ALBUQUERQUE – Representatives of the Department of the Interior in attendance at the listening session on sacred sites got an earful from tribal officials earlier this week in Albuquerque who are upset about the Obama administration “fast tracking” certain renewable energy projects.
At least one tribal official feels the Obama administration is fast tracking the projects for political reasons during this presidential campaign.
“Basically, many Indians see this as being reelection efforts,” commented John Bathke, historic preservation officer Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation.
“Unfortunately, Obama is not living up to his promises he made to Indian people about protecting our sacred.”
Bathke told the Native Network News on Thursday afternoon.
Bathke thinks the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has disregarded federal laws in place that were written to protect American Indian ceremonial sites. He cites the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the American Indian Freedom Act.
“Meanwhile, irreversible damage is being inflicted upon Native sacred sites, holy places, and spiritually significant areas. So far, the previous promises, made by President Obama, of having ‘meaningful’ consultations, between his administration and Tribal Governments, have been steam rolled by the need to get these projects approved and part of his ‘environmentally friendly’ energy platform,” continued Bathke.
Some of the angst exhibited by Bathke is his pure passion for protection of Indian ceremonial sites. But, it also can be attributed to the fact the Quechan Indian Tribe sent letters to the President Obama and the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on March 2, detailing their concerns over the safeguarding Indian ceremonial sites.
“Currently, the Quechan Indian Tribe believes that the consultation process, between Tribal Governments and your Department of Interior, has completely broken down. The Quechan Indian Tribe strongly feels that it has no voice, or that our voice is not being heard, regarding the desecration occurring at the Genesis Solar Plant and other similar projects,”
writes President Keeny Excalanti of the Tribe.
In the letter to the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Tribe sought to clarify its position that the Quechan Indian Tribe is not against renewable energy.
“What the Quechan Indian Tribe objects to is the fast-tracked development of renewable energy projects on undisturbed public and federal land that is still sacred to our People,” writes President Keeny Excalanti.
The Quechan Indian Tribe requested the federal government to halt the development of the Genesis Solar Project and the application process of the Ocotillo Wind Project.
So far, the Tribe has not heard a response to either letter.
Time will tell if the listening session will have any impact on decisions of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. Yesterday, there was another listening session in Billings, Montana.
There are three more listening scheduled that will happen by the end of the month in Prior Lake, Minnesota; Uncasville, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon.
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