Tag Archives: Connect the dots

Can Rights of Nature Help End Environmental Genocide on Ponca Lands?

By Movement Rights co-founders Pennie Opal Plant and Shannon Biggs

 

thThe wind blows powerfully in Oklahoma. It is part of the Great Plains and is also home to “tornado alley.” But today the state is known more for a human-made feature, a geological by-product of the petroleum industry: Oklahoma is the earthquake capital of the world. Ask anyone in the state if they had ever felt a tremor before fracking and injection wells became part of the northern Oklahoma landscape in the mid-2000’s and the answer is unequivocally, “NO.” Over Labor Day weekend, Ponca City and nearby Pawnee were the epicenter of the world’s largest manmade earthquake, registering a 5.8.

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photo credit Movement Rights

Rather than address the issue of fracking and its dangers, the Governor and state legislature passed two senate bills banning residents from banning or limiting oil and gas operations.  Movement Rights’ board member, Casey Camp Horinek a Ponca elder and elected Tribal Council member spoke at a 2015 Senate hearing, explaining how the Ponca people—who are concentrated on the south side of town where the refineries chemical plants and injection wells are largely sited—are being fracked to death:

“We’re now having a funeral a week from cancers and autoimmune diseases. In 2015 we had 907 quakes of a 3.0 magnitude and above. If the governor won’t call for a stop to fracking, the sovereign Ponca nation will.”

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Ponca Business Council members with Movement Rights co-founders and Tom Goldtooth of IEN following our presentation.

Movement Rights co-founders, Shannon Biggs and Pennie Opal Plant, along with Michael Horse, traveled to Ponca City and the Ponca Nation from October 14-16, 2016 to introduce Rights of Nature to the Tribal council, members of the Ponca Nation and non-native residents as a way to ban fracking and injection wells on tribal lands. Our trip there was full of joy and tears, inspiration and devastation.  Fracking sites and injection wells dot the landscape, and the telltale signs of leaking well pipes are easy to spot.   The tips of wheat fields are black-tinged, and there are dead areas in farm fields where nothing grows.  The day before we arrived, the Governor had proclaimed an “official day of prayer for the oil industry and the oil fields.” We were not sure what to expect when we arrived or how our visit would be recieved.

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Oily muddy water like this bubbles up from the ground all over Ponca City likely indicating pipe leaks below the surface. Photo credit Movement Rights.

While most Americans have now heard of fracking and its seemingly endless harms to the air, soil, water, climate, property values, human health and all life—injection wells are often less understood. Essentially it’s this: the millions of gallons of toxic fluid used in fracking, plus radioactive materials and metals found in the deep shale brought to the surface by the fracking process are too dirty, too dangerous to pour into rivers, aquifers, on to leave on land (though all of that happens). Injection wells cram that toxic stew back into the earth as storage, causing a slew of problems not the least of which are earthquakes. In 2015 Oklahoma even received 2.5 million barrels of injection wastewater from other states that deem it too dangerous to site.

In 1877, part of the Ponca Tribe was forced to leave their ancestral home in Nebraska on foot, to be resettled in northern Oklahoma.  About 20 years later, the City of Ponca, OK developed around the tribe, and today is home to 26,000 people including 3,500 members of the Ponca Nation. Over the next hundred years the economy of Oklahoma would be shaped by the boom and bust cycles of the oil industry.  The Ponca tribe has not benefitted from oil. They don’t have oil leases, and there are no oil jobs for the Ponca people despite being surrounded by oil infrastructure. Racism and harassment against the Ponca Nation is an open secret in the town that bears their name, with some businesses refusing to serve Ponca people, while welcoming other tribes who are invested in the oil industry.

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Pennie Opal Plant, Suzaatah Horinek and her daughter Lola, who were part of the 30 person organizing team making signs, handing out campaign shirts and other preparations for the prayer walk and the community event.

Despite this background, the Ponca Nation and local allies of the Nation were welcoming and interested in what Movement Rights has to offer, which is a way forward to stopping the devastation by recognizing the Rights of Mother Earth—the right of the land air, water and all life to be free from the toxic infrastructure.   Movement Rights’ board member and Ponca Tribal Councilmember, Casey Camp-Horinek, took us on a toxic tour after our presentation to the Ponca Business Council.

Pennie Opal Plant and Michael Horse live near the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California.  They are accustomed to occasionally smelling toxins come from that refinery and the other four refineries along the San Francisco Northeast Bay.  Shannon Biggs has traveled the world visiting toxic sites from South Durban South Africa to the oil and gas fields of North Dakota and Pennsylvania, but nothing prepared us for what we witnessed.  Driving past the Conoco Phillips refinery on the south side of Ponca City was an entirely different experience.   When the pungent and toxic smells hit us we immediately rolled up the windows on the car.   We could taste the toxins as they hit our systems and some of us had difficulty breathing.

There are homes and a park where children play directly across the street from this refinery.  And, of course, people of color and the working poor are the residents of the homes on the south side of town near the refinery. We saw uncountable fossil fuel holding tanks, more than any we had seen along the refinery corridor in the Bay Area.   Acres and acres—and acres—of huge tanks.

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DANGER Pipeline! Cows graze and drink polluted water. Photo credit Movement Rights.

We stopped at several injection well sites, mostly those that were the easiest to access just off the side of the road. Getting out of the car, the smell of chemicals curled in our noses, instantly shooting  into our heads like a toxic-ice cream headache. We witnessed the “produced water” leaking around the injection well machinery at every stop.  Produced water is a by-product of fracking which has undisclosed toxic chemicals, salt and radioactive materials  from the natural radiation and metals that live in the deep shale two miles below the ground surface.   We saw injection wells in agriculture fields of wheat and soybeans, onions and crops that are in many of the food products that we eat and assume are not poisoned.  We stopped at the place where the lower leg of the Keystone pipeline flows in the ground under where cattle graze, and drink from the open pits of toxic water above the pipeline.

14702432_1140644946021111_1678195815010591114_nOn Saturday, October 15th, we participated in a prayer walk, led by Casey Camp-Horinek, from a local park to the Conoco Phillips refinery.  About 60 people joined us—we were told this was the first direct action at this facility.  We circled up in front of the refinery for prayers for the community members, the refinery workers, the air, water and soil.  There were many families with children who participated and one woman came out of her home to join us.  Another women told us she keeps her pool filled with water (even though most pools are earthquake-damaged) to help out the local deer, coyotes and foxes who know not to drink from the rivers anymore.

People driving by honked their support and the Ponca City News gave us small but favorable  front page coverage. Yes, the time to shift the system from devastation toward health has arrived and we can’t assume that anyone is against us.   Even in this town with so much fossil fuel infrastructure there was a lot of support.  As we left, every single person on the prayer walk shook the hand of the police officer who was there to monitor us and to keep us safe.

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The Brown family farm, red circle indicates the field with an active injection well, one of 4 sites you can see from their porch. Photo credit: Movement Rights

A former oil worker, James Wesley Brown took us to his family homestead which has supported four generations of Brown farmers.  His daughter, Temperance, played on the swing about 100 feet from an injection well in the middle of their onion field.  “This land is not a wasteland, and I hope someday my daughter will farm on this land.” But right now he acknowledged, it’s a toxic mess.

He cranked some water from the hand pump next to the swing and suggested we cup our hands for a sip, laughing, He took a mouthful and immediately spit it on the ground. “They say it’s safe, but you can smell the gas in it, and some days you can light it on fire.” 

The members of the Ponca Nation and allies make many connections to the water protectors and land defenders at Standing Rock.  Casey Camp-Horinek’s family members have also been very involved on the frontlines in North Dakota.  Many of the homemade signs on the prayer walk were in support of the people protecting the water along the Missouri River.

