Environment | National | Politics

Sacred land protection efforts face questions with Donald Trump






Blackfeet Nation leaders attend the screening of Our Last Refuge: The Badger-Two Medicine Story at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C, on November 17, 2016. From left: Chairman Harry Barnes, Chief Earl Old Person and historic preservation officer John Murray. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Republican president-elect Donald Trump is headed to the White House and his leadership will impact sacred site protections across the nation.

In one high-profile case, the Blackfeet Nation worked for decades to convince the Department of the Interior to cancel a single drilling lease in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area. But an attorney for the company that holds the lease thinks Trump could turn the situation around.

“All it would take,” William Perry Pendley, the president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, told The New York Times, “is for the Justice Department to enter the case and say, ‘We’ve re-evaluated. We will lift the suspension and we’ll permit the drilling to go forward.’”

Trump has vowed to lift "restrictions" on energy development within his first 100 days in office so a change in course is certainly possible. And plans to nominate Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Texas), who supports domestic energy development, to lead the Department of Justice.

The tribe does not oppose energy development -- just not in its sacred areas, Chairman Harry Barnes said at an event in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. He vowed to keep fighting to protect those lands, no matter who is in charge at the White House.

"The Blackfeet have worked with a whole lot of different administrations since 1855," Barnes said at a screening of the Our Last Refuge: The Badger-Two Medicine Story at the National Museum of the American Indian. "We are pretty damn sure we can work with this one."

In a second high-profile situation, tribes in the Southwest are seeking to protect 1.9 million acres of sacred land and historic sites at Bears Ears in Utah. Unless President Barack Obama takes action to declare the land as a national monument, they are worried that the area will continue to suffer.

“They’re taking bones, they’re taking pottery,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred told The Times. “They’re desecrating and damaging the writing on the walls. They’re tearing up the ground with their ATVs and motorcycles. It’s heartbreaking to me when I see that. That’s why I want it protected.”

Republicans in Utah oppose the designation of a national monument and they are pushing for legislation that would allow Bears Ears to be used for recreational and other purposes.

Read More on the Story:
Battle Lines Over Trump’s Lands Policy Stretch Across 640 Million Acres (The New York Times 11/19)

Related Stories:
Blackfeet Nation scores victories on sacred sites and water rights (11/17)
Native Sun News Today Editorial: Keep Sarah Palin far away from Bureau of Indian Affairs (11/17)
Native women lead massive march to White House to stop Dakota Access Pipeline (11/16)
Democracy Now: A White nationalist joins Republican Donald Trump in the White House (11/14)
Army Corps still won't issue easement for Dakota Access Pipeline (11/14)
Indian Country prepares for a new jolt on Dakota Access Pipeline (11/14)
Tim Giago: Tribes stand at major crossroads with Donald Trump in office (11/14)
Tribes working to protect Indian health with Donald Trump in office (11/11)
Tribes brace for change with Republicans in control in Washington (11/10)
Jenni Monet: What the Trump victory means for Standing Rock (11/10)
Rep. Cramer confirms Donald Trump's embrace of Dakota Access Pipeline (11/10)
Quinault Nation calls for tribal inclusion in Donald Trump's transition team (11/09)
Navajo Nation leaders congratulate Donald Trump on big victory (11/09)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe calls on President Obama to reject Dakota Access Pipeline amid uncertainty (11/09)
Doug George-Kanentiio: The war on Natives and our Earth begins (11/09)
Dakota Access Pipeline stands to gain with Donald Trump in the White House (11/09)
Republican Donald Trump secures huge victory in stunning upset (11/09)
Tribes remain cautious amid Dakota Access Pipeline uncertainty (11/03)
Donald Trump touts Indian Country supporters but offers no policy (11/02)
Republican Donald Trump invested in Dakota Access Pipeline (10/27)
Dakota Access ramps up spending on lobbying and politicians as battle continues (10/25)
Donald Trump embraces big energy projects like Dakota Access Pipeline (10/24)
Navajo Nation opposes bill that reduces share of trust revenues (10/19)
Ute Tribe continues battle against 'modern day Indian land grab' (09/28)
Bill slammed as 'modern day Indian land grab' moves forward (09/22)
Emotions run strong as #NoDAPL seeps into debate on controversial public lands bill (09/14)
House committee considers controversial Utah public lands bill (09/12)