The Honorable Rick Nolan
U.S. House of Representatives
July 12, 2013
Dear Mr. Nolan:
My name is Robert DesJarlait. I am the Director of Protect Our Manoomin (POM). POM was organized in 2010 and is an Minnesota Anishinaabe organization that provides education and outreach in issues concerning wild rice (manoomin). Members in our organization include individuals from the Mississippi, Red Lake, Sandy Lake, Rice Lake, Fond du Lac, Pembina, Bois Forte, and White Earth Ojibwe Bands. Currently, there are 1,125 members in POM.
I think when people speak about wild rice, they often do so without factoring in the tribal aspect. We talk about scientific approaches, evaluation, and protocols. We Anishinaabe already know the ecological importance of wild rice. We’ve known this long before Minnesota became a state. We know its value. And we know about its beneficial uses. We’ve known this for many, many generations.
When our leaders signed treaties in the 1880’s, they knew of the importance of wild rice, and they retained the right to harvest the rice and to protect the environment that produced rice. It was not a right granted to us, it was a right we retained.
The Co-Director of Protect Our Manoomin wrote about the meaning of wild rice. It not only speaks of the mindset of those of us who protect wild rice, but it also speaks quite eloquently of beneficial uses of wild rice. She wrote as follows:
"Manoomin and my people's ways are important to me. Both of those things are also endangered. That's why we (family, friends and relations) had to organize a group that would somehow try to protect this gift. Our food source and our culture are under attack by the state of Minnesota and other corporate interests. They only understand value in a monetary sense. That's why they have no qualms about poisoning our waters and our communities with the byproducts of manufacture, to the fullest extent possible. In the pursuit of financial gain, they have lost all sense of reason, judgment and perspective. We ask only that our manoomin beds be protected. So that the nourishment received from this plant to our people and our culture can continue to feed the spirit and body for generations to come.
And I could type for days trying to describe the sheer beauty of the season and all the sensory treasures it holds in store and I could go on even longer about how precious of a gift we consider our sacred food. This is one of the few times a year that our communities have an easier time simply existing. The work is hard but to have some free food, and to engage in the traditions of our ancestors and to really be connected to this good earth....well it makes up for all that sweat and strain, surely. This is the time of year when families get together, stories and jokes are told, the memory is flexed and (sometimes stretched) and the people are generally in good spirits. There is less of a financial strain and stress because of the rice that is sold. Many people are able to supplement their children's clothes, pay bills and maybe even buy a car to be able make it to school, job, next seasonal work, hospital and grocery store. For one time of the whiteman's billing year - it's not so hard making ends meet. These examples, and so many more, are why I love Manoominike giizis (the Wild Rice Moon) and our ricing culture."
Wild rice is an environmental resource. Healthy stands of wild rice are the barometer of a healthy ecosystem. But sulfates, which are released through the sulfide mining process, enter into rivers and lakes. The sulfates drift into the sediment where they convert into hydrogen sulfide that enters the root system of wild rice. Concentrations of sulfates that are over 10 parts per million of sulfate impairs the growth of wild rice resulting in withered leaves and smaller seeds; high concentrations of sulfates suffocate and kill wild rice. Macroinvertebrates, vegetation, flora, fish, waterfowl, and wildlife are impacted. Additionally, sulfate-reducing bacteria transforms into methyl mercury that leads to mercury fish contamination. Minnesota state law limits sulfate to 10 parts per million to protect wild rice. We are concerned that the nonferrous mining proposed for northern and central Minnesota will exceed the limits of the law and adversely affect the growth of wild rice.
There is approximately 48,200 acreage of wild rice within the ceded lands of the 1854 and 1855 treaties. Thousands of acreage will be impacted by sulfide mining. The combined total of wild rice in 1854 and 1855 ceded lands account for over three-quarters of the estimated total 64,000 wild rice acreage in Minnesota. Under the treaties, the Anishinaabeg maintain usufructuary rights to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice. These usufructuary rights were affirmed by the Supreme Court decision – Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band - in 1999. However, the issue of ceded lands has been marginalized by the nonferrous mining corporations that seek to build mining districts within ceded lands.
Protect Our Manoomin supports environmentally safe and responsible mining if the following criterion is met:
1. Responsible mining does not threaten to the St. Louis River Watershed and the Upper Mississippi Watershed.
2. Responsible mining does not threaten the economy of manoomin harvesters.
3. Responsible mining does not threaten/negatively impact the cultural heritage or survival of any local Native residents.
4. Responsible mining does not have the potential to harm Lake Superior in any way.
5. Responsible mining does not do irreparable damage to the ceded lands of the 1854 and 1855 treaties.
Protect Our Manoomin asks that you ensure that wild rice, Minnesota’s official state grain, is protected in regard to legislation that advances the development of nonferrous mining in Minnesota.
Robert DesJarlait, Director, Protect Our Manoomin.
Video from the Idle No More Environmental & Treaty Rights Symposium held on March 22, 2013 at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.
Note: In 2005, I wrote two commentaries on the tragedy that happened on March 21, 2005. It's a day I remember well. I remember exactly where I was when I received news about what had happened on that day. Today is March 21. In remembering that day, I've decided to republish my commentaries - Robert DesJarlait
Published in The Circle
In the days following the shootings at Red Lake High School, a disturbing media portrait has emerged of the youth of Red Lake. Numerous articles and opinion pieces have cited suicide, depression, deprivation, poverty, despair, and hopelessness as the reality of everyday life for our youth. In one writer’s perspective, Jeffery Weise epitomizes the “self-hatred that exists among so many American Indian youth.”
Those of us from Red Lake will not deny problems exist. Gangs, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse are a part of life on the Red Lake reservation. The lives of many Redlakers have been affected by these problems. Indeed, many of these problems are generational with roots in the boarding school era. The generational trauma of one generation has been passed to the next.
However, the problems facing our youth are not exclusive to Red Lake; we know these problems exist beyond the borders of our land. These are problems that thread through all communities regardless of race, culture, or ethnicity.
Yet, in a time of great grief and sadness, some in the media have chosen to single out and essentially condemn the youth of Red Lake. In doing so, they are condemning a way of life.
A pertinent point that many in the media miss is Redlakers, including our youth, choose to live in Red Lake because it is our ancestral home and the conditions of life, though difficult they may be at times, are accepted. In the Ojibwe way of life, one lives within nature not outside it. Unlike the Westernized sense of nature, nature is not conquered for the sole purpose of habitation and dominion.
To outsiders, Red Lake may seem like a bleak and harsh environment. But they don’t feel the richness of life that exists within the boundaries of Red Lake. They do not hear the songs of our trees. They do not draw spiritual strength from our lake. And they do not understand the relationship with the animals and birds that roam freely, a relationship that borders on the biological. Sadly, in their quest for dominion, they have lost the understanding of what it means to live within the Four Orders of Life.
