Ojibwe Tribes Join Forces to Demand Full Cultural Resources Survey

madeline sunset

January 4, 2018 – On Tuesday, the 5 Ojibwe bands intervening in Minnesota’s Line 3 case joined forces on an assertive legal action for the first time in this 4+ year battle.  They filed an appeal of the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) recent decision to exclude the cultural resources survey from the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Their legal brief meticulously documents the State’s consistent disregard for tribal rights and tribal concerns throughout this process, and profound failure to assess impacts to historic and cultural properties and treaty-protected resources.  The tribes asked the PUC to halt the process until a full survey of cultural resources is completed for the entire corridor and all alternative routes, with that data included in the EIS so that it can inform the PUC’s permit decisions.

“The state’s historic properties work on the Line 3 Replacement project to date has been so inadequate that it could be used as a ‘what not to do’ example in future guidance.”

– Joint Tribal Petition (Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth Bands of Chippewa), 1/2/18

In early December, the PUC declared the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Line 3 “inadequate” and asked the Department of Commerce to put some bandaids on it.  One of those bandaids is a single sentence stating that if permits are granted, construction cannot begin until an ongoing survey of tribal cultural resources along a portion of the proposed route is complete.  The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (FDL), with support from all the other tribal, environmental, and landowner intervenors, argued assertively that the EIS should not be finalized until the survey is complete and the data analyzed and included in the EIS.  They also cautioned the State of Minnesota, with great passion, against repeating the profound cultural disrespect shown in the MN Department of Transportation’s archaeological debacle on the Fond du Lac Reservation last summer.

But the PUC decided that the survey data does not need to be included in the EIS, or even included in the public record before the PUC makes its decision about Line 3 permits!  They simply want it complete before construction begins.  This means they think the existence and locations of cultural resources are irrelevant to their decisions about whether or not to permit the pipeline, or which route to choose.  The tribes are asking the PUC to show some respect, acknowledge the importance of our sacred places, and follow the law.

Read the full article from Stop Line 3/Honor the Earth.

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Elnu Abenaki Prefiled Testimony in VT PUC Docket #8880

Link to pdf below:

Prefiled Testimony Elnu Abenaki Rich Holschuh VT PUC 8880

Vermont Yankee Buyer Assures Tribe It Will Hire Cultural Adviser

Rich Holschuh VY Sale Mike Faher

If NorthStar Group Services gets a chance to decommission Vermont Yankee, the company will have a hired cultural expert watching over its work.

In a nod to Native American concerns about the Vernon site’s historical importance, NorthStar CEO Scott State is committing to enlisting a consultant on matters such as archaeology, anthropology and history.

The costs of that expert, State pledged, “will not impact the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust or the Site Restoration Trust, and instead will be borne solely by NorthStar.”

Rich Holschuh, a Native American activist representing the Elnu Abenaki tribe in Vermont Yankee proceedings, applauded NorthStar’s commitment but expects to stay closely involved in decommissioning issues. “I see this as the first conversation in an ongoing dialogue,” Holschuh said.

Read the full story by Mike Faher in vtdigger.org here.

The same Mike Faher story in the Brattleboro Reformer here.

And a version in The Commons here.

Northstar’s Scott State Files Testimony Responding to Elnu Request

From Northstar Group Services CEO Scott State’s October 17, 2017 rebuttal/surrebuttal testimony in Vermont Public Utility Commission’s Docket #8880:
Q5. Mr. Holschuh’s testimony expresses a request for the project to be undertaken with sensitivity to not disturbing previously undisturbed portions of the site, since the site is considered sacred to the Elnu Abenaki tribe and may contain burial remains and other important cultural artifacts. Does NorthStar have a response to this request?
A5. I appreciate Mr. Holschuh’s view and recently met with him and the Chief of the Elnu Abenaki and Missisquoi Abenaki. NorthStar will continue a dialogue with the tribes and has committed to them that NorthStar will engage a cultural expert to advise as a consultant on the project (the costs of which will not impact the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust (“NDT”) or the Site Restoration Trust, and instead will be borne 1 solely by NorthStar).

Robert McBride at Bellows Falls’ Vilas Bridge and Kchi Pontekw Petroglyphs

robert mcbride kchi pontekw vilas bridge petroglyphs

Still image – see video link at end of summation

Robert McBride’s Everyday People video series on FACT – Falls Area Community TV – featured a recent episode with personnel from VTrans and the VT Dept. of Historic Preservation, along with guests who had an interest in the proceedings. The crew was in town to document and map the Vilas Bridge and the ancient petroglyph site at Kchi Pontekw on the Kwenitekw, using newly acquired LiDAR equipment. A non-intrusive technology, LiDAR uses a rapid, rotating laser sending and receiving unit to record a highly detailed 3D image of terrain, objects, and surfaces. This record can then be used for reference and analysis. With the possibility of a future repair or removal of the deteriorating Vilas Bridge (owned by the state of New Hampshire, and now closed), it is important to record the current situation so that proper care can be taken as plans may be developed. For indigenous people, respectful protection of the sacred ancestral rock carvings above the falls are of special concern. Several people were in attendance to oversee the work on September 22, 2017; the Brattleboro Reformer covered the story that day as well.

Watch the FACT video here.

VT Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel: Meeting 9/28/17

Testimony during the public comment period at the end of September’s regular meeting, requesting a baseline survey regarding the extent of previously disturbed vs undisturbed soils at the VY site.

Tribe Seeks Voice in Nuclear Plant Cleanup, Land Restoration

lisa rathke elnu abenaki vermont yankee decommissioning

Two Native American tribes want a say in the cleanup of the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and the future use of the land in an area that was once the site of settlements and fishing grounds for the groups’ ancestors.

Last month, the Elnu Abenaki tribe, based in southern Vermont, filed testimony with the Public Utilities Commission. The tribe said it wants any activities that disturb the earth in this area to be overseen by qualified people and it wants to be involved in helping to determine the standards for how the land on the Connecticut River is restored. “Our concern is for the earth, the soil of our homeland, that of our ancestors, and all of our relations,” the testimony said.

The Missisquoi Abenaki, based in Swanton, Vermont, is also taking part in the state’s review of the proposed sale, which must be approved by state and federal regulators.

Paleo-Indians first moved to what is now Vermont 12,900 years ago, and native communities have continued to live in the state since, according to the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.

After the land is restored, the tribe would like to see it “lie at rest and allow it to heal as much as possible,” said Rich Holschuh, a public liaison for the Elnu Abenaki. “It should be a place where everyone can remember, and listen and learn, and dream, and offer hope of a better way for the next generations to be in this place,” he said

The Vermont Yankee plant shut down in 2014. Its owner, Entergy Nuclear, is seeking to sell it to demolition company NorthStar Group Services, which has promised to demolish the reactor and restore the site by 2030.

NorthStar has agreed to meet with the Elnu Abenaki next week. “NorthStar is sensitive to the concerns expressed by the representatives of Elnu Abenaki … and would like to begin a dialogue,” said CEO Scott State.

“A lot of this is about establishing a voice,” said Holschuh. “The presence of the indigenous people has not been acknowledged in the past. It’s kind of a glaring omission if you look at Vermont’s history.”

Article and photography by Lisa Rathke for the Associated Press.