The Wabanaki Helped Us Secure Self-governance. It’s Time We Returned the Favor.

wabanaki drum group bangor daily news

A thoughtful column in the Bangor Daily News by Cassandra Cousins Wright.

This July Fourth, we celebrate our freedom as memorialized in the Declaration of Independence. Our ancestors declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While we celebrate securing these rights for ourselves as settlers, we ignore what we have done to our allies the Wabanaki people, the original people of this land, who helped us to secure these rights.

The Wabanaki flourished in what we recognize as Maine. The many distinct people who once called this area home have been reduced to four federally recognized tribes: the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation. The four resilient, surviving tribes battle the state government every day to live free as their beliefs, cultures, values, spirituality, traditions and ancestors inform them to live. Why does Maine and the United States withhold from them what we declared 241 years ago as the inherent rights of all human beings?

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The Resurgence of Diné Principles to Guide the People

navajo sovereignty

Navajo Sovereignty: Understandings and Visions of the Diné People, a new collection of essays by Navajo authors, edited by Professor Lloyd L. Lee, tackles Indigenous sovereignty from a specifically Navajo perspective. The essays vary in tone and depth, but they all hit on or near the bulls-eye: revealing “the ongoing consequences of an imposed Western democratic governmental structure that transformed Navajo governance and leadership.”

The book demonstrates that Navajo society has not succumbed to the imposition of an alien governmental structure. The essays depict “tribal government” as a collaborator with colonial forms, but as Professor Jennifer Denetdale says in her Foreword, the authors “note the multiple ways and layers of how we are Diné and how we practice sovereignty and self-determination [and how] we work to transform governance….”

The authors do not shy from referring to U.S. federal Indian law as “U.S. claims to authority”; describing the “domestic dependent” relationship as “constraint,” rather than “protection”; and celebrating community cultural, organic sovereignty as “spaces of respite and rest from the ongoing effects of colonialism.” The book’s unflinching confrontation with the “colonial box” of federal Indian law combines with unabashed affirmation of Diné Fundamental Laws and philosophical principles, to advocate traditional Navajo governance to meet 21st century challenges.

Link here to the full review by Peter d’Errico in Indian Country Today.

VCNAA Proclaims Support for Standing Rock #NoDAPL

At the regular meeting of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, held in Montpelier on January 11, 2017, the Commission adopted a Proclamation in support of the actions of the water protectors at and near the Standing Rock, North Dakota community, opposing disruption, destruction, and degradation of the the natural and sacred landscape.  The proclamation was written by Commissioner Joelen Mulvaney and adopted by consensus of all in attendance. pdf here: vcnaa-standing-rock-proclamation. Full text below:

Proclamation of Support for Lakota, Dakota and Nakota at Standing Rock, North Dakota by the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs

Whereas the Commission is charged by law to recognize the historic and cultural contributions of Native Americans in Vermont, to protect and strengthen Native American heritage, and to address needs in state policy, programs, and actions.

Whereas the Commission develops policies and programs to benefit Vermont’s Native American Indian population.

Whereas the Commission is committed to protecting and preserving sacred, culturally sensitive and historical sites crucial to strengthening Native American heritage and promoting understanding of indigenous conservation efforts since time immemorial.

Whereas the natural environment, grandfather mountains and ridges, forests and wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams and birds, animals and fish are integral to Abenaki culture, history, tradition, heritage and spirituality.

Whereas indigenous people who have been protecting and preserving sacred and historical sites and natural resources around the world and in Vermont are under siege by the pressures of industrial energy production.

Whereas the Commission recognizes the collective struggle of indigenous people to bring recognition to their cultural contributions and heritage, including the natural environment on Turtle Island, from Ndakinna to Kanaka Oiwi; from the northeast woodlands of Vermont to the islands of Hawaii.

And whereas sites such as Rocky Ridge in Missisquoi (Swanton), the Kwanitekw (Connecticut River) watershed, the Green Mountain National Forest in Searsberg and Botambakw (Lake Champlain) are places where industrial energy development threatens the preservation of historic, sacred and culturally sensitive sites.

The Commission proclaims support for those protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota who are resisting destruction of sites sacred to Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people, disruption of traditional ways and potential environmental contamination from crude oil pipe line construction and use.

Put These Statements Together: Can You Say Termination?

Trump considering Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota for Cabinet (Interior)

Heitkamp Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

Dakota pipeline fight is ‘not winnable,’ ND Democratic Sen Heidi Heitkamp

Then add in this interview with Senator Heitkamp in today’s Indian Country Today newsletter; I am blown away.

And throw this on top, to fill out the portent: Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich American Indian reservations.

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

mikmaq-treaty-day

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.

Penobscots Vacate Seat in Maine Legislature

penobscot kirk francis maine

The Penobscot Nation is formally vacating a seat the tribe has held in the Maine Legislature for more than 150 years and, instead, plans to select an ambassador to work with the state and federal governments.

More than a mere title change, the switch from non-voting state representative to a full-time “government relations ambassador” is a symbolic and historic shift that reflects the tensions between state officials and leaders of Maine’s federally recognized Indian tribes, most notably the Penobscots and the Passamaquoddy Tribe.

Full story at the Portland Press-Herald.