DAPL’s deficient leak detection system

It appears that we’re in for a long, hot summer. People are rising up. Colonizer statues and racist mascots are coming down. And finally, winds of change are making their way to the D.C. courts. As you know, a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) shut down by Aug. 5, pending environmental review.

Unfortunately, a D.C. court of appeals has granted DAPL operators short term, temporary relief on that order, extending the deadline for the pipeline to be emptied. The verdict, though, maintains the authority to halt operations at any time. In the interim, we’re releasing footage from our Chase Iron Eyes trial archive to illustrate what makes DAPL so dangerous in the first place and why we must keep pushing for it to be shut down for good. You can take a look at our new video about DAPL’s deficient leak detection system, and we hope you will watch and share it with your networks.

Lakota LawEnergy expert Steve Martin of the Chippewa Nation and attorney Peter Capossela explain the constant risks posed by Dakota Access.

Getting down to brass tacks, DAPL’s leak detection system is criminally inadequate. Actually, at the most critical area of stress for the existing pipeline, there isn’t even a detection apparatus in place. So, if and when DAPL springs a leak, oil could seep into the groundwater and rise to the surface before pipeline officials or local residents have any idea something is wrong.

A leak of this type could take place over the course of months, contaminating the water used to grow food and raise children on the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

As Indigenous energy executive Steve Martin points out in our video, it’s outrageous that water — the source of all life — isn’t regarded as more sacred. Why do we allow these dangerous pipelines to jeopardize our children’s future? Why is the money made from a barrel of oil more important than my community’s right to clean water and safe food? Not to mention the impacts on climate.

If you’d like to explore the issue further, we’ve also written an in-depth blog on the topic of DAPL’s leak detection system.

We’re in the midst of a great shift. While it didn’t begin with NoDAPL, I know from living at Oceti Sakowin camp for eight months — through police raids, surveillance, and blizzards — that embers from our sacred fires continue to find their way into the current moment. Let’s keep Trump and his oil cronies on the run. Hold the faith. Even bigger change is coming.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for standing with us to protect our water, our land, and our families!

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

Return the Black Hills

Less than one month ago, we marked the 40-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision awarding more than $100,000 million to the Great Sioux Nation as compensation for the federal government’s taking of the Black Hills. Just a few days later, President Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore highlighted why we have never accepted that payment. No amount of money could possibly alleviate the pain we feel at the repeated desecration of one of our most sacred sites. True justice can only be accomplished one way: the return of the Black Hills to the Lakota people.

We’ve recently seen how people power can tear down monuments of hate and influence public policy — and we’ve also seen the backlash. I ask you today to watch the video of our protest action against Trump’s visit, and sign our Congressional petition to return the Black Hills to the Lakota people. If ever a moment existed when these wrongs could begin to be righted, this is it. Speaking together with one voice, let’s get lawmakers to abide by treaty law and return this sacred land to my people.

Lakota LawRenowned Artist Shepard Fairey created this beautiful mural in Los Angeles and later teamed with Lakota Law to distribute t-shirts with his incredible design.

The high court’s ruling shows that the law is on our side. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 assigned the Black Hills to us in perpetuity, but it didn’t take long for miners to violate that edict in search of gold. The federal government essentially allowed it to happen, eventually imposing upon us our current reservation boundaries. We have never accepted those boundaries nor the taking of our treaty land. The Black Hills are not for sale — and they never were.

Unless we act together to stop it, there’s no end to the colonial disrespect of our lands, sovereignty, and safety. Trump’s moronic, divisive visit to Mount Rushmore underscores the dangers to our democracy and the Lakota people. Predictably, COVID-19 is again on the rise in South Dakota, and community spread is especially serious around Mount Rushmore and our Oglala Nation.

That’s why we protested his coming, and that’s why it’s critical that you help us demand safety, justice, and the return of the Black Hills. Once we reach our goal of 20,020 names, our petition will go to Congress demanding #LandBack2020.

Wopila tanka — thank you for standing with us to restore the sacred!

