Environmental Activities

Global Exchange is concerned that the rate of climate change has accelerated significantly since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth Assessment Report, two years, detailing the world scientific community’s consensus that without rapid action, the impact of global warming would be catastrophic. “We really can’t put off effective action to prevent catastrophic climate change any longer. All of the world’s major greenhouse gas emitting countries must be brought into an effective international climate change agreement. That makes action at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen this December quite literally a life or death proposition for millions, if not billions. Delegates from around the world met in Bonn during the first two weeks of June to work on preparations for Copenhagen. At the closing plenary of those meetings, Lim Li Lin of the Third World Network said: ‘…developed countries are in fact asking people in the developing world to allow them to continue their over consumption of the Earth’s atmospheric space; and they are denying people in developing countries the space for their survival and development. …the people in the developing world want to contribute to solving the climate crisis, for the benefit of the planet and all humanity. But this contribution must be fair and just. What is ‘politically acceptable’ in the rich, industrialized North is just not enough. It will mean climate chaos and destruction first and worst in the South, and also in the North. This is unacceptable. There is an impasse in the international climate negotiations based on wealth. The countries of the global North are attempting to hold on to their advantage in power and wealth while the countries of the global South insist that they should not have to bear the burden for a problem created by the world’s wealthy. We simply cannot expect the global South to accept the proposition that they must remain relatively poor because we developed the cheap and dirty way before they did. The only way we will get a global climate deal is to make it a fair deal, and a fair deal will require a significant transfer of wealth from North to South to repair the damage caused by climate change and to build a zero carbon development path.” Global Exchange is accelerating its climate change work with its Climate Equity campaign. For more information go to: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=IfwXxsvnGEFmeaDANxBbqMHW%2FI5oe%2Frs. The organization also has a video available for on line viewing, Gr8 Climate Sale, about climate justice from Focus on the Global South, at: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=STYWF18LWyJihVmGuOeK2MHW%2FI5oe%2Frs.

Avaaz is concerned that, “As the world heads to the final UN climate summit in Copenhagen this December, global talks to stop the climate crisis are stalling. The leaders of the biggest polluting countries are refusing to cut carbon emissions enough to avert catastrophe. One big reason: these leaders are besieged daily by lobbyists from the powerful oil and coal industries. To counter them, we urgently need to field our own relentless and spirited lobbying effort. We can’t afford to hire corporate lobbyists, but we might do even better. Avaaz has recruited dozens of talented and experienced youth leaders to work day and night in key capitals to press leaders to avert the climate crisis – and they’re already having a major global impact.” For more information go to: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/climate_action_factories.

Earth Justice has been working to support the April 28 meeting, in Tromsø, Norway, of the Arctic Council, with participating nations including the United States, in taking significant action to slow Arctic warming saying, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is sending a team to represent the United States at Tromsø. As a senator, she co-sponsored a bill on black carbon and visited the Arctic to see the devastating effects of climate change first hand. Now, as her team prepares for the Arctic Council Ministerial, we must let her and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson know how important it is for the United States to lead the way.” For more information go to: http://action.earthjustice.org/campaign/blackcarbon_0409b/iwsik5g427n3txmn?. Earth Justice and Change.org, in response to reports that the clean water act was generally not enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Bush Administration, with disastrous results, have been involved in a campaign to have the EPA change a Bush administration pollution rule allowing to strictly enforce the act and fully protect the quality of water in the United States. For more go to: http://www.change.org/.

MoveOn.org, Avaaz.org…a host of environmental organizations, and more, in the United States, joined a myriad of other groups in 350.org, putting on and supporting more than 4000 events in 89 countries, October 24, rallying to demand serious action on global warming. These events, timed to influence the global climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December, call on world leaders to pay attention to the science of climate change and commit to real climate solutions. “The idea of a truly global action for climate solutions seemed crazy at first, but now it’s becoming a reality. There will even be events in Afghanistan and Iraq.” The global day of action focused on the need to stabilize concentrations of carbon dioxide at the levels scientists say is safe—350 parts per million. “The number 350 has become a shorthand for the kind of strong, science-based climate treaty that we need.” On October 24th, at each event—some large rallies, others small gatherings in people’s homes—a photo was taken centered around the number 350, and then broadcast to the world’s media on giant screens in New York’s Times Square and delivered to hundreds of world leaders in the following weeks, to “showing global leaders the massive, vibrant groundswell of worldwide citizens demanding solutions on climate change.” For more information go to: www.350.org or http://www.moveon.org. The list of the hundreds of allied and supporting organizations is available at: http://www.350.org/friends.


