Why the Sierra Club is Asking You to Join Us for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March on Feb. 14

by Scott Russell

We invite you to join us for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March on Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, Feb. 14. The march starts and ends at the Minneapolis Indian Center, 1530 East Franklin Ave. Sierra Club members will meet at our office, 2327 East Franklin Ave. at 10 a.m. for a brief discussion, then march down Franklin to join the main march at 11 a.m.

The event is co-hosted by the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, Indigenous Women’s Life Net, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, and the Native Lives Matter Coalition.

But why is the Sierra Club – an environmental group – participating in this march as an organization? Because we believe issues of environmental justice and justice for indigenous peoples are not separate, but deeply interconnected.

Honor the Earth explained the connection well in its Man Camp Fact Sheet:

Extractive industries such as oil fracking, tar sands oil extraction, and coal mining are examples of predator economics at their worst. Lisa Brunner [(White Earth Ojibwe) Program Specialist for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center] explained:

“They treat Mother Earth like they treat women… They think they can own us, buy us, sell us, trade us, rent us, poison us, rape us, destroy us, use us as entertainment and kill us. I’m happy to see that we are talking about the level of violence that is occurring against Mother Earth because it equates to us [women]. What happens to her happens to us.” 

Man Camps that grew up around the fracking industry would have created serious problems for any state. Given the particular vulnerability of Native women, the North Dakota camps created a highly toxic situation. The news site VOA discussed why native women are particularly vulnerable in the article: Sex Traffickers Targeting Native American Women:

“If you are a trafficker looking for the perfect population of people to violate, Native women would be a prime target,” said Sarah Deer, an attorney, law professor and author of The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America.

“You have extreme poverty. You have a people who have been traumatized. You have addiction to alcohol and drugs as a result of trauma. And you have a legal system that doesn’t step in to stop it,” Deer said.

Exploitation of Native women goes well beyond the man camps, but the man camps certainly made things worse. The Washington Post article: Dark Side of the Boom paints the picture:

The arrival of highly paid oil workers living in sprawling “man camps” with limited spending opportunities has led to a crime wave — including murders, aggravated assaults, rapes, human trafficking and robberies — fueled by a huge market for illegal drugs, primarily heroin and methamphetamine.

Especially hard-hit are the Indian lands at the heart of the Bakken.

If you want more details, click on the links for the full articles. What is clear is that much healing is needed, for the land and the people. Let’s support the Feb. 14 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s March. As the Dakota say: “mitakuye oyasin” (we are all related).

The march will go from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., looping back to the Indian Center. Wear red. Bring rattles, drums, shawls, signs and/or banners. The march honors all missing and murdered Indigenous people — all genders across all continents.

Scott Russell is a volunteer leader with the Beyond Oil and Tar Sands Committee.

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