NCAI Events and Resources in Preparation for Upcoming Federal-Tribal Consultations on Consultation Policy
In response to President Biden’s “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships,” the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is announcing several events and resources to support Tribal Nations in their efforts to shape federal tribal consultation policies to reflect a true government-to-government relationship. Events and resources include (scroll down for details): Webinar: “Federal Consultation Policies: Working towards Consent,” Wednesday, March 3, 2021 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST. Register here> Tribal Leader Caucus hosted by NCAI in preparation for the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) upcoming tribal consultation sessions. Thursday, March 4, 2021 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST. Register here> Tribal Leader Caucuses hosted by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC), the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IFAI), and NCAI in preparation for the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) tribal consultation sessions. Tuesday, March 9, 2021 and Thursday, March 11, 2021 from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST. Listing of Upcoming Federal Consultations. Please continue reading to learn more about each of these events and resources.
WEBINAR ANNOUNCEMENTFederal Consultation Policies: Working towards Consent March 3, 2021, 12-1:30 p.m. EST NCAI will hold a webinar on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 from 12-1:30 p.m. EST to discuss President Biden’s recent “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships” and its implications for federal consultation policy with Tribal Nations. Register here > Panelists will include: Michael Connor, Partner, WilmerHale, and previously served as Deputy Secretary of the Interior under President Barack Obama from 2014-2017 Colette Routel, Professor of Law, Co-Director, Native American Law & Sovereignty Institute, Mitchell Hamline School of Law Fawn Sharp, President, National Congress of American Indians, and President, Quinault Indian Nation Kim Teehee, Director of Government Relations, Cherokee Nation, and previously served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs for President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2012 This webinar will provide an overview of federal consultation policies for tribal consultation, explore ideas regarding the future of the government-to-government relationship between the U.S. and Tribal Nations, and share resources for how Tribal Nations can prepare for the upcoming series of consultations being convened by federal agencies that will focus on how to improve current consultation practices. NCAI Contact:Ryan Seelau, Senior Researcher, Partnership for Tribal Governance, email@example.com
Tribal Leader Caucus to prepare for DOI Consultation March 4, 2021, 12-1:30 p.m. EST NCAI will host a tribal leader caucus on Thursday, March 4, 2021 from 12-1:30 p.m. EST to give tribal leaders an opportunity to talk with one another and prepare for a series of Department of the Interior (DOI) consultations that will be taking place March 8-12. Information about the DOI consultations is available here. Registration for NCAI’s Tribal Leader Caucus is available here. The majority of the time during this event is designed to give tribal leaders and others space to discuss the issues they see concerning tribal consultation, and to discuss strategies on how to improve government-to-government consultations moving forward. NCAI Contact:Ryan Seelau, Senior Researcher, Partnership for Tribal Governance, firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Government Dates and Deadlinesfor Upcoming Consultations On January 26, 2021 President Biden signed a memorandum titled “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships” declaring, “It is a priority of my Administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, commitment to fulfilling Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations cornerstones of Federal Indian policy.” The Presidential Memorandum goes on to convey its commitment to fulfilling the consultation requirements of Executive Order 13175, a directive originally issued by President Clinton on November 6, 2000. President Biden’s Memorandum also directs “each agency” to submit “a detailed plan of actions the agency will take to implement the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175.” These plans “shall be developed after consultation by the agency with Tribal Nations and Tribal officials”. All plans are to be submitted to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by April 26, 2021. In March, several federal agencies are holding tribal consultation sessions and/or have deadlines related to their tribal consultation plans, including: March 8, 2021: DOI consultation focusing on Great Plains, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain Regions. March 8: 2021: Department of Defense (DOD) deadline for all written comments regarding tribal consultation. March 9, 2021: USDA consultationon their tribal consultation plan. March 10, 2021: DOI consultation focusing on Eastern, Eastern Oklahoma, and Southern Plains Regions. March 10, 2021: DOI Consultation focusing on Navajo, Southwest, and Western Regions. March 11, 2021: USDA consultation on their tribal consultation plan. March 12, 2021: DOI consultation focusing on Alaska, Northwest, and Pacific Regions. March 19, 2021: DOI deadline for all written comments regarding tribal consultation. March 24, 2021: Department of Transportation (DOT) consultation on their tribal consultation plan. March 26, 2021: DOT deadline for all written comments regarding tribal consultation. For more detailed information about these dates and deadlines, visit NCAI’s Consultation Support Center. NCAI Contact:Ryan Seelau, Senior Researcher, Partnership for Tribal Governance, email@example.com
Many across the country are battling the aftermath of a Feb. 13 winter storm as nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. are still without electricity or heat. The demand for power overwhelmed power grids unprepared for climate change.
Temperatures hovered in the single digits as snow and ice storms hit parts of Texas where winter temperatures seldom fall below 40 degrees.
The latest storm front was expected to bring more hardship to Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley before moving to the Northeast on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
“Most people here have electric stoves so there’s no way to heat or cook food; they heat their homes with electric heat, so there’s no heat,” said Ashley Fairbanks, White Earth Nation.
