grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of a doctor and a teacher, and went to a Quaker school that immersed him in social justice issues. He received a scholarship to attend Meharry Medical College, a historically Black college in Nashville, Tennessee; in exchange he spent several years in a medically underserved community — the Navajo Nation — and wound up staying.

He considers medicine and art interwoven: both create “an environment of wellness,” he said. In 2012, he created the Painted Desert Project, in which fellow artists work with young people on the Navajo Nation and create public art.

“Chip isn’t afraid to show what real-life situations are on Navajo,” said Nonabah Sam, a museum curator at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. “People see his photos going up on these buildings and they don’t touch them,” she added. “The respect for cultural life is definitely there.”

In Conejos, Colorado (population 23), where Lafayette Head lived while compiling his inventory of Indian captives, Thomas has turned the compound into his canvas, inside and out. Although Head called slavery a “barbarous and inhuman practice,” he conveniently left one slave-owning household off his lists — his own. Thomas transformed the earthen walls of the facade of what is believed to be the family’s slave dwelling with Head’s cursive writing, seeming to obliterate it. (Some peers accused Head himself of being a trafficker.)

The compound, which is private, was bought and is gradually being restored by Ronald Rael, an architect and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, who grew up down the road. Thomas’ installation continues inside, where the light through periwinkle-blue windows throws Head’s bleak tally into bas-relief.

On the parade ground at Fort Garland, the descendants of those who had been enslaved gathered around a young white pine tree, a symbol of peace connecting to the sacred eastern mountain of the Navajo people. Women prepared and planted it in recognition of the violence that continues to plague Indigenous females. It was a means to begin burying the false narratives of the past, a tree of truth.

© 2021 The New York Times Company

Happy Holidays

Dear readers,

You might have noticed that we did not post many items for December. We moved! We now live further south overlooking a small river on a mountainside. Located on the property is a large rock with ingenious carvings. We are going to do some investigation to find out who’s land we are now living on.

Look for more posts beginning January1st! Have a happy holiday and remember to live in the Real.

Las Brisas

The Black Hills

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/historic-meeting-renews-push-for-black-hills

Tribal leaders from 12 Native nations met Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, at department offices in Rapid City, South Dakota. “We’re here to listen directly to tribal leaders,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said. “It was a good opportunity to hear their concerns first hand.” Photo by Stewart Huntington for Indian Country Today)

Stewart Huntington
Special to Indian Country Today

RAPID CITY, South Dakota – Tribal leaders from 12 Great Plains Native Nations conferred Friday in the Black Hills with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a meeting tribal leaders called “historic.”

Several leaders brought up the long-standing issue over control of the Black Hills, the sacred Paha Sapa of the Oceti Sakowin tribes.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier was among 12 Native Nations leaders who met Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the Black Hills of South Dakota. “My main issue is that we can’t forget the day-to-day lives of our people on the reservations,” he said. (Photo by Stewart Huntington for Indian Country Today)

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier was among 12 Native Nations leaders who met Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the Black Hills of South Dakota. “My main issue is that we can’t forget the day-to-day lives of our people on the reservations,” he said. (Photo by Stewart Huntington for Indian Country Today)

“Some of the chairmen asked for the return of the Black Hills,” Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier told Indian Country Today after the meeting. “I believe that they should be returned back to the Native people.”

Oglala Lakota President Kevin Killer agreed.

“We want to make sure that it gets up to the president and I think the secretary is committed to carrying that message up there,” Killer said.

Tribal leaders had a chance to state their individual concerns during a two-hour, closed meeting held at the Interior Department’s Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians in Rapid City.

“I think it’s a strong sign from this administration that they want to recommit, re-establish and create better relationships with the region,” Killer said. “We need our issues heard and they’re willing to elevate those issues.”

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairwoman Janet Alkire said the meeting may have marked a turning point.

“To have a cabinet secretary come to the Black Hills is super important,” Alkire said. “It’s historic.”

Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, made no public statements before or after the meeting, but Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, Bay Mills Indian Community, said the meeting was productive.

“We’re here to listen directly to tribal leaders,” he said afterward. “It was a good opportunity to hear their concerns first hand.”

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Kevin Killer was among 12 Native Nations leaders who met Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Killer said it is important that federal officials remember that the Lakota claim to the Black Hills not be forgotten. “That’s something that we’re always sure gets reiterated,” he said. (Photo by Stewart Huntington for Indian Country Today)

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Kevin Killer was among 12 Native Nations leaders who met Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Killer said it is important that federal officials remember that the Lakota claim to the Black Hills not be forgotten. “That’s something that we’re always sure gets reiterated,” he said. (Photo by Stewart Huntington for Indian Country Today)

Frazier said he wanted to make sure the people of the Native nations are not overlooked.

“My main issue is that we can’t forget the day-to-day lives of our people on the reservations,” he said. “How are we going to address the poverty? How are we going to address the poor health care and the bad infrastructure?”

Haaland, a former Congresswoman from New Mexico, is the first Indigenous person to hold a cabinet post. That point was not lost on tribal leaders Friday.

“For us as Native people to have Secretary Deb Haaland be there and be that voice and be the role model that we need makes me very proud,” said Alkire, who made history in October when she became the first woman in 50 years to be elected leader of the Standing Rock tribe.

Standing Rock Chairwoman Janel Alkirewas among 12 Native Nations leaders who met Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  “To see a woman sitting at the cabinet level, and her being a Native woman is very, very exciting,” she said. (Photo by Stewart Huntington for Indian Country Today)

Standing Rock Chairwoman Janel Alkirewas among 12 Native Nations leaders who met Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the Black Hills of South Dakota. “To see a woman sitting at the cabinet level, and her being a Native woman is very, very exciting,” she said. (Photo by Stewart Huntington for Indian Country Today)

“And me being a Lakota winyan, you know how proud I am to see another historic moment, to see a woman sitting at the cabinet level,” Alkire said. “And her being a Native woman is very, very exciting.”

The meeting was organized by the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. A briefing paper prepared by the Oglala Sioux Tribe called the meeting unprecedented.

“Our people will remember this day – the day the first Native Secretary of the Interior met with the Native Nations of the Great Plains on a government to government basis in our Native homeland at the food of the sacred Black Hills,” the document began.

