Mobilizing for Indigenous Rights and Climate Justice from the Arctic to the Amazon
- May 2, 2017
"The world needs to wake up and protect the Amazon, which contains the forest and river spirits that keep the global ecosystem in balance. The rainforest is the lungs and heart of the world. If we don't protect the Amazon, we're all in trouble!" Manari Ushigua, President of the Sápara Nationality of Ecuador
What a weekend! On Saturday, Amazon Watch joined over 200,000 people in the streets of Washington, DC (and the sister march in Oakland, CA) alongside Amazonian indigenous colleagues, other indigenous collaborators, and NGO partner organizations. On the same date, the Trump administration marked its 100th day, so many thousands of us gathered to stand up to the climate deniers and the fossil fuel industry that run rampant in the halls of governments around the world to call for climate justice. We came together in defense of Mother Earth and our future generations who are counting on us to rise up, resist, protect, defend, and renew.
In addition to our general participation in the march, Amazon Watch brought specific messages to our participation that relate to our mission:
The international community is waking up to a truth long understood by indigenous peoples: When indigenous territorial rights are guaranteed, the land and environment are best protected. In the Amazon and around the world, recognition of indigenous rights means less deforestation, less oil extraction, and fewer mega-dams. At the march, we joined organizations like ActionAID and Rights and Resource Initiative – partners in the international Land Rights Now coalition – to design, create, and carry a parachute banner with the message, "Secure #LandRightsNow to Protect Our Planet and Fight Climate Change." We send huge appreciation to Cesar Maxit, the graphic artist who made it happen.
"We thought we were fighting for life all by ourselves, but being here I was able to meet indigenous peoples from around the world who are facing the same problems as we are and other conscious non-indigenous activists. I'm totally convinced that it is possible to live well without destroying our habitats, the rainforests. The Amazon is not for sale, we must defend her!" Ronald Suarez, President of the Shipibo-Conibo Council
Last year, Amazon Watch launched this campaign after learning that the majority of Amazon crude is imported to the U.S.. We are calling on end users to stop using Amazon crude to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel frontier in the Amazon. In addition to our support for indigenous peoples like the U'wa (Colombia), the Achuar (Peru) and the Sápara (Ecuador) – who are fighting to stop specific oil extraction projects in their territories – this campaign is an important contribution to the global Keep It In the Ground movement. We brought word of the campaign to the march right as we kick it into higher gear. With our support Sápara and Shipibo partners were able to march alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and indigenous leaders from across North America.
Last week coincided with the annual gathering of indigenous peoples in Brazil. With record attendance, this year's Terra Livre ("Free the Land") convergence highlighted the urgent call to defend indigenous territories at a moment when they are under unprecedented attack. A march of 3,000 indigenous peoples during the gathering near the Brazilian congress last Tuesday was repressed by riot police and tear gas. We coordinated with Brazilian and international organizations to launch online petitions in support of their demands for land rights, and during the march we carried signs modeled after this year's Terra Livre logo to send a message of solidarity from one grassroots mobilization to another.
The Women for Climate Justice Contingent included women leaders from WECAN, WEDO and Sierra Club, among others who joined forces to give voice to women's disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and the implications of a U.S. administration that promotes climate denialism, further dependence on fossil fuels and an extractive economy, environmental racism, bigotry, and unequal treatment of women and girls. Following the march, Amazon Watch participated in a dynamic gathering organized by WECAN featuring women leaders from all over the world speaking out against environmental and social injustice, drawing attention to root causes of the climate crisis, and presenting a diverse array of visions and strategies with which they are working to shape a healthy and equitable world. Watch the live stream of the WECAN event here.
"As our communities, sacred lands, our rights, our bodies and our future generations are under attack, we come together to call for climate justice and respect for our rights and for Mother Earth. This is our time!" Leila Salazar-López, Amazon Watch Executive Director
The march was also an opportunity to collaborate with many longtime partners and friends. From the Amazon, we were privileged to accompany Manari Ushigua (Sápara), Gloria Ushigua (Sápara), and Leo Cerda (Kichwa) from Ecuador, and Ronald Suarez (Shipibo) from Peru. Non-Amazonian indigenous colleagues included Pennie Opal Plant and everyone from the Indigenous Environmental Network, who did a tremendous amount of organizing for multiple events before and during the march. We also collaborated with numerous wonderful partner organizations, including the Women's Earth and Climate Action Network and members of the Land Rights Now coalition.
We are encouraged by the positivity, creativity, and passion that were broadly manifest in the march. As always, we are tremendously inspired by the words and courage of the many indigenous leaders, both those with whom we have collaborated for years and those we met for the first time. And we are prepared to redouble our efforts to support indigenous visionaries as they fight to defend a saner and safer world for us all!
"We, the Sápara, live in the forest and we protect the forest. We do not want oil companies in our territory. I am grateful for the solidarity from indigenous peoples from around the world, NGO allies like IEN and Amazon Watch, and for the opportunity to march with Leonardo DiCaprio." Gloria Ushigua, President of Ashiñawaka, Sápara Women's Association
Only two days later, we also participated in #MayDay2017. Recognizing the connection of the many struggles for justice taking place right now, Amazon Watch also supported and participated in May Day mobilizations in the U.S. As the open letter we signed along with 80 other environmental and climate organizations declared, worker power, immigrant rights, and racial justice must be at the heart of environmental and climate movements.
Together, we will win! Join us!
Yes, I will donate to protect the Amazon!
"The work you do is vital, and I am happy to support it."
– Charlotte R. A.