CHEJ Training Call: Indigenous Organizing

June 18 , 12:00 pm 1:00 pm EDT

Indigenous peoples have been pivotal in the environmental justice movement, leveraging their deep-rooted connection to the land and traditional ecological knowledge to spearhead powerful campaigns against environmental degradation. Recently, indigenous groups have led significant actions against pipelines (such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and Line 3), mobilized global support, and drawn attention to the threats these projects pose to sacred lands and water sources. They have also been at the forefront of efforts to combat water contamination in communities like Flint, Michigan, and across various reservations where water quality is a critical concern.

Indigenous organizing is characterized by its holistic approach, integrating cultural, spiritual, and communal elements, which not only fosters strong internal solidarity but also resonates widely, creating broad coalitions of support. Their methods emphasize collective action, community-led solutions, and the integration of traditional practices with modern advocacy, offering a resilient and inclusive model that can inspire and strengthen the broader environmental justice movement.

In this call, we have invited renowned organizer, Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizers Alliance (NOA) to share her insights, victories, and advice as an indigenous organizer.

June 4 , 1:00 pm 2:00 pm EDT

The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world, and Arctic Indigenous Peoples bear the brunt of the plastic and petrochemical industry’s toxic operations. Plastics and chemicals from all over the world are transported on atmospheric and oceanic currents northward, where they accumulate in the Arctic through a process called global distillation. 

The production and use of fossil fuels by the petrochemical industry is the starting point for the damage faced by the Arctic related to plastics, chemicals, and climate change. These threats have combined to poison the lands, waters, and traditional foods of Arctic Indigenous Peoples, with ongoing health effects that threaten their cultures and communities. 

A recent report jointly published by ACAT and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) synthesizes recent evidence from more than 250 studies on the interconnected threats from plastics, petrochemicals, and climate change that harm Arctic Peoples. The report describes how the Arctic is at risk from chemicals and plastics throughout their toxic life cycle and offers recommendations in support of a just transition to a regenerative economy. 

CHE-Alaska will host Dr. Therese Karlsson, Pamela Miller and Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough in a discussion on how the combined effects of plastic pollution, petrochemical operations, and climate change are harming the health and well-being of communities in the Arctic. Pamela Miller, ACAT’s Executive Director and IPEN’s Co-Chair, and Dr. Karlsson, IPEN’s Science & Technical Advisor, are the lead authors of the report. Dr. Sambo Dorough, Senior Scholar and Special Advisor on Arctic Indigenous Peoples at the University of Alaska Anchorage, will discuss the compounding effects of chemicals and plastics on Arctic Indigenous Peoples as a human rights issue.

May 28 , 1:00 pm 2:00 pm EDT

The Sixth National Climate Assessment is underway. In this webinar, hear from Indigenous scholars who have contributed to past assessments, learn more, and get your questions answered about the current public call for author nominations and feedback.

Featured Guest Speakers Dr. Kyle Whyte, University of Michigan Ann Marie Chischilly, Office of Native American Initiatives at Northern Arizona University Melissa Watkinson-Schutten, Locus Innovations & Rising Voices Nikki Cooley, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals Allyza Lustig, US Global Change Research Program.

February 21 , 1:00 pm 2:00 pm EST

Learn how to use state trust land data from Grist’s latest bombshell project, a follow-up to the 2020 High Country News investigation, which examined how land grant institutions got their land and money. We’ll show you how to use our data set on Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming – states with Trust Lands that benefit land grant institutions. Grist has examined publicly available state data to locate trust lands associated with land grant universities, established their provenance, analyzed the revenue those lands produce for their associated colleges, and researched the activities states engaged with to generate income, such as timber harvesting, oil and gas extraction, and agriculture. We reconstructed approximately 8.1 million acres of land, currently producing income for 14 land-grant universities, taken from 146 Indigenous nations through more than 100 violence-backed land cessions, a legal term for the giving up of territory. Grist editor at large Tristan Ahtone and spatial data analyst Maria Parazo Rose will show you how to use this data to do your own reporting.

