Western Mining Action Network and Indigenous Environmental Network
Indigenous Communities Mining Mini-Grant Program
Please distribute widely.
Application Deadline : October 1, 2008
The goal of the mini-grants program is to support and enhance the capacity building efforts of mining-impacted indigenous communities to assure that mining projects do not adversely affect human, cultural, and the ecological health within their traditional territories.
The applicant must be an indigenous community organization with limited funds and has demonstrated the capacity to successfully carry out the project. Individual grants will not exceed $4,000 U.S. and cannot be used for general programmatic or operating expenses.
WMAN/IEN Indigenous Communities Mini-grants program criteria:
Any questions? Please contact Sarah Keeney, WMAN Network Coordinator at (503) 327-8625 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Simone Senogles, Indigenous Environmental Network, (218) 751-4967 or email@example.com.
- Applications will be taken at fixed times during the year (October 1, 2008; February 1, 2009)
- Indigenous-led, indigenous community-based organizations, and Tribes or Tribal programs in the U.S. and Canada with any budget level may apply. However, if there are more applicants than funds available, priority will be given to indigenous organizations with an organizational or mining-specific project budget under $75,000 U.S.; priority will also be given to Indigenous community-based grassroots groups.
- Requests must be project-specific for an immediate need such as legal assistance, organizing and outreach, development of campaign materials, media development, reports, travel, mailings, etc. to be fulfilled within the next four months on a specific mining campaign. Funds cannot be used for an organization’s general operating funds, staff salaries, rent or telephone bills.
- Applicants who have received funds twice during the previous two grant cycles will be given lower priority than new organizations and programs. This will not apply to “emergency” grants.
- Each grant issued will not exceed $4,000.
- Funding recipients must submit a brief report detailing how funds were spent before the next grant cycle begins (4 months from the grant cycle deadline). Reporting on use of grant funds is extremely important. Failure to submit a report in a timely fashion or to make arrangements for a report extension will significantly lower chances for said organization to receive grants from the Indigenous Environmental Network/Western Mining Action Network Indigenous Mining Grant funds in the future.
Second probe targets Utah operation
Agency won't discuss details involving BLM, Indian tribes' business with oil, gas companies. Interior boss 'outraged' by employees' actions
By Patty Henetz
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune Article Last Updated:09/12/2008 07:18:40 AM MDT
The sex, drugs and money investigation that rocked the Interior Department's Denver office that manages oil and gas drilling royalties didn't go into what the malfeasance may have cost taxpayers - nor did it have anything to do with Utah and the West.
But another probe is looking at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Indian tribes' business with oil and gas companies - and one of the targets is an operation in Utah, an Interior official said Thursday.
Kris Kolesnik, the Interior assistant inspector general for external affairs, said the reports released Wednesday that detailed illegal behavior in the Denver office involved companies engaged in offshore leasing. But more investigations are under way concerning royalty collections on BLM and tribal lands, he said.
"We are just beginning to wrap our arms around this," he said. "We have indicated to [Congress] that the next place to look is onshore. But we'll need more resources."
Kolesnik declined to discuss details of the ongoing investigation in Utah. But he said that while BLM officials are supposed to ensure proper royalty record-keeping in their reports to Interior minerals managers, "we find they don't often talk to each other."
The Office of the Inspector General's investigations are finding instances of under-reporting to the Minerals Management Service how much oil and gas energy companies are taking out of the ground, Kolesnik said.
The parties, he said, "basically lie."
Mary Wilson, spokeswoman for Utah's BLM office, wasn't able to explain how the agency interacts with energy companies when calculating royalties. An Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States spokesman with the information also did not respond immediately.
Interior boss outraged' by employees' actions
WASHINGTON - The Interior Department promised Thursday to reform the division that collects billions of dollars in royalties from oil and gas companies in the wake of a report that its employees took gifts and engaged in sex and drug use with their clients.
I am outraged by the immoral behavior, illegal activities and appalling misconduct of several former and current long-serving career employees in the Minerals Management Service's royalty-in-kind program," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said. These individuals have eroded the trust the American citizens deserve to have in their public servants."
Kempthorne said his office began immediately taking disciplinary action against employees identified in the report. The director of the Minerals Management Agency plans to institute a random drug-testing program, an Interior spokesman said.For More information, to get involved, or donate to the IEN Native Energy Campaign's efforts to assist indigenous communities fight the further destruction of Mother Earth and support environmental justice contact:
Native Energy Organizer
PO Box 2696
Flagstaff, AZ 86003
Tel: (928) firstname.lastname@example.org
Residents in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., say they saw this
fish, seen in this Aug. 15 photo, caught from
Lake Athabasca the previoud week.
(Courtesy of Ling Wang -
Fort Chip to world: SOS
Posted on September 14, 2008
Climate change, water policy and aboriginal health. Three issues that should be atop the election agenda. Three issues that start with the oil sands.
Canadians are dying. Our government is doing nothing about it. Will it take world attention to end this injustice?
That’s what some residents of Fort Chipewyan, the small northern Alberta town at the mouth of Lake Athabasca, have concluded, starting a campaign for an oil sands moratorium that they plan to take across North America and Europe, until health and water concerns are addressed.
Residents in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., say they saw this fish, seen in this Aug. 15 photo, caught from Lake Athabasca the previous week. (Courtesy of Ling Wang)
Fort Chip, an aboriginal community of 1200, has received increasing attention due to the high levels of cancer in the community. Dr. John O’Connor, a fly-in doctor first raised the issue publicly in 2005, noting the unusually high levels of a rare bile duct cancer, but was soon silenced by Health Canada and reprimanded by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta for causing “undue alarm”. Only last December was he finally cleared.
