Tag Archives: Washington

Construction Begins on Controversial Nisqually Tribal Jail

Construction has started on the culturally sensitive $20 million Nisqually Safety Complex in Thurston County, Washington, reported The Tacoma News-Tribune. The project is stirring controversy among area residents who say they weren’t told about the tribal jail.

The new complex will offer housing for low-risk inmates from Western Washington tribes. Another jail operated by the Nisqually Indian Tribe for about nine years near its Red Wind Casino in Olympia, a couple miles from the construction site, accommodates just 90 inmates.

The initial construction phase of the Nisqually Safety Complex includes 288 beds and the support building designed for the full 576 planned beds for inmates. Other structures will be built to accommodate religious ceremonies, open air exercise, warehouse, commissary, laundry and back-up power functions, according to the project’s architects KMB Design. The first stage of construction is slated to be completed in 2013. Eventually, the complex will also house the tribal police, six residential buildings, a warehouse, a courthouse and a fire station.

While the project has been publicized in Washington media outlets for several months, according to another article in The Tacoma News-Tribune, nearby residents say they never heard about the tribe’s acquisition of the land or its plans. “We never heard anything from the Nisqually Nation or the county,” said Justine Schmidt, who organized a meeting of the group Neighbors for Justice on Tuesday night at Braywood Park. Conversations circulated about hiring an attorney to fight the project, while others resigned they did not have the right to interfere with the sovereign nation’s right to build on its site.

The approximately 30 Neighbors for Justice members in attendance voiced frustrations about the jail’s inevitable affect on property values, neighborhood safety and traffic on residential roads. “Property values are going to plummet,” said Peter Farr, reported The Tacoma News-Tribune.

But the director of the county’s Department of Resource Stewardship, Cliff Moore, announced the next day that the county does not have regulatory authority over the project. Therefore, it would have been inappropriate for it to notify the public.

The tribe also took all necessary steps to spread the word, according to Nisqually planning director Joe Cushman. An informational letter about the availability of a draft environmental assessment of the site was sent “to all landowners surrounding the property” in July, Cushman said in an email to the Tribune. “Everything is documented, and the county seemed impressed at our thorough approach, which complied with every aspect of the (environmental assessment) and public notification and consultation process.”

Cushman told the Tribune the Nisqually Tribe is open to meeting with residents to “review the project elements, discuss ways of working better together, and (listen) to their ideas.”

Fix Your Culverts, State of Washington

Salmon are incredibly productive by nature. Give them some good habitat, manage harvest carefully, and they will thrive. We’re doing a good job with the careful harvest management part of the equation, but we’re falling far short on the habitat part of the problem.

Habitat destruction doesn’t kill salmon just once. It keeps on killing, every hour of every day, because it destroys the possibility that salmon can produce naturally.

Our limited, highly restrictive fisheries are a clear reflection of the amount of good salmon habitat and natural productivity that we have lost. We believe that harvest and habitat must be held to the same standard, and that our conservative fisheries must go hand-in-hand with strong efforts to restore and protect salmon habitat. Instead, harvest is being held to a higher standard, and that’s not right.

One of the biggest losses of habitat is caused by culverts that block fish from moving upstream. More than 2,000 culverts under state roads block access to hundreds of miles of productive habitat. Those streams could be producing thousands more salmon every year. The state let this happen despite the fact that one of its oldest laws makes fish passage barriers illegal.

The state has known for years that these culverts needed to be fixed. In 1995, the Departments of Transportation and Fish and Wildlife told the Legislature that culvert correction was one of the most cost-effective habitat restoration strategies available. Two years later, state biologists estimated that every dollar spent in culvert correction would generate four dollars worth of additional salmon production. Recent studies confirm that fixing fish passage barriers provides us with a big bang for our money. Yet the state has dragged its heels. The agency with the most culverts, the Department of Transportation (DOT), has fixed less than 10 percent of its fish passage barriers over the past 50 years.

The problem got so bad that the tribes asked the federal courts to intervene. In 2007 a federal judge issued a decision saying that our treaty-reserved fishing rights prohibit the state of Washington from depleting the salmon runs by maintaining fish-blocking culverts under state roads.