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

Regarding Illegal Taking of Nation’s Missouri Riverbed Property Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2020
CONTACT:
NCAI Statement on Legal Filing by Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Regarding Illegal Taking of Nation’s Missouri Riverbed Property Rights
WASHINGTON, DC | Today, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) took steps to prevent the illegal taking of the Nation’s property rights to minerals beneath the Missouri River on its Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) holds firm its position in support of the MHA Nation’s land and mineral rights, and has advocated for government-to-government consultation between the MHA Nation and the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor to confirm the longstanding Executive and Congressional actions declaring that the Missouri River bed within the Fort Berthold Reservation is owned by the MHA Nation.
“The MHA Nation’s rights to the Missouri River bed minerals have been reaffirmed through a history of longstanding, well-settled, and still applicable legal precedents, and there should be no question as to the validity of the Nation’s claims,” says NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “We cannot reiterate strongly enough that consultation with tribal nations and upholding treaty obligations is not optional. It is mandatory.”
For these reasons, NCAI urges the Department of the Interior to immediately withdraw Solicitor’s Opinion M-37056 as an unwarranted threat to longstanding tribal trust assets. The fiduciary obligation of the United States is to protect and preserve tribal trust assets in order to ensure tribal nations have the resources needed to provide permanent homelands for present and future generations of their citizens. Instead, M-Opinion 37056 does the opposite, and completely reverses course on the Department of the Interior’s longstanding legal position with little or no rationale for doing so. NCAI stands with the MHA Nation in its fight to preserve its trust assets.
To view NCAI’s resolution on this issue, please click here.
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About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.

DAPL parent company vows to defy court order

DAPL parent company vows to defy court order
Thu, Jul 9, 2020 3:20 pm
Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

Inconceivable! Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—the parent company to the Dakota Access Pipeline—just announced that they will ignore Judge James Boasberg’s order to shut down oil flow through the pipeline by August 5th. An ETP spokesperson said in a statement yesterday: “We are not shutting down the line. We believe Judge Boasberg has exceeded his authority and does not have jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline.” Outrageous!

Will you stand with us against Big Oil’s lawlessness by making a donation today?

Perhaps they’re taking their inspiration from the father of the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson. In response to the 1832 Supreme Court decision that established tribal sovereignty in the U.S. — Worcester vs. Georgia — President Jackson declared: “[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.”

But this is not 1832. And no matter how much Trump may want to do his best Andrew Jackson impersonation, we will not let him. We will not let this corporation, this pipeline, or this President trample on our sovereignty. It’s time to keep Indigenous voices as strong as possible in our collective defense of Mother Earth.

Standing Rock Protest Video

In 2016-17, more than ten thousand people of conscience traveled to Standing Rock to exercise grassroots power over commercial disregard for basic rights. We will stand again like this if we have to. And the Lakota Law legal team will explore options for submitting more amicus briefs to support Standing Rock and EarthJustice in court. One way or another, we won’t permit ETP to unilaterally disregard judicial decisions designed to protect Native health and sovereignty on treaty land. We will go toe to toe with Big Oil, and this time we will have the Constitution — not just Natural Law — clearly behind us.

Wopila — I thank you for your solidarity!

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

P.S. You can ensure that our response to  this imminent threat from Energy Transfer Partners and the Trump administration is strong. Please give today so we can do the legal work and grassroots organizing needed to help our movement win!

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

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

Oklahoma

https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/supreme-court-ruling-reaffirmed-sovereignty-4

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Supreme Court ruling ‘reaffirmed’ sovereignty

Kolby KickingWoman

UPDATED 5:40 p.m. Eastern: ‘In holding the federal government to its treaty obligations, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest what never should have been at question’

Kolby KickingWoman
Indian Country Today

In a decision being hailed as a win for tribal sovereignty, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a large portion of eastern Oklahoma remains a reservation.

In the 5-4 decision, the nation’s highest court said Congress never explicitly “disestablished” the 1866 boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” according to the majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Gorsuch was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Jonodev Chaudhuri, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said the decision is a huge win for Indian Country and a profoundly impactful day for the tribe.

“Many folks are in tears,” said Chaudhuri, ambassador of the tribal nation. “Despite a history of many broken promises, as is true with many tribal nations, the citizens feel uplifted that for once the United States is being held to its promises.”

Chaudhuri said the decision provides jurisdictional clarity and that the tribe will continue to work to improve the health, safety and welfare of tribal members and non-tribal members alike.

“Creek Nation has a long history of working with its local, state and federal partners to protect the interests of all people in its boundaries and the clarity brought by today’s positions will only enhance that,” he said.

