Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
DENVER - Several students from Haskell Indian Nations University journeyed the 550 plus miles to attend a federal appeals court hearing on where to build the South Lawrence Trafficway.
Haskell Students Stand Up for Our Earth
The controversy goes back to when the Federal Highway Administration and the Kansas Department of Transportation proposed to put the South Lawrence Trafficway through the Baker Wetlands.
“As Native Americans we are taught that we are the caretakers of the earth.”
commented Jessica Lackey and Kelda Britton, president and secretary of Haskell Indian Nation University's Wetlands Preservation Organization.
"The students of the WPO have taken it upon themselves to protect the wetlands which the school itself has significant historical ties to. Haskell represents over 150 federally recognized tribes and for many of us our only connection to home while we are away is to be able to correlate to our spirit, animal, and plant relatives in the wetlands."
Parts of where the wetlands are today were where historically where American Indian families camped when they came to visit their children at Haskell when it was an Indian boarding school. They camped there, south of Lawrence, because of discriminatory practices they could not camp overnight in the confines of the town of Lawrence.
In 2008 filed a federal lawsuit was filed by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation alleging the Federal Highway Administration did not properly review the proposed Trafficway's impact on the Baker Wetlands and the nearby Haskell Indian Nations University.
A federal judge in November 2010 ruled in favor of the Federal Highway Administration and the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and others in the plaintiff group, which include the Wetlands Preservation Organization, the Jayhawk Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and others, filed an appeal in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Our group has come to the consensus that win, lose or draw, this is a modern day historical moment for Native Americans standing up for their beliefs, for the land, and for the spirits who still remain,"
commented the Wetlands Preservation Organization member from Denver last night to the Native News Network.
"This project continues to represent histories of injustice and disrespect to Native communities, to sacred spaces the world over, and to the living beings they contain. This is the kind of situation that many scholars and activists call environmental racism, and as in many of these kinds of cases, we see state and federal agencies cutting regulatory corners to railroad a project they assume is a done deal. We say: it is not, and we call on the entire KU community to stand with us against this injustice,"
stated Marisol Cortez, visiting assistant professor of American Studies at Kansas University.
The plaintiff groups do not oppose the South Lawrence Trafficway. They simply want it moved farther south away from the wetlands.
The case heard today before a panel of three judges will be decided and the decision rendered within approximately four months.
posted January 20, 2011 6:40 am est
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