What if We Listened to Indigenous People?

Slowly but surely, Seattle’s non-Natives have started to acknowledge the stories of the people who lived here before them, and are making exciting new history in the process.

By Kelton Sears Tue., Aug 4, Seattle Weekly

For the 2015 edition of Best of Seattle, the Seattle Weekly staff looked back on the past year and selected the five innovations that we feel will do the most to make our city better. This is one of them. To read the rest of Seattle’s Best Ideas, go here.


Indigenous Peoples' Day resolution author Matt Remle. Photo by Alex Garland
Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution author Matt Remle. Photo by Alex Garland


When I call Matt Remle, he asks me to hold on for a second.

“I’m doing homework with my boy; I just have to tell him he gets a free break for a minute,” he says, chuckling. Remle, a Lakota man and the Native American Liaison at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, is often in the midst of homework, whether he’s helping students or his children or doing it for his own edification. As a Seattle correspondent and editor for the indigenous online news outlet Last Real Indians, he often digs deep into history. He aims to make connections to the present day in an attempt to tell stories that span centuries instead of moments, he says. In his mind, learning and telling stories about one’s ancestors is a necessary pursuit.

It’s a view he sees slowly trickling into the mainstream here in Seattle. “I think non-Natives are looking for a different voice and a different perspective,” he says.

Later today, Remle will visit Seattle City Hall to start planning the 2015 Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration, a very new Seattle holiday he was instrumental in creating. Last September, Remle wrote the resolution and led the campaign to replace Columbus Day in Seattle with Indigenous Peoples’ Day—a motion unanimously passed in October by the Seattle City Council. During the campaign, Remle weathered personal attacks and phone calls from outraged opponents who claimed replacing Columbus Day was “focusing on the negative” and “preposterous.” The most intense opposition came from local Italian-heritage groups.


A drum circle gathered outside City Hall before the first hearing for the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution. GIF by Kelton Sears


During one of the initial September committee hearings on the resolution, Sons of Italy member Tony Anderson told the City Council, “I pray you observe the same courage Columbus did in that summer of 1492.”

The request was a curious one given the grisly history that Remle soon shared with the Council, which came from Columbus’ own journals.

The explorer’s records, along with the writings of the crew and the Spanish friar Bartolomé de las Casas who accompanied Columbus on that fateful voyage, detailed firsthand accounts of their brutal acts. Remle told of the enslavement, rape, torture, and genocide of the Arawak people they encountered in the summer of 1492. Beheadings of young boys “for fun”; lurid blow-by-blow tales of forced sex with 9- and 10-year-old girls, the casual day-to-day dismemberment of dozens of Arawak simply “to test the sharpness of their swords.” The list goes on. By the end of it, 80 percent of the Arawak people had been killed. These clearly were not the stories Anderson had heard.

He, like the rest of Americans who go to public school, was likely taught the cute rhyme most of us know: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” The explorer met the “Indians,” “discovered” America, and brought back gold. He was a hero, the father of the great “New World.” As Anderson understood it, Columbus was courageous.

During Remle’s recitation of Columbus’ acts, one man at the committee hearing screamed, threw his hands up, and left the room. “That’s insulting! I’ve had it!” As the meeting adjourned, the same man cornered Remle in the council chambers and told him he should “get some education” and that his comments about Columbus were derogatory to Italians.

“When you question the prevailing narrative, people have this angry reaction,” Remle tells me. “For me, personally, when I started learning these histories that are swept under the rug and not taught, I was kind of pissed. I felt lied to. Maybe bringing the Native history in will open peoples’ eyes that there is another narrative out there.”

In the past year, people in Seattle, and in Washington at large, have also started to realize that, maybe, the stories they’ve heard about the places we live and the people that came before us aren’t the whole picture. Seattle’s historic passage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was a celebrated international victory, making headlines in Europe and Canada—but it was met with some skepticism. A recurring question: Isn’t Columbus Day a trivial holiday anyways? Who cares?

If it actually was trivial, the passage of Indigenous Peoples’ Day probably wouldn’t have set off the wave of outraged and openly racist Internet comments, radio talk, and media coverage that it did. According to Tulalip Senator John McCoy, part of America’s difficulty with confronting its colonial history is that it’s ugly. Listening to indigenous stories is hard for non-Natives.

“A lot of the things that have happened to tribes, since European contact to today, are not pleasant,” McCoy says. “A lot of history books only talk about how the ‘bad’ Indians fought the settlers trying to tame the Wild West. But the Indians had to protect their land, their resources, because these folks were actually invaders. They weren’t explorers or pioneers, they were invading a country, a territory. Granted, there are some tribes that didn’t do nice things. But I always say that when you teach history, you have to teach the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

In 2005, McCoy, a member of the Tulalip tribe and the only Native in the Washington state senate, sponsored a bill mandating that Native history be taught in public schools. To his dismay, at the last minute, the legal language was changed from “mandatory” to “encouraged.” It took him 10 years of educating his fellow senators to muster the votes for a mandatory tribal-history bill—which he finally achieved this March in the landmark SB5433 (passed 42-7), making Washington the only state in the union besides Montana to require such instruction.