The value system of mainstream America is based on materialism. According to Western linear thinking, to live in poverty is to be deprived of those values. In turn, deprivation leads to depression, despair, hopelessness and, assumingly, suicide. It is a typical knee-jerk equation to help understand the tragic event in Red Lake.
But this equation is too simplistic. It can be applied to youth on other reservations, to the inner city, and, indeed, the rural areas.
The real problem for our youth is learning to incorporate and balance our traditional values within their everyday life. This does not mean they have to reject the modern world. Rather, it means the core of their identity remains rooted in the morals, norms, and values of Anishinaabe culture in the mainstream world they co-exist in.
It is, admittedly, a difficult task to live in two worlds. Our youth live in a world infused with real and imagined violence fed by the media, video games, T.V., and movies. In this world, respect has become an antiquated value. Some, like Jeffery Wiese, become so desensitized and dehumanized that they are consumed with a self-hatred that all too often leads to horrific acts.
However, self-hate is not the norm of Red Lake youth. And to generalize self-hate, or, for that matter, despair and hopelessness, as the roots causes for this tragedy places a burden of blame and guilt on our youth.
Unlike the media portrait, our children do not walk around with clouds of despair and hopelessness hanging over their heads. Their beautiful faces are not marred with scowls of self-hate.
Certainly, they need our guidance in these tragic times. We as elders know that what occurred at Red Lake happened for a reason. It is our wake-up call. We need to counter the condemnation of our youth by striving to work together to bring our youth home – home to the spirit from whence they came. The time of their healing, renewal, and awakening is now.
Published in The Circle and Red Lake Net News
Red Lake and the Stereotyping of Our Youth
In an interview I did with the Minneapolis Star Tribune (3/22), I was quoted as saying “on one hand there is a Columbine pattern in this…Gothic, a loner, this Nazi stuff.” Unfortunately, what I said “on the other hand” didn’t make it to print. In my addendum, I said it would be wrong to assume that the Gothic lifestyle, in general, fit the Columbine pattern. In other words, Gothic does not, in and of itself, imply a lifestyle founded on violence nor does it lead to violence. To do so would assume a stereotype.
We, as Indian people, know about stereotypes. Our varied indigenous cultures and identities have been seeped in stereotypes ever since the first Europeans stepped ashore on Turtle Island. We react strongly to any form of stereotyping that continues to imprint us today; Indian school mascots and Indian team names are but two examples. Ironically, we, who are stereotyped, have stereotyped our own youth.
In the aftermath of the Red Lake High shooting, we now know that Jeff Weise was not the Gothic loner as he was first portrayed in the media. There are other Red Lake youth who, in varying degrees, have adopted a Gothic lifestyle. And, by implication of that lifestyle, some Red Lake members, and the FBI, have assumed there was a larger conspiracy afloat.
Two such Red Lake youth, Cartera Hart and Alyssa Roy, were quoted as saying they were getting strange looks from people and that more and more people would be tormenting them and thinking they were involved in a conspiracy.
For these youth, one’s manner of clothing has assumed the burden of a stereotype, one that differs little from the 1880s imagery of Indian people as an ungodly, pagan people lacking family skills and social values and to whom violence was a way of life.
But the stereotyping of our youth doesn’t end there. Should a youth dress in hip-hop clothing and listen to rap music, he/she is invariably pegged as a gang member. In doing so, we, as a tribal community, assume a stereotype. In doing so, we are committing something that we so strongly condemn – a form of racial profiling.
And, the stereotyping goes much further. The color complex is deeply ingrained in our communities. An Indian youth of an interracial marriage may lack the physiognomy usually associated with Indian features. The disturbing stereotype that emerges of such youth is that because they don’t look the part, they can never be useful or accepted members of the tribal community.
We often talk about how lost our youth is but how lost are we to reach a point in which we stereotype our youth? Who are we, of all people, to do so? Are we giving vent to yet one more form of internalized oppression?
It is clear that the stereotyping of our youth threatens to tear our community asunder. The arrest of Louis Jourdain as an alleged co-conspirator had led some Red Lake members to assume guilt before innocence. Some have shamelessly used the arrest for political leverage in that Floyd Jourdain should be held accountable for his son’s assumed role and therefore resign as tribal chairman. They seem to overlook the fact that we, as parents, are not accountable for our children’s actions once they leave our homes. We can only hope they make wise decisions. Indeed, were we to be held accountable for the all the actions of our children, we would have lost our parental rights long ago and our children would be living in non-Indian adoption homes.
Rather than creating animosities, we need to stay focused on healing our community and helping our youth. To condemn our youth for the way they dress, for the music they listen to, or for the way they talk only increases their alienation. And, in doing so, we invariably place the blame on our children.
Where does this end? Sadly, we know where it can end. We witnessed one such ending on March 21. We now know where the stereotyping, and the resultant alienation, of our youth can lead. It is time for us to come together to show our youth the way. Not through animosity, but by reasserting an Anishinaabe value handed down to us by our elders - respect for our children.
These maps provide the viewer with visual images, via maps, of the Red Lake ceded land site where Enbridge has illegally placed their pipelines. There are four pipelines buried three-feet in the ground and, in some places, the pipeline is exposed. The 8 1/2 acre ceded land area is an isthmus that runs between West Four Legged Lake. Maps 1, 3, and 4 are screen shots from the video - "Red Lake Direct Action to Stop Illegal Enbridge Pipeline."
One of the four pipes was built in 1949 by the Lakehead Pipe Line Company. Lakehead was later incorporated under Enbridge Energy Partners. The pipeline covered 990 miles, beginning at Redwater, Alberta and running through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, and ending at Superior, Wisconsin. Originally, four oil tankers were built to ship the oil from Superior to Sarnia, Ontario. Because winter prevented tanker traffic, the pipeline was extended from Superior to Sarnia in 1953. It became the world's longest pipeline covering 1,760 miles.
The Red Lake Tribal Council has demanded for the removal of the pipeline. As indicated by the maps, re-routing will be an extensive and expensive task for Enbridge. However, Enbridge does not have an easement agreement with the tribe. Under Red Lake sovereign jurisdiction, is trespassing on tribal domain.
The Alberta Clipper - From Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. Clearbrook, MN is a hub for Enbridge operations. The Red Lake/Leonard, MN pipelines are located southeast of Clearbook.
Link to Article on Intercontinental Cry:
Sign at Enbridge Encampment - No Trespassing / Photo by Red Lake member
BY ROBERT DESJARLAIT
• MAR 10, 2013
To the southwest of the Red Lake Anishinaabe Nation, lie desolate, wooded lands that were opened for settlement and home-steading under the Agreement of 1889. In 1945, Oscar Chapman, Assistant Secretary of Interior, signed an Order of Restoration that restored unsold ceded lands of the Agreements of 1889 and 1904 to the Red Lake Band. Although most of the southwestern ceded land was sold during 1889 land rush, several areas remained unsold and were returned to Red Lake, including eight acres located outside the town of Leonard, MN.
