Fracking on the Blackfeet Reservation (updated)

Anshutz Exploration Corp., an energy exploration company that has been searching for oil and gas on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, has just announced that it would cease drilling and shut down the project. The company notified the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council of its decision on Monday.  

The Blackfeet Reservation’s western boundary forms the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park. In 2006, the Blackfoot Tribal Business Council granted oil exploration and fracking leases on the western edge of the reservation to the Denver-Based Anshutz Exploration Corp, owned by Philip Frederick Anshutz, one of the richest men in the nation. Many tribal members are concerned about the impact of Anshultz’s operations on the natural resources, including clean water. Anshutz has refused to conduct a cumulative environmental assessment, something that is of great concern to officials in Glacier National Park and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Opposition to Anshutz and to fracking on the reservation has resulted in the formation of the Blackfeet Anti-Fracking Coalition on Facebook.  The Facebook group was started by Destini Vaile, a Blackfeet tribal member who has studied the fracking process and opposed full-field development on the reservation.

For more background see:…

Glacier National Park:

One of the companies looking at bidding on the concession for Glacier National Park is Xanterra, which currently holds the concession for Yellowstone National Park. Xanterra is owned by Philip Frederick Anshutz who made his fortunes in oil, railroads, telecom, and entertainment. Anshutz purchased Xanterra in 2008.

A petition opposing Xanterra’s bid for the park concessions can be found at…

For more background on the petition see:…

Fracking and Glacier National Park


In 1998, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, passed the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act which was intended to open up the bidding process for national park concessions and make them more competitive. At the present time there are about 600 concession contracts at 120 national park units.  

While national parks are public lands, the government has traditionally given concessions to private enterprise to operate the tourist facilities-hotels, gift shops, restaurants, transportation, campground management. The concession contract for Glacier National Park in Montana is currently up for bid. According to Tristan Scott:

Prospective bidders vying for the 16-year prospectus contract, a venture that involves managing the park’s five historic lodging facilities, its food and beverage services and its retail operations, must commit a mountain of money in initial investments alone – $33 million – and will face a future rife with financial risk and costly maintenance projects due to senescent buildings and crumbling infrastructure.…

One of the companies which may be bidding for the contract is an oil and gas company which is engaged in fracking operations on the park’s eastern boundary.  

The new concession contract will go into effect on January 1, 2014. Proposal are due on March 14, 2013.

The Blackfeet Reservation:

The Blackfeet Reservation’s western boundary forms the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park. In 2006, the Blackfoot Tribal Business Council granted oil exploration and fracking leases on the western edge of the reservation to the Denver-Based Anshutz Exploration Corp, owned by Philip Frederick Anshutz, one of the richest men in the nation. Many tribal members are concerned about the impact of Anshultz’s operations on the natural resources, including clean water. Anshutz has refused to conduct a cumulative environmental assessment, something that is of great concern to officials in Glacier National Park and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Opposition to Anshutz and to fracking on the reservation has resulted in the formation of the Blackfeet Anti-Fracking Coalition on Facebook.  The Facebook group was started by Destini Vaile, a Blackfeet tribal member who has studied the fracking process and opposed full-field development on the reservation.

Dave Beck, the chair of the Native American Studies program at the University of Montana, said:

“Fracking has become a very contentious issue for the Blackfeet. The question is how to balance cultural preservation, environmental protection and economic development, and I think that is really what tribes everywhere are trying to deal with right now.”


The Concessions:

When Congress created Glacier National Park in 1910, they did not allocate any money for the development of tourist facilities in the park. The bill that created the park had been promoted and influenced by Louis Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway and son of James J. Hill. The southern boundary of the park is the railroad.

Having helped create Glacier National Park, Hill set out to create within the park a tourist facility for wealthy easterners who would ride his railroad to the park. Since Glacier’s mountains looked somewhat similar to the Swiss Alps, Hill envisioned the park as America’s Swiss Alps which would draw the wealthy tourists who had traditionally vacationed in Europe. Between 1910 and 1930, Hill commissioned the construction of nine Swiss-style chalets to be built in and around the park.


Lake McDonald Lodge is shown above.

The Great Northern Railway laid out and built most of the early roads and trails in the park. In 1914 Hill made arrangements with the White Motor Company to provide bus services in the park and the following year White Motor Company formed the Glacier Park Transportation Company to operate the buses.

By 1917, the Great Northern Railway had spent more money than the government-about twice as much-in developing Glacier National Park.

In the decades that followed, the National Park Service relied on private enterprise to build, maintain, and promote Glacier’s tourism. In exchange, the company that held the concession received exclusive rights to the tourist business within the park.

At the present time, Glacier Park’s private lodging concession is held by Glacier Park Inc (GPI), but their contract has expired and has been opened for bids.  GPI has an estimated $22 million in possessory interest in Glacier Park and operates properties outside of the park, including The Lodge at St. Mary, Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, and Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish.  


One of the companies looking at bidding on the concession for Glacier National Park is Xanterra, which currently holds the concession for Yellowstone National Park. Xanterra is owned by Philip Frederick Anshutz who made his fortunes in oil, railroads, telecom, and entertainment. Anshutz purchased Xanterra in 2008.

Tristan Scott reports of Anshutz:

He is a Republican Party donor and supporter of numerous religious and conservative causes, and helped fund a 1992 Colorado ballot initiative designed to overturn local and state laws prohibiting discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

With regard to the environment, the Xanterra website states:

Xanterra’s vision is simple: provide quality services to visitors to our parks and resorts in the most sustainable ways possible. Our 2015 Environmental Vision goals guide all Xanterra employees in our quest to become the most environmentally responsible company possible – protecting our country’s national and state parks along the way.

Help Defeat Cannon AFB’s War on Northern NM

Fifty years after Eisenhower’s famous warning to beware the growing power of the military-industrial complex, speaker after speaker at a public hearing in Santa Fe, NM, suggested that Cannon Air Force Base has committed acts of war against rural tribes and counties in New Mexico and should be shut down.

PhotobucketAt issue was Cannon’s plan to expand its Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) site to include 21 southern and eastern Colorado counties and 17 eastern and northern New Mexico counties. Affected tribes include the Jicarilla Apache, the Southern Ute and the Navajo. Several Pueblos are near the training zone as well including Ohkay Owinge, Taos, Santa Clara and San Idefonso.

