Tribal Stimulus? South Dakota Sioux Left In The Cold

(Central Connecticut State University)

“They're out there melting snow and keeping a look out for any water they can use.”

“Schools have been out of session for a week and will likely be unable to open their doors for at least another week.”

“These events are showing just how painfully inadequate our emergency response capabilities are.”

In the midst of one of the worst winter storms in memory, the members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are struggling for survival. Located roughly 200 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Reservation is home to 10,000 residents who have been without electricity and potable water for days. Worse still, the storms have critically damaged what little energy infrastructure the Tribe did have, making restoration of power and heat even more difficult. Freezing rain and wind have snapped off wooden power poles carrying the transmission wires. “Because of one ice storm, we had over 3,000 downed electrical lines and mass power outages," said Tracey Fischer, chief executive and president of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a national nonprofit working on economic development in Native communities.

The problems from a lack of power in winter are compounded by the lack of running water. Although much has been said regarding the federal stimulus package and its components designed to assist Tribes with needed infrastructure, the Cheyenne River Tribe has for years asked Congress for funds to restore its ancient water system, which is decades overdue for an upgrade. The total cost would be about $65 million, but so far no allocation of federal funds has been made for the project.
 

Tribes Turn To Federal Court In Pacific Fishing Rights Dispute

In a case with implications for more than twenty Tribes in the Pacific Northwest, the issue of Native American fishing rights and boundaries in the Pacific Ocean has been brought before the federal District Court for the Western District of Washington.

In an earlier proceeding, the Court determined that the Makah, Quileute, and Quinault nations had usual and accustomed fishing grounds in the Pacific Ocean. It was determined that the Makah’s usual and accustomed fishing grounds “included the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca . . . extending out into the ocean to an area known as Swiftsure and then south along the Pacific coast to an area intermediate to Ozette village and the Quileute Reservation,” as well as certain rivers and lakes. The Court determined that Quileute usual and accustomed grounds included certain rivers, lakes and streams and “the adjacent tidewater and saltwater areas”, and that the Quinault utilized “ocean fisheries” in “the waters adjacent to its territory.” See 384 F. Supp. at 374 (FF 120).

However, the Court did not define the precise boundaries of the nations’ “usual and accustomed fishing grounds” in the Pacific Ocean, and the Court’s decision was limited to waters within the jurisdiction of the State of Washington and within three miles of shore. The question of precise ocean boundaries for the nations’ respective fishing rights remains unresolved. The Request for Determination filed by the Makah Tribe alleges:

On the basis of the information Makah assembled in response to the threat posed by Quileute’s and Quinault’s intent to participate in the Pacific whiting fishery in the manner described above, it appears that Quileute and Quinault have authorized and currently are conducting fisheries for salmon, halibut and black cod outside of their actual usual and accustomed fishing areas. Although Makah, Quileute and Quinault have been able to resolve disputes over these fisheries in the past, the Quileute and Quinault fisheries for these species compete directly with Makah fisheries for the same species.

It is interesting to note that the nations had previously worked out such issues through direct negotiation, but now have placed the power over their respective jurisdictions and economic rights in the hands of a federal judge.
 

Stimulus Funds For Native American Community Water Projects Announced

The United States government has identified the following Native American and Alaska Native communities to receive $90 million in federal stimulus funds for water and wastewater projects:

Alaska - $3,918,750 for the native Village of Buckland for a lift station, sewer and forcemain, serving 105 homes.

Arizona - $1.14 million to the San Carlos Apache Tribe for regional water system improvements, serving 1,055 homes.

California - $6,371,470 to the Tule River Tribe for a wastewater treatment plant, serving 268 homes.

Kansas - $55,000 to Kickapoo Tribe to rehabilitate tanks, serving 200 homes.

Michigan - $190,600 to the Bay Mills Indian Community for pumphouse upgrades, serving 153 homes

Montana - $1,033,610 to the Crow Tribe for the first phase of a sewer lagoon, serving 564 homes.

New Mexico - $991,700 to the Mescalero Apache Tribe for a windmill water main, serving 612 homes.

New York - $349,000 to the St. Regis Mohawk Indians for water treatment plant upgrades, serving 1,146 homes.

North Carolina - $442,700 to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to repair a leaking storage tank, serving 1,826 homes.

South Dakota - $1,010,300 to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe for backwash piping, serving 549 homes.

Utah - $139,000 to the Ute Indian Tribe to restore an old lagoon site, serving 70 homes.

Washington - $1,052,100 to Lummi Tribe for a water main, serving 1,053 homes.
 

Further program allocation details are available here.

Water Loan Legislation Enacted For White Mountain Apache Tribe

On October 10, 2008 the President signed unanimously-approved Congressional legislation authorizing a federal loan to the White Mountain Apache Tribe for the planning and engineering of a dam and reservoir, designed to provide clean drinking water to members of the Tribe. Senate Bill 3128, the White Mountain Apache Tribe Rural Water System Loan Authorization Act, was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in June and passed unanimously by the Senate on Sept. 25 and the House on Sept. 29, 2008.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe is located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona and has approximately 15,000 members. The majority of the reservation's residents currently receive drinking water from a small well field. Well water production has significantly decreased over the last few years, leading to drinking water shortages in the hot climate. In order to meet the needs of the Tribe's growing population, a new dam and reservoir known as the Miner Flat Project will be located on the reservation to provide a long-term solution to ensure an adequate drinking water supply.

The new legislation authorizes the Secretary of Interior to provide a $9.8 million federal loan to the White Mountain Apache Tribe for the Miner Flat Project, repayable over 25 years.

The text and history of the legislation may be found via govtrack.