A few days before the Ontario Court of Appeals decision that favoured Whitefish Lake First Nation in Canada, there was another important court ruling South of the US/CAN border.
On October 29, Chief Judge Lisa Adams issued an order forcing the Native American Energy Group (N.A.E.G.) off the Pine Ridge reservation, declaring the company had been trespassing on Lakota Territory.
In a recent article, Ken Lesbock, the Director of the International Human Rights & Justice Project for Owe Aku, explains that earlier this year, the New York-based uranium mining company (calling itself the Native American Energy Group “for no apparent reason”) “descended on Pine Ridge and, through deceit and less than ethical maneuvering, started taking steps to expand uranium mining within reservation borders.”
“Owe Aku took immediate action, going door-to-door on the reservation educating the people about uranium mining, and eventually filing an action in tribal court. Unlike NAEG, Owe Aku was not represented by attorneys but, as is the case with all our work, was represented by our own members. In this case, our Executive Director Debra White Plume, often found herself examining witnesses and testifying. Given the Court’s ruling, an excellent job was done using tribal and treaty law, as well as some international standards. ”
The basic argument on part of Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way) and the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council was that “a third-party corporation could not come to the reservation for the purpose of uranium exploration without following established procedure and without providing adequate information thereby violating the principle of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ as set forth in the Declaration on Indigenous rights.”
Agreeing with this, Judge Adams also noted in her ruling that N.A.E.G. ignored “a tribal resolution that accepted the OST Environmental Technical Team’s recommendation that the Tribe not enter into any working relationship with N.A.E.G. Further, the order stated that OST Member, Eileen Janis, failed to inform N.A.E.G. about OST ordinances prohibiting exploration and mining for uranium.”
Both Owe Aku and Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council (Oglala Delegation) expressed some welcomed satisfaction with the outcome. “Judge Adams showed great respect for the Treaty Council during this hearing. However, we must update the language in our outdated Tribal Law and Order Code to combat new mining and exploration techniques. N.A.E.G. is gone, but they could try and return in another form and there are many other companies out there that will try to bribe their way onto our homeland,” stated Floyd Hand, Treaty Council delegate.
For several years now, Owe Aku has had a long term, action and education campaign in place to stop uranium mining in and around Lakota Territory. This effort is part of the much larger effort of Owe Aku, who is dedicated to preserving, restoring and reviving Traditional Lakota Values. “Owe Aku’s efforts are focused at the most basic grassroots level in order to create real change – both in our people’s lives and in the world around us. Throughout our work, our goal is to find positive solutions to economies and societies based solely on consumption and exploitation of people and resources. ”
To learn more about the efforts of Owe Aku, head over to bringbacktheway.com
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