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Betraying Indian Country: How Grizzly Delisting Exposes Trump and Zinke’s Assault on Tribal Sovereignty and Treaty Rights

At the NCAI’s Mid-Year Conference this past week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pledged, “Sovereignty has to mean something” and claimed that on his watch the Department of Interior would not only “meet our treaty obligations but exceed our treaty obligations.” Zinke made the same statement on sovereignty in his testimony to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in March.

However, Native News Online has learned that on June 26 Secretary Zinke is expected to announce the delisting of the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), an action Congressman Raul Grijalva warns will cause “irreparable harm to Tribal sovereignty, sacred site protections, treaty rights, consultation mandates, and spiritual and religious freedoms should the delisting process continue as it is presently constituted.”

Zinke has apparently chosen the Western Governors Association (WGA) Annual Meeting (June 26-28) in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, to declare the grizzly delisting rule. Previous WGA Chairman, Wyoming’s Matt Mead, has been one of the most outspoken cheerleaders for delisting the bear held sacred by tribes, and removing restrictions on corporate land usage that exist due to the grizzly’s ESA status. A source at Interior said Zinke has yet to respond to Congressman Grijalva, or Senators Tom Udall, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, who in a recent letter echoed many of Grijalva’s concerns.

The senators impressed upon Zinke that “the federal government has a trust and treaty responsibility to engage in meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribes” and emphasized, “grizzly bears are profoundly important to North American tribes, so any federal action to delist grizzly bears must take into consideration tribal input on any impacts to tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and spiritual and religious freedoms.”

The Trump administration previously instructed federal agencies not to respond to letters from Democratic members for fear that responses may be “weaponized” against President Trump. It is unclear if Zinke has replied to Congressmen Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin, both Republicans from Oklahoma, who have urged Zinke “to honor the mandatory pre-decision and meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribes” over grizzly delisting.

The states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are ready to open trophy hunts on the Yellowstone grizzly. “To us, this will be like trophy hunting our grandparents,” says Chief Stan Grier of the Piikani Nation, who initiated the “Grizzly Treaty” signed by some 126 tribes opposing grizzly delisting. “With this news of the delisting announcement, I reiterate what I told the UN,” continues Grier, “that the plague of corporate greed the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has forced upon Standing Rock will be carried to our ancestral lands in Yellowstone, and then to the Crown of the Continent, through delisting.” One of Zinke’s major contributors, Oasis Petroleum, profits from the Bakken fracking fields, the oil from which now flows through DAPL. Zinke has long-advocated for the Trump-approved Keystone-XL Pipeline that Trump-family friend and key Putin-financier, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, is poised to cash in on.

Months before what President Trump calls his “Russia cloud” the Oglala Sioux Tribe called for a Congressional inquiry into a list of irregularities and apparent conflicts of interest in the delisting process, including the role of Amec Foster Wheeler and alleged ties between a USFWS delisting point-man and Anadarko Petroleum and Gas. Anadarko boasts to be, “one of the largest landowners and leaseholders” in Wyoming, where the bulk of Yellowstone and its grizzlies can be found. Anadarko is a major campaign finance contributor to Wyoming Governor, Matt Mead, and Wyoming’s Senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, all champions of delisting. Presently, Anadarko operates over 7,000 wells in Wyoming.

“I would ask those in Indian Country who keep embracing Zinke if they have forgotten the phrase ‘divide and conquer’? Zinke does Trump’s bidding? The Great Sioux Nation has stood against the delisting of the sacred grizzly as it is absolutely an attack on our spiritual and religious freedoms, and our treaty rights. By stripping the grizzly of protections, Zinke is about to strip protections from our ancestral lands in the Elk (Yellowstone) River Country, lands identified in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty that our ancestors fought to defend from 1872 to 1876,” explains Chairman Brandon Sazue of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

“We need to realize that Indian Country isn’t a bubble, and that when we hear about Trump and Russia, and investigations into Kushner, Flynn and the rest of them, that we are not somehow immune from the consequences. This delisting issue is being driven by a corporate army, multinational energy companies, and their troops are these congressmen, senators and agency secretaries who are doing their dirty work. We’ve called for investigations into the influence of extractive multinationals on delisting, but we’re still waiting,” Sazue continues. Anadarko made one of the largest settlements in history with the DOJ in 2014, including $1 billion for uranium spills that polluted water on the Navajo Nation.

Under then CEO and now Secretary of State, Ken Tillerson, ExxonMobil sought to acquire Anadarko after the Obama Administration imposed sanctions on Russia that stalled ExxonMobil’s multi-billion-dollar deal with Russia’s state-run Rosneft energy company to drill in the Russian Arctic. In the first decade of this century, Anadarko signed a production sharing agreement with the Republic of Georgia “for extensive offshore exploration.” The much-coveted location between the Black Sea, Russia and the Caspian, was to realize an “energy transit corridor” to western markets. That proposed pipeline and control of the Caspian’s oil and gas is believed to have motivated President Putin’s military excursions into Georgia. On March 15 this year, Putin ordered Georgian rebels in South Ossetia to be absorbed into the Russian army.

Russia’s state-owned VTB Bank has bankrolled a massive “sanctions relief” lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, while holding the fate of Anadarko, Rosneft and Amec Foster Wheeler’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) investments in Mozambique, as VTB is Mozambique’s main creditor on a $535-million loan for energy infrastructure. Anadarko director, former Suncor Energy CEO Rick George, oversaw Suncor’s merger with Petro-Canada, after the fellow-Canadian energy giant had concluded a deal with Gazprom for a LNG plant on the Baltic Sea.

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller is a Putin loyalist, though Russia’s former deputy energy minister, Vladimir Milov, described Putin as “the acting CEO of Gazprom.” Rick George, known as “Mr. Oil Sands,” was instrumental in the development and expansion of Alberta’s Tar Sands, bitumen-crude from which the Keystone-XL Pipeline forged by Putin-confidant Abramovich’s EVRAZ company will transport, now that Tillerson’s State Department and President Trump have signed-off on the permit.

Central to the allegations in “Russiagate,” former MI6 Agent, Christopher Steele, claimed that part of Putin’s quid pro with the Trump campaign was the offer of a 19% brokerage in Rosneft. On December 7, a month after Trump’s election victory, President Putin announced, “the largest sale and acquisition in the global oil and gas sector in 2016,” after a 19.5% stake in Rosneft was acquired by an unnamed buyer. The Rosneft sale was attributed to impacts from the sanctions, as the deal Tillerson struck with Putin’s Rosneft will remain in limbo until the sanctions are lifted.

“The likes of Trump’s sons will come first for the pelt of our grandparent, the grizzly, and then Trump’s corporate army will invade these lands to stake their claims for extractive industry to drill for dollars and rubles,” says Sazue.

This article originally appeared on Native News Online.

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