A strike that has brought activity to a halt since January on three major banana plantations on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, along the border with Panama, has highlighted the abuses in a sector in the hands of transnational corporations and has forced the governments of both countries to intervene. More than 300 labourers, almost all of them indigenous Panamanians working on plantations for a branch of the U.S. corporation Del Monte Foods, have been on strike since Jan. 16 to protest harassment of trade unionists, changes in schedules and working conditions, delayed payment of wages and dismissals considered illegal.
Today the Pit River Tribe, Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands Defense, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Save Medicine Lake Coalition, Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment, with their attorney Deborah A. Sivas of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and supporters, optimistically exited the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today following oral arguments in Pit River Tribe vs. US Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, & Calpine Corporation, Defendants-Appellees. Today the Pit River Tribe, Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands Defense, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Save Medicine Lake Coalition, Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment, with their attorney Deborah A. Sivas of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and supporters, optimistically exited the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today following oral arguments in Pit River Tribe vs. US Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, & Calpine Corporation, Defendants-Appellees. Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.39.16 AM“Medicine Lake is a sacred place and it needs to be protected at all costs,” said Pit River Tribal Chairman Mickey Gemmill.
Just upstream from Connors, a company called Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) proposed to blast and dig a 1,000-foot hole in the ground in order to tap iron ore deposits, a $1.5 billion dollar projects. While some welcomed the promise of jobs, others worried it would threaten the fragile rice sloughs, as well as the headwaters of Lake Superior — home to 10 percent of the world’s fresh water. After three years of heated argument over the project, the company announced last week that it is closing its office in Hurley, Wisconsin — effectively putting the mine on hold. This is welcome news to local activists at the Harvest Education Learning Project, who for two Wisconsin winters have camped outside in protest. It’s also good tidings for the Wisconsin Federation of Tribes, who brought the local fight to the federal level last summer when they asked the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the mine under the auspices of the Clean Water Act.
For years, Standing Fox and a dedicated core group of Apache activists have joined with a coalition of national tribes, environmentalists and concerned retired miners to oppose the land exchange transfer of the Oak Flat region to Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, a mining company headquartered in London. Over the past decade, Arizona Republicans have attempted unsuccessfully to pass the land exchange legislation – twice in 2013 failing to get enough votes to bring it to the floor of the House of Representatives. The land exchange also violates a 1955 executive order by President Eisenhower that explicitly puts the Oak Flat Campground land off limits to future mining activity. Standing Fox joins us in the car to give us a quick tour of San Carlos.
If Indigenous voices in the Maritimes had up until now been relatively silent in publicly opposing TransCanada’s ‘Energy East’ pipeline, on Monday, February 23rd, a cross-sectional panel of Indigenous grassroots leaders spoke collectively, and firmly, against TransCanada’s latest and largest proposed pipeline to date. Their message was simple and clear: The pipeline will not pass through the Maritimes, and they are prepared to name and out Indigenous collaborators with TransCanada. Ron Tremblay, a member of Negutkuk (Tobique) First Nation and a member of the Wolustuk (Malicete) Grand Council, likened the process in front of Indigenous grassroots leaders to turning over a large rock on a sunny day and watching the insects scatter from the sunlight.
The Keystone XL pipeline may have divided advocates and lawmakers in Washington, but the controversial project has also united a wide group of Native American tribes whose lands the pipes would cross. The proposed pipeline would run for 1,179 miles from southern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, crossing through six states and the territories of numerous tribes from the Dene and Creek Nations to the Omaha, Ho-chunk and Panka tribes. These tribal nations say the US government has failed to adequately consult and negotiate the matter with them, despite the direct effect the pipeline’s route would have on their lands “I think that a lot of tribes are really frustrated at the lack of inclusion in this process that’s guaranteed through our treaty rights,” says Dallas Goldtooth of theIndigenous Environmental Network. Goldtooth says their primary concern is that the State Department’s permitting process has overlooked tribal treaties with the federal government.
Leaders of Occupy Oak Flat say they won’t give up until the U.S. government repeals the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange. The San Carlos Apache Tribe, leading a three-week protest at the Oak Flat Campground, vows to remain there until the federal government bends. The controversial exchange gave Australian-British mining company Resolution Copper (a subsidiary of the largest mining company in the world, Rio Tinto) access to a vast underground copper reserve under Oak Flat. The deal trades 2,400 acres of previously federally protected land for 5,300 acres of company property. The land exchange was attached to the 2015 United States National Defense Authorization Act as a midnight rider after it failed to pass as a stand-alone bill multiple times during the last decade.