And of course, my own county, Rio Arriba, which is home to several tribes and many Hispanic ranching families that predate the United States of America.

In order to train pilots for low-altitude night flight in Afghanistan, Cannon AFB will begin to conduct three five-hour missions per night (688 a year) in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.

Planes to be flown include the MC-130J and CV-22 (the infamous Osprey). After receiving a great deal of public criticism, Cannon altered its original plan, excluding populated areas and commercial airspace in this draft. The wealthy and politically connected communities of Los Alamos and Santa Fe were exempted as was the town of Espanola, and the minimum flight requirement was raised from 200 feet above ground level to 300 feet. According to Cannon’s dubious Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI):

Approximately 10 percent of the training missions would be flown between 300 and 500 feet (ft) Above Ground Level (AGL), 40 percent between 500 and 999 ft AGL, and 50 percent between 1,000 and 3,000 ft AGL.

Amazingly, without offering any evidence, the FONSI states that wildlife, the local economy, structures, ranching, hunting/camping and culture will not be effected.

Look for the Draft FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) and alleged Environmental Assessment from which these quotes are taken at this site.

Most of the County of Rio Arriba, home to Hispanic ranching families pre-dating the United States, as well as the Jicarilla Apache reservation and the pueblos of Ohkay Owinge, Santa Clara and San Ildefonso, will be subjected to low level fights.

Many serious flaws have been pointed out in the Environmental Assessment at poorly publicized “community forums” (which should, in fact, be called “public hearings”). For example, the FONSI finds that wildlife will be unaffected by the flyovers even though the EA does not identify which wildlife inhabit the area or where they can be located in the fly-over zone.

The FONSI determines that the requirement to uphold environmental justice has been met:

Scoping comments expressed concerns about disproportionate effects on environmental justice populations. Twenty-one counties in Colorado are entirely or partially under the

proposed training area. Four of those counties have a higher percentage of minorities than the state as a whole and 17 of those counties have a lower percentage of minorities than the state. In New Mexico, 17 counties are entirely or partially under the proposed training area. Five of those counties have a higher percentage of minorities than the state as a whole and 12 counties have a lower percentage of minorities than the state. Similar conditions exist for low-income and youth populations. The Proposed Action would not have disproportionate effects to minorities, low income, or youth populations under the proposed training area.

Since the purpose of the exercises is to train pilots to fly extremely close to the ground over mountainous terrain, it is unlikely that all areas of the proposed training ground will be equally affected by very low flights. More low flights are likely to occur over mountain passes and in rugged terrain than in flat areas. Native American Tribes such as the Ute, the Jicarilla Apache, Navajos and the Pueblos live in these areas as do many indigenous Hispanic ranchers. Rugged remote counties are also poorer and more heavily Hispanic, especially in New Mexico and southern Colorado. Moreover, elk, deer and other wildlife are also concentrated in these areas. It is unlikely that a large airplane flying 300 feet above a herd of any kind will not affect it. And the centuries-old adobe dwellings ubiquitous in northern New Mexico are unlikely to withstand damage from noise and vibrations in the same manner as the modern steel, brick and cement architecture tested for overflight in the “Environmental Assessment.”

I made remarks at the hearing in Santa Fe because the one in Espanola (in Rio Arriba County), which is closest to Hispanic ranchers and Native American tribes, was so poorly advertised that few people knew about it. I heard about it at the last minute thanks to a NAN blogger, Los Anjales. Carol Miller of the Peaceful Skies Coalition had alerted almost all of the people in attendance in Espanola. The only Air Force notification was a teeny advertisement buried deep within the B section of the local paper in four point font.

PhotobucketOne of the changes proposed in this draft as a result of public criticism is that Native American Tribes will now be able to prevent flyovers of important ceremonies by calling up the Air Force to tell them where and when the ceremony will be held. This proposal strikes me as preposterously insulting. Most of the tribes in our area do not tell one another where their ceremonies will be held, and would certainly not have an interest in informing the military that confined them to reservations in the first place.

Ranchers will also be allowed to call the Air Force to report where and when important activities such as branding, calving and shearing will occur. This fanciful suggestion is equally preposterous. It assumes that ranchers can predict without disruption caused by weather and other exigencies, where and when the event will occur. It also assumes they will have phone service and time to place the call.

Two county representatives (a commissioner from Santa Fe County and I) pointed out that Ospreys are prone to crashes, and that remote rural counties do not have HAZMAT capacity to respond to a crash. Moreover, some of you may remember my blog posts this summer about the Las Conchas fire, which spread to over 400,000 acres in a few days. That fire was caused by a downed power line, and required three Type 1 Emergency Response teams to contain its spread.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the process, in my opinion, is that all comments on the sham Environmental Assessment and FONSI are to be sent to Cannon Air Force Base which will make the final decision. Since the Environmental Assessment is a joke, the FONSI is completely unsubstantiated and the public notification process has been non-existent, I don’t see why we should believe administrators at Cannon Air Force Base will listen to comments by politically unconnected minorities.

Unless of course, those minorities dream up a great strategy for making themselves heard. Here is my suggestion for just such a strategy.

How You Can Help

Soon, the twelve members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will be meeting to identify deep cuts to the military. In May of 2005, Canon AFB was recommended for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The decision was reversed after people in Northern New Mexico circulated petitions on behalf of the base. Many individuals now regret their activism.

I am recommending that NAN members (and their relatives and friends) submit letters to members of the Super Committee requesting the closure of Cannon Air Force Base. Each training flight costs $11,000 which could be used to fund schools, fire departments, police, health care and other services. The letter should be copied and submitted as a comment to Cannon Air Force Base. I will provide you with all the relevant contact info and a letter template below.

