Lakota Land Victory

November 12, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: UN Observer

As explained in the following article, Owe Aku, a grass roots Lakota organization, just utilized the principle of free, prior and informed consent as set forth in the recently passed United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Plaintiffs, including Owe Aku and the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, argued that a third-party corporation could not come to the reservation for the purpose of uranium exploration without following established procedure and without providing adequate information thereby violating the principle of “free, prior and informed consent” as set forth in the Declaration on Indigenous rights. Does this mean that the Declaration may now be used as defacto precedence in Oglala Lakota tribal court?

Two weeks ago, members of Owe Aku’s leadership team were in New York presenting a documentary film called Standing Silent Nation on their struggle to develop industrial hemp on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota reservation. The New York trip was right in the middle of the uranium court case. Nonetheless they took the time to bring their efforts on a different issue to the people of New York. Production of industrial hemp would have been a solution to the overwhelming poverty and environmental degradation created by most industries in the region. So of course, the federal government put a stop to that. The Monday after the New York trip, Owe Aku was back on Lakota treaty territory taking on a mining company and, on Tuesday, WINNING.

Owe Aku has had a long term, multi-phases action and education campaign in place to stop uranium mining in and around Lakota treaty territory for the past several years. This has included extensive research on the process of uranium mining, the environmental and health effects, the direct effects on Pine Ridge and the possibility for oppositional coalitions. Earlier this year though a uranium mining company calling itself (for no apparent reason) Native American Energy Group (“NAEG”) descended on Pine Ridge and, through deceit and less than ethical maneuvering, started taking steps to expand uranium mining within reservation borders.

Owe Aku took immediate action, going door-to-door on the reservation educating the people about uranium mining, and eventually filing an action in tribal court. Unlike NAEG, Owe Aku was not represented by attorneys but, as is the case with all our work, was represented by our own members. In this case, our Executive Director Debra White Plume, often found herself examining witnesses and testifying. Given the Court’s ruling, an excellent job was done using tribal and treaty law, as well as some international standards.