A Time to Veto

By Rhea Suh, President, NRDC,  Huffington Post

 

President Obama is poised to reject legislation meant to force the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, in what would be his third veto since taking office six years ago.

Pipeline proponents, naturally, are howling.

Obama, though, is exercising his veto authority under the Constitution in precisely the way our founders intended: as a check on Congressional overreach at odds with the good of the country.

The president is the only public official elected to represent all the American people. That confers upon the president, uniquely, an obligation to act on behalf of the entire country, not simply a collection of congressional districts or states, in a way that reflects the common will and advances the national interest.

The Constitution enshrines the presidential veto as a vital tool for fulfilling that role, and leaders throughout our history have found it essential. Presidents stretching back to George Washington have used the veto 2,563 times to reject legislation passed by both houses of Congress.

Ronald Reagan used his veto power 78 times — the most of any president in modern times. Obama, at the other end of the scale, has vetoed just two bills so far — fewer than any other president in 160 years.

Rarely is the veto more clearly in order as now.

Under long-established procedure, the question of whether to approve a project like a pipeline that would cross a U.S. border hangs on a single criteria: is the project in the national interest? It is the president’s job — and properly so — to make that determination.

In assessing whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline meets the criteria, Obama has put the U.S. State Department in the lead, with expertise added from an array of other government agencies that oversee commerce, transportation, energy, environment and other important areas central to the national interest.

The Republican-led House gave final congressional approval today to a bill meant to force approval of the tar sands pipeline in a way that would usurp presidential authority, short-circuit the deliberative process of informed evaluation already underway and supersede the president’s obligation to determine whether the project is good for the country.

Those are three good reasons to veto the bill.

There is, though, one more, and it goes to the heart of our system of checks and balances.

The tar sands pipeline is not a project designed to help this country. It is a plan to pipe some of the dirtiest oil on the planet — tar sands crude mined from Canada’s boreal forest using some of the most destructive industrial practices ever devised — through the breadbasket of America to Gulf coast refineries where most of the fuel will be shipped overseas.

It would create 35 permanent American jobs, according to the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline. And the tar sands crude would generate 17 percent more of the carbon pollution that is driving climate change than conventional crude oil produces.

It would put our heartland at grave and needless risk of the kind of pipeline accidents we’ve seen nearly 6,000 times over just the past two decades. It would cross more than 1,000 rivers, streams and other waterways and pass within a mile of some 3,000 underground wells that supply irrigation and drinking water to communities and farms across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. And it would deepen our addiction to the fossil fuels of the past when we need to be investing in the clean energy options of the future.

That is not a project that serves our national interest. It is, instead, a project that’s about big profits for big oil, big payoffs for industry allies on Capitol Hill and big pollution for the rest of us.

If that’s what the Republican leadership in Congress wants to drop on the president’s desk, here’s what’s going to happen. The president is going to do what other presidents going back to George Washington have done more than 2,500 times: stand up for what’s best for all Americans, and veto this terrible bill.

State of Indian Nations speech underlines US-tribe relations

In this Sept. 16, 2014 file photo, President of National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe Brian Cladoosby, joins other native Americans and lawmakers during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Tribes must insist the federal government honor its commitments and create partnerships with them based on deference, not paternalism, Cladoosby said Thursday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

In this Sept. 16, 2014 file photo, President of National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe Brian Cladoosby, joins other native Americans and lawmakers during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Tribes must insist the federal government honor its commitments and create partnerships with them based on deference, not paternalism, Cladoosby said Thursday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

 

By FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Tribes must insist the federal government honor its commitments to them and create partnerships with them based on deference, not paternalism, the president of the National Congress of American Indians said Thursday.

 Brian Cladoosby said in the annual State of Indian Nations address that too many reservations are plagued with high unemployment and dropout rates, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, and an epidemic of suicides.

Congress needs to update laws and regulations on energy, taxation and education to help tribes overcome those long-standing challenges, but it shouldn’t dictate solutions, he said.

“Honoring its trust responsibility means recognizing Indian Country’s legal authority to control its own destiny,” Cladoosby told a crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. “It means respecting Native peoples for who we are, not who others think we are. And it means modernizing the trust relationship between our nations.”

In the congressional response, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said the relationship between tribes and the federal government hasn’t always been positive. But as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, he vowed to lead efforts to strengthen it.

“We are equally committed to so much of what you have raised,” Barrasso said.

In exchange for land, the federal government promised things like health care, education, social services and public safety in perpetuity for members of federally recognized tribes. Those vows generally are born out of treaties. The U.S. negotiated more than 400 treaties with tribes, most of which were ratified by the Senate.

Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Nation of Washington state, invited members of Congress to visit Indian Country and see some of its successes: the rehabilitation of centuries-old homes at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in New Mexico; cavity-free classrooms in Shaktoolik, Alaska, created by a first-of-its-kind dental health therapist program; and the country’s first commercial wetland mitigation bank developed and operated by a tribe in Washington.

But he said federal funding often falls short of what tribes need to provide for their membership.

Congress should build on efforts to improve public safety on reservations, bring culturally appropriate education to Native students and stimulate economic growth, Cladoosby said.

He called on lawmakers to simplify and streamline government regulations that would give tribes the ability to issue tax-exempt bonds, give tax credits to members who live on reservations and adopt children with special needs, and provide tribal law enforcement access to a national crime database.

Cladoosby noted the federal government should do more to expand broadband access in Indian County, which stands at 10 percent. He also said it should study tribes’ technology needs and improve infrastructure and housing.

The responsibility falls on all members of Congress, Cladoosby said, whether their districts include Indian Country or not.

“This trust, it’s not a handout,” he said. “It’s a contract. It’s a commitment. And it’s their duty to honor it.”

