COVID-19

I hope this email finds you safe and well. As you have likely heard, the federal government recently passed a $2 trillion emergency relief package to aid Americans during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re so grateful to those of you who sent 13,000 emails to Congress demanding the CARES Act not bail out fossil fuel companies. It worked: the bill was revised — you and others stopped a $3 billion giveaway to oil companies! Other victories in the Act include expanded protections for unemployed workers, coverage for COVID-19 testing, and $64 million in aid to Indian Country. Even under quarantine, you are helping make a difference where it counts.

Despite those wins, Trump announced in a signing statement that he intends to ignore key congressional oversight provisions, leaving open the possibility that he will still earmark billions of dollars for the fossil fuel industry. Thankfully, such signing statements do not carry the force of law. As my comrade Chase Iron Eyes describes in our new video, Congress can take legal action. Click here to tell the House of Representatives to file a lawsuit against the executive branch and stop Trump from following through on his promise to bail out Big Oil.

Lakota Law
Chase Iron Eyes talks legal action against the White House.

In the midst of massive shelter-in-place orders, we’re seeing how quickly nature can start to rebound — bluer skies, cleaner water ways, thriving wildlife. Mother Earth is clearly sending us a message: we can’t go back to business-as-usual. The truth is, COVID-19 isn’t the primary reason the oil industry is now suffering. U.S. fracking simply can’t compete with cheap Saudi Oil and renewables. We must let the market dictate a shift to green alternatives before it’s too late, rather than continuing to subsidize dirty energy. Taking Trump’s Big Oil addiction to court can be an important step in severing our addiction to fossil fuels.

In more localized news, my part of Indian Country is beginning to feel the impacts of the pandemic, with confirmed cases near both Standing Rock and Yankton. Though we have no reported cases yet on Pine Ridge or Cheyenne River, limited testing means we can’t be sure the virus isn’t among us. We know that COVID-19 could disproportionately impact Native communities, and we’re remaining vigilant during these uncertain times. We organizers are sounding out tribal leaders (from a safe distance) on how LPLP can support public health in the days to come. Please stay tuned for ways you can assist our efforts on the reservations.

Thank you for your support. Wishing you and your family safety and health,

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

P.S. We must prioritize the health of people and planet during a pandemic — not the extractive industry that routinely jeopardizes both. I ask you to use your voice again to engage your reps and the courts. Together, let’s stop Trump’s Big Oil bailout.

Regarding DAPL/COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the nation, we’re aware that it could have an outsized impact on Indian Country. Relief programs may not provide needed tests and medical supplies for us — or anyone — on an appropriate scale. Please know we are monitoring this, and as my colleague Chase Iron Eyes mentioned a few days ago, we’ll keep you updated on developments. May we all stay safe and healthy.

In the meantime, I write with some wonderful news. Just yesterday, Standing Rock won a big victory in the ongoing legal battle against the Dakota Access pipeline when a federal judge granted the tribe’s request to strike down DAPL’s federal permits!

Lakota Law

Thank you for all you have done to aid our struggle! Today I ask that you take a few moments to watch our video about the win in court and send a note of solidarity to Standing Rock. I will deliver your messages to the tribal chairman and tribal council. This is a big moment!

The judge ruled that Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers must complete a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) — the much more comprehensive review we’ve all been demanding since the beginning of this movement (and that President Obama required, only to be reversed by Trump). The Corps fell short in three specific ways, according to the judge.

First, the Corps failed to respond adequately to claims by the tribe’s experts that DAPL’s leak detection system is wholly inadequate. Second, the company’s dreadful history of oil spills wasn’t properly addressed. Finally, the oil company failed to account for the adverse repercussions a “worst case discharge” might have on our treaty rights — our ability to hunt, fish, and perform traditional religious ceremonies near Lake Oahe, which the pipeline crosses under.

I was asked by the tribal chairman to represent Standing Rock’s interests at the hearing in Washington, D.C., but I couldn’t go because of Coronavirus travel restrictions. I’m gratified that, despite our troubles, we have been victorious, at least for now.

