What the empire didn’t hear: US spying and resistance in Latin America

By Benjamin Dangl, Toward Freedom

US imperialism spreads across Latin America through military bases and trade deals, corporate exploitation and debt. It also relies on a vast communications surveillance network, the recent uncovering of which laid bare Washington’s reach into the region’s streets and halls of power. Yet more than McDonald’s and bullets, an empire depends on fear, and fear of the empire is lacking these days in Latin America.

The controversy stirred up by Edward Snowden’s leaked documents reached the region on July 7th, when the first of a series of articles drawing from the leaks were published in the major Brazilian newspaper O Globo. The articles outlined how the US National Security Agency (NSA) had for years been spying on and indiscriminately collecting the emails and telephone records of millions of people in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Argentina, just as it had done in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

The articles pointed out that data collection bases were located in Bogota, Caracas, Mexico City and Panama City, with an additional station in Brasilia which was used to spy on foreign satellite communications. The NSA gathered military and security data in certain countries, and acquired information on the oil industry in Venezuela and energy sector in Mexico, both of which are largely under state control, beyond the reach of US corporations and investors.

As with the spying program in the US, Snowden’s leaks demonstrate that this method of collecting communications in Latin America was done with the collusion of private telecommunications companies in the US and Latin America.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called the spying a “violation of sovereignty and human rights.” The presidents of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and other nations in the region condemned Washington for its actions and called for an inquiry into the surveillance.

“A shiver went down my back when we learned that they are spying on us from the north,” Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said in a speech. “More than revelations, these are confirmations of what we thought was happening.”

Indeed, the region is no stranger to US spying and interference. And with the election of leftist presidents across Latin America over the past decade, it should come as no surprise that the US has been spying into what Secretary of State John Kerry recently referred to as Washington’s “backyard.”

The shadow of 20th century dictatorships hangs over much of Latin America, orienting the region’s democratic processes and struggles for justice. Brazil’s Rousseff and Uruguayan President José Mujica are among today’s various Latin American presidents who were active in the social movements fighting against brutal US-backed dictatorships in their respective countries.

Rousseff was jailed for her activism from 1970-1972, and Mujica was shot by the police six times, tortured and imprisoned for 14 years, including being confined to the bottom of a well for over two years. Under the leadership of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, Argentina has sought justice for the some 30,000 people disappeared during that nation’s dictatorship. Needless to say, the legacy of US-backed coups, right-wing spying networks, and police states looms large in Latin American politics and recent memory.

So when Snowden’s leaked documents pointed to contemporary spying, it harkened back to Washington’s Cold War allies who, through coordinated efforts like Operation Condor, collaborated regionally to monitor dissidents and supposed communists, intercepting mail and spying on phone communications as a part of their continental nightmare.

But the Cold War is over, and from Argentina to Venezuela leftist politics have dominated the region’s landscape over the past decade, labor and indigenous movements have been on the rise, and a decidedly anti-imperialist stance has been common in campaign platforms and political policy.

While Washington has succeeded in supporting coups against left-leaning leaders in Honduras and Paraguay in recent years, a US-dominated regional trade agreement was shot down, its military bases have been pushed out of certain areas, US policy in the war on drugs is meeting resistance in key countries, and Latin American governments are going elsewhere for loans and aid. As a historic shift in politics has taken place south of the US border, Washington has often appeared out of touch and grasping for allies.

In this context, leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was grounded in Europe upon its return home from Russia on July 2nd. US officials behind the grounding of the plane believed Snowden, currently based in a Moscow airport, was on Morales’ flight, as the whistleblower was seeking asylum in South America.

After returning to Bolivia, where a meeting was convened among Latin American leaders to address the US and European nations’ action against Morales, the Bolivian president said “the United States is using its agent [Snowden] and the president [of Bolivia] to intimidate the whole region.”

Latin American presidents across the board were outraged at the actions against Morales, and Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia all offered asylum to Snowden in a protest against the US and in solidarity with the whistleblower. Others said they would help to protect him from US prosecution.

When US Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa to not give asylum to Snowden, Correa thumbed his nose at the US, renouncing $23 million in US trade benefits, and offering those funds instead for training of US officials on civil liberties and human rights.

In regards to the spying revelations and to the grounding of Morales’ plane, Correa told reporters, “We’re not 500 years behind. This Latin America of the 21st century is independent, dignified and sovereign.”

In all of the data that the US gathered across the region, it missed one crucial fact: that Latin America is no longer Washington’s backyard. In spite of the empire’s wide reach, there are places where it will always be defied, in the telephone booths and dreams of a world that it will never truly own.

Forceful evictions of Maasai a recipe for tribal clashes in Kenya

Ben Ole Koissaba, Intercontinental Cry

Kenya was at it again last Friday when a 33-year old land ownership dispute between the Maasai and Kikuyu in Naivasha, Kenya, took an ugly turn. Reminiscent of the post-election violence of 2007/2008, over 200 youths believed to be members of the proscribed sect Mungiki–under the escort of heavily armed police–descended on the Maasai community in Narasha with all manner of crude weapons, burning and destroying 240 houses. The arsonists, who were protected by the armed police, rendered 2,300 people homeless, killed over 20 calves and over 600 lambs. During the raid, 2 elderly Maasai men sustained bullet wounds as well as cuts from machetes; they are now recuperating in hospitals.

