Showing posts with label indigenous rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label indigenous rights. Show all posts

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Major Victory for Standing Rock

A Message from Phyllis Young, Standing Rock Organizer

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the nation, we're aware that it could have an outsized impact on Indian Country. Relief programs may not provide needed tests and medical supplies for us -- or anyone -- on an appropriate scale. Please know we are monitoring this, and as my colleague Chase Iron Eyes mentioned a few days ago, we'll keep you updated on developments. May we all stay safe and healthy.

In the meantime, I write with some wonderful news. Just yesterday, Standing Rock won a big victory in the ongoing legal battle against the Dakota Access pipeline when a federal judge granted the tribe's request to strike down DAPL's federal permits! Watch our video about the win in court and send a note of solidarity to Standing Rock.

The judge ruled that Trump's Army Corps of Engineers must complete a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) -- the much more comprehensive review we've all been demanding since the beginning of this movement (and that President Obama required, only to be reversed by Trump). The Corps fell short in three specific ways, according to the judge.

First, the Corps failed to respond adequately to claims by the tribe's experts that DAPL's leak detection system is wholly inadequate. Second, the company's dreadful history of oil spills wasn't properly addressed. Finally, the oil company failed to account for the adverse repercussions a "worst case discharge" might have on our treaty rights -- our ability to hunt, fish, and perform traditional religious ceremonies near Lake Oahe, which the pipeline crosses under.

I was asked by the tribal chairman to represent Standing Rock's interests at the hearing in Washington, D.C., but I couldn't go because of Coronavirus travel restrictions. I'm gratified that, despite our troubles, we have been victorious, at least for now.

The logic of the judge's ruling suggests the pipeline should not remain operational without a federal permit. The ruling actually references both the Titanic and Chernobyl concerning the possibility of human error, and I'm hopeful shutting down the flow will be the judge's next step. He has now requested legal briefs on that issue.

Please stay tuned, as we hope to share more good news soon. In the meantime, stay safe and please listen to the medical professionals with knowledge about the requirements of this pandemic. We're all in this together.

Wopila tanka -- as always, we're so grateful to you for standing with Standing Rock and Mother Earth.

Phyllis Young
Standing Rock Organizer
The Lakota People's Law Project

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Last Innu Singer

Akat Piwas is the only Labrador elder still singing in the Mushuau Innu dialect. Now 79, Piwas belongs to the generation of Mushuau Innu who were born in tents and raised on the land, before--as adults--being moved into houses in Davis Inlet, a village that would be plagued by poverty, shoddy housing and substance abuse. The tribe relocated to the Innu community of Natuashish in 2002. Piwas is old enough to remember life before settlers, schools and government. She lived through the tumult that besieged her people as they all tried to come to grips with a completely foreign way of life. 

For thousands of years, before making contact with European settlers, the Mushuau Innu lived nomadically, moving with the seasons across Labrador, following the caribou and other animals to hunt. The traditional way of life of the tribe changed dramatically in the 1960s when they were forced off the land and onto a reserve. When the Newfoundland government decided to shepherd the Innu into community living, the Catholic Church played a key role. The church had a profound impact on the first generation of Innu adults who moved into the community in 1967.

Unfortunately, church and tradition didn't coexist easily. Most priests discouraged the old ways: drumming ceremonies, the shaking tent, even speaking the language. The Innu way of life was torn asunder. Traditions were lost, people were left adrift. For Piwas, the Catholic faith was one thing that didn't change. Like most First Nations converts to Christianity, Piwas was quite capable of moving between two religious systems on a situational basis, drawing from each those prayers, beliefs, and songs that satisfied the needs of the particular time. The church, and its music, helped her navigate the change. For Piwas, it's a source of strength. Today, she is the only elder who can sing hymns in her dialect. Though some of the old ways have been lost to time, Piwas and others are working to preserve what's left.

Photo of Akat Piwas by CBC News.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Davi Kopenawa Receives Alternative Nobel Prize

Renowned Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa, the "Dalai Lama of the Rainforest," received this year's Right Livelihood Award, known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize" this Wednesday (Dec 4th). The ceremony took place in Stockholm and was the final event of a 10-day long program of celebrations in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. During his acceptance speech Davi said: "I want to help my indigenous brothers by asking the international authorities to put pressure on the Government of Brazil to demarcate the land of other indigenous peoples. I have always fought for the rights of my people, the Yanomami, and the Ye'kwana. This award is a new weapon to strengthen the fight of our people."

