The tribes want President Obama to improve federal consultations over infrastructure projects.
SEATTLE — American Indian tribes in Washington state on Tuesday called on President Barack Obama to overhaul the way the federal government consults with tribes on fossil fuel export and other projects.
The Yakama Nation, Lummi Nation, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Spokane Tribe released a five-point plan they say will improve the consultation process, protect sacred sites and provide greater recognition of tribal rights.
- Background stories: Here's a primer on the pipeline project, including the key players on all sides, a brief history of broken treaty promises and a closer look at the courtroom battle. And here's what we're reading related to the controversy.
- March 28: What the completed Dakota Access pipeline means for key players.
- Feb. 23: Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp closed; 46 holdouts arrested.
- Feb. 22: Preparing to leave, Standing Rock protesters ceremonially burn camp.
- Feb. 13: Judge rejects tribes’ bid to halt Dakota Access Pipeline; feds plan to shut down protest camp.
- Feb. 1: Hundreds rally as the Seattle City Council considers divesting from Wells Fargo because of its role as a Dakota Access Pipeline lender.
- Jan. 24, 2017: Donald Trump signs executive orders advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says it will push back.
- Dec. 4, 2016: Tribes celebrate as Corps rejects Dakota Access pipeline easement
- Nov. 21: Washington tribes urge that Obama stop, reroute Dakota Access Pipeline
- Nov. 12: Hundreds rally in Tacoma against Dakota Access Pipeline
- Live updates from from Seattle Times journalists on the scene Oct. 26, 27 and 28.
- Oct. 25: Tribes in Washington state call on President Obama to improve federal consultations over infrastructure projects
- Oct. 24: Citing treaty claim, protesters occupy land a rancher recently sold to pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners.
- See photos from the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Among the provisions, the tribal leaders want the Army Corps of Engineers to do a regionwide environmental review of fossil fuel export proposals, one that takes into account the overall impact that individual projects will have on tribes in the region. They also want Obama to strengthen an executive order on Indian sacred sites by including language about the need for tribes to grant informed consent on infrastructure projects.
Leaders of those tribes met with federal officials in a closed session Seattle Tuesday. It’s one of several tribal consultations spurred by the federal government’s decision in September to step into the Standing Rock Sioux’s fight over the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
The federal agencies said last month that the case “highlighted the need for a serious discussion” about nationwide reforms “with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”
The Obama administration has invited leaders from 567 federally recognized tribes to participate in consultations aimed at getting tribal input on such infrastructure projects. Meetings are scheduled through Nov. 21 in New Mexico, Montana, Minneapolis and South Dakota.
The Dakota pipeline protest has resonated in the Pacific Northwest where tribes have sought to block several fossil fuel projects proposed in this region.
In May, the Army Corps rejected a $700 million coal-export terminal proposed for Washington state because regulators decided the project would violate the Lummi tribe’s treaty-protected fishing rights. Other tribes, such as the Yakama Nation, have opposed an oil-terminal project proposed along the Columbia River in Vancouver.
“We have treaties and promises from the federal government but almost always, we have to go to court and use our resources defending these rights,” Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council, said in a statement.
David Brown Eagle, vice chairman of the Spokane Tribe Business Council, said in a statement that “the federal government must do more to keep the promises this country made to Indian people. We shouldn’t have to fight to protect what was already promised to us.”