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EPA says it will scrutinize proposed Pebble Mine impacts to protect water quality in Alaska’s Bristol Bay

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Federal experts will use Clean Water Act standards to assess the potential impacts of a proposed open-pit mine in the Bristol Bay watershed.

Mining would threaten cherished and culturally critical natural resources

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The environmental impacts of a proposed mine along the Alaska coast will be scrutinized through the lens of the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency announced last week.

The proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay could become one of the world’s largest open pit mines if it’s approved, but conservation advocates have launched a fierce campaign to halt the mine. The EPA’s announcement to apply Clean Water Act standards came as welcome news to environmentalists. Continue reading

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Early Spanish fort discovered in North Carolina

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At its peak, Spanish colonization stretched the length and breadth of the Americas.

Short-lived settlement offers clues to early colonial history

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — More than a generation before the English established the Jamestown colony in what is now Virginia, early Spanish explorers were roaming the southeastern U.S. and establishing forts as far north as the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

University of Michigan archaeologists recently discovered the remains of the earliest European fort in the interior of the United States, providing new insight into the early colonial era. The site is located near Morganton in western North Carolina, nearly 300 miles from the Atlantic Coast. Continue reading

U.S. Forest Service report outlines plan for better protection of Native American sacred sites

Tribes say more meaningful collaboration needed

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A decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow snowmaking with reclaimed water at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Area soured the agency’s relationship with Native Americans

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With more than 3,000 miles of contiguous border with American Indian and Alaska Native-owned lands, the U.S. Forest Service wants to work more closely with tribal governments in the protection, respectful interpretation and appropriate access to Indian sacred sites.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary John Vilsack this month released a new report recommending that the agency should take steps to strengthen the partnerships between the agency, tribal governments, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities to help preserve America’s rich native traditions.

According to the report, many tribes have historically managed their forests well and in ways the Forest Service hopes to emulate: “Tribal land management is a testament to the Tribal land ethic, an ethic rooted in traditions, stories, and cultures. Sacred sites … are important facets of that land ethic and a common bond between us,” the report states. The report and related documents are online at this Forest Service website. Continue reading

Native American land buy-back program to consolidate splintered parcels, benefiting economic development

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The Interior Department will help Tribal Nations consolidate splintered parcels of land. Bob Berwyn photo.

Voluntary program aimed at boosting community land use for Tribal Nations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Thousands of smaller parcels of land owned by individual Native Americans could be consolidated for beneficial use by tribes under a new $1.9 billion buy-back program announced by the Department of Interior this week.

The buy-back program for tribal nations will purchase fractional interests in American Indian trust lands from willing sellers. Fractionation of Indian lands stems primarily from the General Allotment Act of 1887, when  tribal lands were allotted to individual tribal members, often in 80 or 160-acre parcels. The lands have been handed down to heirs over successive generations, causing the number of shared interests in one parcel to grow exponentially. Currently, more than 92,000 tracts of land held in trust for American Indians contain 2.9 million fractional interests.

When tracts have so many co-owners, it is often difficult and impractical to obtain the required approvals to lease or otherwise use the lands. As a result, highly-fractionated tracts lie idle, unable to be used for any economical or beneficial purpose or for direct use by tribal communities for their members. Continue reading

Feds finalize tribal eagle feather policy

Bald eagle, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Clarity, transparency to help Native Americans and resource agencies

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal officials say that, after consultation with Indian tribes, they’ve clarified a  national policy addressing the right of Native Americans to possess or use eagle feathers for cultural and religious expression.

The policy covers all federally protected birds, bird feathers and bird parts and should help address tribal concerns and uncertainties about how and when eagle feathers can be transported and used. It will also help provide clarity for wildlife officials responsible for enforcing the protective laws. Continue reading

Community initiatives cut crime on Indian reservations

President Barack Obama is joined onstage by his adopted Native American parents, Hartford "Sonny" Black Eagle and Mary Black Eagle, during the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior, Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Native American leaders powwow with President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar at one-day conference

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After two years of targeted community policing and other measures, the Safe Indian Communities initiative helped reduce violent crime by 35 percent across four Indian reservations, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said last week during the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.

The annual conference is intended to emphasize the Obama administration’s commitment to reform, restructure and rebuild federal relations with Indian Country and underscoring initiatives that are building safer and stronger American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Continue reading

Colorado lawmakers make a bipartisan push to fund for Native American student tuitions at Fort Lewis College

Congress may untangle Native American funding gridlock at Fort Lewis College.

House bill would ensure federal funding for a federal mandate

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Republican Congressman Scott Tipton is reaching across the aisle to try and pass a bill that would ensure federal funding for college tuition of Native American students at Fort Lewis College in Durango.

Tipton’s bill, the Native American Indian Education Act of 2011 ( H.R. 3040), is a companion measure to Senator Michael Bennet Senate  version of this bill that was introduced earlier this year. Read the full text of the Senate version here.

“This legislation will ensure that our country’s pledge to Native American Indians is kept,” Tipton said. “Without increasing federal spending in any way, this bill will ultimately save Colorado taxpayers money, lifting the weight of a federal mandate from their shoulders.”

The bill would require the federal government to pay the tuition for non-resident Native American students at Fort Lewis College. Colorado has spent more than $110,000,000 in the past 25 years to meet the costs of the tuition waivers for Indian students at Fort Lewis College from 44 different States. Continue reading

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