Davi Kopenawa has been on the front lines for over 40 years representing a people whose very existence is in jeopardy. From encouraging tribesmen in villages in the heart of the Amazon rain forest to delivering a speech to Britain's Parliament to addressing the United Nations, he's fought for the rights of his people, the Yanomami of northern Brazil. These travels constitute a shamanic critique of Western industrial society, whose endless material greed, mass violence, and ecological blindness contrast sharply with Yanomami cultural values. Wherever Kopenawa speaks on behalf of his people, he delivers the same message: Help defend this region's natural resources and the health of the Yanomami.

In 2010 Kopenawa wrote The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman, the first book by a Yanomami. The Falling Sky paints an unforgettable picture of Yanomami culture, past and present, in the heart of the rainforest--a world where ancient indigenous knowledge and shamanic traditions cope with the global geopolitics of an insatiable natural resources extraction industry. Kopenawa recounts his initiation and experience as a shaman, as well as his first encounters with outsiders: government officials, missionaries, road workers, cattle ranchers, and gold prospectors. He vividly describes the ensuing cultural repression, environmental devastation, and deaths resulting from epidemics and violence. To counter these threats, Davi Kopenawa became a global ambassador for his endangered people.

Survival International, an organization dedicated to campaigning for the rights of the Yanomami and other tribal peoples around the world, has worked alongside Kopenawa for the last 30 years in his campaign to persuade the government of Brazil to set aside and protect Yanomami tribal lands in the northern states of Roraima and Amazonas. In 1992 the Brazilian government designated 96,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles, an area the size of Portugal) for the Yanomami "Urihi," meaning "forest" in the Yanomami language. Combined with the Yanomami territory in Venezuela, it is the largest area of rainforest under indigenous control anywhere in the world. Indigenous peoples are the best conservationists and have so much to teach us.

Kopenawa has frequently been threatened by the gold miners and cattle ranchers who target the resources inside the Yanomami territory. Indigenous people in the Amazon are under threat from business interests as well as politicians, including far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has a long history of anti-indigenous statements and policies. The current regime in Brazil is trying now to undo decades, generations of progress in recognizing indigenous peoples' rights. The threat has never been more acute and has implications for the rest of the world.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Helping Indigenous Artists Protect Their Work

Copyright infringement of Indigenous designs is rampant. Their artwork is one of the last things that Indigenous Peoples have left. A new Canadian Indigenous art registry aims to help artists who have struggled with questions of ownership over their designs. The registry is a joint effort between Tony Belcourt, former president of the M├ętis Nation of Ontario, and Mark Holmes, director of G52 Municipal Services, the service provider for the register’s technology, in consultation with Indigenous artists.

Still in the early stages of creation, the registry is designed to give artists a place to document designs, control ownership and track works as they are sold and resold. Artists would be given a registry number for each piece of work, so when designs are stolen, they can take action and have a legal document to prove registration. The responsibility to ensure authenticity in part rests with consumers to buy products that identify Indigenous artists on the label.

One such artist collective has existed in Cape Dorset since it was established in 1959. The community-owned West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Ltd. manages copyright for Indigenous artists in Nunavut, many of whom are without access to phones, bank accounts or Internet access and speak only Inuktitut. The co-operative has returned profit of more than $1-million a year for the past three years as equity back to its membership of 1,698, who each pay a one-time fee of $5 for a share. 

Creative Commons Photo by Indigenous artist David Neel, from the Kwakiutl first nation. Seen wearing a Ka'sala headress with a Grizzly Bear frontlet and canoe paddle with an Orca design, which are the crests of his family.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Greta Thunberg at Standing Rock

On October 9 Greta Thunberg spoke at the Indigenized Climate Forum in Fort Yates, North Dakota. As you likely know, Thunberg comes from Sweden, where, at 15, she began protesting a lack of climate action in Parliament. From there, she quickly rose to worldwide prominence, organizing school climate strikes, giving a TED Talk, and appearing on the cover of Time magazine. In September Thunberg received an invitation to speak at a UN Climate Action Summit in New York. Since then she has made it a point to travel throughout North America to spread her message.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, opened the event with a prayer.

