Happy New Year: A Look Ahead to Protect Tribal Sovereignty and Rights

Commentary

Published January 1, 2018

When 2017 was rung in there was apprehension among American Indians because of the Trump administration assuming the presidency on January 20. Given the Trump presidential campaign virtually ignored American Indian tribes during the 2016 presidential campaign, all that was known about the newly elected president on last New Year’s Day concerning American Indians and Alaska Natives were his words that dated back to the 1990s Congress hearing on Indian gaming where he testified. American Indians have long memories of his negative rhetoric back then when he accused tribes to be under the control of mobsters and, in some, cases “not looking very Indian” to him.

It did not take long for the new president to show his current regard for tribal concerns. Four days into his presidency he signed a presidential memorandum calling for the approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to complete the Dakota Access oil pipeline. This after several months of resistance during several months in 2016 at Standing Rock because of the fear of a rupture under the Missouri River close to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. After completion the pipeline, the president flew to Bismarck and made reference to the resistance and said those opposed to the pipeline could not even say why they objected to it.

Apparently, his administration was not listening. The Standing Rock resistance became the largest American Indian story since the 1973 takeover of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement and the “Min Wiconi” – “Water is Life” mantra was widely publicized by the media.

Levi Rickert

By year’s end, the Trump administration worked on opening up the Arctic Circle to new drilling. In December, the president flew to Salt Lake City to sign a proclamation that unprotects 85 percent of the Bears Ears National Monument to the dismay of tribes located in the region. Within 24 hours, five tribes, led by the Navajo Nation, filed a lawsuit to keep the boundaries set forth by the Obama administration to protect these ancestral tribal lands from energy development.

As we welcome the New Year, there is a concern in Indian Country about what new federal policies loom during 2018 by the Trump administration. American Indians and Alaska Native leaders understand there are balancing of opinions when it comes to economic development and protecting the environment and preservation of tribal lands and water rights. Undoubtedly, during 2018 there will continue to be resistance to lessening of tribal sovereignty and continued insistence in tribal consultation as decisions are made about tribal lands and water.

It is incumbent on every Indian Country leader to work hard to protect sovereignty and tribal rights as we look to preserve Mother Earth for our next seven generations.

Happy New Year from Native News Online

 

 

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