Is Nothing Sacred? Archaeological Reviews and Tribal Lands

willits ca aerial pomo lands

The Northern Pomo people of California thrived in the lush wetland valley known as Bito’m-kai for millennia, fishing salmon from percolating creeks, gathering natural medicines and managing natural resources to feed thousands.

By the time anthropology researcher Samuel Barrett arrived in the early 1900s, many of the Pomo village sites he assiduously recorded had been abandoned. Barrett noted that the village of Yami, on the south shore of the valley, once “supported a considerable Indian population.”

More than a century later, state road building officials emailed chairmen of the Pomo tribes: Yami had been affected during nighttime construction of the Willits Bypass, a $300 million, 5.9-mile roadway that would cleave the valley. The village site had not been recorded by the California Department of Transportation’s archaeologists. Contractors had pierced it with 1,100 wick drains burrowing 60 feet underground and covered the area with tons of fill dirt.

Although it received no national media coverage, the 2013 destruction of Yami presaged what happened at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Sept. 3 – one of the most infamous days of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. With cameras rolling, contractors started pushing dirt over burial sites within view of protesters.

Read the full report by Mark Dadigan in Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Nova Scotia Premier Apologizes to Mi’kmaq Chiefs and Elders

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Premier Stephen McNeil was making every effort to move from insult to consult after a meeting Thursday with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs. “The meeting started out this morning with an opportunity for me to express my regret and my apologies to the chiefs and to members of their communities,” McNeil said.

“The words that were attached to a brief that went before the court were not mine and not my feelings. I believe the foundation of this province and this country is in those treaties. We have a duty to consult, the Supreme Court has dealt with this issue a long time ago and it’s my responsibility as the premier of this province to make sure that we follow through on respecting the rights of the Mi’kmaq.”

Respect was not at the forefront in a Nova Scotia Supreme Court appeal case last week when Justice Department lawyer Alex Cameron described the complainants, the Sipekne’katik band, as a conquered people who had surrendered their sovereignty to the British Crown in the 1700s, negating the duty of the province to consult on industrial projects.

Read the full story at localxpress.ca.

Refer back to the incident that provoked this apology.

Mi’kmaq Are ‘Conquered People’ Says Nova Scotia Government Lawyer

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A legal brief submitted on behalf of the province of Nova Scotia denies treaty rights and labels the Mi’kmaq as conquered peoples.

“To suggest that we are ‘conquered’ is a racist taunt,” wrote Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade in a media release. “At its worst, it has been used against Indigenous Canadians to perpetuate or justify a state of inferior legal, social or socio-economic conditions.”

The brief is part of a court case centred on consultation with the Sipekne’Katik Band over a natural gas storage project. The band asked for a judicial review of the provincial permits that approved the Alton Gas project. But a court case about whether the Crown meaningfully consulted with one band over a particular project, has brought up what many are calling offensive arguments about treaty rights that extend to all Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia.

Read the full story on APTN National News.

Alton Gas Resistance: NS Government’s Legal Attack

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Today Sipekne’katik First Nation goes to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to challenge the provincial government’s consultation process regarding the Alton Gas project. Sipekne’katik’s essential argument is that the band was not adequately consulted about the project, despite the obvious direct impacts it will have on the community. The provincial government’s legal strategy to defend against this claim is deeply troubling.

The province is attempting to win this case by undermining the sovereignty of the Mi’kmaq people, claiming that only “unconquered peoples” are owed a duty of consultation. It argues that Sipekne’katik First Nation ‘submitted’ to the Crown in the 1760 treaty, and is therefore not owed the government’s constitutional duty to consult.

Read the full update at The Council of Canadians online.

Treaty Truck House Against Alton Gas, Mi’kmaki

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Alton Natural Gas Storage Limited is  developing a huge storage site for hydrocarbons (natural gas and others) in Brentwood, Colchester County, Nova Scotia.  They will use water from the Shubenacadie River to flush out underground salt deposits. “During construction of the caverns, brine will be released into a constructed channel connected to the Shubenacadie River where it will mix with the tidal (brackish) river water to maximize dilution.”¹  It will be directly discharged into the  Shubenacadie River through the channel.  The amount of salt from these caverns amounts to over 8 million cubic yards – 500,000 dump truck loads, depending upon how many caverns are created.

This is of great concern to Mi’kmaq citizens, fishers, local landowners, environmental organizations and allies since this unique river ecosystem is home to several endangered and at risk species. The discharge site is near the mouth of the Stewiacke River, one of the last breeding grounds for striped Bass and also habitat for endangered Atlantic Salmon. Despite continued outcry and court challenges from First Nations, local landowners and fishers regarding the lack of consultation and meaningful environmental assessments, the company has received all necessary approval.  An overruling by the Minister of Environment, Premier or Federal Critical Habitat designation could still stop the project before the brine dumping takes place.

Learn more about this immediate significant threat to indigenous rights in Mi’kmaki, on the north central Acadian peninsula.

Tribes Create Team to Document Ceremonial Sites

stone ring quartz center

From an article in the Greenfield (MA) Recorder:

Last month, representatives from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Mohegan Tribe, Narragansett Indian Tribe and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, along with representatives from other tribes, participated in a weeklong ceremonial stone landscape identification training. Upon completion of the program, the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices certified the 12 participants as field specialists.

Under the guidance of the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and its landscape mapping partner — Ceremonial Landscapes Research — the tribal representatives will work with a mapping team to identify and document ceremonial stone landscape sites.

Any project requiring funding, licensure or permits from federal agencies must comply with Section 106 of the National Historical Preservation Act of 1966. According to the act, before construction can begin, properties that are important to federally recognized tribes and have a cultural or historical significance should be documented in consultation with the affected tribes. Once studies have been completed, the tribes, FERC and the project proponents are required to work together on a plan to avoid, minimize or mitigate the project’s impacts.