Friends of SEHN,
Welcome friends to the New Year. 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Science and Environmental Health Network. Thank you for all you’ve done over the years to support our work with your generous contributions of time, intellectual gifts and financial donations. We ended the year in a financially sound position, thanks to you. Thank you for all you’ve done in partnership with us. We are more grateful than you know.
We have begun this year with a startling and important event: we are signatories to a treaty called Protecting the Sacred as part of our years-long work with community groups to stop pipelines. Pipeline infrastructure locks us into the use of filthy fossil fuels so that energy companies can get a return on their investment. Fossil fuels increase the inputs of carbon into the environment and pipelines themselves cause permanent damage to land and a constant threat to the waterways they cross. But these pipelines cause harm to human communities because construction is done by large groups of transient men who move into an area for a few months to a year. They are usually housed in large man camps. So not only do we have the environmental damage during pipeline construction but we have increases in drugs and sex trafficking along pipeline construction routes.
What most amazes me about grassroots groups striving to protect their land, water and communities is their endless creativity and tenacity. The struggle against the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline has been going on for 11 years. The history of resistance to KXL will go down in environmental history because of the unusual alliances that came together and the extraordinarily creative tactics used to block it. The experience the environmental community gained in fighting KXL was put to good use during the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline which culminated in the magnificent resistance at Standing Rock. In both KXL and Dakota Access, Indigenous people were the generative force and the leaders in the struggle.
So how did we end up signing a treaty? Here’s the backstory:
In 2013 several tribal nations gathered to sign an international treaty that reflected their pledge to block the Keystone XL pipeline. A treaty is a written, formal agreement between sovereign nations. The tribes are sovereign nations, just like the United States. The Protecting the Sacred treaty was asserting the sovereignty of the nation signatories and that they had standing to protect their land. You can read about the 2013 gathering here: http://www.ienearth.org/tribes-and-allies-gather-on-yankton-sioux-reservation-to-oppose-the-tar-sands-and-keystone-xl-pipeline/
The January 2019 treaty signing on the Yankton Sioux reservation was designed to open the treaty to new signatories and to reaffirm our commitment to protect the sacred and stop this polluting, damaging tar sands pipeline. I was invited to participate and sign because we at SEHN through the Women’s Congress for Future Generations are providing legal and technical expertise to this on-going struggle. Our friend, Faith Spotted Eagle, one of the conveyors of the treaty signing has been instrumental in bringing the wisdom and power of the grandmothers to the table. Some of you may remember her at the last Women’s Congress held in 2017. Video footage can be found here.
I signed on behalf of the Women’s Congress for Future Generations because I wanted future generations to have an advocate and a presence in that gathering. You can see the signing ceremony here: I sign at about 6:30 and Faith speaks right after I sign. I signed on your behalf, too, since I know you stand with future generations to protect the sacred.
Below is the text of the treaty.