Grass Roots International, working to create a just and sustainable world by building alliances with progressive movements, has been working on several issues that relate to global warming. “Grassroots International and Food and Water Watch teamed up to issue an informative and compelling report that shows how food sovereignty will not only benefit small farmers all over the world, but will also give environmentalists and consumers what “free” trade and bad farm policies have failed to deliver. Conventional agriculture is a major cause of global warming, and as Congress and the United Nations grapple with a new environmental treaty, a strong food sovereignty movement is more critical than ever.” The report can be obtained at: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/. Grass Roots International is involved in efforts to reduce electricity demand in the U.S., not only to reduce carbon emissions, but to prevent the building of huge hydroelectric projects in Mexico and other Central American countries that will flood huge areas, destroying the living places of Indigenous and other people. In addition, Grass Roots International is partnering with rural social movement organizations from Latin America, Asia and Africa in opposing the rapid expansion of agrofuels production based on large scale plantation-style cultivation of sugar cane, palm oil, corn and soy beans for ethanol and diesel fuel, because these developments, especially by transnational corporations, are displacing small and family farmers, and Indigenous farmers. These displacements are accompanied by human rights violations of agricultural workers – many of them Indigenous – on these new agrofuels plantations. Further most biofuel production uses more energy and produces more carbon dioxide than does the extraction, refining, transportation and use of petroleum. For more information contact Grassroots International, 179 Boylston Street, 4th floor, Boston MA 02130, http://org2.democracyinaction.org.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in September, was opposing a bill then pending before the Environment Commission of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly, that would downgrade the status of the Las Baulas National Marine Park – one of the last remaining sanctuaries in the Americas for the critically endangered leatherback turtle, whose population has fallen 90% in the past two decades, and is seriously threatened by development outside the park. For more information go to: nrdconline.org. NRDC was been working, in September, for stronger anti climate change legislation in the U.S., stressing that 30% of the worlds species are now at risk, with every region in the United States now experiencing environmental damage from climate change, and discussing one now endangered species from climate change in each of seven U.S. regions. For more go to: http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=42590.

U.S. Activities

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) current legislative initiatives, concerning which it has testified before Congress recently, include measures concerning Climate Change, Federal Appropriations, BIA/Tribal Budget Advisory Council, and Youth Initiatives. NCAI held its 66th Annual Convention and Trade Show, October 11-16, at the Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs. Committee sessions at the convention took up the entire range of issues impacting Indian Country, Special focus was given in preconvention sessions with meetings of: the Federal Recognition Task Force, the Meth Task Force, the Suicide Prevention Task Force, TEDNA, and a Transportation Premeeting. At the meeting, NCAI formally announced its 2010 census campaign, “Indian Country Counts,” to work for all Native Americans to be counted in the census, insuring that Native nations and people receive their share of federal spending. As part of the conference theme, “Our people, our nations, our future,” U.S. Census Bureau director Robert Groves signed a reaffirmation of the bureau’s first American Indian and Alaska Native Policy statement. For details go to: http://www.ncai.org/Agendas.421.0.html. A piece of the work of the meth task force has been the showing in areas of concentrations of Native populations around the U.S. of an anti-meth television public service announcement as part of its national media campaign aimed at eliminating meth abuse and trafficking in Native American communities. The announcement, developed by NCAI in partnership with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (the Partnership) was unveiled, March 3, at NCAI’s 11th Annual Leadership Awards Banquet, during the organization’s Executive Council Winter Session in Washington, DC. At that session, in his final State of Indian Nations address as National Congress of American Indians President, Joe A. Garcia, reached out to President Barack Obama’s administration and federal agencies in hopes for a reinvigorated nation-to-nation relationship. President Garcia praised President Obama’s knowledge of treaty obligations to Indian nations and his vision for government parity in his new Administration. “We embrace the promised White House summit between tribal leaders and the Obama Administration,” President Garcia told the some 200 audience members in the National Museum of the American Indian’s Rasmuson Theater. “The President has given us good reason to believe he will include Indian Nations as he talks about a new spirit of hope and change.” President Garcia pointed out Indian Country’s successes of 2008: NCAI helped lead the White House to a stronger anti-meth campaign; helped gain the President’s signature on legislation honoring Native Code Talkers from World Wars I and II; made improvements in tribal courts; advanced its agenda for children; found ways to use environmental initiatives to help tribes boost their economies while preserving mother earth; and Native Americans made history on Election Day by participating in the democratic process in record numbers. The full text of the speech and NCAI’s FY 2010 Budget Request for the U.S. government area available, along with a great deal of other information about NCAI, its doings, concerns and proposals, at: http://www.ncai.org/.

