Climate Marches: The First Major Political Mobilization of Indigenous Peoples in 2021

Climate Marches: The First Major Political Mobilization of Indigenous Peoples in 2021

Op-Ed: How the U.S. came to protect the natural world — and exploit it at the same time — from industrialization

For several weeks, climate change demonstrators have been on the road in preparation for the March from Washington to the nation’s capital, where they plan to launch a massive and highly coordinated challenge to the Trump administration’s agenda.

Protests against coal, natural gas, and oil extraction on the eve of the March for Science will be held in the nation’s capital city and dozens in other congressional districts that have declared themselves anti-science. Organizers say they will march from the federal building in Washington, D.C., to the White House.

These marches, coordinated by Indigenous Environmental Network, an advocacy group with strong ties to Indigenous people throughout North America, represent a turning point for the environmental movement, which has struggled with its relationship to Indigenous peoples for decades.

The climate marches are the result of the first major political mobilizations of Indigenous people in decades, and will likely serve as a template for similar challenges to industrial capitalism in a growing number of U.S. communities.

In the last two decades, Indigenous peoples — and other peoples living along the frontlines of climate change — have been taking risks. They have been leading grassroots campaigns, writing editorials, and speaking up at rallies and meetings with their voices raised to the national and international stage.

But to the extent we understand how Indigenous people’s voices have been largely excluded in the discourse around climate change and the environment, and to the extent we understand the nature of the relationship Indigenous people have had with the environment, the climate marches could be one of the most important events of our times.

From the early days of Indigenous environmental activism, Indigenous peoples have always understood that we have co-signed (or, at least, not fought each other over it) treaties with the U.S. government guaranteeing a right to “healthy” environments, including the environment of the planet. By the same token, we have consistently rejected industrial capitalism for its “unhealthy” and anti-environmental methods.

Climate change activists such as the late Elders in Washington, D.C., and the

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