Pollution of earth and water is driving indigenous peoples from their homelands
By Miriam Raftery
April 27, 2013 (San Diego)--Around the world, including here in the U.S., native people are losing lands they have occupied for countless generations. The earth and water that sustained life in their communities is being destroyed –once-mighty rivers and wetlands reduced to barren, parched or even contaminated land. The story is the same from tribes along the Colorado River to those deep in the Amazon, from the deserts of Southern California to the jungles of Mexico, from the coal fields of Appalachia to the copper mining pits of Arizona to indigenous people’s lands in Canada threatened by the Keystone Pipeline.
The culprit? Growing demand for energy and water.
Now, native people are speaking out. They hope to educate the public to conserve precious resources, sharing knowledge of the heart-breaking price being paid by people who have been given no choice—and whose very cultural identity centers around the lands and waters being lost.
NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION DECLARES OCOTILLO WIND SITE A SACRED SITE; ASKS ATTORNEY GENERAL TO WEIGH LEGAL ACTION
“I really want to say `Dismantle it and give the land back to the tribes…I’d like to ask the Attorney General to…give this commission more teeth so we could say `Tear that wall down.” -- Commissioner Marshall McKay
View video highlights: http://youtu.be/nS93BfT6juI
(For full unedited videos, scroll to bottom of this story)
By Miriam Raftery
April 26, 2013 (San Diego) – At a hearing in San Diego on Monday, members of the state Native American Heritage Commission heard several hours of emotional testimony from Native Americans who contend that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management ignored their concerns and its duty to protect a clearly documented sacred site and cemetery in the fast-tracked approval process for the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.
By a 4-0 vote, with the remaining commissioners absent, the NAHC voted to grant requests by Viejas and Quechan tribes to declare the 12,400 acre Ocotillo wind project site a sanctified Native American sacred site. Further, the commissioners voted unanimously to ask California Attorney General Kamala Harris to research if legal action can be taken.
April 19, 2013 (Alpine) – Bird singers, resources, food, activities, crafts for kids, entertain and more are all part of the Southern Indian Health Clinic’s annual Spring Gathering set for April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Alpine Clinic, 4058 Williows Road in Alpine.
By Miriam Raftery
April 12, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The California Native American Heritage (CNAH) Commission will hold a hearing in San Diego on Monday, April 22 at 11 a.m. The hearing will focus on results of an NAHC investigation into local tribes' allegations that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility site.
The hearing will be in the State of California Building, 1350 Front Street, San Diego 92101 (between A and Ash Streets).
A hearing previously set for February was cancelled without explanation. The CNAH had issued a draft report in support of claims by the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and Quechan Indian Nation that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources, including human remains and sacred sites, at the Ocotillo project. The draft staff report detailed a disturbing pattern by the BLM, Pattern Energy and a project archaeology consultant of ignoring tribal concerns and failing in its duty to protect cultural resources.
PENN NATIONAL GAMING SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH JAMUL INDIAN VILLAGE FOR $360 MILLION HOLLYWOOD-BRANDED CASINO & RESORT
April 7, 2013 (Jamul) --Penn National Gaming, Inc. (NASDAQ: PENN) announced Friday that one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries and the Jamul Indian Village (“the Tribe”) have entered into definitive agreements to jointly develop a Hollywood-branded casino and resort on the Tribe’s trust land in San Diego’s East County.
The proposed $360 million development would include a three-story gaming and entertainment facility of approximately 200,000 square feet featuring at least 1,700 slot machines, 50 live table games including poker, multiple restaurants, bars and lounges and a partially enclosed parking structure with over 1,900 spaces.
Editor's note: This is a victory born in the Idle No More Movement for Native rights, which has spread from Canada to the U.S. ECM recently covered Idle No More speakers in San Diego, including local Kumeyaay members.
By Sarah Hales-Ried (reprinted with permission of San Diego Loves Green)
March 28, 2013 (Ottaway, Canada)--After over two months and 1600 kilometres (approx. 994 miles) of walking, the journey of Nishiyuu - a Cree word meaning “the people” - reached Cam-nada's Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Monday, March 25. That same day, Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, formally welcomed eight First Nation communities into Canada's First Nations Land Management regime.
Story and photos by Miriam Raftery, video by Paul Kruze
March 22, 2013 (Alpine) – “This truly is a game changer for East County,” said Joe Terzi, Chief Executive Officer of the San Diego Tourism Authority, at a VIP grand opening last night of the $36 million, five-story hotel at Viejas Casino & Resort in Alpine. He hailed the new resort as a “great new addition to the San Diego region” that will help East County benefit from tourism that drives San Diego’s economy.