Senator Patty Murray D-WA, Committee Co-Chair Phone: (202) 224-2621 Fax: (202) 224-0238

Senator Max Baucus D-MT Phone: (202) 224-2651 Fax: (202) 224-9412  

Senator John Kerry, D-MA Phone: (202) 224-2742 Fax: (202) 224-8525

Senator Jon Kyl, R-AZ Phone: (202) 224-4521 Fax: (202) 224-2207

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH Phone: 202-224-3353 Fax: 202-224-9075

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA Phone:(202) 224-4254 Fax: (202) 228-0284

Representative Jeb Hensarling R-TX, Committee Co-Chair (You must include a zip code in his district. Here are a few you can use: 75030, 75032, 75041, 75043, 75047, 75049, 75088, 75103, 75114) Phone: Phone: (202) 225-3484 Fax: (202) 226-4888

Representative Xavier Becerra, D-CA Phone: (202) 225-6235 Fax: 202-225-2202

Representative Fred Upton, R-MI Phone: (202) 225-3761 Fax: (202) 225-4986

Representative Dave Camp, R-MI (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try this one: 49654.) Phone: (202) 225-3561 Fax: (202) 225-9679

Representative James Clyburn, D-NC (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try one of these: 29403, 29590, 29052.) Phone: (202)225-3315 Fax: (202)225-2313

Representative Chris Van Hollen, D-MD (You will need a zipcode in his district to email him. Try one of these: 20837, 20841.) Phone: (202) 225-5341 Fax: (202) 225-0375

Here is some sample text you can use:

In 2005, the people of New Mexico including many Native Americans and rural Hispanics petitioned to keep Cannon Air Force Base open. In return, Cannon AFB has singled out poor and minority communities for ongoing night low altitude training flights, threatening homes, wildlife, and the local economy.

The Founding Fathers fought the revolution because they believed Britain’s standing army was a form of tyranny. Requiring Native Americans to report their ceremonies to the USAF to avoid flyovers is an act of war against Native Americans. Low level flyovers of peoples’ communities is also an act of war. Only our Congressional Representatives may declare war.

Many of the people in the flight path have already experienced high intensity wildfires that have rapidly burned hundreds of thousands of acres. County governments in the impacted area do not have HAZMAT capability to respond to a plane crash or in-flight fueling disaster; and the dryness of the forest poses a severe fire hazard. Cannon AFB’s proposed activity presents a serious threat to the lives and livelihood of its neighbors.

Moreover, the alleged environmental assessment conducted by Cannon AFB was incompetent, with huge gaps in data and unscientific “findings;” nor were communities in the flight path adequately informed public hearings.

Each flyover costs the federal government $11,000 per hour, almost the amount of a full-time annual salary in rural Rio Arriba County. This is money that could be used to improve the schools, emergency response, roads and fire fighting capabilities of the threatened communities. I strongly urge you to close Cannon AFB and redirect this funding to basic human services.

Thank you for your attention.

Submit copies of all your letters as public comment before November 5 to the Cannon AFB Public Comment site.

For more information, contact The Peaceful Skies Coalition.

News from Native American Netroots

( – promoted by navajo)

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

Welcome to News from Native American Netroots, a series focused on indigenous tribes primarily in the United States and Canada but inclusive of international peoples also.

A special thanks to our team for contributing the links that have been compiled here. Please provide your news links in the comments below.

Utahns fight death among American Indian babies

By Heather May

Utahns are helping develop a campaign to improve the health of American Indian babies and mothers.

As part of a national effort to reduce infant deaths among the group, American Indian mothers and fathers were invited to the Indian Walk-In Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday to brainstorm effective and culturally appropriate ways to promote healthy pregnancies and babies.

Debt and Tribal Payday Lenders

By Michael Hudson and David Heath

In the battle to shield themselves from lawsuits and government oversight, some high-interest payday lenders have found unlikely allies: Native American tribes.

In legal fights in California, New Mexico, West Virginia and Colorado, a group of Internet-based payday lenders have argued they are immune from lawsuits and regulation because they are “tribal enterprises.” They claim they enjoy tribal-nation sovereignty, which allows them to operate outside state oversight – even when they’re making loans to non-Native Americans living far from Indian lands.

Gathering of Nations wins Grammy for Native American album

The producers of “2010 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow: A Spirit’s Dance” won the award fro best Native American music album at the 53rd annual Grammys ceremony on Sunday night.

The album was recording during the 27th annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It features songs from several drum groups and performers.

The album was produced by Derek Mathews, Lita Mathews and Melonie Mathews.

The US Clean Energy Economy: Buy Indian

Ryan DreveskrachtThe change to a “clean energy economy” has become the Obama Administration’s tagline for pulling out of the recession by investing in renewable energy and clean technologies. The American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) is one way the administration is walking the talk….

…..The application of an often-overlooked federal law may ensure that green energy investment stays in our economy, while at the same time fulfilling the government’s obligation to Native American tribes.

The Buy Indian Act (BIA) was introduced in 1910 as a way to promote the employment of American Indians and the sale of American Indian-made products. The BIA operates much like the Buy American Act, with a priority given to “the products of Indian industry.” The law directs prime contractors to use their best efforts to give Indian organizations and Indian-owned economic enterprises the “maximum practicable opportunity” to participate in subcontracts that it awards, and to do so to the fullest extent consistent with efficient performance of the contract.

Senator asks for hearings on Hawaii, Alaska Native American Contracting preferences


Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye wants his fellow Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka to hold hearings on Small Business Administration rules that give Native American groups in Alaska and Hawaii contracting preferences.

Inouye formally made the request in a letter to Akaka, who took over as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last week. Hawaii’s senior U.S. senator wants the committee to review the importance of contracts given the Alaska Native Corporations, Native Hawaiian Organizations and tribal entities after a series of negative articles about the Alaska contracts in the Washington Post.

“The purposed of the hearing is to allow the SBA, ANCS, NHOs, Indian tribes, shareholders and other stakeholders the opportunity to demonstrate the importance and legitimacy of the program to Native communities in fulfilling self-determination and self-sufficiency,” said the letter written by Inouye and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and obtained by the Artic Sounder, an Anchorage newspaper

Recall effort aims at Rosebud tribal president

Rapid City Journal Staff

A group of Rosebud Reservation residents critical of Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux are circulating recall petitions in an effort to remove him from office.

Organizers of the recall effort met Monday at the St. Francis Community Center to recruit volunteers to gather an estimated 800 signatures necessary to force a recall election. By tribal law, the signatures of 30 percent of the voters in the last tribal election are required for a recall vote, but that process has been slowed by the tribal secretary office’s delay in releasing a current voter list, according to petition organizers.

