INDIAN AND INDIGENOUS DEVELOPMENTS:
by Steve Sachs
“'Historic climate change agreement reached at COP 21 conference,’ Paris agreement reaffirms commitment
to 2 degree Celsius cap on average global temperature increase,” Presbyterian Church, December 16, 2015,
reported on the
COP 21 Paris Climate Conference agreement, “After two weeks of intense negotiations and meetings, an agreement
was reached. The main goal of the conference was to develop a response to man-made greenhouse gas emissions, which according to
participants is responsible for increasing the Earth’s temperature, or global warming.
Each of the participating countries submitted a proposal for reducing their emissions. The proposals, called “intended
nationally determined contributions” (INDCs), are a prospective roadmap for each country to follow. The United States’ INDC,
for example, is to cut economy-wide emissions of greenhouse gasses by 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025.
The target maximum global temperature rise is set at 2 degrees Celsius, or below. The final text agreement, however, also establishes for the first time a target temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to protect island nations who are threatened by a rise in sea levels. Additional key elements of the historic agreement include:
All countries must review their climate contributions every five years beginning in 2020. They will not be able to lower their targets during this time
Greenhouse gas emissions should peak as soon as possible, and each country will seek to achieve carbon neutrality after 2050
$100 billion (in loans or donations) will be available yearly, beginning in 2020, to finance projects that enable developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The amount is subject to increase
Industrialized countries are obligated to fund climate finance for poor countries, and developing countries are invited to contribute
A stronger system for monitoring climate commitments has been established to better track each country’s progress
The agreement will be open for signing by each participating country on Earth Day next April 22 in New York. Once 55 countries, approximately 30 percent, ratify the text the agreement will enter into force.”
A number of commentators have said that while the agreement is well short of what is necessary to prevent extremely catastrophic world wide damage, even if all nations act on it as promised, it is an important step, as still increasing public pressure brought about the maximum politically possible agreement at the moment, increasing the time for further action which may well occur as increasing climate change disasters are likely to further drive public opinion world wide, while making more obvious toa growing number of government, business, NGO, and other private decision makers and leaders that significant further action is needed.
Already, with about a 1 degree Celsius increase of temperature having occurred since the beginning of the industrial revolution, a great deal of serious damage has occurred world wide. There is concern, based on strong scientific evidence, that the 2 degree Celsius target for limiting global warming is too high, and that many island nations, as well as costal areas with large populations will be submerged in rising oceans with that much increase. Thus a target of 1.5 degrees was declared in the agreement to try to avoid that occurring.
There is serious speculation in some quarters that the situation is actually worse than mainstream science has so far calculated. The concern is that the primary focus has been on studying and reducing the amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There has been growing scientific concern about methane (natural gas), which over time is about 30 times more warming than CO 2 (in the short run about 100 more warming). Studies of methane entering the atmosphere to date do not yet fully measure how much is entering the atmosphere. There is concern by some that positive feedbacks have been created, and are increasing, as permafrost and glaciers melt and waters warm, that may be greatly increasing the amount of methane entering the atmosphere. In addition, there are very large amounts of methane leaking from natural gas drilling, storage, and distribution (pipelines). There are efforts underway to greatly reduce these leaks, but so far there is no known way to greatly reduce the methane entering the air from land and water as a result of global warming. It remains to be seen just how much methane is actually entering the atmosphere, and what the increase is likely to be.
For more on theCOP 21 agreement see: “United Nations Conference on Climate Change: COP 21/CMP 11,” http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/more-details-about-the-agreement/, which has a link to the text of the agreement; European Commission “Climate Action,” December 23, “We have a Paris Climate agreement. Now What? CNN, December 14, 2015,” http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/14/opinions/sutter-cop21-climate-5-things/index.html; “ COP21: Any agreement is better than no agreement?,” Al Jazeera, December 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/12/cop21-agreement-agreement-paris-climate-151215101705854.html; and “The Paris Agreement, and What the Future Holds,” 350.org, http://350.org/the-paris-agreement-and-what-the-future-holds/).
A report by the International Energy Agency, in early November 2015,
confirmed that the world has been reducing carbon emissions at too slow a pace to prevent major climate
disaster (Stanley Reed, “Global
Shift to Lower-Carbon Energy Is Too Slow, Report Warms,” The New York Times, November 10, 2015).
Justin Gillis, “A Path for Climate Change, Beyond Paris,”
The New York Times, December 1, 2015,
writing as the Paris climate talks opened reflected on the problem that the pledges made by the nations attending the talks
fell well short of what was needed to avert disastrous levels of global warming and the climate change it produces. He noted,
however, that doing more is still possible. “But
many political leaders gathering there — including governors, mayors, and provincial cabinet secretaries — are pushing
for more aggressive cuts. By the dozen, they are signing a voluntary agreement committing their jurisdictions to faster and
deeper reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases than their national governments have promised.”
The question, then, is what is necessary to do to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – the current consensus of the maximum warming that can be permitted (and it appears that the Earth has already warmed 1 degree since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution). “Recent analyses make clear just how difficult a worldwide transition to a clean energy system is likely to be. ‘ The arithmetic is really brutal,’ said Jeffrey D. Sachs, a prominent Columbia University economist. ‘ We’re in such a dreadful situation that every country has to make this transformation, or else this isn’t going to work.’
The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project Has worked to draw up a detailed road map for the energy transition to a sufficiently low emission producing world. “The analysts used conservative assumptions about current technologies and their costs. They also presumed that developed countries would not be willing to make big changes in their way of life — that people would continue to insist on transportation, refrigerators, electric lights and so forth — and that poor countries would keep striving to reach higher standards of living, requiring more energy.” They also assumed that the change would have to be made without not yet developed technologies, such as nuclear fusion.
Following these assumptions, the experts calculated that emissions barely can be cut enough from now to 2050 to meet an international target designed to head off the worst effects of climate change. But a key finding was that “ the technologies available today, while good enough to get a running start on the transition, are probably not good enough to finish it, so that a more intensive research program on clean energy is required, so that, among other things, technologies, such as electric cars and offshore wind turbines , can become cheaper and better.
To begin achieving this, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates announced in Paris that he had put together a group of billionaires to male major investments in developing new technologies. Twenty countries, including the United States, also pledged to double their own investment in basic energy research. Gates commented that poor countries would be reluctant to switch to clean energy technology unless it becomes better and cheaper, “and the only answer to that is innovation.”
Meanwhile , speeding up application of existing clean-energy technologies is seen as spurring innovation, while with increased production, economies of scale drive down costs. Costs of solar panels, for example, dropped 80 percent in the last decade, a direct result of subsidies and other policies meant to create a larger market, while the panels themselves became much more efficient in producing energy from the sun.
Wind turbines have also improved as they have spread rapidly. They already supply almost 5 percent of the electricity in the United States, and in a handful of American states and some smaller countries they produce more than 10% of the electricity.
Plans have now been developed under which wind and solar power is claimed to have the possibility of carrying the entire energy transition. For example, Stanford University engineer Mark Z. Jacobson has calculated that the entire world could operate on 100 percent renewable power by 2050. But to achiever this and similar scenarios put forth by others, an extraordinary effort would be required. “Dr. Jacobson’s plans would require, among many other actions, that 156,000 wind turbines be built off American coasts in the next 35 years, and twice as many on land. In 20 years of effort, European countries have managed to build about 3,000 offshore turbines.” This can be accomplished if the world realizes the necessity of undertaking the same kind of mobilization nations put forth in going to war.
“Dr. Jacobson cited a scientific paper that calculated the oil and gas industry has been building 50,000 new wells a year in North America since 2000. Each of those, he said, is as complicated as erecting a wind turbine, and building tens of thousands of turbines a year would be well within the nation’s industrial capability. He stated, ‘We think it’s technically and economically feasible. It ultimately does come down to political will. If people don’t want to do it, it’s not going to happen by itself.’”
Some experts assert that the transition would be easier, and more feasible, if additional non-greenhouse gas emitting technologies could be utilized, including, quite controversial nuclear power, at the very least keeping existing nuclear power plants in making the transition,
Some “research suggests that to meet strict targets, some countries might need to keep burning coal or natural gas to generate power while capturing the carbon dioxide emerging from smokestacks, compressing it and injecting it deep underground.” To date only some limited experiments have been made
In long term carbon capture and storage. “Environmental groups have been wary of the technology, and Germany, among the most determined countries in battling global warming, has largely decided not to pursue it. Most fossil-fuel companies do not appear to be putting much effort into the approach, either, even though it may be the only way for some of them to stay in business over the long haul.”
“ Perhaps the most compelling finding of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project is that governments could easily flub the energy transition by failing to plan far enough ahead. Most countries are setting 10- and 15-year targets that can be met with incremental changes. Yet that almost guarantees that the toughest problems, like perfecting the carbon-capturing technology, will be tackled too late to meet the long-term goal of zero emissions.” “Instead, governments have to figure out where they want to be in 2050, and then work backward to plot the necessary technological path, while remaining open to new inventions.”
Planning ahead is critical. The Deep Decarbonization project’s plans, f0r example, “do not envision broad adoption of electric cars until the 2030s. But that is only 14 years away, suggesting an urgent need to make the cars better and cheaper, and to roll out charging stations by the millions.” The same development and infrastructure needs are involved in all the needed technologies applications,
“To achieve the emissions goals, shifts to renewable technologies have to be undertaken according to the conditions in each location, while “the entire economy, including transportation, needs to be electrified as much as possible. That might mean cars’ running on batteries, but it could also mean cars’ running on hydrogen, created by using nighttime electricity from nuclear reactors or wind turbines to split water molecules.
Either way, the implication is that the internal-combustion engine that has powered cars since the 19th century is a technological dead end in the 21st. So countries like the United States that are spending a lot of effort trying to make gasoline cars more efficient may be going down a blind alley.”
“ Another potential dead end, the research suggests, would be an overreliance on natural gas.” While gas is a lower-carbon fuel than coal, its production, storage and distribution currently involve huge leaks of very global warming methane (natural gas), which cancel out its advantage as a fuel, while the fracking used to produce it causes extremely serious environmental damage. Even if these problems can be overcome, “the deep-decarbonization research suggests that gas has to go away within a few decades, which means that heavy investment in natural gas pipelines and power plants now could wind up undermining the long-term goals.”
Governments have a major role in the transition. Mayors and city councilors and governors were shown to be the most determined to move forward in the pledges many of them they signed before and during the Paris conference. “In some countries, including the United States, state and local governments control the building codes, many of which still do not include tough requirements for reducing energy demand in new buildings. Cities like Austin, Tex., have shown how to set strict codes and enforce them.
In addition, governments buy millions of cars, generally for their employees to take short hops around town. Switching those fleets to electric cars would help expand the market and reduce costs through economies of scale.”
Larger governments, like states and provinces, could do more. California, for instance, has set a goal of pushing 1.5 million electric cars onto its roads over the next eight years, probably by offering subsidies. A bill that the California Legislature considered earlier this year would have ordered a 50 percent reduction in gasoline use in that state over the next 15 years, by means unspecified in the bill; the oil companies were able to stop it, this time, however.
A positive note, at COP21 in Paris, is that a group of the world’s business leaders attending the meeting endorsed the goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions world wide by 2050 (Sewell Chan, “Business LeadersBack ‘Net Zero’ Target,” The New York Times, December 7, 2015).
China, the United States and Brazil, by the end of June, 2015, had announced their plans to reduce greenhouse emissions, but it was clear that the reductions would not be enough to prevent the Earth’s atmospheric temperature from rising above the destructive 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), which would trigger cataclysmic harm (Coral Davenport, "Global Climate Pact Gains Momentum as China, U.S. and Brazil Detail Plans,” The New York Times, July 1, 2015).
By late September, several more nations had pledged to reduce green house gas emissions, but the small gains were far from sufficient as an analysis by researchers at Climate Interactive, found that if all the current pledges were fully fulfilled the Earth’s temperature would still rise 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100., and while this is better then the previous projected 8.1 degrees, it would still greatly exceed the 3.6 degrees maximum increase above the preindustrial level that must not be surpassed if catastrophic damage to life omn the planet is to be avoided (Justin Gillis and Somini Sengupta, "Limited Progress Seen Even as More Nations Step Up on Climate," The New York Times, September 28, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/world/limited-progress-seen-even-as-more-nations-step-up-on-climate.html?ref=todayspaper).
Ellen Barry and Coral Davenport, "India Announces Plan to Lower Rate of Greenhouse Gas Emissions," The New York Times, October 1, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/02/world/asia/india-announces-plan-to-lower-rate-of-greenhouse-gas-emissions.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, "Under growing pressure to join in an international accord to battle climate change , India on Thursday announced its long-term plan to reduce its rate of planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution and to aggressively ramp up its production of solar power , hydropower and wind energy . India, the world’s third-largest carbon polluter, was the last major country to issue its plan before a major summit meeting in Paris in December aimed at forging a sweeping new accord that would for the first time commit every country on earth to enacting new policies to cut fossil fuel emissions."
Ian Assten, “Canada’s New Leadership Reverses Course on Climate Change,
The New York Times, November 26, 2015,
reported, “With the defeat of the Conservatives in the October general election, out went nearly a decade of Canada making
itself something of a global outcast on the issue
. The record of the former prime minister,
, on climate change was marked by retreat, foot-dragging, and hand-wringing over the economic consequences of moving
The new prime minister, Justin Trudeau , and his Liberals are now trying to make up for lost time. And along with the left-leaning New Democrats, who wrested power from the Conservatives in the oil -rich province of Alberta last spring, they have now moved climate-change policy to the top of the country’s political agenda.”
Speaking at the Paris Climate Change Conference, November 30, 2015, prime minister, Justin Trudeau said in a speech, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn. And no time to waste”(“Indigenous Peoples Know How to Care for Our Planet: Justin Trudeau at COP21,” ICTMN, December 3, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/03/indigenous-peoples-know-how-care-our-planet-justin-trudeau-cop21-162643).
However, as the European Commission moved ahead, in late November, to move from testing cars emissions only in the lab, to including road testing, critics were concerned that the plans for new tests in the wake of revelations of Volkswagen cheating on the level of emissions its deasil vehicles produced, had been weakened (Danny Hakim, “Critics Condemn Weakening of Europe’s Emissions Plan, The New York Times, October 29, 2015).
“Bill Gates Expected to Create Billion-Dollar Fund for Clean Energy,”
The New York Times, November 27, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/topic/person/bill-gates?inline=nyt-per, reported, “
will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday
at the opening of a Paris summit meeting intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions,
according to people with knowledge of the plans.
The fund, which one of the people described as the largest such effort in history, is meant to pay for research and development of new clean-energy technologies. It will include contributions from other billionaires and philanthropies, as well as a commitment by the United States and other participating nations to double their budget for clean energy research and development, according to the people with knowledge of the plans, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the fund.
The announcement of the fund, which has the joint backing of the governments of the United States, China, India and other countries, the people said, is intended to give momentum to the two-week Paris climate talks.”
One aspect of President Obama's CO
2 reduction plan is that it makes complying by electric power generating firms a cost savings. However,
numerous Republican Governors, receiving large campaign donations from oil interests, have been planning to fight the
plan (Jody Freeman and Kate Konschnik, "A Climate Plan Business Can Like,"
The New York Times, August 4, 2015; and Coral Davenport, "Governors Signal Intent to Thwart Climate Rules,"
The New York Times, July 3, 2015).
President Obama rejected the proposed Keystone Pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, for export abroad, in early December, primarily on the grounds that the increased oil production and use would contribute to global warming (Coral Davenport, “President Rejects Keystone Pipeline to Transport Oil, The New York Times, November 7, 2015).
Polls continue to show increasing public support in the U.S. for action on global warming induced climate change, including a New York Times-CBS poll, in late November 2015, showing that 63% would support a strong binding global warming treaty emerging from Paris (Giovanni Russonelo, “Poll Finds That Two-Thirds of Americans Would Support a Binding Global Treaty.” The New York Times, December 1, 2015).
However, Republicans in the U.S. Congress continue to deny climate change and propose numerous laws contrary to good science (A.A. Rosenberg, et al, Congres’s attacks on science-based rules,” Science, May 29, 2015).
Michelle Innis, "Australia Sets Emissions Goal, but Climate Experts Say It Falls Short,"
The New York Times, August 11, 2015,
Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday announced a greenhouse gas reduction goal for
that he said struck ‘the right balance’ between economic concerns and the need to address
, but scientists and environmental groups said the plan fell short of what was needed.
The goal — reducing carbon emissions at least 26 percent, and possibly 28 percent, from 2005 levels by 2030 — also earned Mr. Abbott a stinging rebuke from the Marshall Islands, the tiny archipelago northeast of Australia that is threatened by rising sea levels.
‘If the rest of the world followed Australia’s lead, the Great Barrier Reef would disappear,’ Tony de Brum, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, said in a statement. ‘So would my country, and the other vulnerable atoll nations on Australia’s doorstep.’”
Bruce Watson, "Cutting greenhouse gas emissions won't
slow global economic growth — report: New report from green think tank Heinrich Boll shows OECD countries grew their economies
16% in last decade – and cut greenhouse gas emissions 6.4%,"
The Guardian, September 26, 2015 (received from Ted Cloak, [email protected]), reported, "As the world works
out how to avoid catastrophic climate change, one of the biggest questions remaining is whether we
can continue to grow economically without also increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
New research released this week at Climate Week NYC offers more hope that the answer might be yes. Prepared for green thinktank Heinrich Böll by DIW Econ, a German institute for economic research, the study found that, as a whole, countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have already decoupled their economic growth from emissions.
From 2004 to 2014, OECD countries grew their economies by 16% all together, while cutting fossil fuel consumption by 6% and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.4%, according to the report. The findings echo the results of an International Energy Association study earlier this year, which found that global emissions remained flat in 2014 while global GDP rose, marking a historical milestone.
Four major factors have contributed to this decoupling, according to the Heinrich Böll study: increased use of low-carbon energy sources instead of fossil energy sources; increased efficiency in energy generation; increased energy efficiency on the consumer side; and a move away from energy-intensive manufacturing towards less energy-intensive service sector work.
The biggest driver has been the reduced cost of renewable energy, particularly solar power, says Bastian Hermisson, executive director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s North America office.
'Renewables are the only source of energy that is continually getting cheaper,' Hermisson says. 'In many parts of the world, solar and wind power have become cost competitive with coal. Renewables are, increasingly, offering the best return for your money, in terms of new investments.'"
Justin Gillis and Chris Buckley, “Period of Soaring Emissions May Be Ending, New Data Suggest,” the New York Times, December
Industrial emissions of greenhouse gases rose only slightly in 2014 and appear to be on track to decline in 2015,
according to new data that raise the possibility that a period of rapid global emissions growth may be coming to an
The decline of 0.6 percent projected for this year, should it come to pass, would be highly unusual at a time when the global economy is growing. The projection contrasts sharply with emissions growth that averaged 2.4 percent a year over the last decade, and sometimes topped 3 percent.
The new figures were released at the climate conference here by the Global Carbon Project, a collaboration that studies emissions, and published simultaneously in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Past emissions declines have usually been linked to economic distress, such as the global financial panic of 2009 and the Russian economic meltdown of the late 1990s.
The new figures suggest that there is a chance that global emissions have already peaked and may be starting a long-term decline, experts said Monday, which would be an important inflection point for the international effort to limit the risks of global warming.
But the experts with the Global Carbon Project said they did not consider that to be likely.
Instead, emissions growth may resume as the Chinese economy recovers from a period of slow growth and as India pursues a plan to double its burning of coal in power plants, part of a program to bring 300 million poor villagers onto the power grid.”
The election of a center-right government, focused on reducing government spending, in Denmark, in June 2015, brought with it cutting back on a fund that seeds green technology projects, slowing Denmark’s leading renewable energy development (Melissa Eddy, “Denmark, a Green Energy Leader, Slows the Pace of Its Spending,” The New York Times, December 6, 2015).
Alister Doyle, "Islamic Experts Urge Muslim Action on Climate Change,"
Climate Central, Researching and reporting the science and impacts of climate change, August 22, 2015,
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/islamic-experts-urge-climate-action-19359, reported, "
A group of Islamic experts urged the world's 1.6 billion Muslims to do more to fight global warming, in a new
example of religious efforts to galvanize action before a U.N. climate summit in Paris in December." "
Muslim experts from 20 nations agreed on an 8-page declaration at talks in Istanbul where it was adopted by 60
participants including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, a statement said.
'Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know
as Allah –
gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans,' they
wrote. They said
inaction on reining in manmade greenhouse gas emissions, from factories, power plants and cars, would mean "dire
consequences to planet earth.'
The declaration called on rich governments - and oil-producing states that include some OPEC nations where Islam is the state religion - to lead the way in 'phasing out their greenhouse gas emissions as early as possible and no later than the middle of the century.'" The declaration is republished in Dialoguing below, and in available at: http://islamicclimatedeclaration.org/islamic-declaration-on-global-climate-change/.
Deirdre Fulton, "Experts Warn Climate Change
is 'Changing the Contours' of World's Oceans: 'Warmer waters—along with rising seas, coastal droughts and ocean
acidification—are already putting people, businesses, and communities at risk',"
, August 27, 2015,
http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/27/experts-warn-climate-change-changing-contours-worlds-oceans, reported, "As
climate change continues to put ocean ecosystems and the communities that rely upon them at risk, the U.S. National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this week outlined a new
"Climate Science Strategy"
meant to increase fisheries' resilience against global warming.
" NOAA just announced that for the globe the month of July—and actually, the entire year so far—was the warmest ever recorded, driven largely by record warm ocean temperatures," said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. 'Those warmer waters—along with rising seas, coastal droughts and ocean acidification—are already putting people, businesses, and communities at risk.'
The strategy aims to increase 'the production, delivery, and use of climate-related information' in order to mitigate global warming's impact on marine and coastal industries.
That impact is already being seen, noted Richard Merrick, NOAA Fisheries director of scientific programs and chief science advisor. 'We are already seeing marine animals change where they live to deal with changing climate,' he said. 'We're even seeing population numbers of some species drop.'
As Lisa Suatoni, a senior scientist in the oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted in a blog post about the strategy on Thursday, 'climate change and ocean acidification have already changed the contours of the fishing industry in our country.'
She wrote: 'American lobster fisheries in Connecticut and New York have nearly vanished due to warming waters and increased incidence of disease. Some scientists believe that rising temperatures have thwarted the recovery of the long-overfished Atlantic cod in the Northeast. Rising acidity along the coast of the Pacific Northwest has caused massive die-offs of oyster larvae. As fish move northward and into deeper waters as a result of rising water temperatures, historic fisheries will fade and new ones will arise in coastal fishing communities around the United States.'
NOAA's move comes as the U.S. government makes public its desire for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to devote more research to the question of how climate change affects the world's oceans. According to the Guardian on Thursday, the U.S. will raise the issue at United Nations climate talks in Paris later this year.
'In my judgment, more attention needs to be paid to the climate change effects upon the ocean areas of the world,' David Balton, deputy assistant secretary for oceans and fisheries at the State Department, told the Guardian. 'We need to keep pushing up until the Paris conference and beyond. Ultimately, we need to change the way we live if we’re to keep the planet in the safe zone.'
Harm to aquatic life from acidification of waters from higher atmospheric levels is causing harm in fresh water as well as in salt water. In the 1980s, such harm was shown from acid rain. Two recent studies show change in behavior of pink salmon in fresh waters as a result of carbon dioxide acidification, and similar effects were previously observed in ocean fish ( http://FWscim.ag/fishacid) (“Acidification hurts fresh water fish,” Science, July 3, 2015).
Climate change is threatening crops, particularly some desired for their taste, rather than calorie count. These include: coffee, cocoa, maple syrup and tobacco (“The endangered pallets list,” Science, May 24, 2015).
Weather-related disasters have killed more than 600,000 people and caused economic losses estimated at a minimum of
$1.9 trillion (and likely was far greater), in the past two decades, according to a late November 2015 report from the United
Nations by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. The report warned that the frequency and impact of such
events was expected to increase.
The largest number of weather related disasters over the past two decades were in the United States, while China and India have been the most severely affected, especially by floods that impacted billions of people. Weather-related disasters during the period negatively affected 4.1 billion people left wounded, displaced or in need of emergency assistance, as well as killing .6 million. while inflicted huge economic costs.
The United Nations office recorded an average of 335 weather-related disasters every year over the two decades, double the level in the previous 10 years. The report counted events that had killed 10 or more people, affected more than 1,000 and generated appeals for external assistance.
The report found strong evidence that the warming climate is creating more frequent and intense heat waves, causing heavier rainstorms, worsening coastal flooding and intensifying some droughts, but for many other types of weather occurrences, the linkage is less clear. Floods accounted for close to half of all the weather-related disasters, affecting 2.3 billion people, mostly in Asia. Storms killed the most people, causing about 242,000 recorded deaths, including 138,000 killed by Cyclone Nargis , which struck Myanmar in 2008.
Droughts, which were most acute in Africa, affected more than a billion people, causing hunger, malnutrition, disease and widespread agricultural failure that resulted in long-lasting underdevelopment. Heat waves killed 148,000, primarily in Europe, while wildfires greatly increased. About 38 major wildfires in the United States were estimated to have affected more than 108,000 people and caused recorded losses of over $11 billion — numbers the report said were sure to rise when fires that were raging after August 2015, the cutoff point for data, were taken into account.
The figure of $1.9 trillion for the worldwide cost of the disasters was clearly a minimum, as data was available for only a little more than a third of the recorded disasters (Nick Cummings-Bruce. “Extreme Weather Tied to Over 600,000 Deaths Over 2 Decades,” The New York Times, November 23, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/24/world/europe/extreme-weather-disasters-united-nations-paris.html?ref=todayspaper).
Three economists at the University of California Palo Alto released a study,in November, finding that if global warming continues at its current rate, income in developing countries could fall by 20% by century’s end, while smaller declines would be likely in developed nations (Pete Spotts, “Climate Change’s big economic toll,” The Christian Science Monitor, November 9, 2015).
Diane Cardwell, "Renewable Energy Financing Hits a Snag," The New York Times, October. 11, 2015, , reported, " Low oil and gas prices have roiled the energy markets, and the specter of rising interest rates has rattled investors’ confidence in the industry’s returns. Although energy and financial experts say that the basics of the business remain sound, the lofty stock prices have tumbled, leading renewable energy companies to scramble for new approaches to their businesses."
Recent research has shown strong signals that global warming is intensifying heat waves around the world, but to date a smaller link has been found between droughts and wild fires (John Schwartz, “Studies Look for Signs of Climate Change in 2014’s )Extreme Weather,” The New York Times, November 6, 2015).
Chris Buckley, “China Burns Much More Coal Than Reported, Complicating Climate Talks,” The New York Times, November. 3, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/asia/china-burns-much-more-coal-than-reported-complicating-climate-talks.html, reported, “ China , the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limit global warming .”
Edward Wong and Mia Li, "Rapid Economic Growth in China Is Chipping Away at Coastal Wetlands," The New York Times, October 19, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/20/world/asia/china-economic-growth-is-reducing-coastal-wetlands-report-finds.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, " Coastal wetlands in China have vanished at an alarming rate because of the country’s economic development, and current economic plans could diminish them to below the minimum needed for “ecological security,” including fresh water, fishery products and flood control, according to a report released Monday by Chinese scientists and an American research center."
John Schwartz, "Deadly Heat Is Forecast in Persian Gulf by 2100,"
The New York Times, October 26, 2015,
By the end of this century, areas of the Persian Gulf could be hit by waves of heat and humidity so severe that simply
being outside for several hours could threaten human life, according to a
published Monday. Because of humanity’s contribution to
, the authors wrote, some population centers in the Middle East “are likely to experience temperature levels that are
intolerable to humans.”
The dangerously muggy summer conditions predicted for places near the warm waters of the gulf could overwhelm the ability of the human body to reduce its temperature through sweating and ventilation. That threatens anyone without air-conditioning, including the poor, but also those who work outdoors in professions like agriculture and construction.
The paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, was written by Jeremy S. Pal of the department of civil engineering and environmental science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previous studies had suggested that such conditions might be reached within 200 years. But the new research, which depends on climate models that focus on regional topography and conditions, foresees a shorter timeline."
Edward Wong, “Chinese Glacier’s Retreat Signals Trouble for Asian Water Supply,”
The New York Times, December 8, 2015,
The extreme effects predicted of global
are already happening in western China. Glacier retreat here and across the so-called Third Pole, the glaciers of the
Himalayas and related mountain ranges, threatens Asia’s water supply. Towns and villages along the
arid Hexi Corridor
, a passage on the historic Silk Road where camels still roam, have suffered floods and landslides caused by sudden
summer rainstorms. Permafrost is disappearing from the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau, jeopardizing the existence of plants and animals,
the livelihoods of its people and even the integrity of infrastructure like China’s high-altitude railway to Lhasa,
The fact that Chinese scientists are raising alarms about these changes is a key reason that the Chinese government has been engaging fully in climate change negotiations in recent years. Another is the deadly urban air pollution, caused mostly by industrial coal burning, that resulted in Beijing’s first red alert over air quality on Monday.”
“In November, China released a detailed scientific report on climate change that predicted disastrous consequences for its 1.4 billion people. Those included rising sea levels along the urbanized coast, floods from storms across China and the erosion of glaciers. More than 80 percent of the permafrost on the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau could disappear by the next century, the report said. Temperatures in China are expected to rise by 1.3 to 5 degrees Celsius, or 2.3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the century, and temperatures have risen faster in China in the last half-century than the global average.
People across China are already feeling the impact. The most obvious devastation comes from flooding. The report said an increase in urban floods attributed to climate change has destroyed homes and infrastructure. From 2008 to 2010, 62 percent of Chinese cities had floods; 173 had three or more.”
study by Australian researchers finds that the rising atmospheric, and hence ocean, increase in acidifying carbon
dioxide may so stress the world’s ocean ecosystems that it will lead to a collapse in the food chain. While many, but not all,
microscopic organisms do well in warmer, more acidic waters, many fish harvested to feed people do not. (“Food Chain
Albuquerque Journal, October 19, 2015).
Krill, however, the base of the Antarctic Ocean food chain are declining in the warmer, more acidic oceans, and there is evidence that if the current rate of global warming induced climate change continues, conditions may no longer be suitable for krill reproduction (Michelle Innis, “Worry for the Antarctic Ecosystem,” The New York Times, October 20, 2015).
Marufish, “Campaign Update: RSPO Failing its Mandate to Regulate Palm Oil
Industry,” Cultural Survival, December 4, 2015,
A new report, entitled
Who Watches the Watchmen?
[https://eia-international.org/wp-content/uploads/EIA-Who-Watches-the-Watchmen-FINAL.pdf] released by the Environmental
Investigation Agency (EIA) and Grassroots, demonstrates that the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, the industry
oversight body that charges itself with certifying palm oil as sustainable, is failing to address the concerning and harmful
practices of many palm oil companies it certifies as socially and environmentally ethical.
The RSPO was established in 2004 to audit palm oil companies, establishing the guidelines for sustainable palm oil production. Palm oil is used in a multitude of processed foods, such as chocolate, cereal, soup, cookies, crackers, and also in many cosmetics. However, as the industry has grown over the last two decades, it has been implicated in problematic business practices that do irreversible damage to the environment and Indigenous Peoples. Because palm oil trees grow best in rainforest climates, companies have razed huge tracts of ancient rainforests to monocrop palm trees for mass production, virtually erasing all biodiversity of flora and fauna naturally found in these forests, and evicting Indigenous Peoples who live there, destroying their lifestyles and livelihoods.
Using nine case studies as evidence, the report makes claims that RSPO auditors have failed to identify and address Indigenous land rights in areas where they have certified palm oil plantations, as well as failing to identify situations where companies are using trafficked labor, razed forests of High Conservation Value, and destroyed crucial animal habitats. Another example of this oversight can be found in a Greenomics report regarding Indonesian company Sawit Sumbermas Sarana (SSS), that was found to endangering an orangutan habitat and clearing forested peatland.
The RSPO infrastructure includes a complaint mechanism, which provides, communities, NGOs and other outside stakeholders recourse where RSPO members have violated their standards. In 2012, Cultural Survival joined a coalition of environmental and human rights organizations in submitting a complaint to the RSPO citing that a palm oil plantation in Southwest Cameroon, run by US based Herakles Farms , would cause irreparable deforestation and damage to wildlife, as well as depriving the local indigenous communities of their livelihoods. Later, Herakles Farms withdrew their application for RSPO certification. However, many complaints go unaddressed and has failed to provide acceptable outcomes. There are concerns with conflicts of interest, with companies that have been subject to complaints joining the Panel charged with reviewing complaints even while the problems raised remain unresolved. Some complaints have dragged on for five or more years without resolution.
In response to the report of the EIA, the RSPO has stated its intention to keep an “open dialogue” with all stakeholders in an attempt to keep palm oil production as sustainable as possible. It has acknowledged the claims made by the RSPO and stated that it does not take these accusations lightly and that auditor practices will be reviewed. The RSPO also unveiled several new policies to better monitor the actions of auditors in a registry that will be introduced in 2016. The RSPO and its members, who include corporations such as McDonald's, Wendy’s and Estée Lauder, met in Kuala Lumpur from November 16 - 19 to consider plans for moving forward.
Meanwhile, it is up to consumers to research the source and conditions of any products containing palm oil. EIA Forest Campaigner Tomasz Johnson explains that this neglect made by RSPO auditors will allow palm oil products to reach “supermarket shelves that are tainted with human trafficking, rights abuses and the destruction of biodiversity.” For tips on choosing sustainable palm oil products as a consumer, check out this guide published by the Guardian, 10 things you need to know about sustainable palm oil [at: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/nov/26/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-sustainable-palm-oil].”
An effort is underway to build supposedly greener ships, world wide, powered by liquid natural gas instead of diesel. At the point of burning, natural gas is the cleaner fuel. However, with all the leaks in the process of extracting, storing and shifting natural gas, which is methane – a far more global warming producing gas than carbon dioxide – it will not be much if any improvement unless, and until, the methane leaks are plugged (Henry Fountain, “Building Greener Ships, to Keep the SeaFrom Rising,” The New York Times, December 8, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/08/science/carbon-emissions-shipping-container-ships.html).
While efforts are being made to increase the efficiency of gasoline and Deiseal powered automobiles, doing so will not ultimately reduce fissile fuel emissions from them as millions of more cars take the road, especially in emerging economies. The only solution is to stop driving fossil fuel powered vehicles (David Jolly, “Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits,” The New York Times, December 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/08/business/energy-environment/despite-push-for-cleaner-cars-sheer-numbers-could-work-against-climate-benefits.html?ref=todayspaper).
Revelations that Exon-Mobil’s directors and top officers knew decades ago that burning fissile fuels they produce cause extremely damaging global warming have led to calls for Congressional and other investigations. It is unlikely that the company or its leaders will face criminal charges. Justin Gillis, “Climate Revelations Prompt Calls for Federal Investigations of Exon Mobil,” The New York Times, October 31, 2015).
Climate change is not the only human-caused threat facing the world's oceans. The Scotland
reported Wednesday on a study that found
up to 80 tons of microplastic waste entering the sea every year from use of these cosmetics in the UK alone.
Meanwhile, a fleet of about 30 vessels connected with the Netherlands-based Ocean Cleanup returned on Sunday from a month-long expedition in which they sampled the concentration of plastic in the Pacific in preparation for a large-scale cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is scheduled to begin by 2020. What they found was troubling.
'I've studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific
Garbage Patch,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, lead oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup. "With every trawl we completed, thousands
of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic.'"
Nadia Prupis, "Cutting Tropical Deforestation is Key to Curbing Climate Change, And It's Cheap:New studies shows how easy it could be to curb one driving force of climate change, and the devastating consequences if we don't," Common Dreams, August 24, 2015, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/24/cutting-tropical-deforestation-key-curbing-climate-change-and-its-cheap, reported, " Tropical deforestation is a driving force behind rising greenhouse gases and must be curbed in order to prevent irreversible global temperature rise, new research finds.
Without drastic efforts to reduce deforestation, rising greenhouse gases, and unsustainable global agriculture, the planet is on track to lose a massive quantity of its tropical forests—a crucial element in the fight against irreversible climate change—in just 35 years.
Absent aggressive conservation policies, the world will lose 2.9 million square kilometers of its tropical forests by 2050, according to a new working paper published Monday by Center for Global Development (CGD) environmental expert Jonah Busch and research assistant Jens Engelmann. That's a chunk the size of India, or one-third of U.S. land mass.
And if no changes are made to the world's 'business-as-usual' approach to agriculture, logging, and other such forces, tropical deforestation will account for more than one-sixth of the remaining carbon that can be emitted if the world is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
The carbon emissions that would occur during that process would add up to 169 billion tons—the equivalent of running 44,000 typical coal plants per year, Busch explained in a blog post accompanying the report, entitled The Future of Forests: Emissions from Tropical Deforestation with and without a Carbon Price, 2016–2050 (pdf).
According to a separate study published earlier this year by NASA , tropical forests are absorbing carbon dioxide at a far higher rate than previously thought, making them an invaluable resource in curbing global warming.
That's the bad news. The good news, Busch writes, is that there are many solutions available.
'Avoiding dangerous climate change while expanding economic prosperity is perhaps the defining challenge of the 21st century,' Busch writes. 'Achieving both goals requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions where doing so has the lowest unit cost.'
Carbon pricing is one example. Applying a global fee of $20 per ton of carbon dioxide between 2016 and 2050 would keep 41 gigatons of emissions from being discharged, the researchers found.
Another option is to follow Brazil's model of targeting greenhouse gases, which involves 'satellite monitoring, law enforcement, new protected areas and indigenous territories, restrictions on rural credit, and moratoriums on unsustainable soy and cattle production,' Busch writes. 'As a result of these restrictive measures, Amazon deforestation fell by nearly 80 percent since 2004 even while Brazil's soy and cattle production increased.'
CGD's study comes as another report from the University of Leeds, published Friday in Science, warns of a devastating future for forests, which will exist only in a 'simplified' state by 2100 if climate change is not aggressively addressed.
'Earth has lost 100 million hectares of tropical forest over the last 30 years, mostly to agricultural developments,' lead researcher Dr. Simon Lewis said last week. 'Few people think about how intertwined with tropical forests we all are.'
Lewis, a forest expert and professor at the University of Leeds and University College London, found that a new and more dangerous phase of human environmental impact threatens to deteriorate much of the world's remaining tropical forests until they exist in a fragmented, 'living dead' state. That's a fate that can only be avoided through a shift to low-carbon energy or embracing policies that promote 'development without destruction.'
'Unfortunately, most of the benefits from logging, mining and intensive agriculture flow away from local people,' Lewis wrote in an article accompanying the report. 'Giving forest-dwellers long-term collective legal rights over their land would mean benefits flow to them.'
As world leaders prepare for the upcoming climate conference in Paris and the growing call to prevent full-scale destruction of natural resources continues to build, 2015 is becoming a big year for climate,'Busch writes."
Ian Lovett, "California: Climate Change Law Signed," The New York Times, October 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/us/california-climate-change-law-signed.html?ref=todayspaper, "Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a law to bolster California’s use of renewable energy and make buildings more efficient, but it does not include a reduction in gasoline use that he had promoted. The law will require the state to generate half its energy from renewable sources by 2030, up from a current target of 33 percent by 2020." Following objections from the oil industry, a provision to require a statewide 50% reduction of petroleum use was dropped from the law.
An increasing number of businesses have been moving to use green energy (though many who say they are green, are not,
or very little). One example, is Procter and Gamble moving to power its factories by windmill (Rachel Abrams, “Procter
& Gamble Taps Wind to Power Its Factories,”
The New York Times, November 20, 2015).
United Parcel Service (UPS) announce a plan to replace, by 2017, 12% of the gas and diesel fuel in its truck fleet with renewable diesel from palm oil, waste oils, animal fate and other products. Except for the palm oil, the production of which has involved cutting down forests, taking farms out of food production, and displacing people, this appears to be a largely positive step for the environment] (Diane Cardwell, "Renewable Fuels Get Big Boost from UPS," The New York Times, July 31, 2015).
Microsoft has moved to reduce energy use, and emissions, through charging an internal fee for energy use (“A Carbon Tax Imposed buy the Head Office,” The New York Times, September 22, 2015).
David Jolly, "Norway Is a Model for Encouraging Electric Car Sales,"
The New York Times, October 16, 2015,
Norway has provided heavy incentives for its citizens to purchase electric cars. "At a time when the
emissions scandal has helped expose the drawbacks of Europe’s heavy reliance on diesel cars,
Norway has become a global model of how to get the public to embrace electric vehicles, an experiment that is
attracting researchers and policy makers from around the world.
No other country can yet match Norway’s proportion of all-electric cars. Though still only 2 percent, the figure is double that of the runner-up, the Netherlands, and is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. More than one-fifth of new car sales in Norway are of electric vehicles.
Some skeptics wonder whether the Norwegian program is cost-effective, or even an efficient way to reduce air pollutants. And some elements of the program simply may not be replicable in other countries. But for many, Norway is showing a path forward."
Taylor Hill, "Third Time’s a Disaster: Latest Coral Bleaching Hits Reefs Worldwide: A 'warm blob' in the
Pacific Ocean coupled with a strong El Niño could put more than 4,000 square miles of pristine coral reefs in harm’s way."
TakePart.com, October 8, 2015, http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/10/08/coral-bleaching-el-nino?cmpid=tpdaily-eml-2015-10-8,
Scientists have confirmed that for only the third time ever recorded, bleaching is hitting coral reefs on a global
The devastating impacts could be longer and more severe than any previous event , said researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"The problem is, the water temperatures and coral bleaching we’re seeing now are what you would expect during an El Niño year, but we haven’t even gotten to the expected 2015–16 event yet,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator.
What’s happened is that the giant, unusually warm water mass that has loitered in the Pacific Ocean since 2014 is about to merge with 2015’s expected El Niño weather event. Couple that with warmer ocean temperatures overall thanks to climate change, and as much as 4,633 square miles of vibrant coral reefs—approximately 38 percent of the world’s corals—could be damaged by the end of this year. Five percent of the reefs could be lost for good.
Corals cover less than 1 percent of the ocean’s floor, but they’re vitally important to more than 25 percent of all marine life, acting as a home for thousands of species and food for others. For humans, coral reefs are a natural buffer against waves and storms, and nearly half of the fish species people eat rely on coral reef habitats at some stage of their lives. But with coral bleaching events seemingly on the rise, the entire ocean structure could be in danger.
While some expensive to extract and refine tar sands oil is still being produced in Alberta, the industry has greatly cut back production with the fall of oil prices, cutting 35,000 jobs (Ian Austen, "Oil Sands Boom Dries Up in Alberta, Taking Thousands of Jobs With it," The New York Times, October 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/13/business/international/oil-sands-boom-dries-up-in-alberta-taking-thousands-of-jobs-with-it.html?ref=todayspaper).
A paper, Jens T. Stevens, Hugh D. Safford, Susan Harrison and Andrew M. Latimer, "Forest disturbance accelerates thermophilization of understory plant communities," Journal of Ecology , June 3, 2015, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.12426/abstract, found that forest fires are speeding up climate change, and that plants that are primarily found in an area well to the south, but exist in an area much further north, are becoming common in the northern area. For example plants found in abundance in Mexico, but until recently rare around San Francisco, are becoming common around San Francisco. They project that farmers will soon need to begin shifting what they grow in a similar manner (See also, Dan Nosowitz, "Wildfires Are Speeding Up Climate Change—and Shifting What Grows Where: The range of native plants is moving northward after wildfires, and agriculture may follow," TakePart, August 14, 2015, http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/08/14/wildfires-plants-agriculture-climate-change?cmpid=tpdaily-eml-2015-08-14).
worst fire season on record in California, and the largest wildfire in the state, the Rough Fire, having charred more
than 160 square miles, is bringing major health problems to California's central valley, where the mountains trap the
smoke. Asthma and other breathing related ailments are sharply increased. At least one elementary school was keeping
students inside at recess and some sports had been canceled. Briefly, Denver had major air quality problems this summer, as
the whole West to varying degrees has experienced lower air quality as a result of the fires, and the
situation was likely to worsen as fire seasons continue to worsen (Jan Lovett and Jennifer Medina, "Fires in West Have
Residents Gasping on the Soot Left Behind,"
The New York Times, September 9, 2015,
With so much of California tinder dry, embers jump even very wide fire lines, and many fires spread at record rates of speed no matter white fire fighters do. On September 13, the Valley Fire in Lake County exploded to 50,000 acres, burning over 1000 homes and business buildings, as well as vehicles, as it incinerated the towns of Middletown and Lakeside. Some residents barely escaped driving through the fire to do so (Ian Lovett and Ashley Southall, "Moving Fast, Fire Scorches Community in California," The New York Times, September 13, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/14/us/northern-california-wildfires.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0).
Walker, “Middletown Rancheria Pomo Provide Shelter, Aid to Valley Fire Victims,” ICTMN, October 12, 2015,
, reported – updating previous reports above, “ Four residents died. Four firefighters were injured. More than 76,000 acres were burned. Some 1,958 homes and businesses—including entire blocks—were destroyed. Another 93 buildings were damaged.
There are several Pomo Rancherias, or reservations, in Lake County, one of the hardest-hit by the recent Valley Fire: Big Valley, Elem, Middletown, Robinson, Scotts Valley, and Habematoel (Upper Lake). The Lake County Tribal Health Consortium serves a population of 3,341 (its clinics in Lakeport, Clearlake and Middletown emerged unscathed by the fire). The Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians was closest to the fire.
While the Middletown Rancheria itself reportedly escaped damage, residents there have relatives or friends who live in town. The Twin Pine Casino & Hotel—with three restaurants, a bar and lounge, an event center and a gift shop—employs as many as 200 people, Native and non-Native. Among those who lost their homes: Tommy Garrett, executive chef at Twin Pine Casino & Hotel.
‘Many tribal members as well as employees of Twin Pine Casino & Hotel and Mount St. Helena Brewing Co. were victims of the fire’s devastation,’ Middletown Pomo Chairman Jose Simon wrote in a statement about the relief fund. ‘A united community now faces the long road of recovery together.’
Even before the Valley Fire that swept through Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties was declared fully contained on October 6 and residents were allowed back to whatever remained of their homes and neighborhoods, the healing had begun.
The Middletown Rancheria converted the event center at Twin Pine Casino & Hotel into a Red Cross disaster relief center for the community, and hotel rooms were made available to those who had lost their homes. The tribe also established a relief fund. The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians donated $5,000.”
“Three Standing Rock Reservation Fires Quelled But Burn 7,500 Acres,”
October 13, 2015,
A total of 7,500 acres has been scorched by fire on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, but two have been put
out and one is 75 percent contained, the incident reporting site Inciweb said on Tuesday.
“About 340 people had to be evacuated, and three structures were destroyed, Inciweb said. They have since returned to their homes. No lives were lost. All three fires are still being investigated and are of unknown cause, Inciweb said.”
CNN radio news, August 16, 2015,
reported 80 wildfires in progress in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with 6.5 million acres burned to
date in the 2015 fire season.
Insurance company of London, Aon Benfield, estimated that property damage alone from two wildfires in Lake and in Calaveras and Amador counties in California, in September, approached $2 billion with almost 2000 structures, 1300 of them homes destroyed, and more than 3200 homes damaged, as over 200 square miles were consumed by the fires ("California: September Wildfires Caused $2 Billion in Damage, Insurer Says," The New York Times, October 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/us/california-september-wildfires-caused-2-billion-in-damage-insurer-says.html?ref=todayspaper).
“Colville Tribes Call for Donations and Volunteers as 2 Massive Fires Scorch 600 Square Miles,”
September 15, 2015,
Two fires totaling 382,815 acres, or nearly 600 square miles, continue to ravage the Colville Reservation in Washington
State, with one of them just 45 percent contained.
The North Star and Tunk Block fires have scorched a good 20 percent of the 1.4 million-acre reservation, according to The Spokesman-Review on September 8, which noted they are the largest fires in tribal memory.
As of September 14, the North Star fire had grown to 214,975 acres and was 45 percent contained, while the Tunk Block covered 167,840 and was 79 percent contained, according to the incident reporting site InciWeb.
“The Tunk Block and North Star Fires are both very large,” said InciWeb. “The fires combined are over 590 square miles. That is four times the size of the city of Seattle or about the size of the city of Los Angeles. It is approximately 590 miles from Seattle to Helena, MT.”
While weather forecasts are uncertain, as of August 14, 2015 was enroute to becoming the hottest year yet, with a strong likelihood that this coming fall and winter would experience one of the strongest el Ninio's ever recorded in the Pacific, likely bringing warmer that unusual weather to the U.S. South West, with more rain (but little snow) to Northern California and places further east, with more hurricane activity in the Pacific, and less in the Atlantic. A strong el Nino would likely also reduce rain in Australia and India (John Schwartz, "El Niño May Bring Record Heat, and Rain for California," The New York Times, August 13, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/science/signs-of-a-historic-el-nino-but-forecasters-remain-wary.html?ref=todayspaper).
The drought in California over the past three years, in lowering lake levels, exposed tribal archaeological sites to plundering (Patricia Lee Brown, “Receding Waters in California Expose Artifacts to Plundering,” The New York Times, December 1, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/us/receding-waters-in-california-expose-artifacts-to-plunder.html?WT.nav=bottom-well).
Exceptionally heavy rain caused flash flooding in southern California, October 15, closing key state road 58, near Barstow, and two interstate highways, including 30 miles of Interstate 5 near Tajon, as numerous drivers were stuck in mud washed over the highway ("Roads Flooded Near Los Angeles," The New York Times, October 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/us/roads-flooded-near-los-angeles.html?ref=todayspaper).
Unusually heavy rains in Utah, in September, caused flash flooding, killing 12 people (“Flash Floods Roar Through Utah, Sweeping Up Cars and Hikers.”The New York Times, September 16, 2015).
With the arrival of winter, it used to be that in the U.S. Midwest and South, tornado season was long over and far from renewing. But that has already changed with climate change. On December 23, 2015 tornadoes developed across the South and Midwest, including what used to be extremely rare, a tornado staying on the ground for many miles, in this case for some 130 miles across Mississippi, killing at least 14 people. Two days later, 8 were killed as a group of tornadoes struck the Dallas, TX area, destroying homes and throwing cars off freeways Meanwhile, the Northeastern U.S. saw record high temperatures for a number of days up to and over Christmas 2015, as the world’s hottest year on record approached an end (Lacy Russell, Alan Blinder and Cynthia Howell, “Tornado Leaves Long Path of Destruction in South,” The New York Times, December 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/25/us/storms-mississippi-tennessee-arkansas.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0; Daniel E. Slotnik and David Montgomery, “Eight Dead as Tornadoes Strike the Dallas Area,” The New York Times, December 26, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/us/tornadoes-and-deaths-are-reported-in-dallas-as-storms-continue-in-south.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, and Sarah Maskin Nir, “On a Tropical Christmas in New York, Traditions Melt Away,” The New York Times, December 25, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/26/nyregion/warm-new-york-christmas.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0).
With the arrival of 2016, the new intense weather showed itself with well beyond the past normal fierce storms, which,
at least in Eastern New Mexico, brought record snow. Lucinda Holt and Fernanda Santos, “Blizzard Buried Some Dairy
Cows in the Snow; 35,000 Die,”
The New York Times, January, 5, 2016,
Reported, “After a mild and dry Christmas Day,
a fierce blizzard whipped across the rolling plains of West Texas and eastern New Mexico. The wind blew mercilessly for
48 hours, leaving snow drifts as high as 14 feet.
Though winter storms are not strangers to this region, the unrelenting wind — sometimes gusting to 80 miles per hour — and blinding snow of this blizzard surpassed even the most dire of forecasts. Dairy farmers in the region, who produce 10 percent of the milk in the United States, are now tallying their losses.
So far, more than 35,000 dairy cows have been found dead; many other animals developed frostbite and could still die. In West Texas, about 10 percent of the adult herd was lost. Farmers are trying to decide how to dispose of the carcasses that dot the landscape, though others might not be found until the snow melts.”
Force 5 Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, with 200 mile an hour winds at sea, struck the southern Pacific coast of Mexico at 165 mph, October 23, 2015, centering on the resort of Cuixmala. The storm removed roofs and nocked down trees and lamp posts as it moved inland, loosing force (Elisabeth Malkin, Azam Ahmed, and Francis Robles, "Hurricane in Mexico Downgraded to Tropical Storm Patricia," The New York Times, October 23, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/24/world/americas/hurricane-patricia-landfall-mexico.html?ref=todayspaper).
The Pacific Ocean has been hearting, bringing the likelihood of more extremely strong storms, such as Hurricane Patricia (John Schwartz, “Pacific Ocean Becomes a Caldron,” The New York Times, November 3, 2015).
Several years of drought in Mexico, seemingly related to climate change, are finding farmers in Chihuaha State using up the aquifer, and Menonite farmers who created very productive farms have been leaving before the water runs out in perhaps 20 years (Victoria Burnett, “Mennonite Farmers Prepare to Leave Mexico, and Competition for Water,” The New York Times, November 16, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/17/world/americas/mennonite-farmers-prepare-to-leave-mexico-and-competition-for-water.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0).
Hisako Ueno and Makiko Inoue, "Japan Faces Severe Flooding After Heavy Rain in the East," The New York Times, September 10, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/11/world/asia/japan-floods.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, reported, " Heavy rain from a tropical storm caused severe flooding in eastern Japan on Thursday, and television footage showed rescuers airlifting people who were stranded after river embankments collapsed." A rare weather warning was issued by the government to 5 million people as many rivers swelled.
Joe Cochrane, "Rain in Indonesia Dampens Forest Fires That Spread Toxic Haze," The New York Times, October 28,
2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/world/asia/indonesia-forest-fire-toxic-haze.html?ref=todayspaper, reported,
"Thanks to heavy rainfall,
may have turned the corner in battling mass forest fires that have blanketed much of Southeast Asia in toxic haze, but
more rain will be needed in the coming days to get the blazes under control, a senior government minister said
Torrential rains overnight on Tuesday in the regions of Sumatra and Kalimantan — where forest fires have been raging for weeks, sickening hundreds of thousands of people — have significantly reduced the size and number of fires, said Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs."
"Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Agency for Disaster Management in Indonesia, said visibility and air quality had improved since Monday in affected areas."
"Some scientists had feared that the fires and haze could last through the end of the year. The crisis began in late August when fires were set to clear land for palm oil plantations and other agricultural uses. While this has been occurring for decades, an especially long dry season this year coupled with the effects of El Niño threaten to make the fires and haze the worst on record, according to scientists.
Mr. Luhut, who has been appointed by Indonesia’s president to oversee the crisis, said more rain was forecast for the coming days, although not every day, in southern Sumatra and most of Kalimantan, also known as Indonesian Borneo.
'It’s too early to tell, but if the rain comes again tomorrow and the next, then 75 percent of the fires will be stopped,' he said."
"Seventeen Indonesian civilians have died from respiratory illnesses caused by the haze, as well as one firefighter in an operational accident, Mr. Luhut said."
"Firefighting and commercial aircraft were able to land thanks to better visibility on Wednesday morning in Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan Province, and Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, where flights had been canceled for days, Mr. Luhut said."
"In the early weeks of the crisis, Indonesia was criticized by its neighbors, including Singapore and Malaysia, where haze has blanketed parts of those countries, as well as southern Thailand and the southern Philippines.
Asked if the Indonesian government had mishandled the crisis in its earlier weeks, Mr. Luhut said the country’s “one mistake” was in approving palm oil concessions on 14.8 million acres of peatlands during the past decade, which when drained and burned to clear land for agriculture emit high levels of carbon dioxide into the air."
As of mid-October, Ethiopia had been suffering months of severe drought, causing crops to fail, farmers to abandon their farms, causing major food shortages, and damaging the economy (Jacey Fortin, "Ethiopia, a Nation of Farmers, Strains Under Severe Drought," The New York Times, October 18, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/19/world/africa/ethiopia-a-nation-of-farmers-strains-under-severe-drought.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0).
Norimitsu Onishi, “Drought Deepens South Africa’s Malaise,” The New York Times, December 26, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/world/africa/drought-deepens-south-africas-malaise.html?ref=todayspaper. reported, “The worst drought in more than a generation has gripped South Africa and other African nations as El Niño, a weather phenomenon believed to have been intensified by climate change, brings record high temperatures and low rainfalls across much of the continent. The full impact of the drought and resulting poor harvests will be felt only in the months ahead, but they have already left 29 million people in southern Africa without reliable access to food, according to the United Nations. In East Africa, particularly Ethiopia , 10 million people will need food assistance next year, aid organizations warn.”
Michelle Innis, “Record Heat Puts Australia at Risk of Intense Fire Season,”
The New York Times, November, 20, 2015,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/21/world/australia/australia-fires-record-temperatures.html?ref=world, reports on
“A fire that raged this week across hundreds of thousands of acres of grasslands and about-to-be harvested wheat crops,
killing a farmer and three workers, points to a dangerous summer ahead in
, scientists and weather watchers say.
The fire, in the south of Western Australia, began last weekend after lightning struck about 12 miles north of the township of Esperance. It was flaring six days later after burning through 580 square miles of farmland, fanned by temperatures above 100 degrees and bursts of wind gusting at more than 50 miles an hour.
The combination of record heat and very dry conditions — October was the hottest month in Australia ever after its third-driest September — is prompting some officials to predict an especially intense fire season, which started early this year.”
The fire, in the south of Western Australia, began last weekend after lightning struck about 12 miles north of the township of Esperance. It was flaring six days later after burning through 580 square miles of farmland, fanned by temperatures above 100 degrees and bursts of wind gusting at more than 50 miles an hour.
The combination of record heat and very dry conditions — October was the hottest month in Australia ever after its third-driest September — is prompting some officials to predict an especially intense fire season, which started early this year.”
As the terrible Australian 2015 fire season continued in late December, Australia Bushfires Strike Popular Tourist Area,” The New York Times, December 26, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/world/australia/australia-bushfires-strike-popular-tourist-area.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, “Bushfire s burned down more than 100 homes in a popular tourist area on Friday, and on Saturday officials predicted more blazes to come.
While about 500 firefighters and 13 firefighting aircraft battled the flames along parts of Victoria State’s Great Ocean Road, teams moved in to assess the damage.
A spokesman for the state’s emergency services said 98 homes had been destroyed in the community of Wye River and 18 in nearby Separation Creek. The two townships are about 75 miles southwest of Melbourne.”
New Mexico, as in a number of other states, the main electric power company, PNM, has been trying to discourage roof
top solar, in PNM's case (and some others) by trying to have a high charge on rooftop solar. PNM has also been seeking
approval of a plan to replace shutting down coal powered electric generating facilities with a mix of coal, nuclear, natural
gas, solar and wind, that environmental groups in the state say does not sufficiently include renewables (which use little of
the state’s scarce water), and should not include coal or nuclear which use a great deal of scarce water, and have their own
environmental issues, and are more costly, than renewables, and will become more so. The
New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) refused to approve either proposal, and left it to PNM to submit
new proposals. PNM did so in August. Camilla Feiblman of the Sierra Club in Albuquerque, NM, [email protected],
reported, August 28. 2015, "
investor-owned utility filed a 15.8 percent residential rate increase request
with the Public Regulation Commission in Santa Fe on Thursday. PNM has decided not to request fees from
homeowners who rely on rooftop solar panels for their electricity. If the utility gets a fuel charge reduction and cuts other
costs, residents could eventually be hit with a 7.9 percent hike." The issue of what the mix of replacements will be for
the closed coal power generation is again a public issue before the PRC (For more on the PNM rate request, go to:
PNM's press release on its rate filing is at:
El Paso Electric, serving the El Paso area of Texas and southern New Mexico, requested rate increases, with rates somewhat higher for rooftop solar, in May 2015 (Ken and Christine Newtson, "El Paso Electric latest to try to punish solar users, Rio Grande Sierran," July/August/September, 2015).