In 1949, the Lakehead Pipe Line Company built an underground pipeline on the ceded land outside Leonard. Lakehead was the U.S. base of operations for Canada’s Interprovincial Pipe Line Co. (IPL – owned by Exxon predecessor Standard Oil of New Jersey). Other Lakehead pipelines followed in 1958, 1962, and 1972. In 1998, IPL changed its name to Enbridge Inc., a name that combined “energy” and “bridge.”
On February 28, 2013, Marty Cobenais, a Red Lake member and a Tar Sands organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, entered the Red Lake ceded land site. Accompanied by several Red Lake Band members, Native, and non-Native supporters, Cobenais occupied the Enbridge pipelines that were considered to be illegally on Red Lake ceded land.
Cobenais’ action wasn’t spontaneous. In the months preceding the occupation, he set up informational meetings in Red Lake, Bemidji, Fond du Lac, and Minneapolis to discuss environmental issues associated with Tar Sands and, in particular, Enbridge pipelines on Minnesota Anishinaabeg homelands.
In regard to Red Lake, Cobenais’ Enbridge Expansion Fact Sheet pointed out that “the Red Lake Nation has not signed any easements or agreements with Enbridge, the company trespassed and illegally constructed and maintained pipelines on Red Lake ceded lands.
“In 2011, this issue was brought to light and the Red Lake Tribal Council…has considered several options, including signing an easement with a mutually agreed upon payment, charging Enbridge with trespassing, injunctions stopping the flow of the oil in the pipelines and, removal of the pipelines from the ceded land altogether.
“Red Lake, Leech Lake, and Fond du Lac land and waters are or will be impacted by the pipelines and therefore the tribes should have significant input regarding the proposed expansions [of barrels per day]. They have the power to pass resolutions opposing the increase and submit these resolutions to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Department of State, and the Department of Interior.”
Nisawa`igan (Tipi) – Enbridge Encampment / Photo by Jenna Pope
In Zha Wen Dun Aki
In 2008, Enbridge announced its Alberta Clipper pipeline (Line 67) expansion to connect with its point of origin at Hardisty, Alberta. In 2009, construction began with four spreads, or sections – Neche, N.D. to Viking, MN, Viking to Clearbrook MN, Clearbrook to Deer River, MN, Deer River to Superior, WI.
The 326 mile-long pipeline was completed in 2010 and carries 440,000 barrels per day of DilBit (Diluted Bitumen) from Alberta Tar Sands. Clearbrook, MN, located near the Leonard ceded land site, is a hub for Enbridge’s pipeline operations. Enbridge is in the process of seeking approval to increase its DilBit capacity to 800,000 barrels per day.
Enbridge’s Southern Lights pipeline runs alongside the Alberta Clipper. The Southern Lights pipeline reverses the flow and pumps gasoline-like liquids called diluents. Southern Lights pumps 180,000 barrels per day and runs from Chicago to Edmonton.
Minnesota Anishinaabe grassroots opposition to Enbridge began in 2009 with Enbridge’s construction of its Alberta Clipper pipeline through the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Anishinaabe reservations. The Leech Lake and Fond du Lac tribal governments accepted payment from Enbridge Pipeline for easement through their reservations. According to sources, Fond du Lac settled for $17 million and Leech Lake for $10 million.
In reaction to Leech Lake’s tribal resolution for easement, Leech Lake activists formed In Zha Wen Dun Aki (Loving the Earth). The goal of In Zha Wen Dun Aki was “to bring attention to tribal sovereignty and indigenous rights to the land, as well as to the environmental and health impacts caused by inevitable accidental spills along the route.”
In July 2009, In Zha Wen Dun Aki filed a civil lawsuit in Leech Lake Tribal Court, seeking a temporary restraining order against Enbridge Energy from starting the proposed pipelines on the Leech Lake Reservation. The lawsuit contended that the pipeline would result in irreparable risks to Leech Lake Band’s water and land base.
The group also filed two petitions to the Leech Lake Reservation Business Committee (RBC). The RBC is the governing body of the Leech Lake Band. The first petition asked that the Leech Lake RBC rescind the resolution ratifying the agreement with Enbridge. The second petition requested that the agreement be put to a referendum vote.
In September 2009, the RBC rejected the petitions. In February 2010, Leech Lake Judge, B.J. Jones, dismissed In Zha Wen Dun Aki’s lawsuit, citing that the petitioners did not have a Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT) Constitutional right to subject the RBC administrative resolution to a referendum because there were no policies or procedures in the MCT Constitution that outlined how the referendum petition was supposed to work. The MCT is comprised of 6 tribal governments that include the following northern Minnesota reservations: Leech Lake, Bois Forte, Mille Lacs, White Earth, Grand Portage, and Fond du Lac. All of these reservations are currently required to follow the Constitution and By-laws of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.
Mashkiki-Ishkode (Sacred Fire) – Enbridge Encampment / Photo by Jenna Pope
Energy Bridge of Destruction
The environmental concerns of Anishinaabe activists regarding Enbridge were not unfounded. Enbridge oil spills affected, and continue to affect, the homelands and ceded lands of the Anishinaabe. According to Enbridge company data collected by the Polaris Institute, a Canadian think tank, Enbridge pipelines have spilled 804 times since 1999 and leaked 6.8 million gallons of oil. In Minnesota, there were 57 Enbridge spills from 2000 to 2009 with $36 million in property damage.
A partial record of spills include:
January 2001: A seam failure on a pipeline near Enbridge’s Hardisty Terminal in Alberta spilled more than 1 million gallons of oil.
July 2002: An Enbridge subsurface pipe at Cohasset, MN ruptured and released 250,000 gallons of crude oil into the environment. The Executive Summary by Natural Resource Trustees stated: “The Trustees have determined that the Incident caused long-term injuries to wetland vegetation and wildlife habitats. It has also been determined that the Incident caused injury to air resources.” Leech Lake land was affected by the spill.
January 2003: About 189,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Nemadji River from the Enbridge Energy Terminal in Superior, Wisconsin
January 2007: An Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin spilled more than 50,000 gallons of crude oil in Clark County. The following month another Enbridge spill in Wisconsin released 176,000 gallons of crude oil in Rusk County.
November 2007: Two workers were killed in an explosion that occurred at an Enbridge pipeline in Clearbrook, MN.
April 2010: At Deer River, MN, 250 gallons of crude oil leaked out from an Enbridge pipeline of into a wetland area located on the Leech Lake reservation.
