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Indigenous Communities Battle for Global Justice & Sustainability

Environmental News from Americas Program
"A New World of Ideas, Analysis and Policy Options"

<> September 14, 2004

New from the IRC's Americas Program:

Indigenous Environmental Justice Issues Enter the Global Ring
By Talli Nauman

If anybody has reason to be wary of promises made in today's free trade
agreements, it's the Native American population in the United States. The
historic 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties protest march to Washington, DC,
demanded fulfillment of a legacy of unkept commitments made in treaties
between the U.S. government and tribes. By then the failure of the pacts had
brought on a whole century of economic, social, and environmental havoc in
Indian country. Now, after three more decades of often-fruitless insistence
on treaty guarantees, Indian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have taken
their demands beyond the realm of the U.S. civil rights and environmental

Indigenous leaders have joined the front guard in the global justice arena.
In this larger ring, Native American environmentalists are generating mutual
support and solidarity to prevent further degradation of natural resources.
They stress indigenous and gender equity in proposals for fair trade,
sustainable development, and local democratic process. They offer
traditional knowledge and practices as viable ways to create alternatives to
the destruction fostered by prevailing models of globalization and
international fossil-fuel dependency.

Charmaine White Face summed up U.S. indigenous activists' distinctive role
in environmental policymaking at the most recent annual conference of the
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), held in the Black Hills of South
Dakota. White Face, a spokeswoman for Defenders of the Black Hills who
introduced herself as a grandmother, mother, and retired teacher, said, "Our
ancestors lived sustainably for thousands and thousands of years. We have to
teach ourselves again to live sustainably. The American system, the Western
European system, is not going to survive long."

She and other activists are clearing through a long history of
discrimination and injustices to come out at the leading edge of the
environmental movement. They are promoting renewable solar and wind energy
systems. They conduct commercial harvesting of wild rice, wild salmon,
buffalo, and timber from certified woodlands. They teach backyard gardening
to propagate heirloom seeds. They build hemp-bale model housing. Their
small-scale projects aim to demonstrate the long-term viability of down-home
control. In so doing, they also are dispelling the myth of the benefits of
cheap energy from huge hydroelectric and as mining and logging, have had on
their lands. They hold the line against radioactive and toxic dump sites.
They educate their own communities and authorities at every level. They
lobby for clean air and water.

Environmental Problems Meet Structural Ones
* More coal mining and coal methane extraction threaten further
aquifer degradation and depletion, as well as air pollution.
* Oil and gas drilling increasingly despoil sacred lands and sites.
* Escalating energy consumption prompts new fuel-refining and
electricity-generating stations that sap water and create smog.
* Fossil-fuel reliance in power generation induces global climate
change, with negative effects on ecosystems, agriculture, and health.
* Renewed interest in nuclear power creates a risk of reopening
uranium mines and decommissioned plants, with the associated dilemma of
radiation health effects from mining, milling, and waste storage.
* Proposed intensification of nuclear and fossil fuel dependence
means higher exposure to occupational and reproductive health dangers, while
cleanup of old industrial accidents harmful to public health remains to be
* Most energy production based on fossil fuels and atomic power is
undemocratically controlled by vested interests.
* Toxic waste, such as mercury, from mining and power plants
poisons fish, food supplies, and air.
* Hazardous leaks from improper storage of banned pesticides seep
into air, water, and land, causing illnesses.
* Mega-projects often reduce biodiversity.
* Understanding the terms used in high-technology processes is a
* Getting environmental information into the hands of isolated
community members can be difficult.
* Convincing international environmental organizations to take up
the banner of indigenous concerns isn¹t always easy.
* Communications gaps, racism, and resentment must be confronted in
bringing indigenous minority community concerns to the attention of actors
in the mainstream political spotlight.
* Both Indian and non-Indian community members need to rise above
apathy, alienation, and low self-esteem to make changes benefiting the
* Federal agencies lack funding, capacity, Native American
participation, understanding, and channels of communication with tribal
members and officials facing environmental problems.
* Tribal authorities have the twin burden of gleaning external
funding for reservations while protecting the reservations¹ internal
resources from exploitation.
* Tribal governments have a hard time establishing their legitimacy
and building their capacity.
* Stock market woes are affecting foundation support for NGO work;
donations have declined in recent years.

