Owe Aku and Black Hills Sioux nation treaty council defeat uranium corporation

From: Kent Lebsock

Sent: Thursday, November 08, 2007 3:58 PM
Subject: Lakota Land Victory


(From Owe Aku International Human Rights and Justice Program, New York City)

As explained in the following article, Owe Aku, a grass roots Lakota organization, just utilized the principle of free, prior and informed consent as set forth in the recently passed United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Plaintiffs, including Owe Aku and the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, argued 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. Does this mean that the Declaration may now be used as defacto precedence in Oglala Lakota tribal court?

Two weeks ago, members of Owe Aku’s leadership team were in New York presenting a documentary film called Standing Silent Nation on their struggle to develop industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota reservation. The New York trip was right in the middle of the uranium court case. Nonetheless they took the time to bring their efforts on a different issue to the people of New York . Production of industrial hemp would have been a solution to the overwhelming poverty and environmental degradation created by most industries in the region. So of course, the federal government put a stop to that. The Monday after the New York trip, Owe Aku was back on Lakota treaty territory taking on a mining company and, on Tuesday, WINNING.

Owe Aku has had a long term, multi-phases action and education campaign in place to stop uranium mining in and around Lakota treaty territory for the past several years. This has included extensive research on the process of uranium mining, the environmental and health effects, the direct effects on Pine Ridge and the possibility for oppositional coalitions. Earlier this year though a uranium mining company calling itself (for no apparent reason) Native American Energy Group (“NAEG”) 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 mission of Owe Aku is to preserve, restore and revive 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.


Pine Ridge , SD … On October 29, OST Chief Judge Lisa Adams issued an exclusion order to remove the Native American Energy Group (N.A.E.G.) from the Pine Ridge reservation, declaring that the company has been trespassing on tribal lands. The finding gave NAEG 30 days to vacate the reservation.

The Judge also noted 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.

Plaintiffs in the case, Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council (Oglala Delegation) and Owe Aku, were pleased with the exclusion order. “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.

N.A.E.G., a New York-based oil/gas/mining company, approached OST tribal officials in early 2007 with a written proposal to embark on a multi-phase plan to mine uranium on the reservation. Once this proposal was disclosed to the public, tribal members expressed outrage that a mining company had been on the reservation for so many months without following protocol. The Treaty Council, along with Owe Aku, a non-profit environmental activism group, took action and filed a motion in early September, to exclude the company from Pine Ridge.

“The Pine Ridge Reservation and 1868 Ft Laramie Treaty Territory has been declared a nuclear free zone by both the Tribal Government and the Treaty Council. The court action brought by Owe Aku and the Treaty Council to stop this company from desecrating our sacred Mother Earth has been decided in our favor. It has been a challenging experience to fight an energy company, but worth the effort to protect our Treaty Territory . Companies who come to our land need to come with full disclosure of their intentions to do business with our people, our leaders need to enforce such a policy so we are not faced with a similar situation in the future,” said Debra White Plume of Owe Aku.

Kent Lebsock , Director of Program

Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way

International Human Rights & Justice Project

Pine Ridge and New York




Informant: Teresa Binstock


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