At the end of 2022, Batani Foundation President Pavel Sulyandziga became a member of the Board of The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), an organization that has developed some of the highest standards for indigenous rights. This organization brings together representatives of different, often conflicting parties – business, trade unions, human rights activists, indigenous peoples, environmentalists. For example, the members of the organization are – 1. businesses – Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Microsoft, AngloAmerican, Tiffany and others, 2. environmentalists – Earthworks, IUCN, Fauna and Flora International, Rivers without Borders, 3. human rights organizations – Human Rights Watch, Society for Threatened People. The Batani Foundation will represent indigenous peoples in IRMA.
We hope that the cooperation between the Batani Foundation and IRMA will help in protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, and that Pavel Sulyandziga’s participation in the work of IRMA as a member of the IRMA Board will be successful and productive.
WASHINGTON – A diverse coalition of religious groups, native tribes and legal experts filed half a dozen friend-of-the-court briefs yesterday in Apache Stronghold v. United States, asking a federal appeals court to protect Oak Flat, the spiritual lifeblood and sacred site of the Apache people in Arizona. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently agreed to take a closer look at the case in March 2023. If the court doesn’t intervene, the government will give this historically protected land to a mining company that will swallow the site in a massive crater, ending Apache religious practices forever.
“The diverse voices calling for protection of Oak Flat remind us that the government’s threat to destroy Oak Flat is a threat to destroy religious freedom for people of all faiths,” said Dr. Wendsler Nosie, Sr. of Apache Stronghold. “We hope these voices will help the court understand that Oak Flat deserves no less protection than the many historical churches and other religious landmarks the government protects from coast to coast.”
Since time immemorial, Western Apache and other native peoples have come to Oak Flat for essential religious ceremonies that cannot take place anywhere else (video). The site is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been protected for decades. But in 2014, the government ordered Oak Flat to be given to Resolution Copper, a foreign-owned mining company that plans to turn the sacred site into a two-mile-wide and 1,100-foot-deep crater. Apache Stronghold—a coalition of Apaches, other Native peoples, and non-Native allies dedicated to preserving Oak Flat—sued the federal government to stop the destruction of Oak Flat.
Apache Stronghold lost their initial appeal to the Ninth Circuit after a three-judge panel decided that the land-swap deal did not violate their free exercise of religion. The court announced in November that it will rehear the case “en banc”—in front of a full panel of eleven judges—giving Apache Stronghold a second chance to win protection for Oak Flat.
Highlights from the friend-of-the-court filings in Apache Stronghold v. United States include:
Polling from last year shows that nearly 89% of Americans favor protecting Native American sacred sites on federal land. Strong support for these protections outnumbered strong opposition by a ratio of nearly 20 to 1. Americans overwhelmingly agree that the government should not interfere with the longstanding religious traditions of Native groups.
“It is encouraging to see a diverse coalition of tribes, religious groups, and scholars stand up in defense of the religious freedom of Western Apaches,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “It is long past time for our nation to ensure that Native American religious practices receive the same respect and protection enjoyed by all other faiths.”
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument in this case at its Pasadena courthouse during the week of March 20, 2023. A specific day and time are yet to be determined. In addition to Becket, Apache Stronghold is represented by attorneys Michael V. Nixon and Clifford Levenson.
On November 12, in the village of Lovozero in the Murmansk region, a public discussion was held on a project for the reorganization of the Seidyavvr nature reserve.
The Seydyavr State Nature Reserve — with a total area of 17,972 hectares — was founded in 1982 by the decision of the Executive Committee of the Murmansk Regional Council of People’s Deputies in order to preserve the natural environment, natural landscapes and cultural sites of the Murmansk region.
Valuable game animals and their habitats are protected on the reserve, along with important historical and cultural sites of the Saami people. Located within the boundaries of Seydyavr is Lake Seydozero, a unique landmark of the Murmansk region.
Three forms of whitefish inhabit the lake and spawn at different times of the year, ensuring a steady supply of fish. On the slopes of the mountains surrounding the lake there are unique mineral deposits. Certain endangered lichens, mosses and vascular plants grow here.
In the Seydozero valley, there are several sites of historical and religious significance to the Saami people. Saami legends say that a giant named Kuyva lived in ancient times in the Lovozero tundra. Kuyva robbed and killed the Saami, for which he was destroyed by the Saami pagan gods – “burned by lightning that struck from the waters of the lake.” On a cliff face next to Lake Seydozero, in the coloring of the rocks, there appears a huge humanlike figure which, according to legend, is the imprint of Kuyva’s burned body. The imprint is known as a “seyd” and is formed by cracks and aquifers of natural origin in the rock of the Kuyvchorr plateau facing the lake.
Translated from the Saami language, Kuyva means “old man.” “Kuyva at Seydozero enjoys special honor from the Seydozero Lapps,” the ethnographer Vladimir Vize (1886–1954) once wrote. “Sailing on a karbass past Kuyvchorr, the Lapps are afraid to shout loudly or swear, for fear that the ‘Old Man’ will be angry. The Lapps avoided dirtying the water in Seydozero because ‘the old man doesn’t like it, and otherwise he won’t give fish.’” While the 74-meter Kuyva seyd is the most famous attraction at Seydozero, there are two other seyds in the area.
In accordance with decree number 894-PP of the regional government of Murmansk Oblast, dated December 6, 2021, the following is prohibited on the territory of the nature reserve: the withdrawal of land from the fund of protected forest; diverting water; any felling of trees, with the exception of thinning young forests and selective sanitation cuttings; the exploration and development of mineral deposits; the allocation of protected land for any type of use, any change of land category or other activities that contradict the goals of the reserve and cause harm to the natural environment.
In 2001–2012 an additional study of the territory of the reserve was carried out, on the basis of which it was proposed to include the Seydyavr reserve in the Khibiny National Park being designed at that time, specifically in the area known as Luvyavr. However, when Khibiny was finally created in 2018, Lovozero was not a part of it.
On March 3, 2022, the regional government of Murmansk Oblast approved a new concept for the functioning and development of its network of specially protected natural areas, in which it was planned to change the special protection regime of Seydyavr. The regional government decided that instead of a nature reserve, they needed a natural park.
Pic. 1. The planned Seydyavr natural park. Image: INEP KSC RAS.
To justify the reorganization of the Seydyavr state nature reserve into a national park, the Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems, which is part of the Kola Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, conducted a comprehensive environmental survey of its territory. The result of their work was the research report “Survey and justification for the reorganization of the state nature reserve of regional significance Seydyavr into a nature park of the same name.”
The authors of the study write that in recent years, uncontrolled recreational pressure on the territory has increased, the number of forest plots leased for recreational purposes has increased without taking into account the conservation value of these sites or their role in public recreation, and the volume of geological exploration has increased. The report goes on to say that “these trends may have a significant impact in the coming years,” and the environmental and recreational significance of the Lovozero mountain range will be largely lost.
Therefore, it is necessary to change the category of the Seydyavvr reserve into a nature park, which will allow for the functional zoning of the protected area, expand its boundaries, include additional territories “with intact natural communities,” remove “unjustified restrictions for the development of nature tourism,” and provide “necessary regulation of the growing flow of tourists.”
The authors of the study did not hide the motivations prompting this reorganization. They are specified in chapter 2 of the document “Goals and reasons for the reorganization…”
Looking at a map of the planned natural park superimposed on the map of the existing reserve, it seems that the initiators of the reorganization plan to significantly increase the territory of the protected area.
However, upon careful study of the attached project maps, it becomes clear that the actual specially protected natural areas, i.e. the zones intended “to preserve the environment in its natural state with the complete exclusion of economic impacts,” will be only a small part of the current Seydyavr reserve (see the map in Fig. 3 below — highlighted in dark red).
At the same time, according to the organizers, almost half of the planned natural park should be a so-called recreational zone, where the regional government wants to develop tourism (highlighted in light green in Fig. 3). The recreational zone will include the whole of Lake Seydozero, on the banks of which the Kuyva seyd is located.
