|Marlon Santi, Ecuador, President CONAI, speaker at the|
Rights of Mother Earth Gathering at Haskell, Kansas
Photo Stephen Leahy
Rights of Mother Earth Gathering Haskell continues efforts of President Evo Morales
By Brenda Norrell
Indigenous Peoples from the Americas gathered at the Rights of Mother Earth conference, April 4 –6, at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, continuing the effort began by Bolivian President Evo Morales at the World Peoples Conference on Rights of Mother Earth and Climate Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Children of the jaguar
Marlon Santi described the difficult struggle to force oil companies out of his homeland in Ecuador.
“This struggle is not easy, it is difficult. We have had to suffer personally,” Marlon said, adding that now voices have joined together from the north and south.
“We do not want this generation to be enslaved again,” Santi said, pointing out that an Indigenous Nation without land can not exist. Indigenous Peoples that lose their language, lose their history. He said his peoples’ architecture and science have been described as “ruins” by scientists, and still his people have overcome these oppressors.
“If we remain silent, we will be obliterated,” Santi said, pointing out that the unity of Indigenous Peoples will overcome the lies, hypocrisy and violations of the rights of the people and Mother Earth.
Santi said Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador have joined marches from the Amazon, and as far away as the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, against mining on Indigenous lands. They have marched against the current “green” scam of REDD, (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.) Santi is former president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE.)
Oil industry trucks responsible for children deaths in North Dakota
Native Americans at the Haskell gathering, struggling to protect their people, and the land, air and water from destruction in the United States, included Kandi Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara from North Dakota.
Mossett said semi-trucks of the oil and gas industry have resulted in the deaths of seven children and youths in the past the three years, including two children who were three and five years old. Still, elected tribal politicians and the Interior Department are pushing for more drilling on tribal lands, and less regulation of fracking. The land, air and water are already devastated, poisoned with widespread pollution and degradation at Fort Berthold, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.
North Dakota is among the windiest states, still the oil and gas industry continues to be the focus. “It is all about oil. People are dying where I come from, literally being killed by semi-trucks,” said Mossett, staff member of the Indigenous Environmental Network.
By recognizing rights of nature in its constitution, Ecuador and a growing number of communities in the United States are basing their environmental protection systems on the premise that nature has inalienable rights, just as humans do. This premise is a radical but natural departure from the assumption that nature is property under the law, conference organizers said.
Native Voices: The power of place, spirit and memory
Anishinaabe Renee Gurneau shared how a dream led her to better understand the Creation Story and the reality of being part of the Earth and feeling its pain. Gurneau is the former president of Red Lake Nation College in Red Lake, Minn.
Gurneau described how today is the time of the Seventh Fire, urging the people to rely on the strength from millenniums of ancestors carried in their DNA.
Haskell professor Dr. Daniel Wildcat encouraged a new dialogue, based on spirit, power and place, and a renewal of the ancestral ways of life.
“Our power resides in the landscapes and seascapes that we call home," Wildcat said, Yuchi member of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma.
Rueben George, Sundance Chief and Member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation in northern Vancouver, BC, is the grandson of Chief Dan George. George began with thanks to the stewards of this land and caretakers of this land.
George honored the caretakers of this land with a song of his grandfather Chief Dan George. His nature song is “Honor Mother Earth.”
Rueben said his grandfather shared with him how to be a human being. His grandfather said, “We are the last of the human beings to follow this way of life.”
Mona Polacca, Havasupai/Hopi, spoke about the foundation of life. From the first water inside the mother's womb, to the prayer upon which life depends, Polacca spoke of the spirituality of life.
Polacca, one of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, began by remembering the words of Thomas Banyacya, "We are all related.”
Dine' Robert Yazzie of the Dine' Policy Institute, former Navajo Supreme Court judge, shares a Declaration of the Dine' elders, the Roots of Dine' Law. Yazzie shares the power of prayer, and the power of names and language, at the Rights of Mother Earth Gathering in the Dine' and English languages.
"There are still Holy People around. We still see the Holy People speaking to us through water, and through fire," Yazzie said. Yazzie urges those listening to concentrate on the language and use your own indigenous thinking. The Declaration is in Title 1 of Navajo Nation Code adopted on Nov 8, 2002.
The Roots of Dine’ Law describes how the Holy People sang songs and offered prayers and the earth and universe came into being, along with water, sacred mountains, air and plants. Fire, light and sacred stones came into being with resilience.
"This is the foremost, fundamental law set in place for us."
Theft of Navajo and Hopi water rights underway by Arizona Congressmen
As Indigenous Peoples met in Kansas, Navajos and Hopis protested Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl in Tuba City, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation, and their scheme to steal Navajo and Hopi water rights to the Little Colorado River.
Supai/Hopi Mona Polacca pointed out in Haskell that the senators scheme to steal Navajo and Hopi water rights was created to benefit the Salt River Project which operates the Navajo Generating Station on the Navajo Nation. It is one of the dirtiest coal fired power plants in the US and a major cause of greenhouse gases.
The senators are also seeking water for other polluting industries downstream in Phoenix and Tucson, where residents continue to live lavish lifestyles, with golf courses in the desert. The US House is now fast tracking this water theft scheme, HR 4067, sponsored by Rep. Ben Quayle.
At Haskell, conference organizers said the earliest rights of nature laws recognized the right for ecosystems to exist and flourish, organizers said.
Others, including the Ecuadorian constitutional provisions adopted in 2008, recognize the right for nature to exist, persist, evolve, and regenerate. Those laws also recognize the right of any person or organization to defend, protect, and enforce those rights; and for payment of recovered damages to government to provide for the restoration of those ecosystems, said organizers, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Pachamama Alliance, and Haskell professor Dr. Dan Wildcat.
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Rights of Mother Earth at HaskellKandi Mossett: Fort Berthold ND: Oil trucks killed seven children and youths
Ecuador Indigenous Marlon Santi at Haskell: Rights of Mother Earth gathering continues efforts of Bolivia President Evo Morales:
Sundance Chief Rueben George, BC, at Haskell, grandson of Chief Dan George:
Anishinaabe Renee Gurneau of Red Lake, Minn: Mother Earth, memory and being
Supai Hopi Mona Polacca: Water, prayer and humility, one of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers
Haskell professor Dr. Daniel Wildcat of Rights of Mother Earth: Power and place
Dine' Robert Yazzie: Roots of Dine' Law at Rights of Mother Earth