Friday, September 12, 2008

Urgent Appeal: Black Mesa Trust (Hopi)

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Publication
Contact: Vernon Masayesva, 928/734-9255

Black Mesa Project
Environmental Impact Study Culturally Biased

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Sept. 10-Any Hopi, Tewa or Navajo who is knowledgeable about their traditions and worldview about humankind's relationship with nature will quickly note the conspicuous absence of that knowledge in the on-going Black Mesa Project environmental impact statement proceedings.

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM), the lead agency in the EIS process, is treating the Hopi, Tewa and Navajo worldview as if it does not exist-and even if it does, it is not science, but mythology.

Western science operates by taking things apart and analyzing the pieces. It has produced enormously important technological and medical advances. Because of this worldview, Western societies are generally able to control their environments and provide greater human comfort.

Traditional science operates by seeing the whole and studying the interaction of the parts. It has sustained Native peoples and cultures for millennia against near overwhelming odds. But, because of this worldview, traditional peoples often find themselves ill-prepared to protect their own best interests.

Western science looks at the world in which we live, separates the human from the environment, and then studies the parts-the air, the water, the land, the animals-as if they had little to do with one another. The world is one in which the human is separate from the rest of the nature. The world is mechanistic and the human runs it.

Traditional science looks at the world in which we live, recognizes the essential connection of all of the parts-the air, the water, the land, the other animals, and the human-and from it develops culture and a way of being. The world is sacred and the human is its steward.

In recognition of the disadvantage under which Native America operates in this regard, the federal government recognizes a special trust responsibility with regard to the indigenous peoples of the United States. It has promised to take special care, to be sure the peoples are not cheated or taken advantage of in their dealings with the dominant culture they find so foreign. More often than not, however, the government of the United States has failed to meet even the most fundamental fiduciary and social responsibilities one legitimately expects of a trustee.

Regrettably, this is now happening on Black Mesa in Northern Arizona, sacred homeland of the members of the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation.

OSM, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and all the cooperating agencies involved in processing the Peabody application for Black Mesa Project life-of-mine permit have failed and are failing to analyze the Peabody mine plan from a trustee's point of view. Instead, they are focused on technicalities, as regulators should be.

This cultural imperialism has many negative implications. It violates Hopi and Navajo religious freedom, the first Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and human rights in general.

For this reason alone the Black Mesa Project EIS is fundamentally flawed and must be disapproved.

Such violation must not continue. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Secretary of the Interior must be called to account, must be required to enforce the spirit and the letter of law intended to protect not only our natural resources but also our religious sites, our identity and authenticity as discrete peoples within a pluralistic state, and our inalienable right to self-preservation as unique individuals and cultures.

For more information visit Black Mesa Trust.

Sarah Palin's Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues

Here's a link to an article by Susan Shown Harjo, posted by Joy Harjo, regarding Sarah Palin's tribal record in Alaska:
http://joyharjo.blogspot.com/2008/09/sarah-palins-record-on-alaska-native.html

Alaska Native speaks out on Palin, Oil, and Alaska

An Alaska Native speaks out on Palin, Oil, and Alaska
By Evon Peter

evonpeter@mac.com
9/8/2008

My name is Evon Peter; I am a former Chief of the Neetsaii Gwich'in tribe from Arctic Village, Alaska and the current Executive Director of Native Movement. My organization provides culturally based leadership development through offices in Alaska and Arizona. My wife, who is Navajo, and I have been based out of Flagstaff, Arizona for the past few years, although I travel home to Alaska in support of our initiatives there as well. It is interesting to me that my wife and I find ourselves as Indigenous people from the two states where McCain and Palin originate in their leadership.

I am writing this letter to raise awareness about the ongoing colonization and violation of human rights being carried out against Alaska Native peoples in the name of unsustainable progress, with a particular emphasis on the role of Sarah Palin and the Republican leadership. My hope is that it helps to elevate truth about the nature of Alaskan politics in relation to Alaska Native peoples and that it lays a framework for our path to justice.