Lummi Totem Pole Journey Rallies Voices Against Environmental Destruction

Courtesy of 'Kwel Hoy: A Totem Pole Journey'A 19-foot pole carved by Lummi master carver Jewell James and the House of Tears Carvers is being taken on a journey to 21 Native and non-Native communities in four Northwest states and British Columbia. James carved the pole to compel people to speak out against coal and oil transport projects that could have a devastating impact on the environment. The pole will be raised at Beaver Lake Cree First Nation on September 6.

Courtesy of ‘Kwel Hoy: A Totem Pole Journey’
A 19-foot pole carved by Lummi master carver Jewell James and the House of Tears Carvers is being taken on a journey to 21 Native and non-Native communities in four Northwest states and British Columbia. James carved the pole to compel people to speak out against coal and oil transport projects that could have a devastating impact on the environment. The pole will be raised at Beaver Lake Cree First Nation on September 6.

 

Richard Walker, 9/2/14, Indian Country Today

 

LUMMI NATION, Washington—At each stop on the totem pole’s journey, people have gathered to pray, sing and take a stand.

They took a stand in Couer d’Alene, Bozeman, Spearfish, Wagner and Lower Brule. They took a stand in Billings, Spokane, Yakama Nation, Olympia and Seattle. They took a stand in Anacortes, on San Juan Island, and in Victoria, Vancouver and Tsleil Waututh.

They’ll take a stand in Kamloops, Calgary and Edmonton. And they’ll take a stand at Beaver Lake Cree First Nation, where the pole will be raised after its 5,100-mile journey to raise awareness of environmental threats posed by coal and oil extraction and rail transport.

“The coal trains, the tar sands, the destruction of Mother Earth—this totem [pole] is on a journey. It’s calling attention to these issues,” Linda Soriano, Lummi, told videographer Freddy Lane, Lummi, who is documenting the journey. “Generations yet unborn are being affected by the contaminants in our water.… We need people to take a stand. Warrior up—take a stand, speak up, get involved in these issues. We will not be silent.”

The 19-foot pole was crafted by Lummi master carver Jewell James and the House of Tears Carvers. The pole and entourage left the Lummi Nation on August 17 for 21 Native and non-Native communities in four Northwest states and British Columbia. The itinerary includes Olympia, the capital of Washington State, and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. The pole is scheduled to arrive at Beaver Lake Cree on September 6.

The journey takes place as U.S. energy company Kinder Morgan plans to ship 400 tanker loads of heavy crude oil each year out of the Northwest; a refinery is proposed in Kitimat, British Columbia, where heavy crude oil from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would be loaded onto tankers bound for Asia; and as Gateway Pacific proposes a coal train terminal at Cherry Point in Lummi Nation territory. Cherry Point is a sacred and environmentally sensitive area; early site preparation for the terminal was done without permits, and ancestral burials were desecrated.

In a guest column published on August 11 in the Bellingham Herald, James wrote that Native peoples have long seen and experienced environmental degradation and destruction of healthy ecosystems, with the result being the loss of traditional foods and medicines, at the expense of people’s health.

And now, the coal terminal proposed at Cherry Point poses “a tremendous ecological, cultural and socio-economic threat” to Pacific Northwest indigenous peoples, James wrote.

“We wonder how Salish Sea fisheries, already impacted by decades of pollution and global warming, will respond to the toxic runoff from the water used for coal piles stored on site,” he wrote. “What will happen to the region’s air quality as coal trains bring dust and increase diesel pollution? And of course, any coal burned overseas will come home to our state as mercury pollution in our fish, adding to the perils of climate change.”

James wrote that the totem pole “brings to mind our shared responsibility for the lands, the waters and the peoples who face environmental and cultural devastation from fossil fuel megaprojects.… Our commitment to place, to each other, unites us as one people, one voice to call out to others who understand that our shared responsibility is to leave a better, more bountiful world for those who follow.”

‘This Is the Risk That Is Being Taken’

Recent events contributed to the urgency of the totem pole journey’s message.

Two weeks before the journey got under way, a dike broke at a Quesnel, British Columbia, pond that held toxic byproducts left over from mining; an estimated 10 million cubic meters of wastewater and 4.5 million cubic meters of fine sand flowed into lakes and creeks upstream from the Fraser River, a total of four billion gallons of mining waste. A Sto:lo First Nation fisheries adviser told the Chilliwack Progress of reports of fish dying near the spill, either from toxins or asphyxiation from silt clogging their gills; and First Nation and non-Native fisheries are bracing for an impact on this year’s runs.

RELATED: Video: Watch 4 Billion Gallons of Mining Waste Pour Into Pristine B.C. Waterways

On July 24, a Burlington Northern train pulling 100 loads of Bakken crude oil derailed in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood. The railcars didn’t leak, but the derailment prompted a statement from Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and Area Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians.

“People need to know that every time an oil train travels by, this is the risk that is being taken,” she said. “These accidents have occurred before. They will occur again. … The rail and bridge infrastructure in this country is far too inadequate to service the vast expansion of oil traffic we are witnessing.”

RELATED: Seattle Oil-Train Derailment Hits Close to Home for Quinault

A year earlier, on July 6, 2013, an unmanned train with 72 tank cars full of Bakken crude oil derailed in a small Quebec village, killing 47 people. An estimated 1.5 million gallons of oil spilled from ruptured tank cars and burned; according to the Washington Post, it was one of 10 significant derailments since 2008 in the United States and Canada in which oil spilled from ruptured cars.

