By Jenna Dolecek
Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, United States is a First Nations Sioux sovereign territory. A reservation is a piece of land that the US government set aside for Native Americans to reside on. Historically, tribes were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands to reservations. However, with a reservation comes tribal sovereignty, meaning that tribes are allowed to govern themselves. Unfortunately, not only has the US stolen land previously negotiated in treaties, but the poorly managed tribal-federal system itself keeps Native Americans disenfranchised and with few avenues to protect and exercise their rights. The erosion of tribal sovereignty is a long standing issue in the United States.
Tribal Sovereignty and water rights are intertwined. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Army Corps of Engineers are building the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry Bakken shale oil obtained from fracking. The pipeline passes within a few miles of the reservation and will go under the Missouri River which provides drinking water for tens of millions of people. A Supreme Court decision found that establishing a reservation comes with implied water rights. The issue of whether the pipeline’s construction violates these water rights is currently being heard before the courts. Continue reading
By Colin Samson
A controversial hydroelectric dam project in sub-Arctic Canada relies on local Innu people giving up their own lands. Nalcor Energy, the firm building two dams to produce the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador, along Canada’s north-eastern coast, talks enthusiastically about “boundless energy”. And why not? Hydroelectric power is seen as a renewable and relatively benign way to meet the ever-growing energy needs of industrialised societies. Nalcor, owned by its provincial government, says that its project will “significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to taking 3.2m vehicles off the road each year”.
This sounds great. Yet beyond the impressive feats of engineering and the CAN$11 billion cost (£6.5 billion), what will it take to accomplish what is being imagined here?
Across the world, many areas sacrificed for hydroelectric generation belong to indigenous or land-based peoples who either have to be moved or live with drastic changes. The Three Gorges dam in China displaced 1.2m people and the Belo Monte dam in Brazil could displace up to 40,000. And back in the 1950s the Kariba dam project on the Zambesi river in Zambia precipitated an involuntary resettlement of some 57,000 people, including the Gwembe Tonga farmers and hunters, whose homes, gardens, burial and spiritual sites were flooded with virtually no consideration from the British colonial authorities.
Opposition to “progress” may lead to imprisonment and in the case of Honduras and Guatemala, even to the suspected murder of indigenous opposition leaders and protesters. Continue reading
By Sofia Manukyan. You can follow Sofia on Twitter: @SofiaManukyan