Lakota Organization OWE AKU's Environmental Victory
Greetings from Owe Aku, the traditional Lakota (Sioux) organization advocating for Lakota peoples’ human, ecological and treaty rights from a proactive grassroots perspective. Owe Aku, on behalf of our communities and allies, is very pleased and humbled to express our gratitude for recent developments regarding the protection of our sacred Mother Earth. The United States Federal Atomic Licensing Board (ALB) has granted Owe Aku the opportunity to put forth its arguments why Crow Butte Resources, Inc. should not be allowed to expand their current mining interests in northwestern Nebraska.
“Petitioners Debra White Plume, the organizations Owe Aku/Bring Back the Way and the Western Nebraska Resources Council are admitted as parties in this proceeding and their Requests for Hearing and Petitions to intervene are granted…”
The land and water that Canadian-based Cameco/Crow Butte Resources, Inc. is trying to access is traditional Lakota treaty territory under the 1868 and 1851 Fort Laramie treaties. The 1868 Ft. Laramie treaty has been acknowledged as legal and binding by the United States Supreme Court (1980) and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Treaties (2000). In filing its petition with the NRC, Owe Aku submitted the treaty issue as a relevant part of the discussion along with the recently passed Declaration on the Rights of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, relying on provisions regarding Indigenous peoples’ rights to traditional land and resources, and free, prior, & informed consent. Prior to its decision yesterday, on January 16, 2008 the NRC sent a three judge panel to Nebraska to hear oral arguments and specifically requested additional information on the treaties and the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights. Although the ALB, in its written decision, mentioned the issue of international human rights and treaty law by stating they need not rely on these assertions for this particular decision, an entire section of their Memorandum and Order was dedicated to just that.
Debra White Plume, an organizer and strong force behind this action, stated:
“We are very, very happy about this decision. Now that Owe Aku and the Western Nebraska Resources Council has been granted “standing,” the Oglala Sioux Tribe, our traditional elders and chiefs from the treaty council and others will now be able to join the case. It was their blessing and encouragement that helped us in this EARLY victory, WHICH IS BASICALLY FIGHTING FOR OUR RIGHT TO FIGHT FOR OUR RIGHTS. In this work we do what we have to protect our sacred water and our future generations.”
Late in 2007, Owe Aku was instrumental in driving colonial corporate interests from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Native American Energy Group (“NAEG” – despite the name they have nothing to do with Native Americans except to exploit our territory) came to Pine Ridge promoting in situ uranium mining in the vast aquifer that lies under the reservation and spans across many states in the west. Owe Aku, through its Director Debra White Plume, WORKING WITH the treaty council, filed an action in tribal court to BANISH NAEG FROM TREATY TERRITORY. In this victory, NAEG was driven from the reservation to ensure that there would not be further contamination to the aquifer, the land, the people and the totality of the environment. Pine Ridge continues to suffer from radioactive contaminants and arsenic in their groundwater in elevated rates of disease.
Owe Aku has experienced a variety of tragedies this winter, including the complete destruction of our headquarters by fire. Despite these serious challenges, with the support of individuals and organizations across the country, this victory shows that through our alliances we can continue to Unite to Fight. We send a special Wopila (thank you) to our allies, the AND our pro bono legal team.
CONTACT: Kent Lebsock, Owe Aku Intl Human Rights and Justice Program,
Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way)
International Justice & Human Rights Project