For centuries, Indigenous Peoples have been fighting to protect their lands and secure their rights in the face of colonisation, environmental destruction and violence. Today – with looming global environmental crises like climate change – Indigenous communities continue to lead the world in protecting the Earth. While Indigenous Peoples represent about 6% of the world’s population, their traditional lands hold about 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity.
Yet Indigenous communities are often those first and most impacted by environmental destruction. Again and again, governments and companies put profit above Indigenous Peoples’ rights. When Indigenous Peoples stand up for their rights and their traditional lands, those in power often go to great lengths to suppress them – from legal maneuvers, to violence, to assassination.
Just this past Sunday, militarised police forces in the United States injured over 300 people standing up to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline on the traditional lands of the Standing Rock Sioux. Last year, 185 environmental activists were killed globally, and of those, 40% were Indigenous.
Fighting for Indigenous rights and fighting for the planet are often one and the same. Here are four ways to stand with Indigenous communities in urgent, important struggles across the Americas.
Water Protectors and the Dakota Access Pipeline
For months, the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies – known as water protectors – have been working to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in the United States.
The pipeline was approved without consultation from the tribe – even though it would carry nearly 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day across Sioux ancestral lands and under the Missouri River. It poses direct threat to the rights and safety of the Standing Rock Sioux, who live less than a mile downstream.
Thousands have joined the peaceful resistance at Standing Rock – but law enforcement has reacted with extreme aggression: teargas, rubber bullets, concussion grenades. Across the United States and around the world, from New Zealand to Laos, people are demanding that the US government stop the violence – and stop the pipeline.
TAKE ACTION: Send a message to President Obama now to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and learn more about directly supporting the water protector camps.
You can also call banks financing the pipeline to tell them to withdraw their investments – and consider switching banks if you are a customer of a bank funding the pipeline. One major bank has already withdrawn investment from the pipeline after facing public criticism.
The People of Clyde River and seismic blasting
In just one week, the people of Clyde River – an Inuit community in the Canadian Arctic – are going to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight for their rights, their culture and their livelihoods.
The Canadian government failed to properly consult with the Clyde River community, as required by law, before giving permits to fossil fuel companies for oil exploration in the area. The way companies would look for oil is called seismic blasting – a practice so destructive it could injure whales and other marine life that the community depends on. Without these animals, the people of Clyde River would lose a vital part of their culture and their food security.
“Save our Arctic home”
"We are fighting for our children." Tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to support Clyde River and stop seismic blasting! >> http://bit.ly/2bxWN6c #ArcticHome
Posted by Save The Arctic on Wednesday, August 17, 2016
TAKE ACTION: Send Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a noise complaint and a message in support of Indigenous rights. And if you're in Canada, join the rally outside the Supreme Court in Ottawa next week.
Justice for Berta Caceres and the Lenca People in Honduras
Berta Cáceres Flores was a Honduran Indigenous rights and environmental activist who led a courageous movement to defend Indigenous lands and communities. One of her biggest battles was to stop the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project – a dam that threatens a sacred river for the Lenca Indigenous People in Honduras.
But her life was cut short. On 2 March, 2016, intruders broke into her house and shot her to death. In the words of her son: “She was killed for defending life, for safeguarding our common goods and those of nature, which are sacred.” Several weeks later, another member of the organization she founded was also killed. While the Honduran government arrested several people for her murder, those who called for her assassination have yet to be exposed and brought to justice. Other leaders in her organisation in Honduras continue to be attacked.
Recently, several international lawyers launched an independent investigation into her murder. But we cannot let the spotlight on the violence facing Indigenous and environmental activists in Honduras fade, nor can we allow the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project to move forward.
TAKE ACTION: Demand justice for Berta, for the truth of her murder to be exposed, and for the halt of the Agua Zarca dam project.
The Munduruku People of the Amazon and devastating dams
The Munduruku people of the Brazilian Amazon have been fighting to have their traditional lands officially recognized for decades, and at the end of his month, the Brazilian government could finally decide their case.
Timing is critical. Right now, the government is planning a series of dams that would flood portions of the Amazon rainforest and threaten their way of life. As one Mundurku chief expressed: “The river is our blood.” If the Munduruku People win recognition of their territory, the government will need to get their permission before the dams can move forward.
Already, one mega-dam project on Munduruku land was cancelled this year after more than a million people around the world stood in solidarity with them. We must keep our attention on the Brazilian government to make sure Munduruku rights are honoured.
TAKE ACTION: Add your name to stand with the Munduruku people as they seek the rights to protect their traditional lands. Make sure the Brazilian government knows the world is watching.
These are just a handful of the many, many fights for Indigenous rights happening around the world right now. A green and peaceful world is only possible when Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, lands and waters are respected, whether in Canada or Brazil, the US or Honduras.
Please take action right now to stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities around the world.
Dawn Bickett is the content editor for the Americas at Greenpeace USA