Lauren McCauley, "
Harper Government Spent Millions to Push Tar Sands on First Nations: 'They seem to think that if they
spend enough money, they can fool all of the people all of the time,' said Greenpeace analyst,"
Common Dreams, August 12, 2015,
"Solidifying the country's reputation as a 'true petrostate,'
the government of Canada
spent millions of taxpayer dollars on previously undisclosed tar sands lobbying activities, including a concerted push
to 'educate' First Nations communities opposed to the toxic drilling projects.
According to a series of 2014 government policy documents obtained by a Greenpeace analyst via a Freedom of Information request, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2013 budget included $30 million to be invested over two years on a public relations campaign as well as domestic and international "outreach activities" to promote Alberta’s tar sands.
The Guardian's Martin Lukacs reports on Wednesday that 'the outreach activities, which cost $4.5 million and were never publicly disclosed, included efforts to 'advance energy literacy amongst [British Columbia] First Nations communities.'
Further, 'The documents indicate the government was funding dozens of projects between 2014 and 2015 to engage Indigenous communities and advance 'Canada’s reputation as a global energy leader.' When asked for comment, Natural Resources Canada declined to elaborate on the specific outreach projects.
Previous reporting by Lukacs found that the Alberta government had gone so far as to promise some First Nations leaders an investor-stake in oil extraction projects in exchange for their help convincing Indigenous groups to support various pipeline proposals.
First Nations, for the most part, have been fiercely opposed to the tar sands industry and the proposed pipelines, such as Enbridge's Northern Gateway, which would transport the heavy, toxic crude from Alberta across ancestral lands to coastal Kitimat, BC. The grassroots mobilization, including a number of legal challenges , against these projects has successfully hampered construction thus far.
Reacting to this latest disclosure, 350.org founder Bill McKibben tweeted : 'Secret documents reveal Canadian govt spent tens of millions advocating for tarsands. A true petrostate.'
The Guardian reporting also notes that the government documents also revealed outreach activities including 'research to support Canadian lobbying against a European environmental measure that would have hampered tar sands exports. Canada has succeeded in delaying the measure—the EU Fuel Quality Directive—several times'
Greenpeace climate analyst Keith Stewart, who first obtained the policy documents, said: 'The Harper government gutted environmental laws and destroyed public faith in the regulatory system in order to fast-track pipelines, then wasted $30 million of public money on a public relations campaign doomed to fail. They seem to think that if they spend enough money, they can fool all of the people all of the time but that kind of arrogance is a risky re-election strategy at a time of low oil prices and rising concern over climate change.'"
Michael Wines, "New Concern Over Quakes in Oklahoma Near a Hub of U.S. Oil,"
The New York Times, October 14, 2015,
A sharp earthquake in central Oklahoma last weekend has raised fresh concern about the security of a vast crude oil
storage complex, close to the quake’s center, that sits at the crossroads of the nation’s oil pipeline network.
The magnitude 4.5 quake struck Saturday afternoon about three miles northwest of Cushing, roughly midway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The town of about 8,000 people is home to the so-called Cushing Hub, a sprawling tank farm that is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world.
Scientists reported in a paper published online last month that a large earthquake near the storage hub “could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines.” Saturday’s quake continues a worrisome pattern of moderate quakes, suggesting that a large earthquake is more than a passing concern, the lead author of that study, Daniel McNamara, said in an interview.
The federal government has designated the hub, run by energy industry companies, a critical national infrastructure . Major tank ruptures could cause serious environmental damage, raise the risk of fire and other disasters and disrupt the flow of oil to refineries nationwide, said Dr. McNamara, a research geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado."
" The Cushing quake is among the largest of thousands of temblors that have rocked central and northern Oklahoma in the past five years, largely set off by the injection of oil and gas industry wastes deep into the earth. The watery wastes effectively lubricate cracks, allowing rocks under intense pressure to slip past one another, causing quakes."
Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled, in July 2015, that home owners who have suffered injury or property damage from oil and
gas activity related earth quakes can sue for damages (Richard A. Oppel, Jr., Oklahoma Justices Say Home Owners Can
Sue Oil Companies Over Quakes,"
The New York Times, July 11, 2015).
Oklahoma's Corporation Commission Oil and Gas Division, ordered oil and gas companies to reduce the injecting of waste water from drilling into deep wells, in an effort to reduce earthquakes, as previous measures to reduce them had not been successful (Michael Wines, "Regulators Act to Ease Quake Peril on Oklahoma The New York Times, August 5, 2015).
Emily J. Gertz, "An Undersea Volcano Previews a Terrifying Future for the World’s Oceans: Scientists discover an area in the South Pacific where high levels of carbon dioxide have created dead zones where healthy coral reefs should be," August 12, 2015, http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/08/11/algae-dominates-coral-reef-carbon-dioxide-ocean-acidification, reported on the effects of carbon dioxide bubbling up from an under water volcano in not overly warm water, "In a remote area of the South Pacific, nature has opened a window on the most likely future for the world’s tropical coral reefs unless nations radically cut fossil fuel emissions . It’s not a pretty picture. Rather than 'a very healthy reef full of diverse coral communities' including hundreds of fish, said marine biologist Ian Enochs, there’s just a thick carpet of green fuzz along with a few stunted corals: “The submarine landscape is just coated with algae.'” Carbon dioxide increasing in the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans, making them acid, and this study shows the effects of high levels of CO 2 on coral, which is critical for ocean habitat. The high levels of CO 2 also are quite harmful to other ocean flora and fauna.
Britain has decided to end all generation of electricity by coal, which now produces 20% of the country’s electricity, by 2025 (Stanley Reed, “Britain Plans End of Coal Power by 20125,” The New York Times, November 19, 2015).
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given approval for the first U.S. nuclear electric generating plant in the U.S. in the Twenty-First Century, at Spring City, TN (“Tennessee: First Nuclear Plant of the 21 st Century is Licensed,” The New York Times, November 23, 2015).
New York Governor Cuomo, attempting to prevent the planned closing of two Nuclear power plants in the state, ordered that by 2030, half of all power generated in New York State would be by non-carbon emitting sources (which can include atomic power) (Patricia McGeehan, “Cuomo, Seeking to Save 2 Nuclear Plants, Will Order Increase in Clean Energy,” The New York Times, November 23, 2015).
In Massachusetts, the Pilgrim nuclear power plant will close, too expensive to keep running (“Massachusetts, With Expenses Rising, Pilgrim nuclear power plant will close,” The New York Times, October 14, 2015).
Harvey Wasserman, “Nuclear Reactors Make ISIS an Apocalyptic Threat,”
EcoWatch, November 25, 2015,
reported, “As you read this,
a terror attack has put atomic reactors in Ukraine at the brink of another Chernobyl-scale apocalypse.
Transmission lines have been blown up. Power to at least two major nuclear power stations has been “dangerously” cut . Without emergency backup, those nukes could lose coolant to their radioactive cores and spent fuel pools. They could then melt or explode, as at Fukushima .
Yet amidst endless “all-fear-all-the-time” reporting on ISIS, the corporate media has remained shockingly silent on this potential catastrophe.”
Andrea Germanos, '"Significant Design Vulnerabilities' Plague Massive Nuclear Waste Site, Leaked Internal Review Reveals: 'The fact that the Department of Energy has not released this report, prepared last year, is alarming and indicative of a safety-last culture,'," Common Dreams, August 26, 2015, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/26/significant-design-vulnerabilities-plague-massive-nuclear-waste-site-leaked-internal, reported, " A leaked internal review of the nation's largest nuclear clean-up site found hundreds of "significant design vulnerabilities" and begs questions about the Energy Department's transparency, a watchdog group says.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington houses radioactive waste from the production of plutonium for
nuclear weapons, and the decades-long clean-up effort has been costly and plagued by
underground nuclear waste storage tanks.
Seattle-based Hanford Challenge, which advocates for safe clean-up of the site, says it received the Department of Energy document from a whistleblower who has worked at the site for many years as an engineer.
'The fact that the Department of Energy has not released this report, prepared last year, is alarming and indicative of a safety-last culture,' said Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of the group.
The document is a 2014 draft review called 'Low-Activity Waste Facility Design and Operability Review and Recommendations." That LAW facility, Hanford Challenge explains in a statement, "is designed to treat waste from Hanford’s high-level nuclear waste tanks that will be pre-treated to remove the highly-radioactive materials before being mixed with glass formers in a facility designed to vitrify the low level waste.'
From the executive summary of the leaked report:
Carpenter said, "This document was leaked by someone who was frustrated, and also fearful. This plant is so riddled with design, quality indeterminate, nuclear safety and worker health threats that it is hard to see how this plant could ever open without very significant and expensive rework. 'The good news is, DOE commissioned this report, the bad news is they sat on it, all the while saying everything is okay with how they are proceeding,' he continued. 'It raises concerns about whether management is trying to cover up or water down the findings.'
From the Washington Post :
An Energy Department spokesman said that the report was a “very early draft” that contained a number of factual inaccuracies.
'The Department is committed to designing, building and safely operating' the waste facility, spokeswoman Yvonne Levardi said. 'While the draft report has not been finalized, it does not identify any unknown major technical issues with the Low Activity Waste Facility.'
The leaked review comes the same month as whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis, who raised safety concerns regarding operations at the site, reached a $4.1 settlement with Hanford subcontractor AECOM.
And last year, documents obtained by the Associated Press showed there were 'significant construction flaws' in some of the double-shell storage tanks at the facility. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged the Energy Department to provide an action plan of how it would deal with the risks the flaws pose, writing in a letter (pdf) to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: 'It is time for the Department to stop hiding the ball and pretending that the situation at Hanford is being effectively managed.'
The Washington site has proven itself an 'intractable problem' that 'costs taxpayers a billion dollars a year,' author and history professor Kate Brown wrote earlier this year. 'Corporate contractors hired to clean up Hanford have made hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and surcharges, and, since little has been accomplished, the tab promises to mount for decades.'"
Uranium mining waste continues to be a major health problem on the Navajo Reservation. In July, at Nahat’a Dzil, eight of eleven wells tested were found to have unsafe levels of uranium contamination (Alastair Lee Bitsoi, “Eight Wells in Nahat’a Dzil iuranium contaminated,” Navajo Times,. July 30, 2015).
With the multiyear drought in the western United States drying many kinds of plants to tinder, the 2015 fire began a
month early and has been exceptionally ferocious, with many fires behaving ln unprecedented ways, leaping what traditionally
were more than adequate fire breaks so that the usual fire fighting tactics have often been ineffective, and fires have been
spreading at record rates. Kirk Johnson, "Washington Governor Declares Drought Emergency,"
The New York Times, May 15, 2015,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/16/us/washington-governor-declares-drought-emergency.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, "
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency for Washington on Friday, with mountain snowpack at 16 percent
of average and water levels in rivers and streams drying to a trickle not seen since the 1950s. He said that residents
should also be prepared for an early and active fire season that could reach higher elevations in the Cascade and Olympic
mountain ranges, where many spots are already completely clear of snow.
‘ We’re seeing things happen at this time of year we just have never seen before,’ Mr. Inslee said in a news conference.
But he said that unlike other drought-stricken parts of the West, especially California , the problem here in the nation’s northwest corner falls primarily on agriculture and wildlife. The large metropolitan water systems serving Seattle and other cities on the state’s western edge, where most people live, are largely in good shape, with rainwater-based reservoirs and no immediate plans for water-use restrictions."
At the beginning of August, Fernanda Santosa, noted, "Dry Days Bring Ferocious Start to Fire Season: Officials are warning about the potential for more catastrophe in the months ahead, as drought, heat and climate change leave the landscape ever thirstier." The New York Times, August 1, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/us/dry-days-in-west-bring-ferocious-start-to-fire-season.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, reported, " Another summer of record-breaking drought and heat has seized the West, setting off costly and destructive wildfires from Southern California, where a single blaze burned more than 30,000 acres of national forest east of Los Angeles, to Montana, where a fast-moving fire in Glacier National Park recently forced tourists to flee hotels, campgrounds and vehicles.
No measurable rain has fallen here in Walla Walla since May. Temperatures have broken decades-old records. And, though known for soaking skies and cool summers, Washington State is well on track to surpass last year’s wildfire season, its busiest on record."
The damage across the Pacific Coast states, Idaho and Montana has included the loss of dozens of homes and the deaths of a number of fire fighters. Fire has even burned through the usually soaking rainforests of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
"The conditions vary from one area to the next: an unforgiving drought in California, where a fire captain died Thursday night while battling one of 23 wildfires burning in the northern part of the state; snow that arrived late and melted early in Idaho; extreme temperature swings in the Southwest; and grass that has turned to tinder across the Pacific Northwest.
But the West’s stubborn drought seems to be especially devastating the farther north it reaches. In Alaska, 399 fires burned in June. That was nearly double the number seen in the same month in 2004 — considered to have been the state’s worst fire year on record." Canada also has been scorched, with a record 5,548 fires and 9.1 million acres burned as of July 23, registered record temperatures in May and June, Earth’s warmest such month on record .
In the U.S. in 2014, 63,312 wildfires destroyed 3.6 million acres of land across the country while fire fighting costing $1.52. 2015 will be much more expensive, with the early, and likely low, estimates at $2.1 billion. By August 20, 2015 the number of acres in the U.S. consumed by wildfires this year reached 7.2 million, more than the total burn in each of the previous ten years, with two thirds of the burned land in Alaska, and the entire North West Coast heavily hit, as the National Interagency Fire Center was operating at preparedness level high, its highest level, meaning it was having difficulty finding enough fire fighters to combat the wildfires. In Washington State, the U.S. Army committed 200 soldiers to help with the fire fighting (Kirk Johnson and Fernanda Santos, “Western Wildfires Consume Manpower and Acreage,” The New York Times, August 20, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/21/us/3-firefighters-die-in-crash-on-way-to-washington-state-blaze.html?ref=todayspaper).
CNN radio news, August 16, 2015, reported 80 wildfires in progress in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with 6/5 million acres burned to date in the 2015 fire season. CNN radio reports August 21 told of continuing fire growth, even as some were contained, with one fire in the Northwest expanding by 100 square miles in a single day.
Nadia Prupis, "State of Emergency Declared as Wildfires Create 'Unprecedented Cataclysm' in Washington : Four other states also fighting massive blazes, including drought-stricken California,: Common Dreams, August 21, 2015 , http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/21/state-emergency-declared-wildfires-create-unprecedented-cataclysm-washington , reported, "Three firefighters were killed this week and President Barack Obama on Friday issued an emergency order over wildfires raging through central Washington state.
Emergency workers from Australia and New Zealand have been flown in to help the crews currently fighting blazes in five states, including Washington, California, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.
The damage has hit hundreds of thousands of acres of land, including Indigenous territory. In Washington alone, 11 counties have been affected, as well as the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation.
According to a White House news release, the state of emergency authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts."
As the drought has continued, with some occasional small relief,In June 2015, the first month of legally required reductions of urban water use, California archived an over all reduction of 27%, exceeding the target of 25%,with one city dropping water consumption by 40%, while a city in the agricultural Central valley had a 4% increase in water use (Adam Nagourney,"Water Use in v Down 27% in June, Beating Goal," The New York Times, July \30, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/31/us/water-use-in-california-down-27-in-june-beating-goal.html?ref=todayspaper&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=U.S.&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article).
The great increasing rate of pumping ground water, mainly by farmers in the face of the drought, in parts of California's Central Valley, has accelerated the rate of subsidence of the ground to up to two inches a month. As the aquifer collapses its ability to carry water diminishes ("California, Pumping od Water Speeds Sinking of Land," The New York Times, August 20, 2015).
Higher oceans and a storm bringing record rains brought flooding, and threat of more flooding as two new storms were
arising on the U.S. East Coast in early October. Richard Fauct and Alan Blinder, "
As Hurricane Joaquin Swirls Away, 2nd
The New York Times, October 2, 2015,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/03/us/hurricane-joaquin-forecast-east-coast.html?_r=0 , reported, "
Pounded by heavy rain and an unusually high tide, this historic port city was paralyzed by flash floods on Saturday,
its elegant streets transformed into coursing river ways, its residents plucked from waterlogged cars and its officials sealing
off the low-lying peninsula in the heart of the city, declaring it 'substantially under water in various
By early evening, however, it seemed that the floodwaters had caused more inconvenience than tragedy in this city of 130,000. About 60 streets in the city were closed because of flooding; many businesses were closed, and numerous fairs and festivals were canceled. But Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said that only a handful of residents called to report water in their homes."
“But Mr. Riley also said that the city was bracing for still more rain. Pete Mohlin, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said that up to eight to 10 inches more could fall in the area Saturday night and Sunday. A flash flood watch was in place for Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties through 5 a.m. Monday, he said."
"The danger of overwhelming rains — the Weather Service suggested the South Carolina coast could endure 'a record and historical rainfall event through Sunday' — and fast-moving floodwaters stemmed from a weather system that was distinct from Hurricane Joaquin yet still connected to it."
From New Jersey south to Georgia many areas were impacted, and still threatened, October 5. "The record rainfall here was the result of a low-pressure system that lumbered through the Carolinas and eastern Georgia, sucking in some moisture from Hurricane Joaquin, the Category 4 storm with 150-mile-per-hour winds that spun east over the Atlantic on Saturday, hundreds of miles southwest of Bermuda."
"In Charleston, residents were urged to stay at home and warned that parts of the low-lying city that normally do not flood might do so. Boats and rescue teams were standing by to whisk away any residents who feared their houses might be inundated."
“Along the East Coast in the South and the Mid-Atlantic, officials reported power failures in tens of thousands of homes. Five deaths were likely weather related, including three people who died in South Carolina traffic accidents during bouts of inclement weather since Friday morning, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety."
"'Beyond South Carolina, there were episodes of less severe flooding. As high tide approached at the waterside in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday afternoon, the walkway to a ferry was impeded by water that was ankle-deep."
"Emergency declarations were in effect in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. National Guard troops were on alert in some parts of the country. The National Weather Service issued coastal flood warnings and said seashore communities were at risk for major flooding, especially at high tide.
Weather officials said that some cities in South Carolina had received more than 10 inches of rain since Thursday and that forecasters did not expect the storm to relent until Sunday, at the earliest.
Ron Morales, a meteorologist at the Weather Service’s office near Charleston said that forecasters expected record-setting rains and that some gauges were already 'approaching” their highest levels ever.'"
By Sunday, with the rain continuing into Monday, Richard Fauct and Alan Blinder, "Flooding Cripples South Carolina Where Some Areas See Over a Foot of Rain ," The New York Times, October. 4, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/us/south-carolina-residents-told-to-stay-home-as-rain-continues-to-pound-region.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, " Flooding from days of relentless, saturating rains paralyzed much of South Carolina on Sunday, as vehicles were submerged, dams were pushed to their limits, electricity was cut off to thousands and emergency officials staged hundreds of swift-water rescues. Officials attributed at least five deaths in South Carolina to the flooding."
Puerto Rico has been suffering from long term extreme drought, bringing water shortages. With 2.5 million already under water rationing, 400,000 receiving water only every third day, the government moved in early July to place an additional 130,000 on third day water delivery ("Puerto Rico: Rationing is Extended," The New York Times, August 6, 2015).
Two weeks of unusually heavy rains brought about Guatemala's worst mud slide, October 11, 2015, with 131 known dead, 300 people missing, and 125 houses buried, as of October 4. (Nic Wertz and Elizabeth Malkin, "Hundreds Missing in Guatemala as Landslide Cleanup Begins," The New York Times, October 4, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/world/americas/guatemala-landslide-cleanup-begins-as-hundreds-are-missing.html?ref=todayspaper).
Unusually dense fog in Europe, in early November 2015, closed airports in London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt (Sewell Chan, “Heavy Fog Hits Europe; Stiff Upper Lips,” The New York Times, November 3, 2015).
“Relief? ISIS Takes Back Seat for Iraqis," The New York Times, August 1, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/world/middleeast/iraqis-protest-electricity-shortage-during-heat-wave.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, " In the Iraqi summer, when the temperature rises above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, electricity becomes even more of a political issue than usual. This past week, at the top of Iraqis’ agenda, it has even eclipsed war with the Islamic State."
Temperatures reached 111 degrees in Egypt, August 11, 2015. Bringing at least 42 deaths, at least 26 in Cairo, in part because increase demand for electricity in the face of the extreme heat caused a power failure of several hours ("Egypt: Dozens Die as Temperatures Reach 111 Degrees," The New York Times, August 11, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/12/world/middleeast/egypt-dozens-die-as-temperatures-reach-111-degrees.html?ref=todayspaper).
Swati Gupta, "Flooding and a Landslide Kill Dozens Amid India Monsoons,"
The New York Times, August 3, 2015,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/world/asia/monsoon-flooding-landslide-india.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, "At least 73
people have died in
since Friday amid flooding and a landslide linked to heavy rains in two states in the country’s east, disaster management
Thousands of people have taken refuge in relief camps and medical camps in West Bengal, the most severely affected state, said Arnab Chatterjee of the West Bengal Department of Disaster Management."
Flooding again created problems in in Indian, in December, after extreme rains fell in the South of the country (India: Floods Threaten Southern State,” The New York Times, December 13, 2015).
Bhadra Sharma, "Landslides in Western Nepal Leave at Least 33 Dead," The New York Times, July 30, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/31/world/asia/nepal-landslides.html?ref=todayspaper, reported " Landslides set off by heavy rain struck several villages in Kaski, a popular tourist area in western Nepal , killing at least 33 people, a senior local official said on Thursday."
Wai Moe, "Flooding Spurs Disaster Zones in Myanmar,"
The New York Times, August 1, 2015,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/world/asia/flooding-spurs-disaster-zones-in-myanmar.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, "
’s president on Friday declared four rural regions to be disaster zones, as floods and landslides continued to cause
severe damage and the government faced criticism for its slow response to the emergency.
President Thein Sein said the disaster zones covered the states of Chin and Rakhine, and the Sagaing and Magway regions in western and central Myanmar."
Austin Ramzy, "Vietnam Floods Kill 17 and Threaten to Pollute Ha Long Bay," TheNew York Times, July 30, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/31/world/asia/vietnam-floods.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, "Flooding in northern Vietnam has killed at least 17 people, with the continuing rain prompting concerns of landslides and of pollution from inundated coal mines reaching one of the country’s most famous sites of natural beauty."
"Philippines: Typhoon Takes Deadly Toll," The New York Times, August 24, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/world/asia/philippines-typhoon-takes-deadly-toll.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, " Typhoon Goni killed 19 people in the Philippines and left 16 missing before continuing north on Monday to lash southern Japan."
Contractors for the EPA, on August 5, 2015, attempting to make more secure a slightly leaking pond of highly toxic
water, containing heavy metals, in an abandoned mine near Silverton Colorado, 50 miles north of Durango, accidentally breached
the barrier holding the toxic water, causing a massive and continuing fllow into the Animas River, which runs into the San Juan
River and on to Lake Powell.
Numerous communities in Colorado, New Mexico, Colorado and on the Navajo Nation were warned not to use the water from
the river or wells near the river for drinking, washing or irrigation. On the Navajo Nation water was being trucked to the
communities of Monezuma Creek and Halchita, UT, as at least seven public water systems had stopped taking water from the
contaminates rivers. The EPA, as of August 11, while attempting to stop the flow, was
trying to treat the toxic water still flowing from the mine at 500 to 700 gallons a minute, and hoped to clean up the
river, but it is questionable how much treatment can be accomplished, and cleaning up the river is almost impossible, as the
heavy metals settle to the bottom as the plume of orange water moves down stream. The best hope is that eventual dilution will
lower the amount of toxins in the rivers to safe levels. However the spill was not as serious as it might have been,
as the spill contained large quantities of iron hydroxide that combines with other heavy metals so that they drop out of the
water and are at least somewhat inert. By August 14 most of the toxic plume had been diluted and the river was reopened, while
irrigation ditches in Colorado that had received some of the spill were flushed out. It remains to be seen what, if any damage
there will be to the river's eco system over the long term from the sediment.
Colorado Governor John W. Hickenlooper, commented, “I think our goal here is to really focus on what we can do to make sure that those mines where we know we have a serious problem — how can we accelerate the remediation and make sure that something like this never happens again?”. There are over 500 abandoned mines in Colorado (Julie Turkewitz, "E.P.A. Treating Toxic Water From Abandoned Colorado Mine After Accident," The New York Times, August 11, 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2zz015/08/12/us/epa-treating-toxic-water-from-abandoned-colorado-mine-after-accident.html?ref=todayspaper; and "Colorado: Animas River Reopened After Spill of Toxic Waste," The New York Times, 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/15/us/colorado-animas-river-reopened-after-spill-of-toxic-waste.html?ref=todayspape, plus a report from a technical expert).
Michael Wines, "Toxic Algae Outbreak Overwhelms a Polluted Ohio River," The New York Times, September 30, 2015,
The Ohio River, transformed by mining and industrial waste and sewage overflows into the nation’s most polluted major
waterway, has a new and unexpected tormentor this fall: carpets of poisonous algae.
Pads of toxic blue-green algae have speckled nearly two-thirds of the 981-mile river in the last five weeks, experts say, in an outbreak that has curbed boating, put water utilities on alert and driven the river’s few hardy swimmers back to shore.
The only other recorded toxic algae bloom, in 2008, covered perhaps 40 miles of the river. In contrast, the latest bloom stretches 636 miles from Wheeling, W.Va., to Cannelton, Ind., and traces of algae have appeared as far west as Illinois."
Richard Walker , “Shell Refinery Fined $77,000 for Releasing Toxins Near Swinomish Reservation,” ICTMN, December 1, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/01/shell-refinery-fined-77000-releasing-toxins-near-swinomish-reservation-162612, reported, “ Shell’s Puget Sound Refinery near the Swinomish Reservation has been fined $77,000 by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries for an uncontrolled release of toxins that sickened residents and sent at least two people to the hospital.” The spill occurred in February 2015.
“Brazil: River Polluted After Dam Burst,” The New York Times, November 26, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/world/americas/brazil-river-polluted-after-dam-burst.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, “Illegal levels of arsenic and mercury polluted a river in the days after a dam burst at an iron ore mine this month in Brazil ’s worst environmental disaster, according to tests by a state water agency, the Institute for Water Management in Minas Gerais. The agency found arsenic levels more than 10 times above the legal limit in one place along the river, the Rio Doce, after the dam burst on Nov. 5, killing at least 13 people. Mercury slightly above the permitted level was also found in one area.”
Edward Wong, “Beijing Issues Red Alert Over Air Pollution for the First Time,” The New York Times, December 7, 2015,
Officials in Beijing declared on Monday that the thick smog blanketing the city was bad enough to require a red alert,
the first time they had raised the alarm to its highest level since an emergency air-pollution response system was announced in
Across the city, residents braced for another “airpocalypse” — the term that some English speakers here use for the most toxic bouts of air pollution.
If carried out properly, the temporary restrictions will affect many of Beijing’s more than 20 million residents. From 7 a.m. on Tuesday to noon on Thursday, schools will be required to close; cars will be allowed to drive only on alternate days, depending on their license plate numbers; and fireworks and outdoor barbecuing will be banned (grilled kebabs are a hugely popular street food in the city). In addition, government agencies will have to keep 30 percent of their automobiles off the streets.”
Indonesia, which often suffers and spreads abroad very serious air pollution from illegal agricultural burn offs, has been suffering serious air pollution in its capital from increased automobile use (Joe Cochrane, “As Indonesia Prospers, Air Pollution Takes Toll,” The New York Times, September 27, 2015).
Amazon Watch, "Subject: Canadian Supreme Court Rules Against Chevron and in Favor of Ecuadorians!" Sep 4, 2015,
The law has finally caught up with Chevron. Today's unanimous decision from the Supreme Court of Canada opens the
door for Ecuadorian indigenous and farmer communities to enforce their $9.5 billion USD verdict against Chevron and is a major
victory for human rights and corporate accountability.
Chevron's deliberate dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic waste water and 17 million gallons of crude into the Ecuadorian Amazon created a massive health crisis and remains one of the worst oil-related environmental crimes in history.
After being found guilty of its drill and dump tactics in Ecuador, Chevron has been on the run, spending billions on retaliatory legal attacks seeking to delay justice rather than fulfilling its legal obligations to carry out a full-scale environmental clean-up and provide potable water and health care to the communities it poisoned.
The National Resources Development Council reported, October i7, 2015, " Great news: The Obama Administration just announced that it will cancel all lease sales for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas for the next two years. This grants Arctic waters a temporary reprieve from disastrous oil and gas drilling by Shell and the other oil industry giants circling the region like sharks. Today’s victory, combined with Shell’s recent decision to call off its drilling plans for the foreseeable future [in the Alaskan Arctic], have once more demonstrated that the Arctic is no place for drilling" (Natural Resources Defense Council | 40 West 20th Street | New York, NY 10011 www.nrdc.org).
A study in Pennsylvania found that there are a larger number of early births in areas where fracking for oil or natural gas is conducted. 25% of the mothers exposed to Fracking were 40% more likely to give birth early (Richard Bakalar, “Fracking Linked to Early Births.” The New York Times, October 20, 2015).
Andrea Germanos, "
Oil Slurry Spill on Mississippi River Illustrates Need to Move Beyond Fossil Fuel Economy: Coast Guard said up
to 250,000 gallons of refining byproduct may have spilled into waterway," Common Dreams, September 04, 2015
The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday that up to 250,000 gallons of oil slurry could have been spilled into the
Mississippi River following a towboat collision near Columbus, Kentucky.
The Coast Guard says the spill occurred at roughly 8 PM Wednesday when a boat crash caused a cargo tank on a barge to rupture and spill some of the refinery byproduct it was carrying into the river.
A section of the river is now closed, and the Coast Guard stated that an aerial assessment spotted 'a five-mile discoloration" starting at the site of the accident.
Tim Joice, Water Policy Director for the Louisville-based Kentucky Waterways Alliance, told Common Dreams that the incident, as with any 'oil spill, fracking operation, coal slurry spill, or failure from a coal ash pond,' is "illustrative of the reality we face—that we have a fossil fuel economy and we need to move beyond that.'
While the industry can skew statistics about the safety of the various methods of transporting fossil fuels, be it by barge, 'bomb train,' pipeline, or truck, Joice said that 'reality is that none of it is safe. We will have accidents."
'So what's the alternative? We don't use oil, gas or coal,' he said."
More than 600 military bases and listening posts were built across Alaska and the Aleutian Islands during World War II and the Cold War, that are now abandoned, leaving behind used or stockpiled cleaning solvents and pesticides , chemical warfare agents and unexploded ordnance. One of these, an abandoned radar station on on St. Lawrence Island contained many electrical components containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that are linked to cancer . Small fish living downstream from the site ingest the PCBs, are eaten by birds and larger fish, which are harvested for food by the Native islanders. Testing of the residents have found PCB levels multiple times higher than in most other places in the United States (Kirk Johnson, "Cleaning Up a Legacy of Pollution on an Alaskan Island, The New York Times, August 3, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/04/us/native-alaskans-study-and-clean-up-a-legacy-of-pollution.html?ref=todayspaper).
The huge explosion, August 12, 2015, of toxic and volatilely flammable materials in the City of Tianjin, China, that killed over 100 people, injured many more, and caused destruction and damage up to two miles away, has illuminated the many places that large quantities of highly dangerous material are stored in high density population areas in the country. In addition to the direct destruction form the Tianjin blast, a toxic cloud formed, and for some time remained, over the area, with the fall out causing a large fish kill in the nearby river (Patrick Boehler, Josh Keller, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Vanessa Piao, and Crystal Tse, "Dangerous Storage of Chemicals in," The New York Times, August 22, 2015; Dan Levin, "Blast at a Chemical Site Jangles Frayed Nerves," The New York Times, August 22, 2015[ and Dan Levin andJavier C. Hernadez, "Fish Die Off in Chinese River Near Blast Site," The New York Times, August 21, 2015).
Kristine Wong, "Much More Toxic Mercury Is Blowing In From Asia Than Thought: Scientists discover that twice as much of
the metal is being emitted into the atmosphere from coal-fired power plants,"
TakePart, August 13, 2015,
fish for a moment, and start worrying about the toxic mercury in the air around you.
Researchers have found that
Asia is producing more than double the amount of the toxic metal
—mainly from the burning of coal that also is a prime culprit in global warming—than previously thought.
After mercury is released it can remain in the atmosphere for a year as winds blow it around the world. Some of the mercury ends up deposited on land and in the ocean."
Genetically engineered salmon that are fatter than wild species were approved for human consumption in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration, although some environmentalists expressed concern that if any of these salmon escape fish farms they might negatively impact wild salmon (Andrew Pollack, “Genetically Engineered Salmon Declared Ready for U.S. Plates,” The New York Times, November 20, 2015).
Dan Levin, "Study Links Polluted Air in China to 1.6 Million Deaths a Year,"
The New York Times, August 13, 2015,
reported on a
study finding much a much higher death rate than previously calculated from air pollution in China, "
Outdoor air pollution contributes to the deaths of an estimated 1.6 million people in
every year, or about 4,400 people a day, according to
a newly released scientific paper
The paper maps the geographic sources of China ’s toxic air and concludes that much of the smog that routinely shrouds Beijing comes from emissions in a distant industrial zone, a finding that may complicate the government’s efforts to clean up the capital city’s air in time for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The authors are members of Berkeley Earth, a research organization based in Berkeley, Calif., that uses statistical techniques to analyze environmental issues. The paper has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One."
A study by Jiwen Fan, published in the July 2015, issue of Geophysical Research Letters, found that the worst flooding in 50 years in China, that occurred in Sichuan Province in July 2013, was greatly contributed to by the large amount of air pollution produced by the province's large cities. The pollution reduced sun light, trapping more heat higher in the atmosphere, altering atmospheric patterns and redistributing precipitation, so that instead of rain clouds forming over the river basin during the day, the rain fell at higher intensity during the night over adjacent mountains ("Catastrophic floods caused by pollution" Science, July 10, 2015).
Nicholas St. Fler, “
Deforestation May Threaten Majority of Amazon Tree Species, Study Finds,” The New York Times, November
Researchers, whose work
Friday in the journal Science Advances, studied the status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species, including the
Brazil nut and the plants that produce cacao and açaí palm.
By comparing maps of projected deforestation with data collected in the forest, the researchers found that at least 36 percent and up to 57 percent of the Amazon’s tree species should qualify as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List , the most widely recognized authority on threats to species conservation.
Their findings suggest that the number of globally threatened plant species could increase by about 22 percent, and globally threatened tree species by 36 percent.”
Warmer weather, drought in some places, increased forest fires, and destruction by insects are destroying the boreal
forests of Northern Canada, Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia, that pull large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the
atmosphere (Tim Appenzeller, “The New North: Stoked by climate change, fire and insects are remaking the planet’s vast
Science,August 21, 2015).
All forests are now being stressed by climate change and insects, which requires significant scientific study to further understand S. Trumbore, et. al, “Forest Health and Global Change,“ Science,August 21, 2015).
Climate Change, including droughts, fire, and insects are pushing some temperate forest’s beyond sustainability (Constance N, Miller and Nathan L. Stephenson, “Temperal forest health in an era of megadisturbance,” Science, August 21, 2015).
The U.S. Eastern Hemlock has ben suffering damage and death from a small insect (Gabriel Popkin, “Battling a Giant Killer,” Science, August 21, 2015).
Science, August 21, 2015, contains several additional articles on forest decline, and what might be done about it, if anything).
The governor of California declared an emergency, in early January 2016, to seek aid from the U.S. government with the millions of trees that are dying in the state because of the four year drought, which among other things, has made them vulnerable to bark beetles [This in turn will increase climate change, as the decaying dead trees, and other plants as well, give off carbon dioxide and other gasses, while there loss reduces the amount of carbon dioxide taken out of the air by plants, and the resulting production of oxygen as well] (“California Seeks U.,S. Aid As Beetles Destroy Trees,” The New York Times, November 11, 2015).
The rate of deforestation around the Earth has slowed, at a rate of .08% a year from 2010 to 2015, compared to .18% in the 1990s (”Deforestation Continues to Slow,” The Christian Science Monitor, November 2, 2015).
Andrea Germanos, "Notorious Insecticides
Found in Half of Sampled Streams in US:'Neonics' have been linked to decline in bee populations,"
Common Dreams, August 19, 2015,
http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/19/notorious-insecticides-found-half-sampled-streams-us, reported, "
A class of insecticides linked to the decline of bees has more found in more than half of the streams in the United
States where samples were taken, new
research has found.
Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) say it is the first national-scale study of the presence of neonicotinoids, or 'neonics,' in urban and agricultural land use settings across the nation.
Neonics can be used as a seed coating or foliar spray, and they are widely used, despite a body of evidence calling them a threat to global biodiversity and linking them to lethal and sub-lethal harm to bees.
The USGS reserachers detected at least one of six neonics in 63 percent of the 48 streams they sampled.
'In the study, neonicotinoids occurred throughout the year in urban streams while pulses of neonicotinoids were typical in agricultural streams during crop planting season,' USGS research chemist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author, said in a press statement.
A USGS study published last year focusing on just Midwest waterways detected neonics in all the 9 rivers and streams sampled, prompting Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network, to say, 'The fact that neonics are pervasively contaminating surface waters should be a wake-up call for state and federal regulators, that must move more quickly to reduce and restrict use on farm fields.'
The White House's Pollinator Health Task Force unveiled its strategy for improving pollinator health last year, and Mike Focazio, program coordinator for the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, said the new USGS 'research will support the overall goals of the Strategy, by helping to understand whether these water-borne pesticides, particularly at the low levels shown in this study, pose a risk for pollinators.'
Environmental groups have denounced the Strategy's goals for not going far enough to save bees as it fails to restrict the use of neonics."
"Big Win for Beekeepers as Court Voids Insecticide," The New York Times, September 10, 2015,
reported, "A United States appeals court ruled on Thursday
that federal regulators erred in allowing an insecticide developed by Dow AgroSciences onto the market, canceling its
approval and giving environmentalists a major victory.
The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, is significant for commercial beekeepers and others who say a decline in bee colonies needed to pollinate key food crops is tied to the widespread use of a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids."
Droughts in England are threatening several species of butterflies (Syndya N. Bhando, “Drought Could Harm British Butterfly Species,” The New York Times, August 11, 2015).
Good News! Unprecedented Conservation Efforts Keep Greater Sage-Grouse Off Endangered Species List," The Audubon
Society, October 2015,
reported, "On September 22,
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that listing the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act was not
warranted at this time. The decision was made possible through collaboration between the conservation community, private
landowners, industry, and state, local and federal government that put in place a broad set of conservation plans to conserve
habitat across the sage-grouse states.
Audubon [along with other environmental groups]was instrumental in the ten-year effort to create a science-based approach to conserving, protecting, and restoring millions of acres of core habitat in 11 western states for the iconic species, and in the process improving habitat for over 300 additional species of birds and wildlife that rely on the sage steppe western landscape.
The decision by the Department on the Greater Sage Grouse is a win-win for both the beleaguered sage-grouse as well as one of our premier wildlife conservation laws, the Endangered Species Act. Both would have come suffered unrelenting attacks from powerful opponents in Congress and industry had the bird been listed.
It is also a great example of what can be achieved when literally hundreds of partners convene and work together to protect and conserve important species and habitat. We look forward to expanding our efforts to help secure the future for the sage-grouse and other other wildlife that call the great American West home."
“Situation 'Dire': Low Coho Salmon Returns Close Quinault Fisheries,”
October 29, 2015,
Low returns of wild coho salmon are prompting the Quinault Indian Nation to close all its fisheries in Grays Harbor and
Queets River and to declare an economic disaster because of the resulting hardship on fishermen and their families.
The tribe attributed the low returns to the so-called Godzilla El Niño that is under way in the Pacific, exacerbated by a “blob of warm water off the coast,” the Quinault said in a statement describing what it called a dire situation.”
Ian Urbin, " U.S. Announces Plans to Combat Illegal Fishing and Other Steps to Protect Oceans," The New York Times, October 5, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/world/us-announces-plans-to-combat-illegal-fishing-and-other-steps-to-protect-oceans.html?ref=todayspaper, reported,"The Obama administration announced plans on Monday to step up the fight against illegal fishing, pollution and other crimes at sea, including the creation of two new national marine sanctuaries, one in Maryland and the other in Lake Michigan , the first in 15 years.
Administration officials also said they intended to expand the use of satellites that track illegal activity by detecting night lights used by fishermen to attract fish, and committed to better track all seafood that enters American ports."
The five nations bordering the Arctic Ocean signed a ban on unregulatedcommercial fishing in the Arctic Ocean, in July 2015 (“Arctic Nations Sign Fishing Ban,” Science, July 24, 2015).
Victoria Burnett, "Cuba and U.S. Agree to Work Together to Protect Marine Life," The New York Times," October 5, 2015, reported, " The Cuban and American governments have agreed to work hand in hand to protect marine life in the seas that join their countries, a move that represents the first environmental dividend of a thaw between the two Cold War foes.
Under an agreement announced Monday at an oceans conference in Valparaíso, Chile, government agencies from Cuba and the United States are to map marine life in protected areas in the Florida Straits and Gulf of Mexico and compile an inventory of shared species."
The National Parks Conservation Association reported, June 10, 2015 (https://secure.npca.org/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=73F4B4F13B8038501ACB403E4E6F8952.app322b?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=1457&autologin=true&AddInterest=1084), that the National Park Service has announced plans to create a “no-fishing” marine reserve zone in Biscayne National Park to protect the park’s ailing reefs and to help restore fish to Florida.
Deirdre Fulton, "Seismic Blasting in Pursuit
of Oil Puts Whales at Risk, Report Confirms: There are increasing indications that use of underwater airguns could cause
'serious injury' to various species of whale,"
, August 24, 2015,
http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/24/seismic-blasting-pursuit-oil-puts-whales-risk-report-confirms, reported, "
Hearing loss is amongst the most extreme and immediate form of physiological harm to marine mammals from exposure to
A new report urges 'extreme caution' in using seismic airguns to explore for fossil fuels underwater, saying it is 'indisputable' that the practice has adverse impacts on Arctic marine life, especially whales.
Seismic testing involves a vessel towing an array of air guns that continuously blast loud, low frequency sound waves down through the water column and into the seabed with intervals as short as ten seconds. The operations can go on for weeks on end, depending on the size of area designated for the survey.
'This new study shows how destructive seismic blasting can be for whales yet they continue with their pursuit for oil with no regard for environmental impacts and Inuit rights.'—Jerry Natanine, Clyde River mayor
'It is clear that noise from seismic activity has an impact on whales as it can damage their hearing, ability to communicate and also displace animals, affecting diving behavior, feeding and migration patterns,' said report author Oliver Boisseau, senior research scientist at Marine Conservation Research, which conducted the study (pdf) for Greenpeace Nordic.
'There are increasing indications that this could cause serious injury,' he said, 'and may also disrupt reproductive success and increase the risk of strandings and ice entrapments.'"
The growth of toxic algae in the Pacific Ocean off California, in fall 2015, was killing sea mammals and poisoning sea food, leading to alerts not to eat toxic crabs (Jonah Bromwich, “Spreading Toxin Tints U.S. Seafood and Kills Sea Mammals, Scientists Say,” The New York Times, November 5, 2015).
A study reveals that rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine contributed to the collapse of the cod population, and explains its failure to recover with fishing bans (Erica Goode, “Cod’s Failure to Recover Is Linked to Warming Gulf of Maine,” The New York Times, October 30, 2015).
Walker, “Tulalip, Swinomish Preserve Forest and Salmon Habitat With Two Significant Initiatives,” ICTMN, September
Two significant environmental initiatives were implemented within the last three weeks—opening prime salmon habitat on
the Tulalip Reservation and, on Swinomish land, setting the stage for forest preservation.
On August 28 at Tulalip, bulldozers removed about 1,500 linear feet of levee in the Snohomish River’s Qwuloolt Estuary, reopening 350 acres of wetlands to threatened salmon and other species. It’s part of what is reportedly the largest restoration project so far in the Snohomish River watershed. The estuary is habitat for one of the largest remaining populations of wild Puget Sound chinook salmon.”
White House announced a policy, in May 2015,
for helping ailing bees and declining butterflies, by expanding acreage of wild flowers and milk weed, omn
recommendation of the Pollinator Health Taskforce (Michael Wines, "U.S. Details New Efforts to Support Bees,"
The New York Times, May 20, 2015).
Kristi Eaton, “Oklahoma Tribes Restore Monarch Habitat to Save Beleaguered Butterfly,” ICTMN, October 22, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/10/22/oklahoma-tribes-restore-monarch-habitat-save-beleaguered-butterfly-162165, reported, “ Monarch butterflies will soon arrive in Mexico for the winter, but their annual journey south from the U.S. and Canada has gotten increasingly more difficult as their habitat shrinks by two million acres per year.
In an effort to stem this loss, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has awarded a coalition of Native American tribes based in Oklahoma nearly $250,000 to help restore monarch butterfly habitat on tribal lands in the eastern part of the state. The tribes are working with Monarch Watch, a cooperative network at the University of Kansas dedicated to monarch habitat restoration, and the Euchee Butterfly Farm in Bixby, Oklahoma, to help restore the habitat whose loss has caused a drastic drop in the population numbers of the beautiful butterfly.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation created the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund in early 2015 to protect, conserve and increase habitat needed by the insects and other pollinators.”
“U.S. and Cuba Sign Environmental Pact,” The New York Times, November 18, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/19/world/americas/us-and-cuba-sign-environmental-pact.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, “The United States and Cuba on Wednesday signed an agreement to join forces and protect the vast array of fish and corals they share as countries separated by just 90 miles.” “The agreement directs scientists with the Florida Keys and the Texas Flower Garden Banks national sanctuaries to collaborate with researchers at two protected reserves: Guanahacabibes National Park and the Banco de San Antonio in western Cuba.”
There have been moves by numerous nations, including Russia and China to increase taking resources from the Antarctic that raise serious environmental questions (Simon Romero, “Countries Rush for Upper Hand in Antarctica,” The New York Times, December 29, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/29/world/countries-rush-for-upper-hand-antarctica.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0).
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Many of the reports in this issue of U.S. government legislation, agency action, and court decisions are informed by electronic flyers from Hobbs, Straus, Dean and Walker, LLP, 2120 L Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037, http://www.hobbsstraus.com. Attachments referred to in Hobbs-Straus reports are available via the web address of the report in question. Reports from Indian Country Today Media Network, from the web, are listed as from ICTMN. Reports from News From Indian Country are listed as from NFIC.
U.S. Government Developments
"White House Directive to Federal Agencies Regarding FY 2017 Native Youth Priorities," Hobbs-Straus General
Memorandum, August 12, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-060 Memorandum 15-060, reported, "
The White House has issued a directive to federal agencies regarding the formulation of the FY 2017 budget as it
relates to its priorities for Native youth. The directive (attached) is in the form of a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive
Departments and Agencies (Memorandum) and is from Office of Management Budget Director Shaun Donovan and Domestic Policy
Council Director Ceilia Munroz.
The Memorandum notes the importance of the visit by the President and First Lady to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and their meeting with Native youth there. An outgrowth of that visit was the Generation Indigenous or "Gen-I" initiative to develop a multi-agency, comprehensive and culturally appropriate approach to help Native youth reach their potential.
The Memorandum lays out specific priorities. It also instructs agencies to coordinate during the budget formulation process and to clearly identify in their budget submissions the portions that reflect the stated Native youth priorities. Agencies are told to communicate repeatedly with their respective Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Examiners to ensure this is happening and also to allow OMB to assess coordination efforts and to look for "inappropriate duplication".
The multi-agency Native youth priorities are:
Improve Educational Outcomes and Life Outcomes for Native Youth. Priority is to be given for "programs that advance the educational outcomes for Native youth, including through in-school activities such as enrichment programs, expanded curriculum, and cultural education as well as out-of-school activities that address barriers to educational success".
Increase Access to Quality Teacher Housing.
Improve Access to the Internet. The Memorandum references the need at Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools for upgraded internet access, but the priority is broader than schools, referencing opportunities for community members.
Support Implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Memorandum states that implementation of ICWA requires support for tribal and state courts, social workers, and foster care, and services that keep families together including family services, home improvement programs, alternatives to incarceration and employment support services.
Reduce Teen Suicide. While noting there are programs that support suicide prevention in tribal communities, the Memorandum asks agencies to prioritize programs that meet students' physical, emotional and social needs. It also notes the need for a "well-prepared behavioral health workforce and access to behavioral health services in Native communities."
Increase Tribal Control of Criminal Justice. The Memorandum is supportive of more tribal control over law enforcement in their communities and instructs agencies to "give priority to investments that give tribes the tools they need to establish and maintain effective justice systems."
Development of the President's proposed FY 2017 budget is well underway. Generally agencies submit their initial budget requests to OMB in September; during November-December OMB sends the budget back to the agencies with its decisions (referred to as the "pass back") ; during December agencies may appeal OMB decisions; and in early February of the following calendar year the President submits the proposed budget to Congress."
President Obama Issues Memorandum Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Use," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum
15-077, November 6 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-077, reported, "On October 21, 2015,
President Obama issued a Memorandum to Executive Departments and Agencies (agencies), directing them to address the
epidemic of prescription drug abuse and heroin use via increased prescriber training for health professionals and improved
access to medication-assisted treatment.
Issued along with the Memorandum was a fact sheet detailing actions that various federal agencies, including the Indian
Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and federal contractors, are to undertake. In addition, it details the actions
that 40 state, local and private sector organizations will be undertaking in concert with federal efforts. The Memorandum and
the fact sheet are attached.
The Memorandum notes that the number of overdose deaths in the United States involving prescription opioids quadrupled between 1999 and 2013, with more than 16,000 deaths in 2013 alone. Heroin overdose deaths are also on the rise, nearly doubling between 2011 and 2013. The Centers for Disease Control has identified prescription drug addiction as a major factor in people turning to heroin use.
Prescriber Training for Federal Health Professional Employees and Contractors. The Memorandum directs agencies, to the extent permitted by law, to provide training on the appropriate prescribing of opioid medicines to their employees who prescribe controlled substances as part of their federal responsibilities. In addition, all contractors who are health care professionals, spend 50 percent or more of their clinical time under contract with the federal government, and prescribe controlled substances under the terms and conditions of their contract with the federal government must obtain this training. There is a similar requirement for clinical residents and clinical trainees. Training is to take place within 18 months of the issuance of the memorandum followed by a refresher course every three years.
Improving Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment and Modernizing Benefit Design. The Memorandum directs agencies, to extent available and permitted by law, that directly provide, contract to provide, reimburse for, or otherwise facilitate access to health benefits to identify barriers to accessing medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse. Within 90 days of the issuance of Memorandum (January 19, 2016) each affected agency is to submit an action plan to the White House that addresses these barriers. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to make available clinical and other experts to help agencies with their reviews as necessary.
Training of BIA Police Officers. The fact sheet states that with regard to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service that they "will provide BIA police officers and investigators the overdose reversal drug naloxone and training on its use. In 2016, the BIA, through the United States Indian Police Academy, will provide training to all BIA and tribal police officer cadets in recognizing opioid use disorders and overdose symptoms."
Congress. The issue of increased prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction has received considerable attention in Congress. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing July 29, 2015, entitled The True Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Indian Country. Witnesses addressed the issue of opioid abuse in Indian Country. There was a specific focus on babies born addicted to opioids, their subsequent withdrawal and need for specialized lengthy intensive care, usually in a facility outside of the tribe's area. Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians referred in her testimony to babies being born addicted to opioids as "the single greatest threat" to the future of her tribe.
On October 22, 2015, the Senate approved by unanimous consent, S 799, the Protecting our Infants Act of 2015. The bill would require HHS to review and develop a strategy for addressing gaps in research and treatment related to prenatal opioid use, and to develop recommendations for prevention and treatment. It would direct HHS to solicit input from tribes, among others. A very similar bill, HR 1462, passed the House by voice vote, so prospects for enactment are reasonably good."
“President Obama Hosts 7
th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, “NCAI,
November 5, 2015, http://www.ncai.org/news/articles/2015/11/05/president-obama-hosts-7th-annual-white-house-tribal-nations-conference, reported, “ President Barack Obama, tribal leaders from across the country, and key federal officials gathered today for the 7th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference (WHTNC) to discuss how they can continue to work together to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship between tribal nations and the US government and cement a legacy that empowers Indian Country’s future.”
Held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the WHTNC kicked off with big news from athletic shoe and apparel maker Adidas, who announced an initiative to help high schools nationwide drop their Native American-themed mascots, nicknames, imagery or symbolism by providing logo and uniform redesign services and financial support to ensure that the cost of changing mascots is not prohibitive.
Also unveiled was MTV’s powerful new video on Generation Indigenous , which featured First Lady Michelle Obama declaring to Native youth, ‘As you move forward, remember you are never alone.’”
“Conference participants attended breakout sessions to engage in meaningful dialogues with federal officials on critical topics ranging from health care to housing to climate change. From these sessions and throughout the day came announcements of several new key federal developments and initiatives for Indian Country, such as:
The Department of the Interior finalized and released new Right of Way Regulations, which will give Native landowners greater control over the use and development of tribal lands.
The Department of Justice announced the first 10 tribes to participate in the initial phase of the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP).
The Department of the Interior’s launch of Native One Stop , a website where tribal citizens can locate important federal resources they may be eligible to receive.
The Department of Education released its agency consultation policy and also highlighted the release of the School Environment Listening Sessions Final Report .
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced changes to the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative designed to make tribes more competitive for this funding stream for neighborhood transformation, which will be integrated into a NOFA that will be released in the next 30 days.
The appointment of Karen Diver (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) to serve as Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council.
President Obama wrapped up the landmark event with brief opening remarks. ‘When I ran for office, I pledged to build a true nation-to-nation relationship with you,”’he said to the tribal leaders in attendance. ‘What has started out as a campaign promise has now become a tradition.’ He went on to share that ‘the success of our Native American communities is tied up with the success of America as a whole.’
Obama then joined a roundtable discussion moderated by Jude Schimmel (Umatilla), a standout basketball player at the University of Louisville. The roundtable covered a number of topics important to Native youth, including the need for quality, culturally appropriate education; suicide prevention; food sovereignty; and the movement to eliminate racist sports mascots in schools. “
For more information, visit the Fact Sheet for the 7th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference : https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/11/05/fact-sheet-7th-annual-white-house-tribal-nations-conferenceand also NCAI’s Tribal Leader Briefing Book, http://www.ncai.org/conferences-events/ncai-events/2015_WHTNC_Briefing_Book_Final.pdf.
Eaton, “Obama Announces Broadband ‘Game-Changer’ While Visiting Choctaw Nation,” ICTMN July 16, 2015,
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced a new initiative to connect low-income homes with high-speed Internet
during a visit to the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, saying access to the Internet is not a luxury but a necessity in
Obama, who addressed tribal citizens from across Oklahoma at Durant High School, the capital of the Choctaw Nation, said the initiative ConnectHome is another step to help close the digital divide in America.
“Obama to Appoint Pascua Yaqui Member to Advisory Committee,”
September 19, 2015,
President Barack Obama announced the appointment of eight individuals to his administration along with his intent to
appoint Octaviana Trujillo as the newest member of the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission for Environmental
Cooperation on Tuesday, September 15.
Trujillo is a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and is professor of Applied Indigenous Studies at Northern Arizona University – a position she has held since 2002. In 2011, she served as a Visiting Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. Prior to her fellowship, Dr. Trujillo served as chair of the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies at NAU from 2002 – 2010. From 1997 – 2001 she was director of the Center for Indian Education at Arizona State University and from 1992 – 1996 she served as Tribal Council Member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.”
“Surface Transportation Reauthorization Enacted; Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program Established,” Hobbs-Straus
General Memorandum 15-082, December 11, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-082, reported, On
December 4, 2015,
President Obama signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act, PL 114-94). After years of
short-term funding for transportation infrastructure, the five-year FAST Act authorization will provide $305 billion in highway
and transit spending through 2020. The FAST Act made several important changes to the Tribal Transportation Program. The most
notable of those is the creation of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Tribal Self-Governance Program that extends many of
the self-governance provisions of Title V of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) to DOT. The
FAST Act also provides modest funding increases for the Tribal Transportation Program (TTP) and the Tribal Transit program as
well as a number of technical changes to these programs.
Self-Governance. The extension of self-governance to the DOT marks a significant step forward: it is the first expansion of self-governance to a federal agency beyond the Department of Interior and the Indian Health Service. Moreover, through this extension of self-governance to the DOT, tribes will be able to obtain all of their transportation funds (including not only their TTP funds, but also transit, Federal-aid and other DOT funds) under one self-governance agreement. This will greatly streamline the administrative procedures and help tribes to place safe and reliable transportation infrastructure on the ground and into operation faster and more cost effectively.
Significantly, the DOT Tribal Self-Governance Program requires the development of regulations pursuant to a negotiated rulemaking process, thus providing tribes an opportunity to shape the program's implementing regulations. The statute requires DOT to begin a negotiated rulemaking process by March 4, 2016, to draft regulations to implement the DOT Tribal Self-Governance Program. The committee will be made up of tribal and federal representatives, but will be composed primarily of tribally-nominated representatives. It is critical that tribes intending to use the DOT Tribal Self-Governance Program be involved in drafting the rules for the program. The process must be completed within 30 months; we recommend that tribes treat the negotiated rulemaking as an urgent matter and a priority in order to ensure that the program regulations are beneficial to tribal governments.
The version of the DOT Tribal Self-Governance Program included in the FAST Act largely tracks the standalone DOT Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Act (HR 1068) introduced by Representatives DeFazio (D-OR) and Young (R-AK). See our General Memorandum 15-020 of February 27, 2015. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member DeFazio, and Representative Young were all instrumental to ensuring that the DOT Tribal Self-Governance Program was included in the FAST Act.
Funding Increases. Tribal Transportation Program funding is increased to $465 million for FY 2016 ($15 million above the current funding level of $450 million) with $10 million increases each year thereafter through FY 2020. The funding for the Tribal Transit program is increased to $35 million for FY 2016 (the formula program of the Tribal Transit program is increased from its current level of $25 million to $30 million, and the discretionary program remains at $5 million) and will remain at this level through FY 2020.
Tribal High Priority Project (HPP) program. The HPP was established in the previous surface transportation reauthorization (MAP-21) as a stand-alone program to provide funds for tribes with insufficient formula funding to construct their priority transportation projects. Unfortunately, this program was not reauthorized. Although the program, while authorized under MAP-21, was not funded during the years covered by that statute, the expiration of the program is a further setback to tribes that relied on that program.