Jonodev Chaudhuri - Photo - Vincent Schilling
Jonodev Chaudhuri, ambassador of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. (Photo by Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today)

In fact, the Oklahoma congressional delegation said in a joint statement that they are reviewing the decision and are ready to work with tribal and state officials. The group of legislators want to ensure consistency and stability in the application of law and bringing criminals to justice.

“Indeed, no criminal is ever exempt or immune from facing justice, and we remain committed to working together to both affirm tribal sovereignty and ensure safety and justice for all Oklahomans,” the delegation said.

Additionally the state, along with the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations are working on an agreement to send to Congress and the Department of Justice addressing any issues related to the decision.

(Related: Q&A: What does McGirt ruling mean?)

“The Nations and the State are committed to implementing a framework of shared jurisdiction that will preserve sovereign interests and rights to self-government while affirming jurisdictional understandings, procedures, laws, and regulations that support public safety, our economy, and private property rights,” the statement said. “We will continue our work, confident that we can accomplish more together than any of us could alone.”

Sarah Deer, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, expressed the same sentiment, saying that the sky is not falling on non-Native residents within the reaffirmed reservation boundaries.

“I think it’s a little too soon to know for sure what the ramifications will be outside the context of criminal jurisdiction,” said Deer, a professor at the University of Kansas. “I think that some of the media is overplaying it as, oh we’re going to start kicking everyone off of their land or something, but it will offer some new opportunities, I think, for the state and the tribe to collaborate to make everyone’s lives better.”

She was happy to see Gorsuch as the author of the court opinion with the first sentence carrying a lot of weight.

“As a Native person, as a Native attorney, you know, he starts out his decision with ‘On the far end of the trail of tears was a promise’ and, that very short sentence, I think it will make every Native person feel complete,” Deer said. “You know, that the court recognized that what happened to us was wrong but it’s time to make it right.”

The case has long kept Indian Country on pins and needles through two Supreme Court terms.

John Echohawk, Pawnee and executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, said the tribe endured a long and hard fight to protect their homelands.

“In holding the federal government to its treaty obligations, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest what never should have been at question,” Echohawk said. “We congratulate the Nation on its success.”

Fawn Sharp, Quinault and president of the National Congress of American Indians, joined much of Indian Country in voicing support and congratulations to the tribe for their historic court win.

“This morning, NCAI joins the rest of Indian Country in congratulating the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and proudly asserting that its lands remain, and will forever be considered, Indian country – as guaranteed in their treaty relationship with the United States,” Sharp said in a statement.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, of New Mexico noted that Thursday’s decision sets an important precedent and affirms the federal government’s obligation to uphold and honor treaties.

“As we move forward addressing longstanding broken promises, this decision will serve as a marker to ensure the federal government honors its promises to Native Nations,” Haaland said.

(Related: ‘Good day to be Indigenous’: High court ruling cheered)

The case involved tribal citizen Jimcy McGirt, Seminole, who was convicted of molesting a child but argued state courts lacked authority to try him for a crime committed on reservation.

The ruling means his case falls under federal jurisdiction. It does not mean McGirt’s conviction is nullified, rather he should have been tried in federal court under the Major Crimes Act. He is serving a 500-year prison sentence and could potentially be retried in federal court.

Ian Gershengorn, one of the lawyers who argued on behalf of the tribe in the May hearing, said in an emailed statement to Indian Country Today that the Supreme Court upheld promises made by the United States.

“The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that when the United States makes promises, the courts will keep those promises,” Gershengorn said. “Congress persuaded the Creek Nation to walk the Trail of Tears with promises of a reservation — and the Court today correctly recognized that this reservation endures.”

Robert Anderson, a law professor at the University of Washington School of Law, said in the larger scope of things the biggest changes will come in the future with the application of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the federal government prosecuting more cases.

“That’s what they [federal prosecutors] do in Indian Country all the time, is they prosecute cases where there’s an Indian defendant or whether there’s an Indian victim,” Anderson said. “It’s routine. And the fact that they haven’t been doing that for the last 100 years just shows us that a lot of people weren’t following the law, which is not unusual in Indian law.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. reiterated that fact in an emailed statement to Indian Country Today.

“This ruling does not mean that those who commit crimes on reservation lands will not face justice, no tribe would ever welcome that, and now we will continue to work with the state of Oklahoma and our federal and tribal partners on legal parameters under the decision today,” Hoskin Jr. said.

Among the justices, Anderson said he felt Gorsuch was the swing vote among the nine justices.