Even a 2006 report by the Alberta government put the cancer rate at 29% above the provincial average, while a report commissioned by Suncor found the lifetime cancer risk due to arsenic exposure to be 450 per 100,000 people, well above accepted public health standards of 1 per 100,000. Yet policy remains unchanged.
Fort Chip’s residents have put together an excellent series of videos featuring acclaimed water scientist David Schindler and community members. Scientist Kevin Timoney has continued to show levels of arsenic, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at carcinogenic levels. Yet Health Canada and the Alberta cancer board have so far yet to undertake a promised cancer incidence study.
Jack Layton was right to make the oil sands an election issue. Let’s hope that he and the other opposition leaders maintain the pressure, despite what Ed Stemach and the Calgary Herald may say.
While we look out at the world, pointing to human rights violations and health injustice abroad, Canada may find itself with others pointing at us. Our track record for protecting the human rights of our first peoples is shocking, whether it’s in our cities or in native communities across the north.
In Canada’s World, our actions at home shape our influence abroad.
Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)
For More information, to get involved, or donate to the IEN Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign's efforts to assist the people of Fort Chip and other indigenous communities fight the further destruction contact:
2-94 Charlotte ST.
Ottawa Ontario K1N 8K2
Ph: (613) 789-5653
or contact the IEN Main Office at Ph: (218) 751-4967
Canada: America's resource colony?
Indigenous treaty rights ignored in the quest for oil
by Clayton Thomas-Muller
The tar sands, like climate change, are an irrefutable man-made mess driven by market forces and economic structures whose very success is based upon social inequity and at the expense of indigenous peoples' rights. With 80 per cent of the world's petroleum resources now under the control of nationalized petroleum firms and their governments, the search for oil and other fossil fuels has expanded into more remote and biologically fragile places. All the while new discoveries are becoming scarcer and scarcer.
Canada's tar patch has become the wild west of the global oil frontier and home to a new breed of private oil firm cowboys and climate change outlaws.
There are over 40 oil and gas companies operating in the tar sands of northern Alberta, with many more waiting to get in on the action. Alberta represents the largest private oil patch on the planet (roughly 3,000 km2) with 177 billion barrels of recoverable oil in its provincial deposits alone. It nonetheless charges the lowest land leasing rates and royalty regime on the planet. On top of this, private oil companies send the majority of tar sands synthetic crude to the United States for refinement and then turn around and sell it back to Canadians as market ready fuels.
More insidious is the environmental, economic, social, political and spiritual costs of the "most destructive project on earth" being forced upon local Indigenous peoples and their land. With multi-stakeholder processes set up in all of the provincial government regulatory bodies, many First Nation communities find their concerns and their sovereignty drowned out by the overwhelming push back of pro-development companies, government and others that all have a seat at the table in determining what new approvals get rubber stamped. Click here to read the rest of the article.
For more information contact:
Indigenous Environmental Network
Canadian Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign
2-94 Charlotte ST. Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1N 8K2
Home Office: 613 789 5653
Cell: 218 760 6632
Judge: Mining company liable for pollution at former uranium mine
By Warren Cornwall
Seattle Times environment reporter
One of the world's biggest mining companies is partly responsible for cleaning up massive pollution at a former uranium mine on the Spokane Indian Reservation, a federal judge has ruled.
The ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush of Spokane was a victory for the federal government and tribal officials, who have been trying to ensure that Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corp. help pay for a cleanup that could cost $152 million.
Federal lawyers had argued that Newmont was liable for cleanup costs under the federal Superfund law, because it had control over part of the mining operations through a subsidiary, Dawn Mining Co.
A Newmont official did not respond to requests for comment. The company has claimed in court documents that while it was a majority owner of Dawn, it didn't make day-to-day decisions about how the mine operated.
The judge still must decide how much of the cleanup costs Newmont is responsible for. Dawn Mining and the U.S. government have already been named as partly responsible for the pollution.
The ruling, which could be appealed, might help jump-start cleanup of the defunct mine, which has leaked radioactive and toxic chemicals into nearby streams, soil, plants and animals.
Over 27 years, starting in 1954, miners blasted away 38 million tons of rock and uranium ore from a mountain at the center of the Spokane Tribes' remote reservation, northwest of Spokane.
Today, two cavernous craters, holding toxic ponds, sit in the middle of the mine site. A water-treatment plant filters water that leaks from the ponds to keep pollution from reaching nearby streams.
But over the years, enough contaminants, including uranium, have leached into plants and nearby creeks that one federal study estimated a person eating plants and animals from the area and using the water for sweat lodges could have a 1 in 5 chance of getting cancer.
Tribal attorney Shannon Work said that with the court's ruling, the tribe hopes that those responsible "will now step up and begin the much-needed cleanup."
Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or email@example.com
Original article can be found here...
Major milestone reached for children’s health and for chemical regulation
President Bush signed a federal bill on August 14, 2008 that bans six toxic phthalates from children’s products. His signature ends a clear message that toxic chemicals have no place in toys.
The Indigenous Environmental Network, through the Minnesota-based Health Legacy Network were members of the Breast Cancer Fund that led a national coalition of parents, health care professionals and environmental health advocates that convinced Congress to pass the phthalate ban. This was despite aggressive lobbying by the chemical industry.
The phthalate ban, a provision of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act, will protect children from these harmful plastic-softening chemicals which are linked to breast cancer, decreased sperm counts, birth defects and other health problems. Advocates see this legislation as a first step toward broader chemical policy reform. “Congress got a glimpse into how chemicals are regulated in this country and saw how broken the system is,” said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund. “The phthalate ban is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s needed to protect Americans from unsafe chemical exposures.”
"This issue affects all people, especially our Native American children where some come from areas where toxic exposures are elevated. There are some pockets of Indian country where our people are disproportionately being contaminated with toxic chemicals and banning the use of phthalates in baby toys and other products definitely is good for our families," says Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "Public health advocates, environmental justice activists and parents were up against big oil and the chemical industry, and by working together and through these alliances, we all won. This should serve as a wake-up call to industry that chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects have no place in consumer products.”
Key legislators heeded parents’ and advocates’ concerns and brought the issue into the legislative arena. Champions include Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who authored the original Senate amendment on phthalates, as well as Sen. Barbara Boxer and Reps. Henry Waxman, Jan Schakowsky and Diana DeGette, who strongly advocated for the ban among their Congressional colleagues.
This legislative action is a direct response to a growing movement of parents, scientists and advocates who are raising concerns about unsafe chemicals in consumer products. Months before Congress took action, retailers and manufacturers including Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, Lego, Evenflo and Gerber responded to consumer outcry by announcing plans to phase out phthalates in toys. In the past year, California, Washington and Vermont restricted phthalate use in children’s products.
“Public awareness is at an all-time high,” said Nudelman. “Consumers are saying that the products we buy must be safe, period. The phthalate ban is a great start, and an indication that Congress is ready to consider the kind of sweeping chemical policy reform that is needed.”
For more information on toxics and environmental health contact:
Tom B.K. Goldtooth
Indigenous Environmental Network
PO Box 485
Bemidji, MN 56619 USA
Yucca Moutain Nevada
NRC DOCKETS YUCCA MOUNTAIN APPLICATION, ADOPTS DOE’S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has formally docketed the Department of Energy’s license application for the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev. The agency staff has also recommended that the Commission adopt, with further supplementation, DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement for the repository project.
The decision to docket the application follows the NRC staff’s determination that the application, submitted June 3, is sufficiently complete for the staff to begin its full technical review. Docketing the application does not indicate whether the Commission will approve or reject the construction authorization for the repository, nor does it preclude the Commission or the agency staff from requesting additional information from DOE during the course of its comprehensive technical review.
Docketing the application triggers a three-year deadline, with a possible one-year extension, set by Congress for the NRC to decide whether to grant a construction authorization. NRC officials have stated that meeting this deadline is contingent on the agency receiving sufficient resources from Congress.
After reviewing DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement and its supplements, the NRC staff determined that it would be practicable for the agency to adopt the DOE report. However, the staff is requesting that DOE supplement some aspects of its groundwater analyses. The staff’s report on its adoption review is available on the NRC’s ADAMS online document system use access number ML082420342.
The NRC notified DOE of its docketing decision and adoption recommendation this morning. A notice of docketing will be published soon in the Federal Register. A subsequent Federal Register notice will provide an opportunity for interested parties to seek an adjudicatory hearing before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board regarding the NRC’s adoption of the Environmental Impact Statement or the substance of the license application.
FYI - BLM published a notice today in the Federal Register regarding DOE's proposal to extend the current land withdrawal for the Yucca Mountain sites for another 12 years when it expires in 2010. Click here to read the FR Notice.
PROPOSED OIL REFINERY IN MANDAN, HIDATSA, ARIKARA NATIONS' HOMELAND
“There is a reason that a new oil refinery has not been built in our USA for over 30 years, no one wants these proven extremely toxic & polluting industries in their back yard!”
The Council of the Three Affiliated Tribe's (TAT), Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations and TRIAD Project Corporation also known as Triad Engineers Limited, of Linden, Utah and Calgary, Alberta, Canada are pushing forward with the intent of building of a proposed oil refinery within the boundaries of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.
If this refinery is built, local tribal community members are concerned with the increased dumping of toxic contamination in the air and water from the proposed refinery. Information gathered by the tribal grassroots group, Environmental Awareness Committee (EAC) found the following information:
"The oil refining industry is the single largest source of Benzene emissions & one of the largest sources of air pollution in the United States. Their toxic emissions are found to cause cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, increased respiratory disease, decreased lung function, and premature death." (1)
“The petroleum refining industry releases & transfers over 600 toxic chemicals. The petroleum refining industry releases 75 percent of its total Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) poundage to the air, 24 percent to the water and 1 percent to the land.” (2)
"Petroleum refineries are proven to present major health hazards for human communities living near refineries and for aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems where they are situated." (3)
“The petroleum refining industries toxic air pollutants can have both chronic and acute health impacts on a large number of exposed individuals. For example, in 1995, EPA estimated that 4.5 million individuals living within 30 miles of oil refineries were exposed to benzene at concentrations that posed CANCER risks that were higher than the Clean Air Act’s acceptable risk threshold. The Maximum risk for individuals exposed to benzene from oil refineries was 180 times higher than the acceptable risk threshold.” (4)
The tribal grassroots group EAC found information that reports that refineries use thousands of gallons of water every day for their process and cooling activities and generated wastewater is often dumped daily into rivers, streams, lakes and holding ponds that often leak endangering people who utilize the waters for drinking and recreational purposes, to fish, and effecting the ecosystem and aquatic life. They report that according to the Region 8 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's fifteen page "Notice of Intent" comment letter on the Three Affiliated Tribes proposed refinery, dated February 12, 2004, it says, “It is not possible to operate a petroleum refinery without some releases of pollutants to surface waters and groundwater. Groundwater and soil under the refinery will eventually become contaminated with petroleum and other chemicals.”
EAC working with groups like the Refinery Reform Campaign find that refineries throughout the country pose threats of chemical disaster to neighboring communities, because they use, release and store tons of deadly chemicals at their facilities. They are concerned that these threats are ever-increasing reality to the facility workers and neighboring communities alike. Accidents including chemical spills on site and off, through transfers, transportation, explosions, fires and toxic releases continue to injure and kill workers and sicken hundreds of people who live near oil refineries. This happens even though people who work for the refineries are trained in all aspects of the prevention of such occurrences.
EAC is concerned that "The people of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations and of the surrounding area are all already living and dying with the devastating, adverse effects imposed upon our health & well being by the existing multiple polluting stressors of several coal/lignite power plants, the USA’s first coal gasification plant, coal mining, oil wells, the states existing oil refinery, and farm land herbicide/pesticide use, and we all agree that the proposed refinery's toxic effects to human and environmental health and well being can not be and will not be tolerated or accepted. The incidence of asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and many other chronic health conditions, diagnosis and associated death is of already extreme number amongst the Indian and non-Indian alike. Health care needs and existing emergency services are also extremely lacking and unmet", says EAC tribal members.
EAC is concerned that mercury contamination of the fish in North Dakota is already to such a degree that Fish Consumption Advisories have been issued by the North Dakota State Department of Health. This is a result of coal fired power plants surrounding the Three Affiliated Tribes' reservation.
"We, the Environmental Awareness Committee, Save Our Sacred (S.O.S) Earth Campaign, of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations people have great concerns of the unacceptable, expected, immediate, and bio-accumulative devastation that the proposed refinery processes and emissions would bring to the health and well being of the children and their developing bodies, the future generations, "all our relatives", of which encompasses all life, including the Living Air-the Sacred Breath of our Creator, the Living Sacred Waters-the life's blood of the earth of which sustains all life and the Living, Sacred Earth-our Mother, whom nurtures and sustains us. There is a reason that a new oil refinery has not been built in our USA for over 30 years, no one wants these proven extremely toxic and polluting industries in their back yard!"
"We have also come to realize that the intended feed stock of the proposed refinery is a product of the tar sands in Canada. Not only would our tribal council be imposing a sort of self-imposed toxic genocide upon our people, the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nations, but we are horrified to realize that we will in effect, also be contributing to the toxic genocide of our indigenous relatives to the North of us, the people of Dene, Cree, and Metis Nations, and to the irreversible devastation to their homelands and their subsistence way of life."
EAC is supporting clean renewable energy as an alternative to the polluting and global warming contributing emissions that could come out of the proposed refinery. EAC says there are other means of economic development available that are non-polluting. There is tremendous wind energy potential. EAC reports that the Department of Energy estimates that the wind resources of the Great Plains could meet 75 percent of the electricity demand in the contiguous 48 states.” (5)
EAC and IEN know that the Tribal Nations of the Great Plains could be on the forefront of this development. EAC says that global warming, greenhouse and toxic emission pollutions and depleting oil reserves, necessitate action for the entire world to reduce its dependence on non-renewable, polluting energy sources (oil, coal, etc.) and expand upon the development of our non-polluting alternative energy resources and the potential of wind, solar and hydrogen fuel cells.
(1) The Special Investigations Division, Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives report: "Oil Refineries Fail to Report Millions of Pounds of Harmful Emissions." Dated: November 10, 1999.
(2) EPA Profile of the Petroleum Refining Industry
(3) The Center for Health and Global Environment, Harvard Medical School report, "Oil-A life cycle analysis of its health and environmental impacts." Dated: March 2002
(5) EPA, Regulatory Impact Assessment for the Petroleum Refinery NESHAP
For more information contact:
Environmental Awareness Committee, Save Our Sacred (S.O.S) Earth Campaign
Jodie White 701-743-4589 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or
Kandi Mossett, IEN Campus Climate Challenge, firstname.lastname@example.org
Newsweek: Palin's Pipeline to Nowhere
By Mark Hosenball | NEWSWEEK
The principal achievement of Sarah Palin's term as Alaska's governor, a natural-gas pipeline project backed by $500 million in state tax money, might never be built unless Canadian authorities can strike a deal with some of the country's angry Indian tribes. Approximately half of the proposed pipeline would run through Canada; native tribes who live along its route complain they haven't been consulted about it and are threatening to sue unless they are compensated. Representatives of the canadian tribes, known as First Nations, say Palin and other pipeline proponents are treating them with disrespect. The tribes' lawyers warn that the courts are on their side and say the Indians have the power to delay the pipeline for years‹or even kill it entirely by filing endless lawsuits.
Palin's advisers say they considered these risks before they committed state funds to the project earlier this year. The state hired Canadian lawyers, who produced a lengthy report warning about possible lawsuits and cautioning that First Nations in Canada's Yukon Territory could be among the "most litigious." The report estimated that the Indians could delay the pipeline for up to seven years. But Jeffrey Rath, a lawyer for First Nations, says this timetable is "wildly optimistic." He notes that one of his clients, the 250-member Prophet River First Nation, litigated an unrelated land claim for 11 years before recently settling. Liz Logan, chief of a First Nations umbrella group in British Columbia, told NEWSWEEK that TransCanada, the company Palin's administration selected to pursue the project, has "very much downplayed the extent of the legal difficulties they face in Canada."
One of Canada's top pipeline experts, Professor Andre Plourde of the University of Alberta, agrees that the seven-year timetable proposed by
Palin's lawyers for sorting out First Nations claims is "optimistic indeed."