St. Francis Community Center chairman Ron Valandra, a former RST tribal council representative, and Whitey Scott, who lost to Bordeaux in the 2009 election, accuse his administration of failing to release a current voter list in a timely manner.

Starving in the Land of Plenty: Hunger in Native America. Feeding America Blogathon

My father knew what it was like to go hungry.  

Even before the onset of the Great Depression, his family was intimately familiar with hunger.  Mixed-blood Indians living off the rez, in an area where cowards on horseback stalked the countryside in sheets and white hoods, were not the most “employable.”  Gramps traveled miles every day, on foot, looking for work.  Sometimes he’d find something; just as often, he’d come trudging home, late at night, with nothing to show for it but sore feet and an empty stomach.  If he was lucky, someone might hire him for 16 hours of backbreaking labor in exchange for a sack of beans, or a little rice – or on a really good day, a whole chicken (that Grandma had to pluck and dress).  Most often, the beans or rice were served without salt, pepper, butter, or anything else.

To his dying day, my father hated rice.

But to hear him tell it, they were still lucky compared to some kids at his one-room schoolhouse.  There were a pair of brothers who we invariably described as “dirt poor.”  He used to tell the story of how, one day as the kids were dropped off by the school bus, one of the wealthier white kids tossed an unwanted hard-boiled egg out of his lunch sack onto the ground (presumably so that his mother wouldn’t know he’d wasted food).  It landed in the dirt; already peeled, it was instantly covered.  One of the “dirt poor” brothers pounced on it, blew a bit of the dirt off, and stuffed it in his mouth.  It was the only food he’d had all day – indeed, probably for several days.

And, predictably, just like Dad, those two ragged little boys were ostracized and tormented by the other kids and the teachers.  For the crime of being poor.

I don’t intend to go into the casual racism here that allowed Dad’s first-grade teacher to fail him twice without cause; or his third-grade teacher to refuse to call on him when he knew the answer to question, telling the other kids, “We won’t ask him; he’s too dumb to know anyway); or the systemic privation and malnutrition that destroyed his health and his ability to learn, and caused him to drop out of school at the end of eighth grade.  Nor will I go into detail about the pre-diabetic hypoglycemia that plagued him his entire life, nor the fact that all three of my siblings were diabetic.  

But I do know what it’s like to wonder where your next meal is coming from.

I know my father’s humiliation when we had to use food stamps and he drove 35 miles to another town so no one we knew would see.

I know what it’s like to be hungry during the school day, and to watch my grades plummet because I couldn’t concentrate.

HUNGER – the real, true, gnawing, tearing, murderous kind of constant hunger that destroys lives – only one generation removed from me, remains a part of my ancestral memory.

I’m not talking about the sanitized popular term “food insecurity.”  I’m not talking about not being able to afford steak instead of ground beef.  I’m talking about the physical, psychological, and spiritual starvation caused by real poverty and real malnutrition.  And it’s something our peoples battle every single day, all over this country – mostly unnoticed by a comparatively wealthy population that wouldn’t care anyway.


One of the most pernicious myths surrounding hunger in this country is the one that says that if you’re overweight, you can’t be going hungry.  to the contrary, one of the most obvious manifestations of malnutrition is obesity, and it’s rampant among our peoples.  It’s also killing us at a rate that rivals anything tried in previous centuries.

In 2003, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published A Quiet Crisis:  Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country.  Pages 99-112 deal with issues of food and nutrition.  The numbers – or, rather, the lack thereof in terms of funding allocations to help Native communities feed themselves – are staggering.  

But it’s part and parcel of a larger dynamic of poverty, racism, and marginalization.  As I wrote a few months ago in an edition of Sage and Sweetgrass in SheKos:

As many of you know, I’m part of the Native American Netroots team, founded and led by Kossack navajo. Many of you participated in our diaries on the long-term winter weather emergency that hit several South Dakota reservations, and donated generously of your money, supplies, time, and support. We need your help again. Some background information follows; at the end, what you can do to help.

Pine Ridge – Some Numbers

During the winter, we focused on three South Dakota reservations where the weather and its effects were most severe: Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud. For purposes of today’s edition, I’m going to focus on Pine Ridge, but all three reservations – and many more throughout the nation – are in similar straits.

At Pine Ridge (like many other reservations), it is not unusual to find women as heads of household. Moreover, they’re often housing and caring for multiple generations: children, grandchildren, sometimes great-grandchildren, as well as elderly parents or grandparents. Frequently, they take in uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and distant cousins who are in need. Large numbers of women are de facto guardians of and primary caregivers for their grandchildren. None of this is particularly surprising, given that the average household income is less than $3,800 a year.

Yes, you read that right: The average household income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is less than three thousand, eight hundred dollars annually.

Further complicating the situation are the inhumane living conditions on many reservations. I’ve seen statistics estimating the life expectancy of the average man at Pine Ridge between age 43 and age 48 – equivalent to that of the average Somali male. At a life expectancy of 52, Pine Ridge women don’t fare much better. The reservation’s unemployment rate exceeds 80%; its poverty rate is one of the worst in the nation; both chronic illness, such as diabetes, and acute illnesses, such as certain forms of cancer, appear at rates between 100% and 800% higher than in the nation as a whole; and the adolescent suicide rate is 150% higher than in the general U.S. population. Alcoholism and methamphetamine addiction long ago reached epidemic proportions.

The USDA operates the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).  It is via this program that most reservations receive what we call “commodities” – a word that the government no longer considers “politically correct” because of the bad reputation associated with it.  Think “government cheese”:  generic Velveeta.  Generic canned foods.  Processed, refined, bleached flour, sugar, rice, pasta, bread.  Ground beef and other cheap meats from huge factory farms, riddled with growth hormone, antibiotics, and Spirit knows what else.  Dietary crap, in other words.  You can find a list of the foods available for 2010 here.  Someday, I’m going to devote a diary to the damage these programs have done – and yet, for many of our communities, they’re all that stands between our people and literally starving to death.

Today, I’m also going to crib shamelessly from an earlier diary of mine, In Our Blood:  The Diabetes Epidemic in Native America.  Because another major manifestation of hunger and malnutrition in our communities is diabetes – and it is an epidemic.