“I have a fellow Democrat, I won’t say who, that always fought me over tribal sovereignty,” McCoy says. “I got up to give my floor speech, and about a third of the way through, because he didn’t sit far from me, I actually heard him say ‘Oh, now I understand.’ ”

In addition to authoring legislation, McCoy also helped develop “Since Time Immemorial,” a free tribal-history curriculum with the help of Denny Hurtado, the now-retired director of Indian Education for the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Together, McCoy and Hurtado, who is of the Skokomish people, cover everything from the Coast Salish economies and governance systems before European contact and the early Indian boarding schools that forced cultural assimilation on tribal youth, through treaty-making, treaty-breaking, tribal sovereignty, and Indian relocation, all the way up to today’s urban Native issues, including indigenous activists’ increasingly vital role in environmental actions. In teaching Native history, the hope is that students will start to understand and recognize that there is also a Native present, that indigenous people aren’t just mythic figures in a fuzzy “pilgrims and Indians” past, but active participants alongside non-Natives in the crucial stories we are still writing—stories that directly affect everybody.

The ShellNo protest on May 16 was one of the most visible, widely covered environmental actions in the Pacific Northwest in decades, a feat for an area that’s long characterized itself as an aspiring ecotopia. The vivid pictures of the colorful kayaks rowing out to protest the imposing Shell Polar Pioneer rig set to drill in the Arctic captured the imagination of people from around the world who read headlines about “The Paddle in Seattle.” But it was the juxtaposition of the assembled, mostly white environmental groups with the fleet of traditional wooden canoes of the Lummi and Duwamish that cut the most striking image—a powerful flotilla led by the area’s original inhabitants.

“That’s the way it should go,” Duwamish Tribal Chair Cecile Hansen says. “If [environmental activists] are going to involve the Natives, they should be in the forefront.”

Idle No More, the indigenous activist organization that led the flotilla, gave the ShellNo action the spiritual weight that made it so resonant. Indigenous involvement reframed the discussion from an abstract issue about climate change to a concrete discussion that indigenous people have been trying to start for 500 years: the ongoing pattern of colonization and destruction committed in the name of resource extraction.

To Idle No More’s Washington state director Sweetwater Nannauck, the Tlingit/Haida/Tsimshian woman who organized the ShellNo action, it’s not a coincidence that Shell’s oil rig perched in the sacred Salish Sea was called “the Polar Pioneer.” “I was like, really?” she says, laughing quietly. “That’s what they named it? It continues the same old thing—another ship has come in. So that’s why I say it’s important for us to heal that, my work is as a healer. We’re both active participants in healing, the colonized and the colonizers too. The thing people are starting to see is, the original colonizers have become colonized—now it’s corporate colonization.”

Idle No More has reinvigorated the fight for climate justice in the state by making this very obvious but historically overlooked connection—environmentalists and indigenous activists are essentially fighting the same fight. The problem is that environmentalists have long tokenized Natives in the discussion, painting them as mystical Earth people—archetypal symbols from an imagined past—rather than actively engaging with them as people who exist in the present. Examples abound, from the famous 1970s “Keep America Beautiful” PSA featuring the iconic “crying Indian” (who was portrayed by an Italian actor) to the frequent citation of a moving environmental speech given by Chief Seattle in 1854: a speech that, oddly enough, references trains that wouldn’t be built until years later—perhaps because it was actually written in 1971 by a screenwriter from Texas.


Sweetwater Nannauck at ShellNo. Photo by Alex Garland


“A lot of the times, these organizations think allyship means ‘We’re going to organize everything, and we want you to send a couple of Natives to sing and dance and drum for us,’ ” Nannauck says. “That’s tokenism. I’m about authentically led Native action—we organize it. In the workshops I teach—which a lot of organizers like 350 Seattle, Rising Tide, Greenpeace, and Raging Grannies that participated in ShellNo have taken from me—I teach how to work with Native people, the history of colonization, and how that colonization continues to affect us today.”

“It was always very iffy for tribes to work with environmental organizations because these organizations were arrogant,” says Annette Klapstein, who participated in the ShellNo flotilla as part of the Seattle Raging Grannies. “They would tell tribes what to do, which didn’t go over very well. This new alliance, based on respect and understanding, is so important because these different groups’ goals are much the same, and we are so much more powerful together.”

In late October when the state held a hearing in Olympia to discuss the the impact that oil transport through the Northwest might have, Nannauck contacted the Nisqually, whose land would be most impacted, and organized a rally at the Capitol. After taking her Idle No More education workshops, in which Nannauck teaches non-Native activists how to respectfully work alongside Natives, organizers from the local environmental groups knew to contact the tribes first, asking if Idle No More had organized anything and if they could participate, rather than vice versa. The event was led with Native prayer and drumming that Nannauck and the tribes organized themselves, and Natives made the first testimonies at the rally, which eventually swelled to 350 people.

“I told Sweetwater this later,” Remle says. “ShellNo was one of the first actions of that size where I saw mainstream environmentalists take a back seat and let canoes and local tribes take the lead. It was pretty amazing to see.”

The most important component of Nannauck’s Idle No More workshops is communicating why indigenous activism differs from non-Native activism. Yes, both are fighting for the same goal, but there is a discernible difference in approach. Nannauck doesn’t even call what she does “activism.” Nor does Remle. They call it “protecting the sacred.” The ShellNo story wasn’t the typical angry diatribe pointed at distant oil corporations. As Nannauck puts it, the story that the ShellNo action told was about humanity’s obligation to protect the sacred Salish Sea.