Kurt Gibson, one of Alaska's top officials overseeing the pipe-line project, says it is "premature" in the process to start consulting with Canadian Indians. "This is what I would call a commercial dance of the fireflies," he says, meaning that the two sides are each jostling for economic advantage.
But Robert C. Freedman, a lawyer for the Dene Tha' First Nation, says that if authorities keep putting off dealing with the natives, "it's going to be a pipeline to nowhere when it crosses into Canada." In an interview with NEWSWEEK, Patrick Galvin, Palin's revenue commissioner, conceded that "there are risks associated with this project and Nobody has said that this project is absolutely going to happen, guaranteed."
Khue Bui for Newsweek
Risky Business: Palin's pipeline may never get built
Published Sep 20, 2008
From the magazine issue dated Sep 29, 2008
An Alaska Native speaks out on Palin, Oil, and Alaska
My name is Evon Peter; I am a former Chief of the Neetsaii Gwich’in tribe from Arctic Village, Alaska and the current Executive Director of Native Movement. My organization provides culturally based leadership development through offices in Alaska and Arizona. My wife, who is Navajo, and I have been based out of Flagstaff, Arizona for the past few years, although I travel home to Alaska in support of our initiatives there as well. It is interesting to me that my wife and I find ourselves as Indigenous people from the two states where McCain and Palin originate in their leadership.
I am writing this letter to raise awareness about the ongoing colonization and violation of human rights being carried out against Alaska Native peoples in the name of unsustainable progress, with a particular emphasis on the role of Sarah Palin and the Republican leadership. My hope is that it helps to elevate truth about the nature of Alaskan politics in relation to Alaska Native peoples and that it lays a framework for our
path to justice.
Ever since the Russian claim to Alaska and the subsequent sale to the United States through the Treaty of Cession in 1867, the attitude and treatment towards Alaska Native peoples has been fairly consistent. We were initially referred to as less than human “uncivilized tribes”, so we were excluded from any dialogues and decisions regarding our lands, lives, and status. The dominating attitude within the Unites States at the time was called Manifest Destiny; that God had given Americans this great land to take from the Indians because they were non-Christian and incapable of self-government. Over the years since that time, this framework for relating to Alaska Native peoples has become entrenched in the United States legislative and legal systems in an ongoing direct violation of our human rights.
What does this mean? Allow me to share an analogy. If a group of people were to arrive in your city and tell you their people had made laws, among which were:
1. What were once your home and land now belong to them (although you could live in the garage or backyard)
2. Forced you to send your children to boarding schools to learn their language and be acculturated into their ways with leaders who touted “Kill the American, save the man” (based on the original statement made by US Captain Richard H. Pratt in regards to Native American education “Kill the Indian, save the man.”)
3. Supported missionaries and government agents to forcefully (for example, with poisons placed on the tongues of your children and withheld vaccines) convince you that your Jesus, Buddha, Torah, or Mohammed was actually an agent of evil and that salvation in the afterlife could only be found through believing otherwise
4. Made it illegal for you to continue to do your job to support your family, except under strict oversight and through extensive regulation
5. Made it illegal for you to own any land or run a business as an individual and did not allow you to participate in any form of their government, which controlled your life (voting or otherwise)
How would this make you feel? What if you also knew that if you were to retaliate, that you would be swiftly killed or incarcerated? How long do you think it would take for you to forget or would you be sure to share this history with your children with the hope that justice could one day prevail for your descendents? And most importantly to our conversation, how American does this sound to you?
To put this into perspective, my grandfather who helped to raise me in Arctic Village was born in 1904, just thirty-seven years after the United States laid claim to Alaska. If my grandfather had unjustly stolen your grandfathers home and I was still living in the house and watching you live outdoors, would you feel a change was in order? Congress unilaterally passed most of the major US legislation that affect our people in my grandfathers’ lifetime. There has never been a Treaty between Alaska Native Peoples and the United States over these injustices. Each time that Alaska Native people stand up for our rights, the US responds with token shifts in its laws and policies to appease the building discontent, yet avoiding the underlying injustice that I believe can be resolved if leadership in the United States would be willing to knowledge the underlying injustice of its control over Alaska Native peoples, our lands, and our ways of life.
United States legal history in relation to Alaska Natives has been based on one major platform - minimize the potential for Alaska Native people to regain control of their lives, lands, and resources and maximize benefit to the Unites States government and its corporations. While the rest of the world, following World War II, was seeking to return African and European Nations to their rightful owners, the United States pushed in the opposite direction by pulling the then Territory of Alaska out of the United Nations dialogues and pushing for Statehood into the Union. Why is it that Alaska Native Nations are still perceived as being incapable of governing our own lands, lives, and resources differently than African, Asian, and European nations?
Let me get specific about what is at stake and how this relates to Palin and the Republican leadership in Alaska and across this country. To this day, Alaska Native peoples are among the only Indigenous peoples in all of North America whose Indigenous Hunting and Fishing Rights have been extinguished by federal legislation and yet we are the most dependent people on this way of life. Most of our villages have no roads that connect them to cities; many live with poverty level incomes, and all rely to varying degrees on traditional hunting, fishing, and harvesting for survival. This has become known as the debate on Alaska Native Subsistence.
As Alaska Governor, Palin has continued the path of her predecessor Frank Murkowski in challenging attempts by Alaska Native people to regain their human right to their traditional way of life through subsistence. The same piece of unilateral federal legislation, known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, that extinguished our hunting and fishing rights, also extinguished all federal Alaska Native land claims and my Tribe’s reservation status. In the continental United States, this sort of legislation is referred to as ‘termination legislation’ because it takes the rights of self-government away from Tribes. It is based in the same age-old idea that we are not capable of governing our people, lands, and resources. To justify these terminations, ANCSA also created Alaska Native led forprofit corporations (which were provided the remaining lands not taken by the government and a one time payment the equivalent of about 1/20th of the annual profits made by corporations in Alaska each year) with a mission of exploiting the land in partnership with the US government and outside corporations. It was a brilliant piece of legislation for the legal termination and cultural assimilation of Alaska Natives under the guise of progress.
Since the passage of ANCSA, political leaders in Alaska, with a few exceptions, have maintained that, as stated by indicted Senator Ted Stevens, “Tribes have never existed in Alaska.” They maintain this position out of fear that the real injustice being carried out upon Alaska Natives may break into mainstream awareness and lead to a re-opening of due treaty dialogues between Alaska Native leaders and the federal government. At the same time the federal government chose to list Alaska Native tribes in the list of federally recognized tribes in 1993. Governor Palin maintains that tribes were federally recognized but that they do not have the same rights as the tribes in the continental United States to sovereignty and self-governance, even to the extent of legally challenging our Tribes rights pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. What good are governments that can’t make decisions concerning their own land and people?
The colonial mentality in and towards Alaska is to exploit the land and resources for profits and power, at the expense of Alaska Native people. Governor Palin reflects this attitude and perspective in her words and leadership. She comes from an area within Alaska that was settled by relocated agricultural families from the continental United States in the second half of the last century. It is striking that a leader from that particular area feels she has a right, considering all of the injustices to Alaska Native people, to offer Alaskan oil and resources in an attempt to solve the national energy crisis at the Republican Convention. Palin also chose not to mention the connection between oil development and global warming, which is wreaking havoc on Alaska Native villages, forcing some to begin the process of relocation at a cost sure to reach into the hundreds of millions.
Our tribes depend on healthy and abundant land and animals for our survival. For example, my people depend on the Porcupine Caribou herd, which migrates into the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge each spring to birth their young. Any disruption and contamination will directly impact the health and capacity for my people to continue to live in a homeland we have been blessed to live in for over 10,000 years.
This is the sacrifice Palin offered to the nation. The worst part of it is that there are viable alternatives to addressing the energy crisis in the United States, yet Palin chooses options that very well may result in the extinguishment of some of the last remaining intact ecosystems and original cultures in all of North America. Palin is also promoting off shore oil drilling and increased mining in sensitive areas of Alaska, all of which would have a lifespan of far fewer years than my grandfather walked on this earth and which would not even make a smidgen of an impact on national consumption rates or longer term sustainability. McCain was once a champion of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and it is sad to see, that with Palin on board, he is no longer vocal and perhaps even giving up on what he believes in to satisfy Palin’s position.
While I have much more to say, this is my current offering to elevate the conversation about what is at stake in Alaska and for Alaska Native peoples. Please share this offering with others and help us to make this an election that brings out honest dialogue. We have an opportunity to bring lasting change, but only if we can be open to hearing the truth about our situations and facing the challenges that arise.
Many thanks to all those who are taking stands for a just and sustainable future for all of our future generations.
*This essay is a personal reflection and should not be attributed to my tribe or organization
|Current News & Events:
Hurricane Gustav and Ike and the Houma Nation
Below is the latest message from Brenda Dardar Robichaux, Principal Chief of the United Houma Nation. Following her statements, we have listed the name and contact information of the United Houma Nation Relief Fund and their website link. This Relief Fund was created in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which helped thousands of tribal members return home and re-build their communities. The various communities of the Houma were greatly impacted. We are posting Principle Chief Dardar-Robichaux’s statement and contact information. – Thank you for your support of the Houma Peoples, Tom Goldtooth, Executive Directory, IEN
Week of 9/14 - 20/08
Outreach efforts are continuing throughout tribal communities, although some communities are still under a look and leave order. Last Sunday was spent assessing flood damage with a group of us traveling by boat down Shrimper’s Row in the Dulac community. We drove until the water was too high to go any further and then launched the boat from the side of the highway.
Shrimpers Row, a roadway along which most of our Tribal Citizens live, was covered with water. Although there was enough water on the road to run the motor, most of the time one of our group pulled the boat through the sometime waist deep muck which covered much of the area.
It was heartbreaking to see caskets that had floated from a local cemetery. A group of caring citizens towed the caskets back to the flooded highway and tied them to a tree to prevent them from floating away again.
We met a family of three paddling down the bayou. They mentioned that they had spent the storm in their home until the water had gotten too high and then had to evacuate to their grandmother’s home which was elevated. They also mentioned that there were 4 other children at her home, all under the age of eight.
At this point it became apparent that many of the people in the area were in dire need of supplies. We were able to reach the tribal vice-chair who was on his way to work. He turned around and brought us a van loaded with foods that we had packed for delivery earlier to this community but were unable to do so because the roads were flooded. We met him in our boat on the side of the highway and loaded the boat along with another boat which we found overturned in the water. After bailing out the second boat, we towed it behind us and used it in our food delivery.
The family we had met paddling down the roadway, like many others who had not evacuated for Hurricane Ike, had remained behind because they did not have the resources to go elsewhere. We made several trips down the bayou delivering supplies to all that we had found in need and left a boatload of supplies with this family, as the father was eager to deliver all that he could to his neighbors who we may have missed.
