Protect Sovereign Rights and Continue to Allow Access to Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve for the Miccosukee Tribe Now

The Biden administration has been doing a good job at providing many ways for Tribal communities to exercise self-determination, protecting our sacred places, creating opportunities for Tribal co-management of land and water, and restoring dignity by removing racist and misogynistic names from land and buildings across the country.

Still, while President Biden has made important strides forward, there’s still so much work to do to restore our sovereign right to be full participants in decisions affecting the health and well-being of our communities and for future generations.

This is why we must ask President Biden to do more — to keep fighting for our rights and delivering results.

Big Cypress National Preserve has been a home for the Miccosukee and Seminole people for centuries. They have stewarded its lands and waters and still live in traditional villages there. Today, there are fifteen active traditional villages in Big Cypress, and sacred cultural sites, multiple ceremonial grounds, as well as burial grounds throughout the Preserve. Beyond the physical occupation, Miccosukee citizens must retain rights to use and occupancy throughout the entirety of the Preserve as were explicitly protected in the Preserve’s 1974 enabling federal legislation..

In the next two months, the National Park Service is planning to designate the preserve as “wilderness” with the intention of increasing protections for the freshwaters and fish essential to its health and the health of the neighboring Everglades. However, this designation will also significantly limit the Tribe’s access to their homelands and completely ignores the critical stewardship of Big Cypress they’ve provided for hundreds of years.

The truth is the creation of national parks and the designation of wilderness areas has often resulted in the forced removal of Tribal Nations who lived there, causing direct harm to the ecosystems which they had been stewarding.

The creation of Everglades National Park, for example, resulted in the forced removal of Miccosukee and Seminole traditional villages and the stealing of their 99,200-acre reservation. It is not the presence, or lack, of human habitation that defines the health of a landscape, but rather, it is the relationship of human beings with that land that determines the land’s fate.

Deleting Tribal Nations by the stroke of a pen on paper, from a landscape created in harmony with and by Indigenous peoples, is a surefire recipe for the same kinds of ecosystem collapse that Yellowstone National Park has endured.

So far, Big Cypress National Preserve has been spared the error of undertaking a fortress conservation approach. A wilderness declaration which restricts Tribal citizens’ right to move freely about their homeland or which does not accommodate Tribal rights to permanent residence in those spaces will only serve to repeat again the folly of the past century’s approach to conservation.

We have Secretary Haaland to thank for reaffirming the federal government’s trust responsibility to Tribes through Sec. Order 34-02 and DOI Departmental Order 227, but the National Parks Service’s approach to this project, doing box-checking consultation and constraining 147,000-190,500 acres of Tribal rights without free, prior, and informed consent, runs afoul of this guidance. We need to ask the administration to hold the Service accountable.

The Biden administration can protect Big Cypress without trampling on sovereign rights by pausing this initiative and calling for a supplemental environmental impact statement, during which Tribal input can be meaningfully heard and incorporated or by not establishing the new wilderness designation in the first place.

Indigenous Leaders Call for Compassionate Release of Leonard Peltier

Rapid City, SD – In light of the severe health conditions and medical needs of longtime Indigenous political prisoner Leonard Peltier, NDN Collective and Native Organizers Alliance are asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to free Peltier through compassionate release.

“At the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, Attorney General Merrick Garland stood in front of hundreds of Tribal leaders and committed to make Native American civil rights a priority to the Biden administration,” said Nick Tilsen, President and CEO of NDN Collective. “Supporting the compassionate release of Leonard Peltier after nearly five decades of imprisonment would be a clear signal that he intends to make good on that promise.

“Peltier’s civil rights were violated repeatedly throughout his prosecution and imprisonment. His continued incarceration should be considered cruel and unusual punishment,” continued Tilsen. “Will Attorney General Garland be known for being humane and releasing Leonard Peltier, or for letting him die behind bars on his watch? One of these choices will absolutely be a part of Garland’s legacy. Given the recognition of the many prosecutorial and constitutional violations from every level of those involved in his prosecution, the only morally and legally sound action is to release Leonard Peltier now. Every single moment matters.”

“We are asking the Department of Justice to support the compassionate release of Leonard Peltier,” said Judith LeBlanc, Executive Director of Native Organizers Alliance“As the longest-serving political prisoner in the United States, Leonard has become a symbol of resilience. At a time when democratic values are being questioned, the DOJ should take action as he nears the end of his life and allow him to return to his family and his ancestral homeland. We implore the DOJ to grant Peltier compassionate release.”

NDN Collective has been actively organizing for the release of Leonard Peltier for years, including leading a caravan from Rapid City, SD to Washington, DC last year where they rallied outside the White House.

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NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms. 


Press release originally published here: https://ndncollective.org/indigenous-leaders-call-for-compassionate-release-of-leonard-peltier/

 

Tell Congress: Pass the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act

Right-wing members of Congress have used annual government funding bills as a political football — threatening government shutdowns in an attempt to push through their wildly unpopular policy ideas including attacks on communities bearing the brunt of systemic racism and exploitation as well as cuts to critical programs and services.

All this month, Congress is voting on funding bills with the threat of a shutdown looming in the background. Government shutdowns do one thing: hurt people.

That’s why we need “advance appropriations” on services under the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and Indian Health Service so that funding for Indian Country is not threatened by the whims of extremists in Congress.

We’re urging Congress to pass the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act — a bipartisan bill introduced in the House and the Senate to ensure the continuation of critical programs like Indian Health Facilities, Payments for Tribal Leases, Operation of Indian Education, Operation of Indian Programs, and more.

According to Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO of National Council of Urban Indian Health:

“This legislation is simple and essential. It would enable Congress to appropriate funding for the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Indian Education one year in advance — ensuring timely and sustained funding for essential programs and services that are vital to the well-being and prosperity of Native communities. The Act demonstrates a commitment to transparency and accountability, ultimately empowering our communities to thrive. I urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill, a significant step forward in supporting Native American health and education initiatives.”

Take action today and send a message to your members of Congress to pass the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act now.

Together, we’re strengthening Native communities and the movements for self-determination, sovereignty, and a multiracial democracy.

South Fork Kuskokwim River, Alaska, August 1914

NOA Supports New Bill to protect Kuskokwim River

 

Native Organizers Alliance praises bill to protect “Indigenous ways of life”

South Fork Kuskokwim River, Alaska, August 1914

South Fork Kuskokwim River, August 1914

Washington, DC—The “Balance for the Kuskokwim River Act” was introduced today in Alaska that would protect the Kuskokwim River’s water quality and prioritize the customary and traditional subsistence lifestyle of the Alaska Native people of the region under the Federal Clean Water Act. Stretching over 700 miles, the Kuskokwim River is the second largest river in Alaska and a resource for subsistence fishing for the Yup’ik, Cup’ik, and Athabascan people. The following statement from Judith LeBlanc (Caddo), executive director of Native Organizers Alliance, can be quoted in-part of in-full. 

 

“Native Organizers Alliance stands with our Alaska Native relatives to celebrate the introduction of a bill that aims to protect the Kuskokwim River and Indigenous ways of life. For too long, Native rights have been ignored in favor of corporations and government agencies that have continued to exploit our lands and destroy our traditional ways. This bill aims to acknowledge Alaska Natives’ subsistence rights and protect one of the state’s most valuable resources—salmon. 

 

Numerous Alaska Tribes and Indigenous grassroots organizations have opposed projects like the Donlin Mine that could potentially pollute the Kuskokwim River. This bill extends much needed protections to this critical water and food source.

 

We are grateful to members of Alaska’s legislature, and for the work that Mother Kuskokwim and numerous Alaska Tribes and organizations are doing to fight for Native rights. Their resistance is felt across Indian Country.”

 

NOA Responds to the Biden Administration’s Pause on LNG Approvals

Recently, the Biden administration announced their decision to pause pending approvals for all exports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). The pause will be in effect while the Department of Energy (DOE) conducts a public interest determination that will include an analysis of the impacts of climate change and the harms to Native communities. Too often, our Native communities and sacred places have had to bear the brunt of toxic messes and pollution created by the fossil fuel industry. 

This decision is a major win for our Tribes, Native communities, and grassroots advocates who have been organizing for government action on climate change. It is also a continuation of this administration’s proven historic efforts to curb climate change and phase out these harmful fossil fuels. Native Organizers Alliance (NOA) applauds the administration for their efforts toward regenerative energy to create a sustainable future for us all. 

Indigenous and youth organizers provided the political momentum to make this shift happen as well as the leadership behind the March to End Fossil Fuels and the Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels.

While this decision does not address the harms already caused by current and ongoing projects, it’s a critical step in the right direction to end reliance on fossil fuels. Pushback from fossil fuel supporters is already underway with a Senate hearing called last week to investigate the pause. 

We must not let corporate greed derail this moment. We will continue to press for the right decisions on behalf of Mother Earth. This includes shutting down DAPL, Line 5, the Willow Project, and more.

As the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairwoman Janet Alkire said, “As a matter of sovereignty, honor, and respect for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, we must demand that DAPL be shut down. Now. Shutting the pipeline down will also protect crucial water supplies for millions and reject the increase of greenhouse gasses responsible for disastrous climate change.”