So have things changed since that court ruling? Yes—but not for the better. In the three years before the decision, the DOT fixed an average of 16 culverts each year. In the next three years, the average slipped to only nine fixes a year. Meanwhile, the number of barriers reported under DOT roads has actually been going up each year. At this rate it will take more than 200 years to fix just the DOT’s culverts. Until they are fixed we will lose hundreds of thousands of wild salmon each year. That’s important not only to the treaty tribes, but all citizens, as well as eagles, orca and many other species that thrive on abundant salmon.

Sadly, the state’s lack of response is not surprising. Washington has a long history of not listening to the federal courts when it comes to tribal treaty rights. The state also has a long history of losing court cases involving those rights.

Fix the culverts, state of Washington. The salmon can’t wait and neither can we.

Billy Frank, Jr., is Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

Snoqualmie Tribe Says Marijuana Resolution Was a ‘Joke’

A resolution to legalize marijuana on the Snoqualmie reservation signed by the tribal council on July 30 was just “a joke,” Shelley Burch, the tribe’s chairwoman, told The Seattle Times.

Burch said tribal leaders intended to frame and present the resolution to Willie Nelson when he performs at the Snoqualmie, Washington-based Snoqualmie Casino on July 30.

“It was just tongue in cheek at a council meeting; we know marijuana is illegal,” Burch told The Seattle Times. “It was a joke. We don’t allow it and we don’t back it. We passed it, but it was supposed to be just for him.

“We were cracking up, saying, what if we did a resolution because he is coming to the casino; that is how it came about.”

The resolution passed 4-2 Thursday for the upcoming sold-out concert. “It sold out as soon as the tickets were out,” Burch said.

Tribe Upset Over Microsoft’s Planned Tulalip Social Search Applicaiton

Microsoft is working on a social search application called Tulalip to compete with the Google Social Search application. Some members of the Tulalip Tribe, based in Snohomish County, Washington—not far from Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, just east of Seattle, are upset the computer conglomerate didn’t ask for permission, reported TechFlash.

A few within the 4,000-member tribe think Microsoft infringed on the tribe’s name, the Everett Herald reported.

“By all accounts, it’s an internal project at Microsoft and not a public thing. But in reality they should not have named it Tulalip,” state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, also a tribal member, told the Everett Herald. “I have no idea what our tribal officials plan to do, but technically these Microsoft employees infringed on the Tulalip name.”

A tribal spokesman told King 5 News that the tribe was talking with Microsoft “to determine the facts.” Meanwhile, a Microsoft spokesperson stated the name was simply code for an internal project, reported King 5 News.

Native American Rights Fund Executive Director John Echohawk said the Tulalip name should not be used without permission, reported the Herald.

According to Search Engine Land, the site Tulalip previously offered a “welcome” message and the explanation: “With Tulalip you can Find what you need and Share what you know easier than ever.” It has since been taken down.

Exclusive White House Protest Video

Upwards of 166 people, including indigenous leaders from territories in the United States and Canada, were arrested on Friday September 2 for protesting in front of the White House.

Resistance is growing against the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would cut a 1,700-mile swath from the U.S. Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico carrying dirty crude from the Alberta oil sands in Canada.

“What did you say?” says one protester after the cop states his warning. Then as he walks away, the protesters hoot and cheer.

View the video by ICTMN Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Rob Capriccioso below, then read his coverage of the protest.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Indigenous Oil Sands Protest Leads to White House Arrests

WASHINGTON—It was an emotional scene at the White House Friday as dozens of tribal citizens traded their precious freedom in exchange for the hope of protecting Mother Earth—not to mention their own cultures, health, and livelihoods.

In all, 166 people were arrested for committing acts of civil disobedience at the White House gates facing Lafayette Park. Their crime was carrying signs too close to the gates—signs printed with the words “Obama Honor the Treaties” and “Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline”—as they verbally implored President Barack Obama not to sign off on the creation of a vast cross-border pipeline project that could prove environmentally and culturally dangerous. The president was scheduled to be in residence at the time the arrests began, and he planned to travel to Camp David later in the day.