I am happy to say that we were able to give temporary employment to this young man, and he has been a wonderful asset to our recovery efforts. However, the lives of our people are complicated. With his home unlivable, he is in need of a stable environment where his children can return to school. He spent 6 hours yesterday at a FEMA office and still does not know where he and his family will live in the immediate future. Unfortunately, he is but one tribal member out of thousands who find themselves in similar situations. However, our people are resilient and somehow have managed to survive these crises in the past.
I mentioned in a recent blog that there was a man who had been rescued along with his 92 year old mother during the storm. He accompanied us on the trip and showed us the home they had evacuated. Another person on the trip declined to go into his flooded home, as it was too emotional for him to handle at the time.
Monday’s outreach efforts took us to the Grand Bois community. Grand Bois is a small town that had not flooded before but did so with Hurricane Ike. Cars and lawn mowers were parked along the highway to prevent them from flooding. Community members received supplies from the tribal bus and then took them to their home by pirogue.
We have great concerns for the citizens of Grand Bois, as there is a controversial oil field waste facility next to the town. We worry that some of this waste may have been released into the area where our people live.
Tuesday marked the opening of the Old Store Relief Center. As with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, an extensive data base of services is being kept. Food, water, baby items and cleaning supplies are some of the items provided. The staff is assisting tribal citizens with their FEMA applications and free hair cuts are being offered by a staff member who is a beautician. The Old Store Relief Center has provided assistance to approximately 80-90 families a day.
A meeting was held on Wednesday with Red Cross and FEMA in which they vowed to work collaboratively with the UHN. What a difference 3 years makes! Our previous experiences with these agencies had not been so productive.
Tribal council representatives also met with state officials on Thursday and expressed their frustration with the lack of adequate flood protection for our tribal communities.
The local school district has a large increase in the number of students who have qualified for the homeless program since the two hurricanes. They have reached out to us for assistance. A meeting of school supervisors and staff, parish government officials and community organizations was held on Friday to address these needs.
The end of the week brought us to Dulac with a group of students who assisted in removing flooded items and several inches of sludge (wet mud) out of the Dulac Community Center. Some tribal citizens are beginning to return home. Although there is no longer water in the homes, many yards remain flooded making the “gutting” process difficult. It’s heartbreaking to travel down the bayou and see all of a family’s possessions on the side of the road awaiting pickup by local parish equipment.
Tribal citizens have shared their stories of evacuating and returning to their flooded homes with us at the Old Store Relief Center and during our outreach efforts. For the first time, I am beginning to see some of our People weary. After three long years, some of their lives were just beginning to feel normal again while others were still struggling to recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
I would like to share with you a story of a wonderful family I had known for years but became close to following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They are an elderly couple who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and who live along Shrimpers Row. They had their home flooded by Hurricane Rita and now again by Hurricane Ike. I had visited with them recently when I brought a reporter from Time Magazine to interview them for a story on the Louisiana wetlands. During his interview they described their love for the land and the attachments they felt for their home and their culture. When asked about seeking Road Home funds to elevate their home, they mentioned that they felt sorry for the people in New Orleans who had lost everything and did not want to take any money that might be used to assist these families.
When they were later persuaded that they needed to file for these funds they did so and were scheduled to have their home elevated prior to the storm. However, the Road Home evaluation team found they had a faulty faucet attachment in their bathroom and denied them their funds until the problem was corrected. The elderly husband was unable to perform this task himself and the elevation of the home was cancelled.
Prior to Hurricane Gustave, they had placed all of their treasured possessions in their automobile and had evacuated the community. When they returned, they replaced everything in their home, only to be caught unprepared for the quick rising waters which occurred with Hurricane Ike. All of their precious possessions were devastated by the floodwaters which covered their home.
The amazing part of this story is the same thing we heard with flooding in New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish, Plaquemines Parish, and elsewhere. When the floodwaters begin to rise, they sometimes come up so quickly that escaping them is impossible.
Friday night, a dinner was held for Ms Marie Dean’s 92nd Birthday. A big event was planned at a KC home but was rescheduled to a restaurant because the KC home flooded.
A group of dedicated volunteers had rebuilt Taunte Marie’s home after hurricane Rita and now 3 years later hurricane Ike has left her home with 5 feet of floodwaters. At 92, she enjoys being in her own home. As I sat next to this beautiful elder her smile did not reflect the sadness I saw in her eyes. Due to the flood waters still in her yard, she has not had an opportunity to return home. I promised her that as soon as she did, we would be there to help her rebuild her home once again.
The United Houma Nation is blessed to have a dedicated tribal council and staff. Almost all of them have had damages to their homes and yet they are finding the time to assist with community outreach and to identify the needs of the people who live in their respective districts.
Days are long and it is difficult to remember what day it is or what has happened from one day to the next. The days seem to blur into one another. It is difficult enough to meet the needs of our Tribal citizens and even more difficult to write about these experiences. Although it is difficult to write this daily blog, I will continue to do so as I realize how important it is to share our stories with you. When I first began writing about our plight, it was healing as it helped me to organize my thoughts and plan my future activities. At this point it has become more difficult as the stories that need to be told are painful to describe and difficult to express with a degree of accuracy to equal their emotional significance.
I receive a large amount of calls and e-mails each day and feel obligated to return each of them, as the next one may be the call that provides needed assistance to our people or who describes someone in desperate need.
We were fortunate enough to have anticipated losing our e-mail connections and obtained a wireless attachment for our computer that has enabled us to send and receive e-mail messages. We have also had to rely on different phone connections, as two of the three services available locally have been out of order at one time or another.
I am extremely grateful to have a loyal and understanding family and friends who have stood with me throughout this ordeal and who realize that this is just the beginning of a lengthy and trying experience for us all.