“A just democracy for all requires transformational change,” said Tremayne Nez, NOA’s Policy Director, “We must prioritize Mother Earth and people before fossil fuel profits for a sustainable future for all.”

Native Organizers Alliance 2023 in Review

It’s a new year! And while we are preparing for the upcoming events of 2024, we also know it is important to reflect on the various accomplishments of the previous 365 days.

While so much of our organizing includes on-the-ground trainings, email campaigns, and education, Native Organizers Alliance was included in 26 panels, webinars, podcasts, and interviews.

Here’s a look at just some of the projects we were involved in throughout 2023: 

 Training Program

Our Native Community Organizer Training is for Native leaders, nonprofits, and organizations both in rural and urban communities. During these in-person sessions, we share new skills and strategies that are vital for effective organizing.

In 2023, we held 1 National and 7 State-Based or Regional Trainings for a total of 245 total training participants.

Save Oak Flat

In Spring 2023, we were notified of a Trump-era deal, which would hand over Oak Flat in Arizona to a notoriously devastating mining corporation. We organized an email campaign that supported the San Carlos Apache and Apache Stronghold, who are on the ground and working towards permanent protections for Oak Flat. Thankfully, the Biden administration listened, pushing that approval.

The constant attack on Oak Flat is why we also have shown support for Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s Save Oak Flat from Foreign Mining Act. Let’s keep up the fight to protect Oak Flat for future generations!

Re-Indigenizing National Parks

At Native Organizers Alliance, we’re working with Tribes, Native communities, and grassroots organizers across the country to grow the movement to re-Indigenize and protect national parks. In 2023, we used social media and our email list to push for co-management legislation as well as programs that would teach the Indigenous histories of the land where these parks exist.

We also organized a letter program to President Biden to establish a new national monument to protect the Grand Canyon. Tribal leaders and organizers were able to celebrate the years of work put towards this designation when the White House announced Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni:

“Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument will conserve nearly 1 million acres of public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. The new monument protects thousands of cultural and sacred sites that are precious to Tribal Nations in the Southwest – including the Havasupai Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Moapa Band of Paiutes, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Navajo Nation, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes.”

The White House on August 8, 2023

Honoring Chaco Initiative

Many of our partners are fighting to protect Greater Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a sacred place with deep cultural significance for Indigenous people. While steps have been taken to protect certain areas of Greater Chaco from industrial exploitation, more needs to be done to truly safeguard the safety and well-being of this cultural landscape and surrounding communities. We will continue to uplift this need and support The Honoring Chaco Initiative.

This legislation is a first-of-its-kind effort to change the paradigm of public lands management in this sacred landscape and finally prioritize the health, economic, and environmental justice, equity, and sustainability of the region.

All Our Relations Snake River Journey

Native Organizers Alliance was honored to be a part of the Indigenous-led 2023 All Our Relations Snake River Journey. Traveling through Washington, Oregon, and Idaho in September and October the campaign set out to build community and demonstrate the momentum of public support for restoring salmon to abundance and upholding treaty promises to Northwest Tribes.

Read more about our time on the journey here.

Free Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier is the longest-incarcerated political prisoner in our country. The fight for Leonard Peltier’s freedom continues to this day. In the fall, we brought together a coalition of organizations to bring renewed pressure on the Biden Administration to act.

We rallied for support via a petition with 70,000+ names that was then delivered to the White House by Congressman Raúl Grijalva.

Indigenous Futures Survey

The Indigenous Futures Survey is an annual survey that aims to capture Indigenous people’s voices, perspectives, and concerns for use in developing policy, understanding socio-economic trends, and highlighting important issues impacting Indian Country.

This information will help inform Tribal leaders and members of Congress about issues facing Indigenous People and inform so much for the upcoming Native Vote 2024.

The success of this year’s IFS is only possible because of the 10 fellows who worked in their communities with local organizations. Each fellow is part of our ‘moccasins on the ground’ approach and their work is important in the continued community and power building that makes grassroots organizing possible.

This year’s survey is co-led by IllumiNative and Native Organizers Alliance, with Kauffman and Associates, Inc. supporting the survey development and analysis.

DAPL and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

After many years of delays and a fatally flawed Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) written by a member of the American Petroleum Institute — a clear conflict of interest — the Army Corps of Engineers finally took public comments on this dangerous violation of the sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Through our channels, we were able to submit over 101,000 comments on this DEIS. The fight against DAPL might have begun in 2016 but we will continue to stand in support of Tribal sovereignty until this pipeline is no longer a threat to the area.

 

Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline!