Published on 22 Nov 2017
Truthdig columnist and Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges addresses fascism and the rise of the Trump war machine in the keynote speech at the “After Trump and Pussy Hats” event in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 3, 2017.
Introductions by Cecilia Point of the Musqueam First Nation and Lee Lakeman of Vancouver Rape and Women’s Relief Shelter.
Video by Collectivista
Produced by the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter
and the Asian Women’s Coalition Against Prostitution
Fort Berthold in North Dakota (Abrahm Lustgarten/ProPublica)
by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, Feb. 23, 2013
Native Americans on an oil-rich North Dakota reservation have been cheated out of more than $1 billion by schemes to buy drilling rights for lowball prices, a flurry of recent lawsuits assert. And, the suits claim, the federal government facilitated the alleged swindle by failing in its legal obligation to ensure the tribes got a fair deal.
This is a story as old as America itself, given a new twist by fracking and the boom that technology has sparked in North Dakota oil country. Since the late 1800s, the U.S. government has appropriated much of the original tribal lands associated with the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota for railroads and white homesteaders. A devastating blow was delivered when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River in 1953, flooding more than 150,000 acres at the heart of the remaining reservation. Members of the Three Affiliated Tribes — the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara — were forced out of the fertile valley and up into the arid and barren surrounding hills, where they live now.
But that last-resort land turns out to hold a wealth of oil, because it sits on the Bakken Shale, widely believed to be one of the world’s largest deposits of crude. Until recently, that oil was difficult to extract, but hydraulic fracturing, combined with the ability to drill a well sideways underground, can tap it. The result, according to several senior tribal members and lawsuits filed last November and early this year in federal and state courts, has been a land grab involving everyone from tribal leaders accused of enriching themselves at the expense of their people, to oil speculators, to a New York hedge fund, to the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The rush to get access to oil on tribal lands is part of the oil industry’s larger push to secure drilling rights across the United States. Recent estimates show that the U.S. contains vast quantities of oil and gas. As fracking has opened new fields to drilling, and the U.S. has striven to get more of its energy from within its borders, leases from Louisiana to Pennsylvania have been gobbled up. Now the pressure is increasing on one of the last sizeable holdouts — lands owned by Native Americans.
A review of tribal and federal records as well as lawsuit documents reveals a dizzying array of lowball, non-competitive deals brokered by numerous companies, often entwined with the tribal council and with individual landholders on the reservation. But at heart the alleged practices are simple: Tribal leaders and outsiders set up companies to buy drilling rights cheap and flip them later for spectacular profits — in one case earning as much as a 200-fold return in just four years.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars were lost,” said Tex Hall, the current chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, in an interview. “It’s just a huge loss and we’ll never get it back.”
At the center of that particular alleged scheme, according to one of the suits, was Spencer Wilkinson, Jr., longtime manager of 4 Bears Casino, a time-worn warehouse of slot machines, swirling cigarette smoke and stained carpets that serves as the reservation’s entertainment nexus and its financial hub. Wilkinson also sat on the board of the tribe’s development corporation, where he was charged with finding new opportunities to enhance the economy of the reservation.
According to interviews with tribal members, former employees of the Three Affiliated Tribes, and a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in Bismarck, ND against Wilkinson and others, Wilkinson used his access to casino funds — and to the development corporation — to gain influence and craft an oil deal that would leave him one of the richest men on the reservation.
In 2006 he became an owner of a company, Dakota-3, with Richard Woodward, a white consultant who, records show, was receiving more than $20,000 a month from tribal funds for his work at the development corporation. Together, the suit and other legal filings allege, Wilkinson and Woodward planned to raise money and buy up rights to much of the remaining land not yet slated for drilling, all the while maintaining their work with the tribes and employing Wilkinson’s relationship with the council to help get the oil leases approved.
