Northern Cheyenne to vote on resource extraction

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LAME DEER, Mont. ñ Voters on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation will decide on Nov. 7 whether to allow coal bed methane extraction and coal extraction within the reservation exterior boundaries.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council approved a letter of intent between the tribe and the Great Bear Corp. of Oklahoma to proceed with exploration and extract coal bed methane while providing the reservation with economic incentives.

The letter stated the two parties agreed that the GBC, in addition to the plan to develop the coal fields, would introduce a construction-based education program for the Northern Cheyenne.

In addition, the tribe would be required to become a super 8(a) entity. As a further incentive, the company agreed to build a retail store, a laundry facility and a water bottling plant, according to the letter.

The letter was approved on Chairman Eugene Little Coyoteís tie-breaking vote; the next day, however, Little Coyote rescinded the letter of intent because, as he stated in his letter of disapproval, the districts did not have enough input or information.

Two resolutions to put the matter to a vote of the people were approved in August of this year and the letter of intent approved on Oct. 1.

Both sides of the issue have brought in outsiders to provide information at various public gatherings.

Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Reservation, held a press conference and met with people on the reservation.

ìI feel like a community should not have to trade an ecosystem for an economy,î she said. ìFor years they fought coal development off. There is a much better plan than using fossil fuels and destroying land and water.î

A local organization, the Association for the Advancement of Indigenous Resources, headed by Northern Cheyenne member Terry Bear Tusk, brought in hydrologists from Montana to present what he called non-biased information.

Bear Tusk said representatives from the Southern Ute Growth Fund and Red Willow Gathering Co. will come to the reservation to talk about how the Ute Tribe of Colorado developed gas reserves without any damage to the air, water or cultural base.

LaDuke promotes biofuels and wind energy as an alternative to the potential destruction of the land to develop fossil fuel energy.

ìWe are addicted to energy, and Halliburton is driving the decision-making in these states. Water is a human right and a private corporation does not have the right to destroy the water of a people,î LaDuke said.

Halliburton Corp. is a major player in the oil, gas and coal industry of Wyoming.

To extract coal bed methane from the crevices in the coal beds, water must be removed from the coal and the gas extracted from it. The water has a high saline content and, in some soils, has the potential to destroy vegetation. The water that would be extracted from the coal beds on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation would be dumped into the Tongue River, which is the eastern boundary of the reservation.

The Tongue is a tributary of the Yellowstone River, which flows into the Missouri River. Many other smaller rivers and streams would also be subjected to a higher saline level.

Some vegetation for cattle ñ

a large industry in Montana ñ

would be affected by the salinity, but other vegetation has some tolerance. Salt will not leach into the ground easily if the ground is composed mostly of clay.

ìOn a worldwide scale, water is scarce and a lot of people are dying for lack of water: and the companies are saying allow them to destroy it,î LaDuke said.

The northern portions of the Powder River Coal Basin, which is mostly located in Wyoming, are located under the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. There are more than 2,000 coal bed methane wells in Wyoming, mostly in the Powder River area; one of the largest surface mining of coal lies just west of the reservation in Gillette, Wyo.

It is estimated that 1.85 billion gallons of water are pumped to the surface daily to extract coal bed methane in Wyoming.

Anti-coal development sentiment has reached the young people of the reservation, and they have expressed themselves on the sides of building with graffiti. Anti-coal development graffiti can be seen on buildings throughout the communities, and even on a funeral home.

Cultural preservation is paramount to any consideration of coal development, according to Phillip Whiteman Jr.

ìIím upset because our ancestors fought and fought and died so we could be able to have a homeland,î he said.

ìThere are human issues and changes to the Mother Earth; people have to be concerned with all the changes of Mother Earth. I would like to send a message to the people; be careful, the land that we leave for our children and grandchildren will be affected. We donít want to leave them with black water and grey skies and grey land,î Whiteman said.

He suggested that some people are convinced that this development will mean new jobs, new stores and economic development.

The Northern Cheyenne have experienced this situation before. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Northern Cheyenne brought in ARCO to dig exploratory wells. Land was leased for cents on the dollar and each tribal member received $1,000. The company left and the exploratory work was not reclaimed, according to Whiteman.

ìThese farmers and ranchers went into this and thought they would make some money. They donít have wells, they have tumors,î he said.

A ceremony, the Arrow Worship ceremony, was conducted when ARCO came to the reservation to stop coal development. It asked for prayers for the people to reconnect, Whiteman said.

ìThat ceremony is still there; if we go against it we go against ourselves,î he said.

Advocates for the development argue that full reclamation would leave the land in as good or better shape than before. The economic potential is also a major talking point, since the reservation has a very high rate of unemployment.

Bear Tusk said his purpose is to provide a middle of the road approach to the information. He is a supporter of the development, but also said the tribe should proceed carefully.