The logic of the judge’s ruling suggests the pipeline should not remain operational without a federal permit. The ruling actually references both the Titanic and Chernobyl concerning the possibility of human error, and I’m hopeful shutting down the flow will be the judge’s next step. He has now requested legal briefs on that issue.

Please stay tuned, as we hope to share more good news soon. In the meantime, stay safe and please listen to the medical professionals with knowledge about the requirements of this pandemic. We’re all in this together.

Wopila tanka — as always, we’re so grateful to you for standing with Standing Rock and Mother Earth.

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

 

Lakota People's Law Project

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

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.

Creativity even in troubled times…

First and foremost, I hope that you are staying safe and healthy. At this critical moment for our shared society, it’s more important than ever that we look out for one another — even as we are asked to keep our distance. Right now, the Lakota People’s Law Project has staff stationed at Standing Rock, Pine Ridge, and Cheyenne River. We are talking to tribal leaders about ways we can support them in essential work, even while they create emergency plans to respond to the spread of COVID-19. We will keep you updated.

Meanwhile, I write to share with you today about an inspirational partnership that has yielded three wonderful outcomes at Pine Ridge: four college scholarships for Native American girls, the planting of at least 7,000 trees on the reservation, and a new way to support Native artisans.

Lakota Law
Henry Red Cloud, pictured here, has planted over 110,000 trees with the help of a volunteer team. Picture courtesy of inourhands.love.

For some time now, the Lakota People’s Law Project has enjoyed dedicated support from the good people at Nomadics Tipi Makers. Like LPLP, Jeb and Nicole, who run the company, are always looking for ways to best support Native communities. As time has passed, we have deepened our connection with them and shared ideas.

As part of that, we’ve helped network them with others in the community. One such connection is with Henry Red Cloud — who, like our own Phyllis Young, is a MIT Solve Laureate. He is a visionary environmental leader at Pine Ridge who installs solar around the reservation and plants trees to restore sacred sites and provide increased access to fresh fruit for our people. With his company, Red Cloud Renewable, Henry has facilitated a (literally) fruitful partnership by agreeing to work with Nomadics to plant one tree for every tipi pole the company sells — with all expenses for the project covered by Nomadics.

Jeb and Nicole’s commitment to providing sustained support to Native people also includes the establishment of a $20,000 per year scholarship fund — $5,000 each for four young Native American women to attend Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The first round of scholarship money is already headed to young women at Pine Ridge.

Finally, Jeb and Nicole have also found a great way to provide resources to Native artists at Pine Ridge by collaborating with them to paint tipi covers with personal, authentic artwork. Nomadics will send tipi covers to the artists and will pay forward to the reservation 100 percent of the artwork price as charged to individual customers.

These measures to bring support and health to Pine Ridge take on extra meaning at a time like the present. As we all hunker down for what looks to be a challenging road ahead, know that your support of the Lakota People’s Law Project has helped facilitate some extremely positive connections that will matter greatly, both right now for local artists and into the future for our young people and our reservation as a whole.

Wopila — Thank you, as always, and please stay safe and well!

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

Montana, Navajo-owned company reach deal on sovereign immunity

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/montana-navajo-owned-company-reach-deal-on-sovereign-immunity-g-y4lyhK0UGjTLyqturwCw

The Associated Press

Matthew Brown

Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana regulators have reached a deal allowing the state to enforce environmental laws at a large coal mine bought by a Navajo-owned company, officials said Thursday.

For months, executives from the Navajo Transitional Energy Company and state officials had been unable to resolve demands the company waive its immunity as a tribal entity from future lawsuits.

The mine shut down briefly in October when the dispute over sovereignty first emerged. Thursday’s agreement came a day before a temporary waiver agreement was set to expire.

The Navajo company bought the 275-worker Spring Creek strip mine along the Wyoming border and two mines in Wyoming last year from bankrupt Cloud Peak Energy.https _images.saymedia-content.com_.image_MTcxMTA1NzUzODk2MDY5MTA1_ap_20007830298569

 

Thank the Women of Cheyenne River

Thank the Women of Cheyenne River for resisting KXL
Mon, Feb 17, 2020 11:30 am
Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)

As the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) invades our homelands at the Cheyenne River Reservation, we women are preparing for the struggle.

In December, my daughter, Marcy, helped to organize a talk about human trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children (MMIWC) happening on our reservation. At this important Women Gathering, community members and representatives of many concerned organizations initiated the Nazo Campaign — providing whistles to alert relatives to unfolding crime and violence on Cheyenne River — and a resolution asking our Tribal Council to declare a state of emergency. They then presented to the council, where our tribal nation made that declaration.

Lakota Law

Today I ask that you watch our video and send a note of thanks and solidarity to the women of Cheyenne River for standing up to protect the safety and security of our people.

Our matriarchy must and will lead this fight. We even have two generations of grandmothers working together here! The Was’agiya Najin — “Grandmothers Standing Strong” — includes both older grandmothers (OGs) like me and younger grandmothers (YGs) like Marcy.

In addition to Was’agiya Najin, our Women Gatherings also include representation from Warrior Women Project, Women of All Red Nations, Simply Smiles, Indigenous Environmental Network, the Lakota People’s Law Project, veterans, water protectors, and more. These are powerful, alliance-building meetups, and now the tribe has heeded our warning.

That’s critical, because Big Oil is building two KXL man camps — temporary housing for pipeline workers — on either side of Cheyenne River. These dens of machismo inevitably bring with them increases in sex and drug trafficking, worsening our MMIWC epidemic locally.

Here’s how bad it is: by 2014, our state’s federal courts had handed out more life sentences for commercial sex trafficking than all other states’ combined. Because 40 percent of South Dakota’s victims are Native women, we pay the highest price.

As a girl, I was shipped off to boarding school. I experienced what it is like to have my culture stripped from me, so as a young woman I became a leader in the American Indian Movement and created the “We Will Remember” Survival School. There, I taught Marcy and other children about treaty rights, to prioritize Native sovereignty, and to preserve our traditions.

Now, together, we are helping to pass on lessons of leadership and direct action to the next generations. That starts with making sure they don’t fall prey to man camps, and it means demanding action from our tribe. As Indigenous women, we have always been on the front lines, and we know how to stay ready. Will you stand with us?

Wopila tanka — my deepest gratitude for your solidarity,

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Tribal Liaison
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.

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Coal Plant Closing

Navajo coal plant is the next to close; the end of an industry

 

https _images.saymedia-content.com_.image_MTY5OTY5OTY4MzE2Njg3OTQ1_four_corners_power_plant_-_nara_-_544328

 

https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/news/navajo-coal-plant-is-the-next-to-close-the-end-of-an-industry-TkJ5Gh9Em0-G3YlYAbHxbg

Historical photo via National Archives
The Associated Press

Navajo President Jonathan Nez: ‘We are moving forward with renewable energy as our top priority’

Felicia Fonseca

Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The closure of a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation sooner than expected will be a major blow to a region where coal has been a mainstay of the economy for decades.

The Arizona Public Service Co. now plans to shutter the Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington, New Mexico, in 2031 when its coal contract expires rather than wait until 2038.

 

 

 

It’s All About the Water

https://www.lakotalaw.org/resources/hot-water-preview?ceid=2659296&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_content=textlink&emci=3910ff14-db37-ea11-a1cc-2818784d084f&emdi=0ee92e56-bc38-ea11-a1cc-2818784d084f

 

Thu, Jan 16, 2020 6:00 pm
Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

In 2016 and ‘17, you stood with Standing Rock because you knew the importance of the Lakota maxim: Mni Wiconi — water is life. Decades back, a liberal Congress understood that, too, which is why a conduit that carries fresh water from the Missouri River to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is named the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply System.