After the prayer walk was the Movement Rights presentation at the community meeting at the Ponca Nation community center.   Native American actor, jeweler and artist, Michael Horse, most well-known for his role as “Deputy Hawk” in Twin Peaks, was the Master of Ceremonies.   Shannon spoke first about fracking and injection wells, their impacts on living beings, the earth, air, water and soil, as well as the effects on climate change and spoke about rights of nature as a legal tool.  Pennie spoke about the origins of the Rights of Mother Earth, Indigenous people’s original instructions on how to live within balance within the sacred system of life, as well as the importance of an immediate transition off of fossil fuels.  She shared examples of Native American communities which are working on renewable energy solutions on their territories such as the Firsts Nation’s Lubicon Solar Project and The Solutions Project which has the data which shows how each State can transition off of fossil fuels and on to renewable energy by 2050 while creating jobs that last 40 years.

Throughout our visit the sun was strong, and the wind blew mightily, iurreminding us that there are clean renewable options for Oklahoma. The state blows 6th highest for wind potential in the United Sates, offering a lasting economic energy strategy for the state. Even other states are investing in Oklahoma wind power.

What is happening in Ponca, Oklahoma and at Standing Rock, North Dakota is a SIGNAL, not simply a symbol.  It is time for all communities to stand for the protection of the Earth in the places where they live.  As Indigenous people rise up to protect the sacred system of life they are serving as a beacon to all of those who have been complacent while Mother Earth has suffered grave violations by members of our human family.   These violations are threatening the sacred system of life that is necessary for life to continue in any way close to what those alive right now have experienced.  There is not a moment to waste in our protection of the air, water and soil.  It is time to heed the call to action to preserve life as we know it.

I am River & blogAs Movement Rights travels to Maori territory in New Zealand next week we will be exploring a ground-breaking law to protect the sacred Whanganui River.  Keep an eye out for our next blog which will be full of inspiring stories of how the Maori people, working with the Federal Government of New Zealand, have not only recognized the spiritual and holistic rights of the River and the life within and around it to exist in a clean and healthy environment, but have also recognized the sacred rights of the River.


In memory of Betty Lee Brown who passed away on the family farm we visited on October 27 with her grandson, Wes Brown. 

MovementRigts-Colour-sq-ncMovement Rights assists communities confronted by harmful corporate projects to assert their right to make important decisions that impact them by passing new laws that place the rights of residents (and nature) above the claimed legal “rights” of corporations. At the heart of our work is the belief that asserting our right to create the kind of place we want to live and reining in corporate power is the next evolution of the civil rights movement. Over 160 communities across the United States have already asserted their right to local self-government and stopped unwanted harms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Historic Indigenous Women’s Treaty Calls For Action for the Earth


By P11755717_10205036197332731_6931083176796839713_nennie Opal Plant 

Pennie is the co-founder of Movement Rights and Idle No More Bay Area.


 

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First signers of the Treaty (L-R) Gloria Hilda Ushiga Santi, Casey Camp-Horenik, Pennie Opal Plant, Patricia Gualinga, Blanca Chancoso & Crystal Lameman (not pictured)

There are powerful forces at work in our world. When we are open to them they can guide us into unexpected areas that can be surprising.

The journey toward the creation and signing of the historic “Indigenous Women of the Americas – Defending Mother Earth Treaty Compact 2015” has been surprising, powerful and deeply rewarding.  Those of us involved in putting the Treaty together quickly understood that it has a life of its own and that our job is to pay attention and move as we are directed to by unseen forces that are working for the greater good.  The image that I have in my mind of this process is Mother Earth herself holding the Treaty and moving very quickly.  She has on a beautifully fringed shawl.  Those of us who have been involved in the Treaty from the very beginning are holding onto the fringe as tightly as possible as she moves toward protecting and defending her sacred system of life.

To read the Treaty and hear its call to action, click here. 

The first signing of the Treaty by Indigenous women who are protectors and defenders took place on Sunday, September 27th on occupied Lenape Territory in what is now known as New York City.  It was the day of the fourth Blood Moon, the Harvest Full Moon, and the total lunar eclipse.  It was a day of power which had its own design on exactly when and where the signings would occur.

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Gloria Hilda Ushiga Santi from the Amazon of Ecuador, and Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca elder from Oklahoma

Casey Camp-Horinek, of the Ponca Nation, who worked tirelessly in the creation of the Treaty, and is an original signer, says this regarding the Indigenous Women of the North and South – Defend Mother Earth Treaty Compact 2015:

“We acknowledge this moment on Mother Earth for the 4th Red Moon of this year is eclipsing and offering us this chance to renew and defend the rights of Mother Earth as Indigenous Women. We gathered on this sacred day in ceremony to honor the ancestors who brought us to this point where we could stand strong in unified love of our Mother the Earth, our Father the Sky and the undying duty to protect the air, water, earth and all of our relatives for the future generations.

We give thanks for the guidance and the support that made this day the sacred day that it has become at this historic Treaty between the Indigenous Women of the North and South. We invite and implore the prayers and the spreading of the word to rise up and join this movement that has begun in the times before us and moves into this wave of awareness across the face of our Mother.”

This Treaty is historic on many levels.800s_163Gloria1

  • It is the first international treaty between Indigenous women of the Americas.
  • It is a call to action which outlines the crimes being committed against Mother Earth, as well as the threats to those alive now and future generations to continue to exist in a way that is sustainable, healthy and survivable.
  • It makes the connection between the crimes against Mother Earth and the crimes against women and how women are inseparable from Mother Earth.
  • It also speaks to the sacred waters and that, as women, we are closely related to the waters and must protect them for many reasons, including for our babies to swim in uncontaminated waters in our wombs.

The original six signers include:

  • Gloria Hilda Ushiga Santi, from the Sapara Nation, Ecuador
  • Patricia Gualinga, from the Kichwa Nation, Ecuador and
  • Blanca Chancoso, from the Kichwa Nation, Ecuador
  • Casey Camp-Horinek, from the Ponca Nation, OK
  • Crystal Lameman, from the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Canada
  • Melina Laboucan‐Massimo, from the Lubicon Cree Nation, Canada, and
  • Pennie Opal Plant, Yaqui, Mexican, Choctaw, Cherokee and European descent, CA

 It is the first treaty that calls upon those who sign as Indigenous women and others who sign on to support it to conduct monthly ceremonies on the new moon to ask for guidance and wisdom in protecting and defending Mother Earth.  

And, it requires those signing it and signing on as supporters to nonviolently stop the harms to the sacred system of life wherever they are on Mother Earth’s belly each solstice and equinox, and to do so with the love in our hearts for all we hold dear.  That’s nonviolent direct action every three months around the world to put an immediate stop to the devastating harms.

There are many Indigenous women who are protectors and defenders that are being invited to sign the Treaty.  Some of them will sign it while we are at COP 21 in Paris in December. Others will sign it at special events before and after Paris.

While we are in Paris we will be networking with Indigenous women from around the world to begin discussing similar treaties between the women protectors and defenders of the Americas and the Indigenous women in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Island Nations and the Middle East.  I enjoy imagining that within a year, millions of women and our allies will be shutting down the harms all over the world every three months with love in our hearts.  I see this as the quickest way to inspire the policy shifts that are required to ensure a safe future for all of our relatives within the sacred system of life on Mother Earth’s belly.

10-women-holding-handsJoin us. No one will be left out.

In addition to Indigenous women signers there will also be an online mechanism for everyone who supports and commits to the Treaty to sign.  No one will be left out.  As it reads at the end of the Treaty: We Stand Together.  Join the call from Indigenous women to the world to take action big or small for the Earth during the next New Moon.