“This historic summit signals the potential for a new era in our U.S.-Native relations, an era in which the U.S. will honor its treaty promises and promote the sovereignty, self government and self determination of our Nations,” it continued.

Native leaders expressed hopes that a follow-up meeting would be scheduled in Washington in January.

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Stewart Huntington

By Stewart Huntington

Stewart Huntington is a reporter based in Minneapolis.

Line 3

Lakota Law

I’m writing to update you about the Indigenous-led fight against Line 3 here in Minnesota. First, thank you for the solidarity you’ve shown my community, Camp Migizi, as well as our ally, Lakota People’s Law Project. It has been a hard but rewarding year for us. Sadly, despite our best efforts, construction of Line 3 is now virtually complete — but we’re still resisting best we can. As COP26 unfolds in Scotland, we’re grateful we’ve been able to raise consciousness throughout the world about the need to fight hard against fossil fuel infrastructure.
 
Please watch and share this moving video that aired several days ago on ABC Nightline — you’ll hear from me and other Ojibwe women leading this struggle.

Watch: Nightline traveled to MN to interview me and others about the movement

As many of you know, Line 3 is a thousand-mile pipeline owned by Enbridge, a Canadian company. It stretches from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest and will carry some of the world’s dirtiest, most climate-warming fuel. Biden could shut it down, but he hasn’t. The 1 million petitions our coalition has submitted to the White House haven’t fallen on deaf ears: we’ve heard that some of Biden’s staff are lobbying the President to act, but those further up the food chain are balking. Over the next 3 years we must pressure the President to fulfill his promise to act aggressively against climate change.
 
Meanwhile, my team at Camp Migizi went to D.C. on Indigenous People’s Day last month to protest. We sat on the fence of the White House, and some of us joined the first take-over of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building since the American Indian Movement first did that in the 70s. 500 arrests were made. Overall, more than one thousand of us have been taken into custody as part of this struggle. And we’ve learned in recent days that Enbridge paid $4.25 million to local law enforcement to fight us. This collusion between private industry and state police reminds me of Standing Rock, where my friend Chase Iron Eyes faced prosecution in 2017. 

At our camp near the Fon Du Lac reservation in Minnesota we’re erecting structures for prayer, as we shift from being only a protest space to also being a sacred ceremony grounds in the coming months. For one, we’ll invest more time searching for missing and murdered Indigenous persons. Our movement has many fronts, and we cannot forgo any of them. The work goes on. Please continue to stand with us! 

Miigwech – my deep appreciation for your solidarity!
Taysha Martineau
Camp Migizi via Lakota Law

Genocide

In a New Mexico park, the buried bodies of Native American children are evidence of genocide

October 22, 2021, 5:01 AM

In a quiet tree-lined park a few blocks from downtown Albuquerque, small orange flags flutter in the wind, marking the graves of dozens of Native American children.

The graves belong to children who died at the former Albuquerque Indian School, where an estimated 1,000 Native American children from across the West were brought from 1881-1981. Authorities believe most of the graves belong to children killed by illness.

Launched by the federal government under the Indian Civilization Act, the network of an estimated 350 Indian Schools forcibly indoctrinated Native American children with the cultural and religious values of white Anglo-Saxon society, and taught them Western trades like farming, building or housekeeping. At their height, the schools were home to 60,000 children annually.

“It wasn’t education for enlightenment and empowerment. The goal was to Westernize them so there wouldn’t be a an Indian problem anymore,” said Ted Jojola, a member of the Pueblo of Isleta, whose parents attended the AIS. “They were on a mission, literally, on a mission from God.”

We all have a unique perspective: Sign up for This is America, a weekly take on the news from reporters from a range of backgrounds and experiences

Now, city leaders in Albuquerque have formally apologized for their predecessors’ role in creating and maintaining the AIS, becoming possibly the first U.S. government entity to offer such an apology. And many Native Americans hope that apology prompts the U.S. federal government to take a similar step in acknowledging what they call a genocide against their people. Albuquerque officials are still considering what next steps to take.

Most of the schools were run by religious groups at the behest of the federal government, which wanted to “civilize” indigenous Americans, weaken their power and take their land as the United States aggressively expanded to the west.

Although reliable records have been destroyed, authorities and tribal leaders say the children buried in what is now Albuquerque’s 4-H Park primarily died from diseases like malaria or the Spanish flu, or other communicable diseases for which they had no immunity.

A memorial is shown for the dozens of Indigenous children who died more than a century ago while attending a boarding school that was once located nearby is growing under a tree at a public park in Albuquerque, N.M.
A memorial is shown for the dozens of Indigenous children who died more than a century ago while attending a boarding school that was once located nearby is growing under a tree at a public park in Albuquerque, N.M.

‘Strangers in their own communities’

Experts say wrenching tens of thousands of Native American children from their families and immersing them in Western culture undermined tribal bonds, weakened families and caused generational trauma that’s still felt today – from poverty to obesity and heart disease.

The Canadian government has already apologized for its role in creating and supporting the church-backed schools.

Like tens of thousands of young indigenous Americans, Jojola’s parents were removed from their community – founded in 1300 about 25 miles away from what is now Albuquerque – by white Indian agents and school superintendents. Jojola’s parents graduated from the AIS in 1937, and he grew up hearing the stories of how they were humiliated or punished for speaking their tribal language, Tigua, in the presence of white teachers.

Jojola, 69, said his parents were lucky: While AIS administrators treated most students well, kids who attended other schools were beaten regularly. Other children vanished forever. Sometimes their parents were told of their deaths. Rarely were the bodies returned home, and instead were buried in Christian cemeteries.

Even the survivors who graduated and returned to their tribal homes were utterly different, dressed in Western clothes, speaking a new language, worshipping a Christian god, indoctrinated in capitalism.

“When they came back, they were essentially strangers in their own communities,” Jojola said.

The first Indian Boarding School opened in 1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and officials since 2016 have been working to repatriate the bodies of Native American children buried there.

