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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/9/16

Native American Lands Soon to be Under Assault by Developers Allied With Trump Administration

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Thus, the worst of our fears and concerns appear to becoming true, which started back in the many discussions and articles I have written on Saving Oak Flat in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, protecting it from the plan by Arizona's Senior Senator, John McCain, to privatize the national forest and turn it over lock stock and barrel to a partnership of copper mining companies, to turn it into North America's largest copper mine.

Below, I summarize the December 5 report appearing in Fortune Magazine, and the worst we feared but anticipated, is now confirmed. I published a glimmer of this a few days ago in a quote, but here it is, full fledged:

Trump Advisers: Privatize Untapped Oil Reserves on Native American Reservations

This would have to be done with an eye and a Public Relations-driven tip of the hat toward protecting sovereignty, a shallow meaningless gesture, to reassure those with deeper concerns.

Native American reservations cover only 2% of the United States, but contain about a fifth of the nation's oil and gas, along with vast coal reserves. But recently, a group of Trump advisers on Native American issues plan to free those resources from what they call a suffocating federal bureaucracy controlling 56 million acres of tribal lands, two chairmen of the coalition told Reuters in exclusive interviews.

The group proposes to put those lands into private ownership -- a politically explosive idea upending more than century of policy designed to preserve Indian tribes on U.S.-owned reservations, which are governed by tribal leaders as sovereign nations. These tribes have rights to use the land, but they do not own it, and can drill it for profit, but only under regulations more demanding than those applied to private property.

"We should take tribal land away from public treatment," said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing Trump's Native American Affairs Coalition. "As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, we will have broad support around Indian country." Trump's transition team has not responded to requests for comment.

The plan coincides with Trump's larger aim of removing regulation to boost energy production. Make no mistake: this will deeply divide Native American leaders, who hold a range of opinions on the proper balance between development and conservation. The proposed path to deregulated drilling--privatizing reservations--will become even more volatile. Native Americans almost uniformly recognize this as a violation of tribal self-determination.

"Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred," said Tom Goldtooth, a member of both the Navajo and the Dakota tribes who runs the Indigenous Environmental Network. "Privatization has been the goal since colonization--to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty."

Reservations governed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs are intended to keep Native American lands off the private real estate market, preventing sales to non-Indians.

The legal framework underlying the reservation system goes back to treaties made between 1778 and 1871 to end wars between indigenous Natives and European settlers, with tribal governments determining how land and resources are allotted among tribe members. However, Trump's coalition did not go into any details of how they plan on allocating ownership of the land or mineral rights -- or even whether they are planning to ensure they remained under Indian control.

One idea is to limit sales to non-Indian buyers, said Ross Swimmer, a co-chair on Trump's advisory coalition and an ex-chief of the Cherokee nation who worked on Indian affairs in the Reagan administration. "It has to be done with an eye toward protecting sovereignty," he said.

(Sounds like more smoke and mirrors to me, Ross! You can fool your grand-kids but you don't fool me!)

$1.5 Trillion in Reserves

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