An increasingly warming planet, fascist regimes, and loss of civil and human rights are causing profound harm. Yet, collaborative actions are re-imagining justice and change. We are witnessing uprisings, determined to protect our most basic, vital resources from the greed of the few for the good of all. Now, it is more important than ever that we hear the voices of people who hold key knowledge and expertise on how to resist injustice, and how to build movements to protect the water, lands, air, and life.
During the week of July 18-24, 2016, Paper Rocket Productions (a Diné/Hopi film crew) documented the journey of twenty-four Indigenous and other community organizers – from youth to elders – and diverse Tribal Nations and community affiliations. The group caravanned across the United States on the Protect Our Public Lands Tour: For a Just and Renewable Energy Future. Caravaners met with multiple communities at the frontlines of fossil fuel resource extraction. The objective was to facilitate a broader discussion surrounding the struggle of families that live in the enormous shadow of big oil, gas, and coal, giving a much-needed opportunity for Indigenous voices withstanding threats by massive transnational corporations.
Most often, Indigenous People living within Indian Reservations — in close proximity to government and in corporate deemed “energy sacrifice zones”—are on the frontlines of experiencing both climate change and the pollutive impacts of the fossil fuel industry. The PROTECT tour allowed for a collective of Indigenous People to voice their first-hand accounts of government and industry abuses of Indigenous People’s rights. The tour highlighted caravaners’ actions against such injustices and knowledge held to guide land management policies that should reflect the philosophy that all things are sacred and not meant to be disrespected or exploited.
The PROTECT film is designed as a platform to facilitate sharing and solidarity of action between and across cultures, generations, communities, and nations, and to directly transmit Indigenous voices and frameworks to public audiences. The film shows the power of working collectively to tell a story of what we stand and fight for: empowerment and justice for the present and future – for all generations and relations now and for those to come.
This strategy of caravanning and sharing stories and knowledge together is working to build both local and national awareness and embed justice into important energy policy conversations to help frame policy agendas for just transitions to a clean energy economy specifically, and, more broadly, for climate justice.
Some highlights from the Protect Our Public Lands Tour:
the site where Navajo activists stood their ground against the development of yet another coal-fired power plant in their community;
Absentee-Shawnee territory in Oklahoma where tribal members are resisting another pipeline running through their sacred land;
Protesting outside the Bureau of Land Management Office in Santa Fe where Tour participants shared their stories. For example, Kendra Pinto, a Navajo community activist on the tour, shared her accounts of witnessing devastation to her community just days before the caravan started, when an explosion at a fracking site near her home caused 36 storage tanks to catch fire. The raging flames, fumes and heat forced dozens of families to evacuate, leaving many with only 30 minutes to gather whatever they could save.
We engaged with and learned from frontline community leaders across this land, such as Casey Camp-Horinek, a long-time Native rights activist and environmentalist who has been a leading voice for people from the Ponca Nation and Indigenous peoples everywhere;
Laura Caceres, whose mother Berta was murdered in their home in Honduras for defending her people’s rights against displacement and injustice; and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, who has been a leader for the youth constitutional climate lawsuit filed against the U.S. government.
Organizational support for the PROTECT film provided by