News and Links: Feds fail Indian Country in COVID-19 response, Enbridge pipeline problems persist; Remembering Native American lynchings

In this blog:

  • Iron Rangers try to deny Fond du Lac drinking water grant because of tribe’s mining opposition
  • Center for American Progress: COVID-19 Response in Indian Country: A Federal Failure
  • Voice of America: Remembering Native American lynching
  • Enbridge fined for pipeline safety violations in Minnesota

Iron Rangers try to deny Fond du Lac drinking water grant because of tribe’s mining opposition

The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) gets funding through tax on mining operations to reinvest in northern Minnesota’s economic development. It’s coming under fire for a recent vote denying the Fond du Lac Nation a grant to bring clean drinking water to two small towns on its reservation.

The IRRRB staff had given the project a high ranking, according to an editorial in the Ely-based Timberjay, reprinted in MinnPost. That  didn’t stop ugly politics from trying to block it.

At issue, as Sen. Tom Bakk made explicit, was that the Fond du Lac Band, in his view, was “anti-mining,” and that was the sole litmus test in his mind for whether the funding could be approved. It was inconsistent, he claimed, for a governmental body to be opposed to mining yet accept tax dollars received from the mining industry.

The Timberjay editorial closed with the following sentence:

The only question is: How much longer is the Iron Range willing to prostrate its political process before the altar of the mining industry? Really. How much longer?

The board voted with Bakk. The IRRRB staff could still approve the grant over the board’s recommendations.

The IRRRB vote was fundamentally inconsistent with its guiding principles, listed on its website.

  • Servant Leadership: We believe a servant-leader is servant first and we focus on what we can do for others.
  • People: We respect, value and celebrate the unique attributes, characteristics and perspectives that make each person who they are.
  • Commitment: We are committed to providing great service that impacts lives.
  • Empowerment: We encourage employees to take initiative, engage in continuous improvement and give their best.
  • Collaboration: We seek out and promote diverse alliances because we value other’s knowledge, opinions and abilities and together we can more effectively address the issues that face our region.
  • Equity: We strive toward equity and our intention is that our partners, strategies and investments reflect this

The IRRRB needs to live up to its principles and approve the grant. Either that, or it needs to update its guiding principles to say the IRRRB requires applicants to sign a mining loyalty oath to qualify for a grant.

COVID-19 Response in Indian Country: A Federal Failure

The federal inaction in the face of the coronavirus epidemic has left Native nations on their own to craft responses, and their efforts “are often at odds with state governments,” Indian Country Today reports.

The story cites a recent report from the Center for American Progress that begins:

The COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate and devastating harm to American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities is a direct and damning consequence of the U.S. government’s failure to uphold its legal trust and treaty obligations to Indian Country. Currently, the Navajo Nation has the highest infection rate in the country, greater than that of the worst-hit state, New York; it is even greater than that of Wuhan at the height of the outbreak in China. Native people make up only around one-tenth of New Mexico’s population but more than 55 percent of its coronavirus cases; in Wyoming, AI/AN people are less than 3 percent of the state population but make up more than one-third of its cases. This crisis—and the underlying conditions tribal communities face—are the result of centuries of colonial violence and neglect that continue to this day. …

This report recommends the U.S. government take urgent action on seven areas of high priority:

  1. Ensure the inclusion of AI/AN people in COVID-19 data
  2. Develop executive branch infrastructure to address bureaucratic barriers
  3. Support the development of tribal economies
  4. Address the chronic underfunding of the Indian Health Service system
  5. Support the development of Indian Country’s critical infrastructure
  6. Support vulnerable populations by funding tribal public safety and justice needs
  7. Restore tribal homelands and support tribal ecocultural resource management

Voice of America: Remembering Native American lynching

A story in Voice of America highlights Monroe Work Today, an interactive map detailing “racially-motivated mob violence between 1835 and 1964. … The project lists 4,800 individual lynchings by race or nationality; 137 are Native American.”

As one example, it noted:

In June 1848, a St. Croix Valley, Wisconsin, group of local businessmen conducted a “thorough, dispassionate and impartial” murder trial, according to the Wisconsin Tribune newspaper, of a 22-year-old Anishinaabe man known as Paunais or Little Saux, accused of murdering a white man. They hanged him in front of as many as 300 spectators, including his mother, brother, wife and several tribal leaders.

Enbridge fined for safety violations in Minnesota

Given its history of oil spills, it’s shocking Enbridge has gotten as far as it has with its proposal to build a new Line 3 pipeline across northern Minnesota. Here are the latest red flags to state regulators.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined Enbridge $6.7 million, in part for its failure to timely address “small dents” that showed “indications” of “metal loss” and “cracking,” according to the Star Tribune. Most of the problems were in Line 1; built in 1950, its the oldest pipeline in Enbridges six-pipeline corridor through northern Minnesota.

Enbridge downplayed the problems, calling them “administrative in nature.”

Just remember, these fines came from the Trump administration which as yet to meet a pipeline project it didn’t love.

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