July 2010: A cracked and corroded pipeline in Michigan ruptured, sending more than 843,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River, a major state waterway that flows into Lake Michigan. The spill stretched for some 35 miles, fouling waterways and wetlands. About 320 people reported symptoms from crude oil exposure.
March 2012: A vehicle collision resulted in a leak of Enbridge’s 14/64 at New Lenox, Ill. Line 14/64 carries crude oil from Superior, WI to Griffith, Ind. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency estimated between 2,500 gallons to 20,000 gallons leaked from the pipeline before the valves were shut off.
July 2012: An Enbridge pipeline spilled 50,000 gallons of crude oil in Adams County, WI.
Sign – Enbridge=Eco-terrorists / Photo by Jenna Pope
On February 21, Marty Cobenais held a meeting with Red Lake members of Nizhawendaamin Inaakiminaan (We Love Our Land) Native, and non-Native supporters at the Bemidji Eagles Club and decided to make their move and occupy the ceded land site at Leonard. On the 27th, Cobenais issued a list of camp rules: 1.) No drugs; 2.) No alcohol; 3.) Be peaceful; 4.) Be law abiding; 5.) Be respectful.
On the morning of the 28th, Cobenais sent out a message:
“Today is the day. Enbridge Energy has been on the Red Lake Reservation since 1949. There has never been an easement for this land, so Enbridge has been trespassing on our ceded lands since then. This peaceful protest is against Enbridge Energy. We are going to occupy the land starting at 10:30 this morning. We plan to camp on this land until the pipelines cease to pump oil through them.”
It was a clear, cold morning when they reached the desolate, snow-covered site outside Leonard, MN. The small town of Leonard, with population of 41, is an Enbridge town. Most of town residents work for Enbridge.
High overhead, a migizi (bald eagle) flew to greet them. One of the concerns of the group was the possibility of arrest for trespassing. Under Red Lake tribal code, Native and non-Native supporters could be removed at any time. Red Lake members could only be removed through order of the tribal chairman. No one knew how the Red Lake Tribal Council would react in regard to the group occupying the ceded land site.
According to Cobenais, Red Lake Chairman Floyd “Buck” Jourdain called him the night before the occupation and told Cobenais that he had received a letter from Enbridge that requested occupiers be arrested if they drove over the pipelines or had a fire over the pipelines. Jourdain indicated he would abide by the letter.
When a helicopter approached the site, some thought arrests were imminent. However, the helicopter was piloted by an Enbridge employee. He landed the ‘copter and met with the group. He apologized for not having asemaa and offered coffee instead. He said he was from Canada and supported the struggles of First Nations there.
Shortly after, Donald May, Red Lake District Representative, arrived, accompanied by two Red Lake Tribal Police officers. May stated that the tribal council was aware of the pipelines and they were on Red Lake land illegally, and the council wanted them removed. He said efforts to remove them would take time and needed to go through the legal process.
Chairman Jourdain also emphasized the tribe’s position following his State of the Band address in Minneapolis on March 2. According to an anonymous source who spoke with Jourdain after the address, Jourdain said tribe had been working on the pipeline issue for two years and they explicitly told Enbridge to remove the pipelines in August 2012. Enbridge never responded so now the tribe was in court.
In an email to the Bemidji Pioneer, Jourdain reemphasized the tribal council’s position. He added that the protest was not sanctioned by Red Lake Nation.
In the same article, Enbridge responded that they had no objections to the protest. Regarding the issue of easements, Enbridge spokesperson Becky Haase said: “Enbridge went through the proper channels to acquire easements, permit, construct and operate the pipelines on this parcel of land, the first of which was constructed in 1949.”
As defined, an easement is a legal interest in real property authorizing a person to use the land or property of another for a particular purpose and; Landowners are paid a fair price for the easement and can continue to use the land for most other purposes, although some restrictions may be included in the agreement.
Both Jourdain and Cobenais point out that Enbridge never applied nor received approval for easement at the ceded site at Leonard. Enbridge has yet to produce documents to prove easement.
Cobenais has emphasized that the Enbridge Encampment is not a blockade. He said the focus of the encampment is to draw attention that Enbridge is illegally on sovereign Red Lake land, and to encourage a dialogue between Enbridge and the Red Lake Tribal Council to resolve the issue of removal of the pipelines.
Originally, the goal of the encampment was to hold the ground for 72 hours. It was believed that Enbridge would shut down the oil flow after 72 hours as a safety regulation. After the time period passed, the oil continued to flow. Cobenais said Enbridge chose not to initiate the 72 hour regulation.
Since its inception, the Enbridge Encampment has grown. In addition to firewood, supporters have brought gifts of manoomin (wild rice), ogaawag (walleye) waawaashkeshiwi-wiiyaas (venison), and other essential foodstuffs. A nisawa`igan (tipi), gischitwaa-ishkode (sacred fire), and maskhkiki-mitig (medicine pole) have been erected over the pipelines.
Cobenais said: “Spirits are high, and we are strong. This oil must stop flowing and these pipes must be removed.”
“I ask that all the people that are commenting about the occupation on the Red Lake Nation land that we all remember that Enbridge Energy is the enemy. The Red Lake Tribal Council supports us,” he said.
Cobenais also expressed the importance of solidarity – the support and encouragement for the Enbridge Encampment from Idle No More, Occupy and Tar Sands groups across Turtle Island.
“It’s a human being thing,” he said.
Starry Night at Enbridge Encampment / Photo by Jenna Pope
Sources used in this article: Huffington Post, Indigenous Environmental Network, Bemidji Pioneer, Crocodyl.org, Indigenouspeoplesissues.com, fws.gov., National Wildlife Foundation, National Indian Justice Center
A special gichi-mii’gwech to Jenna Pope for use of her photographs
© 2013, Robert DesJarlait
Video - Red Lake Direct Action to Stop Illegal Enbridge Pipeline
Where it begins: Tar Sands - Alberta
"Songs and Dance are Our Soul-Spirits Made Visible"
Dance has been a part of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island for thousands of years. Many dances and songs were gifted to our people through dream-visions. Today, dream-visions continue to shape and form the regalia of dancers and the songs of singers. Our dreams have never left us. We continue to express our dreams in song and dance.
Traditions form an integral part of the powwow. Traditional drums, healing songs, eagle feathers, eagle fans, eagle whistles, are all part of the powwow today. They, and many other things, are part of the sacredness we give expression to in the dance circle. In the dance circle, we connect to all those who have left their dance steps before us - those who have passed homeward to the Spirit World. Gathering over the arbor, the center, the manidoog dance with us.
