At its annual convention in Denver, the National Congress of American Indians spoke strongly against the Trump administration's decision to halt the restoration of ancestral lands to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, invoking a return to the disastrous policies of the "termination era." At issue are 321 acres where the Wampanoag sought to build a casino. The US Interior Department issued a decision in 2015 to take the lands into trust for the trib, and ground was broken on the casino the following year. But opponents challenged the land transfer in the courts. In April 2016, a federal judge found the Interior decision had bypassed the Supreme Court's 2009 ruling in Carcieri v Salazar, concerning a land recovery effort by the Narragansett Indian Nation of Rhode Island. In the Carcieri case, the high court ruled that the federal government had no power to grant land in trust for tribes recognized after passage of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. In September of this year, the Interior decision was reversed by Tara Sweeney, the new assistant secretary for Indian Affairs. Sweeney determined that the Mashpee Wampanoag-—whose ancestors welcomed some of the first settlers to the Americas more than 300 years ago—could not have their homelands restored because they were only federally recognized in 2007. (Photo: Indianz.com)
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government does not have a responsibility to consult with First Nations before introducing legislation, even in cases when it would impact their lands and livelihood. The 7-2 ruling ends a challenge by the Mikisew Cree First Nation of Alberta to a 2013 reform of Canada’s environmental laws by the administration of then-prime minister Stephen Harper. The reform altered the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, reducing the number of projects that require environmental assessment studies and narrowing the scope of those assessments. The Mikisew Cree contended that the reform violated constitutionally-protected treaty rights of Canada’s indigenous First Nations. (Photo of Mikisew Cree Chief Archie Waquan via CBC)
In Episode 18 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks back at the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement of the closing years of the Cold War, when the Western Shoshone people, whose traditional lands were being contaminated by the nuclear blasts at the US government's Nevada Test Site, made common cause with the Kazakh people of Central Asia who opposed Soviet nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk site. Kazakh activists travelled to Nevada to join protests at the Test Site, while Western Shoshone leaders travelled to Kazakhstan to join protests at Semipalatinsk. This initiative eventually evolved into the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, which as recently as 2016 held an International Conference on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan, again attended by Western Shoshone leaders. The Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement provides an inspiring example of indigenous peoples and their supporters building solidarity across hostile international borders and superpower influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: National Digital History of Kazakhstan. Banner from protest at Semipalatinsk declares solidarity with anti-nuclear protesters in Nevada.)
In Episode 17 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses growing repression against the Tatar people of the Crimea, and the abrogation of their autonomous government by the Russian authorities since Moscow's illegal annexation of the peninsula. This is a clear parallel to violation of the territorial rights of the Lakota people in the United States through construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the legal persecution of indigenous leaders who stood against it. The parallel is even clearer in the cases of the Evenks and Telengit, indigenous peoples of Siberia, resisting Russian construction of pipelines through their traditional lands. Yet the US State Department's Radio Free Europe aggressively covers the Tatar struggle, while Kremlin propaganda organ Russia Today (RT) aggressively covered the Dakota Access protests. Indigenous struggles are exploited in the propaganda game played by the rival superpowers. It is imperative that indigenous peoples and their allies overcome the divide-and-rule game and build solidarity across borders and influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Canada's Federal Court of Appeal overturned the government's approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. A number of groups challenged the approval, including several First Nations and two municipalities, asserting that the indigenous communities that would be impacted by the expansion were not adequately consulted on the project. Following the Federal Court's decision, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she is pulling her province out of Canada's national climate change plan until construction resumes. (Photo: Robzor)
In what the New York Times somewhat hyperbolically calls a "clash," US Border Patrol vessels have over the past two weeks stopped at least 10 Canadian fishing boats in the Bay of Fundy between Maine and New Brunswick. Canada has responded by beefing up its Coast Guard patrols in what is being termed a "disputed gray zone" between the two countries' territories. The maritime dispute dates back to the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution, and is one of several between the US and Canada—including fishing waters at Dixon Entrance between Alaska and British Columbia, and areas of the petroleum-rich Beaufort Sea, near the Arctic Ocean. (Map: ResearchGate)
In Episode Four of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg makes the case that the Second Amendment is a non-grammatical muddle of obfuscation—because the issue was just as contentious in 1789 as it is today, and the Framers fudged it. That's why both the "gun control" and "gun rights" advocates can claim they have the correct interpretation—as they each advocate solutions that, in their own way, escalate the police state. In the wake of the latest school massacre, youth activists are pressing the issue, and this is long overdue. But the discussion that needs to be had would explore the social and cultural roots of this peculiarly American pathology. Listen on SoundCloud, and support us via Patreon.
As a part of the Republican tax overhaul bill, Congress voted to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, after more than four decades of contestation on the matter. Drilling is still years away at best, due to depressed oil prices, a lengthy review process, and likely legal challenges. But oil companies are already arguing over who will have rights to the reserve—while Native Alaskan communities that depend on its critical caribou habitat see impending cultural extermination. (Photo: FWS)
San Francisco filed a lawsuit against five fossil fuel companies due to expected expenses the city will incur from global warming. The companies named in the suit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell—chosen because they are "the largest investor-owned fossil fuel corporations in the world as measured by their historic production of fossil fuels."
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously in favor of the Inuit community of Clyde River, Nunavut, which has for the past three years fought to stop seismic testing in their Arctic waters. The Court found that the Inuit were not properly consulted on the oil exploration project off Baffin Island. The decision nullified a seismic testing permit issued by the National Energy Board.
Under diplomatic pressure, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed the Fairbanks Declaration on Arctic climate—but with caveats about how the US will not "rush" to change policy.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order to lift restrictions placed on offshore oil drilling by the previous administration, opening vast areas to exploitation.