Opinion | Politics

Column: Tribal voices often minimized in environmental debate

Godmother Michelle Antonio dresses Nizhoni Pike, at the beginning of her Sunrise Ceremony. The coming-of-age rite took place on land that will be transferred to a company for a mining project. Photo by Anna Jeffrey for The Apache Messenger

Krista Langlois of High Country News looks back at some of the major stories in Indian Country this year:
As we head into 2015, here’s a look back at how Western tribes shaped — or tried to shape — some of the year’s biggest natural resource stories.

—APACHE: Terry Rambler, the chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, has petitioned Congress to strike just one provision from the $585-billion spending bill that President Obama is expected to sign into law this week, to no avail. The provision gives 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona to mining giant Rio Tinto for the Resolution Copper mine, which Rambler says will encroach on ancestral Apache lands and undermine traditional dances and harvests still carried out there.

—HOPI/NAVAJO: Speaking of encroachment from commercial mining, Navajo and Hopi living near Black Mesa, in northern Arizona, are suing the federal government to protect ancient burial sites from Peabody Coal, which is seeking a lifetime permit. Hopi leaders say the coal company, which has been mining Black Mesa since the 1960s, has already desecrated, dug up and shipped off archeological artifacts without tribal consent. They not only want the mining permit denied, but also for Bureau of Indian Affairs to help get the artifacts returned.

—COLUMBIA RIVER TRIBES: A report issued earlier this year found that many Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama who were physically and culturally displaced by Columbia River dams in the mid-20th century received little or no relocation support or housing assistance, and live in substandard, squalid conditions along the river. So far, reports the Seattle Times, the report “has been greeted with silence.”

Get the Story:
Krista Langlois: How Native Americans have shaped the year's biggest environmental debates (High Country News 12/17)

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