Crow tribe leases 145 million tons of coal
The new Crow Tract I lease, formalized during a ceremony on Thursday, will mean millions of dollars to the Crow Tribe and a longer life for the Absaroka coal mine. Hundreds of tribal members gathered at the Multipurpose Building in Crow Agency to watch tribal leaders and representatives of Westmoreland Coal Co. sign the documents. The ceremony included speeches, music, prayer and a lunch afterward hosted by Westmoreland for as many as 600 people. Representatives for Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, as well as Rep. Steve Daines also read letters offering their congratulations. Tribal leaders donned ceremonial headdress for the occasion. Intricately beaded items decorated the stage where the speeches and the signing took place. The agreement involves an estimated 145 million more tons of Rosebud McKay coal, located adjacent to the Absaroka mine. The area covers an estimated 14,000 acres in Treasure and Big Horn counties. The lease, subject to approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, will allow Westmoreland to control 357 million tons of coal reserves and resources. It is worth $12.5 million in bonus and advance royalty payments to the tribe over the next four and a half years. That’s crucial because a majority of the tribe’s annual operating budget, along with per capita payments to tribal members, come from Westmoreland coal royalties. The agreement also offers hiring and contract preferences for tribal members. Chairman Darrin Old Coyote, who made some of his remarks in Crow, spelled out the details of the lease to his audience. He then asked tribal members who work at the mine to stand up. “The largest percentage of the budget of the Crow Tribe, and the per-cap you get three times a year, comes from the hard work of these gentlemen,” Old Coyote said.
The Oglala Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota live near the site of the massacre of over 250 Lakota Sioux, at Wounded Knee Creek (1890). They recount a long history of violated treaties and broken promises on the part of successive US governments. In 1980, after the longest-running court case in US history, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Black Hills territory, land sacred to the Sioux, had been seized illegally after gold was discovered there in 1874. The court awarded a compensation payment of US$ 106 million, but the Sioux refused the money and demanded return of the lands. Today, Pine ridge is one of the poorest parts of the US, with unemployment in places reaching 90 percent, and a male life expectancy of 48. Pine Ridge is seeing an upsurge in resistance movements, and a revival of traditional spiritual ways. The sun dance has returned, after nearly disappearing, and people are teaching language, horse skills, and ceremonies to the youth.
Photography by Aaron Huey.
“He’s a leader of all tribes—a spiritual leader—and a warrior. He was not originally a warrior, but all the injustice that happened to the American Indians and Canadian Indians—the system made him into a warrior just like Crazy Horse.”
Chief Leonard Crow Dog on Russell Means
The ruin is from the Hokokam people, an ancient farming people who used irrigation canals to support their permanent settlements. Around 1150, life began to change for the Hokokam people. They began to concentrate in large villages and built bigger structures. It is estimated that this ruin was completed prior to 1350. Around the 1400s, Hohokam culture ebbed, and by 1694, when Europeans entered the area, the village with the Great House was vacant. Because of vandalism and other acts of desecration, the area became the nation’s first archeological preserve in 1892. The canopy was erected in 1932 to protect the Grand House.
Here in Minneapolis, a growing number of Native American women wear red shawls to powwows to honor survivors of sexual violence. The shawls, a traditional symbol of nurturing, flow toward the earth. The women seem cloaked in blood. People hush. Everyone rises, not only in respect, for we are jolted into personal memories and griefs. Men and children hold hands, acknowledging the outward spiral of the violations women suffer.
The Justice Department reports that one in three Native women is raped over her lifetime, while other sources report that many Native women are too demoralized to report rape. Perhaps this is because federal prosecutors decline to prosecute 67 percent of sexual abuse cases, according to the Government Accountability Office. Further tearing at the social fabric of communities, a Native woman battered by her non-Native husband has no recourse for justice in tribal courts, even if both live on reservation ground. More than 80 percent of sex crimes on reservations are committed by non-Indian men, who are immune from prosecution by tribal courts.
The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center says this gap in the law has attracted non-Indian habitual sexual predators to tribal areas. Alexandra Pierce, author of a 2009 report on sexual violence against Indian women in Minnesota, has found that there rapes on upstate reservations increase during hunting season. A non-Indian can drive up from the cities and be home in five hours. The tribal police can’t arrest him.
To protect Native women, tribal authorities must be able to apprehend, charge and try rapists — regardless of race. Tribal courts had such jurisdiction until 1978, when the Supreme Court ruled that they did not have inherent jurisdiction to try non-Indians without specific authorization from Congress. The Senate bill (Violence Against Women Act) would restore limited jurisdiction over non-Indians suspected of perpetrating sex crimes, but even this unnerves some officials. “You’ve got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” said Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”
A Native American looks over a newly-completed section of the Trans-Continental Railroad, somewhere in Nevada, c.1868
A Native American man confronts “anti-illegal immigration” protesters in Arizona.
“You’re all illegal!”
“We didn’t invite none of you here!”
“We’re the only Native Americans here!”
[Pointing to the American flag] “That represents blood. That represents blood spilled by Native Americans protecting this land from the invaders!”
Obama says he supports strong and stable tribal governments built through self-determination. Adopted as “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land” when he was campaigning for president on the Crow Nation reservation in May 2008, he has since hired several Native American staffers, held three annual tribal summits and taken administrative action on multiple long-standing trust and water settlements. He has also supported and signed pro-tribal legislation, including the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act and the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership [HEARTH] Act. His record has pleased many tribal leaders; some hail him as one of the best presidents for Indian country in recent history. (x)