August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline

Photo copyright Ben Powless, Mohawk

Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

by Naomi Klein, Tom Goldtooth, Danny Glover, Wendell Berry, Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben and others

Dear Friends,

This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.

The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.

The full version goes like this:

As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth. [ ZUMA Press) ] A coalition of clean energy advocates march from the Canadian Embassy to the White House to condemn a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil, allegedly toxic, from Canada to the United States, in Washington D.C. in July 2010. (Photo: ZUMA Press)

And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.

These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.

To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.

How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. "Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we're going to be stuck," said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.

Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.

And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.

So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.

And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.

And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest. Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.

This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.

Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection. You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.

If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.

We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.

Maude Barlow
Wendell Berry
Tom Goldtooth
Danny Glover
James Hansen
Wes Jackson
Naomi Klein
Bill McKibben
George Poitras
David Suzuki
Gus Speth

p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.

O'odham: Border Patrol Lock Down Trespassing Charge Dropped


DATE: Thursday June 23, 2011
Contact: Alex Soto



Chuckson (Tucson), AZ - The six protesters who locked-down and occupied the United States Border Patrol (BP) – Tucson Headquarters on May 21, 2010 are returning to trial to fight the remaining count of disorderly conduct "with serious disruptive behavior” charge. Last February the six also stood trial for a charge of criminal trespassing, but their defense team discovered that the trespassing charge was incorrectly filed by the State. The defense then filed a motion to dismiss the charge of criminal trespassing, which the court granted. The six return to trial on June 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm at the Tucson City Court.

In addition to the kick off of the trial, the border patrol occupiers called for renewed action against border militarization. More than 40 protesters took to the streets, with banners reading, “Indigenous Resistance, Protect Sacred Places”, “Free Movement for People Not Commerce, Tear Down the Wall” and chanting “No Borders, No Border Patrol.” Two protesters were arrested. A banner reading “Border patrol out of O’odham land ” was also suspended from the “Snake Bridge” that morning before court. At one point they rallied in front of the streamline courtroom. Operation Streamline, started in 2005 is a “zero tolerance” rapid court process that prosecutes hundreds of migrants a day, sometimes in shackles. Constitutional rights are also not granted and what would take multiple hearings is often a less than a two-day process of arrest and deportation.

O’odham Elders attended the court proceedings to demonstrate their support.

Alex Soto, Tohono O’odham, and one of the arrestees states, "It was good to see all the support last February for our initial trial proceeding. We need to continue to build, and remember this action was a prayer, and the dismissal of trespassing reaffirms that the Border Patrol troops are the real trespassers, not us. How can I, a Tohono O'odham person, be trespassing on my own land?”

“Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration Custom Enforcement and their corporate backers such as Wackenhut, are the true criminals. Troops and paramilitary law enforcement, detention camps, check points, and citizenship verification are not a solution to ‘issues’ of migration. Indigenous Peoples have existed here long before these imposed borders, and Elders inform us that we always honored freedom of movement. Why are Indigenous communities and the daily deaths at the border ignored? The impacts of border militarization are constantly being made invisible in and by the media, and the popular culture of this country. Even the mainstream immigrant rights movement has often pushed for “reform”, which means further militarization of the border, leading to increased suffering for Indigenous communities. Border militarization destroys Indigenous communities." stated Soto.

Kevin Jose, Akimel/Tohono O’odham, and member of O’odham Solidarity Across Borders states, "During the time of this action, my thoughts ran so deep as to what else we could do and what we can make happen. Singing for them at this action was powerful and their hearts were stronger than ever. What the state does on the control of free movement along our traditional lands is like a choke hold to our throats. The push to militarize the border does not just affect the Tohono O’odham who live in the border region, it affects all O’odham. In Tohono, it comes in the form of a border wall, in the Gila River Indian Community; it comes in form of a freeway”.

Currently the state of Arizona is pushing for the construction of the South Mountain Loop 202 freeway extension on Akimel O’odham land (Phoenix Area). The Loop 202 is part of the CANAMEX transportation corridor, which is part of the larger NAFTA highway project. The two proposed routes will either result in a loss of approximately 600 acres of tribal land, and the forced relocation of Akimel O'odham and Pee-Posh families or would gouge a 40-story high, 200-yard wide cut into Muadag Do'ag (O'odham name for South Mountain), which is sacred to all O'odham and Pee-Posh.

“Neo-liberal projects such as CANAMEX and NAFTA are attacking O’odham communities. All these attacks are connected. Support our nawoj (friends) on June 29th for their trial" stated Jose.

The creation of the current U.S./Mexico border, 45 O’odham villages on or near the border have been completely depopulated.

According to the migrant support group No More Deaths, from October 2009 to April 2011 there have been more than 338 deaths on the Arizona border alone.

1,200 National Guard troops have been stationed along the southwestern border since June 2010.

Additionally, the state of Arizona recently passed a bill which will allow for Arizona to build its own border wall. The law goes into effect July 20 of this year.
Actions toward ending border militarization and the decriminalization of our communities:

- Immediately withdraw National Guard Troops from the US/Mexico border

- Immediately halt development of the border wall

- Immediately remove drones and checkpoints

- Decommission all detention camps and release all presently held undocumented migrants

- Immediately honor Indigenous Peoples rights of self-determination

- Fully comply with the recently signed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

- Respect Indigenous People's inherent right of migration

- End NAFTA, FTAA and other trade agreements

- Immediately end all CANAMEX/NAFTA Highway projects (such as the South Mountain Freeway)

- Immediately repeal SB1070 and 287g

- End all racial profiling

- No BP encroachment/sweeps on sovereign Native land

- No raids and deportations

- Immediate and unconditional regularization (“legalization”) of all people

- Uphold human freedom and rights

- Uphold the rights of ALL Indigenous People - repeal HB 2281, support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

- Support dignity and respect

- Support and ensure freedom of movement for all people

Put this message into action and help end the attack on Indigenous and migrant communities. Take these messages to the streets, wherever you are. If you can, join us inside and outside the court room in Tucson at 2:00pm on June 29, 2011.

