By Brenda Norrell
WASHINGTON -- A Supreme Court ruling states that the Interior does not have to reveal trust documents to the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Jicarilla Apache Nation cannot force the Interior Department to disclose certain trust-related documents. Ina ruling of 7 to 1, the court said the federal government, as a trustee, can assert attorney-client privilege to protect the documents.
"The trust obligations of the United States to the Indian tribes are established and governed by statute rather than the common law, and in fulfilling its statutory duties, the Government acts not as a private trustee but pursuant to its sovereign interest in the execution of federal law," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.
Holland & Knight, representing the Jicarilla Apache said the outcome will have major repercussions for Indian tribes who believe that the U.S. Government has mismanaged their assets. There are about 90 other similar cases within the court system that could be affected by the final ruling.
Earlier in the case, the Jicarilla Apache Nation revealed it has not received a fair market value for its natural gas. The Jicarilla Apache sought at least $6 million due to undervalued royalties on natural gas.
Meanwhile, the US is also now attempting to silence Native Americans in the Cobell lawsuit by allowing attorneys to walk away with millions, while paying Indian land owners peanuts for their stolen oil and gas. But the theft of billions of dollars will not go away.
Whistleblowers revealed that the Interior was giving sweetheart deals to oil, gas and coal companies by allowing them to lease Indian lands for resource extraction at only a fraction of the market value.
Besides the money that went for kickbacks and theft, large sums of revenues from oil and gas drilling on Indian lands, and coal mining, disappeared inside the US government's accounts. One whistleblower questioned if a slush fund had been set up using these revenues for another purpose within the US government.
At the same time, equipment was tampered with to improperly show that less oil, gas and coal was being taken on Indian lands, than was being reported. A whistleblower who worked for the BLM in Farmington reported that measuring devices were tampered with on oil and gas wells on Navajo land in Utah in order to under-report the amount being taken. The director of Arizona Weights and Measures, before his death, exposed the fact that the scales for measuring coal near Farmington were under-reporting the amount of coal being taken from Navajos' land.
Still, the whole story has not been revealed.
Now, the US Supreme Court has entered the arena of hiding the crimes of the Interior: The backdoor, secret deals between the US Interior Department staff and the oil, gas and coal companies is yet to be revealed in full.
Jicarilla Apache near Navajos' Dinetah, sacred place of origin, desecrated with oil and gas wells
The gas and oil wells on Jicarilla Apache are not far from the Navajos sacred place of origin, Dinetah, in northern New Mexico.
Bahe Katenay, Navajo from Big Mountain, described the desecration of Dinetah by oil and gas wells. The article was censored by Indian Country Today in 2004. Katenay described the polllution and desecration from widespread oil and gas wells here. The region's air is also polluted by the coal fired power plants on the Navajo Nation in the Farmington area.
Katenay responded to the fact that the Bush administration developed a task force to facilitate industry requests and fast track requests for drilling. The Bureau of Land Management increased oil and gas drilling permits by 70 percent since the previous administration.
“Gas reserves are drilled in places where White Shell Woman was found by Talking God and places where she did her Kinalda (puberty ceremony). Places where the Twin Warrior Gods made their divine deeds are also desecrated with drilling, piping, wells and recreation activities.
"The Dine’ have lost these lands and their ‘puppet’ tribal government have refused to fight for a claim to this area,” Katenay said, referring to the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo president.
Katenay point out that sacred land is being violated while many Navajos haul propane tanks in the backs of their trucks for fuel to cook with. “What would the Christians do if their Holy Lands were dotted with natural gas pumping stations and strands of pipelines crisscrossed everywhere?” Katenay asked.
“Then to make things worst, what if these gas reserves were illegally tapped with permission from a puppet government that is made up of their own people. Finally, how would they feel if these natural resources were being bought off cheap from their nation, exported away to another country and none made available for their use?
“To the Dine', this has happened when our Holy Lands were made available to gas companies in northwestern New Mexico in a region known to us as Dinetah.
“Today, several major gas pipelines are routed out towards southern California. Many Dine’ of course have to pay for the natural gas or propane from companies that desecrate their Holy Lands. Many Dine' household do not receive piping so they haul their propane bottles to the local markets to get them filled.”
Katenay said the place of Dine’ origin, Dinetah in northwestern New Mexico, still holds ancient archaeological sites and a large portion of the creation stories related to all geographical features of that area.
Energy development threatens the Navajos’ Four Sacred Mountains, located in the region from Flagstaff, Ariz., southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, he said.
“I travel from Black Mesa to these areas when I can. I am disturbed every time I come back to my Holy Land. I see new drilling and new roads that scar the wooded mesas and buttes. I always wonder if the Spirits of our Creators are still alive there. Despite this, I still get a sense of healing when I look upon Gobernador Knob or Huerfano Mesa and its surrounding canyonlands.
“But I am also saddened when I think that, because these lands were given away for profit, the rest of our sacred lands everywhere are being desecrated, today: Mount Taylor, San Francisco Mountains, and Big Mountain.”
Jicarilla Apache Supreme Court ruling and documents:
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The interview with Bahe Katenay by Brenda Norrell, censored by Indian Country Today, was one of many articles censored before Norrell was terminated in 2006. Censored News, now in its fifth year, was created to publicize the issues censored by the media.
George Bush: In 2004, a report by the Environmental Working Group’s showed the federal government has offered 27.9 million acres of public and private land in New Mexico for oil and gas drilling. New Mexico ranked second among 12 western states for lands currently leased and second for the amount of land currently producing oil and gas. San Juan County, the place of origin of Dine’, was among the top three counties targeted, along with Eddy and Lea counties, according to the 2004 report.