“The work I’m doing is educating both Natives and non-Natives about how the cultural and spiritual work has much more of an impact, not only on the Earth, but because we need to heal ourselves,” Nannauck says. “What people need to understand is that the Earth is just a reflection of us, and that what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves too. I try to educate them about our traditional ways and how that spiritual foundation is what motivates us.”

Nannauck ends her workshops by asking participants about their ancestors. Where did they come from? Did they benefit from the land grabs when they came to America? Were they also oppressed? If you go far back, were they colonized too? These are questions and stories non-Native audiences often haven’t considered. It’s hard to consider stories you didn’t know existed.

“A lot of people start crying because they can feel it,” Nannauck says. “Acknowledging that historical trauma, it’s kind of like a spiritual revival. It’s starting in the Northwest. I believe that’s what’s going on right now. I feel like what we’re doing here, what we’re starting here, could be replicated in other places. It’s not all negative—it’s about healing. It’s about the power of our spirit and our connection.”


Keystone XL Pipeline bill rejected: Indigenous people arrested after chant of joy



By: Chrissa, UnitedWomen.org

After it was announced Tuesday evening, that the Keystone XL Pipeline bill had been rejected by the US Senate – just one vote shy of the needed 60 yes votes – the poignant sound of Native American Indians’ joy/relief filled the Senate Chamber.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate), whose land would have been transversed by the pipeline, had strongly opposed the pipeline. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe vowed to prevent the pipeline project from crossing its land and declared Congress’s intent to do so, an act of war.

After the House passed the bill last week, Rosebud Sioux President Cyril Scott, expressed his outrage and was quoted in “Indian Country Today,” stating, “The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline to cut through our lands. We are outraged by the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation, and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation to Keystone X. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.”

The 100-member House Chamber on Tuesday cast 59 aye votes on a version of the bill that was sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Landrieu had been urging fellow Democrats to support the bill. The TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL Pipeline has support in oil-producing Louisiana, an oil-producing state, where Landrieu is facing a run-off election in December.

Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine, had been thought a possible 60th “yes” but had said on Tuesday he would vote no. “Congress is not – nor should it be – in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,” King stated in a presss release.

Energy companies say the pipeline would create jobs as 800,000 barrels of oil would be transported 1,700 miles from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. But environmental groups point out that the oil is simply crossing the nation, not creating anymore than 50 or so jobs within the United States and they point out the irony of a nation advocating for clean energy while approving a pipeline through the heart of the nation.

On its web site the League of Women Voters states: “The XL Pipeline will threaten the safety of our drinking water, promote a bad energy policy and increase the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that contribute to climate change. This pipeline is a risky adventure that is not in our national interest. “

Within the US Senate Chamber, upon the announcement that the bill had been rejected, that joyous sound of indigenous people’s reaction in the gallery was met with the sound of Sen Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) gavel and call for order. It was a victory for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe to have stood up for their nation against the bill that aimed to slice right through lands promised them by US Treaty and that ignored any affect on the Sioux and other indigenous people. It was also a victory for environmental groups and grassroots organizations and the American public. But one cannot help but feel the uncomfortableness of reaction to the Native American Indians chant. Three women and two men were arrested outside the US Senate Chamber after expressing their relief and joy. One would think the rejoicing of Native American Indians’ defeat over a land grab would be something all Americans would rejoice along with. There is something unsettling about American Indians’ cry of relief resulting in their arrest. At the time of this writing, however, there were no charges.

About Chris Sagona: Chris is the National Elections Director for UniteWomen.org. She has covered religion, crime and foreign news as reporter, managing editor, associate producer and foreign news editor for Fox News Channel, News12/CNN affiliate and Community Life, and has been published in The Herald News and The Record. She’s won Press Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Press Association for Best Feature Writing, Best Deadline Reporting, Best Breaking News Reporting and Excellence in Journalism for Distinguished Public Service.

This video shows just how awesomely huge the People’s Climate March was

Source: Grist


Damn, that was big! The People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday brought out record crowds.



An official count conducted at the People’s Climate March in New York City showed that over 310,000 people participated in the largest climate rally in history — more than tripling pre-march estimates of 100,000. …

Shattering expectations, this official attendee count makes the People’s Climate March New York City’s largest social demonstration in the last decade. Well above the 50,000 who attended Forward on Climate in 2013 and the 80,000 who attended the 2009 march at the Copenhagen climate talks, the 310,000 attendees at today’s demonstration have set world history just days before a UN Summit bringing world leaders together to discuss tangible action on climate change. …

Relying on a crowd density analysis formula developed by a professor of game theory and complex systems at Carnegie Mellon University, the official attendee count calculates the average density of the march crowd over specific intervals, factoring in the surface area covered by the crowd and the speed and duration of the march.





Can Canada’s indigenous communities stop Prime Minister Stephen Harper from turning the country into a petrostate?


VANCOUVER, Canada — On Canada’s western coast, where rain-forested mountains dip into gray-blue seas, the political anger is ready to explode. The indigenous people, whose ancestors have fished, hunted, and thrived here since the last ice age, are furious about an energy policy dreamed up in Ottawa that they fear could permanently damage their land and destroy their way of life.”Opponents can mock our love of our home as sentimental, but it won’t change what we feel,” the award-winning indigenous novelist Eden Robinson wrote recently in the Globe and Mail. “[T]he mood in our base is simmering fury.”