They note that the consumerist, energy-intensive habits that have left deep
scars in Indian country are the same ones that have created the global
threat of greenhouse warming. "Those with the least power and resources are
the most affected by climate change," said Ahmet Strivatava of Southwest
Network for Environmental Justice at the IEN conference. "Climate change is
nothing more than a globalization of the abuses of the fossil fuel

On local, national, and international levels, Native American NGOs are
central figures in upsetting the balance of power and re-establishing the
balance of nature. Indigenous leadership has gained respect within the
broader environmental justice movement, largely because it is mandated and
driven by a land-based culture. It stems from the native perspective that
environmental protection is the key to cultural survival, not just a special
interest issue, as some non-Indians see it. The Honor the Earth Project,
which spearheads U.S. indigenous environmental activism, highlights this
basic tenet with its mission statement: " protecting the earth we all

This worldview dates to the pre-colonial era, before land was a commodity
and natural resources were trade goods. Quite to the contrary, indigenous
peoples perceived these resources as sacred entities. Protecting the air,
water, and soil was elemental for subsistence. Many tribal descendants today
still believe that. In accordance with wisdom handed down through the years,
they see their purpose on earth as its caretakers. Not incidentally, nearly
every organizing event includes some form of religious ceremony.

"We're coming from communities that still haven't severed their connection
to the land. The rest of settler society trying to reconnect to land is a
far cry from subsistence harvesters and people who relate to land as sacred
and who have had sacred ceremonies in the same places for hundreds of years
in continuity," says Honor the Earth Program Director and former U.S. Green
Party Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke.

Through integrating political and spiritual considerations, indigenous
activists make basic values a constant element in their analysis. This helps
them cut through the social rhetoric of intergovernmental agencies and
transnational corporate developers to unmask the raw profit motive hidden
behind it. Throughout history they have been on the losing end of U.S.
nation-building and as a result they see the contradictions. For example, a
recent story in the Honor the Earth newsletter begins, "The U.S. is the
wealthiest and most dominant country in the world, and we can't keep the
lights on in New York City nor can we provide power in 'liberated' Baghdad."
It ends, "We need to recover democracy, and one key element is democratizing
power production."

This philosophy lends itself perfectly to an internationalist stance. Says
IEN officer Shelly Vendiola, "Traditional societies have always held at the
core of their spiritual traditions the belief that all life forms and Mother
Earth are equal. So the question we should ask ourselves is - what can you
do - peaceful resolution. We must be proactive and together we can change the

Development of an Indigenous Environmental Agenda

Activists' Proposals and Demands
* Respect the spiritual value of air, land, and water.
* Block privatization and monetization of natural resources in trade
talks and other forums.
* Examine and revamp consumer habits.
* Restructure energy development and democratize power production.
* Reduce dependency on fossil fuels and increase support for
alternative technologies.
* Prevent proposed new exploitation of Arctic oil and gas, as well
as western coal methane.
* Avoid harmful coal stripping, water pumping, and refinery
* Stop uranium mining and nuclear power.
* Halt radioactive waste shipments and deposits slated for Yucca
Mountain, Skull Valley, White Mesa, and other sites.
* Clean up radioactive sites and toxic chemicals; provide
remuneration to affected people.
* Say no to mega-projects; yes to small-scale projects.
* Oppose carbon trading as a solution to global warming; favor
renewable energy and local responsibility to mitigate climate change.
* Support solar energy development on Indian land.
* Exercise the precautionary principle.
* Get major environmental defense organizations to place more
priority on indigenous natural resource issues.
* Increase the openness and accountability of federal agencies and
tribal authorities.

The unfurling of the indigenous environmental banner was a four-stage
process. The first phase of the movement can be traced to the lifestyle of
the tribes before Christopher Columbus' arrival on the continent 500 years
ago and subsequent colonization. Nonetheless, many tribal members
surrendered their traditional values in ensuing generations, due to
incessant government policies of assimilation, acculturation, relocation,
mercantilism, and other isms or ills of Western culture.

In Phase 2, a resistance movement reinstated Indian pride and sparked the
take-back of native languages. The American Indian Movement, born in 1968,
laid the groundwork for the establishment of the International Indian Treaty
Council in 1974 and its recognition as the first indigenous group to receive
NGO status at the United Nations in 1977. The U.S. indigenous movement
followed a similar path to others throughout the hemisphere, from the
Mapuche in Chile and Argentina, to the Mayan descendents and the Rarámuri
(or Tarahumara) in Mexico. In the 1970s, the U.S. Indian movement founded
some of the first indigenous community colleges, helping empower Native
American citizens and challenge paternalistic patterns. Indian activists,
scholars, and artists emerging from this period became the guides for
youngsters, as well as for elders who had lost touch with native tradition.

