This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ‘ … We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
British PM Neville Chamberlain, 1938
Make no mistake: Donald Trump’s Administration is coming for Indian Country—we’re suddenly big targets on his radar. We haven’t had quite this big of a place on the national and international stage in a long time. It makes sense—Native communities have about 25% of the nation’s on-shore oil and gas reserves and developable resources and this upcoming administration is oil-thirsty.
And they’re coming for what Tribes have; Dakota Access was the warm-up. Trump’s line-up of cabinet nominees tells us that his Administration is coming squarely for Native land and Native natural resources. Rick Perry, who sits on the Board of Directors for the Energy Transfer Partners (the company that owns the Dakota Access Pipeline), was nominated as the Energy Secretary. Trump also nominated Scott Pruitt to be the new head of the EPA; Pruitt said that “hydraulic fracking, a technological innovation that has done more to reduce carbon emissions in this country than any other technological advancement of our time.” No really—that’s what he said. He also wrote a letter to Obama In 2012, Pruitt and Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wrote a letter to President Obama asking to eliminate a Bureau of Land Management proposal that requires oil companies to disclose the chemicals used in fracking operations on Native American land.
These cats want to separate Native people from our lands and mineral resources. It’s westward expansion, manifest destiny!
Even Trump’s Indian Advisor, Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation), tells us that’s the goal. “We should take tribal land away from public treatment. As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country.”
Yeah, that couldn’t be a bad idea, could it? Last time that happened (Dawes Allotment Act of 1887), 90 million acres of Native lands were designated as “surplus” and stolen from Native hands.
Fortunately, it’s a Native who has this idea this time—maybe that makes it better.
Additionally, the newest nominee for Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, also is a believer in extracting our mineral resources in any way possible. “Fracking is safe and not a threat to clean and safe water. The only question that remains is why did it take so long?” No, he really said that. In regards to a rule that limited emissions and flares in gas and oil development, Zinke said, “This rule is a stark reminder that we need to invest in infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, so we don’t need to flare excess gas.” Importantly, Zinke also is not quite a climate change denier—he’s a climate change agnostic. “It’s not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either. But you don’t dismantle America’s power and energy on a maybe. We need to be energy independent first. We need to do it better, which we can, but it is not a settled science.”
Folks like Zinke only see tribal lands as a place to extract natural resources. Nothing more.
Obviously Rex Tillerson is the high priest of extracting fossil fuels, but Trump’s entire cabinet should be taken as a declaration of war on the earth, the environment and, very importantly, Indian Country.
Here’s what’s going to happen: Trump prides himself on being a “dealmaker.” He’s going to get his Cabinet to call their oil company friends to cut deals with economically struggling Native Nations that are energy rich. One of his energy hungry cronies will go, for example, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe or the Northern Cheyenne Tribe or the Navajo Tribe, and say, “You have 70 or 75 or 80% unemployment. We’re going to cut a deal with you so that we bring in developers to exploit this oil or coal or natural gas that you have. In exchange, you will get a higher percentage than tribes used to get.” Or alternatively, those companies buy enough individual parcels of land that they can force the sale because it’s private now. But now, because the land is private, they do not have to deal with demonstrations like in Standing Rock. They own the land outright.
As my brilliant sister Winona LaDuke says, “Predatory economics.”
If those Tribes enter into those agreements, those tribes have willingly entered into agreements that preclude any legal claim to stopping development.
These folks are going to come to us, to make deals with us, but make no mistake: they are not our friends. Of course I’m not comparing Trump to Hitler, but we can either wait—as Prime Minister Chamberlain unfortunately did with the Fuhrer—and find out later.
Or we can realize right now that they are coming for our land, our resources, and the effect on our sovereignty and our communities’ health are an afterthought. If we plan to keep fighting for those things, there will be no peace for our time.
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories