PAWHUSKA, Okla. (August 14, 2013) – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has joined the Osage Nation in opposing federal actions to permit eagle kills caused by wind industry development on tribal lands without regard for tribal cultural interests and authority.
NCAI recently passed resolution REN-13-017 at their mid-year conference, stating, “authorizing the wind energy project to kill eagles in Osage Nation territory absent the tribe’s consent would set a dangerous precedent that will limit the ability of all tribes in the U.S. to protect their cultural resources.”
While highlighting the Osage County wind project specifically, the resolution outlines a larger issue with far-reaching implications toward the protection of Indian sites of cultural significance nationwide. The resolution raises serious questions about whether the federal government’s encouragement of wind energy projects is occurring at the expense of proper tribal consultation on the impact to both eagles and tribes’ culturally significant sites.
“We are honored to receive such resounding support from NCAI and the entire tribal community on this issue of vital importance to tribal governments’ abilities to protect their cultural symbols and sites,” said Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle of the Osage Nation. “We understand the importance of expanding renewable energy infrastructure, but this expansion should occur in areas that do not result in the death of so many eagles and the destruction of sacred areas.”
To date, the Service has never authorized a wind energy project to kill bald eagles, but is considering authorizing Wind Capital’s Osage County project the right to kill up to 120 bald eagles. The Service is also proposing to extend the term of eagle kill permits from five to 30 years, and has rebuffed requests from Indian Country for consultation on this extreme policy change.
“Bald and golden eagles are vitally important to our people because of their cultural and spiritual significance,” said Chief Red Eagle. “These wind turbines are massive structures at 240 to 300 feet tall with huge blades that rotate over 100 miles per hour. This is the first phase of this industrial-size wind development and it is likely to be followed by additional projects in Osage County.”
“We consider this a very serious issue due to the dire impact it will have on the populations of an animal sacred to us and the impact to known cultural sites within the project area,” said Chief Red Eagle. “They have not properly consulted with us about those impacts and the project’s significant impacts on honored tribal spaces, burial grounds and other cultural sites.”
The resolution also reaffirmed NCAI’s continued opposition to Executive Order 13604, Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects, which the organization fears will fast-track energy projects even if they threaten to desecrate tribal lands and the ability of native people to practice traditional religious beliefs.
“The federal government is expediting energy projects under one Executive Order at the expense of its obligations under with another longer-standing Executive Order that requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to formally consult with the Osage Nation regarding impacts to eagles and our cultural sites,” said Chief Red Eagle.
“There is a federal process to protect cultural resources, and the USFWS is not requiring that this process be undertaken before construction commences. A federal review process that occurs after construction is meaningless, as Osage cultural sites will already have been destroyed,” said Chief Red Eagle.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments whose mission is to preserve inherent Indian sovereign rights granted by the federal government. NCAI strives to enlighten the public towards a better understanding of Indian people, cultural and values. It is dedicated to promoting the health, safety and welfare of Indian people.
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