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indigenous resistance

Leaks and Militarized Policing: Water Protectors are Proven Right

By Michael J. Sainato - CounterPunch, May 30, 2017

The water protectors’ efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline were a historic mobilization of Native American tribes from all across the country coming together in solidarity for the Standing Rock Sioux. The original route of the pipeline was moved from Bismarck, North Dakota, onto Standing Rock Sioux reservation land and sacred tribal grounds.

Despite the overt violation of treaties between the federal government and the Standing Rock Sioux, the pipeline’s construction persisted while mainstream media outlets and Democratic Party leaders all virtually remained silent on the issue.

The void in media coverage was filled by alternative media outlets and citizen journalists. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) were two of the small handful of elected officials willing to speak out on behalf of the NoDAPL fight.Throughout months of living at the Standing Rock camps, water protectors endured constant abuse, violence, and a propaganda campaign from the Morton County Sheriff’s Office and hired security contractors.

On May 27, the Intercept reported, “a SHADOWY INTERNATIONAL mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept.”

Which way for the climate movement?

By Michael Schreiber - Socialist Action, May 11, 2017

On April 29, more than 200,000 people marched in Washington, D.C., in a powerful show of determination to rescue the earth from the ravages of climate change. Over 370 sister marches took place simultaneously across the United States and in countries around the world from Britain to Brazil, and from Mexico to Kenya and the Philippines.

The size of the crowd in Washington far surpassed earlier expectations by the organizers and the National Park Service. At precisely 2 p.m., virtually the entire march, which at that point extended more than 20 blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, grew quiet as people sat down as an ensemble. Drums kept the rhythm as the marchers thumped their chests to show that while coming from many backgrounds, their hearts beat as one.

In addition to the colorful puppets and banners carried by organized contingents, most of the marchers brought hand-lettered signs, with slogans reflecting a variety of related social concerns (such as “Black Lives Matter”) in addition to that of the environment.

Although the organized trade-union contingents were meager, spirited groups of Native Americans, LGBTQ people, and communities of color—including a number of Washington, D.C., youth—made their presence felt.

“In the face of a federal administration that would rather reap profits than protect people, our communities are rising up,” Jeremiah Lowery, climate justice organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said in a press statement on the eve of the march. “In Washington, D.C. and around the world, it’s low-income communities, communities of color, and workers who are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis they did the least to contribute to.”

There is no doubt that the threats by the Trump administration to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords and to rescind environmental measures put in place by Obama—which themselves were far from adequate—were responsible for swelling the numbers of people who joined the demonstration.

Standing Rock in Tacoma, Washington

By Sarah Morken - The North Star, April 16, 2017

Tacoma has been one of the main dumping grounds for polluting industry in western Washington. We are home to nine EPA Superfund clean up sites.

This week we gathered on the Tacoma tide flats outside outside the site where Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is preparing to build the nations largest fracked gas storage plant (Liquid Natural Gas or LNG). There were members of the Puyallup Tribe, Standing Rock Tribe, the Palouse Tribe and their non-native allies from local political and environmental groups. We were about 50 people coming and going. The protest was hosted by Tacoma Direct Action and sponsored by Redline Tacoma, Save Tacoma Water and Green Party Tahoma. This was the first local protest actually at the site.

Takes More Than Prayer

James Rideout, member of the Puyallup Tribe and geoduck diver started the protest with a prayer and a song, with help from Jesse Nightwalker a member of the Palouse Tribe. James asked how far we were willing to go to fight this project, reminding us that it was going to take more than prayer, reminding us about what happened in Standing Rock.

ILWU

We stood on the four corners at the intersection located between the LNG site and Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE). TOTE is supposedly one of the primary customers of the LNG. We handed out flyers to Longshore workers (ILWU 23) as they drove through the gate at TOTE and also to other port workers as they drove by. Some of the cars drove past without stopping, but many of them took our flyers. Most of them were not even aware of the project. They weren’t aware that their union leadership supports the project. The decision to support LNG was voted on at a general membership meeting without effort to truly inform the members on the issue. The union has been helping with the million dollar greenwashing campaign for PSE.

Interestingly, ILWU 23 sent a delegation with supplies and money to Standing Rock showing solidarity with the Water Protectors against the oil and gas industry there. Can the dockworkers be convinced to stand in solidarity with the Puyallup Tribe right here at home? Or will they instead support the the oil and gas industry? In my opinion, it would be helpful if Puyallup Tribe members ask their Tribal Council to set up a meeting with ILWU 23 and have a conversation about this. As union members, as the working class, our natural allies are fellow exploited/oppressed/discriminated people, like Native Americans, not Puget Sound Energy!