RELATED: Lac-Mégantic Rail Tragedy Resonates in Quinault Nation as Victims Are Memorialized

Feds Call Bakken Crude Volatile as Quinault Warn Against Oil Rail Transport

Some good news during the journey: As the totem pole and entourage arrived at the Yankton Sioux Reservation in Wagner, South Dakota, word was received that the Oregon Department of State Lands rejected Ambre Energy’s application to build a coal terminal on the Columbia River; the company wants to ship 8.8 million tons of coal annually to Asia through the terminal.

RELATED: Treaty Victory as Northwest Tribes Celebrate Oregon Coal Train Rejection

One of the concerns that communities have about coal transport is exposure to coal dust; those concerns are shared by residents of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, where proponents of a coal terminal on the Mississippi River forecast an increase in Gulf Coast coal exports from seven million tons in 2011 to 96 million by 2030.

Dr. Marianne Maumus of Ochsner Health Systems told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that coal dust contains heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium and mercury, and can cause cancer, neurological, renal and brain-development problems.

“I think the risk is real. I think there is a lot of potential harm from multiple sources,” Maumus told the Times-Picayune.

James said there are alternatives to coal and oil—among them energy generated by wind, sun and tides.

“But we’re not going to move toward those until we move away from fossil fuels,” he said.

In his Nation’s territory, Yakama Chairman JoDe L. Goudy told videographer Lane he hopes the pole’s journey will help the voice of Native people “and the voice of those people across the land that have a concern for the well-being of all” to be heard.

“May the journey, the blessing, the collective prayers that’s [being offered] and the awareness that’s being created lift us all up,” he said, “lift us all up to find a way to come against the powers that be … whether it be coal, whether it be oil or whatever it may be.”

Albert Redstar, Nez Perce, advised young people: “Remember the teachings of your people. Remember that there’s another way to look at the world rather than the corporate [way]. It’s time to say no to all that. It’s time to accept the old values and take them as your truths as well.… They’re ready for you to awaken into your own heart today.”

To Unite and Protect

The totem pole journey is being made in honor of the life of environmental leader and treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually. Frank, chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, walked on in May.

RELATED: The Fire That Was Billy Frank Jr.; Indian Country’s Greatest Defender

James said the pole depicts a woman representing Mother Earth, lifting a child up; four warriors, representing protectors of the environment; and a snake, representing the power of the Earth. The pole journey has been undertaken in times of crisis several times this century.

In 2002, 2003 and 2004, to help promote healing after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, James and the House of Tears Carvers journeyed across the United States with healing poles for Arrow Park, New York, 52 miles north of Ground Zero; Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed; and Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery, seven miles from the Pentagon. And In 2011, James and a 20-foot healing pole for the National Library of Medicine visited nine Native American reservations en route to Bethesda, Maryland. At each stop on the three-week cross-country journey, people prayed, James said at the time, “for the protection of our children, our communities and our elders, and generally helping us move along with the idea that we all need to unite and protect the knowledge that we have, and respect each other.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/09/02/lummi-totem-pole-journey-rallies-voices-against-environmental-destruction-156696?page=0%2C2

 

Assistant Secretary Washburn Announces Solicitation of Grant Proposals to Assess and Develop Tribal Energy and Mineral Resources

$11 million available in 2014 for federally recognized tribal communities

Source: Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today announced that the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (IEED)  is soliciting grant proposals from federally recognized tribes for projects that promote the assessment and development of energy and mineral resources on Indian trust lands.  IEED has $11 million available in FY 2014 for grants, which is a historic level of investment that will support tribes seeking to put their energy and mineral assets to work for their communities.

“The IEED Energy and Mineral Development Program is another example of how Indian Affairs is working to assist tribes in realizing and maximizing the potential of their energy and mineral resources,” Assistant Secretary Washburn said.  “This solicitation will provide tribal communities owning energy and mineral resources the opportunity and financial support to conduct projects that will evaluate, find and document their energy and mineral assets, and bring those assets to market.”

Energy and mineral development on Indian trust lands plays a critical role in creating jobs and generating income throughout Indian Country while also contributing to the national economy.  All natural resources produced on Indian trust lands had an estimated economic impact of $12.08 billion, with over 85 percent of this impact derived from energy and mineral development on tribal lands, according to the Department of the Interiors Economic Contributions report issued in July 2012.  The report also noted that out of an estimated 126,000 natural resources-related jobs on tribal lands in Fiscal Year 2011, 88.7 percent were directly associated with energy and mineral development. Energy and mineral resources generated more than $970 million in royalty revenue paid to Indian mineral owners in 2013. Income from energy and minerals is by far the largest source of revenue generated from Indian trust lands.

IEED’s Division of Energy and Mineral Development, through its Energy and Mineral Development Program (EMDP), annually solicits proposals from federally recognized tribes for energy and mineral development projects that assess, locate and inventory energy and mineral resources, or perform feasibility or market studies which are used to promote the use and development of  energy and mineral resources on Indian lands.

Energy and mineral resources may include either conventional such as oil, natural gas or coal, or renewable energy resources such as biomass, geothermal or hydroelectric.  Mineral resources include industrial minerals such as sand and gravel; precious minerals such as gold, silver and platinum; base minerals including lead, copper and zinc; and ferrous metal minerals such as iron, tungsten and chromium.

The EMDP is mandated under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (25 USC 3501 et seq.) which requires the Secretary of the Interior to “establish and implement an Indian energy resource development program to assist consenting Indian tribes and tribal energy resource development organizations…[and]…provide grants…for use in carrying out projects to promote the integration of energy resources, and to process, use, or develop those energy resources, on Indian land….”

EMDP is funded under the non-recurring appropriation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs budget and is based on available funds.  It is an annual program, and uses a competitive evaluation process to select several proposed projects to receive an award.  Since 1982, the EMDP has invested about $90 million in developing energy and mineral resource information on Indian lands. These funds have defined more than $800 billion of potential energy and mineral resources. 