For more than two weeks, protesters have made camp at Oak Flat, the site of a planned copper mine that will result in a massive crater on the sacred site’s surface. “We’re not moving,” said Wendsler Nosie, a former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and a vocal opponent of the mine. He is the organizer of the protest, which he describes as “Occupy Oak Flat.” Nosie and other mine opponents want a repeal of the legislation that turned over 2,400 acres of Tonto National Forest to a mining giant, before conducting environmental studies and having formal consultations with concerned tribal governments. “We can work with the United States to fix this,” he said in a phone interview. “If the United States fails and becomes defensive, then I have no control. There’s going to be a lot of tribes here coming from all over the country.”
There will also be new huge toxic waste tailings from the new mine extending many square miles in a fifty foot high pile. The collapse of the surface of old high desert land, ancient oak trees and sacred Native American land into the rubble of a huge pit is not necessary. It still can be stopped if Congress would make a small correction …or if protests and actions are necessary. The bottom line is simply that the rape of the land by foreign corporations makes no sense. It thrives on confusion and greed. Politicians also thrive in the related financial lobby support and must be corrected. Native Americans have come together in the face of another assault. They welcome support from others. The problem comes from within the structure of the United Sates, not sovereign Native American Nations. Recently the hint of occupation of the religious site has apparently started low flights of official airplanes buzzing the homes of the Tribe. The U.S. Forest Service has spied on the new events at Oak Flats but seems to be avoiding even consultation. A threat of eviction of the religious site has occurred and will possibly be faced in the coming few days. Attempts at intimidation must not be allowed. A move backward in the United States history of relations with Native Americans must not occur. Sensible people must speak and act now.
On Tuesday, October 7, at the base of Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest mountain, close to 200 activists joined in prayer, to preserve Hawai’i’ s most sacred place. The groundbreaking ceremony came to a dead halt when Joshua Lanakila Mangauil, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, and other supporters made their way to the top of the mountain. Mangauil, who can be seen in the video below, stormed the ceremony unexpectedly and denounced the actions taking place. Mangauil’s impassioned pleas, among others, halted the events. Later, Mangauil said he wished it had gone differently. “It got to a boiling point that led to shutting the whole thing down. I hope we did the right thing, there were a lot of words,” he said.
Some 300 tribal members and supporters from across the country had gathered to protest the infringement of traditional Apache holy lands. There were Chippewa, Navajo, Lumbee, Paiute, Havasupai, and representatives of the National American Indian Movement and the National American Indian Veterans group, as well as non-indigenous supporters representing myriad concerns including those of environmentalists and other lovers of nature. All were furious at Congress’s sneaky transfer of sacred Apache land to a mining company and vowing to do what they could to see that it didn’t happen. “What was once a struggle to protect our most sacred site is now a battle,” said San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler, organizer of the grassroots movement aimed at stopping transfer of hundreds of acres of ceremonial land to those who would dig a mile-wide hole in the ground in a search for copper.
So just what is the state of Indian affairs today? Congress is again poised to significantly and negatively impact tribal lands via must-pass legislation. The Oceti Sakowin are unified against taking tribal lands that were never ceded to the United States, against a project that will bring increased violence, potential environmental destruction, and many other harms to their communities. Although the decision to attach Keystone XL to must-pass legislation likely won’t be made behind closed doors as it was with the Apache Land Grab, the end result will be the same: tribal people dispossessed of tribal lands to benefit extractive industries.
Hundreds of indigenous people deep in the Peruvian Amazon are blocking a major Amazon tributary following what they say is the government’s failure to address a social and environmental crisis stemming from oil operations. Kichwa men, women and children from numerous communities have been protesting along the River Tigre for almost a month, barring the river with cables and stopping oil company boats from passing. Oil companies have operated in the region for over 40 years, and have been linked by local people to pollution that has led the government to declare “environmental emergencies” in the Tigre and other river basins.
A 150-year-old tribal fishing treaty could be the thing that blocks a proposed coal terminal in Bellingham. The Lummi Nation, which has a reservation in the area, says that it will not compromise with Pacific International Terminals, the company that aims to ship 54 million metric tons of goods—mostly coal—to Asia annually through Lummi fishing waters. In early January, Lummi leaders sent a letter asking the Army Corps of Engineers to block a permit for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. Noise, pollution, and oil spill risks would compromise fishing treaty rights the tribe established in 1855, they said. A recent environmental impact study issued by the Department of Ecology found that the terminal would increase disruption of Lummi fishing activityby up to 76 percent.
Sylvia McAdam and Jessica Gordon are remarkable women. They, with intrepid co-founders Nina Wilson and Sheelah Mclean, created Idle No More in 2012 to protest Bill C-45, the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill. Amongst other things, the bill aimed to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act, reducing environmental protection for waterways across Canada. The movement’s largely indigenous followers marched, rallied and peacefully blockaded for months all over Canada, dominating national and international headlines. Ultimately, Bill C-45 was passed, but Idle No More is still widely seen as a game-changer within Canada regarding indigenous issues due to the youth of the movement and its’ use of social media.