MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

Excerpts from the Indigenous Peoples Caucus Statement

In 1991, the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit adopted the Principles of Environmental Justice as a platform to build a strong national and international environmental justice movement. Environmental Justice principle 11 states:

"Environmental justice must recognize a special legal and national relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. and Canadian government through treaties, agreements, compacts and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination."

The Indigenous Caucus of the Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit reaffirms its commitment to the Principles of Environmental Justice. The Indigenous Caucus, consisting of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Hawaiian Natives, Canadian Natives, and Native youth, reaffirms United States treaty obligations that it and its colonialist predecessors entered into with our Sovereign Nations. We reaffirm their internationally legal and binding character as treaties between sovereign States under the Law of Nations at the time, and current international law today. We continue to demand our Sacred Treaty Rights and continue to protest the unilateral abrogation and non-observance by the United States.

We reaffirm the right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and our inherent sovereignty over our traditional lands, waters, territories and natural resources.

The Indigenous Peoples caucus of the Second National People of Color Leadership Summit finds that the United States continues to violate its legal and moral obligations to Indigenous Peoples and their internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, evidenced by the expanding environmental and economic crisis occurring on Indigenous lands.

Below are excerpts from some of the examples and brief statements of this environmental and economic crisis.

Mining and Oil Development

All forms of mining, milling and oil extraction is unsustainable This destructive development practices cause toxic contamination, ecological damage, diminished quality of life, negative impact on health and subsistent foods, depletion of water resources, climate change, loss of cultural practices, conflict and disruption within families and tribal membership and loss of native languages.

We demand all environmental assessment and environmental impact assessments on mining activities must include an assessment of cumulative impacts, including impacts to cultural landscapes and spiritual life ways, human and ecological health impact and we commit ourselves to participate actively in the realization of such impact assessments, including the participation of our practitioners of traditional knowledge, spiritual leaders and locally impacted tribal members.


We see that our waters are being polluted with chemicals, sewage, disease and toxic and nuclear waste. We see our waters being depleted or converted into destructive uses through the diversion of water systems to different lands, unsustainable economic, resource and recreational development, the transformation of excessive amounts of water into energy, depletion of water due to mining and milling activities and the treatment of water as a commodity, a property interest, that can be bought, sold and traded in domestic, tri-national and global economies. We see our waters governed by colonial and inhumane laws and practices that disconnect us as peoples from the ecosystem. These laws do not respect that life is sacred, that water is sacred, that water is life.

As Indigenous Peoples, we raise our voices in solidarity to speak for the protection of water. The Creator placed us on this earth, each in our own sacred and traditional lands, to care for all of creation. We have always governed ourselves as peoples to ensure the protection and purity of water. We stand united to follow and implement our knowledge, laws and self-determination to preserve water, to preserve life. Water, the first living spirit on this earth, gives life to all creation. Water, powerful and pristine, is the lifeblood that sustains life for all peoples, lands and creation.


Due to the crisis of unsustainable energy policy of the United States, we call for a moratorium on the following energy-related activities:

The expansion of new exploration for the extraction of oil, natural gas and coal within and near Indigenous, Hawaii Native and Alaska Native lands and territories, especially in pristine areas and environmentally, socially, cultural, historically and sensitive areas.

The construction of large dams in North America.

New nuclear power plants

The expansion and exploration of new sites of uranium mining within and near indigenous lands and territories.

The transportation and storage of radioactive waste.

We will support and commit ourselves to use clean renewable energy sources to cover the energy needs of our tribal nations, it's tribal membership and communities. We call upon our modern tribal governmental leaders and traditional leadership to support and participate in the development and use of renewable clean energy resources.

Sustainable Energy

We call upon climate justice energy policies to encourage Indigenous communities in developing sustainable homeland economies based upon clean renewable energy technologies, as opposed to conventional fossil fuels, large-scale hydropower or nuclear energy industries.

We, the Indigenous communities of North America, have an abundance of undeveloped renewable energy resources - many times over what would be necessary to meet the Kyoto targets of the United States and Canada. The Indigenous development of these clean resources would provide a tremendous economic benefit to many of America's poorest communities.


We demand that all legislations, policies or work programs on forests and protected areas guarantee and rigorously respect our lands and territories, rights, needs and benefits, culturally, spiritually and historically significant areas and recognize our full rights to control and manage our forests.

We will defend the cultural value and material integrity of our forests, promoting adequate policies for this defense and we call for the declaration of a moratorium on any harmful economic activity as well as the granting of concessions for oil and timber exploitation or mining.

Protection of Sacred Sites

Based upon Indigenous Peoples' historic and cultural relationship to the earth, we understand and recognize that there are special places, boulders and rock outcroppings, caves, plants, animals of spiritual power and energy that we refer to as sacred. This sacred environment has experienced significant attacks and threats of destruction by National environmental organizations, government officials, land management agencies and corporations who lack a basic understanding of the ceremonial, cultural and spiritual practices and beliefs of Indigenous peoples. These places are central and indispensable to the cultural, ceremonial and spiritual belief systems and practices of Indigenous Peoples and our survival.

Indigenous Peoples have historically and systematically been denied the fundamental human right and freedom to practice their religion through the prohibition of our cultural, ceremonial and spiritual practices and traditions, including denial of our access to sacred sites. This historic and ongoing denial includes the environmental damage and ruination inflicted upon the integrity of these sacred sites.

Toxics and Health

We will continue to utilize, strengthen and protect our traditional health systems within our communities. Our indigenous health systems, practices and traditional healers must be given due and equitable recognition. Our collective intellectual rights to our traditional medicines must be protected. The environmental justice and environmental movement must look from a woman gender lens in order to understand the environmental, health and reproductive impacts. Indigenous peoples live-ways maintain a respect for the creative principle of the sacredness of our Mother Earth.

We call for an immediate halt to any polluting activities on indigenous lands and territories and the adoption of mechanisms to contain and monitor existing pollution and its effects on the environment, including the oceans, and human health. We call for the immediate phasing out of leaded gasoline and other toxic substances.

Thanks to the Indigenous Environmental Network for allowing us to provide excerpts of this statement. The complete statement can be found at www.ienearth.org, or by mail at: Indigenous Environmental Network, P.O. Box 485, Bemidji, Minnesota 56619, (218) 751-4967, email: ien@igc.org.

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"The term "equity" was a government creation pushed onto the EJ movement by the Environmental Protection Agency. SWOP doesn't want "equal opportunity pollution." We want to reshape the whole table. We want a fundamental reordering of our priorities and commitments, and that starts with corporate and government accountability to the community. We want justice."
--ColorLines, Vol. 3, No. 2
Southwest Organizing Project "Organizing in the 21st Century"

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