Indigenous People Lead White House Protest

Above Photo: Indigenous groups and their allies march to the White House.

Demands President Biden Declare A Climate Emergency And Stop Approving Fossil Fuel Projects.

“Joe Biden, you have been making false promises. You stopped Keystone XL — what about DAPL, Line 5, MVP?” said Joye Braun of Indigenous Environmental Network, who was arrested at today’s action. “This is indigenous land. Indigenous Peoples will be here for 1000s of years. Biden, can you hear us now?”

The demonstrations marked the first day of “People vs. Fossil Fuels,” a week of demonstrations and civil disobedience organized by Build Back Fossil Free, a coalition of hundreds of Indigenous and climate, social, economic and racial justice organizations. More protests are planned at the White House each day this week except for Friday, when protestors will march from the White House to Congress to risk arrest on the steps of the Capitol.

“We are going to put our bodies on the line there. If we have to be arrested in order to call attention to what the crisis is and that we need a climate emergency declared, we’ll do that,” said Casey Camp Horinek, a tribal elder and environmental ambassador for Ponca Nation, who was also arrested at the White House fence this morning. “There’s been 500 years of people coming into a territory where all things were interdependent and functioning to a time of crisis, where even Biden’s great-grandchildren won’t survive if something doesn’t change.”

From the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota to oil and gas drilling in Alaska, Indigenous peoples are on the frontlines of the fight against fossil fuels. Major pipeline projects and other forms of oil and gas extraction not only threaten the land and water in Native communities, but are often in direct violation of treaty rights or violate laws around Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Fossil fuel construction has also been linked to sex trafficking and an increase in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

“People are dying right now from the pollutants, the toxins, the climate catastrophes that are happening, and we have to stop the harm,” said Siqiñiq Maupin, the director of Sovereign Inupiat for a Living Arctic, which is working to protect Indigenous lands and stop oil drilling in Alaska. “Biden’s election was riding on climate change, his entire election on people of color, Indigenous people. But when it really comes to when it matters, our lives are still being sacrificed for oil and gas.”

Under attack from these fossil fuel projects, Indigenous peoples are fighting back: and winning. A recent report by the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International showed how over the last decade Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions. By blocking at least 26 major fossil fuel projects, these Indigenous leaders and water protectors have stopped projects equivalent to 400 new coal-fired power plants, or roughly 345 million new passenger vehicles.

When President Biden was running for office he promised to “make tribal sovereignty and upholding our federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations the cornerstones of federal Indian policy.” Once elected, he said, “The federal government has long broken promises to Native American tribes who have been on this land since time immemorial,” and promised to move in a new direction.

Biden has broken those promises. He failed to stop the Line 3 tar sands pipeline that was in direct violation of treaty rights. He failed to stop drilling on “public” lands, all of which are originally Native lands and many of which border tribal areas. He defended drilling in the Arctic, which threatens Native communities across the region.

“Biden claimed to be a climate leader during his campaign, and he made promises to steer our nation into a just and renewable transition,” said Tasina Sapa Win, a Lakota anti-pipeline activist and a member of the Makwa Initiative, a camp opposing the Line 3 pipeline. “I want to go to D.C. and be like, ‘Hey, if you’re claiming to be a leader for our climate crisis, to come up with solutions to our issues here, then you need to start living up to your word.’ … It’s not a secret that Indigenous people have been against extractive industries since colonizers stepped foot here.”

“A few years back, I made a promise to my daughter that I would stop Line 3, and I did everything I could. But [President Biden] failed us,” said Taysha Martineau, the founder of the Line 3 pipeline resistance camp Camp Migizi.  “But we are still here, and in 100 years my grandchildren will be able to say that their mom tried and that we didn’t give up. We’re still fighting and we’re not going to stop.”

Meanwhile, the impacts of the climate and pollution crisis have only grown worse. Hurricanes have devastated communities from New Orleans to New York City. Wildfires have burned millions of acres across the West. Historic droughts and heatwaves have gripped most of the country. And every day, millions of Americans, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous People, breathe air and drink water poisoned by fossil fuel pollution.

As the Build Back Fossil Free coalition has shown, the President has the executive authority he needs to declare a climate emergency, stop all new fossil fuel projects, and fight for climate justice. The People vs. Fossil Fuels mobilization is calling on the President to:

  • Stop approving fossil fuel projects and speed the end of the fossil fuel era.
  • Declare a climate emergency and launch a just and renewable energy revolution.

A more detailed list of demands can be found at: https://peoplevsfossilfuels.org/demands/

Groups involved in Build Back Fossil Free and the mobilization include Indigenous Environmental Network, Arm in Arm, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Climate Justice Alliance, Food and Water Watch, Fridays for Future USA, Friends of the Earth USA, Future Coalition, Global Exchange, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, GreenFaith, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Honor the Earth NDN Collective, Oil Change International, Our Revolution, Power Shift Network, Presente, Pueblo Action Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, Seventh Generation, Sunrise Movement, Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, WildEarth Guardians, Zero Hour, and more.

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