As we celebrate the holiday season and the lengthening days after the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice, let us acknowledge the affirmation of Native American sovereignty in 2016, including the halting of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Washington State’s Lummi Nation’s defeat of a coal export terminal on treaty lands, the return and soon-to-be reburial of 9,000 year old Kennewick Man to Northwest Plateau tribes; and as this goes to press, President Obama’s designation of two national monuments with significantly important Native American cultural and spiritual sites—the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah, and the 300,000 acre Gold Butte National Monument in southwest Nevada.
The fact that indigenous peoples have to work hard to maintain the integrity of Native cultures and lands speaks to the precarious situation of that sovereignty. With the unknowns of the new federal administration come January 2017, our voices need to be loud and clear about protecting our birthright as the First Americans. The threats are many: Inaction on climate change policy leading to the seasonal flooding of coastal Arctic villages, as well as a way of life dependent upon ebb and flow of sea-ice; a possible reversal of the stop-work order on the Dakota Access Pipeline; extraction of resources from traditionally sacred lands currently under the control of the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service; cutbacks on federal safety-net programs that protect the most economically- and socially-marginalized populations.
Here at IWRI, we are working to maintain and increase federal monies to fund research and intervention programs that benefit the health and welfare of our tribal partners and communities. For 2017 and beyond, let us resolve to work together and engage our communities and political representatives to give voice to policies that will improve our community infrastructure, protect our natural resources and environments, empower our collective health and well-being, and honor long-standing treaties and trust responsibilities.
We hope and expect that our collaborative efforts in 2017 will bring us closer in realizing our shared vision. Happy New Year!