The Department published a solicitation on the Grants.gov website on June 9, 2014.  Proposals must be submitted no later than 75 calendar days from the announcement date.  The Grants.gov website posting contains all of the guidelines for writing a proposal and instructions for submitting a completed proposal to the DEMD office.

The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs oversees the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, which implements the Indian Energy Resource Development Program under Title V of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  IEED’s mission is to foster stronger American Indian and Alaska Native communities by helping federally recognized tribes with employment and workforce training programs; developing their renewable and non-renewable energy and mineral resources; and increasing access to capital for tribal and individual American Indian- and Alaska Native-owned businesses.  For more information about IEED programs and services, visit the Indian Affairs website at http://www.indianaffairs.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/IEED/index.htm.

 

 

Winona LaDuke: Keep USDA Out of Our Kitchens

By Tanya H. Lee, ICTMN

Native American author, educator, activist, mother and grandmother Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabekwe, is calling on tribes to relocalize food and energy production as a means of both reducing CO2 emissions and of asserting tribes’ inherent right to live in accordance with their own precepts of the sacredness of Mother Earth and responsibility to future generations.

She said during a recent presentation on climate change at Harvard University, “We essentially need tribal food and energy policies that reflect sustainability. Tribes [as sovereign nations] have jurisdiction over food from seed to table and we need to take it or else USDA will take it…. The last thing you want is USDA telling you how to cook your hominy, that you can’t use ashes in it …. I am the world-renowned, or reservation-wide renowned, beaver tamale queen. So who’s going to come to my house and [inspect the beaver]? I don’t want USDA in my food. I want us to exercise control over our food and not have them saying we can’t eat what we traditionally eat.”

LaDuke was talking about tribal food sovereignty.

Winona LaDuke of White Earth, Jackie Francke of First Nations Development Institute and Julie Garreau, executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project, at the first meeting of the NAFSA founding council. (Courtesy First Nations Development Institute)
Winona LaDuke of White Earth, Jackie Francke of First Nations Development Institute and Julie Garreau, executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project, at the first meeting of the NAFSA founding council. (Courtesy First Nations Development Institute)

Neither the United States Department of Agriculture nor the Food and Drug Administration is likely to turn up in your family’s kitchen, but federal policies have a lot to say about what food products are allowed to get into that kitchen in the first place. Antibiotics and growth hormones in the meat supply, vast harvests of corn, rice or wheat cultivated from the same genetic stock, genetically modified organisms—be they corn or soy or fish–and preservatives added to food during processing are primarily under the control of the USDA and FDA. As are the regulations about what foods can be served by tribes at day care centers, schools and senior centers, not to mention those on how food intended for commercial markets must be grown and processed.

Of particular concern right now is the 2011 federal Food Safety Modernization Act, which increases regulation and oversight of food production in an effort to prevent contamination. If the rules pertaining to the law are not changed in response to public comments, some of the federal government’s regulatory and inspection responsibilities will devolve to state governments, a direct threat to tribal sovereignty, according to First Nations Community Development Institute Senior Program Officer Raymond Foxworth, Navajo. “The [historic] loss of food system control in Indian Country is highly correlated with things like the loss of land, the loss of some aspects of culture related to agricultural processes, and … some pretty negative health statistics [including obesity, diabetes and lifespan]. It’s our belief that food sovereignty is one solution to combat some of these negative effects, be it the negative health statistics, the loss of culture or the loss of land.”

Harley Coriz, director of the Santo Domingo Senior Center, inside of the center's new greenhouse. (Courtesy First Nations Development Institute)
Harley Coriz, director of the Santo Domingo Senior Center, inside of the center’s new greenhouse. (Courtesy First Nations Development Institute)

The institute has been instrumental in establishing the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance under its Native American Food System Initiative. The alliance will be a national organization focused on networking, best practices and policy issues. The founding members of NAFSA “have been working on trying to pressure the FDA into initiating tribal consultations related to FSMA.”

The alliance, in the works for more than a decade, recently got start-up funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. FNCDI contracted with the Taos County Economic Development Corp. to coordinate its establishment. Directors Pati Martinson and Terrie Bad Hand convened a group of 16 people who have been working on food systems at the grassroots level to form a founding council. That group had its first face-to-face meeting in October.

Among the founding council members is Dana Eldridge, Navajo, formerly on the staff at Diné College and now an independent consultant and would-be farmer, who has done extensive work in analyzing food systems for the Navajo Nation. One of her main concerns is genetically modified organisms. GMOs, she says, threaten both the ownership of Native seeds and the spiritual aspects of food. “Corn is very sacred to us—it’s our most sacred plant. We pray with corn pollen–in our Creation story we’re made of corn—so what does it mean that this plant has been turned into something that actively harms people?”

Children at the Akwesasne Freedom School in New York near the Canadian border work in the their gardens in a farm-to-school project led by Kanenhi:io Ionkwaiontonhake. Much of the food grown in the gardens goes directly to the school for meals. Two teachers even instruct the older kids in the pre-K through grade 8 school in how to can and store their food, according to Elvera Sargent, Mohawk, who has been at the school since 1995 and who is a member of the NAFSA founding council. (Courtesy Akwesasne Freedom School)
Children at the Akwesasne Freedom School in New York near the Canadian border work in the their gardens in a farm-to-school project led by Kanenhi:io Ionkwaiontonhake. Much of the food grown in the gardens goes directly to the school for meals. Two teachers even instruct the older kids in the pre-K through grade 8 school in how to can and store their food, according to Elvera Sargent, Mohawk, who has been at the school since 1995 and who is a member of the NAFSA founding council. (Courtesy Akwesasne Freedom School)

Eldridge says food sovereignty is also important because it is a way to begin to address the trauma colonization has inflicted on Native people. “What I’ve learned during this food research is you can’t produce food by yourself. You need people, you need family, you need community and relationships, so a lot of it is about rebuilding community and reconnecting with the land and I think that’s a very important healing process for our people.”

