Archives for 2008

2009 Pine Ridge Study Tour

Village Earth and its community partners on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are putting together a study tour June 20th-27th, 2009.

If you are interested in participating please contact [email protected].

Schedule subject to change. Please keep visiting this post for updated information.

Below are some highlights of some of the things to expect. 

Bison on Pine Ridge 

Visit Village Earth’s Community Partners and Their Projects Across the Reservation.

Lend a Hand In Community-Based Projects
Above Photo taken at the 2005 Sustainable Nations Training on Pine Ridge

Community Projects

Become a Part of Land Recovery and Bison Restoration on Pine Ridge


Mapping for Change with Native American Communities on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book

Pine Ridge Strategic Land Planning Map Book

Land issues on Native American Reservations are extremely complex and masked by layers and layers of bureaucracy. The old axiom, knowledge is power is the name of the game. But the game has changed with the advent of computerized mapping such as GIS (Geographic Information Systems) which has created a common platform for the exchange, creation, analysis, and presentation of geographic information. Where in the past, geographic information was stored deep in filing cabinets, hard to comprehend, and controlled by a few gatekeepers, GIS has allowed us to democratize this information, making it more accessible and more understandable. This approach is not new. Decolonization theorist Frantz Fanon recognized the importance of mapping in his classic 1961 work, “The Wretched of the Earth”, when he said “The colonial world is a world divided into compartments Yet, if we examine closely this system of compartments, we will at least be able to reveal the lines of force it implies. This approach to the colonial world, its ordering and its geographical layout will allow us to mark out the lines on which a decolonized society will be organized.” Edward Said mirrored these comments when he said: “the “slow and often bitterly disputed recovery of geographical territory which is at the heart of decolonization is preceded–as empire had been–by the charting of cultural territory.”

Village Earth’s work with the Oglala Lakota on Pine Ridge is a good illustration in how mapping can be powerful tool for decolonization, but to understand how, requires a look back at the history of land issues for Native Americans in general and on Pine Ridge specifically.

Between the period of 1492 to 1887 Native Americans were left with a territory that consisted of only 150 million acres of land. Furthermore, the practice of communally managed lands by some tribes was viewed by the Federal Government as a non-productive and irrational use of resources. To address these interests, in 1887 the U.S. Congress passed General Allotment Act (GAA) also known as the Dawes Severalty Act. The purpose of the act was to liquidate Indian land holdings by dividing the land up into 40 to160-acre allotments to heads of households. After all the allotments were issued remaining lands in the West, which totaled over 60,000,000 acres, was opened up to homesteaders. Along with the liquidating nearly 2/3rds of all “surplus” Indian lands, The GAA also created several contradictions for the use and inheritance of the remaining lands that would have deep implications for virtually all aspects of life for Native Americans. It broke apart communally managed lands into individually owned parcels destroyed the ability of many communities to be self sufficient on already limited and marginal lands.
It disrupted traditional residency patterns, forcing people to live on allotments sometimes far from their relatives, eroding traditional kinship practices across many reservations.

Forced Fee Patenting, introduced with the 1906 Burke Act, amended the GAA to give the secretary of the interior the power to issue Indian Allottees determined to be “competent,” fee patents making their lands subject to taxation and sale. According to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, nearly 27,000,000 acres of land was lost as a result. Although the practice of issuing forced fee patents and forced leasing ended in 1934 with the passing of the Wheeler-Howard Act, the effects are still felt today. In that many families are landless because an ancestor was issued a fee patent and lost their land through tax forfeit or bank foreclosure.

Indian Allottees determined to be “incompetent, ” under the Burke Act, were not allowed to live on or utilize their allotment, instead it was leased out by the Federal Government to oil, timber, mineral, and grazing interests.
Under the GAA the land alloted to Individual Indians is not really owned by them, rather it is held in Trust by the Federal Government. This means the land can be used by the Allottee but not sold. This situation has severely limited the ability of Indian landowners to develop assets on their lands including housing, business, and other infrastructure because they are not able to use it as a guarantee for loans.

The GAA also established a system for how lands would be inherited from a landowner to his children. Since the practice of creating a Last Will and Testament before death was not common and in some cases was outright offensive to the traditional inheritance practices of some Native American cultures, these lands passed from one generation to the next without clear divisions of who owned what. After several generations lands have become so fractionated that you might have as many as several hundred landowners on one piece land. This has created a severe obstacle today for individuals and families wanting to utilize their lands as they need to get permission from at least 50% of the land owners on decisions related to the land.