Robinson lives in Kitamaat Village, a small community some 400 miles north of Vancouver, near where the Kitimat River meets salt water. Its 700 indigenous inhabitants belong to the Haisla nation, one of 630 such recognized “First Nations” across Canada, which has called this coastal region home for thousands of years, going back to long before European settlers first arrived in the 18th century.

Lately the Haisla have had to reckon with a new unwelcome visitor: Calgary-based Enbridge, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel transporters. If the Northern Gateway project the company has been proposing for the past decade goes forward, a pipeline pumping 525,000 barrels per day of heavy crude from Alberta’s oil sands would end within walking distance of Robinson’s home. Tensions in her community are so high, she wrote, that “people will spit at you if they think you support Enbridge.”

It’s likely they will also spit at someone they think supports Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In June, his Conservative government approved the $7.3 billion Gateway project, which would ship oil across the Rocky Mountains to the Port of Kitimat, load it onto supertankers, and sell it for a premium to Asian markets. To reach the Pacific, supertankers must first navigate the winding Douglas Channel. In 2006, a provincial ferry crashed and sank in the channel, and people living in the nearby Gitga’at Nation village of Hartley Bay fear that history will repeat itself — but on a scale of environmental and cultural damage hard to fathom. They recently stretched a 2.8-mile crocheted rope in protest of Gateway across the Douglas Channel.

“Each stitch is shaped like a teardrop,” said blockade organizer Lynne Hill, “because this is a very emotional thing for us.”

“Each stitch is shaped like a teardrop,” said blockade organizer Lynne Hill, “because this is a very emotional thing for us.”

For Harper, Gateway promises a $300 billion GDP boost and the prestige of achieving his most important foreign-policy goal, to remake Canada into a global “energy superpower.” But to many First Nations living along the pipeline’s 731-mile-long route, Gateway symbolizes “everything that people don’t want,” Robinson said.

They intend to fight the pipeline in court by arguing for legal authority over land they’ve lived on for millennia and never surrendered to the federal government. A landmark decision from Canada’s Supreme Court on June 26 may have brought groups like the Haisla one step closer to achieving that authority.

Tension between indigenous people and the pipeline project are nothing new. In 2006, Enbridge sent surveyors, chain saws in hand, into the ancient forest near Kitamaat Village to scout sites for an oil terminal. They felled 14 trees that bore living evidence of First Nations history: deep notches made by the Haisla hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of years earlier. “We compared it to a thief breaking into your house and destroying one of your prized possessions,” Haisla Councilor Russell Ross Jr. told me in 2012.

The relationship between the Haisla First Nation and Enbridge only got worse. Five years after the tree-cutting incident, the company offered a $100,000 settlement, which was “almost an insult” in the opinion of Chief Councilor Ellis Ross, as he stated in a letter to Enbridge’s president. Even worse was Enbridge’s additional offer to make amends with a “cleansing feast.” If such a ceremony was practiced widely in Haisla culture, Ross wasn’t aware of it.

“I have never witnessed Haisla Nation Council initiate a cleansing feast and I doubt I ever will,” he wrote to the firm. “I would appreciate it if your company’s shallow understanding of our culture is kept out of our discussions.”

All along the Gateway route, Enbridge was making similar cultural flubs. These gaffes, along with a negotiating style Robinson described as heavy on “talking points” and light on listening, had by 2011 caused 130 First Nations across British Columbia and Alberta to oppose the project, many of them not even directly impacted by it. “If Enbridge has poked the hornet’s nest of aboriginal unrest,” Robinson wrote, “then the federal Conservatives, Stephen Harper’s government, has spent the last few years whacking it like a pinata.”

The whacks began coming after Harper’s Conservatives won their first-ever majority rule in 2011. Since then, his Conservative Party has made it easier to get oil and gas projects approved, has cut environmental protections, and has proposed contentious changes to indigenous education. “It’s felt like the Conservatives have just been hammering us with legislation,” Robinson said. Tension with the Conservatives are so widely felt among First Nations that in late 2012 there emerged a protest movement called Idle No More, whose sit-ins, rallies, and hunger strikes brought national attention to the cause of indigenous sovereignty.

This May, a United Nations envoy deemed native distrust of Harper a “continuing crisis.” On Gateway, Harper has done little to ease the problem. After the U.S. rejection in early 2012 of TransCanada’s Keystone XL, a pipeline that was supposed to link Alberta’s oil sands to Texas, the prime minister “expressed his profound disappointment” to U.S. President Barack Obama, Harper’s office said in a statement. A week later, at the World Economic Forum, Harper vowed to export oil to Asia instead. Projects like Gateway were now a “national priority,” he declared.

For Harper, the economics of the project provide good reason for its priority status. Enbridge estimates that, once completed, Gateway would boost Canada’s GDP by $300 billion over the next three decades. Ottawa alone stands to gain $36 billion in taxes and royalties. And there is the issue of Canada’s role in the world. One month after the World Economic Forum, in February 2012, Harper traveled to China, where an influential crowd of Chinese business executives that Canada is “an emerging energy superpower” eager to “sell our energy to people who want to buy our energy.”

While Harper delivered that pitch in Europe and Asia, his then-natural resources minister, Joe Oliver (now finance minister), was declaring war on Gateway opponents back at home. In an open letter, Oliver lashed out at the “environmental and other radical groups” that in their protests against the pipeline project “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.”

It was a tactical stumble, wrote George Hoberg, a University of British Columbia professor who studies the Gateway standoff, that pushed “many moderates who were offended by the style of the attacks into strong opponents of the pipeline.” Oliver’s letter was mentioned again and again during two years of federal hearings on Gateway, for which 4,000 Canadians registered to speak.

By the time those hearings finished last December, Gateway had become one of the top political issues in Canada. Much credit for that is due to a sustained media campaign coordinated by British Columbia’s major green groups, which deliberately evoked memories of Exxon’s 1989 Valdez disaster. On the spill’s 20th anniversary in 2009, they declared a “No Tankers Day.”

“There will be a sacrifice we’re asked to make at some point, and the [ecological] damage will be permanent,” said Kai Nagata from the Dogwood Initiative, one of the leading groups in that campaign. “Nobody’s come up with a compelling argument about why we should accept those risks.”

The continual focus on Gateway’s risks — to one of North America’s vastest wildernesses and to the indigenous people living within it — allowed green groups to broker alliances with First Nations all along the pipeline route. They appeared together at joint press conferences and waged a two-front opposition to Gateway so effective that, by this June, nearly 70 percent of people in British Columbia opposed immediate federal approval of the project, according to a Bloomberg-Nanos poll.

“The reason why Gateway has become such a political albatross for Stephen Harper,” Nagata explained, “is he’s managed to find a way to align the majority of British Columbians with the majority of First Nations.” Not to mention Vancouver’s mayor, British Columbia’s premier, and Harper’s political opponents in Ottawa, all of whom have spoken out against the project.

None of that opposition has deterred the federal Conservatives, though. In mid-June Harper’s government officially approved Gateway, deeming it “in the public interest.” Within hours of the announcement, a coalition of almost 30 First Nations and tribal councils in British Columbia were vowing to “immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project,” and promising that “we will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”

Unlike in the United States, where indigenous peoples were conquered and then settled on reservations, few along Gateway’s proposed route have ever surrendered territory. What power they actually wield over that territory is legally disputed. Yet a Supreme Court decision on June 26 granting land title to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation gives greater legal standing to native groups with unresolved land claims.

The consequences of that decision, as well as the autonomy it ultimately provides to indigenous people, will be decided if groups like the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, which represents eight First Nations across central British Columbia, challenge Gateway in court as unconstitutional. “What we’ll really be doing is testing our authority and our jurisdiction over the land,” said Terry Teegee, the council’s tribal chief. “It’s really hard to imagine this project going ahead.”

Enbridge is still confident. “We are prepared” for legal challenges, the company’s CEO, Al Monaco, said during a recent conference call, in which he contested the notion that people like Teegee speak on behalf of all First Nations. Monaco argued that 60 percent of indigenous people living along Gateway’s route in fact want to see it built (a claim called “ridiculous” by the Coastal First Nations group). Those court battles that First Nations do bring, in Monaco’s opinion, are likely to be resolved in Enbridge’s favor over the next 12 to 15 months. Gateway’s construction could begin shortly after. “This is not necessarily an endless process,” he said.

For indigenous people like Robinson, as well as the Unist’ot’en husband and wife now living in a wood cabin built intentionally along the pipeline’s path, the fight against Enbridge stands in for a larger cultural struggle. So long as companies and governments continue to view the rights of First Nations “as an impediment to getting what they want,” Robinson said, the struggle will surely continue.

Jennifer Castro/Flickr Creative Commons

Standing Against GMOs Is Standing for Sovereignty




There are plenty of reasons to join the cause to label or eliminate foods that contain genetically modified ingredients: first of all, just because something is deemed legal by the government does not make it safe for humans. Ask any indigenous person in any country: how many things deemed “legal” have done harm to their cultures and communities? GMOs are no different.

Take Hawaii, for example. Last year the chain of islands organized several large demonstrations to speak out against the biotech companies trying to make the island state their home. Because Hawaii is geographically isolated and has an ideal growing climate, plus abundant natural resources, five of the world’s biggest biotech companies have targeted the islands as their testing field for chemical and food engineering. What does this mean? Well, to Hawaiians it means that over 70 different chemicals have been sprayed onto genetically engineered crops during field tests that went undisclosed to the public—meaning the surrounding communities were given no warning nor a chance to protect themselves from exposure through wind, water or contaminated soil. Some of these field tests took place near homes and schools. All of this in a state where adult on-set diabetes and cancer rates have increased over the last 10 years.

Many native Hawaiians are actively speaking out against the genetic modification of their food supply, stating that GMOs are sacrilegious to their indigenous culture. Miliani B. Strask, a native Hawaiian attorney wrote, “For Hawaii’s indigenous peoples, the concepts underlying genetic manipulation of life forms are offensive and contrary to the cultural values of aloha ‘ʻāina [love for the land].”

Across the ocean in a vastly different climate, the Diné are in accord. In 2013 The Navajo Nation declared themselves to be a GMO and pesticide-free nation. This encompasses 10 million acres of land and more than 250,000 people. Their reasoning? In part: Corn is sacred.

In the year 2000, only 25 percent of the corn growing in the United States was genetically modified. In 2013 that number was up to 90 percent. Along with more GMO corn comes more super-weeds and super-pests adapting to live alongside the corn, which then needs even more intense super-chemicals to kill them off. Biotech companies like Monsanto have even been allowed to patent their seeds. If their seeds blow into your field and begin to grow? You owe them money. This has led to thousands of farmers in India to take their own life as they spiral into a debt they cannot pay off.

In their resolution against GMOs and pesticides, the Dine cited the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically Article 31, which states:

“Indigenous Peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect, and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies, and cultures, including . . . seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora  . . .”

GMOs may cause yet-unknown health consequences, but as indigenous people they may also threaten cultural heritage, tradition and even sovereignty. Corn IS sacred. It is our mother and our nurturer. We cannot stand idly by as she is mutated and commoditized into something that poisons the land, the water and the people.

Over 61 countries, covering 40 percent of the world’s population and all of the European Union already label genetically modified foods. And in 50 countries there are severe restrictions or outright bans of GMOs—Canada and the United States are not among any of these countries. Whether you believe genetically modified food can cause cancer or not, this is one cause worth standing up for: plant heirloom seeds in your garden, don’t use pesticides and herbicides, and vote to label GMO foods. If labeling GMO foods isn’t on your local ballot, fight to get it on there.

Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/03/05/standing-against-gmos-standing-sovereignty-153849

Government Push for Oil Drives Ecuadorian Tribes to War

Typically, due to a lack of direct representation and a diminished voting base, indigenous groups worldwide are subject to exploitation and a corruption of their rights.

Ecuador Oil Protest
An indigenous woman confronts police guarding the venue where Ecuadorian government officials were meeting with oil company representatives in Quito, Ecuador, Thursday Nov. 28, 2013. Ecuador is looking for private investment to explore oil drilling in its Amazon region and received three bids for oil licensing Wednesday. Indigenous groups from the area are opposed to the government plan. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

By Frederick Reese, Mint Press News

Ecuador’s broken promise to not drill for oil in the territory of several of the nation’s indigenous people has touched off a tribal war and nearly universal condemnation from the international community.

Ecuador, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, finds itself forced to find new oil sources to satisfy the nation’s ballooning debt to China. The government’s drilling in Yasuni National Park, one of the world’s most ecologically fragile, has been called inexcusable and reckless by locals for the damage it is causing.

Yasuni National Park is home to many species of flora and fauna that exist nowhere else in the world and to several indigenous tribes that have had no contact to the outside world.

A generation ago, the Waorani (also known as the Huaorani, the Waos or the Waodani) — a culturally-isolated indigenous group, started to find its territory challenged by illegal logging. The situation was made worse by American missionaries who worked to moved the Waorani away from its hunting and gathering traditional existence in the rainforest to permanent villages, such as Yawepare, where the Waorani is forced to live in makeshift shacks with no running water or electricity.

This missionary intervention, coordinated by the Ecuadorian government — cleared large blocks of land around the Auca Road for oil extraction. This has led to major contamination of the drilling sites, due to oil and chemical spills under Texaco management. Chevron, which acquired Texaco, was sued by the Yasuni tribes and was ordered to pay $18 billion in 2011 in restitution. Chevron has rejected the judgment and, as Chevron has no active assets in Ecuador, cannot be forced to pay.

This has created a situation in which those who desperately wish to be left alone have grown dangerously even more desperate. The Taromenane, a voluntarily isolated group that violently resisted the missionaries’ attempt to “civilize” them have allegedly increased its attacks on neighboring tribes. While inter-tribal feuds have existed for generations, they have accelerated with the increased presence of outsiders on its tribal lands.

In one cited example, more than 20 Taromenane, mostly women and children, were killed by the Waorani after a Waorani elder and his wife were allegedly killed by the Taromenane. This happened under the supposed protection of the Ecuadorian government. Two Taromenane girls were kidnapped by the Waorani; Ecuadorian officials were only able to recover the eldest girl, with the youngest still in Waorani custody. According to the tribes involved, this is recognized as being in compliance with their traditional mode of justice.

“I protest because it is my home,” said Alicia Cahuiya, a Waorani leader who was invited to speak to the National Assembly after the Assembly voted to open drilling in the Yasuni National Forest.

After Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa won re-election in March, he proposed the opening of drilling in the Yasuni but offered to postpone to leave the oil in the ground if the international community donated the $3.6 billion his country would have lost in revenue. In August, Correa abandoned this plan when only $17 million was donated.

“Yes, there is oil there, but I do not agree with the oil exploitation. We should be consulted about Yasuní. Our elders do not agree with any of this,” Cahuiya said. “Why are the Taromenane tribe people being killed fighting the Huaorani? Because you opened a road into the jungle! We don’t want any of that! Let us live like Waoranis. That is what we want!”

Typically, due to a lack of direct representation and a diminished voting base, indigenous groups worldwide are subject to exploitation and a corruption of their rights. Due to this, many indigenous groups have been hit with rampant poverty, lack of essential services and denial of legal access and protection.

How to Choose Ethical Coffee to Support Our Global Indigenous Family


Darla Antoine, ICTMN

Between disputes—even wars—over land rights to the fight for a fair wage, there is no doubt that the coffee industry affects the lives of indigenous people wherever coffee is grown. This is especially true here in Central America where coffee is one of the developing world’s biggest exports. Compacting the affect of coffee on indigenous communities is the threat to their land. Rainforests are cut down to make fields for the coffee while water is contaminated by chemical run offs from herbicides and the curing process. As indigenous people, what can we do to support our brothers and sisters in the Coffee Belt? Well, we can start by buying coffee with ethics but just what do all the labels and certifications mean? Here are four of the most commonly used certifications for coffee and a quick run down of what exactly they stand for:

Rainforest Alliance Certification (RAC)

Created to help combat the destruction of the rainforest, coffee is just one of many products that the Rainforest Alliance certifies. Their environmental standards call for 70 trees (at least 12 must be native species) per 2.5 acres, no altering of natural watercourses, no trafficking of wild animals or irresponsible dumping of hazardous waste.

Children under 15 cannot be hired under the RAC, and coffee farmers are expected to take steps to allow minors to continue their education. However, unless the label reads 100% RAC, as little as 30% of the beans in your bag of coffee may actually be RAC. The origin and growing practices of the other 70% is anybody’s guess.


Unlike the RAC, at least 95% of the beans in a bag of coffee must meat the USDA’s organic standards to be labeled as organic. These standards prohibit the use of synthetic substances like herbicides and pesticides. While most synthetic substances rarely make it to the consumer (they are either washed off in the processing or burnt off in the roasting) these standards do help the environment and increase the quality of the air, water, and soil that the workers are working in.

Fair Trade

The Fair Trade initiative began as a way to establish a minimum price on a pound of coffee. It’s been estimated that as little as 1 cent of each pound of coffee sold goes to the worker who picked the coffee, and less than copy to the farmer who grew it. As of April 11, 2011, Fair Trade certified coffee guarantees the farmer a price of copy.40 a pound, or copy.70 if it is organic—which still seems like chump change when compared to the copy2-copy6 you will spend on that same pound of coffee. However, the Fair Trade organization also ensures that some of that extra money trickles down to the coffee pickers in the form of a set minimum wage.

Under the Fair Trade label, farmers must follow sustainable practices for disposing of hazardous waste as well as maintain buffer zones around bodies of water to prevent contamination. Water and soil conservation is also stressed.

Shade-Grown Coffee

Shade-grown coffee is simply coffee that has been grown in the shade—under a tree canopy. There are a couple of benefits to shade-grown coffee: first, many swear that it tastes better. After all, it is the traditional way that coffee has been grown. Second, shade-grown coffee is better for the environment because it prevents a monoculture of coffee from occurring. Instead of having acres and acres of just coffee, every few feet a shade tree is planted. This helps cut back on diseases that monocultures are vulnerable too, it’s better for the soil (less erosion) and it encourages birds and other animals to inhabit the area.

However, there is no government or third party certification for shade-grown coffee. Essentially any producer or seller could slap the term “shade-grown” onto their coffee even if it’s not true. Therefore, you can never be sure how exactly your coffee was grown.

Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/02/16/how-choose-ethical-coffee-support-our-global-indigenous-family-153595

Stunning Portraits Of The World’s Remotest Tribes Before They Pass Away





Maori of New ZealandClick image to view more.
Maori of New Zealand
Click image to view more.

Living in a concrete box with hot water pouring from the tap, a refrigerator cooling our food and wi-fi connecting us to the rest of the world, we can barely imagine a day in a life of, say, Tsaatan people. They move 5 to 10 times per year, building huts when the temperature is -40 and herding reindeer for transportation, clothing and food. “Before They Pass Away,” a long-term project by photographer Jimmy Nelson, gives us the unique opportunity to discover more than 30 secluded and slowly vanishing tribes from all over the world.

Spending 2 weeks in each tribe, Jimmy became acquainted with their time-honoured traditions, joined their rituals and captured it all in a very appealing way. His detailed photographs showcase unique jewellery, hairstyles and clothing, not to forget the surroundings and cultural elements most important to each tribe, like horses for Gauchos. According to Nelson, his mission was to assure that the world never forgets how things used to be: “Most importantly, I wanted to create an ambitious aesthetic photographic document that would stand the test of time. A body of work that would be an irreplaceable ethnographic record of a fast disappearing world.”

All of his snapshots now lie in a massive book and will be extended by a film (you can see a short introduction video below). So embark on a journey to the most remote corners and meet the witnesses of a disappearing world. Would you give up your smartphone, internet and TV to live free like them?

Source: beforethey.com Book: Amazon.com

Colombian indigenous people protest road through ancestral territory

A sign announces the construction project
A sign announces the construction project

By Preorg, Intercontinental Cry

Young people in the Valle de Sibundoy, Colombia, are campaigning against a road to Brazil that cuts through their territory, including an ancient pathway used by their ancestors.“Our worry as indigenous people is that this project was not agreed with the people. There was no prior consultation, they don’t have our permission. This is our ancestral territory and they are bringing disequilibrium,” said Carlos Jamioy, of the Camentsa people of the Valle de Sibundoy, Putumayo.The valley in southern Colombia is home to two closely allied indigenous groups, the Inga and Camentsa, and in addition to being their traditional territory was granted to them in an old colonial title no longer recognized by the government. Now the Colombian government is building a road through their territory, from San Francisco to Mocoa, as part of a transport route to Brazil.

