Indian Country politics and public policy

Commentary by Mark Trahant

TrahantReports

This is President Barack Obama’s last White House Tribal Nations Conference.  These meetings have really raised the level of discourse between tribal governments and the federal government. It seems to me this is how government-to-government should have worked all along.

That said: It will be impossible for the White House to be successful unless it comes up with a framework to solve the issues issues raised at Standing Rock (and reading below, it seems someone gets that.)
THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

EMBARGOED UNTIL MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016 AT 12:01. AM 

FACT SHEET: The 8th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference
Today, the White House will host the 8th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, bringing together leaders from federally recognized tribes to Washington, DC. The President and members of his Cabinet will discuss a range of issues important to tribal leaders, with an emphasis on ways the federal government can continue to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure that progress in Indian Country endures for years to come.

The Tribal Nations Conference delivers on a promise the President made during a visit to the Crow Nation in Montana in May 2008, where he pledged to host an annual summit with tribal leaders to ensure that tribal nations have a seat at the table when facing important decisions about their communities. This year’s Conference – the President’s eighth and final of his Presidency – marks the historic progress his Administration has made to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and build a more prosperous and resilient Indian Country.

In addition to today’s Conference, the second annual White House Tribal Youth Gathering will be held on September 27, 2016 as part of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative. The gathering will bring together approximately 100 Native youth leaders who will participate alongside tribal leaders and senior federal leaders in breakout sessions, panels, and youth-specific programming. Since the President launched Gen-I in 2014, thousands of American Indian and Alaska Native Youth have mobilized to address the most pressing needs facing their communities. Through youth engagement and strategic investments and policies, Gen-I has helped cultivate a new generation of tribal leaders and improve the lives of Native youth.
In recognizing that despite the incredible work completed in Indian Country over the past eight years, challenges still persist for Native Americans, today’s Tribal Nations Conference will bring together tribal leaders and agency officials to identify key issues to address during the next chapter of the nation-to-nation relationship. These conversations will serve as a platform for tribal leaders to develop relationships with the federal government that will serve them in the coming weeks, months, and years. Today, the Administration is pleased to share highlights of the progress made in 2016 and announce new steps forward:

AN ALL-OF-GOVERNMENT APPROACH TO SERVING INDIAN COUNTRY

Public Safety and Justice Subgroup of WHCNAA. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) will co-chair the Public Safety & Justice Subgroup (Subgroup) of the WHCNAA. The Departments formed the Subgroup at the September 6, 2016 WHCNAA principals meeting in response to the needs expressed by tribal leaders for the WHCNAA to concentrate on the unique legal and public safety concerns facing Indian Country such as jurisdictional matters, violence in Indian Country, infrastructure, training and capacity for tribal police and judicial systems, and more. The Subgroup will coordinate with other agencies to address public safety issues from an inter-agency perspective, and will ensure input from tribal representatives.

Interagency Trauma Initiative of the WHCNAA Health Subgroup. The federal government plays an important partnership role with tribal nations in improving the health and well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native communities. An area where this partnership is vital is in addressing traumatic events, some which may have been experienced historically and intergenerationally. The effects of trauma can be long-term and have effects on individuals, families, and communities. A few of the symptoms and effects are psychological distress, poor overall physical and mental health, and unmet medical and psychological needs.

These health impacts can be significant for American Indians and Alaska Natives who may also face disparities related to socioeconomic status, education, employment, access to services, the physical environment, food security, and physical activity, among others. To strengthen efforts focused on improving the well-being of tribal communities, the Health Subgroup is working to improve awareness on the impacts of trauma among executives, senior leaders, and employees; initiating collaborations across programs; and building the capacity for supporting trauma-informed services and practices.

Reinforcing the National Historic Preservation Act and Self Determination. The National Historic Preservation Act includes a provision for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to enter into agreements with Indian tribes to substitute a tribe’s historic preservation regulations for the ACHP’s regulations, commonly called the Section 106 process. Under such an arrangement, an Indian tribe has the ability to determine how federal agencies meet the requirements of Section 106 for projects on its lands. In March 2016, the ACHP entered into a substitution agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida whereby the tribe will carry out all historic preservation work on its tribal lands, a full expression of its sovereignty and self-determination. The agreement with the Seminole Tribe is only the second agreement the ACHP has entered into. The first was with the Narragansett Tribe in 2000. To both encourage other Indian tribes to consider such arrangements and to help them navigate the decision making process, the ACHP, in consultation with Indian tribes, will issue formal guidance in 2017.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico Commit to Improve Coordination on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls. On June 29, 2016 President Obama traveled to Ottawa, Canada for the North American Leaders’ Summit, where he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. The three presidents made a tri-lateral commitment to address the scourge of violence against indigenous women and girls that exists across North America. The commitment encompasses knowledge-sharing on best practices to prevent and respond the needs of indigenous women and girls, including enhancing cooperation between the three nations, improving judicial and social service provision, and strengthening the capacity of government health services to provide culturally sensitive services to all indigenous recipients.
PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NATIVE YOUTH

Gathering Gen-I Native Youth. On September 27, the Administration will host the second annual Tribal Youth Gathering. Tomorrow’s gathering builds upon a series of six events hosted by the White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which engaged over 500 youth in providing an understanding of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Native Youth Challenge and providing participating youth the opportunity to share their perspectives on topics including health and wellness, community, education, culture, and leadership with the federal government. These events also included activities to promote youth leadership, skill building, and education all in an effort to provide participating youth with the tools to reach their full potential. 
Measuring the Success of our Native Youth Programming. As a part of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative, the WHCNAA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are working with federal agencies to establish metrics and collect data about challenges and disparities faced by Native youth. These metrics will be used to help track the effectiveness of federal efforts to close opportunity gaps, and will help identify where we are making progress, where we are falling short, and progress that can be made when the federal agencies take a coordinated approach in addressing issues that affect Native youth.
Enhancing Support for Consistent Climate Change Education for Native Youth. In 2015 and 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the National Park Service (NPS), and other partners hosted the first two Tribal Youth Climate Leadership Congress (Congress) to promote youth engagement and positive community action for climate resilience for 89 native youth. The Congress is supported partly through the BIA’s Tribal Climate Resilience Program to support Tribal youth working on climate change research. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing its Tribal Eco-Ambassador Program, which partners with federal scientists and tribal college and university students to address environmental problems, many of which are related to the impact of climate change.