Then in the 1980s came the differentiation of indigenous environmental
activism from general Native American rights causes. Some Indian leaders
formed the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT) as a technical and
training assistance tool intended to assure indigenous management of assets
on reservation lands. The organization split however, when numerous CERT
members were co-opted into the idea of selling mineral rights at the expense
of tribal members¹ quality of life. Others recoiled at Indian uranium
miners¹ cancer rates, the health effects of community wells polluted by
petroleum extraction, or relocation of homes to provide access to big coal
companies. They organized and lobbied independently for better local control
of land, water, and air.

Indigenous organizers were key to the success of the general anti-nuclear
movement. As they allied with non-Indian ranchers and students, they brought
attention to uranium mining and nuclear waste effects on Indian land, at the
front and back ends of the atomic power cycle. The Black Hills International
Survival Gathering in 1980 was a benchmark of this phase of activism. Indian
activists also spearheaded resistance to the forced relocation of Navajos
and Hopis in the coal-mining area where their aboriginal lands overlap in
Arizona. Other groups have managed to ward off government and private
companies¹ proposals for supposedly lucrative contracts to dump toxic and
nuclear waste on their reservations.

The activists forged networks. The Indigenous Women's Network was founded
in 1985 and the Indigenous Environmental Network in 1990. As indigenous
environmental awareness flourished, many other groups began to form too. The
National Tribal Environmental Council today has 108 member tribes. The
Indian Law Resource Center, founded in 1978, was one of first organizations
to help craft legal frameworks and litigate for precedents to strengthen
indigenous self-determination. The Mni Sose Intertribal Water Rights
Coalition formed in 1992 to assure tribal capacity-building in resource
access and management in the Missouri River Basin.

In the current phase, indigenous activists are looking back to see that
over the past decade, energy and waste policy has changed little. As
developed areas become densely populated and their resources depleted,
companies look to less-developed areas for new supplies and waste disposal
sites. Indian reservations have caught their eye because although they were
originally located on poor agricultural lands, they have now been found to
be rich in natural resources.

Indigenous environmental organizing today entails a redoubling of forces.
As mounting radioactive waste poses a conundrum, waste disposal companies
actively seek reservation dump sites. As energy supplies dwindle,
nuclear-power boosters seek to reopen decommissioned generating plants,
foreshadowing the resumption of uranium mining on native lands. Meanwhile,
tribes are still trying to clean up after the uranium and other mines closed
a decade ago. One-fourth of the 1,100 mines on Navajo land have never been
made safe. Cleanup began only recently on the largest radioactive spill in
uranium mining history at Churchrock on the Navajo reservation.

In the face of more of the same, LaDuke says, "The strategies used 20 years
ago were good strategies. They require educating our communities to push on
the environmental movement to have a memory as to why we fought nuclear and
fossil-fuel energy before."

The contemporary indigenous environmental movement has evolved from raising
awareness about the risks to local communities of uranium and coal mining,
oil and gas development, nuclear and fossil-fuel power plants continues to work hard on those issues. Along with the rest of the
environmental movement, it has gone on to promote appropriate technology and
renewable energy systems in the interest of protecting the planet from the
blight of induced climate change, a global concern.

Longtime and current priorities for the movement were reflected in the
agenda of the IEN's 13th Annual Protecting Mother Earth Conference this
year. Topics included water, globalization and free trade, nuclear and
fossil-fuel energy, climate justice, and alternative clean energy. The
workshops covered native youth organizing, the National Environmental Policy
Act, the precautionary principle, using the media in organizing, the Clean
Air Act and Clean Water Act, new generation waste incinerators, mercury
contamination, and the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council

Among the issues raised were enforcing cleanup of International Uranium
Corp's mine and mill tailings on sacred sites at White Mesa north of Moab,
Utah; barring nuclear waste storage proposed in Western Shoshone territory
at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and on the land of the Skull Valley Band of
Goshutes, in Utah; making sure the congressional federal energy bill
eliminates tax loopholes and breaks for nuclear plants that would otherwise
be mothballed; preventing arctic oil and gas exploitation in Gwich'in
territory of Alaska; protesting 60,000 proposed coal-bed methane wells in
Wyoming's Powder River Basin; blocking expansion of Midwestern railroad
lines for coal and potential hazardous waste transport; opposing proposed
oil drilling in the Slim Buttes and Cave Hills in South Dakota; stopping
strip mining that threatens 1,700 burial and other sacred sites on near
Beulah, ND; organizing around proposed construction of the first U.S.
refinery to be built since the mid-1970s on Ft. Berthold reservation in
North Dakota; and an April 2006 deadline for payment of an $8 million debt
to the world's largest mining company in exchange for protection of the
Sokaogon Chippewa's Wolf River Watershed in Wisconsin.

