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THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
Indigenous stories matter
Podcast ‘Stolen’ adds a Pulitzer and Peabody
Earlier this year, thanks to its impactful reporting, the Spotify Original podcast “Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s” won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. Now the series is adding the prestigious Pulitzer and Peabody awards to its list. “Stolen” is the first podcast series to win both a Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award in the same year.
Journalist Connie Walker wins Pulitzer Prize for podcast about her father's residential school experience
A Saskatchewan First Nations woman's story about her father's residential school experience has won the world's top journalism award. “Stolen: Surviving St. Michael's,” a podcast by journalist Connie Walker and the team at Spotify's Gimlet Media, won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for best audio journalism. "I feel like I'm still in shock. It's disbelief. It means so much. It's an incredible honour," Walker said Monday.
A Pulitzer & a Peabody!! What an unbelievable 2 days! This feels like undeniable proof that Indigenous stories matter & that we should support Indigenous people to tell them. We are so grateful to survivors who shared with us & hope this means more people will hear their voices. https://t.co
— Connie Walker (@connie_walker)
May 9, 2023
Last night, we published a NEW episode of Stolen: The Search for Jermain to report on new developments in her story. Jermain went missing almost five years ago. The 23-year-old mother of two was last seen on security footage in downtown Missoula, Montana.
— Connie Walker (@connie_walker)
May 6, 2023
Many more Indigenous stories
Wearing red, Indigenous families honor missing relatives
Native Americans whose relatives have gone missing or been killed wore red on Friday, a color synonymous with raising awareness about the disproportionate number of Indigenous people who have been victims of violence.
Montana Legislature passes MMIP extension bill
The final version of a bill that extends Montana’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons task force includes amendments that would both decrease its funding and extend its sunset date.
Interior to release new report on abuses in Indian boarding school program
Few sagas of U.S. history are as messy as the treatment of Native Americans. While a particular chapter in that story — boarding schools — is receiving a new focus from the federal government, one advocate stressed the need for nuance.
A new online tool will let Native Americans search for relatives who attended Indian boarding schools
The Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition plans to launch a website this summer that will allow Native Americans to search for information on relatives who attended Indian boarding schools.
Colorado Indigenous communities want 'reach, representation, and respect' from local news
The important and impressive Voices Initiative is out with another report for Colorado — this time about Indigenous communities and their recommendations for improving relations among them and local media.
Ute Tribe alleges discrimination was behind rejected bid to buy Tabby Mountain
Utah officials cheated the Ute Indian Tribe out of a fair shot to buy Tabby Mountain from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Land Administration in 2019, alleges a federal suit filed by the tribe.
Tribes split over Biden plan to ban drilling near New Mexico cultural site
The Navajo Nation has withdrawn support for a Biden administration plan to stop new oil and gas drilling near a sacred site in New Mexico, saying its members should have the right to develop those resources if they choose to.
This tribe was barred from cultural burning for decades — then a fire hit their community
Members of the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation became the latest Indigenous tribe to watch homes burn despite knowing it could have been avoided.
Dispatch from the scaffolds: Native fishing culture on the Columbia River
An Indigenous fisherman describes how to hook a salmon, the meaning of life and his faithful dog Sturg.
Lawsuit asserting the ‘rights of salmon’ ends in a settlement that benefits the fish
A landmark lawsuit filed by the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe asserting the “rights of salmon” has been settled, with the city of Seattle agreeing to provide passageways for the fish around hydroelectric dams on the Skagit River.
Beyond NAGPRA: Guiding ancestral objects home
Private collectors are now trying to repatriate items of cultural, historic and traditional importance to their place of origin.
Wildfires have burned nearly 1 million acres in western Canada
Spring always brings the start to wildfire season in Alberta, “but this year, it was more intense, because of the early warmth and how dry the spring has been,” said Terri Lang, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, a government agency.
Destroyed homes, infrastructure among wildfire losses in northern Alberta communities
Four northern Indigenous communities — Sturgeon Lake Cree First Nation, Little Red River Cree Nation, East Prairie Métis Settlement and Little Red River Cree Nation — are among the Alberta communities now reporting significant losses.
Alberta wildfire shuts in at least 3.7% of Canada's energy production
Canada's main oil-producing province Alberta on Saturday declared a provincial state of emergency due to wildfires, shutting in at least 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), or 3.7% of the country's production.
Fires scorch Western Canada
Raging fires destroyed homes in Alberta and produced towering chimneys of smoke.
'How could a whole town burn?' — The most tragic wildfires to scorch the Prairies
Without fire, there’s no cooking, no heat and no survival. But when fire rages out of control, it’s an element both harmful and hellish. Many residents of the Canadian Prairies know of this complicated relationship all too well.
The far north is burning—and turning up the heat on the planet
Wildfires and human meddling are transforming the Arctic and its surroundings from a carbon sink into a carbon emitter, exacerbating the climate crisis.
Dispatches from the energy transition
New Montana laws plow through environmental regulations for fossil fuels
Montanans will have a harder time challenging state government decision, while cities are losing the ability to regulate anything involving fossil fuels, from power plants to gas stations, under new laws passed by the Montana Legislature.
‘Memorial to all who suffered’: Survivors protest wind farm near Japanese American incarceration site
About 13,000 people were held at the Minidoka camp during the second world war. Now, a green energy project threatens the “sacred” place.
Biden admin expedites 'first-ever' critical minerals project
The Biden administration is moving to expedite the review and approval of a manganese and zinc mine in southern Arizona, setting up a standoff with a local environmental group concerned about the fate of vulnerable and endangered species in the Patagonia Mountains.
Bill Gates: Nuclear power project key to global energy future
Microsoft billionaire says Wyoming is well suited to launch the world's next generation of nuclear power reactors.