Supporting Education and Community Development through Tribal Colleges and Universities. In 2016, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture invested $13.9 million in 34 Tribal Land Grant Institutions. The new awards support institutional research, education, and extension outreach capacity through projects that address student educational needs, provide positive tribal youth development experiences, and help to solve other locally identified tribal community, reservation, and regional development issues

Engaging Native Youth. In 2015, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) adopted the Native Youth Strategic Plan. In 2016, the agency sought input from tribal leaders and historic preservation staff on their priorities and how best to reach out to Native youth. Based on stakeholder input, the ACHP has produced an information packet about historic preservation geared for both Native youth and adults. The information is intended to introduce Native youth to historic preservation, both in general and as a potential career path. A report will also be issued and will include recommendations based on input from Native youth, tribal leaders, and tribal preservation professionals. It will be available at http://www.achp.gov/nap in the summer of 2017.

Increasing Support for Locally-Tailored Education Interventions. The Department of Education recently announced that it will make $17.4 million in new awards for the Native Youth Community Projects (NYCP) grants in FY 2016, which is triple the $5.3 million that was provided in FY 2015. NYCP supports preschool through college-level projects that help American Indian and Alaska Native youth prepare for college and careers. President Obama’s FY 2017 budget request expands NYCP funding to $53 million. Technical assistance has been provided and will support these and the State-Tribal Education Programs STEP programs from pre-application through the implementation of their grants.
Investing in the Future of Youth in Indian Country. In FY 2016, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, will invest a record $3.5 million in tribally sponsored AmeriCorps programming and $1.25 million in education scholarships. The majority of the scholarship recipients are from Indian Country – who in exchange for their service will receive the scholarship to help pay for college or to repay student loans. AmeriCorps members will tutor and mentor youth, teach nutrition and physical activity, preserve language and cultural heritage, protect the environment, connect veterans and their families to job opportunities, prepare for disasters, and tackle substance abuse issues.

Training Community Changemakers. In September 2016, 120 Native Youth Ambassadors, ages 14-17, will participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) National Native Youth Summit in Washington, DC, with the goal of developing the next generation of Native community leaders. Youth will explore what community means and the impact homes have on personal health, education, energy conservation, and finances. The youth will design a Local Empowerment Project, such as community beautification, community-based gardens, clean-up programs, mapping sacred spaces, distributing information about energy efficiency in the home, or creating a community youth health club to implement upon their return home. 
Promoting Economic and Social Development through Career Technical Education Pathways. The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Sherman Indian High School accepted a generous donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to continue a Career Technical Education Pathways Program that supports students attending the school. The funds support five distinct career technical education clusters. Students learn skills to work in agriculture, construction, health care, culinary arts, hospitality, tourism, and other careers. The program allows students at the boarding school to gain skills in industries promoting economic and social development for American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
“Culture & Meth Don’t Mix” Initiative. DOI’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs in collaboration with BIA’s Office of Justice Services (OJS), BIE, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has created a program called “Culture and Meth Don’t Mix” to provide a culturally appropriate approach for meth prevention among Native American youth through community and inter-agency involvement. The program includes a speaker series that will take place in BIE schools. The speakers will consist of speakers from OJS, a health professional recommended by SAMHSA, and one person from the community. There will be a different theme each month educating youth about the dangers of meth, focusing on the fact that Native culture does not have a place for meth use. 

Employment Opportunities for Tribal Youth through Conservation Corps. In 2016, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council began funding Tribal Youth Conservation Corps focused on coastal cleanup, restoration and community construction projects. Part of the Obama Administration’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, the Tribal Youth Conservation Corps invests in the next generation of tribal leaders by providing job training skills to enhance these young people’s ability to engage in the long-term Gulf restoration effort to help families, bolster local economies, and lead to a more resilient coast. $500,000 was specifically set aside to engage tribal youth in the region in these opportunities.

STRENGTHENING TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY

United States to Assume Concurrent Criminal Jurisdiction. In January 2016, DOJ granted a request by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe for the United States to assume concurrent criminal jurisdiction on the tribe’s reservation in central Minnesota. The decision was the second assumption of jurisdiction granted by the Department of Justice under the landmark Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, which gave the Department discretion to accept concurrent federal jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the General Crimes Act and the Major Crimes Act within areas of Indian country that are also subject to state criminal jurisdiction under Public Law 280. The decision regarding the Mille Lacs Band will take effect on January 1, 2017

Indian Country Criminal Investigator Training Program. The Indian Country Criminal Investigator Training Program is a joint training collaboration between FBI and BIA-OJS, hosted at FLETC-West in Artesia, New Mexico. The Indian Police Academy staff and the FBI Indian Country Crimes Unit developed a course focused on preparing to work on various crimes on Indian reservations. It includes expert instruction from a forensic pediatrician, a pathologist, and experts on investigations of child abuse and violent crimes under the Major Crimes Act. Students also receive 24 hours of forensic evidence collection; the course concludes with a practical exercise where students process a crime scene and determine investigative steps. The course will be run twice yearly and each session will have up to 24 students.

Tribal Re-entry. On April 29, 2016, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum appointing the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a Cabinet-level working group comprised of more than 20 member agencies, to coordinate and leverage existing federal reentry resources; dispel myths and clarify policies related to reentry; elevate reentry programs and effective policies; and reduce policy barriers to successful reentry. As a part of the broader effort, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has developed resources on Tribal Reentry including: BJA Tribal Reentry Fact Sheet; National Reentry Resource Center’s Tribal Affairs Page; American Probation and Parole Association website; and Strategies for Creating Offender Reentry Programs in Indian Country

Consolidating Tribal Lands. Authorized by the Cobell Settlement in 2009, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests at fair market value within 10 years, DOI’s Land Buy-Back Program has paid more than $850 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of approximately 1.6 million acres of land for tribes. The program has announced the next 105 locations, which includes more than 96 percent of landowners with fractional interests and more than 98 percent of both fractional interests and equivalent acres in program-eligible area.

