In honour of National Aboriginal Day, we bring you Native-related news from around the world. Some of these items were taken from Native News, a listserv that sends free news items by email to anyone who wants to sign up. Native News can be contacted at ( ). Environmental News Service, another source of some items, can be reached at ( ).

Oregon to Remove Two Dams
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber today announced a plan to remove two dams in the Sandy River Basin, a major step in restoring natural habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead.

The removal of the dams, located 30 miles east of downtown Portland, is the result of a broad-based collaboration between Portland General Electric, the city of Portland, the state of Oregon, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and other federal and state agencies.

As part of the agreement, Governor Kitzhaber committed to a full effort to find $10 million in state, federal and private money for the habitat-restoration project. Marmot Dam on the Sandy River, Little Sandy Dam on the Little Sandy River, and the related canals and flumes will end their 90-year life as a hydroelectric project.

“For the first time in almost a century, Oregonians will see these two rivers flowing freely again. Thanks to this unique public-private collaboration, wild salmon and steelhead will return home to the Sandy River Basin,” Kitzhaber said.

World Wildlife Fund investigating pollution in Arctic
NUNATSIAQ NEWS (Story by Dwane Wilkin)

IQALUIT – The World Wildlife Fund plans to lead a major study into the health effects of chemical pollution on animals in the Canadian Arctic, beginning this summer on Baffin Island and Nunavik.

The conservation group will enlist the help of Inuit to determine if reported abnormalities in certain species of wildlife can be linked to known contaminants in the Arctic food chain.

“There are a lot of abnormalities that hunters are seeing, people who are intimately involved with wildlife,” said Susan Sang, a WWF investigator.

Several concerned Inuit report a number of unusual conditions among the animals they hunt, including blind caribou, hairless seals and discoloured or diseased internal organs. “We want to find out for sure if its’s related to contaminants or not,” Sang said.

Elders will be interviewed, while hunters and trappers will be trained to record and collect specimens from animals exhibiting gross abnormalities, Sang said.

High levels of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals have been detected In the tissue of wildlife and people who live In the Arctic. Pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) accumulate in the fatty tissues of marine mammals, and in fish and polar bear livers. Lower concentrations of these pollutants have been found in caribou of the eastern Arctic.

Last year, scientists in Norway reported a link between PCB contamination and the strange mutation of eight polar bears on Svalbard Island, each born with male and female sex organs.

In a 1997 report, the federal government confirmed the presence of pesticides and such industrial chemicals as PCBs and heavy metals like cadmium and lead in the northern environment. Most of these contaminants originate in southern Canada and other Industrialized nations, and are carried to the Arctic by wind and ocean currents.

Canada’s commissioner of the environment, Brian Emmett, blasted Ottawa for failing to implement an adequate system of monitoring for the presence and effects of toxic substances on the environment.

U.S. Wildlife Officers Face Obstruction

Special agents employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report widespread obstruction of criminal investigations by agency managers, a new national survey conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has found.

The 120 agents responding to the survey reported political manipulation of decision-making and what PEER characterized as “broad agreement that the agency law-enforcement program is getting weaker and doing a poor job of protecting wildlife.”

More than half the agents responding told of first-hand experiences of managers interfering “with an investigation in order to protect a prominent individual or powerful group.”

One-third of respondents reported managers had “compromised ongoing investigations by contacting the target” to cut a deal limiting or excusing liability.

Fish and Wildlife Service special agents are federal officers charged with enforcing the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and regulations covering interstate transport of wildlife.

Nuclear Waste Plan Called “Pathetic”
NATIVE NEWS (story by Matthew L. Wald), June 2, 1999

[Ed. Note: The Canadian government is consulting with First Nations on plans to import U.S. and Russian nuclear waste and bury it in the Canadian Shield.]

After spending 16 years and $489 million on a finding a way to safely store millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste, the U.S. Energy Department has abandoned the procedure because it produces explosive gases.

Department officials said they will replace the contractor, and asked outside scientists to help find another method.

Dr. Ernest Moniz, the undersecretary of energy, said experiments in the early 1980’s showed the process was producing high levels of explosive benzene gas. But rather than trying to develop a new procedure, “some rather poor judgment was used” and, instead, engineers tried to make the process safe.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a report, “Mismanagement by the Department of Energy and Westinghouse [the contractor] led to an extraordinary, and pathetic, waste of taxpayer money. All we have to show for $500 million is a 20-year delay, and the opportunity to risk another $1 billion to make a problematic process work.”

The plan is intended to solidify wastes left over from nuclear weapons production that will be dangerously radioactive for thousands of years. About 34 million gallons of the wastes are stored in 51 aging underground tanks at the Savannah River site, near Aiken, South Carolina.

The first stage in the plan was to concentrate the wastes so the volume would be manageable. For the second stage, mixing the radioactive material into molten glass, the department has built a $2-billion factory.

The factory works, but the process Westinghouse wanted to use to concentrate the wastes created benzene, a chemical found in gasoline that can burn or explode.

With that approach abandoned, the department may be forced to spend $2.3 to $3.5 billion more and take eight more years to develop an alternate plan.

The Energy Department has even more wastes in underground tanks at its Hanford nuclear reservation, near Richland, Washington, and these are leaking into the Columbia River.

They Moved the Whole Reserve Instead
CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAMS NETWORK (story by Doug Pritchard), June 4

“There’s my father-in-law’s house,” said my guide, pointing to a small log cabin on an island at the edge of the rain-swept English
River. “All the other families had similar houses on the river. There’s where we built our community hall. There’s where we kept a common herd of cows. Over there we had a common cellar for storing the produce of our gardens.”

We had come by boat to visit the “old reserve” of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishnabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation), 80 kilometres north of Kenora in Northwest Ontario. The Anishnabek had invited a Christian Peacemaker Team fact-finding mission to come and learn about the latest threat to their community posed by clear-cut logging. But this threat is set against a backdrop of several other traumas experienced by the community. The story of the old reserve is part of that backdrop.

In 1963, Indian Agent Eric Law announced it would be “better” if the Grassy Narrows people were relocated to a new reserve 5 km away on the road to the town of Kenora. He promised the people the “civilizing” benefits of government housing, electricity, water, sewage and a school staffed by white teachers. When the people resisted the move, he threatened to cut off their Family Allowance checks.

The Anishnabek families were relocated and, 20 years later, the “benefits” did eventually all arrive. But their community was almost destroyed. The new reserve was on a small, stagnant lake away from the big, wide-open river. The new houses were too close together and many lacked access to the water. The soil was too poor to support kitchen gardens. The Indian Agent assigned houses heedless of family ties and friendships. The road to Kenora lured many into trouble.

The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong still treasure their memories of the old reserve and the strength of its community. Some visit it frequently to tend gardens or memories of a better time.