Anderson, Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, spoke with Indian Country Today before the decision was handed down. He thought Gorsuch’s questions during arguments in the case indicated he was “very much in the tribe’s camp.”

McGirt v. Oklahoma was granted review by the court and tied to an earlier case heard during the 2018 term. In that case, Carpenter v. Murphy, Gorsuch recused himself as he had already ruled on the case during his time on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Anderson added that Gorsuch, with his time served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sotomayor, through her own interest and undertaking, are the two justices with the most background and experience in federal Indian law.

At the time, Anderson said they most likely would have some sort of influence over their colleagues.

“It’s just human nature to defer to somebody to some degree who’s an expert in an area, I would hope, even on the Supreme Court,” Anderson said. “It’s interesting that, you know, Justice Gorsuch is a very conservative and Justice Sotomayor is probably the most liberal, and they seem to be on the same page on these Indian law cases, which is great.”

(Previous story: U.S. Supreme Court weighs ‘transfers of sovereign right’)

In the minority were Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh. Roberts filed the dissenting opinion, joined by Alito and Kavanaugh and Thomas also filed his own.

Roberts wrote that the decision is not warranted and took the view that over the years, Congress disestablished the Creek reservation through a series of statutes leading up to Oklahoma statehood.

“What has gone unquestioned for a century remains true today: A huge portion of Oklahoma is not a Creek Indian reservation,” Roberts wrote.

At the May hearing in the case, several justices raised concerns that a ruling in favor of the tribe could have broad jurisdictional ramifications on things like taxes and other criminal cases. But Gorsuch indicated that so far, no signs of major consequences had emerged.

In the opinion, Gorsuch wrote that the federal government promised the Muscogee (Creek) Nation a reservation in perpetuity. While the reservation has been diminished over time, it was never explicitly disestablished.

“Yes, promises were made, but the price of keeping them has become too great, so now we should just cast a blind eye. We reject that thinking. If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so. Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigor, are never enough to amend the law,” Gorsuch writes. “To hold otherwise would be to elevate the most brazen and longstanding injustices over the law, both rewarding wrong and failing those in the right. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma is Reversed.”

This story is breaking, stay tuned for more updates and information at indiancountrytoday.com

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Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A’aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter – @KDKW_406. Email – kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

Indian Country Today, LLC., is a non-profit, public media enterprise. Reader support is critical. We do not charge for subscriptions and tribal media (or any media, for that matter) can use our content for free. Our goal is public service. Please join our cause and support independent journalism today. We have an audacious plan for 2020 and your donation will help us make it so. #MyICT #MyVoiceMyICT #SocksAlot

July is the Month of Good News!

It’s time to celebrate for a second day in a row, because we have amazing news from the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday late in the day, SCOTUS announced its ruling effectively halting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL)! Based on the Endangered Species Act, the Supremes upheld a lower court ruling preventing the pipeline from crossing domestic waterways. This is on top of Monday’s court decision to shut down oil flow through DAPL, making yesterday a truly good day for the environment and Indigenous sovereignty.

Lakota Law

Let’s be clear: TC Energy, the pipeline’s operator, is not going to take this lying down. This is not KXL’s death-knell. So, we need to remain vigilant. For now, the Supreme Court has simply let stand U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris’ injunction against construction while the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the pipeline company’s appeal.

It’s likely there will be further legal wrangling and attempts by TC Energy to circumvent proper environmental review. We can expect the same from the Trump administration, should Trump be re-elected in November. On the other hand, Joe Biden has publicly pledged that his administration will cancel KXL, should he win the presidency.

For now, we can be thankful. Construction of KXL will remain stopped — a win for Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth, and for our Lakota families here on the front line. We can be grateful that our people will retain access to clean water and a measure of safety from man camps, which might otherwise have spread COVID-19 and contributed to our epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

I thank you for standing with us against KXL so far. We’ll keep you informed of all developments going forward — and I hope I can count on you to stay with us, come rain or shine.

Wopila tanka — My sincere gratitude for your spirit and resolve!

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

More Good News!

I have great news: this morning, District Court Judge James Boasberg ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to be shut down within 30 days! In this momentous ruling, Judge Boasberg found that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to fully consider the environmental impacts of Energy Transfer’s crude oil pipeline, and that there were too many safety concerns to allow its continued operation. While this order only shuts DAPL down for 13 months while the Army Corps completes additional environmental assessments and safety planning, there is a good chance that when the oil is drained in 30 days, that oil will never flow again!