With financial support from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Village Earth is developing Strategic Land Planning Map Books, a sort of “land recovery atlas” of the Pine Ridge Reservation, to provide the information necessary and clarify the steps for Native American Land owners to identify, consolidate, and utilize their lands. It contains easy to understand instructions and diagrams on how landowners can use the descriptions from their “interest reports” (a sort of Tribal land title created by the Federal Government) to locate maps of their lands, instructions and procedures for consolidating lands, removing lands from the Federal leasing program, partitioning lands, and creating wills. It also contains maps of the current leasing patterns as well as maps of the traditional communities that were broken apart by the Dawes Act and federal housing programs. In conjunction with a series of strategic land-planning workshops, one-to-one consultation, and training a corps of local land-planning consultants in each district, we hope to help reverse some of the damages created by 120 years of exploitative land policies on the Pine Ridge Reservation. For more information about this project contact David Bartecchi [email protected]

More Buffalo Delivered to Pine Ridge

This weekend, Village Earth delivered 7 more buffalo to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. These buffalo were donated by the Danylchuck Buffalo Ranch in Rye, Colorado . This is the 5th year that the Danylchuck’s have donated buffalo to Lakota buffalo ranchers on Pine Ridge. We loaded the buffalo as soon as the sun rose Saturday morning and were quickly on the road, headed north to South Dakota. All the animals received the necessary vaccinations and certifications for interstate travel.

The Adopt-A-Buffalo program is part of Village Earth’s larger initiative to support Lakota families to recover their lands from the BIA leasing program and utilize them on their own. Currently, over 60% of the Pine Ridge Reservation is being leased out, oftentimes to non-tribal members for a fraction of their value while Lakota families struggle to find regular employment.

$455 Million, Adding Insult to Injury

Federal District judge Robertson recently ruled that the U.S. Government owes Native Americans $455 million dollars as “proper repair” for the estimated $47 billion that the Government never paid individual Indians for income generated from over 120 years of managing oil, gas, grazing, timber, and mining leases on their lands. This ruling came after nearly 16 years of litigation in the largest ever class action lawsuit against the federal government – representing some 500,000 individual Indians whose lands were being leased out by the federal government. On Tuesday Eloise Cobell, the lead plaintiff, appeared on Democracy Now! to announce her intent to appeal this decision. In the words of Mrs. Cobell:

“The opinion is both profoundly disappointing and difficult to understand. It disregards unchallenged evidence of record, law of the case, law of the DC Circuit since 1895, and settled law as set forth by the United States Supreme Court. 

Among other things, duties and responsibilities of the US government as Trustee for the Individual Indian Trust are the same as those that apply to private trustees, unless Congress expressly has enacted legislation to the contrary. No such legislation has been enacted.

Accordingly, the unwillingness of the district court to apply trust law is puzzling. So is its unwillingness to hold the government accountable for its egregious breaches of trust. The district court now says that holding the government accountable would be unfair to the government. The complete lack of concern for fairness to victims of 120 years of abuse is utterly incomprehensible to Native People.”

Village Earth is working at “ground-zero” on this issue. While we support Cobell’s efforts to seek justice from the Federal Government and force them to repair this horribly flawed system, we are working to help people reclaim and consolidate their lands from the Federal leasing system giving them an opportunity to bennefit directly from them on their own.

Pepper Creek Gardening Project


(Above: Pete rakes cut grass on his land for feed for goats and other animals he’s raising)

In the heart of Pine Ridge’s Wounded Knee District, a few miles up a dirt road west of Manderson lies Pepper Creek and the location of Pete Stand’s growing farm project. According to Pete, he’s just trying to make a better life for his kids and provide fresh vegetables to the local community. With a tractor recently purchased with a small grant from Village Earth, Pete is reclaiming old 1800’s farm implements used by his grandfather during a time before the relocation programs of the post WWII era and the HUD cluster housing projects of the 60’s and 70’s when families across the reservation lived on their allotted lands and grew much of their own food. Along with working seasonally for area ranchers, Pete is carving out his own niche by growing vegetables, raising goats, horses, and chickens and with the help of area extension agent Sean Burke, Pete plans to expand into raising pigs and ducks.


(Above: Pete adjusting the 1800’s era rake his grandfather used to use)

Pete is part of a growing movement of people on the Pine Ridge Reservation tired of living in the deteriorating housing projects with few options for work. A situation is compounded by the growing epidemic of diabetes on the reservation caused, in part, by the lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a terrible irony that the poorest communities in America often pay the most for food and that highly processed foods tend to be the cheapest source of raw calories. This certainly holds true for the Pine Ridge Reservation but people like Pete Stands and others across the reservation are working to create a more equitable and localized food-web.

Village Earth first learned about Pete’s project from Calvin White Butterfly who is working to mobilize Tiyospayes (traditional sub-communities comprised of extended families) within the Wounded Knee District to utlize their lands to develop projects that enhance local self-reliance and cultural self-determination. We would like to thank Honor the Earth and the support of our donors for making these projects possible.

For more information contact: [email protected]

Proposed Findings of Fact for 43 Billion Dollar Suit Against Government

On July 11th, 2008 the Cobell plaintiff’s posted on their website a proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” (download complete document here) from their landmark 43 billion dollar class action lawsuit against the Department of Interior for mismanagement and theft of lease revenue from the lands of over 500,000 Native Americans.

According to the document:

“These findings and conclusions are the result of a nine-day bench trial in June 2008.1 Plaintiffs seek the equitable remedy of restitution and specific relief for Individual Indian Money (IIM) that was collected by the government as trustee and which the defendants are unable to establish was properly disbursed to a beneficiary, in addition to an amount representing the benefit to the government from retention of these funds. This trial was set for the purpose of determining the dollar amount of that remedy.

