Standing Rock in the balance

 Maybe there is both rhythm and rhyme to history instead of the tedious "repetition" people talk about. The Indians of the Northern Plains are leading again. The government is trying to tear up the little land left to them, destroy natural resources, threaten tribal sovereignty (can you imagine what Trump thinks of tribal sovereignty?), destroy sacred sites, threaten pollution of a major American river, termination and relocation. And the Sioux are rallying the tribes to defend Native rights, even if, at the moment, they are trying to disperse demonstrators, who have themselves become an ecological problem.
I was taken by Dennis Banks' comments to Abby Martin about the commitment made by the Standing Rock tribe to non-violent protest. Today, thanks to casinos, Indians have more money for lawyers than they did in 1970. But still, now as then, things hang in the same kind of balance -- the government, with the corporations behind them and police in front, becoming hysterical because it is opposed by another authority with its own legitimate claims and plenty of people willing to brave a terrible winter to stand togerther in solidarity with that smaller, but perhaps more legitimate authority.
Must Superpower always trample its own citizens, including so many who are veterans of its imperial wars?



Common Dreams
DAPL Opponents Vow 'Fierce Resistance' as Army Corps Grants Last Easement
Unless there is an injunction, construction could begin in 24 hours
Nadia Prupis
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday said it has notified Congress that it plans to grant Energy Transfer Partners the final easement to build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Bloomberg reports:
The company needs the easement to complete work under Lake Oahe, following President Donald Trump's memorandum that advised expediting review of the project. Trump took office promising to favor oil and natural gas developments as well as support new infrastructure, which has included reviving TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline.
Read the corps' letter to Congress here (pdf).
The approval is a massive blow to DAPL opponents, who have waged a months-long resistance to the pipeline on the grounds that it violates Indigenous treaty rights and threatens access to clean water.
It comes shortly after the Obama administration ordered the corps to conduct a full environmental review of the 1,172-mile pipeline before allowing construction to continue. According to CNBC, the move is "almost certain to spark a legal battle and could lead to clashes at camps near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where hundreds of protesters are still camped out in opposition to the project."
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe said last week it would "pursue legal action" if the easement was granted.
The corps said it would terminate its plans to release the environmental impact statement.
Climate activist Brad Johnson wrote on Twitter that the corps is only giving the Senate 24 hours notice on the DAPL easement, rather than the required 14 days—which means that unless there is an injunction, construction will begin in 24 hours.
"By putting corporate polluter profits above the people's well-being, future, and access to clean, safe drinking water, Donald Trump is once again showing where his priorities lie," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "America's president should serve the people—not Big Oil—and the movement that has captured the nation's attention will continue to mobilize against Trump's anti-democratic agenda."
"Donald Trump's dangerous and legally questionable attempt to ignore the environmental review will be met with fierce resistance by a broad coalition of 300 tribes and millions of Americans in the court and on the streets," Brune said.
See Abby Martin's interview with Dennis Banks:
Fighting at Standing Rock With AIM Founder Dennis Banks
Monday, October 31, 2016By
 Abby Martin
 Video Interview
Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich Indian reservations
Valerie Volcovici |
Native American reservations cover just 2 percent of the United States, but they may contain about a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves.
Now, a group of advisors to President-elect Donald Trump on Native American issues wants to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews.
The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership - a politically explosive idea that could upend more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations.
The tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it. They can drill it and reap the profits, but only under regulations that are far more burdensome than those applied to private property.
"We should take tribal land away from public treatment," said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition. "As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country."
Trump’s transition team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The plan dovetails with Trump’s larger aim of slashing regulation to boost energy production. It could deeply divide Native American leaders, who hold a range of opinions on the proper balance between development and conservation.
The proposed path to deregulated drilling - privatizing reservations - could prove even more divisive. Many Native Americans view such efforts as a violation of tribal self-determination and culture.
"Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred," said Tom Goldtooth, a member of both the Navajo and the Dakota tribes who runs the Indigenous Environmental Network. "Privatization has been the goal since colonization – to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty."
Reservations governed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are intended in part to keep Native American lands off the private real estate market, preventing sales to non-Indians. An official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
The legal underpinnings for reservations date to treaties made between 1778 and 1871 to end wars between indigenous Indians and European settlers. Tribal governments decide how land and resources are allotted among tribe members.
Leaders of Trump’s coalition did not provide details of how they propose to allocate ownership of the land or mineral rights - or to ensure they remained under Indian control.
