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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Reservation Blues | Sex Trafficking for Drugs

[POPLAR, Montana, May 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Life on the remote Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northern Montana has all the ingredients for sex trafficking – poverty, isolation, joblessness and violence, topped with an epidemic of crystal meth addiction.

Drug users are selling their babies, daughters and sisters for the potent stimulant that is ravaging Native American communities such as the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes living on the desolate plains of Fort Peck, say community leaders, experts and federal authorities.

“We’re in crisis mode,” said Tribal Chairman Floyd Azure. “We have mothers giving their children away for sexual favors for drugs. We have teenagers and young girls giving away sexual favors for drugs.”

No numbers record specific rates of local sex trafficking, which can often be buried in crimes of sexual assault, abuse, prostitution, abandonment or kidnapping. But it is a crime, poorly documented and fuelled by drug abuse, plaguing Indian reservations across the United States.

The rate of meth use among American Indians is the highest of any ethnicity in the country and more than twice as high as any other group, according to the National Congress of American Indians.

The number of drug cases on Indian lands nationwide rose seven-fold from 2009 to 2014, and crime rates on some reservations are five times higher than national averages, according to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration report…..

A harrowing number of victims are trafficked by their own family members.

“Traffickers are not just scary men who drive around in Cadillacs in their leather trench coats,” said Healey.

“A trafficker can be a parent or guardian. A trafficker can be an aunt or an uncle or it can be a boyfriend or another friend.”

The often close relationships between abuser and abused present a web of problems such as forcing victims to leave home for their protection, experts said.

Victims may fear the community and authorities won’t believe them and will instead defend the trafficker, said an Indian Health Service social worker who did not want to be identified.

“Nobody wants to go after a family member,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation…..]

Read the full story | Thompson Reuters Foundation Group

METH

Tribal elder Tommy Christian lives on Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation which is looking for ways to combat issues of drug abuse and sex trafficking, Poplar, Montana, April 28, 2016 | THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Ellen Wulfhorst