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June 2014 - Newsletter

Hello Everyone,

As we have a number of new members, it seems appropriate to recall the History of our organization. Also, many people are unaware that we operate with a Board of Directors, so who they are, what they do, and how they became involved in our organization is included.

History of Defenders There were basically two events that led to the establishment of the organization: (1) In August, 2002, Congress passed a bill to open up the last 3% of the Black Hills to logging. This included a wilderness area and two roadless areas. Three small environmental organizations had been fighting for years to stop the logging.

(2) Charmaine White Face had been working with the Sioux Nation Treaty Council for a number of years at the United Nations. At that time, it looked as if the resolution of the Treaty issue might become a reality through the UN, which was the upholding of the 1868 Treaty and the return of the Treaty territory to the Sioux Nation. However, as a scientist, Charmaine realized that the environment of the 1868 Treaty Territory had almost been totally destroyed.

When Congress opened up the last remnant of the Black Hills to logging, Charmaine met with Jake Kreilick, National Forest Protection Alliance; Jeremy Nichols, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance; and Brian Brademeyer, Native Ecosystems Council. Charmaine had worked with all three of them when she worked for the local Sierra Club. When they asked her where the tribes stood on this recent assault to the Black Hills, she laughed and said, Now you know how we [Indians] are treated. Now you're being treated the same way. Do you all want to join with us and we'll form an organization to fight this together? But it also means upholding the 1868 Treaty.They said yes. She said she would contact other tribal contacts and ask if others [Indians] thought this was a good idea. Yes responses came in from Harley Eagle, Madonna Thunder Hawk, and Carter Camp. The first meeting was held in August, 2002, and the organization began taking shape.

Initially, meetings were held almost every two weeks with the meeting notes sent to the participants. The group grew and grew with each meeting. We currently have almost 900 members. Our first comments submitted to the U.S. Forest Service were to stop the building of a residential road that would disturb a raptor nest. Eventually, more than 32 environmental issues were identified, and at the next meeting, priorities were to be established. However, word reached the group at the end of January, 2003, that an outdoor shooting range was planned to be built 4 miles from sacred Bear Butte. A pro bono attorney offered his services, and within 11 months the shooting range project was stopped. It was a major win for the protection of a sacred site as it occurred within 11 months, and Defenders as an organization gained credibility. Since then, we have worked on many, many issues. Some of our meeting notes are available online. The early ones, although not online, will be archived with Oglala Lakota College.

Since the beginning, the organization has been all volunteers believing that a person will work on something they truly believe in without remuneration. Also, an unwritten rule of the organization is that once an issue has many others involved: groups, individuals able to continue the fight, then Defenders will withdraw and work on another issue.

Board of Directors: The following are the Board of Directors who are appointed in staggered terms every December:

Brian Brademeyer, Treasurer, Rapid City, SD; Native Ecosystems Council and one of the cofounders.

Harley Eagle, Dakota from Canada; works with the Mennonite Central Committee and has always helped with fundraising; one of the cofounders.

Harold One Feather, Hunkpapa from the Standing Rock Reservation. Was the one to bring the Uranium issue to our attention. Has been involved since late 2003.

Brenda Parsons, Exmouth, England; sends out the membership email, and through her foundation, Lakota Aide, provides for the Defenders and the Treaty Council websites. Has been involved since late 2004.Marcel Bull Bear, Oglala Tituwan, from Pine Ridge Reservation. Gets the information out to students at Oglala Lakota College; is our Master of Ceremonies for our masquerade pow-wows. Has been involved since 2008.

Charmaine White Face, Oglala Tituwan, from Pine Ridge Reservation, Coordinator and one of the cofounders.

Donations and donors None of the work would be possible without the donors and donations we receive. Some of the donors are consistent and send monthly donations through the website. Others might give a large donation once a year. Our most recent donation has come from a Church in Delaware who took up a special collection during a Sunday service. Their donation will be used to pay for water tests of domestic water on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Then Veterans for Peace wants to provide the filters or system needed to provide clean water. Our yearly budget averages around $14,000.00, and that is primarily through donations. Our yearly revenue and expenditure report is on the website or a copy is available upon request.


1. Powertech-Azarga Uranium Mining Company Defenders fought this company for years as the place they plan to mine is an old burial grounds, and no one should dig up Mother Earth, and Uranium is too dangerous to even think of disturbing it. Powertech-Azarga plans on mining uranium north of Edgemont, SD, on the southwest border of the sacred Black Hills. Now, there are many others involved in the fight, so Defenders has stepped back.

Our comments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were totally ignored and we were not even listed as a commenter in the Final Environmental Impact Study. The Defenders Board decided that as there are other very capable interveners, and that there are more issues to keep working on, that we would not pursue an objection to this exclusion.

However, our concerns were not lost as they were given as a Declaration to the attorneys working for some of the other interveners in their court case. Those attorneys were willing to help us in our objections for the exclusion, but the Board decided to let it pass as the other issues regarding Cultural Resource protection are more important.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) did give the license to Powertech-Azarga to mine. In doing so, the NRC clearly violated the National Environmental Policy Act when they granted the license as they never finished the Cultural Resources portion, nor did they wait for a Hearing which is scheduled for August. This is when the attorneys filed an objection with the Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB) and our concerns were given to them for use in that hearing. However, the Atomic Safety Licensing Board eventually gave approval for Powertech-Azarga to mine the Uranium.

