Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 22, 2022

Lakota Joye Braun and Ukrainian Climate Scientist Honored with Bold Activism Award

Joye Braun and Svitlana Romanko, Honored with Rose Braz Award for Bold Activism

2022 Award Goes to Ukrainian Climate Scientist, Late Indigenous Pipeline Fighter

By the Center for Biological Diversity
Dec. 22, 2022

Censored News

OAKLAND, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity today awarded the 2022 “Rose Braz Award for Bold Activism” to Svitlana Romanko and posthumously to the late Joye Braun.

Romanko is Ukraine’s leading climate scientist and a grassroots climate campaigner. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, she founded Razom We Stand and launched the Stand With Ukraine campaign with more than 820 groups. It calls on world leaders to end their fossil fuel dependence on Russia and phase out fossil fuels globally.

As the war rages on, Romanko has refused offers to leave Ukraine, enduring bombings and power and water cuts to keep up her relentless push for an end to fossil-fueled violence. Her fearless confrontation with the Russian regime this year included a protest that led to her suspension from the COP27 U.N. climate conference in Egypt.

“Svitlana’s expertise and moral authority make her an invaluable leader in fighting fossil fuels’ destruction in Ukraine and around the world,” said KierĂ¡n Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “No one’s done more to highlight how the war’s destruction and the resulting energy crunch connect to the climate crisis, with fossil fuels at the center of it all. Thanks to Svitlana’s courage, we’re seeing a major shift in how people perceive the many interconnected harms caused by fossil fuels and those who profit from them.”

“I'm very honored to receive the Rose Braz award,” said Romanko. “Our fight is a fight for justice, and we will not rest until Putin’s war machine is held accountable for the fossil-fueled crimes that have been and continue to be committed against innocent people across Ukraine and globally. We must fully phase out fossil fuels, eliminate the financial revenues of petro-dictatorships and drive the clean energy transition to realize a peaceful, livable planet for all.”

The Center also granted a posthumous award to devoted water protector and pipeline fighter Joye Braun (Wambii Wiyan Ka’win, “Eagle Feather Woman”), who died Nov. 13 at the age of 53.

A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Nation, Braun was the national pipeline organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and a leader in the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition, a growing movement of more than 1,200 groups across the country working to end the era of fossil fuels.

Braun was a visionary organizer, policy advocate and journalist. She was instrumental in bringing together the fight to protect Indigenous communities threatened by extraction with the broader climate and environmental justice movements. Hers was the first lodge to go up at the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock, sparking a global movement to stop the Dakota Access pipeline. She also was a leader in the campaign that would ultimately lead to the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, forging groundbreaking alliances between Indigenous leaders, landowners and climate activists.

More recently she was a vital voice among frontline leaders at last year’s People vs. Fossil Fuels week of action and a leading advocate in fending off Sen. Joe Manchin’s “dirty deal,” which would have approved the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline and other fossil fuel projects.

“Joye was a firebrand and a force of nature who loved the movement she led with all her heart,” said Suckling. “She was as fiercely committed to tearing down forces of oppression as she was to holding each of us accountable for building the world we need. She lifted up those most harmed by fossil fuels and cultivated common cause with all of us — young or old, immigrant or Indigenous, scientist or journalist. She never hesitated to deploy her infectious laughter and righteous anger, and both will continue to inspire movements for justice.”

“I’m proud to accept this award in honor of my mother, who was a warrior and a fighter,” said Morgan Brings Plenty, Braun’s daughter and Indigenous Environmental Network social media intern. “Ever since I was little, she always fought for what she believed in. She helped her community and her tribe to have a voice. She became well-known for her pipeline activism, including fighting long and hard to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline. But to me, above all, she was a great mom. She lives on in our hearts, and I will help carry on her legacy.”

The Rose Braz award consists of a handcrafted letterpress print by Roger Peet of Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative in Portland, Ore., and a $1,000 cash prize. The print depicts brown pelicans, a recovered endangered species and Braz’s favorite animal, symbolically breaking through a barrier wall.

Rose Braz, who died of brain cancer in 2017, was the Center’s beloved founding climate campaign director. Before coming to work at the Center, Rose gained great renown as a human-liberation activist, and her legacy continues to be felt in the work of the coalitions she founded.

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