subscribe_today.png

 
ls_circlepaper_webbanner_r1_v01_december.jpg
fundraiserrolormelandbanner.jpg
Political Matters
Twin Metals derailed
Monday, January 09 2017
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
Average user rating    (0 vote)

In its year-end review of the Top 10 stories of 2016, the Mesabi Daily News (virginiamn.com) nominated for its No. 2 selection the “War on Twin Metals.” The newspaper sketched out its year-long coverage of the simmering controversy over a massive underground copper-nickel mine near Ely. The issue came to a climax in December, when the Department of the Interior announced that it would deny Twin Metals Minnesota’s application to extend mineral leases, which were first issued in 1966.

The group Mining Truth (miningtruth.org), a consortium of Minnesota environmental groups and supporters (including Protect Our Manoomin), noted that the “immediate impact of the decision [to deny extension of the mineral leases] is that Twin Metals no longer holds the mineral rights to a wide swath of their proposed underground copper-nickel sulfide mine. In addition to the decision on the leases, the Department of Interior also announced it was commencing a review of all federal mineral rights in the Boundary Waters watershed. This will mean a 90 day public input period and an up to two year ‘time out’ where no federal mineral leases will be issued.”
Mining Truth added, that the U.S. Forest Service “also submitted an application to the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw key portions of the watershed that flows into the BWCAW [Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness] from new mineral permits and leases.”

Northeastern Minnesota has seen a mining rush in recent years, as corporations angle to begin copper-nickel operations. The area has been the site of iron ore and taconite mining for decades, but sulfide mining is something new to the state; and the Ojibwe bands and environmentalists fear that mine waste run-off will pollute streams, rivers and groundwater – and that sulfate pollution will decimate wild rice beds in areas ceded in federal treaties. In the 19th century land cession treatie, the Ojibwe bands gave up vast tracts of ancestral territory, and reserved their rights to hunt, fish and gather in these areas in perpetuity. These subsistence rights will be of little value if the land and water are poisoned by toxic mine waste, as has happened with hard rock mining operations all across the American West.

As expected, Twin Metals, which is owned by the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, decried the federal decision not to extend its mineral leases. On Dec. 15, the company said it was “greatly disappointed” by the decision of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S.Forest Service “to deny renewal of two of the company’s long-standing and valid mineral leases in Minnesota, and to initiate actions to withdraw federal lands and minerals from future exploration and development. If allowed to stand, the BLM-USFS actions will have a devastating impact on the future economy of the Iron Range and all of Northeast Minnesota, eliminating the promise of thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars in investment in the region. Further, this unprecedented decision is contrary to the overwhelming majority of local and regional citizens and communities who support mining and believe mining can be done responsibly in this region.”
The Twin Metals statement noted that it has already invested $400 million in the mine project. The company’s website declares that Minnesota “has the potential to be a global epicenter for strategic metals mining. There are more than 4 billion tons of copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold and other metal resources contained in northern Minnesota’s Duluth Complex, the largest known undeveloped deposit of strategic metals in the world.”

While the feds have dealt a blow to Twin Metals’ mining scheme, PolyMet Mining, a Canadian firm, is still on track to develop a copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes. The feds expressed concern that the Twin Metals project could pollute the pristine Boundary Waters wilderness; but PolyMet’s NorthMet project poses the same threat to rivers and streams flowing into Lake Superior. Actually, hydrologists working with the Ojibwe bands have contended that the water flow models used in the NorthMet environmental review were flawed – mine wastewater could flow south toward Lake Superior or north into the Boundary Waters. In any case, Minnesota approved the final environmental impact statement for the NorthMet project last March, after reports and hearings that stretched back 10 years. The company still has to win approval for a numerous permits before it can start digging Up North.

Regarding the previously mentioned “war on Twin Metals,” the Mesabi Daily News predicted: “This issue isn’t going away quietly in 2017, as it sets up for a big fight between the environmental left and the incoming Donald Trump administration on the right.”

The Looming Trumpocalypse
Tuesday, December 06 2016
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
Average user rating    (0 vote)

It should be abundantly clear by now that Donald Trump suffers from some kind of mental illness, and that it probably wasn’t a great idea to elect such an impaired person as president.

After waging a vicious and vulgar campaign for the presidency, Trump won a majority of votes in the electoral college; we now await the formation of his administration, which likely will be an agglomeration of Tea Party stalwarts, racists and bigots.

The Celebrity Apprentice politician doesn’t have much going on between his ears, as far as grasping the fine points of public policy. For example, he recently told a group of New York Times editors and reporters that he has an “open mind” about the need to confront climate change.

“We’re going to look very carefully,” replied Trump, in response to a question from Times columnist Tom Friedman. “It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change.”

As some have pointed out about this exchange, Trump is making a virtue of his ignorance on the topic of global warming, the paramount environmental threat of our time. But apart from his stupendous lack of knowledge in this area, Trump seems to be mulling over individuals to lead the Interior and Energy departments that are from Big Oil and the climate denial faction.

For starters, former Alaska governor Sarah “Drill, Baby, Drill” Palin is said to be on the short list of candidates to lead the Interior Department. She likely would favor shooting big game from aircraft in national parks.

Writing recently for Pacific Standard (psmag.com), Jimmy Tobias noted that Doug Domenech is leading Trump’s transition team for the Interior Department. Domenech is a former Virginia secretary of natural resources and a George W. Bush administration Interior Department staffer. Domenech also is director of the Fueling Freedom Project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. According to a press report, the project’s stated mission is to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.”

It’s unclear if David Bernhardt, another former Bush Interior official, is still involved in Trump’s transition team for Interior. Bernhardt is a Washington, D.C. lobbyist who has represented oil and mining interests.

Regarding Bernhardt and Domenech, Tobias points out: “They’re the guys helping the president-elect staff a bureaucracy that manages 500 million acres of federal land, implements the Endangered Species Act, runs the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and controls key oil and gas leasing programs, among other duties. And their ascension is an ugly omen for this country’s public lands and wildlife.”

Some other names have been floated for Interior Secretary, including Bob Beauprez, a former Colorado congressman and bison rancher.

“I think he’s far too extreme to be appointed as the steward of our national parks and our western cultural heritage,” Pete Maysmith, the director of Conservation Colorado, an environmental advocacy group in Denver, told the Denver Post, regarding Beauprez as Interior secretary. “Certainly the voters have said a couple times that he doesn’t represent their values because they haven’t elected him. Beyond that, there’s a record to look at and it’s not an inspiring record.”

Beauprez ran for Colorado governor twice and lost both times.

Also, Forrest Lucas, an Indiana native and the founder of Lucas Oil, has been reported as a person to head Interior. In 2006, he won the naming rights for Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL. Lucas and his wife reportedly have contributed $50,000 to the gubernatorial campaigns of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

A story about Lucas in Politico noted that environmentalists have warned against putting someone with such a background in charge of Interior.

“Putting an oil executive in charge of our public lands and precious coasts in places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida is a virtual guarantee that Trump’s promise to throw open season on drilling in our special places will come true if he’s elected,” said Khalid Pitts, the Sierra Club’s national political director.

And Trump likely will put some fox in charge of the hen house, so to speak, when it comes to picking a person to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Leading the EPA transition team is another Washington lobbyist, Myron Ebell, who is a prominent opponent of climate change action.

When we look at energy development on and near tribal lands – the Dakota Access oil pipeline, for example – the incoming Trump administration likely will take the pillage and plunder approach. And we can expect conflicts over land rights to become human rights issues when push comes to shove across this country.

Natives in the Running
Monday, November 07 2016
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
Average user rating    (0 vote)

The 2016 elections could see big strides forward for American Indians seeking elective office. While there are several Native candidates vying for congressional seats, the real action is in state legislatures. In Minnesota, for example, seven American Indians are competing in state House and Senate races, including DFL incumbents Susan Allen (Rosebud Sioux), of Minneapolis, and Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Band of Ojibwe), of St. Louis Park.

Veteran journalist Mark Trahant has created a spreadsheet of American Indian candidates running for state legislative seats on his website (trahantreports.com). In Montana, 10 American Indian candidates are running for legislative posts; Oklahoma is a close second with nine Native candidates.

Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, has worked for both tribal and big city daily newspapers. He is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota, at Grand Forks. We talked on the phone in late October.

Getting back to Congress, there are only two American Indian members of the U.S. House: Tom Cole (Chickasaw Tribe) and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation), they are both Republicans from Oklahoma.

Trahant specified that the American Indian congressional caucus amounts to .037 percent – a bit more than one-third of one percent – of the body’s total membership. However, in the case of Tom Cole, who was first elected in 2002, to represent Oklahoma’s Fourth District, Trahant said he plays an influential role.

“When the issues involve tribes, and especially, tribal sovereignty, Cole has been one of the most important members in the history of Congress,” Trahant wrote in October. “What makes Cole so important? He can argue the case within the Republican caucus, and, even better, with the House Republican leadership. He is a measured, reasoned voice, not just for Indian Country, but for his idea of what a conservative party should be. And that means being inclusive.”

Cole reportedly is supporting Trump for president; however, Trahant told me, “As a Republican, he’s been able to do things that others haven’t been. He’s in the leadership. The Violence Against Women Act, for example, never would have happened without Cole.”

Apparently, Trahant was referring to the 2013 extension of the law, which was opposed by a number of GOP House members because of provisions related to the jurisdiction of tribal courts and the inclusion of same-sex couples.

Asked about where the Indian vote is significant across the country, Trahant said that the “most significant for congressional districts is the Arizona First District, where [Indian voters are] more than 22 and a half percent.” That district is represented by Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat who is challenging Sen. John McCain this year.

“There’s no Native candidate in that race,” Trahant added. Arizona’s First District includes the huge Navajo reservation. “I’ve written that that will be a Native seat; it’s just a question of when.”

And Trahant points to three American Indians, all Democrats, contending for U.S. House seats.

There’s Chase Iron Eyes, from Standing Rock, who’s running for No. Dakota’s lone seat in the House. Of course, the world is watching Standing Rock, which is leading the fight to protect water resources from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Asked about Iron Eyes’ chances, Trahant said, “That’s a tough one.” If there is a huge wave for Hillary Clinton, a tsunami-sized wave, perhaps Iron Eyes could go to Washington.

In a more competitive race, Denise Juneau, a Democrat, is running for Montana’s U.S. House seat. In 2008, Juneau, a member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes and of Blackfeet ancestry, became the first American Indian woman ever elected to an executive statewide office. She was elected to a second term as Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2012.

The Daily Kos website recently reported that the House Majority PAC would invest $451,000 for TV ads on behalf of Juneau’s campaign, “signaling they think she has a shot against GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke.” Polls show a close race.

Also running for a House seat is Joe Pakootas, who could become the first former tribal leader ever elected to Congress, according to Trahant. Pakootas, the former chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes, is running as a Democrat in Washington’s Fifth District.

“I think this is going to be a record year,” Trahant concluded. “The opportunity to elect the first Native American woman to Congress is huge. People are taking advantage of it.”

In the end, Trump’s horrific crash-and-burn presidential campaign might contain a silver lining for American Indian political contenders.

Standing with Standing Rock On September 20, David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sio
Tuesday, October 11 2016
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
Average user rating    (0 vote)

On September 20, David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council, in Geneva, Switzerland.

“I am here because oil companies are causing the deliberate destruction of our sacred places and burials,” said Archambault, according to a report on Indian Country Today’s website. “Dakota Access wants to build an oil pipeline under the river that is the source of our nation’s drinking water. This pipeline threatens our communities, the river and the earth. Our nation is working to protect our waters and our sacred places for the benefit of our children not yet born.”

The Standing Rock tribe’s struggle to protect water against a possible environmental disaster from the Dakota Access pipeline has become the cause célèbre in Indian country and around the world. Images of Indian riders on horseback approaching a line of sheriff’s deputies guarding the pipeline construction site near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, have galvanized support for the Sacred Stone Camp that has grown near the northern tip of the reservation.

“Thousands have gathered peacefully in Standing Rock in solidarity against the pipeline,” said Archambault, in a statement issued after his appearance at the UN in Switzerland. “And yet many water protectors have been threatened and even injured by the pipeline’s security officers. One child was bitten and injured by a guard dog. We stand in peace but have been met with violence.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline Project is under the aegis of a Texas-based outfit called Energy Transfer. Slated for completion in the “fourth quarter of 2016,” according to the corporation’s website, the 1,172-mile pipeline would carry crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks oil patches in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

Apart from the environmental threat posed by a 30-inch oil pipeline running under the Missouri River, the Standing Rock tribe has objected to the destruction of cultural areas and burial sites in the construction zone. On these issues, the tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; but the federal court decided that the Corps had approved the pipeline project in compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.

However, after the court ruling, on Sept. 9, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior issued a joint statement, which acknowledged “important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally.”

The joint statement continued: “The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved – including the pipeline company and its workers – deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

The federal departments also proposed a “serious discussion” between the tribes and federal government – “government-to-government consultations” – on reforming the process of approving pipeline and other infrastructure projects, while protecting “tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights.” Such a discussion would consider congressional legislation to respect tribal interests in these matters.

The struggle to stop the Dakota Access pipeline (#NoDAPL) has involved nonviolent direct action by Standing Rock tribal members, and Indian and non-Indian allies. The continual assaults on Indian Country by multinational corporations probing politically-weak territories for their energy and extraction projects have been going on for a long time.

I’m reminded of the Black Hills Alliance, which organized Indians, ranchers and environmentalists in a successful effort to beat back the energy corporations scheming to develop coal- and uranium-mining projects in western South Dakota. The survival gatherings in 1979 and 1980 tapped into the growing anti-nuclear movement and brought people power to bear against the virtually unlimited resources of the energy exploiters.

And I also would link the water protection movement at Standing Rock with the efforts to stop sulfide mining in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region. PolyMet Mining is proceeding apace to build the first copper-nickel mine in the state, which poses a threat to ground and surface waters Up North – and imperils the subsistence rights of Ojibwe bands across the treaty ceded territory.

We’re all in this together.

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Results 9 - 16 of 92

****SPONSORS

bald_eagle_erectors_web_size.jpg 

bsbc_ccs_online_logo.jpgwellsfargo_72dpi.jpg

common_bonds_cathedral3.jpg

Syndicate