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Indigenous Women Confront Extractive Industries

In April, MADRE organized a delegation of international Indigenous women — from Kenya, Israel, Nepal, Colombia, Guatemala and Nicaragua -- partnering with the US-based Indigenous Environmental Network to bring them to North Dakota. 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.

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 almost nothing can grow. We heard from local Indigenous women caring for communities amidst worsening health threats and environmental dangers.

Our partner, Lucy Mulenkei, and MADRE board member Anne Hess. ©
Our partner, Lucy Mulenkei, and MADRE board member Anne Hess. ©

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

Ana Ceto, our partner organization MUIXIL in Guatemala, knows firsthand the devastation that hydroelectric dams create and how communities must organize to respond.  © Ayse Gursoz
Ana Ceto, our partner organization MUIXIL in Guatemala, knows firsthand the devastation that hydroelectric dams create and how communities must organize to respond. © Ayse Gursoz

Participants promised to continue their solidarity. The very next week, the same delegation traveled to the United Nations, speaking out on what they had just learned and shining a spotlight on the dangers that extractive industries present. With your support, MADRE will continue to help sustain Indigenous women’s coordinated activism.

August 7, 2019