This is not the first attempt by the Murmansk Oblast regional government to expand the tourist (recreational) potential of the reserve. Several years ago, the leadership of the regional ministry of natural resources and ecology, together with two other organizations — the Clean Seas International Environmental Fund and LLC Made in the Arctic — appealed to the federal Ministry of Natural Resources and the Arctic Council with a request to support for a project to reconstruct an ancient Saami settlement and turn it into an educational cultural and environmental center. The organizers wanted to request about a million euros from the Arctic Council for the implementation of this project.
Some Saami leaders spoke out against the initiative to develop tourism at Lake Seyodozero, which is sacred to the Saami people. Several appeals were sent to the federal Ministry of Natural Resources and the Arctic Council, including from the Aboriginal Forum — an informal association of experts and leaders of public organizations of the indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East — and from the Saami Heritage and Development Foundation with a request to postpone the decision on the implementation project prior to separate consultations with the Saami community.
After the foreign participants of the Arctic Council began to ask uncomfortable questions, the authorities of Murmansk Oblast organized public consultations in Lovozero and even enlisted the support of representatives of official Saami organizations loyal to the Russian authorities. But in the end, the project did not receive funding from the Arctic Council and stalled.
However, the new initiative of the Murmansk officials shows that they have not abandoned the idea of turning the Saamis’ sacred lake into a tourist attraction.
Another reason for the reorganization of the reserve, which is directly indicated by the authors of the aforementioned study meant to justify the project, is to “ensure the sustainable functioning” of the Lovozero mining and processing plant. It is not entirely clear how this can be reconciled with the goal of environmental protection, for which specially protected natural areas are normally created.
According to the Federal Law on Specially Protected Natural Areas – “specially protected natural areas are plots of land, water surfaces, and the airspace above them, where natural complexes and objects are located that have a special environmental, scientific, cultural, aesthetic, recreational or health significance, which are withdrawn by decisions of the state agencies wholly or partly from economic use and for which a special protection regime has been established.” Note that this law has nothing to do with providing assistance to mining enterprises.
According to the proposed zoning of the new nature park, a significant area is going to be allocated to a so-called “special nature protection zone” and a “special zone of traditional economic use” (highlighted in pink in Pic. 3, as well as the striped area in the northwestern or upper left corner). The attached draft regulations for the new park propose allowing subsoil use in these zones.
The Lovozero Mining and Processing Plant LLC is a Russian producer of raw materials for the production of rare and rare earth metals, primarily loparite concentrate. The enterprise is a mining and processing complex, consisting of an underground mine and a processing plant.
Rare earth and rare metals serve as raw materials for innovative technologies. The volume of production and consumption of these metals is an indicator of the development of an industry as a whole and its innovative component in particular. Rare earth metals are widely used in the production of optics, solar cells, capacitors, electronics, special alloys (super hard, heat-resistant, corrosion-resistant alloys), and semiconductors, as well as in the nuclear industry and other innovative and high-tech industries. They are also critical raw materials for the defense industry.
Russia has enormous reserves of rare earth metals, but most of the deposits are difficult to access and lack the necessary infrastructure for their development. Lovozero, however, has large alkali deposits in a favorable geographic position.
In November, the independent Russian media outlet Novaya Gazeta published a major investigation into the nationalization in Russia of a significant number of attractive assets, which have subsequently ended up under the control of companies close to the Russian authorities. According to Novaya Gazeta, the privatization of the Lovozero plant has been declared invalid, and the plant is to be managed by the state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom.
Whether or not the nationalization of the Lovozero plant is related to Western sanctions — and to the resulting shortage of electronic components needed by Russia, including for the production of weapons — is unknown. But some experts claim that at present the Lovozero plant is the only supplier of raw materials for the rare earth metals niobium and tantalum in the Russian Federation, while “against the backdrop of the rapid severance of external relations with the West, Russia urgently needs to organize its own production of permanent magnets, including for the needs of portable military electronics.”
And so questions remain unanswered about the reorganization of the reserve into a nature park. How did the need to ensure “the sustainable functioning of the principal employer and economic driver of the Lovozero district” become one of the official goals of the reorganization? Is this decision related to Western sanctions and the shortage of chips and electronics, as well as the “necessity” of continuing Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine?
And most importantly — why is the reorganization of the reserve necessary at all? If changes are necessary, is it possible to consider other alternatives and introduce them into the current regulation on the reserve?
Although ensuring the rights of the Saami population is not the main goal of the reorganization, according to the authors of the aforementioned study, among the goals and objectives are:
To this end, it is assumed that “within the framework of the management of the nature park, the managing agency should take into account the vital interests of the Saami indigenous people of the North in matters of the protection and rational use of natural resources and the preservation of their original habitat within the boundaries of the nature park.”
Representatives of the local Saami have already had conflicts with the leadership of the existing reserve. For example, Saami activist Andrey Danilov has written that in 2017, a Saami family was not allowed to visit the sacred Lake Seydozero while park employees freely let tourists through. Subsequently, the management of the reserve clarified its position — organized and paid tourists have the right to visit the territory of the reserve on snowmobiles, while the Saami also have the right to visit their sacred places, but only on foot.
All of the above points in which the initiators of the reorganization show “concern” for the indigenous people of Murmansk Oblast, however, are already listed in one way or another in the regulations on the existing reserve:
Whether or not there is a guarantee that the directorate of the new nature park will have a better attitude towards the rights of the Saami than the old directorate of the reserve is also an open question.
Recently, the Russian authorities and propagandists under their control have been aggressively promoting internationally the idea that Russia takes very seriously the need to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from indigenous peoples. Several months ago, Norilsk Nickel implemented a project to obtain FPIC from residents of the Tukhard settlement (Taimyr, Krasnoyarsk Territory) in order to evict them from the industrial zone of the oil and gas company Norilsk Gazprom, and it was widely advertised at various international platforms.
Participants of the Eastern Economic Forum Andrey Grachev (left), Vice President for Federal and Regional Programs of Norilsk Nickel, and Grigory Ledkov (right), member of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, President of the Association of Indigenous Minorities and the Far East of the Russian Federation; Andrey Grachev and Igor Barinov, head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs of the Russian Federation. Vladivostok, September 2022. Photo: Norilsk Nickel press office
At the Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok in September, Andrey Grachev, Vice President of Federal and Regional Programs at Norilsk Nickel, said that FPIC is “a part of our corporate culture.” The head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, Igor Barinov, praised the company’s cooperation with the indigenous peoples of Taimyr even more highly: “Their corporate project to support the indigenous peoples of the North is probably one of the best in the world, and there may be nothing else like it.”
Antonina Gorbunova, a member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Executive Director of the International Public Organization of the Indigenous Peoples Union, presenting the same case on the implementation of the FPIC principle in Taimyr at the meeting of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in May this year, noted that “FPIC is not only a result but, no less importantly, a process. A process of building relationships of trust, a process aimed at ensuring that the voice and opinion of indigenous peoples in the development and implementation of programs and projects should be heard and fully taken into account.”
The member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from Russia, Alexei Tsykarev, said in an interview of the project implemented by Norilsk Nickel in Tukhard that “if this project is not included in textbooks on jurisprudence, then it will definitely be included in studies on how FPIC is developing in the world.”
Participants of consultations within the framework of the FPIC procedure in Taimyr (from left to right): Antonina Gorbunova, Vasily Zakharov (Advisor to the Deputy Director for Regional Policy and Corporate Projects of the Norilsk Nickel Company), Mikhail Todyshev (Head of the public movement Council of Elders of the Shor People of Kemerovo Oblast), Alexey Tsykarev
These are just a few examples, but there are hundreds of such publications online about Norilsk Nickel and the “Voluntary, Prior and Informed” Consent of Indigenous Peoples. Thanks to Russian propaganda and Norilsk Nickel’s international PR campaign, the resettlement project for Tukhard residents has become a key project for Russia as part of its chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
Much less is said during such public presentations about the fact that the residents of the village did not have the opportunity to make any decision other than “voluntary” resettlement, since, in accordance with amended Russian legislation, permanent residence in the industrial (sanitary) zones of such enterprises has been prohibited.
In light of all this, the public discussions in Lovozero are a clear example of how such procedures are actually carried out in Russia. No one, of course, makes a separate agreement with the indigenous peoples. Everything is done within the framework of procedures determined by law, and indigenous peoples may or may not participate in public discussions.