The Obama administration, led by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, is considering its position on the matter as top Canadian officials and energy magnates have already come out in support of the pipeline’s expansion through the U.S. If approved, the development would stretch from the northern reaches of Canada through the Great Plains and down south to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Protesters cite environmental destruction, health and cultural impacts, and a lack of consultation with Indigenous Peoples who are already feeling the impact of the development as reasons for their concern.

debra 270x202 Indigenous Oil Sands Protest Leads to White House Arrests

Debra White Plume protests against the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House just before her arrest.

“We have to stand up for Mother Earth. We have to stand up for our sacred water—for our children, our grandchildren, for the coming generations,” said Lakota activist Debra White Plume at a rally prior to her arrest. She said that the aftereffects of oil sands drilling that would come along with the expansion of the pipeline would likely desecrate the freshwater Ogallala Aquifer near her homelands in Pine Ridge, S.D.

“It is with great honor that I come here today to ask President Obama to stand with us for Mother Earth against Father Greed,” Plume said, adding that the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty could be violated if the pipeline crosses Native lands.

When White Plume was arrested as hundreds of onlookers watched, she calmly placed her arms behind her back as officers from the U.S. National Park Service cuffed her arms and led her to be taken to the city jail to be booked and released later in the day. Several Indians followed suit, peacefully submitting to arrest to document their displeasure for the history books, while hoping to have an impact on the immediate future.

The oil in Canada that would flow if the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion becomes a reality is contained in large underground formations called tar sands, and the extraction process is widely observed to be harmful to the land and can also pollute water sources. Another concern is that the company that owns the project has had several accidents involving its drilling projects in recent years.

Of those arrested, many were indigenous citizens of United States and Canadian tribes who journeyed long and far to the nation’s capital to make their voices heard against the development. One of the visitors, Chief Bill Erasmus of the Yellowknife Northwest Territories in northern Canada, said that fossil fuel development already taking place near his homelands, development that the proposed pipeline would expand upon, has already been a destructive force for Natives in the form of environmental pollution.

In light of his concerns, Erasmus was part of a group of indigenous citizens who recently sent Clinton a letter explaining their rationale for opposition. “Our people, in some areas, can no longer eat the fish,” he said at the rally. “Our people can no longer drink the water. Water levels are decreasing. Where I’m from, it’s never been like that before.”

In addition, such development is not necessary, he added.

“We’re saying that this pipeline is not needed,” Erasmus said. “The oil is not for America. The oil is for the highest bidder.”

According to indigenous and environmental organizers of the event, Obama has the ability to stop the pipeline in its tracks, even though its initial stages have already begun in Canada.

“If President Obama would just listen to what’s in his heart and not to the corporations, Barack you would know what to do,” said Kandi Mosset, who works with the Indigenous Environmental Network, at the rally. “Your heart tells you. Look at your little girls… What do you want them to remember from you when they grow up?”

Organizers said the number of people arrested during the indigenous gathering on the 13th day of ongoing protests was high compared to the numbers on previous days of arrests, which saw celebrities Daryl Hannah, Margot Kidder, and Tantoo Cardinal, a well-known Cree actress—as well as hundreds of non-famous citizens—arrested for the cause.

Beyond those arrested, hundreds more attended the late-morning protest, which drifted into mid-afternoon by the time everyone had been handcuffed. Throughout, the protesters remained in strong spirit, joking with each other as they waited their turns with police, and occasionally bursting into group chants such as, “No tar sands, no pipeline, no problems,” and, “This is what democracy looks like!”

Representatives of the National Congress of American Indians did not officially take part in the demonstration, even though the D.C.-based Indian advocacy organization in August issued a statement against the pipeline, saying it poses a major threat to Indians.

“The National Congress of American Indians is not involved in the civil disobedience actions at the White House,” said NCAI spokesman Thom Wallace. “However, we continue to communicate and stand firm on the position from our resolution that the pipeline poses grave dangers to tribal nations.”