These issues are arising from lands that only two generations ago were the
scenes of battles between tribal and U.S. soldiers sparring to the death
over access and control of natural resources. To meet the challenges today,
Indian and non-Indian people alike have to believe they can improve life by
cooperating to curb pollution and polluting habits. They have to look beyond
the superficial consumer benefits to the environmental and health impacts of
poisonous dioxins exuded in many processes that produce consumer goods.
Making those things happen constitutes no small feat. Among other things,
more commitment to land-based cultural priorities from the big international
environmental organizations is necessary.

Citizens Take Action

Effective Strategies and Tactics
* NGOs are vital to provide continuity and act as intermediaries
between community members, tribal governments, and state and federal
* Providing technical assistance is necessary to build capacity and
expertise of indigenous authorities and other community members.
* Holding onto traditional knowledge and practices protects the
* Defending treaty rights can guarantee tribes' control over the use
of their natural resources.
* The 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the 1975 Indian
Self-Determination Act, and other laws can be used to stop unwanted
* Encouraging youth to get formal and informal education to address
environmental challenges will produce capable leadership.
* Yearly conferences in isolated locations help indigenous community
members to introduce and be introduced to the latest developments in
resource-protection efforts.
* Encampments update participants, foster ideas, and forge
cooperative efforts.
* Maintaining a clearinghouse facilitates information sharing.
* Media and public awareness campaigns, civil disobedience and
direct actions, development of initiatives to impact policy and lobbying all
can work together.
* Alliances should be built among indigenous communities, tribes,
inter-tribal and indigenous organizations, non-Indian and other ethnic
groups, faith-based and women's groups, youth, labor, environmental
organizations, and others.
* Creating tribal resource development corporations, utility
authorities, and solar energy systems promotes local self-determination.
* Self-sufficiency in home design and gardening helps avoid
* Research, monitoring, and sampling by community members involves
them in environmental protection and preventive health efforts.
* Pressure on EPA and tribal councils helps get things done.
* Including indigenous representatives of Mexico and Canada in U.S.
activities strengthens platforms.
* Taking part in hemispheric forums builds mutual support and

While still struggling to reestablish use of indigenous languages, counter
conventional television culture, and lower tragic levels of alcoholism,
suicide, and crime on reservations, activists have nonetheless transcended
crisis management to continue their advocacy for Mother Nature.

Although urban residents sometimes hardly believe it, the safety and
cleanliness of the soil, air, and water supplies are linked directly to
health and security in Indian country. That¹s because many people still
depend on wild flora and fauna for their diet and medicine. Living off the
land and close to the earth demands attention to detail in environmental

So, many activists are pushed into their roles, and all too frequently by
ugly circumstances. For example, Lori Thomas-Luna helped form the Gila River
Alliance for a Clean Environment in Arizona a year ago, after the improper
storage of pesticide barrels in the mid-1980s on her family¹s land resulted
in leaching.

"Along with damaging our bodies, it damages our souls," she says, adding
that her email address is

In seeking to put things right, activists have repeatedly leveraged their
treaty rights to control their reservations' land and natural resource base,
as well as laws such as the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act and
1975 Indian Self-Determination Act. Their arsenal for achieving change
includes teach-ins, fact sheets educating local residents, pressure on
federal and tribal administrative agencies, lawsuits, legislative proposals,
lobbying, letter-writing and media campaigns, protests and civil
disobedience actions, prayer sessions, cultural events and musical tours,
appropriate technology projects, merchandising for fundraising, alliance
building, and international appeals.

Through a combination of these tactics, the Black Hills Alliance unprecedented ad hoc organizing effort between Indians and non-Indians in
South Dakota in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since then, the indigenous environmental
movement has made its mark in hard-won struggles time and again.

In 1987, for example, the Cowboy-Indian Alliance resisted Honeywell Corp.'s
attempt to destroy an encampment and place of worship that activists had
established on the Cheyenne River, and successfully blocked testing of
radioactive munitions in South Dakota. Activist JoAnn Tall, who went on to
earn the Goldman Prize awarded to outstanding environmentalists around the
world, credits her dreams for giving direction to that and other endeavors.
"The spiritual base is the only way a lot of us know."she adds. "Without
that, we would not have been successful in a lot of the campaigns we have
been involved in."

