‘Our hearts are heavy’

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/our-hearts-are-heavy-2HEKTR30gkSFkBWlx1uQoA?utm_source=maven-coalition&utm_medium=salish&utm_campaign=email&utm_term=notification&utm_content=featured

 

“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of our dear friend Karen. This is a shock, both to the many loved ones Karen leaves behind, and to the Cherokee Nation as a whole. As Cherokees, we all feel the weight of her loss, which is tragic and too soon,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “ Photo via Facebook. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr, Tribal Council Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez, Administrative Assistant Rae Wacoche, Self Governance Director Karen Ketcher and Government Relations Ethan Greene.

Indian Country Today

Oklahoma tops COVID-19-related news for Monday April 6, 2020
Facebook is where the news often breaks. Families tell their stories, as do tribes.

Monday the Cherokee Nation reported the death of its self-governance director, the first COVID-19-related death within the tribe’s health system.

Karen Ketcher, Cherokee, died Monday at age 70, according to the tribe. She previously worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The nation said Ketcher died of COVID-19 complications.

“Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the passing of our dear friend, Karen,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said on Facebook. “This is a shock, both to the many loved ones Karen leaves behind, and to the Cherokee Nation as a whole. As Cherokees, we all feel the weight of her loss, which is tragic and too soon.”

This is the tribe’s second death: A 55-year-old man died in mid-March outside of the Cherokee Nation’s health system.

The tribe announced an increase of 13 cases today Monday, bringing the total to 24 cases and two deaths. The tribe’s health system also has 11 ventilators.

The Choctaw Nation also has seen cases increases, with Chief Gary Batton announcing three new ones Monday. That brings the tribe’s total to 18 cases and 1 death.

The tribal nation had its first case March 26. The Choctaw Nation Health Service Authority is waiting for 49 test results, while 49 tests have come back negative.

Meanwhile, the Muckleshoot Tribe in Washington state had two cases as of April 2. Both will be in isolation for 14 days, and contact tracing has been done on both people, says the tribe.

Contact tracing is when health officials interview the infected about where they’ve been and who they may have had contact with. Dean Seneca, CEO of Seneca Scientific Solutions Plus, said during an interview on Indian Country Today’s newscast, that this method was effective when he was on the frontlines of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

In the Southwest, the Navajo Nation continues to see a jump in cases. On Monday, it had 30 new cases. This gives the tribal nation a total of 384 cases.

Nationwide, there are now 539 cases and 24 deaths in the Indian health system.

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In New Mexico, San Felipe Pueblo last week became one of the latest pueblos to issue a strict stay-at-home order for its community.

Thirty-two miles away is Zia Pueblo. Its leadership adopted similar guidelines in a weekend memo.

Zia Pueblo leadership confirmed Sunday that their pueblo had 11 confirmed cases.

In addition to a stay-at-home order, the pueblo has enacted a curfew that will remain in effect until further notice, according to its memo. Only essential works and those with medical appointments or emergencies can leave the pueblo, it says.

Zia Pueblo also says only two people per household can be designated to go shopping, and they cannot be elders or children. Tribal members can shop only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“We are a small, close-knit community with strong family connections. If the “Stay at Home” Order is not taken seriously or ignored, even by one person, more harm will be inflicted upon Zia Members,” the memo reads. “Please, our Zia People, abide by the ‘Stay at Home’ Order. Practice all social distancing guidelines and frequently follow through with personal hygiene recommendations set forth by Public Health experts.”

Joining other pueblos, Zia Pueblo has cancelled all Easter activities, including church services, dances and Easter egg hunts.

This weekend will look drastically different for residents of the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Department of Health has issued an emergency order implementing a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. Friday and ending at 5 a.m. Monday. Those who do not comply will be given a citation and fined, officials say.

“We are seeing way too many people contract the virus, and we need to step up measures to begin to reduce the numbers,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a press release. “Our health care system cannot manage the growing numbers of patients and those who need to be admitted. We continue to receive reports of people on the road and traveling with families to nearby border towns.”

The weekend curfew does not apply to essential employees. These employees, however, are required to show proof of identification from their employer on an official letterhead to be exempt from being penalized.