Originally from Minnesota, Fairbanks lives in San Antonio, where winter temperatures usually hover around 70-80 degrees. On Wednesday morning the temperature was around 28 degrees, she said.
“It got down to 6 degrees during the storm; the week before it was like 80 degrees,” she said
“The ice on roads finally melted today so we left the house in search of food. It really is like the end times out here.”
Customer lines at fast food establishments snaked around city blocks and half of San Antonio’s restaurants were closed; grocery stores have run out of essential food and many are closed, Fairbanks said.
“There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that area,” said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service, referring to Texas.
At least 30 people have died in the extreme weather this week, some while struggling to find warmth inside their homes. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide from car exhaust in their garage. Another perished as they used a fireplace to keep warm.
Record low temperatures were reported in city after city. Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and sticking around longer, and global warming caused by humans is partly responsible.
Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity. In Mexico, rolling blackouts Tuesday covered more than one-third of the country after the storms in Texas cut the supply of imported natural gas.
Tribes in Texas are working together and handling the challenges well, according to tribal leaders from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, the Tigua Ysleta Del sur Pueblo and the Lipan Apache Tribe contacted by Indian Country Today.
“Native people are extremely resilient. We’re all kind of tired of the cold weather, but we’re hunkered down and staying warm; at first it was beautiful but now we’re kind of done,” said Christi Sullivan, director of media and communications for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.
About 600 of the 1,375 tribal citizens live on reservation land about 90 minutes north of Houston.
“We urged people to prepare for the weather before it hit; one of our main concerns is our elders. We are calling and checking in on everyone making sure they’re okay,” said Sullivan.
Fortunately, only a portion of the reservation has been hit by the rolling electricity blackouts.
“So far, everyone is safe,” Sullivan said.
The worst U.S. power outages by far have been in Texas, where officials requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and planned to prioritize hospitals and nursing homes.
The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said.
Texas’ power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said electricity had been restored to 600,000 homes and businesses by Tuesday night. Many, however, remain without power.
The weather also caused major disruptions to water systems in the Texas cities of Houston, Fort Worth, Galveston, Corpus Christi and in Memphis, Tennessee, and Shreveport, Louisiana, where city fire trucks delivered water to several hospitals and bottled water was being brought in for patients and staff, KSLA News reported. In Houston, residents were told to boil their water — if they had power to do so — because of a major drop in water pressure linked to the weather.
In Abilene, Texas, firefighters were hampered by low water pressure as they tried to extinguish a house fire this week, the Abilene Reporter News reported.
“They had to watch that house burn,” City Manager Robert Hanna said Tuesday at a news conference.
“Last night we were lying in bed without power and we could hear emergency sirens going all night long,” Fairbanks said.
The Texas power blackouts could be a glimpse of the future as climate change intensifies winter extremes that overwhelm utility infrastructures unable to handle unseasonable demands, according to the New York Times.
“Hey, we’re not built for this,” said Robert Soto, vice chair of the Texas state recognized Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.
The tribe’s headquarters is based in McAllen, just north of Reynosa, Mexico, and near the Gulf of Mexico.
“Homes here aren’t built to handle the cold; for us a cold front is around 60 degrees. With this storm it’s been in the single digits and the 20s,” he said.
Thankfully everyone is safe, according to Soto.
The greatest needs for the tribe now are food and water. “We’re delivering food and water when and where we can; we don’t have a lot of funds but we’re doing the best we can,” Soto said.
Temperatures are expected to rise to the 70s by the weekend.
“We’ll be enjoying life and happy again; in the meantime please keep us in your prayers.”
Mary Annette Pember, a citizen of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today.
50 abandoned uranium mines + a mess = $220M from EPA
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced three contract awards for the clean-up of more than 50 abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation
Haleigh Kochanski Cronkite News
WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will award contracts worth up to $220 million to three companies for the cleanup of some of the hundreds of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.
Work could start later this year following the completion of assessments for mining sites coordinated between the EPA and the Navajo Nation’s environmental agency, the federal agency said.
This week’s announcement is just the latest in years of efforts to clean up the mines, the toxic legacy of Cold War mining in the region. More than 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined in the region, according to the EPA, which said more than 500 mines were ultimately abandoned.
“From World War II until the end of the Cold War, millions of tons of uranium were mined on Navajo lands, exposing mine workers and their families to deadly radiation,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Arizona, whose district includes the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation.
“As a result, high rates of cancer, birth defects, and contaminated water sources remain a reality for residents of the Navajo Nation even now,” O’Halleran said in a statement on the contracts.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez released a statement following the announcement.
“The Navajo people have endured decades of radiation exposure and contamination caused by uranium mining and production that has taken the lives of many former miners and downwinders and continues to impact the health of our children,” Nez said. “We appreciate the U.S. EPA’s efforts to create incentives and opportunities for Navajo Nation residents by working with the contracted companies to develop training programs for our people and businesses to promote professional growth related to abandoned mine clean-ups.”
