Bad border bill puts environment at risk

June 19, 2012

Border Bill Press Conference, Capitol Hill (MCC Photo/Jesse Epp Fransen)

What if within 100 miles of all U.S. borders, decades’ worth of public health, tribal, and environmental laws were disregarded? Today on Capitol Hill, this question brought together a diverse coalition of environmental, Latino, Native American, ranching/hunting, and faith-based advocacy groups attending a press conference expressing opposition (see photo) to H.R. 1505 (also called the Border Bill, or Bishop Bill).

Of the many bad bills included in the Lands Package (H.R. 2578) to be voted on this afternoon, House Rep. Rob Bishop’s Border Bill is probably the worst. The Border Bill gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unprecedented carte blanche on federal and tribal lands within 100 miles of U.S. borders. See a map of lands affected here.  The bill is a huge overreach that would allow DHS to disregard dozens of environmental and tribal laws (see bill text).

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has called this bill “unnecessary, and bad policy.” Unnecessary, because stewards of public lands currently work alongside DHS and Border Patrol with success. Bad policy, because it overturns over a century of bedrock environmental and tribal laws on large swaths of public lands.

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Lakota Tribes “Refuse to Cooperate” With Tar Sands Proponents

November 4, 2011

From Jason Cappola of Truthout, 11/2/2011:

The Keystone XL pipeline and a message from indigenous resistance.

As people gather to protest the greed and corruption of Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and throughout the world, the territories of indigenous peoples and nations have been the front lines of this conflict for a long, long, time.

A protester against the Keystone XL pipeline is arrested outside the White House in this screengrab from "The Indigenous Call: Take Back Our Future."(Image Credit: StopKeystoneXL)

Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Pukatawagan Cree Nation, is an anti-tar sands campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network, and is responsible for coordinating an indigenous team which operates both in the United States and Canada supporting locally led tactics and strategies aimed at stopping the Canadian tar sands expansion and its encroachment into traditional and treaty territories of first nations in Alberta and British Columbia.

This intervention, says Thomas-Muller, also includes the United States and binational pipelines such as the existing Keystone pipeline as well as the currently proposed Keystone XL, which will travel over 1,500 miles from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast….

Read Truthout‘s entire article here.

See “The Indigenous Call: Take Back the Future” video from StopKeystoneXL here.

Join a nonviolent rally around the White House on November 6 sponsored by Tar Sands Action.


Funding Our Priorities

February 23, 2011

Early Saturday February 19 the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 1)

MCC/Melissa Engle

that would cut federal spending by $61 billion.  The cuts come mainly in programs dedicated to assistance for vulnerable populations in the U.S. and internationally.

 

You can let your Senators know that this approach to the budget is neither responsible nor just.

Together, these two areas of the budget represent just 15 percent of U.S. spending.  Although the same legislation requests  a defense budget 3 percent lower than the President’s 2011 request, it is still $8 billion higher than 2010 levels.  Defense spending represents over 50 percent of U.S. discretionary (not mandatory) spending.

The math is questionable: how can we address the deficit without addressing the most expensive portion of the budget?  Even beyond military spending, H.R. 1 fails to adequately address a number of root causes of the nation’s deficit.

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Settlement for Native American funds mismanaged by the U.S. government closer to reality.

November 22, 2010

On November 19th, the Senate passed legislation which compensates Native American plaintiffs in the Cobell v. Kempthorne class action lawsuit for Native funds mismanaged by the United States government.  The settlement still must be passed by the House of Representatives; they have promised to do so before the end of the ‘lame duck’ session, which ends when Congress recesses for Christmas.

The case dealt with the mismanagement of trust funds which were due to multiple Native American families who live on land rich in natural resources.  As either the government or private corporations used these resources, payments for the resources were held in trust by the United States government in order to be distributed again to the families who own the land.

However, the mismanagement of these fees has resulted in years of families not receiving the funds they are due.  In fact, Elouise Cobell of the Blackfeet Nation has advocated for the families, claiming that the United States has “mismanaged more than $100 billion in oil, timber, grazing and other royalties on land owned by some 500,000 individual Indian beneficiaries.” Read the rest of this entry »


Criminal Justice Commission, Tribal Public Safety and Sentencing Disparities See Progress

July 29, 2010

Flickr/stevec77

Despite a slow session for Congress, both the House and Senate have spent the week working to pass legislation before the August recess.  Here are some updates on significant events in the realm of Criminal Justice and Native American advocacy:

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Putting the BP oil disaster in context.

May 4, 2010

Flickr/New Orleans Lady

As we watch the growing oil spill off of the Gulf Coast, I wonder about the vulnerable communities I visited in the area at the end of March.  While visiting with MCC service worker Pam Nath, we drove to the Gulf in order to see the affects of continual wetland and coastal erosion in Louisiana.  Dangerous eroding since 1920 has depleted this natural barrier for hurricanes and adversely affected historic communities based on the water.

Read the rest of this entry »


Native American Tribes Hope for Greater Law and Order

February 23, 2010

When the United States government took Native American lands, it did so through a promise of exchange; the U.S. would provide permanent services for the permanent use of Native land.  One of these services was public safety, which is today totally insufficient.

Violent crime rates on Native land are high above the national record with increasing gang activity, drug trafficking, and 1 in 3 Native women abused in her lifetime.  Because tribes are dependent on the United States’ historical responsibility to maintain public safety, tribes themselves have few options in addressing such violence.  This includes the inability to prosecute crimes committed by non-Natives on Native land.

In fact,  there are about 3000 tribal officers responsible for crime across all 56 million acres of tribal land throughout the country.  This is less than one half of the officers available in comparable rural areas off of Native land.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has introduced again the Tribal Law and Order Act (S. 797/HR. 1924) to begin to address these issues.  The bill has been admirably crafted, partly through conducting 8 hearings on public safety issues with testimonies directly from the Native community.   Read the rest of this entry »


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