Lakota LawShares in DAPL’s parent company—Energy Transfer Partners—dropped 7% today.

We commend the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and their legal team at EarthJustice for years of dedication and persistence in this struggle to defang the Black Snake. And we are proud of the amicus brief that our legal team submitted in the lead up to this decision. We’re also elated that Judge Boasberg cited many of the questions we and our allies have raised since the beginning of the NoDAPL struggle. First, that it’s simply wrong to conduct an environmental assessment of a pipeline after it’s already been built. Second, that DAPL’s leak detection abilities are so poor it could be leaking more than 6,000 barrels of oil every day without detection, and Energy Transfer’s abysmal pipeline safety record raises that risk even further. Third, that there is no proper cleanup plan for a wintertime spill, when freezing Dakota winters make response the most difficult. Boasberg even went one step further, concluding that the drop in oil demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic makes shutting down the pipeline now less harmful to North Dakota’s economy.

So what comes next? First, Energy Transfer has to drain and shut down DAPL by August 6th. The Army Corps of Engineers then has 13 months to further study potential pipeline leaks and the dangers they pose. This ruling could still be appealed in the Federal District Court of D.C., but our analysis tells us that such an appeal is unlikely to succeed.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your tireless support, and for staying with us throughout this journey.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for standing with us to protect our water, our land, and our families!

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

P.S. This has truly been a week of good news: just yesterday the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, slated to run from West Virginia to North Carolina, was canceled. In a joint statement, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy cited ongoing delays, expected cost increases, and legal challenges from environmental and other groups as threats to the project’s viability. The trend away from fossil fuels is becoming stronger with each passing day, thanks to your activism and the support of so many others like you.

 

More about this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2020
CONTACT:
Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association
NCAI Press
Mauda Moran
Great Plains Tribes Win Important Legal Fight to Protect Tribal Water and Treaty Resources
The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association (GPTCA), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National Congress of American Indians Fund (NCAI Fund) applaud the D.C. District Court’s decision today to vacate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lake Oahe easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and to require the removal of all oil flowing through the pipeline by August 5, 2020. This decision ensures that the treaty-reserved rights of the plaintiff tribes – the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe – are adequately addressed, along with any other land and natural resource considerations, in a full-fledged and well-documented environmental review process.
GPTCA, NARF, and NCAI Fund participated in a coalition of Native organizations submitting an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff tribes during the latest proceedings in the D.C. District Court and are encouraged by this outcome. We hope that this decision helps pave the way for full and proper environmental impact studies as well as meaningful consultation with tribal nations that have direct or indirect stewardship over the lands under review. Our organizations will continue to work to ensure that every time tribal lands and resources are at stake, the environmental review processes meet all legal standards and respect the federal government’s trust obligations to tribes set forth in federal laws.
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About the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association:
Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association is made up of the 16 Tribal Chairmen, Presidents, and Chairpersons in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Their purpose is to provide a forum for sharing information on matters of interest to its member Tribes, develop consensus on matters of mutual importance, assist member Tribes in their governmental and programmatic development consistent with their goals for self-determination, and self-sufficiency and provide for effective public relations and education program with non-Indian communities. For more information, please visit http://gptca.net/index.html
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.
About the Native American Rights Fund:
Founded in 1970, NARF is the oldest and largest non-profit dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and individual Indians nationwide. For the past 50 years, NARF has represented over 275 Tribes in 31 states in such areas as tribal jurisdiction, federal recognition, land claims, hunting and fishing rights, religious liberties, and voting rights. For more information, visit www.narf.org.

 

Cancel of Energy Lease :)

Court rules to cancel energy lease on land sacred to Blackfeet

 

The Associated Press

‘The Badger-Two Medicine is more than just land; it’s an entire way of life’
Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday to cancel a long-disputed oil and gas lease on land in northwestern Montana considered sacred to tribes in the U.S. and Canada.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overruled a judge’s 2018 decision that had allowed a Louisiana company to keep its lease within the Badger Two-Medicine area of Lewis and Clark National Forest.

That area near Glacier National Park is the site of the creation story of the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada and Montana’s Blackfeet Nation.

John Murray, the Blackfeet’s tribal historic preservation officer, said the court’s decision will close a “long and painful chapter in the history of our people.”

