Wounded Knee land purchase, Water Protectors court win, and other news

In this post:

  • Land purchase preserves Wounded Knee sacred site
  • Another win for Water Protectors, court finds law enforcement acted illegally
  • Congressional hearing Wednesday morning to address aggressive corporate lawsuits against environmental activists
  • A fix is in the works to significantly reduce mining’s wild rice-damaging sulfate pollution
  • Still no answers on knife attack in Cree territory that left 10 dead, 18 injured

Ogalala Sioux land purchase preserves Wounded Knee sacred site

A mass grave after the Wounded Knee massacre. Image: Northwestern Photo Co., through the Library of Congress and Wikipedia.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted Sept. 7 to buy 40 acres of Wounded Knee land from a private landowner for $500,000 – “a move that now puts almost all of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark site under ownership of the Oglala Sioux,” Indian Country Today reports.

The land sold for far less than the $3.9 million price sought by the land owner’s now-deceased husband. The “land now includes a covenant to preserve it as a sacred site and memorial without commercial development,” the article said.

U.S. soldiers massacred nearly 300 Lakota men, women and children on the Pine Ridge reservation on Dec. 29, 1890. Full story here.

Another win for Water Protectors, court finds law enforcement acted illegally

The Minnesota District Court in Hubbard County today found the Sheriff’s blockade of the Namewag Water Protector Camp during efforts to resist Enbridge’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline was illegal. It barred further efforts to block camp access, Honor the Earth said in a news release.

“The ruling comes after months of litigation on behalf of Indigenous water protectors … and a successful temporary restraining order against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner in northern Minnesota for unlawfully blocking access to Giniw Collective’s Line 3 Camp Namewag in 2021,” the news release said. It provided comments from Indigenous Water Protectors.

“15 months ago, I was woken up at 6am and walked down my driveway to a grinning sheriff holding a notice to vacate my years-long home. That day turned into 50 squad cars on a dirt road and a riot line blocking my driveway. 12 people, guests from all over who came to protect the rivers and wild rice from Line 3 tar sands, were arrested and thrown into the dirt.

“Today’s ruling is a testament to the lengths Hubbard County was willing to go to criminalize and harass Native women, land defenders, and anyone associated with us

Tara Hauska, plaintiff

We are grateful to Judge Austad for recognizing how Hubbard County exceeded its authority and violated our rights. Today’s ruling shows that Hubbard County cannot repress Native people for the benefit of Enbridge by circumventing the law. This is also an important victory for all people of the North reinforcing that a repressive police force should not be able to stop you from accessing your land upon which you hunt or live.

Winona LaDuke, plaintiff

Congressional hearing Wednesday morning to address aggressive corporate lawsuits against environmental activists

In related news, and with very late notice ….

On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, at 9 a.m. Central Time, “Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will hold a hybrid hearing to examine how the fossil fuel industry is weaponizing the law to stifle First Amendment protected speech and stymie efforts to combat climate change by abusing Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participations (SLAPPs) and anti-protest laws,” according to a news release from the U.S. House of Representatives.

You can watch here.

“Since the 1980s, SLAPPs have been used by powerful entities and individuals to silence critics through costly, lengthy, and often meritless litigation.  These lawsuits have recently been employed by the fossil fuel industry to target environmental activists and non-profits by claiming defamation, trespass, and even racketeering to deter them from speaking out against proposed fossil fuel pipelines and other projects that contribute to climate change.”

“In response to increased protest activity surrounding fossil fuel pipelines, 17 states have enacted anti-protest laws as of June 2022, labeling them “critical infrastructure protection laws.”  These laws are selectively enacted and enforced to target environmental activists and protect corporate interests.”

A fix is in the works to significantly reduce mining’s wild rice-damaging sulfate pollution

“Northern Minnesota researchers close in on sulfate pollution solution,” MPR reports. 

Taconite mines in northern Minnesota use a lot of water to process the ore. The waste water contains high levels of sulfate, which damages wild rice as it breaks down in the water. The state has a very strict water quality standard, offset by extremely lax enforcement.

Dating back to 1973, the Clean Water Act prohibited polluters from releasing more sulfate than 10 parts per million in their waste water. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has been cowed by the mining industry and ignored the law. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pressing the MPCA to do its job.

Professors and staff with the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, say they have found a promising process to dramatically reduce sulfate pollution, something that industry has promised to do for decades.)

MPR quotes Paula Maccabee of WaterLegacy (my go-to person for sulfate pollution questions). “It makes sense to pursue new technologies to clean up old mining pollution,” she told MPR. “But she said state officials shouldn’t rely on them when deciding whether to grant permits to new projects.”

Still no answers on knife attack in Cree territory that left 10 dead

On Sept. 4, two brothers attacked people with knives in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, leaving 10 dead and at least 18 injured mostly on the James Smith Cree Nation reserve and neighboring communities.

Both suspects, Myles and Damien Sanderson, are now dead.

“The attacks were among the deadliest in Canada’s modern history,” Reuters reported. “Police said some of the victims appeared to have been targeted, while others were apparently random.”

Since the incident more than a week ago, however, there’s been no follow up coverage on the motives behind the attack. (If this happened in a metro area, you can imagine the level of news coverage.)

The CBC reported Saturday that James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns called for the community to have “its own tribal justice system, including some form of police force.”

“We have to make it loud and clear that we mean business. We got to protect our people,” Burns said. “We got to protect them, because no people in Canada should be scared to go from here to there.”

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