Only in recent years has the federal government become interested in funding research into ethnic disparities in the incidence of diabetes.  Data are further limited by many of the same factors that skew research into any issue that affects underserved communities:  poverty, lack of access to medical, lack of access to studies and clinical trials, language and cultural barriers, distrust of governmental and/or dominant-culture endeavors, and lack of effective outreach to such communities.  However, the issue is now on the radar of the national Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, which publishes the following 2006 statistics:

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 2.7 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes.

   * American Indians/Alaska Natives were almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes in 2006.

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 1.6 times as likely as White adults to be obese.

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 1.3 times as likely as White adults to have high blood pressure.

And an analysis of the 2005 patient population of the Indian Health Service produced the following statistics:

   *  Data from the 2005 IHS user population database indicate that 14.2 percent of the American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 20 years or older who received care from IHS had diagnosed diabetes. After adjusting for population age differences, 16.5 percent of the total adult population served by IHS had diagnosed diabetes, with rates varying by region from 6 percent among Alaska Native adults to 29.3 percent among American Indian adults in southern Arizona.

   * After adjusting for population age differences, 2004 to 2006 national survey data for people ages 20 years or older indicate that 6.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 7.5 percent of Asian Americans, 10.4 percent of Hispanics, and 11.8 percent of non-Hispanic blacks had diagnosed diabetes. Among Hispanics, rates were 8.2 percent for Cubans, 11.9 percent for Mexican Americans, and 12.6 percent for Puerto Ricans.

Got that?  American Indian/Alaska Native adults had a diabetes diagnosis rate of 16.5%. compared to 6.6% for non-Hispanic whites.  The Pima in southern Arizona led the rate of diagnosis, at a staggering 29.3%.  In practical terms, what these numbers mean is that Native Americans have the highest age-adjusted incidence of diabetes of any ethnic group.  And these are just those who have been diagnosed.  Thousands more go undiagnosed for years – often until they die from complications resulting from undiagnosed diabetes.  

In 2006, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.  However, Native Americans constitute a disproportionately high percentage of members of that particular demographic:  Diabetes-related mortality rates are substantially higher in Native populations:  39.6 per 100,000, compared to 1.9 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites.  Keep in mind, however, that these number are almost certainly much lower than the reality:  A study of 1986 data found that, on death certificates, Native American ancestry was underreported at a rate of 65%.  The same analysis concluded that diabetes was 4.3 times more likely to be the underlying cause of death for those listed on their death certificates as Native American than for whites.

And the rates are getting worse, not better.  Part of this may be attributable to higher rates of diagnosis, but the largest part is undoubtedly higher actual incidence.  


The American Diabetes Association reports that the decade between 1994 and 2004 saw a 68% increase in Type II diabetes among self-identified American Indians and Alaska Natives between the ages of 15 and 19.

Read that again for a moment:  nearly a 70% jump in diabetes among older teenagers – in one decade.

According to the Indian Health Service:

American Indian and Alaska Native children have obesity rates of 40%, four times the rate for the general population.

Obesity is one of the greatest risk factors for developing Type II diabetes – and obesity among children and teenagers is rampant among American society generally, as well as in Native communities particularly.


We are a mere 100 years removed from living as hunter/gatherers, our ancestral methods of sustaining our peoples.  Indeed, experts often describe us as coming from “hunter-gatherer societies”, and as having a “thrifty” genetic type, biologically engineered to store food as fat during times of plenty, to provide fuel and sustenance during extended periods when food was scarce, such as winter, drought, or migration.  In other words, our bodies had adapted perfectly to our physical environment.

But with contact came the reservation.

With the reservation came deprivation:  of our traditional hunting grounds, including the wanton destruction of the buffalo herds; of the environments where we harvested food, herbs, and medicine; of our ancestral lands when many of our tribes engaged in sophisticated farming and crop rotation practices; of access to many of our cultural and spiritual traditions and methods of healing.

And with the reservation came new dangers:  of previously-unknown infectious agents and disease; of tobacco (not the old asemaa of our medicine persons, consisting of herbs such as red willow bark, bearberry, and mullein, but the modern asemaa of tar and nicotine); of alcohol (not the fermented medicine and ceremonial drinks of our ancestors, but whiskey, rum, and moonshine); of a diet restricted to non-indigenous foods, that would eventually become a diet consisting almost entirely of refined, processed foods low in protein and complex carbohydrates but high in simple carbs and trans fats.

And residents of modern reservations, with median household incomes well below the federal poverty line (often well below $10,000 per year) and with staggering rates of unemployment (as much as 85%), often must rely almost wholly on government welfare programs, including refined and processed commodity foods.  Whole grains, fresh produce, and other healthy foods are far too expensive, and on many reservations, there are no grocery stores or markets that carry such items anyway.  And over the years, refined ingredients have infiltrated the recipes for our traditional foods, so that here in the Southwest, for example, people have for decades used bleached, refined white flour in their tortillas – because it is both available and affordable.  And thus is a staple of the traditional diet converted into an instrument of disease.


On the personal level:

* If you’re of Native ancestry, get tested.  It only takes a pinprick on the end of a finger.

* If you have loved ones of Native ancestry, encourage them to do the same.

* If you or a loved one gets a diagnosis of diabetes, enroll in a diabetes management program.

* Eat right.  Exercise.  Don’t smoke; don’t drink.  Monitor your glucose levels, and take charge of your own health.

On the local level:  

* If you live on or near a reservation, encourage the development of tribal diabetes education and management programs.

* Support related culturally-appropriate non-profit efforts and local businesses that serve such populations.

* Encourage cultural education and sensitivity.

On the national level:  

* Contact your members of Congress; demand that they fulfill the nation’s statutory obligation to fund the Indian Health Service (IHS) fully.

* Lobby for additional funding for culturally-appropriate diabetes research and prevention programs through IHS.

* Lobby for federal funding for tribal initiatives to maintain diabetes management and traditional treatment programs, including tobacco and alcohol cessation programs.

* Lobby for federal funding for investment and development dollars to bring healthy food initiatives and businesses to reservations.

* Demand that federal assistance programs distribute healthy foods, such as whole grains, and provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

* Lobby for funding for research and development, through the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service, and the Association of American Indian Physicians, dedicated to prevention, treatment, and education programs in Native populations.