One idea is to limit sales to non-Indian buyers, said Ross Swimmer, a co-chair on Trump’s advisory coalition and an ex-chief of the Cherokee nation who worked on Indian affairs in the Reagan administration.
"It has to be done with an eye toward protecting sovereignty," he said.
The Trump-appointed coalition’s proposal comes against a backdrop of broader environmental tensions on Indian reservations, including protests against a petroleum pipeline by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters in North Dakota.
On Sunday, amid rising opposition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday said it had denied a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline project, citing a need to explore alternate routes.
The Trump transition team has expressed support for the pipeline, however, and his administration could revisit the decision once it takes office in January.
Tribes and their members could potentially reap vast wealth from more easily tapping resources beneath reservations. The Council of Energy Resource Tribes, a tribal energy consortium, estimated in 2009 that Indian energy resources are worth about $1.5 trillion. In 2008, the Bureau of Indian Affairs testified before Congress that reservations contained about 20 percent of untapped oil and gas reserves in the U.S.
Deregulation could also benefit private oil drillers including Devon Energy Corp, Occidental Petroleum, BP and others that have sought to develop leases on reservations through deals with tribal governments. Those companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump's transition team commissioned the 27-member Native American Affairs Coalition to draw up a list of proposals to guide his Indian policy on issues ranging from energy to health care and education.
The backgrounds of the coalition’s leadership are one sign of its pro-drilling bent. At least three of four chair-level members have links to the oil industry. Mullin received about eight percent of his campaign funding over the years from energy companies, while co-chair Sharon Clahchischilliage - a Republican New Mexico State Representative and Navajo tribe member - received about 15 percent from energy firms, according to campaign finance disclosures reviewed by Reuters.
Swimmer is a partner at a Native American-focused investment fund that has invested heavily in oil and gas companies, including Energy Transfer Partners – the owner of the pipeline being protested in North Dakota. ETP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The fourth co-chair, Eddie Tullis, a former chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama, is involved in casino gaming, a major industry on reservations.
Clahchischilliage and Tullis did not respond to requests for comment.
Several tribes, including the Crow Nation in Montana and the Southern Ute in Colorado, have entered into mining and drilling deals that generate much-needed revenue for tribe members and finance health, education and infrastructure projects on their reservations.
But a raft of federal permits are required to lease, mortgage, mine, or drill – a bureaucratic thicket that critics say contributes to higher poverty on reservations.
As U.S. oil and gas drilling boomed over the past decade, tribes struggled to capitalize. A 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office found that poor management by the Bureau of Indian Affairs hindered energy development and resulted in lost revenue for tribes.
"The time it takes to go from lease to production is three times longer on trust lands than on private land," said Mark Fox, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes in Forth Berthold, North Dakota, which produces about 160,000 barrels of oil per day.
"If privatizing has some kind of a meaning that rights are given to private entities over tribal land, then that is worrying," Fox acknowledged. "But if it has to do with undoing federal burdens that can occur, there might be some justification."
The contingent of Native Americans who fear tribal-land privatization cite precedents of lost sovereignty and culture.
The Dawes Act of 1887 offered Indians private lots in exchange for becoming U.S. citizens - resulting in more than 90 million acres passing out of Indian hands between the 1880s and 1930s, said Kevin Washburn, who served as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior from 2012 until he resigned in December 2015.
"Privatization of Indian lands during the 1880s is widely viewed as one of the greatest mistakes in federal Indian policy," said Washburn, a citizen of Oklahoma's Chickasaw Nation.
Congress later adopted the so-called “termination” policy in 1953, designed to assimilate Native Americans into U.S. society. Over the next decade, some 2.5 million acres of land were removed from tribal control, and 12,000 Native Americans lost their tribal affiliation.
Mullin and Swimmer said the coalition does not want to repeat past mistakes and will work to preserve tribal control of reservations. They said they also will aim to retain federal support to tribes, which amounts to nearly $20 billion a year, according to a Department of Interior report in 2013.
Mullin said the finalized proposal could result in Congressional legislation as early as next year.
Washburn said he doubted such a bill could pass, but Gabe Galanda, a Seattle-based lawyer specializing in Indian law, said it could be possible with Republican control of the White House and the U.S. House and Senate.
Legal challenges to such a law could also face less favorable treatment from a U.S. Supreme Court with a conservative majority, he said. Trump will soon have the chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia, a conservative member who died earlier this year.
"With this alignment in the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court," he said, "we should be concerned about erosion of self determination, if not a return to termination."
(Additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)