Today (July 18), more than 20 indigenous people are beginning the Protect Our Public Lands Tour, an almost two-week cross-country trip where storytellers and elders will visit environmentally vulnerable communities to document their stories and promote a “just and renewable energy future.”
The group, including tribal members from the Diné Nation, Arapaho, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Pueblo of Kewa and Oglala Sicangu Lakota, is leaving from Flagstaff, Arizona. They will arrive in Philadelphia on July 24, one day before the Democratic National Convention begins, to join the March for a Clean Energy Revolution. At the march, they, among others, will demand that Congress stop all fracking on U.S. public land via the Protect Our Public Lands Act.
During the tour the indigenous leaders will also collect evidence and testimony for the International Permanent People’s Tribunal on the Human Rights Impacts of Fracking. The Rome-based tribunal launched last year to hear arguments and evidence that fracking violates human rights. If they gather enough proof, they will push to indict named states on human rights abuses.
A transition away from toxic energy production is particularly resonant to First Nations people who see some land as sacred rather than a “resource” to be sold, drilled and otherwise exploited. “Our sacred sites and ceremonial grounds are being defiled,” said Elouise Brown, a member of the Navajo Nation, to EcoWatch in September 2015. “We must keep fracking out of not only Chaco Canyon but from Mother Earth.”
In North Dakota, the Three Affiliated Tribes—the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara—continue to deal with fracking’s pervasive presence in their community, where women and girls are at high risk for sexual assault by the influx of fracking workers. In New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, a World Heritage site, nearly two dozen tribes are inching closer and closer on keeping it fracking-free. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has delayed selling an oil and gas lease on the land to fossil fuel companies until they consult with the tribes.