Earlier this year, in findings issued January 30, 2008, this Court noted that one of the questions which was addressed in the bench trial held in the October 2007 trial was the dollar amount of the IIM trust “throughput,” i.e., the funds that have flowed into and out of the IIM trust. Cobell v. Kempthorne (“Cobell XX”), 532 F. Supp. 2d 37, 82 (D.D.C. 2008). However, the parties’ efforts to determine throughput in the October 2007 trial were found to be lacking and based on “sparse and largely unsupported evidence.” Cobell XX, 532 F. Supp. 2d at 82. Accordingly, the Pretrial Order for the present trial provided that while the January 30 findings would serve as a starting point, the parties were expected to adduce further evidence on this core issue. See Pretrial Order at 1.

The findings and conclusions set forth herein, derived from this trial and the extensive record developed in this litigation, support and explain this Court’s decision that plaintiffs are entitled to restitution of $46,851,210,000.00, which represents the accumulated benefit conferred on defendants, net of amounts currently recorded on behalf of Individual Indian Trust beneficiaries. Jun. 2008 PX-189. Alternatively, plaintiffs are entitled to the funds withheld and interest pursuant to the government’s statutory duty to pay such interest (i.e., specific relief) in the amount of $62,018,970,000.00, which is net of amounts currently recorded on behalf of Individual Indian Trust beneficiaries. Jun. 2008 PX-192. These amounts should be ordered to be paid forthwith into the Registry of the Court.”

For more information visit: www.indiantrust.com

New Book About America’s Underground Food Movement Features VE’s Projects on Pine Ridge

Author Sandor Ellix Katz profiles “the cutting edge of food activism” in the United States in his latest book “The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.” From seed saving, land and labor struggles, and cultural survival to slow and raw food Katz highlights some of the grassroots efforts that are working to transform the current corporate driven, fossil fuel dependent, and inequitable food paradigm. One of the efforts described in his book is Village Earth’s Lakota Lands Recovery Project on the Pine Ridge Reservation which is working with Lakota families to combine the restoration of grassfed bison herds with the recovery of Reservation lands to the control of individual indian allottees and their families. Alongside these efforts is the development a program to link sustainably/respectfully raised bison to the local and regional food web.

We appreciate the recognition and recommend that anyone who is interested in learning more about the problems with America’s food system, but more importantly, what’s being done to change it, should purchase Katz’s book.

JUDGE HOPES TO RULE BY MID-JULY IN INDIAN TRUST CASE

Reposted from: http://www.indiantrust.com

WASHINGTON, JUNE 19 — U.S. District Judge James Robertson said today he hopes to issue a ruling by mid-July on how much money Indian Trust beneficiaries failed to received as a result of the government’s mismanagement of their money.

The judge made his announcement shortly before noon after the government concluded its evidence at a eight-day trial on the issue.

The trial will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. when lawyers for the Indian plaintiffs present a final rebuttal witness in the proceeding.

Lawyers for both the Indians and the government then will present closing arguments.
Judge Robertson said both sides will be asked to submit written briefs outlining recommendations for his ruling.

The judge has stated previously that he hopes this proceeding will be the final trial in the 12-year-old class action lawsuit. It was filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet Indian from Montana, over trust accounts that the federal government established for an estimated 500,000 Native Americans.

Lawyers for the Indians have said that the government owes the Indians $58 billion as a result of its use of Indian money since the trust was established in 1887. The government is contesting those figures, arguing that the Indians lost no more than $158 million over the 121 years that the trust has been in operation.

contact: Bill McAllister 703 385-6996

2008 Pine Ridge Study Tour Lays Solid Foundation


Above: Participants to the first annual Pine Ridge Study Tour.

This was the first year that we offered a “study tour” experience on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and I am happy to say that it has a laid a solid foundation for future tours organized by Village Earth.

The tour visited community-based development projects supported by Village Earth related to land tenure, buffalo restoration, and the empowerment of traditional cultural organizations. Each day the participants were visited a different site or project on the reservation with interpretation from local Lakota guides. There purpose of the tour was to explore and test the potential for community-based tourism geared towards educating tourists on both the historical and current realities of the Reservation and Federal Indian policy from a Lakota perspective but also to see and learn about the constructive ways groups on the Reservation are trying to transform it.

We made every effort, during the week long tour, to ensure that as much money as possible from the tour went directly to Lakota businesses and families on the reservation by staying at the Lakota run “Odd Duck Inn” run by Mark St. Pierre and Tilda Long Soldier, we hired all local guides, and hired local families to cook meals for the group. Plus, the participants purchased most of their crafts directly from producers across the Reservation. Plus, the participants got access to a side of the reservation that few people have the privledge to experience. In all it was a great succes and we look forward to hosting another tour next year.

If you have a group that is interested in organizing a similiar tour you can contact David Bartecchi.

BOOKS FOR BUFFALOS BENEFIT

Saturday, June 7, 10am-6pm
HOOKED ON BOOKS
3918 Maizeland @ Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. 

This very special community event is being sponsored by HOOKED ON BOOKS. The owner, Mary Ciletti, will donate 10% of book sales that day toward the purchase of buffalos for the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Gioia Supper Club and Friends will be present and offer the following services for sale:

Jim Ciletti, Buffalo Bard, will write personal poetry while-you-wait.