The Taos County Economic Development Corp. has found that one way to keep USDA and FDA out of your kitchen is to invite them in. When regulators amped up their enforcement of regulations in relation to Native commercial food enterprises in northern New Mexico, TCEDC built a 5,000-square-food commercial kitchen where people could process their crops and learn directly from USDA inspectors what the regulations were. Says Martinson, “The food center was our way of modeling and bringing forward local healthy food through helping those people become actual businesses and entrepreneurs.” In 2006, TCEDC added a mobile slaughtering unit. Housed in a tractor trailer truck, the MSU travels out to small ranches where USDA inspectors oversee the slaughter of livestock—”bison, beef, sheep, goats and the occasional yak,” says Bad Hand–intended for commercial sale. The meat is then brought back to the center for cutting and packaging, again under federal oversight.

There is an irony to all this federal oversight of food production in sovereign Native nations, says Martinson. Traditional Native food growing, harvesting and processing principles kept people healthy for millennia before USDA even existed. The food contamination that FSMA is intended to prevent is a consequence of the industrialization of food production. “All these scares that you hear about, e. coli or salmonella making people really sick, if you trace those back, they come from huge packing plants, from industry.

A young girl at Cochiti Youth Experience (at Cochiti Pueblo) working in the garden. (Courtesy First Nations Development Institute)
A young girl at Cochiti Youth Experience (at Cochiti Pueblo) working in the garden. (Courtesy First Nations Development Institute)

“One of the things that I think Native people recognize and have passed down culturally is that you need to have human beings within food production ecosystems for all of those reasons—safety, quality, a relationship with your food. The principles of safe food are indigenous and inherent in Native communities,” Martinson says.

The answer to “What’s for dinner?” has profound implications for the well-being of Native American tribes. Tribal food sovereignty could mean the difference between continuing to retain (or regain) language, land, religious precepts, traditional lifeways and physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health or losing them.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/29/winona-laduke-keep-usda-out-our-kitchens-152496

Quinault Nation Receives Grant for Pellet Manufacturing Plant

Source: Water 4 Fish

TAHOLAH, WA (11/24/13)– The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) has received a $63,231 US Department of Agriculture Rural Business Opportunity Grant to conduct a feasibility study on the viability of a tribal pellet manufacturing plant on the tribe’s reservation, according to Fawn Sharp, QIN President.

The envisioned pellet mill is expected to consume logging slash blended with higher grade fiber and/or alternative bio-crop fiber such as Arundo Donax (Nile Fiber), to produce industrial quality pellets that eliminate the need for annual logging slash burns, according to Sharp. “We also anticipate creating new jobs as this Tribal Enterprise is developed. New jobs would include facility operations and maintenance, biomass harvesting, biomass sorting, mechanical equipment operators, truck drivers, and administrative support,” she said. “We anticipate as many as 36 new jobs from this project.”

Upon completion the study will bring the Quinault Indian Nation one step closer to a sustainable biomass for heat system that not only provides heat to essential tribal facilities but will also begin a new technology on the Reservation.

The Quinault Nation has been investigating the use of forest biomass material generated from QIN forest management practices as fuel for heating new or existing tribal facilities for years. The existing Tribal facilities being considered for retrofit in support of a biomass for heat facility include the Tribal Health Clinic, Department of Natural Resources, the Executive Office complex and the Administration complex.

To officially get this project off and running, QIN partnered with Columbia-Pacific Resource Conservation & Economic Development District (ColPac) to apply for grants from the USDA Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program and the US Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization Grant Program. The successful grant application was done in support of a biomass feasibility study on the Quinault Reservation. The feasibility study, successfully completed in January of 2012, determined QIN generates more than sufficient biomass quantities to sustain a low pressure boiler system using wood chips or pellets (created from forest slash) as a green fuel source to produce low cost wood heat.

Due to the project’s focus on biomass as a sustainable renewable energy resource, a diverse team of partners and the potential for new Tribal jobs in support of biomass for heat technology, the project was designated as one of seven national USDA Great Regions Projects by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in 2010.

“Currently our project is in the final engineering and design phase for a QIN Biomass for Heat Facility,” said Sharp.  “In support of this phase QIN applied for and was awarded a 2012 US Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization Program Grant in the amount of $205,000,” she said.

Engineering and design of the QIN Biomass for Heat Facility is being accomplished by Richmond Engineering and includes the following tasks: Abbreviated Master Plant Site Selection, Schematic Design, Design Development, and Final Design/Bid Preparation. The QIN Biomass for Heat Facility is being engineered and designed as a low pressure hot water biomass heating facility.

The initial Biomass Feasibility Study concluded that 400 bone dry tons (BDT) per year of biomass fuel, in chip or pellet form, would be required to generate the sufficient amount of heat for QIN’s existing buildings. Timber harvests and forest management create 32,000 BDT of biomass-slash annually. The QIN reservation falls within the lush temperate rainforest and is highly productive making this biomass project highly viable as well as sustainable.

“Air quality, wildlife habitat, and forest resources will benefit from this project. Also QIN will save $78,000-$126,000 per year in utility bills from converting our current electric heat to wood heat. When constructed our Biomass for Heat Facility will help QIN become more energy independent. It will also help us become more self-reliant as we create local jobs,” she said.

“This is the type of project that creates jobs, on and off the reservation. It promotes energy independence and supports sustainability and sovereignty,” said Sharp . “It’s exactly what we’re looking for at Quinault,” she said.