Dignitaries and community leaders from across our region turned out for last night’s occasion. A second opening for the public, including a free world premier performance of the Cirque-style show “Rise”, will be held on Saturday night, March 23 along with fireworks to celebrate East County’s landmark new addition.
View our exclusive video, see our photo gallery and read details of this landmark occasion below.
March 18, 2013 (El Cajon) – Sycuan Casino in El Cajon has agreed to serve as presenting sponsor of the 12th annual San Diego Advertising Fund for Emergencies (SAFE) fundraiser and party from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, at the Ivy Rooftop Lounge atop the Andaz San Diego, 600 “F” St., in the Gaslamp District in Downtown San Diego.
SAFE is a volunteer, non-profit organization (501c3) that provides confidential financial assistance to local advertising and marketing professionals and their families facing a life crisis emergency. The fundraiser will feature food, networking, entertainment and a silent auction to benefit SAFE grant recipients. Cost to attend is $50 per person, $30 per person for students, or $70 per person at the door. For tickets and more information, visit www.aboutsafe.org.
READER’S EDITORIAL: SMOKING BLUNDERBUSS—ILLEGAL FAILURE TO CONSULT WITH TRIBAL PEOPLES DOOMS GIANT SOLAR AND WIND PLANTS ACROSS WEST
By Robert Lundahl
March 10, 2013 (Solana Beach) — Chris Clarke's recent article deconstructs a video clip from the film, "Who Are My People?" http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/solar/filmmaker-blm-lax-on-native-consultation-over-solar-projects.html It is important for the public (us) to get our heads around the idea that the federal government is legally responsible to Native people.
In this case to uphold processes involving consultation when construction projects impact historic grounds, where there was a village, burials, where there is an area historically, or in the present day used by Native peoples, in spiritual or traditional practices.
By Miriam Raftery
March 8, 2013 (San Diego) – Troy Teague, former Executive Director of the La Posta Gaming Commission, pled guilty today to embezzling $57,000 from the la Posta Band of Mission Indians. The plea was made before Magistrate Judge Jan Adler, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced.
The La Posta Casino (photo, left) shut down in October 2012. A letter written by Tribal Council Chairwoman Gwendolyn Parada to employees stated that the casino, located off I-8, would close “due to its current financial situation,” 10 News reported. The smallest of San Diego County’s casinos, at its peak La Posta employed approximately 100 people.
Speakers see parallels between destruction by energy companies in our region to environmental degradation, erosion of protections for people around the world
By Miriam Raftery
January 31, 2013 (San Diego) – Idle No More, a movement for the rights of indigenous people and environmental protections that began in Canada, has spread around the world and has now taken root here in San Diego. Earlier this month, members of local Native American tribes met convened at a forum sponsored by Activist San Diego to share their concerns and invite all people to join the movement.
“We must stand up to unite, to respect the Mother Earth,” Dennis Alto, a Viejas tribal member, said. “We are not just addressing the red nations; we are addressing all people.”
The Idle No More movement arose in Canada as a protest against the Canadian Government passing bills which enabled the government to control lands reserved for native people and reduce environmental protections for lakes and rivers. Tar sands, pollution from mining and other sources are polluting the waters and the lands. Tribal members draw parallels to what is happening in the U.S., where mining, dams, and now large-scale wind and solar projects are ravaging the environment , destroying cultural resources and the way of life for many indigenous Americans.
CA NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION ISSUES REPORT BACKING VIEJAS AND QUECHAN CLAIMS OF OCOTOILLO WIND SITE HARM TO SACRED SITES
Commission urges CA Attorney General to file suit if mitigation requests not met
Update February 12, 2013: A hearing set for February 15 in San Diego has been postponed.
By Miriam Raftery
January 22, 2013 (Ocotillo ) – The California Native American Heritage Commission (CNAH) has issued a report in support of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians and the Quechan Indian Nation claims that the Bureau of Land Management failed in its duty to protect cultural resources including human remains and sacred sites at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility. The draf staff report details a disturbing pattern by the BLM, Pattern Energy and a project archaeology consultant of ignoring tribal concerns and failing in its duty to protect cultural resources.
The tribes petitioned the NAHC to investigate and conduct a public hearing to consider tribal requests to declare the entire 12,500 acre site a ‘sanctified cemetery’. Tribes also seek to have the project halted to assess damage and want agencies to consult with tribes to agree on mitigation measures to prevent further harm to a broader region. The case has broad national significance, with hundreds of millions of acres of public lands slated for renewable energy projects.
