In recent months several important issues have arisen that impact American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and Canadian First Nations that may be of interest to TIG members.
Historic Ruling From The Nunavut Court Of Justice Upholding Inuit Rights
History was made in June when Justice Earl Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice issued his ruling in favor of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on the failure of the Government of Canada to create a Nunavut General Monitoring Plan as required by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
This is the fourth legal motion NTI has won in relation to the lawsuit filed in 2006 against the Government of Canada, on behalf of the Crown. Justice Johnson granted NTI’s motion for summary judgment on one part of NTI’s lawsuit and ordered the Government to pay $14.8 million in damages. More on the ruling, including an extensive backgrounder can be read here.
Statement Of Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL) On Oil Drilling In Alaska
Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL) is a movement of Alaska Natives of the Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Tlingit, Eyak, Gwich’in and Denaiana Athabascan Tribes who came together in June 2002 in Cordova, Alaska to form a powerful entity to challenge the fossil fuel and mining industries and demand our rights to a safe and healthy environment conducive to subsistence. REDOIL aims to address the human and ecological health impacts brought on by unsustainable development practices of the fossil fuel and mineral industries, and the ensuing effect of catastrophic climate change. We strongly support the self-determination right of tribes in Alaska, as well as a just transition from fossil fuel and mineral development to sustainable economies and sustainable development.
The three core focus areas of REDOIL are:
- Sovereignty and Subsistence Rights
- Human and Ecological Health
- Climate Change and Climate Justice
Alaska’s Indigenous peoples health, culture and subsistence way of life are at threat by current energy development proposals which disproportionately target Alaska Native homelands and continually put our subsistence way of life at risk. Current Energy policy of the US calls for more extensive fossil fuel extraction and development within Indigenous Territories, which will have profound impacts to the communities. At this time, there are many areas in Alaska that are under threat, and our Alaska Native peoples are in duress…
At this time, Shell’s eyes are on the prize of the Arctic Oceans-the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Alaska’s coastal Indigenous Inupiat currently object strongly to the presence of Shell Oil in the waters that provide them with their Inupiat Whaling way of life, but also their other subsistence needs which are provided by these oceans. Statements and comments by REDOIL members can be found here.
Stillaguamish Tribe Looks At Pharmaceutical Effects On Fish
The Stillaguamish Tribe is sampling fish to learn more about the effects of pharmaceuticals and other household products that flush into area streams. Wastewater and runoff containing products that mimic estrogen can interfere with the endocrine system of fish, potentially resulting in males displaying both male and female characteristics.
“Emerging contaminants get into our water through a variety of sources, such as agricultural runoff, septic systems, stormwater and wastewater treatment plants,” said Stillaguamish biologist Jennifer Sevigny, who has been working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) since 2006 to study endocrine disruption in fish.
The latest research is part of Stillaguamish natural resources technician Jody Pope’s master’s thesis in freshwater ecology for Western Washington University.
“We’re looking to see what kind of effect the contaminants could have on these fish,” Pope said.
The tribe’s natural resources department and the USGS measured water quality and collected cutthroat trout in four sites in the Stillaguamish watershed.
“We’re using cutthroat because chinook are endangered and we want to stay as far away from them as we can,” Pope said. “We want to use a salmonid species so we can attribute what we’re finding in the cutthroat to other species, including chinook, coho and chum.”
NWIFC fish pathologist Craig Olson assisted in determining the sex of the fish and taking blood samples. USGS brought a mobile lab to sample the cutthroat onsite to test for vitellogenin, a female egg-producing protein.
“A lot of things that we’re concerned about being in the environment, specifically the stuff that’s in birth control pills, will cause males to produce vitellogenin when normally they shouldn’t,” said USGS biologist Patrick Moran. “So it’s a great marker for exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds.”
The tribe and USGS will compare the water quality samples with fish tissue to determine whether chemicals in the water have affected the fish.
“I think it would be great to find nothing because then that would mean our creeks are really clean,” Pope said. You can watch a video of Stillaguamish and USGS staff electrofishing Church Creek and sampling cutthroat.
In-Depth Look At The Oglala Lakota People Of The Pine Ridge Reservation
The August issue of National Geographic magazine features an in-depth look at the Oglala Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, whose struggle to nurture their tribal customs, language and beliefs is profiled in this rare and intimate portrait. “In The Shadow Of Wounded Knee ” by Alexandra Fuller reveals the reality of life on the Pine Ridge reservation, showing both the problems that the Lakota face and the fact that the Lakota are holding on to their traditions and values.
Along with the powerful story by Fuller, photographer Aaron Huey, whose effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2005, spent the intervening 7 years documenting the Lakota people and their struggle. His photographs of life on the reservation are featured in the article. Aaron Huey’s photographs can be found here .
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