Tag Archive for: 2024

A Reflection on the May 2024 National Organizer Training

Last month I had the honor of joining the Native Organizers Alliance for the National Organizers Training in Federal Way, Washington which is the traditional land of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Puyallup. I’ve worked for NOA since 2022 but the timing never aligned for me to join this five day long trip that weaves together principles that are vital for grassroots organizing with traditional values. Everything happens for a reason and I believe I was supposed to be a part of this cohort. 

The organic connection between all of us as individuals was a beautiful thing. There was an understanding that we were all there for the same reason: to learn and grow so that we could return to our own communities with new tools that make our work more meaningful. 

There is a good balance between the various modules that have been uniquely and intentionally curated by the NOA Training Team. Some topics were heavier than others, but each day started with prayer and ended with reflection. Most importantly: every participant is equally valued. We all brought a different perspective to the space which only added to the tapestry of the work we are involved in around Indian Country.

I am so grateful to have been a part of this May 2024 cohort. My experience was spiritually fulfilling and will impact the work I am involved in through NOA. And I can’t wait to see what everyone else in the cohort is up to over the years! Overall, I left the National Organizer Training with renewed hope. 

A big thank you goes out to Judith and Robert, who are great examples of strength and humility, as well as the rest of the Training Team who took the time away from their families and communities. This experience is one I won’t forget.

Wado (thanks in Cherokee) for reading,

Shea Vassar Gomez

Contact the Interior Department about Bears Ears

As the first national monument proposed by a coalition of Tribal Nations, Bears Ears gained protections under the Obama administration but lost protections under the Trump administration.

The five Tribes of the Bears Ears Commission (BEC) — Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Zuni Tribe — are among the many Tribal Nations with deep cultural connections to the entire Bears Ears landscape.

They helped win the reinstatement of protections under President Biden, who restored the original designation and re-established the BEC as collaborative managers of these sacred lands and waters.

In an unprecedented collaborative process, the BEC worked directly with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to develop a draft resource management plan for the monument, which has just been released — and it needs our support.

Alternative E was created from the input from over 90 community meetings which gathered input and concerns. As outlined in this newly released plan, Alternative E would set a new standard for sustainable management of public lands.

Specifically, Alternative E incorporates the most Traditional Indigenous Knowledge and TraditionalEcological Knowledge — both needed to balance public access with protecting the area’s cultural and natural resources. It would represent a sustainable collaboration that:

  • Upholds the sovereignty of the Tribes and honors Indigenous peoples’ personal, traditional, and cultural connections to the land.
  • Reflects time-tested best practices for land management passed down over centuries from the original, and ongoing, stewards of this land.
  • Protects the habitat, wildlife, and resource biodiversity.
  • Responsibly manages access and use of the Monument in a way that allows current and future visitors to recreate, hunt, and fish, while also responding to the needs and health of the land.

Our work together has already generated more than 63,000 comments in support of the plan, but that’s not enough to ensure its adoption before the final decision is made — and the deadline is fast approaching.

We must back-up this unprecedented community-driven federal-Tribal co-management plan for Bears Ears National Monument. Please add your name now to show strong public support during the official comment period.

Together, we’re re-Indigenizing national parks and protecting sacred places across the country.

Hawwih (thank you) for supporting grassroots community-powered Tribal sovereignty.

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/

 

Women’s History Month

Every March is Women’s History Month and this year, we uplifted four women–both past and present–who have been vital in the Native Vote.

While the month might be over, we know it is important to lift up the matriarchs around Indian Country 365 days a year.

Zitkála-Šá

Zitkála-Šá was born on the Yankton Indian Reservation in 1876. A boarding school survivor, she also studied the violin and even later taught for a couple of years at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The treatment of the students there was reminiscent of her own experiences.

The observations she made regarding the treatment of Indigenous peoples of this time led her to write and critique federal policy that directly impacted Tribal communities. Her political beliefs also led to her to advocate for citizenship for all Native Americans as well as equality for women.

After the nineteenth amendment was passed in 1924, Zitkála-Šá continued to advocate for citizenship and ultimately, the Native right to vote. Her fervor was rewarded as Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924.

Zitkála-Šá continued to bring attention to Native rights and self determination until her death in 1938. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lucy Nicolar Poolaw

Lucy Nicolar Poolaw was born in 1882 in Penobscot County, Maine. A citizen of the Penobscot Nation, Lucy started performing at a young age. She was recognized for her musical ability and moved to Chicago to study music. As she grew in popularity, Lucy adopted the stage name “Princess Watahwaso”.

At some point, Lucy began recording music with Victor Records which led her to a promotional tour. Activism was threaded into her travels as she attended debates in major cities on issues like immigration. She also participated in vaudeville acts until that sort of performance was no longer popular.

After early retirement, Lucy returned to her home. She owned and operated a gift shop that specialized in traditional Native items. Her retirement along with being back with her community led to more activism efforts. Along with her sister, Florence, she advocated for Penobscot students to attend public schools, lobbied for better access to the reservation, and demanded the right to vote for Native people in the state of Maine.

Lucy’s activism was the reason she was chosen to be the first Native individual to cast a ballot once Maine extended this right in 1955. She spent the rest of her life with her people.

Jacqueline De León

Jacqueline De León is a Senior Staff Attorney for the Native American Rights Fund and an enrolled member of the Isleta Pueblo. She co-led field hearings across Indian Country on Native American voting rights and co-authored the subsequent report, ‘Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native American Voters’.

She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions detailing voting rights issues in Indian Country and serves as the Chair of the Advisory Committee of American Bar Association’s bipartisan Standing Committee on Election Law.

At NARF, Jacqueline leads the voting rights practice group, which engages in nationwide litigation, advocates for Native American voting rights legislation, conducts research, crafts policy, encourages and protects civic engagement, and assists tribes advocating for greater voter access for their communities.

Prior to her work at NARF, De León focused on international antitrust and litigation at WilmerHale. She holds a J.D. from Stanford and a B.A. from Princeton University in Philosophy. De León clerked for Judge William H. Walls of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Chief Justice Dana Fabe of the Alaska Supreme Court.

Allie Young

Allie Young is a citizen of the Diné (Navajo) Nation from the Northern Agency of the reservation in Northern New Mexico. She is a storyteller and writer on a mission to increase the authentic representation of Native people in TV, film, and mainstream media by sharing the stories and traditions of her ancestors to help her community persevere in a world where they are largely invisible, underrepresented, and misrepresented.

She founded Protect the Sacred—a program of culture change organization Harness—a program that focuses on educating and empowering the next generation of Navajo and Indian Country leaders and allies. Through Protect the Sacred, Allie makes certain Native voices are centered in culture and policy, especially the voices of Indigenous youth and womxn.

It is her objective to ensure that the stories of her people are no longer history – the fabricated American narrative perpetuated in textbooks and Hollywood Westerns. Instead, they will be authentic and from the original peoples, the original storytellers of this land.

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.”