Birth of the Indigenous Environmental Network

A landmark catalyst for organizing was a letter sent out by the Department
of Energy 14 years ago to most of the 565 federally recognized tribal
governments, encouraging them to accept radioactive waste in exchange for
money and more land. Likewise, Bechtel sent the tribal governments letters
proffering nuclear power plants. Activists saw these as an abuse of tribal
sovereignty, since many reservation authorities were not well-versed in the
dangers of such deals and wielded no laws or enforcement mechanisms for
environmental protection. The letters were delivered just one year after
indigenous communities from Alaska to Oklahoma began receiving inquiries
from a private hazardous waste management firms looking to develop
incinerator and other facilities on reservations. Notified of the inquiries,
Greenpeace Southwest Toxics Campaign Director Bradley Angel put the
informants in touch with one another. The outcome was the first IEN
gathering in 1990 at the Dilkon rodeo grounds in Navajo country, attended by
200 people from 25 tribes.

IEN formed "to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural
resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build
economically sustainable communities." The network accomplishes this by
sustaining its yearly conferences; maintaining an informational
clearinghouse; organizing campaigns, direct actions, and raising public
awareness; building the capacity of communities and tribes to address
environmental justice issues; and developing policy initiatives. It promotes
alliances among indigenous communities, tribes, inter-tribal and indigenous
organizations, people-of-color and ethnic organizations, faith-based and
women's groups, youth, labor, environmental organizations, and others.

IEN conferences update participants on issues across the map, raise
awareness in the local communities that host them, and result in
agenda-setting. The network is among the few environmental organizations
that make sure its events are held in collaboration with tribes and in
out-of-the-way localities otherwise overlooked.

IEN policy declarations challenge corporate privilege in natural resource
distribution, taking into account the potential for global consensus
building. For example, the 2003 annual meeting produced the Indigenous
Declaration on Water that states: "We seek support and solidarity for the
opposition to any free trade agreements that purport to privatize water and
trade water as a commodity, including the North American Free Trade
Agreement and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas."

IEN's partner, the Indigenous Women's Network (IWN) emerged from a
gathering five years earlier of some 200 native women activists with the
mission "to protect Mother Earth for future generations." Its Austin, Texas
headquarters, called Alma de Mujer, serves as a community center and model
for sustainable development.

IEN and IWN teamed up to create Honor the Earth, now 10 years old. It
describes itself as a national foundation and advocacy group that supports
frontline native environmental work by building an informed native and
non-native constituency able to strategically coalesce around specific
environmental justice and survival issues. That constituency consists of
more than 200 grassroots organizations. Honor the Earth represents a unified
effort in Native America to broaden awareness of environmental struggles and
to generate political and financial support for specific issues.

Its outreach is produced in six languages on the Internet. Through five
concert tours featuring the Grammy Award-winning Indigo Girls and in
coordination with Tides Foundation Native Communities Program, it has raised
and distributed more than $800,000 to some 100 native groups. Its national
media coverage and letter-writing campaigns are aimed at influencing
political decisionmakers in the United States.

Its members joined five tribal councils in the Colorado River Native
Nations Alliance in a successful bid to bar the federal government¹s
proposed Ward Valley nuclear waste repository in California¹s Mojave Desert.
Mexican Rarámuri and members of Canadian first nations also came to their
aid. Just when resistance was at its peak in 1998, Greenpeace pulled out its
support for the action and community-based anti-nuclear work in the United
States. That spawned the multi-ethnic, San Francisco-based environmental
justice NGO GreenAction, which has collaborated in the indigenous
environmental movement since then. A 113-day prayer vigil that attracted a
White House representatives' visit finally ended the standoff at Ward
Valley. As in the case of the blockage of Black Hills uranium mining, a film
about the conflict was undertaken to inspire grassroots activism.

In a more recent case, Zuni Salt Lake Coalition won a 20-year campaign in
2003 to prevent coal strip mining and underground water pumping by the Salt
River Project. The proposal threatened sacred Zuni Salt Lake in New Mexico
until mining interests finally relinquished permits and coal leases.
However, investors have expressed desires to reopen the issue, highlighting
the ongoing need for stronger environmental oversight on Indian lands.

