Sep 30, 2016 - The Need to End Corporate Sponsorship in Indian Country: Resolution Copper Mining, Army Corps, & BNSF Railway to Sponsor AISES Conference
Over the past few years, Last Real Indians has shined a light on the efforts of major corporations to sponsor events in Native communities, and specifically pointed out the potential areas of conflict of interest stemming from accepting money from corporations involved in activities negatively impacting Native communities.
In 2013, Indigenous land and water protector Clayton Thomas-Muller brilliantly called out the corporate sponsorship of the Indispire Awards Show (formally National Aboriginal Achievement Awards). He challenged Native organizations to reject corporate sponsorship especially corporations like CIBC, Cameco, Shell and others who are actively committing ecocide in 1st Nations homelands.
“It is my belief that to be sovereign we must develop a comprehensive multi-pronged approach to becoming economically self-sufficient that is rooted in Anti-Colonialism, Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and bio-regionally planned. We must do this in a phased long term strategic framework that addresses in an intentional and meaningful way our dependency on these revenue streams that come from the very companies that would see us disappear like the buffalo.” ~Clayton Thomas-Muller
More recently, sacred water defenders Deb White Plume and Faith Spotted Eagle called out big oil’s sponsorship of powwows, in particular, the Sioux Empire powwow which received sponsorship from Missouri River Resources, LLC an oil and gas development company working in the Bakken oil shale region and who owns interest in both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Sacagawea Pipeline.
“We are not seeking to divide Native people, the oil benefactors are. Incidentally, the word “Sioux” is not our word and “Empire” certainly is not in our Oceti vocabulary. Empire has echoes of dominance. Discernment is key in all issues affecting the lifeblood of our children, sacred water.” ~ Deb White Plume and Faith Spotted Eagle
Recently, I was contacted by individuals who were concerned about the corporations signed on as sponsors of the upcoming American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) conference and asked if I would look into it. Of specific concern for many, was the sponsorship of the Army Corps of Engineers who are at the center of the conflict over the Dakota Access pipeline.
In addition to the sponsorship from the Army Corp, other problematic sponsors include Resolution Copper Mining and BNSF Railway.
Resolution Copper Mining, is owned by Rio Tinto a foreign mining corporation, that many may recall is behind the efforts to steal the sacred Apache lands Oak Flat to open up for copper mining.
BNSF Railway is currently pushing for the construction of numerous train to ship oil facilities slated to be built along the west coast. These terminals are deeply opposed by Northwest Tribal Nations, such as the Quinualt Indian Nation, who are currently fighting to stop a proposed oil facility in Greys Harbor.
I reached out to AISES for a response regarding these sponsors and here’s the response in full from Sarah EchoHawk, Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
“Thank you for your email. I appreciate you reaching out to us. Given the situation at Standing Rock, in the last couple of weeks, AISES has spent a considerable amount of time in discussion with its Council of Elders and Board of Directors. In regard to AISES sponsors, who are from a wide variety of corporations, government agencies, educational institutions, and tribes, including the ones you inquired about:
The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), in its mission to increase the number of Native people represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), strongly supports Tribal Self-Determination and the right of all Native peoples, in all of their diversity, to determine their life pathways and stewardship of the lands, waters, ways of life and all that they, and we as Native people, hold sacred. AISES is not a policy or political organization – it is a 501 c3 organization and is required to engage in activities specific to its mission. In carrying out its mission, AISES recognizes that there is great diversity amongst Native people and Tribal Nations. Our (Native) members are diverse in their career choices and work in a myriad of fields including energy. Similarly, we recognize that Tribal Nations have a myriad of approaches to economic development including energy. We do not support one industry over another nor do we advocate on behalf of any corporation, educational institution, Tribal Nation or government agency. AISES’ role is to bring as many STEM education and careers opportunities to Native people as possible and allow each to choose his/her own life pathway.
As to the current situation at Standing Rock:
The American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), in its mission to increase the number of Native people represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), strongly supports Tribal Self-Determination and the right of all Native peoples, in all of their diversity, to determine their life pathways and stewardship of the lands, waters, ways of life, and all that we as Native people hold sacred. As such, the AISES Board of Directors, and the AISES Council of Elders, fully support the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s legitimate authority and exercise of tribal sovereignty to protect its sacred lands, water, cultural sites, and people by opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
AISES is a great organization and has certainly done good work supporting Native peoples entering careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field, I personally know several who have benefitted from their support. I do not agree, however, in the taking of money from corporations and/or government agencies that are actively engaged in the desecration of tribal lands and waterways.
Clayton’s words are true, we must actively engage in efforts towards economic self-sufficiency one in which is rooted in anti-colonialism and one that does not promote the end of our lands, waters, salmon and the buffalo.
By Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle- Lakota)