Tribe says to keep medical equipment in the region

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. issued the following statement in opposition to the executive order outlined by Governor Andrew Cuomo for taking vital resources and medical equipment away from Upstate New York hospitals for use downstate. A press release said:

“The Governor’s order flies in the face of the life-saving work our hospitals, doctors, nurses and first responders are risking their own health to perform every day. By preparing to send the National Guard to the region to demand our healthcare community relinquish ventilators and equipment, the Governor is signaling his willingness to sacrifice the lives and safety of our family and neighbors. He is creating a dangerous ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dynamic, and he is making his choice crystal clear.”

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Dalton Walker and Aliyah Chavez contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.

 

 

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.

Health Risk

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/first-nations-elections-amid-covid-19-1.5510443

Saskatoon

‘A huge health risk’: First Nations pressured to hold elections amid COVID-19 pandemic, say experts

Northern Sask. MP calls on government to assure First Nations they can postpone without fear of penalty

A number of First Nations are scheduled to hold elections across Canada in the coming weeks. Some say they don’t want to proceed but fear being cut off from federal government programs. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

First Nations are being pressured by the federal government to hold elections in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to legal experts and band officials.

One Saskatchewan First Nation is going ahead with a vote on Friday despite pleas from its own emergency management team to postpone for 30 days.

“They’re forcing First Nations into a really awful dilemma. This is a huge health risk,” said lawyer Maggie Wente, whose Ontario firm works with Indigenous communities across Canada.

A number of First Nations across the country are scheduled to go ahead with their elections in the coming weeks. Others, such as the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, already have. A few others, such as the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, are postponing.

In an internal email obtained by CBC News, Yves Denoncourt, acting director in the federal government’s Indigenous Governance Operations Directorate, said First Nations have the right to postpone their own elections but they aren’t allowed to extend the terms of the current leaders.

“At the end of the mandate, a First Nation will find itself dealing with a governance gap,” Denoncourt wrote in the email sent to more than two dozen government staff last week.

Officials instructed to clean tables ‘every 5-10 voters’

Denoncourt outlines steps for First Nations to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus: Election officials should supply 50 pens and pencils, and clean them after each use; voters should be encouraged to bring their own pens and pencils; and voting tables and screens should be cleaned “every 5-10 voters.”

Up to 50 people will be allowed into each polling station, although Denoncourt noted any stricter provincial orders would take priority. In Saskatchewan, for example, gatherings of more than 10 people were banned as of Thursday.

Wente said many of her First Nation clients are calling her in a panic. They don’t want to put people at risk, especially elders. But they are confused and afraid by the federal rules, she said.

Many wonder if the federal government will refuse to deal with their community in the event of a “governance gap,” and whether that will mean delaying or halting life-saving supplies or economic relief, Wente said.

“I mean, it sounded very threatening,” Wente said. “‘We’re not going to accept your government if you decide to extend your own term and so you should take sanitizer and pencils to the polls,’ which had a real kind of, ‘Let them eat cake,’ attitude, which I found really distasteful.”

Saskatchewan Conservative MP Gary Vidal said the elections go against the advice of medical experts trying to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vidal, whose riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River is home to one of the highest percentages of Indigenous people in Canada, said he has asked Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller to assure First Nations they can postpone these elections without repercussions from the federal government. But Vidal said there’s no indication Miller has done so.

“As a result, First Nations are feeling pressured to go ahead with these potentially dangerous elections,” he said in a written statement Thursday.

Miller was not available for an interview Thursday, according to his office.

‘Awkward and unfair situation,’ professor says

First Nations are right to be worried, said University of Saskatchewan law professor Dwight Newman, after CBC News showed him a copy of the email.

“There’s a real problem here. This isn’t the way other levels of government are being dealt with,” said Newman, who is a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional Law.

“This is an awkward and unfair situation where they seem to be under pressure to hold the elections.”

University of Saskatchewan professor Dwight Newman says First Nations are being treated differently by the federal government than other levels of government. (Dwight Newman)

In Saskatchewan, the Red Pheasant Cree Nation went ahead with its vote last week. In videos posted to social media, groups of a dozen people or more sat together on bleachers in the election hall, while volunteers sat shoulder-to-shoulder at tables without gloves or masks.

The Nekaneet First Nation vote took place on Wednesday. An official with Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation confirmed their 3,500 members will vote Friday.

