“This is our place in the universe.” Rosina Philippe can see her ancestors’ burial mounds from her kitchen window. But rising seas and sinking land could put them under water in a generation. (Living on Earth/Jeff Young)
The Living on Earth radio program has a wonderful and sad feature on the Atakapa-Ishak people who live on Grand Bayou in Louisiana.
As Living on Earth’s Jeff Young begins the story:
Katrina took their homes. BP’s spill took their jobs. And coastal erosion is taking the very land their ancestors called home for centuries. But the tiny, Native American community of Grand Bayou Village is determined to hang on.
Raymond Reyes tells Young that “I’m 66 years old. Why would I change now? That’s my livelihood so I’m gonna stay here. Yep, that’s all. We got the burial grounds right here, so why move?”
The story features audio, photos and maps. Hearing people’s voices, and the emotion in them, makes it worth a good, long listen.
A Canada Goose covered in some oil walks near the Kalamazoo River in Battle Creek, Mich., on Tuesday. A pungent odor is hanging over the Battle Creek area and the Kalamazoo River valley a day after 840,000 gallons of oil leaked into a creek that feeds into the river. The oil leaked Monday from a 30-inch pipeline that carries about 8 million gallons of oil per day from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, in Canada (AP Photo/The Battle Creek Enquirer, John Grap)
An oil spill in Michigan that’s sending oil into the Kalamazoo River has raised alarm among aboriginal leaders in Canada.
Those leaders say the 840,000-galllon spill is further evidence that British Columbia should nix a proposed pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to British Columbia, according this Canadian Press report.
Enbridge, based in Calgary, wants to build the pipeline that would end in the coastal community of Kitimat. But as Canadian Press reports:
But Enbridge’s affiliate, Enbridge Energy Partners LP of Houston, is responsible for the Michigan spill and a B.C. First Nations coalition says it’s further proof why the proposed Northern Gateway project should be scrapped.
Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt says despite Enbridge’s claim that the Northern Gateway project will be a model of safety, such a spill could happen in B.C.
Sterritt is recently returned from visiting scene of the disastrous British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And Coastal First Nations president Gerald Amos tells Canadian Press that such a spill in British Columbia would be devastating to First Nations peoples heavily dependent upon marine resources.
Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team members take to the field to play an exhibition game in Centre Island, N.Y., earlier this week. (AP Photo/Newsday, Patrick E. McCarthy)
“Frustrated and tired” Iroquois Nationals head home This Montreal Gazette story describes the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team as “very frustrated and tired” as they head home after losing a high-profile battle to travel to the World Lacrosse Championships in England on their Haudenosaunee Confederacy passports. Jessica Shenandoah, Iroquois Confederacy secretary, says that “it hasn’t killed our effort. We’re still going to continue it. This is not the end.” Watch a video, here.
More to Whiteclay than beer
The Nebraska town of Whiteclay is notorious for the 4 million cans of beer it sells every year, mostly to residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, just across the border in South Dakota. But as Mary Garrigan of the Rapid City, S.D., Journal writes here, a lot of people also depend upon the hamlet for groceries.
Upgrade for Seattle shelter for homeless Native American youth
Labateyah House in Seattle, a refuge and a place of healing for homeless Native American youth, is about to get an upgrade. It was founded in 1992 by Native American activist Bernie Whitebear and today is an open house where homeless youth ages 18 to 22 can find a place to stay, schooling and life skills, according to Tonya Mosely of KING 5 News, here.
Alaska village youth attempt boating rescue; also involved in fending off 2007 griz attack
These two young men appear to be the ones you want around if you’re in trouble, according to The Village, here, the rural blog of the Anchorage Daily News. Michael Rock and A.J. Nakarak of Shaktoolik came to the aid of brothers clinging to a buoy after their fishing boat was swamped. And, about three years ago, they also intervened in a grizzly attack.