We know about the Four Orders of Life. Ashkaakamigokwe (Mother Earth) is the First Order of Life; Gitigaanan (Plants) are the Second Order; Awesiinhyag (Animals) are the Third Order. Last are the Bimaadiziig (Human Beings). The other three orders can exist without us, but we cannot exist with them. Therefore, we have a responsibility and duty to take care of them. Balance and harmony of the Four Orders of Life are part of the Original Instructions given to us by Gichi-Manidoo (the Creator).
Today, we live in a time of great struggle to maintain the Four Orders of Life. Extractive resource colonies continue to rape, pillage, and destroy Ashkaakamigokwe. TransCanada, Enbridge, PolyMet, Rio Tinto, Twin Metals, Glencore are but a few of many names with an agenda of ecocide.
TransCanada has become the focal point in the struggle against the Wiindigoog that seeks to destroy Ashkaakamigokwe in the name of greed and profit. They are the eco-terrorists that intend to literally divide Turtle Island in half through their pipeline and pump their poison through our lands.
Part of the efforts of TransCanada is to separate and divide indigenous communities. One example is their sponsorship of the Thundering Hill Powwow hosted by the Nekaneet First Nation. This is a contest powwow that is offering top prize money to lure singers and dancers.
It's a common practice for mining companies to invest money into local events and enterprises. One common tactic is donating money to local school funds for school supplies, or donating money to local food shelves. Such donations help to establish local support for donors - in this case, TransCanada seeks to present a public image that is acceptable within the community it is attempting to establish a relationship with. Considering the indigenous opposition that faces TransCanada, such an attempt mollifies a segment of the indigenous population. After all, sponsoring a powwow is, from TransCanada's standpoint, good public relations.
However, a much larger segment of the indigenous population sees the ruse. And with it, TransCanada has already accomplished part of its strategy - to separate and divide. There are those who vehemently oppose this intrusion on what is basically a culturally shared institution - the powwow. Unfortunately, there are others who overlook the manipulative agenda of TransCanada and see no harm in TransCanada's sponsorship.
So it becomes an issue of complicity. Complicity, in this case, of supporting TransCanada. In other words, by competing in this powwow, individuals essentially approve of an extractive resource company in its rape, plunder, and destruction of Mother Earth. Is money so important that the Original Instructions are forgotten?
We are in the time of the Seventh Fire. According to the Seven Fires Prophecy: It is this time when we will be given a choice between two roads. If we choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love, brotherhood and sisterhood.
In regard to TransCanada and the Nekaneet powwow, which road do you choose?
Idle No More.
Barbara With is a reporter with the Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative. Protect Our Manoomin expresses mii'gwech to Barbara for permission to republish this insightful article.
Chief Buffalo (center) and the delegation to Washington. Image from “Early Life Among the Indians: Reminiscences from the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong,” published 1892
Wisconsin Mining Bill Threatens Genocide
February 3, 2013 by Barbara With
January 23, 2013. The only public hearing on mining bill SB1/AB1
is taking place in Madison, Wisconsin. Next up in the queue is Mike Wiggins Jr., Chair of Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose reserve is 300 miles north of the state Capitol and six miles west of the site of a proposed 21-mile open-pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine.
Having faced a similar tribunal several times before, Wiggins looks slightly impatient with the new incarnation of yet another committee pushing the same corporate-sponsored bill. Neither he nor any other representative of Wisconsin’s Native Sovereign Nations have been consulted.
Even though he has the support of Federal law, state legislators
and county governments
, and the majority of the people likely to be directly affected by a mine in the Penokee Hills
, Wiggins is once again being treated as a gullible child by the committee. He is also dealing with obvious racism
playing out in the fight for a mine in his backyard.
Wiggins, who stands to lose more than anyone if the mine is built, was not invited to speak by the committee. He’s in good company, however; neither the Army Corp of Engineers nor any scientists have been invited either. The mining company and their legislative advocates dominate the first four hours of the hearing; the pro-mining supporters bused in by the Koch Brothers’ astroturf group Americans for Prosperity and other Tea Party groups are next up. Wiggins, his fellow Bad River members and members of other Anishinaabe bands are pushed to the back of the line
. Many are never given a chance to speak at all.
Wiggins is given two minutes to beg for the lives of the 7,000 members of his community.
For the fourth time (three other public hearings were held for AB426 in 2011 and 2012), proof is presented that iron ore mining in Minnesota has killed off wild rice in the St. Louis River for 100 miles
and that an iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills will devastate the wild rice in the Kakagon Sloughs
. For the fourth time, the committee expects Wiggins to plead for the sacred water and sustainable food production that his people are dependent on.
Instead of pleading, Wiggins warns: Because we’re directly downstream and set to endure the impacts of this project, we view it as an imminent threat. This human threat really manifests itself in a form of genocide. Genocide.
The fact that the sulfate run-off from an iron ore mine in the Penokees will kill the wild rice rightly has Wiggins speaking the “G” word. Genocide: the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.
In a historical context, Wiggins has every right to be concerned.
In 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which allowed for the relocation of Native Americans to lands west of the Mississippi. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society
, “… it was sometimes applied unilaterally and enforced at gunpoint, in flagrant violation of previous treaties, to evict Indians from valuable lands in the East.”
The Treaties of 1837 and 1842 guaranteed the Ojibwe—Wiggins’ ancestors—the right to stay in the Lake Superior basin in exchange for ceding the US government 23 million acres. In return, they would receive annuity payments for 20 to 25 years, a combination of cash, food and services, and the right to hunt, fish and gather on those 23 million acres for perpetuity (forever). These annual payments were to replace the hunting, fishing and other land uses now relegated to a handful of reservations within the ceded territory, and made the Ojibwe much more dependent on the US government.
Treaties were not, however, negotiations of equals. As Chief Buffalo “negotiated” with the white government, he understood that he either “negotiated,” or his people would get openly slaughtered. It was that simple.
Since Columbus landed, European Colonialists had killed off much of the indigenous population
in the new colonies. Later, General William Tecumseh Sherman, fighting the Indian Wars, wrote to Ulysses S. Grant
proclaiming, “We are not going to let thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress” of the railroads. One method of liquidation was to attack their food supplies. Plains Indians were assaulted when white hunters slaughtered the buffalo from moving trains
, leaving their carcasses to rot and depleting the resources the Cheyenne and Comanche needed for survival. The result was the destruction of countless First Nation lives and tens of millions of buffalo, both nearly driven to extinction.
General Phillip Henry Sheridan took over command of the Indian Wars from Sherman. In his Annual Report of the General of the U.S. Army in 1878
he admitted that, “We took away their country and their means of support, broke up their mode of living, their habits of life, introduced disease and decay among them, and it was for this and against this they made war. Could any one expect less? Then, why wonder at Indian difficulties?”
The 1837 and 1842 Treaties required that most Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Ojibwe bands receive their annuities in La Pointe on Madeline Island. Material survival for the Ojibwe was now hinged on how willing the U.S. government was to honor its commitments. Every autumn, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was to send the food, supplies, money and other provisions promised in the Treaties.