As described here by the Guardian, the Oglala Lakota Nation gets about half of our water through the Mni Wiconi. The other half comes from private wells and the deeper Ogallala and Arikaree aquifers. If the Keystone XL oil pipeline (KXL) is completed, it will traverse the Mni Wiconi in two locations, cross tributaries that flow into the Missouri River, and endanger both our aquifers. There literally isn’t a drop of our water supply that isn’t threatened by KXL.

If that isn’t scary enough, uranium mining — licensed by the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations in the 1950s and ‘60s and tied to nuclear weapons manufacturing — has, at times, contaminated water near Pine Ridge. Extraction looms over us in multiple ways, threatening our water and threatening our health.

It probably won’t surprise you that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t test our water for uranium. That’s why the Oglala Sioux Tribe has conducted tests at more than a dozen locations on and surrounding Pine Ridge. We helped secure the experts and resources for the field testing and now await results from the University of South Dakota.

“Hot Water,” a powerful documentary available on Amazon, talks about the tragic effects of contamination on our people. The filmmakers have generously allowed us to share a special excerpt with you here.

Lakota Law

Oglala Lakota President Julian Bear Runner and I were both unlawfully arrested in 2017 for trying to stop the Dakota Access pipeline from traversing our Oceti Sakowin Oyate — with all charges now dismissed. In 2020, we pledge to keep fighting to safeguard water by attending to contamination issues and by doing all we can to stop KXL in its tracks.

I wish a happy New Year to you and yours, and I ask that you stay active with me in this battle. By holding our coalition together, we water protectors can and will continue to make a tremendous difference.

Wopila — Our gratitude for your attention,

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The 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.

 

 

Better Conservation Methods

https://thenarwhal.ca/how-a-resurgence-in-indigenous-governance-is-leading-to-better-conservation/

Far from the old mentality of ‘fortress conservation’ that deemed only empty landscapes as adequately protected, a new era of Indigenous-led conservation is not only better at protecting wild places but embraces the communities and cultures that have stewarded these lands since time immemorial

 

Heiltsuk-Coastal-Guardian-Watchmen-2200x1467.jpg

Members of the Coastal Guardian Watchmen inspect their crab traps near Bella Bella, B.C. Photo: Louise Whitehouse / The Narwhal

RE: North Dakota Public Service Commission

Mon, Nov 25, 2019 12:46 pm
Phyllis Young, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)

Thanks again to all of you who sent letters to the North Dakota Public Service Commission over the past weeks. First, nearly 20,000 of you put the pressure on to hold a public hearing about doubling Dakota Access pipeline oil. On Wednesday, November 13, before a packed house, the Commission held that hearing. Having received another 15,000 letters from you backing Standing Rock’s call to deny the expansion, and after 15 hours of public testimony, the Commission is now deliberating.

Lakota Law

Of course, the pipeline’s operators came prepared with a team of five bigshot attorneys and two engineers, all of whom did their best to obfuscate the implications of doubling oil flow through the pipeline. These Big Oil advocates spent hours talking around the obvious fact that driving twice the amount of oil through DAPL will increase the potential fallout from a spill. Please watch and share our new video, which clearly shows these obstructionist efforts to hide the truth.

After our team combined with tribal leaders and Sacred Stone Camp to organize the grassroots, more than 150 water protectors attended the hearing. Many Standing Rock tribal leaders — including Chairman Mike Faith and several council members — were in the room as well, and most stayed until everything had wrapped at 12:30 a.m.

The tribe put forward three expert witnesses who punched logical holes in Dakota Access’s effort to make expanding DAPL seem safe. Now, it’s up to the Commission to see through the nonsense and make the right decision.

Please stay tuned over the coming weeks. Our sources tell us that the PSC will take its time before making its call. If they understand their duty, they will do effective research and form a proper analysis. We will, of course, keep our ears to the ground and stay in touch with you about the decision and next steps in the fights against DAPL and Keystone XL.

Wopila tanka — thank you for helping us battle Big Oil!

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

 

Lakota People's Law Project

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

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.