Supporting Federally-Recognized Tribal Governments to Request a Presidential Emergency or Major Disaster Declaration. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA) amended the Stafford Act to provide tribal governments the option to request a Presidential emergency or major disaster declaration. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working to finalize the Tribal Declarations Pilot Guidance, which describes the process for tribal governments to request Stafford Act declarations and associated disaster assistance while the Agency prepares for and conducts a notice and rulemaking process to implement this provision of SRIA through regulations. FEMA’s 90-day consultation period on the second draft of the Tribal Declarations Pilot Guidance received nearly 800 comments from over 500 tribal officials, representing 178 federally-recognized tribal governments. FEMA aims to publish the guidance this fall to begin the pilot period.

Implementing the Forest Service Trust Responsibility. National Forests and Grasslands often hold a historic connection to America’s first stewards, and USDA is working to align its procedures with this unique relationship. In 2016, the USDA Forest Service published the final Tribal Relations Directives, which provide more consistency and efficacy in consultations with Tribal Nations and helps Forest Service employees understand the requirements, complexities and opportunities of tribal relations. The Directives describe the Forest Service’s responsibility to implement programs and activities consistent with, and respecting, Indian treaty rights and fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibility with Indian tribes

Strengthening Sovereignty. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx appointed the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tribal Government Affairs on May 16, 2016. Located in the Office of the Secretary, this position will serve as the liaison between tribes and tribal governments and the Department of Transportation. The Department also began the process of developing a Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program (TTSGP). This program will provide tribes with an additional option on how they would like to carry out their transportation programs. DOT initiated the negotiated rulemaking process to propose regulations that would direct the TTSGP. The TTSGP Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, composed of tribal transportation leaders and federal officials, has already begun its work.

Connecting Communities, and Improving Infrastructures. The Tribal Transit Program at the Federal Transit Administration is expanding its technical assistance efforts to tribes receiving funds through the Tribal Transit Technical Assistance Assessments initiative. Through these assessments, FTA collaborates with tribal transit leaders to review processes and identify areas in need of improvement and then assist with solutions to address these needs—all in a supportive and mutually beneficial manner. The FTA has performed 30 assessments and will continue these efforts. The Tribal Transportation Program is the largest program in the Office of Federal Lands Highway at the Federal Highway Administration, which is authorized at $465 million in FY 2016.

Prioritizing Tribal Connectivity. Broadband is essential in the 21st Century, but today too many lack high speed access. The Administration has prioritized increasing broadband capabilities across Indian Country: as part of ConnectED, an initiative designed to connect schools and libraries to the digital age, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-rate program provided broadband, Wi-Fi, and telecommunications funding to 245 tribal schools serving over 60,000 students and 31 tribal libraries last funding year alone; the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) published a planning toolkit for tribal governments to develop a Community Broadband Roadmap for building broadband networks, enhancing public computer centers, expanding broadband to unserved areas, encouraging public-private partnerships, and promoting broadband connectivity to homes, businesses and institutions; and starting December 1st, the enhanced Lifeline program subsidy, which is available to low-income people living on Tribal lands, can be used to help cover the cost of broadband service. Additionally, as a step towards providing tribal communities and entities with the resources they need to deploy broadband infrastructure, today the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service is announcing that it will aim to double its annual investment in telecom broadband loans in Indian Country—to $50 million in FY17—and dedicate staff to providing tribes with technical assistance to help unlock existing resources. And because broadband is critical to creating opportunity for Native Youth, the President’s Budget proposed significant investments in education information IT to enhance broadband and digital access for students at BIE-funded schools. 

Sponsoring for Clean Energy. During 2016, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs (Indian Energy) will obligate nearly $15 million in direct support of clean energy deployment by tribes (Indian tribes and their governmental instrumentalities, including Alaska Native villages, Alaska Native Regional Corporations and Village Corporations, and Tribal Energy Resource Development Organizations). On August 17, DOE’s Office of Indian Energy announced the availability of up to $3 million to initiate the first steps toward developing and sustaining renewable energy and energy efficiency on tribal lands. 

Improving Access to Data for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN). In 2016, BIA and the Census Bureau signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as a first step in identifying and addressing AIAN data quality and availability issues. As a result of the MOU, BIA and Census are sharing geospatial data to improve the accuracy of tribal boundaries in time for the 2020 Census; a federal interagency work group was established to promote communication and collaboration; an inventory of existing federal AIAN data collections was developed to identify data gaps and establish a baseline for progress; and a series of workshops to address AIAN data issues is being planned.

Refining, Expanding and Engaging in Tribal Consultation. In FY 2016, HUD published its revised tribal consultation policy, proposed a tribal advisory committee, and completed negotiated rulemaking. HUD issued a Federal Register Notice seeking public comment on a proposed Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to further facilitate communication between HUD and Federally-recognized Indian tribes on all HUD programs. In January, HUD completed negotiated rulemaking with tribal representatives on the Indian Housing Block Grant funding formula.

Tracking Federal Initiatives to Build Resilience in Indian Country. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the White House Council on Native American Affairs Environment, Climate, and Natural Resources Subgroup, have developed a progress report on the Tribal Supplemental Recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The report identifies programs and policies that Federal agencies have developed or updated in response to the Tribal Supplemental Recommendations, which focus on the specific and unique perspectives of Native communities to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Read more about it here.

