Native Power Struggles

None of us seem to know where our energy fix will come from
after the oil wells run dry. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric power
are all options, and the government and energy industry have cast
an eye on Native American soil as ground to experiment with
alternative energy. But these lands are also flush with oil, coal,
and natural gas, causing some to wonder if space for turbines is
all they want.

According to a piece by Brenda Norrell in
Indian Country Today, the 2005 Energy
Policy Act encourages investment in renewable energy on
reservations through ‘incentives’ and looser federal
restrictions on tribe’s lands. And though supporters say
business investments will increase Native American sovereignty,
economic development, and the expansion of renewable energy
sources, critics point out that the energy bill also withdraws
important government protections on the land, which could enable
big business to exploit native territories.

In
LiP Magazine, Brian Awehali writes that
the US government and energy industry may not mind erecting a
few wind turbines on tribal territory if it means they also get
access to the other fuel sources locked up in those lands. As
Awehali notes, one section in Title V of the 2005 Energy Policy
Act gives the government ‘power to grant rights of way through
Indian lands without permission from Indian tribes, if deemed to
be in the strategic interests of an energy-related project.’ And
Clayton Thomas-Muller, organizer of the
Indigenous Environment Network’s Native Energy
Campaign
, claims that in addition to eliminating the
protections of the National Environmental Policy Act and the
National Historic Preservation Act, the new act promotes sending
nuclear waste to Indian lands and mining more uranium from them.
”As usual,’ a former tribal chairman tells Indian Country
Today
, ‘energy companies will kill our pig, skin it, take
the meat – mostly at government expense – and leave us with
bones and hooves.”

Go there >>
Federal Energy Bill, Economic Opportunity or
Bush’s Fire Sale?

Go there too >>
Native Energy Futures

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