A "New Era" for Indian Country?

 

"The Indian Nations can do the work--if the federal government will clear the way for us to exercise our liberty and thus make a new era and a more perfect union."

That was Jefferson Keel yesterday, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), in his State of Indian Nations Address.  His point, very basically, was that tribal sovereignty could be America's economic life vest.  Tribal land contains 10 percent of the nation's energy resources, renewables included, and it's largely untapped.  Clear away the bureaucratic hurdles, invest in the right infrastructure, and the Indian Nations could keep the national grid pumping while generating jobs back home.

Keel praised Energy Secretary Steven Chu for his 10 million dollar investment to support efficiency and renewable energy development through the Tribal Energy Program.  He also lauded a recent move by the Department of Interior to streamline permitting for energy development on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, allowing the tribes access to their vast oil reserves.  He said these were the kinds of "concerted efforts" he hoped the incoming Congress would continue to pursue.

 

Tribal lands may be well stocked with energy, but fourteen percent of households in Indian Country still lack electricity, according to a Center for American Progress report released after Keel's address.  Here's an excerpt:

 

One of the greatest barriers to deploying clean energy on tribal lands is a longstanding backlog of bureaucratic red tape and outdated laws that cause projects to stall and makes financing cost ineffective. Many tribes are eager to partner with private sector developers in order to build large-scale clean energy projects that are both profitable and respectful of tribal values such as environmental stewardship and keeping families together by providing good jobs on reservations.

 

The report sings the same sovereignty tune, but makes no mention of coal, oil or gas--resources that tribes, (and private companies,) also could develop if tribal governments had greater jurisdiction over their reserves.

That's okay by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) who delivered the Congressional response.  She emphasized her "all of the above energy approach," and said that Indian Lands must be a large part of the federal energy plan.

Murkowski and Keel didn't shy away from the statistics: in Indian Country, rates of unemployment, poverty, and violence--particularly toward women--are still far higher than the national average.  But both seem to think that opening reservation gates to energy development, extractive or otherwise, could be the tribes' saving grace.

Federal-aided energy extraction in Indian Country is not a new story. Only four years ago, after the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining its lands, the federal U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission still endorsed three Hydro Resources Inc. uranium mines within Navajo boundaries. And long before that, it was a U.S. attorney who designed the sale of 65,000 acres of Hopi and Navajo mineral rights to Peabody Western Coal, forcing the relocation of 10,000 indigenous people.

If the past repeats itself, then Keel's "new era" may not stray far from the last.

Sierra Crane-Murdoch is an HCN intern.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user, U.S. National Archives

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...