Northwest Tribes call on Federal Government to respect Tribal opposition to controversial environmental decisions that impact traditional lands

From Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians 

PORTLAND, OR — The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) concluded their successful Winter Convention.

ATNI’s Winter Convention is one of the largest Pacific Northwest regional convening of Tribal leaders from across Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, Northern California and Montana. Tribal leaders engage in policy and legislative discussions, share emerging trends on critical issues facing Tribal communities, and work collaboratively on committees to develop positions on policy, legislation, and help frame the future of Indian Country in the Northwest.

A wide array of pressing issues were discussed this Convention ranging from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic to fighting climate change but a clear theme emerged: the United States Government needs to respect and hear tribal voices that are working so hard to protect their people and their traditional lands and waters.

With the Trump administration’s recent rollback of protections to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Tribal leaders are increasingly concerned and, therefore, unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Council on Environmental Quality to consult with Tribes on the regulatory proposal to change important regulations under NEPA.

ATNI has become a leading voice for environmental protection for Indian Country nationwide and is a strong voice in support of Alaska Tribes that are fighting efforts to remove environmental protections in Alaska, especially in areas like Bristol Bay whose waters and salmon are an integral part of ATNI members’ traditional ways of life.

“We are so thankful that the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) are standing with the people of Bristol Bay as fellow salmon people. We are doing everything we can to protect our people’s way of life,” said Alannah Hurley (Yup’ik), United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The fact that ATNI and other nations across the U.S. are standing with us, makes a very big difference. This is a really big year for us. The Corps is talking about getting a permit decision out in 2020, so our unity and cooperation is paramount in the work we are doing.”

At the convention, ATNI members also reiterated their support for the Alaska Tribes fighting U.S. Government efforts to remove protections for 9.5 million acres of the Tongass National Forest. In October 2019, ATNI passed a formal resolution calling on the Forest Service to fully protect designated roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest, our country’s largest national forest. As the Federal Government seems content to ignore the concerns of Tribes and the impact that widespread logging of the Tongass would have on traditional hunting and fishing grounds, ATNI felt it important to reaffirm their solidarity with Alaska tribes.

“We fully support the Organized Village of Kake and Tribes of Southeast Alaska that are advocating against removal of protections for the Tongass,” said Catherine Edwards, 6th Vice President of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. “We urge the U.S. Forest Service to listen and have meaningful consultations with Tribal leaders. The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska have strongly opposed the Forest Service’s handling of the Tribal consultation process with Tribal villages across Southeast Alaska. They should be the ones to determine what happens to their forests since this is their ancestral lands and they’ve been there since time immemorial.”

As the original stewards of the Pacific Northwest since time immemorial, Tribes and Tribal leaders need the Federal Government to work in good faith and engage in meaningful consultation with Tribes to ensure that our future generations will continue to benefit from these lands.

Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians 

In 1953 farsighted tribal leaders in the Northwest formed the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and dedicated it to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Today, ATNI is a nonprofit organization representing over 50 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, Northern California and Western Montana. ATNI is an organization whose foundation is composed of the people it is meant to serve — the Indian peoples. Through its conferences, forums, networks and alliances, it is the intent of ATNI to represent and advocate for the interests of its member Tribes to national Indian and non-Indian organizations and governments.

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