ANC Students Make Policy to Impact the Future

May 15th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-4: Investing in Education, Empowering Tribal Communities, Tribal College News
By Rebecca Bishop

CUTLINE HOMECOMING. Yellowstone Bison on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Montana. Photo by Todd Klassy

The Fort Belknap Reservation in north central Montana was once home to the largest cyanide heap leach mine in North America. Located at the southern end of the reservation, the mine is now defunct. And yet, pollution and health problems still plague the community.   Recently, Aaniiih Nakoda College (ANC, Harlem, MT) students in a natural resources management class were asked to comment on documents related to the mine’s CERCLA designation (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund) and TMDL’s (Total Maximum Daily Loads).

 Because the Zortman/Landusky mine’s pollution comes onto the reservation through the powwow area and past the Sun Dance grounds, the tribes and tribal college should be involved in the implementation of the TMDL’s and the Water Quality Restoration Plan. As a group, students developed a response that reflects on the “Life Way” and “Sense of Place.” Their statements have become part of the public record for the state of Montana.

When Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks requested public comment on a document determining the feasibility of moving Yellowstone Bison to various locations, including the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, natural resources students commented on the alternatives presented in the state document.

Their response reflected their traditional and cultural beliefs.

 At a scoping meeting, a tribal council member read the students’ comments advocating

the bison’s return to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation; those comments became part of the public record.

 By weighing in on important matters, students have empowered themselves and taken responsibility as young keepers of the earth. Once they graduate, these students will develop and implement policies that protect the health of the land, community, water, and buffalo, so that their homeland will flourish for the next seven generations.

As one of our elders, Al Chandler, has said, “the buffalo have returned in the form of education.”

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