Tribal Leaders Offer Last Push Against Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON – Tribal leaders have gathered in the nation’s capital to offer one final push against the U.S. State Department’s possible final approval of a pipeline that could have devastating cultural and environmental consequences for some Indians in North America.

The State Department is scheduled to hold a final hearing on Friday at the Ronald Reagan Building regarding its preliminary approval of the pipeline, granted in August to the developer of the project, the TransCanada Corporation. If the agency grants final approval, the proposed 1,711 mile, $7 billion pipeline, would be developed across tribal areas in both Canada and the U.S., through sacred lands and drinking water sources that serve indigenous populations. A final decision is expected from State in November; officials there have to date expressed opinions that the project will be environmentally safe.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellowbird Steele was one of about a dozen tribal leaders who attended meetings with State Department officials in the days leading up to the hearing to explain the tribal opposition. He brought with him a recent resolution passed by the Great Plain Tribal Chairman’s Association (GPTCA) in September. Of particular importance, the GPTCA resolution notes that TransCanada has so far offered a “relatively poor environmental record of the first Keystone pipeline, which includes numerous spills,” and highlights that “U.S. regulators shut the pipeline down in late May 2011.”

“[B]ased on the record of the first Keystone pipeline, and other factors, it is probable that further environmental disasters will occur in Indian country if the new pipeline is allowed to be constructed,” the resolution states. It also notes that several First Nations of Canada have passed resolutions supporting a moratorium on new tar sands development and expansion until an improved oversight system is in place.

The oil in Canada that would flow if the pipeline expansion becomes a reality is contained in large underground formations called tar sands, and the extraction process has been studied to be harmful to the land and can pollute water sources.

“[T]he United States is urged to reduce its reliance on the world’s dirtiest and most environmentally destructive form of oil – the ‘tar sands’ – that threatens Indian country in both Canada and the United States and the way of life of thousands of citizens of First Nations in Canada and American Indians in the U.S.,” according to the document.

The resolution also suggests that State did not properly consult with tribes along the route of the Keystone XL Pipeline and, as a result of the mechanisms used for what consultation was provided, the affected tribal nations were not provided the opportunity for “free and informed consent” – called for in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the U.S. moved to support last fall – regarding the construction of the pipeline.

Debra White Plume, a Lakota activist who was arrested at the White House early last month while protesting the pipeline, also planned to deliver to State officials a “Mother Earth Accord” signed by some tribal governments in the U.S. and Canada in September. “We insist on full consultation under the principles of; free, prior and informed consent,’ from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples both in the United States and Canada,” reads one part of the accord. “We urge President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to reject the Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Pat Spears, president of the Intertribal Council On Utility Policy, also in town for the hearing, said he believes Obama must be aware of the indigenous concerns, despite what Spears called “negligent coverage of major media.”

“We are told that the president usually doesn’t make these permit decisions, unless one of the leaders of the federal agencies involved (8 in this case) raises issues or opposes approval of the permit,” Spears said. “We think he should become personally involved in this decision as it has such far reaching impacts on the environment, human health, the economy, and climate change.”

To date, the most significant part of this determination process for Spears came in August when the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency issued the finding of “no significant impact” for the environment of the proposed project. “There have been 14 spills in one year on Keystone I also installed by TransCanada,” Spears said. “The projection was one spill in 7 years.

“A spill into the Oglala Aquifer, which stretches from Canada to Texas across 10 states, would contaminate water for over 2 million people and agricultural uses,” Spears said. “The tribes feel that this risk has been discounted.”

In trying to understand how Indians have come to find themselves in this situation, Spears said it is appropriate to look at how tribes are situated in the federal bureaucracy within the U.S. Department of Interior. “DOI manages minerals, mining, reclamation, land, parks, fish and wildlife—and Indians,” he notes. “We have always been viewed as part of resources to be exploited as part of the manifest destiny doctrine. Now is our chance to be recognized by the Department of State, as we should always have been, as nations of people.”