Ever since the Russian claim to Alaska and the subsequent sale to the United States through the Treaty of Cession in 1867, the attitude and treatment towards Alaska Native peoples has been fairly consistent. We were initially referred to as less than human "uncivilized tribes", so we were excluded from any dialogues and decisions regarding our lands, lives, and status. The dominating attitude within the Unites States at the time was called Manifest Destiny; that God had given Americans this great land to take from the Indians because they were non-Christian and incapable of self-government.

Over the years since that time, this framework for relating to Alaska Native peoples has become entrenched in the United States legislative and legal systems in an ongoing direct violation of our human rights. What does this mean? Allow me to share an analogy. If a group of people were to arrive in your city and tell you their people had made laws, among which were:

1. What were once your home and land now belong to them (although you could live in the garage or backyard)

2. Forced you to send your children to boarding schools to learn their language and be acculturated into their ways with leaders who touted "Kill the American, save the man" (based on the original statement made by US Captain Richard H. Pratt in regards to Native American education "Kill the Indian, save the man.")

3. Supported missionaries and government agents to forcefully (for example, with poisons placed on the tongues of your children and withheld vaccines) convince you that your Jesus, Buddha, Torah, or Mohammed was actually an agent of evil and that salvation in the afterlife could only be found through believing otherwise

4. Made it illegal for you to continue to do your job to support your family, except under strict oversight and through extensive regulation

5. Made it illegal for you to own any land or run a business as an individual and did not allow you to participate in any form of their government, which controlled your life (voting or otherwise) How would this make you feel? What if you also knew that if you were to retaliate, that you would be swiftly killed or incarcerated? How long do you think it would take for you to forget or would you be sure to share this history with your children with the hope that justice could one day prevail for your descendents? And most importantly to our conversation, how American does this sound to you?

To put this into perspective, my grandfather who helped to raise me in Arctic Village was born in 1904, just thirty-seven years after the United States laid claim to Alaska. If my grandfather had unjustly stolen your grandfathers home and I was still living in the house and watching you live outdoors, would you feel a change was in order? Congress unilaterally passed most of the major US legislation that affect our people in my grandfathers' lifetime. There has never been a Treaty between Alaska Native Peoples and the United States over these injustices. Each time that Alaska Native people stand up for our rights, the US responds with token shifts in its laws and policies to appease the building discontent, yet avoiding the underlying injustice that I believe can be resolved if leadership in the United States would be willing to acknowledge the underlying injustice of its control over Alaska Native peoples, our lands, and our ways of life.

United States legal history in relation to Alaska Natives has been based on one major platform - minimize the potential for Alaska Native people to regain control of their lives, lands, and resources and maximize benefit to the Unites States government and its corporations. While the rest of the world, following World War II, was seeking to return African and European Nations to their rightful owners, the United States pushed in the opposite direction by pulling the then Territory of Alaska out of the United Nations dialogues and pushing for Statehood into the Union. Why is it that Alaska Native Nations are still perceived as being incapable of governing our own lands, lives, and resources differently than African, Asian, and European nations?

Let me get specific about what is at stake and how this relates to Palin and the Republican leadership in Alaska and across this country. To this day, Alaska Native peoples are among the only Indigenous peoples in all of North America whose Indigenous Hunting and Fishing Rights have been extinguished by federal legislation and yet we are the most dependent people on this way of life. Most of our villages have no roads that connect them to cities; many live with poverty level incomes, and all rely to varying degrees on traditional hunting, fishing, and harvesting for survival. This has become known as the debate on Alaska Native Subsistence.