“These leases should never have been issued in the first place,” Murray said. “Today’s ruling shows that these companies and their lawyers were not just on the wrong side of history but were also on the wrong side of the law when they waged their 40-year crusade to drill our ancestral land.”

“Our traditional practices and traditional lands are the firm ground underfoot that we need to push off into the future,” said Tyson Running Wolf. Running Wolf is a Montana state legislator, former Blackfeet Tribal Business Council member, hunting outfitter and leader among Blackfeet traditionalists. “This is how we heal ourselves, how we heal our communities, how we move forward into success. The Badger-Two Medicine is more than just land; it’s an entire way of life.”

Tim Preso, Earthjustice attorney, argued the case on behalf of intervenors including Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance, Pikuni Traditionalist Association, Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, Montana Wilderness Association, National Parks Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society. These organizations have since joined the Blackfeet Nation in calling for permanent protection of the Badger-Two Medicine.

The lease owned by Solenex LLC was the last active exploratory lease of about 45 issued in the Badger-Two Medicine area since the 1980s.

“We’re obviously very disappointed in the panel’s decision today, particularly their refusal to engage with any of the arguments we raised on appeal,” said David McDonald, attorney for Solenex, which is owned by Sidney Longwell. “We fully intend on continuing to fight for Solenex and the Longwell family, and we’re currently considering all available avenues to do so.”

The company has held the lease for more than 30 years. It had not yet drilled because of bureaucratic delays within the U.S. departments of Interior and Agriculture, prompting the company to sue in 2013.

The U.S. government canceled the lease in 2016, saying a proper environmental analysis had not been conducted, a decision Solenex challenged. A federal judge sided with the company in 2018, saying the long amount of time between the lease being issued and canceled violated federal law.

The three-judge appellate panel ruled the judge’s findings were wrong and that the the government had considered Solenex’s interests.

“Delay by itself is not enough to render the lease cancellation arbitrary or capricious,” the ruling said.

Removal of Christopher Columbus Statues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2020
CONTACT:
NCAI Statement on the Removal
of Christopher Columbus Statues
WASHINGTON, DC | The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country, does not acknowledge Christopher Columbus as a hero. To Indigenous peoples, he was the opposite:
[O]ut of timbers for the Santa Maria, . . . Columbus built a fort [on Hispaniola], the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. . . . He took . . . Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. . . . [H]e got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail. . . . When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die. . . .
In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale. . . .
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 3-4 (1980 Ed.).
“This growing movement across the country to rid our shared spaces of symbols that represent hate, genocide, and bigotry illustrates that it is past time for all cities to stand on the right side of history moving forward,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp.
NCAI also strongly supports the recent actions taken by United States citizens and the international community calling for proper law enforcement reforms and the recognition of basic human rights for the African American community and all communities of color. We are humbled that these voices are including Indian Country’s perspectives. NCAI encourages local governments and their citizens to seek mutual understandings of their diverse perspectives and to develop peaceful solutions that are mindful of all human beings and our rich distinct and shared histories. Together we can build the tomorrow our children deserve to lead.
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About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.