A memorial is shown for the dozens of Indigenous children who died more than a century ago while attending a boarding school that was once located nearby is growing under a tree at a public park in Albuquerque, N.M.
A memorial is shown for the dozens of Indigenous children who died more than a century ago while attending a boarding school that was once located nearby is growing under a tree at a public park in Albuquerque, N.M.

In Albuquerque, officials don’t have a specific plan to address the burials in the park. Instead, they’re asking Native American leaders of the sovereign tribal nations to guide an ongoing process, which will likely include using ground-penetrating radar to map the bodies. Some families may want their children returned. Others may want to leave the dead buried, said Mayor Tim Keller.

Authorities say it’s possible children from the Navajo, Apache, Ute, Hopi and Pima tribes were forced to attend the school during its approximately 100-year existence. Keller said the apology is a starting point toward healing.

“We were clear that it was an acknowledgement and a reflection but that it was also just a beginning,” Keller said. “You’ve got to start by acknowledging the pain you’ve caused.”

‘We did not do this to ourselves’

The city acquired 4-H Park in the early 1970s, knowing that it has been used as a burial site for at least 50 years. Fires and floods at the school had destroyed what few records were kept, city officials said, and workers installing a sprinkler system unearthed a child’s body in 1973.

City officials installed a small plaque marking the burial site, but otherwise opened the park to public use. At some point in 2019, someone stole the plaque, setting off a new round of introspection, Keller said.

“The descendants of the people buried in that park literally still live here,” Keller said.

‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’: The Gabby Petito case has left Indigenous people asking how to ‘qualify’ for same attention

Like many Native American leaders, Christine Diindiisi McCleave, CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, welcomed Albuquerque’s apology. But she also remains skeptical because the bodies were largely ignored for decades.

Diindiisi McCleave, 46, is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. She said the longtime reluctance of Albuquerque and the U.S. as a whole to acknowledge the impacts of the boarding schools remains an open wound. Studies have shown that children subjected to intense trauma suffer lifelong impacts, including poor health, Diindiisi McCleave said, and those impacts persist in their descendants.

“There’s this narrative of American exceptionalism, and how America is great. And there are many great things about this country,” she said. “But until we recognize that this started in genocide, we are never going to be a truly great society. We did not do this to ourselves. We were existing happily and healthy until a bunch of people came to invade our lands. And that’s the narrative that the United States has kept silent.”

In this April 23, 2021, file photo, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks during a news briefing at the White House.
In this April 23, 2021, file photo, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks during a news briefing at the White House.

Diindiisi McCleave said she hopes the Biden Administration will help advance the coalition’s cause of acknowledging and healing the pain caused by the Indian Schools.

Last year, then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland, representing New Mexico, introduced legislation to create a Truth and Healing Commission to study the Indian Schools. Although the bill didn’t advance, Haaland did – she’s now the first Native American cabinet secretary, running the Department of the Interior in the Biden Administration.

In June, Haaland formally launched a federal study on boarding schools, including their locations, attendance and any associated burials. The study’s first report is due April 1, 2022.

‘The tip of the iceberg’: Mass grave of 215 children in Canada a stark reminder of the dark history of Native American boarding schools in US

“Only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future we are all proud to embrace,” Haaland wrote in launching the investigation. “Many who survived the ordeal returned home changed in unimaginable ways, and their experiences still resonate across the generations.”

The Canadian government in September marked its first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, a remembrance that followed the discovery of hundreds of children’s bodies buried on the site of a former Indian School in British Columbia. The Canadian government has also paid tens of millions of dollars in reparations to the families of children who attended the schools.

Jojola, a professor at the University of New Mexico who directs the university’s Indigenous Design and Planning Institute, said the metaphor of the children’s callous and largely unmarked burials is hard to escape.

“The people who ran the boarding schools, they literally wanted to bury the egregious acts they committed,” he said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Native American children’s graves in city park show appalling history

Enbridge Line 93

Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

ANISHINAABE LANDS — Line 3 is dead. Long live Line 93.

Enbridge’s controversial Line 3 construction project is complete.

“The Line 3 replacement project/Line 93 came into service on Friday, October 1, as expected through N(orth) Dakota and Minnesota,” Juli Kellner, communications specialist for Enbridge, said in an email to Indian Country Today.

And with that, Line 3 will be deactivated, according to Kellner.

Enbridge series pipeline - Enbridge logo

After nearly 8 years of Indigenous and citizen opposition that saw numerous protests and arrests in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a string of state, federal and tribal court filings, it appears that the corporate giant has won.

Not so, say Indigenous and non-Native water protectors.

As clean-up begins and more construction accidents come to light, water protectors are claiming victory on a number of fronts.

Members of Indigenous advocacy organizations such as Honor the Earth and the Indigenous Environmental Network as well as tribal grassroots pipeline opponents say that the fight against Line 3 helped focus the world’s attention on what they describe as an untenable corporate push to build fossil fuel infrastructure projects at the expense of the environment.

“Line 3 is a crime against the environment and Indigenous rights, waters and lands and it marks the end of the tar sands era — but not the resistance to it,” said Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth.

LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation, praised the actions of water protectors opposing the pipeline.

“Your brave efforts have reshaped the world’s views on the climate crisis that we are in,” she said.

Signs near the Firelight water protector camp along country Highway 2 near Bagley, Minnesota, on Oct. 4, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

Signs near the Firelight water protector camp along country Highway 2 near Bagley, Minnesota, on Oct. 4, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

On Oct. 11, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, activists kicked off a week of protests calling out President Joe Biden for failing to stop Line 3, and for failing to meet his promises on addressing climate change and protecting Indigenous treaty rights and lands. On Oct. 14, dozens of Indigenous leaders held a sit-in at the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., in an effort to stop extractive fossil fuel industry projects such as Line 3.

The Indigenous Environmental Network issued a statement questioning Enbridge’s rosy outlook on the project.

“Although Enbridge is pushing the message that Line 3 is a done deal and that they followed all the rules and regulations, we can see even at this late date the continuing harm to our lands and waters,” the statement said. “There have been spills, frac-outs and pierced aquifers even to this day.”

Enbridge’s decision to change the name of Line 3 to Line 93 further confirms what water protectors knew all along, said Taysha Martineau, founder of Camp Migizi, a camp for water protectors opposing Line 3.