Kemmerer nuclear plant may not look like you'd expect
Diagrams shown Friday revealed the flagship nuclear facility will look much more like a string of nondescript warehouses than a traditional nuclear plant.
U.S support for nuclear power soars to highest level in a decade
A Gallup survey released in late April found that 55 percent of U.S. adults support the use of nuclear power. That’s up four percentage points from last year and reflects the highest level of public support for nuclear energy use in electricity since 2012.
D.C. Circuit reluctant to side with Big Oil in climate case
Oil companies made their first pitch to move a liability lawsuit to the federal bench since the Supreme Court declined to review the procedural dispute with massive implications for the industry's financial responsibility to address climate change.
Youth climate change lawsuit clears pretrial conference, trial set to proceed
In Held v. Montana, 16 Montana youth look ahead to their day in court after judge confirmed trial is set for June 12
Enjoy your public lands responsibly
Arches National Park may have found a magic bullet for overcrowding. Could it work at other parks?
Arches National Park's timed entry reservation program has been met with rave reviews, but can other Utah parks use it to deal with overcrowding?
Yellowstone National Park gears up for what its superintendent hopes is a ‘normal’ summer season
Yellowstone National Park’s east entrance just opened. It is a lifeline for the gateway community of Cody, and after three years of continually being tested by the pandemic and historic flooding, Superintendent Cam Sholly is really hoping this summer will be quiet. But as he told Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska, the heavy snow from the winter is already adding more work.
After devastating winter, groups renew push to change Yellowstone bison management
The deadly winter has again fueled calls for alternatives — like expanding allotted habitat for bison and returning the animals back to Native people. But there are still steep political barriers to any changes.
Scout camp’s shooting range in southern Utah permeated land with lead
For nearly 60 years, the Boy Scouts operated a summer camp on state trust lands in Utah's Tushar Mountains. But a shooting range there left a few acres badly contaminated with lead, prompting a costly cleanup that required the removal of numerous trees.
Wyoming outdoor rec. stakeholders mull options, await next legislative action
Outdoor recreation advocates won big this spring when the Legislature created a new $6 million trust fund to generate grants for trail building, camping infrastructure and other such developments. Lawmakers didn’t, however, provide a mechanism to spend the money, leaving the trust fund idle.
Outdoor brands phase out PFAS, ‘forever chemicals,’ ahead of state bans
Some products with PFAS — a common treatment for water and stain resistant outdoor apparel — will soon be illegal to sell in many states.
Headwaters: Stained by History
Glacier National Park has a history of oil extraction. We travel to Many Glacier to see the consequences, and the causes of climate change. Along the way we talk to young people about how it feels to live with the weight of history.
What else we’re reading today
A plan to pay farmers to use less of the Colorado River comes up dry
One way to save massive amounts of water from the drying Colorado River — state and federal officials had hoped — was to effectively buy water this year from farmers and ranchers with a $125 million conservation program. But very few are taking the offer. Or those willing to sell were turned away.
Scientists are using lasers to uncover the secrets of Colorado’s snowpack. So what does it mean for your water supply?
The technique offers highly accurate data, but creating a statewide, sustained program could be a challenge.
Record snowpack likely adds 2 years to Great Salt Lake's long-term outlook, experts say
Utah researchers say the lake may end up gaining 6 feet between November and the end of spring, but the lake's long-term future still remains in question.
Butte watchdogs balk at potential use of contaminated materials for fill at Superfund sites
The Atlantic Richfield Co. and EPA are considering using slightly contaminated dirt for fill in certain scenarios instead of cleaner dirt at various sites in the Silver Bow Creek Corridor requiring Superfund remediation in and around Butte.
A weed is swallowing the Sonoran Desert
The invasive Stinknet plant fuels wildfires, irritates lungs and smothers native flora. ‘It’s everywhere’ and removal efforts in Arizona can’t keep up.
Colorado Senate kills languishing land-use bill from Jared Polis that aimed to boost affordable housing
The Colorado Senate on Monday night killed the languishing land-use bill presented by Gov. Jared Polis as a long-term way to address the affordable housing crisis affecting communities from Durango to Denver to Deer Trail.
New Mexico’s Eddy County collects $92M in oil and gas taxes during current fiscal year
Eddy County's oil and gas tax collections for fiscal year 2023 surpassed all of 2022's tax collections as $92M was collected since July 1.
Air pollution from oil and gas production responsible for $77 billion in annual U.S. health damages
These health impacts affected communities in states with high oil and gas production, as well as states with limited or no gas activity, underlining the need for comprehensive regulatory action to protect Americans from pollutants.
A severely weakened bill to limit ozone pollution heads to Gov. Jared Polis
The legislation doesn't restrict new oil and gas permits, but clean air advocates still want the governor to sign it.
As Alberta’s oilsands continue leaking toxic wastewater, aquatic wildlife face new risks
As toxic water continues to spill from tailings ponds across mining developments, decades of scientific research provides evidence of how wildlife will be affected.
Climate change is destroying habitats. But relocating species could be tricky.
The feds prohibit the relocation of endangered species — for now.
Birds are shrinking as the climate warms — and small birds are shrinking faster
As temperatures rise, birds’ bodies are growing smaller, but their wings are growing longer. A new study finds this shift is most pronounced among the tiniest species.
Life and death in the Swan Valley
Henry and Joan Meyer fell in love with the swan Valley and, to ensure they never have to leave, founded the state’s first natural cemetery.
Colorado politicians seek power to block social media users
Colorado lawmakers pushed a bill to the governor’s desk that would allow politicians to block social media users from their private accounts, just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would consider to what extent that's legal.
Edited by Matthew Frank, associate director of regional journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana
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