By Kali Nelson
As Thanksgiving has come and passed, we are left with little of November left and with Donald Trump popping up at a Navajo veterans event at the White House on Monday to talk about Pocahontas, who was in fact not Navajo.
But today, in honor of Native American Heritage month coming to a close, I want to talk about Native American environmental groups. There are two in particular that I am going to highlight, though there are actually several of them. While they are not directly feminist, it is my belief that feminism and environmentalism are linked and I am using the platform I have to share information about a topic I see little coverage of. Environmentalism and feminism can be linked in the way they are used to help further each other’s campaigns. One example is Honor the Earth, they had a campaign a few years ago to fight sexual assault of native women. They fought this by fighting the man camps that pop up around new oil drill sights.
The fist group is a local group and is called Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment. According to their website, Nimiipuu is the English translation of “the people” which is one of the names the Nez Perce call themselves. a nonprofit committed to honoring traditional treaty rights and lands of the Nez Perce. Their main goals, as listed on their website, are to educate about current environmental issues, develop leaders, and to promote activism.
The group is currently working on carving traditional canoes. The project came about from a discussion between Tribal members and others about why they had stopped carving their own canoes. There are regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday behind the Tribal Health Clinic in Lapwai, Idaho. For more information see here x.
They also have a petition to free the Snake River. This petition is trying to remove four dams from the lower Snake River. The four in question are Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite. The closest dam is located roughly 27 miles outside Pullman and while none of them are on Idaho soil, they impact Idaho residents.
But not all dams are created equal, the dams that this petition is trying to get rid of are not useful and are causing more harm than they are good. But there are dams that are doing good by providing hydropower and limiting flooding in areas of the world.
The other group I want to talk about is Honor the Earth. It is committed to creating awareness and support for Native environmental issues and develop financial and political resources for sustainable Native communities. Honor the Earth was established by Winona LaDuke and Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers in 1993. It is a Native-led organization.
Honor the Earth is currently engaged in a two-year program about climate change, opposition to extreme fracking, and laying the ground work to restore Indigenous economies. Indigenous people are directly impacted by climate change especially in the Artic. The melting of the ice is making it harder for them to fish or live in their traditional lands because the melting ice is removing land. According to Honor the Earth, almost 24% of US coal reserves are on Indigenous lands. Plants on the Navajo and Crow reservations add 60 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
There is one issue that will appeal to a variety of feminist, Honor the Earth has a campaign they are doing for sexual violence in extraction zones. Federal studies have shown that American Indian women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general. Also 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their life time versus the 1 in 5 for women as a whole. North Dakota’s Uniform Crime Report shows an increase of 7.2% (there were 243 rapes in 2012 and 207 in 2011). The report found 12 of North Dakota’s top oil-producing counties accounted for much of the crime. The main difference between these counties and the rest of North Dakota is the “man camps” which is where men stay who come to work the land for oil. This campaign took place during the Obama Administration, when the Keystone XL Pipeline was the big environmental issue of the day.
These are only two of the countless Native American environmental groups in the USA. But we shouldn’t read the posts published during this month and forget about them tomorrow, we need to remember the fight they are in and stand with them.