The Thin Red Line

Across North America, Indigenous communities are often on the frontlines of efforts to halt extreme energy projects, massive mines, and other ill-conceived “development” projects. Here are just some of the fights currently underway.

artwork depicting a slice of the North American continent, marks where indigenous communities work to preserve their lands

four-corners graphicIn Alberta, the Beaver Lake Cree are using the Canadian courts to challenge tar sands development on the grounds that the large-scale strip mining violates their treaty agreement, which guarantees their rights to hunt, fish, and gather foods “as long as the sun shines.” In 2013, a provincial appeals court ruled that the Beaver Lake Cree’s lawsuit could move forward. The case is now headed for trial.

four-corners graphicThe Lummi Nation is in the vanguard of a battle to stop a planned coal-export terminal at Cherry Point, WA. The Gateway Pacific Terminal is key to the coal industry’s plans to boost flagging sales by sending coal to Asia. The Lummi say the port would harm traditional fishing grounds and violate its treaty with the US.

four-corners graphicNative activists have played an important role in fighting the Keystone XL pipeline. In March 2012, Lakota activists blocked a “heavy haul” of oil equipment headed for the Canadian tar sands, leading to arrests. In the spring of 2014, the “Cowboy and Indian Alliance” went to the National Mall in Washington, DC to protest the proposed pipeline. Last November, the Rosebud Sioux tribal council declared that construction of Keystone XL would be considered an “act of war.”

four-corners graphicIn the far north of California, members of the Winnemem Wintu are embroiled in a protracted battle against the federal government’s proposal to raise Shasta Dam by 18 feet. The retrofit would submerge or damage many of the tribe’s remaining sacred sites.

four-corners graphicLast December, Congress slipped a line into a defense-spending bill that gave mining rights for Oak Flat, Arizona to Resolution Copper. But Oak Flat is a site sacred to the San Carlos Apache. The Apache have since traveled across the country – from Times Square to Capitol Hill – to urge Congress to pass new legislation reversing the giveaway of a place where the Apache go to pray.

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