Alaska Native Village Asks United Nations To Help Stop Open Pit Coal Mine In Tribal Territory

Open Pit Coal Mine (Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse)

Chickaloon Native Village, a federally-recognized Athabascan Indian Tribal government in Alaska, filed a communication to the United Nations Independent Expert on the human right to water and sanitation, seeking help in stopping a new open-pit coal mine in the Village’s traditional territory.

Chickaloon Village’s submission asserts that the new mine proposed by the Usibelli Corporation would contaminate local drinking water sources as well as rivers, streams and groundwater that support salmon, moose and other animals and plants vital for subsistence, religious and cultural practices. The US Federal Government and the State of Alaska have, to date, not responded to Chickaloon’s firmly-stated opposition to the mine.

The visit to the US by the Independent Expert, Mrs. Catarina de Albuquerque, a Portuguese human rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, includes stops in Washington DC, Boston Massachusetts and Northern California, where she will meet with the Winnemem Wintu and other Indigenous representatives. Her US visit will end on March 2, 2011.

Mrs. De Albuquerque will meet with the US State Department and relevant Federal agencies as well organizations, communities and experts to receive information regarding the human right to water and sanitation and the federal and state policies and practices that affect this right. She is expected to make recommendations to the US government at the conclusion of her visit.

Explaining the reasons behind Chickaloon’s filing, Traditional Chief Gary Harrison stated: "International standards like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognize our inherent sacred right to protect our water and keep it clean for the animals, fish and future generations of our Nation. Our right to water is the same as our right to life. We can’t sit back and allow our human right to water to be violated again".
 

Arctic Slope Native Association Launches Major Native Hospital Construction Project

Arctic Ocean Beach in Barrow, Alaska (Nels Akerlund)

In a landmark event that will provide a quantum leap forward in health care for Alaska Natives residing above the Arctic Circle, the Arctic Slope Native Association (ASNA) has issued an $82 million contract for construction of a modern hospital in Barrow, Alaska – the northernmost city in North America. ASNA’s project team worked for more than a decade in cooperation with the federal Indian Health Service to plan, design, and obtain funding for the facility, which will provide much-needed health services to Native communities located in Alaska’s northernmost region.

After signing the historic contract, ASNA President and CEO Marie Carroll stated:

“The ASNA Board of Directors from the Native communities in the Arctic region are happy to see progress on a long-awaited project, which will replace a 2x4 constructed, 45-year old hospital opened in 1964. Everyone in our region is looking forward to having a modern hospital to go to where there are no other options for primary care or hospital services -- the next closest hospital is nearly 300 miles away in Fairbanks, Alaska.”

In addition to the ultimate goal of improved health care for the local Native communities, the project will provide a significant economic stimulus to the region during the two-year construction period. Another noteworthy aspect of the project: the prime contractor that will build the hospital is a joint venture between UIC Construction LLC and SKW/Eskimos, Inc. – both of which are Native-owned businesses. Foster Pepper attorney Greg Guedel, who served as ASNA’s legal advisor during the contract negotiations, noted: “This project is an inspiring example of Native government, Native-owned businesses, and the federal government working together to improve the quality of life for Alaska Natives. The benefits of this work will accrue to the Native communities in the region for generations.”