New "Nationally Significant" program. A $100 million per year grant program is established for "nationally significant" Federal Lands and tribal transportation projects. To be eligible for this project, however, a project must have an estimated cost of no less than $25 million with extra priority given to projects with an estimated cost of $50 million or more.
Other Changes. The FAST Act contains a few program changes that tribes have been seeking for many years and also some new reporting provisions. Some of these changes, including the funding increases for the TTP, were included in Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Barrasso's (R-WY) standalone bill, the Tribal Infrastructure and Roads Enhancement and Safety Act (TIRES Act, S 1776). Some key changes are:
• The Project Management and Oversight (PM&O) takedown for administrative expenses of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Highway Administration has been reduced from 6 percent to 5 percent;
• The funding set aside for the Tribal Transportation Facility Bridges program has been increased from 2 percent to 3 percent;
• Tribes are now subject to new data collection reporting on expenditures of Tribal Transportation Program funds; and
• There is no new funding for tribal safety programs, but the Secretary of DOT is required to provide the following reports to Congress related to tribal safety:
o After consulting with the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Attorney General, and Indian tribes, the Secretary of DOT is to provide a report describing the quality of transportation safety data collected by states, counties, and tribes for transportation safety systems, in order to improve the collection and sharing of data regarding crashes on Indian reservations.
o Similarly, the Secretary of DOT, after consultation with the Secretary of Interior, Tribes, states and their respective attorneys general, is to provide a report that identifies options to improve safety on public roads on Indian reservations.
The enactment of the FAST Act represents a significant step forward for tribal self-determination. We will be closely following the negotiated rulemaking process for the Department of Tribal Self-Governance Program. Please let us know if you are interested in participating in that rulemaking or if you would like to be included in our shared-cost advocacy and reporting related to that rulemaking process.”
“House of Representatives Approves Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act,” Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-081, December 4, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-081, reported, “On November 17, 2015,
the House of Representatives approved the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (HR 511) by a vote of 249-177. HR 511
is sponsored by Representative Rokita (R-IN) and
would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA, or "the Act") by expressly adding tribal governments to
the definition of governments that are exempt from the Act. Currently, federal, state, and local governments are
expressly exempt from the NLRA; however, the Act is silent with regard to its applicability to tribal governments. For nearly
70 years after the NLRA's enactment in 1935, the Act was interpreted as applying broadly to all governmental entities;
hence, tribal governments were exempt as well. This interpretation was challenged in 2004 when the National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB) took the position that tribal governments are not exempt. This legislation would restore governmental parity for
tribal governments by amending the NLRA to expressly provide that any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian
tribe and located on its lands is exempt from the Act.
Context. In 2004, in San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino and Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, 341 NLRB No. 138 (May 28, 2004), the NLRB departed from its established rule and asserted jurisdiction over a tribal enterprise operating on an Indian reservation, finding that tribal commercial enterprises are generally subject to the provisions of the NLRA and can be charged by the NLRB with "unfair labor practices" under that authority. The Tribe appealed but, the NLRB's decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino v. N.L.R.B., 475 F.3d 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Other courts have followed suit. Earlier this year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the NLRB had jurisdiction over tribes as employers. National Labor Relations Board v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Government, Case No. 14-2239 (June 9, 2015 6th Cir.). As recently as this week, the NLRB ruled against the Pauma Casino in California for violations of Section 8 of the NLRA. In this case, the Casino sought to enforce its policy prohibiting the distribution of literature at the Casino's valet entrance, which faced the visitor parking lot. Despite the Casino allowing distribution during break times at employee entrances, the NLRB found the restriction to be a violation of the Act. Casino Pauma and Unite Here International Union, 363 NLRB No. 60, slip op. (Dec. 3, 2015). We note, however, that the NLRB in Oklahoma declined to assert jurisdiction over the Chickasaw Nation based on the Tribe's treaty. Chickasaw Nation d/b/a Winstar World Casino and International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 866, Cases 17-CA-025031 & 17-CA-025121 (June 4, 2015).
In 2011, the Department of the Interior met with the NLRB to request that the NLRB stop filing unfair labor practice charges against tribes and drop current charges that had already been filed. The NLRB has not taken any action to show that it is giving serious consideration to that request and, in fact, has initiated new proceedings against tribes and tribal enterprises in recent years while continuing to assert the position it took in the San Manuel case in all judicial challenges.
Since San Manuel, several bills and floor amendments have been introduced in the House and Senate to amend the NLRA to make it clear that the NLRB lacks jurisdiction over tribes and tribal enterprises operating on Indian lands, but they were not enacted. The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act is the newest effort to address this issue.
Support and Opposition. The legislation is broadly supported by tribal governments and by intertribal organizations including the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). Prior to the House vote, however, the Obama Administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) in opposition to the bill, stating "The Administration cannot support HR 511. . .as currently drafted." The Administration's position is that any bill exempting tribal governments from the NLRA must also include provisions requiring tribes to adopt labor standards and procedures "reasonably equivalent to those in the NLRA." We note that the Administration is not advocating for other governmental entities to adopt these standards and procedures. We attach the joint NCAI-NIGA letter urging support for HR 511; the SAP; the text of the House floor debate; and the House roll call vote.
Next Steps. An identical Senate bill (S 248)—sponsored by Senator Moran (R-KS)—was marked up by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on September 9, 2015. We understand that there is an effort to secure Senate floor time to hold a vote on the legislation or, alternately, to try to add it to a larger, unrelated bill.
A temporary variant of this legislation is included in the House version of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education FY 2016 appropriations bill (HR 3020). HR 3020 contains a provision which would, for FY 2016, stipulate that "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to enforce the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. 152) against any Indian tribe, including any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on its Indian lands." However, the Senate appropriations bill (S 1695) does not contain this provision, and thus its fate will be decided in negotiations on a final FY 2016 appropriations bill. Currently, federal agencies are being funded under a Continuing Resolution (at FY 2015 levels and conditions) through December 11, 2015. The tribal NLRB issue is one of the policy riders in question regarding a final FY 2016 bill.”
“Bill to Make Bison the National Mammal Passes Unanimously in Senate,”
December 5, 2015,
Bison, once nearly wiped out, is now one step closer to becoming the U.S.’s national mammal, joining the bald eagle as
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the National Bison Legacy Act last week, a bill that would designate the iconic animal as the country’s national mammal.”
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed six pieces of legislation that would “improve Indian communities,” in
late October, 2015. Fourof the proposed bills addressed taking land into trust for tribes, while the remaining two addressed
academics and Native employment.
The bills are as follows:
— S. 1419 , a bill to promote the academic achievement of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children with the establishment of a Native American language grant program (introduced by Senator Jon Tester [D-MT]), The Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to authorize the Department of Education to award grants to Indian tribes, tribal colleges or universities, tribal education agencies, specified schools, Regional Corporations, private or tribal nonprofit organizations, and consortia of any such entities to develop and maintain, or improve and expand, programs that support the use by schools, from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, of Native American languages as their primary language of instruction.
Requires grant applicants to present the Department with specified assurances and demonstrations that the schools they will support have an endorsement to provide education primarily through a Native American language.
Requires grantees to:
support Native American language education and development;
develop or refine instructional curricula for the schools they support, including distinctive teaching materials and activities;
fund training opportunities for school staff that strengthen the overall language and academic goals of their schools;
develop a Native Language alignment plan to create or refine assessments of student proficiency; and
engage in other activities that promote Native American language education and development (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1419?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22%5C%22s1419%5C%22%22%5D%7D&resultIndex=1).
— S. 1436, a bill to require the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for certain Indian tribes, and for other purposes (introduced by Senators Harry Reid [D-NV] and Dean Heller [R-NV]). The Nevada Native Nations Land Act declares that the United States holds in trust the following lands for the benefit of:
the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe of the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, approximately 19,094 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land;
the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, approximately 82 acres of Forest Service land;
the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, approximately 941 acres of BLM land;
the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, approximately 13,434 acres of BLM land;
the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, approximately 6,357 acres of BLM land; and
the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe approximately 31,269 acres of BLM land.
The lands held for such Tribes shall be part of their respective reservations.
Lands held in trust under this Act shall not be eligible for Class II and class III gaming.
— S. 1443 , a bill to amend the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 to facilitate the ability of Indian tribes to integrate the employment, training and related services from diverse federal sources, and for other purposes (introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski [R-AK]);The act would, Amends the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 to make revisions to the program that provides for the integration of employment, training, and related services programs from federal funds.
Revises the types of programs that may be integrated pursuant to an approved integration plan.
Sets forth requirements regarding the granting or denial of an Indian tribe's request to waive any applicable statutory, regulatory, or administrative requirements or waive federal agency policies or procedures necessary to efficiently implement the plan.
Prescribes for certain hearing and appeal rights for an Indian tribe if the Department of the Interior denies its plan.
Revises the authority of tribes to use funds available for a plan to place participants in training positions with employers.
Revises the responsibilities of the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in carrying out this Act to include:
the distribution of the funds to the respective Indian tribes by no later than 45 days after the receipt of the funds from the appropriate federal department or agency,
the performance of the activities relating to agency waivers, and
the establishment of an interagency dispute resolution process.
Prohibits the BIA from developing a reporting format that requires a participating tribe to report on the expenditure of funds transferred to the tribe under the Act.
Treats any funds transferred to an Indian tribe under the Act as non-federal funds for purposes of meeting matching requirements under any other federal law (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1443).
— S. 1761 , a bill to take certain federal land located in Lassen County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Susanville Indian Rancheria, and for other purposes (introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer [D-CA] and Dianne Feinstein [D-CA]). This bill takes into trust for the benefit of the Susanville Indian Rancheria approximately 301 acres of federal land under the administrative jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management of the Department of the Interior, including improvements and appurtenances, in Lassen County, California.
Certain gaming on these lands is prohibited (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1761?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22%5C%22s1761%5C%22%22%5D%7D&resultIndex=1).
— S. 1822 , a bill to take certain federal land located in Tuolumne County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, and for other purposes (introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer [D-CA]). The bill Requires that all U.S. interests in approximately 80 acres of specified U.S. Forest Service land located in Tuolumne County, California, be held in trust for the benefit of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians for nongaming purposes.
— H.R. 387, a bill to provide for certain land to be taken into trust for the benefit of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, and for other purposes (introduced by Representative Raul Ruiz [D-CA-36]). Economic Development Through Tribal Land Exchange Act (Sec. 3) provides for the disposition of four parcels of land in California. The Department of the Interior must transfer 41.15 acres designated as Morongo lands to Lloyd L. Fields in exchange for 41.15 acres owned by Fields to be held in trust for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. The City of Banning is granted a 1.76 acre easement for a public right-of-way in exchange for 1.21 acres of land to be held in trust for the Tribe (“SCIA Passes Six Bills at Recent Committee Meeting,” ICTMN, November 16, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/11/16/scia-passes-six-bills-recent-committee-meeting-162439; and indicated summaries of each bill from congress.gov, where more details are available),
"House Natural Resources Committee Approves Native American Energy Act," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-068,
September 16, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-068, reported, "On September 10, 2015, the
House Committee on Natural Resources held a markup session in which it approved HR 538, the Native American Energy
Act, a bill sponsored by Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs Chairman Young (R-AK) by a vote of
approved version is unchanged from the version of the bill that was introduced on January 26, 2015. HR 538 is
quite similar to Subcommittee Chairman Young's Native American Energy Act introduced in the previous Congress as HR 1548.
See our General Memorandum 13-045 of May 31, 2013. As of this writing the Committee has not issued a report on HR 538, but,
according to a memorandum by the Committee's Majority staff, the bill would "promote energy development by Indian
tribes and Alaska Native Corporations." The
emphasis is on streamlining transactions for the extraction of fossil fuel resources, although there is one section
that mentions wind and solar, and there is a section that would authorize a tribal biomass demonstration project. The bill does
not mention energy efficiency.
Section 2 of the bill would add a new section to the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act of 2005 to reform the process for appraisals of land or trust assets for transactions that require the approval of the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary). This section would apply to any such transaction, and would not be limited to transactions relating to energy resources. Section 3 of the bill would direct the Secretary to ensure that all agencies within the Department of the Interior involved in review, approval, and oversight of oil and gas activities on Indian lands use a uniform system to track oil and gas wells.
Section 4 of the bill would make a major change in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal statute that requires the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for any federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment. NEPA applies to transactions relating to Indian trust or restricted land if the transaction requires action by the Secretary or another federal agency. (An EIS is not required if an environmental assessment supports a finding of no significant impact, and agencies can establish categorical exclusions for broad categories of actions with little potential to result in significant impacts.) The change in the NEPA process that the bill would bring about is that, for any proposed federal action that requires an EIS, the distribution of the EIS for review and comment would be limited to members of the tribe and "any other individual residing in the affected area." The President's Council on Environmental Quality would be directed to revise its regulations to implement this change, including providing for determining how to describe the affected area. This change in NEPA would not be limited to proposed federal actions relating to energy development but, rather, would apply to any proposed federal action on Indian lands that would require an EIS.
The bill's proposed amendment to NEPA was also included in HR 1548 in the previous Congress. In H. Rept. 113-263 of November 12, 2013, in dissenting views, minority members of the Committee described the NEPA provisions as "misguided," said that the limits on review of and comment of EISs would contribute to "uninformed decision making at the federal level," and noted that such limits "would prevent even other Indian tribes with cultural ties in these so-called affected areas from commenting on a proposed project."
Section 5 of the bill would establish sweeping limits on judicial review of any "energy related action." (HR 1548 also included provisions to limit judicial review, but the approach in this year's bill is different.) HR 538 would set a 60-day jurisdictional deadline for filing a complaint, from the date of final agency action; require any such action to be filed in federal district court for the District of Columbia and require that court to resolve any such case in no more than 180 days; and allow appellate review only in the D.C. Circuit, which would be required to resolve any appeal in no more than 180 days from the date of the order being appealed. In addition, if a party challenging an "energy related action" does not "ultimately prevail, the court shall award" fees and expenses to any defendant-intervener (e.g., a tribe), unless the court finds, based on the administrative record, that the plaintiff's position was "substantially justified or that special circumstances make an award unjust." "Energy related action" is defined as a cause of action seeking judicial review of federal agency action allowing: (i) any person or entity to conduct activities on Indian Land, which activities involve the exploration, development, production or transportation of oil, gas, coal, shale gas, oil shale, geothermal resources, wind or solar resources, underground coal gasification, biomass, or the generation of electricity; or (ii) any Indian Tribe, or any organization of two or more entities, at least one of which is an Indian tribe, to conduct activities involving the exploration, development, production or transportation of oil, gas, coal, shale gas, oil shale, geothermal resources, wind or solar resources, underground coal gasification, biomass, or the generation of electricity, regardless of where such activities are undertaken.
The remaining sections of HR 538 are virtually unchanged from HR 1548, including: authorizing a Tribal Biomass Demonstration Project; amending the statute that authorizes long-term leases of Indian lands (25 U.S.C. § 415) to allow the Navajo Nation to enter into certain categories of leases, including mineral extraction leases, without approval by the Secretary; and prohibiting the Department of the Interior from regulating hydraulic fracturing on Indian trust or restricted lands, except with consent of the Indian beneficiary."
"Compromise Carcieri-Fix Bill: The Interior Improvement Act," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-074, October 19,
2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-074, reported, "
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Barrasso (R-WY) introduced S 1879, the Interior Improvement Act,
on July 28, 2015. S 1879 is
a compromise bill that includes the two main objectives of Indian Country for a Carcieri-fix: (1) making clear that the
Secretary of the Interior has the authority under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) to take land into trust for any federally
recognized tribe; and (2) ratifying and confirming prior land-into-trust decisions. S 1879 also includes certain provisions
pushed for by county and local governments. These provisions would apply to applications to take off-reservation land into
trust and focus on notice to and comment opportunity by local governments, encouraging the use of cooperative agreements, and
timing for decisions on applications.
S 1879 would instill timelines for providing notice of applications to contiguous jurisdictions and the public, and for comment on the applications from same. "Contiguous jurisdiction" is defined by the bill as "any county, county equivalent, or Indian tribe with authority and control over the land contiguous to the land under consideration in an application." S 1879 would also require the Secretary to publish her decision on an application in the FEDERAL REGISTER and post it on Interior's website not later than five days after such final decision is made.
S 1879 would encourage, but not require, applicants to enter into cooperative agreements with contiguous jurisdictions, which, per the bill, may include terms for mitigation, changes in land use, dispute resolution, and other terms the parties deem appropriate. Per S 1879, if the applicant submits a cooperative agreement, the Secretary shall move forward with a decision on the application on an expedited basis. S 1879 states that the Secretary is to issue a final decision on a complete application not later than (1) 60 days after the completion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process or (2) if such process is not applicable, 30 days after the Secretary receives a complete application. If the Secretary fails to issue a final decision by these timelines, S 1879 states that the application shall be deemed approved and treated as a final decision.
Under the bill, if the applicant does not submit a cooperative agreement, the Secretary shall issue a written determination of mitigation not later than 30 days after receiving a complete application. Such determination shall describe whether any economic impacts on the contiguous jurisdiction have been mitigated and, per S 1879, the Secretary shall consider the determination of mitigation when making a final decision to approve or deny an application.
S 1879 states that the lack of a cooperative agreement shall not prejudice an application if the Secretary determines that there is no agreement due to the failure of a contiguous jurisdiction to work in good faith to reach an agreement.
Under S 1879 , an applicant or contiguous jurisdiction may seek review of a final decision and may seek review in a United States district court only after exhausting all available administrative remedies. The bill also sets forth a process for the Secretary to consult with tribes to implement these new provisions of the IRA and would require the Secretary to modify existing regulations, guidance, rules and policy through rule-making to carry out the provisions.
Conference Call with SCIA and ASIA Washburn:
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) facilitated a conference call on October 1, 2015, for tribal leaders with Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs (ASIA) Washburn and Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Majority Staff Director Andrews to discuss S 1879, the Interior Improvement Act. NCAI had circulated the attached FAQs document about S 1879 and arranged the call as an opportunity for tribal leaders to ask additional questions about the legislation.
Staff Director Andrews conveyed that the Committee has received lots of feedback on the legislation from tribes, counties and directly from Senators, and that S 1879 is a top priority for the Committee. He said a manager's amendment to the bill is being developed, which is expected to be considered at an upcoming mark-up of the bill. Such mark-up has not yet been scheduled.
ASIA Washburn conveyed that the Department of Interior has no official position on the bill, but it is working with the Committee to address certain technical issues.
A central issue raised by tribal leaders and representatives was the bill's encouragement of cooperative agreements between tribes and counties and the expedited processing of trust applications that have such accompanying agreements. ASIA Washburn noted that currently, as a practical matter, applications from tribes with agreements with the counties move faster in the land-into-trust process. He added that the Obama Administration will continue to try to move all applications. Mr. Andrews underscored that S 1879 does not confer veto power to the counties. Applications without cooperative agreements would still be processed but without the expedited review provided by S 1879 for applications with cooperative agreements.
Letter from Senators Feinstein and Roberts to the SCIA:
Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Roberts (R-KS) sent a letter dated October 1, 2015, to Committee Chairman Barrasso and Vice-Chairman Tester (D-MT) (attached) stating that while the Committee is considering legislative "fixes" to the Carcieri decision, it can and should consider a comprehensive overhaul that not only remedies Carcieri, but also reforms how Interior regulates off-reservation gaming.
The Senators assert that "reservation shopping" causes conflicts with and burdens local communities. They call for amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) concerning off-reservation gaming to be included in S 1879 that: (1) requires a tribe to demonstrate, and the Secretary to confirm, a substantial and direct aboriginal connection; (2) requires a tribe to demonstrate that it maintains a modern connection with the proposed land to be acquired; (3) limits changes in use of the land; (4) provides for meaningful notice and comment beyond just bordering counties; and (5) requires the tribe to agree to enforceable mitigation agreements.
NYSAC Resolution Opposing S 1879:
The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) passed a resolution opposing S 1879 (attached). It calls upon the New York Congressional delegation to strongly oppose the bill. The resolution sets forth the NYSAC policy that any "Carcieri fix" must include a provision requiring local municipal consent for land to be taken into trust from the State of New York."
"Native American Voting Rights Legislation Introduced," Hobs-Straus General Memorandum 15-063, August 25, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-063, reported, "On July 30, 2015, Senator Tester (D-MT)
introduced S 1912, the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2015. The bill is
intended to strengthen voter protections and increase access to the polls for Native Americans. It was
referred to the Judiciary Committee. Original cosponsors are Senators Franken (D-MN), Heitkamp (D-ND), and Udall (D-NM). Native
American voters living on Indian reservations have historically participated at much lower rates in elections due in part to
barriers based on registration procedures, distance, language, and discrimination.
We reported on the Department of Justice's draft tribal voting rights bill in our General Memorandum 15-040 of June 5, 2015. S 1912 includes some, but not all, of the provisions of the Department of Justice draft bill.
The bill defines "Indian reservation" as in Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. §10503): "the term 'Indian reservation' means any area that is an American Indian or Alaska Native area, as defined by the Census bureau for the purposes of the 1990 decennial census." (The bill would amend the Voting Rights Act to substitute 2010 for the 1990 census.)
We summarize the major provisions of S 1912 below.
Section 3 would require state preclearance before any of the following actions could be taken on an Indian reservation: • Eliminating the only polling place or voter registration site; • Moving or consolidating a polling place or voter registration site one mile or further away from its existing location; • Moving or consolidating a polling place across a river, lake, mountain, or other natural boundary that makes travel difficult for a voter, regardless of distance; • Eliminating in-person voting by designating a village or reservation as a permanent absentee voting location; • Removing an early voting location or otherwise diminishing early voting opportunities; • Reducing the dates or hours that an in-person or early voting location is open.
Section 4 would provide tribes with the assurance of polling places within their lands. It would require each state that has at least one Indian reservation to designate a compliance officer for each reservation in that state and to notify each tribe who that officer is. Upon request and a showing that certain requirements are met, the state would be required to provide at least one polling place on each reservation. The state would be required to provide additional polling places if the tribe can show that they are needed to ensure that tribal members have the same opportunity to vote as other citizens. The exact number of additional polling places would be determined by a formula that takes into account the number of eligible voters, distance to the polls, time required to get to the polls, the modes of transportation voters use to get to the polls, and the availability of public transportation. The tribe would be required to first certify that all voters will have access to the additional polling places, and that the polls will be staffed with trained workers.
Section 4 also provides that, upon request of a tribe, states which allow absentee or mail-in voting shall provide all registered voters on the reservation absentee ballots. In this case, the reservation is to be designated an absentee ballot location. Furthermore, states that provide for early voting must provide at least one early voting location on each reservation upon request. Tribes may use federal facilities such as Indian Health Service or Bureau of Indian Affairs facilities as polling locations.
Section 4 would reject the attempts of certain states to restrict acceptable voter identification. The bill would require that states accept tribal identification as a valid form of identification. It would also give both the Justice Department and tribes the power to bring an enforcement action against a state that violates the Act.
Section 5 of the bill would provide protections for Native American voters who have difficulty understanding voting materials written in English. Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act is intended to eliminate voting discrimination against voters who do not speak or write in English. It applies in jurisdictions where there are high concentrations of non-English speaking voters and in certain areas of Indian Country. Section 203 defines Indian reservations broadly and in 2011, the Census Bureau published a list of covered Section 203 jurisdictions, over 100 of which include Indian reservations, Oklahoma Tribal Statistical Areas, State-Designated American Indian Statistical Areas, and Alaska Native Village Statistical Areas. (See our General Memorandum 11-118 of October 21, 2011.) Section 203 requires states and subdivisions to provide translated materials to voters in covered jurisdictions but does not require them to translate for languages which are "historically unwritten." S 1912 would clarify that if a Native American language is presently written (even if it was historically unwritten) then a state or subdivision in a Section 203 jurisdiction would be required to provide translated voting materials.
Section 6 would require the Office of Personnel Management to assign federal election observers when the U.S. Attorney General certifies that he or she has received a written complaint from a tribe alleging that a state or subdivision is likely to restrict the right of its members to vote.
Section 7 would require public disclosure of federal election observer reports no later than six months following their finalization.
Section 8 would encourage the Justice Department to consult with tribes on a yearly basis regarding Native American voting rights.
Section 9 would allow a court to award attorney fees to the prevailing party, except when the prevailing party is the United States."
"Family Stability and Kinship Care Act Would Refocus Federal Foster Care Program," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum
15-067, September 16, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-067, reported, "On August 5, 2015, Senator
introduced S 1964, the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act, which, if enacted, would represent a major shift in the
Nation's foster care system. The bill
would amend Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to re-focus the current federal foster care system from one which
provides resources once a child is removed from the home to one that would allow tribes and states to provide a wide array of
services designed to keep the family intact. It would also significantly increase the mandatory funding for the Social Security
Act's Title IV-B Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program, of which tribes receive a three percent funding
allocation. S 1964 was referred to the Finance Committee, of which Senator Wyden is the Ranking Member.
Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance. The Title IV-E program is an open-ended entitlement program which provides services once a child has been removed from the home. Current federal funding is approximately $7 billion per year. Funding is provided for things such as foster home maintenance payments, administrative costs, training, recruitment of foster parents, adoption assistance, and data collection. In some instances, support can be provided for kinship care. Some states and the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe have Title IV-E waivers that allow them some flexibility in the utilization of these funds. This bill would expand on that experience.
Only since 2010 have tribes been eligible to directly administer this program. Thus far a handful of tribes are operating the program, and there are others who are on course to do so. There are currently 98 tribal-state IV-E agreements, with the state being the lead grantee. Title IV-E services have an income requirement (although it is being phased out for adoption services).
Among the Title IV-E changes that S 1964 would make:
Title IV-E Time-Limited Family Preservation Services. The bill would allow states and tribes to provide a wide array of time-limited (12 months) services designed to help families whose children may be vulnerable to being placed in foster care and also to help families whose children have been in foster care but have returned home. Such services would also be available to adoptive families and to kinship care givers.
The income requirements for the current Title IV-E program would not apply to the time-limited services. Funding would be at the state's or tribe's Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) rate and would cover half of the eligible expenses for administration and training. With regard to tribes operating the IV-E program, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary would specify time-limited services in a manner consistent (to the extent practicable) with states and that are "adapted to the culture and context of the tribal communities served." Examples of the expanded Title IV-E services are:
• Parenting and family skills training and parent education; • Individual, group, and family counseling, mentoring, and therapy including intensive family preservation or reunification programs and trauma-informed care; • Services to address barriers to family preservation and reunification, including mental health needs, domestic violence, substance abuse, and inadequate housing; • Crisis assistance to stabilize families or facilitate kinship placement, such as transportation, clothing, utility and housing payments, child care, respite care and assistance connecting families with other community-based services.
Time-Limited Services Performance Measures. After three years states would be required to spend a certain portion of their time-limited services funds on evidence-based programs. After five years national performance measures for time-limited services would be put in place for states. The bill provides that the Secretary of HHS would establish specific performance measures for tribes who are providing the expanded time-limited services in a manner consistent (to the extent practicable) with the national standards allowing for "consideration of factors unique to the provision of such services by tribes, organizations, or consortia."
Title IV-B, Subpart 2, Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program. The Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program is a much smaller program than Title IV-E. It is geared toward preventive services to avoid the break-up of families but is quite prescriptive with regard to state expenditure of funds, although tribes are able to use their modest IV-B funds in a more flexible manner. The program is currently funded from two pots of money – discretionary ($60 million) and capped mandatory ($340 million). Tribes receive a three percent funding allocation which was $10.3 million (138 grantees) in FY 2014.
Under S 1964 the mandatory funding would be increased to $1 billion, a $655 million increase. Thus, tribal funds would increase substantially. Included in the increase is $10 million for research and technical assistance (a $4 million increase) and $33 million for court improvement services to assist courts in handling child welfare cases (a $3 million increase). Tribes receive $1 million annually in court improvement funds.
Compliance. Finally, the bill would give the Secretary of HHS discretion to allow tribes, tribal organizations and tribal consortia administering Title IV-E and B programs additional time to come into compliance with requirements of the bill before being considered out of compliance.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association worked with Senator Wyden on this bill and they and the National Congress of American Indians have endorsed the legislation."
"Legislation Introduced to Provide Direct Access to Tribes from the Crime Victims Fund," Hobbs-Straus General
Memorandum 15-050, July 10, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-050, reported, "On July 7, 2015,
Senators Barrasso (R-WY) and Tester (D-MT), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,
introduced S 1704, legislation to establish a dedicated funding stream for tribes from the Crime Victims Fund
(CVF). Joining as original co-sponsors were Senators Moran (R-KS); Murkowski (R-AK); Daines (R-MT); Schatz
(D-HI); Heitkamp (D-ND); Hoeven (R-ND); and Udall (D-NM). This legislation provides a major opportunity for tribes: the
provision of direct tribal access to the CVF. Direct access has long been a priority for tribes and Indian organizations and it
was a recommendation of the 2012 Attorney General's Task Force on Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.
The bill is entitled the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victims Empowerment Act (SURVIVE Act) and it was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. S 1704 can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114s1704is/pdf/BILLS-114s1704is.pdf.
July 14 Webinar. The National Congress of American Indians and the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center will host a webinar on the legislation on Tuesday, July 14, 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, with Mike Andrews, Majority Staff Director for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, as a participant.
Current Structure. The CVF is not funded through federal appropriations, but rather through the collection of fines and penalties via federal courts. Congress, in turn, decides how much of the fund can be allocated each fiscal year, most of which is distributed via formula to states for crime victim services and assistance. For FY 2015, there is $2.3 billion available from the CVF. Currently, tribes may only access these funds by applying to states, and very little funding ends up going to tribes—usually only 0.7 percent or less per fiscal year—despite federal data indicating a disproportionate rate of need.
Changes Proposed by the Bill. The bill would instead allocate five percent of the available CVF funds per fiscal year to the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Support to be administered in the form of a competitive grant program for tribes. Up to four percent of these funds could be utilized by the Office of Justice Support for administrative expenses, the management and administration of grants and training and technical assistance. No tribal match would be required.
The allowed uses of these tribal grant funds, which must be directly related to the harm suffered by victimization, would be very broad including: medical expenses; loss of wages; funeral expenses; counseling; housing; shelter; improved investigation and prosecution; repair of facilities; communications related to safety and security; transportation; and increased tribal capacity to provide services to victims.
Key Timeframes. The grant program authorized by S 1704 would be authorized for a ten-year period. Regulations would be required to be promulgated, in consultation with tribes, within 90 days of enactment. The Office of Justice Support would be required to award funding to grantees within 180 days of funds becoming available. Grantees would have an additional five fiscal years after the fiscal year in which funds were awarded to obligate the awarded funds. Unobligated funds at the end of this time period would be returned to the Office to be awarded to other grantees the following fiscal year.
Growing Support. The issue of tribal direct access to the CVF is gaining attention in Congress. For instance, the Senate Appropriations Committee in its FY 2016 Commerce-Justice-Science bill (HR 2578) would specifically allocate $52 million of the CVF for tribes, a first on this issue. Also, the House Appropriations Committee report (H. Rept. 114-66) accompanying the FY 2016 Commerce-Justice-Science bill notes a modest increase in the overall CVF allocation and directs the Department of Justice to confer with tribes about their need for such funds."
Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation in the Senate “ To establish a grant program to assist tribal governments in establishing tribal healing to wellness courts, and for other purposes,” that would expand the use by tribes of treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. Details of the bill are available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/286476358/Tribal-Healing-to-Wellness-Courts-Act.
The Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act, H.R. 2719, introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-06), would expand the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) to recognize the severe challenges tribal governments face in implementing coastal and shoreline measures that support public safety, public access, and cultural and historic preservation. The bill would enable tribal governments to access resources currently only offered to state governments, supporting tribal sovereignty and greater self-determination on tribal lands. The bill upholds the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibilities, while strengthening the government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes. A hearing on the bill was held November 4, 2015 (Mark Trahant, " Press Release: Tribes pitch Congress on coastal issues, riders," Trahant Reports, November 4, 2015, http://trahantreports.com/).
Frank Hopper, “What It Means to Be Landless: Alaska Native Bill in Congress.” ICTMN, July 1, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/07/01/what-it-means-be-landless-alaska-native-bill-congress-160883, reported, “The Alaska Native landless bill now being heard in Congress, officially known as H.R. 2386, the "Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act," is an attempt by Tlingit in five villages to use modern legislative tools to restore balance and to heal long-standing spiritual wounds.”
"In 1971 the landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act awarded 44 million acres of land and nearly a billion dollars to 13 regional Native corporations and more than 200 village or urban Native corporations. But for reasons that are unclear, the Natives in the Southeast Alaska communities of Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee and Wrangell were prevented from participating. The Natives enrolled in those areas were allowed shares in the regional corporation known as Sealaska, but were prevented from forming village corporations and could not receive the 23,040 acres of land awarded to each of the other urban or village corporations in Southeast Alaska.” The prosed act would remedy that omission.
The Navajo Technical Amendments Act of 2015, H.R. 3911, to encourage development in the Bennett freeze area, introduced in December 2015 by Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) would allow Navajo Nation to designate parcels of land of up to 150,000 acres as “Navajo Sovereign Empowerment Zones,” in which restrictive federal regulations would not apply and any federal agencies with enforcement responsibilities removed in such zones would turn over their enforcement funding for that enforcement to Navajo Nation (Cindy Yurth, “Land settlement revision in House committee,” Navajo Times, December 3, 2015).
Federal Agency Developments
“Revised Rules for Managing Federal Funds at 2 CFR Part 200 – Final Provision Regarding Procurement Fast Approaching,”
Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-085, December 11, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-085, reported, “In
December 2013 the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published new, final guidance that addresses administrative requirements, cost
principles, procurement, contracting, and audit requirements for recipients of federal financial assistance. (See our
General Memorandum 14-004 of January 13, 2014.) The revised regulations are codified at 2 CFR Part 200. The deadline for
implementing one key piece of the new regulations – dealing with procurement – was extended for one fiscal year and that
deadline is now December 31, 2015.
In December 2014, OMB, together with various federal award-making agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), published a joint interim final rule implementing the final guidance for 2 CFR Part 200 at 79 FEDERAL REGISTER 75871, "Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards." The final rule begins on page 75880 of the FEDERAL REGISTER notice, and is available at http://federalregister.gov/r/0605-AA34.
The purpose of the revised regulations is to streamline the federal government's guidance, administrative requirements, and procurement regulations by consolidating the requirements from eight OMB Circulars and other regulations into a single regulation at 2 CFR Part 200. The new standards are government-wide, affecting procurement and contracting for many federal agencies, including HUD. The revised regulations will affect tribal governments and tribal entities such as Tribally Designated Housing Entities that receive federal awards. It is important for recipients of federal awards to review and properly revise their procedures as needed to comply with the new regulations.
The uniform guidance was applicable to federal agencies effective December 26, 2013. Federal agencies adopted 2 CFR Part 200 as a requirement for federal financial assistance programs by the interim final rule published December 19, 2014. The new regulations became applicable to non-federal entities effective December 26, 2014, with one exception: 2 CFR Part §200.110(a) was revised to allow a grace period for one full fiscal year for implementation of the new procurement standards contained in the rule. The decision to use the grace period must be documented within the non-federal entities' internal procurement policies. Important deadlines for revising policies are:
• For non-federal entities on a fiscal calendar year that have not yet revised their policies, the deadline for revision is December 31, 2015.
• For non-federal entities following the federal government's fiscal year, the deadline is the end of September 2016.
• For non-federal entities that follow a different fiscal year, they would need to revise their policies once a full fiscal year has passed following December 26, 2014.”
"Department of the Interior Publishes Final Rule for Part 83 Federal Acknowledgment Regulations," Hobbs-Straus
General Memorandum 15-051, July 20, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-051, reported, "On June 29,
Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced publication of the final rule amending 25 C.F.R. Part 83,
entitled "Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes." The final rule was published in the
FEDERAL REGISTER on July 1, 2015, and becomes effective 30 days after its publication.
The final rule makes significantly fewer changes to the federal acknowledgment regulations than the Department of Interior's (Department) May 2014 proposed rule and the June 2013 discussion draft would have. Rather than modifying the seven mandatory criteria a petitioner must demonstrate in order to receive federal recognition pursuant to the regulatory process, the final rule seeks to increase efficiency through more streamlined procedural and processing methods.
Although the final rule maintains all seven mandatory criteria found in the previous iteration of the regulations, the Department has made changes to the criteria that are meant to reduce the documentary burden on petitioners. Most significantly, petitioners are no longer required to demonstrate that they meet criteria based on the commencement date of 1789 or first sustained contact. Instead, they need only demonstrate that they meet certain criteria commencing in 1900. The Department has also sought to codify past Department practice in interpreting and implementing the criteria, including clarifying types of evidence that are admissible.
The major changes the final rule makes to the seven mandatory criteria are provided below.
Criterion A – Indian Entity Identification
• A petitioner need not demonstrate that outside entities identified it as an Indian entity. Rather, evidence of internal identification as such is sufficient. The proposed rule would have modified this criterion to require only a brief narrative of existence during historical times and supporting evidence.
Criteria B and C – Community and Political Influence/Authority
• Petitioners need only demonstrate they meet these criteria dating from 1900 rather than from 1789 or first sustained contact. The proposed rule would have required petitioners to satisfy these criteria from 1934 forward. • Evidence of a state reservation or of the federal government holding land on behalf of a petitioner since 1934 do not by themselves demonstrate that the petitioner meets these criteria, as they would have under the proposed rule. Instead, land set aside by a state serves as evidence to support these criteria, and land held by the federal government constitutes previous federal acknowledgment.
Criteria E – Descent
• Petitioners must demonstrate their members' lineal descent from members of a historical tribe, and historical is defined as before 1900. The previous version of the regulations required petitioners to demonstrate their members' descent from members of a tribe that existed in 1789 or at the time of first sustained contact.
Standard of Review
• The regulations require demonstration of the community and political influence/authority criteria found at B and C "without substantial interruption." The proposed rule would have clarified the meaning of this phrase as generally more than 20 years, but the final rule leaves the phrase undefined. Instead, the final rule states that petitioners need not meet these criteria at every point in time and that fluctuations in tribal activity are not cause for denial. • The regulations state that the standard of proof is "reasonable likelihood." The proposed rule would have clarified this standard using judicial precedent, but the final rule removed this clarification. • In order to create a consistent baseline, methodology or evidence that was sufficient to satisfy a particular criterion for any previous petitioner dating back to the regulations’ creation in 1978 is sufficient to satisfy the particular criterion for a current petitioner. Accordingly, in applying the phrase "without substantial interruption," gaps in evidence previously permitted for a particular criterion are permissible. In applying the phrase "reasonable likelihood," types or amounts of evidence previously deemed sufficient are sufficient for current petitioners.
The final rule provides for a phased review process designed to create efficiency. Under the final rule, the Office of Federal Acknowledgment is responsible for producing the proposed finding. This step involves a phased review that permits expedited negative decisions when a petitioner does not satisfy one of the less time-consuming criteria to review. If the proposed finding is positive and the Department does not receive substantive comments on it, the proposed finding automatically becomes a positive final determination. The Assistant Secretary is responsible for issuing the final determination.
The major changes the final rule makes to the process are provided below.
• A phased review allows the Office of Federal Acknowledgment to issue a negative proposed finding based on a petitioner's failure to meet the governing document criterion found at D, the descent criterion found at E, the unique membership criterion found at F, or the termination criterion found at G. Only after the Office of Federal Acknowledgment has determined a petitioner meets these criteria does it conduct the more lengthy review of the Indian entity existence criterion found at A, the community criterion found at B, and the political influence/authority criterion found at C. • Positive proposed findings that are not followed by substantive comments become positive final determinations.
Hearing Before Administrative Law Judge
• Petitioners who receive a negative proposed finding may request a hearing before an administrative law judge, and third parties may intervene. The administrative law judge then presents a recommended decision to the Assistant Secretary. • The limited reconsideration before the Interior Board of Indian Appeals that was available under the previous iteration of the regulations has been removed, and the Assistant Secretary's final determination is directly appealable to federal court.
• All publicly available documents related to a petition will be posted on the Department’s website. • Notifications will be provided to those who sign up, and local governments as well as interested recognized tribes and petitioners automatically receive notices.
• Petitioners denied federal recognition under previous versions of the regulations will not be permitted to re-petition under the amended regulations. The proposed rule allowed for such re-petitioning when third parties that participated in an administrative reconsideration or appeal of the previous decision consented in writing.
Only Administrative Process
• The Department in separate policy guidance issued June 26, 2015, stated that the Part 83 regulatory process will be the only method utilized by the Department to recognize Indian tribes in the contiguous 48 states as long as the amended regulations are in effect and being implemented. Thus, the Department will no longer accept requests for administrative reaffirmations or for organization under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) for tribes in these states. With respect to Alaska, the policy guidance notes that Congress specifically provided that unrecognized groups of Alaska Natives meeting certain conditions may organize as tribes under the Alaska Amendment to the IRA."
"A copy of the final rule is available here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-07-01/pdf/2015-16193.pdf."
Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia received federal recognition from the BIA at the beginning of July, 2015 (
, “Federal Recognition for Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe ‘a Long Time Coming’,” ICTMN, July 7, 2015,
“Interior Declines Duwamish Tribal Organization Federal Recognition,” , 2015ICTMN, July 2m 2015,
Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn just announced a final determination on remand that declined
acknowledgment for the Duwamish Tribal Organization (Petitioner #25).
In 2013 the U.S. District Court in Western Washington vacated a 2001 Interior conclusion declining to acknowledge the DTO following an evaluation under its 1978 regulations.
The remand sent it back to Interior for review under 1994 revisions to the regulations or “explain why it declines to do so.”
"Department of Interior Proposes a Procedure and Criteria to Reestablish a Government-to-Government Relationship with
the Native Hawaiian Community," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-075, October 24, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-075, reported. "Department of Interior Proposes a Procedure and Criteria
to Reestablish a Government-to-Government Relationship with the Native Hawaiian Community," Hobbs-Straus
On October 1, 2015, the Department of Interior (DOI) published in the FEDERAL REGISTER a proposed rule which would provide a procedure and criteria for reestablishing a formal government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community, if the Native Hawaiian community chooses to do so. This proposed rule follows the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published in 2014 (see our General Memorandum 14-052 of July 11, 2014). Comments are due by December 30, 2015. In addition, DOI will hold a series meetings and tribal consultations, the first of which is Monday October 26, 2015. Further details are provided at the end of this Memorandum.
The proposal would not on its own establish a Native Hawaiian governmental structure, instead leaving that decision in the hands of the Native Hawaiian community and leadership:
Moreover, if a Native Hawaiian government reorganizes, it will be for that government to decide whether to seek to reestablish a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States. The process established by this rule would be optional, and Federal action would occur only upon an express formal request from the newly reorganized Native Hawaiian government.
DOI states that its authority to promulgate this rule arises out of a combination of the Executive Branch's power to recognize Indian tribes, Congress' plenary power over Indian tribes, and the enactment of more than 150 statutes recognizing and implementing a special political and trust relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.
DOI's proposal would require the Native Hawaiian community to conduct a referendum to ratify a governing document for a single Native Hawaiian government and sets forth certain provisions that this governing document would be required to contain. The proposed rule would require that the governing document be approved in a ratification referendum not only by a majority of Native Hawaiians who vote, but also by a majority of Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) eligible Native Hawaiians who vote. In addition, both majorities would be required to include enough voters to demonstrate broad-based community support. The Native Hawaiian government could then submit a request to the Secretary of Interior to reestablish a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States.
DOI states that should Native Hawaiians choose to form a government and reestablish a government-to-government relationship with the federal government, this government would have the same government-to-government relationship under the United States Constitution and federal law as the government-to-government relationship between the United States and a federally recognized tribe in the continental United States, and the same inherent sovereign governmental authorities. However, DOI explains that members of the Native Hawaiian government would not be eligible for federal Indian programs, services, and benefits unless Congress expressly authorizes such eligibility.
DOI anticipates that a Native Hawaiian government would not be eligible to conduct gaming activities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) for two reasons: 1) DOI anticipates that the Native Hawaiian government would not fall within the definition of "Indian tribe" in the IGRA, and therefore IGRA would not apply; and 2) the State of Hawaii prohibits gambling.
DOI will conduct a series of teleconferences to allow the public to comment:
October 26, 2015 (2:00pm EST)
Call-in number: 1-888-947-9025
October 27, 2015 (3:00pm EST) (Native Hawaiian Organizations only)
Call-in number: 1-888-947-9025
November 4, 2015 (1:30pm EST) (Tribal Consultation)
Call-in number: 1-888-947-9025
November 7, 2015 (3:00pm EST)
Call-in number: 1-888-947-9025
DOI's press release is attached. The FEDERAL REGISTER notice is available here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-10-01/pdf/2015-24712.pdf"
"DOI Publishes List of Non-BIA Programs Eligible for Inclusion in Self-Governance Funding Agreements and Requests
Comments," Hobbes-Straus General Memorandum 15-072, October 9, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-072,
reported, "On October 5, 2015, in the
FEDERAL REGISTER, the
Department of the Interior (DOI) published the attached
notice which lists non-Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) programs, services, functions, and activities (or portions
thereof) eligible to be included in self-governance funding agreements and describes the programmatic targets for these non-BIA
bureaus. DOI annually publishes this notice in the
FEDERAL REGISTER. Written comments on the notice may be submitted by November 4, 2015.
Determining Eligible Programs, Services, Functions, and Activities (PSFAs). There are two categories of PSFAs (or portions thereof) eligible to be included in self-governance funding agreements:
1) Any non-BIA PSFA that is administered by DOI that is "otherwise available to Indian tribes or Indians;" and 2) Any non-BIA PSFA that is of "special geographic, historical, or cultural significance" to a tribe.
Funding agreements cannot include PSFAs that are "inherently federal" or where the statute establishing the existing program does not authorize the type of participation sought by the tribe. However, a tribe need not be identified in the authorizing statutes in order for a PSFA or element of such PSFA to be included in a self-governance funding agreement. While general legal and policy guidance regarding what constitutes an inherently federal function exists, the non-BIA bureaus will determine whether a specific function is "inherently federal" on a case-by-case basis considering the totality of circumstances. In those instances where a tribe disagrees with a bureau's determination, the tribe may request reconsideration from the Secretary of Interior.
Non-BIA Bureaus. Tribes may include PSFAs from the following non-BIA bureaus in self-governance funding agreements: Bureau of Land Management; Bureau of Reclamation; Office of Natural Resources Revenue; National Park Service; Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Geological Survey; and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians. The attached notice lists the FY 2015 tribal self-governance agreements with non-BIA agencies at the Department of the Interior."
“BIA Issues Final Rule Amending Secretarial Elections and Petitioning Procedures,” Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-078,
November 13, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-078, reported, “On
October 19, 2015, the
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published a final rule amending its regulations governing Secretarial elections and the
procedures for petitioning to request a Secretarial election (copy attached). 80 Fed. Reg. 63094. The
BIA states that the clarifications relating to Secretarial elections encourage tribes reorganized under the Indian
Reorganization Act (IRA) to amend their
governing documents so that future elections will be "purely tribal elections, governed and run by the tribe
rather than BIA." Appropriately, tribal policy – and not federal management – will form the backbone of
election-related requirements in Indian Country. Notably, the final rule also clarifies that only members of federally
recognized tribes may petition for a Secretarial election to be held—a departure from prior federal policy. The final rule will
become effective November 18, 2015.
Context for the Final Rule. A Secretarial election is a federal election conducted by the Secretary of the Interior (at the request of a tribe) that involves the adoption, modification, or revocation of a tribe's governing document or the adoption or modification of a tribe's charter of incorporation. Because a Secretarial election is a federal election, the election is held pursuant to tribal law in addition to certain federal laws and regulations. The governing documents of most tribes reorganized under either the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) or the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act (OIWA) require a Secretarial election in order to be amended. Further, there are some tribes who are not reorganized under the IRA or the OIWA but whose governing documents require Secretarial approval. The final rule is significant because it clarifies how tribes reorganized under the IRA may amend their governing documents to remove the requirement for future Secretarial elections.
The final rule amends 25 C.F.R. parts 81 (Tribal Reorganization under a Federal Statute) and 82 (Petitioning Procedures for Tribes Reorganized under Federal Statute and Other Organized Tribes) by unifying them in a single Code of Federal Regulations at 25 C.F.R. Part 81 (Secretarial Elections). There are some key differences between the IRA and the OIWA, so 25 C.F.R. Part 81 contains some subparts which apply to all Secretarial elections: Subpart A (Purpose and Scope), Subpart B (Definitions), Subpart C (Provisions Applicable to All Secretarial Elections) and Subpart F (Formulating Petitions to Request Secretarial Election) as well as other subparts which apply only to the Secretarial election process under the IRA (Subpart D) or only to the Secretarial election process under the OIWA (Subpart E). The final rule amends subparts which apply to all Secretarial elections as well as the Subpart which is specific to the Secretarial election process under the IRA.
The final rule reflects amendments made to the IRA in 1988, 1990, and 1994. The BIA reports that efforts to revise 25 C.F.R. Part 81 to reflect these amendments date back to 1992 when the first tribal consultation sessions were held. Additional consultation sessions occurred more recently in 2009, 2010, and then in 2014 after the proposed rule was published in the FEDERAL REGISTER on October 9, 2014.
Changes the Final Rule Makes to Existing Regulations. The final rule clarifies how a tribe reorganized under the IRA may modify its governing documents to eliminate the need for Secretarial approval of and involvement in future amendments or elections. To do so, a final Secretarial election with Bureau involvement must be held on the issue, after which no future Bureau involvement will be necessary. Instead, the individual tribe will govern election-related policies such as voting procedures and substantive requirements without a federal overlay. However, once a tribe removes the Secretarial election requirement, the tribe, rather than the Department of Interior, must pay for all subsequent elections to amend its governing document. Moreover, the tribe's governing document will no longer be considered to have been adopted pursuant to federal statute. Such a change does not diminish the government-to-government relationship or displace federal trust responsibilities.
The final rule also clarifies that the Secretary will only accept petitions for Secretarial elections from members of federally recognized tribes. Prior to the promulgation of the final rule, the regulations provided that individuals who were members of a federally recognized tribe or a tribe eligible to be federally recognized could petition for a Secretarial election to organize under federal statute.
Additional Changes the Final Rule Makes to Existing Regulations:
• Provides that the BIA will conduct an informal compliance review of tribal documents before a Secretarial election is duly requested without triggering statutory deadlines;
• Establishes timeframes within which the Secretary must call and conduct Secretarial elections after one has duly been requested;
• Provides that all Secretarial elections will be handled by mailout ballot unless polling places are expressly required by a tribe's governing document;
• Clarifies that additional tribes may petition for charters of incorporation; and
• Removes the requirement for an election to ratify the approval of new charters issued after May 24, 1990 (unless required by tribal law).”
““Final Rule Published for Disposition of Unclaimed Human Remains and Cultural Items Under the Native American Graves
Protection and Repatriation Act,” Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-079, November 24, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-079, reported, “On
November 5, 2015, the
Department of the Interior published a final rule on the disposition of unclaimed Native American human remains and
other cultural items excavated or removed from federal lands after November 16, 1990, the date of enactment of
the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). 80 Fed. Reg. 68465 (copy attached). The
final rule implements section 3(b) of NAGPRA, 25 U.S.C. § 3002(b), which directs the Secretary of Interior to promulgate
regulations for the disposition of unclaimed cultural items, a term that, in addition to Native American human remains, also
includes funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.
Applicability. The rule applies to items removed from federal lands and not to items removed from tribal lands because, under NAGPRA, cultural items found on tribal lands are subject to the control of the relevant tribe (except that, for human remains and funerary objects, lineal descendants, if there are any, have a higher priority in stating a claim).
Summary. The final rule gives federal agencies that have such unclaimed cultural items discretion to transfer the items to an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization (NHO) that is not a potential claimant, i.e., a tribe or NHO that cannot make a claim based on the priorities listed in section 3 of NAGPRA. 25 U.S.C. § 3002. If the tribe or NHO agrees to accept the transfer, then they must treat the items in accordance with their laws and customs, i.e., those of the receiving tribe or NHO. The final rule also gives federal agencies that have unclaimed Native American human remains or funerary objects discretion to reinter such items. For the most part, the new regulatory text will be codified in a new section 10.7 of the NAGPRA regulations. 43 C.F.R. part 10. In addition, in section 10.2 there is a new definition of the term "Unclaimed cultural items" and a new clause in the definition of "Disposition."
Prior to making a transfer or reinterment, the federal agency is required to submit a list of the items to the Manager of the National NAGPRA Program, a list that describes the general place of discovery or excavation and removal, the nature of the cultural items, and a summary of consultation efforts under the NAGPRA regulations (43 C.F.R. § 10.5). The federal agency is also required to publish notice of the proposed transfer or reinterment in a newspaper of general circulation in the area from which the items were removed and, if the agency has identified any potential claimant that no longer resides in the area where the items were removed, in a newspaper of general circulation in the area where any such potential claimant now resides.
If, in response to the notice, a tribe or NHO makes a valid claim for the cultural items, they would no longer be treated as unclaimed, and disposition would proceed under other provisions of the NAGPRA regulations.
Key Differences Between the Proposed Rule and the Final Rule. The proposed rule was published on October 29, 2013. (See our General Memorandum 13-097 of November 1, 2013.) The FEDERAL REGISTER notice includes a discussion of the changes that have been made in response to comments on the proposed rule. One such change is in the definition of the term "unclaimed cultural items" (to be codified at 43 C.F.R. § 10.2(h)). The definition still begins with "Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony excavated or removed from federal lands after November 16, 1990," which have not been repatriated pursuant to NAGPRA, and sets out two circumstances which can render such items "unclaimed," either: (i) no potential claimant (tribe, NHO, or lineal descendant) has filed a written claim; or (ii) the federal agency could not reasonably identify a potential claimant. In the final rule, the wording of each of these circumstances has been expanded by adding deadlines.
For the first circumstance, the term "unclaimed" becomes applicable one year after publication of the notice required by section 10.6(c) of the regulations, i.e., the notice that a federal agency is required to publish after it has engaged in efforts to determine which tribe, NHO, or lineal descendant has the right to take custody of the cultural items. This one-year deadline applies to cultural items that already meet the definition of "unclaimed cultural items" as of the effective date of the final rule.
For the second circumstance, the definition of "unclaimed cultural items" becomes applicable two years after the federal agency knows or has reason to know that it could not reasonably identify a potential claimant. This deadline generally applies to items that do not meet the definition of "unclaimed cultural items" as of the effective date of the final rule, including items that are discovered and removed after that date. This deadline gives the federal agency time to engage in efforts to determine whether there is a tribe, NHO, or lineal descendant with the right to take custody of the cultural items as required by section 10.6 of the regulations.
These deadlines are also incorporated into section 10.7(b) of the final rule, the section that requires each federal agency that has unclaimed cultural items to provide a list to the National NAGPRA Program. In the proposed rule, agencies would have had two years to provide their lists. The final rule shortens this to one year. The National NAGPRA Program will post the information on its web site.”
Fogarty, “GAO Gives BIA ‘F’ for Hindering Sovereignty and Energy,” ICTMN, June 23, 2015,
Reported, “ Congress has taken a look at the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ stewardship of American Indian energy developments — and has given the agency failing grades for both bad management and hindering sovereignty.
Congress’ investigative arm, the General Accountability Office, named BIA’s ‘management shortcomings’ as a major factor that has “hindered Indian energy development. ‘These shortcomings can increase costs and project development times, resulting in missed development opportunities, lost revenue, and jeopardized viability of projects,’ GAO charged.
One tribe lost $95 million in revenue due to agency inaction over eight years. Another had to abandon a project due to BIA delays. A third saw data gathered for a project become outdated after three years of review before approval, the report detailed.
Sovereignty has also been hindered, as the report to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs indicates, rapping BIA for not providing support for a program that allows tribes to enter into energy leases without review and approval by the Department of the Interior. A 2005 law gives Interior the authority to provide grants to tribes for these programs, called TERAs (Tribal Energy Resource Agreements). “However, no tribe has entered into a TERA,” it pointed out.
GAO’s recommendations include ‘Interior (should) take steps to address data limitations, track its review process, provide clarifying guidance, and evaluate the effectiveness of grants.’
The investigators noted that Interior “generally agreed with most but not all of the recommendations because it is taking other actions to address some data limitations.” However, ‘GAO continues to believe that its recommendations are valid.’
Indian energy resources ‘hold significant potential for development, but remain largely undeveloped,”’ GAO noted.
Data remains a significant problem. ‘ BIA does not have the data it needs to verify ownership of some Indian oil and gas resources, easily identify resources available for lease, or identify where leases are in effect,’ GAO wrote. BIA also ‘faces staff limitations and does not have a documented process or the data needed to track its review and response times, and therefore it cannot ensure transparency in its review of energy-related documents.’
Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, commented Interior “generally concurs” with the recommendations on the TERA regulations and TEDC (Tribal Energy Development Capacity) grants.
But as for data limitations, he said the department plans to go ahead on its own National Indian Oil and Gas Evaluation Management System (NIOGEMS) which provides methods “to overcome or minimize the TAAMS (Trust Asset Accounting and Management System) tract and lease land description issues” and plans to continue with full deployment of these. And he said the budget for FY 2016 calls for ‘special rates of pay for certain job types in the Department’s onshore oil and gas related fields’ which should help address hiring and skill gap issues.”
“Collective Sigh of Relief as Interior Cancels Badger-Two Medicine Drilling Lease,” ICTmn, November 24, 2015,
reported. “Everyone from the Blackfeet Tribe to Montana sportsmen is heaving a sigh of relief in the wake of the
U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to cancel a controversial oil and gas drilling lease in the sacred
Badger-Two Medicine region.
Attorneys for Interior said in court filings on November 23 that the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management had “failed to fully consider the effects of oil and gas development on cultural resources, including religious values and activities” when they okayed the lease on 6,200 acres in 1982, according to the Associated Press . Part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine region borders Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It’s the site of the Blackfeet creation story and thus is a longstanding source of spiritual energy.
Lawyers for Solenex LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which holds that lease, immediately told AP that the company would challenge a cancelation.
The decision drew an immediate outpouring of gratitude from the numerous parties—including 19 tribes on both sides of the U.S.–Canada border—that had urged Interior to nix the lease. The Blackfeet Tribe, whose reservation abuts Badger-Two Medicine, specifically thanked President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for their work to preserve the region. Senator John Tester also garnered thanks.”
"BIA Implementation Procedures for the Purpose Code X Program; For Use in Background Checks for Emergency Child
Placements," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-065,September 15, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-065, reported, "The
Bureau of Indian Affairs-Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) has announced the procedures by which tribes may request
to participate in the new BIA-OJS Purpose Code X Program. Under the Purpose Code X Program BIA-OJS dispatch centers will be
available 24-7 to perform (at the request of tribal police departments and social service agencies) immediate name-based
criminal history checks of persons in a home where an emergency child placement is contemplated. We reported on the
development of the Purpose Code X Program in our General Memorandum 15-062 of August 25, 2015, but at that time the
implementation procedures were not in place.
