Take action against Enbridge’s Line 9

Photo: Adam Carter/CBC

Photo: Adam Carter/CBC


Source: Reclaim Turtle Island


Without surprise, the National Energy Board has approved the reversal of the Line 9 pipeline. This pipeline crosses every single tributary that flows into Lake Ontario, and cuts up the north shore of the St. Lawrence river….

It was anticipated that this information be released on March. 19th. Instead the rubber-stamping came early.

Indigenous peoples whose territories are being attacked by this project have been silenced throughout this process. It is our communities, and other communities of colour, who primarily live fenceline with the tar sands, its mining, infrastructure and refineries. It is our Sacred sites that are being desecrated by the shady movements of corporate imperialists and colonial-capitalists.

Line 9 shows us exactly what environmental racism looks like, from Aamjiwnaang to Jane & Finch – telling us that bodies of colour and Indigenous bodies are expendable for the larger project of profit. Line 9 is but expanded infrastructure to move the Athabasca tar sands eastward – it is an embodiment of the slow industrial genocide that is being committed by TransCanada, Enbridge, Suncor, and the Government of Canada, to name a few.

This deep rooted social disconnection from the land is fostered by the occupation of our Nations’ territories. The attack on Indigenous bodies and bodies of colour are but a glimpse into the functions of this White supremacist, settler-colonial death culture that seeks to consume, corrupt and conquer.

On March 19th, let us keep close the truth of the violence that is this pipeline: an apparatus of tar sands destruction that seeks to poison that which sustains us and those faces not yet born. On this day we will be connected with each other in struggle as we fill our hearts with love for the wild and carry inside us a hunger for justice. March 19th Take Action Against Line 9!

 We are requesting solidarity actions by friends in struggle who share Enbridge as a common enemy – from the West to the East, Enbridge’s toxic tendrils are an affront on Indigenous Sovereignty and the health of all of Creation.

Only you, your community and your affinity groups know what action is best to take in your area. Get in touch with us if you want to confirm an action. #Line9IndustrialGenocide

Be safe, be strong!

Keep your ear to the ground, because there are more battles ahead. Stop the beast! #NoLine9 #NoEnergyEast

Note: For more background on Enbridge’s Line 9 tar sands pipeline and the recent approval it received by Canadian regulators, click here.

-The GJEP Team

Crow & Lummi, Dirty Coal & Clean Fishing

Courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationKnown as “home to the Ancient Ones,” Cherry Point in Washington state is home to a stable fishing ecosystem that supports the Lummi Nation, and has become a recent point of interest for a Coal export for the Crow

Courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Known as “home to the Ancient Ones,” Cherry Point in Washington state is home to a stable fishing ecosystem that supports the Lummi Nation, and has become a recent point of interest for a Coal export for the Crow

Winona LaDuke, ICTMN, 1/15/14

“The tide is out and the table is set…” Justin Finklebonner gestures to the straits on the edge of the Lummi reservation. This is the place where the Lummi people have gathered their food for a millennium. It is a fragile and bountiful ecosystem, part of the Salish Sea, newly corrected in it’s naming by cartographers. When the tide goes out, the Lummi fishing people go to their boats—one of the largest fishing fleets in any Indigenous community. They feed their families, and they fish for their economy.

This is also the place where corporations fill their tankers and ships to travel into the Pacific and beyond. It is one of only a few deep water ports in the region, and there are plans to build a coal terminal here. That plan is being pushed by a few big corporations, and one Indian nation—the Crow Nation, which needs someplace to sell the coal it would like to mine, in a new deal with Cloud Peak Energy. The deal is a big one: 1.4 billion tons of coal to be sold overseas. There have been no new coal plants in the United States for 30 years, so Cloud Peak and the Crow hope to find their fortunes in China. The mine is called Big Metal, named after a Crow legendary hero.

The place they want to put a port for huge oil tankers and coal barges is called Cherry Point, or XweChiexen. It is sacred to the Lummi. There is a 3,500-year-old village site here.  The Hereditary Chief of the Lummi Nation, tsilixw (Bill James), describes it as the “home of the Ancient Ones.” It was the first site in Washington State to be listed on the Washington Heritage Register.

Coal interests hope to construct North America’s largest coal export terminal on this “home of the Ancient Ones.” Once there, coal would be loaded onto some of the largest bulk carriers in the world to China. The Lummi nation is saying Kwel hoy’: We draw the line. The sacred must be protected.

So it is that the Crow Nation needs a friend among the Lummi and is having a hard time finding one. In the meantime, a 40-year old coal mining strategy is being challenged by Crow people, because culture is tied to land, and all of that may change if they starting mining for coal.  And, the Crow tribal government is asked by some tribal members why renewable energy is not an option.

The stakes are high, and the choices made by sovereign Native nations will impact the future of not only two First Nations, but all of us.

How it Happens

It was a long time ago that the Crow People came from Spirit Lake. They emerged to the surface of this earth from deep in the waters. They emerged, known as the Hidatsa people, and lived for a millennia or more on the banks of the Missouri River. The most complex agriculture and trade system in the northern hemisphere, came from their creativity and their diligence. Hundreds of varieties of corn, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, berries—all gifts to a people. And then the buffalo—50 million or so—graced the region. The land was good, as was the life. Ecosystems, species and cultures collide and change. The horse transformed people and culture. And so it did for the Hidatsa and Crow people, the horse changed how the people were able to hunt—from buffalo jumps, from which carefully crafted hunt could provide food for months, to the quick and agile movement of a horse culture, the Crow transformed. They left their life on the Missouri, moving west to the Big Horn Mountains. They escaped some of what was to come to the Hidatsas, the plagues of smallpox and later the plagues of agricultural dams which flooded a people and a history- the Garrison project, but the Crow, if any, are adept at adaptation. The Absaalooka are the People of the big beaked black bird —that is how they got their name, the Crow. The River Crow and the Mountain Crow, all of them came to live in the Big Horns, made by the land, made by the horse, and made by the Creator.

A Good Country

“The Crow country is a good country. The Great Spirit has put it exactly in the right place; while you are in it you fare well; whenever you go out of it, whichever way you travel, you will fare worse… The Crow country is exactly in the right place.”

–Arapooish Crow leader, to Robert Campbell, Rocky Mountain Fur Company, c.1830

The Absaalooka were not born coal miners. That’s what happens when things are stolen from you—your land, reserved under treaty, more than 30 million acres of the best land in the northern plains, the heart of their territory. This is what happens with historic trauma, and your people and ancestors disappear – “1740 was the first contact with the Crow,” Sharon Peregoy, a Crow Senator in the Montana State legislature, explains. “It was estimated… to be 40,000 Crows, with a 100 million acres to defend. Then we had three bouts of smallpox, and by l900, we were greatly reduced to about l,750 Crows.”

“The 1825 Treaty allowed the settlers to pass through the territory.” The Crow were pragmatic. “We became an ally with the U.S. government. We did it as a political move, that’s for sure.” That didn’t work out. The 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty identified 38 million acres as reserved, while the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty greatly reduced the reservation to 8 million acres. A series of unilateral congressional acts further cut down the Crow land base, until only 2.3 million acres remained.

“The l920 Crow Act’s intent was to preserve Crow land to ensure Crow tribal allottees who were ranchers and farmers have the opportunity to utilize their land,” Peregoy explains.

Into the heart of this came the Yellowtail Dam. That project split the Crow people and remains, like other dams flooding Indigenous territories, a source of grief, for not only is the center of their ecosystem, but it benefits largely non-Native landowners and agricultural interests, many of whom farm Crow territory. And, the dam provides little financial returns for the tribe. The dam was a source of division, says Peregoy.“We were solid until the vote on the Yellowtail Dam in l959.”

In economic terms, essentially, the Crow are watching as their assets are taken to benefit others, and their ecology and economy decline. “Even the city of Billings was built on the grass of the Crows,“ Peregoy says.

Everything Broken Down

“Our people had an economy and we were prosperous in what we did. Then with the reservation, everything we had was broken down and we were forced into a welfare state.”

–Lane Simpson, Professor, Little Big Horn College

One could say the Crow know how to make lemonade out of lemons. They are renowned horse people and ranchers, and the individual landowners, whose land now makes up the vast majority of the reservation, have tried hard to continue that lifestyle. Because of history of land-loss, the Crow tribe owns some l0 percent of the reservation.

The Crow have a short history of coal strip mining—maybe 50 years. Not so long in Crow history, but a long time in an inefficient fossil fuel economy. Westmoreland Resource’s Absaloka mine opened in 1974. It produces about 6 million tons of coal a year and employs about 80 people. That deal is for around 17 cents a ton.

Westmoreland has been the Crow Nation’s most significant private partner for over 39 years, and the tribe has received almost 50 percent of its general operating income from this mine. Tribal members receive a per-capita payment from the royalties, which, in the hardship of a cash economy, pays many bills.

Then there is Colstrip, the power plant complex on the border of Crow—that produces around 2,800 mw of power for largely west coast utilities and also employs some Crows. Some 50 percent of the adult population is still listed as unemployed, and the Crow need an economy that will support their people and the generations ahead. It is possible that the Crow may have become cornered into an economic future which, it turns out, will affect far more than just them.


Big Metal Mine, named after a legendary Crow (Courtesy Big Metal Coal)
Big Metal Mine, named after a legendary Crow (Courtesy Big Metal Coal)

Enter Cloud Peak

In 2013, the Crow Nation signed an agreement with Cloud Peak to develop 1.4 billion tons in the Big Metal Mine, named after a legendary Crow. The company says it could take five years to develop a mine that would produce up to 10 million tons of coal annually, and other mines are possible in the leased areas. Cloud Peak has paid the tribe $3.75 million so far.

The Crow nation may earn copy0 million over those first five years. The Big Metal Mine, however may not be a big money-maker. Coal is not as lucrative as it once was, largely because it is a dirty fuel.  According to the Energy Information Administration, l75 coal plants will be shut down in the next few years in the U.S.

So the target is China. Cloud Peak has pending agreements to ship more than 20 million tons of coal annually through two proposed ports on the West Coast.

Back to the Lummi

The Gateway Pacific Coal terminal would be the largest such terminal on Turtle Island’s west coast. This is what large means: an l,l00 acre terminal, moving up to 54 million metric tons of coal per year, using cargo ships up to l,000 feet long. Those ships would weigh maybe 250,000 tons and carry up to 500,000 gallons of oil. Each tanker would take up to six miles to stop.

All of that would cross Lummi shellfish areas, the most productive shellfish territory in the region. “It would significantly degrade an already fragile and vulnerable crab, herring and salmon fishery, dealing a devastating blow to the economy of the fisher community,” the tribe said in a statement.

The Lummi community has been outspoken in its opposition, and taken their concerns back to the Powder River basin, although not yet to the Crow Tribe. Jewell Praying Wolf James is a tribal leader and master carver of the Lummi Nation. “There’s gonna be a lot of mercury and arsenic blowing off those coal trains,” James says. “That is going to go into a lot of communities and all the rivers between here and the Powder River Basin.”

Is there a Way Out?

Is tribal sovereignty a carte blanche to do whatever you want? The Crow Tribe’s coal reserves are estimated at around 9 billion tons of coal. If all the Crow coal came onto the market and was sold and burned, according to a paper by Avery Old Coyote, it could produce an equivalent of 44.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

That’s a lot of carbon during a time of climate challenge.

Then there are the coal-fired power plants. They employ another 380 people, some of them Crow, and generating some 2,094 mw of electricity. The plants are the second largest coal generating facilities west of the Mississippi. PSE’s coal plant is the dirtiest coal-burning power plant in the Western states, and the eighth dirtiest nationwide. The amount of carbon pollution that spews from Colstrip’s smokestacks is almost equal to two eruptions at Mt. St. Helen’s every year.

Coal is dirty. That’s just the way it is.  Coal plant operators are planning to retire 175 coal-fired generators, or 8.5 percent of the total coal-fired capacity in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. A record number of generators were shut down in 2012. Massive energy development in PRB contributes more than 14 percent of the total U.S. carbon pollution, and the Powder River Basin is some of the largest reserves in the world.  According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the world emits 32.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. The Crow Tribe will effectively contribute more than a year and a half of the entire world’s production of carbon dioxide.

There, is, unfortunately, no bubble over China, so all that carbon will end up in the atmosphere.

The Crow Nation chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, says coal was a gift to his community that goes back to the tribe’s creation story. “Coal is life,” he says. “It feeds families and pays the bills….  [We] will continue to work with everyone and respect tribal treaty rights, sacred sights, and local concerns. However, I strongly feel that non-governmental organizations cannot and should not tell me to keep Crow coal in the ground. I was elected to provide basic services and jobs to my citizens and I will steadfastly and responsibly pursue Crow coal development to achieve my vision for the Crow people.”