“We stated from the beginning that this was an entirely new pipeline project,” said Martineau, a citizen of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe.

Negative fallout

Although Enbridge has repeatedly framed the pipeline construction as a safety-based replacement project for the 32-inch Line 3, Line 93 is 34 inches wide, allowing it to carry tar sands oil that Line 3 could not.

Leaders of the White Earth and Red Lake Bands of Ojibwe and Line 3 opponents insist that the negative fallout from pipeline construction continues.

Frank Bibeau, attorney for and citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said the pipeline construction exacerbated already low water levels and endangered the health of manoomin or wild rice.

In a unique rights of nature lawsuit filed in White Earth tribal court, tribal citizens accuse the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of failing to protect the state’s fresh water by allowing Enbridge to pump up to five million gallons of additional water from construction trenches. That case is ongoing.

In January, Enbridge construction crews accidentally pierced an artesian aquifer near Clearbrook, Minnesota, causing the aquifer to lose about 24 million gallons of groundwater. The Department of Natural Resources learned about the accident in June when independent monitors reported seeing water pooling in ditches, according to a report issued by the agency.

“Enbridge began work at the Clearbrook Terminal site in early 2021 but did not follow the construction plans it provided to the DNR,” according to the report.

Enbridge erected a protective boom, shown here on Oct. 4, 2021,  around a frac-out of drilling fluid along the Mississippi River near Solway, Minnesota. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

Enbridge erected a protective boom, shown here on Oct. 4, 2021, around a frac-out of drilling fluid along the Mississippi River near Solway, Minnesota. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

In September, the agency ordered Enbridge to pay $3.32 million in penalties, including $300,000 to pay for loss of groundwater as well as create a restoration plan to stop the groundwater flow within 30 days. The agency is also investigating two additional sites of artesian aquifer breaches by the company, but did not disclose the locations.

The Department of Natural Resources has referred the breaches to the Clearwater County attorney where the company could face criminal charges.

On Oct. 17, the agency reported that Enbridge failed to meet a deadline to clean up the ruptured aquifer near Clearbrook and announced that Enbridge must pay compensation for the additional time it takes to stop the flow of groundwater.

Kellner said the company is working with state and local officials.

“Enbridge is fully cooperating with the Minnesota DNR in correcting uncontrolled groundwater flows at Clearbrook and is working with the DNR as two other locations are being evaluated,” she wrote.

Enbridge tanks sit at the company's terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, on Oct. 8, 2021, the destination of petroleum products flowing through the newly completed Line 93. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

Enbridge tanks sit at the company’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin, on Oct. 8, 2021, the destination of petroleum products flowing through the newly completed Line 93. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

LaDuke called the company’s failure to meet the deadline alarming.

“If Enbridge can’t meet basic safety requirements, they should not be allowed to operate a pipeline,” she said. “It doesn’t bode well for the future.”

In August, the Minnesota Public Pollution Control Agency reported that Enbridge created 28 spills of drilling mud during the summer. The agency confirmed the spills in response to a letter from Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party lawmakers demanding an accurate account of the spills.

“Our friends have reported frac-outs further down from the headwaters of the Mississippi,” Bibeau said.

“We are looking into doing a thermal imaging flight over the pipeline to see where all the damage is because we don’t think the DNR or the Public Pollution Control Agency is actually investigating these locations,” he said.

Earlier this month, Ron Turney of the Indigenous Environmental Network and members of Honor the Earth took Indian Country Today via canoe to an Enbridge frac-out location near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Turney, a citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, has been using a drone camera to monitor the pipeline. The location, near Solway, Minnesota, is not accessible on foot or visible from the road. A large boom surrounded the area where opaque white material appeared to rest on top of the water.

Igniting a movement

On Oct. 2, Honor the Earth sponsored a celebration on Madeline Island in Wisconsin of traditional Ojibwe subsistence food and activities as a means to celebrate water protector victories fighting Line 3.

The event coincided with Treaty Day, a commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of 1854 at the town of LaPointe on Madeline Island. In this treaty, the Ojibwe established reservations in their traditional homelands and retained rights to hunt, fish and gather.

Water protector celebration

Water protectors gathered at Madeline Island in Wisconsin in October 2021.

enbridgecomplete8

4Gallery4 Images

Madeline Island or Mooningwanekaaning, “home of the yellow-breasted flicker,” is considered a sacred place by Ojibwe and the birthplace of the tribe’s traditional religion.

About 150 people gathered to share traditional activities such as butchering sturgeon, parching wild rice, feasting, dancing, singing and playing lacrosse.

“We used to survive on this island,” said Paul DeMain, a citizen of the Ojibwe and Oneida tribes and an Honor the Earth board member who was among those at the celebration. “To me, it’s a productive fortress, a place of healing.”

DeMain said water protectors were bound to lose in the massively unequal fight with a global corporate giant such as Enbridge. Among the victories, however, was that the fight focused the world’s attention on the impact of ongoing reliance on fossil fuel on climate change and the preservation of the Earth.

“We came here to celebrate our victories over the fossil fuel industry, our survival and to heal our trauma of watching our people get arrested, harassed, beaten and hurt,” DeMain said.

“We came here to show we could feast in camaraderie with the rich, poor, Indigenous and non-Indigenous and work on forging a path ahead.”

This article contains material from The Associated Press. 

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Re: National Day of Remembrance for Native American Children

Lakota Law

Many thanks to all of you who, over the past months, read our blog about the discoveries of mass graves of Indigenous children at Indian boarding school campuses. Thanks also to you who signed our petition to the president and Congress to form a Truth and Healing Commission. Today, I write to you with some good news and a follow-up action to take!

On Sept. 30 — the National Day of Remembrance for Native American Children — Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Reps. Sharice Davids and Tom Cole reintroduced a bill that will form just such a commission. This bill was formerly introduced by Sen. Warren and U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (when she was a N.M. congresswoman). Now, it’s time for all of us to make sure this important legislation gets passed! Please write to your congressional reps and tell them: vote to enact the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act!

