Tag Archives: Sacred Land

West of Standing Rock, the Blackfeet Win their own Fight for Sacred Land

These sculptures can be found at the entry to the reservation near East Glacier. Credit: Martina Nolte/Creative Commons CC-by-sa-3.0 de

These sculptures can be found at the entry to the reservation near East Glacier. Credit: Martina Nolte/Creative Commons CC-by-sa-3.0 de

By Graison Dangor | PRI · Dec 12, 2016

As the Standing Rock Sioux celebrate halting, for now at least, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, another Native American nation is also seeing a victory regarding its holy lands.

The federal government has now canceled 15 oil and gas leases on land revered by the Blackfeet Nation. The Badger-Two Medicine area includes 168,000 acres in Montana, southwest of the Blackfeet reservation and to the south of Glacier National Park.

The government’s recent move caps two years of intense negotiations among the Blackfeet, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, US Sen. Jon Tester from Montana and Devon Energy — which owned the leases but had never drilled.

Blackfeet leaders consider these oil and gas leases, spread over 30,000 acres, to have been granted illegally in 1982.

“The federal government didn’t consult the tribe,” said Tyson Running Wolf, secretary of the Blackfeet Tribal Council. “They didn’t follow their own process on how to involve Blackfeet people on land that we still feel is owned by the Blackfeet themselves.

“We have documented historical data that we’ve been here for 10,000 years or longer.”

Badger-Two Medicine “includes a lot of our cultural, spiritual areas for the Blackfeet people,” Running Wolf said. He said a number of rivers are vulnerable to potential malfunctions of oil or gas equipment.

But despite the recent action by the federal government, the Blackfeet’s fight against development is not over. Running Wolf said two companies — the identities of which are unknown and being investigated by the tribe — continue to hold leases to develop an additional 11,000 acres of land.

It is just as important to stop those remaining leases as it was to cancel the first 15, he said. Until that happens, the whole area is still compromised, he added.

In the longer term, the Blackfeet want to have a larger say in decisions affecting the Badger-Two Medicine area, as co-managers of the land, said Running Wolf. Right now, the land is managed by the US Forest Service as part of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.

“We want to be sitting at the table,” Running Wolf said. “We would like to put back to the two most important things on the landscape and that’s the buffalo and the Blackfeet.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI’s Living on Earth with Steve Curwood.


Another Tear Gas Standoff With Police As Water Protectors Defend Sacred Land

"We need sincere action in order to stop this pipeline," said Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. (Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/cc)(Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/cc)

“We need sincere action in order to stop this pipeline,” said Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. (Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/cc)(Photo: Peg Hunter/flickr/cc)

Latest incident comes as reporting shows pipeline company failed to immediately inform state regulators it found artifacts during construction

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer | Common Dreams

Water protectors near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation continued to face violence and intimidation on Sunday, with police again firing tear gas as they attempted to defend their sacred ground.

According to reporting by Unicorn Riot, the Dakota Access Pipeline foes “crossed the Cantapeta Creek (an offshoot of the Cannonball river) to set up camp on the land formation now referred to as ‘Turtle Island.'” Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Standing Rock Sioux lay claim to that land.

Video documentation by Unicorn Riot and photos on Twitter by those on the scene show a row of police on top the hill above where the water protectors had cross onto the island. The video footage shows tear gas landing near the protesters.

#NoDAPL Water Protectors Tear Gassed by Police During Attempt to Reclaim Sacred Burial Site from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.

An image captured by film director and environmental activist Josh Fox shows one protester holding up a mirror to reflect back the brutality of the police tactics.

The creek is the same site where just days earlier another violent standoff took place between police and water protectors. One journalist was shot by police with a rubber bullet during that incident while she was conducting an interview.