The Beardy’s official, who spoke on condition their name was not used, said the band’s emergency management team called for a 30-day delay. But after election officials got legal advice, they decided they had to go ahead.

“All we can do now is recommend how to proceed safely,” the official said.

Indian Act has strict rules

Wente and Newman said the big problem is the federal Indian Act, which places strict rules on most aspects of First Nations governance, including fixed election terms.

Newman said cabinet could issue an order making exceptions in this case or in the case of all pandemics.

He said federal agencies could also announce they will recognize incumbent chiefs and councils for a fixed period of time. He said it could likely be done in a way that withstands challenges from other candidates.

Vanessa Adams, an official in the office of the Indigenous services minister, said in a written statement that the “health and welfare of Indigenous peoples is our sole focus.”

She also said they’ll “work to ensure there are no gaps in governance during this health crisis.”

But Adams would not say whether the government would reconsider its position on term limits for First Nations chiefs and councils.

 

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!

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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

 

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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.

‘Huge Victory’ for Standing Rock Sioux

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‘Huge Victory’ for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as Federal Court Rules DAPL Permits Violated Law

“This is what the tribe has been fighting for many months. Their fearless organizing continues to change the game.”

Thousands of water protectors and allies spent weeks at the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota in 2016 to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Reuters)

A federal judge handed down a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota on Wednesday, ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving federal permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The USACE must complete a full environmental impact study of the pipeline, including full consideration of concerns presented by the Standing Rock Tribe, the judge ruled. The tribe has asked the court to ultimately shut the pipeline down.

The court chastised the USACE for moving ahead with affirming the permits in 2016 and allowing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) crossing the Missouri River after President Donald Trump assumed office in 2017, without considering the expert analysis put forward by the tribe.

“After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win. It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet.”
—Mike Faith, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

The Standing Rock Sioux had raised concerns regarding the likelihood and danger of potential oil spills, DAPL’s leak-detection system, and the safety record of Sunoco Logistics, the company behind the pipeline. Sunoco “has experienced 276 incidents resulting in over $53 million in property damage from 2006 to 2016” and has “one of the lowest performing safety records of any operator in the industry,” the tribe’s experts found.

The federal ruling “validates everything the Tribe has been saying all along about the risk of oil spills to the people of Standing Rock,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman in a statement. “The Obama administration had it right when it moved to deny the permits in 2016, and this is the second time the court has ruled that the government ran afoul of environmental laws when it permitted this pipeline. We will continue to see this through until DAPL has finally been shut down.”

DAPL and the fight against the pipeline was the subject of international attention in 2016 when thousands of water defenders gathered at camps in North Dakota, facing a highly militarized police force armed with tanks, riot gear, rubber bullets, and other weapons.

Since Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s December 2016 order denying the permits and allowed the construction to be completed in June 2017, the tribe has challenged the permits and demanded the USACE conduct a full environmental analysis.

Wednesday’s ruling represented a “huge victory” for the tribe, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben tweeted.

“Such thanks to all who fight!” he wrote.

“After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith. “It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet. Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too, starting by actually listening to us when we voice our concerns.”

Others on social media celebrated the victory and applauded the “tireless efforts” of the campaigners, with the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America calling the decision the “absolute best possible outcome” of the court battle.

“This is why we never stop fighting,” Earthjustice president Abbie Dillen said.

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

 

The Coastal GasLink

Opinion

A worthwhile journey

The Coastal GasLink process was needlessly divisive

LNG Pipeline 20200301

It didn’t have to be this way.

After four days of meetings between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and British Columbia Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser, an agreement appears to be reached to acknowledge Wet’suwet’en traditional leaders as rights holders over their territory.

The dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline isn’t over by any means — the majority of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs still oppose the project and the agreement must be presented to their nation — but this is the first step to reconcile what had become a national stalemate between traditional Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state.

The implications of Canada and B.C. recognizing a traditional Indigenous government are enormous. This not only ratifies the 1997 Supreme Court Delgamuukw decision (which also determined the Wet’suwet’en hold title over 22,000 square kilometres of territory) but opens the doorway for First Nations traditional forms of government — virtually gutting one of the most central tenets of the Indian Act: the Chief and Council system.