As Alaska Governor, Palin has continued the path of her predecessor Frank Murkowski in challenging attempts by Alaska Native people to regain their human right to their traditional way of life through subsistence. The same piece of unilateral federal legislation, known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, that extinguished our hunting and fishing rights, also extinguished all federal Alaska Native land claims and my Tribe's reservation status. In the continental United States, this sort of legislation is referred to as 'termination legislation' because it takes the rights of self-government away from Tribes. It is based in the same age-old idea that we are not capable of governing our people, lands, and resources.

To justify these terminations, ANCSA also created Alaska Native led for profit corporations (which were provided the remaining lands not taken by the government and a one time payment the equivalent of about 1/20th of the annual profits made by corporations in Alaska each year) with a mission of exploiting the land in partnership with the US government and outside corporations. It was a brilliant piece of legislation for the legal termination and cultural assimilation of Alaska Natives under the guise of progress.

Since the passage of ANCSA, political leaders in Alaska, with a few exceptions, have maintained that, as stated by indicted Senator Ted Stevens, "Tribes have never existed in Alaska." They maintain this position out of fear that the real injustice being carried out upon Alaska Natives may break into mainstream awareness and lead to a re-opening of due treaty dialogues between Alaska Native leaders and the federal government. At the same time the federal government chose to list Alaska Native tribes in the list of federally recognized tribes in 1993.
Governor Palin maintains that tribes were federally recognized but that they do not have the same rights as the tribes in the continental United States to sovereignty and self-governance, even to the extent of legally challenging our Tribes rights pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. What good are governments that can't make decisions concerning their own land and people?

The colonial mentality in and towards Alaska is to exploit the land and resources for profits and power, at the expense of Alaska Native people. Governor Palin reflects this attitude and perspective in her words and leadership. She comes from an area within Alaska that was settled by relocated agricultural families from the continental United States in the second half of the last century. It is striking that a leader from that particular area feels she has a right, considering all of the injustices to Alaska Native people, to offer Alaskan oil and resources in an attempt to solve the national energy crisis at the Republican Convention. Palin also chose not to mention the connection between oil development and global warming, which is wreaking havoc on Alaska Native villages, forcing some to begin the process of relocation at a cost sure to reach into the hundreds of millions.

Our tribes depend on healthy and abundant land and animals for our survival. For example, my people depend on the Porcupine Caribou herd, which migrates into the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge each spring to birth their young. Any disruption and contamination will directly impact the health and capacity for my people to continue to live in a homeland we have been blessed to live in for over 10,000 years.

This is the sacrifice Palin offered to the nation. The worst part of it is that there are viable alternatives to addressing the energy crisis in the United States, yet Palin chooses options that very well may result in the extinguishment of some of the last remaining intact ecosystems and original cultures in all of North America. Palin is also promoting off shore oil drilling and increased mining in sensitive areas of Alaska, all of which would have a lifespan of far fewer years than my grandfather walked on this earth and which would not even make a smidgen of an impact on national consumption rates or longer term sustainability.

McCain was once a champion of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and it is sad to see, that with Palin on board, he is no longer vocal and perhaps even giving up on what he believes in to satisfy Palin's position. While I have much more to say, this is my current offering to elevate the conversation about what is at stake in Alaska and for Alaska Native peoples.

Please share this offering with others and help us to make this an election that brings out honest dialogue. We have an opportunity to bring lasting change, but only if we can be open to hearing the truth about our situations and facing the challenges that arise.
Many thanks to all those who are taking stands for a just and sustainable future for all of our future generations.

*This essay is a personal reflection and should not be attributed to my tribe or organization.

Friday, May 02, 2008

What A Real Apology to the Native Peoples of Canada Would Look Like

What A Real Apology Looks Like
Grand Chief Phil Fontaine - The Star News
May 2, 2008

Apology to native people must end 'denial of truth'
JOHN ULAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine, left, and Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Wilton Littlechild honour Mary Moonias with a Pendleton blanket in Edmonton, October 4, 2007.
An open letter on residential schools to the Prime Minister from Chief Phil Fontaine
April 22, 2008

In the Oct. 16, 2007, Throne Speech, your government promised to apologize for residential schooling for First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit children which led to profound harms. Every expression and word of the apology will be of great importance to our peoples and will be carefully studied, as will its timing and place. After 150 years of waiting, nothing less than a complete, unencumbered and honest apology for this dark period in our shared history will do.