The latest militarized police response to the protesters comes as North Dakota regulators are set to file a complaint against pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners “for failing to disclose the discovery of Native American artifacts in the path of construction,” the Guardian reported Saturday. The reporting continued:

The allegations mark the state’s first formal action against the corporation and add fuel to the claims of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has long argued that the $3.7bn pipeline threatens sacred lands and indigenous cultural heritage.

Julie Fedorchak, chair of the North Dakota public service commission, told the Guardian that on 17 October, pipeline officials found a group of stone cairns –symbolic rock piles that sometimes mark burial grounds – on a site where construction was planned.

The firm, however, failed to notify the commission, in violation of its permit, and only disclosed the findings 10 days later when government workers inquired about it, she said.

The standoff also comes a day after Steve Horn reported that

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed to DeSmog that Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the proposed Dakota Access pipeline, has ignored the Obama administration’s September 9 request to voluntarily halt construction in a disputed area, 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River.

Further, as Common Dreams reported last week,

An independent pipeline expert [commission by the Standing Rock Sioux] has concluded that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental assessment (EA) of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is insufficient and fails to account for the impact on tribal members, prompting the Standing Rock Sioux to demand that the federal agency “revisit” its approval of the controversial project.

With the feeling by some that now “time is running out,” native leaders are calling for a thousands-strong mobilization on Nov. 15 to take place at Army Corps of Engineers offices across the country.

“This is a call for all of our relatives who’ve been wanting to support,” said Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network in a media statement. “Whether you’ve come to the camp, whether you haven’t come to the camp. If you live near an Army Corps of Engineers office, we’re asking you to step up to mobilize. We’re asking you to come out in numbers and not only let the Army Corps of Engineers hear your voices, but let the Obama Administration hear your voice.”

“We need sincere action in order to stop this pipeline,” he continued.


Obama Exploring ‘Ways To Reroute’ Dakota Access Pipeline Amid Protests

Mike Vosburg / The Forum

Mike Vosburg / The Forum

The Washington Times, Nov 1, 2016

President Obama said Tuesday that the federal government is looking for ways to reroute the Dakota Access pipeline project, which has been paralyzed by weeks of demonstrations by environmentalists.

In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Mr. Obama seemed to side with occupiers who want the pipeline rerouted or scrapped outright, citing opposition by Indian groups.

“We’re monitoring this closely, and you know I think that as a general rule my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans,” Mr. Obama told MSNBC.

Local authorities have pleaded for help in dealing with thousands of demonstrators who’ve also invaded private lands, prompting more than 100 arrests last week and at least one potentially deadly gun attack against cops.

But Mr. Obama indicated that the federal government has no intention of stepping in, despite the threat to federal lands.

“We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and then determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to traditions of the first Americans,” he said.

Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance (VIDEO)

WATCH: Kahnesatake 270 Years of Resistance

On July 11, 1990, a confrontation between SQ police and Mohawk warriors propelled Native issues in Kanehsatake and the village of Oka, Quebec, into the international spotlight.

This Canadian documentary portrays the showdown between the Mohawk Nation and the predominantly white Quebec town of Oka, which is intent on developing land deemed sacred by the native people.

When members of the Mohawk tribe protest plans to expand a golf course into their territory, they form a barricade, leading to an armed standoff with provincial police that becomes increasingly tense, with the possibility of violence looming over the heads of everyone involved.

Director Alanis Obomsawin spent 78 nerve-wracking days and nights filming the armed stand-off between the Mohawks, the Quebec police and the Canadian army. This powerful documentary takes you right into the action of an age-old Indigenous struggle. The result is a portrait of the people behind the barricades.

Canada Gives $243.5 Million For Thirty Meter Telescope At The Summit Of Mauna Kea In Hawaii

The powerful Thirty Meter Telescope, seen here with the laser guide star system illuminated in an artist's rendering, will exponentially boost our power to scour the skies for signs of life.

The powerful Thirty Meter Telescope, seen here with the laser guide star system illuminated in an artist’s rendering, will exponentially boost our power to scour the skies for signs of life.

