Archive for Land
A recent article by Winona LaDuke featured on Indian Country Media Network:
President Obama’s pause on the Keystone Pipeline is a victory for the environment, for sure. It is also a victory for the American people. As it turns out, once the advertising, and lobbying dollars are kept in check, the Keystone pipeline appears as it should: as a sham, a money making scheme for oil and pipeline companies, not the Good Fairy for the American economy.
For many years our traditional big drum Midewiwin and Jiisakii ceremonies were outlawed on White Earth. Most of our teachings were hidden away and our people had to travel secretly to continue our most sacred spiritual practices. In recent years, these ceremonies have grown and with the passing of the 1978 American Indian Freedom of Religion Act, more of our ceremonies have come out of hiding. Many people from our community are involved in traditional religion, yet on White Earth, we did not have a place, which could be dedicated to support some of our ceremonies, and lodge some of the people. Our traditional spiritual practitioners needed a retreat center to host some of our longer ceremonies.
In 2002-2004, the White Earth Land Recovery Project acquired a 50-acre parcel of land located near White Earth Lake, with a small house. This purchase was made possible with generous donations, the late John O’Connor and his wife Carolyn Mugar and long-time supporters of WELRP, Don and Marion Hall.
To Learn More About Our Work or To Make A Donation, Contact Us at 1-800-973-9870 or Email Us.
December 12, 2005
The U.S. Congress has recently passed their Budget Reconciliation Bill, which contained a provision for altering current federal mining laws. This change in policy would result in decreased environmental controls over mining practices, and would also allow for easier purchase of lands by mining companies. This policy change would particularly affect Indian nations, whose reservations are often adjacent to federal lands.
In response to this bill, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is circulating a letter and a petition to Indian tribes and other interested parties. The letter is a draft to be sent into relevant senators, asking that the provision be stripped from the Budget Reconciliation Bill. The petition is also for stripping the mining provision, and it will be sent to all U.S. senators before they vote on December 14th.
In support of IEN’s efforts, the White Earth Land Recovery Project has signed this petition and sent in the letter to Minnesota senators Mark Dayton and Ron Coleman.
- The draft letter supplied by IEN Indian tribes and other landowners across the country
- For more information, go to the IEN website at: http://www.ienearth.org/
Below is the draft letter supplied by IEN Indian tribes and other landowners across the country:
December 7, 2005
We are writing to express our serious concern with a provision the House passed in the Budget Reconciliation Bill that would effectively rewrite federal mining laws. This provision, if enacted, would have devastating consequences on lands significant to Native American people. We urge the removal of this provision.
We understand the provision lifts the moratorium on land patents, removes the requirement that mining claimants show a “discovery of a valuable mineral deposit” before purchasing the land, and allows “sold” public lands to escape federal environmental review and reclamation bonding requirements. This is a fundamental weakening of federal mining law and environmental protection for impacted communities in the West that are adjacent to federal lands. There are thousands of these communities– towns, villages, cities and reservations throughout the west– that could be profoundly affected. As written, this measure would eviscerate existing U.S. mining laws, sacrifice environmental safeguards, and wreak havoc with our traditional communities so real estate speculators and multinational mining corporations can profit from the sale of our public lands.
The measure affects approximately 270 million acres of land across the U.S., many of which are adjacent to Indian reservations or include areas in which federal title is disputed. These lands contain important historic and sacred sites and other culturally sensitive areas. Many of these areas are places where native people exercise their off-reservation hunting, fishing and gathering rights promised in their treaties. Other lands may be the subject of ongoing disputes over the validity of the U.S. claim that the lands somehow transferred from indigenous title to federal title. Examples of such ongoing disputes include: the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Western Shoshone lands of Idaho, Nevada, Utah and California, the San Francisco Peaks of Arizona, and lands in the headwaters region of rivers flowing into Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Additionally, mining and other forms of development that come with privatization could impact the ecological and human health of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities living downstream or downwind from the operations. Mineral extraction impacts ecosystems that sustain Indigenous tribal nations and communities and contributes to the quality of life that all Westerners enjoy.
This legislative maneuver has the potential to cause irreparable harm across the West. Yet, these proposed changes were included without one public hearing or the opportunity for public input. We are particularly concerned that there was no consultation with Indigenous tribal nations. The United States has a trust responsibility to consult with Indigenous tribes on proposed actions or development activities through government-to-government negotiations — clearly this has not occurred.
In addition, the United States Government has a fiduciary duty and trust responsibility to Indian Nations, especially with regard to its management of federal lands that directly impact native communities. This legislation would seriously damage that trust obligation by transferring ownership of federal lands to U.S. or foreign corporations who owe no trust obligation to Indian Nations. This massive shift in policy and land ownership would occur without any consultation with Indian Nations whose ancestors are buried on these lands or who have special legal or cultural connection to the lands.
We are requesting your assistance to remove this proposal. At the very least, democratic principles of fair and open government require that such sweeping changes in federal land policy be debated in the open as free-standing amendments where all Americans, including Indian Nations, can express their opinions. The undersigned Tribal Nations, Traditional Councils, Native Organizations and individuals respectfully request that this proposal be repudiated when House and Senate conferees meet to finalize the Budget Reconciliation Bill.