Dr. Ann Frank will offer her services as Ask Dr. Ann About Your Life.

Diana DiMara and Susan Krassy will be selling buffalo cookies, buffalo bites, buffalo bundt cake and other range delights.

Marsha Sterling will donate all the proceeds from the sale of her handmade books.

Diana Elmore will assist in reading messages from animal totems.

Jontrea Elmore will offer face painting.

There will be live music throughout the day: Eddie Three Eagles will play flute. Robert Loewe will play the keyboard.

There will be door prizes and a general air of celebration and FUN FUN FUN.

Buffalo are purchased through the Adopt-A-Buffalo Campaign, through Village Earth, a not-for-profit organization located in Fort Collins.

Why buy buffalo for Pine Ridge?

*They help restore the native ecology of the area. They are a ‘keystone’ species that enhance the grasses over time and whose hooves aerate the soil. Other animals return as the land begins to flourish again. *Raising buffalos increases the self-sufficiency of the Lakota families and strengthens the extended family *Buffalos provide sustainable and equitable land utilization.

benefit info: Marsha Sterling, 575-0222 buffalo info: [email protected]

 

NPS Develops Management Plan for Badlands South Unit

The National Park Service has begun working on a General Management Plan for the South Unit of Badlands National Park. The public is invited to submit comments (59 KB PDF) and make suggestions during this important process. Comments on Newsletter #1 Winter 2008 (693 KB PDF) are due April 11, 2008.

Some of the issues under consideration in the plan include:

General Management Plan (GMP) – As Described in Newsletter #1 Winter 2008

According the GMP, The following concepts range from continuation of current management or shared management to management by an entity other than the NPS. Congressional action would likely be required to put into effect alternatives based on these concepts.

CONCEPT #1
The NPS would continue to manage the South Unit as one of two units of Badlands National Park. All the laws, regulations and policies pertaining to units of the National Park System would remain in effect, as would the specific enabling legislation that established the park. In addition, the 1976 Memorandum of Agreement between the NPS and the OST would remain in effect.

CONCEPT #2
Management of the South Unit of Badlands National Park would be shared by the NPS and the OST. The NPS and OST would work together to manage resource protection and visitor use in the South Unit. The laws, regulations, and policies pertaining to units of the National Park System would remain in effect, as would the specific enabling legislation that established the park and any appropriate OST ordinances and resolutions. The NPS and OST would renegotiate the 1976 Memorandum of Agreement to reflect the changed relationship between the two parties. The NPS and the OST would each contribute funding and staff for management of the South Unit.

CONCEPT #3
The South Unit of Badlands National Park would be managed by the OST with technical assistance provided by the NPS. The primary management responsibility for the unit would rest with the OST, while NPS could assist the OST with technical guidance in resource management and visitor use as requested, or as required by authorizing legislation. This concept could be implemented by recreating the South Unit as an affiliated area of the National Park System or by establishing a separate new unit of the National Park System. In either instance, all the laws and policies pertaining to units of the National Park System would remain in effect. The mechanism for funding varies depending on whether the South Unit would remain within the National Park System or become an affiliated area.

CONCEPT #4
The lands of the South Unit would be managed by OST as a Tribal Park/Preservation Area or in some other manner determined by the Tribe, in accordance with Tribal ordinances and resolutions. Staffing and funding would be the responsibility of the Tribe. This concept would deauthorize the South Unit of Badlands National Park and end NPS management there.

Note: If Concept 4 were to be selected, a GMP would not be needed, because the South Unit would no longer be a part of the National Park System. In that case, the following information about resource management and visitor use options would not apply.

Prairie Dog Management Plan and Environmental Assessment

  • The NPS favors the creation of a series of zones for prairie dog management.
    • Prairie Dog Buffer Zone – In this one-quarter mile buffer on park lands adjacent to private lands, prairie dog control would be initiated by private landowner complaint. If 80% of the problem prairie dog colony lies within the buffer zone and encroachment is evident, the entire prairie dog colony would be controlled. All other buffer towns would be managed so that the aggregate buffer zone acreage does not exceed the estimated 2006 acreage of prairie dog colonies in the buffer zone.
    • Bison Management Zone – In the bison management zone, prairie dog populations would be managed to balance their food needs with the forage requirements of the bison. Prairie dog populations would be allowed to fluctuate naturally in densities and acreage until the point that the acreage of prairie dogs plus the acreage used by the bison herd exceeds roughly one-half, or 50-60%, of the available suitable habitat for both species.
    • Prairie Dog Free Range Zone – In this zone, prairie dog populations would be allowed to fluctuate naturally in numbers and in total acreage of colonies. Any prairie dog control would be limited to administrative areas where prairie dog colonies conflict with other park management goals or objectives.
    • Prairie Dog Control Zone – In this zone, prairie dogs would be managed to occupy from 7 to 15% of the available suitable habitat (currently they occupy 7% of suitable habitat in this zone). This zone includes the remainder of North Unit lands that are not managed under one of the other three zones. 

      *Maps of each zone are included in the report.

