Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 4, 2018

WECAN Native Women Relentless -- Taking on Banks and Financial Institutions


2018 Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation members outside of the White House in Washington D.C. - Photo via Teena Pugliese
Dear Friends and Allies,
A fourth Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation has recently returned from New York City and Washington D.C. - where women leaders took action and engaged in high-level meetings with major credit rating agency, Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI), and bank association, the Equator Principle Association - whose policies and decisions significantly impact the forecasts for investments in fossil fuel projects around the world.

Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegates brought with them knowledge, data and analysis, and personal testimony as women leaders active in struggles including opposition of the Dakota Access, Bayou Bridge, Keystone XL, and Line 3 Pipelines - and spoke directly with MSCI and Equator Principle Association representatives regarding fossil fuel developments; Indigenous and human rights violations; dangers to increasing climate chaos; and demands for institutional action to change the harmful financing practices supporting extractive industries.
Michelle Cook (Diné, Human rights lawyer, and Founder and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign) speaks out during a meeting in NYC - Photo via Teena Pugliese
As has been highlighted by various reports, and by the growing, global fossil fuel divestment movement - immediately stopping all new fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure is one of the most important actions we can take to halt accelerating climate catastrophe and help bring an end to exploitation and rights violations against Indigenous peoples, frontline communities, and the Earth's water and global climate.

The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network is honored to have facilitated this fourth delegation in partnership with Indigenous women leaders and their directives, as part of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign

October 2018 Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation members included - Wasté Win Yellowlodge Young (Ihunktowanna/
Hunkpapa of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Former Tribal Historic Preservation Officer); Jessica Parfait (United Houma Nation, Graduate student at Louisiana State University exploring impacts of oil and gas on Houma tribal communities); Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe, Tribal attorney, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth, and former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders); Michelle Cook (Diné, Human rights lawyer, and Founder and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign); and Leoyla Cowboy (Diné, member of The Red Nation, and community organizer for the Water Protector Legal Collective) - joined by Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director of the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network and Co-Director of the Divest, Invest, Protect campaign).
The Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation on 55 Wall Street, the original New York Stock Exchange, making the historical connections between patriarchy, colonization and capitalism - Photo via Teena Pugliese
In New York City, delegation members met with the MSCI credit rating agency representatives to share testimony and demands for urgently 
needed changes to their policies and procedures, which currently enable dangerous extraction and rights violations. Ongoing exchanges and 
advocacy are now underway with MSCI. 

Alongside Rainforest Action Network and other allies, the Delegation also took action outside of a central Chase bank in Manhattan to demand that Chase completely remove themselves from the tar sands sector. A core focus of the action was bringing attention to Chase's immoral plans to continue financial credit lines to Line 3 pipeline, which has not received consent from the Indigenous Peoples whose territories and rights are being effected, and which is furthering fossil fuel development despite clear scientific warnings that extraction must stop if the global community is to respect the Paris Climate Agreement and stay below a 1.5 degree rise in global temperature.

Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation members prepare for action outside 
Chase bank in New York City - Photo via Erik McGregor
In Washington D.C., the Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation 
participated in a meeting with Equator Principles Association representatives, again delivering vital data and stories from their communities. 

The Equator Principles Association includes 94 of the largest international banks, who have voluntarily signed-on to due diligence standards that should guide member banks away from supporting projects which endanger the Earth, human and Indigenous rights, and communities. 

After human rights violations at Standing Rock, the EP Association promised to review and update the Equator Principles, however in the meantime, EP banks have continued to support dangerous extractive projects including Energy Transfer Partner's Bayou Bridge Pipeline, Enbridge's Line 3, and TransCanada's Keystone XL.

During the EP bank meeting, Indigenous women leaders spoke out with great strength to demand that, as the Association carries out the promised revision of their governing principles, there is meaningful and thorough action taken to ensure that member banks exercise due diligence in investments regarding Indigenous and human rights and climate impacts.

Through the Delegation and the Divest, Invest, Protect program, we are specifically calling for EP banks to outline a detailed timeline for a managed decline of investments in fossil fuels; full respect for Indigenous rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent; and vigorous investments in regenerative, renewable energy.

A public action was also organized outside of the EP banks annual member meeting, during which Indigenous women delegates and allied organizational leaders sent a message to those inside, and engaged the public and the media about the need for full divestment from fossil fuels and respect for Indigenous rights.

Allied organizations participating in and co-organizing the EP bank meeting and direct action included Honor the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, Banktrack, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and others, as part of a collective effort to influence and challenge the EP revision process. 

In the official document of outcomes from the EP banks annual meeting, several of the issues highlighted by the Delegation were 
mentioned, and it is clear there will be a great deal of work ahead.
Indigenous Women's Divestment delegation members with Sophia Wilansky (center) in NYC - Photo via Teena Pugliese
  • Watch and share our video, 'Indigenous Women's Divestment Delegation Confronts Credit Suisse at Shareholder Meeting' - from the previous delegation (via Youtube or Facebook videos). An October 2018 delegation video will be released soon!
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network is committed to ongoing action in partnership with Indigenous women leaders to further this vital divestment work, and the efforts of the Divest, Invest, Protect initiative as a whole. Thank you for your continued interest and support!
For the Earth and All Generations, 

The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network 
(WECAN International) Team

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