The tribe said the cleanup sites are in New Mexico’s Grants Mining District and in 10 chapters located on the Navajo Nation, which was the primary focus of uranium extraction and production activities for several decades beginning in the 1950’s.
The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts were awarded to contractors that are classified as small businesses, two of which are owned by Native Americans, the EPA said. Contracts were awarded to the Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture, Environmental Quality Management Inc. and Arrowhead Contracting Inc.
Terms of the contracts require the companies to develop training programs “for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth” in areas related to the cleanup work. The companies have also partnered with local businesses on the project, the EPA said.
The agency said it worked closely with Navajo Nation to develop contracts that would incentivize the creation of employment opportunities for Navajo residents in order to build local economic and institutional capacity.
The majority of funding for the contracts comes from a nearly $1 billion settlement made in 2015 with Kerr McGee Corp. for the cleanup of more than 50 mines in Nevada and on the Navajo Nation that the company and its successor, tronox, were responsible for.
From the late 1940s through the 1960s, Kerr-McGee mined more than 7 million tons of ore on or near the Navajo Nation, leaving behind uranium mine sites that included contaminated waste rock piles. Exposure to uranium in soil, dust, air, and groundwater, as well as through rock piles and structural materials used for building can pose risks to human health, according to the EPA.
Mining stopped for the most part decades ago, and the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining on its lands in 2005. But the cleanup effort has lingered. The EPA launched five-year programs in 2007 and 2014 to study the issue and identify the biggest risks, and the agency last year added abandoned Navajo uranium mines to its list of Superfund sites “targeted for immediate, intense action.”
Representatives of Indigenous environmental groups did not respond to requests for comment and an official with the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club said she was not familiar enough with the contracts to comment – but did express concerns that there is no federal standard for what mine cleanup entails.
A regional EPA official said that the “contract awards mark a significant step in this ongoing work.”
“EPA continues to work with the Navajo Nation EPA and local communities to address the legacy of abandoned uranium mines,” said Deborah Jordan, acting regional administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest office, in Thursday’s statement.
O’Halleran welcomed the announcement.
“I am glad to see my oversight efforts have pushed the EPA to make these critical investments,” he said in a statement Friday.
Victory! Several reputable news outlets have announced that president-elect Joe Biden plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) on his first day in office. From all of us here at the Cheyenne River Nation to you, wopila tanka! Thank you so much for staying with us and keeping the pressure on Washington, D.C. to do right by Lakota Country. We only achieve huge wins like this by speaking out together.
Please watch this new film by our friends at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Earthjustice, written and directed by Josué Rivas. Our pipeline fight won’t end until we win justice for Standing Rock, too.
Rescinding KXL’s permit is a promising early signal that the new administration is listening to our concerns and will take issues of climate and Indigenous justice seriously. We have to insist that it not stop there. It’s also high time to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) once and for all.
Nearly 13,000 of you have already signed onto our petition telling the Biden-Harris administration to end KXL and DAPL. Once the KXL decision is official, we’ll adjust the petition to thank our new leadership in D.C. for its action while remaining insistent that DAPL come next. We stand in solidarity with our relatives at Standing Rock and allied organizations like Earthjustice, which represents Standing Rock in its legal battle to stop DAPL. The two co-produced this powerful new video and asked us to share it. Please take a moment to watch.
In this hour, victory is undeniably sweet. I think it’s safe to say we needed some good news! But, as the actions of many over the past days and years have demonstrated, we must not let down our guard. Our mission to end the devastation wrought by pipelines on our Grandmother Earth — and on our Lakota families — won’t be finished until we dig DAPL out of our sacred lands. We will stay ever vigilant, and I thank you for supporting us every step of the way.
Wopila tanka — our enduring gratitude for helping us fight and win!
Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
Environmental activist Winona LaDuke (C) and water protectors stand in front of the construction site for the Line 3 oil pipeline near Palisade, Minnesota, on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)
Water protectors were arrested Thursday after halting construction at a Minnesota worksite for Enbridge’s Line 3 project by locking themselves together inside a pipe segment.
“I refuse to be complicit in settler colonialist practices, and feel that I have to put my body on the line to protect Indigenous communities’ sovereignty and all of our futures.” —Abby Hornberger, water protector
“After moving to Minnesota to attend college and study environmental science, I was excited to be in a place where people valued protecting the Earth and finding a viable future. What I found, however, was a state that had formed ‘ambitious’ climate goals yet endorsed one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, tar sands oil,” water protector Abby Hornberger said in a statement. “I realized that Indigenous ways of knowing and practicing harmony with the environment are continuously ignored.”
KFGOreports that Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said two protesters who were taken into custody on Thursday now face charges of trespassing and obstructing.
Hornberger explained that “the Line 3 pipeline far outweighs all clean energy initiatives and progress being made in renewable energies. Line 3 will destroy Minnesota’s essential clean water resources for future generations and will ultimately drive us into climate doom. Education and spreading awareness is no longer enough to create meaningful change for me.”