Lakota Law

Stolen babies: Generations of Native children were forced to attend boarding schools like the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which stripped them of their cultures and identities — and, too often, their lives.

I shared with you a couple months ago about my own familial experiences with boarding schools. I told you about the horrific practices that endangered and took the lives of Native children across Turtle Island. Now, against the backdrop of these mass grave discoveries, we must do all we can to ensure lawmakers take genocide seriously. It’s time to begin an official reckoning with America’s true history and a process that can aid in the healing of our tribal communities.

Please show your solidarity with me, my ancestors, and the generations to come. Your advocacy matters. Together, we can begin to make things better.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing up for truth and healing!
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Indigenous People´s Day

Osiyo,

Today — Indigenous Peoples Day (IPD) — marks the highlight of the Indigenous year. I hope you will join us as we gather to celebrate, heal, and re-Indigenize. This long weekend represents a reprieve from trauma, sadness, and grief as we travel with good hearts to see close family and distant relatives, celebrate together, and share our cultures. 

As you likely know, many places do not yet celebrate with us. They’re still celebrating Columbus Day, perpetuating the myth that Christopher Columbus discovered so-called America. Columbus arrived on October 12, 1492 on Taino homelands. This first voyage was a reconnaissance mission wherein he later established La Navidad in present-day Haiti — America’s first colony. The following fall, he returned with an invasion force of 17 ships and 1,500 soldiers. He found La Navidad destroyed by Taino People, who had retaliated against rapes and murders carried out by the Spaniards.

Watch: Giniw Collective’s Tara Houska talks about the journey of Indigenous Peoples of these lands historically until the present day.

European weapons (like cannons and muskets), armor, horses, and dogs soon overwhelmed the Indigenous warriors, who were armed only with clubs and spears. Celebrating Columbus, therefore, condones genocide and colonization. Many think of these issues as only existing in the past. But these systems, set in motion hundreds of years ago by Columbus and other conquistadors, continue. All Taino homelands, from Puerto Rico to the Bahamas, remain colonized today — many by the United States. 

To combat the Columbus-as-hero narrative, we’re working to replace Columbus Day with IPD everywhere. Our hope is that more people like you will come together with us, as Indigenous People focus throughout the long weekend on empowerment through solidarity and sharing pathways to action. 

Watch Tara Houska’s Ted Talk. As our skilled Anishinaabe relative points out, many of these struggles are deeply rooted in trauma. But today is about sharing successes within our sustained resistance to colonization. We see ourselves in the faces of our relatives while they reflect on Indigenous sovereignty, land and water rights, education, economic development, language preservation and promotion, and religious freedom. 

Our celebrations feature Indigenous poets, musicians, artists, singers, leaders, and performers from across Turtle Island, who offer their gifts. Everyone who attends an event can actively participate in round dancing and be uplifted by traditional prayers. The overwhelming feelings of celebration and open-heartedness are palpable. This is the chance for settlers and non-Natives to catch us in our most generous mindset. As we come together across nations to actively decolonize and re-Indigenize our communities and share our gifts, I hope you will join a celebration in your area.

Wado — thank you for your ongoing solidarity with our Indigenous nations.
Sarah Rose Harper
Social Media Coordinator
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Bears Ears

Lindsay Whitehurst
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden will expand two sprawling national monuments in Utah that have been at the center of a public lands tug-of-war that has played out over three presidential administrations, the state’s governor said Thursday.

Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, released a statement expressing disappointment in a decision by the administration to expand Bears Ears National Monuments and Grand Staircase-Escalante, which were downsized significantly under President Donald Trump. 

They cover vast expanses of southern Utah where red rocks reveal petroglyphs and cliff dwellings and distinctive twin buttes bulge from a grassy valley. The Trump administration cut Bears Ears, on lands considered sacred to Native American tribes, by 85 percent and slashed Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly half. 

Cox’s statement did not include specifics how much of the monuments Biden plans to restore, and the White House and the U.S. Interior Department declined immediate comment. 

Cox noted he had offered to work with the administration on a legislative solution.

“The president’s decision to enlarge the monuments again is a tragic missed opportunity — it fails to provide certainty as well as the funding for law enforcement, research, and other protections which the monuments need and which only Congressional action can offer,” he said in the statement released with other state leaders. 

Hopi Chairman Timothy L. Nuvangyaoma said he is “happy” and “grateful for the advocacy of all those related to protecting Bears Ears and for the Hopi tribe” because it means a lot to the clan memberships. 

“For Hopi, this is a significant step forward and the Biden administration did make some commitments to listen to Native America and Biden’s actions does prove that it is happening. We do need to protect these sacred sites that not only the Hopi tribe but other tribes find significant within their history.”

The chairman said he and the vice chairman will be headed to Washington, D.C. 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous Cabinet secretary, traveled to Utah in April to tour the area before preparing a formal recommendation to President Biden. 

Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, visited the monuments, becoming the latest federal official to step into what has been a years-long public lands controversy. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1380219354378342404&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com%2Fnews%2Fjoe-biden-to-expand-2-utah-national-monuments&sessionId=b31246f3cd0f7ee7df9267183db6a84aa51009f5&theme=light&widgetsVersion=fcb1942%3A1632982954711&width=550px

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also criticized Biden by saying in a tweet Thursday that he “squandered the opportunity to build consensus” and find a permanent solution for the monuments.

“Yet again, Utah’s national monuments are being used as a political football between administrations,” Romney said. “The decision to re-expand the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante is a devastating blow to our state, local and tribal leaders and our delegation … today’s “winner take all” mentality moved us further away from that goal.”

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, applauded Biden’s decision and said she hopes it marks an initial step toward his goal of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and ocean by 2030.

“Thank you, President Biden,” Rokala said in a statement. “You have listened to Indigenous tribes and the American people and ensured these landscapes will be protected for generations to come.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1446238172774637571&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com%2Fnews%2Fjoe-biden-to-expand-2-utah-national-monuments&sessionId=b31246f3cd0f7ee7df9267183db6a84aa51009f5&theme=light&widgetsVersion=fcb1942%3A1632982954711&width=550px

Trump’s cuts ironically increased the national attention to Bears Ears, Rokala said. She called on the federal government to increase funding to manage the landscape and handle growing crowds.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous Cabinet secretary, traveled to Utah in April to visit the monuments, becoming the latest federal official to step into what has been a yearslong public lands battle.

Former President Barack Obama proclaimed Bears Ears a national monument in 2016. The site was the first to receive the designation at the specific request of tribes.

The Bears Ears buttes, which overlook a grassy valley, are considered a place of worship for many tribes, according to Pat Gonzales-Rogers, executive director of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. The group incudes the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian Tribe.

The Trump administration’s reductions to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante paved the way for potential coal mining and oil and gas drilling on lands that were previously off-limits. However, activity was limited because of market forces.

Conservative state leaders considered the size of both monuments U.S. government overreach and applauded the reductions.

Environmental, tribal, paleontological and outdoor recreation organizations sued to restore the monuments’ original boundaries, arguing presidents lack legal authority to change monuments their predecessors created. Meanwhile, Republicans argued Democratic presidents have misused the Antiquities Act signed by President Theodore Roosevelt to designate monuments beyond what’s necessary to protect archaeological and cultural resources.

The administration has said the decision to review the monuments was part of an expansive plan to tackle climate change and reverse the Trump administration’s “harmful” policies.

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Indian Country Today contributed to this report.

Environmental Loss

https://us.yahoo.com/news/alaskas-vanishing-salmon-push-yukon-150805244.html

APTOPIX Yukon River Disappearing Salmon Michael Williams scans the shoreline for moose while traveling up the Yukon River on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, near Stevens Village, Alaska. For the first time in memory, both king and chum salmon have dwindled to almost nothing and the state has banned salmon fishing on the Yukon. The remote communities that dot the river and live off its bounty are desperate and doubling down on moose and caribou hunts in the waning days of fall. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

NATHAN HOWARD and GILLIAN FLACCUSSat, October 2, 2021, 9:08 AM

STEVENS VILLAGE, Alaska (AP) — In a normal year, the smokehouses and drying racks that Alaska Natives use to prepare salmon to tide them through the winter would be heavy with fish meat, the fruits of a summer spent fishing on the Yukon River like generations before them.

This year, there are no fish. For the first time in memory, both king and chum salmon have dwindled to almost nothing and the state has banned salmon fishing on the Yukon, even the subsistence harvests that Alaska Natives rely on to fill their freezers and pantries for winter. The remote communities that dot the river and live off its bounty — far from road systems and easy, affordable shopping — are desperate and doubling down on moose and caribou hunts in the waning days of fall.

“Nobody has fish in their freezer right now. Nobody,” said Giovanna Stevens, 38, a member of the Stevens Village tribe who grew up harvesting salmon at her family’s fish camp. “We have to fill that void quickly before winter gets here.”

Opinions on what led to the catastrophe vary, but those studying it generally agree human-caused climate change is playing a role as the river and the Bering Sea warm, altering the food chain in ways that aren’t yet fully understood. Many believe commercial trawling operations that scoop up wild salmon along with their intended catch, as well as competition from hatchery-raised salmon in the ocean, have compounded global warming’s effects on one of North America’s longest rivers.

The assumption that salmon that aren’t fished make it back to their native river to lay eggs may no longer hold up because of changes in both the ocean and river environments, said Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, who has worked on Yukon River salmon issues for a decade and is the Alaska Venture Fund’s program director for fisheries and communities.

King, or chinook, salmon have been in decline for more than a decade, but chum salmon were more plentiful until last year. This year, summer chum numbers plummeted and numbers of fall chum — which travel farther upriver — are dangerously low.

“Everyone wants to know, ‘What is the one smoking gun? What is the one thing we can point to and stop?’” she said of the collapse. “People are reluctant to point to climate change because there isn’t a clear solution … but it’s probably the biggest factor here.”

Many Alaska Native communities are outraged they are paying the price for generations of practices beyond their control that have caused climate change — and many feel state and federal authorities aren’t doing enough to bring Indigenous voices to the table. The scarcity has made raw strong emotions about who should have the right to fish in a state that supplies the world with salmon, and underscores the powerlessness many Alaska Natives feel as traditional resources dwindle.

The nearly 2,000-mile-long (3,200-kilometer) Yukon River starts in British Columbia and drains an area larger than Texas in both Canada and Alaska as it cuts through the lands of Athabascan, Yup’ik and other tribes.

The crisis is affecting both subsistence fishing in far-flung outposts and fish processing operations that employ tribal members in communities along the lower Yukon and its tributaries.

“In the tribal villages, our people are livid. They’re extremely angry that we are getting penalized for what others are doing,” said P.J. Simon, chairman and chief of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a consortium of 42 tribal villages in the Alaska interior. “As Alaska Natives, we have a right to this resource. We have a right to have a say in how things are drawn up and divvied up.”

More than a half-dozen Alaska Native groups have petitioned for federal aid, and they want the state’s federal delegation to hold a hearing in Alaska on the salmon crisis. The groups also seek federal funding for more collaborative research on effects that ocean changes are having on returning salmon.

Citing the warming ocean, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy requested a federal disaster declaration for the salmon fishery this month and has helped coordinate airlifts of about 90,000 pounds (41,000 kilograms) of fish to needy villages. The salmon crisis is one of the governor’s top priorities, said Rex Rock Jr., Dunleavy’s advisor for rural affairs and Alaska Native economic development.

That’s done little to appease remote villages that are dependent on salmon to get through winter, when snow paralyzes the landscape and temperatures can dip to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 C) or lower.

Families traditionally spend the summer at fish camps using nets and fish wheels to snag adult salmon as they migrate inland from the ocean to the place where they hatched so they can spawn. The salmon is prepared for storage a variety of ways: dried for jerky, cut into fillets that are frozen, canned in half-pint jars or preserved in wooden barrels with salt.

Without those options, communities are under intense pressure to find other protein sources. In the Alaska interior, the nearest road system is often dozens of miles away, and it can take hours by boat, snow machine or even airplane to reach a grocery store.

Store-bought food is prohibitively expensive for many: A gallon (3.8 liters) of milk can cost nearly $10, and a pound of steak was recently $34 in Kaltag, an interior village about 328 air miles (528 kilometers) from Fairbanks. A surge in COVID-19 cases that has disproportionately hit Alaska Natives has also made many hesitant to venture far from home.

Instead, villages sent out extra hunting parties during the fall moose season and are looking to the upcoming caribou season to meet their needs. Those who can’t hunt themselves rely on others to share their meat.

“We have to watch our people because there will be some who will have no food about midyear,” said Christina Semaken, a 63-year-old grandmother who lives in Kaltag, an Alaska interior town of fewer than 100 people. “We can’t afford to buy that beef or chicken.”

Semaken hopes to fish next year, but whether the salmon will come back remains unknown.

Tribal advocates want more genetic testing on salmon harvested from fishing grounds in Alaska waters to make sure that commercial fisheries aren’t intercepting wild Yukon River salmon. They also want more fish-tracking sonar on the river to ensure an accurate count of the salmon that escape harvest and make it back to the river’s Canadian headwaters.

Yet changes in the ocean itself might ultimately determine the salmon’s fate.

The Bering Sea, where the river meets the ocean, had unprecedented ice loss in recent years, and its water temperatures are rising. Those shifts are throwing off the timing of the plankton bloom and the distribution of small invertebrates that the fish eat, creating potential chaos in the food chain that’s still being studied, said Kate Howard, a fisheries scientist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Researchers have also documented warming temperatures in the river that are unhealthy for salmon, she said.

Because salmon spend time in both rivers and the ocean during their unique life cycle, it’s hard to pin down exactly where these rapid environmental changes are most affecting them — but it’s increasingly clear that overfishing is not the only culprit, Howard said.

“When you dig into all the available data for Yukon River salmon,” she said, “it’s hard to explain it all unless you consider climate change.”

Alaska Natives, meanwhile, are left scrambling to fill a hole in their diet — and in centuries of tradition built around salmon.

On a recent fall day, a small hunting party zoomed along the Yukon River by motorboat, scanning the shoreline for signs of moose. After three days, the group had killed two moose, enough to provide meat for seven families, or about 50 people, for roughly a month in their small community of Stevens Village.

At the end of a long day, they butchered the animals as the Northern Lights blazed a vibrant green across the sky, their headlamps piercing the inky darkness.

The makeshift camp, miles from any road, would normally host several dozen families harvesting salmon, sharing meals and teaching children how to fish. On this day, it was eerily quiet.

“I don’t really think that there is any kind of bell out there that you can ring loud enough to try to explain that type of connection,” said Ben Stevens, whose ancestors founded Stevens Village. “Salmon, to us, is life. Where can you go beyond that?”

Line 3

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/line-3-replacement-complete-oil-will-flow-soon

We just cannot stop with the craziness……

Indian Country Today

A controversial pipeline project in northern Minnesota is complete and oil is scheduled to start flowing this week.

Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline project will carry oil as soon as Friday despite months-long protests against it. The Canadian-based company’s president and CEO, Al Monaco, said in a statement that the pipeline “will soon deliver the low-cost and reliable energy that people depend on every day.”

The project was completed despite stiff opposition from tribes, environmentalists and others who argued that the 1,097-mile pipeline — including the 337-mile segment across Minnesota — would violate treaty rights, worsen climate change and risk spills in waters where Native Americans harvest wild rice.

It will carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands, a heavier crude that consumes more energy and generates more carbon dioxide in the refining process than lighter oil.

(Follow ICT’s Enbridge coverage: A Pipeline Runs Through It)

The Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement that the fight to stop Line 3 is “far from over, it has just shifted gears.”

“Do not think we are going quietly into the night, we will continue to stand on the frontlines until every last tar sands pipeline is shut down and Indigenous communities are no longer targeted but our right to consent or denial is respected,” the statement read. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH0sInRmd192ZGxfY2hpcnBfMTI3OTQiOnsiYnVja2V0IjoidmRsX2FuZF9jaGlycCIsInZlcnNpb24iOjN9fQ%3D%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1443257631909552131&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com%2Fnews%2Fline-3-replacement-complete-oil-will-flow-soon&sessionId=e83d7d2c8dcbe577a26546109a1b478af7a8df93&theme=light&widgetsVersion=1890d59c%3A1627936082797&width=550px

 Winona LaDuke, a citizen of the White Earth Band of Anishinaabeg and executive director of Honor the Earth, vowed to continue the opposition.

“Line 3 is a crime against the environment and Indigenous rights, waters and lands, and it marks the end of the tar sands era — but not the end of the resistance,” she said.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH0sInRmd192ZGxfY2hpcnBfMTI3OTQiOnsiYnVja2V0IjoidmRsX2FuZF9jaGlycCIsInZlcnNpb24iOjN9fQ%3D%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1443255575689695233&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Findiancountrytoday.com%2Fnews%2Fline-3-replacement-complete-oil-will-flow-soon&sessionId=e83d7d2c8dcbe577a26546109a1b478af7a8df93&theme=light&widgetsVersion=1890d59c%3A1627936082797&width=550px

 In a statement, Camp Migizi promised to remain an open camp and to disrupt and stop pipeline work. More than 900 people have been arrested or ticketed at protests along the route since construction began in December.

“We ask that you remember us, as we will still be here, fighting to protect all that is sacred, even if they build line 3,” read the statement.. “Our community that we have built here will still remain, and we ask that you remember that just like all of the Indigenous communities we have come from we are still here, learning, fighting, and healing.”

The main remaining tasks are cleanup and restoration along the route, said Leo Golden, an Enbridge vice president in charge of the project. Some parts have already been restored with crops and native grasses growing on them, he said. But construction mats still need to be removed from wetlands and other cleanup work will continue through next summer.

Golden said officials do not expect to get the final sign-offs from landowners along the route until next summer.

Enbridge said the project was necessary to replace a deteriorating pipeline built in the 1960s, which could carry only half its original volume of oil, and to ensure the reliable delivery of crude to U.S. refineries. Enbridge expects to start running the pipeline at its full capacity of 760,000 barrels per day in mid-October.

Line 3 starts in Alberta, Canada, and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The Canadian, North Dakota and Wisconsin segments were finished earlier and the Canadian and Wisconsin legs are already in service.

