Research Project Environmental Protection in Indian Country.

Blog Assignment #3 – AIS-320

Research Question and Prospectus
Then, in one or two paragraphs, the student needs to indicate why they chose the topic and what they may expect to discover in the course of their research.

In what ways has the Navajo Nation been exploited for their energy resources? How was and how has Council of Energy Resource Tribes been able to benefit the Navajo Nation, helping them profit and avoid exploitation? In this research project my hope is to take an in depth look at ways in which the Navajo Nation has been exploited for energy resources, and what the main type of energy is in the region. I also plan to look at Council of Energy Resource Tribes involvement with Navajo Nation to find what lead to their success as partners.

This will be my first big research project. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a research inter with American Indian College Fund over the summer and I feel that this project will be my first real chance to take what I learned and apply it to my education. My hope in this research project is to find ways that Council of Energy Resource Tribes has benefited the Navajo Nation and target a specific energy resource that the Navajo Nation and CERT worked together to make a successful source of revenue. The reason that I chose the Navajo Nation is because they are one of the largest tribes with the largest reservations and the most tribal members. I believe that the information available about the Navajo Nation and their involvement with Council of Energy Resource Tribes will be readily available and I feel that of all the energy resources that Navajo have available can relate closely to most other tribes. Other tribes with similar resources may benefit from the information available from the Navajo Nations experiences with CERT. Tribal members will be able to use the information collected from my research to see what resources are available in the southwest and other areas, they will also gain knowledge on what lead to the success of the Navajo Nations involvement with Council of Energy Resource tribes.

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Environmental Issues in Indian Country

Let’s face it, there are many environmental issues regarding Indian tribes that are all of significant importance, however I found one that I find to be particularly disturbing. The topic I feel that is most important to involving American Indian environmental issues is the storage and/or improper disposal of nuclear and hazardous waste on or near Indian reservations. The reason that I believe this issue is the most important is best said by Bayley Lopez of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, “In the quest to dispose of nuclear waste, the government and private companies have disregarded and broken treaties, blurred the definition of Native American sovereignty, and directly engaged in a form of economic racism akin to bribery.1” I believe this is a priority over some of the other environmental issues solely because it is very dangerous for people who are living on and around reservations with disposal and storage sites, these innocent people are being exposed to toxic materials that could potentially cause immediate or long term health complications.
The first example I found of this was involving the Skull Valley band of Utah’s Goshute tribe. In this particular case the tribe was solicited to store spent nuclear waste on their tribe’s land. The problem for the tribe came when the storage of the nuclear waste was done above ground. The improper storage and disposal can affect the environment in multiple ways including climate change and air pollution, not to mention water contamination and the possibility of direct contact with toxic waste without even knowing that you have encountered the dangerous material. The second example I found was with the Prairie Island Indians who have two nuclear reactors stored on their reservation only hundreds of yards from where people are living. The unfortunate detail regarding this particular case is that the tribe could not afford an attorney and the BIA instead acted on their behalf. “The end result was selling the right away along the only road running through the reservation for $178 and no portion of the $20 million the plant would pay in property taxes.2”
The very unfortunate thing about most situations like these one’s is that the proper disposal of nuclear waste is so costly and time consuming that these large manufacturers and corporations would rather pay a sovereign nation to improperly dispose of or store their toxic materials for them. For the corporations, this is fine, out of site out of mind as they say. But for the Indian people affected by this improper storage and disposal it is another story, one that will last longer that the tribal people are living on their land, because some nuclear waste can take up to one million years to be disposed of.

1) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talk-reservations-about-toxic-waste/

2) Winona Laduke, All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life, Cambridge, Ma South End Press, MN, Honor of the Earth, 1999, 106-107

Resilience against Global Warming

This August 31, 2014 article by Bob Berwyn is called, “Federal Funds Boost Native American Climate Resilience Efforts” the topic of the article is also the caption used for the picture that is provided by the source for the article, “Global Warming poses a serious threat to Native American Communities .”

Bob Berwyn is of European blood and he came to live in the United States later in life. Mr. Berwyn began working in and around the Western United States at lodges and volunteering as a naturalist for the Mono Lake Committee. Mr. Berwyn’s expertise in environmental knowledge comes from his experience living and working in and around Nature, mainly in Colorado which is where he lives now. It was in 1996 when Mr. Berwyn decided he would use his environmental knowledge to try to do good and at that time that he signed on to work full time as a staff reporter for the Summit Daily News.

I do not believe there would be any reason to be biased in this case because the author is simply providing the information to the reader. However, in Mr. Berwyn’s bio, it states that he wants to use his environmental knowledge for good. A second possible reason for choosing to write this article on this specific topic may come from Mr. Berwyn living in Colorado, his home or places near his home may also be an area that is damaged by global warming who may see some benefit from the Federal Funding.

The article seemed to provide some good information as to what the plan of attack is and who will be getting involved. There is going to be four key areas where federal grant money could possibly be awarded to tribes or organizations who are looking to stop or slow down the progression of global warming. Those areas are, “development and delivery of climate adaptation training; adaptation planning, vulnerability assessments and monitoring; capacity building through travel support for climate change training, technical sessions, and cooperative management forums; and travel support for participation in ocean and coastal planning .”

I believe the author did a good job of providing information. There were a few specifics that stood out to me and the first of those was that, funding will be made available to educate tribal youth in an effort to educate our future tribal leaders in environmental issues, and also allow them to get involved in conferences and workshops starting at a young age. I believe this to be important because starting to educate our future leaders at a young age is crucial to the survival of tribal ways including Traditional Ecological Knowledge. I believe that TEK’s are going to be a driving force in the preservation of our resources as well as the avoidance of further environmental damage such as global warming. The second point that stood out to me was that, these Federal Government reps. are admitting that Tribal Nations are capable of leading the fight against environmental injustices and they also know that tribal Nations are at the forefront of the damage caused because of the change in the respect for the environment by the surrounding communities. It is my hope that this is an honest effort from our Government rather than another financial endeavor disguised as one.

Title of photo; http://summitcountyvoice.com/2014/08/31/federal-funds-boost-native-american-climate-resilience-efforts/
Paragraph eight; http://summitcountyvoice.com/2014/08/31/federal-funds-boost-native-american-climate-resilience-efforts/