Blog & photos by Emily Arasim, WECAN Communications Coordinator
The oceans are rising and so are the women of the world! Over the course of April 2017, representatives and allies of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) took action on the ground in New York City and Washington DC in parallel to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and as part of the People’s Climate March for Jobs, Justice and Climate. Explore the blog to learn more about events, forums and actions, and to access photos and videos, including full program livestreams from ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’ and ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights and Communities’.
Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights & Communities – New York City
“To understand the human rights violations that happened in Standing Rock, you have to understand that those violations did not occur in a vacuum, those violations stems and flow from a historic legacy of genocide, of colonization, of oppression, of land disposition….It is about more than human rights. What I think Indigenous women are articulating is an indigenous women’s liberation theology, to define and create a sacred nation…that we are all related. And part of our ability to do that is to challenge global capitalism.” -Michelle Cook (Diné; human rights lawyer and founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock, USA)
Indigenous women around the world are impacted first and worst by the effects of environmental destruction and a rapidly changing climate, this disproportionate impact the result of a dangerous intersection of colonialism, racism and patriarchy. However despite all odds and against great challenges, it is these very same Indigenous women who are rising up, challenging the status quo, holding a vision, and taking action to build the vital solutions needed for a just and livable future for everyone.
During the April 26, 2017 New York City WECAN forum – ‘Indigenous Women Protecting Earth, Rights and Communities’ – we were honored to hear the stories, struggles and solutions of incredible women leaders from across North America and around the world, who shared stories of Indigenous, women’s and human rights violations in their homelands; discussed resistance efforts from Standing Rock to the Amazon; and shared vital thoughts on Indigenous rights, sovereignty and solutions for a just future for all people’s.
We extend the deepest thanks to event supporters, ClimateMama and MADRE, and to all outstanding speakers – Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca; Ponca Nation Council Woman, WECAN Advisory Council Member, USA); Lucy Mulenkei (Maasai; Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network, Kenya); Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara; Lead Organizer on the Extreme Energy & Just Transition Campaign with the Indigenous Environmental Network, USA); Gloria Ushigua (Sapara; President of the Association of Sapara Women, Ecuador); Betty Lyons (Onondaga; President and Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance, USA); Michelle Cook (Diné; human rights lawyer and founding member of the of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock, USA); Heather Milton Lightening (Pasqua First Nation, Cree, Anishinabe, Blackfoot and Dakota; Indigenous Tar Sands Campaigner with Polaris Institute, Canada); Alina Saba (Limbu; Nepal Policy Center, Nepal); and special guest Brenda White Bull (Standing Rock Sioux People’s).
People’s Climate March for Jobs, Justice and Climate – Washington DC
On April 29, 2017 – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) joined more than 200,000 people on the streets of Washington D.C. – standing with a diverse coalition of women’s groups, climate justice organization and allies to march as a #Women4ClimateJustice Contingent. In advance of the march, WECAN worked to co-organize the Women for Climate Justice Contingent, including through contribution to a Contingent Toolkit prepared to provide resources, graphics and background analysis for allies marching in their local sister marches.
The People’s March for Climate Justice was organized to take place on the 100th day of the U.S Trump Administration’s term in office. With this in mind, #Women4ClimateJustice raised our voices to send a clear message to the Trump Administration and global leaders that, as women who stand on the frontlines of climate change across the U.S. and across the world, we are gravely concerned about the impacts of climate change, and the implications of a U.S. Administration that promotes climate skepticism, advancement of fossil fuels, an extractive economy, environmental racism, and bigotry and inequitable treatment of women and girls. As part of this work, we are dedicated to changing narratives outside of and within the climate movement, to ensure women are visibized, heard and supported in telling their stories and building climate solutions.
We want our children and all future generations to live in a healthy, just and thriving world – and as we made clear the the People’s Climate March and through our daily struggles – we will rise ceaselessly to bring this world to fruition.
Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Washington DC
“We have to apply strategies so that frontline voices are uplifted, so that they are not co-opted, so they’re not replaced, invisibilized…we believe in changing root causes, we understand that climate crisis is not just a crisis of carbon, it’s actually rooted in a much deeper, toxic, polluting origin that affects our communities the worst…and so we do everything to figure out how to do a just transition, how to move away from this extractive economic system that extracts, that abuses labour, that focuses on colonialism and a corporate mindset, that reduces us to consumers..and that is what we have to fix. I think if you focus on climate, that will help us survive, if you focus on people, that will help us win – that will help us return to a regenerative economy where people matter, where women are valued for all they contribute to the world.” – Angela Adrar (Executive Director, Our Power Campaign)
Immediately following the People’s Climate March in Washington DC, WECAN held a dynamic evening forum, ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – DC’ – during which diverse women leaders from across the US spoke out against environmental and social injustice and presented the diverse array of visions and strategies with which they are working to shape a healthy and equitable world for all. Included in the discussion was resistance efforts from Standing Rock to the Amazon; Indigenous rights, environmental racism and frontline communities; the intersection of gender and environment; and women’s leadership and calls for action within a climate justice framework.