On the Hill, IEN claims a decade of inroads. One is the EPA's General
Assistance Program begun in 1993. It provides grants to tribes for handling
solid waste, water and soil contamination, air quality, and other problems.
Another is the creation of the National Environmental Justice Advisory
Council (NEJAC) and Indigenous Peoples Subcommittee Work Group in the EPA¹s
Office of Environmental Justice. Their formation was inspired by the Feb.
11, 1994 presidential executive order establishing environmental justice as
a national priority, focusing federal attention on the environmental and
human health conditions of minority and low-income populations. NEJAC has an
executive council of 26 appointed members from different sectors. The
subcommittee is one of eight working groups made up of council members and
stakeholder organizations. With NEJAC¹s participation, the Office of
Environmental Justice¹s Tribal Program provides internships, training, and
technical and development assistance for tribal members and governments to
hone their environmental skills. The program also provides support to
grassroots organizations with small grants, cooperative agreements, and
community internships.

Many obstacles remain to be overcome in getting federal agency support. The
EPA, like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, lacks capacity and channels of
communication with tribal officials and community members. Only 2% of
federal agency employees are Native American, and not all are in scientific
or decisionmaking positions. EPA has only been assisting tribes for 10
years, so it usually sticks to compliance assistance in the case of
environmental conflicts, rather than taking enforcement actions. But its
financing may be the biggest problem. Since the tribes have no tax resource
base and taking state money for tribal use is politically incorrect, agency
funding is dependent on authorities in Washington. Only one-quarter of 1% of
Congress' funding to EPA is currently earmarked for tribes. No funds for
renewable energy and energy efficiency projects were available from the
Energy Department in 2004 due to limited discretionary funds appropriated by

The same year, the IEN conference gave the EPA a venue to encourage
comments in the federal public consultation on "Meaningful Involvement and
Fair Treatment by Tribal Regulatory Programs." The consultation reveals
jurisdictional problems that explain why IEN finds it must play the role of
intermediary between indigenous community members, tribal representatives,
and federal authorities. Tribal governments are administrative bodies caught
in crossfire. Economically, they are tasked with procuring outside
investment for their reservations without squandering their natural
resources. Some tribal governments lack capacity. Turnover in tribal posts
often causes setbacks to sustainable development projects. Politically, the
legitimacy of tribal councils is constantly being undermined by tribal
members who refuse to respect the council form of governance that was
imposed on the traditional form, as well as by state and federal officials
who fail to recognize its legal standing. Honor the Earth works with all the
factions in getting ecological affairs addressed.

Its participating organizations often partner with others for legislative
action, as in the case of a June 2004 joint effort to oppose H.R. 4513,
which would have cut out the heart of the National Environmental Policy Act,
and in the case of the informal coalition to block the S. 2095 energy bill.
IEN was among the groups that have helped convince federal legislators for
three years in a row to shun the Defense Department¹s repeated proposals for
sweeping new exemptions from the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act, and so-called "Superfund" toxic clean-up act. But much
remains to be done.

Similarly, fundraising with private foundations for grassroots organizing
has been frustrated in the past couple of years. According to IEN Director
Tom Goldtooth, this is a factor of poor stock market performance, which in
turn has meant private donors are spending less on supporting the cause.

In the courtroom, one of the most recent victories in countless lawsuits
was a case filed by Defenders of the Black Hills in 2003 to prevent the
proposed use of federal Community Development Block Grant housing funds for
a private shooting range in the vicinity of Bear Butte, a religious site for
60 tribes. While a good lawyer was necessarily responsible, opponents of the
project also credit prayers for this and other successes.

Network members have also made progress in local environmental education.
For example, on the Eastern Navajo reservation, organized community members
are teaching others how contaminants spread, answering questions about the
impacts of radioactive spills, monitoring mining, sampling water, and
getting funding for long overdue environmental health studies on uranium
mining. Their community action led to a letter-writing campaign that helped
achieve the withdrawal of a U.S. Senate bill subsidizing uranium companies.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, community organizing by Concerned Rosebud Area
Citizens achieved the ouster of Bell Farms¹ polluting factory hog farm.
Slated to have 860,000 pigs in confinement, it would have been the
third-largest facility of this type in the world. But it was approved
without an environmental impact statement by the Rosebud tribal council. So
in the 1999 council elections, tribal members voted out all councilors who
favored the project and replaced them with opponents to it.