HEALTHY COMMUNITIES & ENVIRONMENTS IN INDIAN COUNTRY
Supporting the Delivery of Traditional Foods in Indian Country. The 2014 Farm Bill provided additional flexibility for USDA to incorporate traditional foods into the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) program managed by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. In 2016, USDA increased the quantity and variety of traditional foods being distributed to low-income families and the elderly through FDPIR through the purchase of 120,000 pounds of bison, 216,000 pounds of frozen wild salmon, 55,000 pounds of wild rice, and 646,000 pounds of blue cornmeal, much of it supplied by Native American-owned businesses.
Partnering to Build Resilience in Tribal Communities. Two new partnerships will enable 160 AmeriCorps VISTA members to serve in Tribal communities over the next three years. The Resilience AmeriCorps program will place AmeriCorps VISTA members at 55 tribal locations to boost their capacity to prepare for severe weather. This expansion includes Conservation Legacy, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Enterprise Community Partners, Tribal Colleges and Universities and Tribal Housing Authorities. Building on the Let’s Move in Indian Country and Seeds of Native Health initiatives, AmeriCorps VISTA is also joining with the University of Arkansas Law School’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Institute and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe to place AmeriCorps VISTA members in 10 tribes to help develop agricultural opportunities and nutritional priorities to benefit Tribal members

Combating Climate Change in Tribal Nations: Climate Resilience Toolkit. In 2015, the Administration expanded the Climate Resilience Toolkit to include a new “Tribal Nations” theme, comprised of more than 40 resources—with more to be added in the future—to assist Tribal nations in climate change planning, adaptation, and mitigation. Resources include a comprehensive Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Planning Toolkit, and a set of guidelines for considering traditional knowledge in climate change initiatives. In July 2016, NOAA, in collaboration with the U.S. Global Change Research Program and a number of agencies, released new capabilities through the Climate Resilience Toolkit; these included county-scale climate projections for the continental United States, making climate information more locally relevant.

Engaging Communities and Connecting with Technical Experts and Resources through Community-based Data Collection. In 2015, EPA’s Indian Environmental General Assistance Program provided a grant to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), to support the release of a Local Environmental Observer (LEO) App. Expanding on the successful computer-based tool, the App allows observers to share photos and text from the field, complete with GPS locations. The LEO Network provides a model for engaging communities and connecting with technical experts and resources to allow communities to monitor, respond to, and adapt to new impacts and health effects. LEO experts apply local and traditional knowledge, western science and modern technology to record and share observations and to raise awareness about the conditions in the circumpolar north. Due to the success of the program, EPA and ANTHC are working to expand LEO internationally and in the Lower 48. 
Building Knowledge and Connection for Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources. In May 2016, the Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources Subgroup—part of the White House Council on Native American Affairs—hosted a convening for Tribal leaders and Administration leadership to discuss the impacts of climate change on their Tribal communities. The Subgroup launched the Federal Tribal Climate Change Resource Guide-an online portal that creates a centralized place for Tribal government professionals to locate available resources from the federal government. This guide enables Tribal governments to identify resources, tools and expert advice from multiple agencies. 
SUPPORTING NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE & HERITAGE

Supporting Resiliency through Native Language and Culture. The Administration for Native Americans recently awarded nearly $3 million in funds under two new grant programs to support Native youth. The Native Language Community Coordination Demonstration Projects is a five-year demonstration project that will enable communities to increase their capacity to address gaps in providing continuous Native language instruction from childhood through post-secondary education. The Native Youth Initiative for Leadership, Empowerment, and Development (I-LEAD) funding will support community programs that promote Native American youth resiliency and foster protective factors such as connections with Native American languages and elders, positive peer groups, models of safe sanctuary, and more. 

Protecting Confidential Information. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has issued a “Frequently Asked Questions” guidance document on protecting sensitive information about historic properties under Section 304 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Federal agency officials, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO/THPO), Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and other stakeholders in the Section 106 process often ask ACHP staff how sensitive information about historic properties can be protected from public disclosure. This new guidance, available here, builds upon the successful Section 304 Webinar the ACHP offers about how Section 304 works to protect such information and thereby prevent harm to historic properties. In developing this guidance, the ACHP coordinated closely with the NPS’ Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places program to ensure these FAQs identify the most commonly asked questions and provide helpful guidance to Section 106 practitioners as well as members of the public regarding what information may be withheld from disclosure, under what circumstances, and for what reasons.
Preserving Tribal Culture and Values by Supporting Efforts to Repatriate Cultural Items from Abroad. DOJ has launched an interagency group on cultural property with DOI, the Department of State, and DHS, with a focus on international repatriation. Next steps include strengthening interagency cooperation, responding to Congressional requests for information and comments on legislation, and holding government-to-government consultations on international repatriation, which will be launched at the 2016 Tribal Nations Conference.

Working with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The ACHP issued new guidance about the linkages between the U.N. Declaration and tribal and Native Hawaiian preservation issues in the Section 106 . The guidance helps federal agencies understand the right of indigenous peoples to participate in decision makiwhen their rights would be affected, including with respect to the destruction of historic properties or sacred places ofreligious or cultural significance. The ACHP has extensively promoted the Declaration within the historic preservation community and issued initial guidance regarding Section 106 consultation and the Declaration.

Sacred Sites MOU Executive Committee Announces New Training. As part of the deliverables of the Sacred Sites MOU, the Executive Committee of the Sacred Sites MOU is announcing the release of “Native American Sacred Sites and the Federal Government, A Training for Federal Employees and Contract Staff Developed under the Sacred Sites Memorandum of Understanding,” a comprehensive online training module for federal employees and contractors, which is also available for free to the public. The Sacred Sites MOU was signed by DOD, USDA, DOI, DOE, and ACHP to improve the protection of and tribal access to Indian sacred sites on federally managed land.

 

** Saturday update **

I am working on piece about Indian Country’s youth vote. I am especially interested in looking at what would 90/100% turnout look like at tribal colleges. Across the country there are about 30,000 tribal college students. I’ll start a spreadsheet and try to break that down by state. I know this is an important constituency. Four years ago much of the registration and organizing efforts at Fort Belknap was accomplished by students. I am really interested in exploring how this generation thinks about voting & activism.