Due to the remoteness of some settlements and poor communications, indigenous peoples most often learn about such discussions after the fact, when all decisions have already been made, and heavy equipment has already begun to work on their traditional lands.
But let’s return to the reorganization of the Seydyavr nature reserve. On October 19, the regional Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Fisheries in Murmansk Oblast published an announcement that it would hold public discussions “in order to ensure the participation of citizens, public associations and non-profit organizations, as well as to take into account public opinion.” The discussions took place in the village of Lovozero on November 12, and proposals and comments from the public, including from the Saami, were accepted until November 18.
But how, in such a short time, could unprepared listeners, including Sami reindeer herders and fishermen, understand a rather complex, technical, 170-page document, conduct an internal discussion, develop their position and prepare well-founded proposals? The question is rhetorical.
This is how they implement the harsh Russian FPIC.
Dmitry Berezhkov, Editor-in-Chief of Indigenous Russia
This paper explores ethnic and regional inequalities in mortality in the Russian army during the 2022 war in Ukraine. The analysis is based on a newly available data set containing the names of about 9,500 Russian servicemen killed in Ukraine from February to November 2022. The data set was collected by a team of volunteers from the social media and other available sources. There are large inequalities in the army mortality rates across Russian regions, with the highest mortality of soldiers originating from poor regions in Siberia and the Russian Far East and the lowest from Moscow and St.Petersburg. Some ethnic minority groups, in particular Buryats and Tuvans, are overrepresented among the fatalities, compared to their population share. Once regional inequalities are taken into account, ethnic gaps in mortality are reduced substantially. It is likely that ethnic fatality gaps are largely driven by socio-economic inequalities: young men in poorer regions see the career in the military as more attractive. The paper places these findings in the context of the previous research on inequalities in US military casualties.
NOVEMBER 30, 2022
This week, President Biden is hosting the second Tribal Nations Summit of his Administration to help foster Nation-to-Nation relationships and provide Tribal leaders with an opportunity to engage directly with senior Administration officials. Since taking office, President Biden has prioritized relationships with Tribal Nations that are built on respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, honoring federal trust and treaty responsibilities, protecting Tribal homelands, and conducting regular, meaningful, and robust consultation. The President has also advanced an economic agenda that includes historic levels of funding specifically for Tribal communities and Native people, including $32 billion in the American Rescue Plan (ARP), $13 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), and $700 million in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
As Tribal leaders gather in Washington at the Department of the Interior for the first in-person Summit of this Administration, the President and members of the Cabinet will be announcing a number of new actions that will build on the progress that has already been made, create new opportunities for Tribal consultation and input, and produce lasting changes that will impact the lives of Tribal leaders and their citizens for generations to come.
Other announcements that are being made at the Summit this year are included below. Additionally, the White House is releasing a comprehensive Progress Report that details actions that have been taken across the Administration over the past two years. The full report can be read here.
Additional Announcements That Will Be Made During the Tribal Nations Summit
Strengthening and Standardizing Tribal Consultation
New Tribal Advisory Committees and Positions. USDA and HUD will establish their first-ever Tribal Advisory Committees to ensure that Tribal leaders have direct and consistent contact with federal agency decisionmakers and to institutionalize Tribal voices within policymaking.
DOD is establishing a permanent position to serve as the Senior Advisor and Liaison for Native American Affairs within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This position will provide more permanence and certainty to Tribal Nations working with DOD. The Senior Advisor and Liaison for Native American Affairs will be responsible for advising the Department on matters concerning interactions with Native Americans, including federally recognized Tribes and Native Hawaiian Organizations.
NOAA will add two new Tribal Coordinators to its ranks in Alaska and the North Atlantic region. The Alaska Tribal Coordinator will focus on commercial fisheries and establish strong cross-cultural relationships with Tribes in Alaska. The North Atlantic Region Tribal Coordinator will engage with North Atlantic Tribes and affiliated Tribal organizations on ocean policy issues.
For the first time in its almost 30-year history, AmeriCorps—the federal agency for national service and volunteerism—will create a new senior political appointee position for a Strategic Advisor for Native American Affairs. This position will lead the agency’s engagement with Indian country; carry out the agency’s Native American Action Plan to reduce barriers to service and increase investment in Tribes and Native communities; and develop, implement, and evaluate initiatives to further Native American participation in AmeriCorps’ programs and endeavors.
These agency efforts build upon this year’s successes of establishing new Tribal Advisory Committees at DOI and DHS; establishing a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs at Treasury; and appointing the first-ever Tribal Policy Advisor at OMB.
New Consultation Trainings and Guidebooks. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) at DOC will launch a new staff training series on working with Tribal communities. The training will ensure that EDA staff recognize and respect Tribal self-government and sovereignty, honor Tribal treaty and reserved rights, and strive to meet the federal government’s trust responsibility toward Tribes. In December 2022, DOD will publish a Tribal Protocols Guidebook, which will serve as a resource guide for DOD components on how to build and enhance relationships with Tribal governments.
New Regulations and Process for Fee to Trust Land Acquisitions. DOI will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on proposed amendments to 25 C.F.R. Part 151, which governs fee-to-trust land (or “land into trust”) acquisitions that transfer land title to the United States to be held in trust for the benefit of an individual Indian or Tribe, including in Alaska. The process is critical for Tribal sovereignty, self-determination, preservation of history and culture, economic development, and the well-being of Tribal citizens. This process is also helping right the wrongs of past policies like allotment, which removed millions of acres of land from Tribal ownership and federal protection. In line with President Biden’s promise to make it easier for Tribes to place land into trust, Interior’s proposed amendments to the fee-to-trust regulations provide for a more efficient, less cumbersome, and less expensive fee-to-trust process, including for conservation purposes. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking incorporates feedback from Tribal consultations earlier in the year, and DOI will hold Tribal consultations on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in December 2022.
New Regulations to Protect Tribal Reserved Rights. EPA will propose revisions to the federal water quality standards (WQS) rule, clarifying that, when developing new and revised WQS, states must evaluate Tribal reserved rights to an aquatic and/or aquatic-dependent resource in the area or downstream of the area. If a right exists, states must evaluate available data to inform the level of water quality necessary to protect that Tribal reserved right, and, if necessary, revise their WQS to ensure protection.
New Baseline Water Quality Standards Rule. EPA is developing a proposed rule to establish baseline WQS for Indian reservation waters that do not have Clean Water Act WQS in place. This action would narrow the Clean Water Act protection gap in Indian country and safeguard water quality until Tribes obtain authority to adopt Clean Water Act WQS themselves.
Appendix C Rulemaking Effort. The U.S. Army has historically used USACE Appendix C for actions affecting historic properties under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Tribal Nations and Native Hawaiian communities have, for many years, complained that Appendix C does not comply with Section 106 procedures. USACE is announcing a rulemaking effort proposing to rescind Appendix C. USACE would instead rely on ACHP’s regulations and joint USACE/ACHP guidance for implementation of Section 106. The Army intends to coordinate closely with Tribal Nations and ACHP throughout this rulemaking effort.
New Regulations to Consider Tribal Benefits in Water Resources Development Projects. USACE will establish new agency procedures to consider a wider range of Tribal and public benefits of water resource development projects. USACE is the nation’s largest water resource developer, and the agency’s current procedures for development projects focus primarily on achieving national economic development benefits. Under the new procedures, the agency will take into account additional public benefits of water resources investments, including whether an investment achieves social and environmental benefits for a Tribe.
Domestic Mining Law Reform– Improving Tribal Engagement. This year, DOI launched an interagency working group to reform hardrock mining laws and policies to ensure that mining activities are conducted using strong environmental, sustainability, safety, Tribal consultation, and community engagement standards. Today, DOI and USDA are implementing a number of recommendations that will be part of a forthcoming report from the Interagency Working Group on Mining Regulations, Laws, and Permitting, including (1) recommendations on ways to ensure Tribes are engaged earlier during the development of mining proposals on public lands; (2) providing Tribes a seat at the table in discussions regarding mining proposals; and (3) improving consideration and protection of Tribal interests and resources as mining decisions are being made. Several steps will be implemented by DOI’s Bureau of Land Management, such as notifying Tribes when exploration work is about to occur and inviting Tribes to join pre-application meetings with mine developers. Complimentary to the efforts described above, the U.S. Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council) will set aside $5 million for Federally recognized Tribes in order to enhance Tribal engagement in the permitting review and authorization process for FAST-41 covered projects. The Permitting Council will issue a Dear Tribal Leader Letter to initiate consultations starting in February to design the program.
Agency Implementation of Indigenous Knowledge (IK). In support of the Administration’s IK initiative, DOI and ACHP are publishing new IK guidance. DOI is instituting Departmental guidance for DOI bureaus to support collaborative engagement with Tribes and the use and protection of IK. ACHP is developing a policy regarding the role IK has in historic preservation to advance greater incorporation of and consideration for IK throughout the review process under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
USDA to Fund IK Research Track at AISES. In further support of the Administration’s IK Initiative, USDA will partner with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) to fund an IK research track at the annual AISES conference for students who conduct science and engineering research at the intersection of western science and IK.
Tribal Climate Resilience and Community-Driven Relocation. DOI is announcing new community-driven relocation demonstration projects. This funding represents a vital investment to address the growing risks faced by many Tribes as a result of climate change. DOI, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Denali Commission, and partnering federal agencies, will coordinate with these Tribes to support their relocation efforts and address the numerous and costly aspects of relocating entire communities. BIL funding will also support Tribal climate resilience through increased funding for the BIA Annual Awards Program that is available to all Tribes facing climate-related risks.
Additional Support for Community-Driven Relocation. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program will allocate $40 million from BIL to assist with community-driven relocation of Alaska Native Villages due to climate change, erosion, and flooding. Seven villages have been chosen from a set of the highest-risk villages. This funding will cover feasibility studies, watershed planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, and move design. USDA will coordinate with DOI’s community-driven relocation program in providing this funding.
New Director of Alaska Native Climate Change Initiatives. NOAA is using Climate and Equity Pilot Project funds to establish a director of Tribal climate change initiatives position at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), a non-profit Tribal health organization serving Alaska Native and American Indian people in Alaska. The director will lead a landscape assessment of Tribal climate change adaptation activities in Alaska and establish a baseline understanding of Tribal climate change challenges and responses. In addition, the director will lead the formulation and launch of an Alaska Tribal Climate Change Advisory Group to ensure that Tribal climate change efforts across the state are led and prioritized by Alaska Native people.
Economic Development, Energy, and Infrastructure
Tribal Clean Energy Transition Initiative. DOE is launching a new inter-agency initiative to support Tribes transitioning from conventional to clean energy development. DOE will enter into memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with interested Tribes to establish frameworks for collaboration. DOE will coordinate and collaborate with WHCNAA and the Interagency Working Group on Coal Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. Active involvement from DOI, DOT, USDA, DOC, ED, and DOL will support and strengthen this initiative.
Renewable Energy Accelerated Deployment Initiative for Indian Country (READI). DOI is announcing the Renewable Energy Accelerated Deployment Initiative for Indian Country (READI) to centralize Native renewable energy expertise and expedite renewable energy resource development on Indian lands. The initiative will: streamline and advance renewable energy development in departmental policies, procedures, and regulations, including leasing; solicit and receive Tribal government advice on renewable energy resource needs and priorities; and incentivize renewable energy development on Indian lands through technical assistance and consensus-based updates to regulations and other legal authorities.
New Gaming Regulations. DOI will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on proposed amendments to regulations governing the review and approval of Tribal-state gaming compacts (found at 25 C.F.R. Part 293). Indian gaming is a vital economic and community development tool that has funded strong Tribal governments and significantly advanced Tribal self-determination. The proposed amendments seek to improve the negotiation process for Tribal-state compacts by clarifying allowable topics of negotiation, better defining key terms, and clearly outlining when DOI must review a gaming compact. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking incorporates feedback received during Tribal consultations, and DOI will hold additional Tribal consultations on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in December 2022.
Enhancing Tribal Participation in the 477 Program. Last month, 12 federal agencies signed a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to implement the Tribal “PL477 Program,” named for Public Law 102-477. PL477 allows Tribal governments to consolidate important federal funding for job training, workforce development, and other economic development purposes into a single plan, with a single reporting requirement, administered by DOI. PL477 eases the burden on Tribes and makes it easier to provide federally funded employment and job training services based on unique Tribal goals. DOI and DOL will develop guidance to assist Tribes in using the new 477 MOA to boost their employment, job training, and related services. This guidance will help Tribes (1) identify funding eligible for consolidation and (2) develop and submit 477 plans for approval.
SBA Funding for Native American Serving Organizations. SBA is announcing $1.2 million in funding for seven organizations providing community-level training and technical assistance for Native American small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country. SBA now has more Native American-focused partners than ever before, thanks in part to the Community Navigators Pilot Program, an ARP initiative designed to reduce barriers faced by underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs.
Consultation on Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee’s Dual Taxation Report. Dual taxation on Tribal lands (i.e., taxes levied by both state and Tribal governments on the same persons, properties, or transactions) inhibits Tribal economic development and economic sustainability because it diverts tax revenue from Tribes to non-Tribal governments and deters private sector capital investment in Indian country. The Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee (TTAC) issued a report in 2021 that documented the effects of dual taxation and provided recommendations for federal partners. Due to increased Tribal leader interest, and to ensure a robust evaluation of these recommendations, Treasury will commence a second consultation on this report and address feedback during the first public TTAC meeting in 2023.
Tribal Transit Symposium. Today, DOT is announcing its first-ever Tribal Transit Symposium, which will be held in 2023. This symposium will provide Tribes the opportunity to: meet with Federal Transit Administration leadership; receive technical assistance; learn about funding opportunities under BIL; and learn about the Tribal Transit Program, which funds planning, capital, and operating assistance for Tribal public transit services.
Tribal Aviation Symposium. Today, DOT is announcing that it will join the Federal Aviation Administration in co-hosting its second Tribal Aviation Symposium in 2023. This symposium will be open to all 574 Tribes and will cover grant applications, Tribal access to airports, commercial sea plan access, drone usage, and Tribal youth engagement and education. Technical assistance will be provided to Tribal airport owners and operators on airport improvement plans and financial reimbursement and reporting procedures.
Improving Highway Safety in Indian Country. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is leading a multi-agency effort to address highway safety in Indian country. In 2023, NHTSA will expand the initiative. This campaign will bring awareness to the higher rates of fatal crashes in Indian country and will include safety strategies for Tribes. NHTSA will partner with BIA’s Office of Public Safety and Justice to conduct outreach to Tribes for the campaign.
Tribal Maritime Roundtable. DOT is announcing that its Maritime Administration (MARAD) will host its first-ever Tribal Maritime Roundtable in 2023 to update Tribes on the Port Infrastructure Development Program, the America’s Marine Highway Program, and workforce development opportunities in the maritime sector.
Tribal Broadband and Spectrum
DOI-FCC-DOC Electromagnetic Spectrum MOU. DOI, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and DOC are announcing a new MOU to advance consistent interagency coordination to promote electromagnetic spectrum access and deployment of broadband and other wireless services on Tribal lands. The MOU will provide a framework for exploring new opportunities for tribal policy development for wireless services, including spectrum access and data exchange, in support of Tribes’ political and economic self-determination.
Establishment of a DOI Office of Indigenous Communications & Technology (OICT). The new office will assist Tribal Nations and Tribal entities in managing, developing and maintaining broadband infrastructure, new electromagnetic spectrum leasing mechanisms, and in providing technical assistance for the establishment of wireless, digital, and technological projects on Tribal lands. The office will also focus on the development of new technological services to facilitate new partnerships between Tribes and the tech industry for the advancement of Tribal self-governance initiatives, including EV; light detection and ranging (LiDAR) used for mapping, surveying and other services; and opportunities for Indigenous participation in data science, coding, and software engineering.
