Weekend Reads: Trump wall blasting destroys sacred sites; South Dakota poised to approve Oceti Sakowin schools; and more

In this blog:

  • Trump wall blasting destroys sacred sites
  • Native nations can’t afford to lose National Environmental Policy Act
  • Lakota Law Project finds threats of uranium, mercury in surface ground water in western South Dakota
  • South Dakota Senate passes bill for Oceti Sakowin schools
  • South Dakota again kills bill to extent time period allowing Indigenous survivors of Catholic school abuse to sue

Trump wall blasting destroys sacred sites

A Cronkite News article reposted in Indian Country Today reports that Blasting sacred sites for border wall ‘forever damaged tribes.

WASHINGTON – An emotional Tohono O’odham Nation chairman told lawmakers Wednesday [Feb. 26] that blasting on sacred sites in national monuments to build a border wall near his reservation has “forever damaged our people.”

“I know in my heart and what our elders have told us and what we have learned that that area is home to our ancestors,” said Chairman Ned Norris Jr., pausing to compose himself as he tried to hold back tears. “And by blasting, and doing what we saw today, has totally disturbed, totally forever damaged our people.”

Native nations can’t afford to lose National Environmental Policy Act

Indian Country Today reports that the National Environmental Policy Act is one of the only avenues for tribal members to have any input on federal actions, and it’s under threat

The environmental law hasn’t been touched for 50 years. And now that an update is due, or rather an executive order signed by the president, it could very much be detrimental to Indian Country.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona, said if the proposed changes get put into place it would short-circuit and undercut an effective tool for tribes. Grijalva said that communities of color are often on the front lines and if the National Environmental Policy Act is cut short, ill-conceived projects advance.

Lakota Law Project finds threats of uranium, mercury in surface ground water in western South Dakota

An email from Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People’s Law Project Lead Counsel, reports on groundwater research and threats to drinking water in western South Dakota. The research was done in support of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST). According to the email, Pine Ridge and other neighboring communities rely too much on ground water for drinking because the conduit that supplies fresh, potable water from the Missouri River never reached many of them “due to funding shortfalls from Congress.”

And now, of course, the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) threatens that conduit, tributaries that flow into the Missouri, and aquifers that feed wells in the region. In recent days, we’ve submitted legal advice to OST leadership concerning how to stop KXL from jeopardizing our water.

Here’s the ground water analysis and background history of uranium mining, which dates back to the late 1930s in South Dakota. Up to the late 1960s, mining companies used open pits “that have not yet been reclaimed.” Urnaium mining continues to this day, using newer techniques. The Lakota Peoples Law Project tested surface waters at 16 locations in western South Dakota and the Pine Ridge Reservation to identify contaminiation.

This analysis shows that: 1) 14 of 16 samples tested, including the Missouri River at the intake for the Mni Wiconi Coreline, were above the EPA maximum contaminant level for uranium; 2) all 16 samples analyzed were above the US EPA maximum contaminant level … for alpha radiation (which includes uranium); 3) 7 of 16 samples, including the Missouri River at the intake for the Mni Wiconi Coreline and the tap water at Potato Creek, were above the EPA maximum contaminant level for mercury, another highly toxic heavy metal; and 4) at least 5 other toxic metals are at or near EPA health advisory levels for children weighing less than 10 kg (about 22 lbs). Others were found to be potential hazards for livestock and wildlife.

Here is a link to a short video. The toxic legacy of the nuclear industry in Lakota Country.

South Dakota Senate passes bill for Oceti Sakowin schools

Indian Country Today reposted an AP story: South Dakota unanimously passes plan for Oceti Sakowin schools.

The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday [Feb. 26] unanimously approved a proposal to start four schools based around Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota languages and cultures.

The House will next consider the proposal, which aims to address high drop-out rates in some Native communities in the state. The schools would teach an Oceti Sakowin curriculum centered on Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota language and cultures. It is pushed by a group of educators who are planning to open the schools in Native communities.

South Dakota again kills bill to extent time period allowing Indigenous survivors of Catholic school abuse to sue

Indian Country Today reposted an AP story reporting that South Dakota again killed a bill that would have let Indigenous survivors of Catholic School abuse sue for damages.

[The late Louise Aamot Charbonneau and family] continued their push for lawmakers to open a two-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits against organizations in which the abuse occurred. The proposal has died every year, but they keep coming back to confront lawmakers with their testimony that priests and nuns at St. Paul’s Indian Mission School systematically perpetrated rape, abuse and even forced abortions.

For nearly a decade, Charbonneau, along with her eight older sisters, has made their case to lawmakers. Geraldine Dubourt, one of the sisters, said in some ways she was glad her sister Louise died peacefully at her home so she didn’t have to continue the fight.

 

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