My goal is to post something early in the week (before voter registration deadlines).

I am also planning a piece on voter registration efforts in states where that idea is difficult. (Shout out to Nathan Whistler about what’s going on in Nevada with disenfranchisement attempts.)

I continue to track the candidates on the #NativeVote16 list and will post a few updates soon.  Even now I hear from people who I have missed. Last week I added Phil Bellfy, a citizen of the White Earth Nation, who’s running for the House in Northern Michigan.

I also heard from Tim Sumner, who is running for his second term as a Beltrami County Commissioner.  My plan is to add Native officers holders and candidates in city, county, and other offices, to my database going forward. But that won’t happen until this election is over.

More memes next week — I am still posting candidates from Minnesota. Ballots are now available there. I still need to produce memes for  Montana, South Dakota, Washington, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, and Oklahoma. As I type these words I am thinking I should start posting two a day in order to get through all of the candidates on my list before Election Day.

I am also traveling — and will miss the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I’ll be on a plane so I will have to read & watch after the fact. 


Trahant speaking schedule:

I am in Jackson  Lake Lodge, Wyoming, on Monday speaking to the Environmental Grantmakers Association.

October. 3, Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School, “Blogging the Election, Native Americans are changing the political landscape.” Phoenix.

October 10, International Conference on Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Mueums, Phoenix.

More election talk. October 18, University of Minnesota-Duluth, speaking at 6:30 pm as part of a Native Media Summit.

Trahant Reports on radio:

We are continuing to make improvements for my weekly commentary on Native Voice One. The latest plan is one-hour radio special about the election. We are hoping this would be produced mid-October. Audio will be available via social media as well as a free program for radio stations, especially tribal radio stations.

I want to especially thank Kauffman & Associations, Inc., for sponsoring the Native Voice One commentary.  As I say every week: “Trahant Reports is brought to you by Kauffman & Associates, Inc., a Native American owned, woman-owned small business that has delivered innovative .solutions for government and commercial clients since 1990. KAI’s expertise spans diverse specialty areas, including public health, education, and economic development.” Thank you.

That’s what’s on my list. Back to work. — Mark

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TrahantReports

If Indian Country is going to make a difference in this election there are details that need to be completed first.

Voter registration is easy. NativeVote.Org has an online set up here that is really easy to use.

And the September 26 – 30 is Native Vote Action Week. (Look for hashtag, #NativeVote16 for events and social media posts.)

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The National Conference of State Legislatures produces this chart of the different voting set-ups across the country.

A few states, including Alaska, require election registration 30-days before the election. Other states are 25 and 20. Here is the list, state by state.

In North Dakota a federal judge limited a strict voter identification law, one that the court said would have impacted 3,800 Native American voters.

“Voter fraud in North Dakota has been virtually non-existent,” said U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland. He was appointed by President George W. Bush. He said the state “produced no evidence suggesting the public’s confidence in the electoral process would be undermined by excusing those voters who cannot reasonably obtain an ID.” The key point after the ruling is that there is a “fail-safe” process allowing voters to swear they live in a current precinct (such as north of Cannonball) or a poll worker could vouch for that voter’s eligibility.

 

Three other state voter ID laws were limited by federal courts. This remains a contentious issue as state legislatures try and make it harder for people to cast ballots.

One cool voting improvement is the number of states that are setting up automatic registration. According to The Brennan Center for Justice: “Automatic voter registration is picking up speed and bipartisan support. The 2016 session saw more automatic voter registration bills introduced than any other kind of voting legislation. Under automatic registration, the government automatically and securely registers every eligible citizen who interacts with designated government offices unless the person declines to register.”

It’s also possible in many states to vote early. There are now 37 states that open up polls early in designated locations (including some in Indian Country).  Other states allow absentee voting for voters by request. And, in three states, Colorado, Washington and Oregon, the entire election is conducted by mail.

I particularly like early voting. It takes away the “x” factor. You know, things like, “something came up.” “I forgot.” “I had a crisis at work.” What ever. Vote early and it’s done. — Mark Trahant

 

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

 

 

 

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Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

It’s time.

It’s time for politicians to treat American Indians and Alaska Natives as an important constituency, not an outside group living in our own homeland.

The words of North Dakota’s representative in Congress, Kevin Cramer, capture the old thinking perfectly. He told Oil and Gas 360 that the Dakota Access Pipeline will be built no matter what. “I think DAPL will be finished due to the investment and amount of construction already completed. Regardless of short-term decisions, I don’t see how you can’t eventually finish the pipeline. In the short-run, the question is whether the three agencies’ review will further delay the project by implementing a full-blown EIS or whether the review will approve of the process and apply any changes prospectively rather than retrospectively. I’m optimistic that [the work] will be up and running in a few weeks.”

And what about his constituents, the people of Standing Rock, who object? “I think the appropriate people at the tribe didn’t pay enough attention to the proceedings, but I don’t have any insight as to why they chose not to meet with the Corps of Engineers. I will say that the government to government expectations of tribal governments can sometimes get in the way of participation in more mundane, routine aspects of the regulatory process, which is unfortunate because they miss the opportunity to have their say in the matter.”

Geesh. No additional comments are needed. Add this quote to the dictionary as an example for “condescending.”

It’s time politicians use both hands. Sure a Republican is supposed to be the voice of oil and gas. It’s in the job description, especially someone who wants to be in a Trump Administration. But a representative of all the people could also at least try and understand his constituent’s concerns are and propose a solution. He could say, should say, “on the other hand …” and then restating an argument even if it’s one he disagrees with. That’s what is supposed to happen in representative democracy.

How do we make that happen? By making certain that Indian Country votes like never before. In North Dakota that means finding, roughly, forty-thousand votes. Can’t happen, right? North Dakota is a deep red state. But what if people who never vote, did? What if every reservation in the state showed up at unprecedented turn out rates, 80 or 90 percent of those who are eligible? That would be at least 10,000 more votes. Add to that voters from the camps at Standing Rock. Let’s say, 3,000 new voters.