"The old ones tell us through our ceremonies and everyday life we walk with the spirits, and everything has a spirit, we do our ceremonies everyday year round and that's our way of life -- so our prayers and our sacred language is all about the environment," Looking Horse said.

"I am so honored and grateful to be here to visit you in your homelands, to visit Standing Rock, this symbolic place of resistance," Thunberg said. "There was one moment that changed everything. It was a slow process. I started to educate myself about the climate and ecological climate. I just started to understand the urgency. When I understood that, I became furious because I realized that countless people are already suffering and have been for a very long time. These people are being ignored. This is going to affect every one of us in the future, myself included. It is already affecting us in many different ways. I just thought the only right thing to do was to stand back against this and to take a stand and I never regretted doing it."

"It's been very educational I must say, because you get so much experience from meeting all of these different cultures. The basic problem is the same everywhere. It is greed, ignorance, and unawareness -- and basically, nothing is being done to protect our common future. Nothing is being done to save the planet. We as teenagers shouldn't be the ones taking the responsibility, it should be those who are in power... and also it is because you here at Standing Rock, you are on the front line. You are the true warriors. You are the ones standing up for everyone else's future and I have so much respect for you and I am so grateful that you have taken this fight. Just so you know, we look up to you a lot."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Indigenous Youth Excluded from UN Climate Summit

On September 21 the United Nations held its first-ever Youth Climate Summit, but Indigenous youth were excluded from the sessions. They were given their own event, which was poorly attended. Makasa Looking Horse was invited to open the youth summit with a blessing. The 25-year-old leader is Lakota and Mohawk from Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. She is the daughter of Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the 19th generation keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe.

"I did not come here to play, or this isn't for show," she said, holding the pipe ahead of her prayer.

Looking Horse told youth delegates that the White Buffalo Calf Woman "declared we treat all of creation with respect to honor our mother," adding "she warned my people of the time we are in today, and that she would return to help us as a white buffalo calf."

She said that prophesy has begun. "I will honor her today for asking, honor her today for her blessing to guide us, the seventh generation."

Beyond the blessing, the Indigenous youth felt excluded from the summit and left feeling dejected, they said.

"They need to provide space and get Indigenous people there in those spaces to truly make a difference, I think, because we already have the knowledge, we already know what we're doing. We know what we want," Looking Horse told APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) News.

"There was a disconnect," she said, adding the global youth and Indigenous youth were "both talking about the same thing, and we're in two different rooms. And I think that speaks volumes about how this topic is treated regarding Indigenous people."

Looking Horse said she valued the time she was given to open the youth summit with a blessing, but said knowledge like the teachings of the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe will not be heard if Indigenous peoples aren't meaningfully included in plans for climate action.

"The message that the White Buffalo Calf Woman gave us was to always work in unity and keep praying together with our bundles, our pipes, because that's the only way that we will get through the tough times that are coming," she said.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Battling the Black Snake

The coming of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines have fulfilled the Lakota prophecy of a terrible black snake meant to bring harm to the people of Turtle Island. Native organizers stand on the front lines every day to protect the sacred systems of Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth. Mni Wiconi -- water is life!

Your voice is needed. For though the resistance at Standing Rock has been forcibly paused and oil now flows through the Dakota Access pipeline, the struggle to protect the health and safety of the tribe and people downstream isn't over. Quickly and quietly, Energy Transfer Partners is planning to more than double the amount of oil DAPL carries, to more than a million barrels a day. And they're doing this -- once more -- without the consent of the people.
Big Oil assures us that increasing oil flow through pipelines isn't dangerous, but U.S. regulators say their information doesn't back that claim. And tar sands crude -- the type of oil DAPL carries -- is a special threat: corrosive to infrastructure, it caused a million-gallon spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan not long ago. The United States suffers hundreds of liquid pipeline incidents every year. Why should we trust Big Oil's word?
Between now and the deadline for input on Aug. 9, we will do everything we can to ensure a public hearing -- the first step in stopping DAPL from becoming twice as dangerous. The Black Snake's presence must not be allowed to fester and grow without pushback from every corner of Turtle Island. Will you stand with us once again to ensure the safety of our people and our sacred land and water? You can use our form to send an email telling North Dakota’s Public Service Commission that the people must be heard!

Wopila Tanka -- Thank you for making a difference! Mni Wiconi.

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People's Law Project

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Victory for Pine Ridge!

Mission accomplished! After more than 1,200 of you sent emails in a single day, the White House declared a public assistance disaster for the Oglala Sioux Tribe -- a major victory for Pine Ridge, where 97 percent of the people live below the poverty line. This incredible news means that the Oglala will receive more than $10 million in support to rebuild public infrastructure like roads, water systems, and public housing. While it's an extremely satisfying conclusion to months of hard work, we must not rest on our laurels. Lakota People's Law Project's flood relief efforts have been costly but well worth the investment. Your generosity now can provide for the crucial battles ahead. Please give today -- and consider making a monthly contribution -- as we gear up to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline and assist Pine Ridge's full recovery.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Oglala President Calls for Federal Disaster Relief

Over the past month, two massive Winter Storms brought flooding and chaos to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Flooding from the first storm alone displaced 1,500 tribal citizens from their homes and damaged nearly 100 structures. Many still remain without access to potable water and many roads are still impassable. Top priorities to care for displaced families and elders are bottled water and storage containers, nonperishable food, diapers, toilet paper, and hygiene products. They also need things as simple as generators, fuel containers, water pumps, shovels, and other tools. Pine Ridge now faces millions of dollars of damage. Recovery will take a long time. Join Oglala Sioux Tribal President Julian Bear Runner in calling for a federal declaration of disaster in South Dakota. Please send an email to President Trump today! To join the call for a federal declaration of disaster in South Dakota please visit the OGLALA OYANKE RELIEF website.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Mongolia's Ten Sacred Mountains

Mongolia is unique in that it has ten sacred mountains protected by Presidential Decree. Paying homage to sacred mountains has been integral to shamanic practice in Mongolia, and the country has some of the oldest, official, continuously protected sites in the world, dating back to the 13th century. Mongolia's commitment to the veneration and protection of sacred natural sites is both a spiritual and practical custom that weaves together religious traditions, cultural practices and political legitimacy. The rituals and practices involved with revering these sacred places -- and the environmental stewardship that results -- intersects with longstanding political tradition and leadership of the state. No other country in the world can claim this history. Mongolia's political respect for and deference to the sacred landscape connects the sacred with the profane, equating spiritual well-being with the health of the people and the interests of the nation. In turn, these policies have become central to ecological conservation today. While other countries search for ways to incorporate environmentalism into their national conversation and impress upon their citizens the need for ecological awareness and conservation, Mongolia's approach to conservation as both a spiritual and practical matter is compelling. As Mongolian shaman Buyanbadrakh says, "The traditional ways of worshiping and protecting sacred places are the best way to care for nature." Read more.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Native American Voter Suppression

Standing Rock is now known worldwide for the protests over the Dakota Access pipeline, which were ongoing in the period leading up to the 2016 elections. But the advocates and celebrities who flooded into the region have nearly all left. And Standing Rock's own energy and activism hasn't translated to the ballot box, for reasons both ancient and recent. This week the United States Supreme Court chose not to overturn a new North Dakota voter ID requirement that could effectively disenfranchise thousands of Native voters for the upcoming election on Nov. 6. It's pure institutionalized racism, and it threatens the future of North Dakota and our nation. Mobilization is now more important than ever. In North Dakota, every vote really does count. Because of their relatively small population, it's possible for statewide election results to change based on a couple hundred votes -- and as of now, the court's ruling means thousands of Native voices could be eliminated from the rolls on election day. Read more.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Support Standing Rock's Landmark Case

The Lakota People's Law Project is asking for donations to fund the upcoming legal battle to protect Standing Rock activist, Chase Iron Eyes. The necessity defense of Chase could set a precedent to protect not only land and water, but freedom of speech itself. This trial can help create a permanent legal framework to protect indigenous, environmental, and civil rights. This trial may prove to be the most important of our generation. At this crucial juncture, they ask you to give once again. They must raise $200,000 for expert witnesses, investigators, their travel, and the capacity to categorize all the evidence. As Lakota People’s Law Project Chief Counsel Daniel Sheehan discusses in a new video, the information they have already gathered from deposing law enforcement officials is very encouraging. When people go under oath, they often stop lying.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Standing Rock Defense Fund