Outstanding forum speakers included – Angela Adrar (Our Power Campaign); Tara Houska (Honor the Earth); May Boeve (350.org ); Rhonda Hamilton (Ward 6 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner); Cherri Foytlin (Bold Louisiana); Pennie Opal Plant (Idle No More SF Bay and Movement Rights ); Leila Salazar Lopez (Amazon Watch); Faith Gemmill (Redoil); Sally Coxe (Bonobo Conservation Initiative); Victoria Barrett (Our Children’s Trust); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network) – with special guest Tokata Iron Eyes (13 year old leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Peoples).
“My generations is about protecting ourselves from the negligence of those in power…it is about being radical and about breaking down borders together. We don’t want any more of the same, we’ve seen the status quo and we are pretty over it. We are prepared to be unapologietically unconventional, basically. We may be tasked with facing another earth, but honestly, my generation is like no other generation before us…[this is] why I believe that, despite the world we are living in, we will be okay…young people haven’t given up and we’ve only become stronger. We see the seas levels rising around us, and we’ve determined that in order to save all we hold dear, we can only rise with them.” – Victoria Barrett (Youth Plaintiff with Our Children’s Trust)
Solidarity With Our Allies
While on the ground in New York City and Washington D.C. – the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network was very fortunate to spend time acting in support and solidarity with many diverse allies taking action as part of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, at the People’s Climate March, and as a part of other actions and events planned to uplift the voices, struggles and solutions of women, Indigenous peoples and communities on the frontlines of climate change.
On April 25th, WECAN took action in solidarity during an Indigenous-led direct action in New York City, where Indigenous leaders and allies advocated outside and inside of the Citi Bank shareholders meeting to demand divestment from the Dakota Access, Keystone XL, TransCanada, Kinder Morgan, Enbridge and other dangerous fossil fuel developments supported by the bank.
Click here to hear from Kandi Mossett (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Casey Camp Horinek (Ponca Nation Council-Woman and WECAN Advisory Council Member) as they share reflections after the action.
In Washington DC, WECAN was present in support of the Indigenous Women’s Press Conference, held by our allies at the Indigenous Environmental Network outside of the White House the day before the People’s Climate March.
“I am here to say money is not power – power is in here [the heart] – and it is within all of us… and you can take my body but my babies are right behind me and we will not stop. We will not lay down. We will not let you take from us anymore….Never before has it been more obvious that silence is consent, and I will not be silent. I will not consent to the rape of Mother Earth any longer. I will not be silent to the loss of our resources, I will not be silent to water in my living room or my children’s home. I will not be silent as oil hits our shores. I will not be silent as our dolphins and turtles die. The time for silence is over.” – Cherri Foytlin, Indigenous Leader and State Director of Bold Louisiana
Following the Indigenous Women’s Press Conference, WECAN united with our allies of the #ItTakesRoots Delegation for a powerful action outside of the US Capitol Building, where a diverse coalition of leaders raised their voices and took action to make clear that the diverse people’s movements are drawing a physical ‘red line’ in defense of all we hold dear, as we work together to connect and strengthen our struggles for climate, racial, economic, Indigenous and gender justice.
In the early morning preceding the People’s Climate March, WECAN team members joined Indigenous leaders for a sunrise water ceremony, as well as for a signing of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty. This vital and first-of-its-kind document, composed by and for Indigenous women of the world, unites women of North and South America in defense of the Earth and their communities, and includes a vital call to educate community and take action in your local region at coordinated times every month – learn more here.
In the face of escalating climate crisis and a climate denying US government, people around the world are rising to make clear that we refuse to accept the continued degradation of the Earth and our diverse communities. Without fail, it is the women who are standing at the front of these movements for justice – with fierce and ceaseless love, care and strength.
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network sends immense gratitude to everyone who joined us to speak out, strategize, take action and learn with us during events and actions in New York City and Washington DC. Please click here to donate in support of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network’s (WECAN International) ongoing work for people and planet.