Public Safety and Justice
New Memorandum of Understanding to Improve Law Enforcement Coordination in Indian Country. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and DOI’s Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, on behalf of the BIA Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS), will sign a new Memorandum of Understanding, which will be the first update of the agencies’ MOU since the early 1990s. The new MOU will clarify investigative roles, define best practices, and recommend training for personnel working in Indian Country, a significant reform to improve coordination between the two law enforcement agencies that share responsibility for investigating Indian Country crimes, including missing or murdered Indigenous people (MMIP) investigations.
Improving Case Intake for MMIP Cases. The FBI and BIA-OJS will embed a criminal investigator and program analysts from DOI’s Missing and Murdered Unit into the FBI headquarters-level unit in charge of Indian country to facilitate MMIP case intake. Having MMIP-experienced staff involved at inception will expedite and enhance law enforcement’s approach to MMIP cases from the outset.
New National Native American Outreach Services Liaison. DOJ is announcing its first-ever National Native American Outreach Services Liaison. This position was created as part of the President’s Executive Order on Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice and Addressing the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. The Liaison will build on and enhance existing protocols for effective, consistent, and culturally and linguistically appropriate communication with families of victims and work to ensure that victims of crime have a voice during every step of the criminal justice process where the federal government has jurisdiction.
Updated U.S. Attorney’s Offices Operational Plans. DOJ is announcing that U.S. Attorney’s Offices within Indian country will finalize their operational plans to better promote public safety in Tribal communities. On July 13, 2022, the Deputy Attorney General issued a directive to all U.S. Attorneys and law enforcement agencies that made it a priority to address the disproportionately high rates of violence experienced by American Indians and Alaska Natives, and relatedly, the high rates of Indigenous persons reported missing. Consistent with that directive and Savanna’s Act, U.S. Attorneys Offices have, in consultation with Tribes located in their district, worked to develop guidelines for cases involving missing or murdered Indigenous persons and to update their operational plans to improve coordination, better support victims, and address other pressing public safety issues.
2023 Environmental Justice Convening. Next year, DOJ will host an Environmental Justice Convening with federal officials and Tribal leaders to develop strategies to prevent and address harms caused by environmental crimes, pollution, and climate change in Indian country. The convening will incorporate recommendations from Tribal leaders gathering during Tribal listening sessions in late 2022 and early 2023.
Expansion of the National Human Trafficking Hotline to address MMIP. To address the MMIP epidemic and reduce factors for victimization, HHS will ensure that the National Human Trafficking Hotline is able to make referrals to mental health organizations and health care providers with the appropriate expertise to work with human trafficking victims, including those who have cultural competency for working with Indigenous peoples of North America and the Pacific. It will do so by: (1) consulting with the National Human Trafficking Hotline on the status of referrals with cultural competencies; and (2) expanding outreach to providers with trauma-informed training and culturally and linguistically appropriate competencies for inclusion in the Hotline referral directory.
Education and Native Languages
Expanding and Implementing the Native Languages MOA. In November 2021, 10 federal agencies, coordinated through WHCNAA, signed a Native Languages MOA to promote collaboration on programming, resource development, and policy related to Native languages. The number of agencies will more than double, with 13 additional agencies now joining the MOA and committing to advance its Native languages objectives. These additional agencies include ACHP, DOC, DOE, DHS, DOJ, DOL, EPA, OPM, SBA, DOS, VA, the Social Security Administration, and OMB. Implementation of the MOA will be coordinated through the WHCNAA Education Committee and the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Native Americans and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities.
New Resources Guide for Native Languages. Today, the National Endowment for the Arts, in coordination with the WHCNAA Education Committee, is releasing an updated Resources Guide that provides a comprehensive overview of federal funding sources, including agency contacts and program descriptions, that can be used to support Native arts and cultural activities, including Native language revitalization.
New Research on Native Language Retention and Revitalization. The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Native Americans and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities—established by President Biden’s Executive Order 13592—will prepare a summary of research that explores educational attainment and Native language retention and revitalization to identify evidence-based approaches that will inform the 10-Year National Plan on Native Language Revitalization.
National, Comprehensive Study of Native American Education. In 2023, ED will launch a national, comprehensive study of Native American education in both public and BIE settings in accordance with the 10-Year National Plan on Native Language Revitalization. This national study will examine the educational landscape from birth through lifelong learning and provide baseline data from which the National Plan will derive measurable outcomes.
National Native American Language Resource Center. ED will launch the National Native Language Resource Center and conduct Tribal consultation and targeted listening sessions with Tribal Nations and language communities beginning in early 2023 to ensure its meaningful design. The center will serve as a comprehensive online resource to support American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian schools, language programs, and individuals engaged in the reclamation, revitalization, preservation, and instruction of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages.
Native Language Grant Requirements. ED and DOI will review federal grant requirements and suggest mechanisms to award additional grant points for applications that integrate, support, and promote Native language revitalization.
Federal Indian Boarding School Oral History Project. In June 2021, the Secretary of the Interior launched the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative (BSI) to shed light on the troubled history of federal Indian boarding school policies and their legacy for Indigenous peoples. In May 2022, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs released Volume 1 of the investigative report called for by the Initiative. To implement one of the recommendations of that report, and with new funding announced today from the National Endowment for the Humanities, DOI will begin the first-ever oral history project for survivors in 2023. Indigenous communities requested this project as a way to tell the stories of their citizens.
Native Language Voting Rights Reports. Today, DOI published translations of the landmark report of the Interagency Steering Group on Native American Voting Rights. The report followed consultations with Tribal Nations and listening sessions with Native Hawaiians, organizations advocating for improved Tribal voting rights, and state and local election officials in jurisdictions with sizable Native populations. Those sessions revealed recurring, unnecessary, and unacceptable impediments to the franchise. The steering group’s subsequent report chronicled the barriers Native voters face and recommended actions for policymakers at every level to help break these barriers down. Further, the Department took the unique step of translating the report itself into six Native languages, in writing and by audio, reflecting the regional consultation structure: Navajo, Yup’ik, Ojibwe, Cherokee, Lakota, and Native Hawaiian.
New Tribal Early Learning Initiative. In support of the Administration’s goal to increase the percentage of Native American children and families who participate in high-quality early childhood programs and services, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at HHS will launch a new Tribal Early Learning Initiative (TELI). TELI will enable Tribes to improve collaboration and coordination across Tribal early childhood programs (including Head Start, child care, home visiting, and preschool) to support stronger Tribal early childhood systems. ACF initiated TELI in response to feedback from Tribal leaders during Nation-to-Nation consultation. Forty-nine Tribes will participate in a broad network of Tribes working to coordinate their programs (the TELI Network) and eight Tribes will participate in a more intensive peer learning community (the TELI Collaborative).
Education Partnerships. Today, DOI is announcing that BIE will partner with the Trust for Public Lands’ Community Schoolyards Project to create outdoor educational spaces to support healthy Tribal communities. The partnership will initially identify six to nine BIE schools for such “Community Schoolyard” projects. The schoolyards will be designed in collaboration with students and community members to reflect the values and culture of each community.
National Fund for Excellence in American Indian Education. Today, DOI is renewing the National Fund for Excellence in American Indian Education, a congressionally chartered, but long unused, non-profit organization to support educational opportunities for American Indian students attending BIE schools. DOI is working to re-invigorate the organization to support Tribally led education initiatives, including the Department’s work on Native language revitalization.
New Strategy for Tribes to Access the Strategic National Stockpile. Today, HHS is sharing its next steps in its draft strategy for Tribes to access the Strategic National Stockpile. HHS will initiate Tribal Consultation on a strategy that describes how IHS, Tribal health departments, and Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) can access the lifesaving federal repository of drugs and medical supplies to support Native communities, prevent supply shortages, and reduce health disparities.
New Policy Clarifying Data Sharing with Tribal Epidemiology Centers for HHS Agencies. HHS will announce a new Tribal Data Sharing Policy in 2023 that will include guidance and a streamlined process for Tribal Epidemiology Centers to request and access critical health data at HHS components. This policy responds to recommendations by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) as well as requests from Tribal leaders to improve data sharing at IHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In development of this new policy, HHS will be examining the broader impact of Tribal access to health data as well.