United Houma Nation
20986 Highway 1
Golden Meadow, LA 70357
Office: (985) 537-8867
Fax: (985) 537-8812
United Houma Nation
United Houma Nation Relief Fund
4400 Hwy. 1
Raceland, LA 70394
Office: (985) 537-8867
Fax: (985) 537-8812
Contacts: Charlene Soares, Administrative Assistant or Samantha Shaffstall, Program Manager
The purpose of the United Houma Nation Relief Office is to assist tribal citizens impacted by natural disasters and to assist in the coordination of the United Houma Nation disaster preparedness plans. Please view the video below... Your donations are tax deductible as the UHN has 501c3 status.
|Photos: Houma Communities
The following are images from the Houma Communities - their homes and land. To view more images and to help the people of the Houma Nation - Please Visit: United Houma Nation
|Local Fire Station
|Gone! Just gone.
|A Community Gone...
|Sarah Palin’s Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues
1. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing
Perhaps no issue is of greater importance to Alaska Native peoples as the right to hunt and fish according to ancient customary and traditional practices, and to carry on the subsistence way of life for future generations.
Governor Sarah Palin has consistently opposed those rights.
Once in office, Governor Palin decided to continue litigation that seeks to overturn every subsistence fishing determination the federal government has ever made in Alaska. (State of Alaska v. Norton, 3:05-cv-0158-HRH (D. Ak).) In pressing this case, Palin decided against using the Attorney General (which usually handles State litigation) and instead continued contracting with Senator Ted Stevens’ brother-in-law’s law firm (Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot).
The goal of Palin’s law suit is to invalidate all the subsistence fishing regulations the federal government has issued to date to protect Native fishing, and to force the courts instead to take over the role of setting subsistence regulations. Palin’s law suit seeks to diminish subsistence fishing rights in order to expand sport and commercial fishing.
In May 2007, the federal court rejected the State’s main challenge, holding that Congress in 1980 had expressly granted the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments the authority to regulate and protect Native and rural subsistence fishing activities in Alaska. (Decision entered May 15, 2007 (Dkt. No. 110).)
Notwithstanding this ruling, Palin continues to argue in the litigation that the federal subsistence protections are too broad, and should be narrowed to exclude vast areas from subsistence fishing, in favor of sport and commercial fishing. Palin opposes subsistence protections in marine waters, on many of the lands that Natives selected under their 1971 land claims settlement with the state and federal governments, and in many of the rivers where Alaska Natives customarily fish. (Alaska Complaint at 15-18.) Palin also opposes subsistence fishing protections on Alaska Native federal allotments that were deeded to individuals purposely to foster Native subsistence activities. All these issues are now pending before the federal district court.
2. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting
Palin has also sought to invalidate critical determinations the Federal Subsistence Board has made regarding customary and traditional uses of game, specifically to take hunting opportunities away from Native subsistence villagers and thereby enhance sport hunting.
Palin’s attack here on subsistence has focused on the Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina.
Although the federal district court has rejected Palin’s challenge, she has carried on an appeal that was argued in August 2008. (State of Alaska v. Fleagle, No. 07-35723 (9th Cir.).)
In both hunting and fishing matters, Palin has continued uninterrupted the policies initiated by the former Governor Frank Murkowski Administration, challenging hunting and fishing protections that Native people depend upon for their subsistence way of life in order to enhance sport fishing and hunting opportunities. Palin’s lawsuits are a direct attack on the core way of life of Native Tribes in rural Alaska.
3. Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty
Governor Palin opposes Alaska tribal sovereignty.
Given past court rulings affirming the federally recognized tribal status of Alaska Native villages, Palin does not technically challenge that status. But Palin argues that Alaska Tribes have no authority to act as sovereigns, despite their recognition.
So extreme is Palin on tribal sovereignty issues that she has sought to block tribes from exercising any authority whatsoever even over the welfare of Native children, adhering to a 2004 legal opinion issued by the former Murkowski Administration that no such jurisdiction exist (except when a state court transfers a matter to a tribal court).
Both the state courts and the federal courts have struck down Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize the sovereign authority of Alaska Tribes to address issues involving Alaska Native children. Native Village of Tanana v. State of Alaska, 3AN-04-12194 CI (judgment entered Aug. 26, 2008) (Ak. Super. Ct.); Kaltag Tribal Council v. DHHS, No. 3:06-cv-00211-TMB (D. Ak.), pending on appeal No 08-35343 (9th Cir.)). Nonetheless, Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize Alaska tribal sovereignty remains unchanged.
4. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages
Palin has refused to accord proper respect to Alaska Native languages and voters by refusing to provide language assistance to Yup’ik speaking Alaska Native voters. As a result, Palin was just ordered by a special three-judge panel of federal judges to provide various forms of voter assistance to Yup’ik voters residing in southwest Alaska. Nick v. Bethel, No. 3:07-cv-0098-TMB (D. Ak.) (Order entered July 30, 2008). Citing years of State neglect, Palin was ordered to provide trained poll workers who are bilingual in English and Yup’ik; sample ballots in written Yup’ik; a written Yup’ik glossary of election terms; consultation with local Tribes to ensure the accuracy of Yup’ik translations; a Yup’ik language coordinator; and pre-election and post-election reports to the court to track the State’s efforts.
In sum, measured against some the rights that are most fundamental to Alaska Native Tribes - the subsistence way of life, tribal sovereignty and voting rights – Palin’s record is a failure.
State v. Norton opinion:
State v. Norton complaint:
[Alaska court system is not electronic]
Nick v. State