Narasha is the home of the Maasai who suffered massive land dispossession dating back to the 1900s when the colonial government forced the Maasai off 75 per cent of their ancestral land. Subsequent post-independence government-driven initiatives continued to alienate land from the Maasai.

The tussle for ownership is focused on a 15,000 acre area to which the Maasai claim ancestral ownership. The Kikuyu also claim ownership resulting from an allocation by the first post-independence president Jomo Kenyatta, who happens to be the father of the current president of Kenya.

The bone of contention is that the land is rich with geothermal power; government functionaries want to make a killing by displacing the Maasai. Narasha village is sitting on top of lucrative geothermal power potential. A combination of senior government officials, businessmen and the energy giant KenGen are all involved in making sure the Maasai people are moved away from the area. The Geothermal project has attracted both multi-national and bilateral donors with the World Bank being the main financier of the project.

The forces behind the inhuman act are undoubtedly Kenya’s energy giant, KenGen which is undeniably at the center of the problems facing the Maasai people in nearby Olkaria. The company has embarked on a new geothermal energy project that will add 560 megawatts of power to Kenya’s national grid. This is so far the largest geothermal project in the world. The Ksh165 billion (US$2 billion) project will require expansion beyond the current land that KenGen’s wells occupy in Olkaria. Narasha community is in the middle of the areas earmarked for the new geothermal wells. KenGen has been negotiating for the last few years with the Maasai in Olkaria on issues of compensation and relocation. Not all is going well with the process; There are big trust issues between the parties.

Ngati Farm, a company owned by the Kikuyu from central Kenya, claims to have bought the disputed land from colonialists in 1964. For the last 33 years, the company and the Maasai (who have called the land home for the last 400 years) have been fighting court battles. With the recent push by KenGen for geothermal power generation, the land is now worth billions of shillings which means the stakes are now even higher for both parties.

Leading the pack behind the evictions is Eddy Njoroge, the former Managing Director of KenGen, who is currently serving as President Kenyatta’s advisor on energy and petroleum. Njoroge is closer to the Maasai-Olkaria troubles than anyone else; He knows the potential of the resources on the ground as well as the ability of the community to fight back. Sources claim that he is planning to buy the disputed Narasha land from Ngati Farm as long as the Maasai problem is brought to an end. Njoroge is also said to be closely associated with a tender by KenGen that will see another geothermal plant developed at Narasha.

The Governor of Nakuru, Kinuthia Mbugua, is said to be the mastermind of the Enarasha attack as well as another attack in recent history. The former Police Commissioner, who claims to be a member of Ngatia Farm, has a long history of hostility with the Maasai in Naivasha. After being elected as Governor, sources say Kinuthia vowed to remove the Maasai from Nakuru County. He is also said to be personally interested in a piece of land that is currently being occupied by the family of Odupoi ole Parsitau. He offered the family Ksh2 million if they would move away; Ole Parsitau declined the offer. Kinuthia is reportedly planning additional evictions in Kedong Ranch – another historically disputed area. Governor Mbugua will benefit greatly from KenGen’s projects.

Amos Gathecah, the new Nakuru County Commissioner, is Governor Mbugua’s foot soldier. He has been used as a go-between in negotiations with Enarasha community. Gathecah recently held a meeting with leaders from Narasha at Nashipae Hotel in Naivasha where he offered the community Ksh31 million to relocate from the area. When the offer was declined, he made a threat that he would use the same money to fight the community and force them to leave. This meeting was triggered by a June 19 petition by the community to the National Land Commission concerning the dispute with Ngatia Farm. The Commission started investigations that will delay any plans for the generation of Geothermal Power in the area.

Helen Kiilu led dozens of policemen to support Governor Mbugua’s hired goons in attacking Narasha. Ms. Kiilu takes orders from Commissioner Gathecah.

Former Councilor Ole Linti, a former area councilor, is said to have changed allegiance in exchange for a share in Ngati farm or the proceeds from the KenGen deals. Ole Linti has a long history of fighting for the community against Ngati Farm and KenGen. He is said to have run out of steam after many years of struggle.

While the government denies knowledge of the evictions, the presence of the police and the manner in which the raids were carried out is indicative of a well-executed plan with backing from state machinery.

Colville headquarters collapse after fire

Kaitlin Gillespie, The Spokesman Review

NESPELEM, Wash. – Though black plumes of smoke unfurled from the charred remains of the Colville Reservation’s Headquarters on Monday, tribal members just across the street from the ruins lifted a symbol of hope.

Shawnee BearCub and her family built a teepee in honor of their lost history, providing a place of prayer and safety for members of the tribe.

“It’s resilience in the face of adversity,” BearCub said, hoisting the teepee sticks in the air Monday afternoon.

Fire razed the tribe’s headquarters at 1:15 a.m. Monday. It was the second fire in the past year that leveled an important cultural center. The tribe’s longhouse burned in December when a heater malfunctioned. Religious and cultural items including beaded regalia were lost.

Matt Haney, deputy director for public safety for the tribe, said even though firefighters arrived within minutes, fire had engulfed and destroyed the headquarters.

Investigators have not identified the cause of the blaze yet. The fire continued to smolder Monday afternoon. Colville Tribes Fire Cmdr. Chris McCuen said the entire structure dropped into the basement of the building, making it difficult for investigators to determine an origin or a cause.

Arson crews and tribal police were at the scene, but Haney said it’s too early to determine whether the fire was intentionally lit. Firefighters were able to stop the fire from reaching the nearby U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Firefighters worked to keep the blaze contained well into Monday afternoon and evening. All that remained of the three-story structure was a blackened pit in the ground.

This is the first time since 1975 the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are without a central government office, according to a news release. The building housed the Colville Business Council and other administrative offices, leaving about 40 tribal employees without an office. No one was in the building at the time.

The fire destroyed important documents, as well as many cultural and historical items, Haney said.

“There was so much history stored in the building,” he said.

Ricky Gabriel, a member of the Colville Business Council, said the loss of government documents and computers will impede their ability to operate efficiently and administer services.

“The tribe really feels this right now,” Gabriel said.

Fortunately, many documents were backed up and can be accessed.

The tribe has already found a temporary office at the tribal legal offices.

“We’ve lost two very important structures within the community,” BearCub said.

In spite of the recent losses, BearCub said she’s doing her part, however small, to help the community move on from the tragedies. The teepee has been in her family for generations, and she said it will serve as a place of hope and prayer for those mourning the building.

The teepee represents the cycle of life, she said. Just like the administrative building, it can be taken down, but rebuilt, she said.

“My spirit guides me to do these things,” she said.

The building is a tremendous loss to the community, and council members are upset that the building is gone, Gabriel said. He adds, though, that there’s only one way to move from here: forward.

“The building isn’t alive and doesn’t love,” Gabriel said. “People do.”

1,000 Trayvons: All People of Color Must Unite to Stop the Slaughter

Gyasi Ross, Indian Country Today Media Network

I know this is sorta late—two weeks, to be exact—and that pop culture topics du jour tend to last only a few days. Modern day pop culture existential question: If someone gets killed on Twitter and it’s no longer trending, did it really happen?

I don’t know; that’s above my pay grade.

Still, one of my friends—a short Lakota woman—texted me right after the Seminole County jury acquitted George Zimmerman of all charges in the brutal killing of Trayvon Martin and asked, very appropriately, “How come the Native community is not outraged about this?”

I never responded—I’m sorry, Kim. But I was too caught up in emotion right after the verdict to really elicit a proper response. So this is my attempt to give a few rambling, stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Native media responses to pop culture phenomena like Martin (“Native media responses” must necessarily be separated from “Native responses,” because I find that most Native people who write in Native publications are very separated from the Native world that I live in, communicate in and work in every single day), and why we have a vested interest in partaking in the larger conversations like those surrounding the Martin tragedy.

THOUGHTS ON THE TRAYVON TRIAL

I’m conflicted. As an attorney I have to acknowledge that George Zimmerman getting acquitted was the correct legal result. In fact, this case probably should have never gone to trial. The way the Florida’s self-defense laws are written (and the barbaric “Stand Your Ground” law, which the defense chose to forego yet was clearly always there in the shadows), it essentially gives a license to kill as Zimmerman had “no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force” as long as he reasonably feared for his life or great bodily harm. The only thing left to show is that he was reasonably afraid—in the dark, on your own property, that’s pretty easy to do.

Legally, it was the correct decision.

Yet, as a father of a young man of color, I have to acknowledge that I think George Zimmerman should be hung. As an uncle and mentor to many, many boys of all colors, I have to acknowledge that I’d have to fight the compulsion to hunt this man down, rightly or wrongly, if he stole their young, vibrant lives like he did to Trayvon. There’s a mother and father who will never get to love, embrace, scold or chastise their precious boy again. He was 17, but as any parent knows, they’re always your baby.

George Zimmerman brutally and unnecessarily killed someone’s baby. And that’s unforgiveable.

NATIVE MEDIA RESPONSES TO THE TRAYVON TRAGEDY

The Native media responses to the Trayvon Tragedy, and other “non-Indian events” that profoundly affect Native people are very, very few and far between. And not necessarily for the right reasons. I saw a couple of stories by Native authors—one by Ruth Hopkins another by Jacqueline Keeler—that passionately talked about it. They are both mothers and I think that parents think about the loss of a child and are prompted to action. I also saw one from Oliver Semans who did a really good job of connecting how this case affects Indian country. But for the most part, if you scan the latest headlines of any of the Native publications, you’d pretty much think that this travesty didn’t happen. In fact, if someone were to look at a good portion of Native media they’d think that renaming the Redskins or mascots or hating Johny Depp’s rendition of Tonto were the top priorities to most Native people.

