Here is a staggering example of greed, corporate arrogance, justice delayed, and environmental racism.
Dating back to 1949, the FMC Corporation and its predecessors ran a phosphorus mining and processing plant on land within the Shoshone-Bannock Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho, the largest such operation in the world. Phosphorus is a key ingredient in such things as fertilizer. The mining and processing phosphorus also generates toxic waste. Short-sighted business practices resulted in contamination of tribal lands and water. The U.S. government declared it a Superfund site in 1990 and FMC ceased operations in 2001.
According to a 1998 deal struck by the Fort Hall Reservation and FMC, the company agreed to a $1.5 million annual fee for storing its hazardous waste on the Reservation lands. A mere three years later, when FMC stopped actively processing phosphorus, the company stopped paying its annual fee, according to court records. (FMC’s magical thinking seemed to be: Now that we closed the plant, we are no longer responsible for the ruin we left behind.)
The Shoshone Bannock Nation fought FMC in tribal and U.S. courts for years and won an important victory this month, with a decision that upholds tribal sovereignty. Here’s the story. Continue reading →
Quick background: Enbridge Line 3 is a tar sands pipeline that runs from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, via northern Minnesota. Enbridge wants to abandon its old and deteriorating pipeline in the ground. It wants to install a new and larger pipeline, running 337 miles along a new route through northern Minnesota. It would cut through the Mississippi headwaters, threaten lakes and wild rice beds, and violate treaty rights.
The MPR story is deeply flawed. Starting with the headline, the story raises “threats” and “fears” over the pipeline fight. So the first question to come to mind is: Who is doing the threatening and creating fear?
Here’s how the story sums it up:
Activists are pressing Minnesota officials now to deny the permit and kill the project. State officials and company executives working to head off a confrontation say they’re doing more than ever to listen to the concerns of those in the pipeline’s potential path.
That may not be enough to stop a confrontation.
Comment: In this frame, activists are “pressing” and even trying to “kill” the project. (“Kill” is a violent word.) State officials and company executives, on the other hand, are framed as peacemakers. They are “working” to head off a confrontation. They are doing “more than ever to listen” to concerns. As this frame goes,all that hard work and listening might not be enough to stop the confrontation, the threats, the fears.
You get the picture. This makes the activists seem unreasonable and the state and the company seem reasonable. The people — not the pipeline and the damage it would cause — are the threat.
In a resolution signed Feb. 18, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan implored Snyder to use his executive power to protect the “integrity of creation.”
“We fellow stewards of the gift of creation, strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth,” the resolution, signed by Bishop Whayne M. Hougland Jr., reads. “By sustaining the life of the earth, we work toward justice and peace among all people.”
The legal challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to date make their arguments within the framework of U.S. regulatory law. They refer to laws regarding historic preservation or environmental protection, but they do not challenge the very framework of the federal Indian system: That the United States has full and complete power over Native lands and peoples.
The legal term for this unfettered control of Native Nations is “plenary power,” and the Yankton Sioux are taking “plenary power” head on in their legal efforts to stop the pipeline.
Two North Dakota law makers want Congress to give states more power over tribes, according to an article in Native News Online.Net. It’s a move that looks suspicious after recent clashes over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This state power grab has been tried before, and it remains both a really bad idea and a violation of the Constitution. Continue reading →
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.
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 →