In 2009, 1,133 people were employed by the coal industry in Montana. U.S. coal sales have been on the decline in recent years, and plans to export coal to Asia will prop up this industry a while longer. By contrast, Montana had 2,155 “green” jobs in 2007 – nearly twice as many as in the coal industry. Montana ranks fifth 
in the nation for wind-energy potential. Even China has been dramatically increasing its use of renewables and recently called for the closing of thousands of small coal mines by 2015. Perhaps most telling, Goldman Sachs recently stated that investment in coal infrastructure is “a risky bet and could create stranded assets.”

The Answer May Be Blowing in the Wind

The Crow nation has possibly l5,000-megawatts of wind power potential, or six times as much power as is presently being generated by Colstrip. Michaelynn Hawk and Peregoy have an idea: a wind project owned by Crow Tribal members that could help diversify Crow income. Michaelynn says “the price of coal has gone down. It’s not going to sustain us. We need to look as landowners at other economic development to sustain us as a tribe. Coal development was way before I was born. From the time I can remember, we got per capita from the mining of coal. Now that I’m older, and getting into my elder age, I feel that we need to start gearing towards green energy.”

Imagine there were buffalo, wind turbines and revenue from the Yellowtail Dam to feed the growing Crow community. What if the Crow replaced some of that 500 megawatts of Colstrip Power, with some of the l5,000 possible megawatts of power from wind energy? And then there is the dam on the Big Horn River. “We have the opportunity right now to take back the Yellowtail Dam,” Peragoy says. “Relicensing and lease negotiations will come up in two years for the Crow Tribe, and that represents a potentially significant source of income – $600 million. That’s for 20 years, $30 million a year.”

That would be better than dirty coal money for the Crow, for the Lummi, for all of us.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/15/crow-lummi-dirty-coal-clean-fishing-153086

For Land and Life: 25 stories of Indigenous resilience that you might’ve missed in 2013

By  • Dec 14, 2013  Source: Intercontinental Cry

With the sheer number of abuses and attacks that Indigenous Peoples face around the world, we don’t often come by stories of hope and resilience–stories that speak of long-fought struggles coming to a just end, peaceful exchanges between Nations who live in different parts of the world, and assertions of Traditional authority that governments and corporations simply accept without challenge or condition. Here’s a few of those stories that you might have missed over the past 12 months. Here’s to 25,000 more stories just like them!

An Ainu-Maori Exchange

A group of 7 Ainu youth, accompanied by 3 Ainu committee members and 3 interpreters, traveled to New Zealand in order to study the various ambitious endeavors of the Maori people who have successfully revitalized their rights as Indigenous People while living with strength in the society of New Zealand.

After successfully carrying out a major online fundraiser to pay for the journey, the Ainu–who are themselves struggling to revitalize their culture, language and identity–reported a very positive experience during their stay. As explored on theAinu Maori Exchange activity website, the Ainu learned a language teaching method called Te Ataarangi, sat down with the Maori Party-Whangaehu Marae, visited several Maori-based schools and businesses as well as television and radio stations and many different historical sites.

An Alternative Currency

Esquimalt First Nation, in an effort to reform the monetary system, unveiled a new barter currency on their territory known as Tetlas. Similar to a gift certificate, the Tetla was developed by the organization Tetla Tsetsuwatil to assist economic development in the S’amuna’ Nation and other native nations, and to encourage trade with non-natives and among non-natives. More than two dozen businesses now accept the alternative currency.


Indigenous millennium development goals

Colombia’s indigenous organizations revealed five new ‘millennium development goals’ (MDGs), presenting the world’s first national framework for realizing indigenous rights in response to the Millennium Declaration. The move challenged the country’s authorities to record their progress in meeting the new targets, which include the protection of indigenous territory; the implementation of free, prior and informed consent protocols and the ‘institutional redesign’ of the state in its relations with Indigenous Peoples.

Occupying Brazil’s House of Representatives

In Brazil, approximately 700 indigenous leaders occupied the country’s House of Representatives in a concerted effort to stop the nomination process for the Special Committee on PEC 215, a proposal that would transfer from the federal government to the National Congress the authority to approve the demarcation of traditional lands. Despite a heavy-handed response from police officers and security personnel, the Indigenous leaders held their ground until the government representatives took appropriate action.

The little school of liberty

Thousands of people from around the world descended on Chiapas for the Zapatistas’ first organizing school, called la escuelita de libertad, which means the little school of liberty. Originally the group allotted for only 500 students; But so many people wished to enroll that they opened an additional 1,200 slots for the week-long school. While attending the escuelita, students lived with a family in a rebel zapatista community and participated both in the school and in the daily life of the community.

This year, the EZLN also announced the creation of a traveling Indigenous seminar to provide a forum “in which the Indigenous Peoples of the continent can be heard by those who have an attentive and respectful ear for their word, their history, and their resistance.” The announcement was supported by more than 30 Indigenous organizations and governments.

In Defense of Medicine

The Matsés Peoples, in order to protect the medicines from bio-prospectors, decided not to translate their Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia to English or Spanish. The Matsés are writing the Encyclopedia in order to preserve and propagate their traditional systems of medicine for future generations–of Matsés.

“Original Nations” passports

An historic ceremony was held outside the Victorian Trades Hall in Melbourne, Australia for the issuing of “Original Nations” passports and West Papuan visas in conjunction with the West Papua Freedom Flotilla. The flotilla convoy would go on to travel from Lake Eyre to West Papua, highlighting the abuse of human rights and land rights occurring in West Papua and reconnecting the Indigenous Peoples of West Papua and Australia.

Assertions of Authority

Red Sucker Lake First Nation delivered a stop work order to Mega Precious Metals Inc. in Northern Manitoba. The First Nation stated at the time that the company was operating illegally in its traditional territory. Mathias Colomb First Nation (MCCN) issued a similar order to Hudbay Mining and Smelting Co., Ltd. also in Manitoba.

An independent republic

The Murrawarri Peoples took their first steps toward becoming an independent republic on their traditional unceded lands in northern New South Wales and Queensland, Australia. After issuing a formal declaration, The Murrawarri established an interim government in preparation for a parliament that would consist of 54 representatives appointed by their respective ancestral family groups. The Murrawarri Nation’s act of self-determination caught the attention of at least 27 other Indigenous Nations in Australia who requested Murrawarri’s declarations and constitution to use as templates for their own independence movements.