Water protectors tour an Enbridge Line 3 construction site near Park Rapids, Minnesota, on June 6, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

Water protectors tour an Enbridge Line 3 construction site near Park Rapids, Minnesota, on June 6, 2021. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember/Indian Country Today)

The process of filling the line starts in North Dakota on Friday, Golden said. Enbridge puts the cost at $5.3 billion Canadian dollars for the Canadian section and $4 billion U.S. dollars for the work in the U.S.

Opponents have challenged the pipeline’s permits in court to no avail so far. They’ve also unsuccessfully sought to persuade Biden, who canceled a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline soon after taking office, to intervene.

(Related: ‘Rights of nature’ cases could bolster treaty guarantees)

A challenge is still pending in federal court to a permit granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but that case didn’t block construction. Opponents can still ask the state Supreme Court to review a clean water certification granted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Also, a novel “rights of nature” lawsuit is pending in the White Earth Ojibwe tribal court. It names Manoomin, or wild rice, as one of the plaintiffs. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has asked a federal appeals court to block the case.

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The Associated Press contributed to this reportA Pipeline Runs Through ItEnbridge, Pipeline, Protest, Line 3Line 3

Colonial Law Full Steam Ahead

Lakota Law header

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.

Lakota Law

Please read our comprehensive blog on this case to learn more. From there, immediately take action by signing and widely sharing our petition to President Joe Biden and Department of Justice attorneys. Tell them it’s absolutely critical they protect Native children and safeguard Indigenous rights!

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

Climate Change

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/drastic-changes-sea-ice-levels-affecting-seal-hunting

Meghan Sullivan
Indian Country Today

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. 

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.

Bearded seals sitting on the ice edge in Kotzebue Sound.

Photo courtesy of Jessie Lindsay, NMFS MMPA Permit No. 19309, 2021

“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.

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.”

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Meghan Sullivan

By Meghan Sullivan

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.

Roswell Schaffer, an Iñupiaq elder and hunter from Kotzebue, Alaska, who helped co-author the study. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Betcher, Farthest North Films, 2021)

Lakota Law

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.

Lakota Law

Watch: I was honored to join Anishinaabe relatives and Congress members in support of the #StopLine3 movement at the frontlines this past weekend. I’m in the blue shirt to the right of Cori Bush!

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

Resistance

Lakota Law header

,

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.

Lakota Law

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

Pipeline #3 Action

Lakota Law

Boozhoo,

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.

giving tuesday

Watch: I joined Anishinaabe, Lakota, and other mostly Native speakers yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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

Terrorists? I think not…

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.

Instead we are getting things done TO US:

Take A Stand.

https://vimeo.com/user20249273

Lakota Law header

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.

Watch: I interviewed Ruby about her stand against DAPL.

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

Rights of Nature

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/rights-of-nature-lawsuits-hit-a-sweet-spot

Mary Annette Pember
Indian Country Today

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.

(Related: ‘Code Red’ on Indigenous People’s Day)

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)

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.

‘Gaining traction’

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)

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.

Looking ahead

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

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.

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Line 3 – Minnesota

Lakota Law

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.

giving tuesday

Watch: I talk with you about why we’re glad to welcome the Lakota into our #StopLine3 struggle here in our mutual ancestral homelands.

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

P.S. Help us stand in the way of this pipeline and ramp up the political pressure on President Biden to #StopLine3! By giving what you can today, you’ll be supporting important work on the frontlines to preserve water and the Earth for future generations.

We build and live on the graves…

https://www.aol.com/unmarked-graves-found-another-indigenous-000056817-010703101.html

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.

*an empty apology will never be enough.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/residential-school-survivors-reflect-on-brutal-legacy-that-could-have-been-me

Hiawatha Insane Asylum

Lakota Law

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.

Yankton Nation member and artist Jerry Fogg is a keeper of the Hiawatha story. He created this piece in remembrance of the many Native People lost at Hiawatha Indian Insane Asylum. Watch Kelo’s special investigative report here.

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

Voting Rights

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/supreme-court-ruling-fails-to-protect-indigenous-voters

Jessica Douglas
High Country News

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 Committeethe 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. With abortion and guns already on the agenda, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court is considering adding a third blockbuster issue _ whether to ban consideration of race in college admissions. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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.” 

Jessica Douglas is a staff writer at High Country News and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Email her at jessica.douglas@hcn.org or submit a letter to the editor.

You don´t have to dig deep…

A memorial for the 215 children whose remains were discovered on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. (Amber Bracken for The New York Times)

Ian AustenThu, June 24, 2021, 6:16 AM

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.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company

So much is long overdue…

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/us-boarding-schools-to-be-investigated

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.

Keystone Pipeline

Fossil Fuels

Requiem for a Pipeline: Keystone XL Transformed the Environmental Movement and Shifted the Debate over Energy and Climate

Its beginnings coincided with a booming oil market, but the pipeline also made a perfect target for activists demanding an end to fossil fuels.

By Marianne LavelleJune 20, 2021 Pipes for the Keystone XL pipeline stacked in a yard near Oyen, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. Credit: Jason Franson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pipes for the Keystone XL pipeline stacked in a yard near Oyen, Alberta, Canada, on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. Credit: Jason Franson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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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.”

President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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.

Protesters sit in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 30, 2011, during a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Protesters sit in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 30, 2011, during a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

“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. 

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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

Reporter, Washington, D.C.

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.

Lakota Law

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. 

Watch: On “Cut to the Chase,” Lakota Law’s Chase Iron Eyes discusses the end of KXL and my big court win.

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

Done! Finished!

Since I began this blog, this is the best news I have heard!

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/keystone-is-xl-is-dead

Indian Country Today

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.

(Ongoing Enbridge series: A pipeline runs through it)

In this Feb. 18, 2020, file photo, a protester plays a drum and sings while joined by other Native American protesters opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline at the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre. Major construction projects moving forward along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico amid the coronavirus pandemic are raising fears workers could spread infections within nearby communities, including several Native American tribes. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

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.

This is a developing story.

ICT logo bridge

The Associated Press contributed to this report.