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Biden Exploits Indigenous Spirituality to Appease Environmentalists

Alaskan native tribes are being deprived of oil revenue and ignored.

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

A watchdog group has filed a “scientific integrity” complaint against the Biden administration for employing “Indigenous knowledge” as justification for canceling seven oil and gas leases in Alaska. The decision was allegedly a political maneuver to appease environmental groups unhappy with the administration’s earlier approval of a massive drilling operation (the Willow Project) in the Alaskan petroleum reserve. The president’s people appear to have exploited Native American spirituality to court white liberal votes while impoverishing Alaskan tribes.

Complaint of Shoddy Science

Protect the Public’s Trust wrote in their complaint that “…the Biden administration’s decision making, through the use of Indigenous Knowledge, is susceptible to manipulation without even the pretense of adhering to scientific principles….” The chief basis of the allegations is Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland’s September 6, 2023, announcement that the seven leases would be terminated:

“President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate and conservation agenda in history. The steps we are taking today further that commitment, based on the best available science and in recognition of the Indigenous Knowledge of the original stewards of this area, to safeguard our public lands for future generations.”

Indigenous Knowledge and Oil Revenues

It is not clear what Indigenous Knowledge offers to the field of climate science. And while many remote native villages still subsist on caribou, walrus, and whale, tens of thousands of Alaskan natives depend on these leases for their community services, personal incomes, and economic hopes for their future generations. The Inupiat North Slope communities and other tribes live in isolated regions where jobs are scarce. Alaska boasts a high level of energy employment, where wages trend some 50% above average national wages. Additionally, Native Americans receive distributions of oil revenue.

Following the 1968 discovery of vast Alaskan petroleum reserves, the bipartisan Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 created more than 200 Native-owned corporations, including the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC). Alaska Public Media (APM) states:

“By creating more than 200 Native-owned corporations like ASRC and seeding them with 44 million acres of land and $1 billion, the legislation was one of the most progressive land deals ever struck between the U.S. government and Indigenous people. Since its inception, ASRC has paid out more than $1 billion in dividends, with recent per-shareholder payments as high as $7,000 a year. Only people with Alaska Native heritage can own shares, with a few exceptions. … the deal helped create monetary wealth for ASRC’s 13,000 shareholders and those of dozens of other Alaska Native-owned corporations. ASRC has now been listed as Alaska’s top revenue-generating business for the past 27 years. It says it has 13,500 employees across the country and ranks among the top regional corporations in its yearly cash dividends…”

Hundreds of millions of additional dollars are generated from real estate taxes, enabling otherwise impoverished Native Alaskan communities to build grocery stores, water and sewer lines, communications infrastructure, schools (that teach native language), and health and rescue services. All of these efforts have been compromised by the Biden about-face on leases, but community leaders claim they have been completely ignored. APM reports:

“Doreen Leavitt, director of Natural Resources and Tribal Council Secretary for the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS,) argued that the Biden administration’s actions amounted to a slight against Alaska Native villages’ right to self-determination.

“…Responsible resource extraction has, since the passage of ANCSA, become a cornerstone of the regional economy, Leavitt told the committee. Further limiting already restricted land usage threatened to further upend a fragile economic foothold for the Inupiat. The tribe would have shared these comments with the Biden administration had they ever been consulted, Leavitt said.”

Some tribes claim conservation efforts seek to “turn our homeland into one giant park,” which will undermine economic development and restrict subsistence efforts. One area resident remarked that “it’s wilderness areas and romantic notions of what the Arctic should be that continue to drive outsiders to glibly advocate for limiting resource development.” A bill – H.R. 6285, “Alaska’s Right to Produce Act” – seeks to reinstate the leases canceled by the Biden administration.

Biden Confusion

Government policies must balance competing objectives, but the scales for Biden persistently seem to tip toward self-interest and re-election. The president has recently paused emissions regulations and climate goals for EVs to appease UAW workers for November, signaling that climate urgency takes a back seat to his campaign. Similarly, breaching government oil-lease commitments to Indigenous tribes to showboat for environmentalists is justified by appeals to Native American spirituality – not to help conservation, climate, or Native Americans, but to politicize all social causes for Biden 2024.

Read More From John Klar

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