Leases for oil rights generally work like this: A company purchases the right to drill for oil underneath an acre of land by paying a one-time upfront payment, called a bonus, and a percentage of the profits earned on the well, known as a royalty. On Indian lands additional laws also apply, dictating who can negotiate for whom and how the government has to oversee the agreements.
Wilkinson declined to comment and Woodward could not be reached. Wilkinson has filed a motion to dismiss the case. The suit alleges that Wilkinson and others aided and abetted the U.S. government in failing to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to the tribes; Wilkinson’s motion argues, among other things, that the government had no such responsibility. Woodward has not yet filed a response to the suit in court.
Many details of Dakota-3’s deals remain murky. There is limited transparency into tribal government affairs, no public access to documents, no annual reporting on accounts, and limited communication about what tribal council members discuss in their meetings.
But, according to separate lawsuits and records filed with the North Dakota Secretary of State, Dakota-3 partnered with an Oklahoma-based oil speculator named Robert Zinke and his company Zenergy to buy leases and form additional joint venture companies. Documents from two law suits mention the involvement of the New York based hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group but do not specify the firm’s role. The hedge fund is publicly traded and, according to its web site, has more than $33 billion under management.
A spokesman for Och-Ziff declined to comment, and Zinke did not return a telephone message.
The interlinked companies, the documents show, purchased drilling rights to some 42,500 acres of lands owned by individuals and families through dozens of separate small deals. Those rights were ultimately controlled by Dakota-3, which also purchased from the tribal council drilling rights to another 44,000 acres of lands managed by the council. Altogether, Dakota-3 accumulated rights to about a fifth of the 420,000-odd acres of leasable land on the reservation, having bought much of those rights for as little as $50 per acre and royalties of around 18 percent. At about the same time, records and interviews show, other companies were purchasing drilling rights to land on and near the reservation for $300 to $1,000 per acre plus royalties as high as 22.5 percent.
One of the lawsuits alleges that the difference in the one-time bonus payments, plus the difference in royalty payments, “could mean billions of dollars” over the life of the oil field.
In late 2010, an Oklahoma-based oil production company, Williams, bought Dakota-3 for $925 million. At the time of the purchase, Dakota-3 was pumping a small amount of oil, but the bulk of its assets were the drilling rights. Two lawsuits allege that by buying Dakota-3, Williams effectively paid more than $10,000 per acre for those rights — as much as 200 times what Dakota-3 had paid for the leases.
At issue is not just the question of how Dakota-3 managed to win the tribal council’s approval for the deal, but whether the federal government should have stepped in to ensure that the tribes were paid higher rates.
Reservation lands are still held in trust by the U.S. government. As a trustee, the Department of the Interior has responsibility for overseeing the development of oil and gas on tribal lands, and for ensuring that any leases or sales of that land are made in “the best interest” of the Native Americans. When it comes to leases to drill for oil — even those negotiated directly between the tribal council and the oil industry — the Bureau of Indian Affairs is required to make sure the leases meet this standard.
The bureau did not respond to a list of written questions, but according to interviews and documents obtained by ProPublica, the bureau approved the leases even though some Interior Department staffers expressed misgivings. Other documents show that tribal members appealed to high-level Interior Department officials and others to reject the leases and step in on their behalf.
“Mr. Secretary, this company, Dakota-3, like the other companies in the oil business will turn around and sell the lease,” wrote Russell Mason Sr., a tribal elder, to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in a December, 2007 letter. “We are making a plea to you that you exercise your trust responsibilities.”
“The United States has uniformly failed in its duties to the Indian landowners,” states one lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. that was brought by tribal landowners seeking restitution for the Dakota-3 leases sold to Williams.
The Dakota-3 deals are not the only controversial ones. For example, a company called Black Rock Resources purchased drilling rights to about 12,800 acres of land for $35 per acre and a 16.7 percent royalty. It later sold those rights to Marathon Oil for about $42 million, according to financial documents that describe the deal.
Messages left for multiple Black Rock Resources officials were not returned, and Marathon Oil did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the Black Rock deal, and documents obtained by ProPublica reveal the sometimes-contradictory advice the Bureau of Indian Affairs received from its own staff and other federal officials.