Bison Initiative to Further Food Sovereignty. USDA and DOI are announcing new efforts to help restore bison populations and promote species conservation. A new USDA initiative will include cooperative agreements with the InterTribal Buffalo Council to prepare and release: (1) a handbook to provide best practices for humane handling and harvesting of bison in the field; and (2) a hands-on curriculum and training focused on food sovereignty and food safety. USDA will also consider actions to remove barriers to serving Tribally produced bison in child nutrition programs. BIA’s Office of Trust Services will create a Branch of Bison Restoration to assist Tribes in developing new bison herds.
Nutrition and Agriculture. DOI announced Indigenous Food Hubs for BIE-operated schools and BIA-operated detention centers at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To further this work, DOI is committed to adopting Indigenous-based land and agricultural management practices and metrics for BIA-managed lands. Today, USDA and DOI are announcing that they will hold listening sessions to receive feedback on such practices, and on barriers and solutions to inform guidance on improving sustainability for flora and fauna biodiversity and sound Indigenous agricultural practices. Additionally, USDA will promote the use of traditional foods in school meals and work with state agencies and schools to overcome food safety, crediting, or other barriers to serving traditional foods in school meals programs.
Hall of Tribal Nations at HHS. HHS is unveiling its plans for a new Hall of Tribal Nations at HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C. to increase visibility of Tribal Nations as Nation-to-Nation partners in providing health and human services in their communities. The Hall of Tribal Nations will be complete in early 2023 with inaugural Tribal flags representing the members of the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee.
New Section 184 Regulations to Increase Home Ownership. HUD will publish a new Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program proposed rule that modernizes the program and provides more homeownership opportunities in Indian country. The rule will: (1) codify program requirements governing underwriting, loan origination, claims, and more; and (2) introduce much needed certainty into the program to attract more participating lenders. The proposed rule would, among other things, authorize HUD to establish a minimum level of lending on trust land.
New Housing for Skilled Workers. Skilled workers are vital to any community’s overall well-being and ability to achieve sustainable economic growth. Unfortunately, some Tribal communities—particularly those located in very remote areas—have historically struggled to attract skilled workers because of a lack of available housing. To address this issue, HUD will begin to implement a new Section 184 demonstration program that specifically targets Tribes and Tribally Designated Entities to use Section 184 financing for the construction of rental housing for skilled workers in Tribal communities. HUD will issue guidance outlining programmatic requirements and begin to make this loan product available to Tribes in 2023.
Native American Veteran Homelessness Initiative. VA, HHS, and HUD, through the WHCNAA Health Committee, are announcing an interagency initiative to increase access to care and services for American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness in urban areas. The initiative will involve partnerships with UIOs and focus on intake and referral services to ensure that Native veterans are aware of and have access to available resources.
International and Border Issues
Reciprocal Indigenous Mobility. DHS will work to identify and remove barriers that impede the access of Tribal Nations and Alaska Native Villages to border-crossing and immigration rights and benefits. These rights and benefits are needed to revitalize, strengthen, and sustain their familial, Tribal, Native language, cultural, and religious and spiritual ties. Achieving reciprocal Indigenous mobility will directly support the aims of the Native Language MOA and the 10-Year National Plan on Native Language Revitalization. DHS will provide a report to the White House Domestic Policy Council within 180 days of the Tribal Nations Summit describing its progress and recommending any new operational procedures or legal authorities necessary to support these efforts.
Indigenous Peoples’ Conservation Advisory Network. DOS and EPA, with guidance from DOI, will launch a new interagency initiative, the Indigenous Peoples’ Conservation Advisory Network (IPCAN), to support and uplift the leadership of Indigenous peoples and their knowledge in conservation, restoration, and sustainable management efforts in terrestrial, coastal, and ocean ecosystems. IPCAN will be developed through robust consultation with global Indigenous stakeholders and will facilitate a global, Indigenous-led network supporting Indigenous peoples’ stewardship of lands and waters to address the climate and biodiversity crises.
Public-Private Partnership Initiatives
Establishment of an Office of Strategic Partnerships at Interior. DOI is establishing a new Office of Strategic Partnerships within Indian Affairs to build partnerships, leverage resources, and promote innovative solutions for Indian country. The new office will also work to bring awareness of the needs and unique status of Indian Tribes. With support from a partnership with Native Americans in Philanthropy, the office will work in close coordination with WHCNAA to serve Tribes and Tribal organizations to develop and build long-term sustainable public-private partnerships and further conservation, education, and economic development in Indian country.
Since September 21, 2022, in Russia there has been taking place a massive mobilization among the civilian population for the war against Ukraine. We, the representatives of indigenous peoples, speak against this inhuman war unleashed by the Putin regime, and we call on UN bodies, international organizations and states to take all measures to help stop the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the mass mobilization carried out among the Russian population.
During the mobilization, the Russian authorities are committing massive human rights violations, undermining the right to freedom of movement, the right to freedom of expression, and others. In many cases, mobilization in Russia is carried out by violent methods, against the will of the persons enrolled for military service. The indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation also got drafted.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. The right to life is an inalienable right of every human being. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of life.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, one of whose goals is to overcome historical injustices that have resulted in indigenous peoples becoming victims of colonization, losing their lands, territories and resources, establishes additional guarantees for the protection of the rights of these peoples.
The Declaration states that persons belonging to indigenous peoples have the right to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person, that indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and must not be subjected to any acts of violence. It also points out that states should consult in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned, through their representative institutions, in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent, before taking and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
However, the ongoing mobilization activities among indigenous peoples in Russia massively violate their individual and collective rights.
Numerous evidence and analysis confirm that mobilization in Russia is most active in rural areas and in poor regions of the country. This is happening because the authorities are afraid of the growth of protest moods in major cities, and the development of corruption in Russia makes it possible for wealthier citizens to pay a bribe that allows them to evade the draft.
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of the indigenous peoples of Russia live in rural areas. Indigenous peoples continue to be one of the most socially vulnerable groups in the population. With the exception of some oil and gas producing regions, indigenous peoples, in general, live in the most economically disadvantaged areas of the countries.
Small communities of indigenous peoples are generally located in remote areas, with undeveloped infrastructure, communications and a low level of education. In these areas, indigenous peoples face considerable difficulties in accessing alternative information, being subject to informational influence by state authorities.
In recent years, Russian authorities have been particularly aggressive in their harassment of human rights organizations, including indigenous human rights organizations that have previously helped indigenous communities defend their rights.
As a result, this led to a disproportionately high rate of conscripts among Russia’s indigenous peoples. While the Russian authorities claim that no more than 1% of the number of those liable for military service in the country will be called up for military service, in some villages of the Russian Arctic, Siberia and the Far East, where indigenous peoples live, more than 20% of the male working-age population was mobilized.
In particular, there were reports that 181 people were mobilized from the village of Bogorodsk in the Komi Republic, out of a total population of about 700 people, which is 26% of the population of the village. In the village of Olenek in the Olenek national district of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), 50 people were to be mobilized, that is 39% of masculine population of the village aged 18 to 35 years. Due to the lack of stationary medical facilities in hard-to-reach northern settlements, cases of mobilization of people with chronic diseases without a medical examination have become more frequent. Fathers with many children are also mobilized, which puts their families living in harsh climatic conditions on the brink of survival.
There are known cases of mobilization of representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North, engaged in reindeer herding. Such cases were recorded in the settlements of Andryushkino, Kolymskoye, Sangar and Topolinoye in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), which are places of compact residence of Evens, Yukaghirs and Chukchis.
The male population among indigenous peoples is quite often the main guardian of the traditional way of life. In many northern regions, traditional activities such as reindeer herding, fishing and hunting are under threat of extinction, so the recruitment of young men can cause irreparable damage to the traditional way of life, economy and culture of the indigenous population. In some settlements where a mixed population lives, more than half of those mobilized are representatives of indigenous peoples.
There are already numerous testimonies of the deaths of representatives of indigenous peoples involved in the war with Ukraine. The police, the Russian Guard and the Russian intelligence agencies are persecuting indigenous activists and indigenous human rights activists who speak out against the war with Ukraine and mobilization. Aggressive state propaganda does not provide an opportunity to convey an alternative point of view to remote communities, which cannot but resemble a difficult colonial past, through which the indigenous peoples had to go.