White Bison Inc., this spring, was leading a petition campaign (carried by Care2: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Apology-For-Indian-School-Abuses) to the President of the United States calling for an apology for abuses at U.S. Indian Schools. White Bison said, “The White Buffalo Prophecy tells of a time when a white buffalo calf would be born, and that birth would signal a time of Great Healing for All Nations. That white buffalo calf – the first of many -  was born in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1994. Her name was Miracle. It is in the spirit of the White Bison Prophecy, that we call upon all peoples to join us in signing this petition supporting a US apology and healing for the widespread abuse of Native American children at the nearly 500 schools funded by the US government to assimilate Native American people.”

Some Native American Organizations are being pinched by the deep recession, just as the U.S. non-profit sector is generally feeling reduced grants and donations, and the impact of financial fraud. For example, while its core programs remain funded, reduced income has caused Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), centered in Albuquerque, NM, to reduce program spending and staff. Some board members and Ambassadors have helped out by paying their own way to events and meetings.

Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), at the national UNITY Conference in July, AIO conducted an afternoon session for youths to address the challenges to becoming an effective youth leader. Over thirty-five youth, from ten different tribes, engaged in a process developed from the wisdom of their ancestors. AIO Executive Director, Laura Harris (Comanche), stressed how our Native American ancestors have always known the importance of civic engagement. She highlighted five principles that are needed for an effective dialogue: 1) that everyone’s voice is heard; 2) protect authenticity of the voice i.e. no debate; 3) promote group learning; 4) collective outcome; and 5) strive to uncover the root cause. AIO then engaged the group in its civic engagement tool, ILIS (Indigenous Leaders Interactive System). This system utilizes all five principles and with the help of computer technology, the group uncovered the root cause to becoming an effective youth leader. “We were very excited that these politically active teens caught on to the need and usefulness of structured dialogue,” commented AIO’s facilitation team. In July, Laura Harris (Comanche), Executive Director of AIO, participated in a Convening on Adult Leadership Development at Cherokee, North Carolina, assisting the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in developing leadership programs for both the youth and adults of their tribe, sharing insights from the Ambassadors Program model and AIO’s experience and expertise in leadership development. AIO Ambassador Alum Brenda Toineeta (Eastern Band of Cherokee) is working with her tribe to further leadership training for Cherokee citizens. Also making presentations were NCAI President Joe Garcia (Ohkay Owingeh), Manley Begay (Navajo), University of Arizona; Dr. David Gipp (Lakota), President of United Tribes Technical College, and AIO Ambasador David Cournoyer (Rosebud Sioux), with Native Americans in Philanthropy. For more information on the Cherokee initiative go to: www.cherokeepreservationfdn.org. A major aspect of AIO’s operation has been its application of traditional principles of participation in its Indigenous Leaders Interactive System (ILIS) to inclusively discuss issues and readily solve complex problems. AIO Executive Director Laura Harris shared the philosophy and successful practice of ILIS at the Deliberative Democracy Consortium with nearly 1000 people from around the country who study, teach, research and practice civic engagement. The conference was “centered on the fact that deliberative democracy has reached a critical point in its development. Over the last fifteen years, shifts in citizen capacities and attitudes have led to a dramatic proliferation of citizen participation and deliberative practices all over the world. On the heels of these changes, new opportunities for educators and practitioners are emerging in communities, in governments, and on campuses. Meanwhile, in the midst of all these shifts, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are some very old, cherished traditions and models of citizenship and participation that can teach us a great deal about how to strengthen democracy in this new context.” Harris was able to assist deliberative development by contributing an Indigenous worldview to issues of civic engagement. For more information on the consortium, go to: http://www.deliberative-democracy.net or www.unh.edu/democracy/conference2009. Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) was nominated for the Global Dialogue Prize of the Global Dialogue Project, in July, for outstanding achievements in intercultural communication. The prize “acknowledges outstanding achievements in the advancement and application of intercultural value research. The prize is awarded to individuals, institutions, and organizations from around the globe.” For more information contact Americans for Indian Opportunity, 1001 Marquette Ave., NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102 (505)842-8677, aio@aio.org, http://www.aio@aio.org.

Following the mid-August    denial of a parole for Leonard Peltier, Ben Carnes, (Choctaw Nation), a Sun Dance Chief, fasted in front of the White House, September 5 – 12, in hopes of securing a meeting with President Obama to discuss the Peltier case. Vigils supporting Peltier’s release from prison were held at several locations before the hearing. For information contact the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee, (808)533-7434 or Kari Ann Cowan, (701)235-2206 or (701)278-2968,  http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info and http://FreePeltierNow.blogspot.com.

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians and some non-Indian card clubs in Califonia, supported by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, in September, were attempting to build support by January for state legislation allowing Internet poker in California. The California Tribal Business Alliance, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, and a small group of other tribes oppose the effort. One concern among some California legislators is how much money the state would receive from such an arrangement (“Morongo Band to push for online poker in 2010,” Indianz.Com, September 10, 2009,

Indian and other historically interested people have been protesting Oxford, AL digging up a hill that researchers call the foundation of an ancient Native American site to provide fill dirt for a wholesale warehouse. Tribal advocates and state officials say a large stone mound that tops the 200-foot rise was put there a millennium ago by Indians during a religious observance. It is similar to rock mounds found up and down the Eastern Seaboard, historians say, and likely dates to Indians of the Woodlands period that ended in 1000 A.D. Although some Indian artifacts have been found at the site, the city denies that it is destroying a historical site. (“Jay Reeves, “Alabama city plows beneath Indian site,” News from Indian Country, July, 2007, http://indiancountrynews.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7073&Itemid=1).

Native people in California were concerned, in October, that the proposed California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) initiative under CA Public Resources Code, Sections 36602 and 36710 (http://law.onecle.com/california/public-resources/36602.html and http://law.justia.com/california/codes/prc/36700-36900.html) might violate Tribal sovereign rights to gather traditional foods for subsistence if the entire California coastline is made into a state marine reserve it.

Gherush92, Committee for Human Rights, ECOSOC Organization, has been engaged in an education campaign, “EUROPA & AMERICAS, STOP CELEBRATING OCTOBER 12!,” offering a pdf showing that the policy encompassing Columbus voyages of “discovery” were racist and repressive and should not be celebrated. The booklet is available at: http://www.gherush92.com/documents/STOP_CELEBRATING_OCTOBER_12.pdf. For more information contact: gherush92@gherush92.com. In Hawai’i, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples around the world, there was a celebration of the annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with a Papal Bulls Burning ceremony in Honolulu, on October 12, 5:00 pm, in front of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. (This year’s event was dedicated to the life of Kanaka Maoli warrior James Naiokala Nakapa’ahu). Indigenous peoples and supporters elsewhere were encouraged to organize small ceremonial events and symbolically burn or tear-up copies of the May 4, 1493 papal bull “Inter Caetera” in demonstration against “Columbus Day,” or “Discoverer’s Day” as it’s known in Hawai’i. The document can be downloaded at: http://bullsburning.itgo.com/papbull.htm (source: http://andrekaruk.posterous.com/indigenous-peoples-day-event). The International Treaty Council and American Indian Contmporary Art held their Annual October 12 Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, CA, “Commemorating 40 Years of Movement History and 517 Years of Indigenous Resistance (http://www.treatycouncil.org/section_211112.htm). This year the Denver American Indian Commission (DAIC) switched its emphasis from opposing the Columbus Day celebration in the city, which has often seen conflict between Native protesters and police, to promoting celebration of American Indian heritage and educating people about it – which the Denver Agency for Human rights and Community Relations – which has an impact on city policy – supported. DAIC believes that it is important to change mainstream perceptions of Indians and their history, and to get that history taught in more positive ways, particular to give Native youth a more positive outlook (Carol Berry, “Columbus Day conflict may move to cyberspace,” Indian Country Today, October 7, 2009).