 


 

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Movement Rights assists communities confronted by harmful corporate projects to assert their right to make important decisions that impact them by passing new laws that place the rights of residents (and nature) above the claimed legal “rights” of corporations. At the heart of our work is the belief that asserting our right to create the kind of place we want to live and reining in corporate power is the next evolution of the civil rights movement. Over 160 communities across the United States have already asserted their right to local self-government and stopped unwanted harms.

Movement Rights is a fiscally sponsored project of the Oakland Institute. We are supported by individual donations and small foundation grants.  Please consider supporting our work and joining our list serve to keep up to date on the movement for rights-based change.   Thank you!

 

Are California Communities Running out of Water – or Democracy?

  By Javan Briggs041815_1163

Javan Briggs is a mother, educator, and experienced community organizer who has recently joined the Movement Rights team.  She currently splits her time living in the San Joaquin Valley of California, where her own residential well has run dry, and Los Angeles. She became involved in rights-based organizing while leading a Pennsylvania community group in leveraging their local Community Bill of Rights ordinance to successfully resist a natural gas pipeline threat.  Javan brings many years experience leading community groups and nonprofits nationwide, primarily in the areas of environmental and education issues. A native Californian, she is pleased to continue working with communities back ‘home.’ 


 

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Crop flooding in San Joaquin Valley adjacent to residences with dry wells. Photo by Javan Briggs

Water. It’s a big topic for small town talk all around Central California. Madera, some 30 miles west of the state’s geographic center is a hot and arid farming community in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley.  At a run-down neighborhood convenience store situated at the corner of two dusty farm roads surrounded by modest homes and lush crops, after-work chit chat inevitably turns to water. Locals shake their heads while remarking that this area has always been known for easily accessible groundwater.

Yet everyday, new residential wells are going dry while large corporate farms continue to drain groundwater at breakneck speed to keep water-rich mega-crops including almonds and grapes flourishing—or to sell to the highest bidder.

The question in Madera and every Central Valley community: Why are corporate profits trumping our communities’ right to water? Shouldn’t the residents most affected by corporate misappropriation of community groundwater resources be the ones to decide their water future?

Water Rights, or Right on the Money?  

So commonplace are dry wells, residents are forced to devise extreme measures to supply water for for basic cooking and hygiene. Once unthinkable, hoses run through windows between neighbors’ homes. Pumps rumble water into homes from large storage tanks filled by trucks. Still other families have to rely on store-bought bottled water or hauling gallons home in the back of their pickups. Most families cannot afford the $13,000-25,000 price  tag to drill a new well. But even for residents with means, wait lists for residential well drilling are 6-12 months long, in part due to competition from corporate farms who bring in the higher paying well drilling jobs.

Javan's "new" water pump in foreground next to her dry well hole.  Behind is the old pump, also dry. Photo by Javan Briggs
Javan’s “new” home water pump in foreground next to her dry well hole. Behind is the old agriculture pump, also dry. Photo by Javan Briggs

The cost of well drilling has not slowed large-scale corporate farms from drawing increasing amounts of groundwater— or profits. Agricultural wells, which are deeper than residential wells, can cost $500,000 or more, but even at that rate, cash crops for export like almonds still remain money-makers. Bob Smittcamp, CEO of Lyons Magnus, a corporation that grows and processes agricultural products as well as manufactures food packaging, shelled out $1 million to purchase his own well drilling rig to supply his own crops— and cash in on the drilling boom. Other agribusinesses too, are making money hand over fist in the new drought economy through ‘groundwater mining;’

With water scarcity comes higher prices and profiteering — over 60 billion gallons of Central Valley groundwater may be sold for profit, according to a recent report.  

“If you own property, you can dig a well and you can pump as much groundwater as you a want,” UC Irvine hydrologist Jay Famiglietti told KQED, “even if that means you are drawing water in from beneath your neighbor’s property into your well. So it’s not unlike having several straws in a glass, and everyone drinking at the same time, and no one’s really watching the level.”