ORGANIZATIONS FROM FIVE STATES JOIN TOGETHER TO ADDRESS PROPOSED URANIUM MINING

PRESS RELEASE

March 17, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ORGANIZATIONS FROM FIVE STATES JOIN TOGETHER

TO ADDRESS PROPOSED URANIUM MINING

ALSO: Uranium Hearing in Rapid City, SD
April 2 and 3, 2008 – Wed. and Thurs. 8:30 AM (MDST) (more below)

CASPER, WY – Organizations from Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado met in Casper, WY, on Saturday, March 15, to discuss their joint concerns about uranium mining in the Northern Great Plains. Citizens from ten organizations are voicing their concerns about surface and ground water, human health, and local property values.

Defenders of the Black Hills, South Dakota Sierra Club, and ACTion for the Environment attended from South Dakota, which faces mining proposals along the southern Black Hills. The Powder River Basin Resource Council and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance came from Wyoming, where exploratory and mining permits have been applied for in the state. Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction traveled from the northern part of Colorado where uranium mining is also proposed near Fort Collins. Western Nebraska Resources Council, Nebraskans for Peace, and Nebraska Sierra Club arrived from northwest Nebraska where Crow Butte Resources is seeking to expand their uranium mining operations. Members of Dakota Resource Council from northwestern North Dakota are also facing new plans for uranium mining in their part of that state.

In all five states, companies plan to use ‘in situ’ leach mining (ISL) which injects a dissolving solution underground into suspected uranium deposits. The solution dissolves the uranium and its radioactive decay products, as well as heavy metals. This radioactive solution is pumped to the surface. The uranium is then removed and shipped to a mill for concentration into “yellowcake.” The water is re-treated and then injected back underground in a cycle that continues until all the uranium has been extracted. Reverse osmosis is then often used to remove some of the toxics from the water, and the remaining liquid is either injected underground or retained in shallow ponds. Numerous uranium mining companies are making plans throughout the West as a result of recent increases in the price of uranium.

“In Wyoming, there are significant questions about regulation and oversight of uranium operations,” according to Wilma Tope, Powder River Basin Resource Council Board Member. “Citizens need to have a stronger voice in uranium activities.” Wilma’s family owns a ranch in Crook County, WY, and has banded together with other local residents to pressure regulators to ensure adequate protection of local water supplies – both quality and quantity.

In South Dakota, Powertech Uranium Corporation has started drilling more uranium exploratory wells in an area where they already have 4,000 wells in the southwestern Black Hills. “It’s already been proven world-wide that ISL mining contaminates aquifers and then those aquifers cannot be restored to their previous state,” said Charmaine White Face, Coordinator for Defenders of the Black Hills. “South Dakota relies very heavily on aquifers for drinking water and livestock use. We’ve been in a drought for the last ten years and the last thing we need to do is poison our water,” she said.

ACTion for the Environment is very concerned that South Dakota taxpayers will once again have to take on the toxic messes that are left when a mining company leaves as happened previously with Canadian companies. Powertech is a Canadian company. “The Board of Minerals and Environment should remember what happened when they gave approval for the Brohm gold mine. Now SD people are paying for that mess. Are we going to have to pay for a radioactive mess left by another Canadian company?” said Gary Heckenliable of ACTion for the Environment. “Not only South Dakota residents but all the taxpayers of the United States are going to have to pay for this for many, many years to come,” he said.

Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (CARD), formed last year in response to Powertech’s proposal to mine in the rapidly-growing area near Fort Collins. “Of course uranium mining always causes some form of contamination. Water at in situ leach mining sites is not returned to its original condition,” said Jackie Adolph, a member of CARD. “Most people don’t know that federal policies that subsidize the nuclear industry aren’t just about power plants. The nuclear industry’s largest negative impacts have always been in uranium mining and milling processes.”

In Nebraska, Crow Butte Resources (a subsidiary of the Canadian company Cameco Corp.) is seeking to expand one the largest and oldest ISL mines in the country. Organizations have intervened in the NRC’s licensing procedures. “We are particularly concerned about protection of local water supplies and cultural resources,” said Buffalo Bruce, Vice Chair of the Western Nebraska Resources Council. “The NRC has failed to fulfill its duties under the Trust Doctrine, which protects indigenous rights granted to Native American populations under U.S. treaties.”

North Dakota just recently started public hearings to accept comments on ISL mining in that state. Ken Kudrna, a member of Dakota Resource Council, lives only a few miles from where uranium mining is planned to begin.

The groups have issued a common statement:

“We want the uranium industry to know that we stand together on this issue. Whether in a rural setting or a populated area, uranium mining causes radioactive contamination. Past uranium sites continue to contaminate the air, land, and water. Any bonds designed to pay for clean-up of former mining areas have not been sufficient, and taxpayers have been forced to pay the bill. We call on the public and all elected officials to do everything possible to protect the water, land, and local economies from proposed uranium activities.”