Outsiders looking into Native media and seeing those things—Tonto, mascots, etc—would likely say, “Gee, that’s all Native people have to worry about? I guess those casinos are working and their lives are pretty damn good. We have to worry about getting killed and the recession—all they have to worry about is Tonto.”

The truth is that most Native people don’t care about that stuff. When I’m at home on the reservation, no one talks about these things. When I’m at pow wows or on the canoe journey, no one asks me about these things.

They are academic issues; ultimately it’s good that someone covers them, but they are not conversations that come up regularly within Indian country despite appearances to the contrary.

On the other hand, the Trayvon tragedy, unfortunately, hits much closer to home than those first-world problems. Like Trayvon and countless other young black men, our young Native men are literally dying, likewise falling victim to the presumption that brown men are always criminals, always doing something wrong. White supremacy. A few names come to mind—John T. Williams, Jack Keewatinawin, Daniel Tiger, Christopher Capps, Clinton Croff, AJ Longsoldier, the list goes on and on—their major crime was being Native. That’s why they are dead. Like Trayvon—he’s dead because he was black.

I read someone say that Native people’s “Trayvon Martin moment” was the recent Baby Veronica case. That statement is an insult to the dead and a curse to the living. Thank God that Baby Veronica is still alive—she is still with us, and that means that there’s still an opportunity for better outcomes. Trayvon Martin was brutally killed and unfortunately, there can be no good outcomes from it. Native people legitimately have many, many Trayvon Martin moments—we do not need to make them up. Do some research on any of the cases above—our people are getting killed out there.

To us within Native media: we should bring more attention to the tragedies that happen within our communities. They’re there. It’s up to us to bring those stories to light like the Black community did with Trayvon.

To our non-Native allies: there are a couple of legitimate reasons why there has been no critical mass of responses from the Native community—the “why should we” reason.

1) First, Native people have very little reason to have any amount of faith in the judicial system. From constantly seeing non-Natives acquitted for killing Native people (see the above names and multiply that by 1000), to the very foundational law of this Nation (read Johnson v. M’Intosh or Cherokee Nation v. Georgia or In the Courts of The Conqueruors by Walter Echohawk to begin to understand the profound lack of faith that Native people have and should have in US courts), we are used to getting screwed by the courts of the conquerors.

So why be outraged? In fact, it would be stranger for a Native person to expect a GOOD outcome from these courts. Unlike Black folks, Native people do not have a Brown v. Board of Education to hang our hopes on. These courts have been bad to us since day 1.

2) The other “why should we” is that there was no larger response from the Black community, the Hispanic community, the progressive community when that long litany of names, above, were killed by law enforcement for being Indian. So there is a sense of “Why should we contribute to this larger group of concerned citizens of color that doesn’t care about us?” Non-Native allies, you should help champion this message-it will help create this larger sense of community.

Not saying that this mindset is “right,” but it’s certainly understandable.

3) I suppose a third “why should we” reason is that, for the most part, Native people simply do not have the capacity to deal with someone else’s heartache. We have our own. Lots of it. If an entire block of houses are burning, everybody should absolutely help one another escape the fiery inferno. At the same time one could be excused for trying to make sure that his own family escaped the flames first.

All of our blocks are burning. It’s not that we don’t care—it’s that Native people, like others, have to save ourselves first.

But we are not isolated. It does not benefit us to simply put our collective heads in the sand and pretend that the Trayvon Tragedy or any of these larger pop culture movements do not affect us. They do. The Native media has to connect the dots and start working with other communities of color to stop our people from getting killed. That means stop pretending that these are isolated incidents and not things that we have to worry about.

Gyasi Ross is an enrolled member of Blackfeet and an activist, attorney and author.

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/30/1000-trayvons-all-people-color-must-unite-stop-slaughter

Initiative would name Skagit River bridge for Eyman

Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman’s thousands of supporters throughout the state may get a chance next year to put the anti-tax guru’s name on the rebuilt Skagit River bridge on I-5.

That’s because a Bothell man filed an initiative to the Legislature on Wednesday to emblazon Eyman’s moniker on the structure which collapsed after being struck by a truck with an oversized load.

Nicholas Santos filed the one-page measure to designate the repaired span as the Tim Eyman Memorial Bridge, “dedicated to the efforts of Tim Eyman to reduce Washington State tax revenues and the collapse of the Skagit River Bridge on May 23, 2013.”

Santos, who moved to the state two years ago, said in an email he’s not done much in politics and filed the measure to demonstrate the ease of getting active.

“My point is to show that anybody without a deeply political background can be involved,” he wrote. “It only takes $5 to file an initiative and it took me a few hours of research to figure out how to craft the text of the initiative.”

Daily Kos writer Wu Ming first suggested giving the collapsed span the new identity of the Tim Eyman Memorial Bridge in a May 24 piece on the national website.

Santos said he got his idea from a photo and meme distributed by Northwest Progressive Institute, a political think tank which has opposed every one of Eyman’s anti-tax measures.

“I took that and went one step further, upped the ante, and used the same tools Tim Eyman uses,” Santos said. “This is a tool of the people and I want it to be understood that most of the barriers are low. So there is no reason for it to be monopolized.

“Additionally, governments that are starved for cash as a direct result of initiatives and the obstructionism that we see in D.C., cannot adequately deal with infrastructure and that has real consequences,” he said. “Mockery is not my motivation, but I do want to send a clear message.”

While Santos may be using Eyman to make a point, followers of the Mukilteo initiative promoter may actually derive a bit of satisfaction from providing their hero with a permanent tribute.

Eyman isn’t interested, however.

“It’s always so silly when opponents of our initiatives attack me personally, as if I have tremendous power. I don’t,” he wrote in an email. “I have a great team who works super hard each year to give voters a greater voice in their government. Regarding our initiatives, some pass, some don’t, but all of them give the average taxpayer an equal voice in the process and that’s something I’m very proud of.”

And this isn’t the first time Eyman’s been the subject of an initiative.

In 2003, David Goldstein famously pushed Initiative 831 to proclaim Eyman a “horse’s ass” but that measure never made the ballot.

As an initiative to the Legislature, Santos must collect and turn in at least 246,372 signatures of registered Washington voters by Jan. 3. If he succeeds, the measure will be sent to the Legislature where lawmakers can enact it or do nothing which would send it to the November 2014 ballot. Lawmakers also could pen an alternative to place alongside it on the ballot.

Santos said Thursday he lacks the resources and organization to gather the signatures.

“I don’t have that kind of expertise,” he said. “If there is enough support for an effort of that scale, I would consider it.”

Meanwhile, several state lawmakers are interested in getting the bridge renamed in memory of Sean O’Connell, the Washington State Patrol trooper killed while working on the detour route during the bridge closure. O’Connell died after his motorcycle collided with a box truck May 30 near Conway.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and Reps. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon and Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, said in June they wanted the state Transportation Commission to put O’Connell’s name on the span.

Renaming the bridge in Officer O’Connell’s honor is just a small token of our gratitude for his 16 years of dedication to our state, but it doesn’t even begin to display the level of appreciation all Washingtonians have for his service or the heartache and compassion we feel for his family in the wake of his loss,” they said in a joint statement issued June 3.

Resolutions honoring O’Connell’s life and service that passed in the House and Senate on June 10 did not mention the renaming.

$1.9 Billion Dispute: Tribal Leaders Fuming Over Cobell Land Buy-Back Program

Adrian JawortMontana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council representatives express grievances to Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of Interior officials.

Adrian Jawort
Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council representatives express grievances to Bureau of Indian Affairs and Department of Interior officials.

Adrian Jawort, Indian Country Today Media Network

The program manager for the Department Of Interior Land Buy-Back Program (LBBP) for Tribal Nations, John McClanahan, felt the heat as the frustration of Natives boiled over Friday, July 26 at the offices of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council offices in Billings, Montana.

Leery of a federal one-size-fits-all approach of how copy.9 billion of Cobell LBBP money allotted will be spent to purchase buy-back lands, tribal representatives from the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains areas grilled McClanahan and the BIA about the lack of transparency and cooperation between the DOI and tribal nations thus far. An estimated 70 percent of the fractional buyback acres are located in these areas.

As a result, the MT-WY TLC propose that Congressional legislation is needed to halt the DOI from holding primary purchasing control of buyback lands as well as halt bureaucratic fees that would total $285 million. It was the U.S. government that mismanaged the funds in the first place.

Frustrated with bureaucratic foot dragging, the MT-WY TLC plan to secure a meeting with President Barack Obama and Senate Committee on Indian Affairs before the November midterm elections in order to obtain Congressional support.

McClanahan tried to alleviate fears that the last year hasn’t been time wasted and they weren’t trying to push tribes aside. Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Michael Black and the BIA’s Rocky Mountain Deputy Regional Director Darrel LaCounte were also present to address grievances.

“One of the main things we’ve heard over the last couple of years of planning is tribal involvement is important,” McClanahan says. He addressed other widespread concerns he’s heard like map access of potential private land that could be bought, appraisal information, and accounts that gain interest rates for individual tribes as it waits to be spent.

“We’re trying to start out a program where everything can be balanced. We can’t work with everyone right at once, but we hope to ramp it up so we can work more tribes at once sooner,” McClanahan says.

Fort Belknap representative Donovan Archibald says he’s proposed three detailed plans to the DOI after initial implementation plan meetings were held earlier this year, but never received responses.

He told the BIA and DOI officials, “We’re the key players. You guys are working for us. If we get a contract from the government, we have to submit a proposal of what we’re going to do and that includes a plan and a budget. But you’re contracting our dollars that were awarded to us.”  He notes the DOI plans to hire 100 new people to do jobs a lot of tribal members could do themselves. “We want to see a plan or budget to see how we’re going about this.”

McClanahan said many new staff members were hired to handle the mass amount of land cost appraisals. “Some tribes are interested in doing appraisals, and others aren’t,” he said. “But we just want to make sure we’re ahead of the game.”