When Black Rock first offered to buy up reservation leases for $35 per acre beginning in 2005, some bureau staff justified the rates saying the cumbersome regulations and past problems with leasing on the reservation had driven down demand. “Unfortunately,” wrote one staffer in a department letter, $35 per acre “is what the market will bear.”
But in a review dated November, 2005, an expert at the Bureau of Land Management wrote that the offered price “appears to look low compared to those offered recently at both BLM and North Dakota State competitive oil and gas lease sales in the area.” He cited other sales that same month for as much as $370 an acre. An Interior Department lawyer in Washington sent a letter to North Dakota BIA officials expressing similar concerns.
Even at the time, the tribe received higher offers. Jerry Nagel is a tribe member, businessman and former program analyst for the tribe who has been outspoken against leases he thought were being sold for too little. In an interview, he said that he financed a venture in 2006 that offered the tribe $140 per acre plus a royalty rate more than twice as high as the tribal council was offered for the big leases it ultimately signed. It’s unclear why the tribal council didn’t take that offer, but Nagel claims it’s evidence that the council gave preferential treatment to certain suitors.
The tribal council’s office did not immediately respond to questions about why the council passed over Nagel’s offer.
Kyle Baker is a tribe member, geologist and former environment official for minerals and energy for the tribe. He said that his family struck deals to lease its acreage on and near the reservation for as much as $700 per acre around the same time as the Black Rock deal.
“Companies will come and find your weaknesses and then drive themselves in,” Baker said on a recent wintery morning in his living room overlooking Lake Sakakawea. “Our laws, our setup wasn’t ready for it.”
Companies and the U.S. government have long known that the Ft. Berthold reservation lay in the heart of the oil-rich Williston Basin, a reserve thought by some to contain as much as 20 billion barrels of oil. But previous efforts to lease and drill on the Indian lands stalled in the 1970s, and again in the late 1990s, thwarted by a dense bureaucracy and a tangle of laws governing leasing on reservations.
Only after the advent of modern fracking — and after Congress passed a handful of laws to ease corporate access to the Ft Berthold reservation — did companies begin to invest seriously in drilling there.
Today it’s estimated that the three tribes and individual Native American landholders are receiving some $50 to $80 million a year from the drilling leases and royalties, compared with revenues of about $5 million a year before the boom began in about 2006.
But that money has brought allegations of sweetheart arrangements that have left a few tribal members with disproportionate profits from oil development.
In 2011 a team of elders audited the tribal council’s activities. They found widespread financial inconsistencies that they said indicated systemic misconduct. “We saw millions of dollars going out and hardly anything coming back” to the Three Affiliated Tribes, said Tony Foote a forensic auditor who chaired the team. “We’re not just talking about cash. It’s rooms, food, travel, donations, and there’s only a handful of people that can get all this stuff.”
Hall, the tribes’ current chairman, had previously held that post from 1998 until 2006. He didn’t deny that there had been corruption, but he said that since he came back into office in 2010 he has focused on reform and on making sure that the oil revenues benefit the broader tribal community. He said he has formed tribal entities to directly control a pipeline and refinery project, set up a $100 million trust fund for the tribes, and begun to sign lease agreements that are more favorable to the Native Americans on the reservation. He also demoted Wilkinson, who is now an administrative officer at the casino, not its CEO.
“I was called back because people were concerned about sweetheart deals, so we have totally changed the dynamic,” he said.
21 Sep, 2016
The US has not made a treaty with a Native American nation since the 1800s, but a proposal for Eastern Utah is bringing back feelings of mistrust from tribes. Republican Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, along with Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) have proposed The Public Lands Initiative that they claim “is a locally-driven process to bring resolution to some of the most challenging land disputes in the state of Utah.”
Not everyone sees it that way, however. The proposal would remove federal protections from 18 million acres of land and could allow them to be turned into oil and gas drilling zones that are exempt from environmental protections, Telesur reported.
