Justice Leaders Call for Solutions at Protecting Mother Earth Conference

Tribal leadership, environmental activists called for a unified front to help find solutions to environmental problems

News Release

Indigenous Environmental Network

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – On the steps of the Washington State Capitol yesterday, June 26th, tribal leadership and environmental activists called for a unified front to help find solutions to critical environmental problems facing the nation, tribes in the Pacific Northwest, and Indigenous peoples worldwide.

In preparation for the conference that begins on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at Frank’s Landing, Nisqually Tribal Councilman Hanford McCloud said it was a great honor to bring the international 17th Protecting Mother Earth conference to their territory at a time when climate action is critical. “We Native people will always be here, standing up to protect the land and water,” he said. We will always be the voice of those on the frontlines who continue to fight against the violation of Indigenous treaty rights, self-determination, environmental justice, and climate change.”

He also paid tribute to the long history of the McCloud and Frank families who fought for tribal treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather in all their “usual and accustomed places” under the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek. “We have to continue to work to preserve our rights and way of life.”

Nisqually Councilman Willie Frank, son of the late leader Billy Frank, Jr., said water rights and salmon remain major issues for tribes in the region. “Water is sacred, salmon is sacred. Right now, we’re having an issue with contamination of our wild salmon by farm-raised Atlantic salmon. We worry about the ocean, the rivers and our traditional foods. So at this conference, we need to make some calls to action. We can make a difference if we work to educate people about what’s happening in the world.”

Eriel DeRanger Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action, traveled from Alberta, Canada, where the largest fossil-fuel project in the world, the Tar Sands, is contaminating air, water and indigenous homelands. “We are in a time of great change that will require us to come together as people and reconnect with each other and the planet. As Indigenous peoples we have maintained a sacred connection to our Mother Earth that is critical in understanding and addressing the current climate crisis we find ourselves are in,” she said. “Currently, the U.S. and Canada are making decisions and policies that move us further away from a possible climate-stable future, by further investing in dirty energy projects and not adhering to international climate commitments. This is an indication that we the people, Indigenous Peoples, must be prepared to take real action on climate change and be the leaders for the protection of Mother Earth.”

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said, “Our 17th Protecting Mother Earth conference will be at Frank's Landing where people came from all over the world in the 1960s and 70s to stand with the young Billy Frank Jr. and many others who were harassed and arrested for speaking out for the rights of the salmon and a healthy environment. We are coming back to a historical stronghold where the Nisqually Tribe and its peoples stood up in non-violent direct action to defend their way of life and their inherent rights to hunt, fish, and gather under the Treaty of Medicine Creek of December 26, 1854.”

Goldtooth noted that the Nisqually territories is also a birthplace of the Indigenous women's movement honoring the legacy of Janet McCloud, the co-founder of Women of All Red Nations and who hosted the first gathering of the Indigenous Women’s Network.

Puyallup elder and Culture Director for the Puyallup Tribe, Connie McCloud said she was raised "up river on the Nisqually" and spent 45 years working for her tribe. “We have a legacy of preserving the South Sound and we all have a responsibility to take care of this Mother Earth, to be part of something larger than all of us. We have a responsibility to protect our water, air, traditional foods, plants, basket materials, berries.”

The four-day event is free and open to the public. It will include plenary sessions with key speakers and break-out sessions addressing the following themes: Water, Oceans and Fisheries – Climate Justice – Extreme Energy and Renewable Energy – Mining – Food Sovereignty – Environmental Health – Just Transition – Rights of Mother Earth. The conference is co-sponsored by the Indigenous Environmental Network, Indigenous Climate Action and the Nisqually Tribe.

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