Category Archives: Indigenous Peoples

Native Communities, Crabapples, and Climate Change

pacificcrabapple_berryThe crabapple is harvested by 37 Native cultures from Alaska to Oregon and Victoria Wyllie de Echeverria, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oxford, has studied climate change on the Pacific Coast through changes to to the harvest and use of the fruit. She is now interviewing dozens of Alaska Native and Canadian First Nation elders to get a cultural and historical perspective on changes to the broader ecosystems. Read more here.

Seattle Honors Indigenous Peoples

The Seattle City Council has honored indigenous peoples by declaring the second Monday in October (formerly known as Columbus Day) as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

From Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office: “Seattle sits on the homelands of many tribal nations,” Murray said at a ceremony surrounded by tribal leaders and City councilmembers. “We have many ongoing works with our neighbor tribes, and we welcome the tens of thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have come to call this city home. Today’s commemoration is intended to spark a productive conversation about the contributions of indigenous peoples, and, most importantly, their continued involvement in the cultural fabric of our community and the entire country.”

The Bellingham City Council also plans to consider a move to designate the second Monday in October as Coast Salish Day.

Read more here and see photos from the signing ceremony.

Indigenous Peoples at the Head of Historic NYC Climate March

The 400,000 people marching in New York City to demand climate action on September 21, 2014 were led by Indigenous people from all over the world at the front of the throng that stretched for more than two miles. The crowds also included former Vice President Al Gore, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, primatologist Jane Goodall, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has called upon the world’s leaders to commit to solving the crisis. Read more here and be sure to check out this video.

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Kwel Hoy’: A Totem Pole Journey

Lummi Nation launched the Totem Pole Journey on Sunday, August 17 to bring together tribes across the U.S. and Canada and to expose the environmental and cultural impacts of coal and oil transportation. The Lummi Nation has galvanized resistance to the Gateway Pacific coal export terminal proposed for Cherry Point, WA. The Gateway Pacific Terminal would export 48 million tons of coal a year from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. The terminal threatens the Lummi way of life and the area’s ecological integrity. Read more from Grist here.Capture.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Climate Change

Rosalyn LaPier talks about learning Traditional Ecological Knowledge from her grandmother in this article and video on the EPA Environmental Justice Blog. She also discusses how climate change is affecting traditional practices tied to seasonal patterns that are now shifting.

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She describes the learning process: “…unlike what most people think, it was not an informal activity. Instead it was a formal process of learning. The Amskapi Pikuni, now known as the Blackfeet, believe in a process they call “transferring.” The Blackfeet believe that both tangible and intangible items are considered personal property which can be bought and sold. A tipi, which is tangible, or a name, which is intangible, are given equal value as property. However, instead of using the words “buy” or “sell,” the Blackfeet use the word “transfer.”

Navajo Teen Turns Community Need Into Science Award

See this inspiring video from Indian Country Today about 16-year-old Raquel Redshirt , who solved a critical problem for her community on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. She used materials readily available in her community to build solar ovens, taking advantage of the ubiquitous New Mexico sunlight.

“My great grandparents barely used their stove because they couldn’t afford to buy propane,” Raquel says in the video.

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Tribes Fight to Protect Fish from Coal Train Terminals

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation were joined by Lummi, Quinault, and other tribes in their protest against a proposed coal terminal at Port of Morrow, Oregon. The coal terminal would result in the annual transport of nine million tons of coal aboard trains a mile and half long—much more than local ecological systems can bear and too close to the Yakama Nation’s historic treaty fishing sites on the Columbia River.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber firmly opposed the coal export terminal in a speech to the League of Conservation Voters in April.

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The Missing Native Vote

Plaintiffs from three Montana reservations (Fort Belknap, Northern Cheyenne and Crow) led by Mark Wandering Medicine, a Northern Cheyenne spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, have filed a federal lawsuit for equal access to voting. In Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch, the plaintiffs filed against county elections officials, the secretary of state, and top elections officer, Linda McCulloch to demand equal access on their reservations to the absentee voting and late registration currently offered only in county courthouses. Wandering Medicine, who experience mirrors many Native Americans in Montana, would have to travel 180 miles round trip to get to the nearest county courthouse.

Read the article at the Bill Moyers and Company website. This excerpt describes the nature of the problem:

“To determine how distance and poverty affect Native voting access, the DOJ asked University of Wyoming geography professor Gerald R. Webster to examine the three Montana reservations involved in Wandering Medicine. Webster found that Indians on those reservations traveled two to three times farther than whites to get to a county courthouse. Meanwhile, depending on the reservation, Indians were two to three times more likely not to have a vehicle for the trip. They were also less likely to have money to fill the gas tank: In Blaine County, which overlaps Fort Belknap, Webster found that the Native poverty rate was 2.5 times that of whites; in Rosebud County, which overlaps the Northern Cheyenne reservation, Natives were four times more likely than whites to live below the poverty line.

Fear also keeps Natives away from white towns and their courthouses, establishing an apartheid condition in American Indian communities. “They are today the poorest, most isolated and in some quarters, the most racially castigated population in the country,” writes sociologist Garth Massey, a University of Wyoming emeritus professor who submitted an expert report to the court on behalf of the plaintiffs.”