As oil spews into the Gulf of Mexico, in the worst fossil fueled environmental disaster of our nation’s history, we are experiencing a stain on our collective souls. Our fossil fuel-run energy paradigm is not sustainable, and we are literally killing ourselves over it.
There are people, however, who are working tirelessly to shift our energy policy away from fossil fuels toward a green economy that includes renewables, reusables, and conservation. And we shouldn’t turn our focus way from these efforts, even though the term ‘green’ has been co-opted by corporations or made us desensitized to its fundamental reality by overuse of the term.
Amy and I have found mentors, activists, and leaders who can guide us practically toward a safer and sustainable energy policy. Many years ago, we realized that we could only view environmentalism through the lens of Indigenous peoples’ perspective. That is how Honor the Earth came to be. Many of you are aware of the work that Honor the Earth does, and for those of you who aren’t, we invite you to learn about it, and for those of you who are, we want to continue to keep you updated on that work as it progresses.
In light of that, we recently took a trip to Montana to learn about pressing energy issues in Indian Country, and to join up with the Women Donors Network, on a field trip to learn about these issues and how each of us can be actively involved in bringing a new energy paradigm to fruition.
Amy wrote a thorough and awesome blog, including comprehensive video footage, about our trip to Montana. It can be read and viewed at HonorEarth.org. We encourage you all to read the blog and absorb the issues. In conjunction with that blog, we offer a synopsis of the trip, the activists involved, and a comprehensive list of websites that you may explore to familiarize yourself with the issues at hand and the work that is being done to address them.
Thank you all so much!!!!!
1. The Purpose of the trip: To visit Indian Country in Montana with a group of women from the Women Donors Network to learn more about Native environmentalism and to build a Native/non-Native constituency that can leverage change.
The Women Donors Network is a group of philanthropic women from all over America who work together for social and environmental change. Please visit their website at womendonors.org.
Winona LaDuke spoke to the group about environmental issues in Montana and in general. Her briefing is essentially Environmental Justice 101. There followed a day of learning, inspired by local activists from groups such as Clark Fork Coalition, homeWORD, and Garden City Harvest.
Amy and I, the WDN members, Winona LaDuke, and Jodi Rave got on a bus and headed to the Blackfeet Reservation. Jodi Rave is an acclaimed journalist and Native activist who was with us for the trip. You can check out her blog on Native community, culture and communication at BuffalosFire.com.
– Our first stop was the Cuts Wood School which works to revitalize the traditional Blackfeet
culture and teach kids their native Blackfeet language, much of which was lost to the people when they were forced into mission schools and only allowed to speak English.
– We stopped at the Lodge Pole Gallery for a traditional lunch and a chance to look at Native
– From there we continued on to the Blackfoot Nature Conservancy where we listened to a panel of speakers talk about issues facing the Blackfeet people. This was an especially important part of our journey, as we heard from Eloise Cobell. Eloise fought a 14 year battle with the U.S. government to reclaim profits for Indian peoples after the U.S. government mishandled and swindled away billions of dollars that were owed to indigenous peoples. You can find out more about the history of the case and the mismanagement of Indian funds at cobellsettlement.com.
– We heard from Lona Burns, from the Blackfeet Constitutional Reform. Committee which works to amend a tribal constitution that doesn’t best serve the needs of the current Blackfeet tribe.
– We heard from Terry Tatsy about wind energy potential and development on the reservation.
DOE Tribal Energy Program
Tribal Wind Energy Resources
Download Honorthe Earth’s Sustainable Tribal Economies booklet
Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands Brochure
Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s new study showing “significant” benefits that renewables offer tribal communities.
– We also listened to Pauline Matt from Real People Herbal who spoke of Indigenous medicinal herbs and plant life.
– At the end of the day, we celebrated with a traditional buffalo feast and cultural exchange, listening to the songs of Blackfeet artist Jack Gladstone, and the Blackfeet Confederacy Drum group. Amy and I gave a short performance and we honored Eloise Cobell and her work to cap off the evening.
We spent this day on the Flathead reservation, and attended an Environmental Justice panel at Salish Kootenai College.
– Pat Smith, attorney for Native Action, spoke of the Northern Cheyenne’s continued efforts to stop coal mining and destructive energy projects on their land.
– Francis Auld spoke of cultural preservation in Indian Country
– Rich Janssen told us of environmental issues being addressed and worked on in Flathead.
– A highlight of the panel was Eriel Deranger, a woman from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations in northern Alberta, who educated us on the Tar Sands Project in Alberta,time to familiarize yourselves with this horrendous energy nightmare.
Honor the Earth’s Stop the Tar Sands page
Dirty Oil Sands
NRDC: Tar Sands Invasion
National Geographic’s Tar Sands article Scraping Bottom
– Amy and I played a couple of songs to close this event, and then we all got on the bus and headed to the Kerr dam, where Teresa Wall-McDonald, a Flathead tribal member and activist, briefed us about the sordid legacy of the dam and what it holds for the future of the Flathead people.
We began our day with a visit to the National Bison Range on Flathead. Germaine White met us at the Bison Range center and we had a one hour presentation and discussion about buffalo and cultural ecosystem restoration.
– We then drove back to Missoula and ended our trip with a festive meal at the home of a WDN member. Amy and I sang songs and we all sat in a circle and recounted the trip and just what it had meant to each of us, and what we had learned, and how we had been transformed and energized to continue our work to realize energy justice, not just for Native peoples, but for us all.