More information can be found at:

Defenders of the Black Hills: www.defendblackhills.org

Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction: www.nunnglow.com

Powder River Basin Resource Council: www.powderriverbasin.org

Nebraskans for Peace: http://www.nebraskansforpeace.org/

Contact: Charmaine White Face: (605) 399-1868 Shannon Anderson: (307) 763-1816

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Uranium Hearing in Rapid City, SD
April 2 and 3, 2008 – Wed. and Thurs. 8:30 AM (MDST)

On March 12, 2008, the SD Water Management Board held a hearing in Pierre, SD, on changes to the rules for Chapter 74:55:01 – 74:55:01:61 Underground Injection Control — Class III Wells. The changes are being made to coincide with the changes that the Board of Minerals made last year to accommodate ‘In Situ Leach’ uranium mining. However, as the Board violated state law in cutting off the time for submitting written comments to three weeks before the hearing, a continuation was sought and obtained.

The Water Management Board has continued the hearing for April 2 & 3, 2008, in the Angostura and Deerfield Rooms at theRadisson Hotel on Mount Rushmore Road and Main St., Rapid City, SD. The Hearing will begin at 8:30 AM with a presentation on ISL Uranium Mining by Powertech Uranium Mining Company. General comments and specific comments for changes to the rules will follow. The Board is asking that spokespersons for groups present their comments and not repeat what has been stated previously.

One of the most important rules being considered is 74:55:01:24, Designation of exempted aquifers. With a ten year drought in the Region, with changing weather patterns and global warming, it is very important to maintain underground sources of wa
ter for the years to come. We strongly encourage everyone to ask for a copy of the rules by calling 605-773-3296, on the Internet at http://www.state.sd.us/denr/DES/Ground/grundprg.htm

We also ask as many people as possible to attend this hearing to show your support for keeping our groundwater intact and unpolluted with disturbed uranium. In every place in the world where groundwater has been disturbed for In Situ Leach uranium mining, the groundwater has NOT been able to be restored to its previous condition.

THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT MEETING FOR THE FUTURE OF THE REGION’S GROUNDWATER SOURCES.

 

Oglala Tribe to Amend Constitution and Bylaws

On Tuesday April 22nd, the Oglala Sioux Tribe will host a secretarial election to amend the Constitution and Bylaws for the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. The opinion article by Tim Giago from the Mitchell Republic Newspaper posted below outlines some of these amendments and raises concern that to be eligible to vote in this election tribal members must have resided within the reservation boundaries for a period of one year prior to the election. While this excludes a large percentage of tribal members (e.g. those who live off the reservation), it is based on Title 25, Code of Federal Regulations Part 81.11 and Article VII of the existing Constitution and Bylaws of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Based on the number of phone calls I have received, it is clear that there is a great deal of confusion among tribal members about the intent and implications of these amendments but also the eligibility criteria for voting. I would like to invite readers of this blog to post their concerns and reactions to these issues on this blog so we might expand the range of the dialogue and share more perspectives on these important issues.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Tim Giago syndicated columnist
Published Monday, March 17, 2008
From http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

There are many Oglala Lakota people that are not living on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota that are under the false impression that they are still citizens. Wrong!

One of the most important secretarial elections in the history of the Oglala Lakota will be held on April 22 and in order to vote in that election a supposed tribal member must live on the reservation and must have lived there for at least one year.

Election Board Member George Patton said, “We need to make it very clear that if you want to vote in the upcoming secretarial election you have to be registered and in addition to returning your registration form you need to have lived on the reservation for at least one year to vote.”

A secretarial election is one that is sponsored by and must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior. This election will bring nine very important changes to the Constitution of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Keep in mind that the secretarial elections in 1985 and 1997 allowed ALL tribal members to vote. But now, because of a lack of funds, nearly 50 percent of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s citizens will be disenfranchised.

Nine changes to the OST Constitution will be on the ballot. All nine will affect the lives of the Oglala Lakota people whether they live on the reservation or not. Keep in mind that many Oglala Lakota left the reservation to find jobs because of the nearly 50 percent unemployment rates on the reservation. And now, because they left home in order to provide for their families or to go to college, they are to be denied the right to vote on their own future.

There are nine changes to the OST Constitutions on the ballot.

  1. Four year staggered terms for tribal council representatives and four year concurrent terms for the president and vice president.
  2. Instead of quarterly council meetings the council would be mandated to meet at least one day each month, the last Tuesday of each month.
  3. Restructure the judicial power of the OST by creating a true separation of powers between the council, the courts, and the executive by having a court system created by the Constitution not by the council, by establishing a process to appoint and remove judges and by revising the jurisdiction of the OST.
  4. Revise the process of becoming an enrolled member of the OST by removing the residency requirement from the membership enrollment criteria.
  5. To insulate the OST Treasurer from the political process and remove the Treasurer from the OST executive board, select for a six year term with a requirement of CPA background with five years of tribal government experience.
  6. Mandates the council to adopt a code of ethics within one year of passing which may be revised only by referendum vote.
  7. Establish a bill of rights for members and non-members.
  8. Strengthen and clarify the removal and recall process for elected officials of the OST.
  9. Provide an opportunity to vote on a new name for the tribe: Oglala Lakota Nation, Oglala Lakota Oyate or keep the same name, Pine Ridge Reservation.

Why all of these Constitutional amendments? “We are hoping to streamline the election process. We want to provide an opportunity for as many people as possible to vote on these proposed constitutional changes,” Bob Ecoffey, an election board member and Pine Ridge Agency Superintendent said.

There is little doubt, and all tribal members know this whether they live on or off of the reservation, that these changes to the OST Constitution are badly needed. We have seen council members and even tribal presidents recalled or removed from office without due process. The removal of President Cecilia Fire Thunder is one glaring example.

The newly established Secretarial Election Board includes Bob Ecoffey, BIA superintendent, George Patton, OST attorney, and Craig Dillon, tribal council representative from the LaCreek District.

If the rumors are true that nearly 50 percent of the Oglala Lakota people are to be disenfranchised because of the lack of funds to include them in the election process, then something is seriously wrong. A Nation does not deny its own people the right to vote.

Every Oglala Lakota is included in the head count when it comes to establishing the population of the tribe. And now, if they move off the reservation to go to college or to find a job to provide for their families, they are denied the right to vote in an election that will also have a profound impact upon their lives. It is wrong!

If you are an Oglala Lakota and also find this wrong, call Warren LeBeau at 605-867-5125 and get the information you need to protest this miscarriage of justice. Or call members of the Secretarial Election Board or even the office of the Secretary of Interior himself.

Indian trust trial could lead to big U.S. payout

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

Reposted From: www.indiantrust.com

WASHINGTON — Committed to ending a long-running and contentious lawsuit, a federal judge Wednesday ordered a June trial that may determine whether the federal government owes billions of dollars to American Indians for mismanaging their trust accounts.

“It is time to bring this matter to a close with a decision of one kind or another,” U.S. District Judge James Robertson said at a hearing.

Robertson, the second judge to preside over the class-action lawsuit filed in 1996, gave the Indian plaintiffs two weeks to file a claim detailing how much money has been lost by individual Indians since 1887 because of the government’s breach of its trust duties.

He gave government attorneys a timetable for responding and said he would begin a trial on June 9.

“I am absolutely committed to getting this case resolved with something like a final judgment this summer,” Robertson said.

Dennis Gingold, the lead attorney for the Indians, said after the hearing on Wednesday that he didn’t know how much money the Indians would seek but that it would be in the billions.

When Congress was working to resolve the case legislatively two years ago, the Indians said that they would accept $27.5 billion.

Gingold said he didn’t know whether the claim now would be more than that.

Background on the case
The lawsuit filed in 1996 has taken many a winding trail since the Indian plaintiffs first accused the government of mismanaging their trust accounts and asked for a proper accounting of their funds.

The trust accounts were created to hold the proceeds from oil and gas drilling, grazing, timber cutting and other uses on individual Indians’ land. There are about 300,000 individual account holders, an estimated 53,000 in Oklahoma.

After decades of complaints about mismanagement, Congress passed a law in 1994 requiring reforms in the trust system and an accounting of how much money Indians should have. The Indians sued under that law, claiming the government was not complying.

Robertson ruled in January that accurate re-creations of accounts going back more than a century would be impossible and said it was time to end a case that has seen several trials, top government officials held in contempt of court, numerous appeals and the removal of the first judge in the case.

His ruling was a victory for the Indians, who had long claimed that an “historical accounting” couldn’t be done because millions of records had been lost or destroyed.

U.S. Justice Department attorney Robert Kirschman told Robertson on Wednesday that the Indians weren’t entitled to “damages” in the case because they didn’t seek them when they filed the case.

Pine Ridge Study Tour: June 7th – 14th, 2007

Village Earth and its community partners on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are putting together a study tour June 7-14th, 2008.

If you are interested in participating please contact [email protected].

Schedule subject to change. Please keep visiting this post for updated information.

Below are some highlights of some of the things to expect. 

Bison on Pine Ridge 

Visit Village Earth’s Community Partners and Their Projects Across the Reservation.

Grass Survey

Participate in a Bison Land Stewardship Assessment

Lend a Hand In Community-Based Projects
Above Photo taken at the 2005 Sustainable Nations Training on Pine Ridge

Community Projects

Become a Part of Land Recovery and Bison Restoration on Pine Ridge


Donate Your Used Farm Equipment

Can’t seem to sell that old tractor behind the barn? Village Earth might be able to help. We are currently accepting donations of used farm equipment for community-based land recovery projects on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Receive a tax-deduction for 100% of the fair market value of your equipment while supporting sustainable development and self-determination of the Lakota Nation.

We are currently in need of:

Tractors
Chorrals
Squeeze Chutes
Panels
Barbed Wire
Fence Posts (wooden and metal)
Bobcats
Chain Saws
Saw Mills
Tillers
Etc.

Spring is just around the corner so make your donation today!

For more information or to schedule a pickup please contact: David Bartecchi [email protected]

For Peru’s Indians, Lawsuit Against Big Oil Reflects a New Era

By Kelly Hearn
Special to The Washington Post Thursday, January 31, 2008;

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpMkMEfurts]

NUEVO JERUSALEM, Peru — Tomás Maynas Carijano strolled through his tiny jungle farm, pinching leaves, shaking his head. The rain forest spread lushly in all directions — covering what oil maps call Block 1AB.

