Nov 15, 2013 - We Want Your Land! Obama and the Tribal Nations Conference by Matt Remle
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
On November 13, 2013 President Obama and his administration held its 5th annual Tribal Nations Conference. The conference, at least in appearance from the live stream, consisted of one talking head administration official after another talking about how they are “really committed” to working with Indian country.
While there have certainly been some “positive” developments in terms of Federal government and tribal Nations relations, the skeptic in me on the true intentions of any elected official always persists. Several hundred years of Indian US Federal relations has fostered a healthy skepticism.
Obama addressed conference attendees during the afternoon session and towards the end of Obama’s speech he began talking about tribal lands, climate change and energy development. His leaps from being a good steward of Native lands, to the negative impacts on tribal lands from climate change to energy development on tribal lands are rather extraordinary.
In his own words:
“And then the fourth area that we’ve got to work on is, let’s keep our covenant strong by being good stewards of native homelands, which are sacred to you and your families. I saw the beauty of Crow Agency, Montana, when I was a candidate for this office. Next year, I’ll make my first trip to Indian Country as President. (Applause.)
The health of tribal nations depends on the health of tribal lands. So it falls on all of us to protect the extraordinary beauty of those lands for future generations. And already, many of your lands have felt the impacts of a changing climate, including more extreme flooding and droughts. That’s why, as part of the Climate Action Plan I announced this year, my administration is partnering with you to identify where your lands are vulnerable to climate change, how we can make them more resilient.
And working together, we want to develop the energy potential of tribal lands in a responsible way and in accordance with tribal wishes. Over the last four years, we’ve more than doubled oil and gas revenues on tribal lands –- a big reason why the United States is now more energy independent.” [emphasis mine]
Incredible, in a mere matter of minutes he leap frogs from being good stewards of the land to the impacts already felt by climate change to “we want to develop the energy potential of tribal lands”!
Certainly, Obama is referring, in part, to the massive expansion of the Bakkan Shale Formation in North Dakota and the wide spread expansion of hydraulic fracturing, that has occurred under his watch, in the leading to the US being more “energy independent”.
In North Dakota, since 2012, there have been over 300 oil spills that had previously went unreported. Man camps, havens of illicit drug use, violence and sex trafficking have exploded around the oil fields. The United States reaching a state of more energy independence has come at the expense of tribal lands, communities and waterways.
Across Turtle Island, communities have literally dried up due to hydraulic fracturing and in communities where water still flows it has become so polluted that, as numerous YouTube videos can testify, you can light it on fire.
Since European contact, the aims of the colonist have been simple, remove and/or assimilate indigenous populations to gain greater access to lands and resources to exploit for profit. Regardless of who has held the Presidency this simple truth has remained.
It is clear that the current administration plans to continue to exploit tribal lands and resources to benefit the colonial state at the expense of tribal lands, waterways and communities.
Current tribal leaders, and communities, must remain vigilant in protecting lands, waterways and communities from exploitation. The profit motive and expansion of the colonial empire is the ultimate goal of settler states. They will pursue this motive whether through brute force or by attempting to coax communities into their agenda.
We must stand ready to protect Mother Earth, our lands and waterways and we must do so with a crystal clear understanding of who we are as children of earth and what the true intentions are of the children of profit.
Wakinyan Waanatan (Matt Remle)