Ain’t No Black Snake or Water… | Indian Country and Fossil Fuels

As it seems right now, the leadership -in distinction from the native populus- of a number of native American tribes fear that federal government under Donald Trump will seize chunks of their lands to exploit the lands’ rich fossil fuel resources. Instead of them doing it. It sounds a bit like it is not about the recent native narrative involving honoring and respecting the land. Or the natural balance of things.

Or the wish of, what it would seem, the majority of native Americans living in reservations.

“Alaska Indigenous” posted an article on January 21, 2016, where they talk about the federal government’s coordinated efforts, in 2016, to pave the road to a possible seizure of native lands for their fossil fuel deposits. It goes like this:

Saglutupiaġataq’s [“the compulsive liar” in Iñupiatun] administration apparently began mobilizing to pursue the privatization of Indian lands as early as October 2016 with the formation of his 27 member Native American Affairs Coalition. The Coalition is chaired by “Cherokee” pretendian Rep. Markwayne Mullin. Like the termination policy of more than 60 years ago, the Coalition contends that impoverished tribes are saddled by federal regulations that stymie self-reliance and prosperity. Tribal lands should be privatized, it argues, so that American Indians can pursue development projects that lift them out of poverty.

Saglutupiaġataq has tapped Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for secretary of the Interior, the federal agency overseeing the Borough of Indian Affairs. Zinke is a known fraudster with little integrity. Scientific American characterizes Zinke as a “mixed bag” with an anti-environment, pro-industry voting record. It is unlikely that he will be a friend to Indian Country or to Alaska Natives.

A few months ago, as I was following news and policy in Indian Country in the southwest, I read about  Donald Trump’s three visits to Navajo nation during his election campaign in 2016. Navajo Times, among other native media outlets, mentioned Trump’s particular interest in energy talks with the Navajo Nation’s leadership. Then Trump won the election, and the Navajo sent a delegation to the inauguration for further talks and to celebrate the Republican victory.

Looking a bit more carefully into what could be seen as an oxymoron (first nations allying with what would -at first glance- seem like the opposite of their native interests), I found out that the Navajo were not the only ones to walk toward that direction. It was also the Mountain Utes, the Cherokee, some Alaskan native tribes, and more. 

The Energy Wealth of Indian Nations | LSU Journal of Energy Law and Resources

The AI article goes on:

Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

Now, you may wonder about how federal government could possibly seize Indian land just like that. Well, let’s see…

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 involved Congress stripping tribes of their lands and criminal jurisdiction. The policy was thinly disguised as an attempt to lift American Indians and Alaska Natives out of poverty by assimilating them into mainstream society. However the real goal was to privatize and ransack American Indian and Alaska Native lands.

From the American Indian Relief Council:

From 1953-1964 109 tribes were terminated and federal responsibility and jurisdiction was turned over to state governments. Approximately 2,500,000 acres of trust land was removed from protected status and 12,000 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. The lands were sold to non-Indians the tribes lost official recognition by the U.S. government….Public Law 280 which was passed in 1953 turned power over to state governments to enforce most of the regular criminal laws on reservations as they were doing in other parts of the state. (Federally Recognized Tribes Should Brace for Possible Termination Policy Under Trump

American Indian reservations are federally owned lands held “in trust” for tribes. The “vast untapped domestic energy reserves” referred to in Saglutupiaġataq’s energy plan are largely within American Indian reservations. These lands would need to be sold or leased to private sector corporations by the federal government in order for development to proceed. But first, tribal jurisdiction over those lands would need to be terminated by Congress and vested in states.

H. Rept. 113-263 | NATIVE AMERICAN ENERGY ACT | 113th Congress (2013-2014)

Going back to Trump and his continuous approaches to native American leadership figures before the election:

A group of advisers to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews.

The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership – a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations.

The tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it. They can drill it and reap the profits, but only under regulations that are far more burdensome than those applied to private property.

“We should take tribal land away from public treatment,” said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition. “As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country.”

Trump’s transition team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The proposed path to deregulated drilling – privatizing reservations – could prove even more divisive. Many Native Americans view such efforts as a violation of tribal self-determination and culture.

“Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred,” said Tom Goldtooth, a member of both the Navajo and the Dakota tribes who runs the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Privatization has been the goal since colonization – to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty.”

Reservations governed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are intended in part to keep Native American lands off the private real estate market, preventing sales to non-Indians. An official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

The legal underpinnings for reservations date to treaties made between 1778 and 1871 to end wars between indigenous Indians and European settlers. Tribal governments decide how land and resources are allotted among tribe members.

Leaders of Trump’s coalition did not provide details of how they propose to allocate ownership of the land or mineral rights – or to ensure they remained under Indian control. (Trump Advisors Aim to Privatize Oil-Rich Indian Reservations | REUTERS)

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I’m a Foreign Journalist and I Was Stopped From Covering Standing Rock

Ed Ou, a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker, is currently working as a producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation covering indigenous communities in North America and is a TED Senior Fellow

[I didn’t even begin to worry until later, when I was told to hand over my phones. The officer said: “Now we just need to look into your cell phone to be sure there’s no photos of you posing next to some dead body somewhere.”

I told the officer that as a journalist, I have a responsibility to not share information that could compromise my sources. This is the same ethical obligation that doctors have to their patients and lawyers have to their clients. The officer demanded my passwords and threatened that if I didn’t provide them, I could be refused entry into the country.

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Journalist Ed Ou

The American government says it can use the fact that you are at a border to take everything about your life, comb through it and store it forever. Police officers need a search warrant. Border officers have more latitude. That latitude has limits, but the officers seemed oblivious to those limits. One of them bragged, “Everything you bring through here is mine to go through and take.”

It felt like deja vu. I’ve heard that line before. It was in Crimea after Russian special forces invaded a Ukrainian military base where I was filming. They rounded up all the journalists and seized our memory cards—“for security.” We protested. They told us the same thing. “You’re in our country now, we can do whatever we want.”

I ultimately refused to turn over my passwords. They confiscated my phones anyway, read pages of my journals and photocopied my notes. I felt like I had betrayed my own consciousness. They asked which “extremists” I have been in contact with and how many people I have seen die. Later, I could see that the phones had been tampered with.

After six hours, I was told I was being denied entry. When I asked why, I was told the reasons were “classified.” I wondered if the real reasons had anything to do with the fact that I was going to cover Standing Rock.

On my way out of the interrogation room, the supervisor had one more thing to add. “You’re probably going to write about this. Well, we’re not scared of you. You can say what you want. It won’t change anything.”

We’ll see.

Editor’s Note: The following is a comment from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, Customs and Border Protection does not discuss individual travelers; however, all international travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection.

This inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital device.

Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the U.S. In Fiscal Year 2015, U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed more than 383 million U.S. arrivals and conducted 4,764 inspections of electronic media, including 4,444 cell phone inspections. This equates to .0012 percent of travelers undergoing an inspection of electronic media. Fiscal Year 2016 numbers are not available just yet.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection realizes the importance of international travel to the U.S. economy and we strive to process arriving travelers as efficiently and securely as possible while ensuring compliance with laws and regulations governing the international arrival process.]

Read the full story:

I’m a Journalist and I Was Stopped From Covering Standing Rock

The Oldest Member of the Standing Rock Reservation

She has lived through every foreign war the United States has participated in, the Great Depression and more than 15 Presidents. She has witnessed some of this country’s most historical pieces of legislation including the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978.

Although born in the United States, it wasn’t until she was 16 that she was considered a citizen. And it wasn’t until she was 60 that she was able to legally witness the ceremonies and hear the language of her people. Full story | Indian Country Today

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Photo credit Shane Balkowitsch

North Dakota Did Not Become Alabama – or the Deep North, as it is now called – Overnight

By Winona LaDuke
Special to News From Indian Country and Everybody Else

[Standing Rock is an unpredicted history lesson for all of us. More than any moment I recall since Wounded Knee, the Vietnam War, or the time of Martin Luther King, this moment stands as a crossroads in the battle for social justice. It is also an economic issue, in a time of economic system transformation, and profoundly a question of the future of this land. The world is watching.

For many who come, North Dakota is something unknown. Americans fly over the state, talk about how the movie Fargo was funny, and wonder sheepishly about how it’s working out in the Bakken. Very few visit, and there is almost no civil society to advocate for the environment or the people. Let me put it this way, until this year, the Sierra Club had one staff person in North Dakota, and the American Civil Liberties Union had one staff member covering both North and South Dakota. It is as if North Dakota is just too uncomfortable for a progressive movement to visit or work in. Instead, we have watched.

After all, the sex trafficking, violence, and corruption has overwhelmed most of the state’s capacity to address it, and a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found widespread groundwater contamination in the fracking fields.   For North Dakotans it has become just how it isThat is to say: accommodating corporations is the North Dakota way.This last year, North Dakota health officials excused more oil spills without penalty, and increased the allowable levels of radiation in municipal and county dumps to accommodate the fracking industry. The corporations direct state policy.]

The Beginning is Near: The Deep North, Evictions and Pipeline Deadlines | Winona LaDuke, for Indian Country Today

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If “Yes” Had a Superlative

7) Be prepared to experience race as the racial minority

I had been in other contexts where I was a racial minority (say Latin America or Nepal), where I was celebrated for my race or at least acknowledged as neutral. This is different on “The Rez”.

The reality is that most whites coming onto native land over the last 100 years have been exploiting, whether intentionally or not, these indigenous communities. Additionally, the last time there was serious activism on these reservations many of the whites trying to get involved were FBI informants. While all races are genuinely invited to all the camps at Standing Rock, as a white person you will find yourself having to prove yourself to be an exception to the rule. Ironically, this is how I imagine what it is like being a racial minority in America in general, where you have to continuously prove yourself to be the exception to stereotypes imposed on you by the majority culture. If you are paying the slightest bit of attention, you will experience what it is like to be a racial minority with an attached sense of “otherness”, and this will likely change how you view the world.

pipelines

12 Ways to Be an Effective Ally at Standing Rock