The BIA procedures include several requirements. For example, the tribe will be responsible for ensuring that each resident in the home of the emergency placement (13 years of age or older) consents to the preliminary name-based background check with the submission of fingerprints, and that the required fingerprints are submitted to the FBI within 15 days of the name-based check. There are several methods for submitting fingerprints: 1) via the state criminal history record repository; 2) via an FBI-approved Channeler; 3) via hard copy fingerprint card submission directly to the FBI; and 4) via Department of Justice Tribal Access Program (TAP). Tribes who wish to participate in the Purpose Code X Program must request to utilize the Fingerprint Submission Requirements Rule.
We attach the following:
• The Dear Tribal Leader Letter from BIA Director Michael Black; • The BIA Purpose Code X Implementation Procedures; • The draft letter for tribes to use when requesting to utilize the Fingerprint Submission Requirements Rule.
The letter from Director Black states that the BIA will be "reviewing the implementation procedures and will continue adding additional tribes based on tribal needs and requests."
“BIA Finalizes Long-Awaited Rights-of-Way Rules,” Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-080, December 4, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-080m reported, “On
November 19, 2015, the
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published a final rule for Rights-of-Way on Indian Land in the
FEDERAL REGISTER at 80 FR 72491 (Nov. 19. 2015). The rule takes effect on December 21, 2015. Interior Secretary Jewell
had previously announced the rule on November 5, 2015 at the 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference. The
new rule revises existing rights-of-way regulations, published in 25 C.F.R. Part 169. We previously reported
on the BIA's proposed rule to revise the rights-of-way regulations in our General Memorandum 14-044 of June 19, 2014.
According to Secretary Jewell, the new regulations will "help expand opportunities for individual landowners and tribal governments to generate investment, expand economic opportunity and provide greater transparency and workability through the Bureau of Indian Affairs' leasing and right-of-way processes."
In response to comments strongly opposed to a provision in the proposed rule that would allow parties to consent to the applicability of state law on rights-of-way through tribal lands, the Department eliminated the provision. In fact, the new rule eliminates any specific mention of when state or local law may apply and instead provides that "generally" state and local laws do not apply.
The new rule also makes clear the intent of the United States to preserve an Indian tribe's jurisdiction in all new rights-of-way. The Department's commentary states that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in State v. A-1 Contractors, 520 U.S. 438, 451-52 (1997) was limited to the facts in that case and arose out of the failure of the U.S. and the tribe to expressly reserve jurisdiction over the right-of-way granted in the case. The new rule addresses this issue by requiring all new grants of rights-of-way to expressly reserve tribal jurisdiction.
In general, the new rule:
• Simplifies requirements by relying on general statutory authority to grant rights-of-way and eliminating outdated requirements that apply to specific types of rights-of-way;
• Clarifies the processes for BIA review of right-of-way documents;
• Streamlines the process for obtaining a right-of-way on Indian land by:
• Eliminating the need to obtain BIA consent for surveying in preparation for applying for a right-of-way;
• Establishing timelines for BIA review of rights-of-way requests;
• Adds certainty to applicants by allowing BIA disapproval only where there is a stated compelling reason;
• Provides Indian landowners with notice of actions affecting their land;
• Establishes a policy that the BIA will defer, to the maximum extent possible, to the Indian landowners' determination that the right-of-way is in his or her best interest;
• Promotes tribal self-determination and self-governance by providing greater deference to tribes on decisions affecting tribal land;
• Clarifies tribal jurisdiction over lands subject to a right-of-way by including terms intended to preempt state and local government taxation of improvements and activities subject to a right-of-way and by expressly reaffirming tribal tax jurisdiction over those improvements, activities, and right-of-way interests; and
• Incorporates tribal land policies in processing a request for a right-of-way.
Copies of the Interior Department and BIA press releases are attached. The final rule is available here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-11-19/pdf/2015-28548.pdf.”
"Departments of Justice and Interior Introduce Two Programs to Expand Tribal Access to National Crime Information
Databases," Hobbs Straus General Memorandum 15-062, August 25, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-062,
reported, "On August 19, 2015, the
Departments of Justice and Interior announced the launch of the initial phases of two programs which will expand tribal
access to national crime information databases for civil and criminal purposes. The Tribal Access Program for National Crime
Information (TAP) will expand tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) law enforcement access to national crime information
databases. In addition,
the BIA Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS) Purpose Code X Program will allow the BIA-OJS to perform name-based
searches of criminal history records (at the request of tribal social service agencies) in order to facilitate the emergency
placement of at-risk children in temporary safe homes. Copies of the press releases are attached.
Background and Underlying Law. The lack of tribal access to federal criminal information databases has been a longstanding problem for Indian tribes and their law enforcement and social service agencies, and these programs represent a long awaited step towards addressing this issue. The statutory authority for the Department of Justice's TAP dates back to the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 (PL 111-211) (TLOA). See our General Memorandum 10-100 of July 29, 2010. Section 233 of the TLOA amended 28 U.S.C. § 534: to expressly require the U.S. Attorney General to permit tribal and BIA law enforcement agencies to access, enter information into, and obtain information from federal criminal information databases; and added Indian tribes to the list of government entities with whose "authorized officials" the U.S. Attorney General shall exchange records and information. However, Section 233 requires that in order to access these databases, tribal law enforcement officials must meet "applicable federal or state requirements". Section 233 narrowly defines a tribal "authorized law enforcement official" as a "tribal justice official serving an Indian tribe with criminal jurisdiction over Indian country."
Although the statutory authority for the BIA-OJS Purpose Code X Program is not cited in the press releases, it may lie, at least partially, in Section 151 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (PL 109-248) (Adam Walsh Act), which amended 42 U.S.C. § 16961 to require the Attorney General to ensure access to national crime information databases by "governmental social service agencies with child protection responsibilities, to be used by such agencies only in investigating or responding to reports of child abuse, neglect, or exploitation." See our General Memorandum 06-134 of November 3, 2006. Although Section 151 does not expressly reference Indian tribes, tribes and the National Congress of American Indians have advocated for access to national crime information databases under this authority. See NCAI Resolution ATL-14-048.
The TAP and the BIA-OJS Purpose Code X Program are the products of a working group formed in 2014 by the Departments of Justice and Interior to "identify sustainable solutions that provide tribes access to national crime information that addresses criminal and civil needs of tribes." As a related matter, in November of 2014, the FBI published a final rule in the FEDERAL REGISTER allowing tribal criminal justice agencies access to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for the purpose of conducting background checks on prospective gun buyers. See our General Memorandum 14-092 of December 5, 2015.
Below is a brief summary of the two programs.
Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP). This initial phase of the TAP will be limited to assisting up to 10 tribes who already have law enforcement agencies. In the meantime, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will continue to work with Congress for additional funding to more broadly deploy the system in order to address the needs of the remaining tribes. These initial 10 tribes will receive support and training from the DOJ. DOJ will analyze the needs of each participating tribe for national crime information and "help provide appropriate solutions, including a state-of the art biometric/biographic computer workstation with capabilities to process finger and palm prints, take mugshots and submit records to national databases, as well as the ability to access CJIS [the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division] systems for criminal and civil purposes..." CJIS systems include the:
• National Crime Information Center (NCIC) • National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIS) • Next Generation Identification (NGI) • Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP) • National Data Exchange (N-DEx)
The FBI maintains the host CJIS systems and provides a telecommunications network to one CJIS Systems Agency (CSA) in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories, Canada, and federal agencies (including DOJ). The DOJ will serve as the CSA for federally recognized tribes; however, "DOJ recognizes that some tribes have access to certain CJIS stems through state CSA networks. In that instance, DOJ encourages a three-way discussion with the tribe and the state CSA about their information needs." Further information on the TAP, including a short description of each database, is here: http://www.justice.gov/tribal/tribal-access-program-tap
BIA-OJS Purpose Code X Program. The Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs explains, "Under the BIA-OJS Purpose Code X Program, BIA-OJS dispatch centers will be available to provide 24-hour access to criminal history records, so name-based checks can be done immediately [allowing tribal social service agencies to immediately determine in emergency situations whether or not a child can be placed in a certain individual's home temporarily]. Protocols for operating under the new program are being developed by BIA-OJS and will be tested by a select number of tribes prior to a nationwide implementation of the program." The press release does not specify a process by which interested tribes should contact BIA-OJS, nor does it specify a date by which a letter of interest or application must be received."
“Domestic Violence Prevention Month: Feds Award $21 Million to Tribal Efforts,”
ICTMN, October 1, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/10/01/domestic-violence-prevention-month-feds-award-21-million-tribal-efforts-161941, reported, “ The federal government is awarding nearly $21 million to 136 tribes and tribal organizations—serving 274 tribes in all—to address domestic violence.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and Indian Health Service (IHS) announced the grant on October 1, the beginning of National Domestic Violence Prevention Month. The funds will “support tribal domestic violence victims and organizations in American Indian and Alaska Native communities across the nation,” the government said in a statement. “These funds will help to strengthen tribal responses to domestic violence and emphasize public awareness, advocacy, and policy, training, and technical assistance.”
The ACF funding comes under the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA).”
“Tribe Receives $1 Million from Department of Justice, ICTMN, Swptember 26, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/09/26/tribe-receives-1-million-department-justice-161889, reported, “The Department of Justice on September 18 announced that copy million in grant funding was awarded to the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
The funding under the DOJ’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) will go towards two projects the Central Council has planned – Children’s Justice Act and Tribal Youth Prevention.
Over $97.3 million dollars was awarded to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes to boost law enforcement, improve tribal courts, combat violence against women, address substance abuse, assist youth and provide services to victims of crime. In Alaska, 17 tribes were awarded funding including the Organized Village of Kake and Metlakatla Indian Community.
The Council’s Children’s Justice Act received $450,000 to assist in developing and implementing a multi-year program of training and system improvements within the Tribal Family and Youth Services department. The three-year project will support the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of cases of serious child abuse, neglect, and child sexual abuse within the service area of Juneau, Alaska.
"Environmental Protection Agency Publishes Proposed Interpretive Rule on Tribal Eligibility for "Treatment as a
State" under the Clean Water Act," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-059, August 12, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-059, reported, "On August 15, 2015,
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed interpretive rule in the
to streamline how tribes can apply for "Treatment as a State" (TAS) for the water quality standards (WQS)
program and other Clean Water Act regulatory programs. 80 Fed. Reg. 47430 (copy attached). This interpretative rule
would eliminate the requirement that tribes show inherent authority over nonmembers on fee lands under the so-called
Montana test, a requirement which has been a major impediment to tribes attaining TAS status and adopting WQS. The
interpretive rule explains EPA’s revised interpretation of the statutory requirements in the CWA and does not propose any
changes in the existing regulatory language relating to applications for TAS. EPA invites comments on this proposal, even
though, as an interpretive rule, it is not subject to notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. The
deadline for filing comments is October 6, 2015."
The interpretive rule would reinterpret Section 518 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) as a delegation of authority by Congress to eligible tribes to administer CWA regulatory programs over their entire reservations. Tribes and tribal organization have been seeking this proposed reinterpretation for many years. Under EPA’s current interpretation, only 40 of over 300 federally recognized tribes with reservations have been approved to be treated in the same manner as a state for adopting tribal WQS.
This proposed interpretation is a very significant shift away from the approach EPA adopted in 1991 when it promulgated final regulations for the WQS program, which require each applicant tribe to include a statement describing the basis for its assertion of authority. EPA’s interpretation of this regulatory requirement, as explained in the preamble of the rulemaking document, requires that a tribe seeking TAS to administer the WQS on lands owned by nonmembers of the tribe demonstrate inherent authority to regulate non-tribal members under principles of federal Indian common law, especially Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981). In Montana, the Supreme Court announced a proposition that, absent a delegation of federal authority, tribes generally lack inherent sovereignty over nonmembers on fee lands, but the Court also formulated two exceptions in which tribes may retain inherent civil jurisdiction over nonmembers. The second exception, which EPA considered relevant for tribal authority for CWA regulatory programs, provides that tribes may retain inherent civil authority where nonmember "conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health and welfare of the tribe."
EPA took a different approach in implementing the TAS provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA) as amended in 1990. In its 1998 CAA TAS final rule, EPA determined that Congress had delegated authority to tribes to regulate all sources within reservation boundaries. That interpretation rendered the Montana test inapplicable. The proposed reinterpretation of the CWA would bring TAS under the CWA in line with EPA’s treatment of tribes under the CAA.
In explaining its proposed reinterpretation, EPA recalled that, in the 1991 rulemaking, it had considered the question of whether CWA section 518 was a delegation of authority to tribes. After noting that an opinion by four Supreme Court justices cited section 518 as an example of delegation and that some legislative history supported a finding of such congressional intent, EPA found that the support for delegation was not sufficiently definitive. EPA wrote that it considered the question "not resolved" and that EPA would be willing to revisit the issue if further congressional or judicial guidance indicates that section 518 is properly interpreted as an express congressional delegation of authority.
EPA’s approvals of TAS for CWA regulatory programs have been challenged several times, and in each case the reviewing court upheld EPA’s determination. In its proposed reinterpretation, EPA notes that the first federal court to rule on a challenge to a CWA TAS determination analyzed CWA section 518 and concluded that it does provide tribes with delegated regulatory authority over their entire reservations, although that question was not an issue to be decided in the case. EPA also cites the TAS provisions in section 301(d) of the CAA as additional relevant insight into congressional intent, with language that was enacted in 1990, only three years after Congress enacted section 518 of the CWA. When EPA finalized its TAS regulations implementing section 301(d) of the CAA in 1998, it concluded that Congress had intended to delegate regulatory authority to eligible tribes over all sources "within the exterior boundaries of the reservation." In its proposed reinterpretation, EPA notes that similar to the CAA, CWA section 518 provides eligibility for tribal programs covering water resources "within the borders of an Indian reservation" and cites the definition of "federal Indian reservation" in section 518(h) of the CWA as including all land within the limits of a reservation. In light of these developments and the experience to date in which the TAS application process has become much more burdensome than EPA anticipated in 1991, EPA now proposes to reinterpret CWA section 518."
"National Park Service Reopens Comment Period on Proposed Rule on Gathering Plants for Traditional Purposes in National Parks," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-061, August 12, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-061, reported, "As we previously reported, on April 20, 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) published a proposed rule on “Gathering of Certain Plants or Plant Parts by Federally Recognized Indian Tribes for Traditional Purposes.” See our General Memorandum 15-034 (April 30, 2015). The proposed rule would authorize the NPS Superintendent of a park area to enter into an agreement with a federally recognized Indian tribe to authorize gathering and removal of plants or plant parts for traditional purposes. On August 12, NPS published a notice reopening the comment period on this proposed rule (copy attached). The deadline for filing comments is now September 28, 2015."
"National Park Service Seeks Nominations to NAGPRA Review Committee," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-053. July
20, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-053, reported, "
The National Park Service (NPS) announced via the attached
FEDERAL REGISTER notice that it
is seeking nominations from Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and traditional Native American religious
leaders for one member to serve on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation (NAGPRA) Review Committee.
Nominations must be received by August 31, 2015.
The Review Committee consists of seven members appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, three of whom are appointed from nominations submitted by Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and traditional Native American religious leaders. At least two of these three members must be traditional Indian religious leaders. NPS states in the notice that the member they are currently seeking nominations for need not be a traditional Indian religious leader. Membership on the Review Committee is for a period of four years.
The NAGPRA Review Committee is responsible for: 1) Monitoring the NAGPRA inventory and identification process; 2) Reviewing and making findings related to the identity or cultural affiliation of cultural items or the return of such items; 3) Facilitating the resolution of disputes; 4) Compiling an inventory of culturally unidentifiable human remains and developing a process for disposition of such remains; 5) Consulting with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations and museums on matters within the scope of the work of the Review Committee affecting such tribes or organizations; 6) Consulting with the Secretary of the Interior in the development of regulations to carry out NAGPRA; and 7) Making recommendations regarding future care of repatriated cultural items."
"Forest Service Publishes Proposed Directives on American Indian and Alaska Native Relations," Hobbs-Straus
General Memorandum 15-056, July 31, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-056, reported, "On July 24,
U.S. Forest Service published a notice in the
seeking public comments on proposed revised internal Forest Service directives on American Indian and Alaska Native
relations. 80 Fed. Reg. 44019 (copy attached). The revised directives are to be issued as a chapter in the Forest
Service Manual (FSM 1500, Chapter 1560) and a chapter in a Forest Service Handbook (FSH 1509.13, Chapter 10). The notice
provides a summary and section-by-section analysis of the proposed changes, but not the actual text of the proposed changes.
Rather, it provides a website address:
The proposed revised directives can be found at that website, along with the existing directives and several other documents.
As stated in the notice, the Forest Service engaged in consultation with tribes on these proposed changes in June 2013 and
considers this consultation to be ongoing while the proposed directives are open for public comment. The deadline for
submitting comments is September 22, 2015.
The proposed directives are intended to ensure that the Forest Service complies with several sources of law and policy, and to ensure that it is accountable for compliance. Among the sources of authority cited in the notice are two statutes: the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004 (PL 108-278; codified at 25 U.S.C. § 3115a) and Title VIII Subtitle B of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the "2008 Farm Bill"; PL 110-246; codified as "Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority" at 25 U.S.C. §§ 3051-3057). The 2004 Act authorizes agreements for tribes to carry out land management activities on National Forest lands. The 2008 Farm Bill enacted statutory authority for: reburial of Native American human remains and cultural items on National Forest lands; ensuring access to National Forest lands for traditional and cultural purposes; providing trees and forest products to tribes at no charge for traditional and cultural purposes; and withholding culturally sensitive information from disclosure.
Another source of authority cited for the proposed directives is U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Regulation 1350-002, Tribal Consultation, Coordination, and Collaboration (Jan. 18, 2013), available at www.ocio.usda.gov/document/departmental-regulation-1350-002. That Departmental Regulation, which applies to all USDA agencies including the Forest Service, was issued to implement President Obama's 2009 Memorandum to Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Tribal Consultation.
The notice also says that the proposed directives are intended to implement the recommendations in the 2012 Report to the Secretary, USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations: Indian Sacred Sites. Finally, the notice cites the interagency Memorandum of Understanding among the Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, and Energy and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regarding Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites. (Dec. 2012), available at: www.achp.gov/sacredsiteprotection.html. (See our General Memorandum 12-133 of December 14, 2012.) The proposed directives would implement certain elements of the Action Plan implementing the Sacred Sites MOU that relate to the Forest Service.
In explaining the background and need for the proposed directives, the notice states, "Every part of the Forest Service involves Tribal relations; every Forest Service employee shares in that responsibility." The proposal is intended to "help Forest Service employees improve their understanding of the requirements, complexities, and opportunities of tribal relations," and to bring about "changes in behavior that will lead to enhanced relationships with Indian tribes, which in turn will enable the Forest Service to better accomplish its mission." As such, the Forest Service believes that the proposed directives "will result in more effective and efficient protection of tribal rights and interests, as well as better information for the Agency in its planning, decision making, and program delivery."
As noted above, the revised directives are to be issued as a chapter in the Forest Service Manual and a chapter in a Forest Service Handbook. The Manual is a system of reference documents designed to provide Forest Service staff with legal authorities, objectives, responsibilities, instructions, and guidance needed on an ongoing basis to plan and carry out programs and activities. The Handbooks contain specialized guidance intended for staff specialists and technicians.
The proposed Manual release (FSM 1500, Chapter 1560) is 77 pages in length, including 23 pages of references to legal authorities. It would supersede a version of Chapter 1560 that was released on July 18, 2012. The Handbook release (FSH 1509.13, Chapter 10) is 28 pages in length and would supersede an interim version of the Handbook that was released on April 1, 2014, and which expires on October 1, 2015. The Handbook includes instructions on how to conduct consultation with tribes and also addresses training for Forest Service personnel."
"Forest Service Seeks Nominations for Tribal Representative to Forest Resource Committee," Hobbs-Straus General
Memorandum 15-052, July 20, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-052, reported, "The
U.S. Forest Service announced via the attached
FEDERAL REGISTER notice that
it is renewing the charter of the Forest Resource Coordinating Committee and seeking nominations for a member
representing Indian tribes to serve on the Committee. Nominations must be received by August 14, 2015.
The Committee consists of up to 20 members who represent different categories of stakeholders. Committee members are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture from nominations submitted by any individual or organization and serve for staggered terms of up to three years. The Committee is responsible for: 1) Providing direction and coordination of actions within the USDA, State Agencies, and the private sector to effectively address the national priorities with a specific focus on non-industrial private forest land; 2) Clarifying the responsibilities of each agency represented on the Committee regarding the national priorities; 3) Providing advice on the allocation of funds, including funding for the Competitive Allocation of Funds Innovation Projects; and 4) Assisting the Secretary in developing and reviewing the report to Congress.
The national priorities include: 1) Conserving and managing working forest landscapes for multiple values and use; 2) Protecting forests from threats and restoring forests in response to threats; and 3) Enhancing public benefits from private forests."
"BLM Seeks Tribal Comments on Proposed Oil & Gas Royalty Regulations for Indian Lands," Hobbs-Straus General
Memorandum 15-054, July 20, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-054, reported, "On July 13,2015, the
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published proposed regulations in the
FEDERAL REGISTER that
would update how it measures, accounts, and calculates royalty payments for oil and gas produced on Indian and federal
lands. To provide some perspective on the importance of these proposed regulations, we note that BLM reports that in
FY 2014, "Leases on tribal and Indian lands produced 56 million barrels of oil, 240 billion cubic feet of natural gas, 182
million gallons of natural gas liquids, with a market value of over $6 billion and generating royalties of over $1 billion that
were all distributed to the applicable tribes and individual allottee owners." Comments are due by September 11, 2015.
Why Updated Regulations Are Needed. The BLM said that the updates are needed because the current regulations were written in 1989 and do not reflect technological industry advancements such as horizontal drilling. Also, a 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that management of federal oil and gas resources was a high-risk area because the Interior Department did not have reasonable assurance that it was collecting its share of revenue from oil and gas produced on federal lands and waters. GAO-15-290. Two GAO reports in 2015 and 2014 concluded that the Interior Department needed to take action to ensure a better return on federal oil and gas resources. GAO-15-39, GAO-14-50. According to Assistant Secretary Janice M. Schneider, "These updates will help ensure that oil and gas produced from leases overseen by the BLM is properly measured, that American taxpayers receive fair value for public resources, and that Indian tribes and allottees, states and local governments receive the full royalties they are due."
The Proposed Rule Would:
• Establish uniform procedures for designating official points for oil and gas measurement for royalty accounting purposes, known as facility measurement points, that are applicable to new and existing leases;
• Codify existing guidance related to approving commingling, i.e., the combining of production from multiple leases, unit Participating Areas (PA), Communitized Areas (CA), or fee or State properties before the point of royalty measurement;
• Establish conditions for the approval of off-lease oil and gas measurement; • Update requirements related to the use of valve and drain seals, prohibitions on the use of meter by-passes, and reporting requirements;
• Require operators of new and existing oil and gas facilities to provide new site facility diagrams designed to help BLM meet its oversight responsibilities; and
• Require purchasers and transporters to comply with the same standards as operators with respect to records.
Tribal Consultation. Prior to the publication of the proposed rule, the BLM consulted with Indian tribes in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Farmington, New Mexico, and Billings, Montana in 2011 as well as a 2013 tribal workshop and webcast.
A copy of the proposed rule is here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-07-13/pdf/2015-16737.pdf"
, “USDA’s Strikeforce Brings Aid to Rural Indian Country,” ICTMN, October 8, 2015,
reported, “The U
.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced nearly $9 million in grants to help assist farmers and ranchers who
are socially disadvantaged, tribal members or veterans.
Many of the recipients are part of USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity , a program established in 2010 to address issues related to rural poverty. The program is now in 880 counties in 21 states and Puerto Rico. Some of those counties involve tribal reservations and pueblos.”
The program is particularly helpful to many reservation Indians who live in some of the poorest place in the U.,S., in terms of high unemployment, low income, poor housing and lack of infrastructure.
StrikeForce collaborates with other agencies and the private sector, including and philanthropy, to bring resources to Indian country. USDA investment since 2010 has brought more than $6.5 billion to StrikeForce designated areas, including Indian nations, helping create or save more than 5,100 jobs, helped 126,000 homeowners have housing, and provided 69 million meals to children over the summer.
StrikeForce initiated a program in Oklahoma early in 2015, working closely with many of the tribes, including the Cheyenne-Arapahoe Tribes and the Choctaw Nation. The Chickasaw Nation recently received a grant from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for its work on childhood hunger and nutrition, while senior USDA officials met with several of the tribes in the northeast corner of Oklahoma to discuss expanding the program.
At the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, one StrikeForce focus has been on infrastructure projects including water and sewer. Another aspect has been working with Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, as well as promoting smaller Rural Business Enterprise grants to Lakota Funds, which promotes economic sustainability on Pine Ridge, and Four Bands Community Fund for economic development. USDA Rural Development staff also provided 502 housing loans.
Reservation housing development differs from that of other areas. On reservations, the developer is either the tribal housing authority or a non-profit organization. The cost of construction and infrastructure is higher because the reservations are quite remote. This combined with high rates of poverty make it impossible to pass on the full cost of a house to the residents. Thus housing projects have to be subsidized by grants, some of which StrikeForece can provide, while others have to come from other sources, including HUD.
StrikeForce, has worked with many partners since initiating its program in South Dakota in 2013, including Oglala Lakota College, Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition. It participated in a grant writing workshop, in 2014, to train rural residents how to find and identify and apply for grants. The workshop assisted Sinte Gleska University in receiving a grant to purchase four 15-passenger vans to transport students. Meanwhile, Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, was able to receive funds to remodel several remote learning centers across the reservation.
"Administration for Children and Families Tribal Consultation on September 14," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-057, July 31, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-057, reported, " The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has announced in the attached July 28, 2015, FEDERAL REGISTER notice that it will hold a tribal consultation session and preparatory teleconferences regarding ACF programs and tribal priorities. The consultation session will be in Washington, DC, on September 14, 2015, and will begin in the morning. Written testimony is requested by September 8, 2015, but the hearing record will be held open for 30 days after the consultation session. 1
There are many ACF programs and grants of direct importance to tribes including: • Title IV-B, Subparts 1 and 2, Child Welfare and Promoting Safe and Stable Families • Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance • Child Support Enforcement • Child Care and Development Block Grant • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families • Native American Employment Works Program • Head Start • Family Violence and Prevention Services • Heath Professions Opportunity Grants • Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program • Administration for Native Americans grant programs (including Environmental Regulatory Enhancement; Native American Language Preservation and Maintenance; and Social and Economic Development Strategies for Native Americans)
There is also the issue of ACF resistance to the tribal proposal for improving and including additional programs in the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act (or the "477" program). Pending legislation introduced by Representative Young (R-AK), HR 329, the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2015, would expand the 477 program, and was the subject of a House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs hearing on April 14, 2015. On May 21, 2015, Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Sullivan (R-AK) introduced very similar legislation, S 1443.
In preparation for the consultation, ACF has scheduled the following teleconferences: • August 19 3-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time • August 26 3-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time • September 2 3-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time
The call-in number is: 866-769-9393. The passcode is: 4449449#."
"Treasury Publishes Final Tribal Consultation Policy," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-073, October 16, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-073, reported, "The
Department of the Treasury published in the September 23, 2105
FEDERAL REGISTER the attached
final tribal consultation policy. The effective date of the final policy is the date of publication. The final
policy supersedes the interim policy which was published on December 3, 2014, and had been in effect while comments were being
considered. (See our GM 14-094 of December 12, 2014.) There are a number of differences between the interim policy and the
final policy which we describe below. Throughout the Obama Administration tribal leaders and tribal organizations have called
upon Treasury to establish and publish its tribal consultation policy.
Key Differences Between the Interim and Final Versions of the Policy. The Department received 25 comments from tribes and intertribal organizations. These comments included several points that persuaded Treasury to adjust its consultation policy to reflect tribal views, including the following:
• The statement in the interim policy that "Treasury will endeavor to consult" with tribes has been changed in the final policy to simply state that "Treasury will consult" with tribes. • The interim policy stated that policy matters of general applicability that may impact tribal governments would remain outside the scope of tribal consultation, but the final policy reverses this position to confirm that policy matters of general applicability that may impact tribal governments are matters for tribal consultation. • Despite extensive tribal comments, the terms in the interim policy asserting that issues associated with enforcement actions are not subject to consultation remain the same because Treasury is prohibited by law from engaging in enforcement matters. The final consultation policy, however, clarifies that in situations where policy issues affecting multiple tribes arise from an enforcement matter (such as the recent experiences with the General Welfare Exclusion and Per Capita Trust issues) then the policy elements will be explored through consultation with tribes. • The final policy now formally requires the Treasury Point of Contact for Tribal Consultation to acknowledge requests for consultation "within a reasonable period."
Proposed Changes Not Reflected. Many comments called for the Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee (TTAC) to have a role in the consultation policy, but no change was made to the consultation policy because, as was explained to us by Treasury officials, the TTAC is a "supplemental consultation mechanism that is tax-specific." The Treasury consultation policy covers not only tax matters but also other (non-tax) policy issues.
Future Changes to the Tribal Consultation Policy. Treasury states "the consultation policy will be updated periodically and refined as needed to reflect ongoing engagement and collaboration with Tribal partners."
"HUD Accepting Applications for FY 2015 Indian Community Development Block Grant; HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for
the Office of Native American Programs to Retire," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-066, September 15, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-066, reported, "The
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Native American Programs (ONAP) is seeking applications for
$62.8 million in Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) program FY 2015 funds.
The purpose of the ICDBG program is the development of viable Indian and Alaska Native communities, including the
creation of decent housing, suitable living environments, and economic opportunities to principally benefit low- and
moderate-income persons. Eligible applicants are Indian tribes or tribally authorized organizations applying on behalf of
tribes. A webinar for prospective applicants will be held on September 17 from 2-5 PM EST. Applications are due
Funding Opportunity Description. There are two types of awards: Single Purpose Grants ($58.8 million available) and Imminent Threat Grants ($3.9 million available).
Single Purpose Grants can be used for a wide variety of activities from economic development to housing construction. The FY 2015 application adds the following sentences to clarify that grant funds may be used for projects which benefit tribal youth: "Applicants can use these funds for a multitude of community development purposes including those that improve the lives of tribal youth by creating and providing protective factors that build an individual's resiliency. Accordingly, funds can be used to develop Head Start facilities, Boys and Girl Clubs, recreational centers, and job training programs as well as to improve the living situations of entire families." Funding is allocated among the Area ONAPs. Grant ceilings differ by Area ONAP and by population. Awards will range from $500,000-$1 million. No matching funds are required. Of the $58.8 million available, HUD expects to make roughly 75 awards.
Imminent Threat Grants are to alleviate or remove a threat to health or safety that requires an immediate solution. An application for Imminent Threat funds may be submitted at any time. Imminent Threat applications are funded on a first-come first-served basis until the amount set aside for this purpose is exhausted.
Additional Information • Guidance is here. • Detailed information on the grant program and how to apply is here. • The application is here. • Information on the September 17 webinar will be posted here. Retirement at ONAP. On October 2, 2015, Rodger Boyd, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Native American Programs will retire. Lourdes Castro Ramirez, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Public and Indian Housing, states that a temporary Deputy Assistant Secretary will be appointed soon. The Dear Tribal Leader Letter is here."
Fogarty, “Feds Expand Homeless Services for Native Veterans,” ICTMN, November 11, 2015,
reported, “After consulting with tribes,
two federal departments are launching a novel joint outreach to assist American Indian veterans who are homeless or
likely to become so. The effect is to add a Native component to services reservation Indian vets had been shut out of
The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs are now ready to launch a demonstration program to offer a permanent home and supportive services to Native vets.
The Tribal HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (Tribal HUD-VASH) program will combine $4 million in rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA to serve approximately 600 Native American veterans.”
“HUD is inviting 30 eligible tribes to seek Tribal HUD-VASH vouchers to help house and serve an estimated 600 Native American veterans who are currently experiencing homelessness or at extreme risk of becoming homeless. Four million dollars has been allocated to the demonstration program.
HUD will be providing the rental assistance, while VA will deliver supportive case management services.”
Fogarty, “Loan Wars: Indian Mortgage Program Pushes Back Against Criticism,” ICTMN, August 14, 2015,
A federal Inspector General’s office has rapped a popular American Indian mortgage program, alleging lax underwriting.
But the guarantor of the loans, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Native American Programs, has
pushed back hard against that assessment.
The HUD Inspector General has alleged ONAP’s Office of Loan Guarantee “did not provide adequate oversight of the Section 184 program, resulting in an increased overall risk to the program, including guaranteeing 3,845 loans totaling more than $705 million that were not underwritten in accordance with program guidelines. On an annualized basis looking forward, this is equivalent to $77 million in loans that have a higher risk of loss in the first year.”
Claiming that the OLG did not adequately supervise the mortgage program (which has extended more than $4.5 billion in credit through more than 28,000 loans since 1995), OIG said “a review of 95 statistically sampled loans guaranteed from January 1, 2010, to July 31, 2014, determined that 32 of 95 loans had material underwriting deficiencies.
‘ The OLG did not adequately monitor, track, and evaluate participating lenders to ensure that loans were underwritten in accordance with the Section 184 processing guidelines,’ according to the inspector general’s report. ‘This lack of oversight and high incidence of poorly underwritten loans has the potential to negatively impact the financial standing of Native American communities.’
In addition, the inspector general said HUD did not satisfactorily review enough of the lenders and loans in the program, which guarantees 100 percent of a lender’s outlays. “For fiscal year 2014, OLG conducted monitoring reviews of three lenders, but only eight loans were reviewed of 3,447 loans originated by 128 lenders,” the report stated.
The Inspector General’s report recommends a slew of corrective actions, including a standardized monthly delinquency report format and a policy for denying payments to direct guarantee lenders for claims on loans that have material underwriting deficiencies.
Rodger Boyd, HUD assistant deputy secretary for Native programs, rebutted the OLG report by saying its statistical sample was too small and didn’t correlate with actual program losses.”
"U.S. Labor Department Issues Guidance on Employees versus Independent Contractors," Hobbs-Straus General
Memorandum 15-055, July 31, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-055, reported, "On July 15, 2015, the
Director of the U.S. Department of Labor issued new guidance to clarify the confusing line between a traditional
employee and an independent contractor. The guidance is intended to cut back on worker misclassification, which occurs
when workers are classified as contractors when they should be employees, and vice versa. The Department is responding to a
significant increase in the number of people classified as contractors, which is important because contractors are not covered
by workplace regulations such as overtime, occupational safety, and unemployment insurance. A copy of the new interpretation
can be found here:
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines employees as "any individual employed by an employer." 29 U.S.C. 203(e)(1). The FLSA also states that to "employ" is "to suffer or permit to work." 29 U.S.C. 203(g).
The Department's new guidance states that an economic realities test should instead govern the issue of worker classification. The Department states: Ultimately, the goal of the economic realities test is to determine whether a worker is economically dependent on the employer (and is therefore an employee) or is really in business for him or herself (and is therefore an independent contractor).
The Department proposes that the economic dependence of a worker should be determined by using a six-part test based on: 1) Whether the work performed is an integral part of the employer's business; 2) How the worker's managerial skill affects his or her opportunity for profit; 3) How much the worker (and the employer) invests in a business or project; 4) Whether the work performed requires special skill or initiative; 5) Whether the worker's relationship with the employer is permanent or indefinite; and 6) The nature and degree of the employer's control.
The guidance states that no one factor is determinative and "each factor should be considered in light of the ultimate determination of whether the worker is really in business for him or herself…or is economically dependent on the employer." The Department takes the position that the FLSA was originally intended to provide a broad scope of coverage for workers.
We note that the new guidance will have an impact on Indian tribes in certain jurisdictions.
The FLSA is a statute of general applicability which does not specifically include Indian tribes. Nevertheless, the question of whether Indian tribes are subject to the FLSA is disputed although certain federal courts of appeal have issued rulings.
The Seventh Circuit has held that the FLSA does not apply to an intertribal law enforcement agency. Reich v. Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission, 4 F.3d 490 (1993). On the other hand, the Ninth Circuit has held that the overtime compensation provisions in the FLSA do apply to the employees of an Indian-owned retail store located on a reservation. Solis v. Matheson, 56"
“Highly Fractionated Indian Land Loan Program Final Rule Issued,” Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-084, December 11, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-084, reported, “On December 1, 2015,
the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of the Department of Agriculture issued a final rule for the Highly Fractionated Indian
Land Loan Program. Under that program, authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, FSA provides revolving loan funds to intermediary
lenders who in turn loan funds to tribal members, tribes and tribal entities to purchase highly fractionated Indian
land. While the rule became effective December 1, FSA will consider comments received by February 26, 2016, and could
change the regulations accordingly. We attach the final rule.
Under the rule FSA will work with the intermediary lenders, providing oversight of the loan process and procedures, but will not provide oversight to the ultimate loan recipients. FSA will also work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on procedures for the loan recipients "to resolve the undivided interests in the fractionated land." The intermediary lender must have "a record of successful lending in Indian Country and knowledge and experience working with the BIA." Eligible lenders are private and tribal nonprofit corporations, public agenices, tribes and tribal corporations.
The fractionated land purchased through the Highly Fractionted Indian Land Loan Program must be used for agricultural purposes during the period of the loan. It must be used to acquire at least 50 percent of the parcel and interests in the land – interests include rights-of-way, water rights, and easements. The loan may also be used to pay costs incidental to land acquisition – i.e, title clearance, legal services, surveys, loan closing.
The rule includes a number of definitions, including "Indian Country land", "Native American tribe", and "Tribal entity." It defines "highly fractionated" as being an undivided interest held by four or more individuals – this differs with the definition in 25 U.S.C. 2201 which requires 50 or more undivided owners. FSA explains that comments were received during tribal consultation that requiring 50 undivided owners would exclude too many parcels of land.”
"Census Bureau Tribal Consultations on 2020 Census," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-058, July 31, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-058, reported, "The
Bureau of the Census (Bureau) is soliciting comments, via the attached July 13, 2015,
FEDERAL REGISTER notice
, regarding its upcoming tribal consultations on the 2020 decennial Census. The Bureau anticipates eight
tribal consultation meetings and one national webinar. The meetings are "open to members of federally recognized tribes by
invitation." The invitation to tribal leaders was sent via letter on July 13 (attached), and we were told by the Census
Bureau that tribal leaders may request the presence of a non-tribal person at a consultation session. The Bureau is asking for
recommendations by September 30, 2015, for suggested topics and questions. In addition, the Bureau seeks comments regarding:
• Enumeration – the process by which data is collected for the decennial Census and ways to increase the response; • Demographic Statistics – how the collection of data on age, sex, and racial composition has changed through the processes of birth, death, and migration; • Geography – ways to use the best available geographic methodologies to support context to the Census design, data collection, tabulation and data dissemination; • 2020 Census Field Partnerships and Recruitment – how to maximize public engagement and to encourage response; • 2020 Census Communications and Planning – how to improve communications and increase accuracy.
Tribes may want to address issues including the apparent undercount of the AI/AN on-reservation population and ways to eliminate this problem; increased Bureau assistance to help tribes prepare for and conduct Census activities; hiring and training of on-reservation tribal members for Census work; tribal review and update of maps used by enumerators in the Census; timely availability to tribes of 2020 Census results; and discussion of the implications if the Bureau decides to add Hispanic to the list of races in the 2020 Census.
The Bureau has not confirmed meeting dates and times but has listed the locations/times under consideration which can be found here: http://census.gov/aian/census_2020. Under consideration are sessions at upcoming Indian organization conferences, i.e., Alaska Federation of Natives, National Congress of American Indians, United South and Eastern Tribes. To register for a session, go to: http://2020census.kauffmaninc.com/"
Federal Indian Budgets
"FY 2016 Continuing Resolution through December 11 Approved By Congress," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-071,
September 30, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-071, reported, "The
House and Senate, on the last day of the fiscal year,
approved a Continuing Resolution (CR), HR 719, which will provide FY 2016 funding for federal agencies from the
beginning of the fiscal year (October 1, 2015) through December 11, 2015, thus averting a partial government shutdown.
CR would, by and large, provide funding on a pro rata basis at the FY 2015 levels under the authority and conditions of
the FY 2015 Appropriations Act. The President will sign the CR.
The contentious issue of funding for Planned Parenthood, which threatened to derail the CR, was not included in the bill, although it will be an issue as Congress works toward an agreement to fund federal agencies beyond December 11. The Senate approved the CR by a vote of 78 to 20, while the House approved it on a 277 to 151 vote.
Funding Level/Limitations on the Distribution of Funds. As noted above, funding for most programs during period of the CR will be at FY 2015 levels and conditions. There is a 0.21 percent (one fifth of one percent) across-the-board reduction. Because the bill brings forward the FY 2015 funding levels and terms, that includes any increases that were included for advance appropriations in the FY 2015 Appropriations Act (i.e., Veterans Administration medical accounts) and also does not take into account FY 2015 rescissions, hence the small across-the-board reduction in calculating FY 2016 CR amounts. The FY 2015 CR also had a small across-the-board reduction.
The CR funds will not be distributed for programs that may have high initial rates of operation or for funds which are fully distributed at the beginning of the fiscal year. This is because of the possibility that Congress might eliminate or reduce funding for those particular programs in a final appropriations bill.
With regard to the distribution of funds during the covered period, the CR states: This Act shall be implemented so that only the most limited funding action of that permitted in the Act shall be taken in order to provide for continuation of projects and activities. However, agencies will be allowed to apportion funds in a manner that would avoid furloughing employees. These provisions are common in CRs and were also included in the FY 2015 CR.
Mandatory Funding Programs. Funding for entitlement and mandatory payments which was provided for in the FY 2015 Appropriations Act as well as activities under the Food and Nutrition Act will be continued at a rate that maintains current program levels. Funding will be available to offset food price increases in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
Anomalies. Anomalies, provisions that differ from those in FY 2015, are relatively few and none are tribal-specific. Of significance is the inclusion of a $700 million increase for the Forest Service for wildland fire suppression. Also included is an extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (which prevents states and local governments from taxing internet access) through the period of the CR. Attached is a section-by-section summary of the CR which includes a description of the anomalies.
What's Next. Congress will now need to reach an agreement on funding for the remainder of FY 2016. With the resignation of House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) effective October 30, the House will move forward with negotiations with a new and even more conservative leadership – those leadership elections are scheduled for October 8. This week Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has voiced support for reaching a two-year (FYs 2016-2017) budget agreement which would include increased spending caps – something which has been the President's and congressional Democrats' position all year. While House and Senate Appropriations Chairs have said they want an omnibus appropriations bill which reflects their Committees work on FY 2016 funding levels, it remains to be seen whether that will happen or whether Congress will enact another CR with flat funding levels.
Among the many things at stake are hoped-for increases in the IHS and Indian Affairs budgets which have been recommended by the Administration and/or the House and Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittees (for example: full and mandatory funding for Contract Support Costs; as well as increases for IHS Purchased/Referred Care; BIE tribal schools Tribal Grant Support Costs; BIE school construction; and in the House Labor-HHS-Education bill, a number of tribal-specific increases). A year-long FY 2016 CR would thwart any of these proposals.
Because the CR funds programs on a pro rata basis at FY 2015 levels, we list for your convenience our General Memoranda (GM) on selected federal agencies' final FY 2015 appropriations: Indian Health Service GM 14-099 of December 17, 2014 Indian Affairs (BIA/BIE) GM 15-003 of January 9, 2015 Labor-HHS-Education and Related Agencies GM 15-008 of January 13, 2015 Agriculture Department GM 15-009 of January 23, 2015 Justice Department GM 15-013 of January 30, 2015
We expect the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidance to federal agencies in carrying out the Continuing Resolution."
“FY 2016 Continuing Resolution through December 16 Approved By Congress,” Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-083, December
Congress has approved, and the President will sign, a Continuing Resolution (CR), HR 2250, which will provide FY 2016
funding for federal agencies from December 12 through December 16, 2015. The previous CR extended through December 11. The
Senate approved the stopgap measure on December 10 and the House on December 11. Thus, the threat of a partial
government shutdown – the second close call this fiscal year – was averted. The CR would, by and large, provide funding on a
pro rata basis at the FY 2015 levels under the authority and conditions of the FY 2015 Appropriations Act. See our General
Memorandum 15-071 (September 30, 2015) regarding the prior CR.
This five-day CR is intended to give the House and Senate still more time to work out their disagreements on many proposed policy riders, most of which are being promoted by Republican members. Democrats contend that they have compromised on the overall funding level and will not accept "poison pill" riders. Among the proposed policy riders are ones that would: defund Planned Parenthood; place further restrictions on immigrants coming to the U.S. from Syria and Iraq; end the oil export embargo; undo some of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations; undo some EPA regulations regarding clean water and the scope of which waters are under EPA/Corps of Engineers jurisdiction; restrict the National Labor Relations Board; and loosen the campaign contributions restrictions on political parties. Another issue in the mix is the House Interior Appropriations report language which would prohibit federal funding to be spent to implement the Bureau of Indian Affairs' new federal recognition regulations.”
“Congress Considering FY 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Bill; IHS and BIA Contract Support Costs Funded on a Mandatory
Basis,” Hobbs Straus General Memorandum 15-086, December 17, 2015,
http://hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-086, reported, “On
December 16, 2015
, congressional leaders reached a compromise agreement on a proposal that would fund all twelve federal agencies for
the rest of the fiscal year (through September 30, 2016). Titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2016, the bill
runs 2000 plus pages and it is to be linked with legislation that would extend many expiring tax provisions. The House of
Representatives and the Senate are scheduled to vote on the bill December 18. There is some conservative Republican opposition
to the bill and many Democrats are not at this point making commitments for or against it. The President, however, has
indicated that he would sign it.
Federal agencies are currently being funded under a third FY 2016 Continuing Resolution (CR), this one funding agencies
at their FY 2015 levels through December 22, 2015. Despite differing views, the parties are generally united in not wanting
another government shutdown nor a year-long CR.
The bill totals $1.15 trillion, with more than half of the funding for defense. Division G of the bill is the funding for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which includes the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Indian Affairs (Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education). Accompanying the bill is an Explanatory Statement for each Division. In addition to what is in the Explanatory Statement for Division G, the House and Senate appropriations report language ((H. Rept. 114-170) and (S. Rept. 114-70) from consideration of Interior appropriations bills earlier in the process) is to be complied with unless specifically contradicted by the bill language or the Explanatory Statement.
We will be writing detailed memoranda on the IHS and Indian Affairs budgets, but attach here the funding charts for those agencies. Most notable in the bill is the treatment of IHS and BIA Contract Support Costs (CSC), both of which would be funded under their own account. The attached budget chart specifies $277 million for BIA CSC and $717.9 million for IHS CSC, however, the bill language states that funding for CSC for both agencies would be at "such sums as may be necessary." Should the need for CSC exceed the amount listed in the budget chart additional CSC funds will be made available and the agencies' program funding will not be reduced.
In a related and long overdue development, the bill includes in the BIE budget $73.2 million to fully fund the estimated need for tribally operated schools' Tribal Grant Support Costs – the schools' equivalent of Contract Support Costs. Funding for Indian Affairs overall would see a 7.5 % or $194.6 million increase over FY 2015 enacted.
The IHS appropriation would be $4.8 billion, a 3.5% increase over FY 2015 enacted. The bill would provide $19 million for pay increases but does not appear to have funding for medical inflation, for which the President requested $71 million.”
"FY 2016 Indian Affairs Funding: Administration's Request vs Congressional Proposals,"
Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-048, July 7, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-048, reported, "In
this Memorandum we
compare the Administration's FY 2016 request for Indian Affairs (which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)) appropriations with the FY 2016 amounts approved by the House and Senate Appropriations
Committees. The House bill is currently being considered on the House floor. The President has issued a veto threat
against that bill based on the policy riders it contains and the funding levels it would provide. Both House and Senate bills
would provide important increases for Indian Affairs priorities above the FY 2015 enacted levels but do not break the overall
spending caps set forth in the Budget Control Act. The President's position on FY 2016 appropriations is that Members of
Congress must come together to craft a budget deal similar to the deal reached for FYs 2014 and 2015 which provided increased
discretionary spending in exchange for reductions elsewhere in the federal budget. The spending levels in the
Administration's FY 2016 request are based on an assumption that a budget deal will be reached for FY 2016 and the overall
spending caps will be raised. Because Congress and the President are at odds, it is likely that FY 2016 appropriations will not
be resolved until late into 2015. Attached in chart form is the Administration's request. We describe in narrative only
those subactivities and line items which differ significantly from FY 2015 enacted amounts and terms.
INDIAN AFFAIRS (IA) OVERVIEW
For FY 2016, the Administration requests $2.9 billion for Indian Affairs, $323.5 million above FY 2015 enacted levels. The House Appropriations Committee proposes $2.7 billion while the Senate Appropriations Committee proposes $2.6 billion.
Fixed Costs. The Administration's request for the Indian Affairs budget includes $18.3 million to fully fund increases attributed to fixed costs. The House does not include increases for fixed costs in its proposal. Within the Indian Affairs budget, the Senate specifies the following regarding fixed costs for OPERATION OF INDIAN PROGRAMS: Fixed costs have been included throughout the core programs based upon actual expenditures for the enacted fiscal year and internal transfers have been accepted. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 37)
And fixed costs for CONSTRUCTION: …fixed costs based upon actual expenditures have been included and internal transfers have been accepted. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 40)
Indirect Costs. The House Report states:
The Committee is concerned that a recent Administration policy change with regard to indirect cost reimbursement may not fairly apply to Indian Tribes and tribal organizations. The Secretary is directed to report to the Committee justifying this policy change and in particular its application to tribal enrollment activities. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 40)
Contract Support Costs (CSC). A major development is the Administration's proposal to enact legislation to make BIA and IHS contract support costs (CSC) fully funded on a mandatory basis effective beginning in FY 2017. This proposal would require authorizing legislation. For FY 2016, the Administration requests and the House and Senate concur with a (discretionary) level of funding estimated to fully fund CSC for FY 2016 but differ in how to achieve this. The House proposes to keep Contract Support and the Indian Self-Determination Fund within the Operation of Indian Programs account. The Senate, however, proposes to create a new Contract Support Costs account, separate from the Operation of Indian Programs account, which would include both Contract Support and the Indian Self-Determination Fund. The Senate's seemingly lower proposed amount for Operation of Indian Programs reflects this proposed transfer.
Tribal Grant Support Costs. The Administration proposes an increase above FY 2015 in order to fully fund Tribal Grant Support Costs for tribes operating BIE-funded schools. The House concurs, explaining that funding these costs is consistent with the policy of fully funding contract support costs.
Tiwahe (Family)Initiative. In FY 2015 the Administration, in response to the high rates of poverty, substance abuse, suicide, and violent crime in Indian Country (which put children at risk) proposed a comprehensive and integrated approach to address these often interrelated problems. The Administration requested $11.5 million for the Tiwahe Initiative which would broaden the focus to the family unit by: increasing the number of social workers dedicated to child protection; expanding job training opportunities; creating a pilot program to provide alternatives to incarceration and increased treatment opportunities; and expanding the qualification for housing services to alleviate overcrowding. For FY 2016 the Administration requests targeted increases to the Human Services activity and Public Safety and Justice activity to build on gains made in FY 2015. Congress largely agrees to the targeted increases for the Tiwahe initiative but differs in the amounts proposed.
Indian Reorganization Act – Carcieri Fix. The Administration continues to request language which would reverse the U.S. Supreme Court's 2009 decision that the Secretary of the Interior does not have authority to take land into trust for tribes recognized after 1934. The language that the Administration requests is the same as that which was requested, but not enacted, in FYs 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. (FY 2016 Appendix, Budget of the U.S. Government, p. 716) Neither House Committee nor Senate Committee included this requested language.
Federal Recognition. The House bill contains language which would restrict the Secretary of Interior from moving forward with the proposed rule on Federal Acknowledgment. We note that since the bill's drafting, the final rule was published in the FEDERAL REGISTER on July 1, 2015. (80 Fed. Reg. 37861 et seq.). The House bill states: Provided further, That none of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used by the Secretary to finalize, implement, administer, or enforce the proposed rule entitled "Federal Acknowledgement of American Indian Tribes" published by the Department of the Interior in the Federal Register on May 29, 2014 (79 Fed. Reg. 30766 et seq.). (H.R. 2822, p. 35)
OPERATION OF INDIAN PROGRAMS
FY 2015 Enacted $2,429,236,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $2,660,591,000 FY 2016 House Committee $2,505,670,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $2,232,419,000
Operation of Indian Programs (OIP) budget includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
FY 2015 Enacted $1,618,705,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $1,756,127,000 FY 2016 House Committee $1,651,510,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $1,407,485,000
Activities within the Bureau of Indian Affairs are: Tribal Government; Human Services; Trust-Natural Resources Management; Trust-Real Estate Services; Public Safety and Justice; Community and Economic Development; and Executive Direction and Administrative Services.
FY 2015 Enacted $547,679,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $583,767,000 FY 2016 House Committee $573,911,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $301,517,000* *This lower amount reflects the proposed transfer of Contract Support and the Indian Self-Determination Fund to a separate account.
The Tribal Government subactivities are: Aid to Tribal Government; Consolidated Tribal Government Program; Self-Governance Compacts; Contract Support; Indian Self-Determination Fund; New Tribes; Small and Needy Tribes; Road Maintenance; and Tribal Government Program Oversight. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-1)
Full Funding for Contract Support Costs: Administration, House, and Senate differ in how to achieve this. + $26 million above FY 2015 is requested, estimated to be enough to fully fund Contract Support. The House and Senate Committees concur with the Administration's $272 million request for Contract Support but differ in how this would be achieved. For further information on Contract Support Costs, please see p. 19-22 of this Memorandum.
New Tribes. The Administration and Congress propose flat funding. The Senate Report states:
[The Committee] notes the challenge of reconciling the timing of the tribal recognition process with the annual budget formulation process. If additional tribes are recognized during fiscal year 2016 beyond those contemplated in the budget request, the Bureau is urged to support their capacity building efforts to the extent feasible. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 37)
Small and Needy Tribes. + $1.2 million above FY 2015 is requested. The Administration notes "there are currently tribes and villages that receive less than the recommended TPA base funding. An analysis will be conducted to reexamine this group of tribes who have fallen below the established thresholds…" (Admin. Request, p. IA-TG-2). Congress proposes flat funding.
Tribal Government Program Oversight. + $4 million above FY 2015 is requested ($2 million for Central Oversight, $2 million for Regional Oversight) to develop a national One-Stop Tribal Support Center "to make it easier to for tribes to find and access information about the programs, services, and funding opportunities available to tribes across the federal government…The One-Stop center will advance an 'all of government' approach to meeting tribal needs, delivering on federal responsibilities, advancing government-to-government relationships, and supporting tribal nation building." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TG-2). Congress proposes flat funding.
Road Maintenance. The Administration and the Senate propose flat funding. The House proposes a nominal increase. The House Report states: The Committee recognizes that too many roads on Indian reservations are in poor condition and are a significant safety concern. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 37)
FY 2015 Enacted $142,634,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $149,004,000 FY 2016 House Committee $143,634,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $146,004,000
The Human Services subactivities are: Social Services; Welfare Assistance; Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); Housing Improvement Program (HIP); Human Services Tribal Design; and Human Services Program Oversight. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-1)
Social Services-Tiwahe Initiative. + $6 million above FY 2015 is requested to continue the work of the Tiwahe initiative. "The Tiwahe initiative supports the White House's cross-agency Generation Indigenous initiative, which takes a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to help improve the lives and opportunities for Native Youth. Tiwahe, specifically, is a plan to strengthen Indian families and promote family stability in order to fortify tribal communities." (Admin. Request, p. IA-HS-1). The House instead proposes a $1 million increase above FY 2015 for the Tiwahe initiative while the Senate proposes a $3 million increase above FY 2015.
TRUST–NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
FY 2015 Enacted $184,852,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $232,796,000 FY 2016 House Committee $184,852,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $189,896,000
The Trust–Natural Resources Management subactivities are: Natural Resources; Irrigation Operation and Maintenance; Rights Protection Implementation; Tribal Management/Development Programs; Endangered Species; Tribal Climate Resilience/Cooperative Landscape Conservation; Integrated Resource Information; Agriculture and Range; Forestry; Water Resources; Fish/Wildlife & Parks; and Resource Management Oversight. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-1)
The Administration requests a total of $46.9 million in increases above FY 2015 for Trust-Natural Resources Management while the House proposes flat funding and the Senate counters with some nominal increases.
The House Report states:
The Committee is concerned about tribal communities that face severe challenges to their long-term resilience because of risks associated with climate, geography, and extreme weather conditions. The Bureau is encouraged to work with at-risk Tribes to identify and expedite the necessary resources to support mitigation and, where necessary, relocation. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 37)
The Senate Report states:
The recommendation includes $189,846,000 for trust and natural resources programs, an increase of $4,994,000 above the enacted level. Within that amount, program increases include funding to support a level of $37,638,000 for rights protection implementation programs and an additional $2,000,000 for forest thinning activities." (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 37)
The Administration requests the following increases:
Natural Resources. + $3 million above FY 2015 is requested to support the expansion of a Natural Resources Youth Program that will "focus on the protection, enhancement, and conservation of natural resources through science, education, and cultural learning." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-2) Congress proposes flat funding.
Irrigation Operations and Maintenance. + $1.5 million above FY 2015 is requested to "incorporate climate resilience planning through modernization studies for BIA irrigation projects…[and] to provide additional water measurement training to BIA and tribal staff, and to provide for water measurement and associated delivery system improvements." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-2) Congress proposes flat funding.
Rights Protection Implementation. + $4.5 million above FY 2015 is requested to "provide additional support to the existing programs to allow them to assess and address various existing and potential climate change impacts to all of the natural resources within their communities." The Rights Protection Implementation program provides base funding for affected tribes to meet Federal court litigated and mitigated responsibilities in the conservation and management of fish and wildlife resources. (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-3) The House proposes flat funding while the Senate proposes a $2 million increase above FY 2015.
Tribal Management/Development. + $5 million above FY 2015 is requested to "enable tribes to further climate resilience on tribal landscapes through new and supplemented applicable scientific technologies: climate training; technical capacity, analysis and monitoring." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-3) Congress proposes flat funding.
Endangered Species. + $1 million above FY 2015 is requested to "support scientific monitoring and analysis to integrate consideration of changing climate conditions into this work on endangered species to inform tribal leaders and partners in decision making and resource management." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-3) Congress proposes flat funding.
Tribal Climate Resilience. + $20.4 million above FY 2015 is requested to "provide competitive awards to support critically vulnerable coastal artic communities and to help sustain tribal ecosystems supporting fish, wildlife, timber and other natural resources, and critical subsistence and cultural resources. This assistance will allow for the development of science, tools, and climate resilience assessment and planning, as well as adaptation activities to respond to current and projected impacts of climate change. The increase will also support two additional FTE to further developments on Integrated Resource Management Planning and to coordinate bureauwide efforts on climate preparedness and resilience within all of the BIA natural resource programs." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-3-4) Congress proposes flat funding.
