Native American voting rights: The first people on the land should not be the last to vote

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 Native American Rights Fund just released the results of that research in the report: Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native American Voters. Continue reading

Updates on Challenges to Enbridge Line 3 and Keystone XL; New North Dakota Pipeline Proposed

In this blog:

  • The Progressive Magazine: The Battle Against Line 3: It’s not only a pipeline, it’s the future of the planet
  • Trump’s effort to end-run court challenges to Keystone XL facing more court challenges
  • Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline propose new pipeline through North Dakota
  • Line 3 opponents rally at Sen. Klobuchar’s office to get her to take a stand against the pipeline

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News and Events: Standing Rock Film Screening, Youth March for Fossil Free Future, and More

News and events in this post:

  • Oct. 8: Augsburg Native American Film Series: The Eagle and The Condor–From Standing Rock with Love.
  • Oct. 28 Our Right, Our Future: March with Minnesota Youth for a Fossil Free Future
  • Construction on Keystone XL Begins Near Rosebud as Three Native Nations Sue to Stop It
  • Minneapolis City Council Accepts the Red Lake Nation’s Help to Relocate Homeless Camp

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Native Nations Sue the Federal Government to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

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.

Continue reading

Native Nations Sue to Protect Bears Ears Monument, and More

Bears Ears formation (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

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.

See the Native American Rights Fund website for more information. Continue reading

Bears Ears National Monument Threatened; Upcoming “Resistance and Resilience” Event in Minneapolis; and More

This important update from the Native American Rights Fund blog: Stand Firm for Bears Ears.

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.

Click here for the full blog.

Keep reading for other news. Continue reading

This Day in History: Wounded Knee Massacre; Obama Designates Bears Ears Monument; Native Youth Trekking From Canada to Join DAPL Opposition

Burial of the dead in a mass grave after the massacre of Wounded Knee. (Wikimedia Commons)
Burial of Lakota men, women and children in a mass grave after the Wounded Knee Massacre. (Wikimedia Commons)

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.

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Videos From and About Standing Rock, and Tribal Victory in Creating the “Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area”

hcmc3Below 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

Breaking News: Water Protectors Refuse to Leave Main Camp Dec. 5, in Spite of Army Corps of Engineers Orders

hcmc3The likelihood of increasing tension, violence, and mass arrests over the Dakota Access Pipeline is quickly increasing, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ordering the shut down of Oceti Sakowin, the Water Protectors’ Main Camp, and threatening arrests. The Water Protectors are refusing to leave.

In a nut shell, the federal government is bailing on the Water Protectors. North Dakota law enforcement has used excessive force against the Water Protectors, including water cannons in freezing temperatures and tear gas. Instead of investigating the situation or intervening on behalf of the Standing Rock Nation and its allies, the federal government is pulling the permit for the Water Protectors to be on federal land. The Water Protectors have to leave by Dec. 5 or face arrest, according to CNN and other news sources.

NBC is reporting tonight that the Water Protectors are vowing to stay, regardless of the order. Continue reading

Feds to Pay Tribes $492 Million for Mismanaged Trust Funds; New Book of Ojibwe Stories; Tribes OK’ed to Collect Plants in National Parks

The mistreatment and exploitation of Native American communities is not a thing of ancient history, but has continued to the modern era. The latest example is how the federal government failed it is duty to be a good steward of the lands it was supposed to hold in trust for Native nations.

The Native American Rights Fund announced that the U.S. government has agreed to pay 17 tribes $492 million “to compensate for decades of lost income due to government mismanagement of tribal trusts.” According to its statement:

Starting with treaties signed in the 19th Century, the United States was named as trustee for large areas of tribal land.  Under the treaties, the United States was to hold the Indian lands and money for the benefit of the Native American people.  As trustee, they handled leasing the land for uses such as grazing, oil, and farming.  However, the government did not prove to be a good trustee.

A story from National Public Radio said:

The settlements mark the end of a push by the Obama administration to resolve what the U.S. says is more than 100 lawsuits totaling more than $3.3 billion brought by American Indian individuals and tribal governments against the federal government. The policy of reaching settlements on the disputes, some of which date back more than a century, is part of a campaign promise the president made to American Indians before he took office.

This is the second round of such settlements, and the total number of cases settled now is 95.

For more on a new book of Ojibwe stories and a federal rule that allows tribal members to collect plants in national parks, read on. Continue reading