Sinixt Nation Has Right to Lands in Canada
An American Indian community in Washington state have long argued that they are descendants of the Sinixt, an Indigenous people whose territory once spanned Canada and the United States. In 1955, after the Sinixt were pushed down into Washington state, the Canadian government declared them extinct.
Last month, Canada’s highest court agreed, ruling that the 4,000 members of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state were successors to the Sinixt – and as a result, that they enjoy constitutionally protected Indigenous rights to hunt their traditional lands in Canada.
This court decision settled longstanding questions over the status of the Sinixt, but it also has the potential to affirm hunting rights in Canada for tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the U.S. dispossessed of traditional territories by an international border drawn hundreds of years ago.
Lawsuit: Montana’s New Voting Laws Violate Native Americans’ Rights
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Native American Rights Fund filed a lawsuit this month challenging two new election laws in Montana as unconstitutional infringements on American Indians’ right to vote.
Montana legislators enacted the laws — H.B. 176, which eliminated same-day voter registration, and H.B. 530, which restricted ballot collection — this spring, amid a national Republican push to tighten voting regulations in connection with President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
The lawsuit argues that the measures in Montana, where an estimated 6.5 percent of the population is Native and district courts struck down another ballot collection restriction last year, are “part of a broader scheme” to disenfranchise Native voters. It argues that the laws violate the right to vote, freedom of speech and equal protection under the Montana Constitution.
Michigan’s Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline Battle
When Enbridge Line 5 was built in 1953, the notion of tribal consultation was often overlooked by states and corporations. In those days, pipeline construction was simple: The company paid the state of Michigan $2,450 for an easement for a portion of its pipeline on the lake bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Now, however, the state of Michigan and 12 tribes are demanding more from Enbridge than money; they want accountability, meaningful consultation and the right to stop the flow of oil through the aging pipeline.
Treaties — long-ignored and often drawn out in extended court fights — may be key to the dispute. After winning reaffirmation of treaty rights in federal court during the 1970s and 1980s, Michigan tribes have been actively exerting and protecting their rights to hunt and fish in unpolluted ceded territory as guaranteed by the Treaty of 1836.
Now a showdown is looming over Enbridge’s continued operation of Line 5 as well as its plans to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac to house a segment of the pipeline.
The company has ignored orders by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to stop the flow of oil through the pipeline, claiming only the federal courts can enact such an order. The state of Michigan wants the matter sent to a state court.
Enbridge and the state of Michigan are engaged in court-ordered mediation talks, but no deadline has been set for the talks.