Integrated Resource Info Program. + $1 million above FY 2015 is requested to "provide for two additional FTE to coordinate climate related activity, allowing Office of Trust Services Geospatial Support to improve its commitment to providing Geographic Information Systems framework to accelerate the ability of tribal governments to access content, do analyses and share results related to climate resilience." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-4) Congress proposes flat funding.
Forestry Projects. + $4 million above FY 2015 is requested (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-4-5). The House proposes flat funding while the Senate instead proposes a $2 million increase above FY 2015. The Administration specifies that the requested $4 million increase be allocated as follows: • + $2 million for Forest Development for thinning of overstocked forests to create stand and forest resiliency to wildfire, insect epidemics, and disease infestations which are being intensified as a result of climate change. (The Senate concurs with this requested increase.) • + $1 million for Resource Management Planning projects that include Integrated Resource Management Plans, Forest Management Plans, and Stand Level Inventories. • + $1 million for environmental assessment and compliance projects associated with NEPA requirements.
Water Mgmt., Planning & Pre-Development. + $4.5 million above FY 2015 is requested to "fund additional activities necessary to manage and develop tribal water resources, support additional BIA water management staff, and to provide an amount not to exceed $2.5 million for use by the Secretary's Indian Water Rights Office in analyzing individual water settlement proposals, training settlement negotiation and implementation teams, and otherwise implementing national policy objectives concerning Indian water settlements." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-5) Congress proposes flat funding.
Fish, Wildlife & Parks Projects. + $2 million above FY 2015 is requested to "afford tribes the opportunity to modify and engage efforts measured to emerging micro and macro climate issues, and ensure resilience in planning, development and operations with climate management considerations." (Admin. Request, p. IA-TNR-5-6) Congress proposes flat funding.
TRUST–REAL ESTATE SERVICES
FY 2015 Enacted $127,002,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $143,000,000 FY 2016 House Committee $125,817,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $127,486,000
The Trust–Real Estate Services subactivities are: Trust Services; Navajo-Hopi Settlement Program; Probate; Land Title and Records Offices; Real Estate Services; Land Records Improvement; Environmental Quality; Alaskan Native Programs; Rights Protection; and Trust- Real Estate Services Oversight. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-1)
The Administration requests a total of $16.2 million in increases above FY 2015 for Trust-Real Estate Services while the House proposes a $1.1 million cut below FY 2015. The House also pushes back against the Administration's goal to place 500,000 acres of land into trust, and citing ongoing litigation, calls into question the land placed into trust for the Cowlitz tribe. The Senate counters with a nominal proposed increase above FY 2015 (taking into account fixed costs) and urges speedy action on rights-of-way approvals.
The House Report states:
The recommendation includes $125,817,000 for trust-real estate services, $1,185,000 below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. The Committee is concerned about the Department's goal of placing more than 500,000 acres of land into trust by the end of fiscal year 2016. Such a goal incentivizes haste and leads to situations such as in Clark County, Washington. On March 9, 2015, the Department took into trust approximately 152 acres in Clark County on behalf of the Cowlitz Indian tribe, notwithstanding ongoing litigation in the matter. The Committee directs the Department to: (1) report to the Committee within 30 days of enactment of this Act on (a) the process it has established for taking the land out of trust should the court order the Department to do so; and (b) the cost to the Department of taking the land out of trust; and (2) focus not on an acre goal but on reducing the current backlog of fee-to-trust applications. It is entirely appropriate for the government's goal to be to process those applications as efficiently and fairly as possible. The Committee recommends cuts to central and regional oversight in light of the program's current goal." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 37-38)
The Senate Report states:
The bill provides $127,486,000, an increase of $484,000 above the enacted level for trust-real estate services programs. The Committee recognizes natural gas flaring has been an ongoing issue in places of energy development, including on tribal lands. The Committee also recognizes the challenge of attracting investment and building infrastructure and understands that rights-of-way approvals are an important component to reduce natural gas flaring. The Committee is aware there are significant delays in getting rights-of-way approvals and encourages the Department to move forward with reservation-wide fair market appraisals that provide fair market values to all parties affected for future rights-of-way applications on energy-affected tribal lands with natural gas flaring. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 37-38)
The Administration requests the following increases:
Probate. + $1 million above FY 2015 is requested to "allow the program to hire an additional 10 Probate FTE, which will allow for 280 additional probates to be processed annually." (Admin. Request, p. IA-RES-2)
Land Title and Record Office (LTRO). + $2 million above FY 2015 is requested to "support 18 additional FTE to be placed at the LTROs, to better address the increased and new type of workload created by the Fee To Trust and energy initiatives in addition to the regular records cleanup and geospatial support provided. (Admin. Request, p. IA-RES-2)
Land Records Improvement (Central). + $1.8 million above FY 2015 is requested to "allow BIA to avoid possible future litigation by fully funding the basic operation and maintenance of the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System while maintaining support for the one position at central office that maintains Land, Title and Records activities and geospatial oversight. (Admin. Request, p. IA-RES-2-3)
Water Rights Negotiations/Litigation. + $8.3 million above FY 2015 is requested to "fund four additional FTE to administer the program in the BIA regional offices, provide greater support to tribes involved in active litigation and negotiation cases, and support an initiative to strengthen the Federal program to settle Indian water rights claims. (Admin. Request, p. IA-RES-3)
Litigation Support/Attorney Fees. + $1 million above FY 2015 is requested to "expand the BIA's capacity to provide assistance to tribal participants in adjudications to quantify their rights and/or negotiations to settle water rights claims litigation or negotiations associated with natural resource damage actions filed against responsible parties for injury to tribal natural and cultural resources, tribal trust land trespass actions and other rights protection issues." (Admin. Request, p. IA-RES-3)
Regional Oversight. + $2 million above FY 2015 is requested to "support an additional 20 realty FTE nationwide to ensure the program achieves the Administration's goal of taking more than 500,000 acres of land into trust by the end of 2016." (Admin. Request, p. IA-RES-3)
PUBLIC SAFETY AND JUSTICE
FY 2015 Enacted $352,850,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $364,423,000 FY 2016 House Committee $357,358,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $377,405,000
The Public Safety and Justice subactivities are: Law Enforcement; Tribal Courts; and Fire Protection. (See attached Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
The Administration and Congress propose targeted increases (of varying amounts) above FY 2015 to provide expanded support for the Tiwahe initiative. The House proposes increases for technical assistance to help implement key provisions of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) while the Senate proposes the most significant increases--specifically to address tribal court needs in PL 280 states.
Criminal Investigations and Police Services. + $3 million above FY 2015 is proposed by the Senate. The Administration requests flat funding.
Law Enforcement Special Initiatives. + $4 million above FY 2015 is requested to "enable expansion of BIA's efforts to reduce recidivism from the current three Tiwahe initiative sites to five sites in FY 2016…the Office of Justice Services will work with tribes to implement comprehensive 'alternatives to incarceration' strategies that seek to address underlying causes of repeat offenses, including substance abuse and social service needs by utilizing alternative courts, increased treatment opportunities, probation programs, and interagency and intergovernmental partnerships." (Admin. Request, p. IA-PSJ-1). The Senate concurs with the requested increase. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 39) The House instead proposes a $1 million increase above FY 2015. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38)
Tribal Justice Support. + $10 million above FY 2015 is proposed by the Senate to address tribal court needs in PL 280 states. The Administration requests flat funding while the House proposes a $1 million increase above FY 2015 to "increase technical assistance and training in Indian Country to carry out the new provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38).
The Senate Report states:
Consistent with the recommendations of the Indian Law and Order Commission report 'A Roadmap For Making Native America Safer' as required by the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and to address the added tribal responsibilities outlined in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. Within the increases provided for tribal justice support, the Committee includes $10,000,000 for the Office of Tribal Justice Support to work with Indian tribes and tribal organizations to assess needs, consider options, and design, develop, and pilot tribal court systems for tribal communities including those communities subject to full or partial State jurisdiction under Public Law 83–280. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 39)
Tribal Courts. + $5 million above FY 2015 is requested to "ensur[e] that the judicial branch of targeted tribal public safety systems can function effectively to meet family and community needs under the Tiwahe initiative. Specifically, the increase will provide targeted base funding to tribal courts at each Tiwahe site." (Admin. Request, p. IA-PSJ-1). The Senate concurs with the requested increase. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 39) The House instead proposes a $1.5 million increase above FY 2015. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38)
Educational and Health-Related Services for Youth in Tribal Detention Centers Considered Allowable Costs. The House Report states:
For the purpose of addressing the needs of American Indian youth in custody at tribal detention centers operated or administered by the BIA, the Committee considers educational and health-related services to juveniles in custody to be allowable costs for detention/corrections program funding." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38)
COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
FY 2015 Enacted $35,996,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $40,619,000 FY 2016 House Committee $40,505,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $36,119,000
The Community and Economic Development subactivities are: Job Placement and Training; Economic Development; Minerals and Mining; and Community Development Oversight. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
Minerals & Mining Central Oversight. $4.5 million in new funding is requested to "establish an Indian Energy Service Center staffed by BIA, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, the Bureau of Land Management and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians to facilitate energy development in Indian Country… The Center will expedite leasing, permitting, and reporting for conventional and renewable energy on Indian lands – and importantly – provide resources to ensure development occurs safely, protects the environment, and manages risks appropriately by providing funding and technical assistance to support assessment of the social and environmental impacts of energy development." (Admin. Request, p. IA-CED-1-2) The House concurs with the request. The Senate proposes flat funding.
The House Report states:
The recommendation includes the requested amount to establish the Indian Energy Service Center. The Bureau is directed to consult with affected tribes regarding staffing and related functions of the new office. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38) EXECUTIVE DIRECTION AND ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
FY 2015 Enacted $227,692,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $241,832,000 FY 2016 House Committee $225,433,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $229,108,000
The Executive Direction and Administrative Services subactivities are: Assistant Secretary Support; Executive Direction; Administrative Services; Safety and Risk Management; Information Resources Technology; Human Capital Management; Facilities Management, Intra-Governmental Payments; and Rentals. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
Assistant Secretary Support. + $12 million above FY 2015 is requested to "help address long-standing concerns tribes have expressed with the quality of data in Indian Country" (Admin. Request, p. IA-ADM-2), to be allocated as follows: • + $2 million for Internal capacity building: The Department will create a capability within DOI's Office of Policy Analysis to study Indian Affairs policy, evaluate Indian programs, and assist in developing tribal datasets to support decision making by tribes, Indian Affairs, BIA and BIE program offices, and other Departmental offices. • + $9 million for Census data: The Department will enter into an agreement(s) with the Census Bureau to improve the quality and quantity of tribal data. • + $1 million for Data quality, openness and availability: The Department will embark on outreach and consultation with tribes regarding data collection.
The House proposes a cut below FY 2015 while the Senate proposes flat funding (the nominal increase being attributed to fixed costs).
BUREAU OF INDIAN EDUCATION
FY 2015 Enacted $810,531,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $904,464,000 FY 2016 House Committee $854,160,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $824,934,000
The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) category displays funds for the BIE-funded elementary and secondary school systems as well as other education programs including higher education and scholarships. The Bureau of Indian Education subactivities are: Elementary and Secondary Programs (Forward Funded); Elementary and Secondary Programs (Non-Forward Funded); Post Secondary Programs (Forward Funded); Post Secondary Programs (Non-Forward Funded); and Education Management. BIE Oversight and Reform.
The House Report states:
Indian education remains among the Committee's top priorities because it is a fundamental trust responsibility and because elementary and secondary students in particular have fallen far behind their peers for reasons now well documented by the Government Accountability Office, the Department of Education, and others." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38) And: The Committee remains concerned that control of BIE's budget, procurement, hiring, and facilities maintenance and construction reside not within BIE but within the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Deputy Assistant Secretary—Management (see Government Accountability Office report GAO–13–774). The Secretary is urged to reorganize Indian Affairs so as to improve leadership stability and accountability within the BIE. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39-40)
The Senate Report states:
The administration is commended for its continued focus on tribal education programs, including efforts to improve collaboration between the Departments of the Interior and Education and to implement Executive Order 13592 to improve educational outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native students. It is noted that the administration is proposing significant reforms to the Bureau of Indian Education [BIE] to improve the quality of education offered and address the persistent performance gap of students educated at BIE-funded schools. These proposed changes will require a restructuring of the Bureau that is not currently reflected in the fiscal year 2016 budget request and will necessitate continued consultation with tribes, as well as the Committees on Appropriations and the authorizing committees of jurisdiction.
The Committee is concerned the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, which includes the Bureau of Indian Education [BIE], has not addressed the findings or implemented the recommendations in recent Government Accountability Office [GAO] reports and testimonies (GAO–13–774, GAO–14–121, GAO– 15–389T, and GAO–15–539T). These reports outline systemic problems with management of BIE schools, such as lack of oversight over school spending and facilities, including construction, operation, maintenance, and basic repair and upgrades needed to improve the condition of schools that serve Indian Country. The Committee stands ready to work with the administration on the appropriate steps forward and directs the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to report back within 60 days after enactment of this act on how this Office is implementing the GAO recommendations. As part of this report, the Committee expects a detailed description of the administrative functions of each entity that has or will have a decisionmaking role in supporting and overseeing school facilities, including construction, maintenance, operation, and relevant activities for BIE schools. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 38)
Juvenile Detention Education Grants. The House specifies that the following grant program would be funded from the within the amount proposed for BIE: The recommendation includes $1,000,000 to restore juvenile detention education program grants." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
Elementary and Secondary Programs (Forward Funded) FY 2015 Enacted $536,897,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $565,517,000 FY 2016 House Committee $550,034,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $542,577,000
The Elementary and Secondary forward funded programs include all components for operating an elementary and secondary school system. For schools operated by tribes through grants, the program also includes funding to cover the tribe's administrative costs. The forward-funded programs are: the ISEP Formula Funding, ISEP Program Adjustments, Education Program Enhancements, Student Transportation, Early Childhood Development, and Tribal Grant Support Costs (formerly titled Administrative Cost Grants.) Funds appropriated for FY 2016 for these programs will become available for obligation on July 1, 2016, for SY 2016-2017. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
The Administration requests the following increases:
Education Enhancements. + $10 million above FY 2015 is requested to "improve student achievement through the adoption of school improvement measures. The enhancement funding is to assist in the development and improvement of education departments that are administered by tribes, while seeking to expand the curriculum for areas like Native language immersion. School improvement efforts that could be adopted include establishing a tribally managed school reform plan." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-2) Congress proposes flat funding.
Tribal Grant Support Costs. + $ 12.9 million above FY 2015 in order to fully fund Tribal Grant Support Costs. The Administration explains that full funding would "provide an incentive for tribes to assume control over their remaining federally operated schools." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-2). The House concurs with the Administration's request for full funding. The Senate however, proposes only a $2 million increase above FY 2015.
The House Report states:
The recommendation includes $75,335,000 to fully fund tribal grant support costs, as requested, $12,940,000 above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. Fully funding these costs is consistent with the policy of fully funding contract support costs, and is instrumental for tribal control of schools. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38-39)
Tribal Education Department Grants. The House concurs with the Administration's request to continue funding for Tribal Education Department Grants. The House Report states: The recommendation includes $2,000,000 as requested for the development and operation of tribal departments or divisions of education as authorized in 25 U.S.C. 2020. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
Early Child and Family Development.
The House Report states:
The Committee recommends $15,520,000 for early child and family development, equal to the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. The Committee strongly supports early childhood development models that address the achievement gap of Indian children primarily located on rural reservations by teaching preschool Indian children the skills they need to begin school and offering developmental opportunities for parents. The BIE is directed to publish its report on the 2013–14 school year internal review of early childhood education programs in order to improve program direction and transparency. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 38)
The Senate Report states:
The administration's emphasis on education must be complemented by efforts to improve interagency coordination for the multiplicity of programs that affect the wellbeing of Native children. In addition to education, these include healthcare, social service, child welfare and juvenile justice programs. The Committee would like to note the recent Senate passage of S24, the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children. The Committee encourages the Bureau to work with other relevant Federal, State, local, and tribal organizations to begin the process of identifying ways to make programs more effective in serving Native Children. Within the funding provided for the Early Child and Family Development Program, the Bureau shall not reduce funding for currently operating Family and Child Education programs. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 39)
Early Childhood Caries.
The House Report states:
The Bureau is encouraged to coordinate with the Indian Health Service to establish a pilot program integrating preventive dental care at schools within the Bureau system. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
The Senate Report concurs:
The Bureau, working with the Indian Health Service as appropriate, is also urged to consider integrating school-based preventative health services such as dental care into elementary schools in order to improve health outcomes of tribal students. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 39)
Language Immersion. The House Report states: The Committee is supportive of standards and curricula that emphasize tribal history, language and culture. As alternative proposals are considered, language immersion should be carefully considered as a serious option for improved language development and student outcomes. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
Restriction on Funding for Satellite Locations. The Administration and Congress continue language restricting funding for satellite locations while providing the Secretary the ability to waive this restriction in certain instances. The House Report provides the following clarification regarding the intent of the provision: The recommendation continues bill language providing the Secretary with the authority to approve satellite locations of existing BIE schools if a Tribe can demonstrate that the establishment of such locations would provide comparable levels of education as are being offered at such existing BIE schools, and would not significantly increase costs to the Federal Government. The intent is for this authority to be exercised only in extraordinary circumstances to provide Tribes with additional flexibility regarding where students are educated without compromising how they are educated, and to significantly reduce the hardship and expense of transporting students over long distances, all without unduly increasing costs that would otherwise unfairly come at the expense of other schools in the BIE system. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
Restriction on Funding for Elementary or Secondary Schools in Alaska. The Administration and Congress continue language restricting funding for the establishment of elementary or secondary schools in Alaska.
Restriction on Funding for Expanded Grades. The Administration and Congress continue language restricting funding for the expansion of grades and schools within the BIE system.
Restriction on Funding for Charter Schools. The Administration and Congress continue language restricting funding for the establishment of charter schools. The House Report provides the following clarification regarding the intent of the provision: The Committee continues language limiting the expansion of grades and schools in the BIE system, including charter schools. The intent of the language is to prevent already limited funds from being spread further to additional schools and grades. The intent is not to limit tribal flexibility at existing schools. Nothing in the bill is intended to prohibit a Tribe from converting a tribally-controlled school already in the BIE system to a charter school in accordance with State and Federal law. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
Elementary and Secondary Programs (Non-Forward Funded) FY 2015 Enacted $119,195,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $142,361,000 FY 2016 House Committee $139,195,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $122,361,000
The non-forward funded programs are: Facilities Operations, Facilities Maintenance and Johnson-O'Malley Assistance Grants. Funds for Facilities Operations and Facilities Maintenance are distributed by formula to schools in the BIE school system. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
The Administration requests the following increases:
Facilities Operations. + $10 million above FY 2015 is requested to "allow BIE to fund schools at 61 percent of calculated need to augment escalating utility and operations costs for an aging school system, based on the FY 2014-2015 calculated need of $107,736,000." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-2) The House concurs with the request while the Senate proposes flat funding.
Facilities Maintenance. + $10 million above FY 2015 is requested to "allow schools to complete additional cyclic preventive maintenance repairs under the $2,500 maintenance fund limit before the required repairs deteriorate further, requiring additional funds from the minor or major improvement and repair account when repair costs exceed $2,500." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-3) The House concurs with the request while the Senate proposes flat funding.
Johnson-O'Malley. + $2.6 million above FY 2015 is requested to "support the student count. A new JOM student count is scheduled to be issued in early 2015." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-3) The House proposes flat funding while the Senate concurs with the Administration's proposed increase. The House Report states: The recommendation includes $14,739,000 for the Johnson-O'Malley program. The Bureau is directed to consult with Tribes and Congress before proposing any changes in the distribution of future funds or in the frequency or method of future counts. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
Post Secondary Programs (Forward Funded) FY 2015 Enacted $69,793,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $69,793,000 FY 2016 House Committee $69,793,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $74,793,000
This subactivity funds forward funded Tribal Colleges and Universities (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
Forward funding for remaining non-forward funded tribal colleges. $5 million in new funding is proposed by the Senate as a one-time appropriation to facilitate the transition of the two non-forward funded tribal technical colleges (United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) and Navajo Technical University (NTU)) to forward funding. This proposal was not in the Administration's request. The House acknowledges that not all tribal colleges are forward funded and requests that the Administration submit a proposal to transition these tribal colleges to forward funding in the FY 2017 request.
The House Report states:
The Committee acknowledges the inconsistency that not all tribal colleges and universities are forward-funded so as to align with academic calendars instead of fiscal calendars. The Administration is encouraged to submit a proposal beginning with the fiscal year 2017 budget submission to transition to forward-funding over a period of three to five years the remaining tribal colleges and universities, including the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 39)
The Senate Report states:
For Post-Secondary programs, the Committee includes an additional $5,000,000 to forward fund tribal technical colleges. This one-time increase provides a transition to forward funding, consistent with funding practices for most other tribal colleges, by covering both the 2015–2016 and 2016– 2017 school years. This funding addresses the long-standing concerns of tribal college leaders by providing greater financial security to plan for the academic year through forward funding. The Committee believes there should be parity on the way all tribal colleges that receive assistance throughout the bill are funded and encourages the administration to look for ways for all the tribal colleges to be put on the same funding schedule. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 38)
Post Secondary Programs (Non-Forward Funded) FY 2015 Enacted $64,182,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $69,412,000 FY 2016 House Committee $64,182,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $64,602,000
The two post-secondary schools in the BIE's education system are Haskell Indian Nations University (Haskell), and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI). BIE also provides grants to two tribal technical colleges: United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) and Navajo Technical University (NTU) and makes available a variety of higher education scholarships, fellowships, and loans to eligible Indian students. The non-forward funded programs are: Haskell and SIPI; Tribal Colleges and Universities Supplements; Tribal Technical Colleges; Scholarships and Adult Education; Special Higher Education Scholarships; Science Post Graduate Scholarship Fund. (See attached Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
Scholarships and Adult Education. + $4.5 million above FY 2015 is requested to "prioritize a third objective of the scholarship fund which is to increase students' engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related initiatives." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-3). Congress proposes flat funding.
Education Management FY 2015 Enacted $20,464,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $57,381,000 FY 2016 House Committee $30,956,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $20,601,000
The Education Management subactivity consists of Education Program Management and Information Technology. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-2)
The Administration proposes a $36.7 million increase above FY 2015 for education management, specifying the increases below. The House proposes a $10.4 million increase above FY 2015, while the Senate proposes flat funding.
Education Program Management. + $2.5 million above FY 2015 is requested to "support the goals identified in the Blueprint." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-3-4)
Education IT. + $34.2 million above FY 2015 is requested: "(1) to procure computers and software necessary to administer online assessments; (2) in concert with funding from other sources (such as the E-Rate program) to increase bandwidth in schools to ensure digital delivery of these assessments; (3) to provide the resources and training that staff need to administer these online assessments effectively and efficiently." (Admin. Request, p. IA-BIE-4)
CONTRACT SUPPORT COSTS
FY 2015 Enacted $246,000,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $272,000,000 FY 2016 House Committee $272,000,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $272,000,000
Indian Self-Determination Fund
FY 2015 Enacted $5,000,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $5,000,000 FY 2016 House Committee $5,000,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $5,000,000
A major development regarding FY 2016 appropriations was the Administration's proposal to enact legislation to make BIA and IHS contract support costs (CSC) fully funded on a mandatory basis effective beginning in FY 2017 and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees subsequent recommendations regarding CSC funding.
Administration's CSC Proposal. Under the Administration's proposal, FY 2016 funding would continue to be discretionary but the agencies would consult with tribes and work with Congress on the details of the proposal to make the funding mandatory beginning in FY 2017. There would be three years—FYs 2017, 2018, and 2019—of capped mandatory funding, after which the funding would need to be reauthorized. The funding requested for FY 2016 is $272,000,000 for the BIA and $717,970,000 for IHS with both amounts expected to fully fund the need. Any funds not used in one year would carry over to the following year.
Appropriations Committee Recommendations. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees, each assuming $272 million for BIA Contract Support, take different approaches for the placement of CSC in the Indian Affairs budget.
The House Committee bill would maintain Contract Support ($272 million) and the Indian Self-Determination Fund ($5 million) as part of the Operation of Indian Programs account, whereas the Senate Committee envisions a new, separate Contract Support Costs account which would include both Contract Support and the Indian Self-Determination Fund. Hence, Section 406 of the House bill provides that the only amounts available for BIA CSC would be the sums appropriated under the Operation of Indian Programs account. Reflecting its recommendation to make CSC a separate budget account, the Senate bill (also section 406) provides that the only amounts available for BIA CSC would be the sums appropriated under the new, separate Contract Support Costs account.
The House Committee bill would identify a specific amount of CSC to be made available thus reintroducing the CSC spending "caps" albeit at levels likely to enable full FY 2016 payment. Unspent funds could not be diverted and would carry forward until expended, but only for obligations in FY 2016 or before. The Office of Management and Budget criticized the House provision as a "limitation on funding for CSC that could perpetuate the funding issues described in the Supreme Court's Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter decision".
The Senate Committee bill, on the other hand, would provide "such sums as may be necessary" with a restriction that CSC funds may not be transferred to another budget account. Guaranteed full funding would protect against other funding being transferred to CSC as would having CSC in its own budget account. The Senate bill would provide a better path to achieving the tribal ultimate goal of permanent, indefinite, mandatory appropriations for CSC.
Below is the House and Senate Committee bill and report language regarding BIA CSC:
The House Bill states:
Provided further, That $272,000,000 shall be for payments to Indian tribes and tribal organizations for contract support costs associated with contracts, grants, self-governance compacts, or annual funding agreements between the Bureau and an Indian tribe or tribal organization pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450 et seq.) prior to or during fiscal year 2016, and shall remain available until expended. (HR 2822, p. 28)
The House Report states:
Contract Support Costs.—The recommendation includes $272,000,000 as requested for full funding of estimated contract support costs. Bill language has been added making these funds available until expended and protecting against the use of other appropriations to meet unanticipated shortfalls. The Bureau is directed to work with Tribes and tribal organizations to ensure that budget estimates continue to be as accurate as possible. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 37) The Senate Bill states: For payments to tribes and tribal organizations for contract support costs associated with Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act agreements with the Bureau of Indian Affairs for fiscal year 2016, such sums as may be necessary, which shall be available for obligation through September 30, 2017: Provided, That amounts obligated but not expended by a tribe or tribal organization for contract support costs for such agreements for the current fiscal year shall be applied to contract support costs otherwise due for such agreements for subsequent fiscal years: Provided further, That, notwithstanding any other provision of law, no amounts made available under this heading shall be available for transfer to another budget account. (S 1645, p. 29)
The Senate Report states:
Contract Support Costs.—The Committee has included new language establishing an indefinite appropriation for contract support costs estimated to be $277,000,000, which is an increase of $26,000,000 above the fiscal year 2015 level. The budget request proposed to fund these costs within the "Operation of Indian Programs" account through Contract Support and the Indian Self Determination Fund budget lines. Under the Committee's new budget structure, the full amount tribes are entitled to will be paid and other programs will not be reduced in cases where the agency may have underestimated these payments when submitting its budget. Additional funds may be provided by the agency if its budget estimate proves to be lower than necessary to meet the legal obligation to pay the full amount due to tribes, but this account is solely for the purposes of paying contract support costs and no transfers from this account are permitted for other purposes. Similar to the President's request for calculating contract support costs, this provision also applies to new and expanded Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act agreements funded through the Indian Self-Determination Fund activity. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 39-40)
CSC Continuing Provisions. The House and Senate bills provide that Sections 405 and 406 of Division F of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations, 2015 (PL 113-235) remain in effect. The bills do not re-quote the FY 2015 language.
Section 405 from PL 113-235, consistent with the Interior appropriations acts for FYs 1999-2014, attempts to limit the ability of the IHS and BIA to fund past-year shortfalls in CSC funding from remaining unobligated balances for those fiscal years. This provision has been included in the appropriations acts for many years and has not precluded recovery on past-year CSC claims.
Section 406 from PL 113-235 provides that no FY 2014 funds may be used by the IHS or the BIA to pay prior year CSC or to repay the Judgment Fund for payment of judgments or settlements related to past-year CSC claims.
FY 2015 Enacted $128,876,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $188,973,000 FY 2016 House Committee $187,620,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $135,204,000
The Construction budget includes: Education Construction; Public Safety and Justice Construction; Resources Management Construction; and Other Program Construction/ General Administration.
Maintenance Shortfalls. The House Report states: The Bureau is encouraged to request full funding for facilities maintenance needs in future budget requests." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 40)
FY 2015 Enacted $74,501,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $133,245,000 FY 2016 House Committee $133,245,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $79,476,000
The Education Construction subactivities are: Replacement School Construction; Employee Housing Repair; and Facilities Improvement and Repair. The Administration proposes to bring back the Replacement Facility Construction line item. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-3)
The Administration requests substantial increases above FY 2015 for all Education Construction subactivities, to which the House concurs. The Senate instead proposes some nominal increases above FY 2015. The House Report states: Serious health and safety hazards exist at BIE facilities across the country, including the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. The Secretary is directed to develop a comprehensive plan to work with Tribes to repair and replace all substandard educational facilities. The Secretary is urged to consider alternative funding mechanisms to supplement appropriations for replacing schools and facilities, including the use of bonds." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 40)
The Senate Report states:
The Committee understands the significant infrastructure needs and strongly urges the administration to work with tribal leaders in a transparent manner on developing the new school construction list. Further, the Committee stands ready to work with the administration and tribes to develop a strategy that provides safe, functional, and accessible facilities for schools. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 40)
Replacement School Construction. + $25.3 million above FY 2015 is requested to "replace both Little Singer Community School and Cove Day School on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and for planning and design for future schools. This funding will allow BIA to bring to good condition all of the 14 schools on the Education Facilities Replacement Construction Priorities List as published in the Federal Register on March 24, 2004. (Admin. Request, p. IA-CON-ED-1). The House concurs. The Senate instead proposes a $3 million increase above FY 2015, enough to replace one of the remaining schools.
Employee Housing Repair. + $3.7 million above FY 2015 is requested to "correct priority deficiencies at education employee housing, beginning with critical safety work items. Correction of these items is critical for IA's compliance with American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements; National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA); and other Life Safety code requirements …This increase is complemented by a $10.0 million request in the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget for a set aside to address teacher housing needs near schools in the BIE school system." (Admin. Request, p. IA-CON-ED-3). The House concurs. The Senate proposes flat funding.
Replacement Facility Construction. $11.9 million in new funding is requested to "reconstitute the Facilities Component Replacement Program (FCRP) after several years. This program is an important part of BIA's plan to bring schools into good condition. The FCRP funds replacement of individual buildings when it is more cost effective to replace rather than repair a building on school campuses but other buildings can be brought to or maintained in good condition with improvement and repair projects. Projects for use of the FCRP are in the process of being identified." (Admin. Request, p. IA-CON-ED-3). The House concurs. The Senate instead proposes $2 million.
Facilities Improvement and Repair. +$17.7 million above FY 2015 is requested to be directed to "schools that rank highest in a ranking of schools with critical health and safety deficiencies. The BIE school system buildings currently have a $377 million deferred maintenance backlog." (Admin. Request, p. IA-CON-ED-3) The House concurs. The Senate proposes flat funding.
PUBLIC SAFETY & JUSTICE (PS&J) CONSTRUCTION
FY 2015 Enacted $11,306,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $11,306,000 FY 2016 House Committee $11,306,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $11,306,000
The Public Safety & Justice Construction subactivities are: Facilities Replacement/New Construction; Employee Housing; Facilities Improvement and Repair; Fire Safety Coordination; Fire Protection. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-3; H. Rept. 114-170)
Regional Detention Centers. The House Report states: The Bureau is encouraged to consider establishing regional detention centers at new or existing facilities, such as the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes' Justice Center, as it works to combat the crime problem in Indian Country. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 40)
RESOURCES MANAGEMENT CONSTRUCTION
FY 2015 Enacted $34,427,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $34,488,000 FY 2016 House Committee $34,427,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $34,488,000
The Resources Management Construction subactivities are: Irrigation Project Construction; Engineering and Supervision; Survey and Design; Federal Power and Compliance; and Dam Projects. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-3)
OTHER PROGRAM CONSTRUCTION/ GENERAL ADMINISTRATION
FY 2015 Enacted $8,642,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $9,934,000 FY 2016 House Committee $8,642,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $9,934,000
The Other Program Construction subactivities are: Telecommunications Improvement and Repair; Facilities/Quarters Improvement and Repair; and Construction Program Management. (See attached: Admin. Request, p. IA-ST-3)
Construction Program Management. + $1.2 million above FY 2015 is requested for "the completed portions of the Fort Peck Reservation Rural Water System construction project requiring Operations and Maintenance (O&M), as authorized by the Congress. As construction by the Bureau of Reclamation progresses, completed portions will require O&M on an annual basis." (Admin. Request, p. IA-CON-OTH-1) The Senate concurs. The House proposes flat funding.
INDIAN GUARANTEED LOAN PROGRAM
FY 2015 Enacted $7,731,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $7,748,000 FY 2016 House Committee $7,731,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $7,748,000
FY 2016 funding will support approximately $113.8 million in new loans in Indian Country, issued under the Loan Guarantee, Insurance and Interest Subsidy program, part of the Indian Financing Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-262), as amended. This program addresses the historic reluctance of private lenders to make business financing available to Indian borrowers on commercially reasonable terms, due to real or perceived concerns with inadequate collateral, poor or minimal credit history, and unclear jurisdiction. (Admin. Request, p. IA-LOAN-4)."
FY 2016 IHS Appropriations Recommendations of House and Senate Committees," Hobbs Straus General
Memorandum 15-049, Juluy 7, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-049, reported, "In this Memorandum we
report on the recommendations of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for FY 2016 appropriations for the Indian
Health Service (IHS) (HR 2822, H. Rept. 114-170; and S 1645, S. Rept. 114-70). The IHS budget, which is included in the
Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill, was approved by the House Committee on June 16 and by the
Senate Committee on June 18. The House Interior Appropriations bill is being considered on the House floor this week.
The spending levels in the Administration's FY 2016 request are based on the assumption that a budget deal will be reached for FY 2016 and the overall spending caps set by the Budget Control Act will be raised. The Appropriations Committees are reporting out bills, the Interior bill included, that adhere to the budget caps set in the Budget Control Act. The Administration and Congressional Democrats oppose the Interior and other appropriations bills and are advocating for Congress to reach a new budget agreement which would increase the spending caps. As of this writing, little if any progress has been made toward reaching a new budget agreement.
The Administration requested $147 million for built-in costs increases. For program increases the request was $313 million which includes staffing for new facilities. The House bill would provide $145 million over the FY 2015 enacted amount but $315 million below the Administration's request, while the Senate recommendation is $137 million over FY 2015 but $324 million below the Administration's request. The House Committee agreed to some of the requested built-in costs increases while the Senate did not. The Senate Committee, on the other than hand, recommended more funding in the Facilities account than did the House Committee. More information is provided below.
A major development regarding FY 2016 appropriations was the Administration's proposal to enact legislation to make IHS and BIA contract support costs (CSC) fully funded on a mandatory basis effective beginning in FY 2017. The proposal would require authorizing legislation. We report on CSC in a separate section of this Memorandum.
Other Administration proposals which would require enacting legislation are extension of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians for 3 years at $150 million per year and making tax-exempt the IHS Health Professions Scholarship Program and the Loan Repayment Program.
Built–in Costs. The Administration's request is for built-in costs for the Services account is $139 million, while the built-in costs request in the Facilities account is $7.9 million. Lack of funding for built-in costs takes a toll on tribal and IHS health programs. For FY 2015 the Administration requested $63 million but no funding was provided for it. Below is a breakdown of built-in costs request:
Medical Inflation (3.8%) Administration Request $71.2 million House Committee $53.0 million Senate Committee -0-
Pay Increase (1.3%) Administration Request $19.3 million House Committee $19.3 million Senate Committee -0-
Population Growth Administration Request $56.7 million House Committee -0- Senate Committee -0-
The lack of Senate built-in costs largely explains its lower number in the Services account.
Staffing of New Facilities. The Administration requested and the House and Senate Committees concurred in a request for $17.8 million for staffing of new facilities.
Funds (in the Services and Facilities accounts combined) are for: Southern California Youth Treatment Center ($3.2 million); Choctaw (MS) Alternative Rural Health Care Center ($10.9 million); and Ft. Yuma Health Center ($3.6 million). Both House and Senate Reports note that the staffing funds are provided "solely to support facilities on the Health Care Facilities Construction Priority System and Joint Venture construction projects that have opened in fiscal year 2015 or will open in fiscal year 2016. None of these funds may be allocated to a facility until such facility has achieved beneficial occupancy status." (S. Rept. 114-70, p.70)
Program Increases: over FY 2015 requested by the Administration are: Contract Support Costs ($55 million); Purchased/Referred Care ($25 million); improving third party collections ($10 million); Resource Patient Management and Electronic Health Record requirements ($10 million); tribal youth behavioral health initiative ($25 million); Maintenance and Improvement ($35 million); and sanitation facilities construction ($35 million). The request for health facility construction is $100 million over the FY 2015 enacted level. Much of these requests were not included in the House and Senate Committee bills, due in significant part to the current statutory spending caps.
CONTINUING BILL LANGUAGE The House and Senate Committees, consistent with the Administration's request, continue bill language from previous years including the following: IDEA Data Collection Language. Authorization for the BIA to collect data from the IHS and tribes regarding disabled children in order to assist with the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Prohibition on Implementing IHS Eligibility Regulations which were published September 16, 1987.
Services for Non-Indians. Allowing the IHS and tribal facilities to extend health care services to non-Indians, subject to charges. Assessments by DHHS. Prohibition on the use of IHS funds for any assessments or charges by the Department of Health and Human Services "unless identified in the budget justification and provided in this Act, or approved by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations through the reprogramming process."
Limitation on the Use of No-Bid Contracts. The provision specifically exempts Indian Self-Determination agreements from the limitation on no-bid contracts.
CONTRACT SUPPORT COSTS
FY 2015 Enacted $662,970,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $717,970,000 FY 2016 House Committee $717,970,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $717,970,000
A major development regarding FY 2016 appropriations was the Administration's proposal to enact legislation to make IHS and BIA contract support costs (CSC) fully funded on a mandatory basis effective beginning in FY 2017 and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees subsequent recommendations regarding CSC funding.
Administration's CSC Proposal: Under the proposal, FY 2016 funding would continue to be discretionary but the agencies would consult with tribes and work with Congress on the details of the proposal to make the funding mandatory beginning in FY 2017. There would be three years—FYs 2017, 2018, and 2019—of capped mandatory funding, after which the funding would need to be reauthorized. The funding proposed for FY 2016 is $717,970,000 for IHS and $272,000,000 for the BIA, with both amounts expected to fully fund the need. Any funds not used in one year would carry over to the following year. The proposal also includes a provision that would allow IHS to utilize up to 2 percent of the funding to increase its capacity to fulfill the requirements regarding administering the mandatory CSC funding. (See our General Memorandum 15-015 of February 6, 2015). Tribes and tribal organizations were very supportive of the Administration's position on making CSC mandatory and fully-funded but advocated that the mandatory funding begin with FY 2016, that it be a permanent authorization, and that the IHS not be allowed to utilize up to 2 percent of funds for administrative costs.
Appropriations Committees' Recommendations. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees, each assuming $717,970,000 for IHS CSC, take different approaches for the placement of CSC in the budget.
• The House Committee bill would maintain CSC as part of the IHS Services account, whereas the Senate Committee places CSC as a new separate account. Hence, Section 406 of the House bill provides that the only amounts available for IHS CSC are the sums appropriated under the Services account. Reflecting its recommendation to make CSC a separate budget account, the Senate Committee bill (also section 406) would provide that the only amounts available for IHS CSC are the sums appropriated under the new separate Contract Support Costs account.
• The House Committee bill would identify a specific amount of CSC to be made available thus reintroducing the CSC spending "caps" albeit at levels likely to enable full FY 2016 payment. Unspent funds could not be diverted and would carry forward until expended, but only for obligations in FY 2016 or before. The Office of Management and Budget criticized the House provision as a "limitation on funding for CSC that could perpetuate the funding issues described in the Supreme Court's Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter decision."
• The Senate Committee bill, on the other hand, would provide "such sums as may be necessary" for FY 2016 with a restriction that CSC funds may not be transferred to the Services or Facilities accounts. Guaranteed full funding would protect against other funding being transferred to CSC as would having CSC in its own budget account. The Senate bill would provide a better path to achieving the tribal ultimate goal of permanent, indefinite, mandatory appropriations for contract support costs.
Below is the House and Senate Committee bill and report language regarding Indian Health Service CSC:
Provided further, That $717,970,000 shall be for payments to Indian tribes and tribal organizations for contract support costs associated with contracts, grants, self-governance compacts, or annual funding agreements between the Indian Health Service and an Indian tribe or tribal organization pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450 et seq.) prior to or during fiscal year 2016, and shall remain available until expended." (HR 2822, p. 92) House Committee Report: Contract Support Costs - The recommendation includes $717,970,000 as requested for full funding of estimated contract support costs. Bill language has been added making these funds available until expanded and protecting against the use of other appropriations to meet unanticipated shortfalls. The Service is directed to work with Tribes and tribal organizations to ensure that budget estimates continue to be as accurate as possible. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 76)
For payments to tribes and tribal organizations for contract support costs associated with Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act agreements with the Indian Health Service for fiscal year 2016, such sums as may be necessary: Provided, that amounts obligated but not expended by a tribe or tribal organization for contract support cost for such agreements for the current fiscal year shall be applied to contract support costs otherwise due for such agreements for subsequent fiscal years: Provided further, that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, no amounts made available under this heading shall be available for transfer to another budget account. (S 1645, p. 104)
Senate Committee Report:
The Committee has included new language establishing an indefinite appropriation for contract support costs estimated to be $717,970,000, which is an increase of $55,000,000 above the fiscal year 2015 level. The budget request proposed to fund this program within the "Indian Health Services" account. Under this heading the Committee has provided the full amount of the request for contract support costs. By virtue of the indefinite appropriation, additional funds may be provided by the agency if its budget estimate proves to be lower than necessary to meet the legal obligation to pay the full amount due to tribes. This account is solely for the purposes of paying contract support costs and no transfer from this account are permitted for other purposes. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 70)
CSC Continuing Provisions. The House and Senate bills provide that Sections 405 and 406 of Division F of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations, 2015 (PL 113-235) remain in effect. The bills do not re-quote the FY 2015 language. • Section 405 from PL 113-235, consistent with the Interior appropriations acts for FYs 1999-2014, attempts to limit the ability of the IHS and BIA to fund past-year shortfalls in CSC funding from remaining unobligated balances for those fiscal years. This provision has been included in the appropriations acts for many years and has not precluded recovery on past-year CSC claims.
• Section 406 from PL 113-235 provides that no FY 2014 funds may be used by the IHS or the BIA to pay prior year CSC or to repay the Judgment Fund for payment of judgments or settlements related to past-year CSC claims.
FUNDING FOR INDIAN HEALTH SERVICES
FY 2015 Enacted $4,182,147,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $4,463,260,000 FY 2016 House Committee $4,321,529,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $3,539,523,000*
*The reason the Senate Committee figure appears so low is that it reflects Contract Support Costs ($717.9 million) being moved to a separate account. The Senate Committee amount for IHS Services is actually $64 million below the House Committee level.
Definition of Indian. The House Committee repeats language from FY 2015 which notes the problems caused by various definitions of "Indian" referenced in various federal health programs and urges the Department of Health and Human Services, the IHS, and the Treasury Department to work together to establish a consistent definition of Indian with regard to health care.
The Committee recognizes the Federal government's trust responsibility for providing healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Committee is aware that the definition of who is an "Indian" is inconsistent across various Federal health programs, which has led to confusion, increased paperwork and even differing determinations of health benefits within Indian families themselves. The Committee therefore directs the Department of Health and Human Services, the Indian Health Service, and the Department of the Treasury to work together to establish a consistent definition of an "Indian" for purposes of providing health benefits. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 76)
HOSPITALS AND CLINICS
FY 2015 Enacted $1,836,789,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $1,936,323,000 FY 2016 House Committee $1,878,944,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $1,846,076,000
Administration Request. The Administration requested $70 million for built-in costs for Hospitals and Clinics, some of which the House bill would fund, but not the Senate bill. Also included in the Administration's request is $10 million for improvement of third party collections and $10 million for Health Information Technology, which do not appear to be in either Committee's recommendation.
Initiatives Funding Distribution. The Administration proposed and the Senate Committee included bill language which provides that the funds for methamphetamine and suicide prevention and treatment, the domestic violence prevention initiative, and efforts to improve collections from public and private insurance at IHS and tribally-operated facilities are to be allocated at the discretion of the Director. The House did not include this language. (The Administration has announced that it will not allocate contract support costs for the meth/suicide and domestic violence prevention initiatives).
Health Clinics. The Senate, but not the House, provides in bill language $2 million "for operational shortfalls at health clinics previously authorized under the 'Administrative Provisions, Indian Health Service'."
Health Care Provider Shortage. The House Report repeats language from FY 2015, encouraging IHS "to work with Tribes and health care organizations to find creative ways to address the Service's health care provider shortage, including improvements to the credentialing process." (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 77)
FY 2015 Enacted $173,982,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $181,459,000 FY 2016 House Committee $178,959,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $175,690,000
The House Report encourages the IHS to work with the BIE to establish a pilot program integrating preventive dental care at schools within the Bureau system. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 76)
FY 2015 Enacted $81,145,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $84,485,000 FY 2016 House Committee $83,199,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $81,578,000
ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
FY 2015 Enacted $190,981,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $227,062,000 FY 2016 House Committee $198,172,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $195,971,000
The Administration's requested increase of $37 million besides providing for built-in costs would expand the methamphetamine/youth suicide prevention initiative by $25 million. The Senate Committee recommended a $2 million increase to focus on tribal youth.
FY 2015 Enacted $914,139,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $984,475,000 FY 2016 House Committee $935,726,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $915,347,000
Consistent with the Administration's request, the House and Senate bills include within the total $51.5 million for the Catastrophic Health Emergency Fund. Medicare-Like Rates Legislation Encouraged. As noted above, the Administration included in its budget recommendation a proposal supporting enactment of legislation to provide for Medicare-like rates for non-hospital services, thus stretching the funding for Purchased/Referred Care. The House Committee agrees, stating:
The Committee urges the Service to work expeditiously with the relevant Congressional authorizing committees to enact authorization for the Service to cap payment rates for non-hospital services, as recommended by the Government Accountability Office (GAO 13-272). Failure to do so costs the program an estimated $30 million annually that could be used to purchase more services. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 76)
The House Committee also referenced a GAO report (GAO 12-446) critical of the program: The Committee urges the Service, Tribes, and the congressional authorizing committees to make reasonable and expeditious progress to address the concerns and recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), most notably with regard to unfair allocations, third-party overbilling and under-enrollment in other qualifying Federal programs. (H. Rept. 114-170, p. 76)
The Senate Committee, on the other hand, addressed a Purchased/Referred Care issue specific to Indian people in Oregon:
The Committee is aware that certain Indian people in Oregon have not been counted for purposes of purchased and referred care under current Service policies and that the Service is currently considering options to address the situation, including the potential expansion of service delivery areas. The Committee believes that it is important that this issue be resolved without impacting existing purchased and referred care allocations to California and Oregon. Within 60 days of enactment of this act, the Service is directed to provide a report to the Committee detailing its proposed management actions to address the situation. (S. Rept. 114-70, p. 70)
PUBLIC HEALTH NURSING
FY 2015 Enacted $75,640,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $79,576,000 FY 2016 House Committee $78,499,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $76,140,000
FY 2015 Enacted $18,026,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $19,136,000 FY 2016 House Committee $18,802,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $18,122,000
COMMUNITY HEALTH REPRESENTATIVES
FY 2015 Enacted $58,469,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $62,363,000 FY 2016 House Committee $61,129,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $58,469,000
HEPATITIS B and HAEMOPHILUS IMMUNIZATION (Hib) PROGRAMS IN ALASKA
FY 2015 Enacted $1,826,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $1,950,000 FY 2016 House Committee $1,826,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $1,950,000
URBAN INDIAN HEALTH
FY 2015 Enacted $43,604,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $43,604,000 FY 2016 House Committee $44,410,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $43,604,000
The House, but not the Senate, includes new bill language instructing IHS to "develop a strategic plan for the Urban Indian Health program in consultation with urban Indians and the National Academy of Public Administration…"
The House Report, which recommends an $806,000 increase, states:
The agency is directed to include current services estimated for Urban Indian Health in future budget requests. The Committee notes the agency's failure to report the results of the needs assessment directed by House Report 111-180. Therefore the recommendation includes a reduction to the Service leadership budget, along with bill language requiring a program strategic plan developed in consultation with urban Indians and the National Academy of Public Administration. (H. Rept. 114-170, pp. 76-77)
INDIAN HEALTH PROFESSIONS
FY 2015 Enacted $48,342,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $48,342,000 FY 2016 House Committee $48,342,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $48,342,000
Programs funded under Indian Health Professions are: Health Professions Preparatory and Pre-Graduate Scholarships; Health Professions Scholarships; Extern Program; Loan Repayment Program; Quentin N. Burdick American Indians Into Nursing Program; Indians Into Medicine Program; and American Indians into Psychology. Consistent with the Administration's request, bill language provides $36 million for the loan repayment program.
Proposal to Exempt Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs from Federal Taxes. The Administration proposed, as in past years, to make the IHS Health Professions Scholarship Program and Loan Repayment Program tax-exempt, thus freeing up funding now used to pay taxes on these benefits.
Use of Defaulted Funds. The Committee bills continue the provision that allows funds collected on defaults from the Loan Repayment and Health Professions Scholarship programs to be used to recruit health professionals for Indian communities:
Provided further, That the amounts collected by the Federal Government as authorized by sections 104 and 108 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (25 U.S.C. 1613a and 1616a) during the preceding fiscal year for breach of contracts shall be deposited to the Fund authorized by section 108A of the Act (25 U.S.C. 1616a-1) and shall remain available until expended and, notwithstanding section 108A(c) of the Act (25 U.S.C. 1616a-1(c)), funds shall be available to make new awards under the loan repayment and scholarship programs under sections 104 and 108 of the Act (25 U.S.C. 1613a and 1616a).
FY 2015 Enacted $2,442,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $2,442,000 FY 2016 House Committee $2,442,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $2,442,000
Funding is for new and continuation grants for the purpose of evaluating the feasibility of contracting the IHS programs, developing tribal management capabilities, and evaluating health services. Funding priorities are, in order, 1) tribes that have received federal recognition or restoration within the past five years; 2) tribes/tribal organizations that are addressing audit material weaknesses; and 3) all other tribes/tribal organizations.
FY 2015 Enacted $68,065,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $68,338,000 FY 2016 House Committee $67,384,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $70,065,000
The IHS states in its budget submission that 58.7 percent of the Direct Operations budget would go to Headquarters and 41.3 percent to the 12 Area Offices. Tribal Shares funding for Title I contracts and Title V compacts are also included. SELF-GOVERNANCE
FY 2015 Enacted $5,727,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $5,735,000 FY 2016 House Committee $5,735,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $5,727,000
The Self-Governance budget supports implementation of the IHS Tribal Self-Governance Program including funding required for Tribal Shares; oversight of the IHS Director's Agency Lead negotiators; technical assistance on tribal consultation activities; analysis of Indian Health Care Improvement Act new authorities; and funding to support the activities of the IHS Director's Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee.
The IHS estimated in its budget justification that in FY 2015, $1.8 billion will be transferred to tribes to support 89 ISDEAA Title V compacts and 114 funding agreements.
SPECIAL DIABETES PROGRAM FOR INDIANS
While the entitlement funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) is not part of the IHS appropriations process, those funds are administered through the IHS. SDPI is currently funded through FY 2017 at $150 million (see our General Memorandum 15-032 of April 17, 2015).
FUNDING FOR INDIAN HEALTH FACILITIES
FY 2015 Enacted $460,234,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $639,725,000 FY 2016 House Committee $466,329,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $521,818,000
MAINTENANCE AND IMPROVEMENT
FY 2015 Enacted $53,614,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $89,097,000 FY 2016 House Committee $53,614,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $73,614,000
Maintenance and Improvement (M&I) funds are provided to Area Offices for distribution to projects in their regions. Funding is for the following purposes: 1) routine maintenance; 2) M&I Projects to reduce the backlog of maintenance; 3) environmental compliance; and 4) demolition of vacant or obsolete health care facilities. Of the funding requested, $50.1 million would be allocated to sustain the condition of federal and tribal healthcare facilities buildings; $3 million for environmental compliance projects; and $500,000 for demolition projects. FACILITIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
FY 2015 Enacted $219,612,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $226,870,000 FY 2016 House Committee $224,882,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $221,196,000
FY 2015 Enacted $22,537,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $23,572,000 FY 2016 House Committee $23,362,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $22,537,000
The Administration's request was to distribute the FY 2016 funds as follows: $18 million for new and routine replacement medical equipment at over 1,500 federally- and tribally-operated health care facilities; $5 million for new medical equipment in tribally-constructed health care facilities; and $500,000 each for the TRANSAM and ambulance programs.
Construction of Sanitation Facilities
FY 2015 Enacted $ 79,423,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $115,138,000 FY 2016 House Committee $ 79,423,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $ 99,423,000
Four types of sanitation facilities projects are funded by the IHS: 1) projects to serve new or like-new housing; 2) projects to serve existing homes; 3) special projects such as studies, training, or other needs related to sanitation facilities construction; and 4) emergency projects. The IHS sanitation facilities construction funds cannot be used to provide sanitation facilities in HUD-built homes.
Most of the Administration's requested increase was for $30 million to service new and like-new homes, some of which could be used for sanitation facilities for individual homes of disabled or ill persons with a physician referral, with priority for BIA Housing Improvement Projects. Funding would be established by Headquarters after reviewing Area proposals. The Senate Committee recommended a $20 million increase while the House Committee proposed flat funding.
The remaining funding in the Administration's request would be distributed as follows: up to $48 million to the Area Offices for prioritized projects to serve existing homes of which up to $5 million would be for projects to clean up and replace open dumps on Indian lands; and $2 million would be reserved at IHS Headquarters ($1 million for special projects and emergency needs; $500,000 to collect homeowner data and demographic information in three of the IHS Areas; and $500,000 for improving data collection systems to help fund a Water Resource Center to develop teaching materials and techniques for homeowners and communities to support usage in a way that promotes health). The Water Resource Center is in partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium whose funding stream began in FY 2012 with $250,000 and is expected to be funded for five years through FY 2016.
Construction of Health Care Facilities
FY 2015 Enacted $ 85,048,000 FY 2016 Admin. Request $185,048,000 FY 2016 House Committee $ 85,048,000 FY 2016 Senate Committee $105,048,000
The Administration's health facility construction proposal is $100 million over FY 2015 enacted and would provide for: • Gila River Southeast Health Center, Chandler, AZ - $63.6 million to complete construction. • Salt River Northeast Health Center, Scottsdale, AZ - $50 million to design and begin construction. • Rapid City Health Center, Rapid City, SD - $50.8 million to design and begin construction of a facility to replace the Sioux San Hospital. • New Dilkon Alternative Rural Health Center, Dilkon, AZ - $20.5 million to design and to construct infrastructure.
The Senate recommends a $20 million increase over FY 2015 and the Committee Report notes that it is "in order to make progress on the next facility on the Service's Health Care Facilities Construction Priority System."
TRANSAM Equipment, Ambulances, Demolition Fund. The bills would continue language to provide up to $500,000 to purchase TRANSAM equipment from the Department of Defense, $500,000 to be deposited in a Demolition Fund to be used for the demolition of vacant and obsolete federal buildings, and up to $2.7 million for the purchase of ambulances."
The U.S. Supreme Court
"U.S. Supreme Court Will Review the Dollar General Case Involving Tribal Court Jurisdiction over
Nonmembers," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-045," June 23, 2015,
http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-045, reported, "On June 15, 2015, the
U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case of
Dollar General Corp. v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, in which the Fifth Circuit upheld tribal court
jurisdiction over tort claims against a nonmember corporation doing business on the reservation. The case could have
significant and wide-ranging repercussions for tribal court jurisdiction over nonmembers in civil cases and will be closely
watched by Indian Country.
In this case, a 13-year-old tribal member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and his family brought suit in tribal court against Dolgencorp, operator of a Dollar General store where the youth interned, which was located on tribal trust land on the reservation. The claim was that a manager at the store sexually molested the youth during the course of his internship. The youth was placed at the store under a tribal internship program in which the manager had agreed to participate. The youth and his family brought suit against Dolgencorp seeking damages.
The Choctaw Supreme Court ruled it had jurisdiction under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1981 decision in Montana v. United States. Dolgencorp then filed an action in the U.S. District Court. The District Court likewise held that the tribal court had jurisdiction under the Montana case. Dolgencorp then appealed the District Court's ruling to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed. 1
The Fifth Circuit, like the Choctaw Supreme Court and the District Court, based its opinion on an analysis of Montana, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held the Crow Tribe lacked jurisdiction to regulate nonmembers' hunting and fishing on non-Indian fee land located within the reservation. In discussing non-Indian fee land, the U.S. Supreme Court held that as a 'general proposition . . . the inherent sovereign powers of an Indian tribe do not extend to the activities of nonmembers of the tribe.' However, the Court wrote two exceptions into that general rule, the first being that 'a] tribe may regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealing, contracts, leases, or other arrangements.'
The Fifth Circuit held that the tribal court had jurisdiction pursuant to the first Montana exception, finding that Dolgencorp entered into a consensual relationship with the Tribe by participating in the internship program. Dolgencorp argued that the Supreme Court's opinion in the 2008 Plains Commerce Bank case, another case also involving tribal jurisdiction over nonmembers, required an additional showing that the specific consensual relationship interferes with tribal governance and internal relations. The Fifth Circuit disagreed, holding that such a showing was not required for the first Montana exception. It also held that application of tribal civil law is a permissible means of regulating conduct for purposes of the first Montana exception.
One of the three Fifth Circuit judges filed a forceful dissent, asserting that the Supreme Court 'has never upheld Indian jurisdiction over a nonmember defendant.' He believed that a consensual relationship must interfere with tribal governance and internal relations. He also asserted that a sufficient connection between the consensual relationship and regulation of the conduct was lacking.
Dolencorp asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Fifth Circuit's decision. It urged the Supreme Court to consider broadly whether tribal courts may ever exercise civil jurisdiction over nonmembers, regardless of the Montana exceptions. The Supreme Court granted review, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief recommending that the Court not review the case because the Department believed the Fifth Circuit was correct that the tribal court had jurisdiction. The Department also asserted that the Tribe had jurisdiction on the separate basis that the improper conduct occurred on tribal trust land, so that the Montana exceptions do not come into play.
The Court will probably publish its decision late this year or early in 2016. It is of course too soon to tell how far-reaching a Supreme Court opinion might be. Hopefully, it will affirm the Fifth Circuit decision, holding that tribes have civil jurisdiction over nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with the tribe. However, given the broad scope of the question presented as framed in Dolgencorp's petition for Supreme Court review, and the generally conservative views of a majority of the Supreme Court, and the fact that at least some of the justices seemingly had problems with the Fifth Circuit decision, the Court could make the existing rules governing tribal court civil jurisdiction over nonmembers even tighter than they are now."