Image Credit: PR Watch http://www.prwatch.org
Image Credit: PR Watch 

Water for communities is being funneled into profits for a handful of corporations as counties continue to issue record numbers of well drilling permits. Corporate farms persist in transforming thousands of acres of old rangeland and vineyards to plant new almond trees, which won’t produce for three years or more– when the groundwater is even further depleted. Already, parts of the Central Valley are sinking about a foot per year as water tables plunge about 100 feet below historical lows as established residential wells get sucked dry by agribusiness.

The regulatory hamster wheel

 When residents call foul, they repeatedly come up against a brick wall of political excuses, good ol’ boy policies, and state lawmaking that protect corporate profits while ensuring that people continue to do without.

“We can’t really use public funds to help a private well owner,” Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthly recently told NPR. “I really don’t see a place for the government to come in and provide the funds for everybody’s well … There’s going to be thousands and thousands of wells that are going to go out.”

And yet, Worthly continued, “”We’re not in a position to tell farmers, ‘No, you can’t have a permit to drill a well so you can keep your crop alive,’ even though we know it has a collateral impact.”

Stanislaus County Board Chairman Jim DeMartini echoed the sentiment that counties do not have the right to deny well permits— a position that led to a toothless five-year action plan passed by local leaders last week. With a 5-0 vote, the board unanimously accepted the recommendations of a Water Advisory Committee—dominated by agriculture interests—that includes twice-yearly monitoring of water levels in addition to voluntary and confidential reporting of pumping activity. It does not, however, address the rampant issuance of new well permits for corporate crops or groundwater pumping by agribusiness. In effect, nothing changed.

Groundwater management plans such as Stanislaus County’s were recently mandated by equally impotent state legislation. The regulation requires local agencies to create a groundwater management plan, establishes criteria for state intervention, and delays state action where surface water has been depleted by groundwater pumping. Here’s the crux: the legislation allows local agencies 25 years to draft and implement their ‘sustainability’ plans.

With feeble policies failing to secure their communities’ right to water, some hope to find remedy in the legal arena. Two groups, Protecting Our Waters and Environmental Resources (POWER) and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, filed two lawsuits last year. Represented by San Francisco attorney Thomas Lippe and recently-deceased environmental attorney, Jerry Cadagan, the first lawsuit intended to require a select group of 16 large-scale farmers in nine municipalities to adhere to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements before drilling any new wells.  The case settled out of court when most of the farmers agreed to pay $190,000 toward groundwater studies. Effectively, the community’s inherent right to water was bargained away to agribusiness.

A second lawsuit brought by the same environmental groups against Stanislaus County’s Department of Environmental Resources aims to require environmental reviews before any new agricultural wells are permitted. Even if this case ‘wins’ at the October trial, the ineffectual regulatory hamster wheel persists; the framework of ‘permitting’ effectively provides an official sanctioning to water pilfering for profit.

Image Credit: CalWatchdog
Water ghosts appearing in California. Image Credit: CalWatchdog

Water is a community—not corporate— right 

As groundwater become more and more scarce owing to corporate privatization, people are beginning to realize that that their own communities bear the brunt of the effects. Residents of the Central Valley are increasingly calling out the injustice.

Addressing the Fresno County Board of Supervisors recently, Robert Mitchell called for a moratorium on new almond crops: “My community is surrounded by almond trees which will not produce product for another three years which is 2018, yet in the one small area I live we have lost five wells in a one block area.”

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Gladys Colunga gathering water for her family. Image Credit KQED blog

In nearby Tulare County, Gladys Colunga, mother of six  whose well went dry even while her home is surrounded by water-saturated almond crops noted in an interview with NPR:

“We’re a family, we have children and we need that water. We have the right to have that basic thing. It’s water.”

