As some of you know, I have been struggling with writing about the Stop Line 3 effort ever since the PUC decision in late June to grant a Certificate of Need and Route Permit to Enbridge for their new Tar Sands Pipeline in Minnesota. In the last week or two, I have been working to regain momentum and slough off the feelings of hopelessness so that I can begin again to write about this effort.
This past week I participated in a webinar hosted by Sierra Club – Sierra Forum: The Wave of Tribal-led Environmental Activism. Three women involved in the work were present to give updates and answer questions from the community on this topic. Tara Houska from Honor The Earth called in from Park Rapids just down the road where she is supporting a Resistance Camp in the fight against Line 3. Also present were Sierra Club members Lena Moffitt who leads their Our Wild America campaign and Cesia Kearns from their Beyond Oil Campaign.
There was a review of a few of the many projects currently being opposed:
- Kinder Morgan – recently bought by Canada – facing massive resistance
- Bayou Bridge Pipeline – Energy Transfer Partners project in Louisiana
- Bears Ears National Monument – where 85% of the previously protected land is being considered for extractive activities, basically giving away the public land to corporate interests
- Mountain Valley – where citizens are working hard and earlier this month the “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered work stopped … (after) three federal appeals judges revoked two permits for the pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest, ruling that the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management had not properly reviewed the project before issuing the permits.”
In these situations, infrastructure is often being placed in areas where the Indigenous community is already facing other major obstacles to living in general. These pipelines and extractive work bring threats not only to the water and land, but also to the people, including the risks associated with Man Camps. As you may know, Native women are 10 times more likely to be murdered compared with other races. Their rates of rape are nearly 2.5 times that of white women who already face a 1 in 5 chance of rape over their lifetime. [It should be noted that all these numbers are fairly tentative for a number of reasons, most notably under reporting.]
“They treat Mother Earth like they treat women… They think they can own us, buy us, sell us, trade us, rent us, poison us, rape us, destroy us, use us as entertainment and kill us. I’m happy to see that we are talking about the level of violence that is occurring against Mother Earth because it equates to us [women]. What happens to her happens to us… We are the creators of life. We carry that water that creates life just as Mother Earth carries the water that maintains our life. So I’m happy to see our men standing here but remind you that when you stand for one, you must stand for the other.” ~ Lisa Brunner, Sacred Spirits First Nations Coalition
Lena did a wonderful job of noting that many conservation efforts were born out of protecting land that was Indigenous land. Many have learned, through failure in doing it, that there is a great need to respect the Indigenous culture and to be be honest, transparent, intelligent, diligent, and kind. A key is working with communities from the bottom up, not coming in with pre-baked ideas of what is needed.
There was also a short review of the positive work being done by Indigenous people to WIN against Fossil Fuels as Cesia described the successes of the Lummi Nation which defeated the largest proposed coal export terminal in the nation expected to export more than 48 million tons of coal per year with 30 miles of coal trains running daily through the northwest.
Much of the discussion was focused on how you can support the efforts of the Indigenous.
- Learn the history of your region. Be deferential to the sovereignty of the Indigenous which entails unique authority and risks. Listen to their asks to know what is needed. You can find out more on how to help our effort at Stop Line 3.
- Respect the spiritual context of the Indigenous actions. [More on this below.] There was reference to the Totem Pole Journey that I found interesting.
- Support the work of organizations working alongside the Indigenous like the Sierra Club actions in fighting the current administration, especially Zinke opening protected lands to extractive technologies. Bears Ears, the first tribal nation initiated and designed monument, was recently reduced by 85%. Comments of support are meaningful and you can help here.
- Divest from banks, stocks, and mutual funds that are supporting the fossil fuel industry. You can sign a petition to commit to this effort.
Once you’ve divested, you might need some safe investments, which you can find at Fossil Free Funds. And if you need a good broker, I’ve been working with Margaret Nucci for 15 years and she’s done great for us – and made terrific strides as I’ve pushed her harder and harder to find fossil fuel free funds. She’s a joy to work with and she’ll listen to what your goals are and help you reach them in a way that works best for you.
With respect to honoring the culture of the Indigenous, Tara did an excellent job of explaining the nature of sacred places. She noted that some feel like “to Natives, everything is sacred” and yes, all rocks, trees, and all of life is sacred. But sacred places are burial places, ceremonial places, places that are part of a creation story… spaces that have been used for thousands of years by Natives, places with very specific meanings and historical significance. When we lose these spaces, they are lost to us all.
I for one am hopeful to do what I can to help support the efforts of the Indigenous. One reason I believe so strongly in this is because treaties are the highest law of the land and we have seen that these treaty rights are often the ONLY way to win. In our system where political officials are bought and paid for by corporate owners and thus no longer represent the people and are not accountable to the public interest, the legal system can sometimes be counted on to apply the law to assure corporate interests do not take authority over what is more important to most of us: clean water, air, and land.
I encourage you to do what you can to support the efforts to defeat fossil fuels as we transition to a new future, a renewable future, a future that ensures a livable planet for our children, their grandchildren, their grandchildrens’ grandchildren, and even THEIR grandchildren. The Indigenous believe in protecting the Earth for the next seven generations. It will take all of us to make it happen.