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.
In one of the more blatant examples of broken treaties, the United States tried to unilaterally end the existence of Tribal Nations and their treaty rights during what is known as the Termination Era. Forced assimilation policies spanned the 1940s to the 1960s.
The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin was one of the first tribes officially terminated by an Act of Congress, and one that pushed back. On this day in history, May 27, 1968, the Menominee Nation won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case reestablishing its hunting and fishing rights, the first step in reestablishing its status as a sovereign nation. Continue reading →
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) commitment to environmental and racial justice is being tested and it’s not doing that great. It gets an incomplete at best.
At issue is the MPCA’s environmental review of Enbridge’s plans to build a tar sands crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. To proceed, Enbridge needs the MPCA to approve a water crossing (Section 401) certificate. The proposed Line 3 crosses a lot of water — more than 200 streams and other water bodies and 79 miles of wetlands.
Native Nations have offered strong opposition to Line 3 for violating treaty rights and its threats to clean water and wild rice. Both the pipeline’s construction and future spills would endanger northern Minnesota’s environment.
So what were the MPCA’s goals for engaging Tribal communities in this important decision, and how well did it meet them?
On this day in history, May 15, 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Winans v. United States, a case that set important precedents for how the Court would interpret treaty rights.
This case has echoes of the current debate in Minnesota over the proposed Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline and its impact on the Anishinaabe people’s rights under the treaties of 1854 and 1855 to hunt, fish and gather on the lands they ceded to the United States. Continue reading →
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) released orders today reapproving Enbridge Line 3’s Route Permit and Certificate of Need. This now opens the door for legal challenges to the tar sands crude oil pipeline, including suits from Native Nations who say the project threatens their treaty rights, their sacred wild rice, and their clean waters.
The PUC’s actions today again put pressure on Gov. Tim Walz to decide where he stands on the Line 3 project, and whether he will reaffirm a lawsuit against the project by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Continue reading →
The current coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the many failings and disparities in the U.S. heathcare system.
Dr. Mary Owen, President-Elect of the Association of American Indian Physicians, recently wrote a column for Indian Country Today where she highlights the fact that Native Americans are the only population with a “legal right to health care,” and how the system is failing them.
“Despite the guaranteed provision of health care that is in part, payment for millions of acres of land, the Indian Health Service is chronically underfunded,” said Dr. Owen, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth and the Director of the Center of American Indian and Minority Health. Continue reading →