Colonialism, climate change and the need to defund DAPL

By Amy Hall - Open Democracy, April 16, 2017

Back in 2009, when I was an undergraduate student, I went to a talk given by Eriel Tchekwie Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation which had a significant impact on my understanding of environmental justice.

This was the first time I had been awoken to the devastation of the tar sands in Canada. I knew that massive fossil fuel projects were bad news for the climate but what stuck with me was the impact of the tar sands on the people and their land. Why wasn't something being done to stop it? Aside from the relentless march of fossil fuel extraction and consumption, there's money to be made and the people in the way are poor and not white.

From Nigeria to North America, many of the people on the frontline of struggles against extraction projects are black, brown or from indigenous communities. Recently one of these, the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has been making headlines.

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline travels 1,168 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, where it will join up with a second 774 mile pipeline to Texas. It will carry up to 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day once it is up and running, which could be within weeks.

If the pipeline, which is laid underneath the Missouri River, fails it will pollute a vital water source for the Standing Rock Sioux people and thousands of others. This threat is very real. Sunoco Logistics, one of the companies behind DAPL has had more than 200 leaks since 2010, according to Reuters. DAPL was re-routed away from Bismarck, a mostly white community, partly because of water pollution fears.

People of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been joined in their resistance by thousands of other indigenous people from across the region, as well as allies. At its peak, an estimated 10,000 people joined the water protectors at spiritual camps: Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin and others.

Berta Is Dead, But The Movement She Started Lives

By Beverly Bell - Global Justice Ecology Project, April 5, 2017

The Convergence of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) has defied all efforts over the past year, by the Honduran government and the DESA dam company, to destroy it. This past Monday, March 27, 24 years after Berta Cáceres cofounded the Lenca indigenous organization, COPINH hosted an anniversary celebration of rebellion and recommitment.

About 150 people from throughout Honduras and at least five other countries joined for a Lenca ceremony; a forum on challenges and advances; a concert; a film festival; and a humble feast of roasted pig, rice, tortillas, and birthday cake. The event closed late at night with an open-air performance of “Ancestras”, a new play by the Teatro Taller Tegucigalpa (Tegucigalpa Theater Workshop) about COPINH’s fight to defend the Gualcarque River, and structural injustice by the government and oligarchy.

COPNH has not only survived, it continues to serve as a source of inspiration for indigenous and other movements throughout Honduras and the world. As with Berta Cáceres’ life work, COPINH’s goes far beyond environmental defense. Its aim is to transform the political, economic, and environmental landscape of Honduras, and – in conjunction with movements elsewhere – of the world.

Gustavo Castro Soto, the director of Friends of the Earth-Mexico and Otros Mundos who was shot and almost killed in Cáceres’ home the night she was assassinated, said, “The death of Berta has not been the death of the struggle. On the contrary, it’s been a wake-up call.”

Reflections on Angry Inuk: White Animal Saviour (Industrial) Complex* and the Perpetuation of Colonial Domination

By Darren Chang - PPEH Lab, March 18, 2017

Inuk filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s 2016 documentary, Angry Inuk, is a story about the erasure and domination of Indigenous peoples by colonial powers. The film impassionedly defends the seal hunt industry by revealing how Western environmental and animal advocacy NGOs (e.g., Greenpeace, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International), have devastated the livelihoods of Inuit communities that rely on the industry for subsistence. The NGOs have destroyed the Inuit seal trade economy by successfully campaigning the European Union to ban products made from seals, despite allowing an exception for the trading of Inuit seal products. This reflection examines how the strategies carried out by Western NGOs to achieve their “victory” are rooted in colonial-capitalism, white supremacy and Eurocentrism, and therefore reinforces colonial domination. Below, I focus on a few strategies employed by the NGOs, as highlighted in the film.

One strategy is that the NGOs deliberately mislead the public with select imagery of seals. For example, one segment shows how the NGOs continue to use images of white-coated seal pups in their campaign advertising, even though the slaughter of white-coated seal pups has been banned in Canada for over thirty years. Another segment shows how images of seals “crying” have been heavily used in advertising by the NGOs to pull on the public’s heartstrings for effective fundraising. However, tearing has no known relation to cognitive or emotional response in seals, and serves only to protect their corneas from salt. Arnaquq-Baril also plays a 1978 interview in which Paul Watson admits that targeting the seal hunt and exploiting images of harp seals have always been the easiest way for NGOs such as Greenpeace to raise funds. At the time of the interview, Watson had left Greenpeace and founded his own Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Years later, Watson and Sea Shepherd have gone on to raise money using the exact same strategies targeting the seal hunt. This manipulative profit-driven fundraising and advocacy strategy fits into the existing nonprofit industrial complex, where the growth of NGO organizational capacities is prioritized and pursued by appealing to the sentiments of the settler-colonial population and the state.

