Today is Indigenous Peoples Day, and I’m celebrating the land defenders and water protectors on the front lines of the fight for a more just future.
Since European colonizers first arrived on this continent in the 15th century, indigenous peoples have been subject to persecution. And while some people may minimize these untold horrors as if they were perpetrated only in the distant past, Native communities experience cultural genocide to this day. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Native communities resisting extreme energy extraction.
All across America, in every place where people are fighting to keep dirty fuels in the ground, indigenous people, especially indigenous women, are leading the charge. As protectors of the natural resources we all depend on, they have been doing so for generations, from Standing Rock, where water protectors from across the world are resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on their sacred lands, to Treaty 6 Territory in Canada, where land defenders continue to block tar sands development. From the United Houma Nation in the Gulf, fighting for federal recognition as their traditional lands and heritage are threatened by rising seas, to Arctic Village, Alaska, where a melting landscape and continued fossil fuel extraction are shifting how people provide for their families. And from Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico, where advocates continuing to fight the toxic legacy of uranium mining, to Black Mesa, Arizona, where Diné communities are leading the transition from dirty coal to renewables. There are dozens more examples across North and South America.
The fact that extreme energy extraction is so widespread in Native communities is a powerful example of the injustices that exist in our society based upon race.
We must stand with our indigenous sisters and brothers in their resistance to widespread environmental destruction. We must follow their leadership, and listen to their perspectives and teachings as we plan for a just transition to a clean energy future. And we must acknowledge that, for those of us who identify as non-indigenous, we live on occupied land.
Today is not about declaring one celebration more important over another. It is about honoring the rich history of resistance that Native communities across Turtle Island are inspiring and leading. And it is about a deep commitment to intergenerational justice, recognizing that our fights are not only for those presently on this planet, but also for those that come after us. May we spend this day, and all days, honoring Native Peoples’ commitment to making the world a better place for all.
Support the water protectors in Standing Rock as they prepare for winter and continue to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.