Now, Canada and B.C. must invite the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to treaty negotiations over land. The future role of the Wet’suwet’en Indian Act chiefs and councils — most of whom signed “benefit agreements” to receive money and jobs as a result of the pipeline — is now uncertain.

In fact, the future of the Indian Act may be in doubt too. For decades, consecutive federal governments have promised to remove the 148 year-old legislation intended to assimilate “Indians” into Canada. Now, pressure will be on as some First Nations may refuse to govern themselves according to the chief and council model. This, above the pipeline project itself, may be the lasting legacy of Sunday’s agreement.

Recognizing Indigenous traditional governments also represents an ironic moment where Canada and B.C. will follow the “rule of law.” Not only did the Supreme Court recognize Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in 1997 but last November the province of BC unanimously adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples via Bill 41, “The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.”

If B.C. follows through on implementing the Declaration, they must reconcile that Indigenous peoples “have the right to self-determination” (Article 3), “have the right to autonomy or self-government” (Article 4), and “the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social, and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social, and cultural life of the State” (Article 5).

In this, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs may have shown Canada what reconciliation could look like.

The immediate question though is what’s this mean for the Coastal GasLink pipeline? The agreement doesn’t address that question directly and Coastal GasLink announced Sunday “construction will resume.”

Well Canada’s “duty to consult” under section 35 of the constitution is fulfilled, this will end in the courts.

This could be found through B.C.’s Bill 41, which directs the provincial government to appoint a member of the B.C. cabinet to “negotiate and enter into an agreement with an Indigenous governing body” over any use of Indigenous lands and resources, with the purpose to obtain “the consent of the Indigenous governing body before the exercise of a statutory power of decision.”

These negotiations could even include Indian Act chiefs and councils — appeasing political opponents and even some Wet’suwet’en who believe in them — but this will take time, energy, and resources. This may be exactly what Canada, B.C., and the Wet’suwet’en need — as cooler and calmer airs will likely be found.

Time, however, may be up for the Coastal GasLink’s $6.6-billion 670-kilometre pipeline project (190 kilometres cross Wet’suwet’en territory).

The cost of building the project is already exponentially increasing and if an alternative route is agreed upon this will add hundreds of millions more. Meanwhile, the price of oil and gas is dropping (especially with the coronavirus), the pipeline will consume a huge share of B.C.’s carbon budget, and fracking for gas and the burning of fossil fuels are lacking wide-scale public support.

Soon, the only argument for the pipeline will be within the subsidies, grants, and commitments Canada gives to the corporate sector — who will, in the end, choose profits over the jobs and money the project promises.

Sunday’s agreement may have come from discord, blockades, and a loss of investment but may result in a new relationship with Indigenous nations, the law being followed, and long-term savings due to the cancellation of an unsustainable project with much fewer benefits than advertised.

The journey may be worthwhile but the path was divisive — and it didn’t need to be.

niigaan.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

MMIW Healing Center: A Place for Remembrance

https://www.lakotalaw.org/resources/mmiw-healing-center

I recently wrote to you about my Tribe’s emergency declaration over Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children (MMIW/C) and its relation to the Keystone XL pipeline’s (KXL) incoming man camps. Today, I want to highlight another effort in my home state to bring about awareness and healing around these ongoing acts of genocide against the heart of our people.

Last month, my sister Mabel Ann and I attended an MMIW action in Rapid City. There, we met Lily Mendoza, co-founder of the Red Ribbon Skirt Society (RRSS), a grassroots collective dedicated to confronting the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, children, two-spirit, and transgender people. In 2019, they opened the MMIW Center for Healing, Prayer, and Remembrance — a small, permanent space to honor and grieve the people our community has lost. We invite you to watch and share our video, in which we interview Lily.

Lakota Law
Medicine Wheel riders and RRSS members honor their lost sisters.

The notion for the center came from an art installation curated just over a year ago. Around Valentine’s Day last year, RRSS hung 70 red dresses on cottonwood trees to symbolize our stolen sisters and relatives. What they discovered was the need for a space our community didn’t have, a space for people to go and reconnect.

Lily, who like me is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told us: “People were going there, amongst the dresses, and they were going there to pray and to remember those that they lost or those that are still missing. We’ve felt we need to do this then, to have a space for community to come.”