, “DoJ Asks SCOTUS To Rule on Tribal Court Convictions and Domestic Violence,” ICTMN, November 27, 2015,
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the high court to take up a
case dealing with tribal court convictions in domestic violence cases in Indian country.
Michael Bryant Jr., a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, was convicted of domestic violence as a habitual offender and sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to 46 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Federal law makes it a felony to commit domestic violence on a spouse or intimate partner in Indian country if the perpetrator has at least two prior domestic abuse convictions in a federal, state or tribal court proceeding.
But the Ninth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision, saying the lower court had relied on the tribal convictions in which Bryant had not been provided with an attorney to meet the repeat offender determination, a violation of Bryant’s right under the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment.
‘That holding is incorrect, in conflict with other circuits, and highly damaging to federal prosecutorial efforts to combat the serious problem of domestic violence in Indian country,’ the Department of Justice wrote in its brief to the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a review.
The ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers a large area of Indian country including Montana, California and Arizona, differs from a previous ruling by the Eighth Circuit.
In United States v. Cavanaugh, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in North Dakota successfully argued that Roman Cavanaugh’s prior tribal court convictions for domestic violence offense could serve as predicate offenses for purposes of the federal law even though the defendant did not have a court-appointed defense counsel in his tribal court domestic violence convictions.”
Justice Kennedy, issued a temporary order, in late November 2015 , delaying the counting of ballots, cast in Hawai’I, only by Native Hawaiians in the election to a convention to prepare a document for self-government of Native Hawaiians, should they receive federal recognition. The issuing of the temporary injunction was in response to an emergency petition in a law suit claiming that the limitation of the voters to Native Hawaiians violated the 15 th Amendment prohibition on denying the right to vote on the basis of race. [Past precedent would suggest that, when the case is heard on the merits, the courts will hold that this is not a matter involving race but membership in a political community, equivalent to restrictions in voting in a municipal election to citizens of the municipality in question, though a recent decision may be an indication ot the contrary]Adam Liptak, Justice Acts To Delauy Vote Result in Hawaii,” The New York Times. November 28, 2015).
"Ninth Circuit Rules Casino Employees not Entitled to Tribe's Sovereign Immunity," Hobbs-Straus General
Memorandum 15-047, July 7, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-047, reported, "On June 30, 2015, the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a significant decision in
Pistor v. Garci
a, Civ. No. 12-17095 (9th Cir. June 30, 2015) (hereafter "
Pistor v. Garcia"). In
Pistor v. Garcia, the
court found that tribal casino employees sued in their individual capacity were not entitled to the defense of the
Tonto Apache Tribe's ("Tribe") sovereign immunity for their actions.
A group of so-called "advantage gamblers", using specific techniques to determine wagering advantages at certain video blackjack machines, allegedly won a substantial sum of money from the Tribe's Mazatxal Casino, owned and operated by the Tribe on tribal land. These gamblers alleged that the named defendants, including Carlos Garcia (Chief of the Tribe's Police Department), and other Casino and Gaming Office employees, handcuffed the plaintiffs, interrogated them, and confiscated substantial sums of money and personal property from them on October 25, 2011. The plaintiffs alleged the defendants did so wrongfully, with the intent of recovering the gamblers' winnings, and alleged that the cash and property taken were never returned. The gamblers brought claims against State of Arizona defendants as well as the tribal defendants, as the tribal defendants had met with State and County officials the day before the alleged seizure to discuss the plaintiffs' winnings.
The tribal defendants had moved the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to dismiss the claims under Federal Rules of Procedure 12(b)(1), arguing that the Tribe's sovereign immunity acted as a defense to the suit, given that the tribal individual defendants acted within their official capacity. The Ninth Circuit panel found that the sovereign immunity defense is "quasi-jurisdictional" in nature, so the District Court should have addressed and decided the 12(b)(1) subject matter jurisdictional question. The Ninth Circuit nonetheless concurred in the District Court's result, deciding that the Tribe's sovereign immunity could not be used as a defense in either a 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss because the defendants were sued in their individual capacities, and any financial recovery would run against them as individuals, rather than the Tribe.
The Ninth Circuit, in Pistor v. Garcia, largely followed its analysis in a previous ruling. In the Maxwell v. County of San Diego case, the Ninth Circuit allowed claims to proceed against ambulance paramedics who were employees of the Viejas Tribe's Fire Department, because the claims were made against the individuals, not the tribe, and the remedies would operate only against the individuals. The Ninth Circuit followed this "remedy-focused analysis" for individual capacity suits, rather than focus instead on whether the individuals were acting within their official capacity or not. It is important to note that the Ninth Circuit distinguishes "individual capacity suits" from "official capacity suits" based upon whether the plaintiff is seeking to "[i]mpose personal liability upon a government official for [wrongful] actions he takes under the color of…law." In Pistor v. Garcia, plaintiffs alleged tribal defendants took "wrongful" actions in the detention of plaintiffs and seizure of their property. In Maxwell, plaintiffs alleged tribal defendants acted wrongfully in their inappropriate actions in an emergency medical situation that resulted in a patient's death.
It is unclear from the Pistor v. Garcia case whether this signals a substantial limitation on tribes' capacity to raise the defense of sovereign immunity, or if it provides potential plaintiffs an opportunity to focus claims and remedies solely upon tribal employees in their individual capacities. Tribes, and tribal employers, will continue to want to review job descriptions, personnel policies, manuals, and operating procedures to limit situations where their employees could be argued to be acting "wrongfully" or otherwise outside the scope of their official capacity.
"Federal Court Rules Tribes Not Subject to Suit under False Claims Act," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-044,
June 22, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-044, reported, "In an unpublished case from the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel affirmed the District Court of Nevada's dismissal of a case
alleging Medicare/Medicaid fraud against the Duck Valley Tribes. The case is
United States ex rel. Howard v. Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, No. 13-16118 (9th Cir.,
June 15, 2015). The Appeals Court
agreed with the lower court that the Tribes are a sovereign, like a state, and thus do not fall under the definition of
a "person" to which the federal False Claims Act (FCA) applies. This finding upholds the Tribes'
sovereign immunity, which protects the Tribes from suit and divests courts of jurisdiction to hear the case.
The case was brought by two individuals on behalf of the United States government in an action called "qui tam" which provides a way for private individuals to sue on behalf of the government to prosecute instances of fraud or submittal of false claims for payment to the government. The federal government has an opportunity to join qui tam suits, but in this case chose not to do so. The individual plaintiffs were ex-employees of the Tribes' health care facility.
The trial court considered whether an Indian tribe would be considered a "person" under the definitions of the FCA. While the FCA does not specifically define "person," the trial court held that Indian tribes are sovereigns, and that "there is a longstanding interpretive presumption that 'person,' as defined in statute, does not include the sovereign." United States ex rel. Howard v. Shoshone Paiute Tribes, No. 2:10-cv-01890-GMS-PAL, 2012 WL 2327676, *6 (D. Nev., June 19, 2012) (quoting Vermont Agency of Nat. Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens, 529 U.S. 765 (2000)). Accordingly, the District Court and the Appeals Court both held that the plaintiffs failed to make a claim.
While the qui tam rules allowed the plaintiffs to sue on behalf of the government, the trial court rejected both of their arguments that: 1) the federal government as a "superior sovereign" may enforce the FCA against tribes without regard to tribal sovereign immunity; and 2) that they, as private plaintiffs on behalf of the United States, should be able to exercise that superior power. The court, in dicta, suggested that the FCA would not apply to tribes even if the United States itself had brought this case. The trial court adopted the ruling of an earlier case from Wisconsin (United States v. Menominee Tribal Enters., 601 F.Supp.2d 1061 (E.D. Wis. 2009)) which held the FCA does not apply to tribes, period, even if the United States itself is the plaintiff. Applying the same reasoning, the District Court held that if the United States could not sue tribes under the FCA, then private plaintiffs could not sue either.
While two federal trial courts have now held that the FCA does not apply to tribes, we caution tribes and their entities from assuming the same. The Ninth Circuit's affirmation in this case does not squarely address this reasoning, even when upholding the outcome. Further, the Appeals Court decision is not published and, therefore, not binding precedent. It is very possible that the United States will take the position in future cases that its ability to pursue FCA actions is not hampered by sovereign immunity."
"Court Upholds Tribal Sovereign Immunity in Fair Credit Reporting Act Case," Hobbs-Straus General
Memorandum 15-070, September 18, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-070, reported, "On September 4,
a federal district court ruled that tribal sovereign immunity barred a class action lawsuit against the Oneida Tribe of
Wisconsin under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (the "Act") and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (which is
an amendment to the Act). In
Meyers v. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, 1:15-cv-00445 (E.D. Wis., 2015), the plaintiff said he had
bought items at the Tribe's retail stores and that the stores had printed receipts displaying more than the last five
digits of the plaintiff's credit card number and the expiration date, which would constitute a violation of the Act.
The Act authorizes damages when a "person" violates the Act. Under the Act, a "person" is defined as "any individual, partnership, corporation, trust, estate, cooperative, association, government or governmental subdivision or agency, or other entity." The definition does not include Indian tribes. The plaintiff contended that the Act's definition of person is broad enough to include Indian tribes.
The court rejected that argument on three grounds.
First, the court found that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Bormes v. United States, 759 F.3d 793 (7th Cir. 2014) is not applicable to Indian tribes. In Bormes, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Act's definition of "person" was broad enough to include the United States, even though the United States is not specifically mentioned. The court concluded that even though "any … government" includes the U.S., it does not include an Indian tribe because of the canon of construction that requires that ambiguities in statutes are to be read in favor of Indian tribes and also because Congress did not unequivocally state that it was waiving tribal sovereign immunity.
Second, the court considered two cases construing the term "governmental unit" under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The definition of governmental unit in the Code includes "other foreign or domestic government." In Kryztal Energy Co. v. Navajo Nation, 357 F.3d 1055 (9th Cir. 2004), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that when Congress used the phrase "other foreign or domestic government" that it meant to include Indian tribes and thus waived their sovereign immunity. That decision conflicts with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in In re Whittaker, 474 B.R. 687 (8th Cir. BAP 2003) in which the court held that Congress did not unequivocally express Congress's intent to waive tribal sovereign immunity. The court weighed the two cases and found that the Eighth Circuit's analysis of congressional intent was more persuasive. Third, the court rejected the argument that the Act is a law of general applicability and thus incudes Indian tribes. The court distinguished Smart v. State Farm Ins. Co., 868 F.2d 929 (7th Cir. 1989) on the grounds that Smart dealt with the applicability of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a law of general applicability to an Indian tribe, but did not involve the question at hand which is whether a tribe may be sued under the law."
district Court in Northern California denied a local authority’s petition, August 26, 2015, for a temporary restraining
order and temporary injunction against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from releasing higher flows of water from Trinity
Reservoir to prevent fish kill, including of salmon, on the lower Klamath River. The Yurok and Hupa Valley tribes
strongly supported the BLM action (“USA: Judge Denies Request to Halt Salmon Protection in Klamath River,”
Cultural Survival Quarterly, December 2015).
"Federal Court Dismisses FMLA Case Against Morongo Band," Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-046, June 30, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-046, reported, "On June 17, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the Morongo Band of Mission Indians' motion to dismiss a case brought against it by a slot machine attendant for wrongful termination and violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The employee was fired for drug use while on medical leave. The Court dismissed this case, finding that the Tribe has sovereign immunity from suit, and that the Tribe's immunity was not abrogated by the language of the law. The case is Muller v. Morongo Casino Resort & Spa.1
The case is an important one, as it is one of the few involving whether tribes may be sued for violations of the FMLA. The FMLA itself is silent as to its applicability to tribes, but the Department of Labor asserts that the FMLA applies to tribal governments. None of the few cases on this topic squarely address the law's applicability, however. Instead they, like this case, consider whether the tribe's sovereign immunity applies, precluding enforcement. The most recent case on this issue, Pearson v. Chugach Government Services, Inc.2 allowed a case to move forward against a for-profit tribal corporation operating as a business. The Ninth Circuit had previously ruled that a FMLA case should be remanded so a plaintiff could exhaust tribal remedies,3 but did not address the applicability of FMLA to tribes. The only federal appeals court case to address this issue, Chayoon v. Chao4 came to the same result as the Morongo case: the FMLA does not abrogate tribal sovereign immunity. While tribes would not have a sovereign immunity defense to federal enforcement action by the Department of Labor, they could perhaps make an argument that the law does not apply to them. Given some court precedent, like FPC v. Tuscarora Indian Nation5 and Donavan v. Coeur d'Alene Tribal Farm,6 arguing that a statute of general applicability does not include tribes may be difficult.
After finding that tribal sovereign immunity was not abrogated by the FMLA, the Court also found that the Tribe's gaming compact with the State of California contained no waiver of immunity for the employee's claims. The Court held that neither agreeing to enact tribal standards at least as protective as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act nor waiving immunity for the purposes of personal injuries or property damages acted as a waiver of immunity for employment claims. Finally, the Court also found there was no waiver of immunity due to the Tribe's enacting a policy similar to the FMLA, while stating a larger point that it would not infer a waiver of immunity from the adoption of any policy that does not contain a clear, explicit waiver of immunity.
The District Court recognized the Tribe's immunity as a sovereign, but also found that the gaming facility, the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, was an "arm of the tribe" to which the Tribe's sovereign immunity extended. This is an important addition to the line of cases such as Allen v. Gold Country Casino7 and White v. University of California8 recognizing that sovereign immunity from suit extends to tribal entities. The Court also held that two casino officials were immune from suit because they were "tribal officials acting in their official capacities within the scope of their valid authority." While the facts are different, the thrust of the holding is different from one recently issued by the California Court of Appeals, Cosentino v. Fuller,9 which found that tribal immunity may not apply if a court decides a tribal official is acting for allegedly personal reasons, even when in an official capacity."
"Parties in Ramah Contract Support Cost Class Action Seek Preliminary Approval of Proposed Settlement,"
Hobbs-Straus General Memorandum 15-069, September 18, 2015, http://www.hobbsstraus.com/general-memorandum-15-069, reported,
"On September 16, 2015, the
Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Jewell, the contract support cost (CSC) class action litigation against the Department of the
Interior, filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of a proposed settlement agreement. Under the proposed settlement,
which would settle claims by tribal contractors for unpaid CSC under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act
for fiscal years 1994 through 2013, the Department of the Interior would pay a total settlement amount of $940 million plus
post-judgment interest. $4 million of that amount would be paid into a reserve account to pay costs associated with
administering the settlement, and class counsel will request 8.5 percent of the settlement amount in attorneys' fees
(subject to approval by the court), plus reasonable costs, which are currently estimated at $1.5 million. The remaining amount
would be divided among the class members as settlement payments.
The parties propose that the settlement distribution will be divided among the class members according to "Distribution Percentages" that have been assigned to each class member (and which are listed in an attachment to the filed proposed settlement), with a minimum floor of $8,000 per class member in each year for which the class member had a contract in place. The Distribution Percentages were determined on the basis of a statistical analysis of randomly selected contracts, which were analyzed to extrapolate an overall "CSC ratio" for each contract year comparing the amount of CSC that allegedly should have been paid to the amount that was actually paid. The CSC ratio for each year was then applied to the actual amounts paid to each class member in each year to yield underpayment estimates for each class member, which were then used to determine each class member's initial proportional share of the settlement amount. The initial shares were adjusted to account for the $8,000 floor and for a 20 percent increase in the named Class Representatives' shares, to yield the final Distribution Percentage listed in the appendix to the proposed settlement agreement.
Since the final net settlement amount is contingent on court approval and award of attorneys' fees and costs, and is thus not currently known, the tables in the proposed settlement agreement do not list the specific dollar amounts that each tribal contractor would be entitled to receive under the settlement. Those amounts would ultimately be determined by applying the Distribution Percentage to the final net settlement amount when that amount is known. After the net settlement amount is paid out, any unused amounts remaining in the reserve account would also be paid to class members using the same distribution methodology.
The parties have asked the court not to permit class members to opt out of the settlement unless they have not previously had the opportunity to do so. Most class members were permitted to opt out at the time the class was certified and at the time new claims were added to the case. However, the parties have identified 74 tribes and tribal organizations that have not yet had any opportunity to opt out because they first entered into contracts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs after the last notice allowing class members to request exclusion from the class. Those tribes and tribal organizations are listed separately in the tables listing class member Distribution Percentages filed with the proposed settlement agreement.
The motion filed on September 16 asks the court to direct that notice of the proposed settlement be issued to class members, and to schedule a fairness hearing, after which the court may consider whether to issue final approval of the proposed settlement. If the court preliminarily approves the settlement and directs notice to class members, class members will be provided an opportunity to file any objections to the proposed settlement and will be permitted to appear at the fairness hearing to present those objections. A hearing on the motion for preliminary approval has been set for September 23, 2015, in Albuquerque, NM."
“‘New Chapter in Trust’: Historic $1.86 Million Settlement Reaffirms Sovereignty, Tribes Say,”
October 20, 2015,
reported, “ Tribes and the U.S. Department of the Interior heralded the outcome of a
$186 million settlement signed earlier this month between the federal government, the Choctaw and the Chickasaw nations
to solve a longstanding land trust dispute as a new chapter in relations.”
The agreement resolved a lawsuit that took issue with the way the federal government had managed the tribes’ trust resources, according to a statement from the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw Nation will receive $46.5 million of the copy86 million settlement, with the balance going to the Choctaw. In their case the tribes alleged that the U.S. mismanaged 1.3 million acres of timberlands belonging to the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. The agreement ends all litigation and was inked at the Choctaw Event Center in a ceremony that capped a two-day visit Jewell to both nations on October 5 and 6.”
Settling two law suits,Stephanie Woodard, “Historic Voting-Rights Win in Alaska,” ICTMN, October 14, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/10/14/historic-voting-rights-win-alaska-162026, reported, “ The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and Alaska have jointly announced an agreement that requires the state to provide translation of election materials and ballots into Gwich’in and several Yup’ik dialects. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, who presided over the lawsuit that resulted in the settlement, also ordered increased bilingual training for election workers, expanded collaboration with Native language experts and tribal councils, meaningful outreach to voters, and additional help for those with limited English-language proficiency.”
Lakota People’s Law Project,
“Racism in the Heart of America: DOJ Must Expose Discrimination Against Natives in SD, ICTMN, November 24,
Following the Lakota People’s Law Project’s comprehensive study demonstrating widespread corruption in South Dakota’s
state government, the Department of Justice filed a
civil rights lawsuit
against the state’s Department of Social Services for racist hiring practices.
‘Our investigative report and the DOJ’s lawsuit mark the beginning of the public revelation of the racism and financial corruption that characterize the state of South Dakota’s treatment of Lakota people,’ said LPLP Attorney Chase Iron Eyes. ‘ Several state officials have worked in close association with members of the private sector to enrich themselves while tearing apart Indian families in direct and willful violation of federal law. We urge the Department of Justice to deepen and expand their legal action.’
LPLP's latest 30-page report, The New Boarding Schools , outlines the means by which South Dakota’s government collected millions of federal dollars by circulating Lakota children through state-run foster care systems.
State officials funneled a significant portion of that federal money to pharmaceutical companies, which provided powerful psychiatric drugs to Indian children who were given questionable diagnoses after being forcibly removed from their homes. These forcible removals have amounted to more than 740 Indian children being taken annually from their homes, families, culture, language and heritage in direct violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 .”
LPLP's latest 30-page report, The New Boarding Schools is available at: http://www.docs.lakotalaw.org/reports/NONAMES_NBS_Corruption.pdf.
Walker, “Tulalip Tribes Sues State, County; Says Taxes on Trust Land Unconstitutional,” ICTMN, July 2, 2015,
Washington State and Snohomish County officials contend they have the authority to tax business transactions conducted
by non-Indians on Indian land, including the Tulalip Tribes municipality of Quil Ceda Village.
The Tulalip Tribes contend that county and state taxes preclude Tulalip from imposing its own taxes to support public services at Quil Ceda Village, because an additional tax would drive businesses and consumers away. As a result, the Tulalip Tribes is subsidizing public services out of other revenues.
Tulalip is suing the state and county in U.S. District Court, alleging “Unlawful State and County Taxation of Commerce on Indian Trust Lands” violates the U.S. Constitution.
The Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado, preparing to pass tribal fracking regulations morestrict than the applicable federal regulations, sued in Federal District Court in Denver, CO, in June 2015, challenging the weaker Bureau of Land Regulations (BLM) as applied to the Southern Ute Reservation. The suit asserts that the BLM regulations violate the Indian Minerals Leasing Act and the tribe’s authority over its own lands (“Tribe files challenge to BLM’s Hydraulic Fracturing Rule,” Southern Ute Drum, June 26, 2015).
Th e Southern Ute Tribe passed its own, more stricthydraulic fracturing regulations in July, and filed them with the Federal District Court in Denver as part of its case (“Tribe enacts tribal hydraulic fracturing regulations,” July 10, 2015).
Minard, “$168 Million Settlement Between Navajo Coal Plant and Environmental Protection Agency,” ICTMN, June 25, 2015,
Environmental Protection Agency has announced a $168 million settlement to help remedy pollution from a coal-fired
power plant on the Navajo Nation.
The settlement requires owners of the Four Corners Power Plant near Shiprock, New Mexico, to pay an estimated $160 million in upgrades to the plant’s sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution controls. The settlement also sets aside $6.7 million for health and environmental mitigation projects for tribal members and levies a $1.5 million civil penalty. The Four Corners Power Plant settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
The Navajo grassroots group Diné Citizens Against Ruining the Environment (Diné CARE) has been pushing for resolution along with other citizen groups, and is a party to the settlement. Lori Goodman, a Diné CARE board member, said health concerns have been a primary driver for her group’s longstanding work on the issue.”
Peabody Coal reached a settlement with the Security and Exchange Commission on charges the company had attempted to mislead investors, under which Peabody will disclose financial risks related to climate change to its investors (Kevin McCoy, “Peabody reaches climate-change deal,” USA Today, November 10, 2015).
, a member of the Ak-Chin Nation, brought suit against the tribe in tribal court asserting that her long term marriage
to another woman was legal within the tribe, which did not recognize same sex marriage, and had a stature that
prohibited unmarried couples from living together (Felicia Fonseca, “Gay
wife sues tribe over ban on same-sex marriage.” Albuquerque Journal,September 28, 2015).
A review of its court system by the Southern Ute Tribal Council found that the appeals process from the Southern Ute Tribal Court to the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals was too slow, and changed its appeals, beginning January 1, 2016, to the Northeast Intertribal Court of Appeals, which the council found decided appellate cases in a timely manner (“New Year brings new code and Court of Appeals,” Southern Ute Drum, December 24, 2015).
Tribal Government and State and Local Government Developments,
Trust between Maine’s federally recognized tribes,
the Passamaquoddies, the Penobscot Nation, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and the Houlton Band of Maliseet
and the state since Republican Governor Paul R.
LePage,in April 2015, following disagreements over tribal fishing rights, rescinded a 2011 order directing state
agencies and departments to create policies recognizing the sovereignty of the tribes, and do other things collaboratively with
the tribes. In May, the Penobscots and the Passamaquoddies left their seats in the Legislature (they could propose legislation
and speak on issues, but not vote), followed by the Aroostook Band of Micmacs issuing a document announcing they would no
longer recognize the authority of state officials to interfere with their “self-governing rights.” The Houlton Band of
Maliseet Indians, thoigh unhappy and not hopeful of favorable policies from Governor LePaige, kept their seat to maintain an
Indian vorice in the legislature.In June
, bills seeking joint state-tribal management of fisheries and enhancing a proposal for tribal casino in northern Maine
Failed to pass the legislature, increasing the divide.
Passamaquoddy Chief Fred Moore stated, “This marriage between the tribe and the state is little more than a shotgun wedding between unwilling partners. There’s always value in reconciling, but that requires both sides to want to come to the table.” Moore commented that he wanted a productive relationship and would continue to work for one, but noted, “the honeymoon is over” between the state and his tribe, and that the Passamaquoddies were done going to the capital, Augusta, “asking for things” (“Maine Native American Tribes Say Trust Is Deteriorating,” The New York Times, November 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/16/us/maine-native-american-tribes-say-trust-is-deteriorating.html?ref=todayspaper).
“Yakama Nation Given a Step Towards Self-Governance,” ICTMN, October 28, 2015,
For more than half a century the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in the southwestern portion of
Washington has seen its civil and criminal authority held by the state under Public Law 280. That’s all about to
Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn announced on October 19 that the Department of the Interior has accepted from the state of Washington the partial civil and criminal jurisdiction it held over the Yakama Nation, a federally recognized tribe.
Walker, “State Considers Name Change For Squaw Bay,” ICTMN, September 25, 2015,
The Washington State Committee on Geographic Names was petitioned on August 23 to change the name of Squaw Bay – on
Shaw Island in the San Juan Islands – to Sq’emenen Bay.
“Sq’emenen” is the Lummi name for Shaw Island, according to Lummi hereditary chief Bill (Tsilixw) James. The committee will give the proposal initial consideration October 23 in Olympia. The committee, which meets twice a year, will decide in May whether to recommend the change to the state Board on Geographic Names.
The petition is signed by 30 people, among them citizens of several Coast Salish nations with ties to the San Juan Islands.”
McKosato, “Repeat DWI Offenders Steered Straight With Traditional Healing, “ ICTMN, September 22, 2015,
Alcoholism in Indian country is not a new issue, but for one of the biggest cities in the country a more traditional
approach in handling repeat offenders of DWI is working within the urban Native American community.
Albuquerque, New Mexico operates the only state-funded drug court in the country that specifically serves Native Americans. Originally beginning in 2004, the program made its return in March of this year after being defunded in 2009. It is known as the Urban Native American Drug Court but in these early stages of its resurgence it is only serving Natives who have been convicted of their second or third DWI.
‘ Natives are over-represented in the courts here in Albuquerque,’ said Karen Watson, who serves as Probation Officer for the city’s Native drug court. ‘We had the program in the past and people were so happy there was a Native court because it’s different than the regular drug court. Now that we’ve started again we’ve had a really positive response.’
What makes this Native DWI program unique is that the court, led by Metro Court Judge Maria Dominguez, encourages participants to reconnect with their tribal traditions and ceremonies. The court favors a healing approach as well as spiritual and physical recovery rather than punitive practices.
‘I know that the participants love it,’ added Dominguez.
Participants are in the DWI program for an average of about 15 months, which includes community service, regular court appearances, talking circles, culturally sensitive therapy, AA meetings, random drug and alcohol testing, and they have to be employed or enrolled in an educational program. The program utilizes intensive treatment and close supervision rather than jail time.
‘It’s designed for Native Americans who have been convicted of a second or third DWI. The idea is to basically help them heal so they can be functional, actually more than functional, but productive members of society,’ said Daniel Apodaca, the only Public Defender for the Native American Drug Court team.
‘What we do is instead of sending them to jail we have them go through counseling and therapy. It’s an intense outpatient program. It’s designed to find underlying issues our clients might have,’ Apodaca said. ‘Our goal is to have our clients actively think about sobriety. Alcoholism is an issue they have to face on a daily basis. We want them to constantly think about being sober and being in their right state of mind.’
‘You don’t have to be a registered member of a tribe, or have a specific amount bloodline or Certificate of Indian Blood. But actually 100 percent of the people I have in the Native American Drug Court are members of the Navajo Nation or members of a Pueblo,’ Dominguez said. ‘We don’t want our clients to be in and out of jail and in and out of the judicial system. We encourage them to try to reconnect with their local community and traditions. They can do their community service where they live.’
Dominguez, who also serves on the state-tribal court consortium, explained that drug courts have been in existence all across the nation for more than 25 years and are proven more effective than any other form of probation or incarceration. The recidivism rate for Albuquerque’s drug court graduates over the years is 5.5 percent.”
In Phoenix, AZ, a proposed Loop 202 expansion – a 22-mile, 8-lane highway, which will run west from Chandler, Arizona, parallel to the south of Moahdak Do’ag territory, through the community of Ahwatukee – will cut through the west end of the sacred site of Moahdak Do’ag of the O’otham/O’odham, and run north to connect to Interstate 10 ( Amanda Blackhorse, “Blackhorse: Highway Expansion Threatens Moahdak Do’ag, a Sacred Place of Healing in Arizona,” ICTMN, December 7, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/07/blackhorse-highway-expansion-threatens-moahdak-doag-sacred-place-healing-arizona-162684).
In Riverton Wyoming, two homeless men, members of the nearby Northern Arapaho Nation, were shot in an alcohol rehab
center by a white man who said he was was sick of the homeless people who linger in this city’s parks, urinating in
public and drinking bottles of vodka and mouthwash.
Tribal leaders saw it as a hate crime, part of a long history of racism. But city leaders did not find a racial aspect
of the crime. Tribal and city leaders met afterwards to find “common ground,” but it is not clear that much was gained in the
meeting (Jack Healy, “In Wyoming, Shooting Highlights Divide Between a City and a Reservation,”
York Times, July 29, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/30/us/in-wyoming-shooting-highlights-divide-between-a-city-and-a-reservation.html).
serious inappropriate and often racial actions of some police and corrections personnel have been impacting Indigenous
Americans. For example,
Shaun King, "
American Indian mother of two dies in police custody after her repeated pleas for help ignored,"
Daily Kos, July 29, 2015,
reported,"The ugly American secret has been exposed. All across the country, women and men are dying in police custody and
have been by the thousands every year.
Four days before Sandra Bland was arrested in Waller County, Texas, a 24-year-old American Indian woman of the Lakota tribe, Sarah Lee Circle Bear of Clairmont, South Dakota, was arrested on a simple bond violation .
Witnesses stated that before being transferred to a holding cell, Circle Bear pleaded to jailers that she was in excruciating pain. Jail staff responded by dismissing her cries for help, telling her to “knock it off,” and “quit faking.” Inmates cried out for the jail staff to help Circle Bear, to which they eventually responded by picking her up off of the floor, dragging her out of the cell, and transferring her to a holding cell. Circle Bear was later found unresponsive in the holding cell.
This is completely despicable. It's worse than that—the actions (or inaction) of the jail directly caused Sarah's death."
“New Website: Sex Trafficking Resources for Tribal Coalitions,” NCAI, September 11, 2015,
new website is now available with the express purpose of providing sex trafficking information and resources for tribal
domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions. The link to the site is:: http://www.tribalcoalitions.org..
The site includes federal, state, and tribal laws, articles, resources, and information about victim services and will continue to include new information as it becomes available.
From the site:
This website was created to provide tribal coalitions with quick access to information their advocates need–legal resources, victim service directories, training calendars, technical assistance, and more.
Additionally, we envision this site as a place for Native women to find help when dealing with violence. Individuals can reach out to their local Tribal Coalition(s) for assistance or they can easily use our Victim Services Directory themselves. We suggest, however, that individuals contact their local tribal coalition for assistance first. A Tribal Coalition can help individuals navigate options and services, and utilizing coalition connections can increase a client’s chances of receiving services or referrals immediately. “
"UMass Boston and Suffolk Law Hold Statewide Discussions, Listening Sessions with Native Peoples: Nipmuc Tribe Will
Host First Roundtable at Worcester Public Library August 29," Cultural Survival, July 30, 2015,
UMass Boston’s Institute for New England Native American Studies (INENAS) and Suffolk University Law School’s
Indigenous Peoples Rights Clinic are pleased to announce a year-long, statewide project, Massachusetts Native Peoples and
the Social Contract: A Reassessment for Our Times. Supported by a grant from Mass Humanities, the two organizations will
host four roundtable discussions and listening sessions in areas of the state with substantial Native American
The goal is to bring Native peoples’ voices to the forefront, engaging Natives in Massachusetts in looking at the past, the present, and the future through the lens of the social contract between the state and Native peoples whose homelands are within the borders of the state, and discussing issues affecting tribal members and the communities. In conjunction with tribal leaders from tribal communities, INENAS Director Cedric Woods and Nicole Friederichs, director of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Clinic, will lead the roundtable discussions and moderate the listening sessions in Worcester, Boston, Mashpee, and Amherst.
The first session will be held in Worcester Public Library on August 29, hosted by the Nipmuc Tribe. All are welcome to attend these important events; there will be an opportunity for those present to share their thoughts.
The four roundtable discussions will he held: Worcester Public Library- August 29, 2-4 p.m.;Mashpee Wampanoag government building, Mashpee- October 3, 4-6 p.m.; UMass Amherst, Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall, Rm. 160 (Next to Roots Café) - November 5, 6-8 p.m.; North American Indian Center of Boston, 105 South Huntington Ave. Jamaica Plain- March 11, 2016, noon to 2 p.m." For more information contact: Cedric Woods, 617-287-5784, [email protected], Nicole Friederichs, 617-573-8100, [email protected].
U.S. Census Bureau data from its 2014 American Community Survey indicated, in November 2015, that
53 percent of American Indians own their own homes, compard to the national average of 63 percent,
one in eight Native Americans live in mobile homes, while more than half of Native renters are cost burdened, paying
more than 30 percent of their income on their rentals. .
The data indicated that the average number of people per Indian owned household was 3.11, while occupancy of rental units 2.95. More than 8.5 percent of households averaged one person or more per room, indicative of overcrowding.
Other findings were that around 84 percent of Indians and Alaska Natives are living in the same house they lived in a year ago. 64 percent live in single unit attached or detached houses. Nine percent live in two to four unit structures, while 14 percent live in multifamily housing (five or more units). The percentage living in mobile homes, boats, recreational vehicles or vans was 12.5 percent.
Indians tend to live in older units, with 85 percent of them having been built in the last century, the data shows. Just 2.4 percent lives in units made since 2010, and 12.4 percent in units built between 2009 and 2010. Ten percent of Indians live in structures built before 1939. The largest cohorts lived in units built between 1980 and 1999 (31 percent) while the next largest group, 30 percent, lived in houses built between 1960 and 1979.
There were 224,000 Native houses that had mortgages last year, or about 27 percent of the total. Fully a third of those households spent more than 30 percent of household income on mortgages. The median owner costs per month was $1,166 for houses with mortgages, and $317 for houses without mortgages.
The median value of Indian-owned homes was $110,000. 53 percent of Native rental households pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent, with an average monthly rental of $776.
Five percent of Indian homes do not have a telephone. About 74 percent have computers in the home, but only 59 percent have broadband. About 14 percent of all Indian homes have no vehicle available.
About one percent of Indian homes do not use fuel. The most frequent heating method was gas, at 48 percent, followed by electricity at 36 percent.
The median Native household income was $37,227 in 2014. 23 percent had no health insurance, and 24 percent of all Native families lived in poverty Mark Fogarty, “Indians Still Lagging on Home Ownership,” ICTMN, November 14, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/11/14/indians-still-lagging-home-ownership-162424).
four counties in South Dakota that are entirely within the boundaries of American Indian reservations received very few
mortgages in 2014. Federal data shows that most of the mortgage lending in those counties went to the minority white
population. Only 29 mortgages were made in these four reservation counties in 2014, totaling $2.5 million in finance.
An additional $327,000 came from sales of these loans into the mortgage secondary market. Meanwhile, less than a half million
dollars of mortgage finance was extended on Oglala Lakota County through 29 loans in 2014, bringing the total for the five
reservation-only counties about $3.3 million in loans and investments, or about an average of $600,000 for each county.
Todd County received the highest mortgage investment with $990,000, through $938,000 in loans and $52,000 in secondary sales. BankWest, formerly Pierre National Bank, was the largest lender there, at $467,000, while Farmers & Merchants loaned $240,000 and Wells Fargo $227,000. Dewey County followed, with $795,000 made through 11 mortgages, with BankWest the leading lender there, with $535,000, followed by Dacotah Bank with $155,000 and Wells Fargo at $105,000. Ziebach County received $556,000 in new mortgage finance, with another $194,000 through the secondary market, of which $439,000 came from BankWest, $206,000 from Wells Fargo, and $105 from JP Morgan Chase.
In Corson County, the largest amount, $168,000 originated from conventional (non-government) lending with the remainder, $158,000, coming through government products insured by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In Corson County, a third of lending went to whites, who are 37 percent of the population. In Dewey County, 73.3 percent went to whites who are only 25 percent of the population. In Todd County, American Indian borrowers who are 85 percent of the population received 25 percent of the loans, white borrowers received 24 percent, with the rest ascribed to “unknown,” “multi-race” and “not available.” (Which means it is possible, but far from indicated, that up to 75 percemnt of the loans could have gone to Indians). In Ziebach County, where around 75 percent of the population is Indian, half the loans went to whites, and just over 25 percent to Indians (the remaining about 25 percent not clearly indicated where it went by race). The reasons for the loan distribution were not indicated in the available data ( Mark Fogarty, “Little Mortgage Lending in Any of SD Reservation-Only Counties,” ICTMN, November 28, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/11/28/little-mortgage-lending-any-sd-reservation-only-counties-162591).
Landry, “Navajos Have Spoken: Voters Will Set Fluency Requirement for Top Leaders,” ICTMN, August 7l, 2015,
reported, The Navajo people have spoken.
Voters on July 21 narrowly approved a controversial change to the election code, which required the Nation’s top two elected leaders to be fluent in the Navajo language. Fifty-two percent – or 13,017 people – voted in favor of amending the code, finally putting to rest the long-simmering debate over the requirement that the president and vice president be able to understand and speak Navajo fluently, and read and write English.
The amended code, which goes into effect for the 2018 presidential election, still requires candidates to speak fluent Navajo, but it adds the provision that “this ability shall be determined by the Navajo voter when he/she casts a ballot.” In the past, fluency was determined by election officials or, in extreme cases, by the courts.”
The Navajo Nation Council voted, in November, to require the Chief Justice of the Navajo Supreme Court to hold a Juris Doctor degree (Christopher Peneo, “Navajo Chief Justice must hold a Juris Doctor degree ,” Navajo Times, November 12, 2015).
The U.S. Department of Justice found that Navajo Nation wasted $30 million in federal stimulus money that could have gone to other uses by building two jails larger than needed, though the Nation did need new jails (Felicia Fonseca, “Justice Department faults Navajo Nation’s jail building,” Navajo Times, October 4, 2015).
Navajo Nation took control of three fire stations, by April1, 2015, previously operated by San Juan, NM county (Alysa Landry, “Nation to take control of fire stations,” Navajo Times, March 15, 2015).
The slow process of improvement of infrastructure on the Navajo Reservation took a step, in late November 2015, with the completion of paved Navajo Route 16, extending 40 miles from Arizona highway 98 to the Naatsis Chapter and community schools (“Navajo Route 16 completion spurs celebration,” Navajo Times, December 3, 2015).
The Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado, as part of its efforts to bring back traditional inclusive member participation in its affairs put on a special tribal council meeting with elders to hear their needs and views, August 21, 2015, and sought comment from tribal members in August on its proposed revised Appellate Code (See “Tribal Courts” above) (Damon Toledo, “Issues addressed at Elders’ meeting with council,” Southern Ute Drum, September 4, 2015; and “Tribe seeking comment to the revised Appellate Code,” Southern Ute Drum, August 7. 2015).
“Santa Ana Pueblo Get EPA-Certified to Administer Clean Water Act on Tribal Land,” ICTMN, July 22, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/07/22/santa-ana-pueblo-get-epa-certified-administer-clean-water-act-tribal-land-161159, reported, “The Pueblo of Santa Ana’s water-quality programs are now federally certified, meaning the tribe can administer them autonomously under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 22.”
Cass Madden, "Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Becomes Third Tribe in Michigan to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage,"
Cultural Survival, July 28, 2015.
reported, "In June 2015, the
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, a part of the Ojibwe Nation located in the conservative Upper Peninsula of Michigan,
became the third tribe in Michigan and the twelfth in the US to legalize and codify same-sex marriage. Cultural
Survival spoke with marriage equality advocate and Keweenaw Bay community member Cecelia LaPointe last week about what the
decision means for her tribe and what other tribes in the nation can learn from the historic decision. The legislation, even
though it passed by a narrow 5-4 vote, is not as progressive as it might seem, LaPointe explained, because the ideas have
always existed in Ojibwe culture. It was accomplished with minimal changes to the existing ordinance, which allows for the
marriage of any Native American - not just Keweenaw Bay Indian Community members - to whomever they choose. The most
significant amendments were changing references to marrying as "between a man and a women" to gender-neutral
references to consenting adults. Though it is specifically framed in terms of marriage equality, the legislation is
precipitated by the larger “two-spirit identity” which the tribe defines as “a person whose body simultaneously houses a
masculine spirit and a feminine spirit” and which can reference sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender variance.
Two-spirit identity exists in much of Native North America, or at least it did before colonization. According to LaPointe,
marriage equality is really a part of the fight for decolonization: before the conquest of America, two-spirit people were
respected in their communities and often considered sacred and it was only after the arrival of Western culture and
Christianity that the identity became stigmatized and criminalized.
When asked what advice her tribe could impart to other Native American tribes surrounding the issues of marriage equality and two-spirit identity, LaPointe said one of the most important things is research: “Tribes need to do their research on what two-spirit identity was before colonization. It’s a way of respecting tradition and culture, really.” If the rules surrounding marriage equality come from Christianity and colonization, then it isn’t really “who we are” she said, encouraging tribes to speak to experts within their communities (especially elders, who are the closest to the past) as well as on the national level to discover what two-spirit identity traditionally meant in their culture. She says that there need to be greater support systems in place, because too many two-spirited people are being lost and for nations to become stronger, they must look at the marginalized members within their own communities and begin finding justice for them."
“Cherokee Nation Citizens About to Receive Many More Services,”
September 16, 2015,
The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved the largest comprehensive budget in the tribe’s history at $767
million during its meeting on September 14. As part of that,
Cherokee Nation citizens are about to receive more services.
The tribe’s fiscal year begins October 1 and the new budget is $35 million more than the 2015 fiscal year.
The increased funding will be dispersed as such:
Health services will receive a $30 million increase;
Commerce will see a $3.5 million increase;
Human Services will receive a $3 million increase;
Career Services receives a $2.5 million increase;
Higher Education College Scholarships will see a copy.5 million increase.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker proposed the budget that was unanimously approved Monday night.
‘The unprecedented financial growth is directly due to the success of our businesses, strategic investments, concentrated effort in third-party health care billing, increased number of federal grants and overall excellent financial stewardship,’ Chief Baker said. With an increased annual budget, Cherokee Nation citizens and employees will see our tribal programs and services grow to meet the needs of our people. When we have more dollars to grow our capacity and serve Cherokee people, that is a great thing.’
Essentially the increased funding will provide new homes and jobs as well as assistance to elders and childcare services.”
Schilling, “Eastern Cherokee Band Recognized by EPA for Harnessing Rainwater,” ICTMN, July 9, 2015,
Creative use of storm water and runoff has earned the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians kudos from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the form of a regional 2015 Rain Catcher Award in the Tribal Category for their Native
Plant Facility project in western North Carolina.”
“The project—running and maintaining a Native Plant Nursery Facility designed to provide native plants for tribal projects associated with aquatic restoration, riverbank vegetation and wildlife habitat enhancement—not only garnered the band an award but also could serve as models for other tribes, EPA officials said.
‘The project employed two 6,000-gallon cisterns to capture and reuse approximately 1,750 gallons of rainwater per inch of rainfall,’ the EPA said in a statement announcing the award on June 17. ‘The facility location received 52 inches of precipitation in the past year, resulting in approximately 91,000 gallons of rainwater captured and ultimately applied to the plants. With this rain harvesting capability, the Cherokee have reduced surface water consumption from the on-site stream by more than 36 percent.’”
What has been called Mount McKinley, in Alaska, the tallest mountain in the U.S., has regained its traditional name, Denali (Julie Heshfield Davis, “North America’s Tallest Peak Will Again Be Called Denali, “ The New York Times, August 31, 2015).
Mark Trahant, "Native Candidates for Congress #NativeVote16, Trahant Reorts, Edited on November 6, 2015, https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?docid=1gTwi4uZFDyQC_HNfe79W9xDuQD0EpW5dCDBMvyaL#rows:id=1 , reported,
Native American Candiadates for the U.S. Congress:
State District Name Tribe PartyLink________________
AZ 1Shawn Redd Navajo R http://shawnredd.com
AZ 2Victoria Steele Seneca D www.victoriasteeleforcongress.com
OK4Tom Cole ChicksawR http://tomcoleforcongress.com
MullinCherokee R www.mullinforcongress.com
WA 5Joe Patookas ColevilleD www.patookasforcongress.com
MTAt LargeDenise Juneau Mandan-Hidatsa D http://denisejuneau.com
Msrk Trahant, “NativeVote `6 – Let’s Crowqsource This Listof Names of Elected Officoals for County, City, School Boards,” November 18, 2015, http://trahantreports.com/2015/11/18/nativevote16-lets-crowdsource-this-list-of-names-of-elected-officials-for-county-city-school-boards/ and https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1P-f0s-d8JRNPS4vbSMEuT7ia5rstYBlkVVkh1AhLz0A/pubhtml:
City & County Native American elected officials 2015 :
City Office Held Name Tribal Affiliation
Whatcom Country Treasurer
St. Johns, AZ
Board of Superviors (Chair)
Joe Shirley, Jr.
St. Johns, AZ
Board of Superviors
Tom White, Jr.
Carol Bowman Muskett Navajo
Ernest Becenti Jr.
Eastern Band of Cherokee
Bryson City, NC
Swain County Commission
Eastern Band of Cherokee
Hot Springs, SD
Oglala County Commission
Hot Springs, SD
Oglala County Commission
Anna Takes The Shield
Hot Springs, SD
Oglala County Commission
Hot Springs, SD
Oglala County Commission
Wendell Yellow Bull
Hot Springs, SD
Oglala County Commission
Tood County Commission
Los Angeles, CA
Fogarty, “Native CDFI Taps New Financing Source,” ICTMN, October 22, 2015,
http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/10/22/native-cdfi-taps-new-financing-source-16213, reported, “
A Native community development financial institution has tapped the bond market for copy6 million, becoming the first
Native CDFI to take part in a bond guarantee program run by the federal CDFI Fund.
The Citizens Potawatomi Community Development Corp., based in Shawnee, Oklahoma, will use the bond proceeds for large-scale commercial real estate projects in its service area.”
Kristi Eaton, “New Partnership Helps Native Youth Interested in Entrepreneurship,” ICTMN, November 19, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/11/09/new-partnership-helps-native-youth-interested-entrepreneurship-162369, reported, “ The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) and United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY) recently announced a new partnership to create education opportunities, training and workshops for youth interested in entrepreneurship.“ For information visit: http://res.ncaied.org/youth-entrepreneurship-summit-yes/.
“Coalition to Launch NAT$VE in the BANK Initiative for Native Youth,” NCIA, September 14, 2015,
Building on its First Kids 1st initiative and its work advancing Generation Indigenous (Gen-I), the National Congress
of American Indians (NCAI) has joined forces with the Native Financial Education Coalition (NFEC) to launch NAT$VE in the BANK
because they understand that Native youth building relationships with financial institutions by opening a bank account is a
proven difference-maker in them making smart financial decisions over the course of their lives.
Designed for Native youth ages 12 to 25, NAT$VE in the BANK requires participants to finish four easy steps: complete a short, fun online course on financial education; open an account with a bank or credit union; take a “selfie” picture with a bank/credit union representative; and share through words or art their financial goals in life. Once they do, participating Native youth receive a NAT$VE in the BANK T-shirt and a chance to win an iPad Air. If participants recruit at least three friends to also complete NAT$VE in the BANK’s four easy steps, they are entered for a chance to win an iTunes gift card, an iPad mini, or a trip to NCAI’s 2015 Annual Convention in San Diego.
‘This important new initiative, which seeks to strengthen the financial capability and self-sufficiency of our youth, builds on NCAI’s work on First Kids 1st and Gen-I,’ said Jacqueline Pata, NCAI Executive Director. ‘We encourage Native youth everywhere to participate, and we invite tribal governments, Native organizations, and financial institutions to play key roles in supporting Native youth to answer the NAT$VE in the BANK call.’
Tribes and organizations can support NAT$VE in the BANK by recruiting Native youth to participate, integrating the initiative into their youth programs, and reaching out to local banks and credit unions to get them to participate. Banks and credit unions, meanwhile, can do their part by: accepting tribal IDs and a minimum initial deposit of $25 to open accounts, waiving monthly account fees, hosting a NAT$VE in the BANK fair at a bank branch or school in/around a tribal community so youth can open accounts, and contributing matching funds to initial deposits made to those accounts.
One of the first Native youth to answer the NAT$VE in the BANK call was Harmani Wilson, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and high school senior who lives in Henderson, Nevada. She explains, ‘I said, ‘Why not give it a try?’ It was pretty easy to understand and do. I am happy I did it because I learned a lot from it. It was amazing how much money I was saving by putting it in the bank because I was not spending like I would if I had cash in my pocket. It helped me budget better and I was able to save up for items I really wanted, and I learned that I can take my time and don’t need to buy things immediately.’
In order to be eligible to win the trip to NCAI’s upcoming Annual Convention in San Diego, Native youth must answer the NAT$VE in the BANK call and get at least three friends to participate by Friday, September 25th. NAT$VE in the BANK will then unveil a new grand prize for youth who answer the call by March 31, 2016. To learn more about NAT$VE in the BANK, please visit the NFEC website: http://nfec.us, or email Tyler Owens at [email protected].”
The Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado Tribal Council, in early November, approved the construction by its growth fund via the Southern Ute Alternative Energy, LLC and La Plata Electric Association of a solar panel farm to generate about the amount of electricity used by 250 normal households. The tribe plans to build additional solar generating plants when the price of doing so further declines (Damon Toledo, “Solar plant to be built on reservation,” Southern Ute Drum, November 13, 2015).
Tribal Gambling revenue at 459 tribal casinos in 28 states rose 1.5% from, 2013 to 2014, with 24 new tribal casinos
opening in 2014. In the upper Midwest, with 10 new tribal gaming facilities in 2014, tribal gaming revenues fell 2.5% from the
previous year. The slower increase, and in some cases reduction, of gambling revenue is decreasing the efforts of many
Indian nations to diversify their businesses (Steve Friess, “Indian Tribes Look Beyond Casinos for Income,”
The New York Times,” October 24, 2015).
Mark Fogarty, “California Indian Gaming Reaches $7 Billion Again,” ICTMN, October 31, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/10/31/california-indian-gaming-reaches-7-billion-again-16224, reported, “ American Indian gaming in California hit $7 billion again in 2013, according to Casino City Press, the gaming publisher based in Newton, Massachusetts.
California Native volume for 2013 (the latest year available) hit $6.995 billion, according to information given to the media so they could come up with combined Indian and commercial gaming numbers. That’s the best result since 2008’s $7.3 billion. The record year for Native gaming in the Golden State was 2007’s $7.8 billion.”
“Camp in Style: $5.6M RV Resort Coming to Pala Casino,” ICTMN, December 3, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/03/camp-style-56m-rv-resort-coming-pala-casino-162644, reported, “In the heart of Temecula Valley Wine Country , a new, $5.6 million, 10-acre recreational vehicle (RV) facility is scheduled to open in late May 2016,” atPala Casino in California.
“Mashpee Receive 321 Acres for First Land-Into Trust Decision,” ICTMN, September 18, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/09/18/mashpee-receive-321-acres-first-land-trust-decision-161809, Reported, “The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe received news today from Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn that they would be acquiring 170 acres of land into trust in the town of Mashpee, Massachusetts.
The land will be used for tribal government, cultural and conservation purposes. Another 151 acres were also put into trust for the tribe in the city of Taunton, Massachusetts for the construction and operation of a gaming facility and resort. The 300-plus acres will become the tribe’s first lands held in trust according to the Department of the Interior announcement.”
“Native-Made Olive Oil Gains Traction With Restaurants, Consumers,”
December 4, 2015,
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
planted its first olive trees in 2008 in the Capay Valley of California, and launched its
brand in 2011, the popularity of its extra-virgin olive oil and other estate-produced products has steadily
Today the tribe's olive oil is used by more than 200 restaurants.”
Richard Walker , “Let It Be Pot: Two Washington State Tribes on Board, ICTMN, December 2, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/02/let-it-be-pot-two-washington-state-tribes-board-162613For the Suquamish, reported from Washington state, “ The Suquamish Tribe and Squaxin Island Tribe have legalized marijuana and in September signed 10-year compacts with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board; Squaxin’s retail marijuana store, “Elevation,” opened for business November 12 on the Squaxin Reservation. It is believed to be the first marijuana retailer owned by a Native nation in the U.S. “ Agate Dreams,” to be operated by a Suquamish Tribe business entity, is expected to open in early December on Highway 305, near Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort.”
The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Council), of Flandreau, SD, voted to temporarily suspend their marijuana operation, burning their first crop, after state officials raised issues about the legality under state law parts of the operation. They were first tribal nation to legalize marijuana, after the Department of Justice issued a memorandum in December 2014, which outlined that tribal nations may grow and sell marijuana as long as they comply with the same regulations as states who opt to legalize. The tribe, in November, was consulting with the U.S. Department of Justice, on how they needed to operate to have their marijuana business completely legal, and was expecting to restart their operation soon ( Sarah Sunshine Manning , “Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Burns Crop, Suspends Marijuana Operation.” ICTMN, November 18, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/11/08/flandreau-santee-sioux-tribe-burns-crop-suspends-marijuana-operation-162363),
The Navajo Tech Innovation Center opened in Church Rock, NM as an incubator for Navajo business, in December, 2015 (Christopher Pineo, “Navajo Tech Innovation Center to support Navajo businesses,” Navajo Times, December 17, 2015).
Tanya H. Lee , “Haskell: A Great School, And Needs More Money to Stay That Way,” ICTMN, December 3, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/12/03/haskell-great-school-and-needs-more-money-stay-way-162538, reported, “Students at Haskell Indian Nations University have high aspirations, says President Venida Chenault, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, and the university is looking for new resources to educate the tribal leaders of the future. A first step is to convince Congress to pass legislation that would allow Haskell to be able to accept donations without losing any part of the university’s federal appropriation and that would provide federal matching funds for contributions.”
Louise Roetman, “South Dakota Slated to Cut Native American History,” ICTMN, September 30, 2015,
South Dakota high school students will not be learning about Native Americans next year, thanks to some
quietly approved changes in content standards
that no longer require students to study early American history.
Beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year, high school students in South Dakota may choose one of three courses to satisfy their single U.S. history requirement: Early U.S. History, Modern U.S. History or Comprehensive U.S. History.
A group of 35 educators made up the South Dakota Social Studies Content Standards Revision Committee, which recommended the adjustments that were approved on August 24, after a year long approval process – the first changes to be made since 2006.”
, “Video: New Website Helps Educators Teach About Wisconsin’s Native Nations, December 7, 2015
Twelve American Indian nations call Wisconsin home. Each has its own customs, its own identity, its own story.
A new website : http://education.wisc.edu/soe/about/resource-service-units/student-diversity-programs/american-indian-curriculum-services/why-act31. is helping educators throughout the state tell those stories to students from kindergarten through high school. Wisconsin Act 31 is the term for the five state statutes that require schools to teach American Indian Studies throughout a student’s career and maintain instructional materials that appropriately reflect diverse cultures.
The site aims to help administrators and teachers have an online home for materials that will start classroom conversations through questions such as: How long have humans lived here? On whose ancestral lands do you live? Who are your contemporary tribal neighbors today?
A statewide survey launched in 2014 and answered by more than 1,700 teachers found that two-thirds of the respondents indicated a need for support in identifying appropriate resources for teaching and learning about the American Indian nations and tribal communities of Wisconsin.“
Gallup, NM, as of early August 2015, was considering opening the k-12 Six Directions Indigenous School, fall 2015, offering “a cultural responsive education model” honoring Navajo and Zuni culture, including language, as part of bilingual education. The curriculum includes a holistic wellness component and a restorative justice model (Alastair Le Bitsoi, “Indigenous School up for approval,” Navajo Times, August 13, 2015).
The Bureau of Indian Affairs transferred full control of the Isleta Pueblo elementary school to the pueblo, beginning fall 2015, in the first such transfer in President Obama’s Blue Print for Reform program. The curriculum was to include Isleta culture and language ( push culture and language,” Navajo Times, August 6, 2015).
Alexis White-Mobley "Teaching Lakota: Rising Voices," Cultural Survival, October 22, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/teaching-lakota-rising-voices, reported, " In an increasingly interconnected world, a global community seems ideal. The English language, symbolic of so-called globalization, is used almost everywhere for commerce, trade, and bridging common humanity between disparate cultures—but at what cost? The documentary film Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi, directed by Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey in partnership with The Language Conservancy, examines a culture that has witnessed its language being replaced by English over the last few centuries—the Lakota Nation of the American Great Plains. This situation is not limited to North America—according to one speaker in the film, “it’s a universal problem.” With globalization, cultures all over the world are losing this integral aspect to their unique understanding of reality. Nevertheless, due to the Lakota Nation’s iconic status in American popular culture, it proves useful to pinpoint the problems and creative solutions faced by Lakota people in trying to keep their language alive.”
Rising Voices features segments of four films from Lakota filmmakers alongside the voices of educators, a museum
administrator, and families to illustrate the state of the Lakota language and its speakers’ hopes for its future. The
general consensus is that language is essential to culture and individual identities; however, people recognize that due to
historical circumstance and current issues, not everyone has the opportunity to learn how to speak it. A young woman featured
in the short film 'Renelle White Buffalo Paints Lakota,” doesn’t speak Lakota, but lets her cultural memory flow in the
form of a brush on canvas. The filmmaker Dana Claxton’s experimental piece “Tradition Transformation' depicts a high
fashion shoot featuring traditional Lakota regalia and artwork. These visual articulations point to the understanding that
language is not completely representative of a culture. In Milt Lee’s short film “You Got It,” a series of Lakota youths are
questioned about what it means to be Indian today and where the language fits in—many of them don’t speak it but feel that has
no effect on their identity as Lakota people. Others, however, feel strongly that the language should not be allowed to die.
Despite a painful history of U.S. invasion into Lakota homelands and forceful assimilation along with an array of contemporary issues on the reservations, the fire of the language is still being fanned. Rising Voices highlights numerous efforts across the Lakota Nation to teach it to all age groups. The fourth short film featured, 'Verb Phrases in Lakota' by Alayna Eagle Shield shows the filmmaker’s 3-year-old daughter being asked questions about what she’s doing in Lakota, and her energetic responses. In another clip, a basketball coach explains how he integrates the language into practice and games of the most popular sport on the reservations.
The filmmakers show the different efforts to keep the language alive - they visit several immersion programs, from the preschool to elementary school level, as well as adult classes; they speak with a couple – a husband and wife who are learning the Lakota language themselves and labeling objects in their homes to teach their children; and they listen in on a project in progress to record all 22,000 words in the Lakota dictionary. Though some educators feel that classroom teaching is ineffective, that it must be spoken outside of the classroom for speakers to truly become fluent, Rising Voices indicates that hope remains for the Lakota language’s revitalization. One educator mentions the importance of allowing the language to spread wherever it may—“It’s ours but it’s ours to share with everybody. If someone wants to learn it we’ll help them learn it.” The film thus provides a deeply humanistic look at a tragic reality of the common era, and a people’s perseverance to keep teaching and learning their language regardless.