Court denies Sioux tribe request to halt Dakota Access pipeline construction
The bill will not be presented to the House for a few more weeks, but the Ute Business Committee is already preparing to fight it.
“The actions of Bishop and Chaffetz would seek to divest the Ute Indian Tribe of their ancestral homelands,” the committee wrote in an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune. The committee said that this proposal runs the risk of returning to “failed policies of tribal land dispossession that have had a devastating and lasting impact upon tribal nations for the past century.”
This bill would directly impact 100,000 acres of Ute reservation lands, home to more than half of the tribe’s population, according to their website.
“This modern day Indian land grab cannot be allowed to stand,” the committee said.
In the bill’s FAQ section, the authors claim the PLI Act benefits Native Americans by creating “a landscape-level National Conservation Area known as the Bears Ears NCA that encompasses areas of cultural significance, such as Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears Buttes, and Beef Basin. Native Americans would represent 50% of the Bears Ears Management Commission which is charged with developing a land management plan for the Bears Ears NCA.”
They also claim that land adjustments will improve economic development in the tribe’s communities, and that the bill was developed with detailed proposals from Native American tribes. However, it seems that the Ute may not have submitted their own proposals, because they “issued a resolution opposing the taking of our tribal homelands, and this was provided to Bishop and Chaffetz well in advance of the time the current legislation was introduced.”
The bill, HR 5780, will head to the House of Representatives in a few weeks.
Police said they arrested 22 people at the construction site of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, claiming people had been interfering with equipment. The arrests were made 70 miles northwest of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s main protest site. RT America’s Manuel Rapalo reports.
Wed, Jan 25th, 2017
By: Nikita Sud
Date: 17 January 2017
Source: The Conversation
Much of the global south – broadly comprising the continents of Asia, Africa, and Latin America – was shaped by colonialism. The so-called “great game” and the scrambles between Britain, Portugal, Belgium, France and other European states were for power, profit and – most visibly – for land.
Today, new scrambles are afoot from Brazil and Nigeria, to Ethiopia and Indonesia. Once again, land is the prize.
In the past decade, almost 50m hectares of land have been leased or bought from individuals, communities and governments in the global south for the large-scale production of biofuels, food, forest resources, industrial goods, infrastructure, tourism and livestock. A complex network of multinational companies, financial institutions and governments in the north are the key beneficiaries.
Take, for example, Feronia Inc – a company based in Canada and owned by the development finance institutions of various European governments, including the UK, France and Spain. Feronia controls 120,000 hectares of palm oil plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some of the countries that were once colonised are now the colonisers: China and India have huge investments in Cambodia, Indonesia, Guyana, Ethiopia and Brazil among other countries.
According to the Land Matrix database, China controls 258,728 hectares in Cambodia. China’s Union Development Group (UDG) has a land concession of 45,100 hectares within Botum Sakor National Park for the development of a tourist resort. With the blessings of the central politburo of the Communist Party of China, UDG has also invested US$3.8 billion in a new deepwater port in the country, with access to 90km of coastline, on a 99-year lease. Similar investments have been made in maritime infrastructure in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. As we know, China is keen to increase its strategic and commercial influence over the South China Sea and Asian waters in general.
Sealing the deal
Land deals are implemented – and often initiated – by sub-national states which are in competition with each other to win major investments. For example, since economic liberalisation in 1991, Indian states have competed with each other – and with states in neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and China – to bag business opportunities. I interviewed several senior civil servants in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. On the understanding that certain details of our interviews were kept off the record, one told me:
Companies are like bridegrooms. If they are bringing an iconic brand into the state, they come with a huge list of demands, the primary one being land. In the case of [an automobile multinational], we had large, vacant plots, which we could transfer to them in a short period. In addition, they wanted road, rail and port access. They wanted to be near a metropolis. They wanted all sorts of social infrastructure, like land for an international school and sporting facilities for families of executives … Overall, there were 80-90 parameters related to land, tax concessions and clearances for water, electricity.
His colleague added:
[Companies] have played off states against each other. Take for example [a multinational]. We were trying to get them to [our state]. [They were to invest] US$2 billion … [But] the company wanted US$100m from us. [The Company’s] alternate sites were in Vietnam and Guangzhou in China. Finally Vietnam got [that] project.
The latter official hinted that governments in India and competitor countries are willing to entice companies with hard cash, tax concessions and other subsidies in order to bag their investment.
These agreements tend to take place outside boardrooms. Deals are struck in the breakout spaces, green rooms, bars and clubs and people’s homes – in other words, in the institutional shadows. In Zimbabwe, war veterans can act as intermediaries who facilitate or block land deals at the local level, while in Cambodia and Vietnam, land investors may operate through middlemen – including moonlighting officials – in order to circumvent official rules. In India, an elaborate network of brokers, aggregators and consultants mediate between firms and governments in land acquisitions.
During fieldwork in India, I found local government land offices with six or seven workers teaming up with an army of 50-plus middlemen who sat right outside and had easy access to the officials within. These middle men look into title deeds and ownership histories for a fee and work with bureaucrats to illegally fudge and clean up land records. Middle men also peddle information about who is facing hard times and will sell land easily and who will not. They may work with land aggregators employed by big companies to put together large, commercially viable parcels of land. In a densely populated country with great pressure on natural resources this has serious social implications.
Colonial and contemporary collaborators
National and sub-national states are falling over each other to facilitate land deals in the name of attracting capital. The elites that control these states are also ensuring their longevity through the facilitation of prestigious land deals for private investors. Being pro-business is generally seen as a badge of honour and is projected as a plus point for politicians in election campaigns.
Among the more humble collaborators in the global land grab, middle men – and the shadowy institutions through which they operate – must be understood in the context of high unemployment, which make land work attractive. And, understandably, like anyone these are people with aspirations for consumption and social mobility. The flashy cell phone, the proximity to rich and powerful people, the ability to get things done, all these indications of rising status are more likely to flow on from having been involved in a successful land transaction than by sitting outside a job centre.
As we know from the history of European colonialism, the land grab would not have been possible without collaborators on the ground – local princelings and administrators were the linchpins of the colonial project. In enabling the transfer of power, they were able to enhance their own influence. Colonial-era princelings and administators have now given way to accommodating politicians, bureaucrats, middlemen and mediators of various types. As such, today’s story of globally traded land plays out along similar lines to colonial times.
Yuzon, Ensign Florencio J. “Deliberate Environmental Modification Through the Use of …. environmental destruction through the use of biological and chemical.
8 Nov 2015 … Despite all of the evidence, however, deliberate environmental destruction during warfare is still largely regarded, as rape once was, as an …
The deliberate destruction of the environment as a military strategy, known as “ ecocide,” is exemplified by the U.S. response to guerrilla warfare in Vietnam.
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“Are we in danger of condemning our Children to lives of abject misery?”
In December 2012, the UK Government lifted the moratorium on the process known as Hydraulic Fracturing (FRACKING), pronouncing that the UK would be at the ‘heart of the Shale Gas revolution’.
Ian R Crane worked in the Oilfield Services Industry for 20 years (1979-98). Today he is on a mission; a mission to ensure that the British public are made aware of the abomination that is about to be unleashed on their ‘Green & Pleasant Land’.
Former oilfield executive Ian R Crane has engaged industry sources and independent researchers to lay the foundations for his investigations into fracking — mining of shale and coal seam gas. In “Fractured Future — It doesn’t have to be this way”, a nationwide speaking tour, Ian asks whether this ‘miracle’ of nature really will be the solution to our nation’s problems? Is it going to be the best thing for us since North Sea gas, or are there hidden dangers which could impact upon communities in ways which need open discussion?
Across the UK, a backdrop of unemployment, national debt and austerity is creating a distraction from more long-term problems. While such issues will take decades to address, the potential hazards brewing in the background, which the wider public remain complacent about, are likely to take centuries to put right. Ian considers whether corporate profits are being put ahead of the health, safety and the well-being of our natural environment. We are subjected to increasing restrictions on food choices and health choices, all in the name of protecting us. We have more surveillance and monitoring to safeguard us, and further restrictions on the media are forthcoming. Are such actions justified, and considering our safety is being seen as paramount in these areas, will fracking be subjected to equal levels of caution?
Our national debt has risen by 4%, from 82% to 86% of our Gross Domestic Product, despite all the austerity measures put in place — creating a Trillion Dollar Debt. As experts will tell you, once it goes beyond 100% (where UK debt will be more than annual turnover) our problems will escalate. Is fracking a short-term gain for a long-term loss? A credit crunch turned into an environmental crunch, while bankers’ bonuses continue to escalate?
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda are being fought and funded by the West at one and the same time, and yet the people of Britain just shrug their shoulders. Are we heading towards another World War, and if so, who actually is the enemy? With the unlimited power supposedly presented to us via fracking worldwide, will global peace break out, or will this represent the beach-head in the next battle for energy supremacy?
Prior to becoming an Independent Analyst, Ian R Crane had two decades of experience in the oil and gas industries as a Schlumberger executive, working and living in the UK, Mainland Europe, Middle East & North America
Ian R Crane’s website: http://www.ianrcrane.com
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On May 28, 2015, Bhagaban Majhi, a tribal activist of the anti-bauxite mining Kashipur struggle of Rayagada district in Odisha and Convener of Prakrutik Sampada Surakhya Parishad, was arrested from his village Kucheipadar by Doraguda police. He has been accused of false crimes and still perishes in prison till date.The police have booked him under false criminal cases of dacoit, loot, carrying lethal weapons etc. These sections include 395, 397, 450 Arms Act 27 of IPC.
However, Bhagaban’s story is not one isolated incident of atrocity in a police state.
On December 16, 2000, in Maikanch, police firing killed three tribals and injured several more. The police unleashed a reign of terror every time the tribals and dalits organized against the bauxite mining company, owned by Aditya Birla Group. This has continued till date.In the last few weeks alone, 7 out of 8 activists of the struggle have been arrested. The police have slapped a false allegation of “attempting to murder three police officers” against Bhagaban Majhi because of his resistance to the anti-mining struggles.This is how the police state is silencing activists through unlawful imprisonment.
In Kashipur, 20,000 Jhodia adivasis are still struggling to regain their tribal status. In the 90s, when the government invited Aditya Birla Group owned Utkal Alumina International Limited (UAIL) to utilise the tribal dominated Kashipur area as part of the economic reform plan, UAIL derecognized Jhodia tribals and listed them as OBC (Other Backward Caste) to ensure easy transference of tribal owned land to non-tribals and UAIL.
500 tribals and Dalits lost their land to UAIL, as it was illegally seized. They are now fighting to get the jobs they were promised by the then District Collector and the CEO of UAIL during unlawful land acquisition. They have no means of livelihood left, except to struggle.
Similarly, the villagers of Paikakupakhal village, near the Baphlimali bauxite mine, have started obstructing the transportation of bauxite, which damages their agricultural land. They submitted a written complaint to the district administration, which went ignored. They then decided to block the transportation of bauxite themselves.
Instead of addressing the issues raised by the local tribals and adivasis, the government of Odisha has reopened police stations, both at plant as well as at mining site; imposition of section 144, lathicharge on local villagers and indiscriminate arrest of villagers and activists like Bhagaban Majhi are rampant. Please write to the Chief Minister of Odisha, the District Collector (Rayagada) and the Superintendent of Police (Rayagada) and demand his early release.
Update: Bhagaban Majhi was released on bail on June 19th, 2015
Report by Deba Ranjan
Edited by Manisha Ganguly and Debarati Sarkar