When political leaders make decisions that contradict their promises, they owe the public an explanation.
Such is the case with the decisions state leaders have made on the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline. This project seems to fly in the face of political promises to protect the environment, address climate changes, and honor treaty rights.
Members of the public hope and expect that when they take time to attend public hearings to testify on policies that affect their lives, such as protecting clean water, their questions will get answered and their comments will make a difference.
Yet too often it feels like a futile exercise. People get two or three minutes to speak. There’s no give and take. Leaders don’t answer the tough questions speakers pose. The committee chair will simply say, “thank you, next speaker.”
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for the first time has established an official policy on Tribal Engagement and Consultation.
In it, the Commission commits to annual consultations with each Native Nation and establishing a formal process to consult with Native Nations throughout the year when specific issues emerge. Continue reading →
Last week, Healing Minnesota Stories’ blog passed a milestone, publishing its 1,000th post since we started writing in 2015. Below, we provide links to some of the best-read blogs.
Healing Minnesota Stories’ mission is to create dialogue, understanding, healing, and repair between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, particularly with those non-Indigenous people who belong to faith communities.
Since our organization launched in 2011, Healing Minnesota Stories Founder Jim Bear Jacobs became Program Director for Racial Justice for the Minnesota Council of Churches. The blog has followed suit, expanding its coverage of racial justice issues, such as the recent protests over George Floyd’s murder.
We have 377 followers so far. Please consider following the blog if you don’t already, and sharing it with friends and networks so we can expand our reach.
The blog’s main author is Scott Russell of Minneapolis, a volunteer with Healing Minnesota Stories. He can be reached by posting comments in the blog, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments, criticisms, and questions always welcomed. Thanks for your support over the past five years! Continue reading →
On this day in history, July 29, 1837, the Ojibwe and Dakota signed the first treaties ceding significant amounts of their land to the U.S. government in what would become the state of Minnesota. White businessmen got the better end of the deals. Continue reading →
Winona LaDuke: ‘PUC has a systemic blind spot in dealing with Native tribes’
Sierra Club: ‘A bad process leads to bad outcomes’
PUC: ‘Improved public engagement is a priority’
The Minnesota Office of Legislative Auditor released a report today critical of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and its public engagement process. The PUC has done a “poor job” in helping the public engage in its complex review process, it said. Specifically, the PUC was “not adequately prepared” for engaging the public during the controversial Enbridge Line 3 pipeline hearings.
The report makes a number of recommendations, such as directing PUC leadership “to provide more oversight of the agency’s public participation processes” and to “better prepare for cases with significant public interest.” (Summary here.)
The 98-page report disappoints in one aspect: It fails to clearly call out that, at least in the case of the Line 3 hearings, the PUC’s public engagement failures focused on Line 3 opponents. The report doesn’t explicitly name staff bias as a problem that needs addressing, and it does.
Implies that much of eastern Oklahoma is reservation lands
Ruling puts tribes in strong negotiating position
On the surface, MCGIRT v. OKLAHOMA was an effort by Jimcy McGirt, an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation, to get a new trial on sexual assault conviction, a crime that took place on the Creek Reservation.
The underlying issues the case needed to resolve gave the decision a much broader impact.
At issue was whether the State of Oklahoma or U.S. government had jurisdiction to prosecute McGirt’s crime. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had jurisdiction because the Creek Nation effectively was an Indian reservation, at least as far as prosecuting major crimes such as sexual assault.
This was a roundabout way of a broken treaty getting long-overdue attention.
The decision’s impact ranges from overturning more convictions, like McGirts’, that were committed by an Indigenous person on Indigenous lands. It also could affect such things as zoning, taxation, and environmental law within reservation borders.
The decision will spark significant negotiations between the U.S. government, the state of Oklahoma, and the five Native Nations in the state. Continue reading →
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has to shut down by Aug. 5 and the pipeline emptied of oil until the project’s environmental impact statement is finished and treaty rights and other environmental challenges are resolved, according to a court ruling today. According to the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
Fearing severe environmental consequences, American Indian Tribes on nearby reservations have sought for several years to invalidate federal permits allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil under the lake [Lake Oahe]. Today they finally achieve that goal — at least for the time being.
Depending on the results of a pending environmental impact statement, DAPL could be forced to shut down permanently.
Energy Transfer, a leading partner in DAPL, criticized the ruling and vowed to challenge it. The company faces problems on second front, as oil firms are trying to back out of commitments they made to ship oil on a proposed DAPL expansion.