And give to Feeding America (FA).  I don’t know yet whether FA explicitly provides funding to food banks and other groups that serve reservations and Native communities, but in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter:  It serves Americans who are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, children and elders, whatever their ethnicity.  And that’s worth supporting.

Chi miigwech.

If you want to donate money, here is the Feeding America donation page.

If you have time to volunteer, here are some handy tools to find out what assistance is needed:

–Plug your zip code into this search engine to find opportunities in your area to assist hunger organizations.

–Typing in your zip code and state in this search engine will locate food banks in your area.

–Clicking onto to your state on this map will return results for homeless shelters and soup kitchens in your area.

Feeding America Blogathon Diary Schedule (all EDT):

Saturday, Sept 25:

10:00a — rb137

 1:00p — teacherken

 4:00p — Patriot Daily

 7:00p — srkp23

10:00p — boatsie

Owls — Jay in Portland


Sunday, Sept 26

10:00a — JanF

 1:00p — Aji

 4:00p — Timroff

 7:00p — Chacounne

10:00p — blue jersey mom

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Dam Indians: The Elwha River

( – promoted by navajo)

The Elwha River originates in the mountains of what is now the Olympic National Park in Washington. Long before the coming of the Europeans, there were bountiful salmon runs on the Elwha River which were important to the economy of the Klallam people. The Elwha River supported annual runs of 250,000 to 500,000 fish, including cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, coho, sturgeon, steelhead, sockeye, and pink salmon. Some salmon weighed more than 100 pounds. While the river is short-only 45 miles long-it was the only river in the Pacific Northwest to contain all five species of Pacific salmon.

Elwhat River

Elwha Map

Fish were important to the ecology of the area. There were more than 20 different species of fish and animals which fed directly on the river’s salmon. In addition, the spawned out carcasses of the anadromous fish provided tons of natural fertilizer for the vegetation along the river.

For the Klallam people, the salmon were more than just a source of calories: they were also an important part of their religion. The salmon, therefore, were treated with special reverence and a ceremony was held at the first catch to honor the salmon and to encourage its abundance.

In 1855 the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe signed the Treaty of Point No Point with the United States. In this treaty, the tribe retains the right to fish the Elwha River in perpetuity.

In 1910 construction began on the Elwha Dam. The construction of the dam ignored both the Klallam people and state law which required fish runs. In 1913 when the dam became operational, the Klallam people watched in horror as thousands of migrating fish died at the base of the 108′ high dam. By blocking the fish passage to their spawning grounds, the dam effectively negated the tribe’s treaty rights.

Elwha Dam

In 1927 a second dam, the Glines Canyon Dam, was constructed on the Elwha River. By this time the fish runs were gone. The two dams on the river also had consequences for the shellfish. With the two dams, the natural downstream movement of gravel and nutrients was stopped. As a result, the broad sandy beaches at the mouth of the river, once prime shellfish beds, were washed away because of the lack of replenishing materials from upstream.

The two dams did more than destroy a traditional fishing area: they also flooded numerous areas of spiritual significance for the Lower Elwha Klallam people. Included in the flooded area is the creation site for the Elwha people.

In 1989 the Lower Elwha Klallam passed a resolution calling for the removal of dams on the Elwha River. The resolution noted that the dams have destroyed the anadromous fishery which had been the tribe’s most valuable resource. They also noted that the dams impede the passage of sediments which are needed to maintain the reservation’s beaches.

In 1992 Congress authorized the federal government to acquire and then remove the two Elwha River Dams. This decision to remove the dams was met with outrage and opposition, often expressed in anti-Indian racist terms. After several years of delay, the Department of the Interior officially acquired the two dams from the private owners in 2000.

The dismantling of the dams is scheduled to being in 2011 and the dams should be gone by 2014. By 2039, the river should be replenished to its pre-dam levels. The National Park Service, which is in charge of the project, estimates that the salmon run should increase from 3,000 to over 400,000. Tribal elders and biologists hope that this will mean the eventual return of 100 pound salmon to the river.  

Court Smacks Palin Down on Native Alaskan Moose Hunt

( – promoted by navajo)

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, avid helicopter hunter and lifetime NRA member, has opposed native subsistence rights ever since she came into office.  Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said “Thanks but no thanks” to her ongoing efforts to ban indigenous moose harvest.

Federal trust responsibility for Native people meant that the Federal Subsistence Management program followed all appropriate procedures in its ruling for moose harvest by the Cheesh-na Athabaskans of the tiny inland village of Cristochina.

“Palin’s attack here has targeted (among others) the Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina; and although the federal court last year rejected this challenge, too, Palin has refused to lay down her arms,” wrote Kendall-Miller and her husband, Lloyd Miller, another prominent Native rights attorney.

The State’s challenge was rejected on straightforward legal grounds.  It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will hear a further appeal should Palin take time out from the campaign trail to pursue it.  This decision will probably stand.  With more GOP judges appointed?  Perhaps not…

I never thought I’d write a Palin diary.  But this Tuesday’s decision on her attempt to block Native Alaskan subsistence moose hunting hasn’t been covered here, and it’s too rife with contrast and irony to pass up.  It also contains a reminder of one of the most important reasons that an Obama victory is essential:  The future of our courts.  We can’t afford anymore Alito or Roberts appointments; nor anymore of those lifetime appointments of wingnuts to lower courts either.



Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska says her favorite food is mooseburgers.  But when it comes to native subsistence hunting, she’s not much of an enthusiast.  Traditional Alaska Native subsistence, especially inland where marine mammals aren’t in the mix, values the moose highly – for food and other uses. Wasilla (pop. > 9780, 863.9$ white), Palin’s home town, in addition to being the start point for the famous Iditarod dogsled race (until recently when climate change has moved it northward and inland due to inadequate snow) has grown rapidly in recent years as a bedroom commuter suburb for Anchorage.  It has a WalMart and several other venues that sell groceries.  Median income is $51k.  Wasilla has two zip codes.  The tiny village of Cristochina, (population 86, median income $25,500)? Not so much.