The Tahltan said NO

The Tahltan People celebrated a decision by Fortune Minerals’ to halt mineral exploration activities on Klappan Mountain inside the Sacred Headwaters region of Northern British Columbia, Canada. The decision came after several bold actions led by the Klabona Keepers including the delivery of an eviction notice, a blockade and the take over of a drilling site.

Honouring the Two Row

A delegation of Haudenosaunee leaders traveled to the Netherlands on Haudenosaunee passports to participate in a ceremony honoring the 400 year old Two Row Wampum Treaty between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and The Netherlands. The ceremony was held at the Tree of Peace which was planted by the late Mohawk elder Jake Swamp at Wijkpark Transvaal in The Hague in September 2006.

A pilgrimage of hope

Offering solidarity to Indigenous Nations, five Carvers from the Lummi Nation set out on a journey up the Pacific North West Coast sending a message of Kwel’Hoy, or ‘We Draw The Line’ to the resource extraction industry. With them, lain carefully on a flat bed, the Lummi carried a beautifully-carved 22-foot cedar totem pole for Indigenous communities to bless along the way. Their journey gained international attention as a pilgrimage of hope, healing and determination for each of the embattled Indigenous Nations they visited.

A summit of Indigenous communication

The Second Continental Summit of Indigenous Communication was held in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec, in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico. The important summit brought together indigenous media makers from various countries in Latin America to share their ideas and experiences and to continue planning the future of Indigenous multimedia communications.

A return to the land

Ontario’s Springwater Provincial Park became the site of a new land reclamation after Ontario Parks took down its flagand changed the park’s status to non-operational–due to low visitation and funding. A small group of people from several Indigenous nations set up a camp inside the park land, exercising Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, concerning the right to lands and resources that were once traditionally occupied. It is the group’s goal to see Springwater as an educational and spiritual centre. So far, they’ve held full moon and drumming ceremonies, children’s programming and feasts.

Meanwhile, the Oshkimaadiziig Unity Camp continued to occupy nearby Awenda Provincial Park , an action that began, says camp spokesperson Kai Kai Kons,”as a result of the illegal surrenders of our inherent rights and traditional territories along with the policies and laws enforced upon our people where the Chippewa Tri Council and Canada are in breach of the 1764 Niagara Covenant Chain Belt.” The group, part of a growing movement called ACTION — Anishinabek Confederacy To Invoke Our Nationhood, states that Awenda Provincial Park is situated on one of five traditional embassies known as Council Rock which is interwoven in the inter-tribal treaty between the Anishinabek and Haudenosaunee.

Other camps were set up throughout the year, including by theThe Lac Courte Oreilles band of Ojibwa in northern Wisconsin and
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake within La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve in Quebec. The well-known Unist’ot’en camp also continued their work to protect sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory in what is now British Colombia.

Coming together as Nations

Evading the Indonesian navy, two tiny boats met near the Australia-Indonesia border to ceremonially reconnect the indigenous peoples of Australia and West Papua. The ceremony was the pinnacle of a 5000km journey beginning in Lake Eyre, in which sacred water and ashes were carried and presented to West Papuan leaders. The cultural exchange of Indigenous elders was held in secret, due to threats made by Indonesian government ministers and military officials who had stated that they would “take measures” against the peaceful exchange.

Another welcomed victory

Two Indigenous communities from northern Saskatchewan were finally dropped from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s nuclear waste dump shortlist. After several years of grassroots resistance spearheaded by the Committee for Future Generations and supported by other organizations, it was announced on Nov. 21 that both communities were unsuitable for further study.

The Saami step forward

The Saami Peoples stepped forward to defend an area of great spiritual and cultural importance. Walking alongside a group of non-indigenous activists, the Saami set up a roadblock to stop the UK-based mining company, Beowulf, which was planning to carry out a drilling program in the area known as Kallak (Saami: Gállok). The blockade was dismantled on several occasions; however, that did not deter anyone from continuing to defend the land. Ultimately, the Saami and their allies were victorious in preventing Beowulf from moving ahead.

The law of the Messi

A Messi villager in Papua New Guinea put up a “gorgor” at Nautilus’ proposed Solwara 1 experimental seabed mining project site. As a traditional law, the “gorgor protocol” prohibits any Ships or vessels by Nautilus from entering into the area that is protected by the “gorgor”. If Nautilus breaches this area and enters illegally, the Messi “have ALL the right under kastom to destroy the vessels or ship,” commented Karabuspalau Kaiku on facebook.

“Elders and villagers from adjoining villages have caution[ed] the National Government to critically address the issue from the bottom up. Traditional law over the environment must be respected by foreigners,” Kaiku adds.

Preserving history

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee (LTLT) celebrated the final return of the Hall Mountain Tract to tribal hands. Hall Mountain, a 108-acre tract of land, is the viewshed of the historic Cowee Mound site located six miles south of Franklin. The Mound, a site of great cultural significance to the Tribe, was the largest, busiest diplomatic and commercial center for the Cherokee people and all Native people on the East Coast until the late 1700s.

A place called PKOLS

WSÁNEC nations lead an action to reclaim the traditional name of PKOLS on what is now southern Vancouver Island. Originally known as Mount Douglas, PKOLS is an historically important meeting place and a part of the WSÁNEC creation story. The Douglas Treaty was signed atop PKOLS in 1852. The action to reclaim the name, which signified the renewal of the original nation-to-nation treaty relationship, included a march and a re-enactment of the original treaty signing with governor James Douglas. A joint Declaration reclaiming PKOLS was also signed and a permanent sign was installed.

Defending the Great Lakes

After years of community opposition, the controversial plan to ship radioactive waste across the Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden was officially cancelled by the Swedish company, Studsvik. In a rare show of unity, opponents to the plan included City mayors, U.S. Senators, environmental and nuclear groups, indigenous communities and other civil society groups.

We won’t be silenced!

The Oglala Lakota passed a resolution opposing the proposed Otter Creek coal mine and Tongue River Railroad in their historical homelands of southeastern Montana. The Oglala Lakota have thus far been excluded from any consultations despite the fact that the proposed mine site is an area of great cultural and historical significance containing countless burial sites, human remains, battle sites, stone features and artifacts. In addition to calling for proper consultation, the Oglala Lakota called on all Tribal Nations who signed the Fort Laramie Treaty to stand with them in opposing the mine and railroad.

A bittersweet victory

The Musqueam finally managed to bring a certain end to the months-long struggle to stop a condominium development atop the ancient village of cusnaum. The Musqueam recentlyworked out a deal to buy and preserve the site, also known as Marpole Midden, in Vancouver, British Columbia. After 18 months of talks, community members announced plans to place permanent educational signage on the archaeological site, and likely commission several carved poles to honor the more than 4,000-year-old village.

Sitting at a different table

As United Nations delegates gathered in Warsaw to craft a global climate treaty, indigenous leaders from across North America met half a world away. Their message: The solution to climate change will never come via UN talks. The United Nations has always maintained a typical colonial stance when it comes to Indigenous Peoples and land; nevertheless the institution deserved a chance to prove itself. It simply failed to do the necessary work, a failure that we can no longer afford to ignore. “The work that we have is for all of us to do,” said Vickie Downey, a clan mother at the Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico. “We do this for our grandchildren.”

Turning back the tide of colonialism

With the Idle No More movement in Canada waking up a sleeping giant, a second movement began to take shape known as the Indigenous Nationhood Movement. A movement for “Indigenous nationhood, resurgence, and decolonization”, INM has grown into a vast circle of people connected through commitments to principled action supporting Indigenous nations in advancing, articulating, reclaiming, expressing, and asserting nationhood, raising up traditional governments, and reclaiming and reoccupying traditional homelands. Like the Idle No More movement, INM is an immensely inspiring effort and one that shows great promise for the long road ahead. Indeed, Indigenous Peoples in Canada have once again set a strong example for all other Indigenous Peoples around the world, particularly those who have suffered the harsh burden of isolation and uncertainty in facing an all-too-familiar colonial beast.

Idle No More & Defenders of the Land Support the Actions of Indigenous Peoples of Canada to Protect Their Waters, Lands & Forests

(Turtle Island/December 16, 2013) Source: Climate Connection

Idle No More and Defenders of the Land networks call on Indigenous Peoples and Canadians to support Indigenous Nations currently engaged in protecting their lands and waters against the corporate-sponsored agendas of the federal and provincial governments.

In the past month, the Mi’kmaq of Elsipogtog, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and the Cree of Lubicon Lake Nation have been involved in land protection struggles to defend against invasive extractive natural resource development (natural gas exploration, drilling for oil & natural gas/fracking and clear cut logging) taking place on their territories without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

In each of these land struggles, there are people camping and protecting lands outside in extreme winter weather conditions before the holidays to keep industry activity at bay. Despite weather dipping to -30º C on some days, men, women, children and Elders continue to protect the land to ensure their grandchildren and future generations have something left for their sustenance and livelihood.

We condemn the collusion between the Federal/Provincial governments and corporations who work together to implement economic development plans and activities that disregard the Inherent Aboriginal and Treaty Rights held by Indigenous Peoples.

Sylvia McAdam, an Idle No More organizer stated  “we are against shale gas exploration and fracking. We do not support puppet regimes that endorse extractive industry natural resource development on Indigenous lands. We support the FPIC of the Indigenous People’s impacted by extractive resource development on their Indigenous lands.”

Russell Diabo, a member of the Defenders of the Land network, added “the Lubicon Lake Nation protectors are rights holders and are to be commended for their personal sacrifice in camping in the bitter cold to stop unauthorized oil and natural gas development on their traditional lands.”

“The Canadian and provincial government’s current energy and mining policies are designed to destroy the environment.  If they are genuinely interested in reshaping Canada’s energy policy in a positive direction they must recognize and affirm Aboriginal and Treaty Rights on the ground,” said Arthur Manuel, a member of the Defenders of the Land network.

Bay Area American Indians Demand Removal of Columbus Statue

Source: Native News Network

SAN FRANCISCO – American Indians and other Indigenous Peoples from the San Francisco Bay Area marched from Washington Square one-quarter mile to near Coit Tower where a statue of Christopher Columbus stands in San Francisco. This after being denied access to Alcatraz Island for the first time in decades.

Columbus Statute

Owned and operated by the National Park Service, Alcatraz Island is the victim of federal government shutdown, along with other national parks throughout the United States.

On the day others celebrate Christopher Columbus, the San Francisco Bay Area Native community has held Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on Alcatraz Island as an alternative means to draw attention to Indigenous causes.

Yesterday, the protesters marched to the statue to demand that a process begins to have the statute permanently removed.

”Honoring Columbus with a statute is equal to erecting a statue of Hitler in Europe where he left so many victims,”

according to a statement released by AIM-West, one of the organizations that held yesterday’s event.

”Let the healing begin …and celebrate 521 years of Indigenous People’s resistance to colonization throughout the Americas! October 12, also known as Dia De La Raza for millions of Spanish speaking Indigenous people’s of Central and South America, sacred Turtle Island, Abya Yala, declare this day together by shouting, ‘We are still here!’

reads another portion of AIM-West’s statement.

“It was determined that a process will be initiated to bring to the attention of San Francisco Board of Supervisors to find a resolution that will effectively remove sculptures and symbols that represent and glorify individuals at the expense of indigenous lives and culture,” said Tony Gonzales, director of AIM-West.

Opnion: Fighting Disenrollment: The Nooksack 306

By Akilah Kinnison, Indian Country Today Media Network

Today, 306 members of the Nooksack Indian Tribe in northern Washington State are fighting mass disenrollment from their community. For the Nooksack 306, as they have come to be known, this struggle encompasses more than tribal citizenship – it is about their most fundamental human rights as indigenous peoples.

For some of the Nooksack 306, citizenship is literally a matter of life and death. As previously reported by Indian Country Today Media Network, Sonia Lomeli is a 74-year-old diabetic who lives on tribal land and depends on tribal medical care including transportation to kidney dialysis. Ms. Lomeli has stated, “I am afraid I will die if they disenroll me.” Mr. Terry St. Germain, a 48-year-old fisherman with eight children, worries he will not be able to feed his family if stripped of his tribal fishing and hunting rights.

The pending disenrollments have already had immediate effects. According to the Nooksack 306, some members have already been fired from their jobs or denied housing; their livelihoods are being destroyed. In a callous move a few weeks ago, just before the start of the new school year, the Tribal Council denied school supply stipends to all Nooksack children aged 3 to 19 who are proposed for disenrollment.

Pitted against their own tribe by a prevailing tribal council faction, the Nooksack 306 are battling to maintain their cultural identity as indigenous peoples – a right guaranteed under international human rights law. In their pursuit of disenrollment, the tribal government is violating the Nooksack 306’s rights to live in community, to due process, and to equal protection.

It is well-established that tribes have the right to determine their own citizenship. This was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez as well as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UN Declaration”), which the United States endorsed in 2010. Article 33 of the UN Declaration states, “[i]ndigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions.”

The Nooksack Tribe’s undisputed right to determine its own citizenship is not, however, the only right at stake. The fundamental human rights of the Nooksack 306 also weigh heavily in the balance. Under Article 9 of the UN Declaration, “indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the tradition and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right” (emphasis added).

Similarly, Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), a binding treaty ratified by the United States in 1992, mandates that “[i]n those States where ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language” (emphasis added).

To illustrate, in Lovelace v. Canada, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors ICCPR implementation, found that Canada’s Indian Act violated Article 27 by terminating an indigenous woman’s tribal citizenship when she married a non-indigenous man. The Lovelace decision confirms that, under international law, indigenous individuals have a right to live in community with their fellow tribal people and that this right is critical to maintaining indigenous identity and culture.

Yet, rather than respecting the Nooksack 306’s international human rights, the Tribal Council has gone so far as to amend the Nooksack Constitution in an attempt to eliminate the 306’s indigenous right to citizenship. The Tribal Council has also passed several new tribal laws and amended Nooksack judicial, appellate, and election codes in ways that appear designed to strip the Nooksack 306 of their ability to have a voice before the tribal courts or polity. For instance, the ever-shifting rules of the game were recently amended to allow proposed disenrollees only 10 minutes by teleconference to make their case that they are rightfully Nooksack, and without the assistance of lawyers or family members.

Most significantly, the disenrollments are not proceeding “in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community” as required by UN Declaration Articles 33 and 9. The disenrollment process appears, according to the Nooksack 306, to violate tribal customary and constitutional law. Since early 2013, Nooksack Chairman Bob Kelly has been operating outside the bounds of the Nooksack Constitution, refusing to hold constitutionally mandated meetings of the Tribal Council or the entire Nooksack People at which disenrollment could be discussed. Such measures violate due process, a right guaranteed by Articles 7 and 14 of the ICCPR as well as other international law.

Further, the Nooksack 306 seem to have been targeted, at least in part, because they are of mixed Filipino-Nooksack ancestry, even though each is at least one-quarter indigenous as previously required under the Nooksack Constitution. The tribe has not been pursuing the mass disenrollments of persons of non-Filipino mixed Nooksack ancestry. The controlling Nooksack Council faction disputes that the disenrollments are racially motivated. However, an October 2000 LA Times article, entitled “Nooksacks Allege Filipino Family Has Conquered Tribe From the Inside” and the Council’s lawyers’ public reliance on the piece, illustrates that this rivalry, a long-running and significant feature of Nooksack politics, is at least partially motivated by racial animus. This animus is also evidenced by the fact that prior to a vote to amend the tribal constitution’s membership criteria this past summer, Chairman Kelly sent certain election materials only to non-Filipino Nooksack members.

Discriminatory disenrollment contravenes UN Declaration Article 9’s prohibition of discrimination “of any kind” in the exercise of the right to live in community and Article 2’s affirmation that indigenous “individuals . . . have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination.” It also violates the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”), ratified by the United States in 1994. ICERD Article 5, for instance, protects individuals’ exercise of political, civil, economic, and social rights as well as rights to land and culture under conditions of equality. In the inter-American system, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, applicable to the U.S. by virtue of membership in the Organization of American States, protects the right to equality in Article II and the right to “take part in the cultural life of the community” in Article XIII.

The right to live in community is, in many ways, indigenous peoples’ most fundamental human right because it is critical to maintaining their identity and ways of life. It is this right that permits the Nooksack 306 to live on their traditional lands and to participate in the cultural and political life of their nation. Without the threshold right to citizenship, other protections for indigenous peoples’ human rights are rendered ineffective.

The Nooksack 306 could pursue claims against the United States for failing to protect these human rights, but to date they have chosen to contest their disenrollment primarily in tribal court, insisting that their own government respect internationally recognized human rights even if it is not directly bound by international instruments.

The Nooksack 306 have insisted, from the beginning, that theirs is a struggle to have their tribal government and court system recognize that, in their words, “We Belong.” Thus, the issue in this case is the tribal government’s responsibility to protect its citizens’ human rights by acknowledging that the right to determine citizenship is neither the only right at stake nor an unqualified right. In the interest of good governance, non-discrimination, and cultural survival, the right to determine citizenship should be exercised with an eye toward honoring and protecting indigenous individuals’ human rights to live in community within their nations. Hopefully that honor and protection will be afforded the Nooksack 306 once all is said and done.

Akilah Kinnison holds an LL.M. in Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy from the University of Arizona’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program. She currently works as an independent contractor and consultant in the fields of federal Indian law, international human rights, and indigenous peoples’ law.


Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/10/08/fighting-disenrollment-nooksack-306

What Protection Of Traditional Knowledge Means To Indigenous Peoples

By Catherine Saez, Intercontinental Cry

World Intellectual Property Organization member states in July concluded the biennium work of the committee tasked with finding agreement on international legal tools to prevent misappropriation and misuse of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.

Indigenous peoples and local communities are holders of a substantial part of this knowledge and are demanding that it be protected against misappropriation but also against its use without their consent.

Intellectual Property Watch conducted two interviews with different indigenous groups attending the 15-24 July WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) (IPW, WIPO, 25 July 2013).

The IGC is working on the protection of genetic resources (GR), traditional knowledge (TK), and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs or folklore) against misappropriation mainly by commercial interests. Other concerns include knowledge that has been claimed for collection purposes, or research, or has been used for a long time and is considered part of the public domain.

Indigenous peoples’ groups have said that the public domain was basically created at the same time as the concept of intellectual property and their particular knowledge had been put in that public domain, by default, without their consent.

Preston Hardison, policy analyst representing the Tulalip Tribes, Jim Walker of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (Australia), and Ronald Barnes of the Indian Council of South America answered questions about the protection of traditional knowledge, on the issue of the public domain, and what would be an optimum result of the IGC.

“I work for a tribe of 4,600 people, on a very small 6 mile square reservation. They’ve lost 90 percent of their land. They are surrounded by a sea of non-indigenous peoples. Their habitat has been fragmented. When they reserved their treaties they reserved a lot of ‘off reservation rights’,” said Hardison.

“They have this small reservation but they get to hunt and gather fish all around because they knew the reservation was going to be too small to sustain them,” he said. “But now all these lands are getting fragmented, polluted, broken up, rolled over by cities and urbanization, [and] climate change is causing species to move away from their territories, invasive species are coming in.”

The whole IGC discussion started with the problem of biopiracy, he said, and how to protect knowledge from being patented. “However the problem in the IP system, is that the best way to protect against patents is through the public domain because that is prior art.”

“What we very quickly found out is that this defensive approach was not helping us because the patent problem is really just a problem of temporary monopoly and the solution was for us to permanently lose control of our knowledge by putting it in the public domain.”

There are also issues when the knowledge is a pathway to discover the natural resources, “so people discover the value of cultural heritage through the traditional knowledge but the resource itself may not be protected,” Hardison said. “By solving the patent problem, by making your knowledge available, you may have opened yourself up to petty exploitation, to non-monopolistic exploitation.”

“The main problem is not the monopoly [inherent in a patent],” he said. “It is people finding out what the value of our medicinal plants is and coming and taking every single one they can find.”

Ronald Barnes, of the Indian Council of South America told Intellectual Property Watch: “When we talk about protection we want protection against exploitation so that the protection remains in the control of the holders of TK and the owners so that their right to self-determination is recognized and respected.”

People wanting to use the knowledge “have to register and let us know how they acquired it and how they are using it. Perhaps if it is sacred we don’t want it to be developed,” he specified. “Sometimes we try to keep it close to ourselves but it leaks out. There is always a way to go to one person and compensate that one person and then they say we have acquired this from you and now we have the right to develop it but it is still our collective property.”

Colonizers Put Traditional Knowledge in the Public Domain

There are some stewardship obligations that go with the knowledge, Hardison said. “When you receive it you don’t receive it freely to do whatever you want with it, you have obligations to the land, to whatever it is referring, to the spirits or the ancestors. This is a real problem with the public domain. Tribes have often shared their knowledge in the past but they shared it with people who had similar views and concepts and understood these obligations. But now we are in this world with 7 billion people on the internet.”

“If we decide to exchange knowledge, the problem is that the public domain exhausts all of our rights. It destroys the stewardship obligations that go with the knowledge,” he said.

Some of the indigenous peoples’ knowledge has been in the public domain for a long time, he explained, and allowed to be accessed for all these years, “but we never agreed to that,” he insisted. “We are not looking for monetary compensation but looking get the recognition of our right to control access.”

“We’ve held our traditional knowledge for thousands of years. It is ours,” said Barnes. “Then comes another peoples and we are colonised, why should we be held to a limitation to the knowledge control and the right to protect it?”

Optimum Outcome of the IGC, Carveout from Public Domain

One outcome of the IGC would be the identification of certain kinds of TK associated with GR, TK and TCEs that could be protected in perpetuity, some carved out of the public domain, said Hardison. “We don’t think all can, and we are open to discussion on what is protectable and what is not.”

“We are interested in creation and creativity too and some tribes and indigenous peoples would like to engage in this and some won’t, that is their business,” said Hardison. “For those who engage in it we don’t want the price of that to be the public domain, and that’s how it works.”

In the world system today, “there are very few examples of intangible cultural heritage laws which treat our knowledge in this holistic way,” Hardison said, adding, “what we have is IP law.”

“Our problem is if we ever exchange knowledge with an outsider in any way, the second we exchange it, it falls within the IP regime. We’ve never had a chance to negotiate that. We are not considered in the Berne convention [Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works], or any other WIPO conventions,” he noted.

“We know all cannot be protected but we want a regime to respect our rights where it can, and have that discussion about what can be protected and what can’t. We never put it in the public domain. That was the colonizers who put it in there for us.”

Common Thread, but Common Positions Hard to Achieve

“We might have different views on how we might get there, to achieve certain outcomes,” said Walker.”Circumstances might be different in different countries.”

“Some issues are easier than others,” said Hardison, Part of the problem is financial support, he said. Indigenous groups “are only funded for the minimum amount of time,” he said. “For example, we get three hours on Sunday before the meeting to meet together. That is not a lot of time to start working out common positions, especially on the kind of things that we have now.”

“It has gotten better now that we have translation, generally, coordinated by DoCip (Indigenous Peoples’ Center for Documentation, Research and Information),” he said. “But it is still hard to talk cross-culturally.”

“You need to have the resources back at home,” said Walker. “Getting prepared for those meetings is very difficult because generally you have your other obligations to your organization or to the people back home. Often you don’t have the time or the resources to get around and start consulting everyone to get a unified view or to get other opinions or inputs,” Walker said.

Barnes said that getting a common view was a tough exercise. “Whether or not we like it, we have some indigenous peoples who are paid more, given more funds and they are more willing to cooperate, whereas some of us refuse those funds and they want to retain their property.”

This Interview originally appeared at


Fracking equipment set ablaze in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick

Shot-hole driller ablaze down the Bass River road. Photo: Miles Howe

Shot-hole driller ablaze down the Bass River road. Photo: Miles Howe

Source: Earth First! Newswire

Halifax Media Co-op reports that a piece of drilling equipment was set ablaze on the 24th, by person or persons unknown.  This comes amidst escalating resistance to hydraulic fracturing by indigenous peoples in Elsipogtog, “New Brunswick”.

This comes after numerous direct actions, the midnight seizure of drilling equipment, and a local man being struck by a contractor’s vehicle.

Indigenous Nations Call for Full and Effective Participation of Indigenous Nations in United Nations

In lead up to 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples tribal nations engage in global dialogue concerning the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


National Congress of American Indians

Washington, DC – Indigenous governments, including the tribal nations of North America, are seeking an official status within the United Nations in the lead up to the High Level Plenary to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) in New York City in September of 2014.

In late May of 2013 during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City, more than 72 tribal nations and ten Indian and Native Hawaiian organizations – including NCAI, called on the UN to adopt rules to recognize the “regular and permanent status” of constitutional and customary Indigenous governments at the UN and become fully inclusive of all Indigenous governments. More specifically, the joint statement (download) made three recommendations for consideration leading up to the WCIP:

1)      That a new monitoring body be incorporated within the UN to help guide implementation of the Declaration by members states of the UN;

2)      That the UN take action to address the issue of violence against Indigenous women, including convening a high-level conference to discuss this matter, ensuring any monitoring mechanism of the Declaration pay particular attention to Article 22, and to appoint a Special Rapporteur with a specific focus on violence against Indigenous women and children; and

3)      That the UN take action to give constitutional and customary governments of Indigenous Peoples a dignified, permanent status within its processes, which acknowledges their rights as self-governing nations.

In a global meeting held last week in Alta, Norway, tribes continued to advocate that the UN adopt rules to recognize the “regular and permanent status” of constitutional and customary Indigenous governments at the UN and become fully inclusive of all Indigenous governments.

Currently, Indigenous governments have no official status in the UN.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are given a formal ‘consultative status” in UN processes and are relied upon in matters affecting Indigenous Peoples, while the elected or traditionally appointed governments of Indigenous Nations are often denied an active role in discussions affecting their people.

The global meeting in Alta was held to prepare for the UN’s High Level Plenary Meeting to be held in September 2014, and produced an Outcome Document (download) with recommendations for the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with input from 7 Indigenous caucuses from throughout the globe. Recommendation 2.10 states:

Pursuant to the universal application of the right of self-determination for all Peoples, recommends that the UN recognize Indigenous Peoples and Nations based on our original free existence, inherent sovereignty and the right to self-determination in international law.  We call for, at a minimum, permanent observer status within the UN system enabling our direct participation through our own governments and parliaments.  Our own governments include inter alia our traditional councils and authorities.

Participating in the Alta Meetings were – Chairman John Sirois, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Chief John Giesbrecht, Kwikwetlem First Nation; Chief Wilfred King, Gull Bay First Nation; and Dwight Witherspoon (Tribal Council Representative) and Leonard Gorman (Executive Director, Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission) on behalf of the Navajo Nation.

Frank Ettawageshik (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Executive Director, United Tribes of Michigan) also participated as an official delegate of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

Statement of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI):

“The tribal nations that participated in these meetings helped continue the push for full and effective participation for Indigenous nations in the UN. NCAI has an NGO status with the UN, yet believes that tribes should be afforded their full and effective status, and is committed to acting as a resource for tribes wanting to participate in UN discussions. NCAI insists that Indigenous nations need an active, direct voice within the UN, especially considering that Indigenous nations remain at the forefront of the world’s most challenging issues – from climate change to poverty.  To recognize the autonomy of Indigenous governments and afford them a rightful seat at the table is a critical step to fully implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. NCAI is committed to providing technical assistance to tribes in making the push for each of these issues. Each of these recommendations remains a priority for Indigenous nations as we move forward toward the 2014 WCIP. “


About The National Congress of American Indians

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit www.ncai.org

Federal Agency Supports UNDRIP: A New Era in Tribal-Federal Relations?

Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today Media Network

Native American observers are hoping that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s (ACHP) decision to support the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) signals a sea change among federal agencies that will usher in a new relationship with tribes and American Indian citizens beyond the current trust relationship.

The ACHP, an independent federal agency, announced its plan to support UNDRIP in March, saying it wanted to raise awareness about the Declaration – and its goal to improve the treatment of Indigenous Peoples – within the preservation community. The agency also promised to develop guidance on the intersection of the Declaration with the Section 106 process (which requires federal agencies to take into account the impacts of their actions on historic properties, and federal agencies are required to consult with Indian tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian organizations when historic properties of religious and cultural significance to them may be affected).

While lofty, this was the first step a federal agency has taken to support and take action on UNDRIP since President Barack Obama announced in December 2010 his decision to endorse the principles of the Declaration.

The background here is intriguing, as the decision was announced just as Lynne Sebastian, an anthropologist, was sworn in as President Barack Obama’s choice to fill a vacant seat on the council over tribal objections. She was a controversial choice due to past poor relations with some tribes, and ACHP leadership knew that; at the same meeting she was sworn in this spring, the agency announced its UNDRIP plan, perhaps to appease tribal concerns, according to several Indian affairs observers with concerns in the area of tribal historic preservation.

Milford Wayne Donaldson, chairman of the ACHP, offered his own take on the agency’s intent, telling Indian Country Today Media Network that this move “is a long-term commitment, both to raising awareness about the rights it seeks to protect, and to encouraging federal and Native Hawaiian organizations.” Associates who know Donaldson well say he was sensitive about the Sebastian situation, and he generally likes to foster strong Native relations since his agency works with tribes frequently.

Whatever the intent, the direction is promising, says Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee advocate for Native Americans. “It’s one of those situations where you take the good news and run with it,” she says. “If it’s tied to Lynne Sebastian’s bad actions in the past, fine—and if it signals a new day, then also fine.”

The bigger issue now becomes whether this support will translate into broader adoption of UNDRIP’s principles across the federal government—a goal envisioned by its creators as a way to strengthen Native rights and sovereignty in a way that the current federal-tribal trust relationship has been lacking.

“Now that one federal agency has done it and the republic still stands, I think it will encourage others,” Harjo says with a laugh. “I think it’s very likely.”

Donaldson is also hopeful: “The ACHP indeed believes that other agencies will meaningfully support the Declaration as they become more familiar with it, and as its provisions correspond with their missions and goals. Remember, the ACHP is comprised of members that represent several federal Departments and agencies, as well as key members of the non-federal national historic preservation framework, so our efforts should assist others to become better acquainted with the Declaration and its significance to their work.”

Still, Indians working on real-life preservation issues are not super confident that the support will result in stronger tribal positioning within the ACHP, let alone the whole federal government. “The future escapes us because of the slippery slopes we have to stand on,” says Darrell “Curley” Youpee, a tribal historic preservation officer with the Fort Peck Tribes. “I sought assistance from ACHP regarding what I believed to be violations of my civil and human rights and was told that it was not an area that ACHP involved themselves in and further; they advise me that they could not refer me to another agency because it might bring a lawsuit on the agency. It was pass-the-buck mentality like I never experienced before.”

To date, the ACHP’s support has led to greater promotion of the UNDRIP (through a post on the White House blog, a new web page, and a few newspaper articles), but not much meaningful action, laments Youpee, who says the federal government has a long way to go before real indigenous self-determination and empowerment can be realized.

“[I]t’s now time for them to step up and integrate American Indians into the foundations of freedom, justice and peace by rebuilding policies that nurture American Indian dignity and equal rights in the institutional culture,” says Youpee.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/03/federal-agency-supports-undrip-new-era-tribal-federal-relations-149676