As you may know, Indigenous women, children, two-spirit, and transgender folks are more likely to be targeted by human traffickers and/or be the victim of a violent crime. And, all too often, when our relatives go missing, they also go missing in the news. But centers like the one in Rapid City can help us keep their memories alive.

Members of the collective also participated in the MMIW Medicine Wheel Ride last year — a massive motorcycle journey bringing together people from the four corners to mourn our lost relatives.

As I work with my fellow grandmothers in the Was’agiya Najin and others to organize our anti-KXL ground strategy at Cheyenne River, I ask you to continue to stand in solidarity with all my sisters. Stay with us for more information about our crisis, and help spread the word about this incredible group of women and their transformative space by watching and sharing the video.

Wopila tanka — my deep gratitude for your care and attention,

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Tribal Liaison
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Alaskan Mining

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/pebble-mine-is-on-the-fast-track-VI3WYw5cOEiNDu-m4wQsrw

https _images.saymedia-content.com_.image_MTY1ODQ3ODUxOTc5NTE0OTcz_pebble-mine-5---erin-mckittrick-aktrekkingcom-pebble-cc-by-sa-30-creativecommonsorg-licenses-by-sa-30

The area of the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay Alaska. (Photo: Erin McKittrick, Creative Commons)

Joaqlin Estus

One hundred miles to the west of the proposed mine site is Bristol Bay, home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery
Governmental agencies and tribes are reviewing a proposal to develop a huge mine in Alaska. The Pebble project would be the largest mine in North America and one of largest in the world. The open pit mine would be 2,500 feet, or 7.5 city blocks, long, and 13,000 feet, or 229 stories, deep. The project would include a transportation corridor, a port, a natural gas pipeline, and a heap of waste rock, or tailings, that reach 700 feet, or 64 stories, high.

It will take a large mine to dig up and process massive amounts of rock containing small amounts of valuable minerals. To get at the precious metals, which are valued at $345 to $500 billion, more than a billion tons of ore would be processed at the rate of 180,000 tons per day for 20 years. The Pebble Limited Partnership estimates the proposed site holds 67 million ounces of gold, 50 billion pounds of copper, and 3.3 billion pounds of molybdenum.

One hundred miles to the west of the proposed mine site is Bristol Bay, home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery. The fish return annually to the region’s multitude of rivers, lakes, streams and estuaries to spawn then die.

Alaska Natives have relied on salmon for thousands of years. It’s a major source of protein, and the mainstay of a way of life. The Yup’ik culture in the area has long revolved around fishing and sharing and preserving the harvest. The fishery is now also important to the thousands of people involved in the commercial harvest of salmon. In 2019, commercial fishermen harvested 43 million sockeye salmon valued at $306.7 million, the most in the history of the Bristol Bay fishery.

Seventeen miles from the proposed Pebble mine site is the village of Iliamna, with a population of 109. Leaders there want a seat at the table but remain neutral on the Pebble project itself. Fishermen, tribes, and other villages have come out in opposition. Among other issues, they’re concerned contaminated wastewater will seep through porous soils to the rivers that support salmon.

The prospect of the Pebble mine going forward worries Iliamna villager Louise Anelon, Yup’ik. “There’s a lot of things to worry about for me, as somebody that’s just so used to how it’s going, to how it is right now versus this project and all this noise and people and moving a lot of ground,” Anelon said. “Water could be affected and it’s just lots to worry about for me.”

Plus she said Pebble is coming on top of the effects of climate change: hotter, windier weather; fewer caribou; and late salmon runs. Analon said, “There’s a lot of stuff happening that we can’t see to the eye.

“Then we have this Pebble thing that’s potentially going to happen and that’s a two-time whammy,” Analon said. “I just am afraid for that to happen with so many changes already happening …. we know it’s going to be giving jobs to folks but it’s going to change our land, water, everything, forever. So that’s just my concern right there.

Still, Analon understands the position of many mine supporters. “No job opportunities, I think that’s what most of the folks out here are seeing,” Analon said.

pebble-eis+Cropped
Map of the project from draft Environmental Impact Statement

On Feb. 6, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is coordinating review of the permit applications, issued a preliminary final Environmental Impact Statement for a 45-day review period. This impact statement builds on and responds to comments made on a draft issued by the Corps last year. The preliminary final environmental impact statement was sent to regulatory agencies and tribes; it is not available to the public or the media.

