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News from the Great Plains

Uranium mining opposed in South Dakota

HOT SPRINGS, S.D. - Two groups have joined forces to oppose a request for uranium mining in the southern Black Hills.

The Defenders of the Black Hills and Action for the Environment filed objections to the possible issuance of a mining permit request to the state Department of Energy and Natural Resources.

The Canadian company PowerTech Inc. plans to use the in situ leach method of mining, and the DENR has drafted regulations that govern that type of mining.

The company has asked to drill 155 exploratory uranium holes. The in situ leach mining process requires that deep wells be dug and an acid dropped in to liquefy the uranium. It is then extracted from other materials and solidified, and the radioactive material is returned underground.

The area to be mined is within the Black Hills, held sacred by the Lakota and other northern Plains tribes. Past uranium testing and extraction has resulted in polluted water systems and accusations of a higher incidence of cancer and birth defects.

The planned area is also located over the Oglala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the country.

A present operating in situ leach mine south of the Black Hills near Crawford, Neb., has recorded spills from the holding ponds that have polluted the surface.

Elder programs cut at Three Affiliated Tribes

NEW TOWN, N.D. - An $80 million deficit for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation will affect the tribe's elder and other programs.

No programs will be funded with JTAC funds, according to the tribal treasurer. JTAC funds were awarded to the MHA Nation in compensation for land lost years ago in the flooding of the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River. Interest on the $149 million fund can be used for health, education and economic development; but the tribe borrowed against the interest, and the fund is no longer liquid.

Those most affected and angry are the elders. The elder program operates on a budget of some $600,000 per year but will not receive any funding.

The tribal business council came up with $30,000 for the elder program.

Mascot issue erupts again in Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois officials will talk to three students over Internet threats against an American Indian student. The student encountered messages on a student Web page that supported the university's mascot, Chief Illiniwek.

The graduate student, who was not identified other than to say she was of Lakota heritage, has decided not to return for the spring semester because of threats.

The Web page is a facebook.com site used for social networking. Some of the comments included: ''I say throw a tomahawk into her face,'' and ''I hate redskins and hope all those drunk casino-owning bums die.''

The long-running controversy over the mascot has created loud debate among

students and alumni, and even sparked physical violence.

Chancellor Richard Herman said in an e-mail to the students that he would not stand for such hate speech.

The university plans to take disciplinary action against the students, which could mean probation or expulsion.

Santee Sioux Tribe moves ahead with grant money

SANTEE, Neb. - The small and isolated Santee Sioux Tribe has struggled for years with economic development, health, education and social issues, all without the benefit of additional income from any reliable source.

The federal government froze the tribe's bank accounts and tried to close a small casino operation. Persistence prevailed; and while a casino is open with a cafe and convenience store, jobs remain scare and other programs are limited by inadequate funding.

Help came to the tribe in the form of grants that totaled $1 million. The Santee's sister tribe, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota, awarded the funding to the Santee for community programs and economic development.

The tribe will be able to purchase land with a $200,000 grant, $90,000 will be used for business improvement and the medical clinic will be expanded with a $250,000 grant.

Youth on the isolated reservation have little opportunity for recreation; a $100,000 grant will help address that situation. A $200,000 grant will help build a new community swimming pool. The buffalo interpretive center will receive $75,000, the elder program $35,000 and $50,000 will be used for emergency energy assistance.

''These support systems will only pay huge benefits to the tribe as our kids grow and mature in a place where drugs and alcohol are not tolerated,'' said Santee Chairman Roger Trudell.

Gaming in Minnesota is proved beneficial to rural communities

ST. PAUL, Minn. - People living in the rural parts of Minnesota, where the tribal casinos are located, benefit the most from gaming - in the area of hundreds of millions of dollars, one survey has found.

At recent University of Minnesota study collected data that show the direct economic benefit in rural Minnesota was in the $285 million range.

Payroll includes $211 million with $65 million in employment taxes, another $48 million in health care benefits, $10 million in retirement benefits and $4 million in other benefits, such as child care, education and tuition payments.

The more than 9,000 casino employees, according to the study, are more likely than other hospitality workers to have health care, retirement benefits, paid time off and disability insurance.

The casinos outside the Twin Cities metro area are also the largest employers in the regions. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, with its two casinos, employs 17 percent of the work force. Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe employs 13 percent and the Lower Sioux Community, near Morton, pays out 12 percent of all wages in that area.

Statewide, the economic benefits from all casinos in Minnesota add up to $429 million; and from the 12,900 total number of jobs, a $335 million payroll bolsters the region.

This study confirms what the tribes have been touting for many years: that the economic impact of gaming on the region is substantial, according to Kevin Leecy, chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.