But that’s like the refrain before stick games where you only hear the call, “Short! Winning side.”

Short? Winning side? Yes. Because Indian Country has more allies who need to be called up.  If you add into the voter mix, GenX and the Millennial generation — terrible voters, they — there becomes a potential pool of 90,000 voters. Millennials are now the largest age group. But as Pew Research points out, “eligible voters don’t necessarily translate into actual voters – that all depends on who shows up to vote on Election Day. Whether Millennial and Gen X adults outnumber Boomers and other generations in November will hinge on voter turnout.”

Standing Rock is the kind of story that can accomplish that. Because it calls for people to do something more. It’s not just about candidates, but about the idea of what can be done. (Although don’t forget that there are three Native American candidates are running statewide in North Dakota, a record, Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun.) Iron Eyes who’s running against Cramer reflects the mirror image on just about every issue, especially climate justice. He posted on Facebook: “People have asked where I stand on the Dakota Access pipeline issue. I have said it many times in many different media sources that water security is foremost in the world. There is no Bakken play, there is no lignite coal development, there is no farming, no ranching, no agriculture, no hunting, no fishing, no tourism, no industry, no jobs, zero economic development whatsoever without water. None. This is a matter of national security. So I don’t think the pipeline should cross the Missouri, at all.”

When it comes to the issue of climate change young people think differently than their elected representation.

“Climate Change is the issue of the millennial generation,” wrote Joelle Thomas in Scientific American. “Millennials,research suggests, are increasingly driven and motivated by a sense of purpose. As the world’s greatest cities risk disappearing under water during our lifetimes, the call to save the world we know becomes more compelling … millennials understand that the problems of 2050 are already our problems.”

Then the only way to fix our problems is for younger people to defy history and vote. A surprise turnout adding 40,000 votes would change everything.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

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Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

It always amazes how different people can look at the same set of facts, an event, or even a conversation and walk away with completely different impressions.

Then in four decades of reporting I have never seen a story with as wide a gulf over what is occurring at Standing Rock.

The government of North Dakota sees this extraordinary event as a minor glitch in their rush toward more profits from North Dakota oil.  And so many of the characterizations are written as if none of the top government officials — you know the governor, members of Congress, the state’s power structure — have ever been to the site that they know so much about. But that’s me being generous: They have not been there and they are clear about their intentions to never go.

That’s why this is a fight about story.  And who gets to tell it?

And the stories North Dakota Officialdom want the public to believe are those of lawlessness, “sound science and engineering,” and an overzealous regulatory structure. The first story is quickly erased by anyone who takes the time to travel to the camps. (Previous: Why politicians should visit Standing Rock camps.) And it is the same with the second story, the debate about science and engineering, because that telling only works when you ignore climate science. (Previous: Overdue national debate about pipelines and sound science.)

That leaves the third story, the one about an “overzealous regulatory structure.” Folks: This one is the whopper. And it must be challenged every time it’s told. The fact is that the Dakota Access Pipeline was designed to avoid federal regulatory oversight. The whole point was to make certain that there was no serious environmental assessment.

As U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote (in his decision against the tribe’s injunction) “A project of this magnitude often necessitates an extensive federal appraisal and permitting process. Not so here.”

Not so here. Three potent words that should wipe out the narrative of over-regulation.

The judge continued: “Domestic oil pipelines, unlike natural-gas pipelines, require no general approval from the federal government. In fact, DAPL needs almost no federal permitting of any kind because 99% of its route traverses private land. The only regulatory role for the federal government in this case “concerns construction activities in federally regulated waters at hundreds of discrete places along the pipeline route. The Corps needed to permit this activity under the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act – and sometimes both. For DAPL, accordingly, it permitted these activities under a general permit known as Nationwide Permit 12.”

But what happens when a federal agency does not do its job? The Obama administration’s answer is take a second look. That is the so-called overzealous regulatory framework. Or, as the state’s Republican candidate for Governor, Doug Burgum, told The Grand Forks Herald, “It’s really not fair to the company at this point to expect them to put the sands back in the bottle, so to speak.”

After all: The company spent a nearly billion dollars before it had all of the permits required under The Easy-peasy Regulatory Scheme.

Then the State of North Dakota and the Army Corps of Engineers have a rich history of rolling over tribes in this region, ignoring treaties, water law, and science, in order to build dams along the Missouri River. As Commissioner of Indian Affairs Philleo Nash once said: these projects “caused more damage to Indian land than any other public works project in America.”

So being fair to a company fits with the history of overzealous regulation and it must be far more important than getting the answer right. Except. Not this time. Easy-peasy is on hold.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

A line to vote? Imagine the potential of adding 2,000, 3,000 people or more voters from the camps at Standing Rock. (Trahant photo)

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

On social media and in real life we hear this often: “What can I do to help Standing Rock?” Some answer the question by donating money, many send supplies, and hundreds of people jump in their car and travel to the camps near Cannonball, North Dakota. Once there folks pray, some engage in direct action, and all of us learn more about the challenges facing humanity.

There is something else that can be done: Vote. 

Chase Iron Eyes, who is running for Congress from North Dakota, made that point on his web page this week. “I don’t believe North Dakota is racist, a certain percentage of the ReTrumplicans are—but we can vote them out—if you would only vote,” he wrote. “The majority of us are evolving in mutual respect. That’s our North Dakota.”

The congressional race is a stark example of these various differences: The incumbent, Rep. Kevin Cramer, wrote a position paper for Donald Trump that says any new climate policy should not “punish coal” or other fossil fuels. The Republican considers himself a climate change skeptic dismissing both international commitments made by the United States and the mountain of scientific evidence. 

But is this a moment when North Dakotans are open to a change? And, is there an evolving majority beyond North Dakota? How many allies are out there? How many people are ready for a significant policy shift when it comes to energy? 

The answers depend on how many people stand in line at polls, vote by mail,  and cast a ballot. If it’s a yes, or a hell yes, this could be the most significant organizing moment in American history.

