Tribal members and their supporters marched against the Dos Republicas coal mine in Eagle Pass, Texas, on April 16, 2016. Photo by Bryan Parras via Facebook
Native Americans oppose mining along Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas
By Rosemary Stephens, Editor-in-Chief
Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune
Native American groups and supporters band together to show their outrage at the continued destructive coal mining by the Dos Republicas Coal Company and North American Coal Mining Company. Groups and individuals from across the U.S. voiced their opposition with a nine-mile walk April 16 through the town of Eagle Pass, Texas, in Maverick County waving signs in the air that read, “Respect Our Land,” “Respect Our Homes.”
“We as a people of Texas have been around a long time and we are realizing what these people are doing to the culture of the medicine along the Rio Grande,” Juan Mancias, Carrizo-Comecrudo Tribe of Texas tribal chairman said. “Peyote medicine is being stripped from the land and land is being destroyed along the Rio Grande where many in the Native American Church have gone to retrieve medicine.”
Mancias said the Carrizo-Comecrudo Tribe of Texas has filed for Federal Recognition with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, showing approximately 1,500 tribal members and their request is still pending.
“The history here is so erroneous and written down so badly by Texans, even the reservations we had were demolished. We were just called ‘Mexicans’ and were labeled that because we fought alongside the Mexicans against the whites, but we were here long before the Mexicans or the whites. If we had our federal recognition we would have a say over the sacred sites located alongside the Rio Grande … and there are murmurings that the coal miners are digging artifacts that we need to protect,” Mancias said.
Mancias isn’t alone in his outrage at the continued stripping of sacred land. There are many others who share his concern, his outrage and feel the U.S. Government has turned a blind eye.
“Every aspect of this community is opposed to the coal mining. This coal is the lowest grade coal there is, so bad that the U.S. Government will not burn it because of the pollutants, yet, it is being sold to Mexico ten miles from us over the border and burned there with all the pollutants coming back into the United States,” said Jonathan Hook, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official who left his job and moved to Eagle Pass approximately four years ago.
“Not only have they violated EPA laws, Corps of Engineering laws, but they have violated the Historical Preservation Act, and have not complied with consulting tribes who are directly impacted by this process … it’s just crazy," Hook added. "Comanche Nation actually filed a resolution last fall voicing their opposition to the coal mining joining many other tribes and local community members who are adamantly opposed to this mining.”
Hook told the San Antonio Express News he first visited the area about 10 years ago as director of the EPA’s office of environmental justice. A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Hook met with members of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas tribal council, who took him to the mine and expressed their concerns.
“At that point, I was told that the mine was not going to go forward, that they had given up their plans,” Hook told the newspaper. “Then we moved down here about four years ago and found that they were getting ready to crank it up.”
Natives Texans United marched against the Dos Republicas coal mine in Eagle Pass, Texas, on April 16, 2016. Photo by Diana Hardt
Several indigenous tribes trace their origins to this part of the Rio Grande, Hook said. His tribe the Cherokee Nation, passed through there and the Comanche Nation knows of at least one sacred site in the mining area. He said there is no evidence that state and federal agencies did not contact the various tribes before issuing a permit for mining, nor does there seem to be anyone who will produce documentation proving that the proper steps were taken to contact tribes prior to issuing permits.
Along with the stripping of land, polluted wastewater is being dumped into Elm Creek, which feeds into the Rio Grande, already killing fish and other wildlife.
“There are so many violations, they are endangering animal species who are already listed on the endangered list not to mention jeopardizing the water supply here that thousands of people rely on,” Hook said.
And if you believe this is a problem just for the residents of Eagle Pass, two Oklahoma residents believe otherwise. Donnie and Julia Blackowl, along with their son Garrison Mauritz traveled to Eagle Pass to participate in the march in solidarity with approximately 100 other protestors.
“People might try to say this doesn’t affect us, but if you are a member of the Native American Church, I say it does affect you. If you use medicine in the church, yes this will affect you when you travel to collect Peyote and there will be none,” Julia Blackowl said. “That’s why Donnie and Garrison and I traveled to Eagle Pass to protest the coal mining, this just isn’t right and they are destroying sacred land and who knows what they are destroying buried beneath that land.”
According to the San Antonio Express News in 2014, after Maverick County Judge David Saucedo refused to issue a permit allowing the company to build in a flood plain, Dos Republicas sued the judge. A trial court judge upheld his decision, but an appeals court reversed the decision in October 2015.
Dos Republicas is a subsidiary of Minerals del Norte, a partnership of Mexican industrialists that owns four other mines in Mexico and one in Israel. One owner is Mexican steel magnate Alonso Ancira, cousin of San Antonio car dealer Ernesto Ancira.
“This just doesn’t make any sense to anyone why state and federal lawmakers are allowing this coal to be mined, creeks that run into the Rio Grande to be polluted killing fish and the possibility that they are violating historical remains,” Mancias said. “What’s ironic, the North American Mining Company’s logo is a picture of a headdress … what’s that tell you?”
Protestors included the Paquache Band of Coahiltecan tribes, the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, the Carrizo-Comecrudo tribes, Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, branches of the American Indian Movement (AIM), members from Navajo Nation and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
To show your support of opposition, sign a petition banning the coal mining to continue at petitions.moveon.org/sign/give-the-land-rights or like the Carrizo-Comecrudo Facebook page at facebook.com/CarrizoComecrudoTribeOfTexas.
For more information about the Carrizo-Comecrudo tribe call 806-632-3849 or to contact Jonathan Hook email the American Indian Resource Center, firstname.lastname@example.org.