AAIR supports total tribal control over the operation that would leave the tribe as the owner and manager of the development and not contract with an outside company.

LAME DEER, Mont. ñ Voters on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation will decide on Nov. 7 whether to allow coal bed methane extraction and coal extraction within the reservation exterior boundaries.The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council approved a letter of intent between the tribe and the Great Bear Corp. of Oklahoma to proceed with exploration and extract coal bed methane while providing the reservation with economic incentives.The letter stated the two parties agreed that the GBC, in addition to the plan to develop the coal fields, would introduce a construction-based education program for the Northern Cheyenne.In addition, the tribe would be required to become a super 8(a) entity. As a further incentive, the company agreed to build a retail store, a laundry facility and a water bottling plant, according to the letter.The letter was approved on Chairman Eugene Little Coyoteís tie-breaking vote; the next day, however, Little Coyote rescinded the letter of intent because, as he stated in his letter of disapproval, the districts did not have enough input or information.Two resolutions to put the matter to a vote of the people were approved in August of this year and the letter of intent approved on Oct. 1.Both sides of the issue have brought in outsiders to provide information at various public gatherings.Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Reservation, held a press conference and met with people on the reservation.ìI feel like a community should not have to trade an ecosystem for an economy,î she said. ìFor years they fought coal development off. There is a much better plan than using fossil fuels and destroying land and water.îA local organization, the Association for the Advancement of Indigenous Resources, headed by Northern Cheyenne member Terry Bear Tusk, brought in hydrologists from Montana to present what he called non-biased information.Bear Tusk said representatives from the Southern Ute Growth Fund and Red Willow Gathering Co. will come to the reservation to talk about how the Ute Tribe of Colorado developed gas reserves without any damage to the air, water or cultural base.LaDuke promotes biofuels and wind energy as an alternative to the potential destruction of the land to develop fossil fuel energy.ìWe are addicted to energy, and Halliburton is driving the decision-making in these states. Water is a human right and a private corporation does not have the right to destroy the water of a people,î LaDuke said.Halliburton Corp. is a major player in the oil, gas and coal industry of Wyoming.To extract coal bed methane from the crevices in the coal beds, water must be removed from the coal and the gas extracted from it. The water has a high saline content and, in some soils, has the potential to destroy vegetation. The water that would be extracted from the coal beds on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation would be dumped into the Tongue River, which is the eastern boundary of the reservation. The Tongue is a tributary of the Yellowstone River, which flows into the Missouri River. Many other smaller rivers and streams would also be subjected to a higher saline level. Some vegetation for cattle ñ a large industry in Montana ñ would be affected by the salinity, but other vegetation has some tolerance. Salt will not leach into the ground easily if the ground is composed mostly of clay.ìOn a worldwide scale, water is scarce and a lot of people are dying for lack of water: and the companies are saying allow them to destroy it,î LaDuke said.The northern portions of the Powder River Coal Basin, which is mostly located in Wyoming, are located under the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. There are more than 2,000 coal bed methane wells in Wyoming, mostly in the Powder River area; one of the largest surface mining of coal lies just west of the reservation in Gillette, Wyo.It is estimated that 1.85 billion gallons of water are pumped to the surface daily to extract coal bed methane in Wyoming. Anti-coal development sentiment has reached the young people of the reservation, and they have expressed themselves on the sides of building with graffiti. Anti-coal development graffiti can be seen on buildings throughout the communities, and even on a funeral home.Cultural preservation is paramount to any consideration of coal development, according to Phillip Whiteman Jr.ìIím upset because our ancestors fought and fought and died so we could be able to have a homeland,î he said.ìThere are human issues and changes to the Mother Earth; people have to be concerned with all the changes of Mother Earth. I would like to send a message to the people; be careful, the land that we leave for our children and grandchildren will be affected. We donít want to leave them with black water and grey skies and grey land,î Whiteman said.He suggested that some people are convinced that this development will mean new jobs, new stores and economic development.The Northern Cheyenne have experienced this situation before. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Northern Cheyenne brought in ARCO to dig exploratory wells. Land was leased for cents on the dollar and each tribal member received $1,000. The company left and the exploratory work was not reclaimed, according to Whiteman.ìThese farmers and ranchers went into this and thought they would make some money. They donít have wells, they have tumors,î he said.A ceremony, the Arrow Worship ceremony, was conducted when ARCO came to the reservation to stop coal development. It asked for prayers for the people to reconnect, Whiteman said.ìThat ceremony is still there; if we go against it we go against ourselves,î he said.Advocates for the development argue that full reclamation would leave the land in as good or better shape than before. The economic potential is also a major talking point, since the reservation has a very high rate of unemployment.Bear Tusk said his purpose is to provide a middle of the road approach to the information. He is a supporter of the development, but also said the tribe should proceed carefully.AAIR supports total tribal control over the operation that would leave the tribe as the owner and manager of the development and not contract with an outside company.