EPA urges U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consult Native Nations on Line 5 decisions, honor ‘reserved treaty rights’

In the fall of 2021, 17 federal agencies agreed to coordinate and collaborate “for the Protection of Tribal Treaty Rights and Reserved Rights.”

It didn’t get signed in time to affect decisions on the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota, but it could make a difference in the federal review of the proposed rebuild of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline across northern Wisconsin.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referenced the commitment to honor treaty rights in a March 16 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) regarding an Enbridge Line 5 permit application. The letter specifically urged the Corps to consider how Line 5 would impact the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s “reserved treaty rights” to hunt, fish, and gather on the land they ceded to the U.S. government.

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Ȟaȟa Wakpadaŋ and the missing stories of Native Americans living in the suburbs

I was surprised to learn that there are more Indigenous people living in suburbs in Minnesota than in urban cores.

The suburbs grew in part because of white flight from the cities. Indigenous people faced barriers to living there, such as racial covenants and redlining. There also was the practical reality of social isolation from other Native families.

But just like many non-Native people, home ownership and better educational opportunities for their children are drawing Indigenous people to the suburbs, said Dr. Kasey Keeler, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a scholar of suburban American Indian history.

Dr. Kasey Keeler.

“We live in an Indigenous landscape,” said Keeler, who grew up in Coon Rapids. “Suburbs are historically Indian places. … It is a place that we have always been and a place where we belong.”

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The Bois Forte Land Back backstory

The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa acquired 28,000 acres of land within its traditional reservation boundaries this month, in what Native News Online describes as “the largest land-back agreement in Minnesota and one of the largest-ever in Indian Country.”

“The Bois Forte Band plans to directly manage the restored lands under a forest management plan that emphasizes conservation and environmental protection, balanced with economic and cultural benefits to the Band and its members,” the article said.

The headlines are calling this “historic” or that the tribe is “celebrating” the return of land. While true, this land-back story deserves context: An explanation of why Bois Forte needed to get its land back in the first place.

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Upcoming events celebrating water, treaties, and Indigenous communities

In this post:

  • Water is Sacred Gathering at the Mississippi Headwaters, June 3-5
  • Golden Valley Native American Community Celebration, June 4
  • June 6 Webinar: Indigenous leaders in Canada share their experiences meeting with Pope Francis
  • Treaty People Walk along Superior’s South Shore, June 11-25
  • Shell River Revival: Three weekends this summer, June – August
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How Native Nations’ sovereign status was taken and how it could be restored

Native Nations made approximately 368 treaties with the U.S. government between 1777 and 1868. Native Nations negotiated those treaties as sovereign, independent entities.

The United States would later unilaterally declare Native Nations “domestic dependent nations.”

When and how did that switch happen? Were the U.S. actions legally valid?

An article published this year by the NYU Law Review, Revitalizing Tribal Sovereignty in Treatymaking, says no. It provides a new analysis on how Native Nations could challenge the paternalistic system the United States has imposed on them — and have their sovereign status recognized.

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Support Fond du Lac/oppose PolyMet; Initiative for Tribal co-management of federal lands, and more

In this post:

  • Stand with Fond du Lac, oppose PolyMet
  • U.S. Interior Department proposes Tribal co-management of federal lands
  • Financial support requests for restoration of Dakota sacred site, mutual aid
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Understanding the Regulatory/Industrial Complex’s ‘Pipeline Playbook’

File: Line 3 construction

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Enbridge Line 3 in Minnesota, Enbridge Line 5 in Wisconsin and Michigan, and other crude oil pipelines have had, or continue to have, controversial paths towards approval.

With the exception of Keystone XL, corporate interests have won out over strong public resistance and weak regulatory oversight. 

Pipeline firms have got the go-ahead on massive infrastructure projects in spite of their their treaty violations, their troubling track records, and their long-term environmental costs, including their significant climate damage.

The Regulatory/Industrial Complex has a Pipeline Playbook that needs to be named and called out.

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State of Washington, courts use broken treaty promises to justify breaking more treaty promises

The state of Minnesota failed miserably to uphold, let alone consider, how the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline violated Anishinaabe treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather on the lands they ceded to the U.S. government.

Those “usufractuary” rights to hunt, fish, and gather outside reservation boundaries are critical to many if not all Native Nations. The Anishinaabe’s struggle to keep its hunting and fishing rights gets repeated across the country.

Consider the State of Washington’s ludicrous efforts to strip Snoqualmie Nation of its treaty rights.

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In the courts: Making the case that treaty rights could force government action on climate change

It’s nearly impossible to get politicians who operate on a two- to four-year election cycles to take the long view on the climate crisis. It would require political courage to overhaul our energy infrastructure, disrupt the status quo — and risk voters’ wrath — for a better future. Those of us in Minnesota saw first hand how political leaders and regulators ignored the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline’s projected climate damage.

A recent Harvard Law Review article makes a strong case that treaty rights could be a powerful tool to force state and federal governments to address this existential threat. The argument rests on established U.S. Supreme Court precedents.

It would take a lot of courage for the leaders of Native Nations to sue in court. These cases are costly and drag on for years. Further, Tribes risk losing. That means further erosion of their treaty rights.

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Events: ‘Communities by the Water’ event celebrating the love of clean water, benefits for Line 3 legal defense fund, and more

In this post:

  • Communities by the Water, a gathering and response to extractive projects such as Enbridge Line 5, June 25
  • “Music for the Movement” benefits for the “Stop Line 3 Legal Defense Fund,” April 10 and 18
  • Community Conversation about the future of the Upper Lock at Owámniyomni, St. Anthony Falls, April 12
  • Support Ron Turney!
  • A bit of wisdom
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