See the broadcast dates and learn more here: http://risingvoicesfilm.com/broadcast-dates/
Photo: Delores Taken Alive and Sandra Black Bear. Courtesy of Rising Voices".
Cory Champer, "
We Are All Related Here: A New Film About The Yup'ik People of Newtok, Alaska," Cultural Survival, August 3,
2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/we-are-all-related-here-new-film-about-yupik-people-newtok-alaska, reported, "
We Are All Related Here” by Brian McDermott documents the story of the Yup’ik people of Newtok, Alaska, who are
being called the first “climate refugees” of the United States since they must relocate their village due to the erosion and
flooding they are experiencing as a result of global warming. The film explains that climate change has accelerated
the rates of erosion and flooding, thus making the ice and land disappear.
Newtok has a population of 375 people and around 65 homes. The film exposes the alarming fact that over 200 other Alaska Native villages are facing similar problems with 86% of Alaska Native villages being affected by erosion and flooding. We Are All Related Here includes interviews with residents of the village, a human rights attorney and research scientist of arctic biology, the deputy regional director at the US Geological Survey in Alaska, and a planner with the state of Alaska in charge of helping the village to relocate.
We learn about the history of Newtok, the Yup'ik people, and witness their traditional ways of hunting, fishing and
dancing in a village where the Yup'ik language is spoken fluently by the elders and children alike. Carl Markon, the
director of the Alaska Science Center, provides the context for the environmental changes taking place in Newtok and we find
out that the permafrost foundation upon which Newtok is situated is eroding and the village is flooding and sinking. We learn
from government planner Sally Cox about the difficulties with securing the necessary funding for the relocation of the village
while Robin Bronen, the Executive Director of the Alaska Institute for Justice and a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute
of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, addresses the limitations of the current disaster relief legislation and the
implications for those being threatened by climate change disasters.
In the film, we find out that the Yup’ik people of Newtok are hoping to relocate to Mertarvik, where there are currently three homes and only a foundation for an evacuation center. It turns out that the Alaska Native village has been having a hard time getting funding for relocation. We learn that the Yup’ik people of Newtok have been planning to move since around 1994, and acquired land to move to in 2003—but that getting assistance and funding to build the necessary infrastructure at the relocation site has been a long process. And time is running out. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, by 2017, the land beneath the central hub of the village, the Newtok School, will erode as the waves of the Ninglick river encroach.
'We’ve been here 10,000 years, so we need to make sure the next generation knows how to live in this place,' says Grant Kashatok, the principal of the Newtok School. Several villagers reflect on how the land used to look, saying they would walk four or five miles, about two hours, to get to the beach. There used to be lakes and ponds where wildlife would gather. But now, the beach is gone and it only takes five minutes to get to the water. Andy Patrick, President of the Newtok Traditional Council expresses his worst fear: the ice coming over the land.
The documentary gives viewers an inside look as to what the Yup’ik people are learning to deal with, live with, and shows how climate change is affecting everyone.
'We as a society, we as government representatives, are completely unprepared for the way climate change is going to affect the habitability of the places where we live, and work, and millions of people, all over the world, are going to be forced to leave their homes and relocate because of climate change impacts' says Robin Bronen, the Executive Director of Alaska Institute for Justice.
We are All Related Here is an educational and eye-opening film that contributes to the message of being environmentally aware and depicts what harm climate change has done and will continue to do to our planet, our homes, and ultimately our lives.
For more information about the film, Like/Follow the We are still here Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/We-Are-All-Related-Here-1591100397826947/?ref=hl. "WE ARE ALL RELATED HERE" Trailer from EmpathyWorks Films on Video has an available trailer at: https://vimeo.com/130203487."
Suzette Brewer , “ICTMN Exclusive: New Film Documents Maine’s Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” October 12, 2015, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/10/12/ictmn-exclusive-new-film-documents-maines-child-welfare-truth-and-reconciliation , reported, “ First Light, the new independent documentary film that explores the historic Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is making its world debut today on Indian Country Today Media Network. According to the film’s directors, Adam Mazo and Ben Pender-Cudlip, the short documentary film examines the historic collaboration between the five Wabanaki tribes and the state of Maine in response to the past abuses within the state’s child welfare system.
The first of its kind in U.S. History, the Maine TRC was established in 2012 in an agreement between Governor Paul LePage and chiefs from the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and the Passamaquoddy at Sipayik and Indian Township. According to the state-tribal Mandate, the commission’s objective was threefold: To uncover and acknowledge the truth; create opportunities to heal and learn; and to collaborate in creating best practices for Wabanaki children within their respective communities.”
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"Pope apologizes for Catholic church’s crimes against indigenous peoples," Survival International, July
15, 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10845, reported, "
Pope Francis has asked forgiveness from the
indigenous peoples of Latin America
for the many crimes committed by the Catholic church during the “so-called conquest.”
In an historic speech to the 'World Meeting of the Popular Movements' in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, which was attended by many indigenous people, he said:
'I want to tell you, and I want to be very clear: I humbly ask your forgiveness, not only for the offenses committed by the Church herself, but also for the crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.'
The conquest and the theft of their land led to the genocide of millions of indigenous people who were killed by invaders or died of introduced diseases to which they had no resistance.
He acknowledged the depth of suffering by indigenous peoples: 'I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God.'
He also spoke of his “deep affection and appreciation” for the Latin American indigenous movement’s 'quest for a multiculturalism which combines the defense of the rights of the native peoples with respect for the territorial integrity of states … [which] is for all of us a source of enrichment and encouragement.'
Guarani spokesman Eliseu Lopes met the Pope during his visit and said: 'He listened to me, something which the president and those who govern Brazil have never done and refuse to do, even though they know our situation … I told him that we are living through a war, that we are dying and that we are being massacred by armed gunmen and by the politicians involved in agri-business, that a real genocide is happening to us. I asked for a future for our young and old people.'
The Pope spent a week visiting Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, where indigenous peoples are battling to protect their lands and natural resources against governments and corporations intent on imposing large-scale development projects on them."
With the amount of arable land on the Earth shrinking in the face of climate change and development, wealthy countries and corporations have been increasingly involved in land grabs in developing nations, often kicking Indigenous and other local people off their land, and seriously damaging the environment, as is discussed in numerous reports in these pages. An overview is in Eric Hoffner, “On the Take,” and “Land Grabs the Big Picture,” WorldArk, Fall 2015, www.heifer.com.
Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. "2030 Development Agenda Key for Reducing Inequality for
Indigenous Peoples, says UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues," Cultural Survival, September 25, 2015,
NEW YORK (25 September 2015) –
A preeminent expert body of the United Nations on indigenous peoples, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,
welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the UN General Assembly today.
The transformative Agenda lays out the global goals for reducing poverty, in all its dimensions, over the next decade and a half. 'From the least developed countries to the most developed countries, the inequalities faced by indigenous peoples are staggering', says Professor Megan Davis, Chairperson of the Permanent Forum.
There are six specific references to indigenous peoples in the Agenda. 'These constitute a step up from the Millennium Development Goals, which had no references to indigenous peoples', points out Permanent Forum member Joan Carling.
Yet 'States and the UN system must be ambitious, and go beyond the points mentioned in this text to bring indigenous peoples into the achievement of goals and targets – for the 2030 Agenda to be truly inclusive,' she continued.
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a framework for the rights and development priorities of indigenous peoples.
In particular, ''indigenous peoples’ rights to their traditional lands, territories and resources have to be secured as the fundamental basis for their economic development and foundation of their lives, livelihoods and cultures,' states the Chairperson, Professor Davis.
Indigenous peoples have much to teach the world about living sustainably: “Let us learn from the extensive knowledge systems of indigenous peoples, developed over many centuries, as we move forward to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda to combat climate change, to sustainably manage forests and to halt biodiversity loss”, continues Professor Davis.
It is also important to keep track of progress in meeting the goals and targets for indigenous peoples through the development of culturally relevant indicators and disaggregation of data.
The Agenda states that the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council and other intergovernmental bodies and forums will support the thematic review of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (paragraph 85).
'In this regard, the Permanent Forum will have an important role to play in achieving the goals and targets of the Agenda for indigenous peoples', notes Ms. Carling.
'Indigenous peoples look forward to being part of this exciting journey, so it can truly transform our world and bring peace and prosperity for all. This is a priority task to which the Permanent Forum remains committed', says Professor Davis, Chairperson of the Forum"
(Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
www.un.org/indigenous, [email protected]
UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS
Docip, "Human Rights Council Human Rights Council Adopts Two Resolutions Related To
Indigenous Peoples," Cultural Survival, October 23, 2015,
reported, "At the end of its thirtieth regular session in Geneva from September 14 to October 2, 2015
the Human Rights Council has adopted 29 resolutions, two are related to Indigenous Peoples.
Resolution I : related to human rights and Indigenous Peoples. Please find here the Resolution (A/HRC/30/L.8). The novelties of this resolution in comparison with the one of 2014 concern:
The Human Rights Council "(r)equests the Expert Mechanism to prepare a study, to be finalized by its ninth session, on the right to health and indigenous peoples with a focus on children and youth, and to present it to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-third session", see the article 5 of the Resolution.
The Human Rights Council « (d)ecides to hold, at its thirty-third session, a half-day panel discussion on the causes and consequences of violence against indigenous women and girls, including those with disabilities », see article 9 of the Resolution.
Resolution II: related to human rights and Indigenous Peoples
The Resolution (A_HRC_30_L.9) concerns the review of the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The "Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene a two-day expert workshop open to the participation of States, indigenous peoples and other stakeholders."
For more information, visit the Human Rights Council website: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/pages/hrcindex.aspx."
UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz reported, in September 2015 , on the rights of Indigenous women and girls. She found that Indigenous women and girls frequently find it difficult to voice their concerns and prevent abuse and victimization, as many communities view the rights of women as a western ideal that puts individual rights ahead of communal rights (“UN Special Rapporteur releases report to Human Rights Council on the Rights of Indigenous Women and Girls on the rights of Indigenous women and girls,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, December 2015).
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, in August 2015, recognized the distinct role of Indigenous peoples and their right to free, informed proper consent on world heritage matters that affect them. The committee was preparing to consider whether Pinachioin Aki, on the border of Manitoba and Ontario in Canada, would be added to the list of World Heritage Sites (“UNESCO Recognizes Indigenous Peoples Distinct Role in World Heritage Sites,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, December 2015).
"Without A Secured Right to Freedom of Expression, There Is No Democracy In Central America," Cultural Survival,
October 19, 2015.
"On October 23, 2015,
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a Thematic Hearing on Examining Freedom of Expression in
Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during its 156th Session in Washington DC.
Organized by Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias (AMARC-Subregión Centroamérica), Asociación de Medios Comunitarios de Honduras (AMCH), Asociación de Radios Comunitarias de Guatemala (ARCG), Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural, Central American Institute for the Study of Social Democracy (DEMOS), Comité por la Libre Expresión (C Libre), Cultural Survival, Fundación de la Comunicación para el Desarrollo (Comunicándonos), Junta Ciudadana por el Derecho Humano a la Comunicación and Mujb'ab'l yol: Encuentro de Expresiones, the session seeks to shine a spotlight on the daily rights violations that Indigenous journalists and communities face when exercising the universal right to freedom of expression and communication.
These basic rights make up the foundation of a well functioning democracy, yet communities in Central America share a common experience, history and reality that citizens’ freedom of expression and the right to communication are not evenly respected and guaranteed. Indigenous journalists and community radio operators, despite physical threats, state persecution, and even risk of death, continue to exercise their rights in order to serve their communities.
El Salvador’s democracy is threatened by media concentration. Five commercial groups have historically held ownership of the radio frequency spectrum. Ex-president Elias Antonio Saca owned six radio frequencies when he began as president, and fourteen by the end of his presidency. The law does not distinguish between public, private or community radio; all frequencies are auctioned to the highest bidder and no state entity exists to regulate radio broadcasting.
In Guatemala, the 1996 Peace Accords that ended 36 years of civil war guaranteed the democratization of the media. However, the current telecommunications law makes no provision for non-profit community radio. Frequencies are either reserved for government use or auctioned to the highest bidder. Indigenous communities must compete head-to-head with commercial radio stations. The Community Radio Movement of Guatemala brought a case to the Constitutional Court arguing that this discriminates against Indigenous Peoples. On March 14, 2012, the Court exhorted the Congress to legislate in favor of Indigenous community radio stations, allowing them access to radio frequencies. Bill 4087, which seeks to legalize and regulate community radio has been introduced to the Guatemalan Congress, but the Congress has not complied. The continued concentration of Guatemala’s media has prevented the exercise of real democracy by barring varied sources of information and opinions to be broadcast and has contributed to a loss of Indigenous cultures and values. The concentration of ownership of media is a de facto violation of article 130 of the Guatemalan Constitution, which prohibits media monopolies. In addition, in recent years, community radio stations have been the targets of repression through police raids, criminal investigations, and unlawful imprisonment.
In Honduras, restrictive laws, the criminalization of the right to free expression, and murder of community journalists are all common occurrences. In less than four years, there have been seven murders of journalists and broadcasters that work for community media outlets. Between 2014 and 2015, there were 55 acts of aggression against those who work for community and alternative radio stations. Journalists regularly face threats to their lives by local governments.
“If Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are to make real progress toward meaningful democracy, it is crucial to address threats to freedom of expression,” said Mark Camp, Deputy Director of Cultural Survival.
Thematic Hearing Panelists Include:
Oscar Antonio Pérez, Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias (AMARC-Subregión Centroamérica)
Anselmo Xunic Cabrera, Cultural Survival and Asociación Sobrevivencia Cultural
Anabella Rivera, Central American Institute for the Study of Social Democracy (DEMOS)
Alma Gloria Temaj Morales, Mujb'ab'l yol: Encuentro de Expresiones
Carlos Ramón Enamorado Pérez, Asociación de Medios Comunitarios de Honduras (AMCH)."
The U.S. Indigenous Caucus, on May 15, 2015, withdrew from the 17 year process of the Organization of American States (OAS) to draft an American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, as a result of several member states insisting on changing the draft document so that it would erode rights enshrined in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“US: Indigenous Caucus Withdraws from Negotiations on the Draft American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, September 2015).
“Securing the Bounty of Mother Earth: Indigenous Terra Madre Spotlights Custodians of Biodiversity and
Foodways,” Cultural Survival, December 4, 2015, https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/terra-madre
“Over 600 delegates from 58 countries converged in Meghalaya on November 3-7, 2015 to celebrate the ancient food systems, vast traditional knowledge and biocultural diversity of Indigenous Peoples. International Terra Madre, also called International Mei-Ramew, meaning Mother Earth in the local Khasi language, is a collaboration of the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty, Slow Food International and North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS).
‘We need to trust in our wisdom,’ said Phrang Roy, founder of NESFAS and a visionary Khasi advocate, who brought ITM to his homeland in the hills of Shillong. ‘What we wanted to combine is not just the question of taste, but that taste is the reflection of biodiversity. If we don’t have forests around our villages, our diets and our food won’t be there.’ The five-day event included a conference, visits to nine Indigenous host villages and concluded with a spirited food festival that exhibited the flavors of Indigenous food cultures across Northeast India and beyond.
‘Our food is pre-colonial, it is pre-GMO. It is ancient food, and ancient seeds. It is a food that is part of our soul and our spirit.’ said Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe activist, at the opening ceremony. In the face of climate challenges and land grabs, LaDuke talked about the resiliency of Indigenous food systems and the sacred connection Native Americans have with their foodways.
Dayamani Barla of the Munda tribe in Jharkhand, India, concurred. Barla has witnessed how land grabs and displacement of Indigenous peoples in Jharkhand have devastated their food security, culture and identity.Barla also led a long brave resistance that stopped the world’s largest steel company Arcellor-Mittal from displacing thousands of Indigenous peoples and farmers. Loha nahi anaj chahiye! (“We want grains, not iron!”) was the rallying cry of Indigenous communities protesting the corporation’s project. In 2013, she was awarded the first Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award by Cultural Survival for her courageous resistance in the face of the ugly power of corporate might.
At the ITM convening, Barla emphasized that the current economic paradigm was leading the planet to catastrophic climate change and eroding Indigenous rights. ‘If we are talking about strengthening food systems, we need to stop the displacement of Indigenous peoples,’ said Barla. ‘Indigenous Peoples can’t imagine a future where nature is violated. We can’t realize food sovereignty when our lands, forests and waterways are being destroyed. If we want to sustain life on this planet, all people and social movements need to unite with the resistance of Indigenous peoples.’”
“Slow Food International founder, Carlo Petrini, gave a passionate talk that likened the industrial global food system to a criminal system. ‘We need to change this paradigm…we risk losing our history and our food heritage.’ As a stunning counter to the monoculture paradigm, ITM organized a food festival of prodigious size that exhibited an astonishing array of Indigenous foods—roots, tubers, greens, corns, millets, paddy, drinks, sweets, pickles and hot foods. A dazzling performance of dances and songs followed, and the crowd was thrilled to hear Ko Meiramew, the theme song of ITM that was sung in exquisite harmony by Indigenous musicians from Meghalaya.”
Erika Mayer, "Human Rights Committee Reviews Canada’s Record," Cultural Survival, September 2, 2015,
http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/human-rights-committee-reviews-canadas-record, reported, "In July 2015
Canada’s human rights records was examined based on its obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR), an international human rights treaty Canada ratified in 1976. The Human Rights Committee’s
Concluding Observations on the sixth periodic report of Canada provided a window into how Canada is upholding human rights both
within its borders and abroad, and how its protection of those rights could be improved. The Concluding Observations address a
wide range of concerns, including Indigenous issues, excessive use of force by police, and women’s rights.
The UN Human Rights Committee oversees the implementation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, or ICCPR. The ICCPR is a human rights treaty, and states that have ratified the treaty, called State parties, are obligated to uphold the treaty’s listed human rights and liberties. To ensure that the ICCPR has meaningful rather than merely symbolic effects, State parties submit reports to the Human Rights Committee that detail how the ICCPR is being implemented. Usually these reports are submitted every four years. After analyzing the submitted reports, the Committee releases its Concluding Observations, which include both concerns and recommendations for improvement.
In the Concluding Observations on the sixth periodic report of Canada during the 114 Session (29 Jun 2015 - 24 Jul 2015), no topic received more attention than the many issues affecting Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples in Canada struggle with discrimination, violence, violations of land rights, and the withholding of federal recognition. On top of these unique problems, Indigenous Peoples also face the same challenges that affect non-Indigenous Canadians—but for them, those challenges are exacerbated. Widespread issues such as violence against women and a flawed criminal justice system often affect Indigenous Peoples even more severely than they affect Canada’s general population.
In Canada as in the rest of the world, Indigenous Peoples struggle for the right to control their lands. The Committee reaffirms the importance of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, and raises concerns about the financial burden of legal battles over land rights. Such land rights disputes should be resolved quickly not only to safeguard Indigenous treaty rights but also to prevent the costs of litigation from becoming overwhelmingly high.
The dwindling and disappearance of Indigenous languages was also cited in the Concluding Observations as a major problem facing Indigenous communities. There are over 60 Indigenous languages in Canada that fall into 12 different language families. Many of these languages, however, have fewer than 1,000 speakers and are at a high risk of disappearing in only a few years. Policies that aim to promote Indigenous languages, the Committee states, should be reinforced in an effort to save this incredible linguistic diversity and cultural wealth.
The practice of sending First Nations children to Indian Residential Schools is one of the darkest chapters of Canada’s history and a source of immeasurable trauma to thousands of Indigenous children. At these schools, children faced abuse and the intentional destruction of their culture in what has been called a cultural genocide. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission researched this history to create an accurate record of what occurred and issued 94 recommendations to work towards reconciliation. The Committee states that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations should be followed and raises concerns that redress has not been provided to children who attended the Indian Residential Schools [see, Cass Madden, "Canada's 'Cultural Genocide," Cultural Surviva,. June 23, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/shedding-light-canadas-cultural-genocide].
Excessive use of force by police is one problem that affects both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. In particular, the Committee references excessive force used at 'Indigenous land-related protests, G20 protests in 2010 as well as student protests in Quebec in 2012.' The Concluding Observations recommend that such violations be thoroughly and independently investigated, and that police found guilty be held accountable. In light of these arrests and the repression of mass protests, the State party 'should renew its traditional commitment to the promotion and protection of the exercise of freedom of assembly, association and expression.' And because issues of freedom of expression often deeply affect Indigenous Peoples, the Concluding Observations note that the State party should pursue a dialogue with them.
Excessive use of force and mass arrests against Indigenous protestors is only one facet of a larger problem in Canada’s justice system, the problem of high rates of incarceration for Indigenous people. The Committee suggests that alternatives to incarceration should be considered, and when incarceration is unavoidable, Indigenous people should serve their sentences in their communities.
All too often, the progress of women lags behind the progress of men, and women face specific economic, social, and political hardships. Women’s issues and women’s rights are central to the Committee’s Concluding Observations.
In Canada, one of the most pressing economic issues for women is the pay gap. While many areas in Canada do already have legislation regarding equal pay, this legislation varies throughout the country; different provinces and territories have different legislation, and, as the Committee notes, some provinces lack legislation entirely. The Committee recommends that these inconsistencies be resolved so that all regions and all sectors address the pay gap in their legislation. Pay inequity is worse in certain locations, including Alberta and Nova Scotia, but it is also worse for certain segments of Canada’s population, including minority women and Indigenous women. Therefore, when working towards a solution to the pay gap, these groups of women must receive particular attention.
Violence against women is another serious problem affecting women in Canada, and as with pay inequity, it is a problem that disproportionately affects Indigenous and minority women. Domestic violence often goes unreported, so making it easier and safer for victims to report their experiences is of the utmost importance. This often begins with providing a means for the victim to leave their violent partner by supporting them with shelters and other services. The Committee suggests that the state should provide complaint mechanisms for these victims as well as protection from possible retaliation. Once complaints are made and the safety of the victims is ensured, each case must be fully investigated and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Domestic violence is not the only form of violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls. These women also face extremely high rates of homicides and disappearances, cases where Indigenous women are murdered or go missing without explanation. The problem is widespread, and the Committee echoes the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in calling for a national inquiry. The Concluding Observations note that both better legislation and coordinated police responses could help stop murders and other violent acts from occurring. And finally, the underlying causes of this violence should be addressed to prevent it before it ever begins.
Gender discrimination against Indigenous women has even influenced who is or is not officially recognized as Indigenous by Canada’s federal government. In the past, a First Nations woman who married a non-Indigenous man would be stripped of her Indian Status, federal recognition that offers services, benefits, and programs. Something as intrinsic and crucial as a woman’s identity as First Nations was called into question by her gender and marital status. Although this policy was changed, its effects are still relevant today. Many children and grandchildren of Indigenous women were left ineligible for Indian Status because their mothers or grandmothers lost Indian Status under the old unfair, biased law.
The 2011 Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act attempted to change this. The act is an amendment to Canada’s Indian Act, an 1876 statute that detailed the relationship between the federal government and First Nations. The new act allows the grandchildren of Indigenous women who lost their status by marrying a non-Indigenous man to become eligible for Indian Status. While the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act allows around 45,000 individuals to register, the Committee notes that its application has been slow. It recommends implementing the act more quickly as well as continuing to strive for gender equity for Indigenous women by addressing discrimination in the Indian Act. For the people of Canada’s First Nations to be guaranteed their rights, they must first simply be recognized as members of their First Nation.
In addition to excessive use of force by police, reform of the criminal justice system, Indigenous land rights, and women’s rights, the Concluding Observations highlight counter-terrorism and immigration detention. The observations raise concerns about Canada’s anti-terrorism legislation and the powers of its security and intelligence agencies. They also condemn the fact that, in Canada, irregular migrants—migrants who lack proper authorization—may be detained for an unlimited period of time. The Committee suggests that this detention should be for a set period of time, and that, when possible, it should be avoided altogether.
The human rights violations committed by Canadian companies around the world are another important subject in the Concluding Observations. Around 75 percent of the world’s mining companies are based in Canada. Many of these companies operate abroad, and many face allegations of human rights violations. Despite the vast influence of these companies, there is little accountability. The Committee, therefore, calls for the creation of an independent mechanism to deal with allegations of abuse as well as a legal framework for individuals whose human rights have been violated by Canadian companies abroad. Although this recommendation does not directly mention Indigenous Peoples, holding Canadian companies accountable for human rights violations would stand up for the Indigenous Peoples whose lands and livelihoods are threatened by the extractive industry.
While the Concluding Observations acknowledge the many steps Canada has taken towards securing human rights, they also demonstrate how much more needs to be done, particularly for women, minority groups, and Indigenous Peoples. To follow up on its Concluding Observations, the Committee requests that the State party provide information about how specific recommendations have been implemented within a year. Looking even further ahead, Canada’s next periodic report will be due in 2020. This report will allow the Human Rights Committee to examine whether Canada has made the requested recommendations after a five-year interval and how effectively it is upholding human rights.
To read the Concluding Observations visit: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy...
McKenna, “10 Indigenous Candidates Elected to Canadian Parliament, a Record,” ICTMN, October 21, 2015,
10/21/15, reported, “Jody Wilson-Raybould, former regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, won handily in her voting district in Vancouver, one of 10 indigenous candidates who gained office in Canada’s national election on October 19.
“I feel fantastic,” Ms. Wilson-Raybould told The Globe and Mail after getting 44 percent of the vote. “It was a great night for the Liberal party and it was a great night for Canadians who decided they wanted to be part of a change in this country and how it is run.”
An unprecedented number of aboriginal Members of Parliament (MPs) will join the Canadian House of Commons after a historic election that saw the defeat of longtime Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took the majority of seats across the country on Monday, October 19, while the Conservatives formed the official minority and the New Democratic Party trailed behind.
“Canadian Premiers Back All 94 Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations,”
July 16, 2015,
The premiers of all 10 provinces and three territories in Canada have pledged to implement all 94 of the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations stemming from the scathing report that the panel issued in June,
which called the nation’s residential schools program “cultural genocide.”
Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, also pledged to follow all 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations, in addition to forming a new relationship with Canadian First Nations. He announced that he would initiate a panel to investigate and make recommendations concerning the murders of a large number of aboriginal women, and to work to improve First Nation Health Care (Ian Austin, “Trudeau Outlines His Sweeping Agenda in Address,” The New York Times, December 5, 2015).
, “Indigenous Studies Now Required at Two Canadian Universities,” ICTMN, December 8, 2015,
Indigenous studies will be required for graduation from two Canadian universities as of next year with another
institution discussing the idea.
In mid-November both the University of Winnipeg (UW) in Manitoba Province and Lakehead University (LU) in Ontario announced that students will have to pass a three-credit course in indigenous history or culture to graduate starting in September of 2016.
The required courses include some on indigenous history or culture, contemporary indigenous issues, local indigenous languages, indigenous ways of knowing and research methodologies.”
The Tsleil-Wauthth Nation of Canada, on May 28, 2015, denied Morgan Trans Mountain’s proposal for an oil pipeline across its territory in an independent assessment finding that the pipeline would violate Tsleil-Wauthth law, and that the pipeline had the potential to make thousands of people ill and contaminate the countryside (“Canada: Tsleil-Wauthth Nation Denied Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Proposal,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, September 2016).
As violence in several Central American countries caused people to flee, Julia Preston, “Number of Migrants Illegally Crossing Rio Grande Rises Sharply,” The New York Times, November 26, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/us/number-of-migrants-illegally-crossing-rio-grande-rises-sharply.html?ref=todayspaper, reported,“ The numbers of migrants crossing the Rio Grande illegally have risen sharply in recent weeks, replaying scenes from the influx of Central American children and families in South Texas last year.
Once again, smugglers are bringing hundreds of women and children each day to the Mexican banks of the river and sending them across in rafts. In a season when illegal crossings normally go down, “The numbers have started going the other way,” said Raul L. Ortiz, acting chief of the Border Patrol for the Rio Grande Valley. Since Oct. 1, official figures show, Border Patrol apprehensions of migrant families in this region have increased 150 percent over the same period last year, while the number of unaccompanied children caught by agents has more than doubled.”
Anti-corruption protests with significant middle class support had spread, by June 2015, from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico to Honduras and Guatemala, and it is possible that a major popular movement is in progress (Elisabeth Malkin, "Wave of Protests Spreads to Scandal-Weary Honduras and Guatemala, The New York Times, June 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/13/world/americas/corruption-scandals-driving-protests-in-guatemala-and-honduras.html?ref=todayspaper).
"‘Deadly’ trans-Amazon railway sparks fear among tribes," Survival International, June 16, 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10812, reported, "
A controversial mega-project to build a transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific has caused outrage
among indigenous people and Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.
The railway, which is backed by the Chinese government, would cross through many indigenous territories and areas of high biodiversity across the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil. If realized, it would wreak havoc on indigenous peoples’ lands and lives by opening up the area to industrial exploitation, illegal mining and logging, and encourage colonization.
Ninawá Kaxinawá, an indigenous leader whose community lives near the proposed railway line, told Survival, “This railway is evil and it threatens our people. For us Indians and our uncontacted relatives this project represents a deadly danger which would put an end to our forest and our lives!”
Uncontacted tribes, the most vulnerable societies on the planet, would face devastation from invasions into their lands. Whole populations could be wiped out by violence from outsiders and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
Similar projects set a chilling precedent. In the 1980s, the 900 km Carajás railway line in Brazil’s north-eastern Amazon opened up the land of many tribes such as the isolated Awá, Earth’s most threatened tribe, to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and settlers. Countless families were massacred and others succumbed to diseases brought in by outsiders, and rampant logging resulted in over 30% deforestation in the Awá’s central territory.
Decades later, illegal loggers still threaten the lives of uncontacted Awá. In December 2014, a group of three Awá were forced out of their forest home by loggers. Two of them are now critically ill.
The trans-Amazon railway will run over thousands of kilometers and is likely to cause even more devastation of the Amazon rainforest and its peoples. While studies show that tribal peoples are the best conservationists , their lands are facing an onslaught of development projects.
Survival International is calling on the Brazilian and Peruvian governments to uphold national and international laws, which require that indigenous peoples must be properly consulted and give their consent before projects that will affect them can go ahead. Because consultation with uncontacted tribes is impossible, their land must be protected to avoid catastrophe.
Stephen Corry, Director of Survival, said, 'Projects like this amount to nothing more than the theft of tribal lands and – as always – they’re carried out in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘development.’ For centuries, the Indians of the Americas have been sacrificed at the altar of profit. Many don’t survive the onslaught against their lives and lands. Make no mistake – for uncontacted tribes this railroad is genocidal.'”
There are some doubts about whether each and any of the proposed major railways for Latin America will be
built. Simon Romero, "China’s Ambitious Rail Projects Crash Into Harsh Realities in Latin America,"
The New York Times, October 3, 2015,
reported, "The ambitions are dizzying, some of the grandest in Latin America since thousands of laborers perished building
railways through the forbidding jungles of
more than a century ago.
China has sought to build a “dry canal” in the form of a railway across Colombia , linking the Caribbean to the Pacific. Chinese investors announced another huge venture in Honduras , two ports and a 375-mile railroad from sea to sea. Then this June, China announced yet another megarailway — nearly 10 times as long — across Brazil and Peru , stretching from one coast of South America to the other.
But across the region, one large Chinese rail venture after another has come crashing against the hard realities of Latin American politics, resistance from environmental groups, and a growing wariness toward China. While China boasts of its rail initiatives around the world, it has often been stymied here in Latin America, reflecting how even China’s formidable ambitions have limits.
Now, new worries over China’s economic growth are raising more doubts about the blitz of what China calls its 'railroad diplomacy,' as parts of Latin America reel from their dependence on China."
"More than 100 years ago, Americans were among the foreigners who rolled into the heart of South America with ambitious plans to build railways. The ruins of their grand designs for the Brazilian Amazon, called the Devil’s Railway because of the thousands of workers who died building it, are a testament to the dangers of relying too heavily on commodity exports."
"Last November, Mexico abruptly canceled a Chinese-led bid to build a $4.3 billion high-speed rail system after accusations that the Mexican government had favored contractors who were part of the consortium.
In Honduras, two years have passed since Chinese investors announced the railway linking the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific. Yet Miguel Servellón, an official with the state agency promoting the project, said it was “still a long way from happening,” listing obstacles like a complex environmental approval process.
In another project aimed at finding an alternative to the Panama Canal, the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, said four years ago that Colombia and China had a plan that was “quite advanced” to build a railway linking the Pacific to the Caribbean. But the mood has changed considerably since then."
"In Venezuela, Chinese companies actually broke ground on a 290-mile high-speed railway, part of a grandiose plan by President Hugo Chávez, to “rebalance” the population away from the coast.
But while Venezuela’s government boasted that passenger service would start in 2012, the project has been fraught for years with work stoppages and money shortfalls on the Venezuelan side. The Chinese authorities say that more than half of the railway has been built, though Venezuelan news media reported in June that work camps on the route had been abandoned."
"An even bigger project floated by a Chinese telecommunications tycoon, a 172-mile canal across Nicaragua, intended as a rival to the Panama Canal, has been met with broad skepticism about its feasibility as well as protests by farmers living along the proposed route.
Despite the obstacles, China has pressed ahead with the twin-ocean railway across Brazil and Peru, building on trade between China and Latin America that surged to $285 billion in 2014, from $12 billion in 2000, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund."
Paulina Villegas and Francis Robles, "Deals Flow to Contractor Tied to Mexican President," The New York Times,
July 30, 2015,
reported, "Armando García has
filed lawsuits, joined protests and gotten arrested trying to stop a highway from slicing through his hilly backyard in
a nature reserve.
But even with a court order on his side, bright green pines have been stripped away and tree stumps dot the hillside. Parts of protected forest have been slashed, exposing the path of a 20-mile highway to the new airport in Mexico City that is demolishing swaths of Mr. García’s indigenous community in its wake.
Mr. García and his neighbors fighting it say they never really stood a chance. After all, they are not battling ordinary construction crews. They are taking on a businessman so well connected that Mexicans have long called him the president’s "favorite contractor."
Anti-corruption protests with significant middle class support had spread, by June 2015, from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico to Honduras and Guatemala, and it is possible that a major popular movement is in progress (Elisabeth Malkin, "Wave of Protests Spreads to Scandal-Weary Honduras and Guatemala, The New York Times, June 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/13/world/americas/corruption-scandals-driving-protests-in-guatemala-and-honduras.html?ref=todayspaper).
Mexico's arresting of top drug cartel leaders, supported by the U.S., is bringing significant increases in all ready high rates of violence as drug gangs fracture and fight for control (William Neuman, "As Drug Kingpins Fall in Mexico, Cartels Fracture and Violence Surges," The New York Times, August 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/13/world/americas/as-mexico-arrests-kingpins-cartels-splinter-and-violence-spikes.html?ref=todayspaper).
The Mexican Supreme Court’s criminal chamber ruled, in November 2015, that individuals have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the decision does not overturn current drug laws, it sets in motion a movement which might do so (Elisabeth Malkin and Azam Ahmed, “Ruling in Mexico Sets in Motion Legal Marijuana,” The New York Times, November 5, 2015).
The reduction of illegal immigrants from central America entering the U.S. from Mexico is a result of efforts of the Mexican authorities keeping desperate escapees from deadly and disruptive life from the south from traveling north on trains. Now the refugees; attempted flight is even more arduous and dangerous (Joseph Sorrentino, "How the U.S. 'Solved' the Central American Migrant Crisis: Fewer are making it to the U.S. border - because the journey is more horrific, " In These Times, June 2015).
Elizabeth Malkin, "Guatemala President Balks at Calls for Resignation," The New York Times, August 23, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/24/world/americas/calls-grow-in-guatemala-for-president-to-resign.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, " Guatemala’s president, Otto Pérez Molina, angrily rejected calls for his resignation on Sunday, denying any involvement in a far-reaching scheme to defraud the government of customs revenue in exchange for bribes."
"The defiant statement came as he grew increasingly isolated after much of his cabinet resigned over the weekend and Guatemala’s most powerful business group demanded that Mr. Pérez Molina step down immediately." as prosecutors press their case, which has charged a number of officials.
The Supreme Court ruled, August 25, that the Guatemalan Congress can vote to remove the President's immunity from prosecution, taking the next step to the legislature (Azam Ahmed, "Guatemala’s Corruption Investigations Make Swift Strides," The New York Times, August 25, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/world/americas/guatemalas-corruption-investigations-make-swift-strides.html?ref=todayspaper).
"Aspiring Guatemalan Vice-Presidential Candidates Meet With Indigenous Organizations," October 21, 2015,
dexp-carouselOn October 13, 2015
leading Indigenous organizations organized a meeting with the two aspiring vice-president candidates of Guatemala. The
meeting had as a goal the discussion of the Indigenous Political Agenda and the work still to be done to improve the situation
of over 40% of the population. The candidates are Mario Leal Castillo, vice-president candidate for the left-wing
political party UNE and Jafeth Cabrera vice-president candidate for the right-wing political party FCN. Both candidates were
invited to sit down at the discussion table and openly discuss the major issues affecting Indigenous communities around the
Five previous working sessions had been held among all the participating Indigenous organizations to construct an agenda of petitions. Petitions included: territory rights, sacred site rights, liberation of political prisoners among others. The agenda was presented by members of Naleb, a Guatemalan Indigenous rights organization that promotes political participation, they been leading the discussion. The candidate and his team listened to the agenda as the evening progressed. Many of the participants were disappointed in the absence of the other candidate since they were hoping for a debate rather than a political campaign.
No concrete promises were made during the discussion. Jafeth Cabrera promised to keep in mind the petitions made and mentioned his commitment to improving the lives of the thousands of Indigenous families. Similar promises have been made by previous administrations but no concrete actions have ever been seen."
Elisabeth Malkin, "Genocide Retrial Is Set for Guatemalan Former Dictator," The New York Times, August 25, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/26/world/americas/genocide-retrial-is-set-for-guatemalan-former-dictator.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, " A Guatemalan court ruled on Tuesday that the former dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt must face a new genocide trial in the persecution of the Maya Ixil Indians during his rule, but agreed to hold it behind closed doors because he has dementia."
The struggle by Indigenous communities and their supporters to have community radio legalized in, Guatemala, as required by the country’s constitution, continued to face criminal action by the government, in spring of 2015. On May 15, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination denounced the criminalization of community radio and the recent arrest of community radio activists, as well as those protesting the building of dams without the consent of the Indigenous populations affected, as required by the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires prior consent. The Committee issued a number of recommendations on these matters to the government of Guatemala (“UN Denounces the Criminalization of Indigenous Community Radio Stations in Guatemala,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, September 2015).
Two Indigenous Prisoners Released after Years in Prison on False Charges,"Cultural Survival, November 2, 2015,
Two Q’anjobal Maya community leaders who were imprisoned in Guatemala for the past two years, have finally
and released. A regional criminal court Guatemala found the two men to be absolved of all charges on October
Rogelio Velasquez and Saul Mendez had been unfairly imprisoned as a result of their activism organizing against a Spanish hydroelectric dam project in their town of Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango. The two men have had a long trajectory as community leaders, participating in the organization and promotion of a community consultation in 2007 and again in 2011, in which members of the Indigenous Q’anjobal Maya community voted overwhelmingly to reject any outside companies from conducting resource exploration or extraction. The Spanish company has ignored these demonstrations; rather than respecting the autonomy of the community, have pushed violently and aggressively forward with their plans for a dam on the sacred Qam Balam river. Velasquez’ and Mendez’ villages were the first to rise up against the dam, as they were the most likely to be affected by the project.
This is the second stint that the men have done in prison. In May 2012, they were arbitrarily detained in Barillas after protesting outside of military headquarters after the assassination of their neighbor and fellow community leader Andres Francisco Miguel. Along with along with seven other men, they were illegally held in prison for 8 months, until finally being released in January 2013 after no charges were brought against them. In November 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention emitted a statement 46/2012 confirming that these arrests were arbitrary.
Then, eight months later, two men dressed as police officers- but lacking any police identification- detained the Velasquez and Mendez and put them back in prison. Later charges were filed accusing the men of having “participated’’ in a public lynching that occurred three years earlier in 2010. Mendez and Velasquez have maintained their innocence.
In an interview the day before their trial on the 28th, Prensa Comunitaria reported that after two years, 2 months and one day in prison, the men remained as lively as ever. “We kept a promise to the town of Barillas and its people. We are in prison for defending what belongs to the community and that’s why we know that the people will support us,’’ they said. The men have lived in constant worry about their wives and children, the harvesting of their corn fields, and whether their families have had food to put on the table. They were forced to learn how to find hope even at the darkest of moments; Rogelio Velasquez has dedicated his time to learning to read and write. Saul Mendez has been weaving, creating sachels and bracelets decorated with the word “Libertad’’.
Arbitrary detention and the criminalization of human rights defenders has become a rampant epidemic in Guatemala, especially against Indigenous leaders.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner summary of stakeholder submissions to the Human Rights Council Working Group, during the Universal Periodic Review of Guatemala in 2012 noted,
'HRDs [Human Rights Defenders] continue to face death threats, physical attacks, killings and other forms of violence, mostly carried out by clandestine security organizations and illegal groups… The illegitimate use of criminal proceedings against HRDsprevented them from carrying out their legitimate activities… The worsening situation of human rights defenders was directly related to the failure to address land conflicts and the repressive policy pursued against indigenous communities who object to the use of their natural resources without prior consultation.'
The threats to the safety of Indigenous human rights defenders are growing, and it is left to be seen how Guatemala’s new president-elect Jimmy Morales’ administration will affect change. But for now, at least two more men have been able to return home to their families."
The Poqomchi Maya won a 200 year struggle for land rights in Guatemala, in July 2015, when the Madaras Filips Dias/Eco-Tierra logging company finally ceded nearly 800 hectors of land titled under the names of 229 Indigenous families (“Guatemala: Indigenous Community Celebrates Victory After 200 Years of Struggle,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, December 2015).
"Tolupanes Put Their Lives on the Line Defending All Hondurans," Cultural Survival," July 13, 2015,
http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/tolupanes-put-their-lives-line-defending-all-hondurans, reported, "
Tolupanes of Yoro in central Honduras have become major actors in the massive protests and demonstrations that have
been filling the streets of Honduran cities for weeks. Revelations that Honduran government functionaries and members of the
ruling National Party had drained an estimated 300 million dollars from the national social security and health budget to help
finance election campaigns may have seemed like the "last straw." Hundreds of the poor have died without access to
adequate medical care. Honduras already has the highest murder rate in the world, massive official corruption and impunity, a
non-functional judicial system, rising narcotics and gang violence and political repression, and a national development plan
that forcibly and often violently evicts peasant and Indigenous communities for the sake of mining, logging, tourism, and the
expansion of corporate export agriculture. Especially targeted have been many of the country's Indigenous
For the Tolupanes, the struggle is at three levels--two triggered by recent events within a larger history of ongoing resistance. There is a significant scholarly literature about the history and culture of the Tolupanes. In colonial times, the Spaniards called them Xicaque or Jicaque, by which they meant 'savage," "barbarous,' or 'infidel,' and treated them as enemies to be subdued. But an alternative interpretation—that Xicaque is derived from a Nahuatl word meaning 'strong or ancient person'—provides an apt description of the Tolupán people. In an effort to bring Tolupán communities under the sovereignty of the state in the 1860s, the government concluded treaty agreements that confirmed some traditional Tolupán land rights. By the 1920s, Tolupanes were working on foreign-owned banana plantations, and were losing their language and some of their cultural customs. Many Tolupanes were also recruited or forced to work on the coffee plantations of large landowners in Yoro. Today there are twenty-five Tolupán communities (tribus) in Yoro.
Tolupán lands contain sizable stands of precious mahogany. In the 1970s, agents of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) and the national forestry agency (COHDEFOR) began awarding portions of Tolupán land to non-Indigenous peasants, loggers, and others, and trying to replace the role of traditional Tolupán community leaders with government forestry agents. To protect their interests, Tolupán communities formed the Federation of Xicaque Tribes of Yoro (FETRIXY). What followed was a period in which dozens of Tolupán leaders and activists were assassinated, including the president of FETRIXY, Vicente Matute, killed in 1982 shortly after declaring, 'Better to die before surrendering our rights to the land that is ours.' Since then, as many as one hundred Tolupán leaders and community members have been killed.
Periodically, Tolupán communities have experienced forcible evictions from their land. Armed men in the employ of large landowners arrive in a Tolupán community and threaten to kill the inhabitants if they do not leave by a certain time. The number of these evictions has increased in the years following the 2009 coup. One of several examples recounted by Catholic church workers in Yoro: on August 19, 2013, about 25 heavily armed men arrived at night in one Tolupán community of 112 adults and children--nineteen households. According to a community member who sought refuge with local church authorities, the community was ordered to leave immediately and not to return or they would all be killed. Demands for justice in these incidents are thwarted by the close relationship between large landowners and public officials.
The 2009 coup d’etat that deposed President Manuel Zelaya also ended a moratorium on granting new mining concessions in this mineral rich country. The post-coup government passed a mining law in January, 2013, that resulted in many new mining concessions to foreign companies and Honduran entrepreneurs. Tolupán communities around Locomapa in Yoro found themselves facing development and expansion of antimony mining nearby, and threats to their land and environment. They could not rely on FETRIXY, since many were convinced that its leadership had been compromised by the government and the private mine owner to lend at least passive support for the mining.
On Sunday, August 25, 2013, two armed men shot and killed three members of the Tolupán community at San Francisco Locomapa who had been active in opposing the mining--Ricardo Soto Funes, Armando Funes Medina, and 70-year-old Maria Enriqueta Matute who had emerged from her house when she heard the shooting. Although community members said they knew and could identify the killers whom they thought were in the service of the mine owner or his supporters, police did not attempt to detain the suspects who continued at large to harass the community and to threaten more killing if international observers dared to visit. In early April, 2015, another Locomapa community member, Luis de Reyes Marcía, was killed, and in June yet another, despite the fact that in December, 2013, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) had mandated the Honduran government to provide protective measures (medidas cautelares) for thirty-eight Locomapa community members.Despite the government’s promise to comply, no protection was afforded.
As the street protests and marches against the social security scandal and the government increased across Honduras, students started a hunger strike on June 22 in front of the President’s house. They were soon joined by seven Tolupanes, including relatives of some of those killed in Locomapa.
The Tolupanes on hunger strike issued a public statement demanding swift justice for those killed at Locomapa, the implementation of the IACHR-mandated protective measures for the community, consultation and voice in decisions about mining and other large projects that affect their people and threaten to sell or destroy the land and resources, and an end to government neglect in providing basic services for the Tolupán communities. They also affirmed major demands of the large national protests--the resignation of the President, the intervention of an International Anti-Impunity Commission, and an end to corruption and violence.
The Minister of Justice reportedly offered to ensure the prompt arrest of the alleged killers in Locomapa if the seven Tolupanes abandoned their part in the hunger strike. But the Tolupán communities have suffered a long history of government neglect, broken promises, and attempts to co-opt their leaders and corrupt their organizations. Even as the Minister made his proposal, others were raising accusations that the Tolupanes engaged in the hunger strike were not really Indigenous Tolupanes, a charge easily refuted by the strikers’ ties to the Locomapa community, including those killed there."
Tolupán hunger striker Sergio Avila, 65, reported threats to his family in Locomapa since members of the community joined the strike in the capital. He and his family are among the Tolupanes who are supposed to be under the protective measures the government has failed to implement. According to reports posted on July 9 by Defensores en Linea, the Honduran Accompaniment Project, other human rights sources, and Honduran news media, Avila said armed men threatened to kill his son and they killed the horse his son was riding. He added, “If we die in this hunger strike, the Honduran people will say these Tolupanes died to defend us all and to defend their rights, to defend our territory.” Like other Honduran Indigenous peoples, the Tolupanes have emerged in the forefront of the national struggle."
John McPhaul, "Costa Rican Indigenous Leaders Call for Passage of Indigenous Autonomy Law," Cultural Survival.
October 16, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/costa-rican-indigenous-leaders-call-passage-indigenous-autonomy-law,
Costa Rica shares with Panama an enormous copper field in the Talamanca Mountains which link the two countries. The
Costa Rican government has granted dozens of concessions to multinational mining companies in the Talamanca highlands.
But a problem for the mining companies lies in the fact that the copper reserves are beneath Indigenous territory and the law requires that the country's Legislative Assembly to give final approval to the concessions. Also, the Costa Rican government is signatory of the International Labor Organization Convention 169 which requires the approval of Indigenous communities to any outside development which takes place inside their land.
'The cosmology of the Bribri,' the most populous Indigenous people on the Costa Rican side of the Talamancas, 'sees the earth and its ecosystems as a sacred living being called Iriria, precluding any mining inside Indigenous territory,' said Bribri leader José Dualok Rojas.
To date the governments of Costa Rica have been faithful to the International Labour Convention 169 and loathe to press for final approval of the concessions. The government of current President Luis Guillermo Solis said it has no plans to abrogate Convention 169. "The government is committed with respect to the international conventions that the country has signed on the subject of the rights of the Indigenous Peoples," said Minister of Communication Mauricio Herrara.
But Costa Rican Indigenous leaders are mistrustful of the government's ability to fight off the intentions of the powerful multinationals over the long haul.
'What is certain is that the concessions are adjudicated to the transnational companies and that makes for a latent risk,' said Rojas. 'Any politician can have a change of heart or can do something foolish.'
To definitively consecrate the ILO into Costa Rican law, Costa Rica's eight Indigenous groups are pressing for the passage of Bill 14352, otherwise known as the Indigenous Autonomy Law, which for the first time would give Indigenous communities in the country's 24 reserves full governance of their land and remove them from the current control of central government institutions such as the National Indigenous Affairs Commission (CONAI) and the National Community Development Directorate (DINADECO). Indigenous do not trust these institutions, accusing them of defending outside interests not those of Indigenous population.
The law would also enable Indigenous communities to recover land within the Indigenous territories where non-Indigenous settlers occupy about 60 percent of the land. Those who occupied the land prior to 1977 when the reserves were created would be entitled to compensation, while those who squatted on the land or illegally bought land with nothing more than a bill of sale would not. Still the government is worried about the social problems created by dislocation of thousands of 'white' settlers, should the Indigenous regain their territories.
Indigenous leaders also said the law, which was drafted 19 years ago, would provide the government with a path toward resolving the case of the Salitre Indigenous Reserve on the Pacific slope of the Talamancas, where an Indigenous movement to reclaim land from white landholders has resulted in violence over the last three years.
As the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights last April ordered the Costa Rican government to take 'precautionary measures,' to protect Indigenous communities Indigenous leaders are saying the government will look to passage of the Indigenous Autonomy Law to deal with the Salitre issue.
'It could be that [the Indigenous Autonomy Law] provides the government with a policy that helps resolve conflicts like Salitre,' said Donald Rojas, a Brunca member of the Mesa Indigena (Indigenous Table) an ad hoc group which has been pressuring for passage of the bill.
Jose Dualok Rojas, no relation to Donald, agreed, voicing hope that the government will now be moved to pass the Autonomy Law under pressure by the IACHR precautionary measures order.
'Now because of all the problems with the Salitre, they are going to present this bill as a possible solution to the conflict,' said José Dualok Rojas.
Other Indigenous supporters are not as optimistic.
'I very much doubt it,' said University of Costa Rica anthropologist Marcos Guevera, of passage of the autonomous law. 'As much as I would like to see it happen, there's just too much opposition to it in the Legislative Assembly.'
The Indigenous Autonomy Law would lay out more clearly the authority of Indigenous leaders over the Indigenous territories.
Much of the conflict in Salitre can be traced to a dispute over the authority of the Salitre Integral Indigenous Development Association, whose president, José Dualok Rojas' brother, Sergio, organized Indigenous starting in early 2012 to take back land claimed by white settlers.
The 'white' population responded with violence, trying to remove the Indigenous with clubs and machetes, burning the Indigenous hovels and crops.
While the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights ruled in favor of Bribri and Teribe peoples,Herrera said the issue is much more complicated than a conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
'The Bribri are divided into matrilineal clans,' said Herrera, 'meaning that an individual’s identity within the community is determined by whether or not the individual's mother is Bribri. An individual whose father is Bribri and mother is Cabecar, a group closely related to the Bribri, is considered Cabecar, not Bribri.'
The Indigenous movement headed by Sergio Rojas has attempted to reestablish a Bribri social order in the community and Rojas has been accused of intimidating Indigenous individuals who are not 'of clan.'
Rojas denies these allegation and has stated that people of mixed heritage are welcome in the reserve, but, he adds, 'just as long as they accept the decisions of the Development Association.'
Sary Sosa, a Cabecar farmer told the daily La Nación that she feels threatened by Rojas, even after multiple community meetings, in a situation which she characterized as a division between the 'Indigenous that go with Sergio Rojas and Indigenous who don't go with Sergio Rojas.'
'I don't go with anything that he says,' said Sosa. 'I don't respect him as a leader. I don't accept him, I don't want him, I would even like them to take him out of the territory.'
Last week DINADECO removed Rojas from the presidency of the Development Association alleging that he was barred from public service by a court order after serving seven months of preventative detention for alleged irregularities in the management of a government environmental services fund (FONAFIFO). Rojas said the charges were trumped up because of his protagonism in the Salitre controversy which has seen multiple cases of violence directed at Indigenous families.
Rojas told La Nación that the Bribri will defend themselves from violence aimed at them if necessary. 'Violence brings violence,' said Rojas. 'If the state doesn't guarantee our security our rights we have to go, as we have done, we have to find a way to guarantee our survival and if violence occurs it will be the fault of the state.'
Rojas' supporters say that the Bribri leader has been the target of political persecution by the government which is threatened by the emergence of a strong, independent, Indigenous leader capable of starting a movement to reclaim Indigenous land at the national level.
"Because of the circumstances, he has taken a very strong position and the violent actions aimed at [Sergio Rojas group] has caused him to make some mistakes," said Donald Rojas.
The Salitre controversy is not the only source of pressure on the Costa Rican government to giver more attention to Indigenous issues.
Another source of pressure for passage of the Autonomy Law is a report by Gabriella Habtom, Secretary of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 'on the grave and persistent violation of Indigenous people's rights in Costa Rica,' issued on July 15.
'This report addresses the pattern of pervasive, long-standing and inter-connected violations or denials of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Republic of Costa Rica, and the ongoing situation of impunity in which they occur and persist,' wrote Habtom.
Donald Rojas said that all these pressures have created a lively debate within the Solis government on whether or not to press forward with the Indigenous Autonomy Law within the Legislative Assembly.
According to Cinia Jimenez, of the Legislative Assembly Office of Citizen Participation, the Indigenous Autonomy Bill number 14352 is currently 37th on Assembly's docket, meaning that the bill will likely not come up in the assembly's ordinary session which ends at the end of November. The Solis Administration would have an opportunity to bring the bill before the assembly in the extraordinary session which begins in December and lasts until the end of April.
One powerful voice against the Indigenous Autonomy cause is governing Citizen Action Party founder and congressman Otton Solis. Solis wrote an opinion piece that appeared in the daily La Nación on October 21, 2014 in which he criticized Sergio Rojas' Salitre movement as collectivist and in conflict with Costa Rica's Constitution.
Solis didn't respond to a request for comment.
Donald Rojas also said that a dose of racism also lies behind some of the opposition to the proposed Indigenous Autonomy Bill. "There are those who say that we should be made to live like white people, that we should modernize ourselves," said Donald Rojas;."
John McPhaul, "Costa Rica Struggles With Indigenous Land Rights," Cultural Survival, October 2, 2015,"
http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/costa-rica-struggles-indigenous-land-rights, reported, "
A case of Indigenous land rights is testing the Central American country of Costa Rica's otherwise stellar
reputation for protecting human rights.
In July of 2012, Sergio Rojas, a leader Costa Rica's Bribri Indigenous community, led Bribri and Teribe Indigenous in an effort to reclaim land within the Salitre Indigenous reserve in the Talamanca Mountains in southwestern Costa Rica.
Though the 11,700 hectares of land had been guaranteed to the Indigenous by the 1977 Indigenous Law, the failure of the government to compensate landowners or control the illegal sale of the land to 'white' outsiders resulted in the displacement of the Indigenous community.
According to Rojas, Salitre's Indigenous lived in numerous families per house in the reserve or in the slums of the regional hub of Buenos Aires about 20 kilometers down the mountain from Salitre.
'There's no reason for our people to live like that when we have an ancestral home which is ours not only by tradition but under the Indigenous Law, so we organized an effort to take it back,' said Rojas.
Amilcar Castañeda, an anthropologist from the National Distance University, said that much of the land is claimed by non-Indigenous absentee "owners" from Buenos Aires who pay caretakers to watch the land.
The response from the non-Indigenous "owners" of the land was Immediate. Since July, 2012, the Bribri and Teribe have been subjected to periodic violent attacks by white "landowners," who wielding machetes and clubs, have tried to eject the Indigenous, burning down their hovels and injuring Indigenous leaders.
The Indigenous complain that the public security officials have stood by and done nothing about the attacks and, on at least one occasion, the police actually participated in the forced removal of Indigenous from their land.
In August of 2012, Rojas the Buenos Aires Municipal Council declared Rojas persona-non-grata. Then on Sept. 17, 2014, Rojas was the object of an apparent assassination attempt in which his car was shot six times.
In April of this year, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, at the petition of the non-governmental Forest People Programme, ordered the Costa Rican government to take 'cautionary measures' to protect the lives and property of the Indigenous.
In issuing its ruling, which noted that the Indigenous have held title to the land since 1956, the IAHRC said that the gravity of the situation exists in view of 'a series of continuous cycles of threats. harassment and acts of violence against members of the Teribe and Bribri communities of Salitre,' and that the Indigenous 'find themselves in a grave and urgent situation since their lives and personal integrity are threatened and are at risk.'
According to the IACHR ruling, in the Salitre area around 60 percent of the Bribri land have been taken over by outsiders rising to between 80 to 88 percent of land belonging to the Teribe.
Late September a group Bribri and Teribe leaders complained that the government failed to consult them before putting into place the 'cautionary measures,' which included the tripling of the public security presence to 60 policeman.
The measures also includes the carrying out of a study to sort out who has a claim to the pre-1977 status quo, and so are entitled to compensation and who illegally obtained the land without title after 1977 and is not entitled to compensation.
Government spokesman Mauricio Herrera said the Indigenous community is divided into many different factions complicating a negotiated solution and that the government did consult one of the factions, but that one of the factions is stubbornly demanding a quick solution of removing the 'whites' from the land.
'It is hard to come to a solution, when one of the sides is intransigent,' said Herrera.
The Bribri faction that complained about not being consulted has refused to negotiate anything besides their own proposed solution: the removal of all non-Indigenous inhabitants from the land to which they hold an ancient claim.
But the situation is more complex than merely a Indigenous vs. non-Indigenous conflict, said Herrera.
'You have situations where Bribris are married to 'white' people,' said Herrera. 'And you have other situations where a Bribri is married to a Cabecar (an Indigenous group closely related to the Bribri).
But Rojas said the Bribri welcome the mixed families into the community and that the government proposal is nothing more than a dilatory move.
'What we want is for them to apply the legislation that protects our rights,' he said.