 But American policy and law protects the rights of property more rigorously that the rights of people and nature. As global water leader, Maude Barlow so eloquently stated: The problem in California, as in so many parts of the world, is that water is seen as a resource for our convenience and profit and not as the essential element of an ecosystem that gives us life. As well, water is more and more seen as a form of private property and powerful forces increasingly resist any attempt by governments to limit their abuse of water.”

Next Steps: California Communities Asserting their Right to Water 

California communities are ready for a paradigm shift. People can say “NO” to the structure of law that preempts local decision-making and forces them to live with the effects of harmful groundwater depletion for profit. By passing local ordinances — like those Movement Rights and their partner CELDF help communities pass —more than 160 communities across the nation have already established local, living democracy, by asserting their right to clean water, sustainable food systems, and recognizing the rights of nature. Our communities should not be sacrifice zones where corporations have more rights than people and nature.

 It’s time to change the rules, California. Share this article and your ideas with family and friends– let’s organize for democracy again.


 

MovementRigts-Colour-sq-ncMovement Rights assists communities confronted by harmful corporate projects to assert their right to make important decisions that impact them by passing new laws that place the rights of residents (and nature) above the claimed legal “rights” of corporations. At the heart of our work is the belief that asserting our right to create the kind of place we want to live and reining in corporate power is the next evolution of the civil rights movement. Over 160 communities across the United States have already asserted their right to local self-government and stopped unwanted harms.

Movement Rights is a fiscally sponsored project of the Oakland Institute. We are supported by individual donations and small foundation grants.  Please consider supporting our work and joining our list serve to keep up to date on the movement for rights-based change.   Thank you!

 

2015 Refinery Healing Walks: Why I am walking for Mother Earth

by Pennie Opal Plant, co-founder Movement Rights and Idle No More Bay Area.

The Connect the Dots: Refinery Healing Walks 2015 will occur over a four month period in the San Francisco Bay Area: Saturday, April 18th – Pittsburg to Martinez Sunday, May 17th – Martinez to Benicia Saturday, June 20th – Benicia to Rodeo Sunday, July 19th – Rodeo to Richmond

 

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Pennie Opal Plant speaking to Canadian officials about healing the Earth and our responsibility to be caretakers

The Healing Walks in the tar sands of Alberta Canada and between the refineries in the San Francisco Bay area (and in many places on Mother Earth’s belly worldwide) are born out of a need to heal our human relationship with each other and all living beings, the water, air and land, and witness the suffering caused by our destructive addiction to fossil fuels.  It is not a rally, a march or a protest, but an acknowledgement of life that helps us connect to our activism and daily life in new ways.

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Two years after the refinery explosion that rocked the Richmond, CA community, residents still live in fear, while air quality and land remain contaminated.

Most people living in the San Francisco Bay Area are familiar with the Chevron refinery in Richmond due to the many accidents that have affected the health of community members. In particular, the fire on August 6, 2012 which sent 15,000 people to hospitals. What many people are beginning to realize is that there are five refineries in the Bay Area, plus a proposal for the WesPac oil terminal in Pittsburg. The refineries include: Tesoro and Shell in Martinez, Valero in Benicia, Conoco Phillips 66 in Rodeo, and Chevron in Richmond. Many people living in these communities suffer similar health effects which include very high rates of asthma, especially among children, as well as cancers, auto-immune and respiratory diseases.

In addition to the health risks from living near these refineries, people living near the railroad tracks are becoming more aware of the crude by rail coming through the Bay Area. These are the same types of oil trains that have been derailing and exploding on a regular basis throughout North America. Trains carrying potentially explosive crude are next to homes, shopping areas, schools, and community centers. The radius of one of these trains exploding is 1 mile. On December 3, 2014, a train derailed next to Peres Elementary School in Richmond. Fortunately, it was not carrying crude oil, but it could have been.

