Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council Chairman Gerald Gray (center), with RMTLC Executive Director WIlliam Snell (right) and Councilman Lynn Cliff, Jr. of the Fort Belknap Indian Community.
Published August 15, 2019
WASHINGTON — The Global Indigenous Council (GIC) issued the following statement Thursday in response to the Trump Administration’s announcement that it is rolling back protections for threatened and endangered species – many that are foundational to indigenous cultural and spiritual practices. The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act will be overseen by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for major oil and gas extractive industry interests.
Without the ESA, the bald eagle and other species considered sacred by indigenous people would likely be extinct today.
The proposed changes to the ESA provide extractive industry companies with greater influence over which species are listed as endangered, elevating the voices of fossil fuel executives over those of tribal nations. “If such circumstances had prevailed in prior decades, it is highly unlikely that species recovered by the ESA that are integral to tribal cultures, such as the bald eagle, grey wolf, humpback whale, green sea turtle and California condor, would now exist anywhere outside of zoos or taxidermy displays. The same can be said of the grizzly bear if Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke is legislatively reversed,” was testimony given by tribal nations to the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in October 2018, when these changes to the ESA were being floated on Capitol Hill.
The Wolf Treaty mentioned in the GIC statement will next be available for tribal leaders to sign at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, on August 19-20.
“Indigenous people were at the forefront of the struggle to preserve ESA protections for the sacred grizzly bear. The Grizzly Treaty signed by some 200 Tribal Nations became not only the most-signed tribal treaty in history, but also the basis for an Act of Congress, The Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act. We ultimately defeated the Trump Administration, the NRA, Safari Club International and the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho in court, to preserve the sacred grizzly from gun-sight state management and retain protections for our sacred lands occupied by the grizzly. Without that, extractive industry would have moved in. The Trump Administration should take heed – we will defend the sacred.
Whether you’re Blackfeet standing to protect Badger-Two Medicine or Native Hawaiian gathered to stop the desecration of Mauna Kea, we call upon these sacred beings categorized as “endangered species” for strength and guidance in a spiritual way. They are foundational to our cultures. ESA delisting issues are ‘Trojan Horses’ to tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and religious freedoms. In our testimony to the Senate EPW Committee last fall, we predicted the course the Trump Administration would take, which is why we proposed the formulation of a Native American Endangered Species Act (NA-ESA).
Even in the Trumpian miasma of “alternative facts,” not even Trump can claim that extractive industry companies have treaties with the US Government that are enshrined in the Constitution. Tribal Nations do. Article VI of the US Constitution describes our treaties as ‘analogous to the Supreme Law of the land.’ This action by Bernhardt’s Interior Department is not only immoral, it’s unconstitutional and shreds the federal-Indian trust responsibility, which is at the core of the government’s fiduciary obligation to Tribal Nations. The only beneficiaries of this gutting of the ESA are Secretary Bernhardt’s cronies in the board rooms of multi-national extractive industry corporations.
We choose our children’s and grandchildren’s futures over sacrificing our lands and cultures to make these one-percenters richer. The Trump Administration’s announcement coincided with the introduction of the Wolf Treaty which will be carried to Tribal/First Nations. Given the cultural significance of the wolf, this treaty is now symbolic of the struggle to protect our rights and cultures, our sacred lands and waters, and the sacred beings that infuse and inhabit them. From the wolf in the mountains to the humpback in the oceans, we will not permit their decimation just to fill the corporate trough of Trump’s enablers. After 243-years, this pattern of greed and deceit must end. This Wolf Treaty is our red line. It should become the red line for all who want to save Endangered and Threatened species.”
Tom Rodgers, President (Acting) – Global Indigenous Council
Photos © Alter-Native Media. Used by permission.