On Poisoned Land | Contaminated Life on the Dine’ (Navajo) Reservation

A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council warns of the Navajo Nation as a case study in irresponsible nuclear resource extraction:

“For decades the Navajo Nation has been especially affected by boom-and-bust uranium mining. On Navajo land alone, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from 1944 to 1986; left behind were more than 500 abandoned uranium mines, four inactive uranium milling sites, a former dump site, and the widespread contamination of land and water. Only recently has the government attempted to assess and mitigate this contamination, but full reclamation of the land is unlikely.”
According to an international water charity, DigDeep, Navajo people are 67 times more likely than other Americans to live without running water or a toilet. In practice, this means families across the Navajo Nation have to wash their children’s hair in small washtubs. They have to haul all drinking and washing water from the closest towns and cities, with round trips sometimes reaching 100 miles. The tasks required for even the smallest of families are time-consuming and strenuous.
In September 2014, at Window Rock, Ariz., the Obama administration reached a settlement with the Navajo Nation after years of litigation over mismanagement of lease revenues and royalties from mining, ranching, and timber harvesting on Navajo trust lands. The United States will award the Navajo $554 million to settle claims arising from the federal government’s mismanagement of tribal trust funds dating back to 1946, making this the single largest settlement between the United States government and an American Indian tribe, reported The New York Times.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday, January 18, 2017, it reached a legal settlement with Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE: FCX) to clean up 94 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The U.S. government will cover half of the costs of the clean-up settlement. Read the article here | Phoenix Business Journal

“This historic settlement will clean up almost 20 percent of the abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation,” said Acting Regional Administrator Alexis Strauss for the EPA Pacific Southwest. “Cleaning up the uranium contamination continues to be a top environmental priority for our regional office.”

The U.S. government and mining companies mined radioactive uranium from hundreds of mines on Navajo lands from the end of World War II and throughout the Cold War.

The last mine shut down in 1986.

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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North Dakota Latest Introduced Bills, and the Scalp Bounty

Sometimes a crucial distinction lies merely on the tactic, and not the sentiment.

Print

[A bill that state GOP Rep. Keith Kempenich introduced would exempt drivers from liability if they accidentally hit a pedestrian, according to the Bismarck Tribune. House Bill 1203 was written up in direct response to groups of protesters blocking roadways, Kempenich told the paper. He claims protesters were seen jumping out in front of vehicles.

“It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” Kempenich said. “They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger.

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Another measure would make it a crime for adults to wear masks nearly across the board, while another would allow the state to sue the federal government over millions in extra police costs, according to ABC News.”]  Read the full report | The Huffington Post

Now, let’s draw an analogy (with a practice poorly documented and sensationalized):

[Beginning in the 1830s, two Mexican states (Sonora and Chihuahua) authorized scalp bounties against Apache Indians, but these were as controversial in Mexico as they had been in the British colonies.

In New Mexico and Arizona, the state governments never approved scalp bounties, but some county officials revived and increased the old Apache scalp bounties that had been used by the former Mexican states. A report from the New York Times in 1885 (the most recent source I know of that documents scalp bounties) offers the following passage that shows the mentality of those who justified the practice:

From time immemorial all border countries have offered bounties for bear and wolf scalps and other animals that destroyed the pioneer’s stock or molested his family. Why, therefore, asks the Arizona settler, should not the authorities place a reward upon the head of the terrible Apache, who murders the white man’s family and steals his stock like the wolves?

Some colonial governments in the British North American colonies enacted  scalp bounties early in the 1700s, in the context of war between  Britain and France. They wanted to create an incentive for frontier  settlers to kill Indians who were allied with the French enemy. In  practice, though, colonial Indian killers were careless about the distinction  between “friendly” and “hostile” Indians. As the white population  expanded, so did demand for land, and this was the material motive  behind most killing of Indians, whether sanctioned by authority or not…. ]  Read the full article | Quora

scalp

 

Realities Most of Us Do not Face | Internet Access and Digital Communication on Indian Reservations

This is especially true in the Great Plains and the Southwest

The Navajo phrase for cell phone is “bil n’joobal’,” or “something you use while spinning around in circles.” The phrase is based on the description of someone spinning around with a phone, trying to get good reception.