“They are making the road in a place where our ancestors walked, in a sacred path. It was a path we used to exchange goods with other peoples. We would share thought, identity, work, education,” said Carlos.

Carlos Jamioy is part of a group of young people in an organization called Colectivo de Trabajo Territorio Tamoabioy. The group is involved in bilingual education, teaching traditional crafts, and other cultural activities to help maintain the traditional culture of the indigenous people in the face of numerous modern challenges.

“The threats to our territory are firstly mining – there are companies in the exploration phase at the moment. Secondly, the megaproject of the road from San Francisco to Mocoa. This brings a disequilibrium, cultural, economic, political, educational. It brings the loss of identity among the Inga-Kamentsa people here in the Valle de Sibundoy. A different culture comes that we are not able to resist and we are going to lose our own thought, the spirit of our thought and our link to Madre Tierra.”

Some indigenous campaigners in the valley have begun to try to assert their right to be consulted. However, they say that when they wrote to the government about it, they received a reply that their community did not exist, perhaps a reference to their not holding a communal title in the relevant land.

Pablo Tisioy, another member of the group, says that the potential problems of the new road to Brazil affects everyone.

“Colombia tries to hide what happens here. When people don’t know the natural riches of the Valle de Sibundoy they don’t care about it. So we are trying to explain the problems happening here to other people and trying to prevent the environmental massacre the multinationals would bring. They are trying to exploit the Amazon and this is a global problem, not just regional.”

Jamioy agrees. “They are building the road over sources of water, where there are springs, where the rivers are born. They are breaking up virgin mountain, causing erosion and other environmental problems. They are extracting material to make the road too. They also haven’t asked for permission for this, they don’t have the consent of the people. We care for and protect our rivers”

Jamioy says the Putumayo River is already flooding more easily since the works began and they are concerned that this is just the beginning. “We say no to mining, not exploration, nothing,” said Jamioy. “We think the road is to help with the extraction of natural resources.”

Their territory also has mining concessions on it, including some held by multinationals AngloGold Ashanti and AngloAmerican. They fear the mining will bring not only environmental destruction but social disruption and even violence.

“We know that militarisation has happened in other areas when mining arrives. People aren’t allowed into the areas of exploration and exploitation. So this is one of the problems that could happen here, and we could see, for example, forced disappearances,” said Jamioy.

The mining has galvanized some of the community into action says Tisioy. “For the last four or five years we have been confronting the problem of mining here. We have mobilized and are searching for alternatives to this type of development.”

But confronting big mining companies is not easy. “Some indigenous leaders sell themselves, they sign to allow multinationals to work here. But there are also leaders who support the mobilisations. But we have a problem that our governors change every year, so one will oppose mining and the next won’t follow him.[…] The multinationals also arrive with armed groups and force people to sign papers.”

“We invite everyone, the whole planet, to see that it is not just us affected,” says Carlos Jamioy. “It is also in the city. The whole planet is being put out of equilibrium. The mission that we all have as a planet is to care for Madre Tierra. The multinationals looking for natural resources are destroying it.

“Our invitation is that everyone, all organizations, including capitalist countries, hold the Madre Tierra in their hearts.”

The Colectivo de Trabajo Territorio Tamoabioy (see their blog) are looking for people to help them in their campaigns, both with resources and publicity.

Indigenous resistance, arrests continue against fracking in New Brunswick

Susanne Patles in prayer, as New Brunswick RCMP confer. [Photo: M. Howe]
Susanne Patles in prayer, as New Brunswick RCMP confer. [Photo: M. Howe]

2 more charged as New Brunswickers rally against seismic testing

By Miles Howe, Halifax Media Co-op

ELSIPOGTOG, NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA – About 25 RCMP officers in uniform, along with about a dozen police cruisers, today continued to flank equipment owned by gas exploration company SWN Resources Canada as they proceeded with their seismic testing of highway 126 in Kent County, New Brunswick.

Pushing the scattered crowd of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people back “50 metres distance” from the southward approaching seismic trucks – or ‘thumpers’ – the RCMP first arrested one demonstrator and chased another into the woods before arresting Susanne Patles.

Patles, a Mi’kmaq woman, had scattered a line of tobacco between herself and the approaching police, then proceeded to draw a circle of tobacco in the highway, where she then knelt and began to pray. After about two minutes, the police proceeded to arrest Patles. An officer Bernard noted that she was being charged with mischief.

Today’s two arrests follow another three made last Wednesday, when people again placed themselves in the path of SWN’s thumpers. Residents fear that the tests will lead to hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – of the area.

Lorraine Clair, arrested on Wednesday, continues to recover from nerve damage suffered from the rough treatment handed down on her by RCMP officers.

RCMP arrest Patles. [Photo: M. Howe]
Resistance to SWN’s presence, which is located in a part of traditional Mi’kma’ki territory known as Signigtog – or district 6 – has so far been strong. Thumper trucks have for days now been met with people who object to fracking from the surrounding communities, as well as supporters from around the Maritimes who are now beginning to flock towards the focal point of the highway.