.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Webmaster's Blog - Native American Resources

A place to put resources of a more ephemeral nature, such as events, recommended new websites, new books, etc.

Monday, October 24, 2005

For 4th Time, Judge Seeks to Shield Indian Data

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - For the fourth time since 2001, a federal judge has sought to force the Interior Department to disconnect from the Internet its computers that have access to data related to trust accounts it administers for American Indians.

In an opinion of more than 200 pages, the judge, Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court here, said computer security at the department was "disorganized and broken," making it vulnerable to computer hackers.

The ruling, issued on Thursday, exempted those computers necessary "to protect against fires or other such threats to life, property or national security."

But Interior Department officials said that the order could affect as many as 6,000 government computers containing Indian trust data, and others still with indirect access to the information. Dan DuBray, a department spokesman, said the agency received a temporary stay of the order from an federal appeals court on Friday, as it seeks to have the decision reversed. Government lawyers had argued that the stay was "necessary to prevent grave injury to the public interest" and the operations of government.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Commerce and Religion Collide on a Mountainside

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - In the view of American Indians here, the spirits that inhabit the San Francisco Peaks, towering 12,000-foot-plus mountains rising from the desert here, certainly did not appreciate it when a ski run was built a quarter of a century ago on one slope.

The national forest is not on tribal land but is within ancestral boundaries claimed by several tribes.
So imagine, tribal leaders ask, what the spirits will think - or worse, do - when treated wastewater is piped up from Flagstaff and sprayed on the mountain so the resort, the Arizona Snowbowl, can make more snow to ski on? A lawyer for one of the tribes likened it to "pouring dirty water on the Vatican."

In a trial that began this month, 13 Indian tribes who regard the peaks as virtual living deities of the highest order argued that the plan would interfere with their religious practices, including the gathering of mountain water and herbs they say the artificial snow would taint.

"The mountain is like a power plant," Frank Mapatis, a spiritual leader in the Hualapai tribe, said in court. "You plant a feather there, and it is like plugging into a power plant."

The case pits economic interests against traditional practices, and culture versus science, the kind of clashes that are becoming increasingly common in the West as population booms and development pressures butt against Indian desires to reassert ancient practices.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rain Forest Jekyll and Hyde?

Please welcome the latest entry to the Chutzpah Hall of Fame: the mighty Chevron Corporation.

On Oct. 28, during a gala ceremony at its headquarters in San Ramon, Calif., the company, which until May was known as ChevronTexaco, will honor the latest recipients of the annual Chevron Conservation Awards. The awards are meant to recognize the achievements of men and women who have "helped to protect wildlife, restore wilderness, create natural preserves and parks, and institute educational programs to heighten environmental awareness."

Chevron is accused of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste, over a period of 20 years, into the soil and water of a previously pristine section of the Amazon rain forest.
Meanwhile, Chevron's lawyers are in Ecuador defending the company against charges that it contributed to one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet. The company is accused of dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste, over a period of 20 years, into the soil and water of a previously pristine section of the Amazon rain forest.

According to a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of some 30,000 impoverished residents of the rain forest, this massive, long-term pollution has ruined portions of the jungle, contaminated drinking water, sickened livestock, driven off wildlife and threatened the very survival of the indigenous tribes, which have been plagued with serious illnesses, including a variety of cancers.

Chevron, which likes to promote itself as a champion of the environment, contends that no such catastrophe occurred. A spokesman told me yesterday that the billions of gallons of waste that was dumped "wasn't necessarily toxic."

"We've done inspections," the spokesman said. "We've done a deep scientific analysis, and that analysis has shown no harmful impacts from the operations. There just aren't any."

You would have a very difficult time selling that story to the people in the rain forest who have been drinking and bathing in water fouled with the byproducts of oil-drilling processes. Parents have watched their children play and their livestock feed in areas contaminated with oily substances. Pits that perpetually ooze gunk and oil are ubiquitous.