Navajo also use the phrase “hooghan bik bil dahjilwo” to describe a cell phone, or “something you use when you run up the hill.”

[This year, the Federal Communications Commission reported that 41 percent of Americans living on tribal lands lacked access to broadband; that number leaps to 68 percent for those in rural areas of tribal lands.

In 2015, the Obama Administration instituted the ConnectHome effort, a project to bring high-speed Internet to a list of rural areas including the Choctaw Nation. Since the dawn of these efforts, the number of connected American Indians has nearly tripled.]

Relative progress isn’t enough, however, and transformative change is far from swift. Terrain, accessibility, population density and poverty are some of the reasons.

Read the full story | ARSTECHNICA

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Also:

Native Americans Get Cheaper Mobile Phones

 

 

Wall Street, Canada, Japan and Europe Invest in Dakota Access Pipeline | Rick Perry and then Some Finalized the Deal in Congress

The warriors will need all the help they can get.

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Kelcey Warren | Founder and CEO of Energey Transfer Partnership LLC

One question would be, how is it possible for the Injun folk resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline construction practically alone, while the overwhelming majority of Americans sit comfortably aside, merely praising or condemning the audacity of a handful of tribes to protest in the middle of nowhere. The issue was masterfully framed to divert focus to a harmless and, to some, even entertaining third page subtle mention -until dogs attacked human beings, and thousands instead of hundreds started gathering-; not even a spectacle (barely portrayed in the mainstream media, if at all). So, here it is (MONEY TRAIL EXPOSED | Marc Belisle for Reverbpress):

[Dakota Access LLC, the company that owns the pipeline, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Texas company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). Kelcey Warren is the founder, chairman and CEO of ETP. Warren is listed by Forbes as one of the top 400 richest Americans, worth over $4 billion. In 2015, Bloomberg published an exposé on Warren, describing how he was “having fun in the oil bust.” Buried deep beneath descriptions of his lavish lifestyle and supposed brilliance for being positioned to corner the market on transporting fuel from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) when oil prices crashed, was this tidbit about his business model,

Energy Transfer Partners is one of four master limited partnerships over which Warren has effective control. MLPs, used primarily by energy companies, don’t pay income taxes. Instead, investors holding units—the rough equivalent of shares—pay taxes on the quarterly cash distributions they receive.

That gives MLPs a lower cost of capital for acquisitions and construction projects. But they have to crank out those cash payments to keep unitholders happy, which means they must keep acquiring new properties or expanding existing ones. “You must grow until you die,” Warren says. He touched on the topic during Energy Transfer’s quarterly earnings conference call earlier this month. He said he was “a little frustrated right now” because he had expected that cheap oil and narrow natural gas processing margins would have created more takeover bargains.

…………………..

So, who is investing in this black snake? Citibank is acting as the accountant for three companies in the ETP network that will fund the project, Democracy Now reported. Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistics, and Energy Transfer Equity have each launched a line of credit. Research by Little Sis revealed that 38 banks have invested in those credit lines in amounts ranging from $30 million to $589.5 million for a total of $10.25 billion. These banks include such Wall Street usual suspects as Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and Citibank.

 But the investors also include a wide array of foreign banks, responsible for roughly half of the overall investment. The two largest investors, each with over half a billion in the pot, are two of Japan’s biggest banks, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ and Mizuho Bank. Other big investments come from some of the biggest banks in Canada, France, Britain as well as Scotland, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. The pattern that I notice is that these are central banks in countries that are stalwarts of the Western alliance, who also don’t produce much of their own oil.

This brings us to one of the fishiest aspects of this pipeline.

In a 2014 presentation delivered to officials in Iowa, one of the four states the pipeline will run through, the company claimed the pipeline would “Increase America’s Energy Independence. 100% Domestic produced crude supports 100% domestic consumption.” There is zero wiggle-room within that statement. The company promised that all of its product would be piped to domestic US markets when it convinced officials to allow the pipeline.