Native American Tribe Turns Food Waste Into Electricity

Food waste will be turned into energy at a small power plant that the Forest County Potawatomi tribe has opened in Milwaukee.

by Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio

The Potawatomi plan to use microorganisms to convert from food and beverage processing waste into methane gas that will be burned to create electricity. Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford says the $20 million plant near the tribe’s Milwaukee casino fits with a tribal ethic to try to protect the environment, by “marrying old thoughts of digesting food and waste product and combining them with new modern technology.”

“And boom, here you go: We’re going to be producing green energy,” says Crawford.

The federal government and rate-payer-funded state focus on energy program are helping pay for the Potawatomi plant. The tribe plans to sell the electricity to WE Energies, providing enough energy to power 1,500 homes. Heat from the plant will be used for hot water and to help heat the casino.

But plant operator Charlie Opferman does say turning food waste into power is more complex than the Wisconsin plants that use cow waste for energy. He says one challenge will be to provide the microorganisms a balanced diet.

“The different bugs within the digester break down the organic compounds at different rates,” he says.

Opferman says the solid waste or bio-solid not burned may become fertilizer. About 20 trucks per day will bring in food waste but the Potawatomi plant is in an industrial valley and not close to any neighborhood.

Another food waste digester recently opened in Turtle Lake.

Key Thoughts From KeyBank: Indian Country and America’s Energy Needs

Mike Lettig

Mike Lettig

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The United States is entering a new age in energy: Natural resources are rapidly being unlocked by new technologies, and the market for renewable energy sources is booming. That’s good news for Indian country.

Native American lands contain huge amounts of natural resources, the vast majority of which is undeveloped. The U.S. Department of the Interior estimates that there are 15 million acres of potential energy and mineral resources on tribal land compared to 2.1 million acres already in use. If fully developed, energy projects could add billions in revenues to tribes, helping them build their economies, create jobs and achieve a better quality of life.

Oil and gas has great potential: The Navajo Nation in the Southwest, the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota and Alaska Native Corporations are engaged in large extraction enterprises. And some tribes like the Southern Ute own companies that manage the entire exploration and development undertaking.

Major coal operations are taking place on Navajo, Hopi and Crow lands, and many tribes have sizeable reserves available for development. Tribal lands also have considerable potential for hydroelectric projects and renewable energy production. For example, the Moapa Band of Paiutes in Nevada is launching the first large-scale solar project on Native soil.

Taking full advantage of natural resource opportunities requires access to capital, both debt and equity and a strategy that protects the land through conservation and sustainable practices. Just as important, it requires careful planning and a financial advisor that understands each Nation’s laws and values.

“Key is uniquely well positioned to work with tribes and energy development,” said Mike Lettig, director of KeyBank’s Native American Financial Services. “When our bankers team up with KeyBanc Capital Markets energy specialists, we ensure that our financial solutions meet Native America’s short- and long-term natural resource objectives.”

Securities products and services such as investment banking and capital raising are offered by KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Member NYSE/FINRA/SPIC. Banking products are offered by KeyBank National Association.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com//2013/10/01/key-thoughts-keybank-indian-country-and-americas-energy-needs-151500

Fight Over Energy Finds a New Front in a Corner of Idaho

 

Rich Addicks for The New York TimesU.S. Highway 12, which snakes along the Clearwater River in North Central Idaho, was the scene of a protest by the Nez Perce tribe in August. More Photos »

Rich Addicks for The New York Times
U.S. Highway 12, which snakes along the Clearwater River in North Central Idaho, was the scene of a protest by the Nez Perce tribe in August. Click image for more Photos 

By KIRK JOHNSON TheNewYorkTimes

September 25, 2013

 

LAPWAI, Idaho — In this remote corner of the Northwest, most people think of gas as something coming from a pump, not a well. But when it comes to energy, remote isn’t what it used to be.

The Nez Perce Indians, who have called these empty spaces and rushing rivers home for thousands of years, were drawn into the national brawl over the future of energy last month when they tried to stop a giant load of oil-processing equipment from coming through their lands.

The setting was U.S. Highway 12, a winding, mostly two-lane ribbon of blacktop that bisects the tribal homeland here in North Central Idaho.

That road, a hauling company said in getting a permit for transit last month from the state, is essential for transporting enormous loads of oil-processing equipment bound for the Canadian tar sands oil fields in Alberta.

When the hauler’s giant load arrived one night in early August, more than 200 feet long and escorted by the police under glaring lights, the tribe tried to halt the vehicle, with leaders and tribe members barricading the road, willingly facing arrest. Tribal lawyers argued that the river corridor, much of it beyond the reservation, was protected by federal law, and by old, rarely tested treaty rights.

And so the Nez Perce, who famously befriended Lewis and Clark in 1805, and were later chased across the West by the Army (“I will fight no more forever,” Chief Joseph said in surrender, in 1877), were once again drawn into questions with no neat answers: Where will energy come from, and who will be harmed or helped by the industry that supplies it?

Tribal leaders, in defending their actions, linked their protest of the shipments, known as megaload transports, to the fate of indigenous people everywhere, to climate change and — in terms that echo an Occupy Wall Street manifesto — to questions of economic power and powerlessness.

“The development of American corporate society has always been — and it’s true throughout the world — on the backs of those who are oppressed, repressed or depressed,” said Silas Whitman, the chairman of the tribal executive committee, in an interview.

Mr. Whitman called a special meeting of the committee as the transport convoy approached, and announced that he would obstruct it and face arrest. Every other board member present, he and other tribe members said, immediately followed his lead.

“We couldn’t turn the cheek anymore,” said Mr. Whitman, 72.