Other parts of the film illustrate how NGOs invoke nationalist and colonial discourses by shaming the government of Canada for allowing the seal hunt, and appealing to European sensibilities in lobbying the EU for the ban. These strategies rest on the Western civilizational binary logic that defines accepted Western practices as “civilized” and non-Western practices as “savage” or “barbaric”. Tracing the NGOs’ actions along this logic illuminates why the mostly-white Western animal advocacy NGOs tend to exert a disproportionate level of aggression to end culturally-specific animal exploitations and killings practiced by people of color. Meanwhile, campaigns to challenge the infinitely more destructive and violent animal exploitation industries founded, upheld and propagated by their fellow whites (e.g. industrial animal agriculture that brutally slaughters billions of animals yearly) are carried out with less intensity and far more civility.

More importantly, if we interpret the exception in the EU ban allowing Inuit seal products to continue being traded through the civilized/savage binary logic, we see how the Inuit exception could have led more Members of the European Parliament to support the overall ban. That is, the MEPs did not vote to ban seal products because they thought killing seals was immoral or unethical; instead, the MEPs banned seal products because seal hunting was associated with the “barbaric” Inuit, who the “civilized” Europeans preferred to distance themselves from. Moreover, to uphold this European self-aggrandizing fantasy, it was important to deny the Inuit their voice and presence. Therefore, in all the NGO campaigns against the seal hunt industry, the commercial seal hunt has been whitewashed, or portrayed as predominantly white. Simultaneously, Indigenous seal hunters who depend every bit as much on the commercial industry to maintain the price of seal products, were completely erased as members of the commercial seal hunt. Effectively, the Inuit exception fixes the Inuit seal hunters and their cultures and ways of life in the past. The underlying message of the Inuit exception is that while the EU allows the Inuit seal hunters to continue their way of life, they could never expect to be part of a modern industry, because there is no place for the Inuit way of life in modernity.

In emphasizing these racist NGO strategies, Angry Inuk reveals the ways in which colonizers disintegrate Indigenous sovereignty through their good intentions to “save” others. This time, however, unlike the earlier colonizers who tried to save Indigenous peoples from so-called savagery through genocide and assimilation, the white animal saviours reproduce this colonial process (regardless of their intentions) by attempting to save animals. What many white animal saviours need to confront is a problematic drive to save every individual animal in denial of ecological realities and the necessity for some Indigenous peoples to kill other species for subsistence. White animal saviours should also own up to their unethical, institutionally racist practices of NGO campaigning.

From the Ashes of Standing Rock, a Beautiful Resistance is Born

By staff - Earth First! Journal, March 15, 2017

If you’re like me, you are probably feeling a deep sorrow in your heart over the news that oil will soon flow through that black snake of death, the Dakota Access Pipeline. Despite the largest gathering of tribes in over 100 years, despite the prayers and militant resistance, despite hundreds of water protectors facing trumped up felony charges, despite the occupations, blockades, lockdowns and sabotage; DAPL has prevailed. It is true, we lost the battle of Standing Rock, but there are signs that we are winning the war on fossil fuel infrastructure.

In the past year, as the resistance at Standing Rock grew from a trickle to a flood, at least seven new oil and gas pipelines have been defeated. These include: Pinion Pipeline – NM; Sandpiper Pipeline – MN; Enbridge Line 5 – WI, MI*; Northern Gateway Pipeline – Canada; Northeast Energy Direct – New England; Palmetto Pipeline – GA, SC; Constitution Pipeline – PA, NY. Many of these pipelines were defeated when, seeing the massive resistance at Standing Rock, companies simply withdrew their applications citing “market forces”. What is left unsaid in the corporate press releases is that our resistance to new energy infrastructure is now a major market force.

In addition to these victories, the past couple years have seen communities up and down the west coast defeat seven out of eight proposed coal export terminals and four proposed oil export terminals aimed at shipping Bakken crude from North Dakota to international markets.

It is important to understand that the fossil fuel industry needs these new infrastructure projects in order to expand. Without them they cannot. While it should have been clear under the Obama administration that the US government was never going to commit to any meaningful greenhouse gas reductions (the US became the #1 producer of oil and gas in the world on Obama’s watch), nobody is under any illusion of the government reigning in emissions under the Trump regime. It is plain to see that our only hope in defeating the fossil fuel industry will not be through government action, but concerted direct action campaigns against these fossil fuel projects.

Sen. Jim Smith, State Chair of ALEC, Pens Letter to PSC Supporting TransCanada’s Foreign Steel-Made, Foreign Oil-Carrying Keystone XL Export Pipeline

By Jane Kleeb - Bold Alliance, March 8, 2017

Bold Alliance president Jane Kleeb issued this response to a letter sent by Nebraska State Sen. Jim Smith, also the state chair of corporation-friendly bill mill ALEC, and other Senators to the Public Service Commission voicing support of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tarsands export pipeline, which is abusing eminent domain for private gain, and threatening our land, water and climate:

“Keystone XL is a foreign-owned pipeline, using foreign, non-union steel, transporting foreign oil, headed to the foreign export market,” said Bold Alliance president Jane Kleeb. “We stand with the United Steelworkers union demanding U.S. steel, landowners defending their property rights from eminent domain, and our Native allies as we all take action to protect our water.”

Foreign, Non-Union Steel Destined for KXL

President Trump has betrayed the promise of his Presidential Memorandum, and numerous statements he has made publicly saying that only U.S.-made steel would be used on Keystone XL.

Despite TransCanada’s contention that “75% of the steel [for Keystone XL] is coming from North American sources,” this statement grossly misrepresents the sourcing of steel already purchased by the company for the pipeline.

It’s true that some of the pipe intended for Keystone XL was manufactured in North America — Canada to be exact (which obviously does not meet Trump’s promise to “buy American” or “American-made” steel). But the Russian company with facilities in Regina, Canada that TransCanada contracted with for 40% of the pipe, Evraz, is co-owned by Russian steel oligarch Roman Abramovich, a close ally and mentor of Vladimir Putin — and a Trump family friend.

Memory, Fire and Hope: Five Lessons from Standing Rock

By Alnoor Ladha - Common Dreams, March 8, 2017

Last week, on February 22, 2017, water protectors at the Oceti Sakowin camp, the primary camp of Standing Rock, were evicted by the Army Corps of Engineers in a military style takeover. A peaceful resistance that began with a sacred fire lit on April 1, 2016, ended in a blaze as some of the protectors, in a final act of defiance, set some of the camp’s structures on fire.

The millions of people around the world who have stood in solidarity and empathy with Standing Rock now stand in disbelief and grief, but the forced closure of the encampment is simply the latest chapter in a violent, 500-year-old history of colonization against the First Nations. It is also the latest chapter in the battle between an extractive capitalist model and the possibility of a post-capitalist world.

Of course, the ongoing struggle will not go down in the flames at Oceti Sakowin. We should take this opportunity to remember the enduring lessons of this movement, and prepare ourselves for what is to come next.

Environmental activists in Honduras refuse to submit

By Michael Phoenix - ROARMag, March 3, 2017

Let us wake up! Let us wake up, humankind! We’re out of time. We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction.

These are the words of Berta Cáceres, the community organizer, human rights defender, environmental activist, indigenous Lenca woman, leader and rebel who was shot dead one year ago, on March 3, 2016, by unidentified gunmen at her home in La Esperanza, the capital city of the department of Intibucá in southwestern Honduras.

Berta was a co-founder of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), an organization fighting neoliberalism and patriarchy in Honduras and working for respect of human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples in particular. She was a long-term opponent of internationally funded exploitative development projects in indigenous territories in Honduras, such as the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, set to be built on the territory of the Lenca people in the Río Blanco.

Berta’s name had been on a hit-list of social and environmental activists given to a US-trained specialist military unit in Honduras months before her death. Recent information leaked from court proceedings suggest a leading role was played in her assassination by Honduran military intelligence services.

The killing of the celebrated indigenous activist led to widespread and sustained coverage in the Honduran, Central American and international media. In its aftermath, eight people have been arrested, including employees of the Agua Zarca dam and current and ex-military officers. However, no convictions have materialized and the intellectual authors of her assassination remain untouched.

Serious failings in the investigative process, including the failure to call on the sole eyewitness of the killing to identify suspects, have held back any movement towards justice for Berta’s family, community or her colleagues in COPINH. Similarly, the widespread outcry of indignation at Berta’s murder has not resulted in any steps towards greater protection for the indigenous peoples in Honduras who are fighting for their right to exist and the safeguarding of the open, communal, sufficient and balanced nature of our environment.

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