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Indigenous Sovereignty

Judge Orders Railway To Pay Washington Tribe For Trespassing

Seattle, WA — BNSF Railway must pay nearly $400 million to a Native American tribe in Washington state, a federal judge ordered Monday after finding that the company intentionally trespassed when it repeatedly ran 100-car trains carrying crude oil across the tribe’s reservation. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik initially ruled last year that the railway deliberately violated the terms of a 1991 easement with the Swinomish Tribe north of Seattle that allows trains to carry no more than 25 cars per day. The judge held a trial earlier this month to determine how much in profits BNSF made through trespassing from 2012 to 2021 and how much it should be required to disgorge.

Ireland, Spain And Norway To Formally Recognize Palestinian Statehood

Ireland, Spain and Norway will formally recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, a milestone diplomatic decision that hopes to bring resolution to the conflict in Gaza. “We must be on the right side of history,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said amongst the announcements with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Harris, speaking at a news conference in Dublin, said he hopes the decision would “offer hope and encouragement to the people of Palestine at one of their darkest hours.” Sánchez addressed the Spanish Parliament, stating: We hope that our recognition and our reasons contribute to other western countries following this path, because the more we are, the more strength we will have to impose a ceasefire, to achieve the release of the hostages held by Hamas, to relaunch the political process that can lead to a peace agreement.

Tribal Groups Want Full Ninth Circuit Court To Rehear Oak Flat Appeal

An Apache nonprofit is asking the Ninth Circuit's entire 29-judge panel to review its lawsuit that seeks to block a copper mining company from destroying a sacred Indigenous religious site, arguing that an en banc hearing is warranted given the appellate court's latest split decision on the land transfer. In a 268-page petition for a special en banc rehearing, the Apache Stronghold on Monday argued that Ninth Circuit panels have now twice tried to define "substantial burden" in the case's context, and, given the vast power it holds over the lives of Native Americans, unique circumstances warrant a full-court review.

Apache Stronghold: Ninth Circuit Ruling Does Not Advance Mine

San Carlos Apache Reservation, Ariz.– While the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Friday, March 1, 2024 against the non-profit citizens group Apache Stronghold is extremely disappointing, the ruling does not clear the way for construction of the Resolution Copper Mine. “The culturally and environmentally devastating Resolution project is no closer to construction today than it was before the appeals court ruling,” San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler said. “The Tribe will continue to fight construction of the project that would have devastating impacts to the Tribe’s culture, the environment and Arizona’s drinking water supplies.”

Advocates Denounce Bid To Weaken UN Indigenous Rights Declaration

Indigenous leaders always suspected certain countries of colluding behind closed doors to undermine their rights at the United Nations. But now, after newly released Australian cabinet papers showed Canada led efforts to weaken the original draft declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples at the UN, secretly crafting a state-friendly substitute with Australia in 2002 and 2003, they have some evidence to prove it. And they're far from shocked. "We all knew that Canada was in the back rooms trying to counter everything," said Pam Palmater, a Mi'kmaw lawyer and chair in Indigenous governance at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Updates On Criminal Contempt Trials Of Indigenous Land Defenders

In response to CGL's violation of the Wet'suwet'en law of trespass, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice to CGL on November 14th, 2021. Coyote Camp was established at the CGL drill pad site on September 25th, 2021. On November 18th and 19th, 2021, in response to these acts of Wet'suwet'en sovereignty, heavily-militarized RCMP officers invaded the yintah for the third time and arrested 32 people, including several journalists and legal observers. Land defender Sabina Dennis (Dakelh) was arrested on November 18th at Gidimt’en Checkpoint. Land defenders Sleydo' Molly Wickham (Wet’suwet’en), Shay lynn Sampson (Gitxsan), and Corey “Jayohcee” (haudenosaunee) were arrested on November 19th at Coyote Camp.

Hoopa Valley Tribe Reclaim Over 10,000 Acres

The Hoopa Valley Tribe announced today the acquisition of 10,395 acres of land bordering the western boundary of the Tribe’s Reservation. The return of the Hupa Mountain property brings the Tribe’s landholdings to a total of over 102,000 acres. When the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation was created, the Hupa people lost access to and use of more than two-thirds of their ancestral lands. The Tribe’s $14.1 million purchase of the land rightfully returns management, conservation, and use of the land to Hupa People. “Today is a day of intense celebration for our Tribe,” said Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Joe Davis.