Indigenous and environmental activists have long opposed the Canadian company’s efforts to replace an aging oil pipeline with a larger one running from Alberta, through North Dakota and Minnesota, to Wisconsin—noting Enbridge’s track record on spills and that cultural maps indicate “numerous sacred and significant sites lie in the path of the Line 3 project.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has come under fire from Indigenous and climate leaders in recent months as the state has approved key permits that Enbridge needs to complete the new Line 3, especially given the Democratic governor said publicly in February of 2019 that projects like this one “don’t just need a building permit to go forward, they also need a social permit.”
As some water protectors on Thursday protested inside a pipe segment a few miles from a man camp in Backus, “dozens more held space,” according to the Giniw Collective. The group also pointed out that “Enbridge is working 24 hours per day at several worksites, as a pending injunction to halt work while tribally led lawsuits are heard has yet to be decided.”
Water protector Andrew Lee said that he participated in the action againt Line 3 on Thursday “to protect the treaties that my ancestors failed to uphold.”
“I’ve learned over the course of this year that Tim Walz isn’t going to protect us, the government of Minnesota isn’t going to protect us, and the federal government isn’t going to protect us,” Lee continued. “I believe it is my duty, as a colonizer and as a person with the privilege, to do so, to put my body on the line to stop the Enbridge Corporation from building this pipeline.”
Thursday’s action came after eight people were arrested on Saturday, when scores of water protectors and Anishinaabe jingle dress dancers gathered at the Mississippi River, then walked onto a Line 3 worksite. According to a statement from organizers:
After praying and sharing a healing jingle dance, water protectors went to Haypoint, Minnesota, where Enbridge is actively boring under Highway 169 on its way to the Willow and Mississippi Rivers.
Construction stopped as water protectors held space and documented irregularities in the pipe being put into the ground. Nearly 30 police squad cars from multiple counties and the Department of Natural Resources were onsite.
The statement, which confirmed the eight arrests, also said that “one arresting officer in a Cass County uniform without a badge refused to put on a face mask and grinned at the crowd as he held a zip-tied water protector. Enbridge’s worksites and man camps have quickly become hotspots for Covid-19 in Aitkin County.”
While critics of Line 3 and similar projects have long raised health and safety concerns—including about the well-documented connection between man camps and the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women—the pandemic, which has hit Indigenous communities hard, has further fueled opposition.
Activists are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to stand up for those “on the frontlines of fossil fuel racism and the climate crisis” by stopping Line 3. On Thursday, more than 75 Indigenous women leaders wrote to the next president, urging him to block Line 3 and two other projects that “pose grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, sacred water and land, the global climate, and the public health crises within our communities, which have been greatly exacerbated by Covid-19.”
As Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and a signatory to the letter, put it: “The Biden administration can uphold their climate justice claims by acting to stop Line 3, stop Keystone XL, and stop Dakota Access Pipeline, now.” Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
Over 75 Indigenous Women Urge Biden to Stop Climate-Wrecking Pipelines and Respect Treaty Rights
“Joe Biden, we are asking you to stand on the right side of history and humanity by putting an immediate end to the deadly pipelines destroying our Earth, our communities, and all life.” byJessica Corbett, staff writer 12 Comments
“We have shown we are willing to risk our liberty and freedom and put our bodies on the line to blockade and stop construction of these dirty oil and gas projects, to ensure we have a clean future for our children,” said Kanahus Manuel of the Tiny House Warriors. (Photo: Tiny House Warriors/Facebook)
In a joint letter Thursday, more than 75 Indigenous women called on President-elect Joe Biden to immediately demonstrate his “commitment to fulfilling the U.S. treaty obligations and ending the reign of fossil fuel extraction in our tribal territories.”
The women leaders focus on the Line 3, Keystone XL (KXL), and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipeline projects. Long opposed by local tribes, environmentalists, and landowners, “these three pipelines pose grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, sacred water and land, the global climate, and the public health crises within our communities, which have been greatly exacerbated by Covid-19,” says the letter (pdf).
Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation and the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) is among the dozens of women who signed on to the letter. The message to the next president, who will be sworn in next week, comes just a day after the historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump for inciting a siege of the U.S. Capitol while Congress was certifying Biden’s electoral victory.
“After witnessing the violent attempted insurrection on January 6th, 2021, and seeing ‘white privilege’ on full display,” Camp-Horinek said of how the pro-Trump mob was treated by law enforcement, “I am acutely reminded of the drastic contrast of response that Indigenous peoples experienced at Standing Rock where we were attacked by dogs, maced, shot at with rubber bullets, strip searched, put in dog kennels when arrested, and our bodies marked with numbers for peacefully protecting our water and lands.”
The letter notes the record-breaking heat, wildfires, and hurricanes of the past year; that the Biden administration must take seriously the climate emergency, including by exceeding the goals of the Paris agreement; and Indigenous knowledge and scientific warnings that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is a necessity.
“Massive pipeline projects such as Keystone XL, Line 3, and DAPL,” the letter declares, “are not in alignment with the natural laws or with meeting these commitments.”
Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of Giniw Collective, is on the frontlines of the fight against Line 3. “One of Trump’s first actions in office was reauthorizing oil pipelines through Native lands,” she said. “The Biden administration can uphold their climate justice claims by acting to stop Line 3, stop Keystone XL, and stop Dakota Access Pipeline, now.”
The three pipelines would not only “emit catastrophic amounts of carbon dioxide annually,” worsening both the health of surrounding communities and the climate crisis, but also specifically endanger Indigenous women and girls.
“Already, our communities are dealing with the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) and our families are impacted without the support of federal or state agencies,” the letter explains. “We still have daughters, aunties, mothers, cousins, and two-spirit relatives who have never been found and whose perpetrators have never been brought to justice. There is clear evidence that the epidemic of MMIW is directly linked to fossil fuel production.”
The letter points to studies and reporting that have shown the so-called “man camps” of temporary laborers drawn to a particular area to work on fossil fuel projects “lead to increased rates of sexual violence and sexual trafficking of Indigenous women and girls, as well as an influx of drug trafficking.”
“These pipelines are the outward manifestation of the rape of not only Mother Earth, but the very real rape of our people.” —Joye Braun, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and IEN
The raging coronavirus pandemic raises additional health and safety concerns. “Indigenous Peoples across the U.S. are experiencing the devastating impact of the virus’s spread due to colonial policies and practices that have led to historically underfunded healthcare programs and significant health disparities,” the letter says. “Moving forward with pipeline construction of Line 3 or KXL will only exacerbate the issues Indigenous communities already endure.”
“These pipelines are the outward manifestation of the rape of not only Mother Earth, but the very real rape of our people,” said Joye Braun of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). “From our bodies to the land and water we all need to survive, they must be stopped to prove this new president, indeed the new administration and electors, are serious about real climate change.”
All three pipelines “are also in clear violation of our treaty rights and all are moving forward without the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous tribes and nations,” the letter notes, referring to a right defined by a United Nations resolution allowing Indigenous Peoples to weigh in on actions impacting their communities.
Indigenous women “are the first to be impacted and have voiced a collective no consent for these pipelines to invade our tribal lands,” said Kanahus Manuel of the Secwepemc and Ktunaxa Nations, Secwepemc Women Warriors, and Tiny House Warriors. “We have shown we are willing to risk our liberty and freedom and put our bodies on the line to blockade and stop construction of these dirty oil and gas projects, to ensure we have a clean future for our children.”
The letter informs Biden that there are five actions he can take to uphold Indigenous sovereignty, align his administration with the goals of the Paris agreement and exceed its agenda, and keep fossil fuels in the ground:
Fulfill your promise and rescind all permits for Keystone XL pipeline.
Order a review of the Section 404 and 408 permits for the Line 3 pipeline.
Shut down all DAPL operations and order the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a thorough Environment Impact Statement for DAPL.
Issue a presidential memoranda to halt construction and operations of the Keystone XL, Line 3, and DAPL fossil fuel pipeline projects, including the construction of temporary housing for workers, also known as “man camps.”
Take executive action requiring federal agencies to engage in a process of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of American Indian and Alaska Native Indigenous Nations, as laid out by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“We have been conquered, colonized, killed, dehumanized, and yet we continue forward,” said signatory Christina Valdivia-Alcalá, who is Mexican Indigenous/Chicana, founder and director of Tonantzin Society, and a city councilwoman in Topeka, Kansas. “President Biden, help make right the injustice set upon our Indigenous Peoples.”
As Ashley (McCray) Engle of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma/Oglala Lakota Nation put it: “Joe Biden, we are asking you to stand on the right side of history and humanity by putting an immediate end to the deadly pipelines destroying our Earth, our communities, and all life.”
“We are asking you to honor the treaties, tribal sovereignty, and our shared commitment to being good future ancestors,” said Engle, also an IEN Green New Deal organizer and Stop the Plains All American Pipeline founder. “We are counting on you to be the climate president we all need. Future generations are depending on each of us to do what’s right. The time is now to do your part.”
This post has been updated with comment from Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of Giniw Collective. Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.
I hope you’re staying safe as we begin this new year. It’s been a wild election season, culminating with Tuesday’s Senate races in Georgia and Wednesday’s insurrection at the Capitol. Sadly, it’s inevitable that many of Trump’s (mostly white) followers will get away with their seditious actions in D.C. — meanwhile, a pair of young, Native activists here at the Cheyenne River Nation face charges after nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Also on Wednesday, police arrested Cheyenne River tribal member Oscar High Elk (30 years old) and charged him on 12 counts, including felony aggravated assault, though he committed no acts of violence. Now, he faces a maximum of 23 years in prison. How wrong it would be should either one of these young water protectors serve time for standing against a Canadian pipeline which would provide little economic value to Americans and threaten Unci Maka.
