Government Cancels Oil Lease near Blackfeet Reservation

Project: Native Women Leaders and Advocates Defending Sacred Places in the Southwest

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The Bureau of Land Management has made a final decision to cancel a 30 year old gas exploration lease held by a Louisiana oil company on a remote section of Lewis and Clark National Forest, since oil leasing is now banned there. The National Forest is also within the territories of the Blackfeet Reservation.

Photo: Tribune file photo
Photo: Tribune file photo

To the Blackfeet, it is the “Backbone of the World” where they were created, and associated with culturally important spirits, heroes and historic figures central to Blackfeet religion and traditional practices. Today, it’s part of a designated Traditional Cultural District.

You can read more about the historic decision here.

The Fight Over Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks

Project: Native Women Leaders and Advocates Defending Sacred Places in the Southwest

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Source: Indian Country Today Media Network
Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The San Francisco Peaks are a sacred to over a dozen native tribes in the southwest. They have also long been the hotbed of controversial views and court battles going back to 2000. The Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort located on land managed by the forest service on the Peaks, entered into a partnership with the City of Flagstaff to use reclaimed wastewater to make fake snow. The Hopi, filed a suit against the city, and then recently voted unanimously to support the implementation of a filtration system if they withdrew their lawsuit. However, the citizens of Flagstaff have only just been made aware of the recent deal (per confidential requirements by law) and thus, the people have been unable to voice their say, including the 12 other tribes that consider the Peaks sacred. Many -Native and non-native alike, have voiced their opinion that they don’t believe the filter will be enough.

The treated wastewater is already required to meet water quality standards set by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, but critics have long complained that some pollutants, including hormones and pharmaceuticals, get through the city’s treatment systems and threaten human and environmental health.

Read the rest of the article here.

The Aftermath of Booming Oil and Fracking Industries: Acknowledging The Impacts on Women and Indigenous Groups.

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

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The homes of oil field workers near Watford City, ND. Photo by Andrew Cullen for The New York Times.
The homes of oil field workers near Watford City, ND.
Photo by Andrew Cullen for The New York Times.
By some accounts, the oil boom in the Bakken region of North Dakota is slowing. According to this article in The New York Times, “as oil prices have skidded to $30 a barrel, new drilling has dried up here, and the flood of wealth and workers is ebbing.”

The article goes on to describe the ways that such a drastic change has impacted the areafrom the debt North Dakota took on to build the infrastructure to support the influx of oil workers since 2008, to those same oil workers leaving the area for home or other jobs now that they’ve been laid off.

But the article is oddly silent on the impact this shift is having on womenIndigenous women especiallyparticularly as more and more information has become available in the last several years about the dangerous intersection of extractive industries like fracking in North Dakota, and the safety and health of women. What has the decrease in the largely male, largely transient, population meant for the protection of women? For their sexual and reproductive health? Furthermore, with profits falling and debt increasing across the state, what will happen to the services for those women who have already experienced environmental violence? What will happen to those shelters, safe houses and survivors programs?

In a countryand worldso heavily reliant on oil and gas, communities like those in the Bakken are built up with little preparation or protections in place during boom times, only to be allowed to later fall with little preparation or protections when industry can no longer profit largely enough in those territories. As we have seen in many industry-impacted areas in North America, Indigenous women are often those most impacted during these booms. How will women fair as that boom wanes?
Read the entire NY Times article here.

Historic Treaty Across Continents

Project: Coordinating Advocacy to Protect Native Lands and Rights

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Source: Indigenous Rising,
Source: Indigenous Rising,

The Indigenous people of North and South America have come together through a treaty signed by women leaders Casey Camp-Horinek (Ponca), Pennie Opal Plan (Idle No More Bay Area), representatives on the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Delegation for the COP 21 United Nations Summit in Paris, met with three representatives of the Amazon Watch Delegation: Kichwa leader, Patricia Gualinga and President of the Association of Sapara Women, Gloria Ushigua. Together they signed a treaty and vowed to stop the progression of extractive industries strengthening their grip on our environment and work together to solve today’s most pressing environmental problems.

“There have never been more unjust laws than the ones that exist now which are allowing the destruction of the environment that we need to exist. For these reasons we invite our sisters and their allies around the world to join us in teach-ins and nonviolent direct actions at all of the facilities and seats of power that are causing the destruction. We invite you to do this calmly, without malice, and with the love in your hearts for everything you hold dear.”

You can read the entirety of their statement here.

Seeking Solar Power Instead of the Grid

Project: Native Women Leaders and Advocates Promoting Energy Justice

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For many, electricity is a luxury; it can even be magical. Derrick Terry remembers the first winter when there were lights on at his grandmother’s house.

“You see the Christmas lights in the distance, it’s like seeing that unicorn,” he says. “It’s an indescribable feeling, I guess, when you first get electricity.”

Many Native Americans living on reservations live off the power grid. More than half live at or below the poverty line, and the the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 40% of Navajos live without power. It can cost up to $50,000 to extend the power lines by one mile.

So many are turning to a much more cost effective option: Solar power. One solar panel, large enough to provide energy to a home, costs about $17,000. The maintenance and upkeep cost per month? $75.

Find the full story on NPR here.