An apology acceptable to survivors must be offered in the House of Commons where the Prime Minister will address Parliament, the nation and the world. It must be an event as significant and meaningful as the apology to our brothers and sisters of the Stolen Generations of Australia, and our fellow Japanese Canadians. It must incorporate the ceremony and dignity that such a symbolic and historic occasion requires. The galleries must be filled with survivors, their families, as well as church and government representatives who will bear witness.

The content of the apology must end denial of truth and history. It must raise the awareness about the residential school policy and its disastrous consequences, admit that it was wrong, accept responsibility and provide us with solemn assurances that it will never happen again.

At minimum, the apology will acknowledge that a succession of governments systematically attempted to "kill the Indian in the child" by enforcing policies which separated children from families, prohibited the use of our languages and cultures, and indoctrinated us to believe that who we were and where we came from was not good enough for Canadian citizenship. It must acknowledge that the policies caused profound harm, loss and grief to individuals, families, communities and subsequent generations and recognize the need for reconciliation and healing.

It should specify that several generations of children were deprived of day-to-day parental love and support; that mothers, fathers, grandparents, extended family members and communities were equally deprived of their children; that health care, nutrition and emotional needs of the children were neglected; that many lost the ability to speak our languages, practise our cultures; that thousands were scarred for life from deliberate physical, sexual and psychological abuse; and that some never returned home leaving their families to mourn their passing not even knowing where they were buried.

Canada must apologize for ignoring our treaty rights and our ancestors' pleas for a good education for their children, acknowledging they were provided inferior education which detrimentally affected employment opportunities and livelihoods for generations.

There must also be a clear and unequivocal recognition in the apology that the primary objective of the residential school policy was assimilation founded on racist premises – premises of inferiority, disrespect, discrimination and inequality – premises which were used to justify the attempted destruction of our very identity and that this was profoundly wrong.

Finally, the survivors will need assurances that the Government of Canada will never again try to denigrate or destroy our identity as distinct peoples, compromise our languages and cultures or undermine our families and communities. We will look for assurances that Canada respects our rights as peoples, now and in the future, while recognizing and appreciating our differences.

As National Chief and a residential school survivor, I sincerely hope that by Canada saying sorry for all of these wrongs, my residential school brothers and sisters will be able to move on with their lives. I hope they will be able to accept the apology and find it in their hearts to forgive. I hope that as a result of the apology, the residential school era may eventually be remembered by all of us without bitterness.

To achieve the reconciliatory goals of the apology and ensure it will have a lasting and beneficial effect, it will be necessary for us all – survivors, government and church representatives alike – to embrace attitudes of honesty, generosity, humility, commitment and courage.

The power of a sincere apology is in its satisfaction of a basic human need. It can heal wounds of those who have been hurt. It can help establish trust. It can restore human dignity and self-respect. It can take the first step toward reconciliation. A sincere and honest apology given can add to the sum of justice in the world.

I truly hope, Prime Minister, that your long awaited apology will meet these goals.

Sincerely,

Phil Fontaine
National Chief
Assembly of First Nations

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mass Graves of Residential School Children Found

April 18, 2008

"At a public ceremony and press conference held today outside the colonial 'Indian Affairs' building in downtown Vancouver, the Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared (FRD) released a list of twenty eight mass graves across Canada holding the remains of untold numbers of aboriginal children who died in Indian Residential Schools. The list was distributed today to the world media and to United Nations agencies, as the first act of the newly-formed International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada (IHRTGC), a non-governmental body established by indigenous elders."

Read this and other stories at http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2008/04/mass-graves-revealed-at-indian-schools.html.