A Victory: Recommitment to Tribal Sovereignty 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2020
CONTACT:
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Native Organizations Encouraged by Recent Decision in Mashpee v. Bernhardt and Now Call on DOI for Recommitment to Tribal Sovereignty
Yesterday, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia rendered a decision in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in the case of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Bernhardt. In its opinion, Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled:
The Court will grant the Mashpee Tribe’s motion for summary judgment and deny the federal defendants’ and defendant-intervenors’ motions for summary judgment. Furthermore, because the Secretary of the Interior’s September 7, 2018 Record of Decision is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law, the Court remands the matter to the Secretary of the Interior for a thorough reconsideration and re-evaluation of the evidence before him consistent with this Opinion, the 2014 M-Opinion, M-37209 – its standard and the evidence permitted therein – and the Department’s prior decisions applying the M-Opinion’s two-part test.
For the first time since the termination era, the Department of the Interior (DOI) attempted to disestablish a Tribal reservation, ordering the homelands of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to be taken out of trust. The order from DOI Secretary David Bernhardt came on March 27, 2020, as the Tribal Nation worked to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, during active litigation on the status of the land, and following the rescission of the 2014 Carcieri M-Opinion and the issuance of a new 4-part test to qualify under the first definition of “Indian” in the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). On March 30, 2020, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe asked the Court to issue an emergency restraining order to prevent DOI from taking immediate action to disestablish its reservation.
“The DC District Court righted what would have been a terrible and historic injustice by finding that the Department of the Interior broke the law in attempting to take our land out of trust,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman, Cedric Cromwell. “We will continue to work with the Department of the Interior — and fight them if necessary — to ensure our land remains in trust.”
The Court ruled DOI’s 2018 decision that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe did not prove it was “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934, and therefore did not meet the first definition of “Indian” under the IRA—making the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe ineligible to acquire land in trust—was arbitrary and capricious. It remanded the decision to DOI with clear direction to issue a decision consistent with the 2014 M-Opinion’s standard and the evidence permitted therein, as well as DOI’s prior decisions applying the 2014 M-Opinion test. The Court further directed DOI to properly address each piece of evidence, give a reasoned analysis as to whether it is probative, explain any departure from past DOI precedent, and view all probative evidence in concert rather than in isolation. And importantly, the Court’s decision also mandates that DOI maintain the land in trust pending DOI’s new determination and prevents DOI from applying its new 4-part test in this case.
“USET SPF is pleased that the Court acted swiftly and justly to provide necessary certainty to the Mashpee Wampanoag in these uncertain times,” said USET SPF President, Kirk Francis. “The Department of the Interior was under no order to take the land out of trust, and so to attempt to rob the Mashpee of their homelands is nothing short of shameful. The Department should be assisting Tribal Nations as we work to reestablish our homelands after centuries of federal action designed to assimilate and terminate. Instead, actions by this Administration are aimed at perpetuating antiquated and regressive federal policies, resulting in the destabilization of our governments. While we celebrate this victory with Mashpee and all of Indian Country today, the centuries-long fight to protect and restore Tribal homelands is ongoing and we must remain steadfast in our vigilance. We continue to stand with Mashpee as the Department reexamines its evidence on remand.”
“On behalf of the National Congress of American Indians, we congratulate the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on their historic victory. We consider this a win for all of Indian Country,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “The Mashpee Wampanoag relationship with the United States is one of political equality, derived from their inherent sovereignty, powers, and authority that long predates the United States. No federal agency or civil servant has the authority to diminish or in any way undermine that unique political relationship and standing. We will remain vigilant and stand united with Mashpee who have shaped and supported this country from the arrival of the first European settlers and will coexist as sovereign equals for generations to come.”
USET SPF and NCAI share a profound commitment to Tribal sovereignty and the restoration of Tribal homelands. In light of this commitment, we have been advocating for a fix to the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar since it was handed down in 2009. Carcieri has created a deeply inequitable 2-class system, in which some Tribal Nations have the ability to restore their homelands and others do not. This 2-class system serves to deny these Tribal Nations a critical component of the trust relationship, vital aspects of the exercise of inherent sovereignty, and the opportunity to qualify for several government programs.
We continue to call for the immediate passage of a fix that contains the two features necessary to restore parity to the land-into-trust process:
(1) A reaffirmation of the status of current trust lands; and
(2) Confirmation that the Secretary has authority to take land into trust for all federally recognized Tribal Nations.
While this decision is an important step toward righting centuries of wrong against the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, our collective work is not finished. We urge and await a positive determination from DOI on Mashpee’s homelands once and for all. Our organizations will continue to fight for the restoration of Tribal homelands and the full delivery of trust and treaty obligations. We call upon DOI to recommit itself to the restoration of homelands, the trust obligation, and Tribal sovereignty.
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About the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe:
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, also known as the People of the First Light, has inhabited present day Massachusetts for more than 12,000 years. After an arduous process lasting more than three decades, the Mashpee Wampanoag were re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007. In 2015, the federal government declared 150 acres of land in Mashpee and 170 acres of land in Taunton as the Tribe’s initial reservation, on which the Tribe can exercise its full tribal sovereignty rights. The Mashpee tribe currently has approximately 2,700 enrolled citizens.
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.
About the USET Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF):
Established in 2014, the USET Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF) is a non-profit, inter-Tribal organization advocating on behalf of thirty (30) federally recognized Tribal Nations from the Northeastern Woodlands to the Everglades and across the Gulf of Mexico.  USET SPF is dedicated to promoting, protecting, and advancing the inherent sovereign rights and authorities of Tribal Nations and in assisting its membership in dealing effectively with public policy issues.
National Congress of American Indians
Embassy of Tribal Nations
1516 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20005