The NAHC has cancelled a Public Hearing that had been scheduled at the State of California Building on Front Street in Downtown San Diego for February 15, offering no explanation for the indefinite postponement.
By Miriam Raftery
January 21, 2013 (San Diego) – On Friday, January 18, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Quechan tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management, as well as Pattern Energy and other defendants.
The suit contends that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources, including sacred sites, when it allowed the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility to be built. Moreover, Quechan contends that the federal government's reclassification of protected lands to accommodate the wind project was arbitrary--and that a similar decision to industrialize almost any public lands regardless of damage to resources could be done if the government's action is allowed to stand.
By Miriam Raftery
U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by the Quechan tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management, among others. The suit contends that the federal government failed to protect Native American cultural resources, including sacred sites, when it allowed the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility to be built.
December 22, 2012 – (San Diego) -- Members of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians have voted in a new Tribal Council, returning five of seven incumbents, including Chairman Anthony R. Pico.
Voting took place Saturday, December 15 at the Viejas Tribal Hall. Members of the new Tribal Council are as follows (I = incumbent):
Chairman: Anthony R. Pico (I)
Vice Chairman: Robert “Cita” Welch (I)
Secretary: Anita Uqualla (I)
Treasurer: Sam Q. Brown (I)
Councilmember: Raymond “Bear” Cuero (I)
Councilmember: Adrian K. Brown
Councilmember: Ernest “Chuka” Pingleton
December 18, 2012 (San Diego)--For the 10th consecutive year, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, owners of the Sycuan Resort & Casino in El Cajon, sponsored the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s free annual family holiday party for people with MS, as well as their family members and caregivers. The National MS Society in San Diego said more than 600 people attended the 2012 event held on Sunday, Dec. 9 at the San Diego Community Concourse Golden Hall in Downtown San Diego. The holiday party featured a brunch, entertainment and gifts for children delivered by one of Santa’s helpers. Sycuan has sponsored the annual event since 2003.
December 13, 2012 (San Diego)– As an air of excitement and anticipation hung over the 37th Annual Stoney & Rob’s Holiday Party and Fundraiser, the curtain was raised on the stage of the DreamCatcher at Viejas Casino last week to reveal more than 7,000 toys that will go to needy families in the area. The exact number this year was 7,217—more than twice the 3,000 gifts raised last year by Team Members and guests at Viejas Casino and Outlets.
November 29, 2012 (El Cajon) – A Native Plant Garden Tour will take place in the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College, 12122 Cuyamaca College Dr. West, El Cajon on December 1 at 10:30 a.m. The Native Plant tour, guided by Garden Docent, Jan Tubiolo, explores the lifestyle of the Kumeyaay Indians in southern California and the tremendous role native plants played in every aspect of their lives.
By Miriam Raftery
November 29, 2012 (La Mesa) – Viejas firefighters, clad in uniforms, Santa hats and reindeer antlers, rolled into action at Target in Grossmont Center today to stock up on toys for needy local children. More than 80 Viejas tribal government staffers donated funds to purchase 30 bicycles.
“We’re here because we want to bring a little bit of joy to some kids who may need that,” Viejas Tribal Chairman Anthony Pico told ECM. “We know what it’s like to be poverty stricken and perhaps to have Christmas with no gift. It means so much more when you know where you’ve come from and where you’re going.” He smiled, adding with a Santa-like twinkle in his eye, “These are some of the most fun times of the year.”
by Ariele Johannson
November 20, 2012 (Alpine) --Viejas tribal leaders, casino executives, civic and community leaders, and guests came together for an outdoor Topping Off Ceremony on Wednesday, November 13, 2012. More than 100 people assembled in front of the new five-story Viejas Hotel, amid the noise of hammers, drills, and construction workers’ shouts.
This month, the much-anticipated Viejas Hotel enters its final construction stages. The non-smoking Viejas Hotel with valet parking is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013. Viejas Casino, owned by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, is one of the most successful tribal casinos in California.
By Miriam Raftery
November 12, 2012 (Boulevard)—At the latest Boulevard Planning Group meeting, community members including Native Americans shared heart-wrenching stories of how the nation's quest for renewable energy is upending their lives, dividing their communities,imperiling their health, and threatening their futures.
As in Ocotillo, where a wind project has anguished tribal members and residents with destruction of cultural and environmental resources, the community of Boulevard now faces an onslaught of massive "green" energy projects on public, tribal and private lands.
