Native America

Mining project behind Greenland political upheaval

In snap elections April 6, Greenland's indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland's south, has divided the territory's political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the "potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths," adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resources owns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing's perceived design to establish control over the planet's rare earth minerals.

Nunavut hunters blockade Baffin Island mine

After a week of blockading an airstrip and road to an iron mine on north Baffin Island, a small group of Inuit protesters packed up their tents Feb. 11, agreeing to give dialogue with authorities a chance after the mining company won an injunction ordering them to disband their encampment. The self-declared Nuluujaat Land Guardians began blocking access to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp’s Mary River mine on Feb. 4. The group of seven men travelled by snowmobile from the communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, journeys of approximately 12 hours and 36 hours, respectively. The protesters oppose a proposal for expansion that would see the mine's output of iron ore double to 12 million metric tons per year, as well as construction of a 110-kilometer railway to the facility. The Land Guardians say the expansion would drive caribou away and harm other wildlife in the area, including narwhal, upon which their communities depend for subsistence.

Alaska Native tribes challenge Tongass logging

Five Alaska Native tribes filed a lawsuit Dec. 23 challenging the Trump administration's move to allow logging in the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest. The tribes are represented by nonprofits Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and are joined as plaintiffs by other environmental groups, commercial fishing groups, and tourism businesses. In October, the Trump administration announced that it would exempt the Tongass from the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or the "roadless rule." The roadless rule blocks logging and road construction in specified forests. Alaskan state leadership petitioned for the reversal, which puts nine million acres of the Tongass at risk. According to the United States Forest Service, the Tongass is the "largest intact temperate rainforest in the world."

Global petro-resistance greets 2021

Native American activist Winona LaDuke and a small group of opponents of the planned Line 3 oil pipeline project braved frigid winds Dec. 15 to demonstrate outside the Enbridge Energy office in Park Rapids, Minn. LaDuke and her self-proclaimed "water protectors" carried signs reading "Mother Earth Revolution," "We are here for the future," and "Protect climate, water, treaties." The planned pipeline would bring more shale oil from northern Canada to US markets. Local Ojibwe bands in Minnesota have brought legal challenge against the pipeline, asserting that the potential for oil spills from the line poses a risk to their treaty-guaranteed hunting, fishing and gathering rights.

Trump admin opens bids for ANWR drilling

The Trump administration on Nov. 16 announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska State Office issued a call for "nominations" on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. The notice launches the beginning of a 30-day public comment period before the agency moves forward with lease sales.

Innu Nation sues Hydro-Quebec

The Innu Nation of Labrador announced Oct. 6 that it is seeking $4 billion in damages from Hydro-Quebec over its mega-dam on the Upper Churchill River. The suit, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland & Labrador, seeks compensation for the theft of ancestral Innu land in 1967 to build the Churchill Falls hydro-electric project, leading to devastation of their community's culture and way of life. "The impact of Churchill Falls has been felt across generations of Innu. What happened, it was not right. Our elders deserved better treatment then, and we demand better treatment now," said Grand Chief Etienne Rich. He charged that Hydro-Quebec and the provincial utility in Newfoundland, now called Nalcor Energy, "stole our land and flooded it in order to take advantage of the enormous hydro potential of the Churchill Falls. This project was undertaken without consulting us and without our consent."

Water protector slain in Baja California

Oscar Eyraud Adams, a community activist in the Mexican border town of Tecate, Baja California, was assassinated in an attack on his home by what local accounts described as an "armed commando" Sept. 24. The following day, his brother-in-law, Óscar Sotelo, was gunned down in a convenience store along the Tecate-Ensenada highway. Adams had been a prominent advocate for the Kumiai (also rendered Kumeyaay) indigenous people in their struggle for irrigation concessions for their remote communities in outlying rural areas of Tecate and Ensenada municipalities, which have been denied by the National Water Commission (ConAgua). Friends and supporters of Adams are blaming the assassinations on the "narco-state" and demanding that authorities investigate them as political crimes.

Ninth Circuit approves drilling within Alaska reserve

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 9 issued a ruling in favor of the US government, allowing oil drilling to proceed in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that a 2012 impact statement prepared for earlier drilling within the NPRA was inadequate to cover new planned operations by oil companies elsewhere in the reserve, a critical caribou habitat.

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