Chistochina is located at Mile 32.7 on the Tok Cut-off Road near the base of Mount Sanford and was originally an Athabascan fish camp along the Copper River. Later, during the Gold Rush to the Eagle area, the miners at Chistochina made a trail from Valdez to Eagle. A lodge was constructed to provide services to travelers heading to and from the gold fields. Prospectors also mined in the hills around the Chistochina area and found gold along the Upper Chistochina River and it’s runoff creeks. Chistochina Lodge has since burned down, but the small community hosts a cafe, bar, campground, bed and breakfast and gas station.

The inhabitants are about 60 percent Athabascan and hunting, trapping, berry picking, and subsistence fishing from the Copper River are important activities for many of the residents. Traditions have been passed down through time and Chistochina still boasts skilled skin sewers who make beautiful beaded moccasins, hats, and gloves.


Wasilla & Cristochina have yellow highlighting added on this map

More on Cristochina:

Subsistence hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering are the basis of the village’s economy. Most cash employment is seasonal.

Almost half of residences have individual wells; the remainder haul treated water from the Community Center. Some residents use individual septic tanks, but the majority have outhouses or pit privies. About 40% of homes are completely plumbed. The local landfill is closed pending clean-up and relocation to a new site. The community needs a washeteria and a new landfill. Electricity is provided out of Tok.

The native people used normal channels for the rulemaking decision on their subsistence moose hunt.  (The Cristochina girl on the left is cleaning a moose stomach in a traditional way):

The Federal Subsistence Management Program is a multi-agency effort to provide the opportunity for a subsistence way of life by rural Alaskans on federal public lands and waters while maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife. Subsistence fishing and hunting provide a large share of the food consumed in rural Alaska. The state’s rural residents harvest about 22,000 tons of wild foods each year – an average of 375 pounds per person. Fish makes up about 60 percent of this harvest statewide. Nowhere else in the United States is there such a heavy reliance upon wild foods.

This dependence on wild resources is both cultural, social and economic. Alaska’s indigenous inhabitants have relied upon the traditional harvest of wild foods for thousands of years and have passed this way of life, its culture, and values down through generations. Subsistence has also become important to many non-Native Alaskans, particularly in rural Alaska.

It was a 2005 ruling by the FSMP that then-Governor Frank Murkowski’s administration filed suit to overturn.  They lost that case in 2006, but Sarah Palin did not accept that ruling.  Her Administration appealed against the various Federal Agencies involved.  The Athabaskans were represented by the Native American Rights Fund:

On June 10, 2006 the State of Alaska brought suit challenging the Federal Subsistence Boards customary and traditional (C&T) use finding for subsistence uses of moose by members of the Chistochina Tribe. A positive C&T finding entitles residents for a specific community to the subsistence priority under Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Chistochina was granted intervention in this action to protect its C&T status for moose. On June 27, 2007 in State v. Demientieff, the district court entered an Order in favor of defendant United States and Chistochina against the State and upholding the Federal Subsistence Boards customary and traditional use finding for subsistence uses of moose by members of the Chistochina Tribe.


That’s where this week’s ruling came in.  The 9th Circuit found that Palin’s (et al.) appeal was without merit (full decision, PDF).  The basis of the decision goes back to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANLICA):

The Congress enacted ANLICA to further two ends.  The first is:

to preserve unrivaled sceneic and gelogical values associated with natural landscapes; to provide for the maintenance of sound populations of, and habitat for, wildlife species of inestimable value to the citizens of Alaska and the Nation …; to preserve in their natural state exstensive unaltered arctic tundra, boreal forest, and coastal rainforest ecosystems; to protect the resources related to subsistence needs…

The second, in order though not in priority is “to provide the opportunity for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life to continue to do so.”


In particular, Title VII of ANLICA:

Congress sought to protect the subsistence way of life in the face of Alaska’s growing population and the resultant pressure on fish and wildlife populations, and created a subsistence management and use program. Id. Sec. 3111(3).  The program grants a priority to subsistence use of resources, providing: “the taking on public lands of fish and wildlife for nonwasteful subsistence uses shall be accorded priority over the taking on such lands of fish and wildlife for other purposes”

When talking about possible grounds for overturning a C&T determination, we get to one of the many traits Palin shares with the Bush Administration – complete disregard of science.  And science and historical evidence is what the Court found the disputed ruling had been based on. In particular, “We will find an agency action arbitrary and capricious if:”

“the agency has relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise”

The decision’s discussion opens with this smackdown:

While Alaska argues vociferously that the FSB’s fact finding was not supported by substantial evidence, the disagreements between the parties are ultimately legal, and not factual, in nature.


I suspect that contempt for the federal role in protecting resources, and its trust responsibility for native peoples is at the heart of that “Alaska Independence Party” movement.  The decision notes, rather harshly:

Rather, the interpretation appears to be purely a litigation position, developed during the course of the present case.  As such, we owe the interpretation no deference.

And so, the Courts are not completely lost.  Yet.


Palin’s a big advocate of wolf-hunting, even having tried to initiate a program to pay a bounty for every wolf killed in Alaska.  Not being a deep thinker, she missed the lesson that removing top predators doesn’t make for more game for hunters.  The balance between grazing animals and their forage is not a trivial matter.  Aldo Leopold figured it out nearly a century ago, and describes it as well as anyone ever has in his essay Thinking like a Mountain (a short masterpiece, worth reading – and re-reading – in full):

I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.


And so, like on everything else, Palin comes down on the wrong side of every issue I can think of.  Bad enough that she’s been wreaking havoc on wildlife, indigenous peoples, etc. in Alaska.  Let’s not let her get loose on the rest of the country, and the world.  The Courts are fragile, and we can’t afford any more of these right-wing justices to be appointed.  Let’s have its rightward, corporatist (etc.) current swing be as far as it gets in that direction.  The future of our courts is one of the best reasons to work hard to make sure McCain and Palin do not get elected.

We’ve got work to do folks – only 40 days till Election Day.  And voting has already started!!

Take Action: Tax Credits for Wind Resources on Reservations


Currently, Native American tribes aren’t eligible for the federal production tax credit available to non-tribal project owners under law.

Without this 2 cents per kWh tax credit, it is much harder for wind farms to get built on reservations.  

Action Info Below

Two bills, S.2520 and the H.R. 1954 propose changing the tax code to allow tribes to benefit from the tax credit.

Please contact the members of the Senate Committee on Finance, the House Committee on Ways and Means and your Washington representatives and tell them you want Native American tribes to get this tax credit so they will be able to build more wind farms on tribal lands.