Consider the camps at Standing Rock. Many of the water protectors arrived about a month ago and say they were willing to stay as long as it takes. That means (or it could mean) that they are residents under North Dakota law and could vote in the next election. How would that work? There would have to be some mechanism in place to certify the “new residents” either by identification or more likely by affirmation. If that is done now, then people at the camps can vote in the November election because North Dakota does not require voter registration.

Imagine adding 2,000, 3,000 people or more to the voter rolls in Morton County, ND. There could even be a write-in campaign for county offices (members of the county commission are currently running unopposed). This would send a message to those in office that the people at the camps are constituents, too.

This potential surge in voter registration would also promote the candidacies of the three Native Americans running statewide in North Dakota, Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo, and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun. Even better: The Spirit of Standing Rock could became a rallying cry that calls people across Indian Country to vote. Imagine if every community set a goal of as close to 100 percent turnout as possible.

Of course there are not enough American Indians to win on our own. We need allies. So when people say, “what can I do to help?” Answer, “vote.” 
Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

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The federal government’s 2014 climate change assessment puts the Standing Rock dispute in context with this paragraph about the Great Plains. “Rising temperatures are leading to increased demand for water and energy. In parts of the region, this will constrain development, stress natural resources, and increase competition for water among communities, agriculture, energy production, and ecological needs.” (Trahant photo)

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

On Friday I tweeted: “What an extraordinary day, the federal government has a pulse.” The United States finally weighed in on what many of us believe is the most important issue in the country right now: The question of how this nation will address climate change.

And pulse or not this remains an unsettled question. But at least last week the federal government took one small step toward the right answer.

Let’s back up. The Standing Rock Tribe filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because the agency did not adequately consult with the tribe as required law. On Friday U.S. District Judge James Boasberg disagreed, saying that the Tribe had not demonstrated that an injunction was warranted to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The most remarkable section of the ruling, however, was the background of the case.  “A project of this magnitude often necessitates an extensive federal appraisal and permitting process. Not so here. Domestic oil pipelines, unlike natural-gas pipelines, require no general approval from the federal government. In fact, DAPL needs almost no federal permitting of any kind because 99% of its route traverses private land.”

The only regulatory role for the federal government in this case “concerns construction activities in federally regulated waters at hundreds of discrete places along the pipeline route. The Corps needed to permit this activity under the Clean Water Act or the Rivers and Harbors Act – and sometimes both. For DAPL, accordingly, it permitted these activities under a general permit known as Nationwide Permit 12.”

In other words — as a public policy — there is no public debate about this pipeline except in the context of water.

Several minutes after the court ruling three federal agencies issued their own statement.

“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.  However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.”

So the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior acted to “reconsider” previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site and its approval. “The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution,” the statement said. “In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

The statement also called for a serious discussion on tribal consultation about such projects. (More about that later.)

So what does this all mean? It means there will be a quick review (who knows what quick means in Fed-speak) about the underground water crossing of the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Reservation.

And, if the federal government has a pulse, it also has the ability to keep a secret. There is no way this was a rushed decision. This had to be debated at the White House level because so many multiple federal agencies were involved (it’s interesting that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy did not join in on this statement.)

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The idea that the water crossing needs a second look is a entry point into a larger question, how important are water resources in the era of climate change?

I suspect the oil and pipeline industry already knows the answer. A news release from the National Association of Manufacturers said “President Obama has crossed the line.” This decision “sets a bad precedent that could threaten future infrastructure projects.” The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now was even gloomier in its assessment. “Should the Administration ultimately stop this construction,  it would set a horrific precedent.  No sane American company would dare expend years of effort and billions of dollars weaving through an onerous regulatory process receiving all necessary permits and agreements, only to be faced with additional regulatory impediments and be shutdown halfway through completion of its project.”

This is too rich. A federal judge (in a ruling the industry liked) said the process was not onerous. In fact it’s the opposite because domestic oil pipelines require no general approval from the federal government.

The Midwest Alliance went on to say: “We hope and trust that the government will base its final decision on sound science and engineering, not political winds or pressure.”

And that is exactly where the country ought to start the conversation, using sound science.

The federal government’s best science comes from the U.S. Global Research Program. In its most recent report, it says “climate change does not occur in isolation. Rather, it is superimposed on other stresses, which combine to create new challenges.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline is such a challenge. The industry’s own promotions say this pipeline will move more oil to markets faster, eventually moving 570,000 barrels a day. Instead of reducing consumption, it makes it easier and cheaper for Americans to have more.

Yet at the same time the United States has promised the rest of the world that we will use slow down our use of oil and reduce our carbon impact. The official goal is to limit the increase (not reverse) global warming to “well below” 2 degrees centigrade. That will not happen with more, cheaper oil.

Again, consider the Federal Government’s best science. It says: “Climate change challenges the idea of hydrologic stationarity, which assumes that the statistical characteristics of hydrologic data are constant over time—in other words, that water dynamics of the future can be expected to be similar to those of the past. Climate change means that this assumption may not hold for all cases, undermining fundamental paradigms of water resource management and infrastructure design.” My translation: We need to protect water as the most important resource on the planet.

That same report says in order to protect basic human needs there needs to be “a safeguarding of natural assets, promoting resilience in urban and rural areas, decoupling carbon emissions from economic growth, and encouraging sustainable production and consumption patterns.”

The sound science is clear. We need to make sure that water is treated as the nation’s most important natural resource. Water is life. That’s not politics. It’s science.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posts I am working on for Sunday and behind. (Plus I have a wild voting idea rolling around in my head. I’ll tell more soon.)

President Obama answering a question about Standing Rock in Laos

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

I’ve been thinking a lot about the silence from the White House on the situation at Standing Rock. There have been so many calls to get involved, including a direct plea from Chairman David Archambault II.

So on Wednesday President Obama finally spoke; answering a question in Laos. He cited the stellar record of his administration and then he said: “And this issue of ancestral lands and helping them preserve their way of life is something that we have worked very hard on. Now, some of these issues are caught up with laws and treaties, and so I can’t give you details on this particular case. I’d have to go back to my staff and find out how are we doing on this one.

But what I can tell you is, is that we have actually restored more rights among Native Americans to their ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, hunting grounds. We have done a lot more work on that over the last eight years than we had in the previous 20, 30 years. And this is something that I hope will continue as we go forward.”

Of course this has been an amazing eight years. Or should I say almost eight years. The president was on the other side of the world answering a question when he had not been briefed. The president doesn’t have the time to watch the news, or read newspapers, so issues even as important as this one can slip by. But there should have been a paragraph, a short memo, something that was placed in front of the president. Instead the president, who has done more for Native Americans than anyone else, had a deer-in-the-headlights moment, not unlike George Bush or Ronald Reagan.

What should the White House be doing? Ideally propose a solution. President Obama’s executive order on tribal consultation is clear about what should be done. It says: “History has shown that failure to include the voices of tribal officials in formulating policy affecting their communities has all too often led to undesirable and, at times, devastating and tragic results. By contrast, meaningful dialogue between Federal officials and tribal officials has greatly improved Federal policy toward Indian tribes. Consultation is a critical ingredient of a sound and productive Federal-tribal relationship.”

There are hundreds of people camped near the Standing Rock Reservation, ready to engage in peaceful, civil disobedience, who are trying to avoid those devastating and tragic results. Meanwhile elected North Dakota government officials — who cannot even bring themselves to visit the camp and learn about what’s occurring — have a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the protest and are calling for more law enforcement action, including the National Guard.

Some history: Over the years I have interviewed a number of people who have worked in the Nixon White House. There were three major crises involving Indian Country: the occupations of Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters, and Wounded Knee.

John Ehrlichman and Leonard Garment both told me about the tension between those who would use government power — law enforcement and troops — versus those who wanted to find a peaceful resolution

This is only the story as remembered by government officials, not the full account. Thart said: Alcatraz was first. The California island was occupied in November 1969 by a group of college students would form “Indians of All Tribes.” Goals ranged from inter-tribal ownership to the creation of a new university, museum and cultural center. But the federal government wanted the island back.

“What I sensed,” Garment told the Nixon Library in 2007, “was that the administration did not want any bloodshed. That there was already a lot of trouble in the country. I mean, later on when there was Kent State, I mean, all of these problems were … quite explosive.”

But Bob Kunzig, who was the federal official responsible for the island, wanted the Coast Guard to land on the island and remove students by force.

“When I heard about that,” Garment said, “I said tell him to forget about it so there was a kind of a little bit of a battle, not a battle royal, a battle royalette, a miniature battle, because he didn’t have the standing to do anything nor did anybody want bloodshed over Alcatraz. So it turned into a very interesting symbolic issue, which worked well for the Indians and it worked well for the administration. It worked well for the processes of history because here was Alcatraz, this prison island, lump of rock, and here were these people, Indians, out on the island, and here was the federal government withholding its powerful, its armed fist, and waiting them out. And it was an interesting time, learned a lot, had a lot of people who were very angry, wanted us to provision the island and it was a way of sort of, at least for me, of striking a balance between trying to enforce the law and also not to be so heavy handed that we wind up in a mess, in a bloody mess. So that was, that was Alcatraz.”

The same parameters were in place during the BIA takeover. The Nixon White House looked for solutions, one even as unconventional as paying the occupiers to leave town, money that was supposed to be used for people to buy bus tickets home. Garment told me “we were condemned, investigations were held, hearings, but there was no bloodshed.”

Wounded Knee was different. Nixon wanted action. We know from his secret tape recordings that he wanted the White House visible. He suggested lots of meetings where officials would be “going out and finding every camera you can get your hands on to put across a foundation. It would show the White House in operation.” But if that didn’t work, the president was willing to use military force.

“I think we ought to move tanks, the whole goddamned thing. Put a division in there, if necessary,” the president said. “It’s time for action on it. If some Indians get shot, that’s too goddamned bad. If some Americans get shot, that’s too bad, too.”

Garment said the 82nd Airborne and the Marshals were ready to move in “and that would have been bloody because they did, there were weapons.” But it was a general, Volney Warner, who talked the White House down. “He just went through what would happen. The number of troops that would be used, the tear gas, the number of deaths that were likely and when he finished there was no more talk about taking them out by force.”

Of course Standing Rock is different.

And one of those ways is frightening: Instead of debating the power of the federal government, we’re already seeing the use of a private security force who do not answer to civilian authorities. Indeed one of the problems here is that the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline cannot wait for a peaceful resolution to unfold; the partnership’s entire strategy is to build the pipeline quickly before the regulatory process can catch up. The partners want banks to know this can be done fast and without political interference, avoiding the kind of delays that killed the Keystone XL pipeline and more recently, the Sandpiper Pipeline.

Energy Transfer Partners were clear about this plan. In May, for example, a spokesperson told The Forum News Service that its “depth of experience and relationship with regulatory agencies has made the company confident enough to start construction before all permits have been granted.”

And the state of North Dakota is eager too. Statements by the governor, county officials, and the company all acknowledge that protests are protected by the First Amendment. But they also frequently use the word “lawful.” They see protest as holding a sign, not holding a line. They misunderstand the nature of civil disobedience and the long-term presence of people who are willing to disobey an unjust process and unjust laws. The key to successful civil disobedience is moral authority, not “lawful” slogans.

How much government power will be used to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline? Or will that be a private security force that uses attack dogs and more? Is the state, the company, willing to kill to enforce its outcome? And now, potentially, the National Guard. As Nixon once put it, “if some Indians get shot, that’s too goddamned bad. If some Americans get shot, that’s too bad.”

The White House has two great powers. It can shine a light on the story, the whole story. It can also convene. Bring together the Dakota Access Pipeline partners, the state, the tribes, and make sure that the outcome does not end up a bloody mess.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

 

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