In 1845, newspaper editor John O’Sullivan coined the term “Manifest Destiny,
“ which promoted the racist proclamation that the white population in the East were “divinely obligated” to settle the West. Christianity deemed the indigenous nation heathens. By 1848, Wisconsin had become a state and two years later, President Taylor issued an executive order for the removal of the Ojibwe, in direct violation of the treaties signed not ten years prior.
Back in La Pointe, Chief Buffalo was working to prevent the removal of the Chippewa from Madeline Island and northern Wisconsin—their hunting and fishing grounds, lumber yard, grocery and pharmacy—with its abundant clean water and rivers for wild rice. He made a plea to the citizens of Wisconsin to stand with them. A broad coalition of supporters, including missionary groups, newspapers, businessmen, and Wisconsin state legislators rallied to oppose the removal effort as band members refused to abandon their homes and burial grounds of their ancestors.
To force the Objiwe off their lands, in 1850 the BIA changed the location and time of where they were to pick up their payments. Instead of La Pointe in autumn, the Ojibwe were ordered to retrieve their payments at a remote spot in what is now Minnesota, over 500 miles in away, in winter. When they arrived at Sandy Lake
, there would be no real food or provisions awaiting them. The government had purposefully lied to them. Hundreds of Ojibwe died making the trip there and back.
Stunned by the Sandy Lake tragedy and the breach of the 1837 and 1842 Treaties, Chief Buffalo, along with four braves and a guide, set out by birch bark canoe from the shores of Madeline Island to make the “illegal” trip to Washington DC. The book Ojibwe Journeys,
published by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission notes: “The 93-year-old Chief Buffalo making the journey to Washington, D.C., paddling a quarter of the way in a canoe to defend tribal treaty rights, speaks volumes, and so eloquently, of the sacrifice, pain and determination many have gone through to defend our legal and human rights all the while envisioning a better world for our children.”
In 1852, Chief Buffalo finally met with President Millard Fillmore (Taylor died in office) and told him of Sandy Lake. After smoking the peace pipe together, Fillmore agreed to let them stay. The Treaty of La Pointe was signed in 1854
, ceding more land to the white colonialists in exchange for being allowed stay on their reservations and share hunting, fishing and gathering on those ceded territories.
Wiggins’ ancestors who signed away the ceded territory knew where to pick their reserve. Great Spirit led them to the Kakagon Sloughs, where “food grows on water.” Chief Buffalo may never have met Mike Wiggins Jr. but Wiggins was indeed one of the “unborn children” Chief Buffalo was speaking for in 1852.
James Miller and Shirl LaBarre, who said she was there “as a wife and mother” urging that the mining bill be passed. She neglected to mention the $7,000 campaign donation GTac’s owner, Chris Cline, gave her for her 2010 Assembly run, nor did she mention her campaign in 2012 to recall Sen. Bob Jauch. After the hearing, LaBarre released an offensive video mocking Wiggins.
Photo: Rebecca Kemble
The Chief understood genocide. He no doubt foresaw a day in future when the white racists would come after his 7th generation to kill them, as they had killed the men, women and children who had come before. Settled in the sloughs, they would at least have food and water, until the end came.
Those advocating for “mining at all costs” refuse to acknowledge Federal Treaty Rights and the legal enforcement of them. But even more disturbing is their callous ignorance of truth of the genocide they are proposing. A mine in the Penokees will kill the wild rice and poison the fish and water, taking away the Chippewa’s means of support, breaking up their spiritual center, their way of life, and introducing decay and illness. Just like Sheridan and his Indian War, SB1/AB1 will initiate another systematic step in the genocide of the Anishinaabe culture.
When Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) visited Wiggins and the Bad River tribal council last February, he shared a smoke from the very pipe Chief Buffalo smoked with Fillmore in 1852. Schultz ended up breaking party lines in March 2012 when he cast the deciding vote that defeated the last mining bill.
And still, the Republicans on the committee attempt to convince Wiggins that he should trust the mining company and the government:
Mike Wiggins Jr: The obliteration of the headwaters in a watershed system is catastrophic. It is catastrophic for the ecosystem, which is ultimately catastrophic for the human population that is dependent and interconnected with it. That’s what we’re talking about. And it’s forever. It’s not 20 years of having a $5,000 bond available.
Sen. Glenn Grothmann (R-West Bend): I don’t think anyone on the committee would vote for a bill unless they were certain that the Bad River would be clean.
Unfortunately, they already have.
Link to original story on Wisconsin Citizens Media Cooperative: http://wcmcoop.com/2013/02/04/wisconsin-mining-bill-threatens-genocide/
Study on Extractive and Energy Industries in or near Indigenous Territories
Nonferrous Mining on Anishinaabeg Ceded Lands and the Effects on Manoomin (Wild Rice).
The development of nonferrous mining districts on Anishinaabe ceded lands without the consultation and consent of tribes in the affected area.
Extractive Industries - Mining
PolyMet/Glencore, Twin Metals/Antofagasta, Kennecott/Rio Tinto.
State institutions and legislation related to the case:
Minnesota State Legislature; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
Indigenous peoples or communities:
The following Minnesota Anishinaabeg Bands: Gichi-onigaming (Grand Portage), Nagaajiwanaag (Fond du Lac), Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag (Leech Lake), Asabekone-zaaga'iganing (Nett Lake), Gaa-waabaabiganikaag (White Earth), Misi-zaaga'iganing, Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag (Sandy Lake), and Miskwaagamiwi-zaaga'iganing (Red Lake).
Legal status of the indigenous lands at the site:
All Anishinaabeg bands cited have sovereign status and reserved treaty rights under treaties with the U.S. government.
Usufructuary rights - hunting, fishing, and gathering rights - retained under treaties. These rights are recognized in Federal Indian Law (U.S. v. Winyans/1905; Winter v. U.S./1908; Tulee v. State of Washington/1942. Additionally, these rights have been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Minnesota v. Mille Lacs/1999.
Problems or opportunities created by the Project:
Sulfates released from nonferrous mining impacts manoomin (wild rice) and manoomin ecosystems. Sulfates that are released drift into river and lake sediment and convert to hydrogen sulfide which, in turn, destroys manoomin. Sulfates also convert into methyl-mercury that enters into the human food chain via fish.
Evaluation of environmental, social, cultural, and human rights impacts:
Manoomin (Wild Rice)is a traditional food staple of Anishinaabe people. Anishinaabe people have been gathering manoomin for hundreds of years. In addition to a food resource, it is also a cultural, spiritual, economic, and environmental resource. Manoomin is protected under reserved treaty rights. It is essential to the health and well-being of the Anishinaabe people.
