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Dakota Access Pipeline to stay open pending next step in legal battle

WASHINGTON (CN) — Courthouse News Service is reporting  the D.C. Circuit Tuesday evening granted the Trump administration's request to hold off shutting down the Dakota Access pipeline.

Last week U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ordered the pipeline be shut down by Aug. 5. He ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to assess the environmental impact of the pipeline before permitting Dakota Access to break ground. 

The federal appeals court's decision stays that decision. The Justice Department appealed for a temporary block of the order arguing it would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. oil and gas industry.

The stay passed down Tuesday allows the controversial pipeline to remain operational while the three-judge circuit court panel reviews arguments in the case.

The unsigned order made clear the judges had reached no conclusions as to the merits of the government’s emergency motion for a stay.

Sovereignty ruling a long-sought goal for the Native American Rights Fund

In the Indian Country Today newscast Tuesday, Editor Mark Trahant talked with Native American Rights Fund co-founder John Echohawk, Pawnee. Nearly fifty years ago the Fund was established to defend treaty rights, sovereignty and human rights.

Echohawk said affirmations of tribal sovereignty, such as was achieved in the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the McGirt case in Oklahoma, have long been a goal of the Fund.

He said tribes won cases in the 1980s but that changed going into the 2000s with some decisions NARF calls "devastating" to tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction. 

For example, in the 2013 case Shelby county vs US, Echohawk said, the Supreme Court basically “gutted the Federal Voting Rights Act, the key provision in that act, which required a pre-clearance of changes in state voting laws by the justice department before they went into effect,” Echohawk said.

"The states could pass any kind of changes in voting rights laws that they wanted, and guess what, they started doing it," Echohawk said. "And they [those changes] impacted our people and other minority people as well.” Getting those laws declared unconstitutional requires “long drawn out legal proceedings,” he said. 

In 2001, tribal leaders saw the series of adverse rulings as a crisis, and met in Washington, DC. They put together a tribal supreme court project to develop new litigation strategies, coordinate tribal legal resources, and improve the win-loss record of Indian tribes.

They also researched nominees to the Court, including Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee. And, “it was a good record. We reported that to the tribal leaders. They supported him,” Echohawk said.

"[Gorsuch] knows his federal Indian law very well. He was a judge on the 10th circuit court of appeals in Denver for a number of years. And of course there's many tribes in that 10th circuit area. So he had a lot of experience dealing with those federal Indian law issues. Plus being a westerner, he knows tribes and he knows the Native people. It's very helpful."

Justice Gorsuch's real focus is "on separation of powers," Echohawk said. "Congress, you know, basically approves the treaties and they're the only ones who can change it and not the judges. And so he really looks at the language of the treaties and whether Congress has changed anything. And it doesn't matter what the judges think. If Congress didn't act to change the treaties, then the treaties are still in full force and effect."

NARF is now working again on voting rights, exploring the obstacles to Indian voting. “We worked with Senator Udall and others there in the Congress to put together a Native American Voting Rights Act that addresses all of those issues that causes us problems in terms of trying to vote. And that's pending in the Congress right now."

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Watch the entire interview at: treaties are still in full force 

Tribal leader welcomes name change for Washington, DC, NFL team

The Oneida Native American Nation is welcoming the decision of the NFL Washington team to change its name. The team announced Monday that they have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice.

The team buckled under financial pressure from sponsors including FedEx, the shipping giant and naming rights holder to the teams's stadium, as well as other groups.

The Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill said, "I think just the social movement with Black Lives Matter and really pressing on racial issues, really put a spotlight on businesses and other entities that have long supported race-based mascots."

Hill said financial pressure made a big difference.

"A lot of times that is a catalyst. And for a long time our Trust and Enrollment Director, who was very involved in social responsible investing and has since passed on, Susan White, this was once of her major battles in working with Fedex to introduce resolutions to change the name on the stadium and things like that."

Stewart Indian School cultural center to reopen

The Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum in Carson City, Nevada will reopen on July 20 thanks to a $50,000 donation, according to a new release.

The center opened in January only to close in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation came as the center was facing severe budget cuts.

Families of Albert Hawley and Martha Berger donated the money. Hawley had worked for the school for 16 years, according to the release.

The center highlights the history of the federally run boarding school that was open from 1890 to 1980.

Native journalism roundtable on COVID-19

The Native American Journalists Association will host a virtual roundtable with Native journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic.

The July 23 roundtable, part of a series, will focus on the Navajo Nation and will feature journalists covering the outbreak on Navajo, one of the highest per-capita infection rates in the country.

Indian Country Today Washington Editor Jourdan Bennette-Begaye is one of four journalists scheduled to be part of the roundtable.

The roundtable is set for 4 p.m. ET via Zoom. To register and for more information, visit NAJA’s website.

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