Tule Wind project’s turbines on ridgelines will be “deadly” for Golden eagles in San Diego County, wildlife biologist predicts
October 29, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand, vice president of Save the Eagles International, has sent a letter to Bureau of Indian Affairs’ regional director Amy Dutsche warning that the Tule Wind project will be “deadly” for eagles in our region.
October 22, 2012 (Alpine) – A U.S. Navy veteran planning to retire soon hit a jackpot worth $501,430.49 on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine at Viejas Casino.
The winner, who is from San Diego, chose to remain anonymous. He hit the early-retirement jackpot while playing a $1 Wheel of Fortune progressive slot machine on Saturday morning, October 13, at Viejas Casino.
JPA is first in California involving a Native American tribe
By Miriam Raftery
October 18, 2012 (El Cajon ) – The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and Heartland Fire Training Authority this week announced that they have entered into a historic Joint Powers Agreement (JPA).
“This JPA finally allows Viejas to have a seat at the table and have a full and meaningful partnership with other fire agencies that we’ve worked with for years in a very productive way,” said Viejas Fire Chief Don Butz. “Ultimately, this benefits the entire region, since wildfires and other natural disasters do not recognize geographic, political or other borders. We are all stronger and better protected when we work and train together.”
October 14, 2012 (Pala) – A coalition fighting to stop out-of-town investors from developing a garbage dump in Gregory Canyon near Pala will rally at the Pala Rey Youth Camp on Saturday, October 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on October 20. Robert Smith, Chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians and Shasta Gaughen, EPA Director of the Pala Indians will be among the speakers and honored guests. The event will also feature traditional bird singing to protect Gregory Canyon as well as information on the fight to save the sacred mountain, which includes rock paintings and a medicine rock.
BLISTERING DESERT SOLAR MEETING: DESTRUCTION OF NATIVE AMERICAN SACRED SITES AND LACK OF CONSULTATION DOMINATE
BLM Begins Rio Mesa Project EIS Process to Strong Opposition Over Desert Solar Siting
Story and photo by Robert Lundahl
September 17, 2012 (Blythe, California)--The Bureau of Land Management scoping meeting for the Rio Mesa Solar Plant outside Blythe, California likely caused heartburn for the BLM, applicant Brightsource, and related subcontractors and agencies last Thursday.
By Miriam Raftery
September 21, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – A new documentary directed by Robert Lundahl provides an unprecedented look at how fast-tracking of federal energy projects is having devastating impacts on Native American cultural sites, destroying sacred landscapes and geoglyphs thousands of years old. View film trailer: http://planet-rla.com/who-are-my-people-film-trailer/
The film has enjoyed the support of Native American elders, including Sr. Alfredo Figueroa (Yaqui/Chemehuevi), Rev. Ron Van Fleet (Mohave), Phil Smith (Chemehuevi), and Preston Arrow-Weed (Kumeyaay/Quechan), who appear in the film.
By Miriam Raftery
September 17, 2012 (Alpine) –What could be more heavenly than a day at Alpine’s new spa for a stressed-out news editor and her assistant? With high hopes, Mayan and I headed out to Native Dreams Day Spa in the Viejas Outlet Center, where our expectations were met and exceeded by the excellent services and products as we savored an afternoon of pampering and primping.
September 19, 2012 (Alpine) – Viejas Casino, Southern California’s premier gaming, dining and entertainment destination, on September 14, set a new Guinness Record for the World’s Largest Blackjack Table.
The record was set at 9:45 a.m. September 13, as six guests sat at a massive blackjack table measuring just over 2,226 square feet and played a hand of blackjack with chips and cards that were ten times the size of the actual Viejas blackjack chips and cards. Philip Robertson, an official “Adjudicator” for Guinness was on hand to confirm the measurements and witness the hand of blackjack…and the new record was officially certified amid a rousing round of cheers and applause from Viejas Team Members and guests in the DreamCatcher at Viejas Casino.
September 12, 2012 (El Cajon) – The Heritage of the Americas Museum presents “Native American Song Cycles and Creation Stories in Southern California” with Steve Elster, Ph.D. on September 22 at 1:00 p.m. in the Museum Conference Room. Tribal members throughout the region will sing and speak as they give a rendition of their stories.
The cost of admission is $5.00, however Museum members and children are free. The Museum is located at 12110 Cuyamaca College Drive West, El Cajon. For more information call the museum at 619-670-5194 or visit www.cuyamaca.edu/museum.