Widows of 21 Navajo Uranium miners raveled to Washington, DC, in September, to lobby Congress for benefits and services (Uranium Miner Dependents March on Washington, The Navajo Times, October 8, 2009).

The Hawai’i People’s Fund (www.hawaiipeoplesfund.org) included in its grants last summer support to the following groups. PHOCUSED (www. PHOCUSED-hawaii.org) is an emerging organization “intent on being a strong voice for needs of the marginalized and underserved in Hawai’i. PHOCUSED is dedicated to assisting those affected to become powerful spokespersons for themselves.” The group engages in advocacy, organizing and training consumers, providers, citizens and community leaders in the advocacy process. People-Centered Development Forum (www.pcdf.org) is working on issues of economic sustainability. Hawai’i Seed (www.Hawaiiseed.org) is an island based coalition of community groups working to counter genetically engineered agriculture. Ka Honua Momona (kahonuamomona.org) works to promote community participation in community planning, and received a grant to send 10 people to the Sustainable Molokai: Future of a Hawaiian Island Conference. Statehood Hawai’i (www.statehoodhawaii.org) has developed a cross media campaign for the presentation of independent perspectives, on going discussion, dialogue and an educational forum, concerning issues about Hawai’i’s past and future.

International Activities

Advancement of Maori Opportunity (AMO) organized an international Indigenous exchange in New Zealand, as part of its 2008/09 Ambassador’s Class’s Gathering Three, September 20 – October 3, including an economic summit with the Maori King, and observing the successful practices of the Maori run tribal university. Several delegates from Americans for Indian Opportunity, including AIO President, LaDonna Harris, participated. For more information go to: www.aio.org.

Global Response, a 20-year-old Colorado-based nonprofit that helps Indigenous Peoples defend their lands and natural resources, has become a program of Cultural Survival, expanding both organizations’ reach and effectiveness. The first joint campaign of the two organizations is supporting the Indigenous community of Didipio, in the Philippines, in its almost two decades struggle to stop a gold and copper mine that threatens their environment, farmlands, and families. Global Response reports that he mining company and government have responded with violence and intimidation and ignored the people’s rights. The international campaign intensified, in August, the United Nations’ Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) found the Philippines out of compliance with its own laws and with international conventions on Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The Philippine government has been given one year by CERD to report back to the international organization showing that it is enforcing Indigenous rights laws. For more information go to: http://www.cs.org.

Survival International begun a new International advertising campaign, in June, highlighting the Kalahari Bushmen’s lack of access to water, while the Botswana government uses boreholes to attract wildlife, in the Bushmen’s ancestral home in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Two and a half years after the Bushmen’s victory over the government in Botswana’s High Court, ministers still refuse to allow the Bushmen to use their water borehole, which was a vital source of water for many Bushmen in the dry season, nor has the government handed out any hunting permits – without these, it is illegal for the Bushmen to hunt. As if forcing the Bushmen to walk hundreds of kilometers for water was not bad enough, the government has at the same time approved plans by safari companies to drill their own boreholes to create wildlife ‘waterholes’. For details go to: http://blog.survivalinternational.org/2009/06/30/advertising-tribal-peoples/. Survival has been opposing the travel company Barefoot’s new resort close to the islands’ Jarawa reserve in the Andaman. The company claims it has set up the ‘sustainable and socially responsible tourism development’ to protect the recently contacted Jarawa tribal people from intrusion. Government authorities on the Andamans want to close it, and Survival also opposes the resort because it puts the Jarawa’s lives at risk from disease. The Jarawa are already extremely vulnerable, as poachers invade their land and a road cuts through their forest. Survival’s report ‘Progress Can Kill’ details the devastating effects that disease has had on isolated tribal peoples. Barefoot, strongly disagrees and is suing Survival for libel. For more on this story go to: http://www.survivalinternational.org/about/barefoot. Survival International is at 6 Charterhouse Buildings London, UK EC1M 7ET, +44(0)207 687 8700, http://www.survival-international.org.