The dispute spilled into Federal District Court in Boise, where the Nez Perce, working alongside an environmental group, Idaho Rivers United, carried the day. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, in a decision this month, halted further transports until the tribe, working in consultation with the United States Forest Service, could study their potential effect on the environment and the tribe’s culture.

The pattern, energy and lands experts said, is clear even if the final outcome here is not: What happens in oil country no longer stays in oil country.

“For the longest time in North America, you had very defined, specific areas where you had oil and gas production,” said Bobby McEnaney, a senior lands analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. A band stretching up from the Gulf of Mexico into the Rocky Mountains was about all there was.

But now, Mr. McEnaney said, the infrastructure of transport and industrial-scale production, not to mention the development of hydraulic fracturing energy recovery techniques, and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, are affecting more and more places.

The Nez Perce’s stand, in a way, makes Mr. McEnaney’s point. The tribe’s fight, and the galvanizing decision by its leaders to step in front of the transport, drew in people who had not been involved before.

“Our history is conservative. You don’t go to court, you don’t fight,” said Julian Matthews, another tribe member. The fighting stance by tribal leadership, he said, was partly driven by pressure from members like him, already pledged to opposition.

Others described the board’s decision as a thunderbolt. After the special meeting where leaders agreed they would face arrest together, the news blazed through social media on and off the reservation.

“Everybody knew it in an hour,” said Angela Picard, who came during the four nights of protest when the load was still on tribal lands, and was one of 28 tribe members arrested.

Pat Rathmann, a soft-spoken Unitarian Universalist church member in Moscow, Idaho, heard the new tone coming from the reservation. A debate over conservation and local environmental impact, she said, had suddenly become a discussion about the future of the planet.

“The least I could do was drive 30 miles to stand at their side,” said Ms. Rathmann, whose church has declared climate change to be a moral issue, and recently sponsored a benefit concert in Moscow to raise money for the tribal defense fund.

The equipment manufacturer, a unit of General Electric, asked the judge last week to reconsider his injunction, partly because of environmental impacts of not delivering the loads. Millions of gallons of fresh water risk being wasted if the large cargo — water purification equipment that is used in oil processing — cannot be installed before winter, the company said.

“Although this case involves business interests, underlying this litigation are also public interests surrounding the transportation of equipment produced in the U.S. for utilization in wastewater recycling that benefits the environment,” the company said.

The risks to the Nez Perce are also significant in the months ahead. Staking a legal case on treaty rights, though victorious so far in Judge Winmill’s court, means taking the chance, tribal leaders said, that a higher court, perhaps in appeal of the judge’s decision, will find those rights even more limited than before.

But for tribe members like Paulette Smith, the summer nights of protest are already being transformed by the power of tribe members feeling united around a cause.

“It was magic,” said Ms. Smith, 44, who was among those arrested. Her 3-year-old grandson was there with her — too young to remember, she said, but the many videos made that night to document the event will one day help him understand.

A version of this article appears in print on September 26, 2013, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Fight Over Energy Finds A New Front in a Corner of Idaho.

Victory! Oneida Nation and Green Bay ban the burning of waste

How grassroots organizing is stopping waste incinerators in Wisconsin

protester-with-gas-maskKristen A. Johnson and Ananda Lee Tan, GAIA

Last month, members of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin hammered the final nail in the coffin for waste incinerator proposals on the Oneida lands, including parts of Brown and Outagamie Counties.

On May 5, more than 1800 Oneida General Tribal Council members overwhelmingly voted to reject the Oneida Seven Generations Corporation’s bid to build a pyrolysis gasification incinerator. Despite millions of dollars of subsidies offered by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Green Bay City Council and now the Oneida Nation have sent a clear message to all extreme energy and waste corporations that burners are not welcome in their backyards, or those of their neighbors.

This facility fight has been at the center of public debate for more than two years, and numerous environmental groups, health experts and advocates from around the state and across the U.S. provided support for this protracted community battle. However, the most inspiring, and instructive stories are those of grassroots, community organizing that led these victories. The following are reflections from parallel organizing efforts in the communities of Oneida and Green Bay.

Incinerator Free Brown County: Persistent and Adaptive Organizing

Incinerator Free Brown County came together in the fall of 2010, when an article appeared in the Green Bay newspaper announcing that a waste-to-energy plant would be built by the Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC). The proposed site was near a residential area in the Village of Hobart. Alarmed by the potential health, economic, and environmental hazards posed by this plant, residents banded together, posting flyers door-to-door, in an effort to galvanize awareness and concern. They formed the Biomass Opposition Committee (BOC), and after the site was relocated to the city of Green Bay, they changed their name to Incinerator Free Brown County (IFBC) to promote a countywide campaign.

Everyone within a 2-mile radius of the incinerator site was made aware of the proposal and community members joined meetings to discuss organizing plans. At each meeting core members volunteered to raise funds to cover organizing expenses. These funds were used to share information about waste incineration through local signature petitions, fact sheets and media.

IFBC reached out to groups such as GAIAIndigenous Environmental NetworkGreenaction for Health and Environmental JusticeWaukesha Environmental Action League, Clean Water Action, and the Wisconsin Sierra Club for support. A number of health professionals also responded, experts who testify in support of communities opposing polluting industries. In March 2013, Dr. Paul Connett and Bradley Angel of Greenaction gave public presentations on the danger of incinerators and the benefits of zero waste. DVD recordings of their presentations were used to deepen community awareness.

Opposition to the incinerator grew in the spring of 2011 when Clean Water Action financed and—with community input—designed 4 billboards and numerous yard signs that broadcast their message to the general public, attracting the attention of the Mayor, local media, and the OSGC.

However, the fight was not without its challenges. For months, the Mayor, City Council and elected officials of the Oneida Nation avoided meeting with organizers.

IFBC kept detailed records of all documents produced by the OSGC and used these to strategically expose contradictions in the company’s technology claims. Organizers met with local officials, educating Green Bay’s elected leaders on the environmental, health, and economic impacts of the incinerator. Local residents were encouraged to contact officials to ensure that public opposition remained on the agenda.

Finally, in October 2012, after a legal challenge highlighting misleading claims by the incinerator company, IFBC and allies convinced the Green Bay Council to revoke the incinerator’s conditional use permit.  After the Mayor decided not to veto the council’s vote, the City Attorney officiated revoking of the permit.

Organizers with IFBC have shared their insights in their Incinerator Resistance Guide—so that other grassroots groups can learn from their lessons, mistakes, and successes as well as ways to maintain good humor during such protracted battles, where persistence and perseverance win.

art-and-protest

Organizing the Oneida Nation with Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Leah Sue Dodge is a member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, one of six Indigenous Nations that make up the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. Leah first learned of the waste burner from an opinion piece in the Oneida Tribal newspaper. Her community was already wary of the toxic threats posed by this facility, as well as the prospect of thousands of diesel trucks transporting garbage through the community on route to the incinerator.

With the emerging debate in neighboring Green Bay, and news that the incinerator company had made claims there would be no harmful emissions, not even smokestacks, associated with this untested waste gasification technology, members of Leah’s community grew increasingly concerned.

After the Green Bay City Council revoked the incinerator permit, OSGC followed with legal action. On January 9th, 2013 a Brown County circuit court judge decided to uphold the Green Bay decision, finding that the company had indeed misrepresented the facts: “(OSGC) indicated that there are no smoke stacks, no oxygen, and no ash. I am satisfied that is a misstatement.”

The decision prompted OSGC to look at siting a smaller “plastics-to-fuel” incinerator on tribal lands—as a stepping-stone towards a “full size” facility. Learning this news Leah decided to get more involved. As an Oneida member, Leah felt a responsibility to warn her community about Oneida money being invested in this project, and that her Tribe’s reputation was at stake, despite personal concerns about how her actions could affect her Tribal employment due to the powerful and moneyed interests involved. However, in her words, “The risk of my home being poisoned was greater than these fears.”

To start her inquiry, Leah decided to meet with key Oneida decision-makers: Oneida Business Committee Chair Ed Delgado and Yvonne Metivier, Oneida Elder Advisor to the Chairperson. Metivier suggested Leah draft a petition to demonstrate broad community opposition, and bring the matter before the General Tribal Council for a vote. She advised Dodge to keep the petition focused, and achievable in scope: a) aimed at stopping the incinerator from being approved for all Oneida lands, and, b) worded in a manner that did not require extensive legislative or financial analysis.

Leah promptly went to work, drafting and seeking signatures for the petition, which read: The General Tribal Council directs the Oneida Business Committee to stop Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC) from building any “gasification” or “waste-to-energy” or “plastics recycling” plant at N7239 Water Circle Place, Oneida, WI or any other location on the Oneida Reservation.

Over the next 10 days, Leah gathered names on the petition, ensuring they were all Oneida members of voting age. Signatures of Oneida members of all ages, as well as members of other tribes were also presented to the Oneida Land Commission in opposition to a land-use permit for the facility. Despite the proposed site being in ecologically sensitive wetlands, and less than a mile from the Turtle Elementary School, the high school and Oneida legislative offices, the Commission decided in favor of the facility.

At this stage, Leah decided to seek broader community engagement. Leading into the May 2013 general assembly of the Oneida Tribal Council, Leah purchased ads in the Tribal newspaper, distributed information for concerned Oneidas to share via social networks. Leah worked with others to develop a community action for two days at an intersection near the incinerator site. Deliberately choosing not to label the action a “protest”, they called it a Fun Action of Conscience & Teaching (FACT). “This was about supporting what we are for, rather than focusing solely on what we are against.”

protesters

Oneida artist Scott Hill recommended using visuals emphasizing traditional Oneida beliefs about the teaching spirits of animals, including the guiding stories of the clan animals, Turtle, Bear and Wolf:

  • The Turtle symbolizes Mother Earth, turtle island – the caretakers of the land
  • The Bear is a symbol of the Earth’s natural medicines and plants, healers
  • The Wolf clans are the peacekeepers, pathfinders – guarding and guiding communities against harm. I am of the wolf clan….

In sharing the principles embedded in these stories with community members, families and friends driving and walking by; stopping, listening, and engaging in discussion—dozens of new community members resolved to oppose the toxic threat to their lands, their families and their community.

Visually communicating these stories was a key element of the FACT action, with artistry by Hill helping illustrate the philosophy of caring for earth’s precious resources—because the Great Law of Peace teaches that in all actions we must consider how we affect the next seven generations. Leah noted this philosophy was clearly at odds with the business model of any company planning to waste and burn earth’s resources, despite their attempts at green branding.

Hill also painted posters combining tribal icons with gas masks because, “everybody understands poison”. Scott’s grandson, Talyn Metoxen, enjoyed taking part as well, wearing a gas mask and holding his grandfather’s artwork.

The FACT action coupled with strong presentations to the Oneida General Tribal Council served to unite the Oneida community against the burners, going to show how community-led organizing can be irresistible when coupled with place-based culture and ecosystems knowledge.

Leah Sue Dodge acknowledges the support received from the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, IFBC and their neighbors of the Mather Heights Neighborhood Association, who all valiantly and victoriously fought the incinerator proposal outside the Oneida Reservation. She hopes that, moving forward, Tribal leadership will work with these organizations to challenge environmental and health threats for the benefit of everyone.