Public interest in the Pebble project is high, and the amount of public input is enormous. Some 105,000 comments on the draft environmental impact statement were submitted. The list of agencies with oversight is long. And criticism of the draft environmental impact statement was widespread.

Some of the phrases about the draft environmental impact statement that cropped up in agency comments include: “lacks certain critical information,” or “substantial deficiencies and data gaps,” “provides inadequate support for several assumptions,” “underestimates impacts,” “would benefit from being corrected, strengthened or revised.”

One even calls the draft environmental impact statement “so inadequate as to preclude meaningful analysis.”

Under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, title to land was transferred to Native corporations to make money and issue dividends to shareholders. It’s unusual for a Native corporation to oppose resource development. Yet, the Alaska Native for-profit Bristol Bay Native Corporation came out in opposition to the proposed Pebble mine.

It said the proposal is flawed and deficient, but “… enough is known about the potential impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine project to conclude that it cannot be constructed in a way that would not cause significant adverse effects to Bristol bay and its fisheries.” Moreover, the project would “pose too great a risk to our Native way of life and the cultural, subsistence, economic, and ecological resources of the Bristol Bay Region.”

The Native corporation went on to say that it will “not extend to the Pebble Limited Partnership any permission to occupy or trespass our lands or make use of our subsurface resources.”

The U.S. House weighed in with a rider to the 2020 appropriations bill.

The rider said adverse impacts to Alaska’s world-class salmon fishery and to the ecosystem of Bristol Bay, Alaska, are unacceptable. The rider stated all the gaps and deficiencies in the draft environmental statement must be addressed. Otherwise, it encouraged agencies to “exercise their discretionary authorities, which include EPA’s enforcement authority under the Clean Water Act, at an appropriate time in the permitting process to ensure the full protection of the region.”

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaking during a Bristol Bay Salmon Week celebration in Washington on Sept. 18, 2019 said if the agencies are unable to address the concerns, then a permit should not be issued. “What we all need to be able to believe is that the science that drives the process can be trusted,” she said, “whether it is this for this project or any other project that is out there.”

Alannah Hurley, Yup’ik, is executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium of 15 tribes in the area of the mine. She said the preliminary final environmental impact statement doesn’t meet the standard set by Congress. She said it continues to have significant data gaps, and the analysis and studies that agencies identified as problematic have not been addressed.

“The reality is we’re facing a process that is ignoring the concerns of Bristol Bay, ignoring the concerns of other scientists across these federal agencies,” Hurley said. “And now we’re dealing with a Corps who is ignoring Congress as well, and they need to be held accountable.”

She said the root of the problems is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is determined to get permits issued as soon as possible, no matter what the consequences.

“The big take home is that this process has been rushed from the get go,” Hurley said. “If the Corps remains on its published calendar, we will have a permit in two and a half years for the largest mine in North America, and at the headwaters of the last great sockeye salmon fishery left on the face of the planet.”

Hurley compared the Corps handling of the Pebble proposal to review of permit applications for another proposed gold mine in Alaska. Donlin “was much more of a regular process,” Hurley said. “And that took almost seven years to complete. Yet it’s a fraction of the size of what Pebble is proposing here.” (The average review period is 4.5 years according to the White House Council on Environmental Quality.)

Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier, in a prepared statement said, “Comments that the Corps ignored comments submitted on the draft [environmental impact statement] were incorrect and irresponsible. Just because some of the groups opposed to Pebble do not like the conclusions … does not mean that the is not valid. Rather, the work on this issue is sound. It is defensible and it should be commended for its completeness.”

Collier said the preliminary final environmental impact statement supports the Pebble Partnership’s views. “The information in the near final report was positive and demonstrates the project can be done without harming the Bristol Bay fishery and would be beneficial to communities closest to the project.”

The state of Alaska favors the Pebble project. In Dec. 2019, CNN reported that Governor Mike Dunleavy used materials, sometimes verbatim, provided to him by the Pebble Partnership in comments to the Corps. A Pebble spokesperson told the Juneau Empire that such collaboration is common.

The final environmental impact statement is due for release in mid-2020. The Corps’ options are to issue a permit, issue one with conditions, or deny the application. A Record of Decision will come at least 30 days after the Final Environmental Impact Statement is released, probably in the Fall.

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

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