Native activist LaDuke part of energy issues panel at SKC

By Vince Devlin - Missoulian

PABLO - Two-time vice presidential candidate and Native American activist Winona LaDuke will be here Saturday afternoon to moderate a panel discussion of energy issues facing Montana and its Indian reservations.

The event, on the Salish Kootenai College campus, will also feature a performance by the Grammy-winning Indigo Girls.

LaDuke and the Indigo Girls are swinging through the Blackfeet and Flathead reservations Friday and Saturday to "raise awareness for a clean energy future," according to a news release.

The panel discussion is titled "Environmental Justice in Montana: Protecting the Land for Future Generations."

Joining LaDuke will be Eriel Deranger, Gail Small, Francis Auld and Rich Janssen.

Deranger, from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations of Canada, will talk about the impact from tar sands oil development.

Small, from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, will discuss her community's ongoing battle to halt coal development.

Auld, cultural preservation officer for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, will address sacred sites and Janssen, acting director of CSKT's Natural Resources Department, will talk about environmental issues on the Flathead Reservation.

"Montana is at the center of the climate debate and energy and environmental justice issues," says the news release announcing the event. "Tar sands oil pipelines are in the works for eastern Montana as well as plans to move massive tar sands equipment through the western half of the state in fall 2010.

"Furthermore, new coal mining initiatives are being proposed for Montana's reservation lands, leaving Native peoples to face a disproportionate impact from fossil fuel development. Meanwhile, reservations like Blackfeet have some of the best wind potential in the country."

LaDuke and the Indigo Girls will appear with musician Jack Gladstone at a buffalo feast and community cultural exchange Friday evening in Browning, before making their way south to the Flathead Reservation on Saturday.

LaDuke was Ralph Nader's running mate on the United States Green Party ticket in both 1996 and 2000. Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been performing for more than two decades and often lend their hand in support of environmental causes.

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