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Posts Tagged ‘tribes’

WikiLeaks: India’s tribes ‘exploited and abused’



"American diplomats consider the Indian government ‘unwilling and unable’ to ‘end the exploitation and victimisation’ of the country’s 84 million tribal people according to secret cables released by The Hindu newspaper.

. . .  While the Indian government is concentrating on economic growth, the cables warn that ‘India’s rapidly expanding population and growing economy have worsened the tribals’ plight by increasing pressure on shrinking forest areas and their resources.’

The government has responded to the tribal peoples’ plight by passing the Forest Rights Act – a law which aims finally to recognise the rights of tribal communities to the forests on which they depend. But the cables point out that there are ‘entrenched and corrupt interests exploiting the forests’. 


. . . ‘the issue is pressing, as non-tribals, aided and abetted by government officials, use corruption and coercion to remove tribals illegally from the forests and gain access to resources.’ . . .

the cables concluded that ‘India's poorly motivated and often corrupt bureaucracy cannot be counted on to administer a bill aimed at protecting the environment and tribals, which the vast majority of Indians care little or nothing about.’

The WikiLeaks cables claim there is a prevailing opinion in India that tribal peoples are ‘an obstacle to development who must be removed from forest lands and ‘integrated’ into the mainstream’. As shown in Survival’s publication, Progress Can Kill, forced integration has devastating impacts on tribal peoples, especially on their mental and physical health.

Read more: http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/7304

Economic development brings problems to Three Affiliated Tribes

In an article entitled "Every Silver Lining has a Cloud" The Week From Indian Country Today, the author explains the many issues now facing the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota due to the booming oil industry in that area.

Oil revenues paid to the Tribes or individual tribal citizens increased 400% since 2009, from $4.5 million in 2008 to $116.4 million in 2011.  The article characterizes the negative effects of this boom as a "humanitarian crisis." 

The article details traffic, law enforcement, and water shortage problems developing on the reservation due to this influx of people and economic development.

Read more. http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/03/15/north-dakota-oil-boom-bringing-jobs-wealth%e2%80%94and-a-looming-humanitarian-crisis-103023

So much for “consultation” with Indian tribes

The Seventh Circuit Bar Association Foundation (not to be confused with the federal United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit) is putting on a conference on the future of the Great Lakes.  http://www.7thcircuitbar.org/index.cfm

Regrettably, and sadly, the conference agenda does not include any Indians (as far as I can tell) or the official participation of any Indian nations and governments.

The purpose of the conference would seem to mandate the inclusion of native peoples and governments from Canada and the United States.

“A program examining the legal and policy issues facing the Great Lakes with 15 prestigious faculty from both the United States and Canada to present a binational perspective on the issues addressed.”

How about presenting a TRI-national perspective and including native governments?

I am currently researching and writing about the United States obligation to consult with Indian tribal governments and communities for any actions the US is considering undertaking that might impact Indians.

I will be comparing that U.S. duty of consultation with the much higher obligation imposed on nation/states under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ”to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting” measures that impact Indigenous Peoples.  See, for example, Declaration Articles 10, 11, 19. 29.

NY Times on California tribes dis-enrolling citizens

Yesterday, the New York Times wrote about thousands of Indians in California who have been kicked out of their tribes in recent years for "the crime of not being of the proper bloodline." 

Almost all tribal governments determine their citizenship based on a certain amount of tribally specific blood.  The idea of using blood quantum to determine tribal citizenship and tribal/federal benefits was introduced to Indians by the federal government.  I believe the United States assumed, and hoped, that diminishing amounts of Indian blood would ensure the eventual extinction of all American Indian tribes.  I have blogged about this before – http://lawlib.lclark.edu/blog/native_america/?p=4914

To read legal analyses of this issue, see Carole Goldberg, MEMBERS ONLY? DESIGNING CITIZENSHIP REQUIREMENTS FOR INDIAN NATIONS, 50 University of Kansas Law Review 437 (2002); John Rockwell Snowden, Wayne Tyndall & David Smith, AMERICAN INDIAN SOVEREIGNTY AND NATURALIZATION: IT'S A RACE THING, 80 Nebraska Law Review 171 (2001). 

The NY Times stated that historically American Indian tribes banished people as punishments for serious offenses, but that "only in recent years, experts say, have they begun routinely disenrolling Indians deemed inauthentic members of a group."

The article added: "Clan rivalries and political squabbles are often triggers for disenrollment, but critics say one factor above all has driven the trend: casino gambling."

The article quotes David Wilkins, a Lumbee Indian and professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota: “Sometimes it is political vendettas or family feuds that have gotten out of hand . . . . But in California, it seems more often than not that gaming revenue is the precipitating factor.”

According to the Times, up to 2,500 Indians have been disenrolled by at least two dozen California tribes in the past decade.

Tribal governments deny that greed or power is motivating these decisions and that they are only upholding the membership rules in their constitutions. 

Some advocates say it is time for Congress to empower the federal courts or the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide legal recourse to Indians who believe they have been disenrolled improperly.

Read the full story – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/us/california-indian-tribes-eject-thousands-of-members.html?_r=2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23&pagewanted=print

National Park Service rule would allow tribes gathering rights in national parks

It is reported that the National Park Service has proposed a new rule that would allow American Indian tribes to remove plants and minerals from national parks for traditional uses.

The document, dated March 25, was stamped “confidential.” It states that NPS intends to authorize agreements with federally recognized Indian tribes to allow plants or minerals to be used for traditional purposes. The agreements would allow the continuation of cultural traditions on ancestral lands that are now part of the NPS estate. The rule would also provide opportunities for tribal youth, the agency and the public to learn about tribal traditions without compromising park values or management, it said.

NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson confirmed that the agency is developing a new rule to address tribal use of park resources. He said the draft rule has changed since March and may continue to change as it is reviewed. The public will have 60 days to comment on the rule once it is published in the Federal Register.

Olson said the rule follows several consultation meetings with tribal leaders in past years, but that the proposal is in its early stages and has not been reviewed by the Interior Department or the White House.

“It began with [NPS Director] Jon [Jarvis] talking with tribal folks and making a commitment to listen and see if there can’t be a compromise reached.”

But the proposal has riled Park Service employees who maintain the agency is violating its founding 1916 Organic Act in the name of political correctness, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Ruch said the agency’s proposal raises an emotional issue, but that overturning the current rule should require the consent of Congress, which has expressly allowed tribal plant gathering in at least eight park units.

Three Affiliated Tribes developing oil industry

Chairman Tex G. Hall writes in Indian Country Today that his tribe, The Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nations, is building an oil refinery on its reservation. The tribes’ reservation in western North Dakota sits atop the largest contiguous oil field in US history.

After years of effort, the tribe finally received EPA approval of the key permit to construct the refinery and construction has already begun. It is expected to created 600-1,000 jobs during the two year construction period and then 65 permanent jobs. The tribal college, the Fort Berthold Community College, is already offering two year degrees in refining to prepare tribal citizens for jobs at the refinery.

Read more.

Canadian tribes and groups release fact sheet on UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Various Canadian First Nations tribes and groups issued this information on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

” 1. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an international human rights instrument adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007 after more than two decades of negotiations.

2. The Declaration affirms the inherent or pre-existing collective human rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as the individual human rights of Indigenous women, men and children. It provides a framework for justice and reconciliation, applying existing human rights standards to the specific historical, cultural and social circumstances of Indigenous peoples.

3. In its preamble, the UN Declaration is described as “a standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and respect.” Indeed, it reinforces the Treaty relationships that exist between Indigenous peoples and the Crown and which form “the basis for a strengthened partnership…”

4. The Declaration also states that the rights it contains “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” (article 43)

5. In his role as UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya states:

“The standards affirmed in the Declaration share an essentially remedial character, seeking to redress the systemic obstacles and discrimination that indigenous peoples have faced in their enjoyment of basic human rights.”

6. Like other international human rights declarations, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides an authoritative source of guidance for all institutions of society, including legislators and government departments, courts, human rights bodies, and public institutions such as universities.

7. The Declaration is more than aspirational. Although declarations are not the same as treaties or conventions, they do have diverse legal effects. The Declaration reflects rights already found in human rights treaties. It also reflects what is known as customary international law – legal standards that have become obligatory on states through their widespread use.

8. Courts are free to rely on declarations in interpreting human rights – as are Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments and human rights bodies.

9. Unlike conventions, declarations do not need to be signed or ratified. Declarations adopted by the General Assembly are considered universally applicable from the time of their adoption.

10. International human rights standards are vital in promoting rights that states have failed to uphold. Domestic laws and policies should be reformed so as to uphold such global standards.

Is the Declaration consistent with the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

11. In a May 2008 open letter, over 100 Canadian legal scholars and other experts on matters of law and Indigenous rights, stated that not only is the UN Declaration “consistent with the Canadian Constitution and Charter,” it is also “profoundly important for fulfilling their promise.”

What is the Government of Canada’s position on the Declaration?

12. After opposing and campaigning against the Declaration for more than four years, the federal government issued an official statement of endorsement in November 2010. In its endorsement, and in other statements made since then, the federal government has not accepted that it is under any obligation to review and revise laws and policies to bring them into line with the standards set out in the Declaration.

13. There is an inherent contradiction in the notion of supporting an international human rights instrument only to the extent that it is consistent with a state’s constitution and laws. Yet this is the position taken by the Canadian government on the UN Declaration. International bodies have indicated repeatedly to states that they should reform their laws and policies, so as to conform to international human rights standards.

14. Unilateral statements made by the Government of Canada, either in association with its endorsement or made elsewhere, do not affect the legal status of the Declaration in Canada.

15. Significantly, Canada’s House of Commons endorsed the Declaration without condition or qualification in a resolution dated 8 April 2008.

How should the Declaration be implemented in Canada?

16. Governments, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, are urged to use the Declaration as the basis for reviewing and reforming laws and policies to ensure that Indigenous peoples’ rights are upheld without discrimination.

17. Courts and human rights tribunals can use the Declaration as a relevant and persuasive source in interpreting Indigenous human rights and related state obligations.

18. Indigenous peoples and their institutions are using the Declaration as a principled framework for advancing their rights, in their own policy- and decision-making and in their negotiations with governments and other third parties.

19. Civil society organizations are working cooperatively with Indigenous peoples, in promoting and implementing their human rights and maintaining the Declaration as a living instrument.

20. Educational institutions are encouraged to include the Declaration in their curriculum, including in teacher training.

21. Corporations and investors should ensure their human rights policies and business practices fully incorporate the standards in the Declaration.

What is happening internationally?

22. The global consensus that now exists in support of the Declaration reinforces its weight as a universal human rights instrument. The ongoing and widespread human rights violations against Indigenous peoples worldwide underline the urgency of realizing full and effective implementation of the Declaration.

23. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasizes that the “Declaration is now among the most widely accepted UN human rights instruments. It is the most comprehensive statement addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples to date, establishing collective rights and minimum standards on survival, dignity, and wellbeing to a greater extent than any other international text.”

24. The Declaration is being used by UN treaty bodies to interpret Indigenous peoples’ rights and related State obligations under international treaties.

25. Similar use of the Declaration is being made by UN specialized agencies and the Human Rights Council’s special procedures and mechanisms, which include special rapporteurs and independent experts. The Declaration is also being relied upon by domestic and regional courts, as well as other bodies within regional human rights systems in Africa and the Americas, including the Caribbean.

26. Greenland negotiated with Denmark significantly enhanced self-government, which its Premier describes “as a de facto implementation of the Declaration and… hopefully an inspiration to others”.

27. The Supreme Court of Belize relied in part on the UN Declaration in an October 2007 case that affirmed the land and resource rights of the Maya people.

28. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights used the UN Declaration and other legal standards in its November 2007 ruling on the land rights of the Saramaka people in Suriname.”

Washington Tribes exploring forest carbon opportunities

American Indian tribal governments in Washington state will participate in a pilot project to test the development of forest carbon projects on tribal lands.

The $2.45 million project aims to “develop protocols that overcome the legal and technical barriers faced by tribes in entering carbon credit trading markets.”

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation of Washington State, which include the Arrow Lakes (Lakes), Chelan, Colville, Entiat, Nespelem, Okanogan, Methow, Moses-Columbia, Nez Perce, Palus, San Poil, and Wenatchee (Wenatchi) tribes are participating.

“This project will demonstrate and adapt innovative GHG emission mitigation strategies and management systems to help create and monetize forest carbon offsets on tribal lands across the United States,” said Gene Nicholson, Chairman of the Board of The Colville Tribal Enterprise Corporation. “

“Due to a myriad of issues regarding private property laws, tribes have been left out of the regulatory process for federal and state sponsored climate change initiatives and this project will help tribes across the country clear that hurdle,” added Tiffany Potter, Managing Director at EcoAnalytics.

There are more than 80 forest carbon projects currently active across the United States, but only four projects listed under the Climate Action Reserve verification system are generating certified reductions credits. At present there are no active forest carbon projects on Indian reservations.

Read more.

Washington Tribes becoming economic powerhouses

News From Indian Country newspaper ran an article about the amazing success that three tribes in particular have created in central Washington.

The paper reported that “American Indian tribes from throughout the Puget Sound area . . . find ample reasons to celebrate in South Sound, which is home to three growing tribes: the Squaxin Island Tribe of Mason County, . . . and two Thurston County tribes, the Nisqually and the Chehalis.”

The article states that all three tribes have transformed themselves from poverty conditions by emphasizing long-term economic development goals – propelled by casino operations and other business interests. The tribes are now among the largest employers of tribal citizens and non-citizens in the two counties.

And more growth is on the way. The paper lists these examples:

–The Squaxin Island Tribe will open the Salish Cliffs 18-hole golf course.

–The Nisqually Tribe is to begin work on a $20 million, 300-bed correctional facility limited to low-risk offenders that will create 90 to 100 jobs. It is being financed with grants from the U.S. Department of Justice and a 40-year loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The tribe will receive revenue from other jurisdictions in the region for housing their inmates, Tribal Planning Director Joe Cushman said.

–The Chehalis Confederated Tribes have started expansion work on the Eagles Landing Hotel and plans to add 90 rooms.

Thurston County Economic Development Council Executive Director Michael Cade said that no matter how you view the tribal operations, the three tribes play a significant role in the area’s economy.

The paper notes that the economic development these tribes are experiencing is a far cry from where they started.

Squaxin Island Tribal Administrator Don Whitener remembers his tribe’s humble beginnings, when the tribe’s annual budget was no more than $350. Whitener, born in Shelton in 1941, grew up in Kamilche – the tribe’s base of operations – in a house with no running water and an outhouse, he said.

Today, based on earnings from its Island Enterprises division, a collection of businesses that includes the Kamilche Trading Post, Skookum Creek Tobacco and Salish Seafoods, the tribe can provide a monthly stipend to tribal elders, and tribal citizens receive three payments a year based on earnings from the casino.

Read more.

Congress approves longer leases for Oregon tribes

On December 22, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation sponsored by Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden that will assist economic growth for the Klamath, Coquille, Burns Paiute, Siletz, and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Suislaw in Oregon. The new federal law allows these five Oregon tribes to lease their trust land for up to 99 years. Hopefully, this move will drive long-term business and economic development on these tribal lands. (Long term leases can also be a problem for economic development as business trends and opportunities rise and fall.)

Previously, these five federally recognized tribes had to renew leases every 25 years, a limitation that had been in effect since 1955, and which was seen as hindering economic growth and beneficial business arrangements to develop retail outlets or housing etc.

“This bill allows us to really get to the table and offer something to people interested in a joint venture,” said Bob Garcia, chairman of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, which owns and operates the Three Rivers Casino in Florence.

Aritcle notes court case losses for tribes

An article in Indian Country Today highlights recent losses by tribes in court rulings that Indian nations could not reclaim their illegally taken ancestral lands or receive compensation for their losses.

In particular, in two eastern land rights cases by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York and the Onondaga Nation, the article claims that the courts “tossed aside some of the earliest Indian treaties with the United States and ignored the federal government’s own laws prohibiting the sale or transfer of Indian land without the approval of Congress.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rules against the Oneida Nation and weeks later a federal district court dismissed the Onondaga Nation’s land rights suit.

The Onondaga Nation sought a declaratory judgment that various lands were unlawfully acquired by New York in violation of the federal Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, the U.S. Constitution, the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix and the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua.

