Last month, the largest organization of Tribes in America condemned the federal government’s permitting process for the Pebble Mine, highlighting the government’s failure to uphold its trust responsibilities to Bristol Bay tribes.
The National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, passed a resolution at its annual convention in Albuquerque demanding the federal government uphold its consultation obligations with sovereign tribal nations regarding the proposed Pebble Mine, and ensure a rigorous, comprehensive and transparent environmental review is conducted as part of the federal permitting process. The resolution comes in the wake of national scrutiny of the Trump Administration’s rejection of science and failure to assess potential impacts of the proposed Pebble mine.
For the past two years, Bristol Bay’s Tribes have fought for their voices to be heard in the federal environmental review process. We have asked for basic levels of inclusion in this process, for example: adequate information to review project plans, materials in our languages, meetings in our communities, an analysis of the impacts to our people and way of life, and adequate time to review project plan. But our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The Army Corps (the lead federal agency reviewing Pebble’s Clean Water Act permit application) continues to trivialize and ignore the concerns of not only our people but all those who depend on the Bristol Bay fishery. The resounding unity in the condemnation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement from federal agencies, scientists from around the nation, fishermen, and local people is a clear indication of how the Army Corps is determined to rush its environmental review of Pebble.
The National Congress of American Indians represents a diverse array of Tribes with differing perspectives on many issues. But in passing this resolution, the Congress affirmed that we all stand together in calling for our rights to be upheld. For Bristol Bay tribes, Pebble is a devastating threat to the viability of our people yet we continue to be treated like second class citizens in the federal permitting process. We are so thankful for National Congress of American Indians’ statement of solidarity that this disregard for tribal peoples is not acceptable. We stand in unity with the nation’s tribes to demand the government respect and protect our way of life by upholding basic standards in the environmental review process.
The resolution opposes mineral development that would impact traditional fish and wildlife without the consent of the affected tribes. Bristol Bay has not and will never give Pebble consent to turn our home into a toxic mining district.
Now it’s time for the government to listen. America has a long and ugly history in its treatment of Indigenous peoples. Stopping the sham that is the Pebble permitting process is a good step to treat the tribal people of Bristol Bay with the respect we not only deserve but are legally entitled to.
Delores Larson is a subsistence provider, wife and mother of three from the Native Village of Koliganek, on the Nushagak River in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. She is the Community Engagement Director for United Tribes of Bristol Bay.