Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 21, 2015

Indigenous Activists: Living and Dying for Mother Earth

Indigenous Youths Rise Up in Defense of Mother Earth, as Assassinations Increase Around the World
By Brenda Norrell
Top photo by Tom Keefer
April 21, 2015 updated
In Washington on Tuesday, Haudenosaunnee united with Ecuadorian Indigenous in the fight against Chevron. It comes as a new report by Global Witness reveals that Indigenous activists are being assassinated around the world at an alarming rate.
At the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, Kandi Mossett described how the destruction of Mother Earth -- oil and gas drilling, fracking and coal mining -- are leading to hopeless and suicide for Native American youths.
Mossett, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara from North Dakota, addressed to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
"In order to protect and promote the well-being of Indigenous Youth and prevent self-harm and suicide, we need to stop the destruction of Mother Earth. When we see governments, extractive industries and multinational corporations raping and destroying Mother Earth, it simultaneously destroys our hope for the future and diminishes our will to live. There is a direct corollary between the harm to Mother Earth, especially on our lands and territories, and Indigenous youth's self-harm and skyrocketing rates of suicide.
"Furthermore, extractive industries and the burning of fossil fuels are causing climate change. We need the United Nations and governments to take real action on climate change," Mossett said.
With the release of the new documentary, "Crying Earth Rise Up, now showing in film festival throughout the Americas, these words come from one of the Lakota creators of the film, Wioweya Najin Win, from the Oglala Nation on Pine Ridge, South Dakota. She has among those who have led the fight against the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline and uranium mining in Lakota territory.
Writing from along Wounded Knee Creek, she says, "Our lands and territories have produced the wealth of 'America,' the homestake gold mine in our sacred He Sapa (Black Hills), has enriched 'America' beyond belief, as it poisoned the Cheyenne River. Uranium open-pit mined in the sacred He Sapa by 'America' and its collaborator, Tennessee Valley Authority gave 'America' its nuclear bombs while it poisoned all the rivers and lands for hundreds of miles around, forever. Fukushima is part of the 'American' dream, just like Hiroshima and Nagasaki was. Now the oceans and Her babies are poisoned forever. Forever is a long time."
On the Navajo Nation, Dine’ have fought a long and hard battle to halt the dirty coal power plants that are not only poisoning their people, but are having a global impact on the atmosphere."
Klee Benally, Dine’ at Indigenous Action Media, writes, “In 2009 Joe Shirley Jr., then president of the Navajo Nation issued a press release stating, ‘Unlike ever before, environmental activists and organizations are among the greatest threat to tribal sovereignty, tribal self-determination, and our quest for independence.’ In order to protect coal mining and energy interests on the Navajo Nation, he stated that environmental activists were ‘unwelcome’ on the reservation.
Shirley’s position seemed contrary to his previous work to protect Dooko’osliid, one of four sacred mountains for Diné, and ban uranium mining, all of which was accomplished because of and alongside environmentalists. But the issue was really over the Navajo Nation’s historical dependence on coal.”
At the same time, Dine’ youths are walking to the Four Sacred Mountains, inspiring the world with their photos and thoughts. They are speaking out about the Defense of Mother Earth and the need to halt coal mining and fracking.
Nihigaal bee lina, Journey for Existence, writes from near Flagstaff, Arizona, “We traveled pass the Navajo reservation’s border as we made our way to the Star Charter School. When we arrived, we found these amazing pictures and written pieces about Nihigaal bee Iina. We are deeply moved by the words we’ve read, created by students of the Star School, and also all the drawings that we’ve observed. Ayóo nizhóniiyé!" (Photo on right.)
In southern Arizona, Apaches continue to defend their ancestral land from Resolution Copper mining, pushed through by Sen. John McCain in the defense bill.
In Quebec City, Canada, the Cree Nation hosted the Uranium Film Festival, joining with Indigenous around the world who are fighting the uranium mining that has poisoned their homelands and been targeted with radioactive waste dumps.
While Indigenous activists are being assassinated in Central America and around the world as they defend their homelands against mining, ranchers and development, a new generation of Indigenous youths are taking on mining, dirty coal and the powers of oppression within their nations.
Global Witness reports: Each week at least two people are being killed for taking a stand against environmental destruction. Some are shot by police during protests, others gunned down by hired assassins. As companies go in search of new land to exploit, increasingly people are paying the ultimate price for standing in their way. We found that at least 116 environmental activists were murdered in 2014 - that's almost double the number of journalists killed in the same period. A shocking 40 % of victims were indigenous, with most people dying amid disputes over hydropower, mining and agri-business. Nearly three-quarters of the deaths we found information on were in Central and South America.
Read more on these stories at
Photo on left by Sandra Rambler, San Carlos Apache.
Apaches defending their ancestral land from Sen. John McCain's Resolution Copper mine, pushed through in the defense bill.
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