Indigenous Community Bears The Toxic Effects Of Canada’s Oil Boom

In Northern Alberta, Canada, sit the Athabasca tar sands—the world’s largest known reservoir of crude bitumen, and a major driver of Canada’s economy. The vast majority of Canadian oil production comes from extracting and processing the crude bitumen found in the tar sands. But while Canada prospers off the tar sands industry, Indigenous communities downstream are in the grips of its toxic impact. It is well documented that the people of Fort Chipewyan, in northern Alberta, have been struck by disproportionately high rates of cancer, and their proximity to the tar sands has long been the suspected dominant factor contributing to their sickness.

Tribes To Consider Asserting Primary Jurisdiction Over Yellowstone Bison

West Yellowstone, MT - As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service considers the need to list Yellowstone Bison as a threatened or endangered species, there is a growing momentum among the interested Tribes to assert their inherent jurisdiction over wild buffalo and usher in a new era of stewardship over America’s national mammal. According to Nez Perce environmental scientist James Holt, the executive director of Buffalo Field Campaign, such an historic agreement between sovereign nations working with federal stewards would represent nothing less than the beginning of “true reparations” for the long-standing practice of cultural genocide, or ethnocide, that is still being perpetuated by the cattle industry to preserve their monopoly on public lands forage in the West.

After A Century, Oil And Gas Problems Persist On Navajo Lands

It’s a Saturday morning in late June and Garry Jay, a member of the Navajo Nation, pilots a white crew-cab Chevy pickup on a lumpy dirt road across the grasslands north of his house in Shiprock, New Mexico, heading for the round, wood-framed hogan his grandfather built by hand in the 1970s. His route weaves 20 miles among the hundreds of oil wells that dot Horseshoe Canyon as he chases the bittersweet memories of childhood weekends and summers 40 years ago in that house, on that land, with his grandparents. The family’s former winter sheep ranch sits at the base of a sharp cliff, five miles south of the Colorado border.

Protect Wet’suwet’en Land!

New details have emerged about the militarized campaign of state and corporate persecution targeting land defenders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in so-called Canada. The third annual Peace and Unity Summit was held August 15-16 in Gidimt’en Clan territory, home of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. Wet’suwet’en leaders detailed how private security operatives and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have attacked and terrorized Indigenous activists using tactics taken directly from a U.S. counterinsurgency “playbook” written by David Petraeus, retired U.S. Army general and an architect of U.S. invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Indigenous Resistance Challenges Ontario’s ‘Mining Boom’

As Canada’s governments hungrily scour domestic and foreign territory in search of critical minerals—an essential part of Ottawa’s new Cold War on China—Ontario Premier Doug Ford is attempting to spin demand into a provincial mining boom. Ontario’s first-ever Critical Minerals Strategy (CMS), announced alongside a federal initiative of the same name, proclaims that the province is “incredibly fortunate” and “blessed with exquisite deposits of nickel, lithium, platinum, cobalt and dozens of other strategically important raw materials.” Ford’s economic policies are catering to mining companies that yearn for unfettered access to these resource supplies, even as Indigenous communities organize to resist the extractivist bonanza.

Tipi Erected At Thacker Pass; Law Enforcement Issues Final Warning

Peehee Mu'huh, Nevada - On Thursday, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department issued a final warning to Indigenous land defenders at Thacker Pass. Members of law enforcement are demanding that the land defenders vacate a service road leading into the lithium mining operation. The Indigenous land defenders have erected a tipi on a proposed water line, set to feed lithium development at the rate of 500,000 gallons for every ton of lithium processed. Dorece Sam, an enrolled member of the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, spoke during a Facebook livestream on Friday, saying “Mother’s Day is coming up. This here is our mother - Mother Earth, and we want to protect her.

What Does Indigenous Reclamation Mean?

In the past year alone, the movement led by Native communities to reclaim lands and spaces — sometimes called the “Land Back” movement — saw huge gains in mainstream momentum. Some of that has come from rallies, like those led by Indigneous activists fighting to close Mount Rushmore. Other conversations about Native lands have been sparked by major court decisions, like the Supreme Court's landmark decision in the McGirt case in which it ruled that a large portion of Oklahoma is still Native land. And with U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland now the country’s first Native secretary of the interior, many Land Back advocates are finding renewed hope in their aspirations.

Court Case Could Change The Future Of Mining In British Columbia

Imagine finding someone you’ve never met digging through your backyard, looking for gold. You tell them it’s your property, but they don’t leave. Instead, they tell you they’re allowed to be there because they’ve made a mineral claim on your land — and they’re right. B.C.’s current system, governed by the Mineral Tenure Act, allows almost anyone to make an online mineral claim to explore an area for minerals and have rights over what they find. They don’t have to consult or alert First Nations or private property owners if the claim is on their land.  The Gitxaała Nation and Ehattesaht First Nation are fighting to change that.   The two First Nations start presenting their case against how the province gives out mineral titles on their land Monday at the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
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