Tucson City Court is located at 103 E. Alameda St. Tucson, AZ.

Additional ways to take action in your community, and bring awareness to the impacts of border militarization and the criminalization of our communities:

1. Directly intervene by:

- Protesting institutions and agencies directly responsible (a brief list available at:

- Being part of (or starting) Border Patrol, ICE, National Guard, Minutemen watch groups in your community

- Stopping ICE vehicles from deporting migrants

- Providing aid for migrants crossing the border

2. Pressure political officials:

Janet Napolitano

Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528

Comment Line: 202-282-8495

3. Organize or attend awareness or benefit event:

4. Donate to Border Action Defense Fund:

5. Support local Indigenous struggles for self-determination and freedom of movement.

In particular, bring awareness to Indigenous communities on the US/Mexican border that have been militarized.


Cobell Settlement: Indian land owners swindled again

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo Oklahoma Historical Society

Updated Thursday afternoon

American Indian land owners who were swindled out of oil and mineral royalty payments will get crumbs, but the attorneys in the Cobell Settlement will receive $99 million of the $3.4 billion settlement, following a judge's ruling in the case this week.

Why isn't the US government paying the legal fees in this case of US government crime against Native American land owners?

It also turns out that non-Indian attorneys and a non-Indian law firm will share in that $99 million. Those non-Indian attorneys have kept a low profile in the media.

A report in the American Lawyer gives the details of the non-Indians who worked on the case and will now share in the $99 million. Meanwhile, Individual Indian land owners who were swindled are expected to get about $1,000, a puny sum that is about the same as an insurance payout for a fender bender.

"How much is enough?" asks writer Irene Plagianos in her article published in the American Lawyer in April. It says that in 1993, Dennis Gingold was contacted by Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet. Cobell asked Gingold to represent her.

"He agreed and enlisted the aid of a friend, retired Covington & Burling partner Thaddeus Holt. In 1996 the two sued the federal government in Washington, D.C., federal district court on behalf of Cobell and thousands of other trust holders. In 1999 Holt turned to a former Oxford University classmate, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton litigation partner Eliot Levitas, to bolster the legal team. Levitas brought in a Kilpatrick group that came to include co – managing partner William Dorris and Keith Harper, head of the firm's Native American affairs practice and a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma," the article states.

Recently, the Cobell team of attorneys asked the court for $223 million in fees, instead of the $50 million to $99.9 million, which it agreed to in December 2009. This week, a judge ruled the amount will be $99 million.

Native American landowners say they have already been swindled once by the US government, and now they are being swindled again by the US government, federal court and attorneys in the case.

Further, besides what the attorneys are receiving, the $3.4 billion was chopped up even more, to make sure Indian land owners would not receive their fair share.

In the settlement, $1.4 billion will go to pay Individual Indian Money account owners. Another $1.9 billion will go to Trust Land Consolidation Fund to "purchase" fractionated Individual Indian trust lands. Then, not more than $60 million for an Indian Education Scholarship Fund to assist Native people to attend college or vocational school.

Once again, new land deals and "Indian scholarships" will offer more opportunities for theft and corruption by the US government.

According to whistleblowers in the case, the fraud and theft of oil and mineral payments was extensive.

Besides the enormous sum of money that disappeared within the US government, there was systematic theft in the oil and gas fields. In the Four Corners area, a BLM whistleblower said oil and gas companies tampered with the measuring devices so those would show far less oil and gas than was being extracted. Throughout Indian country, the US also engaged in corporate theft by leasing Indian lands to oil and gas companies for far less than the market value.

In the end, it was theft all over again.

According to the Bismark Tribune, the US government offered to pay $7 billion to settle the case in 2007, about half what the plaintiffs for the Indian land owners settled for and will now receive.

With documents now shredded, the entire truth of the stolen billions of oil and mineral payments and where it vanished to is not known. It is estimated that as much as $100 billion was stolen, dating back to the 1880s.

What is known is that Indian land owners will get crumbs in the settlement.

A few individuals, however, will receive hundreds of thousands, and millions.

"Cobell, who recently underwent treatment for cancer, was unable to attend the hearing in person but spoke by phone to the court earlier in the day. 'She put her reputation on the line and her health,' Judge Thomas F. Hogan said before agreeing to her request for a $2 million incentive award," reports the online

"Hogan also approved other awards for the named plaintiffs: $200,000 for Louis LaRose, a former chairman of the Winnebago Tribe; $150,000 for Thomas Maulson, the chairman of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; and $150,000 to Penny Cleghorn, the daughter of Mildred Cleghorn, a former chairwoman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe who was an original named plaintiff before she died.

In total, 92 beneficiaries filed objections. An estimated 360,000 will receive a payment as part of the Historical Accounting Class. An estimated 450,000 who will receive a payment for the Trust Administration Class.

In total, 92 beneficiaries filed objections. An estimated 360,000 will receive a payment as part of the Historical Accounting Class. An estimated 450,000 who will receive a payment for the Trust Administration Class.

"Additionally, about 1,900 people opted out of the Trust Administration Class. The overwhelming majority -- about 1,100 -- are members of the Quapaw Tribe who recently filed a trust mismanagement lawsuit of their own."

Read more: article:

Ben Carnes, Choctaw: Cobell Settlement: A Knife in our Backs
The American Lawyer: How Much is Enough?
Interior proposes settlement in Cobell Case (2007 Bismark Tribune)

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