Archibald said Fort Belknap Assiniboine-Gros Ventres Tribes have already been purchasing land for decades, and even bought 450 acres since March with the tribe’s own money. Cobell money that is supposed to be in the tribe’s possession would’ve come in handy. He also said with the salary of one DOI/BIA official with no knowledge of reservation lands, one could hire several local people on a poverty stricken reservation.

“I have 4.5 million dollars worth of sales in applications right now, and a lot of those are already appraised,” he adds. “We have our own land department and procedures and everything is legally approved by the bureau. We could be buying land right now, and so could a lot of other tribes like the Blackfeet and Northern Cheyenne. I don’t understand why we have to wait for you guys to catch up while we could be doing it.”

“We just want that reciprocal respect we’re affording the federal government,” Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribal representative Tommy Christian says. Although Christian understands the DOI and BIA needed to protect their interests based on regulative authority, they shouldn’t patronize tribal integrity and authority while having the audacity to call them sovereign.

“That’s the part of oppression we’ve been dealing with for years, and we need to get over this. You guys got copy.9 billion dollars to help us address these problems, but you’re just giving us a little bit here and there and there to satisfy an administrative process that’s totally ineffective to us. So when I say we need to ‘come to a level playing field,’ understand where I’m coming from.”

Christian said tribes didn’t want to fight the BIA or DOI, they just wanted to make the process easier for all involved. The MT-WY TLC statement says a tribally driven process “will be a real and true step towards self-determination and a fitting legacy for Elouise Cobell.”

Perhaps venting the sentiments and concerns for all the involved tribes at the meeting, Archibald said in regards to the DOI and BIA’s perceived over involvement, “It’s the same old rhetoric: play ball with us, or you’re not going to get your money.”

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/29/19-billion-dispute-tribal-leaders-fuming-over-cobell-land-buy-back-program-150623

Eerie Echoes of Seattle Woodcarver Killing: Toronto Cops Gun Down Teen

Video still/YouTubeToronto police surround, then open fire on, an empty streetcar in which an 18-year-old Syrian boy is brandishing a small knife. Sammy Yatim died of his wounds.

Video still/YouTube
Toronto police surround, then open fire on, an empty streetcar in which an 18-year-old Syrian boy is brandishing a small knife. Sammy Yatim died of his wounds.

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Sammy Yatim moved to Toronto five years ago along with his sister, to live with their father and escape the danger of the escalating civil war in Syria, where average citizens are being slaughtered daily.

But July 26 found the 18-year-old dead, outnumbered and gunned down by police officers after he refused to drop a knife on an empty streetcar. Friends and family are shattered, and hundreds of people filled Toronto’s streets on Monday in a protest march and vigil.

“We are in very, very difficult times,” Yatim’s father, Nabil, told The Star. “He was an average kid, loved by his friends. Now, you have totally different versions coming out.”

The drama aboard the 505 streetcar late Friday night, just before midnight Saturday. According to witnesses, he was holding a knife. Police were summoned, with at least half a dozen converging on the stopped, now-empty streetcar. Witness videos caught the voices of police yelling, “Drop the knife!” while a fainter voice could be heard saying, “He’s the only one in the car.”

The car was indeed empty, but the cops start shooting. They fired nine shots, CTV News reported. Then one boards the car, and the sound of a Tazer can be heard.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said he wanted answers as well, having viewed the video footage taken by witnesses and posted on social media.

“I am aware of the very serious concerns the public has,” Blair told CTV News. “I know that people are seeking answers as to what occurred, why it happened and if anything could have been done to prevent the tragic death of this young man. I am also seeking answers to these important questions.”

Slain Seattle woodcarver John T. Williams
Slain Seattle woodcarver John T. Williams

 

It was sadly reminicent of the shooting of Native woodcarver John T. Williams in Seattle in 2011. Walking across the street, he was holding a knife, but not near any people. Police told him to drop it, but the hard-of-hearing 50-year-old did not respond. A police officer opened fire.

RELATED: The Shooting Death of John T. Williams

Be it an 18-year-old Yatim, a 17-year-old Trayvon Martin or a host of others judged on the slightest perceived aberration and issued the death penalty, it was yet another example of how vulnerable the non-white population can be.

Blair said the provincial Special Investigations Unit would conduct a full, objective evaluation, and offered condolences.

“As a father, I can only imagine their terrible grief and their need for answers,” he said of the family.

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/29/eerie-echoes-seattle-woodcarver-killing-toronto-cops-gun-down-teen-150650

Grassroots anti-pipeline groups and Idle No More say “Enbridge no more! Shut down the tar sands!”

sarnia_kala_anniversaryjpgSource: Intercontinental Cry, July 27, 2013

Today, members of Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines (ASAP) along with supporters of the Idle No More movement and environmental groups gathered in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley at Lasalle Line where Enbridge’s Line 9 comes above ground across the road from the border of the Aamjiwnaang reserve. Community members and grassroots activists briefly blocked the Lasalle Line road with a mock oil spill, calling attention to the risks posed by the Line 9 Reversal Project and to commemorate the 3 year anniversary of the Line 6 spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The demonstration on Lasalle Line is at the spot where Line 9 comes above ground and there is a small Enbridge facility right on the edge of Aamjiwnaang. At this site, Aamjiwnaang community members will conduct a land protection ceremony.

The Line 9 Reversal Project is Enbridge’s plan to ship tar sands oil east for export through a nearly 40 year old pipeline for which experts not employed by oil companies agree that it is a matter of when, not if, this line will spill.

Today’s demonstrators call attention to the broader destruction caused by the tar sands and not just the local risks posed by the Line 9 reversal Project. “All pipeline spills are overlooked by the media all the time,” says Vanessa Gray, a member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation and a founding member of ASAP. “The problem is not how we transport the product, it’s the product itself and the oil companies we should question. The Tar Sands is the most destructive project exploiting First Nation’s territories on Turtle Island today and the future generations of all peoples are depending on the actions we take to defend the air, water, and land we need.” said Gray.

Today’s demonstration was called to commemorate the three year anniversary of the spill on Enbridge’s Line 6 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which started spilling on July 25, 2010, and was the largest inland oil spill in US history. Communities around that spill site continue to deal with devastating local environmental and health impacts. However, the message coming from Chloe Gleichman of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands was similar to Gray’s, in that she too was interested in focussing on broader, rather than local impacts.

“The community and climate devastation caused by tar sands transcends fabricated boundaries drawn by governments and authorities in collusion with companies like Enbridge,” said Gleichman. “Tar sands development is industrial genocide to indigenous cultures, ecosystems, and anyone who stands in the way of infrastructure expansion. We must resist Enbridge because no community should become collateral damage in the endless and reckless pursuit of profit,” she said.

Clayton Thomas Muller, National Campaigner for Idle No More’s Sovereignty Summer (#SovSummer) campaign, says that, “a movement is rising up from coast to coast to coast against the Canadian Tar Sands and will continue to grow incrementally until we take back our democracy from the hands of corporations like Enbridge who would see all our streets, rivers, lakes and coastal areas destroyed by tar sands pipeline spills.” Thomas-Muller continues, “We will not stop until the six core demands of Idle No More & Defenders of the Land’s campaign, #SovSummer, including the right of communities to say NO are respected by the Harper Government.”

Expansion of drilling prompts deep fears in Michigan

Gary Heinlein, Detroit News

A new environmental fight looms over a huge natural gas harvesting project opponents claim will industrialize northern Lower Peninsula forests and drain billions of gallons of water from aquifers that feed treasured trout streams.

A Canadian firm proposes to use hydraulic fracturing to draw natural gas from as many as 500 wells extending nearly two miles underground and the same distance horizontally.

“It’s intense industrial resource use, intense water use unprecedented in Michigan,” said Traverse City environmental lawyer Jim Olson, who represents an outdoors organization that wants to protect the unspoiled Jordan River Valley in Antrim County near the affected area. “We need to get a handle on this way ahead of time.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been used in Michigan for 60 years on 12,000 wells with very few problems and little public attention, but not in shale formations this deep.

Environmental activists, partially driven by highly publicized fracking battles in other places, are starting to butt heads with state agencies that oversee oil and gas drilling and with Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

Calgary, Alberta-based Encana Corp.’s project dovetails with Snyder’s energy plan.

“I am committed to ensuring that Michigan can take advantage of the reliability, affordability and environmental and economic benefits of natural gas resources,” Snyder said in a special address to lawmakers last November.

Calling Michigan “a very strong natural gas state,” Snyder also called for a state reserve to set aside some of what’s harvested and hold down the price.

The governor defended the use of hydraulic fracturing and announced a University of Michigan study that will guide state policies for tapping the abundant natural gas deposits discovered over the past decade or so in Michigan.

Encana is tapping Michigan’s mammoth Antrim and Collingwood shale formations, which zig-zag from the tip of the mitt all the way down the middle of the state to Gratiot County. The company’s mineral rights are mostly in Cheboygan, Emmet, Kalkaska and Missaukee counties but also spread into other counties.

Fracking sparks concern

Controversies have swirled around the fracking technique, which opens vast new sources of oil and gas to world markets but has been blamed for environmental problems, from earthquakes and tremors in England to methane gas in drinking water in Pennsylvania.

Two recent movies, “Gasland” and Gasland II,” stoked new concerns and made claims disputed by the industry and some studies.

Encana’s project, for which it has leased mineral rights to 432,000 acres of public and private land, has the potential to make fracking more of an issue than it has been in the past in Michigan.

Fly fishermen are starting to wonder if their favorite waters will be harmed; Charlevoix-headquartered environmental activists want voters to ban the technique; and House Democrats are calling for tighter state restrictions. Also, fracking opponents have held demonstrations at DNR mineral rights bidding sessions in the past year and a half.

“My big concern is where’s the water going to come from?” said Josh Greenberg, owner of Gates Au Sable Lodge, next to Michigan’s most-popular trout stream in the Grayling area. “It’s coming from here. Who’s going to benefit? Someone who’s not here.”