Measures taken to mitigate harm or protect rights:
The most concerning problem in Minnesota are the legislative attempts to revise or eliminate the current Wild Rice/Sulfate Water Quality Standard. The standard was set in 1973. Under state law, the standard was set at 10 milligrams per liter to protect manoomin (wild rice). Because proposed nonferrous extractive industries can't meet the standard, legislators have attempted to raise the standard to 50 milligrams per liter or to eliminate it entirely. Raising the threshold over the current standard will destroy the manoomin. At this point, legislators and mining executives have marginalized the reserved treaty rights in ceded land areas. In other words, reserved treaty rights are not being recognized. Failure to recognize reserved treaty rights will allow for the destruction of the manoomin. In turn, this affects the health and well-being of the Anishinaabe people.
It should be noted that there is approximately 64,000 acreage of manoomin that grows annually in Minnesota. Approximately 43,000 manoomin acreage will be affected by proposed nonferrous mining districts.
Currently, the indigenous effort to protect this sovereign food resource is through Protect Our Manoomin. Protect Our Manoomin is a Minnesota Anishinaabe grassroots organization that provides education and outreach in regard to manoomin and nonferrous mining. It is recognized in the environmental community for its work.
Consultation and consent:
Currently, there have been no efforts by the state legislature or nonferrous extractive industries to engage tribes in a meaningful dialogue in regard to treaty rights or ceded land rights. It is clear that legislators and nonferrous mining industries intend to move ahead without the consent of tribes. This is a violation of treaty rights that have been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court and by Federal Indian laws.
Your organization or affiliation:
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Protect Our Manoomin takes the position that current efforts to change wild rice rulemaking benefits extractive resource companies by narrowing the definition to exclude waters that are protected under treaty provisions. Attempts to change the current language of wild rice producing waters and changes to the Minnesota Wild Rice/Sulfate Water Quality Standard violate the terms that have been set forth through treaties and Federal Indian law.
The 1854 Treaty Authority cites approximately 340 wild rice producing waters. The 1855 ceded land has approximately 440 wild rice producing waters. Tribes within the 1854 ceded land include Fond du Lac. Bois Forte, and Grand Portage. Tribes within the 1855 ceded land include White Earth and Leech Lake.
At issue are the usufructuary rights under the 1837, 1854, and 1855 treaties. These off-reservation rights were not privileges granted by the U.S. government in treaty negotiations. Usufructuary rights were retained by tribal leaders for the health and well-being of the tribes.
Federal Indian case law has recognized the inherent usufructuary rights that have been maintained by tribes. In U.S. v. Winyans (1905): “In other words, the treaty was not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of right from them…There was a right outside of those boundaries reserved 'in common with citizens of the territory.”
Three years later, Winters, et. al. v. United States (1908) was heard by the Supreme Court. The Winters Decision established reserved water rights in that [tribal] self-sufficiency was dependent on tribal water resources and those resources, located off the reservation, were protected to maintain tribal well-being and lifeway.
As emphasized in Wiyans, treaties are a grant of rights from the tribes to the government and their citizens. These rights include the ability to share the land, move freely about, conduct economic activity, and govern them in the manner they choose.
In regard to treaty rights and, in particular, usufructuary rights, changes to environmental protections that maintain tribal well-being must be adhered to. These usufructuary rights were affirmed in 1983 by Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Indians v. Voigt v. United States (The Voigt Decision), and in 1999 by the Supreme Court Decision - Minnesota v. Mille Lac Band of Chippewa Indians.
Therefore, it is Protect Our Manoomin’s position that proposed changes to Wild Rice Rulemaking applies to and includes all wild rice producing waters on tribal ceded lands since these waters are protected under the treaties of 1837, 1854, and 1855. Furthermore, it is our position that the Wild Rice/Sulfate Water Quality Standard of 10 mg/L must be maintained to ensure the health and well-being of the Ojibwe-Anishinaabe nations who have retained wild rice gathering rights via treaties and Federal Indian law.
Robert DesJarlait, Director, Protect Our Manoomin
BY ROBERT DESJARLAIT
• JAN 6, 2013First Nations are the last best hope that Canadians have of protecting lands for foods and clean water for the future – not just for our people, but for Canadians as well…So this country falls or survives on whether or not they acknowledge – or recognize and implement – those aboriginal and treaty rights.
~ Dr. Pam Palmater, a Mi'kmaw lawyer and an unofficial spokesperson for the Idle No More
Let me rephrase that: Anishinaabe Nations are the last best hope that Minnesotans have of protecting lands for foods and clean water for the future – not just for our people, but for Minnesotans as well…So this state fails or survives on whether or not they acknowledge – or recognize and implement – those indigenous and treaty rights.
By changing four words, the context of Palmater’s message doesn’t change; rather, the equation remains the same but the geopolitical lines extend beyond a fictive border created by colonialist politics. In this way, Idle No More is not restricted to the struggles of First Nations in Canada, but it becomes inclusive of the struggles of tribal nations across the mythical border.
The awareness raised by INM focuses on several pertinent issues regarding the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada. Foremost among the issues are treaty rights, treaty lands, and environmental protections.
In June 2012, omnibus Bill C-38
was passed. Bill C-38 overwrote the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. As David Suzuki notes: “[These C-38] amendments will weaken Canada’s capacity for environmental governance, threatening our land, climate, and water.”
Suzuki further notes that C-38 limits the scope of federal environmental assessments including: Narrower definition of “environmental effects”; Public participation limited; Time limits imposed on environmental assessments; Decision-making power moved to Cabinet; Pipeline approvals expedited; Fish habitat protections lifted; Protection of species at risk weakened; Less frequent government reporting on environmental management.
Then came omnibus Bill C-45. Environmental groups joined First Nations in opposition to C-45. As noted in a joint letter to the Harper government: “Bill C-45 would further undermine the protection of Canadian nature by making substantial changes to…critical laws that were once used to steward a sustainable environment, clean water and healthy oceans for all Canadians. Together, the changes proposed in the omnibus bill would further weaken Canada’s environmental laws, remove critical federal safeguards, and reduce opportunities for the public to have their say about projects that could threaten the air, water, soil and ecosystems on which all Canadians, and our economy depend.”
Then there is the impact of C-45 on First Nations. However, C-45 is the tip of the iceberg of a suite of bills/laws that violate First Nation communities, treaties and treaty territories.
In summation:Bill C-45 / Jobs and Growth Act (Omnibus Bill):
I - Land Surrenders: This process prevents any debate of Grand Chiefs to present views of amendments; Indian Act changes to zero consultation of communities; Lowers threshold for the surrender of reserve lands.
II – Navigable Waters Act: The Federal Government vacates jurisdiction over waters, parks, fisheries, etc., and the responsibility and duty to consult, honor treaty rights, as now they cannot do anything without talking to First Nations first; Allows Provinces to have more powerful expropriation powers; Power to decide fate of individual First Nations – even in Treat Territory.Bill S-2 / Family Homes of Reserve Matrimonial Interests of Rights Act:
Does not recognize any First Nations by-laws that already set out matrimonial property laws; Legal rights can be given to non-Indians over holds on lands on Reserve; Land, protected under treaties, exclusively for First Nations, can be given and transferred to non-First Nation people.First Nation Education Act:
Incorporates and imposes Provincial Laws into First Nation education on Reserves.Bill S-212 / An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act:
Non-derogation of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.Bill S-212 / First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill and the First Nations Propert Ownership Act (FNPOA):
The 1887 Dawes Act in Canadian form; Will take community-held Reserve Lands and divide into individual parcels; This land can be sold to non-Indians and corporations under provincial laws and registries, with no Aboriginal or Treaty Rights associated anymore; To put a pipeline through a community, the community’s consent is no longer needed nor Chief or Councils.Bill S-8 / Safe Drinking Water for First Nations:
Will give the Federal Government the power to set up rules and regulations around water and stagnation and will be able to force Chief Councils to do whatever necessary, but no funding; They can demand that Chief and Councils to fix water systems, but if there is no money to do so, it is taken from band operating funding formulas (housing, social assistance, etc.).Bill C-428 / Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act:
Getting rid of old provisions with zero consulations or consent of First Nation people; Doesn’t acknowledge a Band’s ability to pass band by-laws.Bill C-27 / First Nations Financial Transparency Act:
This bill will force First Nations to open up all the books, source revenue, and business revenue, to the public.
All these bills are in direct violation of Articles 18, 19 and 20 of theUnited Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(UNDRIP) that was endorsed by the Harper government in November 2010. In regard to Canada’s endorsement, the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada stated: "Although the UNDRIP does not reflect customary international law or change Canadian laws, Canada believes that the UNDRIP has the potential to contribute positively to the promotion and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples around the world."
The response to C-38 is seen as a corporate grab for land and water that affects all Canadians. Bill C-45 gives corporations the right to buy, sell and pollute First Nations land. In summation, the omnibus bills will cause widespread pollution and toxicity of water, land, and wildlife in the name of corporate greed. According to Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam, Jessica Gordon, and Sheelah Mclean, the founders of INM,: “It’s urgent to act on current and upcoming legislation that not only affects our First Nations people but the rest of Canada’s citizens, lands, and waters.”
Obviously, these draconian measures do not directly affect Anishinaabe tribes and people in Minnesota. However, the colonial mindset of the Canadian government mirrors the colonial mindset of the U.S. government. And the focus of the colonial mindset is always on land and the profits derived from the subjugation and exploitation of land.
In Minnesota, we see legislation regarding our treaty rights and treaty lands that is not dissimilar to Canadian legislation. Indeed, Congressional lawmakers continue to pass laws that erode the environmental protections of the EPA’s Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
Canadian or U.S., treaties purport to recognize the sovereignty of tribal nations. Also recognized are certain rights retained in regard to off-reservation/reserve tribal land. In Canada, this is referred to as treaty territories, in the U.S., it is referred to as ceded lands. Although court decisions have, in many cases, affirmed treaty rights in the U.S., those very same treaty rights are continually marginalized, in both Canada and the U.S., to establish the legal fiction of eminent domain to obtain metals and minerals located on treaty territories/ceded lands.
And what is the worth of those stolen resources? In the U.S., a recently released Government Accountability Office report "which estimates that extraction of oil, gas, natural gas liquids and coal on federal and Indian lands produced $11.4 billion in federal revenue last year — said it could not make a similar assessment for hard-rock minerals. Federal agencies generally don’t collect data on the value of hard-rock minerals taken from public land because the only reason to do so would be to calculate royalties, the report states." So, the value of hardrock mining isn’t known but it is obviously in the range of billions of dollars. The tribes who live in areas where oil, gas, and natural gas are extracted, and where hardrock mining has been established, receive nothing. These are figures for the U.S., mind you.
The consequence of extractive resources – oil, energy and mining – is the pollution and toxicity that affect indigenous reservation lands. Polluted waters from extractive plants located upstream flow through ceded lands and into reservations.
In Minnesota, taconite mining has already left a legacy of ecocide on ceded lands that affect both Native and non-Native populations. A once forested area is scarred and deforested by mining pits. One in ten infants is born with mercury in their systems from methyl mercury that has entered into the food chain via fish. Miners are struggling with high rates of lung cancer. Air borne asbestos particles swirl in the winds. Wolves are hunted for sport to further decimate the balance of the ecosystem.
Amid this ecocidal destruction, the Minnesota legislature, for the past two years, has passed laws that have diminished environmental protections and, in the process, marginalized tribal usufructuary rights to the benefit of extractive copper/nickel resource corporations that seek to establish mining districts in northeastern and central Minnesota.
Exploration maps reveal mining exploration footprints that begin on the shores of Lake Superior and extend deep into the interior of northern and north-central Minnesota. Boreholes have been drilled on the ceded lands of Red Lake, Leech Lake, White Earth, Bois Forte, Grand Portage, and Fond du Lac Anishinaabe bands.
In Minnesota, the main source of protection has been our manoomin. The Wild Rice/Sulfate Water Quality Standard that became law in the 1970’s provides a line of defense against the encroachment of mining companies like PolyMet, Twin Metals, Glencore, and Rio Tinto. The Minnesota legislature has attempted to appease these mining enterprises by trying to change the law and raise the current standard of 10 mg/L to a level that destroys manoomin and lowers the standards for water treatment. Less stringent measures for water treatment translates as higher levels of sulfates that will release toxins and negatively impact ecosystems. Sulfates and methyl mercury, a by-product of sulfates, will flow down rivers and streams and eventually empty into Lake Superior.
Like Canadian legislation, Minnesota’s legislation violates treaty rights and treaty protections. These legislative acts undermine Federal Indian Law and directly impact indigenous food sovereignty as guaranteed under usufructuary rights retained under treaties signed by our leaders.
As noted by Prof. Peter Erlinder: “Ojibwe treaty rights are a device to help keep the land healthy.” With this in mind, we have to look beyond the colonial border and understand that the struggle for tribal sovereignty and the protection of our homelands is part and parcel to the overall struggle of indigenous justice. The energy of the INM round dances in Minnesota needs to be refocused on our own struggle here. We can maintain solidarity with INM, but there is also the need to develop a stronger grassroots movement here to counter the grave legislative and corporate threat to our ceded lands. We can’t depend on our tribal leaders to thwart the subjugation of Anishinaabe lands and waters. It has to come from us – the people.
Original Article at Intercontinental Cry: