Council FIRE Support Letter to Standing Rock Sioux

To:         David Archambault II
Chair, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council

Dear Sir and Brother,

The leadership of the Council for First Inhabitants Rights and Equality (Council FIRE) stand in unanimous support of the Standing Rock Sioux, their right to speak for themselves and to demand that treaties signed between the sovereign nations of the United States of America and the Sioux be honored and enforced. As Brothers and Sisters in the battle, we cannot sit idle. When one nation is in need, all nations must rise to defend what is most vital to future generations. People, native and non-native alike, are called to lift their prayers and fight to protect the water, the future will judge each of us on how we acted in this attack on sovereignty and Mother Earth.

Council FIRE calls for the cessation of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline that encroaches on land and water that has long been granted to the Standing Rock Sioux through multiple treaties. We demand an end to the illegal trespassing, desecration of sacred sites, hostile attacks, violations of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties, the 1899 Fort Belknap treaty, as well as the 1908 Winters Doctrine of the United States Supreme Court. These treaties are no less valid that those the US Government has signed with Japan or Germany, or any other Supreme Court decision – it is long past time that this nation honor its’ word.

It hurts our heart to know that the Army Corps of Engineers vetoed the pipelines original path, because it was too dangerous to the water supply near the population of Bismarck – Council FIRE agrees with the Army Corps, that the pipeline is too dangerous. However, we are concerned that the Corps doesn’t have the same level of concern over the danger being inflicted upon Native people, and the seventeen Million others who live downstream and depend on the Missouri River for their fresh water.

The Corps negotiated the pipeline details with Texas-based Energy Transfers in violation of treaty law, but this is nothing new to the Army Corps. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Corps, working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, constructed over 100 dams on Native treaty territory. These dams flooded 611,642 acres, mostly Native land that forced the removal of 600 Native families. At Standing Rock, the Corps continues to violate Native water rights which prohibits altering the flow of rivers or the selling of water rights within original Native treaty territory even if that territory has been diminished.

The central location in this defense of tribal lands and waters – Lake Oahe – did not even exist until the 1960s, when the federal government created the Oahe dam without the consent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. The dam flooded over 200,000 acres of the tribes’ lands, forcing people from their homes, submerging towns, and destroying critical natural resources, burial sites, and sacred places.

Bakken oil and gas production, has already devastated many Native and non-Native communities, leaving the land and water dead. Meanwhile, people and the planet suffer, and the temporary influx of jobs decline while the land becomes more unlivable. As the history of greed has proven, the public and vulnerable Native communities pay for the cleanup and contamination when — not if — the pipeline breaks. The stakes are too high, it is not a question of when our next generations will suffer, it is a question of when and how bad will it be.

There are 2.5 million miles of pipeline crisscrossing the U.S., managed by hundreds of different operators. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the federal agency responsible for enforcing regulations related to pipelines, reports that over the past thirty years there have been nearly 8,000 pipeline incidents. These disasters have resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and Billions of dollars in damages. They further report that spills over that time have averaged 76,000 barrels per year (200 barrels every day), with an annual average of 31,500 barrels remaining on the ground and in the water after cleanup.

Even with new pipeline construction technology, this could happen anywhere across the 1,172 miles of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

As Native people, protecting our ancestral lands and territories, waters and other resources is central to who we are. We are as deserving as any people of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We call on all people to demand an end to the theft and desecration of ancestral lands, it can no longer be accepted that our rights as humans are denied because of our skin and heritage.

Council FIRE is a non-profit / public charity, and sits as the recognized voice for native issues within the AFL-CIO. We are proud to stand alongside many Labor Unions and Constituency groups who demand recognition of treaty rights and sovereignty.

We stand with the Standing Rock Sioux in this fight to protect their children, their tribal sovereignty, natural resources, cultural heritage and sacred places. We pray for a peaceful solution that ends the centuries of disregard for Native treaties and denial of basic respect we are due.

With Respect,

Kevin Cummings
Council for First Inhabitants Rights and Equality
Founder and President

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Native American Heritage Month

November has been designated as Native American Heritage Month, signed into law by George H.W. Bush in 1990.  Council FIRE encourages each of you to pause and reflect on the many contributions on those who were here first.

The list of Native accomplishments and gifts are too numerous to mention them all. Whether you offer respect for the Code Talkers for their heroism in the World Wars; for the kindness of those who met the earliest explorers with trust, acceptance and help; for the continuing gifts of traditional medicines, foods and development of cotton and rubber; or the earliest development of Sign Language, there is no shortage of examples where Native culture, practices and history have benefitted all of us. The American colonists modeled their government after the hierarchy of tribes such as the League of Iroquois, and our current US government is based on the same principles.

It is a wondrous culture that continues to deliver gifts. From their respect of the environment and all the creators gifts, to respect for women and elders, and their history of service as warriors who stand to protect the entire nation at a rate higher than any other demographic.

Take some time to learn about Native Heritage month, and the many reasons that First Nations are deserving of respect and more.

Council FIRE is proud to be working with the AFLCIO to see that issues of those who were here first are included in the path for progress that Labor has always championed.

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AFL-CIO Constituency Groups Stand with Native Americans to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Council FIRE is pleased to report that all AFL-CIO Constituency groups have taken a stand to support Native Rights and to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Council FIRE has been working with these constituency groups to bring Native issues into mainstream discussions – alongside all other constituencies. We are pleased to join these groups, and the AFLCIO Human Rights Committee, to make sure that all people have access to equality and fairness.

For Immediate Release:         September 19, 2016
Press Contact: Marian Manapsal;    202-508-3733

Washington, DC – Together, the Labor Coalition for Community Action, which includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work, rises in solidarity with Native Americans and our allies in protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and defending Native lands from exploitation by corporations and the U.S. government. We advocate for a progressive labor movement rooted in dignity and respect of all peoples, including Native Americans and their families.

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Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Endorse Council FIRE

From Council FIRE Founder and President, Kevin Cummings

I bid a good day to each of you, and hope this note finds you well.

It is with a very happy heart that I let you know that I received a call from CBTU today.  The call came during their national convention, and the delegates voted unanimously to endorse Council –FIRE and included a passage in the proclamation that urges the AFLCIO to do the same!  This is a huge sign that we are on the good road to helping the first people on these lands.  The national convention is being attended by nearly one-thousand delegates from seventy-seven international Labor unions across the US and Canada.  Continue reading

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Report Confirms: Serious Racial Inequities in Health and Health Care Continue

By Tanya H. Lee on 5/6/16 as posted in Indian Country Media Today

In 1985, a government report for the first time documented disparities in health and mortality between black and other minority groups in the U.S. and whites. Thirty years later, we remain a nation of serious inequities when it comes to health and health care, according to a new report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics has published a 461-page analysis, “Health, United States, 2015: With Special Feature on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities,” detailing the progress we have (and have not) made in addressing health discrimination.

About 42 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population gets its healthcare through the Indian Health Service. The National Congress of American Indians in its analysis of the FY2017 budget request for the IHS pointed out that the agency’s per capita spending is only $3,107, compared to $8,097 per person for health care spending nationally in 2014.

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