Encana says fracking uses 58,800 to 31.5 million gallons of water per well. The amount varies from one well to another.

Olson last September urged the state’s Natural Resources Commission to slow down mineral rights leasing on public lands and declare absolutely off-limits state game reserves, recreational and natural areas he characterizes as Michigan’s “crown jewels.”

Safety ensured

Officials at the two key regulatory agencies expressed confidence hydraulic fracturing can continue to be done safely.

“The biggest concern is the volume of fluids (water) being used,” said Harold Fitch, state geologist and head of the Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals at the Department of Environmental Quality. “If you manage water consumption and the waste water that’s produced, you’ve got control.”

The Department of Natural Resources, which oversees mineral rights, is careful about where drilling is permitted, added spokesman Ed Golder. Special areas such as critical dunes, Great Lakes bottom lands and the Jordan River Valley are off-limits.

“We do a thorough analysis of the land we lease and what type of use should be allowed,” Golder said.

Fracking uses high volumes of water, sand and a chemical mix, pumped under very high pressure, to create fissures in shale formations, releasing the natural gas they hold.

Two-thirds or more of the mixture stays in the deep formation, Encana says. The rest shoots back up the pipe to be drawn off into special tanks and trucked to one of 740 deep-formation chemical waste storage wells.

The hydraulic fracturing takes from a few days to a few weeks. Once that’s completed, a well can continue to produce natural gas for as long as 40 years, according to company literature.

Encana has drilled a dozen wells since 2009. One goes down 10,500 feet and about two miles horizontally, said spokesman Doug Hock.

“We’re in the early stages,” Hock said of new drilling in northern Michigan. “Til we do the exploration, we won’t know whether we have something that can scale up and be economic.”

Hock said the investment could be huge: $10 million per well.

Dems seek safeguards

House Democrats argue for more safeguards and have rolled out bills with stringent requirements for disclosure of fracking chemicals and water use. Municipalities and individuals would be entitled to court hearings before permits are issued.

“If I lived in northern Michigan and they were putting (fracking chemicals) in the ground near my house, I’d want to know,” said Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, one of the bill sponsors.

Fitch, the state geologist, said the DEQ has looked into a recent case in which the process temporarily affected a homeowner’s well. Beyond that, he said, fracking has been almost trouble-free here: two limited wastewater spills.

That’s not enough assurance for those who worry about toxic chemicals left in the ground, no matter how deep, and waterways that might be hurt by massive groundwater withdrawals.

Charlevoix-based Ban Michigan Fracking wants to collect at least 258,088 registered voter signatures by Oct. 1 for a 2014 ballot proposal to prohibit fracking. A similiar effort to get a ban on the 2012 ballot failed when opponents didn’t collect enough petition signatures.

At Gates Au Sable Lodge, Greenberg views Encana’s project with deep concern. For his lodge, shop and restaurant to thrive, the Au Sable River always must flow clear and cold.

“I’m scared and a little concerned about what it’s going to look like if it all comes to pass,” Greenberg said.

“I don’t think you could ever convince me you can take that much water from what’s under the earth and not affect what’s on top of it.”

America Recycles Day 2013 Announces Open Registration for Local Events

Join the national celebration of recycling by hosting a local event

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 29, 2013) – Online event registration is now open for America Recycles Day, a national initiative of nonprofit Keep America Beautiful (KAB). This year’s America Recycles Day theme, “I Want To Be Recycled,” will help to educate people about the importance of recycling to our economy and environmental well-being as well as motivate occasional recyclers to become everyday recyclers.

America Recycles Day, which takes place annually on Nov. 15, recognizes the benefits of recycling while providing an educational platform that helps raise awareness about the value of reducing, reusing and recycling – every day – all throughout the year.

Online registration is now open at AmericaRecyclesDay.org for local organizers to schedule events in their communities and gain access to valuable resources to plan, promote and host an event.   To support event organizers, there are best practices guides for hosting events, activity ideas, downloadable posters and banners, media outreach tools, sample proclamations, and much more.  Events can be scheduled any time during the fall, but should be held as close to Nov. 15 as possible.

America’s leading companies are proud to make America Recycles Day possible. National sponsors of America Recycles Day to date are: Anheuser-Busch, the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies and Waste Management.

About Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful is the nation’s leading nonprofit that brings people together to build and sustain vibrant communities. With a strong national network of 1,200 affiliates and partners including state recycling organizations, we work with millions of volunteers who take action in their communities. Keep America Beautiful offers programs and engages in public-private partnerships that help create clean, beautiful public places, reduce waste and increase recycling while educating generations of environmental stewards. Through our actions, we help create communities that are socially connected, environmentally healthy and economically sound. For more information, visit kab.org or follow us on Twitter at @kabtweet.

About America Recycles Day
America Recycles Day is a national program of Keep America Beautiful, and is the only nationally-recognized day and community-driven awareness event dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the U.S. Since its inception in 1997, communities across the country have participated in America Recycles Day on Nov. 15 to educate, promote environmental citizenship, and encourage action. To learn more, visit americarecyclesday.org.