Tribal Leaders Gather in D.C. to Protect Indians from Budget-Slashing

Hundreds of tribal leaders, according to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), traveled to the nation’s capital in mid-October to present a united front to Congress on a variety of issues important to Indian country—most prominent among them is protecting Native programs from cuts, given the dire budgetary situation.

The three-day gathering, hosted by the NCAI, culminated October 11 in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building with a sometimes-tense strategy session. Among the issues discussed were protecting the Indian affairs federal budget; securing a congressional Carcieri fix to the land-into-trust mess created by the Supreme Court in 2009; and best practices for uniting the divergent interests of 565 unique federally recognized tribes. Ideas for preventing violence toward Indian women were also discussed.

Tribal leaders are apprehensive about the federal budget because they know lawmakers are desperately seeking to cut funding to a variety of programs in an attempt to make up the large budget shortfall. Tribal leaders feel that some uninformed Congress members do not understand how much good comes from the funding for tribal programs—and how much more is needed. “There is still an effort to do away with [federal] trust responsibility for tribes,” said Jefferson Keel, president of NCAI, in a speech kicking off the session. He was referring to proposals released this year by some Republican lawmakers to slash funding to Indians—without regard to their unique constitutional- and law-based status, which is supposed to protect them.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-California, a member of the all-important congressional “super committee” charged with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in debt savings over a 10-year period, told tribal leaders that there is “nothing like pressing the flesh” to be sure they are heard. “Make sure you explain how much folks where you live have sacrificed,” he said.

Most of the tribal leaders visited congressional offices throughout Capitol Hill to do just that—with talking points in hand. Their main messages were highlighted in a letter sent from NCAI members, which noted that “[tribes] and tribal entities have patiently participated in the political process, but recognizing the urgency of these pressing issues, we are now increasing our call for congressional action.” The letter also said that tribes expect Congress to “act in a timely manner” on issues of tribal sovereignty and governance. A Carcieri fix, supported by the Obama administration back when Democrats were in control of both congressional chambers, has now been stalled for over two years.

Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of NCAI, told Becerra that tribes have long worked hard to make economic progress and to be efficient in their spending of federal dollars. “We’re a good investment,” she said. Becerra said Indian country needs to be able to specifically show how infrastructure investments have been working.

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, said later in the session that federal investment in trust responsibility is more complex than just talking macro–budget level issues. “The super committee needs to be talking about trust responsibility and what can be done to enhance tribal economies” to, in turn, bolster the overall U.S. economy, Cromwell said. He noted that investments in tribes do much more than just help tribal communities, but also the localities and states that the tribes are in.

Some tribal leaders said that a summit with congressional members, similar to the two White House tribal meetings with President Barack Obama, would be useful. Tribal leaders could educate members of Congress on trust responsibility and other Indian issues that they may not be intimately familiar with. Keel expressed support for this, and a motion was presented for the NCAI and the United South and Eastern Tribes to make it happen.

On Carcieri, John Dossett, NCAI’s general counsel, noted that the land-into-trust picture remains murky for tribes, especially since a fix is stalled in Congress and a recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling found that the Quiet Title Act does not protect Indian lands. He said that this situation “threatens all tribes.” Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, agreed, saying that one of his legislative priorities remains amending the Indian Reorganization Act to make clear that the U.S. Department of the Interior can take land into trust for tribes regardless of when they were recognized by the federal government. “It is the responsibility of Congress to fix this,” he said.

An idea that seemed to be on everyone’s mind during NCAI’s Unity Week was what exactly it means to be united. On the topic, Keel said during his opening remarks that “together we can make a difference; individually we will continue to struggle.” Akaka agreed, adding, “By working together, you are demonstrating what we Native people have always known—we are more alike than we are different.”

But it is not always so easy to present a united front, Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, later told the group, expressing his view that sometimes the ideas of what he called “smaller tribes” appear to be in opposition to the will of the larger tribes, such as his own. “We need to support each other,” he said, adding that his tribe plans on building a United Nations–like entity of Indian governments to be hosted on Navajo lands.