So now, the next steps are a Hearing on August 19th before the ASLB, and then hearings before both the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment and the SD Water Management Board. The SD Board of Minerals and Environment has already prevented Defenders from testifying pro se at their hearings, meaning that the Coordinator cannot speak on our behalf. This in itself is a possible Civil Rights violation. Again, we have decided not to pursue such an avenue as there are more than 200 other interveners. Our work was and is to increase the publics awareness about these issues. We continue to do that, and pray for the protection of this ancient, burial site.

2. National Guard and Red Shirt Village-Table Many of you signed, or circulated and had others sign petitions to Gov. Dennis Daugaard a couple of years ago. Our concerns were the naturally occurring uranium in an area where the National Guard was planning on camping and conducting training exercises. At that time, the Governor eventually called off the exercises in the Red Shirt area of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands until more study could be done regarding our concerns of the radioactivity. A study was completed and given to the Defenders Coordinator. However, as she is a scientist and knows what a scientific study is, she knew this was NOT a scientific study, a study which was so important for the health and safety of the soldiers, and the general public.

On May 13, 2014, the National Guard held a meeting in Red Shirt Village stating they would begin camping in the Red Shirt area across from the Village beginning June 2nd. The Coordinator strongly asked them not to do this for their own safety. The National Guard said they would not go in there ONLY if Oglala Sioux Tribal President Bryan Brewer asked them not to. On Friday, May 30th, the Coordinator talked to President Brewer.

An announcement on KILI Radio said the National Guard was not going in to the Red Shirt area. President Brewer DID contact the National Guard and was able to make this happen. We are very relieved to know the soldiers and the people will be safe from radioactive pollution from that area. Thank you, President Brewer!

3. Clean Up The Mines Campaign In the April Special Newsletter, we invited everyone to a Media Event to be held at Red Shirt Village. The Media Event was a success and kicked-off the Clean Up The Mines Campaign for the clean up of all the abandoned uranium mines in the USA.

There are more than 10,000 (ten-thousand) Abandoned Uranium Mines (AUMs) primarily in 15 western states. South Dakota has 272 with 103 in the Harding County area in the Northwestern corner of South Dakota, and 169 along the Southwestern edge of the Black Hills. Wyoming has more than 2,000 (two-thousand). Most of these are within the 1868 Treaty Territory.

These mines and prospects are open-pit and were mostly built in the 1960s-70s. Back then there were no laws for the clean up of these mines, and the health effects were not completely known. Now, after much research, the mines are known to be very dangerous and their dust and gases can travel more than a thousand miles, while they also pollute rivers, streams, and aquifers. The health effects are more than just cancer and birth defects. Radioactive pollution can also cause Lupus, Heart Disease, and Diabetes, which are very high in this Region. The highest lung cancer rate in the country is in this Region.

You can help with this campaign by giving this information to your relatives, neighbors, and friends first. If you wish more information, we will gladly send it to you. Then write a letter to the editor of your local paper stating your concerns. This will wake up more people to this shameful tragedy. Finally, keep pushing your leaders to do what they can to encourage Congress to pass a federal law to Clean Up The Mines.

4. Riley Pass Mine Settlement The Riley Pass Mine in the North Cave Hills area will be receiving $179 million to begin clean up of the Mine from a bankruptcy lawsuit filed by Tronox Corporation against Anardarko Petroleum and its subsidiary, Kerr-McGee. Kerr-McGee originally mined the site for Uranium beginning in the 1960s, then walked away and eventually sold the site to Tronox. Although this lawsuit sets a good precedent for bankruptcy law, it does not answer the question of who is going to clean up the other 102 Abandoned Uranium Mines in this northwest corner of South Dakota? And what about all the other thousands of AUMs in our Region? (Now you know why we have a Clean Up the Mines Campaign.)

5. Rare Earth Elements Mine Planned Near Mahto Tipila

(Bear Lodge AKA Devils Tower)

A Rare Earth Elements Mine is in the planning stages to be dug as an open pit mine on Bull Hill near Mahto Tipila (Bear Lodge also known as Devils Tower). Rare Earth elements are very radioactive and their wastes will also be radioactive. The plans include the use of water for 43 years. This is a very dangerous operation being planned to be in existence for 43 years. Although Defenders as an organization has submitted comments to the U.S. Forest Service, we are not so confident that the system will listen to our concerns. Bull Hill itself is also a sacred place and needs to be protected.

6. Mahto Tiipila (Bear Lodge) Prayer Gathering and Prayer Walk

A Prayer Gathering and Walk is planned for Saturday, June 28, 2014, at Mahto Tipila (AKA Devils Tower) to pray for the protection of all sacred and burial sites in the Region, and to pray for the good health of Grandmother Earth and all human beings. The event will begin at 10:30 AM at the ceremonial grounds, with a prayer walk around the base of the mountain, 1.3 miles. No Pipes out of respect to the Pipe and the people. Ties and flags can be placed on the trees at the Ceremonial Grounds. Women are encouraged to wear traditional dress or skirts, no shorts, and no sleeveless or revealing garments. This is not a media event and the use of cameras, recorders, or cell phones will be prohibited during the prayers. No fees required if you say you are coming for the Prayer Walk.

Those unable to participate in the walk such as elders, may remain praying at the ceremonial grounds. Please bring your own lawn chairs and umbrellas. A Potluck lunch will follow. Defenders will bring sack lunches and water but food donations are always welcome.  Please use the flyer attached to let others know of this event. Thank you.

Mission Statement

"Defenders of the Black Hills is a group of volunteers without racial or tribal boundaries whose mission is to preserve, protect, and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Treaty Territories, Treaties made between the United States and the Great Sioux Nation."

Speaking about radioactive fallout, the late President John F. Kennedy said,

"Even then, the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby who may be born long after we are gone, should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent."

July 26, 1963 upon signing the ban on above ground nuclear tests