Examples of implementing renewable energy projects abound. The tribes¹
first commercial wind turbine was built in the Rosebud Sioux Nation, with
750-kilowatt capacity. It is being followed up by 16 more of its kind there,
as well as 30-megawatt projects planned for the Northern Cheyenne
reservation in Montana and the Makah reservation in Washington. On a smaller
scale, wind turbines are slated for the independent KILI community radio
station and the White Plume Tiospaye Community Center on the Pine Ridge
reservation in South Dakota. Meanwhile, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority
plans to build 63 hybrid photovoltaic and wind turbine
electricity-generating systems at isolated households in 2004, for a total
of 103 installations.

Road Widens Ahead

IEN says its mandates from native grassroots and tribal leadership for the
next 10 years are: environmental and economic justice issues, toxics,
environmental health, biodiversity, mining, climate change, water, food
security, sustainable development, and energy issues.

To gain more ground, the network and its partners will need to keep
expanding their circle of friends, as they have in years past. In 2000, IEN
held its annual conference at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing of
Brownsville, Texas and Matamoras, Tamaulipas. Hosted by the border
indigenous NGO Casa de Colores, the meeting focused on border justice,
water, and agricultural toxics, as well as the effects of the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and privatization of indigenous lands in
Mexico. In 2003, the gathering was held in the Okanagan Nation Territories
overlapping British Colombia, Canada, and ended with a call for the creation
of an international monitoring body to track the trade of water in relation
to indigenous peoples.

The 2004 IEN conference featured a talk on traditional appropriate
technology by David Bald Eagle, a chief of the eight-year-old United Native
Nations organization, which has participants from 45 tribes, not only the
United States, but in Greenland, Latin America, and the South Sea Islands. A
glance at the topics covered in the 14 years of IEN conferences shows that
international concerns have been on the table throughout the organization¹s
trajectory. IEN participated actively in the workshops and protests against
the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999, the Social Forum of
the Americas in Quito 2004, and is one of the prime organizing contacts for
the Northwest Social Forum in Seattle, WA, Oct. 15-17, 2004.

However, what many non-Indian activists know as cross-border organizing is
nothing new to the indigenous environmental movement in the Americas. The
present borders didn't exist during much of the tribes' history. Up until a
century or so ago, most ancestral territory in the present-day United States
was not marked by tribal, state, or national boundaries and today several
tribes span national boundaries. The creation of reservations, countries,
and other jurisdictions has necessarily placed the original Americans in the
position of negotiation across borders. The imaginary lines drawn through
land inhabited at least as far back as 1000 A.D. couldn't help but produce

Now, with the advent of super-national governance by the likes of the WTO
and the World Bank, as well as the latter-day treaties exemplified by NAFTA,
treaty-making efforts for the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, and
other such instruments, a new era has awakened other population sectors to
the increasing contradictions of geo-political dividing lines. Non-native
and native environmental activists in different countries have become closer
allies, as they realize they're all in this together. The longstanding
indigenous arguments against the privatization and monetization of land,
water, and air, such as those attributed to famous 19th Century
Duwamish-Suquamish Chief Seattle, take on more meaning in the context of
globalization: "Every part of all this soil is sacred to my people. S We are
part of the earth and the earth is part of us."

Talli Nauman is the Interhemispheric Resource Center's editor at large and
Americas Program associate. She recently attended the 2004 conference of the
Indigenous Environmental Network in South Dakota, her home state.

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U.S. Indigenous and Collaborating Non-Governmental Organizations
Federal Government Agencies
Tribal Government Agencies
Online Reading and Other Media Sources

U.S. Indigenous and Collaborating Non-Governmental Organizations

Honor the Earth
Tel: (612) 879-7529
Strives to ³be a voice for those not heard² by using music, the arts, and
the media to make public the environmental, political, and financial issues
facing indigenous groups.

Indigenous Environmental Network
Tel: (218) 751-4967
The IEN focuses on protecting the environment and developing alternative
energy and sustainable development projects on indigenous lands.

Indigenous Women¹s Network
Tel: (512) 258-3880
Although their focus is on indigenous women, this group supports movements
in a number of different areas, promoting respect for and understanding of
the problems in indigenous society today.

Association on American Indian Affairs Sacred Lands Protection Program
Tel: (240) 314-7157
Established in 1922 to protect the sovereignty and dignity of indigenous
groups by safeguarding their lands and natural resources.

Black Mesa Water Coalition
Tel: (928) 226-0310
Builds sustainable communities and educates and empowers youth about the
environmental injustices suffered by the Navajo and Hopi tribes in Arizona.

Buffalo Field Campaign
Tel: (406) 646-0070
Works to stop the unlawful slaughtering of the wild buffalo in Wyoming.

