RAPID CITY — Last Friday the United States Forest Service called for a tribal consultation, concerning the efforts of a Canadian mining group, Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd., to mine for gold near the Rochford area, just fifteen miles south of the old Homestake Mine in Lead, and a stone’s throw from the Lakota spiritual site of Pe’sla. The alleged consultation was held at the Holiday Inn.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) strongly objected to this meeting being deemed a consultation. So spoke OST Chairman Scott Weston, and C.J. Clifford, who has a special job for the OST— “I strictly study consultations,” Clifford said. “That’s what I’ve done since 1990.”
President Clinton’s Executive Order 13175, issued on November, 6, 2000, was prompted by a need to clarify consultation process and procedure. Clinton stated, “When I became the first President since James Monroe to invite the leaders of every tribe to the White House in April 1994, I vowed to honor and respect tribal sovereignty. At that historic meeting I issued a memorandum directing all federal agencies to consult with Indian tribes before making decisions on matters affecting American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples.”
EO 13175 was needed to solidify that 1994 memorandum into policy, and since 2000, government agencies have been held to a standard of consultation, which according to policy, must provide 30-day’s notice. This consultation did not. It must also be a forum where each side provides input resulting in joint determination, based on the idea Clinton stressed, “…in our Nation’s relations with Indian tribes, our first principle must be to respect the right of American Indians and Alaska Natives of self-determination.” This also was not done. The mining activities of the Canadian company began at Rochford before tribes were allowed consultation.
Beyond that, a consultation is “government-to-government,” which implies, regardless of how much of each respective side’s input is implemented, that input is comprehensively heard, and fairly applied. This also did not happen.
Clifford feels the Forest Service had already decided outcome before the consultation was called. He says water permits were already issued, which should not have happened until after tribal consultation.
Oglala Tribal Attorney Mario Gonzalez offered an explanation why the Forest Service wanted consultation so quickly: “The rationale for a hasty meeting is they had already started but they needed a rubber stamp.”
What they had already started was allowing Mineral Mountain Resources Ltd. to begin their mining operation, and the rubber stamp was a quick meeting, which did not meet consultation criteria; their intent being, to misrepresent to the public, what they had already started and decided upon, as a product of a genuine consultation.
Given the water pollution which resulted from previous big mining operations in the Black Hills (pollution taxpayers paid to clean up, not the mining operations who polluted), residents of the Rochford area, like Maud Hawkins, are understandably deeply concerned: “Once you contaminate the water, what are you gonna drink…?”
Clifford has had almost thirty years of direct involvement with this distorted process, and his conclusion is a very simple one— “My people have lost on account of consultation.”
Meaning: consultation that is consultation on paper, but is actually a consequence of decisions already made, and actions already taken, for the benefit of non-tribal concerns, whether governmental or private, with little or no tribal input or consideration.
(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)