Hiawatha Brown, a tribal councilman for the Narragansett Indian Tribe, touched on the complications of presenting a united front via an impromptu talk to his peers, lamenting that many did not support his tribe in its battle involving Carcieri until it was too late—after the Supreme Court had ruled in a way that hurt all of Indian country. “We had been fighting for years…but it is only in the last two years that you all have come to support us,” he said. “Collectively, many of our tribal leaders have become complacent.… There are only about 150 people in this room,” he added. “That’s pathetic!” he said, noting that there are more than 500 tribes throughout the country. “There are hundreds of thousands of us, how can our voices not be heard?”
With that, he called for prayer.

Washington State Agency Accused of Placing Native Foster Children with Pedophile Priests

On November 22, eight members of the Yakima and Colville tribes filed a lawsuit against Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). They allege physical, sexual and emotional abuse during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when DSHS placed them as foster children at Jesuit-run St. Mary’s School in Omak, Washington. While there, they say, they were abused by their guardian, Father John Morse, an approved DSHS foster parent, as well as by other clerics employed by the school.

Tamaki Law Firm, of Yakima, Washington, filed the civil complaint in the state’s Superior Court. Attorney Blaine Tamaki called DSHS negligent, saying, “They chose not to protect some of our state’s most vulnerable children.” The agency is the target of one additional St. Mary’s-related abuse suit.

John Wiley, DSHS spokesperson, said the department had not yet seen the complaint. “We do not normally comment on pending litigation,” he said. “When we do file a response, it will be in court.”

Morse now lives under 24-hour supervision in Jesuit House, on the campus of the Jesuits’ Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Washington. Tamaki Law investigator Ken Bear Chief, Gros Ventre/Nez Perce/Nooksak, called Morse one of the worst child abusers he’s come across in years of handling such cases and noted the priest was accused in 75-plus of the 500 cases the Jesuits recently settled for $166 million—one of the Catholic Church’s largest-ever abuse settlements.

In the complaint, the eight former students describe years of sexual assaults and punishments by Morse and others. “To this day, I live in fear of Father Morse,” said claimant Theresa Bessette.

The mission school’s remote location—down a dirt road in a canyon surrounded by basalt cliffs—meant few restrictions on perpetrators, said Bear Chief: “The children were so isolated, and parents were either not around or discouraged from visiting.”

“The students were wards of the state, and it should have protected them,” said Bryan Smith, a Tamaki Law attorney, who added that one claimant tried multiple times to tell a social worker about the abuse. The former students charge the state did not investigate this actual notice or so-called “constructive” notice, when a simple, commonplace question by a social worker (“do you feel safe here?”) would have revealed what was happening, according to Smith.

The lawsuit is in the initial discovery stage, and Morse, who has denied all charges, will be deposed in January, along with a potential 100-plus additional people—victims, perpetrators and witnesses—according to Smith.

“Anyone who had anything to do with the school, including DSHS workers, may be called,” said Bear Chief.

Caribou Crisis Sparks Familiar Economy-vs.-Environment Debate

There are fewer than 50 woodland caribou left in the lower 48, and the U.S. government is considering drastic measures to save them. According to an Associated Press report, 600 square miles of Idaho and Washington could be designated as “critical habitat” for the caribou.

This plan is meeting resistance; at a recent public hearing in Coolin, Idaho, a crowd described as “200 angry people” made their feelings known. “Please leave northern Idaho alone,” said a speaker affiliated with the Tea Party.

The areas affected face a strange contradiction: The conservative population is suspicious of government overreach, yet the land is government-owned. Of the 375,000 acres that would be designated as critical, just 15,000 is privately owned. Critical aspects of the local economy, such as hunting, snowmobiling, and tourism, depend on access to the national park land, and residents worry that regulations or restrictions could be fatal to a tourist draw like snowmobiling, already down 70%. “Snowmobilers don’t go where they are not wanted,” said Bob Davis, a resort owner and 30-year resident. “These people will ride someplace else.”

Caribou, also known as reindeer, aren’t only facing tough times in America. The Gorge River herd of Quebec and Labrador, Canada, has declined by an estimated 92%.