June 1, 2023 , 9:00 am 10:00 am EDT

Tune into an important side event held during INC-2 in Paris, France: Native Nations Rising. Learn how to be a better relative, rise up and do our shared part to respond to plastic pollution and plastic poisoning, locally & globally. Scan the QR code in the below image to join.

A new film, On Sacred Ground, amplifies the critical message of Indigenous waterkeepers at Standing Rock—that water is life. 

In 2016 began one of the largest and most visible protests of environmental injustice in U.S. history, on the Standing Rock Reservation, home to thousands of Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota peoples of the Oceti Sakowin Nation. It was then that the company Energy Transfer began construction there of a segment of the $3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile underground transportation route for Bakken crude oil that stretches from western North Dakota to southern Illinois. Routed in close proximity of the Standing Rock Reservation, and beneath critical water resources including the Lake Oahe reservoir on the Missouri River, the pathway of the pipeline poses a direct threat to the lives of Indigenous peoples on the Standing Rock Reservation and all tribes within the Missouri River watershed. 

Filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell traveled to the front lines to witness the protests and would later produce the film On Sacred Ground, to help amplify the messages of Indigenous peoples and water protectors harmed by environmental injustice. The Dakota Access Pipeline was unfortunately built and has been operational, despite its poor track record of frequent spills that threaten lands and waterways, incompatibility with addressing the climate crisis, and ongoing and current legal challenges. During the protests, which unfolded on the frontlines in Standing Rock and in court, in addition to causing environmental damage, the construction disturbed sacred burial and cultural sites and led to excessive force used against those advocating for the end of pipeline construction.

At Standing Rock, I learned from our Indigenous brothers and sisters that water is life.  It was a big wake-up call to me to realize that the majority of society ignores this most basic yet essential tenant.

– Filmmaker Josh Tickell

On Sacred Ground Film Portrays Standing Rock Protest

Indigenous communities in Standing Rock and across the U.S. face insecurity when it comes to their health and the safety of their water resources. Indigenous peoples—Earth’s original stewards—have long been targeted by governments and the polluting industries that they permit and subsidize to bear the disproportionate burdens of industrial pollution. As a result, Indigenous and other underserved communities experience severe impacts to their emotional and physical health, as well as harm to their cultures and livelihoods. Some of the biggest perpetrators of such environmental injustice are corporations producing, processing, transporting, storing, selling, and disposing of plastics and fossil fuels—plastics’ primary ingredients.

On Sacred Ground conveys these messages, and is based on actual events that occurred during the 2016 construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The film follows a journalist and military veteran named Daniel (William Mapother), and oil company executive Elliot (David Arquette), who navigate opposing sides of the contentious pipeline’s construction and what would ultimately become one of the most visible Indigenous-led protests in modern U.S. history.

To help amplify Indigenous-led efforts for environment justice and spread awareness of the need to protect water and Earth, filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell invite schools and Indigenous communities to screen On Sacred Ground for free.

Help Protect Water in Indigenous Communities

Missouri River in 2021 by CMichel67 (Wikimedia Commons)

New developments are expected as years of legal battles are leading to a new environmental impact statement on the pipeline to be released in spring 2023. According to Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota and President and CEO of the NDN Collective, “The Dakota Access Pipeline is currently operating illegally without a permit, putting safe drinking water at risk.” Last year, NDN published a report outlining the dangers and injustices of the pipeline, and how it was built, and why it must be drained and shut down permanently.

Indigenous communities in the Missouri River Watershed and around the U.S. continue to advocate for access to clean, reliable, unpolluted waters free of the risk of development, fossil fuel spills, and other injustices. Learn more about some of the Indigenous frontline communities and groups now advocating for change, listen for calls to action, and offer your support and allyship, here.

Ending plastic pollution and embracing just, equitable, regenerative solutions is a pathway to clean water and safety for all. More fossil fuel and plastics development will only drive more destruction and injustice. Learn about the facts and solutions to plastic pollution, and take action today.