Caribou Commons
Tel: (250) 514-8419
An alliance of aboriginal people, artists, and conservationists locked in
an effort to permanently protect the calving grounds of the Porcupine
caribou herd, located in Alaska¹s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Citizen Alert¹s Native American Project
Tel: (702) 796-5662
A group in Nevada that works with indigenous and other groups to lobby
political figures for environmental causes.

Concerned Rosebud Area Citizens
PO Box 153
Whiteriver, SD 57579

Defenders of the Black Hills
Tel: (605) 343-5387
This group of South Dakotans works on a local level, aiming to save some of
the most sacred lands of the Black Hills and the surrounding areas from
harmful development and industry, such as mining.

Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment (Diné CARE)
Tel: (928) 309-8718
The Diné CARE Eastern Navajo Safe Water Project is a comprehensive
community education and response campaign to gather data, improve scientific
understanding, design trainings that translate and make use of key
information, and build the capacity for a strong community response to the
problem of ground and surface water radiation pollution in the region.

Forests and Forest Peoples Program
Environmental Defense
Tel: (212) 505-2100
Based broadly on the protection of Earth¹s oceans and ecosystems through
the creation and promotion of environmentally responsible policy decisions
on the public level and sustainable business practices in the private

Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment
Tel: (480) 239-8481

Gitigaaning Project
Tel: (715) 682-7137
Program concerned with the health of indigenous peoples.

Green Action
Tel: (415) 248-5010
Activist group that promotes civil protests to sway government action on
environmental and social issues.

Lakota Action Network
Tel: (605) 867-1545
The LAN creates campaigns to both build and defend the Lakota Nation.
Strategies focus on protecting sacred sites, ecosystems, and natural
resources so that future generations of Lakota may prosper.

Military Toxics Project
PO Box 558, Lewiston, ME 04243-0558
Phone: (207) 783-5091
Fax: (207) 783-5096

National Wildlife Federation Tribal Lands Program
Tel: (800) 822-9919
A land stewardship program with the goal of protecting the ecosystems and
native species on Native American tribal lands.

Northwest Social Forum
Tel: (360) 305-9166
The NSF brings together activists working on issues of social justice,
economic justice, and environmental sustainability throughout the Northwest.

Seventh Generation Fund
Tel: (707) 825-7640
The Fund, founded in 1977, funds initiatives aimed at promoting and
maintaining indigenous culture from Alaska to South America.

Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice

Western Shoshone Defense Project
The WSDP is charged with reclaiming Shoshone land, which covers much of the
state of Nevada.

Wolf River Protection Fund
Tel: (715)-478-7605
The fund was started to assist the Mole Lake Chippewa tribe in paying off
an $8 million loan used to stop a mining facility from further damaging the
tribe¹s lands. The loan will have to be paid off by 2006.

Yucca Mountain Alerts
Tel: (775) 237-5707
Yucca Mountain in Nevada may become one of the U.S.¹s largest repositories
for nuclear waste. Run by Eureka County, in which the site will be built,
this website keeps citizens informed on the project.

Federal Government Agencies

U.S. EPA American Indian Environmental Office

U.S. EPA Environmental Justice Advisory Council Indigenous Peoples
Tel: (202) 564-2576, (800) 962-6215

U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Indian Affairs
Tel: (202) 208-3710

U.S. Interior Department Bureau of Land Management

U.S. Energy Department, Tribal Energy Program, National Wind Coordinating

Tribal Government Agencies

B.C. Aboriginal Fisheries Coalition
Tel: (604) 913-9060

Union of B.C. Chiefs
Tel: (604) 684-0231

Northwest Intertribal Fisheries Commission

Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council
Phone: (604) 775-5621

Inter-Tribal Council on Utility Policy
National Tribal Environmental Council
Tel: (505) 242-2175

Mni Sose Intertribal Water Rights Coalition, Inc.
Tel: (605) 343-6054

Online Reading and Other Media Sources

Indigenous Peoples, Power & Politics | Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth

Photovoltaics on Indian Lands: The Solar Way | Sandia Corp., 2001,

³Native Americans & the OEnvironment² | Sierra Magazine November/December

Indian Land and Dumpsites | Native Net, September-October 1991,

Groups that Change Communities: Slim Buttes Community Farming Project |

Interview: Tex Hall, President, National Congress of American Indians,

Defending the Sacred Ward Valley Film Project
Tel: (415) 248-5010

Sacred Land Film Project
Tel: (650) 747-0685