In his Sept. 22 decision, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn said the “profoundly disruptive nature” of the nation’s claims – meaning disruptive to those who are currently occupying and benefitting from the developed land – “fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted.”

Tribes exploring renewable energy prospects: Need money

American Indian tribes in Michigan are seeking to develop renewable energy, but a lack of money is impeding many projects.

Michigan tribes have a potential for wind energy and wood-based biomass, said Roger Taylor, the principal project manager of the Tribal Energy Program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

Frank Ettawageshik, executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan and the former chair of the Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians, said tribes are close to the environment and vulnerable to environmental degradation.

Tribal lands cover about 5 percent of the United States and hold an estimated 10 percent of the country’s renewable energy resources, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

But its study shows tribes are bearing the brunt of climate change. For example, tribes of the Great Lakes have reported diminishing elk and moose herds, as climate change forces animals north to colder habitats.

Don Seal, a community engineer at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, said renewable energy helps his tribe offset the carbon footprint of fossil fuels.

The tribe did a wind study in 2004 and will install its first wind turbine by the end of this year, he said. The 300-kilowatt turbine will power its greenhouse and homes.

Tribes seeking to trade with Turkey

Native American tribal leaders are seeking trade ties with Turkish companies who have offered tribes tax incentives.

The president of the Turkish Coalition of America organized a trip in which leaders of 17 American Indian tribes were welcomed by the Turkish government, and were working to bolster trade ties with the United States.

The Turkish minister for foreign trade met the U.S. delegation in Istanbul to discuss areas of possible cooperation in tourism and construction. The delegation was also scheduled to visit the Turkish Contractors Association in Ankara.

“Ten years from now, I hope that we will be meeting as business partners, not just people pursuing business opportunities,” Michael Finley, chairman of the Tribes of Colville Reservation in eastern Washington state, said after meeting the minister in Istanbul.

The delegation, including seven tribal leaders, chief executive officers of Native American companies as well as casino operators and Indian affairs experts, also visited some Turkish universities to discuss scholarships available to support Native Americans. The Turkish Coalition of America offers its own scholarships to study in Turkey to up to 100 American minority students each year.

North Carolina tribes seek federal recognition

Recent discussions demonstrate the interest of native peoples in North Carolina of becoming federally recognized in order to keep their histories alive, among other reasons.

The new report states that North Carolina is home to the largest number of American Indian communities east of the Mississippi River, but that most of them do not receive the same federal recognition and benefits that other minority groups do.

Greg Richardson, executive director of the N.C. Commission on Indian Affairs, said he believes one issue facing native tribes, such as the Lumbee Tribe, is the lack of federal recognition that keeps them from acquiring resources to address the needs of the community.

Edward Brooks, legal counsel to and member of the Lumbee Tribe, said he has been working to pass a bill granting federal recognition to the tribe.
“Because the Lumbee do not have a reservation and are not federally recognized, we have had to assimilate to stay in North Carolina and have lost part of our identity,” Brooks said.

The tribes are trying to survive not only on a legal level, but also on a cultural level, said Tom Belt, who teaches the Cherokee language at Western Carolina University.

Washington tribes receive land into trust

Federal law has provided since at least 1934, for the United States to take new areas of land into trust status for Indian tribes. “Trust status” means that the land is legally owned by the United States but beneficially owned by the tribe. The land also becomes Indian country as defined by 18 U.S.C. sec 1151.

Such lands are no longer taxable by state and county governments and state regulatory laws will barely, if at all, apply any longer to such lands.

This process has become controversial in recent decades because of the loss of state taxes and regulatory control and especially if opponents think tribes are going to use new lands to conduct gaming.

In light of these issues, some tribes have waited years and years for the U.S. Department of the Interior to take into trust lands the tribes purchased.

Consequently, every new land-into-trust decision is newsworthy.

And so, the recent news that the Department of Interior approved land trust acquisitions for the Puyallup and Suquamish Indian tribes in Washington state is in the news. The Puyallup Tribe’s reservation is near Tacoma, while the Suquamish Tribe is in Kitsap County.

Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced his approval on Wednesday for the tribes to take land into trust to be used for activities related to their existing casinos. Echo Hawk said neither tribe sought approval of actual gaming activities to be conducted on the newly acquired lands.