In late November, several members of PeaceUp went to visit friends and allies living on the Diné Reservation. We attended an eye-opening uranium film festival held on the reservation, which highlighted the human rights violations of uranium from mining and waste storage to detonation. We learned to feed sheep and befriend wild horses as our friends showed us around their homes. And we had many strategic discussions about bioregional resistance and the shaping of an action camp to be held on Diné (Navajo) land this spring, with a focus on resisting extreme extraction impacting indigenous lands in the Four Corners area.
A lot of the people doing the most direct and vital climate justice work are the most marginalized in the movement. They often see and feel its impacts more than those of us who are privileged enough to be able to look away. And that means those of us with privilege owe it to these frontline communities—who, after all, are protecting our future too—to support their struggles in any way necessary.
The reality is that this work takes financial support, and we’re asking you to donate what you can in the spirit of solidarity—and in gratitude for the leadership some of the most oppressed communities are providing in the climate justice movement.
Much of our solidarity work in the coming months will center around support for the Diné action camp. Organizers from Salt Lake will be helping to coordinate the camp and hold trainings, in collaboration with Diné allies. While our Diné friends have a broad range of skills and experience they’re bringing to this work, holding an action camp is a substantial endeavor, and our experience hosting a large action camp last summer will help to shape this effort. Traveling to Pine Ridge for additional strategy and training sessions will also play a role in building a regional alliance of indigenous groups and allies resisting all forms of extreme extraction.
Environmental disasters on their land are poisoning people’s bodies along with the broader ecosystems. At the uranium film festival, we saw horrifying maps of uranium mines spanning the region, often abandoned without any attempt to keep the radiation contained (were such a thing even possible). Now Diné coalitions like the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining are fighting new developments that would escalate the abuse. Coal mining is another source of ongoing harm and oppression against the Diné people and other indigenous nations, like the Hopi, which is why communities in Black Mesa and Big Mountain are working to stop it from destroying their land while polluting and draining their water sources.
Industry and the federal government have enacted a prolonged war here against indigenous bodies and the land for decades. They intentially did not tell Diné miners about the risks of uranium, or provide ventilation in the mines to give them even a minimal level of protection. Often Diné workers wore ore-covered clothes home, and hugged their small children, contaminating them with radiation, Winona LaDuke writes.
The action camp in Diné Bikeyah, the homeland of the Diné, will have goals and trainings that reflect the particular needs and worldview of the people living there. It will focus on community support and development in conjunction with building a strong resistance front. Sharing knowledge of traditional agricultural methods to mitigate and adapt to climate change is one goal, which will also allow people to rely less on the capitalist economic system and eat foods that are healthier for both bodies and the land. The camp will also include space for strategic talk about organizing on the reservation, with a focus on how to respect the diversity of challenges that are affecting people.
Convergences like this camp are key to building a bioregional resistance and working in solidarity with indigenous peoples fighting extreme extraction. Supporting others in their work means we weaken the grasp of corporate power over the land we all depend on. It means refusing to fall into a NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) version of extraction resistance, saying instead that we must stand with all those fighting the complex web of corporate power aiming to claim control of this region. The many forms of extreme extraction impacting us are thoroughly connected—a Green River nuclear power plant could fuel tar sands extraction, and uranium could be brought up from Diné land—and we need to be more connected and coordinated than these industries in order to win.
Merging resistance and resilience work is also vital for our collective future. This is why the Diné camp is shaping up to focus in part on things like traditional agricultural methods, which allow communities to break linkages with the corporate food system while also adapting to climate change and preparing for worse impacts. In this arid region, climate change adaptation is especially important as the waterways dry up. Just as we must stop corporations from draining our rivers, we must learn how to live with less water because of the processes that have already been put into motion. Relying on and learning from communities around the region will be vital to this work.
We’re asking you, in the spirit of solidarity—not charity—to donate to our indigenous solidarity fund to allow this work to continue. We need to cover the cost of gas for an upcoming visit for a strategic retreat on Diné land, where we will focus intensively on the development of the camp with our allies. We need funds to cover food and provide any necessary car repair—busted tires are a reality of this work. We also need funds to support solidarity work with our Lakota allies on Pine Ridge, which will help to strengthen the web of connected communities throughout the region. They have provided vital support for our struggle to stop tar sands mining in eastern Utah, and we are offering them the same support in turn. As part of the climate justice community—that is, the folks who want to survive this catastrophe called climate change while preventing it from affecting the most marginalized people the worst—please contribute what you can in solidarity. They are defending our collective future, and it’s time for us all to step up and join them, both by donating funds and by holding the line to prevent extreme extraction wherever we call home.