In addition, despite the numerous recommendations of UN bodies to the Russian Federation, there are no statistics in the country that would take into account the data, how many representatives of indigenous peoples were mobilized for the war.
On October 31, President Putin announced the end of mobilization in Russia. However, no official document on the end of the mobilization was issued, and numerous testimonies show that Russian authorities continue to draft soldiers secretly, including among Russian prison inmates, students, and other population categories.
Considering that many indigenous peoples of the Russian Arctic, Siberia and the Far East are extremely small in number, and some of these peoples number only a few hundred people, mobilization carried out without any prior consultation threatens the very physical existence of the indigenous peoples of Russia, violates their rights enshrined in United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In connection with the above, we ask you:
1. To help end the war unleashed by President Putin against Ukraine, withdraw the Russian army from Ukrainian territory and restore Ukraine’s state borders in accordance with the 1991 international agreements.
2. To pay close attention to the problems of violation of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Russia, occurring in the course of mass mobilization.
3. To address the Russian Federation with a demand to stop mass violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in the context of ongoing mobilization.
4. To address the leadership of Russia with a demand to stop mobilization for the war with Ukraine among the indigenous peoples of Russia
5. To contact the Russian Federation with a request to provide statistics on how many representatives of indigenous peoples were involved in the war, how many representatives of indigenous peoples died and how many people from among the indigenous peoples were injured.
6. To create a separate commission to study the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on indigenous peoples.
7. To prepare a separate report on the impact of the war on the indigenous peoples of Ukraine and Russia.
In a recent interview, Pope Francis mentioned Chechens and Buryats as “cruelest” perpetrators of the war in Ukraine. “When I speak about Ukraine, I speak about the cruelty because I have much information about the cruelty of the troops that come in. Generally, the cruelest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryati and so on,” the Pope shared in an interview with America The Jesuit Review magazine published on November 28, 2022. CNN reported on the Pope’s remarks on November 29, but mainstream media in Europe and the U.S. has previously amplified this misinformation, which is steeped in racism. On August 9, 2022, coincidentally International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, journalist and author of “Killer in the Kremlin” John Sweeney in an interview with CNN stated, “On the outskirts of Bucha…the Russian soldiers we saw weren’t ethic Russians, they were Buryats, Mongols…” implying Buryats and Mongols were solely responsible for the atrocities.
Enough is enough!
We denounce this racist and hateful rhetoric and call the world’s attention to the fact that these narratives are created and promoted by the Russian State, which is now attacking Ukrainian independence. Minorities and Indigenous Peoples in Russia face stereotypes, discrimination, and marginalization, and Russian propaganda has deliberately used them as faces of the war in order to distance violence and injustice from the Russian political regime. The Pope’s repetition of Russian propaganda is an ill-informed and dangerous accusation that perpetuates harmful, racist and colonial myths that stem from Russia’s long and violent imperial history. These accusations by the Pope are forms of double colonialism, genocide, and a horrific history set to repeat.
The Russian Federation is home to millions of people of diverse ethnicities, including Indigenous populations spread across roughly two-thirds of Russian territory and representing 2% of that region’s population. There are 47 Peoples recognized as Indigenous under Russian law and defined as “Indigenous small-numbered Peoples of the Russian Federation.” Within the Federation, to be recognized as “Indigenous”, a group must fit distinct qualities, including numbering under 50,000 individuals, practicing traditional customs, inhabiting a remote area, and maintaining a distinct ethnic identity. This State-imposed definition prevents approximately 140 Indigenous Peoples, including for example, Buryats, Altaians, Sakha, and Peoples of southwestern Russia, from claiming Indigenous rights through official recognition by Russia.
Many see Putin’s recent forced mobilization of soldiers for the war against Ukraine as an “ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Peoples” as it has disproportionately affected ethnic and Indigenous people in Russia.
This summer, Pope Francis made an apology to Indigenous Peoples in Canada for the Church’s role in the genocidal atrocities that took place at boarding schools and apologized for the “colonizing mentality” of the times. But his latest interview with America shows that colonial mentality is yet to be overcome. As the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope needs to acknowledge the Church’s role in past atrocities around the world and actively work to stop the perpetuation of racist, colonial narratives.
We, representatives of Indigenous Peoples, other nations, and civil society:
Ukraine’s parliament appealed to the international community to support the right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation. The corresponding resolution No. 8105 was supported by 322 people’s deputies.
The appeal emphasizes that, implementing its aggressive imperialist policy, Russia has been committing genocide against enslaved peoples for centuries, ignores the principle of equality and self-determination of peoples, and grossly violates the rights of indigenous peoples and citizens belonging to national minorities.
It is noted that even while waging a war of aggression against Ukraine, the Russian authorities are committing genocide against the peoples of the Russian Federation, in particular using mobilization for this purpose.
The Verkhovna Rada expresses its support for the inalienable right of the peoples of the Russian Federation to self-determination in accordance with the UN Charter, generally recognized norms and principles of international law.
The Parliament calls on the international community to take all necessary measures to stop the Kremlin regime’s persecution of the leaders and members of the national liberation movements of the peoples of the Russian Federation; cessation of the practice of deportation and internal displacement of Russian citizens with the aim of distorting the ethnic composition of the regions of the Russian Federation; indisputably guaranteeing the citizens of the Russian Federation the right to free expression of views, opinions, participation in peaceful assemblies, freedom of association, freedom of conscience and religion, as well as ensuring the free development of traditions and cultural identity of the peoples of Russia.
In addition, the parliament calls for the strengthening of all-round support for Ukraine for its victory in the Russian-Ukrainian war with the subsequent de-imperialization of the Russian Federation and the decolonization of the peoples annexed and kept within it.
In addition, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a statement in connection with the criminal decisions of the leadership of the Russian Federation regarding the attempt to annex the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts of Ukraine with a call to the world community.
The corresponding resolution No. 8091 was supported by 315 parliamentarians.
According to the text of the statement, the Verkhovna Rada addresses the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, the parliaments and governments of all countries of the world, international organizations, and all people of good will with a number of demands. In particular, the parliament calls to condemn the pseudo-referendums held by the Russian Federation with the aim of annexing the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine,
Also, it calls to support the aspirations of the Ukrainian people for Ukraine to become a member of the European Union and NATO as soon as possible.
Protecting forests by investing in Indigenous peoples and local communities, or IPLCs, is increasingly seen as one of the most effective ways to mitigate climate change and halt the global loss of biodiversity. The trouble is that a lot of the funding flow doesn’t reach the IPLC-led organizations that can tackle these issues, says Lindsey Allen, executive director of the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA).
“Right now there’s incredible dissonance between what the evidence shows works for protecting tropical forests and supporting communities, and where the majority of funding flows,” Allen said in an email to Mongabay. “This has to change. It is impossible to end deforestation without a much larger portion of funding reaching organizations in tropical forest countries, and especially Indigenous and community organizations.”
In response to this disconnect, IPLC organizations are banding together to develop funding mechanisms to which big donors can contribute. In support of these efforts, U.S.-based CLUA, which itself is a collective of several private foundations, is working with a broader group of philanthropic climate donors to develop what Allen calls “a ‘plumbing’ system for this finance.” The goal is to move funds more effectively to places where they can have the most impact.
Scientific research has brought the important role that IPLCs play in managing forests into sharp focus. Traditional lands hold 36% of remaining intact forests, which contain vast amounts of carbon critical to meeting global climate goals. But in many places, IPLC rights aren’t legally recognized. These organizations also face a number of hurdles blocking the path of financing from donors’ endowments. IPLC organizations often can’t comply with monitoring and reporting requirements, and the funding they receive may not be flexible enough to be tailored to on-the-ground priorities.
What’s more, IPLC organizations are often small and too numerous for donors to interact with directly. That can make communication difficult, said Levi Sucre Romero, an Indigenous Bribri leader from Costa Rica, in a recorded text message to Mongabay.
