Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Slam GOP “Maneuvers” against Tribal Interests as “Not Reflective of the Tenets of a Democracy”

Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Executive – Vice President Robert Chamberlin, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Chief Judy Wilson

Published October 19, 2018

COAST SALISH TERRITORY/VANCOUVER, B.C. — In a development that furthers Indigenous solidarity across North America, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has issued a strong statement in support of the 31 Tribal Nations that recently submitted joint testimony to the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) that focused on the future of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and particularly the survival of the sacred grizzly bear.

“The UBCIC supports the steadfast defense of Indigenous rights by the tribes of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Great Sioux Nation tribes and their allies of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association. These tribes and organizations have been steadfast in the defense of treaty rights, religious and spiritual freedoms, and sovereignty of all Tribal Nations that the removal of ESA protections from the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem threatened,” states the 100-plus First Nation organization.

The grizzly bear holds immense significance in the spiritualities of many First Nations people in British Columbia, reflecting the reverence and importance of this sacred being to tribal nations in the lower-48, from the states of Montana to Arizona.

The UBCIC has been at the forefront of recent struggles to protect indigenous sacred and aboriginal lands from extractive industry and pipeline development, most recently opposing Kinder Morgan, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and tanker project.

The UBCIC has been vocal in challenging the State of Wyoming’s conduct toward tribal people throughout the fight to protect the grizzly bear in Greater Yellowstone from trophy hunting, and tribes’ sacred and treaty lands from extractive industry as a consequence of removing protections from the Great Bear. “The catalog of racism tribal people have endured at the hands of Wyoming officials, spokesmen, and advocates throughout the grizzly delisting process cannot continue to be overlooked. These abuses include but are not limited to: tribal leaders being removed from the floor while speaking; vile comments by a county commissioner recorded by the regional NBC news station at a grizzly bear meeting in Cody, WY; racist comments about Manifest Destiny on regional newspaper sites; and a stream of falsehoods and misrepresentations by Wyoming officials,” UBCIC Grand Chief, Stewart Phillip, raised with Wyoming’s governor, Matt Mead, this summer.

Brian Nesvik of Wyoming Game & Fish Dept confronts Cheyenne delegate James Walks Along

According to UBCIC Executive member, Chief Judy Wilson, Wyoming’s “distortions and falsehoods” continue to be perpetuated in the wake of its defeat alongside the Trump Administration and NRA in Crow Tribe et al v. Zinke, which returned the grizzly to ESA protections. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Chief Game Warden, Brian Nesvik, continued to make false assertions in a recent media blitz, when he claimed that there is “nowhere to move” any grizzly bears. Mr. Nesvik is aware of the Grizzly Treaty signed by over 200-tribes that advocates reintroducing grizzly bears to tribal lands, not to trophy hunting. Nesvik acknowledged such in regional press interviews during 2016.

“The Grizzly: A Treaty of Cooperation, Cultural Revitalization and Restoration, initiated by the Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy and signed by the UBCIC Executive and numerous First Nations chiefs in BC, promises innovative and sound conservation strategy. It will also nurture cultural revitalization and offer economic opportunity to Native Americans and participating tribal nations,” the UBCIC affirms in its statement.

“The UBCIC joins our allies in calling for Secretary of the Interior Zinke to meet with tribal leaders to hold open discussions on implementing this treaty.”

The UBCIC is mandated to advocate for the protection of grizzly bears from trophy hunting and to protect the territories on which they live by Resolution 2011-55, “Support for Qat’muk Declaration and Opposition to the Proposed Jumbo Glacier Report” and Resolution 2013-37, “Support for Bears Forever Campaign.”

“Protection of the great grizzly bear and the treaty that brought so many nations together is the fulfilment of prophesy, the igniting of our council fires in the Four Directions, the coming together of our tribal nations in solidarity and speaking with one voice for our Mother Earth,” says Chief Wilson.

The UBCIC statement is highly critical of “the maneuvers of Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the EPW Committee,” and cites evidence presented in the testimony of Tribal Nations to the US Senate that demonstrates the “relationships between elected representatives in the Republican Party and extractive industry moguls” who “are driving this assault on the ESA, on tribal peoples’ lands and rights.”

House and Senate Republicans are seeking to legislatively nullify the recent federal court ruling in which Judge Dana Christensen sided with tribal and environmental plaintiffs in what stands as a landmark victory for tribes.

“Attempting to overturn a court ruling with a legislative provision that will deny due process to tribes and citizens alike is not reflective of the tenets of a democracy. Clearly, it is time for Tribal First Nations to again take the lead in the defense of the sacred, of our relatives and Mother Earth. The UBCIC supports the creation of a First Nations/Native American Endangered Species Act,” the solidarity statement continues.

The UBCIC emphasizes that “both Canada and the United States have clear duties in upholding their international human rights commitments, including under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” and cites both Articles 25 and 26 from UNDRIP. The US and Canada has failed to implement either article.

Article 25 declares, “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, and waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.” Article 26 concludes, “States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the Indigenous peoples concerned.”

Chief Stan Grier, President of the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs at the US Capitol

“I’m sure Chairman Frazier of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association and Executive Director Snell join me in thanking the UBCIC for this powerful statement of support. We will never acquiesce in the struggle to defend the sacred, to protect our Mother Earth from this madness, and to leave our future generations with an environment that they live in and care for in reciprocity with the Earth,” responded Chief Stan Grier (Bear Returning Over the Hill), Chief of the Piikani Nation and President of the Blackfoot Confederacy Chiefs.

The UBCIC’s full statement can be read here: https://www.ubcic.bc.ca/ubcic_statement_protection_of_the_sacred_grizzly_bear

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