This glaring disparity in our country between how law enforcement treats us Natives and other people of color as opposed to whites underlines the urgency of our struggle. We must take every opportunity to secure justice for Black and brown communities as the Trump era comes to an ignominious end. If you have not already done so, please sign our petition to the Biden transition team telling the president-elect: It’s time to end KXL and DAPL once and for all. We hope you’ll stay with us — and with our young activists — in the fight for environmental justice.
You can also share our call to action via social media by clicking the buttons below:
Wopila tanka — thank you for supporting our struggle! Mni wiconi.
Madonna Thunder Hawk Cheyenne River Organizer The Lakota People’s Law Project
As a violent mob backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday with what appeared to be relative ease, many in Indian Country took to social media to point out drastic differences of past treatment by law enforcement of water protectors and other peaceful protestors.
In a chaotic scene in Washington, D.C., that lasted for hours, dozens of Trump supporters rushed the famous building, causing lawmakers to scramble for safety and the building to be locked down.
Videos posted on social media show a violent mob, many wearing Trump gear, knocking down police barriers and damaging building property. The mob even reached the Senate floor and posed for photos, while one video showed police taking a selfie photo with members of the mob.
One person was shot and killed at the Capitol, The Associated Press reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. Police eventually used tear gas and percussion grenades to clear people from the grounds ahead of a curfew in Washington.
The district’s police chief said at least 13 people were arrested, and five firearms had been recovered during the pro-Trump protests. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Cherokee, of Oklahoma, told ABC News that he was inside and spoke with some of the Trump supporters. A photo posted on social media shows Mullin behind civilian-dressed law enforcement with guns drawn and aimed at the door. “It’s fortunate that a lot more civilians didn’t get shot because (Capitol) police showed a great restraint by not doing so. A great restraint.”
Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, of Oklahoma, said he was outraged by the “lawless protests,” and it’s not the “American way.”
“While Americans have the right to passionately voice their views & peacefully dissent in protest, I strongly condemn the perpetrators of this destructive & violent activity,” Cole said in a tweet.
Critics, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, say at least some of the scene was a stark contrast to what water protectors and treaty defenders have faced over the years, specifically at Standing Rock in 2016, where law enforcement repeatedly used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
More than 760 arrests were made in southern North Dakota during the height of protests in 2016 and 2017. At times, thousands of pipeline opponents gathered in the region to protest the $3.8 billion project to move North Dakota oil to Illinois, but the effort didn’t stop the project.
NDN Collective CEO and President Nick Tilsen, who was arrested during a rally against Trump’s visit to the Black Hills in July, didn’t hold back on Twitter.
“If these were Black, Brown and Indigenous people they would of killed us already; read between the lines people,” Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, said in a tweet.
Everett Baxter, Omaha Tribe of Nebraska chairman, said Natives speaking their mind get arrested, while the Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., “will probably get pardons.”
Baxter also questioned Nebraska state leaders in their involvement at Standing Rock.
“The Nebraska State Patrol sent officers to aid North Dakota’s law enforcement against the water protectors during (the) Standing Rock standoff,” Baxter posted on Facebook. “Will Nebraska do the same to aid the law enforcement of the Washington D.C. riots? Not likely.”
On Twitter, writer, actor and producer Azie Mira Dungey, Pamunkey, called out law enforcement’s response at the Capitol.
“Police literally worked harder to make sure a private company could build an oil pipeline on Native land, and to stop black people from walking through their own neighborhood asking politely not to be murdered, than to stop a few hundred white men from taking over the US Capitol,” Dungey said in a tweet.
Nick Estes, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, is a college professor and host of “The Red Nation” podcast. He responded to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s tweet criticizing the violence. Her post included the comment, “We are all entitled to peacefully protest.”
“What? You pushed laws to criminalize protest in SD and pushed conspiracy theories about stolen election,” Estes said.
Comedian Lucas Brown Eyes, Oglala Lakota, tweeted photos of water protectors being attacked by law enforcement at Standing Rock.
“As we watch Trumpers storm the capital with guns. Just a reminder, this is what America did to Native protesting for clean water,” Brown Eyes said.
2020 was a very difficult year personally and world-wide. There was some very excellent progress as we kept up the effort to end fracking and oil pipelines. Let 2021 be an even better year. Even in the face of great adversity, we will keep fighting for peace, health, and WATER.
People protest against the Enbridge Energy Line 3 pipeline project outside the governor’s mansion on November 14, 2020, in St. Paul, Minnesota.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images
Mike Ludwig talks to Whitney Gravelle, an attorney for the Bay Mills Indian Community, about the fight against Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.
Climate Front Lines
To Protect Great Lakes, Michigan Tribes Oppose Enbridge Line 5 Pipelines
Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity. Copy may not be in its final form.
Mike Ludwig: Welcome to Climate Front Lines, the podcast exploring the people and places on the front lines of the climate crisis. My name is Mike Ludwig. I’m a reporter for Truthout.org. President-elect Joe Biden announced this week that former environmental protection agency administrator Gina McCarthy will serve as his top climate advisor.
The actions from environmentalists have been mixed to say the least on one hand McCarthy was the EPA administrator during the Obama administration. When regulators attempted to put caps on the energy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions for the first time, of course, the Trump administration crushed all these efforts and then some, and on the other hand, McCarthy was EPA administrator during the Obama administration.
When the word fracking became a household term for years, fracking opponents accused the EPA under Obama and McCarthy of suppressing research. Showing that fracking for oil and gas is a threat to drinking water. Still fracking caused an explosion of fossil fuel production across the U.S., and Canada was pushing to export more oil and gas at the same time.
All of these fossil fuels needed places to go in ways to get there and suddenly fights against new oil and gas pipelines erupted across the nation. The Keystone XL pipeline, for example, became a political hot potato under president Obama as tribal governments and environmental activists launched fierce campaigns against the project.
During the last days of the Obama administration. Law enforcement moved to crush the uprising at standing rock where the standing rock, Sioux tribe and other indigenous led activists resisted the Dakota access pipeline for months and drew international attention to the legacy of colonialism in the Americas.
Activists continue to take direct action to stop oil and gas pipelines under President Trump, who made it clear that the fossil fuel industry had a friend in the White House. Those days are coming to an end, the campaigns to prevent the industry from establishing new infrastructure and locking in decades of fossil fuel production will continue under president Biden.
Like other struggles on the front lines of climate change, many of these campaigns are led by indigenous activists. One such campaign can be found in Northern Michigan where the Canadian firm Enbridge wants to extend the life of line five to underwater oil and gas pipelines that have operated for decades in the straits of Mackinac, the narrow body of water between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsula. In 2018, a ship’s anchor struck line five causing damage and alarming the public lion five runs under what it’s essentially headwaters for much of the great lakes and oil spill in this region could spell disaster for ecosystems and fresh water supplies. Enbridge wants to build a quote unquote tunnel over line five so the pipelines can continue operating for years to come. But the company is facing opposition from a coalition of tribal governments, along with Michigan’s democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer. To learn more, I spoke with Whitney Gravelle, an attorney for the Bay Mills Indian community, a Northern Michigan tribe that has fished the waters flowing above Line 5 for generations.
Whitney Gravelle: So Bay Mills Indian community is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in the upper peninsula of Michigan. So we’re in the Northern most part of the state. Um, and as I mentioned earlier, uh, closer to Canada than the rest of the state, but we have been here since time immemorial.
So this is where the Aboriginal people of the Bay Mills Indian community, Ojibwe Anishinaabe, have always resided and lived and been a part of the environment and culture here within the state of Michigan.
ML: Can you give us a little bit of background on the Enbridge line five? Um, how much construction has been completed, maybe where you all are at, in the permitting process?
WG: Yeah. So Enbridge line five, the dual pipelines that run beneath the straits of Mackinac have actually been in existence since 1953. That is when Enbridge first saw an easement from the state of Michigan and actually placed the pipelines into the water. Since then in early 2018, there was actually an anchor strike that struck the pipelines in caused some severe damage.
And that was the first time that the tribes or the public in the state of Michigan were actually made aware of the pipelines. So they had been around, you know, for almost 60 years and all of a sudden, everyone was made aware of what was actually going on beneath the water. Uh, Which was really surprising, not only to the tribe, but to the public.
And then it started raising all of these concerns of why did we have an oil and natural gas pipeline running through the straits of Mackinac, running through the Great Lakes, which is the largest freshwater body in the world. And a critical part of not only the environment of the state of Michigan, but also our economy up here.
ML: Right, and I was watching the video you sent me, that fishing is a big part of the economy where, where you live or for your community.
WG: Yes, that is correct. So Bay mills is actually a signatory of the 1836 treaty of Washington. And in that treaty, there were five different tribes. Females included that seeded 14 million acres to the United States government for the creation of the state of Michigan.
If we had not signed that treaty back in 1836, uh, the state of Michigan would not have. Um, become part of the union, essentially during that time, what we did when we signed the treaty of Washington, however, is we reserved rights on reservation and offers a ration to fish hunt and gather throughout the seed and territory, which is essentially that 14 million acres, that 14 million acres also includes the waters of the great lakes.
And in reserving the. The right to fish in the great lakes, what our ancestors were doing was actually preserving a way of life for our people. That is something that we have always done commercially as well as subsistently in order to provide and feed our community.
ML: And you mentioned earlier, other pipelines, have you drawn inspiration or, uh, maybe some tactical knowledge just from seeing other indigenous led fights against pipelines in the U S.
WG: Absolutely. Um, you know, the most. The largest example that comes to mind was the No DAPL that took place in the Dakotas against that pipeline. That was the first time that the, the indigenous community had come together and rallied around one another in order to stop a pipeline. And there were a lot of atrocities that occurred in the no dapple protest, but they ultimately succeeded.
Now that pipeline is still in litigation. Uh, over there in the Dakotas, they’re still figuring out what those issues, but the strength that those indigenous communities found amongst each other. We also had citizens from the mills Indian community that went out to the Dakotas to support them. We had donations coming from our own tribal community.
It made us realize that if we could draw upon the same strength that we might be able to then get line five, the dual pipelines out of the straits of Mackinac.
ML: And they’re there. Enbridge is trying to extend these lines, right? That is what you’re fighting right now.
WG: Yeah. So originally this has actually been a really rapid and moving process here in the state of Michigan, but originally in 2018, when those anchor strikes had occurred, that. As I mentioned brought awareness to the general public and the state of Michigan of the dangers of these pipelines. Uh, what Enbridge started doing then was coming up with other alternatives in a way to keep the pipeline going underneath the streets of Mackinaw and what the mills Indian community is actively fighting right now is a proposed tunnel project.
So essentially Enbridge wants to build a tunnel beneath the straits of Mackinac that would then house these dual pipelines, still keeping them. You know, underneath the water, underneath the soil, but endangering our Great Lakes.
ML: Right. And as, um, and as a community, I imagine there, isn’t just the sense of you. You want to preserve and protect the water for fishing and, uh, for the area that you live, but you’re also fighting to protect the entire great lakes system, really that, that flows from that area. And also the climate.
WG: Absolutely. You know, you hear the term often that tribal communities are often the first stewards of the environment, the first stewards of the land, and that is an obligation and a duty that our communities and the different indigenous populations take very seriously.
We actually have a teaching amongst our people. It’s called the seven generations teaching. But what it asks you to do is to look seven generations into the future for every action that you take. So whether it be a pipeline or driving a car, you know, or constructing something or polluting or recycling, you are supposed to examine that decision that you do and determine how.
Are the actions that I am taking today, having an impact on my children’s children and their children, seven generations into the future. And that teaching is so ingrained into our society. That what it really. Has us do and requires of us is to reflect upon the impacts that we are doing towards the future, which is a direct correlation to climate change, you know, to global warming, uh, to being a steward for the environment.
What are we doing today that will provide the most sustainable future for our children?
ML: And where are we with the fight? I know that. Enbridge filed a lawsuit recently. I think it was against governor. Whitmer correct for, um, attempting to block the pipeline. And then there’s also some permits that are in the air.
WG: Yeah. So most recently, just a few weeks ago, Governor Whitmer actually revoked the easement for the dual pipelines in the streets and Makena first, the governor and the attorney general filed litigation on the easements. In state court, state of Michigan court, and then Enbridge responded by filing an action in federal court, essentially stating that the governor has no right to revoke the easement and that federal regulations over pipelines actually preempt any state law that may apply in terms of easement or regulation of water and lands.
Uh, dual and running along that there’s actually a litigation taking place before the Michigan public service commission, which females is directly involved in. And the Michigan public service commission is the governing body that will decide whether or not Enbridge can move the duel. Pipelines in the streets of Mackinaw into the tunnel.
Also running adjacent to that is there are two permits that are going before Eagle, which is a state regulatory agency in Michigan and also the United States army Corps of engineers to actually build and construct the tunnel. So first and bridge must receive permission from the Michigan public service commission to place the pipelines into the tunnel. And then they also need two permits approved by both the army Corps and Eagle in order to build the tunnel.
ML: And so, and those permits are, um, the decisions on those are going to be made next month I read. Is that correct? So you’re kind of like, this is a crucial time for your campaign.
WG: Yes, um, Eagle the environment, great lakes and energy division actually extended the deadline until January, 2021.
And then the army Corps is also evaluating that permit. Their process is a little bit longer, but they typically run very parallel to one another. So once we just see a decision from the Eagle state side, we will also see a decision come from the army Corps as well.
ML: One thing we’ve seen internationally. In the past few years is climate negotiators of the United nations and other intergovernmental organizations that are working on climate have come to recognize the leadership that indigenous people have in, in the movement for climate justice. And also in the effort to just preserve the planet, um, that indigenous knowledge, not just the United States, but across the world can be a guiding. For us in determining how to preserve land, to manage forests, to create carbon sinks, um, to do these things that can help us mitigate at least some of the impacts of climate change. Do you feel like when you’re, when you’re opposing this pipeline, that that does have climate implications, that you are part of a bigger movement and international recognition of, the, I guess, indigenous knowledge about land and about the areas that need to be preserved.
WG: Not at this moment in time. And I think that it is because our focus is so narrowed and lasered-in on the issues that we’re confronting here on the ground, in the state of Michigan. Um, but definitely the inspiration that we have seen from other indigenous communities, not only within the United States, but around the globe.
Have lent us strength in the, in the battles that we are engaging here on the front lines, we learn from their mistakes. We learn from their achievements. We learn from them as communities and how they engage their state or federal regulatory agencies. And we try to apply that here because I think as a people and looking at the teachings from indigenous communities, we’re all aligned that we’re here.
Uh, again, you know, reflecting upon that seven generation principle to continue to provide for our communities who have bet on this land since the beginning of time.
ML: Thanks for listening to Climate Front Lines. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, give us a like, and a share. You can also sign up for our free daily email firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe out there, friends.