“We realized that it is difficult [or] impossible to work with everyone or talk to everyone at the same time,” said Sucre, also the co-president of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities. GATC represents traditional communities in 24 countries covering 60% of Earth’s tropical forests.
Funding has begun to flow toward climate projects, especially since the announcement of a $1.7 billion commitment from governments and private funders announced at the 2021 U.N. climate conference. But IPLC leaders and Indigenous rights advocates have raised concerns that only 7% of the $321 million delivered in the pledge’s first year went straight to IPLC groups.
Sucre said projects aimed at restoring forests, thereby securing the carbon they contain and the biodiversity they support, do need more money. The Rights and Resources Initiative figures it will cost $10 billion to formalize IPLC claims by 2030 to limit the rise in global temperatures. But, Sucre said, the 2021 pledge has opened the door to new conversations around funding and helped IPLCs understand what has been blocking access to that money.
One response from the global IPLC community has been to create a set of geographically focused funds that act as clearinghouses for donor funds, distributing large grants in smaller tranches to local organizations. IPLC-led funds, including the Mesoamerican Territorial Fund in Central America, the Nusantara Fund in Indonesia, and the Podáali Fund in Brazil, are built around the Shandia platform, which centers on IPLC control of how the money intended to address climate change and land degradation is spent.
IPLC leadership around these issues has spurred donors to create complementary systems that link directly with these IPLC-designed mechanisms. CLUA, for example, is working with 13 private philanthropies on the Forests, People, Climate Collaborative to bring more money to IPLCs and to funnel as much as possible through these IPLC-governed mechanisms.
“We believe that most often, [territorial funds] understand, can access, and are best placed to support the landscape of local organizations in ways multi-million-dollar funders can’t,” Allen said.
The 13 private donors involved have committed a combined $780 million toward climate projects in tropical forest countries, specifically in the Amazon, the Congo Basin and Indonesia. They hope to raise a total of $1.2 billion over the next five years. Allen said the group plans to utilize existing territorial funds and help create new ones where necessary.
Forests, People, Climate will also work to lower the hurdles that IPLC groups face. Allen said IPLC groups often struggle with donor requirements around reporting on the progress of funded projects, which diverts energy and resources away from the actual work that will benefit climate mitigation.
“We’ve heard the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities describe it best when they ask for ‘results-based reporting’ rather than ‘receipts-based reporting,’” she said. “To put it another way: would funders rather use the limited hours of a frontline Indigenous leader to pull together a community response against illegal mining invasions, or to pull together her expense reports?”
Still, accountability is essential, Allen added, and reporting and other administrative tasks may be cases in which IPLC organizations could choose to work with intermediaries such as international NGOs, development banks and consulting groups.
They “each play different roles in this ecosystem and the question is: who is best positioned to deploy funding for what?” she said. Forests, People, Climate aims to help determine when working with an intermediary will benefit the project on the ground.
Sucre said he’s heartened by the changing course of the conversation because it now centers on how best to support IPLCs. The Forests, People, Climate Collaborative was announced Nov. 7 during the U.N. climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Sucre said the GATC will continue to work with the CLUA and the funders to work out a governance structure at the U.N. Biodiversity Conference beginning Dec. 7 in Montreal.
The environmental NGO Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) has reported on the dearth of IPLC support, noting in a 2021 report that less than 1% of climate-related aid goes directly to these groups. RFN has also worked as an intermediary with IPLCs in places like Indonesia.
Torbjørn Gjefsen, policy team leader at RFN and the lead author of the 2021 report, welcomed such steps to re-channel funding. (RFN receives funding from the Ballmer Group, which is also among the 13 funders of Forests, People, Climate.)
“There is growing philanthropic interest in funding efforts to protect nature and safeguard rights, which is both welcome and needed,” Gjefsen said in an email. “But it is important that this growth is coordinated and informed by the experience and insights of those that have provided funding for this over time, to make sure it reaches the places it is needed the most and where it will have the greatest effect.
“This is something the ‘Forest, People, Climate’ initiative can contribute to,” he added.
In an interview with America Magazine published on Monday, Pope Francis off-handedly disparaged Russia’s Buryat and Chechen ethnic minorities, characterizing them as the “cruelest” soldiers in the Russian military.
By saying this, Pope Francis — whether on purpose or by accident — repeated one of the best-known stereotypes in the canon of Russian propaganda, namely that of the innate nobility of Russian soldiers and officers who strive to protect the vulnerable and fight for what is right, while non-ethnic Russian soldiers are marauders and murderers.
This deeply problematic trope’s main characteristic is the casual way it is used, not only by pro-Kremlin activists and propagandists, but by Russian opposition politicians too. Even some Ukrainian news editors are guilty of using it — and inevitably see their readership spike with every headline about “militant Buryats.”
Unlike English, the Russian language makes a clear distinction between Russian citizens (российские/rossiyskie) and ethnic Russians (русские/russkie). The latter are the torch bearers of “the Russian tradition,” romanticized by the Pope and with whom all the stereotypes associated with Russia are associated: vodka, balalaikas, and banyas; they read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov, and they are proud of their poetic language and the significance of their culture.
Ethnic minorities in Russia have a completely different status, however, usually unable to learn their native language as schoolchildren and then regularly denied housing and prestigious jobs as adults. They’ll also regularly be searched and subjected to document checks on the streets and in the metro simply due to their surnames or their appearance.
Chechens experience this day-to-day racism more than any other group in Russian society, the legacy of two wars fought between Moscow and Chechnya following the collapse of the Soviet Union that left many ethnic Russians believing that Chechens have a natural inclination to violence.
And yet despite being frequently treated as second-class citizens in Russia, members of Russia’s ethnic minorities have served in Ukraine in huge numbers, with Buryatia, Dagestan and Kalmykia among the most “mobilized” of Russia’s regions. Russia may well be a multiethnic country, but it’s also one in which racial discrimination thrives.
When Pope Francis made his comments about Chechens and Buryats, he did several things. First, he handed Russian propaganda an easy win, allowing it to denounce the West for its obvious racism. Despite representing a country that is itself highly xenophobic (if not in words, then in deeds), Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova immediately took to social media to express her indignation at the Pope’s words. The Pope’s comments managed to make Zakharova appear reasonable, even though her job involves spouting nonsense on a daily basis.
Second, the Pope’s comments have global reach and were read around the world. If the stereotype of Buryat and Chechen cruelty was previously confined to the Russian-speaking world, now the rest of the planet has been made aware of it. Of course, many Buryats and Chechens live outside Russia in multiple diasporas around the world.
Third, despite preaching Christian values and being a moral authority for tens of millions of people, Pope Francis indulged an entire segment of Russian society with extreme nationalist and even overtly racist views, casually reinforcing racist stereotypes about two entire ethnic groups, and in doing so, setting the stage for intra-religious strife, given that Chechens are Muslims and Buryats Buddhists.
What could have motivated Pope Francis to make these hurtful comments? It’s impossible to say for sure, but there are a few likely scenarios. The first is that the Pope has no serious interest in either Russia or Ukraine and therefore blindly accepts what he sees in news headlines just as any other person might.
Reporting from Ukraine has been plagued by inaccuracies and outright falsehoods about the behavior of Russian ethnic minority soldiers. One particularly egregious example was a recurring story that attributed the massacre in the town of Bucha to Buryats in the Russian military.
Since then, the Free Buryatia Foundation has published a full investigation into these claims and comprehensively refuted all stories alleging that there were Buryats in Bucha, establishing instead that the paratroopers stationed in the town came from the western Russian city of Pskov.
While the untruths about there having been a Buryat presence in Bucha are the most notable example of racist slander against Russia’s ethnic minorities, there are innumerable others. All this, despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence more war crimes have been committed by Buryat or Chechen soldiers in Ukraine than ethnically Russian soldiers.
One final possibility is that the Pope deliberately spouted Russian propaganda in a poorly conceived attempt to avoid offending Russians as a whole — and President Vladimir Putin in particular — and thus risk a further rhetorical escalation that might dissuade the Kremlin from sitting down for peace talks with the Ukrainian government.
The real question the Pope’s comments have raised, however, is whose behavior should actually be considered “the cruelest” here — that of Chechens and Buryats or that of Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin.