On this day in history April 19, 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association that brought into focus the clash between the Western view of land as a resource to be mined, plowed or harvested and the Indigenous view of the earth as Mother and sacred. Today’s example comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case, decided this Continue reading
In chilling news, members of an FBI anti-terror squad are investigating opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The FBI won’t comment on the matter.
News accounts say that members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) are knocking on the doors of water protectors and asking questions. These task forces are “our nation’s front line on terrorism: small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” its website says. They are based in 104 cities around the country.
Door knocking might seem innocuous to some. But how would you feel if one of these anti-terrorism experts came knocking on your door and started asking you questions about your activities, but wouldn’t say why? Now think about how that would feel to water protectors who already had experienced a hyper-militarized response to their actions, such as water cannons, mace, or rubber bullets. This surely would feel intimidating. Being labeled a suspected terrorist carries high stigma and the risk of a long incarceration. It could be a scare tactic to silence legitimate protest.
There are any number of examples of the clash between the Western view of the earth as a resource to be harvested and the Native view of the earth as Mother and sacred. Today’s example comes from the U.S. Supreme Court case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, decided this day in history April 19, 1988.
Background: The U.S. Forest Service wanted to build a 75- mile road connecting two towns. A six-mile stretch would pass through the Chimney Rock area of the Six Rivers National Forest in California, with the potential to harvest timber in the area. The proposed route went through an area sacred to the Yurok, Karuk, and Tolowa Indians.
The Forest Service commissioned a draft environmental impact statement (EIS). According to the Court record: “The study concluded that constructing a road along any of the available routes would cause serious and irreparable damage to the sacred areas which are an integral and necessary part of the belief systems and lifeway of Northwest California Indian peoples.”
The U.S. Forest Service decided to go ahead with its plans anyway. Native groups, environmental groups and the state of California challenged the Forest Service’s decision. Native groups argued the road would violate their First Amendment rights. They lost the legal battle and the Freedom of Religion argument, but did eventually save the sacred space. Continue reading