Vote on federal recognition for Native Hawaiians expected soon
Native Hawaiians could finally be treated the same as the nation’s other indigenous groups – but only if a U.S. Senate vote on federal recognition is taken before fall elections, according to the AP, here. That’s because the majority in the Senate might change after November, meaning that it could be years – if ever – before the matter comes up again.
Gulf tribes seek advice on BP oil disaster
Native American tribes who live along the Gulf of Mexico coast in Louisiana are seeking advice from other indigenous groups who’ve dealt with environmental disasters, according to this Voice of American story. They’ve talked to Alaskan Natives about the Exxon Valdez disaster, and also indigenous people in Ecuador about the largest environmental lawsuit in history, against Texaco over toxic waste.
Members of First Nations whose reserves are in British Columbia returned from a visit to the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico more determined than ever to keep supertankers off their coast.
“Everywhere we went people told us the same thing: if you have a choice when it comes to big oil development, don’t do it. And if you do, prepare for the worst,” says Gerald Amos, a Haisla Nation counselor, in this report posted on Marketwire:
Coastal and inland First Nations in B.C. are fighting Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would carry tar sands crude oil from Alberta to a tanker port at Kitimat, B.C. and bring 225 crude oil tankers per year to B.C.’s northern coastal waters.
The delegation learned of the BP spill’s impact on the Gulf Coast’s fishing economy from the president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.
“Shrimp are to Louisiana what wild salmon are to B.C.,” said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, an alliance of nine Nations from B.C.’s central and north coast. “The shrimp fishermen told us that their economy is gone, but worse than that they risk losing a huge part of their fishing culture. That’s a message that hits close to home for our people who depend so heavily on fish and seafood.”
Members of the delegation met with the United Houma Nation, whose people live on the Louisiana coast and are directly affected by the spill
“It was powerful to meet the Houma and share our experiences as indigenous people,” says Amos. “The oil spill just adds to a whole lot of other impacts on their territories. They fear this oil spill could be the straw that breaks their culture’s back.”
First Nations across Canada have been uniting to oppose more development of the tar sands. (See video above.)
Ignacio in southwestern Colorado, home of the Southern Ute Tribe (Southern Ute Tribe photo)
Thought problems with royalty payments on natural resources extracted from Native American lands were going to be solved by the $3.4 billion Cobell v. Salazar settlement?
This story makes it clear the federal government isn’t the only one defrauding Native Americans of money owed them. It concerns accounting errors by BP – you’ve heard of them, right? – resulting in incorrect royalty payments on the company’s natural gas production on land owned by the Southern Ute tribe in southwestern Colorado.
The fine slapped on BP America yesterday was believed to be the largest civil fine from the Interior Department since such penalties were authorized in 1982, writes Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times::
It was also the first punishment meted out by the newly constituted Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which replaced the beleaguered Minerals Management Service, or MMS, last month. The new agency oversees offshore energy leasing and production as well as management of onshore federal oil and gas leases.
Tribal auditors first brought the errors to the attention of BP three years ago after discovering that the company’s reports included incorrect royalty rates, sales prices and production data related to the leases. All of those factors are used to compute the amount of royalties BP owed to the tribe.
After repeated notification and an order from the MMS, the company agreed to correct the problem, which it attributed to errors in automated files. But later audits from MMS and the tribe showed that the errors continued, even after BP said it had resolved the issue.
BP spokesman Toby Odone attributed the problem to a “coding error” and said the company might appeal the fine.
To put things in perspective, Cart points out that in 28 years, Interior has levied only $35 million in civil fines to the oil and gas industry
Mark Jaffe of the Denver Post is reporting here on $5.2 million in civil fines levied against BP American for submitting “false, inaccurate, or misleading” reports on natural gas production on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Colorado.
“We are committed to collecting every dollar due from energy production that occurs on Federal and American Indian lands, and accurate reporting is crucial to that effort,” said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. That’s the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service.
Jaffe writes that tribal auditors brought the problem to BP’s attention.
Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Matthew J. Box said he appreciated the agency’s action in fining BP.
Today, Huffington Post brings us this video, compliments of National Geographic, and story about yet another Native American community threatened by the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. (See previous posts, here and here.)
This time, it’s the Atakapa-Ishak village of Grand Bayou in Louisiana, where there are no cars and people get around by boats. They make their living from – you guessed it – the Gulf.
“Nature you can’t control,” says Ruby Ancar. “We can’t control the hurricane, and the people can’t control the tornado, but when you have things that man made…and that destroys a person’s way of life, or entire village, or entire community…that’s uncalled for.”
As if an oil spill of historic proportions, one that threatens to end their entire way of life, weren’t bad enough, now comes this news from an Indian Country Today story by Rob Capriccioso that some of the tribes along the Gulf Coast may be ineligible for federal aid:
The Houma Nation is one of several tribes facing an uphill battle. Most tribal citizens in immediate danger are members of state recognized tribes; there are 10 in Louisiana, and four federally recognized ones.
Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior, explained that as of June 2, federally recognized tribes seemed to be free of oil complications. She said the agency has received “no reports that federally recognized tribal natural resources are impacted by the spill.” She added that Interior has reached out to all federally recognized tribes in the region, including those from Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Shin Inouye, a spokesman for the White House, said tribal leaders have been receiving updates from the White House, and have been invited to participate in update calls with government officials.
State tribes, meanwhile, have been left more to their own devices, with some even trying to work with BP itself to lend a hand.
The BP disaster represents “a dark day for our people,” Brenda Dardar-Robichaux, principal chief of the United Houma Nation,tells Capriccioso. “We’re being hurt economically, environmentally and culturally. … It’s a total assault on who we are, our way of being.”
The 17,000 Houma peole are recognized by the state, and live a mostly subsistence lifestyle – one that they worry will be destroyed for years to come.
“It’s sort of a love/hate relationship we have with the oil companies, as many of our members rely on them for work, but they also see the impact the companies have had on the area over the years. This latest spill makes that impact all the more difficult,” Dardar-Robichaux says.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that oil companies once petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs against recognition of the tribe,
An oil soaked bird struggles against the side of the HOS an Iron Horse supply vessel at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana this week. This is what the Coastal First Nations don't ever want to see in British Columbia. (AP photo)
Art Sterritt, executive director of Canada’s Coastal First Nations, an alliance of 10 first nations groups on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, and Gerald Amos, of the Coastal First Nations board of directors, penned this strongly worded opinion piece for the Vancouver Sun:
Images of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico oil carry a grim message for Canadians. The message is simple: if Enbridge brings oil tankers to British Columbia’s coast, we will wake up one day to the same kind of disaster on our own shores.
It’s a future Coastal First Nations cannot imagine. It’s a future we won’t allow to become reality.
Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would carry the world’s dirtiest oil from the Alberta oilsands to Kitimat on the B.C. coast, to be loaded onto foreign-bound supertankers. Some 225 tankers per year would attempt to navigate the waters where a passenger ferry sank in 2006, and where last year a freighter ran aground.
Enbridge is trying to convince Canadians oil tankers are safe at a time when the oil industry has zero credibility. One has only to see photos of BP’s burning oil platform to realize the ridiculous nature of such assurances. Oil platforms are safer than oil tankers – and look what can happen to them.
As Sterritt and Amos remind readers, the Coastal First Nations are fishing people, still relying on traditional foods – wild salmon, halibut and shellfish – as a way of coping with high unemployement. “Lose this, and we lose our way of life,” they write.
Besides, they write, First Nations aren’t the only ones who’d suffer in the event of a disaster, pointing to the damage that a spill could cause British Columbia and Haida Gwaii – the Great Bear Rainforest – considered one of Canada’s greatest treasures.
Finally, they reminds readers that Coastal First Nations declared a ban on the transport of oilsands crude oil through their territories.
“It is a declaration,” they write, “we will defend by whatever means necessary.”