Note that most members of Congress are on vacation from D.C. and it may be easier to contact them through their district offices until after both party’s conventions.  Regardless, emails sent through their contact forms, your calls or faxes will be there when they return to work.  Please, don’t put off acting because they are not in D.C..

Senate Bill: S.2520

S. 2520 would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow Indian tribal governments to transfer the credit for electricity produced from renewable resources.

Status of the Legislation

Latest Major Action: 12/19/2007: Referred to Senate committee.

Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

House Bill: H.R. 1954

H.R. 1954 would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow Indian tribal governments to transfer the credit for electricity produced from renewable resources.

Status of the Legislation

Latest Major Action: 4/19/2007: Referred to House committee.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.


Members of the two committees can be found by clicking on the linked committee names above.

Information courtesy of Native Energy’s July Newsletter

Even if your congress member is not on the above committees, it would be a good thing to contact them about this disparity.  If needed, you can use to find your reps.

Thank you for taking a moment to make some calls.

Green Indigenous Film Festival

Inaugural Global Green Indigenous Film Festival
To Be Launched in New Mexico April 18-20, 2008.

Call For Film Submissions

Press Release under the fold.

For Immediate Release
October 14, 2007

Contact:  Stephine Poston
505/379-6172, stephposton [at]

Albuquerque, NM – The National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) and the New Mexico Tourism Department, will take the global stage, April 18-20, 2008, launching its inaugural Global Green Indigenous Film Festival.  The film festival will be held in conjunction with NTEC’s 15th Environmental Conference April 15-18, 2008. 

The Global Green Indigenous Film Festival and the conference will be held at the El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  “For nearly 20 years NTEC has been working with and assisting tribes throughout the country to protect, regulate and manage their environmental resources.  An international film festival of this caliber adds a new dimension that will bring innovative ideas together as a means for protecting the environment that the global community can benefit from.  We extend an invitation to people around the world to come see the powerful work being done by Indigenous communities to protect mother earth,”‘ stated Jerry Pardilla, NTEC Executive Director.

Founded in 1991, NTEC a national non-profit organization based in Albuquerque, New Mexico has a membership of 184 tribes working to protect and preserve tribal environments.  “NTEC can lend its strong presence in Indian Country to provide a forum that gives Indigenous people a voice about environmental concerns that lead to global solutions.  I believe this international film festival will let the world know that Indigenous communities around the world are doing their part to protect mother earth for generations to come,” said Joe Garcia, President of the National Congress of American Indians.

Award winning actor, director and musician Gary Farmer (Dead Man/Smoke Signals), is a member of the film festival team.  Charmaine Jackson-John, film festival director is accepting submissions for films and videos that address indigenous environmental concerns and issues from all countries.

Formats accepted: DVD, VHS, Beta SP.

Film entries should be mailed to: 
ATTN: Global Green Indigenous Film Festival
2501 Rio Grande Boulevard, NW,
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104,

Deadline for entries is January 18, 2008.

One World, One Environment
NTEC’s mission is to support Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages in protecting, regulating and managing their environmental resources according to their own priorities and values.

Visit for more information. 

Radiation Warning Signs Placed on Cheyenne River

( – promoted by navajo)

Red Shirt Village — Residents of Red Shirt village on the northwest corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation have put up signs warning people of the high nuclear radiation levels found in the Cheyenne River.

Radiation Warning Signs Placed on Cheyenne RiverResidents of the tiny community of Red Shirt on the south side of the Cheyenne River occupy a village site that is thousands of years old to the Oglala Tetuwan (Sioux) people.  Many have lived here all of their lives, growing gardens with water taken from the Cheyenne River and fishing for catfish, bass, and turtles.  In the summer months, the River is used for swimming and other recreational pursuits.

Earlier this summer Everitt Poor Thunder asked Defenders of the Black Hills, an environmental organization, whether the Cheyenne River water could be used to irrigate a community garden.  A local well could not be used as it was found to be radioactive and warning signs surround that structure.

A water sample was taken, sent to a laboratory, and the results were found to be above the Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Contaminant Level for alpha radiation.

As alpha radiation can cause harm when ingested, the warning signs were placed to warn people of the dangers of nuclear radiation in the water.

Red Shirt village is located about 25 miles southeast of Hermosa, SD, on SD Highway 40.

For more information contact  Charmaine White Face, Coordinator for Defenders of the Black Hills at 605-399-1868.

And so long as I am mentioning Charmaine:

From the Nuclear-Free Future Award, a project of the
Foundation for the Coming Generations, Munich, Germany
Email: info@nuclear-free.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Tel.: +49 89 28 65 97 14
Tel., Charmaine White Face: (605) 399-1868


1 Aug. MUNICH-The Nuclear-Free Future Awards honors individuals, organizations and communities for their outstanding commitment towards creating a world freed from the threat of nuclear weapons and atomic energy.  This year, the Award jury members – who include Johan Galtung (Norway), Val Kilmer (New Mexico), Chris Peters (California), Kirkpatrick Sale (Massachusetts), Galsan Tschinag (Ulan Bator), and Christine von Weizs├Ącker (Germany) – have selected Charmaine White Face to receive, endowed with a money purse of $10,000, the Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Resistance.

Educated as a biologist, Charmaine White Face is the moving spirit behind the Defenders of the Black Hills, an organization that monitors abandoned uranium mines on sacred Lakota Lands and seeks the remediation of hazardous waste ponds that contaminate the region with high levels of radium 226, arsenic, lead and iron. A central part of Ms White Face’s message is that not just the Lakota, but all of us are threatened: aquifers cover massive areas of the continent, rivers empty into one another, radioactive dust is carried by the wind, and toxic poisons in the soil nourish grass and feed crops that eventually work their way into the mainstream food chain.

Hosted by the Salzburg, Austria, state government, the 10th annual Awards ceremony will take place in the storied Salzburg Residenz on 18 October 2007.  Based in Munich, the Nuclear-Free Future Award is a project of the Franz Moll Foundation for the Coming Generations.  For more information, please visit

Note: I received the information about the Cheyenne River from emails from Charmaine and the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center.  An earlier, slightly different version can be found on the Defenders of the Black Hills website.