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Fighting for Mother Earth

When we honor Earth Day, it’s about much more than the ground beneath your feet. It’s the food that nourishes us, the water that sustains us, the air that flows through us. It’s about the deep and intricate connections between all beings, and our responsibility to live in balance with each other and the Earth.

I’ve just returned from North Dakota, where I accompanied a delegation of international Indigenous women — from Kenya, Israel, Nepal, Colombia, Guatemala and Nicaragua — co-organized by the Indigenous Environmental Network.

There, we met with local leaders confronting the devastating impact of mega oil and gas projects on the Fort Berthold Reservation, home to the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations.

Indigenous women leaders posing together in front of an extraction zone
(Left to right) Sana Ibn Bari, Israel; Remedios Uriana, Colombia; Yasso Kanti Bhattachan, Nepal; Kandi White, Indigenous Environmental Network Native Energy and Climate Campaign Director; Rose Cunningham, Nicaragua; Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director; Ana Ceto Chavez, Guatemala.

We saw the oil pumpjacks that scarred the land, rising and falling relentlessly. We saw the natural gas flares that burned through the days and lit up the nights, venting noxious fumes into the air. We saw the site of a 2014 pipeline spill of brine, the water byproduct from fracking operations, that corroded an entire hillside where today still almost nothing can grow.

We heard from local Indigenous women caring for communities struggling to survive. They told us of how children are dealing with respiratory problems like asthma and how people are seeing unprecedented levels of illnesses and cancers. They connected the violations of their lands and communities with the historical oppression and dispossession that they have faced as Indigenous Peoples.

And our partners from around the world exchanged their experiences and solutions confronting extractive industries. For example, our partner from Guatemala, Ana Ceto of the Indigenous women’s organization MUIXIL, shared how communities there have been displaced by hydroelectric dams, robbing them of their homes and offering no compensation. Or Lucy Mulenkei of the Indigenous Information Network in Kenya, who shared how gold mining was endangering clean water supplies. Together, they exchanged resistance strategies — from legal advocacy to youth organizing to electoral strategy to data gathering and beyond — and they promised their continued solidarity.

Lucy Mulenkei & Rose Cunningham speak on a panel together
Rose Cunningham from Nicaragua (left) and Lucy Mulenkei from Kenya (right) lend their voices to an exchange with Indigenous community organizers in North Dakota.

This delegation lasted only a few days, but we will keep its momentum going. This week, at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, members of the delegation will advocate for concrete policy recommendations, augmented by their experience in North Dakota.

I was honored to be present for this exchange and to support this growing solidarity between Indigenous women on the frontlines of extractive industries and environmental injustice. Thank you for your support that makes it possible.

With hope,

Yifat Susskind Signature

Yifat Susskind

Executive Director

P.S. As we work to advance climate justice worldwide — from building greenhouses with Indigenous women in Kenya to unionizing women farmers in Sudan — I am so grateful for your support. This Earth Day, will you make a gift that propels our work with women worldwide safeguarding their communities and defending their rights?

April 22, 2019