All posts by Pennie

Movement Rights Indigenous Delegation to Aotearoa

May 1, 2018

When Shannon Biggs found out about the Maori/New Zealand Crown Settlement Agreements which recognized the personhood of the Te Urewera rainforest and the Whanganui River she was one of the few who immediately understood the implications as a model for humanity to move forward toward a healthy and balanced world. 





In 2016 she and I, with the important assistance of Maori elder Hinewirangi Morgan, traveled to Aotearoa to lay the groundwork to bring a delegation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from the United States to meet with the two Maori iwis (tribes) who were responsible for moving these agreements forward into law.  We also met with the attorney, Paul Beverly, who was contracted by the Crown government to establish these Agreements with the Tuhoe and Whanganui iwis. The assistance of Maori leader, Hinewirangi Morgan, and her students was immeasurable in the process of following the Maori protocols of requesting a meeting. She is an elder, teacher, and culture keeper among her many talents.  We would not have been able to navigate in the proper way without her guidance and we are forever grateful for her assistance.


Now, a year and a half later, our delegation is here in Aotearoa.  The delegates include Movement Rights’ Board members Casey Camp-Horinek, a leader of the Ponca Nation and Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.  Additional delegates include Deon Ben from the Dine Nation, Michael Lane for the Menominee Nation, Neeta Lind from the Navajo Nation, Tim Lange of the Seminole Nation, and Osprey Orielle Lake of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, Shannon Biggs, and myself.   We are once again led into the Maori protocols by the esteemed Maori elder, Hinewirangi Morgan.

We are now a little over half way in our journey as I write this from an internet café in Wellington.  At this point we have met with leaders from Tuhoe whose Settlement Agreement recognizes the rights of the natural entity, Te Urewera.  

The leader who spoke with us, Tamati Kruger, led the negotiations toward the Settlement which took Te Urewera from being property owned by the Crown to a natural entity with the same rights as a person under the law, including the sacred rights as understood by the Maori people.  

We were hosted in the beautiful sustainable LEED building which was built with funds from the Settlement Agreement.  It is a building that is meant to raise the hope of the Tuhoe people to look toward a Tuhoe future that is within the heart of what it means to be a Tuhoe person living on Tuhoe land.  The leader of the Tuhoe people, Tamati Kruger, explained that it will take two generations, forty years, for Tuhoe people to heal from the impacts of colonization and the historical trauma.  He acknowledged that this would be a very difficult process, that there would be, and already are, disagreements that must be resolved. That it would take decades.

We also met with leaders from the Whanganui iwi whose Settlement Agreement recognizes the rights of the Whanganui River from the mountain to the sea.  These are the people of the river who understand “I am the river and the river is me”. They are inseparable from the river, they are related to the river.  And, this river has the same rights as a person under law which also include the sacred rights of the river as understood by all the iwis along the Whanganui.  

The leaders we met with are from the Whanganui iwi that is closest to the sea.  We spent time with the Maori guardian of the river, Ned, a strong traditional man who took us on a whaka (canoe) so we could experience being on the Whanganui.  It was powerful and moving to be on a river whose rights are recognized by human law. To wonder if, finally, wayward human property laws are catching up to the understandings of Indigenous people: that we are not separate from the system of life but simply a member of the community of nature.  

Our delegations also met with Paul Beverly, the attorney who worked on behalf of the Crown on the Tuhoe and Whanganui agreements.  Paul speaks Maori, understands the necessary Maori protocols and slept in the Maraes (traditional houses which contain the history of the iwi as well as photographs or drawings of ancestors).   I couldn’t help but imagine attorneys in the United States working on Indigenous rights being able to speak the language and know the customs and protocols of the tribal nations they deal with. The understanding of who we are as Indigenous people would be so much deeper and meaningful.

Our trip isn’t over.  We still have several days of meetings with other Maori leaders.  A report will come out of this trip that will be written by all of the delegates.  Watch for it. It will be powerful.

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.


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.

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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