Congresswoman Maxine Waters Shuns Bill O’Reilly and Steps Up to Defend Tribes in Grizzly Fight for Rights

Congresswoman Maxine Waters flanked by Crow Chairman AJ Not Afraid and Chief Stan Grier of the Blackfoot Confederacy

Published April 4, 2017

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) isn’t “going to be put down” and isn’t “going to go anywhere.” Following Fox News lynchpin Bill O’Reilly’s gibe against her, which he characterized as a “jest” but most commentators denounced as racist and sexist, the thirteen-term congresswoman from California refused to be distracted. “My main purpose is not to allow him or anybody else to get me off these issues,” she said.

Widely regarded as the de facto leader of the “resistance” to President Donald Trump, for Congresswoman Waters those issues now include tribal nations’ fight to defend their rights and cultures in the struggle to preserve protections for the grizzly bear. The grizzly is integral to a multitude of tribal religions, and if the Trump Administration delists the Great Bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), some three-million acres of Greater Yellowstone presently off-limits to corporate and extractive industry development due to the grizzly’s ESA status, will soon be up for grabs.

“If they [the Trump Administration] decide to turn that over to their friends in the oil industry; to this Russian oligarch who would like to frack in the Grand Canyon, or they want to turn Yellowstone over because they think that with Sulphur there must be oil, there’s nothing to stop them,” MSNBC host, Joy Reid, recently cautioned, echoing what tribes have warned of.

Greater Yellowstone has been described as “a matrix” of tribal sacred and historic sites, with several tribes retaining treaty rights to the affected lands. Interior has confirmed that there are 21 oil and gas “Plans of Operation” for the area upon the delisting of the grizzly, and that each may be associated with multiple mining claims. GOAL Tribal Coalition Chairman, David Bearshield, has petitioned to receive a full inventory of those “Plans of Operation,” as GOAL was advised that the list is outdated.

On March 29, the day after President Trump signed his latest executive order rolling back more Obama-era environmental protections and climate change protocols, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) confirmed in Jackson, Wyoming, that the final rule to delist the grizzly from the ESA would be published “soon.” The announcement contradicted the Service’s previous update made during President Obama’s last days in office, which claimed no final decision had been made, and estimated a six-month hiatus.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with a trophy grizzly. President Trump says trophy hunting is on a par with golf.

At that time, USFWS officials acknowledged the weight of tribal opposition to the action, and again pledged to complete a “meaningful” government-to-government consultation process, which has yet to happen. With its “soon” disclosure, Zinke’s USFWS is already in violation of the federal-Indian trust responsibility, as consultation is required to be “pre-decisional.” Upon signing his executive order and the delisting announcement, President Trump directed Zinke to remove restrictions on fracking on “federal and tribal lands” by re-writing a 2015 rule.

Crow Tribe Chairman AJ Not Afraid and Chief Stan Grier of the Blackfoot Confederacy, presented Congresswoman Waters with a copy of “The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration,” which is now the most signed treaty in history. Among the 125 nation-signatories are numerous California-based tribes, from the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and Chemehuevi in the south, to the Karuk and Yurok in the north. 10,000 grizzlies once roamed California before the 1849 gold rush ensured their extermination. Today, the only grizzly in California is on the state flag. At the Jackson meeting, USFWS conceded that there are now fewer than 700 grizzlies remaining in Greater Yellowstone.

Congresswoman Waters committed to writing to Secretary Zinke, seeking the support of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and working with the co-chair, Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), who has long-supported tribes on this issue. Congressman Grijalva has stated that President Trump is enabling extractive industry’s “fundamental lust” for tribal lands. At the recent Senate Committee on Indian Affairs oversight hearing on “Identifying Indian Affairs Priorities for the Trump Administration,” Chairman Not Afraid presented the treaty and issue. “This treaty speaks to the consequences of this action if it proceeds as it has to date, and the issues that Tribal Nations stand upon, which remain at the heart of the federal-Indian trust responsibility: Tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, consultation mandates, spiritual and religious freedoms, and sacred site protections – each of which is on the verge of suffering irreparable harm if this process continues as it is presently constituted,” Chairman Not Afraid testified, and appealed once more for a moratorium to be instituted.

Once delisted, the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho will open trophy hunts on the grizzly. “To us, this would be like trophy hunting our grandparents,” said Chief Grier. However, President Trump considers trophy hunting to be akin to golf. “My sons love to hunt. Eric is a hunter and I’d say he puts it on a par with golf, if not ahead of golf. They’re great marksman, great shots and love it,” he said. Don, Jr. was instrumental in Zinke becoming Secretary of the Interior. Like the President’s sons, Zinke is a trophy hunter. Yellowstone National Park is the heart of Greater Yellowstone, attracting over 4-million visitors annually. Surveys show that seeing a grizzly bear tops visitors’ wish lists. “This isn’t just a tribal issue,” adds Grier. “Visitors to this sacred place want to see a live grizzly, not a dead one being gutted roadside as they approach the Park.”

Chief Grier told Congresswoman Waters “that the plague of corporate greed DAPL forced on Standing Rock will be carried to our collective, ancestral lands in Yellowstone and the Crown of the Continent” through grizzly delisting. Secretary Zinke recently described the removal of water protectors from Standing Rock as “a spectacular job.” Zinke’s main campaign financier, Oasis Petroleum, is a force in the Bakken, the oil from which DAPL carries. Zinke has been a vocal advocate of the now Trump-approved Keystone-XL Pipeline. Native News Online previously reported how Trump family friend and key Putin-backer, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, is set to profit from Keystone-XL and DAPL.

Months before the president’s so-called “Russia problem” made headlines, the Oglala Sioux Tribe called for a Congressional inquiry into irregularities and apparent conflicts of interest in the delisting process, including alleged ties between a prominent Bush-era USFWS appointee and Anadarko Petroleum and Gas. Anadarko, infamous in Indian Country for uranium spills that polluted water on the Navajo Nation, describes itself as “one of the largest landowners and leaseholders” in Wyoming, the state where the bulk of Yellowstone and its grizzlies can be found, along with approximately 7,000 Anadarko wells. A global player, Anadarko is a campaign contributor to Wyoming’s governor, Matt Mead, and its senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso. All three-champion delisting. “The Piikani Nation supported the Oglala Sioux in its petition, but we are both still waiting,” confirmed Chief Grier, who in testimony to the UN described the infringements as “a play-by-play from the Koch Bros. backed Freedom Partners’ A Roadmap to Repeal.”

“I want to talk about this President. I want to talk about this Kremlin Klan that’s around him, all of them with oil interests,” Congresswoman Waters continues to insist. The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times reported that after the Obama Administration imposed the sanctions on Russia that stalled the ExxonMobil/Putin-controlled Rosneft multi-billion-dollar deal to drill in the Russian Arctic, under then CEO and now Secretary of State, Ken Tillerson, ExxonMobil sought to acquire Anadarko. In their book, Energy Potential of the Russian Arctic Seas: Choice of Development Strategy, authors Alexey Piskarev and Mikhail Shkatov identify Anadarko as a model company.

“If we follow the dollar we’ll find out what it’s all about,” Congresswoman Waters has concluded on “Russia-gate.” A similar path is emerging for the grizzly.

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