It’s a story as old as the colonial frontier, where state and local governments did everything they could to cheat Native Nations. They only honored treaties or federal laws if and when they were sued in court and lost.
These systemic problems keep happening because states face no consequences for bad-faith actions.
There are many examples, but today we look at a recent voter suppression case in South Dakota. The law is clear, yet the state chooses to be willfully ignorant of legitimate grievances.
The Trump administration has done a lot to undermine our core democratic institutions and values. Trump has politicized the U.S. Justice Department. He’s undermined citizen confidence in our voting system and the free press. He’s used his office for personal gain. He’s doled out pardons as political favors. And now he’s messing with the U.S. Census.
His administration is shutting down the Census one month early, a decision that will lead to undercounts of black, Indigenous and other people of color. It will have significant consequences, from Congressional representation to school funding. Continue reading →
In 2017 and 2018, the Native American Voting Rights Coalition—founded by the Native American Rights Fund—held nine public hearings to better understand how Native Americans are systemically and culturally kept from fully exercising their franchise. More than 120 witnesses testified from dozens of tribes across the country.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) and the Fort Belknap Indian Community (Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes) are suing the Trump Administration in the District Court for violating key federal regulations in approving the Keystone XL tar sands crude oil pipeline, according to an email from the Native American Rights Fund, which also has joined the suit.
The 77-page lawsuit asks the court to find the federal permits violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the National Historic Preservation Act( NHPA). The lawsuit asks the Court to rescind the permits and prohibit “any activity in furtherance of the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of the Pipeline and related facilities.”
Some of the arguments this lawsuit makes are similar to the ones that Native nations in northern Minnesota could make against Enbridge Line 3.
You probably have read by now that President Trump took the unprecedented action to drastically reduce the size of national monuments in Utah, including Bears Ears, sacred lands to Native nations. As the New York Times reported:
President Trump sharply reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah on Monday by some two million acres, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.
The administration shrank Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by 85 percent, and cut another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. The move, a reversal of protections put in place by Democratic predecessors, comes as the administration pushes for fewer restrictions and more development on public lands.
Native nations are fighting back, saying the President does not have the constitutional authority shrink national monuments, according to a statement from John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund.
Under the Antiquities Act, the president may create national monuments. That is all. He or she may not modify or revoke existing monuments — only Congress has that ability. Trump’s actions are illegal, unwarranted, and deeply unpopular. And they are a blatant attack on tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
Obama created the Bears Ears National Monument a year ago. Native nations had pressed for that designation to protect their sacred places. As Echohawk explained:
Until the designation of Bears Ears, our sacred lands were under constant threat. Those unfamiliar with our cultures and our traditions contributed to the steady destruction of our sacred sites by looting, grave robbing, and indiscriminately drilling for oil and mining uranium at the expense of our heritage.
Last December, President Obama designated an area of great importance in southeastern Utah as a national monument known as “Bears Ears.” [This week] President Trump signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to conduct a two-part review, aimed first at the Bears Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah and then at other post-1995 monument designations made pursuant to the Antiquities Act.
The stated policy of the order is to review all monuments created since 1996 to determine if they were created without “public outreach and proper coordination.”
In an email, the organization gave some additional background:
Bears Ears, an area in southeast Utah, is filled with sacred sites, hunting grounds, and medicines that are still used today; it is a place where Native ancestors are buried and to be honored. Despite being such an incredible cultural treasure, the designation as a monument was made only after persistent efforts of many who spoke to the importance of the region. President Obama designated Bears Ears National Monument after two years of public input and meetings in both Utah and DC. The effort to protect Bears Ears was very long, very public, and very robust, which makes yesterday’s order especially offensive.
Today is the anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, an incident that resulted in U.S. soldiers getting the nation’s highest military honor for killing Lakota men, women and children who were trying to surrender. As a 2014 opinion piece in Native News Online summarizes: some 150 Lakota people, and possibly up to 300, were massacred by the US 7th Calvary Regiment near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It continues:
History records the Wounded Knee Massacre was the last battle of the American Indian war. Unfortunately, it is when most American history books drop American Indians from history, as well. As if we no longer exist.
Below are links to some videos from and about Standing Rock. There are inspiring interviews with Water Protectors. There is a short interview with a 13-year-old youth leader from Standing Rock right after she learned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) easement. And if you haven’t seen it, there is a link to the Daily Show’s biting take on DAPL. The post ends with an uplifting report from the Native American Rights Fund on the creation of the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area. Continue reading →