The problem, says Minor Mora, a member of the municipal council of Buenos Aires, lies in the fact that the government failed to compensate landowners in 1977 and since then the population has grown to about 3,200 'whites.'
'Removing so many people from the land would create a new set of social and humanitarian problems,'said Mora.
Mora also said certain interests he did not name were concerned about cashing in on the government program which compensates landowners for not cutting down forest as part of Costa Rica's carbon-neutral effort.
Rojas, the president of the Salitre Development Integral Association which manages the funds, was jailed for seven months in 'cautionary detention,'beginning in November of 2014 while the investigation into the malfeasance of 554 million colones ($1.1 million) going to the carbon-neutral fund.
Castañeda said the detention was politically motivated because of Rojas' role in the Salitre land dispute.
'He was a political prisoner,' said Castañeda. 'It's a case where there was disorder in the management of the Association's funds. It's something that's very common everywhere in the country and no one else has ever been accused of anything.'
'In two years and eight months since the process began in which the 11 directors of the Integral Development Association have been investigated, they haven't been able to demonstrate that the supposed charges they are accused of occurred nor any connection with them,' Rojas' attorney Ruben Chacon told the press.
Costa Rica's Indigenous peoples, estimated at around 60,000, remain the poorest and most marginalized sector of Costa Rican society.
Living in remote areas of the country, often far from vital services, the Indigenous communities consistently rank at the bottom of the country's human development indices.Indigenous groups like the Teribe has seen their culture decimated and have little left of their language.
The Bribri and the closely related Cabecar groups have been able to retain more of their culture and language, thanks in large part to the remoteness of their villages in the rugged, virtually inaccessible zones of the Talamanca Mountains which traverse Costa Rica's border with Panama in the south.
With the exception of the Chorotega Indigenous group, who are related to the Mayan civilizations in northern Central America, Costa Rica's Indigenous are related to the Chibcha Indigenous group centered in northern South America."
On April 25, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report calling upon Costa Rica to better enforce its Indigenous law to protect the 25 Native territories in the country, all of whom face occupation by non-Indigenous people (“Costa Rica: Preliminary Measures Issued Protecting Bribri and Teribe People Issued,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, September 2015).
Richard Arghiris. "Barro Blanco Protesters Injured and Arrested During Crackdown in Panama," Cultural Survival,
July 30, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/barro-blanco-protesters-injured-and-arrested-during-crackdown-panama,
Protests against the Barro Blanco hydro dam in western Panama turned violent last Saturday, July 25,
when riot police, claiming to act in self-defense, unleashed pepper spray and batons on some 50 Ngäbe activists, women
and children among them. At least three protesters were badly injured in the clash.
The crackdown occurred during a visit to the area by the Panamanian Vice President Isabel Saint Malo, who, under the pretext of dialogue, convened three Ngäbe leaders behind closed doors at the Centro Misionero (Mission Centre) in the town of Tolé. Despite a reasonable request to be included in the meeting, leaders from local community groups were excluded. Activists responded to Saint Malo’s move by blockading the Carretera Interamericana, the country’s principle highway.
According to the Ngäbe, at around 10:15 am, in scenes reminiscent of the Martinelli years, the police reacted violently to disperse the 50-strong protesters, destroying their equipment, trashing their camps, and burning their banners.
The police deny improper use of force.
Many fled the scene before 20 people were arrested (including several minors) and dispatched to the city of Santiago for processing.
While in the private meeting with Saint Malo, the Cacique of Muná, Chito Gallardo, and the Mayor of Muná, Rolando Carpintero, learned of the arrests and quickly intervened to have them returned. The injured were soon taken to the Casa Misionero for treatment and for the Vice President to bear witness.
According to one person at the scene, the vice president appeared coolly uninterested.
For several weeks, hundreds of police units have been stationed in and around Tolé, including numerous SENAFRONT troops, an elite militarized squad funded in part by the United States. SENAFRONT is normally charged with defending the jungle frontier with Colombia, making their presence of considerable significance.
Under the US Leahy Law on Human Rights, the US Department of State is prohibited from providing military assistance to foreign units who violate human rights with impunity.
The clashes on the Interamericana foreshadow greater unrest as Barro Blanco’s owner, Generadora del Istmo (GENISA) – a corporation owned by the controversial Kafie family, now mired in a high-level corruption scandal in Honduras – scrambles to complete the final 5-10% of the hydro dam’s construction.
The company has never sought the free, informed, and prior consent of the indigenous communities living on the banks of the Tabasará river, while the project’s funders, the Dutch and German investment banks FMO and DFE, admit to failing their own due diligence tests. Unfortunately, all funds have now been dispensed to GENISA and the banks themselves made a point of threatening the government when it suspended the project earlier this year.
The negative impacts of Barro Blanco have been identified by scores of technical teams, independent experts, international observers, and the United Nations. Those same impacts are nowhere to be found in GENISA’s Environmental Impact Assessment. Among them, the dam will displace several indigenous and campesino communities, including the community of Kiad, where a unique school and cultural centre is developing the written script of the Ngäbere language.
Additional impacts include the loss of farm plots and fish stocks -- vital sources of sustenance for indigenous and campesino communities in the region – as well as the loss of several ancient petroglyphs, part of Panama’s national patrimony and a special significance to the Mama Tata religion, a Ngäbe revivalist movement that syncretises indigenous animism and Catholicism.
Among the most devout followers of Mama Tata are the M22 resistance movement, who successfully blockaded the entrance to the dam for 38 consecutive days – until just ten days ago . International news footage of the groups praying and dancing on the highway may have influenced the government’s decision to enforce a ‘soft’ take-over of the site entrance. In contrast to the force deployed outside Tolé, Ngäbe women lying in the path of machinery were carefully removed.
Construction of the dam has now resumed and M22 are continuing to pray day and night by the highway. They complain of psychological intimidation with the police shining high intensity lamps on their camp during the night and aggressively entering the temple they have built near the river banks.
For his part, Panamanian President Varela, who continues to talk condescendingly about giving the Ngäbe ‘the keys to the dam’ upon its completion, appears to have acquiesced to pressures from his own business community, tacitly enabling foreign corporations who respect neither the environment nor international law nor indigenous or human rights.
The Supreme Court has cheered him on by annulling a moratorium on hydro projects passed by the environment agency, ANAM, who were concerned with the stress being placed on Panama’s delicate but biologically rich watersheds. With the crackdown last week, the Panamanian government appears officially back to business as usual."
"Colombian Indians protest against “illegal” imprisonment of leader," Survival International, October
20, 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10942, Reported, "
A prominent Colombian indigenous leader has been jailed for sixteen years, in a move that has been criticized
“a severe blow to Colombia’s democracy”
Feliciano Valencia, a Nasa Indian from Colombia’s conflict-ridden Cauca region , is accused of kidnapping a soldier during an indigenous-led protest in 2008.
The soldier was detained by the Nasa Indians’ legally recognized “Indigenous Guard” after he infiltrated a protest undercover. He was sentenced under the Nasa’s own justice system and released a week later.
The Nasa say they informed the soldier’s family and superiors of his arrest, and the sentence was carried out in accordance with Colombia’s constitutional law, which upholds indigenous peoples’ right to their own customary legal system.
Valencia has been at the forefront of the indigenous rights movement in Colombia. His homeland in the western Cauca province is one of the most violent regions of the country, and has been overrun with guerrillas, paramilitaries and the armed forces.
A lack of evidence supporting the case against Valencia, and his unusually long jail term, have been widely condemned as evidence that his sentence is politically motivated.
National Indigenous Organization ONIC has called Valencia’s arrest: '(part of) the systematic criminalization and persecution of our social movements (and) an attack on peace and social justice.'
Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, is urging the Colombian government to release Feliciano Valencia, and uphold indigenous peoples’ rights in accordance with Colombian and international law."
"Speaks Out in Support of Maya Peoples," Cultural Survival, July 7, 2015,
http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/belize-unsr-victoria-tauli-corpuz-speaks-out-support-maya-peoples, reported, "The
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, today urged the
Government of Belize to ensure respect for the rights of the country’s Maya people to non-discrimination and traditional
'Under international human rights standards, indigenous peoples have the right to use, develop and also to control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership,' Ms. Tauli-Corpuz emphasized.
The independent expert’s call comes after the arrest of 12 Maya people and local leaders charged with unlawful imprisonment for their actions to remove a non-Maya individual, Rupert Myles, from their village lands.Mr. Myles was allegedly building a housing structure on ancient Maya ruins in the village of Santa Cruz, in violation of Maya customary law and apparently despite repeated requests for the removal of the structure.
'It appears as though the repeated requests to local police by Santa Cruz village leaders for assistance in removing the individual from the archaeological site within their village lands, went ignored,' the Special Rapporteur noted. “I am concerned by the inaction of the Government of Belize to assist Maya villagers to protect their property rights in the face of threats to those rights.'
Santa Cruz is one of some 39 Maya villages within the Toledo District of Belize, whose rights to traditional lands have been affirmed by the legal system in Belize, including most recently in April 2015 by the Caribbean Court of Justice, the highest court of appeals in the Belize legal system.
.The Maya village of Santa Cruz holds customary rights to its village lands which the government must respect and protect, as affirmed by a 2007 decision of the Supreme Court of Belize,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz noted.
The Special Rapporteur urged the Government to establish a dialogue with Maya leadership and discuss outstanding issues of concern regarding this case, as well as the broader land tenure situation of the Maya people, in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect. 'The current situation of conflict and mistrust cannot be allowed to persist,' she added.
The Santa Cruz incident - Background:
According to reports, Mr. Myles, a non-Maya individual, has been constructing a house on the archaeological site of Uxbenka –an ancient Maya temple in the village of Santa Cruz– including the alleged bulldozing of a portion of the site to create a driveway. Mr. Myles has reported that he had followed procedures to live in the village.
On Saturday, 20 June, Santa Cruz villagers detained Mr. Myles when he interrupted a fajina (traditional meeting). Villagers allege that he stated that he had a firearm in his car and that he proceeded to approach his vehicle. He was released by the villagers later that day.
Among the Maya people arrested and charged with Mr. Myles’s unlawful imprisonment were the Alcalde (major) of Santa Cruz, Manuel Pop, and Cristina Coc, spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance, an association which represents the Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA) composed of the elected Alcaldes from the 39 Maya villages within the Toledo District of Belize were also arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment.
The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines), is a human rights activist working on indigenous peoples’ rights. Her work for more than three decades has been focused on movement building among indigenous peoples and also among women, and she has worked as an educator-trainer on human rights, development and indigenous peoples in various contexts. She is a member of the Kankana-ey, Igorot indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region in the Philippines. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/SRIPeoplesIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
Check the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/Declaration.aspx."
William Neuman, “Venezuelan Opposition Claims a Rare Victory: A Legislative Majority,” The New York Times, December 6, 2015,
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/07/world/americas/venezuela-elections.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, reported, “
Government opponents surged to a rare victory here on Sunday in key congressional elections framed by the country’s
deep economic crisis, claiming a legislative majority for the first time in years and handing a significant setback to the
heirs of former President
and his socialist-inspired movement.
The victory significantly alters the political balance in this deeply divided country and augurs a power struggle between the long-marginalized opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro, the successor and disciple of Mr. Chávez.”
, “Jurist Becomes First Indigenous President Of Bolivia’s Highest Court,” !CTMN, November 25, 2015,
The newest president judge of Bolivia’s highest court is an Indigenous magistrate, making him the first Indigenous
person in that post.
On November 4, officials announced that Pastor Mamani was elected to be President of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, where five jurists, including the previous President, voted for him and four against.”
“Mamani announced that he would establish a direct line of communication with the indigenous justice system in the country which, according to his colleague Romulo Calle, had become an “orphan” of the state.”
"Peru: Land at last for families of murdered Ashéninka Indians," 1 September1, 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10888, reported, "
Ashéninka Indians in Peru have obtained title of their ancestral land on the anniversary of the
murders of four of their most prominent leaders
Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quinticima Melendez and Francisco Pinedo were murdered by illegal loggers near their home in the eastern Peruvian Amazon on 1 September 2014.
Three men have been charged for the murders of the indigenous leaders, but a further three suspects have not yet been arrested.
The Ashéninka have been fighting for their right to their ancestral land for more than ten years. Community members have received numerous death threats from loggers who have invaded their land.
The widows of the deceased have been hailed for their determination in bringing the killers to justice, and securing the land for their community.
Diana Rios, a spokesperson for the Ashéninka, told press, “They thought they could treat us badly forever. But we are human beings. We don’t want more bloodshed… We ask the State to support us and to support other communities too. It’s not just Saweto (the Ashéninka community) – there are other communities that don’t have title.”
Although Peru has ratified the international law that guarantees indigenous peoples’ land ownership rights, more than 1500 indigenous communities in Peru still do not have legal title to their land."
"Peru Concludes Consultation on Lot 192 Before Agreement Reached with Indigenous Federations," Cultural Survival, September 30, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/peru-concludes-consultation-lot-192-agreement-reached-indigenous-federations, reported, " http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/peru-concludes-consultation-lot-192-agreement-reached-indigenous-federations - dexp-carousel http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/peru-concludes-consultation-lot-192-agreement-reached-indigenous-federations - dexp-carouselOn September 1st, 2015, the government of Peru announced that the process of prior consultation over oil concessions in the Peruvian Amazon had ended, despite agreements failing to be reached. A series of formal dialogues regarding Lot 192 between the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Indigenous Peoples organizations ended unsuccessfully at the end of August, 2015.
Block 192 is the most important petroleum license in Peru, accounting for roughly 17 percent of Peru’s oil production. The concession, held by Argentinian company Pluspetrol, expired at the end of August, and a process of consultation is required by Peruvian law and backed by international laws before a new concession is approved.
Yet no agreement has been reached during the process of consultation. The announcement of its conclusion has been called arbitrary by Indigenous leaders. 'There are 16 points in the process of prior consultation that have not been made clear, like the land titling, payment for the use of our lands, compensation for the environmental degradation, and remediation. This is why we have not signed onto the act with the government. We want the state to guarantee our rights,' explained Carlos Sandi, President of FECONACO.
The dialogues, which have been taking place on and off since 2011, ended with no agreement between the government and Indigenous representative organizations, including Federacion Indigena Quechua del Pastaza (FEDIQUEP), Federación de Comunidades Nativas del Corrientes (FECONACO), ACODECOSPAT and AIDESEP, as to what actions will be taken to further consult and honor the wishes of the Indigenous communities who have been living with contamination on their lands for over 40 years of oil extraction.
The government was aiming to ratify an agreement stating that the Indigenous groups would receive 0.75% of the production gains from the oil wells, which are located on Indigenous territories along four river watersheds in the department of Loreto, the Pastaza, Corrientes, Tigre, and Marañon rivers. Known as Lot 192, the land has been used for oil extraction since the 1970s leaving devastating environmental and health emergencies.
In a letter to President Ollanta Humala, Indigenous leaders stated the following:
'In the single-track agenda focused on 'benefits', our demands for the fundamental aspects of the recognition of our rights and the future of our communities and territories, including the rights to land, a healthy territory without contamination, and the right to participation, were made invisible and were suspended.' Monetary gain is not the primary interest to the communities. Rather, what they are seeking is remediation of existing environmental contamination before considering new exploitation.
The letter continued:
'We want to communicate that the process of consultation for Lot 192, moving into its 6th stage, ‘Intercultural Dialogue’ has set a negative and difficult stage for the strenuous process of building trust between the federations and the state, and references the historic process of dialogue that our Indigenous Peoples have sustained with the Peruvian state. Our dialogues have tried to address the complex problems resulting from 45 years of petroleum exploitation, and guarantee collective and territorial rights to communities that are highly vulnerable in front of the possible impacts of 30 more years of hydrocarbon extraction.'
'We believe that the dialogue process of the consultation has not fulfilled the fundamental principles like good faith, reasonable timeframe, and interculturality, which are requirements of the Law of Prior Consultation,' which was passed in Peru in 2011.
The vision and proposals of the Achuar and Quechua Peoples of the Pastaza and Corrientes as they face the next 30 years of petroleum activity in Lot 192 have been documented and delivered to the state of Peru and the companies, but have not been adequately addressed.
This video shows traditional leaders of the Indigenous Federations of the Amazon River basins expressing their requests of the State:
'We emphasize that as of now, we have not signed any agreement with the state regarding the prior consultation for the concession of Lot 192. We reiterate our disposal to continue dialoguing, and our firm commitment and respect for the principles of the right to prior consultation.'
Indigenous communities have revealed the government's dismissive and disrespectful behavior throughout the dialogues, although press releases from the Ministry do not acknowledge this fact. “We are furious at the incapacity and poor management demonstrated by the State in the dialogue process of Prior Consultation of Lot 192.'
Meanwhile, frustration over failed consultation for another oil concession led to Indigenous organizations occupying an airfield in Trompeteros which controls access on what is known as Lot 8. Loreto governor Fernando Melendez Celis noted, “These types of things will continue to happen because there hasn’t been transparency in the [concessioning] process, which is something the government of Loreto has demanded from the central government,’’ noting that often times officials in Lima have no understanding of how people live in the rural regions of the country."
In northern Peru, the Supreme Court of Loreto ruled, in May 2015, in favor of Acodecospat, an association of Kukarna communities in the lower Mara on River Valley, ordering a halt in the construction of the Hydrovia waterway project to improve infrastructure connecting counties in the region, pending consultations with the Indigenous populations in the area (“Peru: Dredging of Amazonian Tributaries Halted Pending Consultation,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, September 2015).
In Peru, the relatively new, Interculturality’s Directorate of Indigenous Languages, many of who’s staff members are Indigenous, and many whom speak the country’s Indigenous languages, is involved in a positive shift in at least part of the government’s approach to Indigenous people in Peru. The agency is working to support preserving Indigenous languages, including coordinating related action by agencies throughout the government. A major development was the passage, in 2011, of Law 29735, the Law of Indigenous Languagescoinciding with the Law of Consulta Previa (Prior Consultation). For the first time, due to the policies of the the government of President Ollanta Humala, language is now included as a key component within Peru’s national policy on social inclusion.
Linguistic policies in Peru include five lines of action: language development and revitalization; engaging in research and producing language resources; opening new spaces for the use of Indigenous languages; promoting the implementation of language rights by the State; and supporting the Prior Consultation process (“The Voice(s) of a Nation,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, December 2015, https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/voices-nation).
"Yanomami tribe raises alarm as uncontacted Indians disappear',” Survival International, October
16, 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10947, reported, "
in the Brazilian Amazon have warned that their uncontacted relatives are in grave danger as illegal miners have taken
over their territory.
Recent overflights to monitor one uncontacted group have returned with news that their communal house is empty, indicating that they could have fled or been attacked.
Hutukara Yanomami Association announced in a statement, 'The Yanomami indigenous territory is overrun with illegal gold miners. There are more of them each day, and they are ruining the forest, polluting the rivers… and causing irreparable damage to our health and culture.'
Shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, President of Hutukara, said, 'The place where the uncontacted Indians live, fish, hunt and plant must be protected. The whole world must know that they are there in their forest and that the authorities must respect their right to live there.'
Earlier this year, the government’s Indian Affairs Department, FUNAI, abandoned its base camp and airstrip from which it aimed to protect the uncontacted Yanomami, known as the Moxi Hatëtëa. The government’s absence has left the Indians even more vulnerable to attacks and diseases which could prove fatal."
“Brazil: logging gang arrested close to uncontacted tribe,” Survival International, November 9, 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10989, reported, “A
band of loggers has been arrested close to the territory of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon basin. They were found by a
Brazilian government task force, which also confiscated forty truckloads of illegally-felled timber.
The loggers were apprehended in the Guariba Reserve, a buffer zone for the territory of the highly threatened Kawahiva tribe. The Kawahiva have no contact with the outside world, but the activities of loggers on their land risks disaster.
Uncontacted tribal peoples are the most vulnerable societies on the planet. We know very little about them. Whole populations are being wiped out by violence from outsiders who steal their land and resources, and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
Award-winning actor Mark Rylance launched Survival’s ’Last of the Kawahiv’ film earlier this year to draw attention to the tribe’s plight.
Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa, known as the “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest”, said:’“The place where the uncontacted Indians live, fish, hunt and plant must be protected. The whole world must know that they are there in their forest and that the authorities must respect their right to live there’”
The Kawahiva face genocide. They have shown their desire to remain uncontacted. Contact with the outside world could prove fatal for them, as it has been for their relatives and countless other peoples in the past. However, their situation is far from hopeless. If their right to remain on their land undisturbed is respected, they will be able not only to survive, but to flourish.
Since 2013, a decree to make the Kawahiva’s land a designated Indigenous Territory has been sitting on the desk of the Brazilian Minister of Justice. Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, is urging him to act to save the Kawahiva from extinction.
Survival Director Stephen Corry issued the following statement: ‘The Kawahiva face catastrophe unless their land is protected: If the forest disappears, so too will the Kawahiva. Brazil needs to do far more to prevent the extinction of yet another innocent tribe”.’
”Brazil: Authorities stand by as fires started by loggers threaten tribe,” Survvial International, December
“Fires – almost certainly started by logging gangs – are raging across large areas of Maranhão state in
Despite global calls for action
to protect the pre-Amazon forest and local uncontacted Awá tribespeople from being wiped out, so far the authorities
have done very little to contain the blaze.
The fires were started approximately two weeks ago. Local Awá Indians have made repeated efforts to extinguish them, only to find more fires starting nearby. This pattern indicates conscious human efforts to set the forest alight, rather than natural dry season wildfires. Elsewhere in Brazil , loggers have been known to start fires to try and force indigenous people from the land.
This fire follows on from a similar incident in Arariboia last month, which was also extinguished long after it had started. It is believed that that fire was also started by loggers on the territory of a group of uncontacted Awá.
One Awá man said: ’“What will we do with no food and no forest? The fire is destroying our animals, and we are very worried. The loggers are setting our forest on fire – we’ve seen armed loggers! We try to put out the fires in one place and they spring up in another’”
The Maranhão state government has sent only minimal support to the region to save the forest and the local Awá. This is consistent with their past attitudes towards tribes, and may be the result of close ties between some local and regional government officials and the powerful logging mafia.
In a speech to ranchers earlier this year, Maranhão state deputy Fernando Furtado said that Amazonian Indians are: “a bunch of little gays” and that they should die of hunger. Racist attitudes of this sort are not uncommon even amongst politicians in Brazil.
Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples, is calling on the Brazilian authorities to do more to save the Awá from the fires and to assist them in their efforts to preserve the rainforests. Tribal people are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, but when they are abandoned or ignored by those in power, they stand little chance of saving either themselves or their natural environment from destruction.
Survival director Stephen Corry sai: ‘The handling of this fire is business as usual from the logging mafia that runs rampant in Maranhão. As long as there are powerful vested interests determined to drive tribal peoples from their ancestral lands and ignore their rights in order to exploit the Amazon, catastrophes like this will continue to happen. Survival is doing all that it can to bring the plight of the Awá to wider attention and pressing for more action to put out these fires’.”
"Brazilian Indians kidnapped by ranchers," Survival International, September 18, 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10913, reported, "
Members of one of Brazil’s most persecuted tribes have been kidnapped by the ranchers who occupy their land, who have
also attacked their community and forced women and children to flee.
The Guarani Indians of Pyelito Kuê community reoccupied a fraction of their ancestral land two days ago, and have been under attack ever since. One Guarani woman was reportedly raped and beaten up, and is now in hospital.
Earlier today gunmen employed by the ranchers attacked the Indians again. Reports indicate several were injured, with many fleeing in panic into a small patch of forest. Around 30 Indians were forced into the back of a truck and driven away. They were eventually dumped by a roadside.
Communications equipment from Survival’s Tribal Voice project, which the Indians had been using to speak to the outside world, was destroyed by the gunmen.
The Indians have endured years of living in overcrowded reserves, on a tiny plot of land trapped between a river and a sea of soya, and in the middle of a eucalyptus plantation. All their lands have been taken over by ranchers, whose gunmen regularly attack the Indians .
Community leader, Marcio, told Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, today: 'It’s terrible here. The gunmen attacked us in the middle of the night. They burned all our belongings. They shot at us. Some of my relatives were injured and many people fled. I don’t know where or how they are now. We’ll do everything it takes to get our land back. We will not give up.'
This is the latest in a series of violent attacks by ranchers against Brazil’s Guarani tribe. According to Brazil’s constitution, all the tribe’s land should have been returned to it by 1993, but 22 years on, many remain landless and destitute."
Earlier, "Wave of attacks hits Brazil’s Guarani tribe," Survival International, September 10, 2015," http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10904, reported, "Gunmen have launched a wave of attacks against Guarani Indians in central Brazil.
On 29 August Guarani leader Semião Vilhalva was shot dead one week after his community reoccupied part of their ancestral land. A one-year-old baby was struck in the head by a rubber bullet, and many others were injured.
Less than a week later, on 3 September, 30 vehicles full of ranchers and gunmen arrived at the community of Guyra Kambi’y.
They fired repeatedly at the community, forcing the Indians, including about 50 children, to flee and hide in small pockets of forest nearby. They then set fire to the Indians’ homes, destroying everything.
The Guarani had requested protection from the authorities but the police left the Guarani at the mercy of the gunmen.
Gunmen have surrounded several other Guarani communities in the region and are firing daily, encircling and threatening the Indians.
Guarani spokeswoman Inaye Gomes Lopes said, “We’ll remain firm. The ranchers think that killing Indians will solve things. No. If they kill one, 20 or 30 will rise up.”
NGOs in Brazil are calling for local parliamentarians to be investigated for their alleged involvement in the attacks.
This heightened conflict follows decades of devastation of the Guarani’s ancestral lands, now occupied by cattle ranches and sugar cane, soya and corn plantations.
Brazil’s constitution required the government to map out all indigenous territory and return it for their exclusive use by 1993, but this process has come to a stand-still and left the Guarani living in appalling conditions.
The latest attack came one day after the Minister of Justice visited the area to discuss solutions to the land conflict, which has become Brazil’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Guarani association, Aty Guasu, said, 'The ranchers and all those responsible for these barbaric crimes must be punished!' The Guarani are also demanding police protection and the mapping out of their lands.
Survival has launched an urgent campaign calling on Brazil’s government to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks, to protect the communities from further violence and to map out the Guarani’s land to prevent further bloodshed."
Earlier, "Brazil: Gunmen set fire to Indian community," Survival International, June 26, 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10832, reported, "
Gunmen have attacked and set ablaze a
community in south west Brazil.
Initial reports indicated that a one year old baby had burned to death when the gunmen torched the Indians’ houses on June 24, but this has not subsequently been confirmed.
The Guarani fled the area, and two girls and one boy are reported to be missing.
The Indians of Kurusu Mba community peacefully re-occupied part of their ancestral land on June 22, having waited many years for it to be returned to them.
They were soon surrounded by gunmen who, according to one Guarani man, “fired shots above our heads.” The ranchers and farmers who now occupy almost all Guarani land frequently employ armed men to terrorize the Indians.
A Guarani spokesman said they occupied their land because “We can no longer bear living with pesticides, hunger and waiting for the government [to act].”
Many Guarani are being subjected to brutal and intolerable attacks as they wait in vain for the authorities to recognize their land rights.
Kurusu Mba has suffered many violent attacks in the past. Kurete Lopes, a 70 year old religious leader, was murdered by gunmen in 2007, as was another leader, Ortiz Lopes. Another man, Osvaldo Lopes, was murdered in 2009.
The community is hemmed in by soya plantations. Intensive pesticide spraying pollutes the streams the Indians use for drinking water."
"State of emergency’ for Paraguay’s tribal peoples," Survival International, October 13, 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10937, reported, "
Indigenous peoples in Paraguay are in a state of emergency according to the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for
A new U.N. report found “persistent racism,” “discrimination” and a total failure by the Paraguayan state to uphold indigenous peoples’ land rights.
The report highlights “massive deforestation” of land belonging to uncontacted Ayoreo Indians and warns that the government’s failure to return the land to its rightful owners places the Ayoreo’s lives in great danger.
Rampant destruction by cattle firms Yaguareté Porã SA and Spanish-owned “Carlos Casado SA”: has already destroyed much of the Ayoreo’s forest, which has the highest deforestation rate in the world .
Uncontacted tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. For the last remaining uncontacted Ayoreo, the forest is their only hope for survival.
The U.N. has called on the companies to halt all work on the Ayoreo’s land until the tribe’s 20-year land claim has been resolved.
The Paraguayan State has expressed its 'firm duty to find a quick and sustainable solution' to the indigenous land crisis. However, a preliminary forecast for Paraguay’s Indian Affairs Department shows budget cuts of up to 40%.
Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, said today, 'The uncontacted Ayoreo are staring extinction in the face. This won’t change until Paraguay upholds its own laws and returns the land to its rightful indigenous owners. Of course, it’s not just the Ayoreo’s survival at stake – destroying the Chaco forest affects the whole of humanity. With human diversity comes biological diversity, and Paraguay is annihilating both.'"
To read the United Nations’ reportvisit: http://www.uncontactedtribes.org.
Palm oil companies have been taken advantage of West Africa's Ebola crisis to take over land in those countries, forcing local, including Indigenous, farmers off their land, taking it out of food production, as well as cutting down forests, for palm oil production. This included accusations of doing this in Liberia by Golden Veroleum Liberia (Clair Mac Dougal, "Palm Oil Company Is Accused of Exploiting Liberia’s Ebola Crisis," The New York Times, August 1, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/world/africa/palm-oil-company-is-accused-of-exploiting-liberias-ebola-crisis.html?ref=todayspaper).
"Poaching-terrorism link that contributed to tribes’ persecution ‘largely wrong’ 23 September 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10919, reported, "
A new report has debunked the argument that the illegal wildlife trade in East Africa significantly funds terrorism –
an exaggeration used to justify the militarization of anti-poaching squads and the persecution of tribal subsistence
The report titled 'An Illusion of Complicity: Terrorism and the Illegal Ivory Trade in East Africa' was launched by former U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday and concluded that, in the case of terrorist group Al Shabaab, evidence for its participation is 'extremely limited and controversial', adding that any involvement is 'dwarfed by organized criminal networks and corrupt officials across East Africa …'
The findings expose the flaws in a narrative that has held sway in conservation and political circles over several years and has led to the persecution of tribal hunters across Africa.
In U.S. journal Truthout, Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, questioned the argument that ivory significantly funds Al Shabaab – which was based on a single article published by the Elephant Action League. The article was co-authored by Nir Kalron, chief executive of the Tel Aviv-based Maisha Consulting, which provides paramilitaries and weapons training to conservation initiatives.
Tribal peoples like the Bushmen in Botswana, Bayaka in the Republic of Congo, and Baka Pygmies and their neighbors in Cameroon are criminalized as poachers for hunting to feed their families, while trophy hunters and corrupt officials involved in poaching – including some charged with protecting the environment – are not targeted.
In 2015, Botswana’s President Ian Khama said, “Wildlife trafficking is no longer simply about trade in wildlife and their parts and derivatives. Proceeds of trafficking are used to fund other crimes such as terrorism, arms and drugs trafficking.” Botswana has issued a ban on hunting in Botswana, which particularly targets subsistence hunters like the Bushmen.
A Bayaka woman in Congo said, 'The ecoguards [anti-poaching squads] make us sit here starving. They have ruined our world. If we try to hunt in the forest they beat us so badly. They even kill us if they see us in the forest.'
Stephen Corry said, ' Conservation has to clean up its act and stop peddling inventions. There is undoubtedly an organized poaching trade in some countries, but it must stop being used as an excuse for abusing tribal peoples whose lands are still being stolen by the conservation industry. Conservationists hunt for sport, tribal people aren’t allowed to hunt for food. Its time this ended. Conservationists would achieve more if they focused on stopping officials – often their own partners – profiting from the illegal wildlife trade, but it’s easier of course to point the finger elsewhere'."
“Last Days of Ivory: Kathryn Bigelow spurns call to withdraw film,” Survival International, November4, 2015,
http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10982, reported, “
The Hollywood teambehind the controversial film“Last Days of Ivory” have ignored calls to withdraw it, despite
that it’s misleading the public. The film advocates a more militaristic approach to conservation that has already
proved disastrous for tribes across Africa and elsewhere.
The film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, claims that the Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab is funded by ivory poaching, but two recent investigations, by the respected think tank the Royal United Services Institute, and the UN and Interpol, have found that this is “largely wrong” and “highly unreliable”.
The film is being used to bolster the move toward a more violent conservation that criminalizes tribal peoples for subsistence hunting.
Across Africa, tribal peoples are being evicted from their land and suffer violence at the hands of heavily armed anti-poaching squads. They’re accused of “poaching” because they hunt their food. And they face arrest and beatings, torture and death, while fee-paying big game hunters are encouraged. Their lives and lands are being destroyed by the conservation industry, tourism and big business.
Tribal peoples are the best conservationists. They know their environment better than any outside observer, and can act as the eyes and ears of global efforts to reduce illegal hunting and the destruction of the natural environment in which they live.
The false association between poaching and terrorism that Last Days of Ivory propagates has contributed to an ever more militaristic approach to tackling wildlife crime – which in turn leads to the brutal persecution of many tribal subsistence hunters.
Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has asked for the film to be withdrawn. Survival Director Stephen Corry said:’The militarization of conservation is gaining momentum, and it is increasingly fuelling the brutal persecution of hunter-gathering tribes. Tribespeople who hunt to feed their families face arrest and beatings, torture and death at the hands of heavily armed park guards.
‘It seems that the link Bigelow’s film claims between the Westgate terrorist attack and ivory poaching doesn’t exist in real life. For certain conservationists to manipulate public opinion like this in favor of policies which exacerbate the destruction of tribal peoples, the best guardians of the natural world, is simply unacceptable.’
The film is due to be screened at a conference for lawmakers in New York City this Wednesday (November 4th).”
"Maasai Communities Face Human Rights Violations in Laikipia County, Kenya.' Cultural Survival, August 24, 2015,
http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/maasai-communities-face-human-rights-violations-laikipia-county-kenya, reported, "
An ongoing dispute over 2,300 acres of land in Segera, Laikipia County, Kenya has the Maasai people facing violent
abuse and other human rights violations. The Maasai community were told that the land had been purchased by North Tetu
Cooperative Society and that they had to evacuate. When the Maasai protested, the police and employees of the land reacted
violently. One man, Joel Partalala Ole Ntayia, was beaten and drowned by police and employees while his ten year old
son watched nearby. Another man, Karisa Lesakut, was beaten and arrested by police while at home and had to pay both his bail
and medical expenses.
In addition, there have been reports of police abusing women and children and looting the Maasai’s property. In a personal account, one Maasai describes the situation: 'We are called squatters in our own land. We are beaten up and robbed and there is nothing that we can do about it… I have never seen a government behaving this way. It made promises to solve the matter but instead sent us the police.' Another woman, Ntisi Kaparo, says that, 'every woman worries every day [about] the arrests and beatings. We worry that our children, young men and husbands will not come home by the end of the day. We are hungry because men no longer come home in fear of being arrested.' It is clear that the Maasai live in fear of assault from police and that action must be taken to protect the community.
A report by Eng’ape E Maa Association provided several recommendations, which include :
Bringing Joel Partalala Ole Ntaiyia’s murderer to justice.
Securing Maasai freedom to gather and discuss their issues freely.
Investigating the human rights abuses and the damages to property committed by the police and employees.
Stopping the harassment of the Maasai people.
Providing clear information on the ownership of the land and how it has changed hands over time.
Identifying other possible problematic areas where communities do not have proper land titles to the land they live on to avoid future conflicts. To read the report visit: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/sites/default/files/media/laikipia_report_final-1.pdf.
The Supreme Court of Israel, on June 8, 2015, denied the petition of a Bedouin family in the Negev for recognition of ownership of a large plot of land, including the unrecognized village of al Arakib, which would allow the government to expel the residents of the village who have long been resisting their removal. The government claims that the relocation would promote the development of the people concerned, but the Arakib residents, seeking development, reject the government approach, including the removal. The Israeli removal effort has long been a contentious international issue (“Israel: Supreme Court Denies Land Rights to Bedouin People,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, September 2015).
Repression of the Uigar minority in Chiin's Xinjiang province continues to spur violence. Andrew Jacobs, "In a Region Disturbed by Ethnic Tensions, China Keeps Tight Lid on a Massacre," The New York Times, October 18, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/19/world/asia/in-a-region-disturbed-by-ethnic-tensions-china-keeps-tight-lid-on-a-massacre.html?ref=todayspaper, reported, "Armed with only knives, the assailants struck at the coal mine in the dead of night, first killing the security guards and then setting upon the miners as they slept in their dormitory beds. Before the Sept. 18 rampage was over, more than 50 people were dead, at least five of them police officers, and dozens more had been wounded, according to victims’ relatives and residents.
Most of the victims were Han Chinese who had been lured to this desolate corner of the far west Xinjiang region by the prospect of steady work and decent pay.
The wanted posters displayed later in Baicheng suggest the attackers were ethnic Uighurs , all of whom apparently escaped into the craggy foothills of the Tianshan Mountains, not far from China ’s border with Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Even as Baicheng County remains in a state of siege, with an enormous manhunt underway, the Chinese news media has yet to report on the massacre, and local officials, when asked about it, have denied that it even took place.
As Myanmar continues to act against the Rohingya ethnioc group, claiming they are not citizens, one long term Rohingya law maker was barres from standing for reelection, in August, on ghe claim the Rohingya are not citizens, while hundreds of Rohingya have been struck from the election roles (Thomas Fuller, "Myanmar Striking Rohingya From Voter Rolls, Activists Say," The New York Times, August 23, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/24/world/asia/myanmar-lawmaker-u-shwe-maung-barred-from-re-election-on-citizenship-grounds.html?ref=todayspaper).
In the continuing clash between the Chinese government and Uigars in Xinjiang, the government claimed it had killed 17 people, including women and children, in a November raid aimed at apprehending attackers at the mine in September (Javier C. Hernandez, “Police in China Kill 17 Linked to Mine Attack, Report Says,” The New York Times, November 18, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/19/world/asia/police-in-china-kill-17-linked-to-mine-attack-report-says.html?ref=todayspaper).
"Undercover TV report exposes mass evictions from India’s tiger reserves," Survival International July 22, 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10852, reported, "A special undercover investigation by French TV channel Canal Plus has exposed the illegal eviction of thousands of tribal people from Kanha Tiger Reserve in the name of conservation, while more than a hundred thousand tourists are welcomed in every year.
A TV reporter visited families of the Baiga tribe who were evicted from Kanha – home of the “Jungle Book” – in 2014, and found that their lives were devastated after being forced from their homes against their will. The tribespeople have been struggling to survive after being scattered in surrounding villages.
Sukhdev, a Baiga man, was killed after his village was evicted from Kanha in 2014. His body was found after he attempted to buy land for his family.
Interviewed by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, in 2012, Sukhdev had said: “We won’t find another place like this. How will we set up home there? How will we raise our children? We need our fields and homes … Won’t we die?”
Sukhdev’s brother told Canal Plus: “We were one of the last families to resist. But the people from the reserve forced us to leave. They told us they’d take care of us for three years, but they didn’t do a thing. Even when my brother was killed, no one came to help us.” Studies have found that tigers thrive in areas inhabited by people. And while the Baiga have lived alongside the tiger for generations and regard the animal as their “little brother,” Kanha’s mass tourism has been called “incompatible and detrimental” to conserving the species by a top conservation official.
The TV crew gained access to a confidential official report which lists the systematic resettlement of 22,000 people from tiger reserves across the region. Under Indian law, tribal peoples’ consent is required before such evictions, but they are often harassed into leaving.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been supplying infrastructural support, training and equipment for frontline staff in Kanha. In an interview with Canal Plus, a WWF India director refused to condemn the evictions.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, 'So-called ‘conservation’ continues to destroy tribal peoples as it has for generations . They’ve never threatened the tigers, who would do better if the tribes remained and the tourists stopped. Tribal peoples are generally better conservationists anyway than industrial-sized NGOs like WWF which stand by in silence while the parks forcibly evict people like Sukhdev and his family. It’s time these evictions are stopped and this scandal exposed.'”
“Dongria Kondh’s sacred hills under threat again,” Survival International, November 19, 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10999, reported, “ The Dongria Kondh tribe face resuming their fight against plans to mine their sacred hills, as the Odisha state authorities are once again actively promoting a major bauxite mining operation in the Niyamgiri Hills . This is in spite of the project – which would lead to huge environmental damage and destroy tribal communities in the region – having been shelved two years ago following a Supreme Court decision.
Extensive consultations were held with the Dongria who unanimously voted against the mine in a referendum ordered by the Supreme Court. The referendum, which led to the cancellation of the project, followed a local and international outcry. But Odisha state is now moving to revive its plans to mine the hills in order to supply British-owned Vedanta Resources’s nearby aluminum refinery. Such operations have proven disastrous to tribal communities elsewhere in India.
The Dongria Kondh, a tribal people from eastern India, not only depend on the Niyamgiri Hills for their livelihood, but also consider them to be their sacred ancestral homeland, fundamental to their identity and way of life.
Once again the Dongria are speaking out against this threat. Mukuna Sikaka said: “We are not going to allow mining over Niyamgiri at any cost – not for all the developmental efforts of the government.”
Survival International led the international campaign against the mining operation and is now calling for the Indian authorities to keep their promise and respect the wishes of the Dongria Kondh, the people who will be most directly affected by mining on their territory.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today: “The Supreme Court ruling upheld the Dongria Kondh’s right to decide whether mining should go ahead on their land. The Dongria gave a resounding no. Why then is Odisha state proposing to reopen discussions on the future of the mine? It’s time India obeyed the Supreme Court and respected the Dongria’s decision.’”
"Attacks on Jummas continue despite government promises 24 October 24. 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10957, reported, " Killings, sexual violence, torture, arbitrary arrests and land grabbing continue in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, eighteen years after the historic peace agreement between the government and the Jumma tribal people.
In 1997 the Bangladesh government promised to end the militarization of the region; withdraw temporary military camps and return the land that had been stolen by the army and settlers to the Jumma people, but these promises have not been kept.
The military camps remain in what is still a highly militarized region, but the army is not protecting the indigenous Jumma population. Instead soldiers stand by while Jummas are raped, murdered and have their houses burned down by settlers. Land grabbing by both settlers and the army continues.
Speaking of the growing violence against women and young girls in the area, Jumma activist Subir Chakma said, ‘Our girls and women are not safe. They cannot go to schools, they cannot go to the rivers to fetch water or to take baths, they cannot go to the market places, they cannot go to the nearby jungles and now they cannot even stay home, they are raped everywhere.’
The hill tracts are home to 11 tribes, collectively known as Jummas after their sophisticated and sustainable farming method, known locally as ‘Jhum’. Hundreds of thousands of settlers have been moved into the hills over the last sixty years, displacing the Jumma people and subjecting them to brutal repression.
Jumma people, supported by organisations including Survival International, have launched a petition to draw attention to the worsening situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.The petition calls on the Bangladesh government to end the human rights violations against the Jumma people and to implement the 1997 peace accord fully."
"UK Report Urges GCM Resources to Respect Human Rights Standards in Bangladesh," September 30, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/uk-report-urges-gcm-resources-respect-human-rights-standards-bangladesh, reported, " The UK government has published a statement in September highlighting continued opposition and turmoil in Bangladesh over British company GCM Resources’ plans to build a massive open pit coal mine in Phulbari , located in the north west of Bangladesh. The mine would displace up to 50,000 Indigenous Peoples from 23 farming communities, and up to 220,000 people from the wider areas. The project would also ship coal on tankers through the Sundarbans – one of the world’s largest remaining mangrove forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A statement by the UK National Contact Point on the Phulbari Coal Mine in Bangladesh expresses “regret” that the company has failed to update its human rights impact assessment for the project, as recommended in the findings of an investigation which took place in 2014.
The UK government’s investigation followed a complaint submitted to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by NGOs Global Justice Now and International Accountability Project in 2012. The investigation acknowledged that 'GCM has aroused considerable opposition in Bangladesh, leading to violent protests, and an even more violent response by the authorities there.'
The new report urges GCM to comply with international standards for managing social and environmental impacts, and to do so before any plans for the project move forward. “GCM will need to complete its updating of its plans, including making and publishing the [Human Rights Impact Assessment] it has committed to, before it begins work to acquire land for and develop the mine. International standards (including the OECD Guidelines) oblige companies to consider and manage environmental and social aspects of a project throughout its life cycle. The UK NCP therefore said – and confirms again here - that GCM has an obligation to continue addressing these aspects and engaging with community stakeholders,” confirms the report.
The Phulbari coal mine plans have provoked repeated protests by local people and communities for nearly a decade. Three people were killed and more than 200 were injured when paramilitary officers opened fire on a demonstration against the project in 2006. Even so, powerful protests by resilient communities in 2013 and 2014 forced the company’s notorious CEO, Gary Lye, to abandon visits to the area. Campaigners in Bangladesh have been clear that any moves by the company to enter Phulbari would provoke further protests. They are demanding the company’s complete withdrawal from the project.
Christine Haigh, campaigner at the Global Justice Now, responded to the report: 'Today’s statement is further evidence that the Phulbari coal mine cannot go ahead. If it does, it will be a human rights disaster. Local people have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want it and any moves by GCM to move this project forward will be met by further resistance.'
Rumana Hashem, the founder of Phulbari Solidarity Group and an eye witness to the 2006 shooting in Phulbari, stated: It is good that the UK government has eventually recognised that GCM has failed to develop appropriate communication with the communities in Phulbari. It was a mistake for the NCP to take this long to understand the power of people. They have previously undermined the powerful opposition that exists and that has made possible a halt to the detrimental project of the British company. She added: 'I have seen how resilient the movement is in Phulbari. Bangladesh government has expressed solidarity with the community’s view and said ‘no to GCM’. GCM must forget this project. It is reassuring that UK government has recognised that local people will not give in. They will fight for their land until last breath.'
The UK government states that GCM must take into account the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which stipulates that no developments can take place on Indigenous Peoples’ land without their ‘free, prior and informed consent’. Seven UN human rights experts have called for an immediate halt to the project, citing threats to fundamental human rights, including the rights to water, food, adequate housing, freedom from extreme poverty and the rights of Indigenous Peoples."
"Alarming Trend of Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls Continues in Bangladesh, An Analysis by
Kapaeeng Foundation of the Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls
Cultural Survival, August 7, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/alarming-trend-violence-against-indigenous-women-and-girls-continues-bangladesh, reported,"
The human rights violation on indigenous women and girls in Bangladesh has turned into a matter of grave concern over the years. As a part of its sustained work, Kapaeeng Foundation monitored and documented the cases of human rights violations on indigenous womenand girls for the period January-July 2015. The findings of Kapaeeng Foundation project an alarming trend of violence against indigenous women and girls (VAIWG) in the country. During this period, Kapaeeng Foundation documented 42 cases of VAIWG. In these 42 cases, 56 indigenous women and girls were fallen victims of violence, 29 of them are from the plains and 27 women from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
A close look into the cases during first half of the year reveals that 8 women and girls fell victims of gang rape, 11 fell victims of rape, 10 fell victims of attempted rape, 16 fell victims of physical assault, 6 fell victims of sexual harassment, 2 fell victims of abduction and 3 fell victims of killing. What is most disturbing is the victims who fallen prey to violence are mostly minor and adolescent girls, belonging to the age group of 2 to 19. It appears that this age group was the easiest target of the perpetrators during the period of observation. And most of the perpetrators of these incidents allegedly belong to Bengali settler community and were influential members of mainstream population.
The observation of Kapaeeng Foundation over the first seven months of the year 2015 demonstrates
that the causes of VAIWG remained similar to previous years. A good number of cases of VAIWG occurred during
January-July 2015 were centered around the lands of indigenous peoples. For example, on 19 June 2015, at least 10 indigenous
women were physically assaulted and one woman was raped in Mirsarai, Chittagong in connection to an attempted forced
expropriation of their ancestral land. It is observed that in a good number of cases, the perpetrators including members of
Bengali settlers in the CHTand influential locals in the plains used rape or other forms of sexual violence as weapons to
uproot indigenous peoples from their lands. And in other cases, the perpetrators used violence as a way to express their
hegemonic masculine attitude towards indigenous women using them as sexual objects.
Although the first seven months of the year demonstrates an alarming trend of VAIWG, the legal justice system has apparently failed to ensure protection and justice of the victims. It is observed that although cases were filed after most of the incidents of VAIWG were occurred, the alleged perpetrators were not arrested and brought to justice except for very few cases. Furthermore, the unfriendly legal justice system in the country often coupled with the financial incapacity of the victims, lack of follow-up of the cases, lack of awareness of the victim and their families, existing social taboos, patriarchal mindset in different corners of the society and lack of legal aid services in the country have contributed to the impunity of the perpetrators. It is also alleged that the perpetrators often use money and forceto manipulate the justice system and go scot-free. Taking the advantage of the financial incapacity of the victims and their vulnerable social positions, most of the perpetrators tend to settle the matters locally through threat, intimidation and offering a certain amount of money as compensation."
Wai Moe and Thomas Fuller, "Myanmar and 8 Ethnic Groups Sign Cease-Fire, but Doubts Remain," The New York Times, October 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/world/asia/myanmar-ceasefire-armed-ethnic-groups.html?ref=todayspaper," Myanmar ’s government signed a cease-fire agreement with eight armed ethnic groups on Thursday, in what the country’s leaders described as a major step toward peace in the vast borderland regions that have been restive since the earliest days of the country’s independence.
But the deal, signed in the capital, Naypyidaw, leaves many questions unanswered, including how the balance of power between the central government and the ethnic regions will be determined. It does not require the ethnic groups to disarm.
Perhaps most significant, the deal principally covers ethnic groups along the border with Thailand, but not the long stretch of territory bordering China. The ethnic groups with the two largest militias and tens of thousands of soldiers — the Kachin and the Wa — did not sign the agreement. Fighting in the Kachin region occurred as recently as Wednesday, an officer with the Kachin armed forces said."
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), "AIPP, Cultural Survival and NIPT Make Joint Submission on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for Thailand’s UPR," Cultural Survival, September 24, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/un-special-rapporteur-releases-report-human-rights-council-rights-indigenous-women-and-girls, reprted, "23 September 2015 - AIPP, Cultural Survival and the Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT) on Monday (21 September) made a joint submission on the human rights situation of indigenous peoples for the 2nd Universal Periodic Review of Thailand scheduled for April 2016.
The joint submission was prepared in light of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Thailand voted in favor of in 2007. The submission reports that although the indigenous peoples in Thailand comprise approximately 1% of the Thai population, these communities are facing serious issues that are threatening and essentially, prohibiting the rights guaranteed by the Declaration.
Indigenous peoples regularly face discrimination and have limited access to basic services that come with the Thai citizenship that have been denied to them by the Thai Constitution. There have been minimal efforts to curb human trafficking that affect the indigenous women and girls in large numbers. The submission sets out numerous cases of land confiscations and forced evictions of indigenous communities and criminalization of their traditional livelihoods as well disappearances and arrests of indigenous activists and persons. Several instances where indigenous rights to free, prior and informed consent have been violated, for example, with the current proposal of a World Heritage site in the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, where many Indigenous Karen communities have lived are also reported.
There is ample evidence that the Thai government needs to institute new laws and policies that will allow Indigenous Peoples to obtain rightful citizenship, and access quality services. It is imperative that the Government constitutionally recognizes the Indigenous Peoples and their rights as specified in the Declaration through their full and effective participation in the ongoing constitutional reforms.
This submission has been transmitted to the UN Human Rights Council through OHCHR."
“Success for Sarawak tribes as dam shelved,” Survival International, December 5, 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/11030, reported, “ The Baram dam, which would would have flooded 20,000 tribal people from their homes in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, has been shelved following years of protest.
Sarawak’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem announced recently that the decision to put the dam on hold was out of respect for the views of the affected communities adding: ‘If you don’t want the dam, fine. We will respect your decision.’
The tribespeople whose homes and forests were to be flooded by the dam had been protesting and blockading the dam site for two years. They welcomed the news but insisted that the dam should not just be put “on hold until further notice,” but that assurances must be given that the dam will never be built.
They are also calling for the return of the land that was acquired for the dam site and for logging permits in the area to be revoked.
Many observers are skeptical at the governments sudden apparent wish to respect the wishes of tribal communities. Their rights to their land and to say no to logging, palm oil plantations and mega-dams have not been so readily recognized in the past. There may be more economic reasons why the dam is no longer considered viable – Sarawak’s existing dams can already provide more power than the state needs.
The tribal people affected by the dam, from the Kenyah, Kayan and Penan communities, have fiercely opposed it from the start. They are acutely aware of the difficulties facing those who were evicted to make way for other dams. They are struggling to hunt and gather, or to grow enough food on the small plots of land provided for them.
During the blockade against the Baram dam Lenjau Tusau, the elderly headman from Long Makaba village, reflected the courage and dignity of the protesters saying: “We will not leave. Our life is here, our culture. The land, rivers, and rocks belong to us.”
The Baram dam was part of a series of twelve hydroelectric dams to be built by the Sarawak government. In 2008, a document was leaked on the internet revealing plans by the state government to build these dams, despite having no market for the electricity they will produce.
Many local, national and international organisations, including Survival, have been campaigning against the plan to build dams in Sarawak for years. Hundreds of Survival supporters have written to the Sarawak state government protesting against the dams, logging and plantations. Survival is calling on the Sarawak government not to allow any developments on the lands of its tribal peoples without their consent”
“Prominent Papuan prisoner released,” Survival International, November 24, 2015, http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/11019, reported, “ Prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma has been released after spending more than a decade in jail for raising the banned West Papuan flag.
Karma, 56, was arrested in 2004 after leading a peaceful demonstration in West Papua, calling for independence from Indonesia and raising the Morning Star flag.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for treason, but was named by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. His detention was condemned as “arbitrary” by the United Nations.
Filep Karma could have been released in August this year when he was offered a pardon in exchange for admission of guilt. However, he refused, saying, “If president Widodo wants to free me unconditionally, then yes thank you.” The government eventually reduced his sentence for ‘good behaviour’ so that he could be released.
However, raising the Morning Star flag remains an imprisonable offence in West Papua and responding to the news of Karma’s release, Indonesia’s chief of National Police, Gen. Badrodin Hait said, “If you say he’s a political prisoner, I say [Filep was] a criminal.”
The move came as Indonesian President Joko Widodo once again pledged to improve livelihoods in the region. But there is little evidence that the security force’s brutal repression of Papuans is over. At the end of September there were at least 45 Papuan political prisoners behind bars and political assassinations, fatal shootings, arbitrary arrests and torture, at the hands of the security services,remain rfie.”
Cass Madden, "Forced Closures of Aboriginal Communities in Australia Continue," Cultural Survival, July 1, 201,5, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/forced-closures-aboriginal-communities-australia-continue, reported, "In December of 2014, new funding laws in Australia began to threaten the existence of 150 remote aboriginal Australian communities throughout the country, with the largest concentration in Western Australia. The federal government claimed that it could no longer support the communities and as of June 30, 2015, no federal funding would be available for the maintenance of rural outback communities. State governments were offered one time funding deals from the federal government, giving them money to fund communities for one to two years. $90 million was offered to Western Australia, enough money to keep communities open through 2017; South Australia rejected a payment of $10 million on the basis that it was insufficient for the obligation being created. In March, Prime Minister Tony Abbott inflamed tensions surrounding the closures when he claimed that aboriginal peoples living in rural communities were making a 'lifestyle choice' and that taxpayers had no obligation to support their 'choice.' The uncertainty of funding and the harsh rhetoric of government officials has left everyone, from state officials to aboriginal communities to taxpayers, uncertain about the future of the 150 communities. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Kristie Parker, the co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, explained, "This is about our people's right to stay on our land... People are very frightened that the days are numbered and their communities will be closed."
"Community closures have been justified by the Australian government in the past as a way to curb the severe social problems which many Aboriginal populations face: suicide, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, and alcoholism affect Aboriginal communities at a greater rate than the rest of Australia. However , a 2011 community closure, which failed to address any of these social issues, presents a harrowing example of the perils of the legislation which will almost certainly force the closure of 150 communities. Oombulgurri was a very remote community of about 200 people living in the far north of Western Australia which experienced five tragic deaths in 2005 and 2006, four of which were suicides. The government, claiming that they were unable to continue to support the community, especially in the midst of concerns about its social climate, began a gradual process of forced closure. First, welfare payments were stopped. Then the local store was closed. Next, schools and healthcare services were shut down, forcing families with children and older people requiring medical care to relocate to cities. The municipal services were shut down and shortly after the water and power were shut off. 10 residents remained until the 2014 bulldozing of the community and though the government claims that all 200 residents left voluntarily, abandoned cars which had been left to rust, the paintings of school children still hanging on the walls, and belongings never retrieved from homes told a story of forced relocation in which residents had little choice but to move to the fringes of cities to seek the services which had been taken away from their community. According to David Ryder, one of the 10 residents who remained in the community until the end, the relocation made the social problems facing the community more severe, with more people than ever turning to alcohol. Indeed, the relocation left a majority of residents with no place to go, homeless on the fringes of the city, and the government was ultimately forced to spend $1.6 million at the time to provide temporary housing. The problem with this style of relocation, according to Tammy Solonec, the indigenous peoples rights manager of Amnesty International Australia, is that "this scenario doesn't address the problems in our communities everyone know are there, it doesn't deal with the people." Closing down communities merely on the basis that they are dysfunctional does not solve problems, it merely pushes them onto different communities. Solonec has called for creative solutions which address the social issues facing these communities without forcing people to leave their lands.
A series of global protests have been held since the announcement of the new funding structure in December, with the largest taking place over the weekend, with the most protestors involved on Friday, June 26. Up to 10,00 people marched in Melbourne and protests were held around Australia and around the world in cities as far reaching as London, Berlin, and San Francisco. According to the group Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities in Australia, which has been responsible for much of the protest organizing, more than 12 million people worldwide have been involved in actions calling for a halt to community closures. The protests over the weekend disrupted traffic patterns, creating delays for commuters as the marches closed bridges and streets in the cities. Though the protests have resulted in officials toning down their rhetoric surrounding the issue, the plan for closures remains the same, according to a statement from the Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities in Australia."
The Western Australian Lower House, in August 2015, passed a bill in the state constitution, introduced by Aboriginal legislators, Recognition of Aboriginal People, which would recognize Aboriginal People as the first people and traditional caretaker of the land (“Australia: Legislative Assembly Passes Historic Indigenous Peoples Bill,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, December 2015).
International Cultural Developments
"First Ever World Indigenous Games To Be Held in Brazil," October 22, 2015, http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/first-ever-world-indigenous-games-be-held-brazil, reported, "For the first time in history, from October 23 to November 1, 2015 Indigenous people from all over the world will gather in the city of Palmas in the Amazon jungle state of Tocantins, Brazil, to compete in the first World Indigenous Games. Over 2,000 athletes representing nearly 50 different ethnic groups (including 22 groups from Brazil alone) will participate in a variety of events, from a few Western-style games to many Indigenous traditional games. Some events will be competitive, such as canoeing, archery, the spear toss, and the 100m rustic race, while others will be demonstrative events, such as the football-like game of xikunahity, in which players control the ball only with their heads. So far, 40 men’s teams and 40 women’s teams have been confirmed.”
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