Photo by Lucas Zhao
The Lakota People's Law Project is asking for donations to fund the upcoming legal battles to protect Standing Rock activists, Chase Iron Eyes and HolyElk Lafferty. The necessity defenses of Chase and HolyElk could set a precedent to protect not only land and water, but freedom of speech itself. These trials can help create a permanent legal framework to protect indigenous, environmental, and civil rights. If you choose not to give monetarily, they ask your thoughts and prayers for these two brave warriors. All the medicine you can provide is much appreciated as the team gathers evidence and prepares for the fight. These trials may prove to be two of the most important of our generation. Heal. Unify. Resist.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"My Seven Months of Living at Standing Rock"

Photo by Desiree Kane
Desiree Kane arrived at Standing Rock in the very last days of May, alongside some comrades, at the request of Wiyaka Eagleman, the first firekeeper at Camp of the Sacred Stones and a founding member of the Keystone XL campaign. He had put out a call to folks in Indian Country for support, and she answered. Over the months, Desiree worked on the security and media teams and always had her camera. Her photos show some of the defining moments of the past seven months--some that made it to mainstream media coverage and others unseen until now. At its peak, Oceti Sakowin Camp has supported as many as 11,000 people, all focused on standing in solidarity with the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people who lay claim to land through the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Both the pipeline and the camps are on these lands. Read more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Peace at Standing Rock

Latest news, – A Huge Win! Just announced. President Obama has instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the easement required to run the Dakota Access Pipeline past Standing Rock! A notice of intent has been issued. A Notice of Intent (NOI) is a formal announcement of intent to prepare an EIS as defined in Council. The Environmental Impact Statement is a more thorough and in-depth evaluation of the risks of building the pipeline either under or close to Lake Oahe, the water supply the demonstrators have been protecting since April 2016. Your voice, and the voices of thousands of others, helped tip the balance in favor of the Water Protectors bravely standing to block the pipeline's passage through fragile, sacred lands. Read more.

Lakota People's Law Project

The Lakota People's Law Project is committed to defending the rights of South Dakota's Native American families, exposing the epidemic of illegal seizures of Lakota children by the state of South Dakota, working towards the structural solution to end this injustice, and stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The movement to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline continues into the New Year, and the Lakota people need your support now more than ever. President Obama's denial of the permit to drill beneath Lake Oahe hasn't deterred the pipeline's developers, Energy Transfer Partners. They immediately vowed to ignore the order, and President elect Donald Trump has already stated he will ensure the pipeline is finished once he takes office. To learn how you can help visit In the video below, Chase Iron Eyes provides an update about moving the Standing Rock Liberation Camp and other important developments.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Standing Rock Wins Big Victory

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Fireworks filled the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrated after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday that it will not grant an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe on the Sioux Tribes Standing Rock reservation, ending a months-long standoff. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II released a Statement on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to not grant easement.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Now is the Time to Stand

Dakota Access Pipeline Protest
Now is the time to take action. It's time to build a reciprocal relationship of meaning to the Earth and to each other. Protect the Waters in the place you call home -- this is our first source of life. Become a person of place. Put down roots where you are; learn the people, animals, and plants. Love the water, air, and land. No great healing of the planet will take place until humans adopt and adapt to a biocentric standard of "nature first." Consideration must be given to the seventh generation in every decision that we make and in every action that we take. As Earthkeepers, we should adopt lives of voluntary simplicity so we have both the time and economic resources to support environmental action. Read more.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Joining Sacred Pipes For Standing Rock

"Drumbeat of the Rainbow Fire"
Joining Sacred Pipes for Standing Rock. It is a BIG WEEKEND at Standing Rock this weekend, and people are praying for the situation, all over the world. There are many in America and Europe who are pipe carriers, pipe holders - we can all help to hold sacred space. If you can, join your pipes each day and make prayers for the Water Protectors between the 4th and the 6th of December. I know many of you reading this will not have pipes, but you can still help in a sacred manner. This is a critical time to unite in prayer for all our relations. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Releases Documentary

In the midst of federal government deliberations over the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has released a short film titled "Mni Wiconi: The Stand at Standing Rock," a new, eight-minute film exploring the nearly eight-month battle to stop construction of the pipeline on sacred tribal lands.

"This film tells the story of our prayerful and peaceful demonstrations by water protectors that have motivated thousands of tribal members and non-Native people around the world to take a stand," said the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Chairman, Dave Archambault II in a release. "In it, you hear the voices of people fighting for their lives, because water is life."