“Like the trunk of that papaya, the cassava and bananas are also dying,” said the spiritual leader of this remote Achuar Indian settlement in Peru‘s northern Amazon region. “Before Oxy came, the fruits and the plants grew well.”
Oxy is Occidental Petroleum, the California-based company that pulled a fortune from this rain forest from 1972 to 2000. It is also the company that Maynas and other Achuar leaders now blame for wreaking environmental havoc — and leaving many of the people here ill. Last spring, U.S. lawyers representing Maynas and 24 other indigenous Peruvians sued Occidental in a Los Angeles court, alleging that, among other offenses, the firm violated industry standards and Peruvian law by dumping toxic wastewater directly into rivers and streams.
The company denies liability in the case.
For indigenous groups, the Occidental lawsuit is emblematic of a new era. The Amazon region was once even more isolated than it is today, its people largely cut off from environmental defenders in Washington and other world capitals who might have protected their interests. Now, Indians have gained access to tools that level the playing field — from multinational lawsuits to mapping technologies such as Google Earth.
Oil companies that once traded money and development for Indians’ blessings are increasingly finding outsiders getting involved. “History has shown that oil companies will cut corners if someone isn’t watching,” said Gregor MacLennan of Shinai, an internationally funded civic group in Peru. “We try to get to local communities first to help them make informed decisions about oil companies and the changes they bring.”
Lured by global energy prices, Peru is placing record bets on Amazon energy lodes: Last year the country’s concessions agency, PeruPetro, signed a record 24 hydrocarbon contracts with international oil companies. EarthRights International, a nonprofit group that is helping represent the plaintiffs in the Achuar case, says half of Peru’s biologically diverse Amazon region has been added to oil maps in the last three years.
Occidental pumped 26 percent of Peru’s historic oil production from Block 1AB before selling the declining field to Argentina‘s Pluspetrol in 2000. “We are aware of no credible data of negative community health impacts resulting from Occidental’s operations in Peru,” Richard Kline, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail statement.
Kline said that Occidental has not had operations in Block 1AB in nearly a decade and that Pluspetrol has assumed responsibility for it. Occidental made “extensive efforts” to work with community groups and has a “long-standing commitment and policy to protect the environment and the health and safety of people,” he said.
The California-based group Amazon Watch has joined the suit as a plaintiff, and the case is now inching through U.S. courts. In a federal hearing scheduled for Feb. 11, company lawyers will ask a judge to send the case to Peru, where Indians say corruption and a case backlog will hurt their chance of winning.
Learning Their Rights
The primitive trumpet — a hollowed cow’s horn — brayed over this gritty river community at sundown. Residents of Nuevo Jerusalem, the Achuar settlement on the Macusari River, trudged up a path, toting shotguns and fishing nets. Some stepped down from palm huts, walking to the meeting in twos and threes. Soon, Lily La Torre was on stage.
“I’ve come to give you news of the Oxy suit,” said La Torre, a Peruvian lawyer and activist working with Maynas’s legal team. Barefoot women in dirty skirts circled the room, serving bowls of homemade cassava beer.

Indigenous Movement’s Protest of Oil Development


The Peruvian government, recently, has been involved in an intense campaign to exploit oil and gas resources in the Peruvian Amazon: as of 2007, more than 70% of the Amazon region has been marked for oil and gas development. This number has increased drastically, given that in 2004 only 13% of the area was in the hands of oil and gas companies. Given the ugly history of oil development in the region, indigenous people who make their home in the Amazon are extremely worried about the potential environmental, social, economic, and cultural consequences of such a massive influx of oil and gas exploitation. Moreover, the imposition of oil and gas development in the region without indigenous consent represents a violation of indigenous rights (national and international) to determine their own development path (e.g. International Labour Organization 169). 

Given the power of the Peruvian state and transnational oil companies to control and manipulate the process of oil development, AIDESEP (the Interethnic Development Association for the Peruvian Jungle) and FECONAU (Federation of Native Communities from the Ucayali Region of the Amazon) have asked for our assistance in making indigenous voices (protest) heard at the highest levels. On February 8th, 2008, in Houston, TX, Perupetro is sponsoring an event that is primarily designed to convince potential investors of the benefits of oil development in Peru. Contrary to Peruvian State’s pro-development discourse, leaders of AIDESEP and FECONAU want to manifest their opposition to oil and gas development in Peru and to firmly reject the entrance of petroleum companies on their communal territories. This decision was made on the 22nd of January in a FECONAU conference, with the presence of 120 indigenous leaders, where three (3) delegates were elected unanimously to send a message of protest at the Houston meeting.

What they are asking for:

One plane ticket from Lima to Houston.
Logistical support for food and hotel for a contingency of 4 people.
Transportation (car rental).

WE NEED YOUR HELP!
(You can make a donation with your credit card by clicking PayPal on the upper right corner of this blog or by phone 970-491-5754.)

All donations are 100% tax-deductible and any amount is greatly appreciated!

As you know, Village Earth has been in alliance with Shipibo leaders and indigenous organizations in the Amazon working for their rights to self-determination for over three years now. They are relying on us and our network of supporters to let their voice be heard. This is a seminal moment in protecting both the Amazon rainforest and indigenous livelihoods – WE HAVE TO ACT FAST and WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!