US pipe­line un­cer­tainty il­lus­trates broader con­cerns for tribes

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

For hun­dreds of pro­test­ers, it was cause to cheer when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion this month de­clined to is­sue an ease­ment for the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line’s fi­nal seg­ment. But that ela­tion was damp­ened by the un­cer­tainty of what comes next: a Don­ald Trump-led White House that might be far less at­tuned to is­sues af­fect­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

“With Trump com­ing into of­fice, you just can’t cel­e­brate,” said Laundi Ger­maine Keepsea­gle, who is 28 and from the Stand­ing Rock Sioux Reser­va­tion, where the demon­stra­tors have been camped out near the North Dakota-South Dakota border. Anx­i­ety over the 1,200-mile pipe­line il­lus­trates a broader un­cer­tainty over how tribes will fare un­der Trump fol­low­ing what many in In­dian Coun­try con­sider a land­mark eight years.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has won ac­co­lades among Na­tive Amer­i­cans for break­ing through a grid­lock of in­ac­tion on tribal is­sues and for putting a spot­light on their con­cerns with year- ly meet­ings with tribal lead­ers. Un­der his ad­min­is­tra­tion, law­mak­ers ce­mented a tribal health care law that in­cludes more pre­ven­tive care and men­tal health re­sources and ad­dresses re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing physi­cians through­out In­dian Coun­try. The Interior De­part­ment re­stored tribal home­lands by plac­ing more than 500,000 acres un­der tribes’ con­trol - more than any other re­cent ad­min­is­tra­tion - while the Jus­tice De­part­ment charted a process ap­proved by Congress for tribes to pros­e­cute and sen­tence more cases in­volv­ing non-Na­tive Amer­i­cans who as­sault Na­tive Amer­i­can women. Be­fore Obama, a gap in the laws al­lowed for such crimes to go un­pun­ished.

In ad­di­tion, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment set­tled decades-old law­suits in­volv­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing class-ac­tion cases over the gov­ern­ment’s mis­man­age­ment of roy­al­ties for oil, gas, tim­ber and graz­ing leases and its dis­crim­i­na­tion against tribal mem­bers seek­ing farm loans. “In my opin­ion, Pres­i­dent Obama has been the great­est pres­i­dent in deal­ing with Na­tive Amer­i­cans,” said Brian Cladoosby, chair­man of the Swinomish Tribe north of Seat­tle and pres­i­dent of the non­par­ti­san Na­tional Congress of Amer­i­can In­di­ans, based in Washington, D.C. “The last eight years give us hope go­ing for­ward with the re­la­tion­ships we have on both sides of the aisle.”

Trump, mean­while, rarely ac­knowl­edged Na­tive Amer­i­cans dur­ing his cam­paign and hasn’t pub­licly out­lined how he would im­prove or man­age the United States’ long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with tribes.

His Interior sec­re­tary pick, Repub­li­can Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana, spon­sored leg­is­la­tion that he says would have given tribes more con­trol over coal and other fos­sil fuel de­vel­op­ment on their lands. But some of Trump’s big­gest cam­paign pledges - in­clud­ing re­peal­ing health care leg­is­la­tion and build­ing a wall along the US-Mex­ico border - would col­lide with tribal in­ter­ests. — AP

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