In January of 2014, Idle No More SF Bay decided to organize a series of healing walks along the refinery corridor of the Northeast San Francisco Bay. The walks were inspired by the many healing walks and runs in Native America, including the Tar Sands Healing Walks in Alberta, Canada, the Longest Walks, and the Peace & Dignity Journeys.

Front-line activists living along the corridor joined them and created the Bay Area Refinery Corridor Coalition (BARCC). Working together, these two groups organized the healing walks to bring attention to the health risks and dangers that the refineries pose and the explosive crude by rail coming through the communities from the Alberta tar sands and the Bakken oil fields.

BsYgaOnCEAAtVxDThe Walks begin and end with prayers for the water conducted by Native American women, and are led by Native American elders and others in prayer following a sacred staff. Others walk in contemplation and conversation. Walkers stop at the refineries and toxic sites along the way to pray for the land, water and air, as well as creatures living near the refineries and those yet to be born. Support vehicles follow the walkers with water and medics. Participants are asked to sign an agreement to be nonviolent.

9012598_origOrganizers decided to begin a process as part of the walks to
encourage walkers to envision a just transition to a clean and safe energy future and an economy that supports everyone. Walkers are invited to write or draw these ideas on muslin squares at the end of each walk. These squares will be sewn into quilts. The quilts from 2014 will be shown at all of the walks.

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Casey Camp Hornick leading a prayer for healing at the 2014 Refinery Healing Walk

Casey Camp Hornick, a Ponca from Oklahoma and honored Native rights and environmental rights activist, actress and traditional drum keeper will return to the Bay Area from her home in Oklahoma, to lead prayer at the first Healing Walk. “My reason for living is because the generations that came before me loved and cared for the Earth and knew that they would have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.” says Casey.   “And, that despite the obstacles they faced, including forced removal from their lands and genocide, that they would care for the Earth and make room for those generations to come.   Now I’m a soon to be great-grandmother,  my understanding is clear that its necessary to be a warrior for those without voices and generations to come.”

When & Where to join the Healing:

  • Saturday, April 18th: Pittsburg to Martinez – 51 Marina Blvd., Pittsburg. Water Ceremony and registration 8:00 a.m. Walk begins at 9:30 a.m., ending at Martinez Waterfront Park at the end of Ferry Street.
  • Sunday, May 17th: Martinez to Benicia – Waterfront Park at the end of Ferry Street. Water Ceremony and registration 8:00 a.m. Walk begins at 9:30 a.m., ending at 9th Street Park in Benicia.
  • Saturday, June 20: Benicia to Rodeo – 9th Street Park, Benicia. Water Ceremony and registration 8:00 a.m. Walk begins at 9:30 a.m., ending at Lone Tree Point in Rodeo.
  • Sunday, July 19: Rodeo to Richmond – Lone Tree Point, Rodeo. Water Ceremony and registration 8:00 a.m. Walk begins at 9:30 a.m., ending at Keller Beach in Point Richmond.

The indigenous women led Idle No More movement began in late October, 2012. Three First Nations women, and one woman who refers to herself as of “settler” descent, decided to call out for people in Canada to rise up for indigenous rights and against proposed legislation that would devastate the environment. In particular, Bill C-45 proposed reducing the protections of natural systems of water (rivers, lakes, streams) from over 2 million to under 200. This bill was ultimately passed by the Canadian Parliament on December 5, 2012.

2013-01-02-idlenomorehuffpoThe call to be “Idle No More” resonated nationally with thousands of people coming together to conduct prayers, teach-ins and round dances (dances of peace and friendship) in shopping malls, streets, and public spaces all across Canada. The call to be idle no more also resonated around the world with solidarity actions in North, Central and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. Locally, Native Americans and their allies began conducting Idle No More type actions in December, 2012. In early 2013, Idle No More SF Bay was formally created by a group of Native American grandmothers, mothers, fathers and grandfathers. Idle No More SF Bay includes many allies of different backgrounds. This group has become one of the most active Idle No More groups in the United States.

 

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