By Red Power Media Staff, Updated: Apr 07, 2015 9:34 PM

Canada to help build the world’s largest telescope amid protests from Native Hawaiian groups that it will be built on sacred land.

The federal government will give up nearly $250 million over the next 10 years toward the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Monday. The TMT will be built in Hawaii, at the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano.

Harper said Canada would provide $243.5-million towards the telescope, corresponding to a 15 to 20 per cent share in the $1.5-billion project. The telescope, is expected to be operational in 2023-24.

Five countries are funding the project. The United States, Japan, India and China have all already committed funds towards its construction. The project was initiated by the University of California, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy. Observatories and institutions in China, India and Japan later signed on as partners.

The TMT, will dwarf what are currently the largest telescopes in the world, tripling the size of the lens and exponentially boosting astronomers’ abilities to study every important subject in astronomy: distant galaxies, supermassive black holes, and the birth of the universe, to name a few.

With the funds now approved, the government money will be spent in Canada, creating jobs in the telescope’s construction and assembly, Harper said. The telescope was designed by Port Coquitlam, B.C.-based firm Dynamic Structures Ltd., which will also construct the device before shipping it to the Mauna Kea site.

The fate of the telescope was in jeopardy until Canada committed to the TMT.

Canada’s investment will also secure a viewing share for Canadian researchers once the telescope is operational.

Native groups oppose the TMT

Native Hawaiian groups opposing the TMT project, disagree with the telescopes location of the construction on Mauna Kea, the highest point in the state.

In a statement, Native Hawaiians say, that the construction of this telescope is “a desecration of the most sacred place in the Hawaiian Islands.

Scientists believe it’s an ideal location because of the site’s remote and sheltered position, nestled in the crater of a dormant volcano.

The TMT project has won the support of state and county officials and business leaders for its promise to keep Hawaii at the forefront of astronomy, create several hundred jobs, and provide up to $1.08 million in lease payments a year, in addition to educational grants for Hawaii Island. Lease payments will benefit the offices of Mauna Kea Management and Hawaiian Affairs.

The concern of the opponents, remains the protection of sacred land they say has already been desecrated by too many telescopes.

“It is the burial grounds of some of our most sacred and revered ancestors,” said Kealoha Pisciotta. “It is a place where we go for sanctuary and release from the world around us, and it is also the home of our god.”

Mauna Kea, or known by its original name Mauna a Wakea is a sacred place for Hawaiians. Wakea, sometimes translated as “Sky Father” is considered the father of the Hawaiian people.

Last week, 31 protectors were arrested up and down Mauna Kea for obstructing the TMT project.

If activists were to succeed in stopping the TMT, it wouldn’t be the first time: In 2002 a federal court blocked a NASA plan to build a half dozen 1.8-meter telescopes on the mountain because it failed to do a comprehensive environmental assessment; NASA eventually abandoned the project.

The telescope will pay over $1 million a year for use of the land once it is fully functional, University of Hawaii at Hilo chancellor Donald Straney has said.

Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for University of Hawaii, which operates the astronomy precinct, said the TMT location will be the last new telescope construction site on the mountain. Any additional projects will have to replace existing telescopes.

Sunset over four telescopes of the Mauna Kea Observatories. From left to right: the Subaru Telescope, the twin Keck I and II telescopes, and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility

Sunset over four telescopes of the Mauna Kea Observatories. From left to right: the Subaru Telescope, the twin Keck I and II telescopes, and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility

On Friday, Native Hawaiian leader, Peter Apo, a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs held a press conference calling on Governor David Ige and University of Hawaii President David Lassner to establish a 30-day moratorium on construction for TMT. Walter Ritte, who joined Apo at the press conference, took things a step further. “The goal now is not to stop the building of this observatory,” Ritte said. “The goal now is to get all of these observatories off this mountain.”

The peaceful protest has gained more momentum and support from Hawaiians and other non-Hawaiians around the world.