Yet, in a bizarrely fortuitous coincidence, in December, 2015, Congress lifted a ban on the export of crude oil that had been in place for over 40 years. The Intercept‘s Lee Fang reported that the company now refuses to defend its initial “100% domestic consumption” promise.

“We will not own the oil that is transported through the pipeline. We are like FedEx. We will deliver the oil to the refineries for the producers,” said Vicki Granado, Energy Transfer Partner’s spokesperson.
The bill that changed ETP from a champion of domestic consumption to a darling of foreign banks with no responsibility whatsoever to where the crude is going was H.R. 2029. In February, 2015, ETP hired former Texas governor Rick Perry onto the board of directors while he was facing felony corruption charges (which were later dismissed), claiming that there were “no arrangements or understandings” between Perry and the board. Yet, Perry almost immediately went to work lobbying Congress to pass H.R. 2029 and lift the ban on crude exports. Meanwhile, Kelcy Warren made his largest publicly acknowledged political gift when he donated at least $6 million to Opportunity and Freedom PAC, a Super PAC supporting Rick Perry’s 2016 bid for the presidency.

H.R. 2029 was sponsored by Charlie Dent, Republican House Rep for Pennsylvania’s 15th District. According to OpenSecrets‘ analysis of filings, Dent’s largest contributor in 2016 is the German chemical corporation BASF SE. The financial adviser to BASF SE is the German giant, Deutsche Bank, which has over a quarter of a billion dollars invested in the Dakota Access pipeline.

When H.R. 2029 passed the Senate, Oklahoma Senator and leader of the well funded climate change denialist caucus, James “I have a snowball” Inhofe lauded the bill:

“It is about time Congress acted to lift the ban on oil exports,” Inhofe said. “Over the past forty years, Oklahoma’s oil producers have been at a disadvantage because they haven’t been able to trade oil like the rest of the world. This has contributed to the thousands of job losses Oklahoma has recently endured and today’s passage of a bill to lift the ban will help stem that tide while decreasing the price of gasoline at the pump.”

With all of this evidence that prominent political actors received kickbacks for the Dakota Access pipeline, one can’t help but wonder how much other influence peddling went into the approval for this pipeline, which snakes through 4 states, had to get approval by multiple federal agencies, and was freed to export by an Act of Congress. One wonders, with so much Wall Street money flowing into the project, if it is even remotely possible that the activists of the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies can get a fair hearing in our Justice system, which has already ignored their concerns and allowed a private company to attack them with dogs. With so much foreign money flowing into the project, one wonders not only whether Native American sovereignty–a deadly serious issue with a traumatic history–is at stake, but whether the sovereignty of the United States generally is under pressure.

This pipeline is a monstrosity of globalist corporate influence stomping on the sovereignty of Native Americans and threatening their land. A few thousand Native Americans and allies are the only ones standing between the bulldozers and American democracy which has done precious little for them, and the environment. Their case heads to federal court on Friday after Dakota Access allegedly bulldozed a sacred Sioux burial site the tribe specifically asked the government to protect. North Dakota’s governor Jack Dalrymple is deploying the National Guard to the site of protests on Friday. And with so much global money invested in the pipeline, and the government seemingly asleep at the wheel, it’s hard to escape the sinking feeling that the tribe is going to need all the help they can get.]

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

One thing Mr. Trump has been consistently doing the last few months is not challenge this country’s sensibilities, ideals or democratic convictions. Mr. Trump stands defiantly upright, proud and stubbornly in the middle of the room, seemingly uninvited, like a thorn under the foot -infected- being a crystal clear, non-distorting mirror.
And looking at ourselves in that mirror after a 300-year orgy with street hookers, expired pills and moonshine, hangover, blackout and all, seems like encountering an intruder. Pants down.

And without a gun.

[George Erasmus, an aboriginal leader from Canada said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”]

The Problem the Republican Party, and now the Nation, has with Donald Trump

 

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